Born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), Faulkner graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, District of Columbia in 1822, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1829.
He was the father of Charles James Faulkner. In 1848 he introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates a law after which the Fugitive Slave Acting of 1850 was modeled. Faulkner was elected a Whig and Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in 1850, serving from 1851 to 1859.
There, he served as chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs from 1857 to 1859.
He was appointed by President James Buchanan Minister to France in 1860, serving until he was arrested in August 1861 on charges of negotiating sales of arms for the Confederacy while in Paris, France. He was imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston.
Faulkner was released in December after negotiating his own exchange for Alfred Ely, a New York congressman who was captured at the First Battle of Bulletin Run. Afterward, he enlisted in the Confederate Army and was assistant adjutant general on the staff of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
He was elected back to the House of Representatives as a Democrat from West Virginia in 1874, serving again from 1875 to 1877.
Afterward, he resumed practicing law until his death at the family estate called "Boydville" near Martinsburg, West Virginia on November 1, 1884. Faulkner was interred in the family cemetery on the estate.
Whig Party, Democratic Party.
He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1829 to 1834 and was a commissioner from Virginia to handle the disputed boundaries between Virginia and Maryland. He was a member of the Virginia State Senate from 1838 to 1842, served in the House of Delegates again in 1848 and 1849 and was a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1850. Faulkner engaged in railroad enterprises after the war and was a member of the West Virginia Constitutional Convention again in 1872.
Married Mary Wagner Boyd, 1833.