Tazewell was privately tutored by John Wickham. He later graduated from the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg in 1791. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1796, and commenced practice in James City County, Virginia.
Elected to the Sixth United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of John Marshall, he served from November 26, 1800, to March 4, 1801. Tazewell moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 1802. He held public office again in 1804 in the Virginia General Assembly until 1806.
Then again served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1816 to 1817.
He was one of the commissioners of claims under the treaty with Spain ceding Florida in 1821. Tazewell was elected in 1824 to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Taylor.
Re-elected in 1829, he served from December 7, 1824, to July 16, 1832, when he resigned. While in the Senate, he was President pro tempore of the Senate during the Twenty-second United States Congress and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
His principal published work is Review of the Negotiations between the United States and Great Britain Respecting the Commerce of the Two Countries (1829) New International Encyclopedia.
Tazewell received 11 electoral votes for Vice-President in the election of 1840. Tazewell was elected to the United States. House in 1800 to complete the term in the Sixth Congress when John Marshall resigned. Tazewell was senator from 1824 to 1832.
Tazewell served as a delegate from Norfolk to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1829-1830,
When the Whigs secured majorities in the Virginia Assembly for six years, they first elected the Old Republican as a Whig governor 1834-1836, when he resigned a year before the end of his term.
Tazewell"s governorship was marked by promoting expansion of both the James River canal and the Kanawha Canal. Under his leadership, the Assembly instructed Virginia’s United States Senators to support internal improvements, protective tariffs, and a national bank in support of Henry Clay’s American System.
Following his term as Governor of Virginia from 1834 until 1836, Tazewell retired from public life. He died in Norfolk, Virginia, on May 6, 1860.
Initially interred on his estate on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, he was re-interred in 1866 at Elmwood Cemetery, Norfolk.
Tazewell, Virginia, Tazewell County, Virginia and Tazewell County, Illinois are named in his honor, and in his father"s honor, as are the cities of Tazewell and New Tazewell, Tennessee. A plaque in his honor is found at the corner of Tazewell and Granby streets in Norfolk, near the Tazewell Hotel and Suites, where his two-story house was located. His house, known as the Boush-Tazewell House, was completely dismantled and re-erected in its present location about three miles from its original site around 1902.
lieutenant was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Politically, Tazewell was a Jeffersonian Republican, and upon the fissure of that party he associated with the Jacksonian Democrats.
Member Virginia House Delegates from James City County, 1796-1800, 16. Member United States House of Representatives from Virginia, 6th Congress, November 26, 1800-1801. Member Virginia General Assembly, 1804-1806, 16-17.
Member United States Senate from Virginia, December 1824-July 16, 1832.
Member Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1829-1830, also.
Married Anne Nirison, 1802, several children.