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William Cabell RIVES

congressman , lawyer , planter , writer

William Cabell RIVES, Congressman, planter, lawyer, writer.


RIVES, William Cabell was born on May 4, 1792 in Amherst County, Virginia, United States, United States. Son of Robert and Margaret Jordan (Cabell) Rives.


Attended Hampden-Sydney College. Graduated from College William and Mary, 1809.


He attended Hampden-Sidney College, graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1809, and was admitted to the Charlottesville bar in 1814. On March 24, 1819, he married Judith Page Walker. Alfred Landon Rives was his son.

He developed an excellent law practice and became active in politics. A delegate to the Virginia constitutional convention of 1816, he also served in the House of Delegates from 1817 to 1820 and in 1822. After moving to Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1822, he was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1823 and served until 1829.

From 1829 to 1832, and again from 1849 to 1853, he was U.S. minister to France. He also served terms in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from 1832 to 1834 and 1836 to 1839 and as a Whig from 1841 to 1845. Rives turned Whig in 1841 in support of President Tyler on the bank issue.

He was also a successful planter and an historian of some note. His three-volume biography of James Madison (finished after the war) was a standard work for years. In 1861, he was a member of the peace commission to Washington and a Virginia delegate to the provisional Confederate Congress, where he was noted for his caution.

He also served in the Confederate House in 1864. Although he favored reunion, he did not support the Reconstruction forces in the Confederate Congress because he feared they might hinder the war effort. Rives proposed to consolidate the army under Lee’s command, and he generally supported the Davis administration.

He served ably on the Foreign Affairs Committee. After the war, he completed his biography of Madison.


  • Author: Discourse … on the Ethics of Christianity, 1855. Discourse on the Character and Services on John Hampden, 1855. History of the Life and Times of James Madison (principal literature work), 3 vols., 1859-1868.


"Peculiar institution" of slavery was not only expedient but also ordained by God and upheld in Holy Scripture.


Stands for preserving slavery, states' rights, and political liberty for whites. Every individual state is sovereign, even to the point of secession.


Member Virginia House of Delegates from Albemarle County, 1822. Member United States House of Representatives from Virginia, 18th-20th congresses, 1823-1829. Member United States Senate from Virginia, 1832-1834, 36-39 (replaced John Tyler), 41-45.

Member Peace Convention, Washington, District of Columbia, 1861. Member Virginia Convention to decide position in Civil War, 1861. Member Confederate Provisional Congress from Virginia, Montgomery, Alabama.

Member 1st Confederate Congress, 1861-1862.


Spouse Judith Page Walker.

Robert Rives

Margaret (Cabell) Rives

Judith Walker