William Cabell Rives

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The Honorable
William Cabell Rives
Member of the Confederate Congress from Virginia's 7th district
In office
May 2, 1864 – March 2, 1865
Preceded by James Philemon Holcombe
Succeeded by Position abolished
Delegate from Virginia to the Provisional Confederate Congress
In office
February 4, 1861 – February 17, 1862
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
United States Minister to France
In office
Appointed by Zachary Taylor
Preceded by Richard Rush
Succeeded by John Y. Mason
In office
Appointed by Andrew Jackson
Preceded by James Brown
Succeeded by Levett Harris
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
January 18, 1841 – March 4, 1845
Preceded by Himself
Succeeded by Isaac S. Pennybacker
In office
March 4, 1836 – March 3, 1839
Preceded by John Tyler, Jr.
Succeeded by Himself
In office
December 10, 1832 – February 22, 1834
Preceded by Littleton W. Tazewell
Succeeded by Benjamin W. Leigh
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1823 – April 17, 1829
Preceded by Thomas L. Moore
Succeeded by William F. Gordon
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Albemarle County
In office
Alongside William F. Gordon
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Nelson County
In office
Alongside Thomas McCleland, John Cobbs and Joseph Shelton
Personal details
Born (1793-05-04)May 4, 1793
Amherst County, Virginia
Died April 25, 1868(1868-04-25) (aged 74)
Charlottesville, Virginia
Political party Jacksonian,

William Cabell Rives (May 4, 1793 – April 25, 1868) was an American lawyer, politician and diplomat from Albemarle County, Virginia. He represented Virginia as a Jackson Democrat in both the U.S. House and Senate and also served as the U.S. minister to France.

Early life

Rives was born at "Union Hill", the estate of his grandfather, Col. William Cabell, in Amherst County, Virginia. It was located on the James River in what is now Nelson County. His parents were Robert (1764–1845) and Margaret Cabell (c. 1770–1815) Rives, and his brothers included Alexander Rives. He was a great-uncle of Alexander Brown, author of books on the early history of Virginia and a family history, The Cabells and their Kin (1895).[1]

After private tutoring, Rives attended Hampden-Sydney College, followed by the College of William and Mary.

He left Williamsburg to study law with Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, and in 1814 was admitted to the bar at Richmond. Rives began his law practice in Nelson County, but after marrying Judith Page Walker (1802–1882) in 1819, he moved to her estate Castle Hill, near Cobham in Albemarle County. This was his home for the remainder of his life.

Political career

William Cabell Rives

Rives' political career began by serving in the state constitutional convention of 1816. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1817–19 for Nelson County, and again in 1822 for Albemarle County. In 1823 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and served from 1823 to 1829. In 1829 he was appointed by Andrew Jackson as minister to France serving for 3 years. His name was presented as a candidate for the Democratic vice presidential nomination in 1835, but the nomination went to Richard M. Johnson, in spite of having been presidential nominee Martin Van Buren's preferred candidate.

On his return from France, Rives was elected to the United States Senate. He would serve three terms, the last as a member of the Whig Party. From 1849 to 1853, he was again minister to France. In 1860, he endorsed the call for a Constitutional Union Party Convention, where he received most of Virginia's first ballot votes for President.

Rives was a delegate to the February 1861 Peace Conference in Washington which sought to prevent the American Civil War. He spoke out against secession, but was loyal to Virginia when she did secede. He served in the Provisional Confederate Congress from 1861 to 1862, and the Second Confederate Congress from 1864 to 1865.

Post Civil War

Rives wrote several books, the most important being his Life and Times of James Madison (3 vols., Boston, 1859–68). He served on the Board of Visitors for the University of Virginia from 1834 to 1849, and was for many years the president of the Virginia Historical Society. He died at "Castle Hill" in 1868 and was buried in the family cemetery.


His son, Alfred Landon Rives, was a prominent engineer, and his granddaughter Amélie Rives was a novelist, best known for The Quick or the Dead? (1888).

His second son William Cabell Rives, Jr., (1825–1890) owned Cobham Park Estate.[2] It was listed the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.[3] His son, also William Cabell Rives (1850-1938) donated the Peace Cross and supported building the Washington National Cathedral. [4]

Notes and references

  1. "The Cabells and Their Kin By Alexander Brown (1843–1906)". UVa Special Collections Library. Retrieved August 20, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. CVirginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (December 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Cobham Park" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. inscription to the right of the Great Choir.

William Cabell Rives: A Country to Serve by Barclay Rives. New York, Atelerix Press, 2014

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thomas L. Moore
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 10th congressional district

Succeeded by
William F. Gordon
United States Senate
Preceded by
Littleton W. Tazewell
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Virginia
Served alongside: John Tyler, Jr.
Succeeded by
Benjamin W. Leigh
Preceded by
John Tyler, Jr.
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Virginia
Served alongside: Richard E. Parker, William H. Roane
Succeeded by
Preceded by
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Virginia
Served alongside: William S. Archer
Succeeded by
Isaac S. Pennybacker
Political offices
Preceded by
New creation
Delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress from Virginia
April 29, 1861 – February 16, 1862
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Confederate States House of Representatives
Preceded by
James P. Holcombe
Member of the C.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 7th congressional district

February 17, 1864 – March 7, 1865
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James Brown
Minister to France
Succeeded by
Edward Livingston
Preceded by
Richard Rush
Minister to France
Succeeded by
John Y. Mason