By William S. Belko
William S. Belko’s Philip Pendleton Barbour in Jacksonian America provides the first comprehensive biography of a pivotal yet nearly forgotten statesman who made numerous key contributions to a transformative period of early American history.
Barbour, a Virginia lawyer, participated in America’s transition from a mostly republican government to a truer majority democracy, notably while serving as the twelfth Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and later as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. After being elected to the U.S. Congress during the War of 1812, Barbour also emerged as one of the foremost champions of states’ rights, consistently and energetically fighting against expansions of federal powers. He, along with other Jeffersonian Old Republicans, opposed federal plans for a national tariff and internal improvements. Later, Barbour became one of the first Jeffersonian politicians to join the Jacksonian Democrats in Jackson’s war against a national bank.
Barbour continued to make crucial strides in support of states’ rights after taking his seat on the United States Supreme Court in 1836 under Chief Justice Roger Taney. He contributed to the Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge and Briscoe v. Bank of Kentucky decisions, which bolstered states’ rights. He also delivered the opinion of the court in New York v. Miln, which provided the basis for the State Police Powers Doctrine.
Expertly interweaving biography, history, political science, and jurisprudence, Philip Pendleton Barbour in Jacksonian America remembers the man whose personal life and career were emblematic of the decades in which the United States moved from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Jackson, contributing to developments that continue to animate American politics today.