James Philemon Holcombe

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James Philemon Holcombe
BornSeptember 20, 1820
DiedAugust 22, 1873
Alma materYale University
University of Virginia Law School

James Philemon Holcombe (September 20, 1820 – August 22, 1873) was an American law professor, legal author and Confederate politician.

Early life[edit]

James Holcombe was born in Powhatan County, Virginia and raised in Lynchburg. He graduated from Yale University and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School.


Legal career[edit]

Holcombe practiced law in Ohio, and later was a professor of law at the University of Virginia. He authored several important legal treatises, including An Introduction to Equity Jurisprudence.

Views on slavery[edit]

Although his parents freed their slaves and later moved to Indiana, Holcombe spoke widely in favor of slavery. He delivered an address "Is Slavery Consistent With Natural Law?" in 1858 on slavery's consistency with natural law. Holcombe had a political theory based on ideas of hierarchy, which explicitly reversed Jefferson's theme from the Declaration of Independence that all people are created equal. He thought people were naturally unequal and that was his primary argument for slavery. This theme was also developed by Holcombe's UVA colleague Albert Taylor Bledsoe.[1] Holcombe's other public addresses include an address to the Virginia Historical Society on the American Revolution and an 1853 address to the University of Virginia alumni on the importance of education. [2] During the secession crisis, Professor Holcombe delivered a speech to the voters of Albemarle County and then advocated secession in Richmond's Secession Convention's debates in March 1861.[3]

American Civil War[edit]

During the War, Holcombe represented his district in the First Confederate Congress. He did not return to The University after the American Civil War, but established a high school for boys at Bellevue near Goode, Virginia. It functioned into the late-19th century.[2]


Holcombe died on August 22, 1873.


  1. ^ Alfred L. Brophy, University, Court, and Slave: Pro-Slavery Thought in Southern Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War (2016): 68-72.
  2. ^ a b John Salmon and Julie Vosmik (July 1989). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Bellevue" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-26. Retrieved 2013-06-03. and Accompanying photo
  3. ^ Freehling, William W. and Craig M. Simpson. Showdown in Virginia: the 1861 Convention and the fate of the Union. 2010. IBSN 978-0-8139-2964-4, p. 62

External links[edit]