William T. Barry

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William Barry
7th United States Postmaster General
In office
March 9, 1829 – April 10, 1835
PresidentAndrew Jackson
Preceded byJohn McLean
Succeeded byAmos Kendall
16th Secretary of State of Kentucky
In office
September 2, 1824 – February 3, 1825
GovernorJoseph Desha
Preceded byThomas Bell Monroe
Succeeded byJames Pickett
7th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
In office
August 29, 1820 – August 24, 1824
GovernorJohn Adair
Preceded byGabriel Slaughter
Succeeded byRobert B. McAfee
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
February 2, 1815 – May 1, 1816
Preceded byGeorge Walker
Succeeded byMartin D. Hardin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 5th district
In office
August 8, 1810 – March 3, 1811
Preceded byBenjamin Howard
Succeeded byHenry Clay
Personal details
Born(1784-02-05)February 5, 1784
Lunenburg, Virginia, U.S.
DiedAugust 30, 1835(1835-08-30) (aged 51)
Liverpool, England, UK
Resting placeFrankfort Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic-Republican (Before 1825)
Democratic (1828–1835)
Spouse(s)Lucy Overton
Catherine Mason
EducationTransylvania University
College of William and Mary (BA)

William Taylor Barry (February 5, 1784 – August 30, 1835) was an American slave owner,[1] statesman and jurist. He served as Postmaster General for most of the administration of President Andrew Jackson and was the only Cabinet member not to resign in 1831 as a result of the Petticoat affair.


Born near Lunenburg, Virginia, he moved to Fayette County, Kentucky, in 1796 with his parents John Barry, an American Revolutionary War veteran, and Susannah (Dozier) Barry. He attended the common schools, Pisgah Academy and Kentucky Academy in Woodford County, Transylvania University at Lexington and graduated from the College of William & Mary at Williamsburg, Virginia in 1803, after which studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1805. He commenced practice at Jessamine County, Kentucky and then at Lexington.

William Taylor Barry

Political life[edit]

Elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1807, Barry became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1810 to 1811, then served in the War of 1812. From 1815 to 1816, he became a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, then won election to the Kentucky Senate and served from 1817 to 1821. During his time in the Kentucky Senate Barry wrote to former President James Madison seeking support for a plan of subsidizing public education across the state; Madison responded enthusiastically and included in his letter of August 4, 1822 the often-cited observation: "A popular Government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both."[2]

Meanwhile, Kentucky suffered from the Panic of 1819 and Barry became a leading figure in the debt relief party, which was successful in the elections between 1820 and 1824, although less successful when creditors challenged the relief laws in the courts. As a lawyer, Barrry argued in support of those laws, which the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned in 1823. Barry also became the sixth Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky (1820 to 1824), then served as Secretary of State of Kentucky (1824 to 1825). He resigned that position to become Chief Judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals (the predecessor to the Kentucky Supreme Court) for the 1825 term during the Old Court - New Court controversy.[3] Although the Old Court party won the 1826 elections, Barry ran for Governor of Kentucky in 1828.

Barry became U.S. Postmaster General in Andrew Jackson's administration, serving from 1829 to 1835. While Postmaster General, he outlawed the mailing of William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.[4]

He was the only member of Jackson's original Cabinet not to resign as a result of the Petticoat Affair, which involved the social ostracism of Margaret O'Neill Eaton, the wife of Secretary of War John H. Eaton by a coalition of Cabinet members wives led by Second Lady Floride Calhoun. Barry, like Jackson, had sided with the Eatons.[5]

Appointments and awards[edit]

He was appointed ambassador to Spain, but died before he could take office en route to his post, while stopped in Liverpool, England August 30, 1835. He was originally interred and a cenotaph still stands at St. James's Cemetery, Liverpool, England; he was reinterred in 1854 at Frankfort Cemetery, Frankfort, Kentucky.

Barry County, Michigan, Barry County, Missouri,[6] Barry, Missouri, Barrytown[7] Barrytown, New York and Barryville, New York are named in his honor.


During the 1820s, Barry was a member of the prestigious society, Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, who counted among their members former presidents Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams and many prominent men of the day, including well-known representatives of the military, government service, medical, and other professions.[8]


Barry was an uncle to Kentucky Governor Luke P. Blackburn.[9]


  1. ^ "Congress slaveowners", The Washington Post, January 19, 2022, retrieved January 25, 2022
  2. ^ Michael Doyle, "Misquoting Madison," Legal Affairs, July–August 2002.
  3. ^ "Justices of Kentucky's Highest Court: The Court of Appeals (1792-1975) & Supreme Court (1976-present) — Louis D. Brandeis School of Law Library".
  4. ^ Snodgrass, Mary Ellen (2015). The Underground Railroad : an encyclopedia of people, places, and operations. London [England]. p. 325. ISBN 978-1-315-69887-8. OCLC 908062431.
  5. ^ Watson, Harry L. (2006). Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America. New York, NY: Hill & Wang. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-8090-6547-9.
  6. ^ Eaton, David Wolfe (1916). How Missouri Counties, Towns and Streams Were Named. The State Historical Society of Missouri. p. 205.
  7. ^ Postal zip 12719
  8. ^ Rathbun, Richard (1904). The Columbian institute for the promotion of arts and sciences: A Washington Society of 1816-1838. Vol. 1. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, October 18, 1917.
  9. ^ Baird, Nancy Disher (1979). Luke Pryor Blackburn: Physician, Governor, Reformer. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-0248-0.


External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Kentucky
Served alongside: Jesse Bledsoe, Isham Talbot
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State of Kentucky
Succeeded by
James Pickett
Preceded by United States Postmaster General
Succeeded by
Party political offices
New political party Democratic nominee for Governor of Kentucky
Succeeded by

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.