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Our History: Former Faculty: Holcombe, James P. (1852-1861)

Tenured faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law through its history.

James P. Holcombe, 1852-1861

James Holcombe, courtesy Special Collections, University of Virginia LibraryIn 1852, the faculty of the law school was enlarged when James P. Holcombe joined John B. Minor as a professor. He was descended on both sides from military officers of the Revolutionary War. He married young and moved to Cincinnati to practice law. Holcombe’s parents left their home in Lynchburg to settle in Indiana in order to raise their younger sons in a state free from slavery. They not only freed their own slaves before leaving but even refused a large inheritance because it included slaves. Though his parents were ardently anti-slavery, Holcombe himself became the strongest support of secession among the university faculty. Holcombe was remembered as “an orator of unusual power.” He resigned in March 1861 to become a candidate for membership in the Secession Convention, where he was elected. As Philip Bruce describes in The History of the University of Virginia, 1819-1919, “The brooding peace of the arcades, the calm dignity of the teacher’s platform, the varied charms of literature, the bonds of intellectual friendship,--all were left behind, in the spirit of a medieval knight, as he withdrew from the precincts to put his great talents at the disposal of the new-born nationality.” Holcombe also became a representative to the Confederate Congress and did not return to the university after the war. He died in 1873.

Publications

Books

A Compendium of Mercantile Law (with William Y. Gholson) (Appleton, 3d ed. 1855).

Barton’s History of a Suit in Equity: From Its Commencement to Its Final Termination (R. Clarke, rev. ed. 1859).

Articles

Is Slavery Consistent with Natural Law?, 27 S. Literary Messenger 401-421 (1858).

Other

An Address Delivered Before the Society of Alumni, of the University of Virginia, at Its Annual Meeting (Macfarlane & Fergusson, 1853).

Sketches of the Political Issues and Controversies of the Revolution (Virginia Historical Society, 1856).

An Address Delivered Before the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Virginia State Agricultural Society (Macfarlane & Fergusson, 1858).

The Election of a Black Republican President: An Overt Act of Aggression on the Right of Property in Slaves (C.H. Wynne, 1860).