James Brown (Louisiana)

James Brown
United States Minister to France
In office
April 13, 1824  June 28, 1829
Appointed by James Monroe
Preceded by Albert Gallatin
Succeeded by William Cabell Rives
United States Senator
from Louisiana
In office
February 5, 1813  March 4, 1817
Preceded by Thomas Posey
Succeeded by William C. C. Claiborne
In office
March 4, 1819  December 10, 1823
Preceded by Eligius Fromentin
Succeeded by Josiah S. Johnston
1st Secretary of State of Kentucky
In office
June 5, 1792  October 13, 1796
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by Harry Toulmin
Personal details
Born (1766-09-11)September 11, 1766
Staunton, Virginia
Died April 7, 1835(1835-04-07) (aged 68)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Ann "Nancy" Hart
Alma mater Washington and Lee University
College of William and Mary

James Brown (September 11, 1766  April 7, 1835) was a lawyer beginning in Kentucky, U.S. Senator from Louisiana, and Minister to France (1823-1829).

His brother John Brown was a US Senator from Kentucky and active in its gaining statehood. Well-connected among the southern elite, they were also cousins of John Breckinridge, James Breckinridge and Francis Preston. James Brown was brother-in-law to Henry Clay and Nathaniel G. S. Hart, the uncle of James Brown Clay, Henry Clay, Jr., John Morrison Clay, the great uncle of B. Gratz Brown, and the cousin-in-law of Thomas Hart Benton.

Early life and education

Born near Staunton, Virginia, Brown attended Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia, and the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. He read law, was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Brown commanded a company of sharpshooters in an expedition against the Indians in 1789. His wife was Ann "Nancy" Hart, and her sister of Lucretia married Henry Clay, who became an important statesman from Kentucky.


Brown served as secretary to the Virginia Governor in 1792. On June 5, 1792, Isaac Shelby, the first governor of Kentucky, nominated Brown as Secretary of State; he was confirmed by the state senate and served until October 13, 1796.[1]

Soon after the territorial transfer pursuant to the United States making the Louisiana Purchase, Brown moved to New Orleans, where he was appointed in 1804 as secretary of the Territory of Orleans. He served from October 1 to December 11 of that year, when he was appointed as U.S. District Attorney for the Territory.[2]

Brown was one of the wealthiest planters and slave owners on the German Coast. His extensive plantation produced sugar through the use of slave labor.

In January 1811, some slaves from James Brown's plantations joined in the 1811 German Coast Uprising, including the notorious Kook, one of the leaders of the insurrection. It was the largest slave rebellion in US history, but it was short-lived, and the insurgents killed only two white men. In the aftermath of confrontation with the militia and executions after tribunals, ninety-five blacks were killed. Some of the men were from Haiti, brought to Spanish Louisiana several years earlier by white French refugees, as well as by refugee gens de couleur (free people of color), who were fleeing the violence of the Haitian Revolution. Others were slaves imported directly from Africa.

Brown was elected as a Democratic Republican to the United States Senate on December 1, 1812, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Jean Noel Destréhan, and served from February 5, 1813, to March 3, 1817. Brown was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1814.[3] He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection; yet he was elected again to the U.S. Senate in 1819, as an Adams-Clay Republican. He served from March 4, 1819, until December 10, 1823, when he resigned. During his tenure, Brown was the chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations (Sixteenth Congress).

Brown was appointed U.S. Minister to France 1823-1829. Returning to the U.S., he settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He agreed to support a Quaker appeal for funds to aid an American free black settlement in Ontario, Canada, known as the Wilberforce Colony. It had been started by free blacks from Cincinnati, Ohio, who emigrated to Canada in reaction to discriminatory laws and especially a highly destructive riot against them in 1829.

He died in Philadelphia in 1835. He was buried in its Episcopal Christ Church, Philadelphia, the church of statesmen.


  1. "Secretary of State James Brown". Kentucky Secretary of State
  2. American Antiquarian Society Members Directory

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website http://bioguide.congress.gov.

Further reading

United States Senate
Preceded by
Thomas Posey
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Louisiana
Served alongside: Allan B. Magruder, Eligius Fromentin
Succeeded by
William C.C. Claiborne
Preceded by
Eligius Fromentin
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
Served alongside: Henry Johnson
Succeeded by
Josiah S. Johnston
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Albert Gallatin
United States Minister to France
Succeeded by
William C. Rives
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