William T. Barry

William Taylor Barry
United States Ambassador to Spain
In office
April 10, 1835
President Andrew Jackson
Preceded by Cornelius P. Van Ness
Succeeded by John H. Eaton
7th United States Postmaster General
In office
March 9, 1829  April 10, 1835
President Andrew Jackson
Preceded by John McLean
Succeeded by Amos Kendall
16th Secretary of State of Kentucky
In office
September 2, 1824  February 3, 1825
Governor Joseph Desha
Preceded by Thomas Bell Monroe
Succeeded by James Chamberlayne Pickett
6th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
In office
August 29, 1820  August 24, 1824
Governor John Adair
Preceded by Gabriel Slaughter
Succeeded by Robert B. McAfee
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
February 2, 1815  May 1, 1816
Preceded by George Walker
Succeeded by Martin D. Hardin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 5th district
In office
August 8, 1810  March 3, 1811
Preceded by Benjamin Howard
Succeeded by Henry Clay
Member of the Kentucky Senate
In office
Member of the Kentucky House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born (1784-02-05)February 5, 1784
Lunenburg, Virginia
Died August 30, 1835(1835-08-30) (aged 51)
Liverpool, England
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Lucy Overton
Catherine Mason
Alma mater Transylvania University
William & Mary College
Profession Politician, Lawyer

William Taylor Barry (February 5, 1784 – August 30, 1835) was an American statesman and jurist. He served as Postmaster General for most of the administration of President Andrew Jackson, and was the only Cabinet member to not 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

He was a member of Kentucky House of Representatives in 1807, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1810 to 1811, served in the War of 1812, was a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, 1815 to 1816; then a member of the Kentucky Senate, 1817 to 1821, and the sixth Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, 1820 to 1824, then Secretary of State of Kentucky, 1824 to 1825, and a candidate for Governor of Kentucky in 1828. During his time in the Kentucky Senate he wrote to former President James Madison seeking support for a plan of subsidizing public education across the state; Madison responded enthusiastically, including in his letter of August 4, 1822, the often cited observation that "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."[1]

He was U.S. Postmaster General in Andrew Jackson's administration from 1829 to 1835. 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.[2]

Appointments and awards

He was appointed ambassador to Spain, but died 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, [3] Barrytown[4]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.[5]


Barry was an uncle to Kentucky governor Luke P. Blackburn.[6]


  1. Michael Doyle, "Misquoting Madison," Legal Affairs, July-Aug. 2002.
  2. 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.
  3. Eaton, David Wolfe (1916). How Missouri Counties, Towns and Streams Were Named. The State Historical Society of Missouri. p. 205.
  4. Postal zip 12719
  5. Rathbun, Richard. The Columbian institute for the promotion of arts and sciences: A Washington Society of 1816-1838. 1. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, October 18, 1917.
  6. Baird, Nancy Disher (1979). Luke Pryor Blackburn: Physician, Governor, Reformer. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-0248-0.


Political offices
Preceded by
Gabriel Slaughter
Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
Succeeded by
Robert B. McAfee
Preceded by
John McLean
United States Postmaster General
Served under: Andrew Jackson

Succeeded by
Amos Kendall
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Benjamin Howard
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kentucky's 5th congressional district
Succeeded by
Henry Clay
United States Senate
Preceded by
George Walker
Senator from Kentucky (Class 2)
Served alongside: Jesse Bledsoe, Isham Talbot
Succeeded by
Martin D. Hardin
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Cornelius P. Van Ness
United States Minister to Spain
Succeeded by
John H. Eaton

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

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