John B. Baldwin

John B. Baldwin
Virginia Union University
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There is but one single subject of complaint which Virginia has to make against the government under which we live; a complaint made by the whole South, and that is on the subject of African slavery…
~ John B. Baldwin, Augusta County delegate to the Virginia Secession Convention, March 21, 1861

John B. Baldwin was born at Spring Farm near Staunton in 1820. He attended school at the Staunton Academy and later entered the University of Virginia. After studying law with his father, Baldwin entered a partnership with his brother-in-law, A. H. H. Stuart, and after three years opened his own practice. Baldwin married Susan Madison Peyton, the eldest daughter of the prominent lawyer John Howe Peyton. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1845, but lost the following year to Hugh W. Sheffey, another Whig, over the issue of slaves and representation. After the dissolution of the Whig party, Baldwin favored the American party.

In the 1860 presidential election, he canvassed for John Bell, the Constitutional Union candidate. During the secession crisis, Baldwin served in the Virginia Convention and spoke in favor of the preservation of the Union. Despite his early opposition to secession, Baldwin supported his state in the Civil War. He served as colonel of the 52nd Virginia Infantry until prevented by illness. He then represented Virginia in the Confederate Congress. Between sessions, Baldwin acted as colonel of a regiment of Augusta Reserves.

After General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Baldwin worked toward peace. After the war, Baldwin continued his involvement in state politics with terms in the General Assembly, including a stint as speaker of the House. Baldwin numbered among the "Committee of Nine," which helped engineer the adoption of a state constitution without harsh restrictions on officeholding and suffrage. As a result of their efforts, Virginia re-entered the Union in 1870 and soon after fell to conservative control. John B. Baldwin died in 1873.