William Henry Brodnax

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William H. Brodnax
Born 1786 (1786)
Brunswick County, Virginia, U.S.
Died October 23, 1834(1834-10-23) (aged 53)
Dinwiddie County, Virginia, U.S.
Alma mater Hampden-Sydney College
Occupation Soldier, Legislator
Title Brigadier General, Delegate

William H. Brodnax (also Broadnax), (1786 – October 23, 1834) was a nineteenth-century American militia Brigadier General and American politician from Virginia. [1] [2]

Virginia State of the United States of America

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States located between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2018 is over 8.5 million.


Early life

Born in Brunswick County, Virginia, Broadnax graduated from Hampden-Sydney College having studied law, and later received an honorary Master of Arts degree from there in 1830 at age forty-four following his service as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-1830. [2]

Brunswick County, Virginia County in the United States

Brunswick County is a United States county located on the southern border of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This rural county is known as one the claimants to be the namesake of Brunswick stew.


The Virginia Capitol at Richmond VA
where 19th century Conventions met View of Capitol, Richmond, Va. April,1865 - NARA - 529087.tif
The Virginia Capitol at Richmond VA
where 19th century Conventions met

Brodnax began practicing the Law in Petersburg, Virginia.

Petersburg, Virginia Independent city in Commonwealth of Virginia, United States

Petersburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 32,420. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines Petersburg with Dinwiddie County for statistical purposes. It is located on the Appomattox River. The city is just 21 miles (34 km) south of the historic commonwealth (state) capital city of Richmond. The city's unique industrial past and its location as a transportation hub combined to create wealth for Virginia and the Middle Atlantic and Upper South regions of the nation.

Brodnax twice served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, once from 1818–1819 and again from 1830–1833. [3] He was also a member of the American Colonization Society. [2]

Virginia House of Delegates lower house of U.S. state legislature

The Virginia House of Delegates is one of two parts in the Virginia General Assembly, the other being the Senate of Virginia. It has 100 members elected for terms of two years; unlike most states, these elections take place during odd-numbered years. The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is elected from among the House membership by the Delegates. The Speaker is usually a member of the majority party and, as Speaker, becomes the most powerful member of the House. The House shares legislative power with the Senate of Virginia, the upper house of the Virginia General Assembly. The House of Delegates is the modern-day successor to the Virginia House of Burgesses, which first met at Jamestown in 1619. The House is divided into Democratic and Republican caucuses. In addition to the Speaker, there is a majority leader, majority caucus chair, minority leader, minority caucus chair, and the chairs of the several committees of the House.

American Colonization Society group supporting the migration of African Americans to Liberia

The Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color of America, commonly known as the American Colonization Society (ACS), was a group established in 1816 by Robert Finley of New Jersey which supported the migration of free African Americans to the continent of Africa. The society in 1821–1822 helped to found a colony on the Pepper Coast of West Africa, as a place for free-born or manumitted American blacks. The ACS met with immediate and continuing objections from such African-Americans as James Forten and David Walker, who wished to remain in the land of their birth, saw colonization as a racist strategy for protecting slavery and purging the U.S. of its black citizens, and preferred to fight for equal rights at home. Colonizers were also met with resistance and attacks from those already living in and around the areas being colonized. There was some religious support and missionary efforts were part of the colonization. Disease was a major problem, with Liberian immigrants suffering the highest mortality rates in accurately recorded human history. Of the 4,571 emigrants who arrived in Liberia from 1820 to 1843, only 1,819 survived until 1843.

Over the course of a military career in the Virginia militia, Brodnax attained the rank of Brigadier General. In 1824, he was appointed by the Virginia state legislature to meet General Lafayette on his arrival at Baltimore, Maryland. He served as the chief marshal at Yorktown, Virginia, when Lafayette visited. [2]

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette French general and politician.

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, known in the United States simply as Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, commanding American troops in several battles, including the Siege of Yorktown. After returning to France, he was a key figure in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830.

Early on in his political career, Brodnax was a member of the Whig Party. Broadnax was a presidential elector in 1825. He served as a delegate in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-1830 as one of four delegates from the state senatorial district including his home county of Dinwiddie, Brunswick, Lunenburg and Mecklenburg. [2]

Whig Party (United States) Political party in the USA in the 19th century

The Whig Party was a political party active in the middle of the 19th century in the United States. Four presidents belonged to the party while in office. It emerged in the 1830s as the leading opponent of Jacksonian democracy, pulling together former members of the National Republican and the Anti-Masonic Party. It had some links to the upscale traditions of the long-defunct Federalist Party. Along with the rival Democratic Party, it was central to the Second Party System from the early 1840s to the mid-1860s. It originally formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. It became a formal party within his second term, and slowly receded influence after 1854. In particular terms, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the presidency and favored a program of modernization, banking and economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing. It appealed to entrepreneurs, planters, reformers and the emerging urban middle class, but had little appeal to farmers or unskilled workers. It included many active Protestants and voiced a moralistic opposition to the Jacksonian Indian removal. Party founders chose the "Whig" name to echo the American Whigs of the 18th century who fought for independence. The political philosophy of the American Whig Party was not related to the British Whig party. Historian Frank Towers has specified a deep ideological divide:

In August 1831, Brodnax served as commanding general of the Virginia militia during the Nat Turner slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The next month he represented, along with his brother Meriwether Brodnax, several slaves accused of participating in Nat Turner's slave rebellion. [4] Neither of those assertions are supported by the Southampton County, Virginia court minutes. Brodnax is not mentioned in those records, and his brother Meriwether B. Brodnax (sometimes written Merewether B. Broadnax) was a prosecutor, not a defense counsel. Gen. Eppes was in command of the troops in the area. [5] [6] In 1832 during the Virginia legislature's debate about slavery Brodnax spoke in favor of colonization of free African Americans. [7]


Brodnax died on October 23, 1834 and his will was probated in Dinwiddie County in December 1834.

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  1. Freehling, William W. (1990). The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854:, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. pp. 184–186, 189, 191, 195, 204. ISBN   0195058143 . Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Pulliam 1901, p. 75
  3. Goodyear Freehling, Allison. "William H. Brodnax (ca. 1786–1834)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  4. Alfred L. Brophy, "The Nat Turner Trials", North Carolina Law Review (June 2013), volume 91: 1817-80.
  5. Southampton Co., VA, Court Minute Book 1830-1835, p. 94-95
  6. "Proceedings on the Southampton Insurrection, Aug-Nov 1831"
  7. Speech of William Henry Brodnax, (of Dinwiddie) in the House of Delegates of Virginia: on the Policy of the State with Respect to its Colored Population. Delivered January 19, 1832