Charles Faulkner

Martinsburg Independent
November 8, 1884

In Memoriam

Hon. Charles J. Faulkner died at Boydville, his residence in this town, on Saturday morning, Nov. 1st, inst., a few minutes before 7 o'clock. His birth, life and death belong to and are a part of the history of Martinsburg. The exact year of his birth is a matter of memory and tradition and not of record. Some of our old citizens say he was born in 1805, others in 1806. The record of his father's will shows that he was left at an early age an orphan, and thrown upon his own efforts and resources. He was literally the builder of his greatness and success. Stern realities of life surrounded him, and through their rough and rugged way his strength of will, untiring industry and indomitable perseverance won him honor and renown. He chose the law as his profession, and in the arena, where intellect is the force and propelling power, he ranked among the giants as an expert, technical pleader. Inclined to diplomacy and statesmanship, he took a decided interest in politics and took a leading part and won his first laurels in championing the constitution of 1830. In 1832 he was elected to and become a member of the legislature of Virginia, immediately after President Jackson had disciplined South Carolina and asserted the supremacy of the government of the United States. The slave question had commenced its agitation and Mr. Faulkner, in a speech that has made him famous, advocated the gradual emancipation of slaves.


Retiring from the legislature in 1833, Mr. Faulkner was appointed a commissioner on the part of Virginia on the boundary line question between Virginia and Maryland. He saved to Virginia portions of the present counties of Hampshire, Hardy, Grant, Pendleton and Randolph. In the same year he married the daughter of General Boyd, the accomplished woman, mother of his eight children, whose kindness made his home always cheerful and charming, and who still survives him.

In 1841 he was elected to the State Senate, resigning the next year. In 1848 he was again elected to the House of Delegates. A bill introduced by Mr. Faulkner passed the legislature, was transmitted to the Senators and Representatives of Virginia in Congress, and was at least the basis of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. He gave valuable aid to the revision of the Code, which occupied much of the time of the legislature during that session. A member of the Constitutional Convention of 1850, Mr. Faulkner raised his voice against that discriminating policy which had taxed Western Virginia for the benefit of the rich East. He laid down the proposition that representation should be based on the free white population, not on chattels. He carried his point, against Henry A. Wise and other able debaters.

In the following year, 1851, the country being disturbed by the compromise measures of 1850, Mr. Faulkner was brought out as an independent Union candidate for Congress against Henry Beddinger, of Jefferson. The majority against Mr. Faulkner was considerable at the start. Public feeling, already aroused, was further inflamed by Mr. Beddinger and his friends. Mr. Faulkner and his opponent "divided time" through the district, and the Berkeley statesmen won the seat in Congress. Mr. Faulkner's speech in the House of Representatives on the compromise measures attracted general attention, and was circulated as a campaign document in behalf of Franklin Pierce. More than 125,000 copies of the speech were printed. Mr. Faulkner was now fully in the Democratic fold. He stumped the district for Pierce and it was carried. Mr. Faulkner served four terms in Congress, in his second being made chairman of the Committee on Military affairs.


A delegate in the democratic National Convention of 1856, he supported Buchanan, and was made Chairman of the Democratic Congressional committee. In 1859 he was made Minister to France, where his strong intellect and courtly bearing made him distinguished as a diplomat.

He returned from France after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln and after the secession of the southern States. Being a citizen of Virginia, he was placed under arrest as a suspect and was finally exchanged for Congressman Ely. Mr. Faulkner several times related to the editor of this paper the history and incidents of his arrest, confinement and exchange, and always claimed that he was wrongfully treated by the Federal authorities. He remained South until the close of the war, when he returned to his home and resumed the practice of his profession.

He rapidly regained his prestige as a close reasoner and a well booked attorney, and recognizing the true interests of Berkeley county as an integral part of West Virginia, and believing in the legality of the new State, he was associated with Hon. Benj. Stanton in maintaining the legal status of Berkeley and Jefferson counties, in opposition to Hon. Andrew Hunter and Judge Curtis, of Boston, for Virginia. They won their case. Mr. Faulkner was elected from Berkeley a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1872, and occupied the high position of chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He was elected to Congress in 1874. The people of Berkeley and of the Eastern Panhandle desired him for Governor in 1880, but he was defeated by the present incumbent, Gov. Jackson. Since then, he has devoted his time to cases in the Supreme Courts and to cases in the Circuit Court of the State, involving large amounts and important legal question. This, with the management of his large estate, furnished exercise for his active and industrious mind and habits. He was always kind to the younger members of the bar. The writer bears cheerful and appreciative recognition of his kindness in this respect, as well as of an esteemed personal friendship. Socially, he was the kindest and most hospitable of citizens. If he was home and convenient, every term of court, the Judge, the layers and the officials enjoyed a re- union at his hospitable, and sumptuous table. God gave him brains, and of the world's goods he had plenty, but with it all he had a trait that made such things useful. He was industrious. He worked early and late. There was no necessity for it, but there was not any laziness in his compositions. None of our complaining young or old men ever worked harder than Charles James Faulkner. He was a working- man in every respect, and never ate the bread of idleness, and his life, his acquirements, his honors, worth and standing, from orphanage to renown, is a fitting example and illustration to young men, of what can be accomplished by good habits, perseverance and well directed industry. No man in this community ever started life poorer, and no man has ever gone out of it with a larger meed of success and of honor than Charles James Faulkner.

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