William Cabell Rives (May 4, 1793- April 25, 1868) was an American lawyer, politician and diplomat from Albemarle County, Virginia. He represented Virginia as a Jackson Democrat in both the U.S. House and Senate and also served as the U.S. minister to France.
Rives was born Union Hill, the estate of his grandfather, Col. William Cabell, in Amherst County, Virginia. The estate was located alomg the James River in what is now Nelson County. His parents were Robert (1764-1845) and Margaret Cabell (c.1770-1815) Rives. After private schooling he attended Hampden-Sydney College and then the William and Mary until 1809.
Leaving Williamsburg, he studied law with Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and was admitted to the bar at Richmond in 1814. Rives began his law practice in Nelson County, but in 1819 he married Judith Page Walker (1802-1882) and moved to the estate she had inherited, named Castle Hill near Cobham in Albemarle County. (Cobham is about 12 miles east of Charlottesville.) This would remain his home for the rest of his life.
Rives political career began when he served in the state constitutional convention in 1816. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1817-19 for Nelson County, and again in 1822 for Albemarle County. Later in 1822 he elected to the United States House of Representatives and served from 1823-29. From 1829 to 1832 he was minister to France.
When Rives returned from France, he was elected to complete a term in the United States Senate. In all he would serve parts of three terms there, the last as a member of the Whig Party. From 1849 to 1853, he was again minister to France.
In February 1861 he was a delegate to the Peace Conference in Washington; he opposed secession, but was loyal to his state when it seceded, and was one of its representatives in the Confederate Congress in 1861 and 1862 during the Civil War.
Rives died at the country estate of Castle Hill in 1868 and is buried in a family plot there. He was the author of several books, the most important being his Life and Times of James Madison (3 vols., Boston, 1859-68). He served on the Board of Visitors for the University of Virginia from 1834-1849, and was fo many years the president of the Virginia Historial Cociety.
His son, Alfred Landon Rives (1830-1903), was an engineer of some prominence, whose daughter, Amlie Rives (Born 1863), became well known as a novelist, her best known book being The Quick or the Dead? (1888); she married John A. Chanler in 1888, and after their divorce married in 1896 Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy of Russia.