Barbour was born in Orange County, Virginia on May 25, 1783. He attended local schools. He began reading the law at the age of 17. Barbour was admitted to the Virginiabar in 1802. In 1812 he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1814 he was elected to the US House of Representatives. Barbour served as speaker of the house from 1821 to 1823. In 1824 Barbour accepted an appointment as a judge on the General Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. In 1827 Barbour was elected once more to Congress. In 1830 President Jackson appointed him to the United States District Court in Virginia. In February 1836 President Jackson appointed Barbour to the Supreme Court. He served for four years until his death in 1841.