Author: Davison M. Douglas

Arthur B. Hanson Professor of Law, William and Mary School of Law
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Tucker, St. George (1752–1827)

St. George Tucker was a lawyer, teacher, poet, essayist, inventor, and judge. One of the most influential jurists and legal scholars in the early years of the United States, he sat on three courts in Virginia: the General Court (1789–1804), the Court of Appeals (1804–1811), and the U.S. District Court for the District of Virginia (and later the Eastern District of Virginia) (1813–1825). He also served as rector (1789–1790) and professor of law (1790–1804) at the College of William and Mary. His five-volume edition of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in 1803, was the first major treatise on American law. Born in Bermuda, Tucker studied law as an apprentice to George Wythe in Williamsburg, gaining admission to the bar in 1774. During the American Revolution (1775–1783) he smuggled needed supplies into Virginia and fought under Nathanael Greene at the Battle of Guilford Court House (1781) and under George Washington at the siege of Yorktown (1781). After the war he practiced in the county courts before being elevated to a judgeship. At William and Mary, he advocated the study of law as an academic discipline, and in 1796 he published A Dissertation on Slavery, his plan to gradually abolish slavery in Virginia. The General Assembly ignored it. Tucker married twice and had five surviving children, including the jurist and congressman Henry St. George Tucker and the writer and states’ rights advocate Nathaniel Beverley Tucker. He died in Nelson County in 1827.

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