St. George Tucker
St. George Tucker (10 July 1752 – 10 November 1827), born in Bermuda, was a lawyer and, after the American Revolution, a professor of law at the College of William and Mary. He notably increased the requirements for a law degree at the college, as he believed lawyers needed deep educations. He served as a judge of the General Court of Virginia and later on the Court of Appeals.
Following the American Revolutionary War, Tucker supported the gradual emancipation of slaves, which he proposed to the state legislature in a pamphlet published in 1796. He wrote an American edition of Blackstone's "Commentaries" that became a valuable reference work for many American lawyers and law students in the early 19th century. President James Madison in 1813 appointed Tucker as the United States District Court judge for Virginia. Many of his descendants were notable lawyers, professors and politicians.
A Dissertation on Slavery: With a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it, in the State of Virginia (1796)
- Whilst America hath been the land of promise to Europeans, and their descendants, it hath been the vale of death to millions of the wretched sons of Africa... Whilst we were offering up vows at the shrine of Liberty... whilst we swore irreconcilable hostility to her enemies... whilst we adjured the God of Hosts to witness our resolution to live free or die... we were imposing on our fellow men, who differ in complexion from us, a slavery, ten thousand times more cruel than the utmost extremity of those grievances and oppressions, of which we complained.
- Civil rights, as we may remember, are reducible to three primary heads; the right of personal security; the right of personal liberty; and the right of private property. In a state of slavery, the two last are wholly abolished, the person of the slave being at the absolute disposal of his master; and property, what he is incapable, in that state, either of acquiring, or holding, in his own use. Hence, it will appear how perfectly irreconcilable a state of slavery is to the principles of a democracy, which form the basis and foundation of our government.
Blackstone’s Commentaries (1803)
- It will be remembered, that the object of the several states in the adoption of that instrument, was not the establishment of a general consolidated government, which should swallow up the state sovereignties, and annihilate their several jurisdictions, and powers, as states; but a federal government, with powers limited to certain determinate objects; viz. their intercourse and concerns with foreign nations; and with each other, as separate and independent states; and, as members of the same confederacy: leaving the administration of their internal, and domestic concerns, to the absolute and uncontrolable jurisdiction of the states, respectively; except in one or two particular instances, specified, and enumerated in the constitution. Page 412
- Since each state in becoming a member of a federal republic retains an uncontrolled jurisdiction over all cases of municipal law, every grant of jurisdiction to the confederacy, in any such case, is to be considered as special, inasmuch as it derogates from the antecedent rights and jurisdiction of the state making the concession, and therefore ought to be construed strictly, upon the grounds already mentioned. Page 152
- Encyclopedic article on St. George Tucker at Wikipedia