The St. George Tucker Society is an interdisciplinary scholarly organization dedicated to the study of the American South. Founded in 1990, it holds an annual meeting for members and guests during the summer “lay-by” season. These meetings feature presentations by established and beginning scholars. Papers are circulated in advance of the meeting and sessions focus on the engagement between the presenter and the audience. Meals and libations are normally shared as part of the program schedule in an effort to foster collegiality.
The Society is named for the Virginia judge, poet, soldier, (sometime smuggler), and law professor. St. George Tucker (1752-1827) was the youngest child of a prominent Bermuda merchant-family, who, at the age of nineteen, came to Virginia to study at the College of William & Mary. He read law under George Wythe and began practice just before the American Revolution. Following independence, he was elected by the Virginia legislature to serve as judge on the General Court. In 1790, he was appointed as Professor of Law and Police at William & Mary. From his lectures, he published an American edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, which he annotated extensively to “republicanize” and localize the English common law, and which proved to be his most lasting contribution. In 1804, he was appointed to Virginia’s Court of Appeals and, in 1813, President Madison nominated him as a judge for the U.S. District Court. He held that post until 1825. St. George Tucker was one of the leading legal and constitutional thinkers of the American Revolution whose intellectual complexity defies conventional categorization. He frequently engaged the fundamental questions of constitutionalism, federalism, judicial independence, and slavery that shaped the negotiations of self-government in post-colonial America. He advocated the gradual abolition of slavery in Virginia in 1796, believing that it was incompatible with republican government and, in response to the Sedition Act crisis, elaborated a nuanced argument, grounded in the common law, for the sovereignty of the individual states within the federal union. His correspondence and law papers are preserved and archived at the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William & Mary.
The records of the Society are preserved in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
In recent years, the Society’s mission has been sustained by generous financial and administrative support from the Watson-Brown Foundation.