Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 119 / Number 3
The Divided Legacy of a Founding Father: Henry and Beverley Tucker Confront Nullification and Secession
- Chad Vanderford, pp. 210–43
Between 1790 and 1804, St. George Tucker served as professor of law at the College of William and Mary. During those years he helped to inaugurate an academic debate on the Constitution of the United States. Two of his children, Henry and Beverley, became law professors in their own right. They both worked hard to assure that academic discourse on constitutional issues remained in the framework laid down by their father. Both men followed their father in the belief that the American Revolution had converted the modern natural rights philosophy into something real and tangible. Although the brothers agreed on their constitutional premises, they often disagreed on the proper course of action to take. On the issue of politics they divided the legacy of their father. This article puts Henry Tucker's constitutional philosophy at the center of the picture, using the ideas of John Randolph, Joseph Story, and Beverley Tucker as foils. Henry's moderate espousal of the constitutional orthodoxy of the Founding Fathers deserves attention from scholars and should not be overshadowed either by Beverley Tucker's actions as one of the first of the "fire-eaters" advocating southern secession or by Joseph Story's ahistorical nationalism.