The Lecture Notes of St. George Tucker: A Framing Era View of the Bill of Rights

10 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2008 Last revised: 5 Jan 2009

Date Written: October 14, 2008


St. George Tucker was a prominent legal figure in the early Republic. He taught law at William and Mary from 1790 to 1804, and in 1803 published the first edition of Blackstone's Commentaries to be annotated with American legal references. This paper is a transcription of his lecture notes dealing with the Bill of Rights, which are archived in the Swem Library of the College of William and Mary. The body of the text appears to date from 1791-92, with some footnotes added at later dates. It is thus significant evidence of original public understanding.

Tucker's view of the Bill of Rights, written within months of its ratification, is modern and robust. Like Justice Black, he is a First Amendment absolutist. He sees the Second Amendment as an individual right. He considers the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement as a subset of its reasonableness mandate. He sees the Fifth Amendment prohibition on takings as a response to Revolutionary War "impressment" of personal property for military use.

Keywords: constitution, bill of rights, first amendment, second amendment, original understanding

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Hardy, David T., The Lecture Notes of St. George Tucker: A Framing Era View of the Bill of Rights (October 14, 2008). Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 103, p. 272, 2008, Available at SSRN: or

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