Foreword: The Legacy of St. George Tucker
12 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2011
St. George Tucker was one of the more influential jurists, legal scholars, and legal educators of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century America. This essay provides an introduction to this William and Mary Law Review symposium on Tucker and his influence on American law.
In addition to serving as both a state and federal judge, and a law professor at William and Mary, Tucker made his mark as an important legal scholar. Although he would eventually be eclipsed in prominence by Joseph Story and James Kent, Tucker was the most significant legal scholar of the early nineteenth century, particularly after publication of his five-volume edition of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1803. Tucker’s Blackstone included eight hundred pages of essays on a variety of legal and political topics and more than one thousand footnotes in which Tucker examined Blackstone in light of American and Virginian law. Tucker’s edition of Blackstone, known as “America’s Blackstone,” soon became the leading legal text in the United States, enjoying wide circulation throughout the country. Indeed, Tucker’s Blackstone, the first major legal treatise on American law, was one of the most influential legal works of the early ninet! eenth century, and the only treatise on American constitutional law until the1820s.
Because Tucker wrote many of the essays that appeared in his edition of Blackstone during the early 1790s, and was quite familiar with the ratification controversy and the contemporary debates over the Bill of Rights, his essays on the Constitution offer a fascinating eighteenth-century perspective on the meaning of our central constitutional texts. The United States Supreme Court has cited Tucker’s Blackstone in more than forty cases as authority for eighteenth-century understandings of certain points of law including recent cases addressing state sovereign immunity and the ability of states to impose term limits on members of Congress.
This symposium on St. George Tucker seeks to renew scholarly interest in one of the more compelling jurists, legal scholars, and legal educators of early America.
Keywords: St. George Tucker, Blackstone, Blackstone's Commentaries, history of legal education, history of constitutional interpretation
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