Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Tucker to Thomas Jefferson, 15 November 1812

From George Tucker

Pittsylvania. Nov. 15. 1812.


The disinterested and enlightened favor which you have uniformly shewn to public improvements of every sort, induces me to trouble you with the perusal of the inclosed tract on the Navigation of the Roanoke, and to ask you to favor me with its acceptance. The subject being of great local benefit, and not unimportant to the State, cannot be uninteresting to you.

I have the honor to be Sir, with the highest respect yr obedt Servt

George Tucker

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 17 Dec. 1812 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: [Tucker], A Letter to a member of the General Assembly of North Carolina, on the Navigation of the Roanoke and Its Branches. by a citizen of Pittsylvania (Richmond, 1811), arguing for the feasibility and the financial and political desirability of an inland navigation system connecting the Roanoke River and its branches with the Tidewater, especially Norfolk, thereby benefitting both North Carolina and Virginia.

George Tucker (1775–1861), attorney, educator, and author, was born in Bermuda but immigrated to the United States and studied law at the College of William and Mary, 1795–97. He was admitted to the Richmond bar in 1801 but enjoyed little success there and moved in 1808 to Pittsylvania County near land he had inherited from his first wife. Tucker represented that county in the Virginia General Assembly, 1815–17, and also served as its commonwealth’s attorney. After moving his family to Lynchburg in 1818, he served three terms in the United States House of Representatives, 1819–25. Tucker impressed TJ favorably with his Essays on Various Subjects of Taste, Morals, and National Policy (Georgetown, D.C., 1822; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library [1829] description ends , 14 [no. 929]). In 1825 he was appointed professor of moral philosophy at the University of Virginia, serving as the first chairman of the faculty at the new institution. His teaching responsibilities soon came to include ethics, logic, rhetoric, belles lettres, and political economy. During the twenty-year tenure that made him the longest-serving member of the original faculty, Tucker wrote a two-volume biography of TJ, The Life of Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States (1837). He later recalled that the work required “laborious researches for materials” in TJ’s papers and “frequent conferences with Mr Madison.” Tucker did not complete an intended revised second edition after his retirement, but he continued to add to an extensive array of publications that included novels, contributions to the Virginia Literary Museum (1829–30), important works on political economy, and a four-volume History of the United States (1856–58). In 1845 Tucker moved to Philadelphia. There he was active in the American Philosophical Society, to which he had been elected in 1837 and on the council of which he served from 1855 until his death. During a tour of the lower South, Tucker was injured by a falling cotton bale at Mobile, Alabama, and died at his daughter’s home in Albemarle County. He is buried in the University of Virginia Cemetery (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Robert Colin McLean, George Tucker: Moral Philosopher and Man of Letters [1961]; Tucker’s unpublished autobiography, 1858 [ViU: Tucker-Harrison-Smith Papers]; Bruce, University description begins Philip Alexander Bruce, History of the University of Virginia 1819–1919: The Lengthened Shadow of One Man, 1920–22, 5 vols. description ends , esp. 2:19–24, 101; TJ to Tucker, 9 Mar. 1825; Tucker to Henry S. Randall, 8 Jan. 1856 [N: Randall Papers]; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 21 Apr. 1837 [MS in PPAmP]; The American Philosophical Society: Proceedings Commemorative of the Centennial Anniversary [1889], 100, 101; Robley Dunglison, “An Obituary Notice of Professor George Tucker,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings 9 [1862]: 64–70; Richmond Enquirer, 13 Apr. 1861; Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 Apr. 1861).

Index Entries

  • A Letter to a member of the General Assembly of North Carolina (Tucker) search
  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • North Carolina; Roanoke River navigation search
  • Roanoke River search
  • Tucker, George; A Letter to a member of the General Assembly of North Carolina search
  • Tucker, George; identified search
  • Tucker, George; letters from search
  • Tucker, George; sends work on navigation search
  • Virginia, University of (Charlottesville); professorships at search