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ness of my own unworthiness; and I beg you will do me the favour to represent that sentiment as the only reason for my doing it. If, however, such a conduct should appear liable to be construed into a disrespect for the Society, be pleased for the present to suppress the communication of that letter.*
Since my last, your favor dated May 8th, with several pamphlets, has been received, for which accept my best thanks. By a private conveyance, I shall send you one or two pamphlets, among which will be a 2d copy of the letter to Dr. Morse. I should be happy to see some reparation from his pen for the injustice done to the character of the inhabitants of this little place. If Mr. Webb be still in Boston, be pleased to make my compliments to him. Mr. Hust I have never seen, since he favoured me with an introduction to you. I believe he is in Philadelphia. Believe me, with the greatest respect and esteem, and with a grateful sense of your favours, sir, Your most obedient and obliged
MY DEAR SIR, -Your favor of the 18th of May by some accident did not reach my hands till nearly two months after, and then found me in a state of anxiety from the dangerous illness of a part of my family, which would not permit me sooner to acknowledge the receipt of it. I thank you, sir, for the very cordial and flattering expressions of your friendship which it manifests, and I feel my mind so much impressed with a sense of your kindness, that I shall always regret the little prospect I have of being able to improve the pleasure of your acquaintance by a personal intercourse; a circumstance which, if it is ever permitted me to avail myself of, I shall embrace with ardor.
* Dr. Belknap did suppress the letter, and Judge Tucker's name was allowed to remain on the roll of the Society. In a list of members of the Society from its institution, prefixed to 4 Collections, I., 1852, Judge Tucker's name appears as "Hon. Henry St. George Tucker," and it so stands in a later list. This does not agree with the earlier record of the name in our volumes, and is believed to be an error. A son of Judge Tucker bore that name. - EDS.
The desire of being known to those whom we esteem is, I hope, at least pardonable; and it is not without a wish to render such an event still more agreeable to me that I take the liberty of making my friends known to you also. Enclosed you will receive a copy of a poem written by a brother with whom, until the age of nineteen, I lived in the most happy fraternal intercourse; it is now more than twenty-three years since we have been separated by that cruel necessity which he so pathetically paints in the beginning of the third page. The other is an oration delivered by another brother. As it contains some of the best observations I have met with on the republican form of government, I make no doubt the perusal will afford you pleasure.
It is with infinite regret that I am informed that the encouragement to the labours of the Massachusetts Historical Society is not sufficient to enable them to continue their publications. Every impediment of the kind is to be lamented; for we live in a time, and in a country, where the harvest truly is abundant, but the labourers few, and these so badly paid that I fear their numbers will not readily be augmented. I flatter myself, however, sir, that in your part of the United States the encouragement to literary pursuits is sufficient to enable, if not to excite, men of talents to publish the result of their labours and researches; and I would fain hope that your own success will confirm the idea that I had formed on the subject. With us the dawn of literary achievements is still, I fear, very far removed. Mr. Jefferson is the only man in this country who has as yet entered the public lists; and had Mr. Jefferson been unable to print his own work, at his own expence, it would probably have mouldered in the dust of his closet. The archives of this country are almost as little known as its natural history; and the characters of men perish with their corporal existence. Yet has this country produced men of genius and of learning, and of virtues sufficient to have obtained them a fair seat in the temple of fame, had it been their fortune to move in any other sphere. I think I can discover that it is otherwise in your part of the continent; and I hope I am not deceived in the conjecture.
I take this opportunity of enclosing a ten-dollar bill, in payment for the books sent me in the winter, the amount of which
was nine dollars. I shall be thankful to you to send me any valuable publications that may appear in your quarter of the
I am on the point of removing my family to the mountains till the month of November. On my return, I shall hope to receive a letter from you, to which I shall not fail to pay due attention.
I am, with very great respect and esteem, dear sir,
S. G. TUCKER.
JUDGE TUCKER TO DR. BELKNAP.
WILLIAMSBURG, April 3, 1797.
DEAR SIR, — I received with extreme concern your favor of the 27th of February, and most sincerely lament the severe attack your health has sustained; yet I am willing to flatter myself the present and approaching season will prove favourable for its restoration. That such may be the event I most sincerely and devoutly wish.
Your conjecture respecting my family is very just. It has been established in Bermuda from the first settlement of the island, and I was born at the very spot which Smith mentions by the name of the Overplus, about which there was some contest between the Governor and the Company. My mother still resides there, and my eldest brother, after her decease, will probably do the like. An early attachment to this place, where I finished my education, fixed me an American citizen; and I shall probably end my days where I have spent the greater part of them.*
I feel great regret that your experience of the encouragement afforded literary merit in America does not answer the idea I
* Judge Tucker was born in Bermuda, June 29, 1752. He graduated at William and Mary College in 1772. In 1778 he married the mother of John Randolph, by whom he had several children. One was Henry St. George, and another Nathaniel Beverly. This latter was the author of an unfinished novel, called "The Partisan Leader," published in 1837, and reprinted in 1861. Judge Tucker was not only the author of several works on law and government, and an annotator of Blackstone, but he wrote a number of poems which have been much admired. He died in November, 1827. — EDs.
had formed of it, at least in your part of the United States. I had flattered myself it was otherwise, and entertained no small hope that the example would in time travel south.
I published a Dissertation on Slavery, with a plan for the abolition of it in this State, last fall. By some unaccountable inattention I have not yet received (from Philadelphia) the copies which were to have been sent me, one of which I had destined for your perusal. I sent a copy to each house of our Assembly. The book was suffered to lie on the table of the House of Delegates, though even that civility was attempted to be denied it. From the Senate (who have not the power of originating any measure) it received a more civil treatment ; and, had the constitution permitted them to introduce a bill, I am inclined to suppose something would have been attempted. When I receive the copies I stipulated for, I shall make a point of forwarding some to you.
Illiberal as our last Assembly may appear from this specimen of their conduct, it gives me pleasure to inform you that they passed an act for mitigating the severity of our penal code. By this act, murder in the first degree (viz., by poisoning, lying in wait, &c.) is the only crime punishible with death,; all others being punished by imprisonment and solitary confinement, with hard labour, for different periods, from one to one-and-twenty years. The general outlines of the act are taken, as I am informed, from the Pennsylvania act upon the same subject. As a human being, I rejoice in this softening of the rigors of human justice. As one whom duty compels him to carry into effect those rigid laws which often make human nature revolt against human punishments, I feel an inexpressible relief to my mind; and I cannot but hope that this circumstance proves that the most deep-rooted prejudices may in time be successfully attacked and finally eradicated. I do myself the pleasure of sending you a speech made on the occasion by the originator of the act in our Assembly, who is an élève of this College.
* Judge Tucker's treatise was entitled "A Dissertation on Slavery, with a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it, in the State of Virginia. By St. George Tucker, Professor of Law in the University of William and Mary, and one of the Judges of the General Court in Virginia. Philadelphia: Printed for Mathew Carey,... 1796." The Historical Society has two copies of this book, said now to be very rare. It was reprinted in New York in 1861. - EDS.
Permit me to entreat a continuance of your favors, whenever your health will permit you to gratify me without injury or fatigue to you. That you may perfectly recover the enjoyment of that invaluable blessing, and with it every other sublunary comfort, is the very sincere wish of, dear sir,
Your much obliged friend and servant,
S. G. TUCKER.
P. S. I am much obliged to you for the Forresters. I had perused the first edition some time ago with much pleasure. The Reverend Doctor BELKNAP, Boston.
JUDGE TUCKER TO DR. BELKNAP.
NORFOLK, August 13, 1797.
MY DEAR SIR, -It is some months since I had the pleasure of hearing from you, a circumstance which I sometimes fear I may ascribe to the failure in the re-establishment of your health; that I may be mistaken in this idea I most sincerely wish.
I embrace the present opportunity of enclosing you a copy of my proposal for the abolition of slavery in this country: surrounded by difficulties on every side, but convinced that mistaken self-interest and prejudice were the most formidable enemies I had to encounter, I endeavored to elude, rather than invite, their attacks. With this view, I proposed the most gradual plan that could possibly eventually produce the desired effect. I guarded it with every restriction that I supposed timidity or prejudice could insist on'; and I endeavoured to lull avarice itself to sleep by demonstrating the slow progress and insencible effects of my proposal. A copy of the pamphlet was sent with a respectful letter addressed to the speakers of both houses of our Assembly. In the House of Delegates, a motion was made to send the letter and its enclosure back to the author, which produced, I believe, a warm debate, which ended with their being suffered to lie on the table. The advocates for the motion had certainly never read or heard the plan read. From the Speaker of the Senate I received such a letter as in