First edition of A Dissertation on Slavery by St. George Tucker of Virginia, a scarce colonial condemnation of slavery.
Small octavo, [vi], -106pp. Rebound in modern dark gray cloth, title in gilt on front cover. New endpapers. Faint soiling to edges of leaves throughout, text is clean.
(Evans 31319) (Howes T396) (Sabin 97375)
George Tucker (1752-1827) was a prolific lawyer, teacher, writer, and judge. He sat on three courts in Virginia throughout his career, including the General Court (1789-1804), the Court of Appeals (1804-1811), and the US District Court for the District of Virginia (1813-1825).
Tucker was rector and professor of law at the College of William and Mary from 1789-1804, during which he wrote and published this Dissertation on Slavery. He advocated for the abolition of slavery in Virginia, and offered a complex plan to enact a gradual emancipation. The steps included manumission of all enslaved women born after the plan was accepted, followed by all of that woman’s descendants to be born free. Freed women would still be required to work for their former slave holder’s family until the age of twenty-eight, after which they would be given $20, clothes, and blankets. Many other civil rights were not granted to freed slaves under this plan, like holding public office, owning land, or marrying outside their race. Although Tucker created the plan with many concessions in hopes of helping it pass, the General Assembly rejected his proposal.
This Dissertation is recognized by modern historians as a “simultaneously visionary, racist… and hopelessly complex” piece, but Tucker is still credited for attempting “what no other southerner did or dared to do: he offered a proposal to end slavery in a southern slave state” (Finkelman 1240).