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Nathaniel Beverley Tucker (September 6, 1784 - August 26, 1851) was an American author, judge, legal scholar, and political essayist.


Life and Politics

Tucker was born into a socially elite and politically influential Virginia family: his father was the noted legal scholar St. George Tucker, and his half-brother was the famous John Randolph of Roanoke. Tucker's older brother Henry St. George Tucker, Sr., too, went on to have an eminent career as a law professor and Congressman in antebellum Virginia.

After moving with his family to the Missouri territory in 1816, Tucker served as a circuit court judge from 1817 until 1832. He returned to Virginia in 1833 and served as a Professor of Law at William and Mary College, his alma mater (Class of 1802), from 1834 to his death in 1851.

Tucker opposed the nullification movement in South Carolina, but maintained that individual states had the right to secede from the Union. From the 1830s onward he was a leading academic spokesman for states' rights and Southern unity. He wrote frequently for the Southern Literary Messenger and other periodicals, and carried on an extensive correspondence with influential Southern political leaders, including President John Tyler, Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, and South Carolina Governor James Henry Hammond.

He died in Winchester, Virginia, at the age of 66 years.


Tucker is probably best remembered for his 1836 novel The Partisan Leader. Set in the United States of 1849, the story depicts a war between secessionist guerrillas in Virginia and a despotic federal government led by President-turned-dictator Martin Van Buren. In Tucker's future, the slaveholding states south of Virginia have already seceded, driven out of the Union by Van Buren's centralizing government and exploitative tariff policy. While the Old Dominion itself remains under federal control, the plot of The Partisan Leader concerns the efforts of patriotic Virginian irregulars to defeat government forces and join the independent Southern Confederacy.

At the onset of the American Civil War, the novel was regarded by many in the North and South as a prophetic vision of the collapse of the Union. It was republished in 1861 in New York with the subtitle "A Key to the Southern Conspiracy"; a Richmond edition of 1862 is subtitled "A Novel, and an Apocalypse of the Origin and Struggles of the Southern Confederacy."

Tucker was also the author of George Balcombe, also published in 1836, which Edgar Allan Poe called "the best American novel."[1] In 1844-1845, Tucker's third and final novel, Gertrude, was serialized in the Southern Literary Messenger.


  • Robert J. Brugger, Beverley Tucker: Heart over Head in the Old South (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977).
  • Beverley D. Tucker, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker: Prophet of the Confederacy, 1784-1851 (Tokyo: Nan'undo, 1979).
  • Drew Gilpin Faust, A Sacred Circle: The Dilemma of the Intellectual in the Old South, 1840-1860 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1977).
  • "Recent Deaths"; New York Daily Times; September 18, 1851; page 2. (Accessed from The New York Times (1851–2003), ProQuest Historical Newspapers, September 19, 2006).


  1. ^ Poe review of George Balcombe in The Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. III, 1 (January 1837), 49-58.

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