Nathaniel Beverley Tucker was a judge, author and Fire-Eater who was one of the most important men in laying the intellectual foundations for what eventually became the Confederate States of America. The Partisan Leader was a novel written by Tucker published in 1836 that foretold the future formation of a Southern Confederacy and which was seen as somewhat prophetic upon the outbreak of the War Between the States. He was the half-brother of John Randolph of Roanoke and the son of St. George Tucker. His father St. George Tucker was born in Bermuda where his family had settled in the 1600’s. The Tucker family in fact has a connection to the earliest period of Virginia history with Nathaniel Beverley Tucker’s ancestral uncle Daniel Tucker having arrived with the Second Supply of settlers to Jamestown in 1608 and who was later sent to Bermuda to become its second governor in 1616.
In an effort to examine Tucker’s view of England and matters pertaining to his thoughts on ethnicity extracts from a speech he gave before the Young Men’s Society of Lynchburg in 1838 and from a book review he wrote of Macaulay’s history of England are provided below.
During Tucker’s “Discourse on the Genius of the Federative System of the United States” given in 1838 he describes the sentiments of Revolutionary War era Virginia and the pride of ancestry and state that influenced the people in those days.
He highlights the remembrance of the bad feeling between the Cavalier and the Roundhead at the same time though there is no cult of the Stuart family in this remembering of the Cavaliers in fact the Stuarts are criticized. It was quite common for 19th century Southerners to be able to criticize Puritans and also the Stuarts while at the same time praise their ancestors the Cavaliers and the Parliamentarians with the latter being remembered for their love of liberty. The dislike of “Puritanism” that one sees in Southern writing has nothing to do with a dislike of parliaments and representative government but rather with what was seen by critics as false moralism and a radical spirit.
In defiance of “consolidated despotism” Tucker foretells a future time when the Anglo-Saxon race may break the Union to pieces. He also in a nativistic manner exhorts Virginians to pride in George Washington and their state:
“Proudest of all, in that day, stood old VIRGINIA, vaunting, her descent from the gallant cavaliers, who had poured out their blood like water, in loyal devotion to an undeserving prince: who, when all was lost, found refuge here—and here, in defiance of the parliament of England, offered an asylum to his worthless and ungrateful son. She had scarce then forgotten, when in the provinces beyond the Delaware, she saw none but the Swede and the Hollander, and the lineal and devoted inheritor of the far descended antipathy between the Round-head and the Cavalier. In that day Virginia had not forgotten to boast that the love of liberty which then animated her, was a principle hardly more lofty and generous, than her steadfast and devoted loyalty in earlier times. It was her pride to reflect, that in all her struggles with power, no want of fidelity, no want of gratitude, no disregard of natural or covenanted obligations, and no defect of magnanimity, could be imputed to her. When the crown was torn from the head of Charles I, she had stood alone in her loyalty; she was the last to acknowledge the usurper; the last to submit to inevitable necessity, and the first to return to her allegiance, in defiance of a power before which Europe trembled. In the recent conflict she had not dishonored her old renown. Though foremost in the race of revolution, she had been the last to renounce her allegiance; and in this, her resolute fidelity to the crown, she saw a justification of her resistance to the usurpation of parliament, and her final renunciation of that relation to the king himself, to which he, by abetting that usurpation, had shown himself unfaithful. The men of that day did not need to be told that it was not on the fourth day of July, 1776, that Virginia first proclaimed her independence. What others then declared their purpose of doing, she had already done. It was on the twentyninth of the preceding month, that she, by her own separate act, completed the organization of her own separate government, and, taking her independent stand among the nations of the earth, put in operation that constitution under which we were born. No, gentlemen! the sons of Virginia in that day needed not that this proud chapter in her history should be read to them. In that day they looked not abroad for topics of exultation and themes of praise. Virginia had not then forgotten to claim the first of men as peculiarly her own. The voice of her Henry still sounded in her ears. The wisdom of her Mason still guided her councils. The rising splendor of her Jefferson still shone for her alone, and along her vallies the last dying echoes of the cannon of YorkTown still reverberated. Look where she might, what was there of wisdom and greatness and virtue in the history of man, to which her own annals might not furnish a parallel? How poor in comparison the boast of England’s poetic moralist,
“Is it not then our duty to cherish them? Do we not owe it to ourselves and our children, as well as to our ancestors, to cherish the memory of their virtues, and their noble deeds; to keep fresh in our minds the recollection of all that is glorious in the history of Virginia; to fan the flame of state pride in our hearts; to keep her independence and sovereignty ever present to our thoughts; to habituate ourselves not only to regard her as one of the bright stars of our federal constellation, but as, in and of herself, A SUN, sole and self-poised, in the firmament of the commonwealth of nations?
And shall they who cherish these sentiments, be denounced as hostile to the union of these states? Trust me, gentlemen, it is by these alone, that the union itself can be preserved. It is by these alone that union can be prevented from degenerating into one vast consolidated despotism. There, as over the wide expanse of the Russian empire, the genius of arbitrary sway shall brood, until the free spirit of our Anglo-Saxon race shall burst its bonds, and by forcible disruption, tear asunder the whole incongruous mass, and cover this continent like that of Europe, with the ruins of a mighty empire, broken up into kingdoms and states, implacable in mutual hate, embittered by the memory of former ties.
I repeat it, gentlemen; if we would avoid this fearful consummation, we must strive to renew in our minds the same sentiments which once made Virginia glorious, and which made her glory precious to her sons. And said I, that this attempt would now be vain? That the spirit of our fathers was no more among us, but gone, with their achievements, to the history of the past? O ! gentlemen, can this be so? Can you look thus coldly on that past? Can we, in fancy, summon from the tomb the forms of the mighty dead, and shall not our hearts be kindled, and shall not our spirits burn within us, to emulate those who acted and suffered, that we might be free, honored and prosperous? Where do we find the brave in war, the wise in council, and the eloquent in debate, and Virginia’s sons are not among the foremost? Are not the names of Washington and Henry, and Jefferson and Madison, and Marshall and Randolph, all her property? Are not these her jewels; and shall she, unlike the mother of the Gracchi, pine, because others may outshine her in such baubles as mere gold can buy? Can you consent to throw these honors into common stock, and to share your portion in Washington with the French of Louisiana, and the Dutch of New York, and the renegades from every corner of the earth, who swarm their great commercial cities, and call themselves your countrymen and HIS! What fellowship have we with those who change their country with their climate? The Virginian is a Virginian every where. In the wilds of the west, on the sands of Florida, on the shores of the Pacific—every where his heart turns to Virginia—every where he worships with his face toward the temple of freedom erected here. To us, who remain, it belongs to minister at the altar—to feed the flame—and, if need be, to supply the sacrifice. Do this, and Virginia will again be recognised as the mother of nations; as the guide and exemplar of the states that have sprung from her bosom, and been nourished by her substance. False to herself, and to the honor of the common origin, these will desert and spurn her. True to the memory of the illustrious dead, true to her old renown, her sons, from every realm, shall flock to her as to their tower of strength, and, in her hour of trial, if that hour shall come, shall stand around her, and guard her like a wall of fire.”
In the next selection which quotes from Tucker’s 1849 book review of Macaulay’s The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, one is treated to an extra-large helping of English pride by Tucker along with a few jabs at the Yankees. In his 1838 speech Tucker said that the poet William Cowper’s boast from his 1788 poem “Timepiece” about Chatham’s language and Wolfe’s great name was poor in comparison to the greatness of Virginia’s history but 11 years later he glories in the memory of these men taking full possession of them declaring himself and the South to be English. The Anglo-Saxon race is mentioned again and the morality of old England is exalted above that of modern England though the morality of old England to Tucker appears to be fully compatible with the American Revolution and figures from the 18th century not just confined to the days prior to the English Civil War:
“We are much mistaken if there is not more of that pride which kindles the eye, and steels the nerves, and strengthens the heart, in the old absurd notion that one Englishman could whip three Frenchmen, than all the modern Englishman could derive from painters like Raffaelle, and sculptors like Canova, and from singers and dancers and fiddlers, as far superior to the best of France and Italy, as these to the bumpkins at a village ball. We too are English; and all the far-descended honors of the English name are ours by inheritance. It is our pride that “Chatham’s language is our mother tongue ;” that when Edward scattered the hosts of France at Poietiers and Henry at Agincourt, and when Wolfe scaled the heights of Abraham, it was our blood that was poured forth like water on those glorious fields. We were proud of the victories of Wellington in Spain, and we were proud to meet his heroes at New-Orleans, and to show that we were not degenerate. It is not the least of our pride, that, while our race reads lessons to the world in philosophy, in science, in mechanic skill, in the arts of government, in Christian morality, in all that makes for the temporal and eternal happiness of man, we are far behind in the light and frivolous arts which do but tickle the ear and please the eye. “Are you not ashamed to play so well on the flute!” was a question well put to one born to be a king; and would be equally well addressed to the imperial Anglo-Saxon race, whose mission on earth is like that of the Jews in Canaan, ‘to subdue the land and possess it’ “
“…we love the English language which we think the finest in the world. Unlike the language of the south of Europe, which reminds us of those boneless reptiles that have no red blood in their veins, it has consonants enough to give it firmness and strength, while it is free from the unpronounceable combinations which overload the German. It is rich, too, in those idioms which constitute the main strength of every language.”
“We think we have been trained, and we wish to train our children, in a better school. We seek to imbue them with the high, bold, manly morality of Old England, (not New England, or modern England,) and decidedly prefer Harry Sandford, as an exemplar, to any of the good children that die in the odor of sanctity at seven years of age. We teach our boys to walk by the light that was in the world sixty years ago, when the last shades of darkness had been dispelled by the flame kindled by the heats of our Revolution. We believe that no discoveries of importance have been made since then in morals or in politics. Like Lord Halifax, we are conservatives and republicans: and we are conservative because we are republican. This may seem a paradox to Mr. Hume or Mr. Roebuck. Mr. Macaulay will understand it. Lamartine understood it once, until he got his head turned, and it is probable he now understands it again.”
“We teach them too, to speak the language of their forefathers, with only such changes as our acquaintance with English literature has made familiar to us. We love it, for it is the language of Shakspeare and Milton, of Chatham and Burke, of Scott and Byron; and we rejoice to believe that no dialect of any language known among men is so uniformly and so extensively spoken as the present idiom of the English language. Over a space of one thousand miles square-(we do not answer for any thing north of Mason and Dixon) Mr. Macaulay would meet no man of English blood, who would not understand and answer him in the very dialect, the power and beauty of which are so successfully displayed by him. He would find in the poorest and most ignorant no difference but that which education must make between the cultivated man and the clown, and even this would show itself mainly in the absence of that peculiar tone by which, as Scott says, we know a well bred man.
We preserve another trait of the honest old squire. The circumstances of our country life are such as to promote hospitality, and they give it the same character which like causes have produced elsewhere. Old Christmas is not dead and forgotten from among us, and we welcome him with the same cheer that has always made his old grey beard wag merrily. In short, we try to keep the travelled coxcomb and the French cook at bay, and with them, the Yankee school-master with his new fangled spelling-books and pronouncing dictionaries; and we are resolved that, if it be decreed that English minced pies, and plumb pudding and roast beef, and the English gentleman, and the English language, are to be swept from the face of the earth, and be no more found among men, the last specimen of each, in all its purity, shall be found among ourselves.”