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The Making and Unmaking of a Revolutionary Family: The Tuckers of Virginia, 1752-1830
by Phillip Hamilton
University of Virginia Press, 2003
Cloth: 978-0-8139-2164-8
Library of Congress Classification F225.H215 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 975.5008621

"The Making and Unmaking of a Revolutionary Family is an interesting and carefully crafted study of the family dynamics of the Tuckers in the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary generations. Phillip Hamilton's questions about how families respond and shape new strategies for maintaining their economic power and social position are vitally important in any consideration of post-Revolutionary Virginia."

--Herbert E. Sloan, Barnard College, author of Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt

In mid-April 1814, the Virginia congressman John Randolph of Roanoke had reason to brood over his family's decline since the American Revolution. The once-sumptuous world of the Virginia gentry was vanishing, its kinship ties crumbling along with its mansions, crushed by democratic leveling at home and a strong federal government in Washington, D.C. Looking back in an effort to grasp the changes around him, Randolph fixated on his stepfather and onetime guardian, St. George Tucker.

The son of a wealthy Bermuda merchant, Tucker had studied law at the College of William and Mary, married well, and smuggled weapons and fought in the Virginia militia during the Revolution. Quickly grasping the significant changes--political democratization, market change, and westward expansion--that the War for Independence had brought, changes that undermined the power of the gentry, Tucker took the atypical step of selling his plantations and urging his children to pursue careers in learned professions such as law. Tucker's stepson John Randolph bitterly disagreed, precipitating a painful break between the two men that illuminates the transformations that swept Virginia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Drawing upon an extraordinary archive of private letters, journals, and other manuscript materials, Phillip Hamilton illustrates how two generations of a colorful and influential family adapted to social upheaval. He finds that the Tuckers eventually rejected wider family connections and turned instead to nuclear kin. They also abandoned the liberal principles and enlightened rationalism of the Revolution for a romanticism girded by deep social conservatism. The Making and Unmaking of a Revolutionary Family reveals the complex process by which the world of Washington and Jefferson evolved into the antebellum society of Edmund Ruffin and Thomas Dew.


Phillip Hamilton is Associate Professor of History at Christopher Newport University.

See other books on: Families | Plantation life | Revolution, 1775-1783 | Unmaking | Virginia
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