James Wilson - (1742 - 1798)

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Religion: Presbyterian
James Wilson on Founding Fathers Wiki Page

James Wilson Biography

"James Wilson (Pennsylvania) ranks among the foremost in legal and political knowledge. He has joined to a fine genius all that can set him off and show him to advantage. He is well acquainted with Man, and understands all the passions that influence him. Government seems to have been his peculiar Study, all the political institutions of the World he knows in detail, and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Greecian commonwealth down to the present time. No man is more clear, copious, and comprehensive than Mr. Wilson, yet he is no great Orator. He draws the attention not by the charm of his eloquence, but by the force of his reasoning. He is about 45 years old." -- Character Sketches of Delegates to the Federal Convention by William Pierce (1787)

James Wilson was a native of Scotland, where he was born about the year 1742. His father was a respectable farmer, who resided in the vicinity of St. Andrews, well known for its university.
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James Wilson Genealogy

William Robert Covill Wilson (1692 - 1758)
Alison Landall Wilson (1712 - 1792)

James Wilson Tivia

James Wilson was from Scotland, signed the Declaration of Independence as well as was instrumental in drafting the Constitution
James Wilson was appointed to the Supreme Court, and was also jailed and held in debtors prison
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Events in the life of James Wilson


1742 09/14   Birth of James Wilson
1798 08/21   Death of James Wilson
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James Wilson

Documents from our document library

Biography for James Wilson (1742 - 1798)
Biography for James Wilson
(File Size: 18.73K)

Constitution of the United States 09-17-1787
This is the full text for the Constitution of the United States of America.
(File Size: 26.61K)

Of the Natural Rights of Individuals (1790-1791)
Written by James Wilson - this is a series of lectures on the law that he wrote later in his life.
(File Size: 68.72K)

Character Sketches of Delegates to the Federal Convention - Pierce 1787
This is a document written by William Pierce. It contains character sketches of the delegates for the First Federal Convention of 1787
(File Size: 27.33K)

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Quotes by James Wilson

Quote 833 details Share on Google+ - Quote 833 Linked In Share Button - Quote 833
In giving a definition of the simple kinds of government known throughout the world, I have occasion to describe what I meant by a democracy; and I think I termed it, that government in which the people retain the supreme power, and exercise it either collectively or by representation. This constitution declares this principle, in its terms an din its consequences, which is evident from the manner in which it is announced. "We, the People of the United States."

James Wilson: Pennsylvania Ratification Convention, November 26, 1787

Quote 856 details Share on Google+ - Quote 856 Linked In Share Button - Quote 856 The extension of the theory and practice of representation through all the different departments of the sate is another very important acquisition made, by the Americans, in the science of jurisprudence and government. To the ancients, this theory and practice seem to have been altogether unknown. To this moment, the representation of the people is not the sole principle of any government in Europe... The American States enjoy the glory and happiness of diffusing this vital principle throughout all the different divisions and departments of the government.

James Wilson: Lectures 1790-1791

Quote 950 details Share on Google+ - Quote 950 Linked In Share Button - Quote 950 How prevalent even among enlightened writers, is the mistaken opinion, that government is subversive of equality and nature! Is it necessarily so? By no means. When I speak thus, I speak confidently, because I speak from principle fortified by fact. Let the constitution of the United States -- let that of Pennsylvania be examined from the beginning to the end. No right is conferred, no obligation is laid on any, which is not laid or conferred on every, citizen of the commonwealth or Union -- I think I may defy the world to produce a single exception to the truth of this remark. Now, as I showed at large in a former part of my lectures, the original equality of mankind consists in an equality of their duties and rights.

James Wilson: Of the Natural Rights of Individuals, 1790-1791
Quoted Document: Of the Natural Rights of Individuals

Quote 858 details Share on Google+ - Quote 858 Linked In Share Button - Quote 858 Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object,is not a government of the legitimate kind.

James Wilson: Lectures 1790-1791

Quote 857 details Share on Google+ - Quote 857 Linked In Share Button - Quote 857 Government, indeed, taken as a science, may yet be considered in its infancy; and with all its various modifications, it has hitherto been the result of force, fraud, or accident. For, after the lapse of six thousand years since the creation of the world, America now presents the first instance of a people assembled to weigh deliberately and calmly, and to decide leisurely and peaceably, upon the form of government by which they will bind themselves and their posterity.

James Wilson: Opening Address, Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention, Nov 14, 1787

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