WILSON, James, a Delegate from Pennsylvania; born in Carskerdo, near St. Andrews, Scotland, September 14, 1742; attended the Universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Edinburgh; immigrated to the United States in 1765; resided in New York City until 1766, when he moved to Philadelphia, Pa.; tutor in the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania); studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1767; practiced in Reading and Carlisle, Pa., and for a short time, during Howe's occupation of Philadelphia, in Annapolis, Md.; also engaged in literary pursuits; member of the Provincial Convention of Pennsylvania in 1774; Member of the Continental Congress 1775-1777, 1783, and 1785-1786; chosen colonel of the Fourth Battalion of Associators in 1775; advocate general for France in America and guided that country's legal relations to the Confederation; member of the board of war; brigadier general of the State militia; a signer of the Declaration of Independence; a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Federal Convention in 1787 and signed the Constitution; a delegate to the state ratification convention; settled in Philadelphia in 1778 and resumed the practice of law; Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court 1789-1798; first professor of law in the College of Philadelphia in 1790 and in the University of Pennsylvania when they were united in 1791; died in Edenton, N.C., August 21, 1798; interment in the Johnston burial ground on the Hayes plantation near Edenton, N.C.; reinterment in Christ Churchyard, Philadelphia, Pa., in 1906.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Connecticut Historical Society

Hartford, CT
Papers: In the Silas Deane Papers, 1740-1842, 7 feet. Other authors include James Wilson. An unpublished guide is available in the library.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division

Washington, DC
Papers: In the Burr Conspiracy Collection, 1806-1808, 1 volume. Correspondents include James Wilson. The collection is also available on microfilm.
Papers: In the Pierce Butler Papers, 1779-1787, 17 items. Persons represented include James Wilson.
Papers: In the Marian S. Carson Collection of Manuscripts, 1656-1995, 26.4 linear feet. Individuals represented include James Wilson. A finding aid is available in the library.
Papers: In the John Davis Papers, 1755-1783, 1325 items. Correspondents include James Wilson. A finding aid is available in the library.
Papers: In the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1784-1795, 8 items. Papers of James Wilson, 1784-1795.
Papers: In the Read Family Papers, ca. 1568-1906, 2 linear feet. Correspondents include James Wilson. A finding aid is available in the library.
Papers: In the Henry A. Willard II Collection, ca. 1743-1888, 0.8 linear foot. Persons represented include James Wilson. A finding aid is available in the library.

University of Virginia
The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

Charlottesville, VA
Papers: In the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection, 1776, 1 item. The writ is a printed form completed by a clerk's hand with computations by James Wilson (lawyer for Ephraim Blaine?) on the verso. Robert Semple, Sheriff of Cumberland County, Pa., is ordered by John Agnew to collect money from George Gibson in settlement of a suit and damages in the case of Gibson vs Ephraim Blaine. On the verso is a computation in James Wilson's hand, of charges, including attorney's fees, levied on George Gibson's house in Carlisle.
Papers: In the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection, 1776, 2 items. A requisition from James Wilson, as Colonel of the 4th Battalion of the Cumberland County Associators. The requisition is a request from Thomas Cooper for cartridge boxes, belts, "sabberts" and pouches for four captains in his battalion, Thomas Clark, John McIlhaton, Thomas Tarbett and Sam Goudy. An engraving of James Wilson accompanies the requisition.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Adams, Randolph Greenfield. James Wilson and St. Andrews. [N.p., 1931].

Alexander, Lucien Hugh. James Wilson, Nation-builder (1742-1798). [Boston: N.p., 1907].

___. James Wilson, Patriot, and the Wilson Doctrine. [New York: N.p., 1906].

Delahanty, Mary T. The Integralist Philosophy of James Wilson. New York: Pageant Press, [1969].

Hall, Mark David. The Political and Legal Philosophy of James Wilson 1742-1798. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1997.

Konkle, Burton Alva. James Wilson and the Constitution. The Opening Address in the Official Series of Events Known as the James Wilson Memorial. Delivered before the Law, Academy of Philadelphia on November 14, 1906. Published by order of the Law Academy, 1907.

O'Donnell, May G. James Wilson and the Natural Law Basis of Positive Law. New York: Fordham University Press, 1937.

Pascal, Jean-Marc. The Political Ideas of James Wilson: 1742-1798 (Political Theory and Political Philosophy). New York: Garland Publications, 1991.

Powell, Francis De Sales. A Thomistic Evaluation of James Wilson and Thomas Reid. Washington: N.p., 1951.

Seed, Geoffrey. James Wilson. Millwood, N.Y.: KTO Press, 1978.

Smith, Charles Page. James Wilson, Founding Father, 1742-1798. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956.

Wilson, James. A Charge Delivered by the Hon. James Wilson, Esq., One of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Richmond: Printed by Augustine Davis, 1791.

___. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States of America. London: Printed for J. Debrett [etc.], 1792.

___. Considerations on the Bank of North-America. Philadelphia: Printed by Hall and Sellers, 1785.

___. Considerations on the Nature and the Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by William and Thomas Bradford, M.DCC.LXXIV.

___. An Introductory Lecture to a Course of Law Lectures. To Which is Added, a Plan of the Lectures. Philadelphia: From the Press of T. Dobson, 1791.

___. On the Improvement and Settlement of Lands in the United States; An Essay by te Late James Wilson, Justice of the Federal Supreme Court, Presented by him to Dr. Benjamin Rush, by the Heirs of Dr. Rush to the Library Company of Philadelphia, and now by the Library Company to the Public. Philadelphia: N.p., 1946.

___. Selected Political Essays of James Wilson. Edited with an introductory essay by Randolph G. Adams. New York: Knopf, 1930.

___. The Substance of a Speech Delivered by James Wilson, Esq., Explanatory if the General Principles of the Proposed Federal Constitution: Upon a Motion Made by the Honorable Thomas M'Kean, in the Convention of the State of Pennsylvania of Saturday the 24th of November, 1787. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by Thomas Bradford, 1787.

___. The Works of the Honourable James Wilson. Published under the direction of Bird Wilson. Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 2004.

___. The Works of James Wilson. Edited by Robert Green McCloskey. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.

___. The Works of James Wilson, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States... Being his Public Discourses Upon Jurisprudence and the Political Science, Including Lectures as Professor of Law, 1790-2. Edited by James De Witt Andrews. Chicago: Callaghan and Company, 1896.

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