James Wilson (Founding Father)

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Thomas Johnson
Wilson, James.jpg
Former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
From: September 26, 1789 – August 21, 1798
Nominator George Washington
Predecessor None
Successor Bushrod Washington
Spouse(s) Rachel Bird
Religion Christian- Episcopalian; Presbyterian[1]

James Wilson (1742–1798) was a Founding Father who signed the Declaration of Independence, served twice in the Continental Congress, played a key role at the Constitutional Convention, and served on the original United States Supreme Court.

James Wilson was the only member of the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention who had a seat at the Federal Convention. He declared the following in his summation at the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention:[2]

As we shall become a nation, I trust that we shall also form a national character; and that this character will be adapted to the principles and genius of our system of government, as yet we possess none – our language, manners, customs, habits, and dress, depend too much upon those of other countries. Every nation in these respects should possess originality, there are not on any part of the globe finer qualities, for forming a national character, than those possessed by the children of America. … [In addition to a respectable national character,] I think there is strong reason to believe, that America may take the lead in literary improvements and national importance. This is a subject, which I confess, I have spent much pleasing time in considering. That language, sir, which shall become most generally known in the civilized world, will impart great importance over the nation that shall use it. The language of the United States will, in future times, be diffused over a greater extent of country, than any other that we now know. The French, indeed, have made laudable attempts toward establishing an [sic] universal language, but, beyond the boundaries of France, even the French language is not spoken by one in a thousand. Besides, the freedom of our country, the great improvements she has made and will make in the science of government, will induce the patriots and literati of every nation to read and understand our writings on that subject, and hence it is not improbable that she will take the lead in political knowledge.


  1. http://www.adherents.com/gov/Founding_Fathers_Religion.html
  2. James Wilson, Summation Address to the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention (Dec. 11, 1787), reprinted in The Debate On The Constitution – Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During The Struggle Over Ratification 865-66 (Gryphon Eds. 1993) (emphasis added).