James Wilson

James Wilson

Ceres, Fife, Scotland
Death 28 Aug 1798 (aged 55)
Edenton, Chowan County, North Carolina, USA
Burial Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 1682 · View Source
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Declaration of Independence Signer, United States Constitution Signer. Born and educated in Scotland, he had studied to become a minister, but had to leave school due to his father's death. Searching for greater opportunities, he arrived in New York City in 1765 and soon settled in Philadelphia, where he taught Latin for the University of Pennsylvania. A gifted writer and speaker, Wilson decided to become a lawyer, and in 1770 he set up a law practice in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The next year he married Rachel Bird, with whom he would have six children. In 1774 he wrote a widely circulated pamphlet in which he rejected the argument that Britain's Parliament had authority over the American colonies, and further arguing that Britain herself had no authority over the colonies. For his stance he was elected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775, serving for two years. Together with Benjamin Franklin and John Morton, he voted Pennsylvania for independence, 3 to 2. Eleven years later, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he again played an important role in the writing of the US Constitution. Most historians agree that only James Madison had more input into the draft Constitution than James Wilson. Considered one of the most democratic of the Constitution's forty signers, Wilson insisted that the government should serve the people, and that the people should elect their lawmakers directly. Following the convention, Wilson led the Pennsylvania assembly in approving the Constitution, which it did on December 12, 1787, making it the second state to do so after Delaware. In 1789, President George Washington appointed Wilson to be one of the first justices of the US Supreme Court. From 1789 to 1798, he was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. His wife, Rachel, died in 1786, and seven years later, he married Hannah Gray; they would have one child, who would die in infancy. Poor business decisions would ruin him financially, and he was twice imprisoned for debt: first in New Jersey and later in North Carolina. One of his last written comments was that he had been "hunted like a wild beast," by people attempting to collect money he owed them. James Wilson died in poverty in 1798, in North Carolina, less than a month before his fifty-sixth birthday. His body was originally interred on the Hayes Plantation near Edenton, North Carolina, and in 1906, was moved to the Christ Churchyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1682
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James Wilson (14 Sep 1742–28 Aug 1798), Find a Grave Memorial no. 1682, citing Christ Episcopal Church and Churchyard, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .