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Page 1

James Wilson

1742-1798

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. Though not wealthy, he enjoyed a competency, until at length, a passion for speculation nearly ruined him. James Wilson received an excellent education. He studied successively at Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh. He had the good fortune to enjoy the instruction of the distinguished Dr. Blair, and the not less celebrated Dr. Watts. By the former he was taught rhetoric; by the latter, both rhetoric and logic. Under these eminent men, Mr. Wilson laid the foundation of an impressive eloquence, and a superior and almost irresistible mode of reasoning.
   After completing his studies under the superior advantages already named, he resolved to seek in America that independence which he could scarcely hope for in his native country. Accordingly, he left Scotland, and reached Philadelphia early in the year 1766. He was highly recommended to several gentlemen of that city, by one or more of whom he was introduced as a tutor to the Philadelphia college and academy. During the period that he served in this capacity, he enjoyed a reputation of being the best classical scholar who had officiated as tutor in the Latin department of the college.
   He continued, however, only a few months to fill the above office, having received an offer, through the assistance of Bishop White and Judge Peters, of entering the law office of Mr. John Dickinson. In this office he continued for the space of two years, applying himself with great ardor to the study of the profession of law. At the expiration of this time, he entered upon the practice, first at Reading, but soon after removed to Carlisle, at which latter place he acquired the reputation of being an eminent counselor previous to the revolution. From Carlisle, Mr. Wilson removed to Annapolis, in Maryland, whence, in 1778, he came to Philadelphia, where he continued to reside for the remainder of his life.
   At an early day, Mr. Wilson entered with patriotic zeal into the cause of American liberty. He was an American in principle from the time that he landed on the American shore; and at no period in the revolutionary struggle, did he for a single hour swerve from his attachment to the principles which he had adopted.
   Mr. Wilson, who was a member of the provincial convention of Pennsylvania, was proposed as a delegate to the congress of 1774, in conjunction with his former instructor, Mr. Dickinson. Neither, however, was elected, through the influence of the speaker, Mr. Galloway, of whom we have spoken in our introduction, and who afterwards united himself to the British on their taking possession of Philadelphia. In the following year, however, Mr. Wilson was unanimously elected a member of congress, and in that body took his seat on the 10th of May, 1775. In thin distinguished station, he continued until 1777, when, through the influence of party feeling, he was superseded, and another appointed in his stead.

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Last modified December 31, 2003