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Page 2

James Wilson

1742-1798


   In 1782, however, he was again elected to congress, and took his seat in that body, on the second of January, 1783. A few months previously to his re-election, he was appointed by the president and supreme executive council, a counselor and agent for Pennsylvania, in the great controversy between that state and the state of Connecticut, relating to certain lands within the charter boundary of Pennsylvania. These lands the state of Connecticut claimed as belonging to her, being included within her charter. On the thirtieth of December, 178'2, this great question was determined at Trenton, New Jersey, by a court of commissioners appointed for that purpose, who unanimously decided it in favor of Pennsylvania. To the determination of the question in this manner, Mr. Wilson, it is said, greatly contributed, by a luminous and impressive argument, which be delivered before the court, and which occupied several days.
   The high estimation in which Mr. Wilson was held, about this time, may be learned from his receiving the appointment of advocate general for the French government, in the United States. His commission bore date the fifth of June, 1779; and at a subsequent date was confirmed, by letters patent from the King of France. The duties of this office were both arduous and delicate. Few men, however, were better qualified for such an office than Mr. Wilson. In 1781, difficulties having arisen as to the manner in which he should be paid for his services, he resigned his commission. He continued, however, to give advice in such cases as were laid before him, by the ministers and consuls of France, until 1783. At which time, the king of France handsomely rewarded him by a gift of ten thousand livres.
   The standing of Mr. Wilson, during the whole course of his attendance in congress, was deservedly high. As a man of business, Pennsylvania had, probably, at no time, any one among her delegation who excelled him. He was placed on numerous committees, and in every duty assigned him exhibited great fidelity, industry, and perseverance.
   Notwithstanding this high and honorable conduct of Mr. Wilson, and the active exertions which he made in favor of his adopted country, he had enemies, whose slanders he did not escape. It was especially charged against him, that he was opposed to the declaration of independence. This, however, has been amply refuted by gentlemen of the highest standing in the country, who were intimately acquainted with his views and feelings on that important subject. Many who voted for the measure, and who sincerely believed in the ultimate expediency of it, were of the opinion, that it was brought forward prematurely. But when, at length, they found the voice of the nation loudly demanding such a measure, and saw a spirit abroad among the people determined to sustain it, they no longer hesitated to vote in its favor. Mr. Wilson, probably, beloved to this class. Though at first doubtful whether the state of the country would justify such a measure, he at length became satisfied that existing circumstances rendered it necessary; and accordingly it received his vote.

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Last modified December 31, 2003