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Page 6

James Wilson

1742-1798


   After the ratification of the federal constitution in Pennsylvania, a convention was called to alter the constitution of that state, to render it conformable to that of the United States. Mr. Wilson was one of the committee appointed to prepare the form of a constitution, and upon him devolved the task of making the draft.
   In the year 1789, General Washington appointed Mr. Wilson a judge of the supreme court of the United States, under the federal constitution. In this exalted station he was associated with John Jay, who was placed at the head of the department, and Judge Rutledge, of South Carolina, William Cushing, of Massachusetts, Robert Harrison, of Maryland. and John Blair, of Virginia. In this office he continued until his death, which occurred on the twenty-eighth of August, 1798, at Edenton, in North Carolina, while on a circuit attending to his duties as a judge. He is supposed to have been about fifty-six years of age.
   In stature, Judge Wilson was about six feet. His appearance was dignified and respectable, and in his manners he was not ungraceful. As a lawyer, he stood at the head of his profession, while he practiced at the Philadelphia bar. He was not less eminent as a judge on the bench. He entered with great readiness into the causes which came before him, and seldom did he fail to throw light on points of law of the most difficult and perplexing character.
   In his domestic relations, such was his happy and consistent course, as to secure the respect and affection of his family and friends. Towards all with whom be had intercourse from abroad, he was friendly and hospitable, and within his family he was affectionate and indulgent. He was distinguished for great integrity of character, and for an inviolate regard for truth. Mr. Wilson was twice married, the first time to a daughter of William Bird, of Berks county, and the second time to a daughter of Mr. Ellis Gray, of Boston. By the former wife, he had six children ; and by the latter one. Two only of these children are now living [in 1829], the one at Philadelphia, the other in the state of New-York. After the death of Mr. Wilson, his wife became connected in marriage with Dr. Thomas Bartlett, of Boston, whom she accompanied to England, where she died in 1807.

Source: Rev. Charles A. Goodrich Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence. New York: William Reed & Co., 1856. Pages 300 - 309. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)

See also:

  • The biography of Rachael Bird Wilson, James Wilson's wife

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    Last modified December 31, 2003