Bullet Point Bio: James Wilson 

-James Wilson was the last signer of the Declaration of Independence from Pennsylvania.

-James was born in Scotland in 1742 and went to the University in St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh though he never obtained a degree from any of them.

-After studying the ideas of Francis Hutcheson, David Hume and Adam Smith he moved to Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1766.

-He started tutoring at the Academy and College of Philadelphia and was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree there.

-James took studies of law from John Dickinson and after that attained the bar in Philadelphia.  He then went on to set up in his own practice in Reading which became very successful.

-In 1771 he married Rachel Bird and together they had 6 children.  She died in 1786 and in 1793 he married Hannah Gray.  Together they had 1 child.

-James was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and was well liked because of his passion and eloquence in oration.  He was extremely passionate about his position of separation from Britain, though also working within the framework of his state’s position of not wanting to separate.  He made sure to consult with people in Pennsylvania and bring them along in their thinking before taking his stance in Congress.

-In 1775 he was appointed as Colonel of the 4th Cumberland County Battalion but rose to the rank of Brigadier General of the Pennsylvania state militia.

-James was one of the most learned lawyers of his day, and a fellow delegate of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 said the following of Wilson: “Government seems to have been his peculiar study, all the political institutions of the world he knows in detail and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Grecian commonwealth down to the present time.”

-The biggest impact James Wilson had on the country was being a member of the Committee of Detail which wrote the first draft of the United States Constitution.

-Wilson was nominated by George Washington to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1789.

-The final years of James’ life were difficult as he went through major financial difficulty.  Because of land purchases, when the Panic of 1796-97 happened, he came into much debt.  He served a short amount of time in debtor’s prison until his son paid his debt.

-In 1798, at the age of 55, James contracted malaria and died of a stroke.


Taken from: Wikipedia and Signers of the Declaration of Independence

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