Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789


Portrait of James Wilson.
enlarge image icon James Wilson (1742-1798).
Max Rosenthal (1833-1918).
Engraving, 1890.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-6065.

James Wilson (1742-1798)

Scottish-born James Wilson was renowned for his legal and political knowledge. When he served as a delegate in the Constitutional Convention, a fellow delegate characterized him by saying: "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."

Throughout his career, Wilson was a staunch supporter of a strong national government based on a full representation of the American people. His conviction of the need for a national government that would command respect inspired his motion to mend the problem of poor representation that plagued Congress."