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James Wilson - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Sunday, July 14, 2019

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Birth: September 14, 1742
Death: August 21, 1798 (Age 55)
Colony: Pennsylvania
Occupation: Lawyer
Significance: Signed The Declaration of Independence (at the age of 33), Signed the United States Constitution (at the age of 45), named an associate Justice of the Supreme Court (at the age of 46); One of only six people to sign both The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution

James Wilson Statue in Signers' Hall at the National Constitution Center

James Wilson was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Wilson was one of only eight immigrants to sign The Declaration of Independence. Originally born in Carskerdo Farm, Fife, Scotland, Wilson would eventually move to Philadelphia after attending University in Scotland. After moving to Philadelphia, Wilson began teaching at the Philadelphia Academy (which would eventually become the University of Pennsylvania, also known as Penn today, and which is part of the prestigious Ivy League). 

While in Philadelphia, Wilson would also begin studying law under fellow Founding Father John Dickinson, and he would subsequently pass the Bar exam. Wilson was eventually appointed to the Second Continental Congress, and he signed The Declaration of Independence. He would later also be named a member of the Constitutional Convention which met in the Summer of 1787, and he signed the United States Constitution.  He is one of only six founders who signed both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.  After the ratification of the United States Constitution, George Washington named Wilson one of the first Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, which met at Old City Hall.

James Wilson in Philadelphia

James Wilson first lived in Philadelphia as a young man when he taught at the University of Pennsylvania. Then known as the Philadelphia Academy, the school was located at the corner of 4th and Arch Streets at the time.  Today a plaque commemorates the original location of the University of Pennsylvania on the side of the Wyndham Hotel that is currently located there.  Wilson would later live in Philadelphia while a member of the Continental Congress, during this time Wilson would work at Independence Hall, and he would eventually sign The Declaration of Independence.  A plaque commemorating Wilson for signing The Declaration of Independence can also be found on Signer's Walk on the 600 block of Chestnut Street.

Wilson worked again at Independence Hall when he helped to write the United States Constitution. Wilson also worked in Old City Hall as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court while Philadelphia was the Capital of the United States. Today, you can also see a statue of Wilson inside of the National Constituion Center in their Signer's Hall exhibit.  The National Constituition Center, Independence Hall, Signer's Walk, Old City Hall, and the plaque commemorating the original site of the University of Pennsylvania are all visited on The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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