Wilson, James

Desirable 1776 ADS, signed draft legal writ while Pennsylvania lawyer and Member of the Continental Congress

Price: $1995.00

Description:
(1742-1798) Member of the Continental Congress 1775-77 & 1785-87, Signer, original Associate Justice of US Supreme Court 1789-98. Born in Scotland, attended a surprising number of universities there, and never attained a degree. Emigrated to America in 1766 and began tutoring then teaching at the Philadelphia College. He petitioned there for a degree and was awarded an honorary Master of Arts several months later. He studied law at the office of John Dickinson and after 2 years was admitted to the bar in Philadelphia; in 1767 he set up his own practice in Reading which was very successful. He bought a small farm near Carlisle, handled cases in 8 local counties, lectured on English Literature at the College of Philadelphia and began a life-long fascination with land speculation. In 1774 Wilson attended a provincial meeting, as a representative of Carlisle, and was elected a member of the local Committee of Correspondence. He wrote a pamphlet, "Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament", arguing that Parliament had no authority to pass laws for the colonies. It was published, and found its way to the Continental Congress, where it was widely read and commented on. In 1775 he was elected to the Congress, where he sided with the radicals favoring separation from Britain. His powers of oration, the passion of his delivery and the logic he employed in debate, favorably commented on by many in the Congress. However, Pennsylvania was divided on the issue of separation, and Wilson refused to vote against the will of his constituents. With the support of 3 other members sympathetic to his position, he managed a delay of 3 weeks to consult at home and when the vote came, he affirmed Pennsylvania's wish for Independence. After the Declaration, Wilson's attention turned back to his state, where a new constitution was proposed which he strongly opposed and placed his office in jeopardy. He was recalled from Congress for about 2 weeks in 1777, restored until the end of his term. Wilson would settle in Philadelphia resuming his law practice there, consulting to corporations, and was a leader in the Democratic-Republican Party. He resumed his activities in land speculation, including profiteering. He borrowed heavily and gambled aggressively, acquiring a great deal of debt and was nearly arrested several times. He was repeatedly accused of hoarding goods to drive up prices. During a food shortage in 1779, he and his property were attacked during riots in Philadelphia and he had to hide for some time. In 1779 Wilson was appointed by France to serve as its US advocate general for maritime and commercial enterprises. He was elected to Congress again in 1782 and worked closely with Robert Morris on financial matters of state. In 1781, Wilson was appointed a director of the original Bank of North America. In 1784, he was appointed to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Following ratification of the new Constitution, of which he was a Framer of that document, he was appointed an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court in 1789. In 1792 he returned to speculation in New York and Pennsylvania land. His finances were soon completely destroyed and he spent some time in a debtors’ prison while still serving on the Supreme Court! By 1798 he was destroyed as a man as well. 13 x 8 ½ legal ADS signed “James Wilson” in text, “Wilson for the defendants” at bottom, and “Wilson for Deft” on docket on verso, Cumberland County (Carlisle, Pennsylvania), “April Term MDCCLXXVI [1776]”. In case of John Grier & James Grier vs. Robert Baird & Samuel Baird, the latter represented by Wilson, Wilson admits the debt of 25 pounds, 10 shillings and 3 pence owed by his clients to the Bairds.

Condition: Good, overall toned, some fold weakness horiz. center fold split and at edges repaired; lower right corner torn.
Type:Document






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