James Wilson: Founding Father

James Wilson, the Founding Father from Scotland, sought to enshrine his principles of democracy, explains Geoffrey Seed, in the constitution of the United States of America.

James Wilson is probably the most under-rated, and least well understood, of all the Founding Fathers of the American Republic. Yet his achievements give him a claim to rank with Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison, and at the very least to be regarded as the most important of all the Scots who settled in America.

Who was James Wilson? What did he achieve? And why has he not attained a reputation commensurate with his accomplishments?

Not a great deal is known of Wilson's early life. He was a farmer's son, born near Ceres in Fife, and educated at the University of St. Andrews. Intended for the ministry of the Church of Scotland, the death of his father forced him to abandon his studies and seek immediate employment. What kind of employment he obtained is not certain, except that at least for a time he was a tutor in a private home. In 1765, however, he left Scotland for the American Colonies, where he believed opportunities greater than those at home awaited a young man with his education, energy and ambition.

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