Collected Works of James Wilson (Paperback)

Subtitle In Two Volumes

By James Wilson

Edited by Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall

With an Introduction by Kermit L. Hall and a Bibliographical Essay
by Mark David Hall

Collected by Maynard Garrison

Collected Works of James Wilson 978-0-86597-683-2978-0-86597-683-2
ISBN: 978-0-86597-683-2
List price: $24.00
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By James Wilson

Edited by Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall

With an Introduction by Kermit L. Hall and a Bibliographical Essay
by Mark David Hall

Collected by Maynard Garrison

Publication Date 2007. 6 x 9. 1,262 pages.


Introduction, annotations, bibliographical essay.


This two-volume set brings together a collection of writings and speeches of James Wilson, one of only six signers of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, and one of the most influential members of the federal Constitutional Convention in 1787. Wilson’s writings and speeches had a significant impact on the deliberations that produced the cornerstone documents of our democracy. Wilson’s signal contribution to the founding of our national government was his advocacy for both a strong national government and an open and democratic political system, a position that set him apart from both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

James Wilson (1742–1798) emigrated from Scotland in 1765 and was one of the major architects of the American judicial system.

Kermit L. Hall (1944–2006) was the President of the State University of New York at Albany as well as Professor of History at the same institution.

Mark David Hall is Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Political Science at George Fox University.

Maynard Garrison is a retired attorney. He received his law degree from Stanford University.

Table of Contents:

 Volume 1

Collector’s Acknowledgments ix
Collector’s Foreword xi
Introduction xiii

Political Papers, Speeches, and Judicial Opinions of James Wilson

Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative
Authority of the British Parliament (1774) 3
Speech Delivered in the Convention for the Province of
Pennsylvania, Held at Philadelphia, in January 1775 32
An Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies (1776) 46
Considerations on the Bank of North America (1785) 60
Remarks of James Wilson in the Federal Convention of 1787 80
James Wilson’s State House Yard Speech (October 6, 1787) 171
Remarks of James Wilson in the Pennsylvania Convention to
Ratify the Constitution of the United States (1787) 178
Oration Delivered on the 4th of July, 1788, at the Procession
Formed at Philadelphia to Celebrate the Adoption of the
Constitution of the United States 285
Speech on Choosing the Members of the Senate by Electors;
Delivered, on the 31st December, 1789, in the
Convention of Pennsylvania, Assembled for the
Purpose of Reviewing, Altering, and Amending the
Constitution of the State 294
Speech Delivered, on 19th January, 1790, in the Convention of
Pennsylvania, Assembled for the Purpose of Reviewing,
Altering, and Amending the Constitution of the State 309
A Charge Delivered to the Grand Jury in the Circuit Court of
the United States for the District of Virginia, in May, 1791 320
Hayburn’s Case (1792) 346
Chisholm v. Georgia (1793) 351
Henfield’s Case (1793) 367
Ware v. Hylton (1796) 370
On the Improvement and Settlement of Lands in the United States 372
On the History of Property 387

Lectures on Law

Mark David Hall, Bibliographical Essay: “History of
James Wilson’s Law Lectures” 401
Preface by Bird Wilson 417
Lectures on Law, Part 1 427
Chapter I. Introductory Lecture. Of the Study of the
Law in the United States 431
Chapter II. Of the General Principles of Law and
Obligation 464
Chapter III. Of the Law of Nature 500
Chapter IV. Of the Law of Nations 526
Chapter V. Of Municipal Law 549
Chapter VI. Of Man, as an Individual 585
Chapter VII. Of Man, as a Member of Society 621
Chapter VIII. Of Man, as a Member of a Confederation 645
Chapter IX. Of Man, as a Member of the Great
Commonwealth of Nations 673
Chapter X. Of Government 689
Chapter XI. Comparison of the Constitution of the
United States, with That of Great Britain 718

Volume 2

Lectures on Law, Part 1 (continued) 747
Chapter XII. Of the Common Law 749
Chapter XIII. Of the Nature and Philosophy of Evidence 792
Part 2
Chapter I. Of the Constitutions of the United States and
of Pennsylvania – Of the Legislative Department 829
Chapter II. Of the Executive Department 873
Chapter III. Of the Judicial Department 885
Chapter IV. Of the Nature of Courts 943
Chapter V. Of the Constituent Parts of Courts. –
Of the Judges 950
Chapter VI. The Subject Continued. – Of Juries 954
Chapter VII. The Subject Continued. – Of Sheriffs and
Coroners 1012
Chapter VIII. The Subject Continued. – Of Counsellors
and Attornies 1019
Chapter IX. The Subject Continued. – Of Constables 1033
Chapter X. Of Corporations 1035
Chapter XI. Of Citizens and Aliens 1038
Chapter XII. Of the Natural Rights of Individuals 1053
Part 3
Chapter I. Of the Nature of Crimes; and the Necessity and
Proportion of Punishment 1087
Chapter II. Of Crimes Against the Right of Individuals to
Their Property 1118
Chapter III. Of Crimes Against the Rights of Individuals
to Liberty, and to Reputation 1130
Chapter IV. Of Crimes Against the Right of Individuals
to Personal Safety 1137
Chapter V. Of Crimes Immediately Against the Community 1149
Chapter VI. Of Crimes Affecting Several of the Natural
Rights of Individuals 1157
Chapter VII. Of Crimes Against the Rights of Individuals
Acquired Under Civil Government 1160
Chapter VIII. Of the Persons Capable of Committing
Crimes; and of the Different Degrees of Guilt
Incurred in the Commission of the Same Crime 1166
Chapter IX. Of the Direct Means Used by the Law to
Prevent Offences 1170
Chapter X. Of the Different Steps Prescribed by the Law,
for Apprehending, Detaining, Trying, and Punishing
Offenders 1175
Bibliographical Glossary 1205
Afterword 1215
Index 1217

Product Reviews

James Wilson (1742-1798) was one of the most important of America's founding fathers but is now one of the least-known. He was one of only a half-dozen who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (as well as helping craft the Constitution's first draft), but his influence was felt both before and after those seminal documents, as well. Fortunately, Liberty Fund has just published a set of his collected works, easing access to both his importance and his insights....Wilson has been called "one of the great American statesmen." It is worth reading his work to discover why. More important, it can help us rediscover what was truly revolutionary about America's experiment in liberty. His desire to "teach our children those principles upon which we ourselves have thought and acted" is especially valuable now, when most of what government does is to restrict liberty rather than defend it.

The Orange County Register, October 21, 2007

Kermit Hall argues that Wilson's lectures are a "genuinely systematic view of the law" (xiv) and a "serious contribution to the literature of the law that no student of its early national origins can ignore" (xv). He is certainly right. The added material makes the volumes even more valuable.

The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, January 2009

This is a welcome fourth edition of James Wilson's collected works. More comprehensive than its predecessors, this two-volume selection combines several speeches and essays with the important series of law lectures that Wilson gave to the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) between 1790 and 1792. Prior to his death in 1798, Wilson carefully recorded these lectures in fifty-two notebooks, hoping to publish them as the American equivalent of Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. Wilson's financial ruin prevented him from completing this plan, but his son, Bird, faithfully edited and published the notebooks in 1804. These law lectures, together with some additional material, comprised the first edition of Wilson's works. A second, less complete, collection was printed in 1896. Robert G. McCloskey then edited a third and, until now, standard selection in 1967. With McCloskey's two-volume set long out-of-print, this new Liberty Press edition, edited by Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall, aims "to stimulate new research and analysis of Wilson's contributions in the ongoing effort to determine accurately his rightful place in the founding era" of the United States (p. xiii). It will also encourage new scholarship on the connections between Scottish and American thought in the eighteenth century.

Wilson remains an understudied figure. Born in 1742 at Carskerdo, Fife, and educated at the University of St. Andrews, he emigrated to America in 1765 and played a critical role in the founding of the United States. After establishing himself as a lawyer in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he was a consistent advocate of popular sovereignty, strong national government, and the separation of powers. One of only six persons to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Wilson strongly influenced the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. He subsequently became a leading proponent of ratification, powerfully shaping federalist arguments in favor of the Constitution and against the Bill of Rights. Appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1789, he went on to write the court opinion in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia (1793) that prompted the Eleventh Amendment. However, his life ended in disgrace. Bankrupted by failed land and business ventures, Wilson fled Pennsylvania in 1796. He was twice arrested and jailed by his creditors. On the run, he suffered an obscure death in Edenton, North Carolina.

The earliest document in this edition is Wilson's pamphlet, Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament, which he wrote in 1768 but did not publish until 1774. An attack on Parliamentary sovereignty, this tract helped to establish Wilson as a Whig leader. It was after the Revolution, however, that Wilson truly rose to the fore. Reflecting this fact, only three documents in this collection date from the 1770s. In contrast, five pieces focus on the 1780s debates surrounding the controversial Bank of North America and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, two are speeches from 1789 and 1790 dealing with changes to the Pennsylvania state constitution, and five relate to Wilson's service as a federal judge. In addition, this collection includes a mid-1790s essay, "On the Improvement and Settlement of Lands in the United States," as well as an undated piece, "On the History of Property."

The bulk (two-thirds) of this edition is given over to Wilson's law lectures. In this respect, and in similar fashion to McCloskey's volumes, this collection sticks close to Bird Wilson's 1804 publication. It adds, however, a new introduction and bibliographical essay, McCloskey's translations of Latin phrases, additional annotations on individuals mentioned by Wilson, and McCloskey's bibliographical glossary. Also, some Wilson material appears here that was not printed in the previous collections. The two main additions are James Madison's notes on Wilson's contributions to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, and the "State House Yard Speech" that Wilson gave in Philadelphia on 6 October 1787. Reprinted throughout the colonies, the latter was, according to the historian Bernard Bailyn, "the most famous, to some the most notorious, federalist statement of the time."

Many scholars will use and enjoy this accessible and elegant edition.

John Dixon, California State University Channel Islands
Eighteenth-Century Scotland
Spring 2008

Wilson was one of six men to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, played critical roles in the ratification debates and the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, and served on the Supreme Court from 1789 until his death in 1798. Yet his legacy has received minimal attention. This two-volume set collects his writings and his lectures on law delivered at the College of Philadelphia. Editor Kermit Hall, a constitutional law scholar and legal historian, and former president of the U. at Albany, State U. of New York, provides an extensive introduction; Mark David Hall (political science, George Fox University) prepared the bibliographical essay.

Reference - Research Book News
February 2008

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