|David Barton – 09/10/2015|
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Signer of the Constitution
Original Justice of the United States Supreme Court
James Wilson had a great influence during the American Founding but has been called “the lost Founder” because of his relative modern obscurity.
He was born to a poor family in Scotland 273 years ago today (on September 14, 1742), but managed to attend universities in Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh. At the age of 21, he immigrated to America and soon began tutoring at Philadelphia College. He studied law under John Dickinson, a fellow member of the Constitutional Convention. 
In 1768, he wrote a pamphlet arguing for American independence but it considered too radical for the times. When public opinion later shifted, it was finally published. Thomas Jefferson copied portions of it for his own use, and it is conceivable that parts of Wilson’s essay even influenced the language of the Declaration. Compare the similarity of Wilson’s writing with the wording of the Declaration:
Wilson served as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, where he voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. He later was a member of the Constitutional Convention, where he signed the Constitution. 
Under the new federal government, President George Washington appointed Wilson as an original justice on the U. S. Supreme Court, where he served for 9 years until his death on August 28, 1798. He was buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia. 
Over recent years, the federal courts have become particularly unfriendly to Christianity and religious faith, but it was not that way under Justice Wilson. In fact, Wilson started America’s first organized legal training while he served on the Court, and he told students:
 Nicholas Pederson, “The Lost Founder: James Wilson in American
Memory,” Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, Vol. 22, Is. 2, Art. 3, (May 8, 2013). See also, Robert K. Wright, Jr. and Morris J. MacGregor, Jr., “James Wilson: Pennsylvania,” Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution (Center of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1987).
 L. Carroll Judson, A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence(Philadelphia : J. Dobson, and Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1839), p. 130-131. See also, “James Wilson, Pennsylvania,” Charters of Freedom: America’s Founding Fathers(accessed September 8, 2015).
Tag Archives: Continental Congress
Did you know that Congress once printed Bibles? At the time of the American Revolution, the British government had strict laws about printing Bibles. Only a few printers were licensed to do so, and none of them was in the American colonies, so all Bibles had to be imported from England. The Revolutionary War naturally interrupted trade with England, and there was a severe shortage of Bibles in America.
In 1777, U.S. clergy petitioned the Continental Congress to have Bibles printed in America. In response, Congress passed a resolution to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, and other countries, but in the chaos of the war, they never arrived. So three years later, another resolution to print Bibles in America was introduced in Congress, and printer Robert Aitken petitioned Congress for permission to print them. Congress granted him permission and financial support to print Bibles. His Bibles included an endorsement and recommendation from Congress on the first page.
More American versions of the Bible were printed soon after. In the United States, printers had the freedom to print the Scriptures freely without government approval. That was a radically different situation from what they had been used to under British rule, and it was a great victory for religious freedom.
We now live in a country where prayer and Bible readings in public schools have been outlawed by the Supreme Court for over fifty years. We’re told it’s a violation of the Constitution to display the Ten Commandments in a county courthouse or to have a nativity scene at city hall. But interestingly, the Continental Congress did not consider for a moment whether their appropriation for printing the Bible was an affront to religious freedom. They knew it wasn’t. When we look at changes in America, we should be concerned about our loss of religious liberty.
The Moral Liberal recommends: Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America)
SEPTEMBER 7, 1774, the First Session of the Continental Congress was opened with prayer in Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia.
Threatened by the most powerful monarch in the world, Britain’s King George III, America’s founding fathers heard Rev. Jacob Duche’ begin by reading Psalm 35, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer’s “Psalter” for that day:
“Plead my cause, Oh, Lord, with them that strive with me, fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of buckler and shield, and rise up for my help.
Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’ Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life; Let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me.”
Then Rev. Jacob Duche’ prayed:
“Be Thou present, O God of Wisdom, and direct the counsel of this Honorable Assembly; enable them to settle all things on the best and surest foundations; that the scene of blood may be speedily closed;
that Order, Harmony and Peace may be effectually restored, and that Truth and Justice, Religion and Piety, prevail and flourish among the people…
Preserve the health of their bodies, and the vigor of their minds, shower down on them, and the millions they here represent, such temporal Blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting Glory in the world to come.
All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Saviour, Amen.”
That same day, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, describing the prayer:
“When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with Prayer.
It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York, and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments, some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists, that we could not join in the same act of worship.
Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot, and could hear a Prayer from any gentleman of Piety and virtue, who was at the same time a friend to his Country.
He was a stranger in Philadelphia, but had heard that Mr. Duche’ deserved that character and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche’, an Episcopal clergyman might be desired to read Prayers to Congress tomorrow morning.
The motion was seconded, and passed in the affirmative. Mr. Randolph, our president, vailed on Mr. Duche’, and received for answer, that if his health would permit, he certainly would…”
“Accordingly, next morning Reverend Mr. Duche’ appeared with his clerk and in his pontificals, and read several prayers in the established form, and read the collect for the seventh day of September, which was the thirty-fifth Psalm.
You must remember, this was the next morning after we heard the horrible rumor of the cannonade of Boston.
I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning.
After this, Mr. Duche’, unexpectedly to every body, struck out into an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present. I must confess, I never heard a better prayer, or one so well pronounced.
Episcopalian as he is, Dr. Cooper himself never prayed with such fervor, such ardor, such earnestness and pathos, and in language so elegant and sublime, for America, for the Congress, for the province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially the town of Boston. It has had an excellent effect upon everybody here. I must beg you to read that Psalm.”
The Library of Congress printed on an historical placard of Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia:
“Washington was kneeling there with Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay, and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence the Puritan Patriots of New England…
‘It was enough’ says Mr. Adams, ‘to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, Pacific Quakers of Philadelphia.’”
The Journals of Congress then recorded their appreciation to Rev. Mr. Duche’:
Wednesday, SEPTEMBER 7, 1774, 9 o’clock a.m. Agreeable to the resolve of yesterday, the meeting was opened with prayers by the Rev. Mr. Duche’.
Voted, That the thanks of Congress be given to Mr. Duche’…for performing divine Service, and for the excellent prayer, which he composed and delivered on the occasion.”
Rev. Jacob Duche’ exhorted Philadelphia’s soldiers, July 7, 1775:
“Considering myself under the twofold character of a minister of Jesus Christ, and a fellow-citizen…involved in the same public calamity with yourselves…
addressing myself to you as freemen…’Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made us free’ (Galatians, ch. 5).”
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
But Thomson was not only a great patriot and supporter of the American cause, he was also a great supporter of the Word of God. In fact, his name is associated with some of America’s greatest Biblical works.
For example, his name, as Secretary of Congress, is found in the introduction to theAitken Bible, also known as “The Bible of the Revolution,” which was the first Bible printed in English in America. That Bible was printed by Robert Aitken, the official printer of the Continental Congress (Aitken described that Bible as “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools”), and was reviewed and approved by a committee of the Continental Congress, with an official congressional endorsement published in the front of that Bible. (All of the original books pictured below that are associated with Charles Thomson are from our library at WallBuilders.)
American Minute with Bill Federer
Both served in the Continental Congress and both signed the Declaration of Independence.
Both served as U.S. Ministers in France.
One was elected the 2nd President and the other the 3rd.
Once political enemies, they became close friends in later life.
An awe swept America when they both died on the same day, JULY 4, 1826, exactly 50 years since they signed the Declaration of Independence.
Their names were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, was the 6th President at the time and told Congress, December 5, 1826:
“Since your last meeting at this place, the 50th anniversary of the day when our independence was declared…
two of the principal actors in that solemn scene – the HAND that penned the ever-memorable Declaration and the VOICE that sustained it in debate –
were by one summons, at the distance of 700 miles from each other, called before the Judge of All to account for their deeds done upon earth.”
John Quincy Adams wrote in an Executive Order, July 11, 1826:
“A coincidence…so wonderful gives confidence…that the patriotic efforts of these…men were Heaven directed, and furnishes a new…hope that the prosperity of these States is under the special protection of a kind Providence.”
Jefferson described Adams as: “the pillar of the Declaration’s support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender.”
Defending the Declaration, John Adams told the Continental Congress, July 1, 1776:
“Before God, I believe the hour has come…
All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it…
Live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration.
It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence now, and Independence for ever!”
John Adams stated, June 21, 1776:
“Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.
The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People…they may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.”
Inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial on the south banks of Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin, are Jefferson’s words:
“Almighty God hath created the mind free…
All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens…are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion…
No man…shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion…
God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?
Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
In the last letter Jefferson wrote, he told Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826:
“The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them.”
The last words of John Adams were:
“Thank God, Jefferson lives!”