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James Wilson

ca. 1792 Jean Pierre Henri Elouis Born: Caen, France 1755 Died: Caen, France 1840 watercolor on ivory sight 2 5/8 x 2 in. (6.7 x 5.2 cm) oval Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Catherine Walden Myer Fund 1952.3.3 Not currently on view


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James Wilson (1742-1798) was a famous American statesman, lawyer, Supreme Court justice, and land speculator. He was born in Carskerdo, Scotland, and immigrated in 1766 to the colonies. He settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he practiced law. He promoted the idea that the British parliament held no authority over the colonies, and in 1775 was elected to the Second Continental Congress and penned his signature on the Declaration of Independence. He served a second term in Congress from 1785 to 1787, during which time he won praise for his draft of the federal Constitution. In his last years, land speculations ruined him, and he was remembered as much for his bad business instincts as his impressive contributions to the development of American law. In this portrait the elderly Wilson is shown wearing glasses. The frames must have been imported, as no manufacturer existed in the United States until 1815.

Keywords

Portrait male - Wilson, James - bust

painting - miniature

paint - watercolor

ivory