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June 2011

Remembering James Wilson

by Joseph Tartakovsky

On our most neglected Founding Father.

Wilson is one of the luminaries of [his] time,” wrote James Bryce in The American Commonwealth (1888), “to whom subsequent generations of Americans have failed to do full justice.” We conspicuously continue to fail. In America’s Forgotten Founders (2008), Mark David Hall and Gary Gregg recounted asking more than one hundred political scientists, historians, and law professors to rank, from a list of seventy-three, the most underrated founders. Wilson, they report, “easily topped the list.” In 1956, Wilson’s biographer, the historian Charles Page Smith, observed that his subject—one of six men to sign both the Declaration and Constitution—was “alone among the great figures of his age [to be] without a biography.” Smith hoped to “restore James Wilson to his proper place among the great figures of our history.” His work, long out of print, remains the ...

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Joseph Tartakovsky is associate editor of the Claremont Review of Books.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 29 June 2011, on page 19

Copyright © 2014 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com

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