American Minute with Bill Federer
He was one of six founding fathers to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
President Washington appointed him to be a Justice on the Supreme Court.
His name was James Wilson.
Born in Scotland, James Wilson was one of the first to argue against British dominance.
In 1774, James Wilson wrote “Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament,” reasoning that since the colonies had no representation in Parliament, the Parliament had no authority over the colonies.
In 1775, James Wilson was commissioned as a Colonel and by the end of the Revolution he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General of the Pennsylvania State Militia.
One of the most educated and prominent lawyers in America, James Wilson was chosen as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, where he spoke 168 times, more than any other delegate except Gouverneur Morris.
James Wilson’s speech in Pennsylvania’s statehouse yard, October 6, 1787, was, after the Federalist Papers, considered the most influential argument in persuading the States of ratify the U.S. Constitution.
The first law professor of the University of Pennsylvania, James Wilson wrote in his Lectures on Law, 1789-91, that all law comes from God, being divided into four categories:
“Laws of Nature,”
“Law … communicated to us by reason and conscience … has been called natural; as promulgated by the Holy Scriptures, it has been called revealed …
But it should always be remembered, that this law, natural or revealed … flows from the same divine source; it is the law of God …
Human law must rest its authority, ultimately, upon the authority of that law, which is divine …
All men are equally subject to the command of their Maker …”
James Wilson concluded:
“Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other.”
James Wilson examined the purpose of government in his Lectures on Law, 1790-91:
“Does man exist for the sake of government? Or is government instituted for the sake of man? …
What was the primary and the principal object in the institution of government? … To acquire a new security for … those rights … which we were previously entitled by the immediate gift … of our all-wise and all-beneficent Creator? …
Yet we are told, that … in order to acquire the security, we must surrender the great objects to be secured … that we may … depend on the pleasure of that power, to which the surrender is made.
Is this a bargain to be proposed to those, who are both intelligent and free? No …”
“Freemen, who know and love their rights, will not exchange their armor of … gold, for one of a baser and lighter metal, however finely it may be blazoned with tinsel.”
To interpret statutes, James Wilson wrote:
“The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.”
“Every prudent and cautious judge … will remember, that his duty and his business is, not to make the law, but to interpret and apply it.”
James Wilson described the “Will of God” as the:
“… efficient cause of moral obligation – of the eminent distinction between right and wrong … (and therefore the) supreme law … (revealed) by our conscience, by our reason, and by the Holy Scriptures.”
“Moral obligation” is important to guard against selfish tendencies, as James Wilson explained October 6, 1787:
“It is the nature of man to pursue his own interest in preference to the public good …
Every person, therefore, who enjoys or expects to enjoy a place of profit under the present establishment, will object to the proposed innovation; not, in truth, because it is injurious to the liberties of his country, but because it affects his schemes of wealth and consequence.”
At the age of 55, James Wilson died AUGUST 21, 1798.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recorded in 1824:
“The late Judge James Wilson, of the Supreme Court of the United States, Professor of Law in the College in Philadelphia … for our present form of government we are greatly indebted to his exertions …
In his Course of Lectures (3d Vol. of his Works, 122), he states that … ‘Christianity is part of the common-law.'”
Justice James Wilson wrote in Chisholm v. State of Ga., 2 U.S. 419 (1793), 453-466:
“Man, fearfully and wonderfully made, is the workmanship of his all perfect Creator …
A State, I cheerfully admit, is the noblest work of Man: But Man, himself, free and honest, is, I speak as to this world, the noblest work of God …
Cicero says so sublimely, ‘Nothing, which is exhibited upon our globe, is more acceptable to that divinity which governs the whole universe, than those communities and assemblages of men, which, lawfully associated, are denominated States’ …
Let a State be considered as subordinate to the People … By a State I mean, a complete body of free persons united together for their common benefit, to enjoy peaceably what is their own, and to do justice to others …
Under that Constitution there are citizens, but no subjects …
As a citizen, I know the Government of that State to be republican; and my short definition of such a Government is, one constructed on this principle, that the Supreme Power resides in the body of the people.”
The Constitution, in its essence, is a way for the people of the United States to rule themselves. When someone protests the flag, what they are saying is that they no longer want to participate in ruling their own life.
In his Lectures on Law delivered in the College of Philadelphia, 1790-91, James Wilson wrote:
“In a free country, every citizen forms a part of the sovereign power: he possesses a vote …
The sovereign power residing in the people; they may change their constitution and government whenever they please … In free states, such as ours, the sovereign or supreme power resides in the people …
In the original constitution of Rome, the sovereign power, the dominium eminens, as it is called by the civilians, always resided in the collective body of the people …
As to the people, however, in whom the sovereign power resides … from their authority the constitution originates: for their safety and felicity it is established: in their hands it is as clay in the hands of the potter: they have the right to mold, to preserve, to improve, to refine, and to finish it as they please.”
At Pennsylvania’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution of the United States, James Wilson stated December 1, 1787:
“The sovereignty resides in the people; they have not parted with it.”
James Wilson told Pennsylvania’s ratifying convention, November 26, 1787:
“Governments, in general, have been the result of force, of fraud, and accident.
After a period of 6,000 years has elapsed since the creation, the United States exhibit to the world the first instance … of a nation … assembling voluntarily … and deciding calmly concerning that system of government under which they would wish that they and their posterity should live.”
Daniel Webster made a similar statement, July 4, 1802:
“We live under the only government that ever existed which was framed by the unrestrained and deliberate consultations of the people.
Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in 6,000 years cannot be expected to happen often.”
Wilson’s and Webster’s comments are confirmed by the fact that the most common form of government in written history is monarchy.
“Writing” was invented around 3,300 BC with Sumerian cuneiform in the Mesopotamian Valley, meaning there exists only 5,000 to 6,000 years of recorded history.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stated in the Cosmos TV series (2014, natgeotv.com, episode 10, “The Immortals”):
“It was the people who once lived here, around 5,000 years ago, who first started chopping up time into smaller bite-size portions of hours and minutes. They call this place Uruk. We call it Iraq. The part of Mesopotamia-the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The “city” was invented here. And one of humanities greatest victories was won over the ceaseless battle of time. It was here that we learned how to write.”
Franklin Roosevelt acknowledged, February 10, 1940:
“5,000 years of recorded history have proven that mankind has always believed in God in spite of many abortive attempts to exile God.”
Richard Overy, editor of The Times Complete History of the World, stated in “The 50 Key Dates of World History” (October 19, 2007):
“No date appears before the start of human civilizations about 5,500 years ago and the beginning of a written or pictorial history.”
Astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote in book five of The Harmonies of the World (1619):
“The book is written, to be read either now or by posterity … It may be well to wait a century for a reader, as God has waited 6,000 years for an observer.”
Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan wrote in “Prince of Peace” (New York Times, September 7, 1913):
“6,000 years of recorded history and yet we know no more about the secret of life than they knew in the beginning.”
Yale President Ezra Stiles had stated May 8, 1783:
“Most of the States of all ages … have been founded in rapacity, usurpation and injustice …
The military history of all nations, being but a description of the wars and invasions of the mutual robbers and devastators of the human race …
All the forms of civil polity have been tried by mankind, except one: and that seems to have been referred in Providence to be realized in America.”
John Adams wrote in his notes of A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, February 1765:
“I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”
John Jay, the First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, stated September 8, 1777:
“The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of … choosing the forms of government under which they should live.
All other constitutions have derived their existence from violence or accidental circumstances …
Your lives, your liberties, your property, will be at the disposal only of your Creator and yourselves.””
Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
“America … appears like a last effort of divine Providence in behalf of the human race.”
President Calvin Coolidge stated in 1924:
“The history of government on this earth has been almost entirely … rule of force held in the hands of a few.
Under our Constitution, America committed itself to power in the hands of the people.”
President Millard Fillmore stated in 1852:
“Our free institutions … were planted in the free charters of self-government under which the English colonies grew up …
European nations have had no such training for self-government, and every effort to establish it by bloody revolutions has been, and must without that preparation continue to be, a failure.”
Theodore Roosevelt stated October 24, 1903:
“In no other place and at no other time has the experiment of government of the people, by the people, for the people, been tried on so vast a scale as here in our own country.”
President Ronald Reagan stated in 1961:
“In this country of ours took place the greatest revolution that has ever taken place in the world’s history.
Every other revolution simply exchanged one set of rulers for another.
Here for the first time in all the thousands of years of man’s relation to man … the founding fathers established the idea that you and I had within ourselves the God-given right and ability to determine our own destiny.”
James Wilson stated in Pennsylvania’s statehouse yard, October 6, 1787, regarding the U.S. Constitution:
“I will confess, indeed, that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government …
But when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions … I am satisfied that anything nearer to perfection could not have been accomplished.
If there are errors, it should be remembered that … the concurrence of two-thirds of the Congress may at any time introduce alterations and amendments.
Regarding it, then … I am bold to assert that it is the best form of government which has ever been offered to the world.”
Self-Educated American 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.