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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

6 - John Jay: The First Chief Justice

Summary

James Wilson, born in Scotland and educated during the Scottish Enlightenment, became one of the most influential jurists and statesmen of the American founding era. He signed the Declaration of Independence, served as an influential delegate to the Constitutional Convention, became one of the first justices of the US Supreme Court, and was the first law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. As a Framer, jurist and educator, he consistently argued for recognizing the sovereignty of the people themselves, which he believed was a central component of a God-given natural law. Many of Wilson's views that were innovative or controversial at the time – such as the concepts of popular sovereignty, one person-one vote, and the power of the Supreme Court to strike down unconstitutional laws – have become important elements of modern American government.