Law and change: Scottish legal heroes
Law and change: Scottish legal heroes

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Law and change: Scottish legal heroes

2.1 James Wilson (1742–1798)

Individuals have had a far-reaching impact on the law in Scotland and in other jurisdictions. One such individual was James Wilson. He was born near St Andrews and emigrated aged 24. He was one of the six original justices appointed by George Washington to the Supreme Court of the United States and he later became one of the first Associate Justices of the Supreme Court. He also played a significant role in drafting the American Constitution. Educated at universities in Scotland, he emigrated with the ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment. He believed that all power derived from ‘the people’ and that American colonies did not have to follow laws laid down by a British Parliament in which they had no representation. These beliefs significantly influenced the drafting of the American Constitution, a process in which he played a key role.

Figure 1 James Wilson
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