Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Text - Collected Works of James Wilson, vol. 1
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The Text - James Wilson, Collected Works of James Wilson, vol. 1 
Collected Works of James Wilson, edited by Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall, with an Introduction by Kermit L. Hall, and a Bibliographical Essay by Mark David Hall, collected by Maynard Garrison (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). Vol. 1.
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The Introduction, Collector’s Foreword, Collector’s Acknowledgments, Annotations, Bibliographical Essay are the copyright of Liberty Fund 2007. The Bibliographical Glossary in volume 2 is reprinted by permission of the copyright holders the President and Fellows of Harvard College 1967.
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This edition is the most comprehensive collection of materials ever assembled by and about James Wilson. It also has the virtue of gathering all of Wilson’s important works in one place.
Although comprehensive, it is not complete. For example, Wilson made a number of charges to grand juries in the course of his circuit court duties while sitting on the Supreme Court between 1789 and 1798, but not all of them were recorded, and of those that were only two merit serious consideration, one from Pennsylvania in 1793 and the other from Virginia in 1797. Scholars uniformly treat these as important contributions by Wilson to the development of American law.xix Only two of Wilson’s Supreme Court opinions are included, again because of their importance. The first is from the famous case of Chisholm (1793); the other, and much briefer, from Ware v. Hylton (1796).xx Wilson possessed one of the finest legal minds of his era, but it seldom found expression in Supreme Court opinions. Wilson was on the Court in only two other significant cases: Hylton v. United States (1796) and Calder v. Bull (1798).xxi In the case of Calder, Wilson did not participate because of his flight from creditors and an illness that ultimately killed him. All commentators agree, however, that Chisholm was Wilson’s most important Supreme Court opinion and that his opinion in Ware, while brief, underscored his basic constitutional values.
In 1967 Robert G. McCloskey produced the last edited volumes of Wilson’s works. His two-volume compilation was for the most part a reprint of the 1804 text prepared by Bird Wilson. In 1896 James DeWitt Andrews edited a two-volume collection. Andrews omitted some of the papers that Bird Wilson had included and modestly rearranged some of the materials. Both McCloskey and Andrews followed Bird Wilson’s organizational scheme. McCloskey provided an illuminating introduction and supplied footnoted annotations along with the translation of Latin phrases.
Since the publication of McCloskey’s two volumes on Wilson, additional materials have come to light. These include Wilson’s carefully handwritten notes for the Lectures on Law, now in the manuscript collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia. These notes are discussed at the beginning of the section on the Lectures in an essay by Wilson scholar Mark David Hall. Hall not only addresses the notes but also offers a substantial commentary on the origins, purposes, and value of the Lectures.
In presenting the text, the chief goal has been to make it as authentic as the original 1804 edition of the lectures and to leave the reader to reach his or her own judgments about it. The spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been left as they were in the 1804 edition. James Wilson’s footnotes and those of his son have also been left intact. They are indicated by letters. Footnotes marked by numbers are modern translations of Latin phrases from McCloskey’s version of Wilson’s works or annotations for individuals who might not be known to even well-educated readers today. Again, the objective has been to intrude as little as possible on the way in which Bird Wilson presented his father’s materials. Where “Ed.” appears beside a note, it indicates that the annotation was made by Bird Wilson.
This volume is arranged somewhat differently from that of McCloskey, in part to reflect the new material and in part to underscore that the Lectures were a self-contained enterprise. Thus, the first materials in the volume are some of what McCloskey termed “Miscellaneous Papers,” which he placed at the end of his volumes. The decision to place these materials first was driven in part by their chronology, since most of them appeared before the Lectures were given. In addition to the miscellaneous material included by previous editors, this edition contains Wilson’s “An Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies” (1776), “Remarks of James Wilson in the Federal Convention of 1787,” “State House Yard Speech” (1787), and “On the Improvement and Settlement of Lands in the United States (mid-1790s). The materials from the constitutional convention include every instance that Madison recorded Wilson’s comments. Although Wilson repeated some of these thoughts in his Lectures, the excerpts from the convention shine light on one of his most important contributions to American constitutional history. As well, this edition contains Wilson’s remarks at the Pennsylvania ratifying convention and his most important judicial opinions.
Finally, this volume also contains a Bibliographical Glossary, one that McCloskey prepared for his two-volume work. The glossary is helpful because Wilson drew extensively on a rich and varied body of writing, but in indicating the sources to which he turned, he used what McCloskey rightly termed an “often . . . baffling” system of abbreviated citations.xxii The glossary will help readers to understand the sources that Wilson relied on and to confirm his ambitions as a serious scholar.
The impetus for this volume originated with Maynard Garrison of San Francisco, a person with a strong interest in Wilson and the Founding Era. Garrison pulled together a collection of materials that makes this volume the most comprehensive assemblage of writings and speeches ever collected by and about Wilson.
In bringing this volume to publication, I have had considerable assistance. I am grateful to James Taylor, Robert Wagner, and Phyllis A. Hall for their assistance with footnote preparation, citation checking, research on the annotations, and proofreading. I also treasure the professional support and patience provided by Laura Goetz of the Liberty Fund press.
Kermit L. Hall
[xix. ]Maeva Marcus, ed., The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800. Vol. 3 (1990), contains the charges made by Wilson and the other justices to grand juries while on circuit.
[xx. ]3 U.S. 199 (1796).
[xxi. ]3 U.S. 171 (1796); 3 U.S. 386 (1798).
[xxii. ]McCloskey, p. 50.