Question of the Week
Who represented Pennsylvania in the Committee of Detail in 1787?
Answer: James Wilson
This Monday marks the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. One of the signers was James Wilson, one of Pennsylvania’s leading politicians during the nation’s founding years. Wilson entered politics in the 1770s and in 1775 he was elected to the Continental Congress, where he sat on military and Indian affairs committees. He went on to sign the Declaration of Independence for Pennsylvania and eventually helped frame the United States Constitution.
Wilson wrote by hand the earliest known copies of the U. S. Constitution. After submitting the first draft, the Constitutional Convention recessed for 10 days while the Committee of Detail reviewed the document. After making several revisions, Wilson re-wrote the constitution. This version of the document was sent to the printer; but even this printed version had to be further revised. On September 17, 1787, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia and approved and signed the Constitution.
In 1789, Wilson was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President George Washington. A year later, he became the College of Philadelphia’s first professor of law. He died while visiting a friend in North Carolina, where he was buried in 1798. His body was moved to Christ Church burial grounds in Philadelphia in 1906.
HSP owns several different handwritten and printed copies of the U. S. Constitution, including the earliest surviving versions by James Wilson. These documents can be viewed by appointment.
Image: First handwritten draft of the Constitution (1787)
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.