Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two Wives for Wilson

James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, married twice. His first wife was Rachael Bird Wilson, and his second wife was Hannah Gray Wilson.

Wilson was a highly educated young Englishman, newly admitted to the practice of law after completing studies with John Dickinson, when he married Rachel Bird in 1771 or 1772. Rachael was the youngest daughter of William Bird of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Bird was the proprietor of Birdsborough, the country seat and iron works on the Schuylkill River.
Wilson became a popular lawyer and defended most of the important cases in Philadelphia. He also became an ardent worker for the cause of liberty for the American colonists. For the rest of his life he spent much of his time and devoted his great abilities to public affairs either in Pennsylvania or for the new national government. He was a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rachael died in 1786, leaving five young children: Mary married Paschal Hollingsworth of Philadelphia; William died at Kaskaskia in 1817; Bird held a judicial position in Pennsylvania and then became a clergyman in New York; James was a army lieutenant but resigned his commission to became a merchant and died at St. Domingo in 1808; Charles was a naval midshipman before becoming a mercantile businessman and died in Havana in 1800. William, James and Charles died unmarried.

James married Hannah Gray, "an amiable young lady of Boston" and second daughter of Ellis Gray, a Boston merchant. James and Hannah had one son, Henry, who died in infancy. James died suddenly in 1798 in Edenton, North Carolina, while overseeing a federal court session there. Hannah later married Dr. Thomas Bartlett of Boston and died in London in 1807.

Facts and quotes are from Wives of the Signers: The women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp. 205-207.

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