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Select papers of nation’s Founders on exhibit at Penn Law for Constitution Day, Sept. 17

September 07, 2012

On Monday, September 17, as part of Constitution Day, the University of Pennsylvania Law School will host an exhibit of select original documents of James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, framer of the Constitution and member of the first U.S. Supreme Court, along with other historical documents written or signed by President George Washington and Patrick Henry. The exhibit will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Penn Law’s Biddle Library, and is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Philadelphia is renowned the world over as the birthplace of the U.S. Constitution, and millions around the globe are inspired by the decisions made here by the nation’s Founding Fathers, which laid the bedrock foundation for the American legal system. In 1790 Wilson delivered the University of Pennsylvania’s first lectures in law to President George Washington and all the members of his Cabinet.

Documents and artifacts on display at Penn Law on Constitution Day include:

– A letter from President George Washington to James Wilson announcing his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, from 30 September 1789.

– The Commission of James Wilson as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, signed by President George Washington on 29 September 1789.  

– A draft of letter by James Wilson to George Washington accepting the commission as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, from 18 October 1789.

– James Wilson’s oath of office as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, from 5 October 1789.

– James Wilson’s Certificate of Election as member of American Philosophical Society (founded by Benjamin Franklin, who was a founder of Penn), from 20 January 1786.

– Articles of Agreement between Patrick Henry and James Wilson concerning land transactions, from 1795.

– Also on exhibit will be James Wilson’s original Philadelphia cabinet style desk from the mid-1700s, which stands eight feet tall.

In addition, at 2:00 p.m. on the 17th, also in the Biddle Library, Penn Law Professor William Ewald will deliver a brief lecture on Wilson’s remarkable career as a national leader, lawyer, Supreme Court Justice, and legal educator.

Student members of the Penn Law’s chapters of the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society will be on hand to answers questions about the exhibit and assist visitors.