Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Popular sovereignty is the salient theme of James Wilson’s political thought. But Wilson is no less eager to prove that the sovereign people can oblige and bind themselves, or that liberty is consistent with law. He rests his case on a Thomistic view of natural law as reflected in Scottish Common-Sense philosophy; he also utilizes several of the “auxiliary precautions” of Federalism. However, he parts company with his Federalist brethren over the question of representation, and he anticipates a fair degree of republican virtue as a consequence of the act of voting. He further supposes that the people can be trusted to legislate because their interests are homogeneous. In the end, Wilson’s democratic sympathies clash with his aristocratic penchant for reputation and honor.


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.

This version was a slightly revised from the original in 2017.



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