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Excerpt: "A major problem faced by students of political theory, philosophy, or law in the founding era is that many of America's intellectual leaders did not write systematic essays or books. Accordingly, scholars often have to reconstruct their subjects' thoughts based on their actions, contributions to public debates (e.g., speeches in conventions and newspaper articles), and private correspondence. Works like Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, Adams's Thoughts on Government, and The Federalist Papers are partial exceptions to this rule, and scholars have made good use of them. Perhaps the clearest exception to the rule, however, is James Wilson's series of law lectures presented at the College of Philadelphia in 1790-1792. Given their importance, it is remarkable that little attention has been paid to the integrity of the text of his lectures."


Originally published in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 128, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 63-76.