Volume 17
Issue 1
Winter '19

Golden Letters: James Wilson, the Declaration of Independence, and the Sussex Declaration

Written By: Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff

Abstract

James Wilson probably commissioned of the Sussex Declaration, a ceremonial parchment manuscript of the Declaration of Independence produced in the U.S. and dating to the 1780s. We explicate Wilson’s nationalism with a view to accounting for the full significance of the parchment. On this parchment, the names of the signatories are presented in such a fashion as to obscure their states of origin. The document supports the position that the new nation rested on the authority of a single national people rather than on the authority of federated states and may have been the text that Wilson used when he read the Declaration of Independence at the Constitutional Convention to make his argument about popular sovereignty.

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