St Andrews link to US constitution celebrated

Thursday 23 April 2009

The special relationship between the University of St Andrews and the Founding Fathers of the United States will be celebrated in Virginia this weekend (Sunday 26th April 2009).

In a special event at James Madison’s Montpelier – the former home of the fourth US President – the significance of James Wilson’s place in American history will be marked with the unveiling of a specially commissioned painting.

University supporter Sir Alastair Buchan-Hepburn will present the painting to celebrate the role Wilson played in the founding of the United States of America in 1776.  The watercolour depicts James Wilson discussing the Constitution with James Madison.

Wilson, who was born near St Andrews, was one of only six men to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  While Wilson was still a student at the University (1757 to 1761), Benjamin Franklin received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, while fellow signatory John Witherspoon was awarded a Doctorate of Divinity in 1764.

Following emigration to British America, as it was then known, in 1766, Wilson became one of the most prominent lawyers of his time.  From his adopted home in Pennsylvania, Wilson served on the Supreme Court of the United States and was a major force in the drafting of the Constitution.

University Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Louise Richardson, said, “The presentation celebrates the historic achievements of the Founding Fathers who, through their intellect and ambition, developed an enduring model for constitutional democracy.

“In the figure of James Wilson, it also establishes a link to the remarkable contribution that Scotland made to the founding of the United States. Almost half of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence could claim Scottish ancestry, and it is of particular pride that three of them attended, or received degrees, from the University of St Andrews.”

Sir Alastair Buchan-Hepburn is a descendent of John Hepburn, Prior of St Andrews, who helped found the College of St Leonard at the University in 1512.  During his visit to Montpelier in Virginia, he will also highlight the University’s contemporary leadership in thinking on constitutionalism through its Centre for Global Constitutionalism – the world’s first interdisciplinary academic centre that looks to the history of constitutional thought to understand current global concerns.


Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected]

Ref:  Founding fathers 230409
View the latest University press releases at

Category University news

Related topics

Share this story