In this essay, Daniel Robinson discusses the thought of James Wilson as an example of the Scottish Enlightenment’s influence on American thinking about natural law. James Wilson, one of the six original justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, comes to fairly conventional conclusions about natural law and seems to have strong similarities with the thought of John Locke. At the same time, however, he emphatically rejects the ideas that are the philosophical premises of Locke’s political thought. In this, he demonstrates the influence of the prominent 18th-century Scottish philosopher, Thomas Reid. Reid argued that the philosophy of his time had ventured too far into abstraction and idealism and needed to be brought back to a reliance on common sense. Likewise, James Wilson believed that political thought had come to depend too much on abstract ideas and terminology, with little correspondence to real life. This is evident in his decision in Chisholm v. Georgia, in which he tries to reform common understandings of the ideas of “state” and “sovereignty.” James Wilson did not want to abandon the idea of natural law, but to reform it; he believed that anything that was truly natural law would not require any abstract principles in order to be understood, but could be known from common sense. Wilson’s thinking was popular among the American revolutionary generation and contributed to the idea of “self-evident” rights, one of the first principles of our country’s political and legal thought. In the source readings associated with this section, you will have a chance to analyze Reid’s and Wilson’s thoughts on natural rights and on the role of common sense in philosophy. As you read, try to determine how these ideas relate to earlier conceptions of natural law, and consider how their influence may have survived in present-day American political thought.