The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

Announcing First Liberty Institute and James Wilson Institute Co-Sponsorship 2020 James Wilson Fellowship

by James Wilson Institute on March 11, 2020

First Liberty Institute and the James Wilson Institute are proud to announce that they will be co-sponsoring the James Wilson Fellowship in Washington, D.C., in August 2020. As the James Wilson Fellowship enters its seventh year, we believe this collaboration will strengthen the programs of both institutes. Fifteen highly accomplished young lawyers and law students will spend a week studying the first principles of moral and legal judgment from the perspective of natural law. They will learn how those principles bear practically on all parts of our law, reaching the moral judgments that lie at the root of even the most mundane cases. And, of course, it is no small surprise that those principles bear with special force on the defense of religious liberty, the mission of First Liberty Institute.

James Wilson Institute founder & director, Hadley Arkes, has shaped the Fellowship and leads half of the seminars. He has offered this account on the new partnership we are celebrating:
“Religious freedom finds its ground in the same nature, the same powers of reason, that give us the capacity for moral judgment. Religion, rightly understood, has always been a force of moral teaching, in marking off the paths of life that are more fitting and higher for human beings. And religion can never be detached from objective moral truths in judging the moral limits of what can be rightly taught and practiced under the banner of religion.
“The animating purpose of the James Wilson Institute has been to restore the teaching of natural law among lawyers and judges, as well as citizens. Similarly, our friends at First Liberty Institute seek to secure religious freedom more firmly on the moral grounds of the natural law. In First Liberty Institute, the James Wilson Institute has found a partner that will strengthen us in all of our work. And we look forward now to that work made even more promising—and joyous—as we take it on together.”
Andrew Graham, First Liberty Institute’s executive director for policy and education & senior fellow, expressed similar sentiments:
“We are truly honored to partner with the James Wilson Institute, which has quickly become a major force in legal education. Professor Arkes and his team have built an extraordinary—and sorely needed—organization, one that restores natural law to its rightful and respected place in serious legal reasoning and discourse. I look forward to meeting the Fellowship class of 2020 and to teaching on the philosophical foundations underlying the First Amendment’s commitment to religious liberty.”

Applications will be accepted through April 15, 2020. For more information, please visit

Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790