James Wilson was born in Hawick, Scotland in 1805. He moved to London where he became a leading opponent of the corn laws. In 1843 Wilson established the weekly financial and commercial journal, the Economist.
In 1847 Wilson entered the House of Commons as a Liberal. A strong supporter of free trade, Wilson joined the government as financial secretary to the Treasury, vice-president of the board of trade, and a member of the council of India. James Wilson died in 1860. After Wilson's death, his son-in-law, Water Bagehot, edited the Economist.