About this Collection

James Madison (1751-1836) is one of 23 presidents whose papers are held in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. The Madison Papers consist of approximately 12,000 items, spanning the period 1723-1859, captured in some 72,000 digital images. They document the life of the man who came to be known as the “Father of the Constitution” through correspondence, personal notes, drafts of letters and legislation, an autobiography, legal and financial documents, and his notes on the 1787 federal Constitutional Convention. The papers cover Madison’s years as a college student; as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Continental Congress, and Confederation Congress; as a delegate to the 1787 federal Constitutional Convention and the Virginia ratification convention of 1788; his terms in the House of Representatives, as secretary of state, and as president of the United States. Also documented are his retirement and the settlement of his estate; matters relating to his family, including his wife, Dolley Payne Madison; and his home, Montpelier, in Virginia. For information about the ownership and chain of custody of the Library’s Madison Papers, see the Provenance essay on this site, which is excerpted from the Index to the James Madison Papers (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1965). The Manuscript Division has a separate collection of Dolley Madison Papers, 1794-1852, for which there is an online finding aid.

Notable correspondents represented in the James Madison Papers include John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, Albert Gallatin, Elbridge Gerry, Alexander Hamilton, William Henry Harrison, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the Marquis de Lafayette, Robert Livingston, Dolley Payne Madison, George Mason, James Monroe, Edmund Randolph, Benjamin Rush, Martin Van Buren, George Washington, and Noah Webster. Madison’s correspondence with Secretary of War James Armstrong, chiefly 1813-1814, fills all of Series 3. For a complete list of correspondents represented in this collection see the Index to the James Madison Papers.

Series

The Madison Papers are arranged in seven series. Series 1 - 6 have been indexed and microfilmed and are available digitally on this website. Series 7 contains papers that were received after the collection was indexed and microfilmed, which have not yet been digitized.

Series 1.  General Correspondence, 1723-1859, 90 volumes.
Letters received, some drafts of letters sent, and related documents.

Series 2.  Additional General Correspondence, 1780-1837, 8 volumes.
Letters received, some drafts of letters sent, and related documents. The Department of State loaned these papers to Senator William Cabell Rives in 1858 to help him write his biography of Madison. They were restored by Rives’s heirs to the Library of Congress a century later and added to the Madison Papers as Series 2.

Series 3.  Madison-Armstrong Correspondence, 1813-1836, 1 volume.
Copies of letters written by James Madison to his Secretary of War John Armstrong, 1813-1814, and a few copies of letters written by Armstrong and others.

Series 4.  Autobiography and Legal Documents, circa 1751-1852, 1 volume.
Madison’s autobiography; wills of James Madison, his parents James Madison, Sr., and Nelly Madison, and his wife, Dolley Payne Madison; documents relating to the settlement of Madison family estates and to the sale of James Madison’s papers to the federal government; and other legal and financial documents.

Series 5.  Notes on Debates at the Federal Constitutional Convention, 1787, and in Congress, 1776-1787, 6 volumes.  Includes:

  • Madison’s original notes on debates at the Federal Constitutional Convention, 1787 (2 volumes) and John C. Payne’s copy (1 volume). 
  • Madison’s notes on debates in the Confederation Congress, 1782-1783, and 1787 (1 volume) and John C. Payne’s copy, together with copies of letters, 1780-1788 (1 volume).
  • Thomas Jefferson’s notes on debates in the Continental Congress, July 1-August 1, 1776 (1 volume), sent by Jefferson to Madison (see Jefferson’s letter of June 1, 1783, in Series 1).

Series 6.  Miscellaneous Manuscripts, circa 1763-1836.
“A Brief System of Logick,” notes and drawings Madison made probably while a student at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University); notes on the Articles of Confederation, exports and navigation, federal governments, and natural history; Madison’s copy of Alexander Hamilton’s observations on federal government; two printed acts of Congress; resolutions of the Senate and House of Representatives on Madison’s death; a Madison family tree.

Series 7.  Addenda, 1744-1845, 2 containers.  Not yet digitized.
Original correspondence, 1780-1834, and other miscellaneous papers, including a Virginia convention speech, 1829; photocopies and abstracts of correspondence and other papers, 1744-1845; newspaper clippings, 1788-1833.

Transcriptions Included on this Website

Some of Madison’s documents are accompanied here by transcripts. These come from The Writings of James Madison, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1900-1910). Hunt’s edition includes letters and documents written by Madison. The modern published edition of Madison’s papers (which includes letters received as well as letters sent) is The Papers of James Madison, ed. William T. Hutchinson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962-1977; Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1978 - ).  This edition is available online as part of The American Founding Era, a subscription database from the University of Virginia Press, which is accessible onsite at the Library of Congress at eresources.loc.gov/record=e1000688 and on the publicly available Founders Online website hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration.

There are some discrepancies in date and text between documents in these published editions and the manuscript images. In some cases, editors of the published editions used a different draft than the one the Library of Congress owns. In other cases, archivists at the Library of Congress and editors of the published editions arrived at different interpretations of dates, correspondents, or other data.