The James Madison Papers, one of 23 presidential collections held by the Library of Congress, are now available online in the American Memory Web site at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/madison_papers/. This site now offers more than 10 million items from the collections of the Library of Congress and other repositories.
The James Madison Papers collection, which is in the custody of the Library's Manuscript Division, consists of approximately 12,000 items that document the life of the man who came to be known as the "Father of the Constitution."
It comprises correspondence, personal notes, drafts of letters and legislation, an autobiography, legal and financial documents and miscellaneous manuscripts.
The collection is organized into six series dating from 1723 to 1836. Beginning with Madison's days as a student, the materials cover his years as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and include extensive notes of the debates during his three-year term in the Continental Congress (1779-82). Notes and memorandums document Madison's pivotal role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the Virginia ratification convention of 1788.
Other materials reflect the nine years that Madison spent in the U.S. House of Representatives and his tenure as secretary of state during Thomas Jefferson's presidency. Correspondence and notes trace his two terms as the fourth president of the United States, illuminating the origins and course of the War of 1812 and the postwar years of his presidency and subsequent retirement.
The collection also includes a copy of Thomas Jefferson's notes from the Continental Congress of 1776, including Jefferson's personal copy of the Declaration of Independence as amended by Congress. Notable correspondents include Dolley Payne Madison, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Edmund Randolph, Noah Webster and Secretary of War James Armstrong, whose correspondence with Madison fills an entire series.
The online version of Madison's papers includes an essay on "James Madison's Ciphers." Madison, as a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, while he was secretary of state and in his personal correspondence with Jefferson, constantly feared that unauthorized people would seek to read his private and public correspondence. To deter such intrusions, he resorted to using a variety of codes and ciphers in the letters that he wrote.
Another essay recounts Madison's experiences during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Although Madison believed that individual rights were fully protected by the Constitution without amendment, he also recognized that including a Bill of Rights as part of the nation's founding document was politically imperative. His "Notes for a Speech in Congress," June 8, 1789, highlights the arguments he used as a leader in the First Federal Congress to push 12 amendments to the Constitution through that body in its first year. Ten of these amendments were ratified by the states and have been enshrined as the Bill of Rights.
"The James Madison Papers" online presentation complements other online presidential papers from the Library of Congress, also available through American Memory: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.