April 28, 2016 Mysteries of Madison's Notes on the Convention to Be Subject of Book Discussion

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The dramatic story of how our nation’s Constitution came to be can be found in “Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 as Reported by James Madison,” more familiarly called “Madison’s Notes.” But how accurate are those notes?

The book, some 600 pages, was not published until 1836, after Madison’s death and after all the other delegates had also died. Thus, no one present at the convention was alive to challenge his account.

Drawing on digital technologies and textual analysis, Mary Sarah Bilder shows that Madison revised the notes much more extensively than previously recognized.

Bilder develops her case in her new book, “Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention” (Harvard University Press, 2015). Bilder will discuss and sign her book at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, May 3, at noon in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Library’s Manuscript Division. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Bilder’s research suggests that Madison made significant changes, placing him in a more favorable light. “Madison’s Hand” challenges many long-held notions about the Constitutional Convention and the motives of its participants.

Bilder is a professor of law and the Michael and Helen Lee Distinguished Scholar at Boston College Law School.

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PR 16-076
ISSN 0731-3527