Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2005 Issue

Enormous James Madison Collection Now Available Online

A0408

"Father of the Constitution" James Madison.Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.


By Michael Stillman

"At his inauguration, James Madison, a small, wizened man, appeared old and worn...but whatever his deficiencies in charm, Madison's buxom wife Dolley compensated for them with her warmth and gaiety." That's a heck of a sendoff for one of our founding fathers, but that is his introduction on the official White House website. Oh, and by the way, he was also the "Father of the Constitution."

It is true that Madison was a sickly looking man, and certainly did not cut the impressive figure his wife did. Still, he managed to stay alive long enough to put together a 40-year political career, and then live another 20 years in retirement. We should all be so sickly. During his career, he served in the Virginia Assembly, where he helped draft that state's constitution, was a major figure in writing the U.S. Constitution, co-wrote the Federalist Papers which helped sell that constitution to the nation, served in the House of Representatives, was Jefferson's Secretary of State, and capped off his career as President of the United States. He was drawn into war with Great Britain during his administration, and while something of a military toss-up, it was perceived in America as a great victory. The result is that when he left office, his Democratic-Republican political party was the only viable party in existence, the anti-war Federalists disgraced and irrelevant. The "Era of Good Feeling" was underway, one of the happiest times in this nation's history. Still, despite these later achievements, it was Madison's role in creating the Constitution and its Bill of Rights that are probably his greatest and most lasting contributions to his country.

The Library of Congress has recently opened its enormous collection of James Madison material to online research. It is exhaustive and exhausting. It is called, "The James Madison Papers." Madison created a lot of papers during his lifetime. Most notable were records he kept of deliberations at the Constitutional Convention. They probably provide greater insight to the thoughts of those who created this amazing document than anything else we have. But those are just a portion of what is now available. The collection runs from documents of his father long before Madison was born, to those from his wife and stepson, John Payne, long after he died.

Unlike some Library of Congress exhibits, this is not geared toward people looking to learn a little about James Madison, or gather a summary of his career. There is a little of that, but not much. There are many better places to go on the internet for that type of information. What you will find here are images of documents, approximately 12,000, written by or to James Madison or family members and associates. There is no way to sit down and read all of this. No, this is a site meant for research. Obviously, it is an absolute treasure of material for anyone conducting serious research about the life of Madison. However, it is also a wonderful resource for those interested in specific events, or studying the lives of the people with whom Madison corresponded, and over the course of his life, that was a great many people.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> George Washington ADS, One of the Earliest in His Hand, A Survey from 1752, the Same Year He Inherited Mount Vernon.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Rare JFK Signed Check & Transmittal Letter During Campaign for 1956 VP Nomination, Both BAS Slabbed; Possibly A Unique Combo!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Daniel Boone Signed Receipt as VA Delegate; During His 1st of 3 Terms, Boone Was Kidnapped by British Forces Gunning for Gov. T. Jefferson & Other Legislators.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipt for “Pennsylvania Gazette,” Important & Beautifully Displayed
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lincoln & His Civil War Cabinet: 8 Signatures, Beautifully Presented!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> G.A. Custer ALS from Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory to Capt. Yates, Who Also Died at Little Bighorn, Re: Acquiring “good horses” from Kentucky for 7th Cavalry.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Jefferson Davis ALS: “the negroes are humble and generally inclined to cling to their masters…neither crop or stock could be protected from their thieving” – Incredible!
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Lee Harvey Oswald Signed Letter: “if we finally get back to the states…maybe we’ll…settle in Texas,” Warren Commission Exhibit.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Babe Ruth First Edition Biography Signed Just Months Before His Death, Excellent Signature!
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Rare Autographs, Manuscripts & Books<br>August 17, 2022</b>
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> “B Arnold” ANS on Pre-Revolutionary War Promissory Note Dating From His Days as a New Haven Merchant
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Bob Dylan Signed LP “Blonde on Blonde” with Jeff Rosen COA.
    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio Signed Checks, Handsomely Displayed.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions