Happy 265th James Madison!

James Madison. Between 1809 and 1817. Prints and Photographs Division.

James Madison. Between 1809 and 1817. Prints and Photographs Division.

James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution because of his pivotal role in the document’s drafting as well as its ratification. Madison also drafted the first 10 amendments — the Bill of Rights.

When the federal Constitution was approved by the states and went into effect in 1789, the absence of a Bill of Rights was the loudest and most effective criticism of it. Although he believed that individual rights were fully protected by the Constitution as it was ratified, Madison recognized that drafting a Bill of Rights was politically imperative.

His “Notes for a Speech on Constitutional Amendments,” June 8, 1789, highlights the arguments he used as a leader in the First Federal Congress to push 12 amendments to the Constitution through Congress 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 are available online and consist of approximately 12,000 items that document the fourth president’s life through correspondence, personal notes, drafts of letters and legislation, an autobiography, legal and financial documents, and miscellaneous manuscripts.

For those interested in secret symbols, there is 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, continually feared that unauthorized people would seek to read his private and public correspondence. To deter such intrusions, he resorted to a variety of codes and ciphers.

“The James Madison Papers” online presentation complements other online presidential papers from the Library of Congress, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson and James Monroe.

Madison was also the first to propose the idea of a congressional library in 1783. He later approved an act of Congress appropriating money to buy Jefferson’s book collection after the British burned the Capitol in 1814. You can read more about it in this Library of Congress blog post.

Pulitzer-prize winning historian Jack N. Rakove discusses Madison, his work and influence in this video.

Today the Library is convening a panel of scholars to discuss the fourth president’s early life, political and personal partnerships and his role at the 1787 convention. A video of the event will be made available in the coming weeks.

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(The following is a guest post by William Kellum, manager in the Library’s Web Services Division.) In February, the Library of Congress added the Rosa Parks Papers to its digitized collections. The collection contains approximately 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photographs and is on loan to the Library for 10 years from the Howard G. Buffett […]

Rosa Parks Collection Now Online

The Rosa Parks Collection at the Library of Congress has been digitized and is now online. The collection, which contains approximately 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photographs, is on loan to the Library for 10 years from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The Library received the materials in late 2014, formally opened them to researchers in […]

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(The following is a guest post by Gene DeAnna, head of the recorded sound section in the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.) I’m often asked what sound recordings are most at risk of being lost before we are able to preserve them. The fact is, the two-headed monster of physical degradation and […]

New Blog Series: New Online

(The following is a guest post by William Kellum, manager in the Library’s Web Services Division.) This is the first post in a new monthly series highlighting new collections, items and presentations on the Library’s website. After checking out the items mentioned here, be sure to visit some of our other blogs that highlight our […]

Pic of the Week: Willie Nelson on PBS Tonight!

Make sure to tune in to PBS tonight for the star-studded concert tribute to Willie Nelson, the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The concert airs on PBS stations nationwide at 9 p.m. ET on (check local listings). The program also will be broadcast at a later date via the American […]

Lewis Helps Library Celebrate Acquisition of Personal Papers

(The following was written by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library’s staff newsletter, The Gazette.) Jerry Lewis sat alone in the spotlight, reflecting on his career and on the passage of the years – for both him and the fans who filled the historic State Theatre. “At the time that I began, which was some […]

The Battle of Waterloo

(The following is a guest post from Taru Spiegel, reference specialist in the Library’s European Division.) Today marks the 200th anniversary of the history-changing Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This engagement ended in the conclusive defeat of Napoleon and his French generals and was a costly victory for the Anglo-Dutch, Belgian and German forces. The […]