See It Now: Our Fourth President

James Madison. Between 1836-1842. Prints and Photographs Division.

James Madison. Between 1836-1842. Prints and Photographs Division.

On June 28, 1836, President James Madison passed away at age 85 – the last of the nation’s Founding Fathers. His public service had a symmetry to it. He had served in several positions, each for eight years: first as a member of Congress, followed by the same span as Secretary of State, then finally eight years as President of the United States. Even after that, he served eight years as director of the University of Virginia after Thomas Jefferson’s death.

Madison was also a president of firsts – often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison wrote the first drafts of the important document, as well as the Bill of Rights. In 1792, he and Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which has been called America’s first opposition political party.

According to Pulitzer-prize winning historian Jack N. Rakove, Madison was an intensely private man who sought only to be known by his public deeds. In fact, in his retirement after 1817, he edited a good bit of personal material out of his papers to reinforce that message.

Rakove spoke about Madison during a special event at the Library earlier this year, and the webcast is now available here.

Madison’s papers make up part of the Library’s collection of presidential papers. Included are materials documenting his activities as a member of the Continental Congress, his role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, his tenure as secretary of state during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson and his two terms as president. Noted correspondents include George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Noah Webster and James Monroe. Also included in this collection are a copy of Madison’s autobiography and his correspondence with his wife, Dolley.

Scattered throughout the institution’s various collections, online exhibitions and other resources are assets pertaining to Madison, all collected in this guide.

Bringing the “Banner” to Light

The story of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for many decades, seemed as murky as the smoky haze over Fort McHenry on the morning two centuries ago when Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics that still inspire a nation. No one knew for sure who wrote the music. No one fully understood the circumstances of the tune’s creation (but, no, it wasn’t a […]

Let’s Get Pinning!

Today the Library of Congress launched its own Pinterest account, continuing efforts to make educational, historical and cultural resources available to web users across many platforms. With Pinterest, the Library can share visual content with a wide audience, allowing them to also curate their own collections featuring the same content by creating and managing “boards” […]

Rare Map on Display at Library Scored Some “Firsts”

Engraver Abel Buell “came out of nowhere,” at least in terms of cartography, when he printed a United States map in 1784. “He’d never done a map before,” says Edward Redmond of the Library’s Geography and Map Division. Nonetheless, Buell set records. He was the first U.S. citizen to print a map of the United […]

A Book Festival for the Bird(er)s

David Allen Sibley – yes, the author of the recently updated “Sibley Guide to Birds,” that indispensable handbook on all things feathered – will appear at this year’s National Book Festival, Saturday, August 30 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. In addition to this most highly respected ornithologist, we will also welcome Sally Satel, […]

InRetrospect: May 2014 Blogging Edition

Inside Adams: Science, Technology and Business Oh, Oology! Caliology and oology are the study of bird nests and eggs, respectively. In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog Best Buddies, or Just Goethe Friends? Tchaikovsky and Brahms share a birthday, among other things. In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress I Could Not Accept Your Challenge to […]

Library in the News: May 2014 Edition

As May came to an end, so did the second and final term of Natasha Trethewey as U.S. Poet Laureate. She gave her final lecture at the Library of Congress on May 14. “At the Library of Congress on Wednesday night, Trethewey began, as she often does, with her personal history and then moved into […]