Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Preface

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Preface

Article excerpt

James Madison's Papers

In addition to the public offices he held, culminating in the presidency, James Madison is remembered by most Americans as Father of the Constitution. Fewer realize that this acknowledged paternity of our nation's fundamental law flows not just from his advocacy of key elements of the document but also from the crucial survival of the extensive notes he took during the Constitutional Convention, leaving us with the most detailed account of the deliberations. But we would not have that insight without the vital role played by his wife after his death. We all know of historic figures whose spouses burned many of their papers, impoverishing history in the process. The case of the first president comes to mind. With our fourth president, however, we have the opposite circumstance. For it was the tenacious efforts of Dolley Madison to see his manuscripts made public - both to enshrine her late husband s legacy and not incidentally to assure her of income - that we have to thank for such a rich source about the origins of the Constitution. …

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