Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

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W. W. Norton & Company, 1995 - History - 2128 pages
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Thomas Jefferson and James Madison have been called the two greatest philosopher statesmen of the American Enlightenment. For the first fifty years of the new nation's existence, they formed a personal and political partnership, jointly working out the ideology of democracy and the practice of representative government.

The collaboration began in 1776, when Jefferson and Madison met as members of the Virginia House of Delegates, and ended fifty years later, when Jefferson died. They exchanged nearly 1,250 letters, running the gamut from short notes ("Will you come and sit an hour before dinner to-day?" Jefferson scribbled to Madison in 1791) to Madison's remarkable seventeen-page letter on the results of the Constitutional Convention.

Whether every letter was a faultless work of art may be debated. But their correspondence reveals, in precision and complex detail, what Jefferson called "freshness of fact." Since neither Jefferson nor Madison kept a diary, their innermost thoughts went directly into their letters, deeply revealing the loyalties and genius of both men.

These volumes present for the first time all of the letters, annotated and in chronological order, organized into chapters by year. In addition to the general introduction to the correspondence, introductory essays to each chapter establish context and identify persons and events for the general reader.

James Morton Smith is Director Emeritus of The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum and a past director of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. In addition to his many books, he was the general editor of the Bicentennial Series, The States and the Nation, published by Norton.

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The republic of letters: the correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776-1826

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Editor Smith gathers together in three volumes the entire surviving correspondence of these two American giants. As neither man "ever reduced his thought to a systematic presentation" and as most of ... Read full review


Photographs appear following page
The Perils of Neutrality 18051806 1404
Jefferson Madison and the Revolutionary Crisis
The End of the Embargo 18081809 1548
Jefferson Madison and the Virginia House
Governor Jefferson
Madison Takes Over 1809 1561
A Most Melancholy Crisis 17801781
The Partners Change Places
1815 1753
Founding the University of Virginia 18181819 1791
The Minister
The Virginia Legislator and
Miracle in Philadelphia 1787
The Constitution and the Movement for a Bill of Rights
The Adoption of the Bill

The Congressman and the Governor
From Friendship to Partnership 17821783
A Few Victories but More Defeats 18121813 1708
From War to Peace 1783
The Congressman and the Secretary of State 1790
ForeignPolicy Priorities 18041805 1352

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About the author (1995)

Thomas Jefferson was born in Virginia in 1743 into a wealthy and socially prominent family. After attending the College of William and Mary, he went on to study law. At the age of twenty-six, Jefferson began building Monticello. Three years later, in 1772, he married Martha Wayles Skelton. The couple had six children, two of whom survived to adulthood. Considered elequent in his writing, although not as his speech, Jefferson took on much of the writing needed by the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, both of which he was a member. In 1776, at the young age of 33, Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. From 1779 to 1781, Jefferson served as Governor of Virginia. Jefferson temporarily retired from public life after his term as governor, returning to public life in 1784 as a diplomat serving in France. In 1790, Jefferson was appointed Secretary of State in President Washington's Cabinet, but resigned in 1793 over a disagreement with Alexander Hamilton. As political disagreements continued to polarize the young government, Jefferson found himself leading those who sympathized with the revolutionary cause in France. In 1800, Jefferson was elected President in a tie vote that ironically was decided by Alexander Hamilton. In 1809, after two terms as President, Jefferson returned to his home in Monticello, where he developed, among other projects, plans for the University of Virginia. In addition, he sold his collection of books to the government to form the basis of the Library of Congress. Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826.

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