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

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

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  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: James Morton Smith
  • Publish Date: 1995-01-17


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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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