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Preface

On the 15th November, 1836, Mrs.  MADISON addressed the following letter to the President of the United States:

                    "MONTPELIER, November 15, 1836.

    "Sir: The will of my late husband, JAMES MADISON, contains the following provision:

    "Considering the peculiarity and magnitude of the occasion which produced the Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787, the characters who composed it, the Constitution which resulted from their deliberations, its effects during a trial of so many years on the prosperity of the people living under it, and the interest it has inspired among the friends of free government, it is not an unreasonable inference that a careful and extended report of the proceedings and discussions of that body, which were with closed doors, by a member who was constant in his attendance, will be particularly gratifying to the people of the United States, and to all who take an interest in the progress of political science and the cause of true liberty.

    "This provision bears evidence of the value he set on his Report of the Debates in the Convention, and he has charged legacies on them alone to the amount of twelve hundred dollars for the benefit of literary institutions and for benevolent purposes, leaving the residuary net proceeds for the use of his widow."

    The President's message in relation to the purchase of the MADISON PAPERS contains the following: "Congress has already, at considerable expense, published in a variety of forms, the naked journals of the Revolutionary Congress, and of the Convention that formed the Constitution of the United States.  I am persuaded that the work of Mr. MADISON, considering the author, the subject of it, and the circumstances under which it was prepared -- long withheld from the public, as it has been, by those motives of personal kindness and delicacy that gave tone to his intercourse with his fellowmen, until he and all who had been participators with him in the scenes he describes have passed away -- well deserves to become the property of the nation, and cannot fail, if published and disseminated at the public charge, to confer the most important of all benefits on the present and succeeding generations, accurate knowledge of the principles of their Government, and the circumstances under which they were recommended and embodied in the constitution, for adoption.
                            ANDREW JACKSON."

    The message of the President was referred to the Joint Library Committee, who on the 24th January, 1837, reported a resolution authorizing that committee "to contract for and purchase, at the sum of thirty thousand dollars, the manuscripts of the late Mr. MADISON, conceding to Mrs.  MADISON the right to use copies of the said manuscripts in foreign countries, as she might think fit."

    On the 9th July the House of Representatives, after having had under consideration the resolution of the Senate, amended it by changing it into an act, in which form, it was passed, and being concurred in by the Senate and approved by the President on the same day, became a law in the following terms:

     "An act authorizing the printing of the MADISON Papers.

    "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Joint Committee on the Library be authorized to cause the MADISON PAPERS to be printed and published; and that a sum not exceeding five thousand dollars be appropriated for that purpose out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated."

    On the 28th January, 1839, Mr. WALL of New Jersey, reported to the Senate, a contract made in pursuance of the act of Congress, by Messrs.  ROBBINS of Rhode Island, and POPE of Kentucky, the Chairmen of the Joint Library Committee for the publication of the work in its present form, to be executed under the superintendance of Mr. GILPIN, the Solicitor of the Treasury.  For this purpose, one of the duplicate manuscript copies, deposited by Mrs.  MADISON, was withdrawn by the Library Committee from the Department of State, and delivered to the publishers.

    In the publication thus directed it has been deemed to be a primary and indispensable duty to follow the manuscript with scrupulous care.  It was not thought proper to admit any note or comment, even explanatory; and all those that are found, were in the manuscript deposited in the Department of State.  No alteration of any sort from the copy furnished and revised by Mrs. MADISON, has been permitted, except the correction of a few slight and evident clerical errors, and the insertion of some dates and formal parts of official documents, for which blanks had been left.