Scope and arrangement
The James Madison papers, dated 1773-1847, primarily consist of correspondence and documents either written by or sent to James Madison. It is a synthetic collection which combines various gifts and purchases from multiple sources. Topics of the correspondence include the American Revolution, war intelligence reports, foreign relations, political events, slavery, and domestic and family affairs. Other documents include checks, contracts, an annotated address, and a note of Madison's accounts with James Monroe. Letters to and from Madison's family, the bulk of which were addressed to Dolley Madison, pertain chiefly to domestic and social affairs.
Madison's correspondents include many notable citizens and political figures of the time including John Adams, Henry Clay, Noah Webster, Charles Pinckney, Samuel Morse, Caesar A. Rodney, and George William Featherstonehaugh. Subjects cover the range of Madison's activities as a statesman. Items of note include intelligence reports for Edmund Pendleton during the Revolutionary War and correspondence documenting the United States' relationship with England and France during his tenure as Secretary of State. His presidential correspondence pertains to the lead up to the War of 1812, nominations for political offices, appointments to his cabinet, and requests for favors from friends and political supporters. Also included is correspondence with his brother, Ambrose Madison, his nephews, and other family members. These letters, particularly those exchanged with with his nephews, are personal in nature and pertain more to domestic life.
The anonymous letters, some signed with pseudonyms, mainly question Madison's domestic and foreign policy as President. Of the letters critical of Madison, some include threats and conspiracy theories. Two pseudonyms that appear frequently are "Charles Hall" and "Edmund Kelly." While many of the letters are critical, some were from political supporters. Items of note here include a series of letters dated 1808-1809 that are signed "H." which detail recent events in New York State politics and include negative opinions of DeWitt Clinton.
The family correspondence includes letters sent or received by members of Madison's family other than those to or from Madison himself. The bulk of the material is addressed to Dolley Madison, although there are several letters written to Madison's stepson, John Payne Todd and a letter written by Madison's father, James Madison, Sr. Many of the letters received by the family address the death of James Madison in 1836.
The remainder of the collection consists of documents written or signed by James Madison excluding correspondence. Included are checks, contracts, an address delivered by Madison that includes notations, and a note of Madison's accounts with James Monroe. Several documents that are neither Madison correspondence nor signed by Madison are also included within this collection. The bulk are documents that were either used by or pertain to him, two exceptions being a French patent of John Payne Todd's and Dolley Madison's handwritten copy of the poem "Niagara" by Lord Morpeth, dated 1847.