Skip navigation. Go to main content.

Founders Online News

New Jefferson Retirement Series documents added to Founders Online

15 September 2023: 627 documents, fully edited and annotated, have been added from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, vol. 18, 1 December 1821 – 15 September 1822.

Two new volumes of Founders documents added to Founders Online

17 July 2023: 1170 documents deriving from two letterpress volumes from the Madison and the Washington papers projects are included in this release:

Three new volumes of Founders documents added to Founders Online

24 October 2022: Over 1750 documents derived from three letterpress volumes from the Jay and Jefferson papers projects are included in this release:

Change to default search behavior

7 September 2022. Ever since Founders Online launched, the default search behavior has been to treat queries without any capital letters as case-insensitive (i.e., matching any combination of uppercase and lowercase letters), while queries containing capitalization returned results matching only the exact capitalization. For example, a search on "White House" would not match "white house". This behavior was documented in our Search Help, but we realize that few users refer to help documents and that Google and other major search engines treat all searches as case-insensitive. So as of today, searching is always case-insensitive, returning the same result set no matter what capitalization is used.

Users wishing to perform a case-sensitive search can add the modifier case:on to their query; see Search Help for details on this and other advanced search features.

Five new volumes of Founders documents added to Founders Online

24 July 2022: Nearly 2300 documents derived from five letterpress volumes from the Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Washington papers projects are included in this release:

Seven new volumes of Founders documents added to Founders Online

7 September 2021: Nearly 3400 documents derived from the letterpress volumes of all six of the ongoing Founding Fathers projects are included in this release:

  • The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 14, October 1799–February 1801: 278 documents. Highlights: the Adamses reflect on the death of George Washington; John and Abigail Adams move into the new President’s House (soon to be known as the White House); John Adams suffers defeat in the presidential election of 1800.
  • The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 19, February 1787–May 1789: 342 documents. Highlights: Adams completes ten years of diplomatic service in London and The Hague, returns home to life as a private citizen, and reenters a federal role as Thomas Jefferson’s vice president.
  • The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 43, 16 August 16 1784–15 March, 1785: 337 documents. Highlights: Franklin joins Adams and Jefferson as the congressionally appointed commissioners to negotiate treaties with twenty nations (meeting mixed success); and the ever-inventive Franklin invents a new type of sailboat.
  • The Selected Papers of John Jay, vol. 6, 1794–1798: 364 documents. Highlights: in 1794 Jay negotiates what we now know simply as “the Jay Treaty,” which avoids war with Britain but inspires widespread criticism domestically; and in 1795 he becomes governor of New York, facing issues including relations with Indian nations and the need to improve military defenses.
  • The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 44, 1 July–10 November 1804: 651 documents. Highlights: In domestic affairs, President Jefferson deals with organization of the new Territory of Orleans and seeks land cessions from Indian nations east of the Mississipi. Abroad, there is military conflict with Tripoli and tensions along the Gulf Coast and with the British navy. And in the personal sphere, declaring that she has lost her “esteem” for Jefferson, an estranged Abigail Adams breaks of their correspondence.
  • The Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 11, 1 May 1816–3 March 1817: 807 documents. Highlights: during his last ten months in office, Madison’s concerns included tensions with Spain and Algiers, trade negotiations with Great Britain, treaties with Indian nations, and the foundations of the Second Bank of the United States.
  • The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 27, 5 July–27 August 1780: 598 documents. Highlights: Washington greets the arrival of French army and navy forces and collaborates with the French lieutenant general Rochambeau, but a planned joint siege of New York City proves impractical.

Papers of John Jay added to Founders Online

17 September 2020: Documents from the first five volumes of the Selected Papers of John Jay are now in Founders Online, adding a seventh major Founding Era figure to the collection.

Few leaders of the new American nation had more influence than John Jay (1745–1829) or could match his contributions in all three branches of government, at both state and national levels. A strong proponent of the Constitution, Jay was a major contributor to the Federalist Papers, arguing for ratification. He negotiated the 1794 “Jay Treaty” with Great Britain, and even served two terms as the governor of New York, but above all he is remembered as the first chief justice of the Supreme Court. When President Washington appointed Jay, the court was a blank slate, and his papers provide a fascinating look at the creation of court procedure, much of which survives to this day.

For more about the Jay Papers project at Columbia University from which this edition derives, see About the Jay Papers.

Madison Presidential Series vol. 10

28 June 2020: 444 new Madison Papers documents cover mid-October 1815 through April 1816.

New Adams, Jefferson, and Washington volumes

31 March 2020: We have added documents from four volumes of Founding Fathers editions. (Some of these documents replace unannotated, nonauthoritative “Early Access” versions posted earlier.)

  • Adams Family Correspondence, vol 13, May 1798 through September 1799: 286 documents
  • Papers of Thomas Jefferson Retirement Series, vol. 14, 1 February to 31 August 1819: 638 documents
  • Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 25, 10 March to 12 May 1780: 439 documents
  • Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 26, 13 May to 4 July 1780: 532 documents

New Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison volumes

30 September 2019: We have added 1576 documents from three projects. (Some of these documents replace unannotated, nonauthoritative “Early Access” versions posted earlier.)

  • Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 42, March 1 through August 15, 1784: 312 documents
  • Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 43, 11 March–30 June 1804: 590 documents
  • Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 9, 19 February 1815–12 October 1815: 674 documents

New Madison and Washington volumes; search enhancements

14 June 2018: 591 new documents have been added from volume 11 of the Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series. These documents cover January–May 1806, during which time Secretary of State Madison dealt with such issues as British seizure of American vessels and seamen, border incursions into the new Louisiana territory, and peace negotiations with Tunisia.

From volume 19 of the Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, 524 new documents span October 1795 through March 1796. Among the topics they include are negotiations over and ratification of the “Jay Treaty” with Great Britain (and the pushback it created in Congress); other treaties with Algiers, Spain, and Morocco; Washington’s efforts to resolve conflicts between white settlers and Creek Indians in Georgia; correspondence with the farm manager at Mount Vernon; and Washington’s efforts to sell his Western land holdings.

Search enhancements: we have added an Advanced Search option to limit a search to notes only (text in endnotes or footnotes) or to documents only (text in the body of documents). See “Searching in notes only or documents only” on the Search Help page for details.

New Jefferson volume; enhanced linking

1 February 2018: We have added 562 new documents from volume 42 of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Their topics include the Louisiana Purchase, a foreign-affairs crisis with Tripoli’s capture of the frigate Philadelphia, the progress of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and a diplomatic commotion over the treatment of British minister Anthony Merry.

We have also enhanced Founders Online by adding links for page references: when a note refers to a specific page location in one of the printed sources for Founders Online, in most cases there will now be a link that returns the document or documents found on that page in the original source.

Three new Jefferson and Washington volumes

27 November 2017: We have added 1750 documents from the Jefferson Papers and Washington Papers projects.

  • Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, vol. 12, 1 September 1817 to 21 April 1818: 584 documents
  • Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 23, 22 October to 31 December 1779: 593 documents
  • Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 24, 1 January to 9 March 1780: 573 documents

Five new Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Washington volumes

30 June 2017: Our quarterly update adds nearly a thousand documents from recently published volumes from the Adams Papers and the Papers of James Madison.

  • Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 12, March 1797 to April 1798: 276 documents
  • Papers of James Madison, Retirement Series, vol. 3, March 1823 to February 1826: 714 documents

Five new Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Washington volumes

31 March 2017: We have added over 2600 documents from five recently published volumes from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, the Papers of Thomas Jefferson – Retirement Series, the Papers of James Madison, and the Papers of George Washington:

  • Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 41, 16 September 16 1783 to 29 February 1784: 396 documents
  • Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 41, 11 July to 15 November 1803: 575 documents
  • Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, vol. 11, 19 January to 31 August 1817: 587 documents
  • Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 8, July 1814 to 18 February 1815 and supplement, December 1779 to 18 April 1814: 563 documents
  • Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 18, 1 April to 30 September 1795: 497 documents

Jefferson’s Memorandum Books

30 December 2016: From the Second Series of the The Papers of Thomas Jefferson come the digitized versions of Thomas Jefferson’s memorandum books. For nearly sixty years, Jefferson recorded every financial transaction, “from pennies given in charity to thousands of dollars transferred in a land sale,” into bound notebooks. Through 1775 he also used his notebooks to jot down memoranda from his legal practice. From then on he recorded financial entries “in perfect chronological order and without a single gap, occasionally augmented by weather records, wine lists, or other miscellaneous material” [from the Introduction to the letterpress edition].

New Adams volume

6 October 2016: We have added 333 documents from the Papers of John Adams, vol. 17, April–November 1785

New Madison and Jefferson documents

30 June 2016: This quarterly update adds nearly 700 documents from volume 10 of The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series, along with several previously unpublished documents from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson project.

During the six months covered in the the new Madison volume, the secretary of state contended with the failed negotiations between Spain and the United States to settle disputed boundaries, and the failure to win French support; Great Britain’s refusal to respond to U.S. complaints of the impressment of American seamen and violations of neutral trade; reports from the territorial governors of Michigan, Orleans, and Louisiana; detailed accounts of the June 1805 treaty negotiations between the United States and Tripoli; and the arrival of the Tunisian ambassador, Soliman Melimeni, in November 1805. Madison spent three months of this period in Philadelphia, where he had taken Dolley Madison to seek treatment for her ulcerated knee. Also included is a lengthy correspondence between the Madisons, written after James’s return to Washington in October 1805.

The new Jefferson documents are:

  1. Benjamin Henfrey’s Drawings of Petroglyphs, 31 December 1798 (includes facsimiles of Henfrey’s reproductions of rock art from the Ohio River valley)
  2. From James Madison, 28 August 1799
  3. Section of a Bill for Settling Disputed Presidential Elections, [1800]
  4. Constitutional Amendments on Presidential Elections, [1800?]
  5. Notes for Draft of Annual Message, 12 November 1801

Two new Jefferson volumes

29 March 2016: Our quarterly update adds over 1100 documents from volume 40 of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson and volume 10 of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series.

  • The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 40, 4 March to 10 July 1803, 576 documents. Opening on the first day of Jefferson’s third year as president, this volume includes many documents connected with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory and preparations for the Lewis and Clark expedition. News of the completed purchase treaty reached Jefferson on July 3; as Jefferson noted, the new territory would be “something larger than the whole US. probably containing 500 millions of acres, the US. containing 434. millions,” an acquisitioni which “removes from us the greatest source of danger to our peace.” Among his correspondence with Meriwether Lewis was Jefferson’s proposal for a cipher they could use to secure dispatches the expedition would send back to Washington. Jefferson’s more personal correspondence during this period includes an exchange of letters with physician Benjamin Rush touching on Jefferson’s health and including some of the president’s thoughts on the doctrines of Jesus.
  • The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, Volume 10, May 1816 to 18 January 1817, 560 documents. Jefferson’s correspondence during this period, seven years after leaving the presidency, covers his usual wide range of topics in politics, law, science, religion, and architecture. The dawning of the industrial age can be seen in letters to Jefferson describing systems for gas lighting and electric bell-ringers. Jefferson receives an offer to buy his property at Natural Bridge but declines, considering himself “as guardian only for the public of this first of all natural curiosities." In a letter to Margaret Bayard Smith he recurs to the topic of his religious beliefs. And daily life at Monticello is illuminated by narratives from two visitors, Francis Hall and the Baron de Montlezun [English translation follows the original French].

Hamilton and Jefferson: 3255 new documents

30 December 2015: To close out 2015, we are adding the documents from a new volume of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, as well as a large collection of newly transcribed documents relating to Alexander Hamilton’s role in the “Quasi-War” with France that were not included in the original edition.

  • The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 39, 13 November 1802 to 3 March 1803, 568 documents. During this second half of Jefferson’s second year as president, New Orleans and the Louisiana Territory take center stage as items of both foreign and domestic policy for the United States. Following the closing of the “right of deposit” at the Port of New Orleans, Jefferson sends envoys to France to negotiate the matter, a project that expands into the proposal to acquire the whole of the Louisiana Territory. Congress approves the expenditure of $2500 toward the exploration of the Missouri River, to be led by Jefferson’s secretary Meriwether Lewis—an enterprise that also requires settling the boundaries with various Native American tribes.
      Despite his full presidential schedule (he does not leave Washington once during these months), Jefferson finds time to correspond about architecture at Monticello and the layout of the town of Jeffersonville in the Indiana Territory, newly named after him—and even about some Hungarian wine that has intrigued him.
  • The Papers of Alexander Hamilton: Quasi-War Documents, 1798–1800, 2687 documents. This mini-edition of Alexander Hamilton letters from the Quasi-War with France provides insight into the management and day-to-day operations of the U.S. Army from 1798 to 1800. The American army was expanded considerably to meet the threat of a belligerent former ally, France. Although all of the actual fighting in this undeclared war took place at sea, Hamilton still played an important role as Inspector General in shaping and directing the army during this period. While much of the correspondence is routine, some letters suggest the problems and political considerations that complicated army administration: Hamilton (to John Adams, 22 Aug. 1798) and Adams (to Hamilton, 4 September 1798) disagree over whether a Frenchman is suitable for high position in the army; the fact that an applicant’s father is a “firm federalist” plays a role in a recommendation (Aaron Ogden to Hamilton, 4 June 1799); a lieutenant is severely beaten by thugs who dislike officers (Francis Gibson to Hamilton, 10 February 1800).
      The letters in this collection were not published in Columbia University Press’s edition of The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, but were instead calendared at the end of volumes 22–24. The National Archives and NHPRC having agreed that these should be transcribed and published in full, the Documents Compass program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities transcribed and prepared the documents for publication in 2015.

Six new volumes: Adams, Franklin, Madison, Washington

30 September 2015: This quarterly update to Founders Online adds 3376 documents from six published volumes of the Adams, Franklin, Madison, and Washington editorial projects.

  • Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 11, July 1795 – February 1797, 303 documents. This volume covers the last portion of John Adams’s service as vice president, through his emergence as a candidate for the presidency and ultimate victory in the 1796 election. In their correspondence during the campaign, John and Abigail discussed both the nature of contemporary electioneering and the potential effects of his election for the family. Meanwhile, John Quincy and Thomas Boylston Adams, both posted in Europe (John Quincy as minister to the Netherlands, brother Thomas serving as his secretary), shared news of European politics and war. Of more personal significance, John Quincy became engaged to Louisa Catherine Johnson, with letters of courtship included in this volume.
  • The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 40, 16 May – 15 September 1783, 400 documents. This volume chronicles the vicissitudes and ultimate success of the peace negotiations between the United States and Britain, with signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3. Along with his work as a peace commissioner, Franklin was negotiating commercial treaties with Denmark and Portugal and receiving diplomatic overtures to the new nation from other European countries as well as the papal nuncio. He maintained his interest in electricity and chronicled French experiments with hot air balloons.
  • The Papers of James Madison, Retirement Series, Volume 2, 1 February 1820 – 26 February 1823, 590 documents. The former president, living at his Montpelier estate, spent his time visiting friends and serving on the Board of Visitors of the new University of Virginia. This volume includes the minutes of those board meetings attended by Madison, extensive discourse on the importance of public education, and comments on slavery. Finally, there are private letters dealing with daily life at Montpelier, including a typhus epidemic during the winter of 1820–21.
  • The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, Volume 21, 1 June–31 July 1779, 724 documents. During the weeks covered by this volume, Washington’s troops took positions in the New York Highlands to check a British thrust up the Hudson River that threatened West Point. Then on July 16, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne led a successful surprise attack against the British garrison at Stony Point. Establishing his headquarters at West Point, Washington supervised completion of surrounding fortifications and monitored ongoing campaigns on the Pennsylvania–New York frontier. His attention to detail extended to interest in the concealment of spy identities and the use of invisible ink.
  • The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, Volume 22, 1 August–21 October 1779, 829 documents. As fortifications of West Point continue, the Continental Army achieved important gains: the capture of the British garrison at Paulus Hook, New Jersey, on August 19, and Maj. John Sullivan’s successfully completed campaign against hostile tribes of the Six Nations. Word of the arrival in September of a large French fleet, offsetting British naval superiority, then allowed Washington to plan for a major offensive designed to drive the British from North America.
  • The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, Volume 17, 1 October 1794–31 March 1795, 530 documents. Two major events commanded President Washington’s attention during this period: suppression of the Whiskey Insurrection in western Pennsylvania and the negotiation of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. Letters from Alexander Hamilton kept him apprised of events in Pennsylvania, and Washington devoted more than half of his annual address to discussion of the rebellion. Meanwhile, John Jay kept Washington apprised of the progress of negotiations. Of particular note are his letters of 19 November, announcing the signing of the treaty, and 25 February, justifying his efforts. As for private concerns, Washington’s weekly correspondence with his Mount Vernon farm manager, largely suspended during his time with the troops, resumed upon his return to Philadelphia.

New Adams and Madison volumes

30 June 2015: Three volumes from the Adams Papers and Papers of James Madison projects are the source for nearly 1200 new documents in Founders Online.

  • Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 10, January 1794–June 1795, 305 documents. This volume includes many letters between John and Abigail never before printed. During this period John Adams is in Pennsylvania serving as the vice president, while Abigail remains on the farm in Quincy, Massachusetts. Their son John Quincy Adams is appointed U.S. minister resident at The Hague, and brother Thomas Boylston accompanies him to serve as his secretary.
  • Papers of John Adams, Volume 16, February 1784–March 1785, 355 documents. This volume finds Adams in Europe, joined finally by wife Abigail and daughter Nabby, where he continues his diplomatic work. Along with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson he serves on a commission to negotiate trade treaties with nations in Europe and North Africa; as minister to the Netherlands, he secures a loan that helps preserve his new nation from financial disaster.
  • Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, Volume 7, 25 October 1813–30 June 1814: 538 documents. With his country still embroiled in the War of 1812 with Britain, Madison engages in peace negotiations and attempts to strengthen commercial ties with Europe. Besides political documents, this volume includes family correspondence and Edinburgh Review editor Francis Jeffrey's account of a conversation with Madison in November 1813.

Papers of Thomas Jefferson Retirement Series, Volume 9

22 March 2015: 526 new documents have been added to Founders Online from the ninth volume of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson Retirement Series, originally published in 2012. Covering the period from September 1815 through April 1816, this volume includes scientific endeavors such as Jefferson's attempt to measure the elevation of the Peaks of Otter, as well as attention to household matters at Monticello—in particular, restocking the wine cellar.

Madison Papers: 883 new supplementary documents

23 February 2015: In collaboration with the editors of The Papers of James Madison, Documents Compass has created full text versions of 883 documents that were originally presented as annotated abstracts in volumes 1–5 of The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series. These letters, written mostly by U.S. consuls serving in foreign countries between 1801 and 1803, were transcribed by the Madison Papers and proofread twice by Documents Compass staff. These new full-text versions are meant to supplement the existing annotated abstracts.

Each supplemental document is followed by a link to its corresponding abstract document, and vice-versa, so that readers can quickly move back and forth from transcription to annotation.

New Early Access documents

1 December 2014: Over 12,850 Early Access documents from two series of the Adams Papers go online today. From the Adams Family Correspondence series, the documents cover the period from May 1798 to December 1826; from the Papers of John Adams Series, the new documents cover the period from January 1787 to June 1826, just prior to Adams’s death on July 4, 1826. In addition, over 1,600 documents from the Early Access Pilot Project were added. These documents come from both series are dated between May 1785 and December 1797.

New Jefferson content

30 September 2014: Over 1200 documents from two volumes of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson go online today. From the original series, Volume 38 covers July to mid-November 1802, during Jefferson’s presidency; from the Retirement Series, Volume 8 covers October 1814 to August 1815, with Jefferson living at Monticello.