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700 documents from volume 10 of The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series, along with several previously unpublished documents from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson project.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:
- Benjamin Henfrey’s Drawings of Petroglyphs, 31 December 1798 (includes facsimiles of Henfrey’s reproductions of rock art from the Ohio River valley)
- From James Madison, 28 August 1799
- Section of a Bill for Settling Disputed Presidential Elections, 
- Constitutional Amendments on Presidential Elections, [1800?]
- 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
- 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.