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Retirement Series, volume 1

Andrea Wulf's review of The Papers of James Madison published in the Times Literary Supplement, 16 Oct. 2009, 29.

Volume 1 (4 March 1817--31 January 1820), ed. David B. Mattern, J. C. A. Stagg, Mary Parke Johnson, and Anne Mandeville Colony (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009).

"The first volume of [The Papers of James Madison, Retirement Series] covers the first three years of Madison's retirement and offers an invaluable insight into his thinking and activities during this time. Like Washington and Jefferson before him, Madison retired from the presidency to his beloved agricultural pursuits. Madison was, according to Jefferson, 'the best farmer in the world,' because he approached agriculture as a science, experimenting with the latest innovations and corresponding with progressive farmers in America and Europe. For Madison (as for many of the Founding Fathers), farming was the bedrock of Republicanism and of America's future. Husbandmen, he said, were 'the best basis of public liberty, and the strongest bulwark of public safety.' Meticulously researched footnotes provide important contextual and biographical information, which makes this first volume a magnificent resource for understanding Madison and his world."

Andrea Wulf


Ralph Ketcham's review of The Papers of James Madison: Retirement Series, vol. 1, published in the Journal of Southern History 77 (2011): 693-695.

"The Papers of James Madison again show the great benefit of the complete publication, thorough editing, and provision of unobtrusive context characteristic of the [...] volumes [...] in the so-called founding series. Editors [...] do their work with the great skill and insight that make these volumes the bedrock for the research and understanding of public life in the founding era. [...] The nature of the fine work in the volumes is now wonderfully clear—we can wish the editors Godspeed in their future work!"

"The first volume of the Retirement Series [...] is perhaps the richest volume yet of any in The Papers of James Madison for revealing Madison the human being and 'Father of the Constitution,' second only to Washington as a Founder of the nation and, by 1817, preeminent as an officer in guiding and securing its existence. [...] The Madisons were the premier founding couple, ready now in good health to continue their public-spirited service to and embodiment of the nation in a new mode, receiving visitors at their home and corresponding with an ever-wider circle of friends, colleagues, and aspiring public figures than they had when in office. [...] Madison was a very active elder statesman. [...] The papers in this volume show [...] clearly [...] how the twenty-four years of Jeffersonian Republican leadership (1801-1825) were a deliberate, self-conscious, and unified effort to work out in practice a republican ideology of self-government for the new nation.

"In responding to often highly interesting and earnest correspondence, Madison exhibited his mature understanding of the nature of the Union. [...] Madison corresponded with individuals across the country, and even around the world, about the demise of slavery, the expansion of education, the growth of civil institutions in the new western states, the enlarging and increasing sophistication of the American economy, and other ways for reason to assert its prerogatives for the public good—the essence of Madison's lifelong constitutionalism."

Ralph Ketcham
Syracuse University