We believe readers interested in James Madison cannot go wrong if they begin with his own words:
For periods not yet covered in The Papers of James Madison, readers might refer to Gaillard Hunt's more abbreviated collection of outgoing correspondence, The Writings of James Madison (9 vols.; New York, 1900-1910). An older collection is the Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, Fourth President of the United States: Published by Order of Congress (4 vols.; Philadelphia, 1867).
A more recently published one-volume collection is Jack N. Rakove's James Madison: Writings (New York, 1999). Another valuable one-volume compilation of Madison's writings is Marvin Meyers, ed., The Mind of the Founder: Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison (Hanover, N.H., 1981).
Those in search of Madison's most famous turns of phrase or a quick reference guide to his views will want to look at David B. Mattern's James Madison's "Advice to My Country" (Charlottesville, Va., 1997).
A guide to the most important Madison documents in print would include:
Notes on debates and speeches in the Continental Congress (The Papers of James Madison, vols. 2-7);
"Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments" (ibid., 8:295-306);
"Vices of the Political System of the United States" (ibid., 9:345-58);
Essays for The Federalist (ibid., vol. 10);
Speeches in the House of Representatives (ibid., vols. 11-16);
Essays for the National Gazette (ibid., vol. 14);
"Helvidius" essays (ibid., vol. 15);
"Virginia Resolutions" and "The Report of 1800" (ibid., 17:185-91, 303-51);
"Detatched Memoranda" (ibid., Retirement Series, 1:600-20); and
"Autobiography" (William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 2 : 191-209).
Those curious about the events at the Constitutional Convention will want to look at Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison, introduced by Adrienne Koch (Athens, Ohio, 1966).
Friendship between Madison and Jefferson
For those interested in the friendship between Madison and Thomas Jefferson, three elegant volumes of their letters have been edited by James Morton Smith as The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Jefferson and Madison, 1776-1826 (3 vols.; New York, 1995).
Madison's fifty-year friendship with Thomas Jefferson is also the subject of Adrienne Koch's Jefferson and Madison: The Great Collaboration (New York, 1950).
Biographies of Madison range from the sweeping and detailed six-volume Life of James Madison by Irving Brant (Indianapolis, 1941-61) to the brief but excellent study by Jack Rakove, James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic (Glenview, Ill., 1990).
The best one-volume biography is by Ralph Ketcham, James Madison: A Biography (1971; reprint, Charlottesville, Va., 1990).
Robert A. Rutland's James Madison: The Founding Father (New York, 1987) is a short and very readable work.
Particular aspects of Madison's career have been studied as well:
To learn about Madison's intellectual preparation for the Constitutional Convention, see William Lee Miller, The Business of May Next: James Madison and the Founding (Charlottesville, Va., 1992).
For a careful assessment of Madison's tenure as U.S. president, see Robert A. Rutland, The Presidency of James Madison (Lawrence, Kans., 1990).
For a thorough study of Madison's conduct of the War of 1812, see J. C. A. Stagg, Mr. Madison's War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic, 1783-1830 (Princeton, N.J., 1983).
And for a wonderfully written and engaging look at Madison's retirement years, see Drew R. McCoy, The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy (New York, 1989).
Those readers interested in Madison's ideas should sample Drew R. McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1980), and especially Lance Banning, The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Creation of the Federal Republic, 1780-l792 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1995).
For a critique of Madisonian liberalism, see Richard K. Matthews, If Men Were Angels: James Madison and the Heartless Empire of Reason (Lawrence, Kans., 1995).
For Young Readers
Younger readers will enjoy award-winning author Jean Fritz's The Great Little Madison (New York, 1989; illustrated), which skillfully depicts the historical context and looks behind the scenes at Madison's private life—his worries for his country, his friendship with Thomas Jefferson, and his happy partnership with his wife, Dolley.
The Complete "Madisoniana"
For those interested in every aspect of Madisoniana, we recommend Robert A. Rutland, ed., James Madison and the American Nation, 1751-1836: An Encyclopedia (New York, 1994), which presents short essays on the wide range of people Madison knew and the events he helped to shape.
Source: Mattern, James Madison's "Advice to My Country," 111-13 (edited for use here by Jewel Spangler and Anne Colony).