Presidential Papers and Esteemed Guests
Recalling the Madisons, niece Mary Cutts like many visitors described a home filled with library spaces. “Enter the library,” she wrote of an upstairs chamber, “plain cases, not only round the room, but in the middle with just sufficient room to pass between, these cases were filled with books, pamphlets, papers, all, every thing of interest to our country before and since the Revolution....” Visitors and friends throughout Madison’s life referenced his extensive library collections in Philadelphia, Washington, and at Montpelier. Research indicates that Madison intended the north-wing chamber, added during the ca. 1809 to 1812 renovation of the house, to be a library. In an 1809 letter to Madison, builder James Dinsmore suggested adding more windows to the room because “without them the wall will have a very Dead appearance, and there will be no direct veiw [sic] towards the temple.”
During his retirement years at Montpelier, James Madison organized and edited his personal papers and correspondence, including his notes from the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. For many years, contemporaries urged Madison to publish his notes, which were recognized to be the most comprehensive record of the Philadelphia debates. With assistance from Dolley and his personal secretaries, Madison prepared the papers for publication. He was keenly aware of their public importance, and he hoped publication would provide Dolley with adequate income after his death.
Extant Madison papers carry retirement-era edits and corrections in the hand of Dolley’s brother John Coles Payne and other secretaries. The papers, which were acquired by Congress and published after Madison’s death, establish Madison as the principal historian of the Constitutional Convention. His Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 are the bedrock for contemporary constitutional scholarship and legal interpretation.
Madison's Collection of Books
Madison's library included over 4,000 volumes of books and pamphlets. These included titles he personally purchased, as well as titles sent ti him as unsolicited gifts due to his position as former President of the United States.