Library of Congress Puts Madison Papers Online

James Madison (search), often called the "Father of the Constitution," did not think it needed a bill of rights. Public pressure was so great that he decided it would be politically necessary, so he made a speech in the First Federal Congress proposing 19 changes, 10 of which passed.

Beginning Friday, Madison's "Notes for a Speech in Congress" of June 8, 1789, will be available online, along with about 12,000 other pages from his papers preserved in the Library of Congress. Some are in code, including letters to President Thomas Jefferson, for whom Madison snder Hamilton, James Monroe and other founding fathers (search). His notes from the convention of 1787 that drafted the Constitution are there, too, as are his notes from the legislative session in his native Virginia that ratified it.

Madison's letters and notes also cover his two terms as the fourth president, including the War of 1812, when an invading British force burned down the White House, the Capitol and much of official Washington, forcing him and his wife, Dolley, to flee.

The papers cover much of early American history, including some events not directly connected with Madison.

There is a copy of Jefferson's notes from the Continental Congress (search) of 1776, including his own copy of the Declaration of Independence as Congress amended it. Jefferson's original version had an attack on King George III of England for vetoing attempts to stop the importation of slaves; it was omitted by Congress, to Jefferson's great indignation.

The papers long have been available to scholars and other interested readers, but it took a trip to Washington and application to the library to see the documents.

The library also has the papers of 22 other presidents, which are gradually being put on line. Those of Washington, Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are already available in the collection of more than 10 million digital pages called "American Memory."