James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, was born at Port Conway, Virginia. He was raised on a large family farm, called Montpelier, which remained his home throughout his life. After receiving a boarding school education, he entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), from which he graduated in 1771. In 1776, Madison was elected a delegate to the Virginia Revolutionary Convention, where he was a strong advocate of religious freedom. He then became a Virginia legislator. As delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he became the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution and, later, of the Bill of Rights. Madison served in the first Congress from 1789 to 1797, rising to the position of Speaker of the House. In 1801, he became Secretary of State in the administration of Thomas Jefferson, and in 1809, he was elected president. Madison's insights on the nature of politics and the operations of government are as relevant today as they were in his time. His journals provide our principal source of knowledge about the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He also shared the authorship of "The Federalist Papers" (1787-88), arguably the most significant American contribution to political theory, with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. His insights into political behavior (such as Federalist paper number 10 on the subject of factions) and the nature of government (Federalist papers numbers 39 and 51 on the allocation of power) continue to be useful for those who seek to write constitutions for new governments today.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third president of the United States, left a vast literary legacy in the form of journal entries, notes, addresses, and seventy thousand letters. Jefferson remains one of the country's most extraordinary figures; as well as president he was a brilliant statesman, architect, scientist, naturalist, educator, and public servant. At a dinner for Nobel Prize recipients, John F. Kennedy said that his guests were "the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. This volume of his works, edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden, represents many of Jefferson's most important contributions to American political thought. It includes the Autobiography, which contains the original and revised version of the Declaration of Independence; the Anas, or Notes (1791-1809); Biographical Sketches; selections from Notes on Virginia, the Travel Journals, and Essay on Anglo-Saxon; a portion of his public papers, including his first and second inaugural addresses, and over two hundred letters. The editors have provided a general introduction and introductory notes that precede the major works.