The Founders

Revered by many, reviled by some, the Founders remain a touchstone for contested ideas about who Americans are as a people and what the American experiment in self-government means today. Their brilliant writings continue to fascinate and inspire, revealing a complexity and dynamism that belies our tendency to want to fix them, and the republic they built, in stone.

The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate 1764‒1776 (2 volumes, edited by Gordon S. Wood)
Thirty-nine British and American pamphlets capture the full range and galvanizing energy of perhaps the most consequential political debate in Western history. Includes the complete texts of works by John Dickinson, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, and Thomas Paine, among others. More

The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence 1775‒1783 (edited by John Rhodehamel)
Drawn from letters, diaries, newspaper articles, contemporary narratives, public declarations, and private memoranda, a sweeping panorama of the War of Independence from Paul Revere’s fateful ride in April 1775 to George Washington’s resignation from command of the Continental Army in December 1783. More

The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Anti-Federalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification 1787‒1788 (2 volumes, edited by Bernard Bailyn)
This unrivaled collection allows readers to experience firsthand the intense year-long struggle that created what remains the world’s oldest working national charter. Includes the essential Federalist essays by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in their original dramatic context. More

The War of 1812: Writings from America’s Second War of Independence (edited by Donald R. Hickey)
We have met the enemy and they are ours . . . Don’t give up the ship! . . . O! say can you see? . . . Even as these words have lived in America’s national memory, the controversial war that gave rise to them remains little remembered and less understood. This first-of-its-kind collection provides a rich firsthand portrait of the War of 1812 as it was experienced by a wide range of participants—Americans, Britons, Canadians, and Indians. More

Abigail Adams: Letters
450 texts—including more than a hundred published here for the first time—by perhaps the premier letter-writer of the founding era. Featuring correspondence to her “Dearest Friend” John and to her children and grandchildren, as well as to such figures as Thomas Jefferson, Mercy Otis Warren, James and Dolley Madison, and Martha Washington, this extraordinary collection showcases Adams’s perceptive intelligence and astute political sense. More

John Adams:
Revolutionary Writings 1755‒1783 (2 volumes)
Writings from the New Nation 1784‒1826

A powerful polemicist, leading member of the Continental Congress, brilliant constitutional theorist, and tireless diplomat, vice president, and president, Adams was a figure of towering importance during the birth of the American republic. Here is the first comprehensive selection of his vitally important writings for the general reader. More

Benjamin Franklin:
Silence Dogood, The Busy-Body, and Early Writings
Autobiography, Poor Richard, and Later Writings

A comprehensive two-volume edition of the incomparable writings of the most famous American of his age, including The Autobiography, in a new edition based on his original manuscript, the delightfully shrewd prefaces to Poor Richard’s Almanack, and scores of letters, newspaper articles, scientific writings, and political satires. More on the early writings / More on the later writings

Alexander Hamilton: Writings
Improbable subject of a major Broadway musical, Alexander Hamilton was an unusually prolific and vigorous writer whose works demonstrate the driving ambition and profound concern for honor and reputation that contributed both to his astonishing rise to fame and to his tragic early death. This volume contains more than 170 letters, speeches, pamphlets, essays, reports, and memoranda written between 1769 and 1804, including all fifty-one of Hamilton’s contributions to The Federalist. More

Thomas Jefferson: Writings
The most complete one-volume edition of the writings of the brilliant and controversial figure who remains the nation’s foremost spokesperson for democracy. Includes his Autobiography, Notes on the State of Virginia, public and private papers, and the original and revised drafts of the Declaration of Independence. More

James Madison: Writings
The prime framer of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is revealed in this volume containing 197 texts including all twenty-nine of his contribution to The Federalist, his speeches from the Constitutional Convention and his correspondence with Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, and Monroe, among many others. More

John Marshall: Writings
Written between 1779 and 1835, and including all of Marshall’s most important judicial opinions and his influential rulings during the Aaron Burr treason trial, this collection of 200 texts offers an unrivaled picture of America’s first great Chief Justice. Also included are selections from his famous biography of George Washington, including vivid descriptions of Revolutionary War battles Marshall fought in as a young man. More

Thomas Paine: Collected Writings
Paine was the impassioned democratic voice of the Age of Revolution. Here are all his best-known works—Common Sense, The American Crisis, Rights of Man, The Age of Reason—along with scores of letters, articles, and pamphlets emphasizing Paine’s American years. More

George Washington: Writings
The indispensable founder—“first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”—George Washington was also a writer of remarkable clarity, energy, force, and eloquence. Here are 440 letters, orders, addresses, and other documents covering the range of his active life, from the French and Indian War to the presidency. More

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Above: John Trumbull, Committee of Five (1819)

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