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Mr. Madison took his seat in the Congress of the Confederation on the twentieth day of March, 1780, but did not commence his diary of its Debates till the fourth of November, 1782. It was continued through the sequel of that year, and until the removal of Congress was decided, on the twenty-first of June, 1783, from Philadelphia to Princeton, where the task was not renewed.
In February, 1787, being again a member, he resumed his diary, which was continued till the second of May of that year, when he left Congress to give his attendance in the approaching Convention at Philadelphia which was to prepare a new Constitution for the United States.
On the close of that Convention he returned to his seat in Congress, which he held till March, 1788, when he was called to Virginia with a view to his being elected to the State Convention which was to decide on the Constitution proposed by the General Convention. During this period it appears that no diary was kept, the effect perhaps of the share he had in writing the Federalist. Nor was it resumed in the interval between his return from the close of
the State Convention, and his final departure from Congress, then in the last stage of its existence, to become a candidate for a seat in the approaching House of Representatives under the new Constitution.
The series of debates now published, though generally condensed into their substance, are not without more detailed discussions on particular topics; and being—with the exception of the debates in 1776 on the Declaration of Independence and on a few of the Articles of Confederation, preserved by Mr. Jefferson, which are also prefixed—the only known or probable materials of what passed in Congress in that form, they cannot fail to be particularly acceptable to the public. The periods of the diary comprise much that has been least known, and is of a nature to gratify a just curiosity.
As Mr. Madison was engaged, whilst a member of the old Congress, in regular, and often confidential correspondences,* with several distinguished friends some of them at that time his absent colleagues, it was thought that a number of his letters and extracts from others in which he gives information of what occurred in Congress, as well as what related to the public affairs generally, might advantageously
* His letters of an important and secret nature to Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Randolph were written in cypher; but decyphered under his eye, except a few, of a cypher used a short time with Mr. Randolph, the key to which could not be discovered.
make a part of this publication. Such of the communications as were contemporary with the diary often add to the lights which it affords, and such as belong to the periods prior and subsequent to it will often supply its place, and sometimes perhaps more than supply it.
If the letters or extracts occasionally repeat what is in the diary, or being written to different correspondents, repeat in one what was said in another, the instances are not numerous, and could not be avoided without mutilations more objectionable than the repetitions.
It cannot be amiss to remark, that the letters derive a value not only from their perfect authenticity, and from the position of the writer as a member of Congress, but from the consideration that they were written without a thought that they would ever meet the public eye. So entirely absent was such a thought, that no copies, with scarce an exception, were, or indeed considering the number, the frequency and the haste of the letters and the situation of the writer, could be retained. And it was owing to the kindness of his correspondents or their representatives, that the originals here used make a part of his files. It is regretted that some of those originals were not effectually guarded against damage, and that others appear to be missing.
It became a question what was the most suitable
order for the debates and the letters. As the latter fill a long period between March, 1780, and November, 1782, the commencement of the debates, and involve what passed in Congress not on record, it has been thought best to consult the order of time, as being also the order of things, and to make the letters of this period a preliminary to the debates. The letters contemporary with and subsequent to each period of the debates follow them. An abstract of observations of Mr. Barbe de Marbois, then Secretary to the French Legation, on the boundary between the Spanish settlements and the United States; the address of Congress to the States, of the twentysixth of April, 1783, drawn by Mr. Madison, and that to Rhode Island referred to in it as No. 2, drawn by Mr. Hamilton; and a letter from Mr. Madison to Mr. Hezekiah Niles, of the eighth of January, 1822, correcting an erroneous view in Ramsay's History of what passed in this Congress regarding the Mississippi, are added as an Appendix to this portion of the work.
GLOSSARY. COMMUTATION.-An allowance of five years full pay in lieu of half-pay for life.
Facilities.—Provisions, tobacco and other supplies received in payment of Government dues instead of money
INDENTS.-An evidence of public debt given in exchange for depreciated paper of other denominations,--deducting the depreciation.