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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
WILLIAM CABELL RIVES,
In the Clerk's Office of the United States Court for the Eastern District of
H. 0. HOUGHTON AND COMPANY.
The following work has been undertaken from no ambition of authorship, to which the active and diversified pursuits of the writer's life present every possible discouragement. felt, however, that some account of the character, opinions, and actions of the man who contributed more largely and effectively, though unobtrusively, to the formation of the institutions under which we live than any of his contemporaries, and who was the elective head of the Government at a period of external difficulties and trials which gave the United States definitively a rank among nations, was a desideratum in the history of the country.
Many valuable and authentic materials for such a work having recently come into the hands of the writer by a public charge confided to him, and others being placed at his disposal by private courtesy, he was led to consider it a duty, so far as his other occupations would permit, to attempt the execution of a task, which surmises without foundation represented him to have entered upon, at a much earlier period. It is only within the last two years that his thoughts have been turned to the subject; and his application to it during that period has met with almost daily interruptions, and sometimes long suspensions, from the necessary calls of other duties.
The first volume of the work is now submitted to the public. It belongs more, perhaps, to the department of History than of Biography, though partaking of the character of both. From the nature of Mr. Madison's career, it was impossible to isolate him from the public events of the times in which he lived and acted ; and a copious development of contemporary transactions has been often found indispensable to display, in its proper light, the part he bore in those transactions. We have thus been led, it will be seen, into a fuller history, than is probably elsewhere to be found, of the Congress of the Confederation during the four years Mr. Madison was an active member of that body (from 1780 to the definitive Treaty of Peace,) - embracing the most important period of the War of the Revolution, and deeply interesting passages in our
political and diplomatic annals, which have hitherto received comparatively but little illustration.
In this and every other portion of the work, we have relied only on original, and, in some instances, unpublished documents ; and in remounting to the sources of our History, apocry. phal versions of it, which have become current by repetitions upon trust from one writer to another, have not unfrequently been rectified by the lights of contemporary evidence.
In reviewing these great scenes of our early national struggles, we have not felt ourselves at liberty to suppress anything which the truth of history required to be uttered or disclosed. And on the other hand, we have not been unmindful, we trust, of the obligations of justice and candor due to all the illustrious actors of the time. We have endeavoured, in forming our judgments, to guard against every influence but that of truth, and to give way to no impressions but such as the facts transmitted to us would, of themselves, naturally produce upon every unbiassed mind; keeping always before our eyes the great moral law of History-Ne quid falsi dicere audeat, ne quid veri non audeat.