Founders Online

This afternoon, the National Archives launched Founders Online—a tool for seamless searching across the Papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton.  Our National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has been funding these projects in paper for some time.  Working with Rotunda at the University of Virginia Press and the editors of the six papers project, Founders Online was created with NHPRC funding to provide simultaneous searching across all six collections at once.

founders online website

Through Founders Online you can now trace the shaping of the nation, the extraordinary clash of ideas, the debates and discussions carried out through drafts and final versions of public documents as well as the evolving thoughts and principles shared in personal correspondence, diaries, and journals. This beta version of Founders Online contains over 119,000 documents, and new documents will be added to the site on a continual basis.

You can see first-hand the close working partnership between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton from their time in the Revolutionary War to Hamilton’s draft of Washington’s Farewell Address.  Or read John Adams’ description of Congress as a place where “There is so much Wit, Sense, Learning, Acuteness, Subtilty, Eloquence, etc. among fifty Gentlemen, each of whom has been habituated to lead and guide in his own Province, that an immensity of Time, is spent unnecessarily.” You can track Benjamin Franklin’s role in the Treaty of France in 1783, ending the war with Britain, and imagine what might have happened had he gained his wish for the British to cede all of Canada to the United States.  Or you can follow Thomas Jefferson’s drafting of the Declaration of Independence,  James Madison’s study of republican governments from the ancient past as he drafted the Constitution, and George Washington’s First Inaugural Address.

Washington Inaugural Address Page 1
George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 04/30/1789, National Archives Identifier 1634180


Just as remarkably, you can find insights into their private lives—the devotion expressed in letters between John and Abigail Adams; Madison’s views of slavery; Hamilton’s feud that led to the fatal duel with Burr; the stuffed moose sent to Jefferson in Paris, Ben Franklin’s turkey; and Washington’s decades-long problems with his teeth.

Look it up!