Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
Amendments to the Constitution
Thomas Jefferson's Letter to James Madison
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison,
March 15, 1789 
(Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Jefferson and Madison exchanged several letters on the subject of adding a Bill of Rights to the new Constitution. Both men were civil libertarians and had worked together for religious liberty in Virginia. Madison questioned the necessity of a federal bill of rights. Although his conversion to leading spokesman in the First Congress for amendments protecting individual rights was due primarily to political considerations, his friend's arguments influenced him as well. Jefferson had a longer range view of the value of a Bill of Rights than most of his contemporaries, because he understood "the legal check which it puts into the hands of the judiciary."

Full text transcript of Jefferson's letter.

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