In 2010, the National Archives, through its National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), entered into a cooperative agreement with The University of Virginia Press to create this site and make freely available online the historical documents of the Founders of the United States of America.
Through this website, you can read and search through thousands of records from George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison and see firsthand the growth of democracy and the birth of the Republic.
For the past 50 years, the NHPRC has invested in these detailed collections of all of the documents authored and received by, or related to, individual leaders of the period. Scholars have collected—from archives across the country and around the world—copies of the original 18th- and 19th-century documents, transcribed them, provided annotations, and produced hundreds of books. You can see a complete list of titles of these printed volumes along with links to the documents.
Founders Online also includes transcriptions of thousands of documents that have not yet appeared in the published volumes, provided via our Early Access program.
Now, for the first time, users can freely access the written record of the original thoughts, ideas, debates, and principles of our democracy. You can search across the records of all six Founders and read first drafts of the Declaration of Independence, the spirited debate over the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the very beginnings of American law, government, and our national story. You can compare and contrast the thoughts and ideas of these six individuals and their correspondents as they discussed and debated through their letters and documents.
In its initial phase, Founders Online contained nearly 120,000 fully searchable documents. As work continues on each of the ongoing publishing projects, newly annotated and edited records are added. In the years since its initial release, tens of thousands of documents drawn from the print editions and additional transcriptions of documents have been added to Founders Online. When it is complete, Founders Online will include nearly 200,000 documents in this living monument to America’s Founding Era.