National Archives puts Founding Fathers’ papers online

The story is told of Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and John Adams sharing a bed in a room with one window while staying in a New Jersey tavern in 1776.

Adams, afraid of the night air, closed the window. “Oh!” said Franklin. “Dont shut the Window. We shall be suffocated . . . Open the Window and come to bed, and I will convince you.”

Adams, writing in his diary, said he complied and got into bed. Franklin “then began an harrangue, upon Air and cold and Respiration and Perspiration, with which I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his Philosophy together.”
On Thursday, the National Archives plans to launch a new online tool that brings together the papers of Adams — including his diary — and George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

The “Founders Online” Web site makes the papers of these historic figures available for the first time in a free, searchable Internet source, the Archives says, and gives “a first-hand account of the growth of democracy and the birth of the Republic.”

For years, the Archives has helped publish original records of the Revolutionary War era. Documents were collected, transcribed, annotated and issued in hundreds of volumes.

That project is still underway, and it is the contents of those volumes that are now going online.

“This is huge,” David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States, said Wednesday. “I can remember from my earliest days in the libraries at MIT as a shelver, shelving those blessed volumes.

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