Leahy Sets Hearing To Examine Founding Fathers Project

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008) – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Feb. 7 to examine the progress of the Founding Fathers Project, which was established more than a half century ago to publish the complete, annotated writings of country’s six founding fathers and make these historical treasures available to the public.  The program has received criticism in recent years for its high costs, slow progress and lack of accountability.

Scholars and researchers at universities and institutions across the country have spent years analyzing the collected writings, including letters and other correspondence, of the founding fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin.  To date, only the complete writings of Alexander Hamilton have been published.  An estimated $60 million has been spent on the Founding Fathers Project since its inception, with funds coming from the federal government, as well as private organizations including the Pew Charitable Trust and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  A majority of the remaining papers are not expected to be ready for publication until at least the mid-2020s, and the Adams’ papers are not expected to be completed until 2050.

“The works of our founding fathers are part of the identity and heritage of every American,” said Leahy.  “We should be moving to make these papers available, accessibly and affordable to every American.  Having an open government means providing Americans with access to their history.  This hearing will help us explore how we can do just that.”

Also of concern to scholars and Congress alike is the staggering cost to purchase the anthologies.  The price tag of the complete, 26-volume set of Hamilton’s papers is $2600, well outside the budget of many local libraries, institutions and American families.  Efforts to make the documents available more widely online have been supported by the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Pew Charitable Trust.

The hearing will be held Feb. 7 at 10:00 a.m. in room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Among those testifying at the hearing will be presidential historian David McCullough, who has been a leading advocate for increased federal funding as well as wider, electronic access to the papers of the founding fathers.  During McCullough’s research for his Pulitzer Prize winning manuscript John Adams, he was able to make extensive use of Adams’ papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society with access not available to the general public.  McCullough is a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. 

Also testifying at the Feb. 7 hearing will be Stanley N. Katz, Ph.D., chairman, Papers of the Founding Fathers and Professor, the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University; Deanna B. Marcum, Deanna B. Marcum, Assistant Librarian of Congress; Rebecca W. Rimel, President, The Pew Charitable Trust; and Dr. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States.

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January 24, 2008



The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing on The Founding Fathers’ Papers: Ensuring Public Access to our National Treasures for Thursday, February 7, 2008, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 226 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building.

By order of the Chairman

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