The correspondence of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson reads as a quite modern set of documents. The author of the Declaration of Independence and the father of the Constitution frequently sound like bean counters, dealing more often with how to raise an army or reduce the foreign debt than with such lofty issues as inalienable rights and freedom of expression. Of course, they do address such great concepts, and they do it with the combination of wisdom and eloquence for which they have been rightly celebrated. Still, though revered as great thinkers, Jefferson and Madison clearly spent most of their hours hard at work with the business of politics, which often turned out to be the business of money and pride. The sweep of the letters is huge, from the early days of the Revolution through each man's presidency and their respective, grudging retreats to the status of Çminences grises. It's probably a good thing for Smith (director emeritus of the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum) to have included the quotidian with the lofty exchanges. For the precision of thought and expression, and the marriage of idealism and worldly savvy, stand as both an inspiration and a rebuke to citizens of the current republic.