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Guide to the Records of the U.S. Senate at the National Archives (Record Group 46)


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Chapter 13. Records of the Committee on the Judiciary and Related Committees, 1816-1968


Records of the Committee on the Judiciary and Related Committees, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States


Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 1816-1968

13.9 The records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 1817-1946 (231 ft.), consist of committee reports and papers, 1817-47 (3 ft.); committee papers, 1847-1946 (29 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee, 1817-1946 (188 ft.); minutes of committee meetings, 1865-1934 with gaps and 1941-46 (3 ft., including 16 vols.); legislative dockets, 1845-96 (25 vols., 2 ft.); executive dockets, 1865-1941 (35 vols., 5 ft.); press copies of letters sent, 1885-93 (2 vols., 3 in.); legislative calendars, 1895-1934 (28 vols., 9 in.); and miscellaneous registers, 1897-99 and 1905-06 (2 vols., 2 in.). There are no extant committee minutes from March 1867 to March 1875 and no executive docket for nominations submitted to the 42d Congress (1871-73). The miscellaneous volumes are entitled "Record Book, 1897-99," and "Memoranda on Executive Matters, 1905-06"; the former appears to be a register of incoming letters and visitors, the latter a register of incoming letters relating to nominations. Records relating to certain nominations to judicial and law enforcement positions in the Federal Government referred to the Judiciary Committee are in the series nomination messages and related papers. This series includes some transcripts of hearings on nominations, but few are found prior to 1937.

1816-61 (14th-36th Congresses)

Memorial of Joseph Smith & other inhabitants of Nauvoo, Ill., praying redress for injuries by lawless citizens of Missouri, 11/28/1843. (p. 1 of 3)    
Memorial of Joseph Smith & other inhabitants of Nauvoo, Ill., praying redress for injuries by lawless citizens of Missouri, 11/28/1843 (p. 3 of 3).    
Memorial of Joseph Smith & other inhabitants of Nauvoo, Ill., praying redress for injuries by lawless citizens of Missouri, 11/28/1843, pages 1 and 3. (SEN28A-G7.2) from NARA's Online Catalog.  
13.10 The pre-Civil War records of the Committee on the Judiciary (15 ft.) include committee reports and papers (3 ft.); committee papers (1 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee (11 ft.); and legislative dockets (4 vols., 4 in.). The committee reports and papers consist chiefly of original committee reports on public and private bills, resolutions, and petitions and memorials, and are arranged within each Congress chronologically by date referred; for some, there is also related correspondence and other supporting papers. Also included among the records of this series are small amounts of correspondence of two chairmen of the committee, Martin Van Buren of New York (19A-D8) and John M. Berrien of Georgia (27A-D7). Beginning with the 30th Congress, the committee reports are filed separately and the remaining committee papers are arranged by bill or resolution number or, if unrelated to a specific bill or resolution, may be arranged chronologically by date of document or may be unarranged. Petitions and memorials are arranged by Congress, thereunder either by major subject and chronologically by date referred, or simply chronologically by date referred. The legislative docket is a register of all bills, resolutions, petitions, and memorials referred to the committee and summarizes the actions taken on each.

13.11 The records of the committee for this period relate to a wide variety of subjects, including, but not limited to, the Federal judiciary and judicial administration; Territorial and statehood matters, such as State boundary disputes; claims; naturalization laws; bankruptcy laws; until 1837, patents and copyrights; slavery; credentials of Senators and contested Senatorial elections; and publication and distribution of laws and federal court decisions.

13.12 The principal issues before the committee relating to the Federal judiciary and judicial administration resulted from pressures placed on the Federal judicial system by rapid westward expansion and population growth. Residents, especially attorneys and businessmen, of the Territories and Western States, such as those from Mississippi (14A-G5), would often petition the Senate for an additional Federal judge. However, others besides local residents had a vested interest in Federal judicial activities; for example, advocates of a southern Federal judicial district for Florida submitted a memorial signed by Baltimore merchants that stressed the importance of Florida trade and cited commercial activity as a reason for the new district (20A-D7). In other instances, the size of the judicial district and the location of the court often was the focal point of the petition, memorial, or legislative proposal; typical of these are the committee papers relating to S. 47, 33d Cong. (1853-55) concerning a proposal to divide Ohio into two judicial districts (33A-E6) and an 1819 petition to relocate the Federal court within New Jersey from New Brunswick to Perth Amboy (15A-G6). Another area of judicial administration that produced numerous records is the issue of pay for judges, marshals, court clerks, and jurors. Occasionally a bill proposing a general pay increase (15A-D6) was reported but usually such requests were referred to the committee and received no further attention. For example, a memorial signed on December 23, 1839, by members of the Illinois State bar, including a young Springfield lawyer named Abraham Lincoln, urged that the salary of the district judge be increased, but no bill was introduced (26A-G8.1). Other subjects relating to the administration of the Federal judiciary include reducing the cost of proceedings in the admiralty court (29A-D7, 32A-H9.2) and reorganizing the judiciary of the District of Columbia (31A-H8.3, 33A-H9.2).

13.13 In the first half of the 19th century, certain Territorial and statehood matters, such as boundary disputes, were referred to the committee. The records also include a certified copy of the 1833 South Carolina nullification ordinance declaring the so-called Force Bill, which was submitted to the Senate in 1834, null and void; 3 months after it was referred, the Judiciary Committee discharged it (23A-G7.1). The records also include memorials of residents of western Pennsylvania who opposed construction of a bridge at Wheeling because it obstructed navigation of the Ohio River (32A-H9.3). Among the States involved in boundary disputes and other matters that were brought before the committee are Arkansas (16A-G7, 20A-G8.2), Florida (18A-G7, 19A-G8, 21A-G9.2, 27A-G8.1), Georgia (20A-D7, 21A-G9.2), Illinois and Indiana (16A-G7), Kentucky and Tennessee (15A-G6), Michigan (19A-G8, 20A-G8.2, 21A-G9.2, 23A-D8, 24A-D4), Minnesota (35A-E6), Mississippi (19A-G8, 20A-G8.2), Missouri (16A-G7, 24A-D8), and Ohio (23A-D8, 24A-D8). A number of the committee reports and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of state legislatures on these subjects have been published in the Territorial Papers of the United States. A somewhat different matter relating to Territorial status was brought up by a "memorial of the constituted authorities of the City of Nauvoo [IL], praying to be allowed a territorial form of government." Signed December 21, 1843, by Mormon leader and Nauvoo Mayor Joseph Smith and other leaders such as Brigham Young, the memorial includes an account of their experiences and a copy of the city charter of Nauvoo. The memorial was referred to the committee April 5, 1844 (28A-G7.2).

13.14 Many claims for relief or for compensation or indemnification for damages resulting from actions of the Federal Government were referred to the Judiciary Committee during this period and records of such claims are found in all records series. Among petitions and memorials referred to the Judiciary Committee, those related to claims have been rearranged into alphabetical order for certain Congresses (20A-G8, 21A-G9, 22A-G8, 23A-G7, 24A-G7.1, 30A-H0, 33A-H9). One of the principal claims referred to the committee stemmed from the Yazoo land fraud of 1795, which involved speculation in millions of acres of what later became Mississippi and Alabama, and the $4.2 million settlement enacted by Congress in 1814 to compensate claimants. Despite this settlement, representatives of the New England Mississippi Land Company continued to press their claim with the Senate. Records relating to this claim are found under the company name or under the names of the following individuals: Henry Gardner, Ebenezer Oliver, George Wilson, and Thomas L. Winthrop (18A-D8, 19A-D8, 19A-G8, 20A-D7, 21A-D8, 21A-G9, 23A-D8, 26A-D7).

13.15 Other claims referred to the Judiciary Committee concerned defaults of surety bonds for individuals, such as revenue collectors and others who handled Government funds and who petitioned for relief (all series for most Congresses in this period), and claims arising from events of the War of 1812 (16A-D7, 16A-G7, 17A-D7, 17A-G7, 18A-G7). A few claims concern prominent individuals such as Andrew Jackson, whose claim was based on his military service in the War of 1812 (27A-D7, 27A-G8.1, 28A-G7.2), and Amos Kendall, Postmaster General during the Jackson administration, who sought relief from a lawsuit arising from actions taken during his tenure (27A-G8.1).

13.16 Concern over uniform rules of naturalization dates from the period before 1820 (16A-D7, 18A-G7) but became more intense from the late 1830's through 1850's. A group called the Native American Association of Washington petitioned the Senate "to prevent the influx of paupers and convicts into the United States" (25A-G9.1). Committee papers of the 28th Congress (1843-45) contain a file relating to the modification of naturalization laws that includes depositions from district court judges and statements from immigrants concerning fraudulent naturalizations and election violations (28A-D7). In the early 1850's, petitions seeking passage of a "capitation" or head tax on immigrants to fund charities appear in the records of the committee (31A-H8.3, 33A-H9.2).

13.17 Even more of an issue than naturalization laws were bankruptcy laws. The petitions and memorials asking for a national bankruptcy law are among the oldest records referred to the committee (14A-G5, 15A-G6, 16A-G7). Such records appear periodically, not surprisingly during and after a period of national financial crisis such as the depression of 1837 (26A-G8, 27A-G8) and again on the eve of the Civil War (35A-H7, 36A-H7). At these times, the Senate received many petitions and memorials on the subject of bankruptcy law, most of which were tabled. (For a description, see tabled petitions and memorials.) Some of the petitions and memorials note that each State had different laws with respect to bankruptcy and that this situation obstructed interstate commerce. Closely related to this issue was the status of insolvent debtors. Petitions seeking relief for them (18A-G7, 21A-G9.2) and a draft bill with related correspondence of Daniel Webster (30A-E3) also appear in records of this period.

13.18 Patent and copyright law is also documented in the records of the committee. Until 1837, when the Committee on Patents was established by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee received petitions and memorials, sometimes accompanied by illustrations, and reported bills relating to specific requests for patent extensions (16A-D7, 17A-D8, 20A-G8.1, 21A-D8, 21A-G9.1, 22A-G8.1, 24A-G7) and recognition of individual copyrights (18A-G7, 20A-G8.1, 25A-G9). The committee papers of the 22d Congress contain a copy of The Patentee's Manual by William Elliott, which lists all patents issued between 1790 and 1830 and provides other information useful to inventors (22A-D7). There are also a few petitions seeking an international copyright law (25A-G9); one of these was submitted by author Washington Irving and others (27A-G8.1).

13.19 The records also concern the subject of slavery and the status of free black Americans. Among the records of the committee are petitions protesting the admission of Missouri to the Union (16A-F7); petitions seeking gradual abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia (20A-G8.2); numerous petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures concerning the fugitive slave law (30A-H8.1, 31A-H8.3, 33A-H9.1); and memorials calling for enforcement of laws suppressing the African slave trade (26A-G8.1, 36A-H7.1). A memorial of citizens of Winnebago County, IL, requested that two slaves sold to satisfy a judgment of the United States be emancipated, the money refunded to the purchaser, and that all sales of that type of property be prohibited (30A-H8.1). In separate matters, U.S. marshals (in Alabama and the Southern District of Ohio, respectively) petitioned for reimbursement for money expended in the care of captured African slaves (28A-G7.2) and indemnification for losses relating to the prosecution of fugitive slave cases (36A-H7.1). A few records relate to the status of free black Americans. A memorial of "free colored citizens of New York" asked that the 1840 census returns be examined and corrected and an "Office of Registration be established in Washington." This memorial is accompanied by a list of towns for which official census returns show a number of "colored insane" but no "colored citizens" (28A-G7.2). Another memorial of residents of Ipswich, MA, dated 1843, asked that the rights of "colored seamen" who are U.S. citizens be preserved (27A-G8.1).

13.20 There are also resolutions and a report relating to the conduct of national elections, beginning in 1821 with two Senate resolutions. One asked for a report on "whether any, and if any what, provisions are necessary or proper to be made by law to meet contingencies which may arise from unlawful, disputed, or doubtful votes"; the other on whether the act of March 2, 1792, relating to the election of President and Vice President in case either office were vacant needed amendment. The committee reported that further legislation on each matter was "inexpedient" (16A-D7). There are also a report on a bill introduced in the 25th Congress (1837-39) to prevent interference of Federal officials in elections (25A-D8) and resolutions of the State legislatures of Vermont and Rhode Island recommending establishment of a fixed date for election of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential electors (27A-G8.1). When the General Assembly of the State of Missouri in 1829 forwarded to the Senate its resolution for an amendment to the Constitution to provide for the direct election of the President and Vice President, the Senate appointed a select committee to consider it (21A-G20).

13.21 During this period and until 1871, when the Committee on Privileges and Elections was established, the Judiciary Committee also had jurisdiction over the questions of credentials of Senators and contested Senate elections. Most of the records on these matters are printed and found in the committee papers. They concern the following Senators: Ambrose H. Sevier of Arkansas (24A-D8), Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania (34A-E6, 34A-H9), James Harlan of Iowa (34A-E9), Lyman Trumbull of Illinois (34A-E6), Graham N. Fitch and Jesse D. Bright of Indiana (34A-F6, 35A-E6), and Joseph Lane of Oregon (35A-E6).

13.22 The committee also had jurisdiction over publication of certain legal documents and sources. Memorials relating to the publication of U.S. laws (15A-G6), domestic state papers (15A-G6), and reports of decisions of the Supreme Court (28A-G7.2, 32A-H9.4) were referred to the committee. When John Bioren and Edward deKrafft sent in 1820 a memorial to the Senate asking for legislation subsidizing publication of the "Journals of the Old Congress," the committee reported that it "cannot perceive that it is at all necessary or expedient" to publish the journal (16A-D7). In 1821, in response to a Senate resolution asking for an inquiry as to whether the Senate Journal should be republished because the Senate's printed volumes were burned when the British attacked the Capitol in August 1814, the committee reported that it was "inexpedient" to do so (16A-D7).

13.23 There are many other interesting records that do not fit into the above categories. Among these is a memorial from the Society for Reformation of Juvenile Delinquency requesting title to U.S.-owned land in New York City (22A-G8.2); the original report on the Presidential message on the bequest of James Smithson, which led to the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution (24A-D8); two memorials signed by leaders of the Mormons concerning their expulsion from Jackson County, MO, in 1833, one of which, dated 1844, contains the names of 3,419 church members, and a related committee report (26A-D7, 26A-G8.1, 28A-G7.2); an 1856 memorial of W. Brown and others of Kansas, including radical abolitionist John Brown, relating to their imprisonment for treason (34A-H9); a petition of F. B. Sanborn and related papers, in connection with his testimony before the Senate Select Committee to Inquire into the Facts of the Recent Invasion and Seizure of the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry (36A-E7, 36A-H7.2); and printed memorials of the Magnetic Telegraph Company and the New England Union Telegraph Company calling for a law to prevent combination and monopolies in the telegraph business, with the related reply of the American Telegraph Company (35A-H7).

1861-1901 (37th-56th Congresses)

13.24 The records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 1861-1901 (54 ft.), consist of committee papers (11 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee (38 ft.); minutes of committee meetings, 1865-1907 (6 vols., 5 in.), except for the period March 1867-March 1875; legislative dockets, 1861-96 (21 vols., 2 ft.); executive dockets, 1865-1901 (15 vols., 2 ft.), except for a missing volume for the 42d Congress (1871-73); legislative calendars, 1895-1901 (3 vols., 1 in.); press copies of letters sent, March 13, 1885-April 12, 1893 (2 vols., 3 in.); and a register of visitors and letters received ("record book"), 1887-89 (1 vol., 1 in.). The records are arranged by Congress, although some of the bound volumes contain records of more than one session or Congress. The committee papers relating to specific bills and resolutions are arranged for each Congress by bill or resolution number and other documents in the series are arranged chronologically or are unarranged. The series contains printed copies of bills and amendments and supporting material, such as correspondence and communications from executive agencies. Petitions and memorials are arranged for each Congress either by specific subject, if the number of items so warrants, and thereunder chronologically by date referred, or chronologically by date referred. Minutes of committee meetings contain brief notes such as the names of members attending the meeting and the items discussed. The dockets, legislative and executive, serve as registers of legislative items and nominations respectively, and document all committee actions taken on each item of business. The legislative calendars are printed at the end of a session or Congress and contain information similar to that found in legislative dockets. The other volumes are explained by their titles.

13.25 The records for this period document numerous subjects; some of them, such as administration of the judiciary, bankruptcy and naturalization laws, certain claims, and, until 1871, contested elections, had concerned the committee before the war, while others, such as civil rights, resulted from the aftermath of the Civil War. In this period, there also appears to be greater emphasis on broader economic issues and social reforms.

13.26 Records of the Judiciary Committee during each Congress document in many ways enforcement of laws and administration of the Federal courts. The committee papers contain legislative case files and related correspondence about such matters as the treatment of Federal prisoners (44A-E8), salaries of Federal judges (48A-E12), creation of a national bureau of criminal investigation (56A-F18), and suppression of train robbery in the Territories (56A-F18). The case file on S. 2729, 52d Cong., a bill to amend the act of 1891 establishing a circuit court of appeals, contains President Benjamin Harrison's veto message on the bill (52A-F14). This series also contains individual letters and executive agency reports and communications that illustrate the realities of law enforcement and judicial administration. For example, the records include an 1879 letter to Senator Alvin Saunders of Nebraska (who was not a member of the committee) from a constituent describing horse thieves stealing from Indians in that State (45A-E11); an 1882 message from the Territorial Governor of Arizona reporting on the subject of "lawlessness on the frontier requiring extraordinary means to suppress it" (47A-E11); and a letter (in the file on S. 503, 49th Cong.) from William J. Galbraith, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Montana Territory, to Montana delegate J.R. Toole, relating to the condition of the court in 1885 (49A-E14). A bill, H.R. 9014, 51st Cong. (1889-91) to establish an intermediate court (circuit court of appeals) to relieve the Supreme Court, is well documented by an original transcript of a hearing, February 13, 1890, and other committee papers (51A-F16) and related petitions and memorials (51A-J14.3). Other petitions and memorials concern establishment of a probate court in the District of Columbia (41A-H10.2) and a U.S. district court in Los Angeles (49A-H13.1), and also include a complaint of the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas asserting various improprieties in judicial behavior and court operations (49A-H13.1).

13.27 During the Civil War, war-related matters requiring congressional oversight were generally referred to the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. However, the Judiciary Committee continued to receive many antislavery petitions until the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, including several that were signed by thousands of individuals (37A-H8.1, 38A-H8.2 [oversize, 5 ft.]). Others supported Lincoln's conduct of the war (37A-H8.2) or opposed his plans for reconstruction (38A-H8.2). Documenting some of the extraordinary actions taken against civilians are a memorial of the mayor, city council, and police commissioners of Baltimore protesting their imprisonment at Ft. McHenry by military authorities, and others relating to the confiscation of rebel property (37A-H8.2). There are also memorials relating to the removal of Senator Jesse D. Bright of Indiana from his elective office because he had recognized Jefferson Davis as "President of the Confederacy" (37A-H8.2).

13.28 The end of the war and the beginning of Reconstruction brought forth a new set of issues requiring the attention of the committee. Petitioners and memorialists sought a speedy trial of Jefferson Davis (39A-H8.2); removal of political disabilities (39A-H8, 40A-H10.2, 43A-H11.1, 44A-H10.3, 45A-H10.2, 46A-H11.1, 47A-H13.2, 48A-H13.2, 49A-H13.1); and readmission of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas to the Union (40A-H10.4, 43A-H11.3). An example of the removal of political disabilities cases are records relating to prominent Confederate military figure Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Robert E. Lee, who later served as Governor of Virginia (1886-90) and consul general in Havana during the Spanish-American War (43A-H11.1). The records also include a letter transmitting a copy of proceedings of the Texas Legislature ratifying the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments in 1870 (41A-H10).

13.29 Many claims also resulted from the events of the Civil War. Most notable of these were the so-called Alabama claims, a generic term for all British-American claims since 1853 but mainly those revolving around damage done to U.S. commercial shipping by the Confederate vessels Alabama, Shenandoah, and Florida, which were either built or armed by the British during the Civil War. Following the Treaty of Washington (1871), a tribunal was established in Geneva to adjudicate the claims, many of which were also referred to the Judiciary Committee (42A-H11.5, 43A-H11.2, 44A-E8, 44A-H10.2, 46A-E11, 46A-H11.3, 47A-H13.2).

13.30 There are records relating to several contested elections and the questioned validity of credentials of Senators during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. These include the contested elections between James H. Lane and Frederic P. Stanton of Kansas (37A-E6) and Morgan C. Hamilton and J.W. Flanagan of Texas (41A-H10.2); the unsuccessful attempt by Louisiana to seat Charles Smith and R. King Cutler, who had been elected Senators by the State government established under the 1864 convention (38A-H8.2); and the credentials of William M. Fishback and Elisha Baxter of Arkansas (38A-H6) and John P. Stockton of New Jersey (39A-E6). After the establishment of the Committee on Privileges and Elections in 1871, the Judiciary Committee occasionally inquired into election irregularities, such as those in Jackson, MS, in 1888 (50A-F12) and Silver Bow County, MT, in 1890 (51A-F16).

13.31 In addition to records relating to the restoration of political rights of former Confederates, there are many other records of the committee for these years relating to civil and political rights of blacks and women. There are numerous petitions favoring the 14th and 15th Amendments and their subsequent enforcement (39A-H8, 40A-H10.2, 44A-H11.5) and others protesting specific infringements of the rights guaranteed by the amendments. Among these are two from Georgia: one protests the expulsion of black members of the Georgia Legislature (40A-H10.2), and the other, from the Republican members of the legislature, asks for a civil rights bill and laws to break up Ku Klux activities (42A-H11.5). Similar petitions from black citizens of Indiana (43A-H11.3), Maryland (41A-H10.2), and Ohio (41A-H10.2) are also present. Memorials recommending additional civil rights legislation or enforcement of existing laws continued after the end of Reconstruction (45A-H10.2, 48A-H13.2, 55A-J18.5). There are a few petitions and memorials supporting antilynching laws (54A-J19.3, 56A-J21.2), including one from Frederick Douglass (52A-J14.4). Among the committee papers, a detailed description of racial practices in Louisiana at the end of the 19th century is found in the correspondence of Dr. L.A. Martinet of New Orleans, who wrote the committee in 1898 to protest the exclusion of blacks from juries and other Jim Crow practices (55A-F15).

13.32 Records relating to women's rights generally concern voting, although the language of many petitions and memorials, dating from the late 1860's through the late 1870's, is frequently more general. Leading suffragettes, including Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony, are among the signers of these documents (40A-H10.3, 41A-H10, 41A-H10.1, 42A-H11.4, 43A-H11.1, 43A-H11.3, 46A-H11.1, 46A-H11.2). There are a few additional petitions concerning woman suffrage in the mid-and-late 1890's (54A-J19.3, 56A-J21.2) but by this time, most such documents were referred to the Select (and later standing) Committee on Woman Suffrage, 1882-1921 (see also the description in Senate select committees para. 18.42-43). The records of the Judiciary Committee also include the original petition of Susan B. Anthony praying for remission of a fine levied against her for voting in the Presidential election of 1872 (43A-H11.3); an original memorial of Victoria C. Woodhull, 1872 Presidential candidate of the Equal Rights Party, advocating woman suffrage (41A-H10.1); and a petition of attorney Belva A. Lockwood, praying that any woman otherwise qualified be permitted to practice law in any U.S. court (43A-H11.3). Among the committee papers is the "argument" of Isabella Beecher Hooker on woman suffrage, delivered at the National Woman Suffrage Convention in 1871 (42A-E9) and an original hearing transcript of testimony of woman suffrage delegates, January 23, 1882 (47A-E11).

13.33 Bills, petitions, and memorials relating to bankruptcy and immigration laws continued to be referred to the committee. The records contain legislative case files on bills proposing amendments to the 1867 bankruptcy act (42A-E9, 44A-E9), and petitions and memorials, first for what became the 1867 act, and later for amendment of it (37th-46th Congresses); in the 1890's, many called for enactment of the Torrey bankruptcy bill (51st-55th Congresses). A smaller number of memorials proposed constitutional amendments or amending existing laws to restrict immigration from China (42A-H11.5, 52A-J14.4), opposed any amendment of the laws to allow a foreign-born President (42A-H11.5), and sought amendment of naturalization laws to restrict citizenship (52A-J14) and to restrict rights of aliens to vote (53A-J18.1, 54A-J19.3) and to own real property (55A-J18.5). After 1889, most matters relating to immigration and naturalization were referred to the standing Committee on Immigration.

13.34 Several other economic issues and viewpoints are represented in the records of the committee. Bricklayers and masons urged the Senate to prohibit employment of aliens on all Government projects (51A-J14.4). Other unionists urged passage of S. 35, 55th Cong., to stem the abuse of the writ of injunction against unions (55A-J18), and supported legislation to enact stiffer penalties for violations of the 8-hour law (55A-J18.5). Farmers opposed options and futures trading in commodities and to this end petitioned for passage of the Washburn bill or similar legislation (51A-J14.5, 52A-J14.2, 53A-J18.5). The committee papers include a small file on S. 1, 51st Cong., the Sherman antitrust bill (51A-F13), and on H.R. 10539, 56th Cong., which proposed amendments to the Sherman Antitrust Act (56A-F18).

13.35 Social reformers petitioned Congress to curb assorted social vices by, for example, enacting legislation to prohibit the sale, manufacture, or importation of intoxicating beverages (42A-H11.3). The American Temperance Committee went so far as to seek a constitutional amendment to provide that no person addicted to intoxicating liquors be eligible to hold Federal office (42A-H11.1). Others sought more adequate punishment of crimes against young girls and women and an increase in the age of consent to 18 (49A-H13, 50A-J13.1). On the subject of marriage, the committee received petitions for enactment of uniform divorce laws (49A-H13.1, 55A-J18.5) and enforcement of antipolygamy laws (45A-H10.1, 47A-H13.1, 56A-J21.1). Under S. Res. 7, 56th Cong., the Judiciary Committee conducted an inquiry into polygamy, for which there are both printed and manuscript records in the committee papers (56A-F18). Antigambling reformers petitioned Congress to suppress lotteries (53A-J18.4) and to prohibit the transmission by mail or interstate commerce of pictures or descriptions of prizefights (54A-J19.3, 55A-J18.3) and other gambling activities (55A-J18.4).

13.36 Certain churches and religious bodies submitted large numbers of petitions for constitutional amendments to acknowledge God as the source of all authority and power in the civil government and to acknowledge the "obligation of the Christian religion" (38A-H8.1, 40A-H10.1, 41A-H10, 42A-H11, 44A-H10, 51A-J14.1, 54A-J19.2). Opponents to church involvement in Government affairs petitioned the Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to guarantee continued separation of church and state (51A-J14.1, 52A-J14.3) and to enact legislation to prohibit appropriations for sectarian purposes (53A-J18, 54A-J19.1).

1901-46 (57th-79th Congresses)

13.37 The records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 1901-46 (161 ft.), consist of committee papers (16 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures and other bodies referred to the committee (139 ft.); minutes of committee meetings, 1907-34 and 1941-46 (2 ft., including 10 vols.); legislative calendars, 1901-34 (25 vols., 8 in.); executive dockets, 1901-41 (20 vols., 3 ft.); and a register of letters received on nominations ("memoranda on executive matters"), 1905-06 (1 in., 1 vol.). The committee papers of the early 20th century are significantly different from those of preceding years. There are no legislative case files for bills and resolutions referred to the committee in this series because they are filed with legislative case files of other committees in the series papers supporting specific bills and resolutions. Instead, the committee papers include original and printed executive communications and reports, a few Presidential messages, records of several investigative subcommittees, unbound minutes of committee meetings for the 64th and 65th Congresses (1915-19), correspondence of certain committee chairmen and one subcommittee chairman, a few unprinted transcripts of hearings, and other miscellaneous records. Petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures and other bodies referred to the committee are arranged by Congress and thereunder by subject for most Congresses. Some correspondence is included in this series because its content is similar to subjects of petitions and memorials or because the letters are addressed to the presiding officer of the Senate. The volume of petitions and memorials is large because of two issues, polygamy (57A-J43, 57 ft.) and prohibition (63A-J46, 72A-J44, 9 ft.). The minutes of committee meetings are bound, except for those of meetings held during the 64th and 65th Congresses (1915-19); as mentioned above, these are filed with the committee papers. The legislative calendars and executive dockets are basically the same as their 19th century counterparts, and there is also a register of letters received on nominations during most of the 59th Congress.

13.38 Committee papers for this period include correspondence of several of the chairmen and one subcommittee chairman. Much of the correspondence is routine and not arranged in a particularly useful manner, but the quality and arrangement of the records varies from chairman to chairman and from Congress to Congress. Correspondence of George F. Hoar of Massachusetts, 1901-04, includes a May 1902 confidential memorandum from Secretary of State John Hay regarding a proposal by Germany and Russia to adopt uniform measures to check anarchism in their respective countries, and a copy of Hoar's reply. Other correspondence, much of it with Federal judges and officials of the Department of Justice, concerns antitrust matters, revision of the laws, laws in the territories of Hawaii and Alaska, and bankruptcy laws (57A-F17, 58A-F15). Correspondence of Clarence D. Clark of Wyoming, 1905-13, concerns the sugar beet industry (62A-F13), and several minor subjects. The committee papers during Clark's tenure also include a transcript of bankruptcy hearings of the Southern Steel Company, Birmingham, AL (60A-F13), and exhibits submitted in connection with H.R. 23625, 62d Cong., an antiinjunction bill, such as testimony relating to the union activities of iron moulders (62A-F13). The series also includes correspondence of Charles S. Deneen of Illinois, 1927-29, chairman of a subcommittee examining the issue of uniform marriage and divorce laws (70A-F12).

13.39 From the 73d through 79th Congress (1933-46), there is a small amount of correspondence of each chairman of the committee. They include Henry F. Ashurst of Arizona, 1933-40 (73A-F15, 74A-F14, 75A-F14, 76A-F17); Frederick Van Nuys of Indiana, 1941-44 (77A-F17, 78A-F17); and Patrick A. (Pat) McCarran of Nevada, 1945-46 (79A-F16).

13.40 The committee papers also include records of several investigative subcommittees. For none of these subcommittees are the records as extensive as those for similar judiciary subcommittees after 1946, but such records are not commonplace generally for committees during this period, and these records are a useful supplement to the printed records.

13.41 Lee S. Overman of North Carolina chaired two of these subcommittees. The first, to investigate lobbying activities to influence legislation pending in the Senate, was authorized under S. Res. 92, 63d Cong. (1913-15). The investigation focused on activities of lobbyists for the sugar beet industry. The records include extracts of printed hearings and summaries of testimony, hearing exhibits, scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, correspondence, and printed matter (63A-F15). (See also correspondence of Chairman Clarence D. Clark [62A-F13].) The second Overman subcommittee for which there are records investigated both brewing and liquor interests and German propaganda during World War I in 1920. The investigation was authorized under S. Res. 307, 66th Cong.. The records include correspondence (including encoded telegrams and related code book), memorandums, copies of testimony at hearings, newspaper clippings, an antiprohibition broadside, and completed questionnaires sent by the subcommittee to newspaper and magazine publishers who ran an advertisement in 1915 entitled "An Appeal to the American People," that was paid for by alleged German agents (66A-F12).

13.42 There are records of two other investigations carried out by subcommittees of the Judiciary Committee during the 66th Congress. One, pursuant to S. Res. 189, concerned lynching and the race riots of 1919. Chaired by William P. Dillingham of Vermont, the records consist of a small amount of correspondence and a number of publications of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the black press, and various organizations (66A-F12). The other investigation, pursuant to S. Res. 439, continued a probe of Russian propaganda efforts; the records include a small amount of correspondence and printed matter (66A-F12).

13.43 There are also small amounts of records of subcommittees investigating lobbying (S. Res. 20, 71st Cong.) under the chairmanship of Thaddeus H. Caraway of Arkansas (71A-F15); the alleged failure to prosecute promptly officers of the Harriman National Bank (S. Res. 35, 73d Cong.) under the chairmanship of Hubert D. Stephens of Mississippi (73A-F15); and certain activities of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Post Office Department with respect to the implementation of the Municipal Bankruptcy Act in Florida, under the chairmanship of Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin (79A-F16). The last investigation was continued into the 80th Congress by S. Res. 90 and its records include unprinted transcripts of hearings.

13.44 Other unprinted transcripts of hearings found in the committee papers concern an editorial in the Washington Herald critical of Senator Oscar Underwood of Alabama and the Muscle Shoals project, December 18, 1924 (68A-F12); an executive session on the National Prohibition Act, May 7, 1926 (69A-F15); and terms of office and salaries of appointees to the Senate, January 17, 1939 (76A-F13).

13.45 Petitions and memorials referred to the Judiciary Committee illustrate public opinion and the positions of individuals, organizations, and State government representatives with respect to legislation and subjects within the jurisdiction of the committee. Most of these subjects can be categorized into four general areas: Law enforcement and judicial administration, economic issues, civil and political rights, and social reforms.

13.46 The subjects of petitions and memorials relating to law enforcement and judicial administration include suppression of anarchy in the wake of the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 (57A-J39); creation of a science lab in the Department of Justice for the study of crime (57A-J44); Federal court districts and court terms (58A-J46, 58A-J47, 62A-J53, 63A-J49); salaries of Federal judges (60A-J75); the Crumpacker fraud order bill (59A-J64); the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case (72A-J45); and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to "pack" the Supreme Court (74A-J22, 75A-J23).

13.47 The broad category of economic issues includes bankruptcy law, immigration restriction, labor conditions, and antitrust law and other matters relating to business practices. The committee received a number of petitions relating to the Federal bankruptcy law just before and for some years after its major revision in 1898 (57A-J41, 58A-J41, 59A-J63, 60A-J71) and then again during the financial hardship of the Great Depression of the 1930's, when the law was amended in 1938 (73A-J33, 75A-J19). Labor unions were frequent petitioners of the Congress, and their communications were referred to the Judiciary Committee on such subjects as exclusion of Chinese immigrants (57A-J42, 59A-J67); various anti-injunction bills (57A-J40, 58A-J39, 59A-J62, 60A-J76, 62A-J51); conditions in western mines (58A-J42, 60A-J77); imprisonment of William D. "Big Bill" Haywood and others in connection with the murder of former Gov. Frank Steunenberg of Idaho (59A-J65); and S. 927, 63d Cong., the Bacon-Barlett bill to exempt labor unions from prosecution under the Sherman Antitrust Act (63A-J43). The committee also received petitions supporting enactment of laws to regulate child labor (67A-J40, 68A-J34).

13.48 In addition, there are petitions supporting stronger antitrust laws (57A-J44, 58A-J40, 60A-J76), particularly H.R. 15657, 63d Cong., the Clayton bill (63A-J44); petitions opposing trading in options and futures (60A-J74) and the use of trading stamps by grocers (57A-J44); and petitions from employees of the West Virginia Coke and Coal Company opposing the dissolution of the U.S. Steel Corporation in 1913 (63A-J51).

13.49 A number of petitions and memorials submitted by blacks, women, and certain political minorities addressed the needs of these groups for legislation or enforcement of existing legislation to protect their civil and political rights. The subjects of these records include Negro voting rights in the South (57A-J44); antilynching laws (59A-J69, 66A-J38, 67A-J39, 75A-J18, 76A-J18.1); racial intermarriage laws (62A-J53); an equal rights amendment for women (68A-J35, 71A-J43, 75A-J20); and amnesty for political prisoners, such as Eugene V. Debs, who opposed U.S. participation in World War I (66A-J40, 67A-J44), and Marcus Garvey, the leader of a black separatist movement in the 1920's, who was imprisoned by the Federal Government for mail fraud (69A-J25). On the other side of the political spectrum, supporters for the investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee communicated their approval by memorializing the Senate (76A-J18.2).

13.50 Well over half of all petitions and memorials referred to the committee concern social reforms. From the 57th to the 72d Congress (1901-33), there are hundreds of petitions favoring or opposing prohibition of the manufacture, sale, and distribution of intoxicating liquors, and after the ratification of the 18th Amendment, others favoring or opposing modification to allow commerce in beer and light wine. Polygamy was another moral issue that generated a huge number of petitions from individuals and religious groups seeking its prohibition by constitutional amendment, especially from the 57th to the 67th Congress (1901-21). Among the other social reforms and issues included as subjects of these records are use of telegraph and telephone for interstate gambling (57A-J44, 58A-J47, 60A-J70, 61A-J57); uniform marriage and divorce laws (67A-J45); and the importation, distribution, and sale of contraceptive literature and instruments (71A-J43).

13.51 Two Senate special committees for which the National Archives has records were established to study matters that came under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee: the Special Committee to Investigate Bankruptcy and Receivership Proceedings in U.S. Courts, 1933-36 (14 ft.) and the Special Committee on Court Reorganization and Judicial Procedure, 1937-39 (2 in.).

Records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 1947-68 (80th-90th Congresses)

Table of Contents


Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.
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