Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 4

Records of the Armed Services Committee and Its Predecessors:

Committee Records discussed in this chapter:

Committee on Naval Affairs, 1822-1946

Jurisdiction and History

4.52 The Constitution of the United States grants Congress the power to provide and maintain a Navy and designates the President as its commander-in-chief. Select committees were appointed in the House to consider legislation pertaining to naval affairs during every Congress from 1809 until 1822 when the standing Committee on Naval Affairs was created. The jurisdiction of the committee, which remained unchanged for more than 60 years was as follows:

  • It shall be the duty of the Committee on Naval Affairs to take into its consideration all matters which concern the naval establishment, and which shall be referred to them by the House, and to report their opinion thereupon; and also to report, from time to time, such measures as may contribute to the economy and accountability of the said establishment. 1

4.53 In 1885 a House Rule change amended the committee's jurisdiction to cover all legislation relating to the Naval Establishment, including the naval appropriations bills. A 1920 change in House rules removed the jurisdiction over appropriations from the committee and returned it to the Appropriations Committee. The Naval Affairs Committee's jurisdiction then included the following: "the naval establishment, including increase or reduction of commissioned officers and enlisted men and their pay and allowances and the increase of ships or vessels of all classes of the Navy." 2

4.54 During the 20th century, the jurisdiction of the committee was expanded to include naval and marine aeronautics; the construction of aircraft carriers for the Navy; the acquisition of sites for naval facilities, and the establishment, construction, improvement, and maintenance of such facilities; the authorization of special decorations, orders, medals, and other insignia for naval personnel, and the acceptance of offices and emoluments from foreign governments; claims of personnel and civilian employees of the Navy; and legislation relating to the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps, the Marine Band, the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve, the Naval Observatory, and the Coast and Geodetic Survey (in part).

4.55 The committee was abolished under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 and its jurisdiction incorporated into that of the Armed Services Committee created under the 1946 act.

Records of the Committee on Naval Affairs (1822-1946)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 23 vols. 38th-47th (1863-83), 50th-51st (1887-91), 55th-64th (1897-1917), 69th-70th (1925-29)
Docket Books 1 vol. 72d-74th (1932-35)
Petitions and Memorials 13 ft. 11th-74th (1809-1936), 76th-79th (1939-46)
Committee Papers 21 ft. 11-68th (1809-1925), 70th-72d (1927-33), 76th-79th (1939-46)
Bill Files 28 ft. 58th-79th (1903-46)
TOTAL: 62 ft. and 24 vols. (3 ft.)  
Committee Records Summary Table

4.56The minute books record the attendance of members and witnesses at committee meetings; describe the proceedings of hearings, debates, and discussions; and document votes on bills and resolutions. After 1900, most of the entries in the minute books are typewritten. In addition to providing the information given above, the 20th-century minute books record reports and petitions and memorials that the committee considered. The minute books for the period before 1899 provide the dates of meetings and individual or House resolution numbers where assigned, information that usually was recorded in docket books. Most of the minute books were transferred to the Armed Services Committee, and those volumes have been retired as part of the Armed Services Committee's Library Collection.

4.57 There are no extant docket books for any Naval Affairs Committee from 1822 to 1899. Only one docket book has been preserved for the 20th century. A thin volume covering the period between 1932 and 1935, it records the dates and times of regularly scheduled meetings of the committee, notes the members present, the assigned number of each bill, the name of the bill's proponent, and a summary of the bill's content. Occasionally, remarks were recorded concerning particular bills or the committee's actions on them.

4.58 The petitions and memorials either express public and private demands for congressional intervention in various areas of naval affairs or constitute prayers of individuals or groups seeking some special dispensation of congressional relief. Before 1899, claims form the largest single group of petitions and memorials. After 1899, many claims are in bill files. The petitions and memorials submitted or referred to the committee in the 20th century reflect significant changes in the interests of petitioners who were increasingly concerned with the economics of administering the Nation's growing Naval Establishment and the controversial aspects of American expansion abroad.

4.59 Some of the documents referred to in the discussion that follows are dated prior to the establishment of the standing Committee on Naval Affairs in 1822. Those petitions and memorials were received by various select committees on military affairs.

4.60 Among the claims petitions are numerous requests of Navy veterans and seamen seeking compensation for services rendered or injuries sustained in the performance of duty. For example, Surgeon Joseph G. Roberts prayed for prize money comparable to the shares awarded by Congress to Commodore Oliver H. Perry and his men for the capture of the British fleet in Lake Erie in 1813. Because Perry had put him in charge of the military hospital at Erie, PA, Roberts was not aboard ship at the time of the battle and did not qualify for the award (13A-G8.1). James Turnbull, a seaman on a privately armed vessel, the Elbridge Gerry, sought financial relief from Congress because while he was a prisoner in England during the War of 1812, he had been wantonly shot by a "musket ball in his left arm, which broke the bone and rendered an immediate amputation above the elbow necessary" (14A-F8.1). Veterans of the Union Navy presented petitions on their own behalf for services performed and sacrifices made during the Civil War. The officers and crew of U.S.S. Kearsarge asked for $192,000 for the destruction of the Confederate warship Alabama in 1864 (39A-H17.1).

4.61 Other petitions and memorials relate to claims of naval veterans seeking compensation for loss of personal property. Dr. Grenville M. Weeks, Assistant Surgeon aboard the ill-fated Union Navy ironclad warship Monitor, sought compensation for the loss of his medical books and personal belongings when the Monitor sank in stormy waters off Cape Hatteras, NC, in 1862. He asked for additional relief for injuries to his right hand and arm, "the first by being crushed, the latter by being wrenched from its socket," sustained when he attempted to evacuate himself and save others from the doomed ship (37A-G9.2).

4.62 Claims from veterans for pensions and from widows or close relatives of deceased veterans for financial relief constitute a considerable part of the petitions and memorials. They are found consistently in the records of the 11th through the 55th Congresses (1809-99), particularly after 1862, when Congress passed a bill granting lifetime pensions to all naval personnel disabled in the line of duty. Not all awards for military service went to members of the Armed Forces of the United States, however. In 1855, a law was passed granting 5-years pay to surviving officers who had been serving in the Texas Navy when Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845. Mrs. Sarah Brasher of Maryland cited this law when she sought the payment due her deceased son who had been a captain in the Texas Navy (35A-G14.2).

4.63 Another significant group of petitions and memorials documents the committee's responsibility for reviewing cases of naval courts-martial and making recommendations to the Secretary of the Navy and the President concerning the service status of officers and seamen who had been suspended from duty or cashiered. A midshipman cashiered for drunkenness and insubordination (21A- G14.2) and a lieutenant found guilty of "un-officer-like conduct" (34A-G12.2) are examples of naval personnel who appealed to the committee for redress. In 1932, the committee was asked to consider the case of a Navy officer in Hawaii who killed his wife's alleged rapist, a reprisal committed because the officer was convinced that the law enforcement measures taken by the civilian and military authorities were inadequate. Petitions sent to President Herbert Hoover by religious and civic groups from the officer's hometown in Kentucky and later referred to Congress and the Committee on Naval Affairs, demanded that the officer be released from custody and restored to duty (72A-H11.1).

4.64 Interest in technological advances in nautical science and engineering accounted for substantial numbers of petitions and memorials, particularly during the mid-19th century (31A-G12.4, 33A-G14.8, 36A-G12.2). Most petitioners sought contracts for the official adoption, mass production, and use or deployment of their contrivances or machines. James D. Woodside, for example, applied in 1827 for funds to test and produce his "Ship-Gauge" instrument for navigation (20A-G13.20).Other memorialists prayed for the adoption of a newly-designed steamboat (33A-G14.8); a rifle cannon (34A-G12.3); a ship timber bending apparatus(35A-G14.4); a bolt extractor, an improved lifeboat, and a brown sugar- making machine (36A-G12.1); and a battering ram (54A-H23.4). Some aggrieved inventors petitioned Congress demanding restitution for violation of patents (18A- F11.1, 19A-G13.2). As late as 1909, a petitioner requested that Congress take steps to recognize Theodore R. Timby as the inventor of the type of revolving turret used on the Monitor and other ironclad vessels (61A-H25.5).

4.65 The fervor and dedication of the great social reform crusades of the 19th century, especially in the antebellum era, are reflected in the petitions and memorials. State temperance societies insistently prayed for the repeal of the law that sanctioned the issue of the "spirit ration" to sailors--a protracted campaign of protest that ultimately resulted in congressional abrogation of the law in 1862 (26A- G13.3, 28A-G14.1, 30A-G13.3, 31A-G12.5, 32A-G13.5). Humanitarian groups meanwhile demanded an end to corporal punishment, particularly flogging, this effort culminating in legislative victory when Congress abolished the abusive practice in 1850 (27A-G14.3, 30A-G13.1, 31A-G12.2, 32A-G13.2). Before the Civil War, the Speaker of the House referred to the committee petitions from antislavery societies in the northern States. Among these were pleas for Congress to assist in establishing and maintaining a steamship line to Liberia, thus promoting the colonization of that newly-founded African republic by manumitted southern slaves and free northern blacks (31A-G12.7).

4.66 The institutional developments of the Naval Establishment through education was a major interest of the American people and the Committee on Naval Affairs. Numerous petitions concern improvements in naval education and proposals for the establishment of naval schools. Petitioners, for example, suggested that improved squadron communications would prevent collisions at sea and recommended the establishment of a board of examiners on marine signals; a copy of William H. Ward's 1858 manual Ward's Code of Signal Telegraph was submitted to bolster the proposal (35A-G14.1). Other petitioners wrote concerning the salaries of professors at the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD (38A- G13.5, 45A-H19.4, 53A-H23.1), and the renovation and management of the U. S. Naval Observatory at Washington, DC (45A-H15.1, 47A-H15.1, 52A-H16.1). The 1879 Louisiana Constitutional Convention proposed the establishment of a naval and marine school at New Orleans (46A-H16.1); Pacific coast civic groups prayed in 1916 and 1919 for a naval academy and aviation school at some west coast port to complement the Naval Academy (64A-H18.4, 66A-H14.1); National Guard organizations and State legislatures proposed that the Government establish torpedo schools and submarine and aviation training stations on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Great Lakes (58A-H17.2, 60A-H26.4, 66A-H14.2, 69A-H13.1) to provide education on new naval weapons systems. In 1920 the Board of Aldermen and other officials of Newport, RI, protested the proposed removal of the Naval War College to Washington, DC (66A-H14.8), and in 1926, the Chicago City Council asked that the Naval Academy be removed from Annapolis to a location on Lake Michigan (69A-H13.6).

4.67 Other petitions focused on the construction, maintenance, repair, and improvement of strategic naval facilities such as navy yards and drydocks, matters of considerable concern because they affected naval preparedness and had an important economic impact on the American work force. Petitioners representing the commercial and economic interests of large cities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and on the shores of the Great Lakes constantly asked the committee to award building contracts to local firms, trade associations, or public works agencies. For example, the Philadelphia Board of Trade wanted drydock work for local citizens (25A-G13.2), while the municipal government of Brooklyn prayed for a contract to construct a drydock in New York harbor (26A-G13.2). The local demands for naval construction work continued unabated, and most Congresses before 1920 responded to these petitions by appropriating funds for the improvement of naval facilities such as yards and drydocks (57A-H19.3, 60A- H26.6, 63A-H21.8, 64A-H18.3, 76A-H18.1), as well as ships (56A-H19.1, 59A- H18.1, 63A-H21.2, 71A-H13.2), and ordnance (57A-H19.2, 58A-H17.3, 59A- H18.2).

4.68 From the early 1900's, union-organized navy yard workers and privately employed artisans competed for contract work on naval construction projects such as shipbuilding. Memorials from sympathetic State legislatures, fraternal organizations, civic groups, trade federations, and naval veteran associations regularly prayed for committee assistance in ensuring that the Government grant contract work to navy yard employees, particularly those affiliated with labor organizations, and not to private or independent nonunion or antiunion groups (57A- H19.1, 2, 63A-H21.1, 66A-H14.8, 68A-H14.2, 69A-H13.3, 71A-H13.2, 73A- H15.1). New Orleans laborers, for example, demanded that Congress require that the Department of the Navy hire only union laborers (57A-H19.4), while other groups sought higher pay based on fairer systems of seniority and skill measurement (63A-H2.1, 64A-H18.2, 77A-H14.4). Ironically, a bill proposed in 1941 by Committee Chairman Carl Vinson to expedite the naval construction program by providing for the investigation and mediation of navy yard labor disputes aroused bitter and widespread opposition. The United Mine Workers (UMW), the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), and the Park City Ladies Auxiliary of Utah were just three of the groups that denounced the Vinson bill, which was characterized by the St. Louis Newspaper Guild as the "work of anti-labor forces," because it violated the collective bargaining provisions of the Wagner Act of 1935 (77A- H14.5).

4.69 Petitioners also sought the participation of the Navy in endeavors that would expand geographic knowledge or improve communication. In 1843, for example, John Wise of Lancaster, PA, urged the committee to appropriate funds to permit the Navy to conduct an aerial circumnavigation of the earth in his "Aerostatic machine," a balloon with a seaworthy gondola (28A-G14.2). Delegates from 15 States who met in Memphis, TN, in 1849 called for the construction of a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coast and the construction of either an interoceanic ship canal or railroad across Central America (31A-G12.8). In 1850, Henry Grinnell, the New York merchant and philanthropist, suggested that the Navy could gain valuable knowledge of the Arctic if 30 Navy seamen were assigned to his expedition to search for Sir John Franklin and his party (31A-G12.8), who had disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage.

4.70 Many of the petitions and memorials concern naval personnel matters and recommended changes in the organization of the Department of the Navy. Officers and enlisted men petitioned for increased pay and regular promotions (36A- G12.3, 37A-G9.1, 38A-G13.2), while other petitioners urged Congress to set higher rank for Navy medical officers, to establish a more equitable system of ranking officers and enlisted men, and to improve discipline and efficiency in the Navy (25A-G14.8, 29A-G12.5, 38A-G13.3, 48A-H19.30). Petitioners also advocated a more efficient clerical corps in the Navy (55A-H19.20), the upgrading of medical services, and the improvement of standards of professional practice within the Medical and Surgical Bureaus (40A-H12.1); others recommended a fundamental reorganization of the Medical Corps (38A-G13.8) and suggested the transfer of the Revenue Cutter Service from the Treasury Department to the Navy Department (52A-H16.3). From the 1890's onward, the committee received requests to create Naval and Marine Corps reserve units (51A-H15.1, 54A-H23.1, 56A-H19.2, 60A- H26.2). After Congress established the Naval Reserve Force and the Marine Reserve Force in 1916, petitioners turned their attention to the maintenance of the units (68A-H14.3, 71A-H13.3). The reserves were reorganized in 1925 and again in 1938.

4.71 Throughout the 19th century the United States remained basically a continental power, and strategic theory and planning regarding wartime use of the Navy did not fully evolve until after the acquisition of overseas possessions following the Spanish-American War of 1898. Nevertheless, the American public recognized the necessity for the improvement of the Nation's coastal and maritime defenses. For example, petitions, including some from legislatures in the States bordering the Great Lakes, called for the construction of naval depots, stations, and vessels on Lake Erie and Lake Michigan in the mid-1860's (38A-G13.8, 39A- H17.1); the Philadelphia Board of Trade urged the development of improved seacoast defenses in the late 1880's (49A-H19.4); and various chambers of commerce in California, Oregon, and Washington asked for the deployment of torpedo vessels to guard the Pacific coast against hostile attack in the mid-1890's (53A-H23.1).

4.72 The petitions and memorials submitted or referred to the committee after 1900 reflect significantly different concerns than those expressed in the requests received in the 19th century. The acquisition of overseas territories led to increased public and private concern over the administration of the United States Naval Establishment and naval operations after 1898.

4.73 Isolationist and pacifist groups who opposed overseas expansion demanded a reduction in American naval armaments and an end to what they perceived to be United States militarism. President Theodore Roosevelt's shipbuilding program, started in the early 1900's, provoked intense opposition among large well-organized groups of educators, clergymen, and other citizens. In 1908, for example, the name of U. S. Steel baron Andrew Carnegie headed a list of nearly 400 citizens of New York City who submitted a petition to the committee denouncing Roosevelt's proposed $60,000,000 naval construction program (60A- H26.10). Form petitions signed by hundreds of theological students, Pennsylvania Quakers, political liberals, constitutional advocates, and dedicated peace groups continued to decry naval expansion in succeeding years (61A-H25.3, 62A-H22.1, 63A-H21.1).

4.74 Peace groups insisted that Congress observe the limits on naval armaments established by agreements negotiated at various international conferences. Such demands began before World War I, but naval treaties concluded at Washington, DC and London, England, in 1922, and 1930 respectively, and the Geneva Conference of 1932 elicited the bulk of the petitions (63A-H21.12, 67A-H16.2, 71A-H13.1). In 1934, several national religious organizations, particularly the Council of the Churches of Christ, unsuccessfully opposed the passage of the Vinson-Trammel bill that authorized a 5-year building and replacement program of more than 100 ships. In 1935, fleet exercises in the western Pacific prompted protests from church groups in Kentucky, New Jersey, and New York, that considered the maneuvers to be threats to world peace since they might provoke Japan (74A-H12.2). Naval participation in the proposed atomic bomb testing in the Pacific in 1946 prompted opposition from church members in Allen, TX (79A-F27.1).

4.75 Opposed to the isolationists and pacifists were the advocates of naval expansion and preparedness. Their more chauvinistic orientation is equally well represented in the petitions and memorials directed to the committee after 1898. The supposed threat posed by the Japanese militarism in the early 1900's led to calls upon the committee to pass bills improving the naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, HI (60A-H26.9). Meanwhile, private organizations such as the National Business League, the Spanish-American War Veterans, the American Legion, the Navy League, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and various labor associations advocated a substantial United States naval buildup on a two- ocean front (60A-H26.1, 63A-H21.2, 64A-H18.6, 69A-H13.2). Those groups also urged the committee to ensure that the United States achieve its full naval strength as defined by the ship construction limitations imposed by the treaties of 1922 and 1930 (68A-H14.1, 71A-H.13). Protection of the Pacific coast also was a critical issue among defense-minded advocates of naval preparedness, as numerous petitions and memorials demonstrate (60A-H26.7, 63A-H21.9, 65A-H13.4, 67A- H16.1, 73A-H15.5, 76A-H18.2).

4.76 In addition to the subjects already discussed, the committee received petitions and memorials on many other topics. During the early years of the Republic, piracy was an important issue to reform-minded Americans who considered ineffective an 1819 act that had authorized Navy vessels to convoy American merchant ships on the high seas. Some of the petitions on this subject proposed bold plans to combat maritime plundering in the Caribbean or to punish Chinese pirates in distant Asian waters (18A-F11.2, 34A-G12.3). Various charitable groups petitioned the committee to use Navy vessels to transport food to Ireland during the severe "Potato Famine" years of the 1840's (29A-G12.4), while Christian missionaries in India and the United States pleaded for similar naval assistance in shipping grain to famine-stricken South Asia in 1897 (55A-H19.3). In 1910 the Illinois Society Sons of the American Revolution petitioned for the funds necessary to complete and furnish the crypt of chapel at the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD, as a permanent resting place for the body of John Paul Jones (61A- H25.5).

4.77 Other petitions and memorials relate to historic ships. Among these are petitions concerning the following: The preservation of the frigate Constitution, 1913-36 (63A-H21.5, 73A-H15.2, 74A-H12.1) and of Admiral David G. Farragut's flagship Hartford, 1919 (66A-H14.5); a controversy over a permanent port for the Constellation, 1935-42 (74A-H12.1, 76A-H18.3, 77A-H14.1); and the raising of the Maine from Havana harbor so the bodies of the crew members still aboard the ship could be properly interred (61A-H25.4, 62A-H22.4).

4.78 The committee papers consist largely of copies of committee reports on petitions, memorials, and proposed House bills; correspondence between chairmen and constituents from various congressional districts, Navy Department officials, and State political figures; affidavits and testimonials supporting claims; reports from the Secretary of the Navy; statistical reports and financial statements; copies of proceedings of Navy Department courts-martial; legislative calendars; and some original maps, charts, and plans and diagrams of ships in different stages of design and construction. Some of the reports are printed in the Congressional Serial Set.

4.79 For much of the early 19th century, naval personnel and owners and captains of privately owned armed vessels, or privateers, sought bounties or prize money for enemy vessels captured during the War of 1812. Some of the committee papers document their claims (13A-D9.1, 16A-D16.1, 22A-D17.1). Privateering was abolished in 1856 by the Declaration of Paris, but, during the Civil War, Union blockaders were granted monetary awards (47A-F17.2). The use of prize money as an incentive was abolished by Congress in 1899.

4.80 Interspersed among the committee papers are documents submitted by naval officers and enlisted men who sought restoration to duty or a correction of their service record through the intervention of the committee with the Secretary of the Navy or the President. Among these are papers concerning a Commander who was tried for drunkenness on duty during the blockade of Charleston Harbor in 1863 (39A-F17.4, 40A-F17.5), and a captain who was cashiered for being absent without leave from his pestilence-ridden Florida post (48A-F23.11). Some courtroom testimony may be found in the files for may of these cases.

4.81 A substantial portion of the 19th-century documents complement and support the claims that prompted the petitions and memorials from veterans or their heirs. One example is a copy of the committee's favorable report (17A-C17.1) on an 1823 petition for financial aid (17A-F10.1) from Sarah Perry, the mother of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry who had died in 1819. Documents concerning an 1846 report on a claim from the heirs of John Paul Jones, the Revolutionary War hero who died in Paris in 1792, include excerpts from the correspondence of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (29A-D13.2). Typical of documents concerning claims for injuries sustained in war is one maimed sailor's prayer for relief and an accompanying committee report concerning his eligibility for a pension (22A-D17.1). The committee also reported on claims for losses of personal property under hostile or wartime conditions (16A-D16.2, 32A-D11.1). An 1863 letter from Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, concerned compensation for clothing lost by Union sailors who had been forced to evacuate the U.S.S. Cairo (37A-E11.4). Representative of papers concerning awards for extraordinary services rendered to the Navy is an 1858 report recommending additional compensation for Eliphalet Brown, Jr., a daguerreotypist employed as an artist on Commodore Matthew C. Perry's expedition to Japan, (35A-D13.1). The officers and crew of the Union ironclad Monitor were recommended for recognition for their participation in the battle with the Confederate ironclad, Merrimac (48A-F23.13).

4.82 The committee's concern with scientific advances in nautical and marine technology is amply illustrated by the committee papers. Typical of the inventions discussed in the records are Edward Clark's "projected floating battery" (12A-C7.2); Mrs.Sarah P. Mathers' submarine telescope (24A-D19.1); and John Ericsson's prototype battleship "Destroyer," which was armed with "submarine artillery" (48A- F23.8, 49A-F24.3). Also mentioned in the papers are other inventions, such as the following: A European-designed ship's anchor (18A-C11.2); armed steamers (27A- D14.1); live-saving equipment for American vessels (33A-D11.2, 48A-F23.9); and "Submarine Torpedo Boats" (58A-F25.1). The papers relating to some of these inventions include detailed reports providing illustrations and specifications.

4.83 The committee also heard from inventors who sought recognition for their contributions or redress for alleged infringements of their patented designs. Papers for the 29th Congress (1845-47), for example, include letters, testimonials, and other documents supporting a request from John Ericsson for recognition of his work in designing and constructing the Princeton and a claim from the heirs of Robert Fulton, designer of the steamboat, the Clermont, for services Fulton had performed for the Navy (29A-D13.2). Other records concern demands for compensation for the Navy's alleged use of patented designs for Captain Henry R. Shreve's snagboat to clear debris from rivers (33A-D11.1) and Charles Olcott's heavily armor-plated iron boat (34A-D13.1).

4.84 Committee papers also include records concerning the construction, maintenance, repair, and expansion of physical facilities. Documents relating to yards and depots, drydocks and stations, and shipbuilding projects are found for many Congresses from the 11th to the 55th (1809-99).Also included are records concerning improvements to coastal defenses on the Great Lakes, the "maritime frontier" (12A-C7.2), the east coast (16A-D16.2), the Pacific Northwest coast (34A- D13.2), and vulnerable harbors (48A-F23.9, 49A-F24.3). As early as 1899, the committee recognized the strategic value of improving the position of the Marine Corps in the Philippines and it recommended that the House vote to increase funds for new defensive fortifications and an extension of the Pacific cable, particularly that portion between Hawaii and the Philippines (56A-F26.8). Detailed maps showing the naval features of San Juan Harbor, Puerto Rico, are included among the committee papers (57A-F25.1), and one file includes a committee-originated bill that favored the purchase of additional land adjacent to the American naval hospital at Yokohama, Japan (58A-25.2).

4.85 Personnel matters are extensively represented in the committee papers. Among the records are bill, printed reports on petitions, and correspondence exchanged between the Secretary of the Navy and committee members concerning the following: pay and promotion, including that for female nurses (36A-D15.3, 50A-F25.2, 55A-F26.6); discipline (21A-D17.4, 24A-D14.2, 25A-D16.3); efficiency and ranking (15A-D9.1, 38A-E13.10, 51A-F26.4); pension and retirement funds (20A-D15.3, 21A-D17.3, 23A-D13.2, 38A-E13.9). Committee members considered and reported on bills authorizing an increase in the number of officers in the Marine Corps (60A-F38.3) and the number of Navy chaplains, a measure supported by the Women's Christian Temperance Union as a means of curbing the abuse of liquor by enlisted men (63A-F28.1). For the most part, however, personnel-related records are relatively sparse among the committee papers during the 20th century because most documents concerning pay, promotion, and status are among the substantially expanded bill files after 1915.

4.86 A broad range of miscellaneous subjects characterize the committee papers in the 1800's. Among these diverse records are statements of the aggregate naval forces of the United States and Tripoli (16A-D16.2) and the United States and Spain (44A-F23.1); reports on the exploits of naval commanders during the War of 1812 (12A-C7.1); and papers on the filibustering operations of William Walker in Central America (35A-D13.4), steamer communications with China and Hawaii (30A-D14.4, 31A-D13.1), and exploration of the Arctic and South Seas (20A- D15.2, 48A-F23.6, 48A-F23.7, 48A-F23.14).

4.87 Other subjects covered include education, the Naval Academy and the Naval Observatory, expansion of the naval aviation program, organizational changes in the Navy Department, and appropriations.

4.88 Bill files comprise over half of the total volume of committee records for the 20th century. They consist of printed copies of bills or other legislation accompanied by related documents, such as messages from the President; correspondence with officials of the executive agencies, and applicants for pensions or other relief; and testimonials supporting claims. Claims for relief, or private bills, are abundant, most of them concerning either applications for pensions or pleas from naval personnel seeking correction of service records, reinstatement, or restoration to duty. For most Congresses the private bills and the public bills--those relating to naval administrative matters, equipment, and facilities--are interfiled and arranged by type of legislation, thereunder by bill or resolution number. For a few Congresses the private and public bills are filed in separate groups and arranged numerically within each group. Researchers can locate appropriate bill numbers by using the index to the Congressional Record for each Congress.

4.89 The bill files cover the full range of subjects within the committee's jurisdiction. For example, those for the 64th Congress include files for H.R. 10752, a proposal to build a naval base at Astoria, OR, and H.Res. 354, a recommendation that ships stationed in the Atlantic submit battleship target scores for congressional inspection (64A-D16). A file for the 79th Congress concerns H.R. 3402, a proposal to establish a women's naval academy (79A-D26).

4.90 A collection of bound reports, hearings, and other printed documents from the Naval Affairs Committee are among the Library Collection of the Armed Services Committee.


1 Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 31st Cong., 1st sess., p. 1612.

2 Clarence Cannon, Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1935), vol. 7, p. 781.


Guide to House Records Table of Contents

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245). By Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.