Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 6: Judiciary 1813-1986

Chapter 6. Records of the Claims Committees

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Committees discussed in this chapter:
Committee on the Judiciary (1813-1968)

History and Jurisdiction Relative to Claim

6.104 Since its creation in 1813 the Judiciary Committee has handled a wide variety of claims against the Government. There are substantial numbers of claims petitions among the records of every Congress before the Civil War, and lesser numbers from that time until World War II. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, while the specialized claims committees were created to handle particular types of claims, the Judiciary Committee continued to deal with those claims that fell within its jurisdiction.

6.105 Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 the specialized claims committees that were in existence at that time were abolished and the claims that had been referred to them were to be referred to the Judiciary Committee or were dealt with by the executive agencies or the courts. Under the 1946 reorganization the already broad jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee was expanded to include the subjects that had formerly been referred to the Committees on Patents, Immigration and Naturalization, Revision of Laws, Claims, and War Claims. In order to accommodate the broadened area of responsibility, the committee established standing subcommittees with specialized jurisdictions to deal with the new subject areas. During the early years after the 1946 reorganization, special jurisdiction over claims was given to subcommittee number 3.

Primary Locations of Claims Records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 13th-90th Congresses (1813-1968).

6.106 During the earliest period of the committee's history (1813-65) the records relating to claims are found primarily among the petition and memorial files. Between the 39th and 57th Congresses (1865-1903) the Judiciary Committee claims files may be found in either the committee papers or the petitions and memorials files, but in most cases they were removed from the records of the Judiciary Committee and included in the large alphabetical accompanying papers files. After the 57th Congress the accompanying papers file was abandoned and each committee established a series of "bill files" in which the records relating to each specific bill or resolution was filed. After 1903 most of the claims related records may be found in the bill files. The bill files for this period are arranged numerically by bill number.

6.107 After the 1946 reorganization greatly increased the workload of the Judiciary Committee, the committee's bill files are arranged in three categories to facilitate access by the subcommittees charged with the three major types of bills handled by the committee: public bills, immigration bills, and claims bills. This separation into categories facilitates research in these massive bill collections. There were, for example, 228 feet of bill files in the 84th Congress (1955- 56) covering 1,214 public bills, 2,847 immigration and naturalization bills, and 966 claims bills.

6.108 After 1947 the claims bill files of the Judiciary Committee are arranged separately from the public bill files and the immigration and naturalization bill files. The claims bill files are arranged alphabetically by name of claimant. There are 242 feet of claims bill files for the 80th through 90th Congresses (1947-68). An aid to research in these records is the Judiciary Committee calendars which list the private claims bills separately from the immigration and naturalization bills, and the public bills.

6.109 The table below shows the Judiciary Committee record series in which claims records will most likely be found during each period of the committee's existence.

Where to look for claims petitions that were referred to the Judiciary Committee:

Congresses (dates)Primary Location of Claims Records
13th-38th (1813-65)Petitions and Memorials
39th-58th (1865-1903)Accompanying Papers
59th-79th (1903-46)Bill Files, general
80th-90th (1947-68)Bill Files, Claims Subcommittee

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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.