Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 6: Revolutionary Pensions 1831-1880

Chapter 6. Records of the Claims Committees

Table of Contents

Committees discussed in this chapter:
Committee on Revolutionary Pensions (1831-1880)

History and Jurisdiction

6.59 This committee was created on January 10, 1831 to administer that part of the jurisdiction of the defunct Committee on Military Pensions (1825-1831) that included all "matters respecting pensions for services in the Revolutionary War, other than invalid pensions." 14 In 1867, in order to reduce the workload of the Invalid Pensions Committee, the committee's jurisdiction was expanded to include the pension matters of soldiers who fought in the War of 1812.

6.60 The committee was abolished in 1880 and the subjects in its jurisdiction referred to the Committee on Pensions that was created in that year.

Records of the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions, 21st-46th Congresses (1831-80)

Record TypeVolumeCongress (dates)
Minute Books2 vols.43rd-46th (1873-81)
Docket Books14 vols.22nd-29th (1831-47), 31st-32nd (1849-53), 34th-36th (1855-61), 39th-46th (1865-81)
Bound Reports1 vol.21st-25th (1831-39)
Petitions & Memorials19 ft.22nd-45th (1831-79)
Committee Papers3 ft.22nd-37th (1831-63), 42nd-43rd (1871-75), 45th (1877-79)
TOTAL:22 ft. and 16 vols. (2 ft.) 
Committee Records Summary Table


6.61 Docket books record the petitions, memorials, legislation, and other records referred to the committee during most of its history, while minute books document only the last years of its existence. The last minute book contains the minutes of the Committee on Pensions for the 47th and 48th Congress (1881-85) as well as those of the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions for the 45th and 46th Congresses (1877-81). The last docket book contains the docket of the Pensions Committee for the 47th Congress. The early transcribed reports from this committee, 1831-39, are bound together with those of its predecessor, the Military Pensions Committee (see para. 6.45) in a volume titled "Reports: Committees on Military Pensions, Revolutionary Pensions, 19th Congress, 1st session to 25th Congress, 3d session".

6.62 Like the mid-19th century records of the other claims committees, the petition and memorial files contain the original petitions of the claimants, and the committee papers files consist primarily of original committee reports on individual private claims. In many cases the petition and memorial files contain additional documentation submitted along with the petition or memorial as proof of the claim. When conducting a search for records relating to the claim of a specific individual both series should be searched because in some cases the original petition, memorial, or associated documentation is filed along with the committee report. Both the committee papers and the petitions and memorials are arranged in alphabetical order by name of the claimant.

6.63 The records from the period after the Civil War contain petitions and memorials favoring the passage of public legislation to provide for better benefits for special classes of pensioners. By 1870 many of the veterans of the War of 1812 were dead and those who were alive averaged 70 years of age. Increased benefits and more liberal qualifications for the veterans of that war, as well s for their widows, was the subject of many petitions (39A-H22.1, 40A-HK16.1, 41A-H13.1, 42A-H14.1, 45A-H22.1). A letter from H. H. Horner found in the committee papers (42A-F27.1) clearly identifies one of the problems arising from the narrowly defined qualifications of the existing legislation:

    Lebanon, Ill. Jan. 30, 1872
    Dear Sir, In the western state in the war of 1812 a great many of our Soldiers were under twenty years of age, and in fact every boy old enough to carry a musket was in the service. The great majority of the western soldiers were unmarried when the treaty of peace was made in 1814. A great many widows survive these soldiers and quite a number reside in our state, but under the pension law approved by Congress March 14, 1871, these widows can not avail themselves of the benefit of this law because their marriages do not date quite soon enough. At the request of the widows residing in this vicinity I write to you to get you to use your influence to have the above named pension law so amended that the soldiers widow can avail herself of this law regardless of the time of her marriage.


14 U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Pensions, Committee Print, "History of the House Committee on Pensions," available in the CIS Committee Prints Microfiche Collection, Microfiche #10969, p. 2.

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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.