Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 9

Chapter 9. Records of the Committees on Education and Labor

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Records of the Committees on Education and Labor 1867-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committees discussed in this chapter:

9.1. The powers granted to Congress under the Constitution did not include the regulation of either education or labor, and during its first hundred years Congress passed little legislation in these areas. Since then legislation affecting these areas has generally been based on the common defense, general welfare, or commerce clauses of Article I.

9.2. The first standing Committee on Education and Labor was established just after the Civil War. In 1867 Representative Jehu Baker of Illinois submitted a resolution instructing the Select Committee on Rules to inquire into the expediency of establishing a committee on labor, because, he said, ". . . in view of the greater liberty and larger recognition of manhood which have followed the suppression of the rebellion, it is eminently fitting that the Government should be placed, if possible, in a better relation to the working people of the country."1   The Select Committee on Rules considered the resolution and submitted a rule establishing a committee on education and labor, citing the recent establishment of a federal office of education as justification for adding the educational jurisdiction to that originally proposed. The following rule was adopted, thereby creating the Committee on Education and Labor:

    Rule--There shall be appointed at each Congress a Committee on Education and Labor, to consist of nine members, to whom shall be referred all petitions, bills, reports, and resolutions on those subjects, and who shall from time to time report thereon.2

9.3. At the opening of the 48th Congress in 1883, the Rules Committee proposed to amend the House rules by dropping "and Labor" from the name of the Committee on Education and Labor (thereby leaving a committee on education), and creating a new committee on labor. During the floor debate over the proposal, Representative Albert Willis, a member of the Education and Labor Committee, argued that labor and education were closely related, education being the primary source of improvement for the industrial classes, so the committee should be left intact.3   Representative John O'Neill of Missouri argued for splitting the committee so as to create a separate committee to consider matters affecting the working classes, "a committee in this House to which the representatives of the laboring element can submit their claims." He said, "There must be a vent through which the feelings of that element can reach the law-making power. You do not want this terrible rumbling and uneasiness to culminate as it did formerly in the celebrated railroad strike. . . . Give them then the right to be heard."4   The rules were subsequently changed to provide for the Committee on Education and the Committee on Labor, both of which functioned from 1883 until 1946.

9.4. By the end of World War II there were 48 standing committees in the House; in order to reduce the number of committees and increase the efficiency of operation, the jurisdictions of many of the committees were consolidated under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. Under that act, which reduced the total number of standing committees to 18, the Committees on Education and on Labor were combined to form the Committee on Education and Labor. Although the combination of jurisdictions in this committee has persisted through the 100th Congress, the debate over the combination has not ended. Testimony before the 93d Congress Select Committee on Committees (1973-74) suggested that recent increases in education-oriented legislation had again raised the question of whether the committee should be split into an education committee and a labor committee.

This chapter provides description of the records of House committees from 1789 through 1968.

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1. Congressional Globe, 40th Cong., 1st sess., Mar. 20, 1867, p. 225. [Back to text]

2. Congressional Globe, 40th Cong., 1st sess., Mar. 21, 1867, p. 264. [Back to text]

3. Congressional Record, 48th Cong., 1st sess., p. 194, Dec. 19, 1883. [Back to text]

4. Congressional Record, 48th Cong., 1st sess., p. 195, Dec. 19, 1883. [Back to text]

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.