Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 10

Chapter 10. Records of the Foreign Affairs Committee

Table of Contents

Records of the House Foreign Affairs Committee 1822-1968 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committees discussed in this chapter:

Records of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, 55th-79th Congresses (1897-1946)

Record TypeVolumeDates (Congresses)
Minute Books20 volumes1897-1901 (55th-56th), 1905-41 (59th-76th)
Docket Books20 volumes1897-1925 (55th-68th), 1927-29 (70th), 1931-33 (72d), 1937-44 (75th-78th)
Petitions and Memorials22 feet1897-1909 (55th-60th), 1911-17 (62d-64th), 1919-25 (66th-68th), 1929-1933 (71st), 1933-38 (73d-75th), 1941-46 (77th-79th)
Committee Papers22 feet1897-1917 (55th-64th), 1919-27 (66th-69th), 1929-46 (71st-79th)
Bill Files37 feet1903-07 (58th-59th), 1911-17 (62nd-64th), 1925-46 (69th-79th)
TOTAL81 feet and 40 vol. (3 ft. 10 in.) 
Records Summary Table

See tables for 11th-54th Congresses after para. 10.7 and for the 80th-90th Congresses after para. 10.57. For description of committee records for the period 1822-97.

10.42 The minute books are for full committee deliberations, but they do contain minutes for a few subcommittee meetings. Unlike the earlier minute books in which the clerk wrote longhand entries directly onto the pages of blank bound volumes, the entries in these books are typewritten on sheets that have been pasted into the volumes.

10.43 Unlike transcripts of committee deliberations, the minutes provide only summary discussion of happenings. A typical example, one dated December 9, 1897 (55th Congress), reads: "Mr. Hitt, from the sub-committee on the Diplomatic and Consular Appropriation Bill, reported the bill back to the full committee, and after discussion he was directed to report it favorably to the House." For some meetings, the account is more detailed. On July 29, 1919, for example, the committee discussed the possibility of returning to the United States the remains of dead soldiers. The minutes record who was present at meetings and sometimes note how the committee members split in committee votes. Since transcripts do not exist for all committee meetings, the minutes may be the only clue as to what transpired at a given meeting.

10.44 Docket books for the earlier Congresses usually include an alphabetical index by subject; for the later Congresses the index is by name of the Representative introducing a bill or resolution. For the earlier Congresses the docket entries appear in a single chronological listing and provide information on the date of introduction , the name of the Representative who presented the measure, the subject matter, and chairman's remarks. The most frequent type of "remarks"' is a listing of the committee members who were assigned to consider the bill or resolution.

10.45 By the early 20th century the format of docket books was changed from strict chronological listings to separate sections for different types of measures (i.e., House bills, House joint resolutions, House concurrent resolutions, House resolutions, Senate bills, Senate resolutions, and Senate joint resolutions) with chronological listings thereunder. These later entries consist of the printed endorsements from the back of bills or resolutions pasted into the volume. Occasionally the entries have been annotated to show what happened to the bill or resolution.

10.46 The quantity of petitions and memorials varies greatly from Congress to Congress, ranging from negligible to more than two feet. Claims petitions are not a significant category.

10.47 The petitions relate to contemporary issues, including recognition of Cuban rights of belligerency prior to the Spanish-American War (55A-H6.3), an embargo on the exportation of war materials in the early days of World War I (63A-H7.4, 64A-H7.6), United States neutrality in the European conflict (63A-H7.7, 64A-H7.16), and related World War I matters (64A-H7.4, 64A-H7.8, 64A-H7.18, 64A-H7.19, 64A-H7.20). Later petitions involving World War II address issues of neutrality and the lend-lease policy (75A-H5.2, 77A-H22.1). During the early years of the 20th century, Americans on the Pacific coast expressed an interest in the exclusion of Chinese--and later of Japanese and Koreans as well--from entry into the United States (56A-H7.7, 57A-H7.3, 59A-H7.4, 60A-H11.3).

10.48 Ethnic interests, especially those of German-Americans and Irish-Americans, were expressed in petitions received by the committee on such issues as the entry of the United States into World War I and support for the Boers in the war with Great Britain (56A-H7.3, 57A-H7.1). German-Americans alone voiced opposition to the use of black French-African troops in the post-World War I occupation of Germany (66A-H6.20). Irish-Americans, on the other hand, led in the opposition both to the Anglo-American arbitration treaty (60A-H11.1, 612A-H11.8) and to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Ghent (63A-H7.3). Also, they were in the forefront of those calling for American recognition of the republic of Ireland (66A-H6.16).

10.49 Jewish-Americans comprised another group of avid petitioners. Their protests about discrimination by the Russian government against Jewish-American travelers contributed to the decision to abrogate the 1832 treaty with Russia (60A-H11.10, 62A-H9.9). They voiced concern over pre-World War I discrimination against Jews in Russia and Roumania (57A-H7.5, 58A-H6.3, 59A-H7.8, 60A-H11.9), and World War I and post-war persecutions against their brethren in Eastern and Central Europe (64A-H7.1, 66A-H6.13), in Nazi Germany (73A-H5.4, 74A-H3.1), and in Poland (75A-H5.1). After World War II they called for the establishment of a Jewish nation in Palestine (78A-H5.1) and various State legislatures supported the proposal (79A-H5.3).

10.50 Other ethnic and religious groups represented in the petitions include Polish-Americans' disapproval of anti-Polish actions by Prussia (60A-H11.8), Lithuanian-Americans' support for American recognition of the republic of Lithuania (66A-H6.16) and the Armenian-Americans' concern over the persecutions against the Christian population of Armenia (64A-H7.2, 67A-H4.5). Catholic groups in the United States objected to religious persecution in Mexico (74A-H3.1).

10.51 Other petitions of note include those from chambers of commerce and other business-oriented groups calling for changes in the consular service (55A-H6.6, 56A-H7.4, 57A-H7.4, 58A-H6.4, 59A-H7.7, 62A-H9.2). Scientists and educators wrote support letters in favor of protection of migratory birds (64A-H7.3). Other petitioners expressed opinions on various aspects of relations with Canada (55A-H6.2, 57A-H7.2, 59A-H7.6, 62A-H9.5, 73A-H5.2, 77A-H22.2) and with Mexico (62A-H9.10, 63A-H7.6, 79A-H5.3). Petitions favoring arbitration of international disputes were submitted to successive Congresses (56A-H7.1, 58A-H6.5, 59A-H7.1, 63A-H7.1). So, too, were those supporting the World Court and/or the League of Nations (60A-H11.2, 64A.H7.10, 73A-H5.5). Radiograms from governments around the world expressing their condolences on the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (79A-H5.3) are also in the petitions file.

10.52 Committee papers for the 55th through the 79th Congresses include the same kind of documents found in committee files for earlier Congresses: bills, resolutions, reports, correspondence, transmittal letters from the President and the Secretary of State, and supporting documents. One difference is the inclusion in both manuscript and printed format of transcripts of committee hearings. While differences between the manuscript and printed committee reports and hearings are usually minimal, they can be noteworthy. For instance, Senate Document No. 51, 58th Congress, 2d session is a message from the President transmitting a report from the Secretary of State, with accompanying papers concerning the convention between the United States and Colombia for the construction of an interoceanic canal across the Isthmus of Panama. The printed version of an April 15, 1903, communication from A. M. Beaupre in Bogota to Secretary of State John Hay omits a sentence whereby Beaupre voices his suspicion that the Colombian government itself may have fostered opposition to the Panama Canal convention (58A-F12.1).

10.53 Although the table for this section of the chapter shows that no committee papers exist for the 65th and 70th Congresses, it does not indicate the great variation in quantity and composition of the committee papers from one Congress to another. The arrangement and types of documents comprising the committee papers varies from Congress to Congress. For the 57th Congress (1901-1903) the papers are arranged by docket number. Under each docket there are the usual assortment of bills, reports and background documents. For other Congresses they are arranged according to subject.

10.54 Several of those Congresses for which there is a considerable amount of committee papers include correspondence files. These are files of the committee chairman arranged either by subject, 1919-21 (66A-F17.2); by correspondent, 1923-25 and 1939-44 (68A-F17.1, 76A-F17.1, 77A-F14.1, 78A-F15.2); or by chronological grouping, 1937-38 (75A-F16.1). The latter file includes a March 8, 1938, letter from Ambassador to Britain, Joseph P. Kennedy to Chairman Sam D. McReynolds on the situation in Europe. For the most part the files arranged by correspondent cover relatively mundane topics, such as requests for hearings and postal instructions. More than half of the committee papers from the 64th Congress consist of telegrams to committee Chairman Henry D. Flood opposing America's entry into World War I (64A.F13.2) An overwhelming proportion of committee papers for the 74th Congress (1935-1936) concern an investigation into the dependence of the United States on foreign tin supplies (74A-F15.4).

10.55 From 1911 to 1946 bill files form the essence of the papers of the committee. Only a few bill files exist for the 58th and 59th Congresses (1903-1907), but beginning with the 62nd Congress (1911-1913) the bill files become the most significant series of records for the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Bill files are arranged by types of legislation-- House bills, House joint resolutions, House concurrent resolutions, House resolutions, Senate bills and Senate joint resolutions--and thereunder in numerical order. The basic file for a particular measure consists of the bill as introduced and ordered printed. The files may contain reports, hearings (in manuscript and sometimes in printed format) correspondence, and accompanying papers.

10.56 From the Spanish-American War to World War I the committee's interest in regulating affairs along the Canadian-American border came to the fore with hearings during the 62d Congress (1911-1913) on H.R. 28674, a bill relating to the Niagara River (62A-D5). In the period immediately prior to American entry into World War I the committee held hearings on H.J.Res. 38, which called upon the President to convene a congress of neutral nations to offer mediation to the belligerents (64A-D6). The bulkiest bill files for the 66th Congress (1919-1921) are for H.R. 3404, salaries for a minister and consuls to Ireland; H.R. 9927 and H.J. Res. 91, the disposition of the remains of servicemen who had died in France; H.R. 11960, the International Boundary Commission; and H.Res. 635, 1920 hearings on the Russian revolution--all filed as 66A-D9. The largest bill file for the 67th Congress (1921-1923) concerns H.Res. 299, on the occupation of the Ukraine and East Galicia by troops of Poland (67A-D10).

10.57 The largest bill file is for H.J. Res. 422, 74th Congress (1935-1936) which was to provide for the neutrality of the United States in the event of war (74A-D13). Another significant measure for the immediate pre-World War II years, although one for which the file is much thinner, is H.R. 1776 which became the 1941 Lend-Lease Act (77A-D13). For the 78th Congress the records for H.Res. 352 and H.Res. 418 contain correspondence from leaders of the Jewish-American community. H.Res. 352, introduced on November 9, 1943, referred to Nazi Germany's extermination of close to two million Jews and urged the creation by the President of a commission to formulate and effectuate a plan to save from extinction the surviving Jews in Europe; H.Res. 418 resolved that the United States use its influence to open Palestine to Jewish immigration in order to "reconstitute Palestine as a free and democratic Jewish commonwealth"' (78A-D11).

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

Record TypeVolumeDates (Congresses)
Petitions and Memorials27 feet1947-68 (80th-90th)
Committee Papers212 feet and 21 volumes1947-68 (80th-90th)
Bill Files36 feet1947-68 (80th-90th)
TOTAL275 feet and 21 vol. (6 ft.) 
Records Summary Table

For records from the 11th-54th Congresses see paragraph 10.7 above, and for records from the 55th-79th Congresses see paragraph 10.42.

10.58 At the present time holdings of the National Archives do not include minute books or docket books for the committee for the above Congresses. Some minute books, however, do exist since a committee print, Index of Minutes (82 Cong., 2d sess., 1952), covers the 64th-82d Congresses (1916-1952). The function of docket books has been supplanted by published calendars, issued during a session (80A-F7.9, 82A-F7.8).

10.59 While the National Archives holds petitions and memorials for all of the 1947-68 period, the footage for each Congress varies from 3 inches for some to 16 feet for the 90th Congress, more than half of the total volume for the entire period. The petitions category is reserved for communications which were sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and referred to the committee; similar items of correspondence addressed to the committee chair are among committee papers, rather than petitions. For the period under consideration petitions played an insignificant role in shaping the committee's agenda for action. Major letter-writing campaigns account for most of the petitions. Half of the 5 feet of petitions for the 80th Congress are from Irish-Americans calling upon the President and Congress to help bring about the end of the partition of Ireland (80A-H5.8). The bulk of the petitions for the 90th Congress were initiated by the John Birch Society and called for a halt to aid in any form, directly or indirectly, to Communist nations (90 FA.7, also 88 FA.14).

10.60 Files consisting of at least 2 inches of petitions concern support for Israel (80A-H5.9), strengthening the United Nations (80A-H5.12), freedom for Josef Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary (81A-H5.2), American withdrawal from the United Nations (87A-H4.1), investigating the State Department (88 FA.14), and the results of a letter-writing campaign from Japan on behalf of imprisoned Japanese war criminals (83A-H4.7). Another group of foreigners who sent petitions to the committee consists of claimants from the Philippine Islands who sought compensation for military services rendered during World War II (86A-H5.1).

10.61 During this period, 1947-68, the committee papers are the key resource for an understanding of the committee's activities. Quantity, however, is often not a real indication of importance for research. For example, of the committee papers for the 80th Congress (1947-48), more than 14 feet consists of letters to the committee opposing H.R. 1345, a bill which sought to reform the calendar by dividing the year into four equal quarters and fixing the dates of holidays such as Easter (80A-F7.5).

10.62 For the 80th through the 87th Congresses (1947-1962) committee papers are a mixture of published sources, transmittals from the executive branch with accompanying documents, substantive files on select topics (e.g., mutual security program, Status of Forces Agreement), files for committee members, staff members and subcommittees, transcripts of committee meetings held in executive session, and such things as vouchers and requests for publications.

10.63 Among the committee papers are 29 feet of security-classified records covering the 76th-90th Congresses (1939-69). Of this amount, 19 feet consists of transcripts of executive session hearings on foreign policy and mutual security, and include amendments offered in committee, executive agency comments, staff memoranda, and background data. Other records include General Accounting Office reports, foreign aid amendment books, background briefing books primarily on mutual security matters, and documents of the Subcommittee on Review of Foreign Aid Programs.

10.64 Unclassified committee papers include files on significant areas of committee interest involving aid to China (80A-F7.2, 81A-F7.1), Greece and Turkey (80A-F7.3), Korea (81A-F7.1, 82A-F7.1, 87A-F5.11, 89 FA.5), Israel (82A-F7.1, 85A-F6.9, 88 FA.24), Vietnam (87A-F5.11, 89 FA.5), and Taiwan (89 FA.5); European postwar economic recovery (80A-F7.6, 81A-F7.5); mutual security concerns (82A-F7.9, 82A-F7.14, 83A-F6.3, 84A-F6.5, 85A-F6.1, 85A-F6.7, 86A-F6.15, 87A-F5.9, 87A-F5.11); and foreign assistance (88 FA.7, 88 FA.8, 89 FA.8). The committee's postwar study trips to foreign nations are documented in various files (81A-F7.2, 83A-F6.7, 84A-F6.12, 84A-F6.13, 84A-F6.19, 85A-F6.1, 85A-F6.13, 86A-F6.6, 86A-F6.10, 89 FA.5).

10.65 An understanding of the workings of the committee can be gained by examining files of committee members (80A-F7.1, 82A-F7.12, 84A-F6.18, 85A-F6.10, 86A-F6.3, 86A-F6.4, 88 FA.12, 88 FA.13, 89 FA.9, 89 FA.15, 90 FA.2, 90 FA.3) and committee staff (80A-F7.1, 82A-F7.12, 84A-F6.18, 85A-F6.11, 85A-F6.23, 86A-F6.7, 86A-F6.8, 86A-F6.17, 87A-F5.5, 88 FA.11, 89 FA.5, 89 FA.6, 89 FA.14, 89 FA.25, 90 FA.4). Of particular value are those of committee chairs Thomas S. Gordon (85A-F6.10) and Thomas E. Morgan (86A-F6.3, 88 FA.13, 89 FA.9, 90 FA.2). Among the records of staff members those for Staff Administrator Boyd Crawford (including 86A-F6.7) and Senior Staff Consultant Roy J. Bullock (including 85A-F6.23, 86A-F6.8, 86A-F6.17) are especially noteworthy.

10.66 Additional sources of information are committee reading files, included in both the regular committee papers (84A-F6.20, 85A-F6.19, 86A-F6.14, 87A-F5.8) and in bound volumes for the 88th-90th Congresses (1963-1968). Bound "Chairman's Reference Copies" for the 88th-90th Congresses in large measure duplicate the bound reading files. The reading files consist of copies of committee-generated documents, primarily correspondence. Some general correspondence files, however, also exist, and they include both incoming letters and copies of responses (83A-F6.2, 85A-F6.17, 86A-F6.9, 87A-F5.7).

10.67 Bill files for this period vary in content from Congress to Congress. At a minimum each file contains one or more copies of the particular bill or resolution. Related documents may include some or all of the following: background correspondence, committee prints (including hearings), and printed reports. For a number of Congresses it is the exception, rather than the rule, to find anything in the folder other than a printed copy of the bill or resolution. Bill files for the 83rd Congress (1953-54), however, consist solely of printed hearings on H.R. 5710, the Mutual Security Act Extension.

10.68 Bill files with contents out of the ordinary include those for the following: H.R. 2616 (80A-D5), assistance to Greece and Turkey; H.R. 5748 (81A-D7), the Foreign Military Assistance Act of 1949; H.R. 5895 (81A-D7), the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949; H.R. 6382 (84A-D9), relating to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission; H.R. 12181 (85A-D6), the Mutual Security Act of 1957; H.R. 11510 (86A-D4), the Mutual Security Act of 1960; H. Con. Res. 83 (86A-D4), concerning U.S. diplomatic representation in the Vatican City; S. 1983 (87A-D5), the Act for International Development of 1961; S. 2394 (87A-D5), an act concerning a land transfer with Mexico; S. 2768 (87A-D5), relating to an United Nations bond issue; S. 777 (88 FA.1), relating to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; H.R. 7550 (89 FA.1), the Foreign Assistance Act of 1965; H.R. 12048 (90 FA.1), the Foreign Assistance Act of 1967; and H.R. 15263 (90 FA.1), the Foreign Assistance Act of 1968.

10.69 After World War II standing subcommittees began to play a substantive role in committee affairs, in particular for minor legislation and oversight. The listing given below shows the extent of the standing subcommittee records for the 80th through 90th Congresses. Subcommittee titles have changed over the years; the titles shown are for the 90th Congress.

  • Asian and Pacific Affairs: 80th-90th Congresses, 1947-68 (1 ft.)
  • National Security and Scientific Developments Affecting Foreign Policy: 80th-89th Congresses, 1947-66 (1 in.)
  • Europe: 80th-90th Congresses, 1947-68 (1 ft. 3 in.)
  • State Department Organization and Foreign Operations: 80th-90th Congresses, 1951-68 (5 in.)
  • Inter-American Affairs: 80th-90th Congresses, 1947-68 (5 in.)
  • Africa-Near East: 80th-90th Congresses, 1947-68 (7 in.)
  • International Organizations and Movements: 80th-90th Congresses, 1947-68 (1 ft. 8 in.)
  • Foreign Economic Policy: 80th-90th Congresses, 1953-68 (8 in.)

10.70 Records for ad hoc and special subcommittees are as follows:

  • Ad Hoc Subcommittee on the Passamaquoddy Project: 83d Congress, 1953-54 (1 in.)
  • Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Chinese Communist Atrocities on U.S. Prisoners: 84th Congress, 1955-56 (1 in.)
  • Review of the Mutual Security Programs: 86th-87th Congresses, 1961-62 (8 ft.)
  • Review of Foreign Aid Programs: 88th-89th Congresses, 1963-66 (9 ft.)
Related Records

10.71 Among the committee's records is a separate collection of approximately 60 feet of multiple copies of printed items for the 62d through 89th Congresses. This collection consists of bills, resolutions, public laws, various committee prints, reports, and the like.

10.72 In addition to records of the committee those of the Select Committee on Foreign Aid, 1947-48 (25 feet), are of particular note. A more detailed description of these records can be found in Chapter 22.

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.