Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 14: Freedmen's Affairs

Chapter 14. Records of the Judiciary Committee and Related Committees

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Records of the Judiciary Committee and Related Committees from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committee Records discussed in this chapter:
Committee on Freedmen's Affairs (1866-75) Jurisdiction and History
Sen. Henry B. Anthony, RI
Hon. James G. Blaine, Maine (Mathew Brady Studio), Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (U.S. Army) from NARA's National Archives Catalog.  

14.41 The Select Committee on Freedmen's Affairs was established on December 6, 1865, with the mandate that "so much of the President's message as relates to freedmen shall be referred; and all reports and papers concerning freedmen shall be referred to them, with the liberty to report by bill or otherwise."1At the opening of the second session of the same Congress (39th), the committee was continued as a standing committee with the same jurisdiction. At the opening of the 44th Congress (1875), Representative J. G. Blaine observed that the recent amendments to the Constitution ensured "that there is no longer any distinction between American citizens; that we are all equal before the law; and that all legislation respecting the rights of any person should go through the regular standing committees."2The committee was therefore omitted from the committee roster, and its jurisdiction was returned to other committees, in large part to the Judiciary Committee.

Records of the Committee on Freedmen's Affairs, 39th-43d Congresses (1866-75)

Record TypeVolumeCongresses (Dates)
Minute Books1 vol.40th (1867-69), 42d (1871-73)
Docket Books1 vol.42d (1871-73)
Petitions and Memorials2 in.39th-40th (1865-69)
Committee Papers2 in.39th-40th (1865-69)
TOTAL:4 in. and 2 vols. (2 in.) 

14.42 The minute and docket books for this committee contain little documentation. The minutes from December 1867 to December 1868 were kept on loose paper and are filed with the committee papers (40A-G10). The petitions and memorials deal with subjects such as the African Colonization Society, relief for the ravaged Southern States, and continuation of the Freedmen's Bureau.

14.43 The committee papers consist of bills, resolutions, and communications referred to the committee, and a small amount of correspondence. The 39th Congress records contain a copy of correspondence between the Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau and the Governor of South Carolina concerning suffering in that State because of food shortages and the need for relief (39A-F10). The 40th Congress file contains letters and other documents relating to the conditions of freedmen in the States of Texas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, and North Carolina (40A-F10).

14.44 Records relating to certain affairs of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company are filed with those of the Committee on Banking and Currency, and records relating to certain affairs of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands are filed with those of the Committee on Education and Labor. There is a minute book of the Committee on Education and Labor (41A-F8.3, 90 pages) that documents an 1870 congressional investigation of charges against Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard, Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.

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1 Congressional Globe, 39th Cong., 1st sess., Dec. 6, 1865, p. 14.

2 Congressional Globe, 44th Cong., 1st sess., Dec. 15, 1865, p. 229.

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.