Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 14

Records of the Judiciary Committee and Related Committees

Committee records discussed in this chapter:

History and Jurisdiction

14.1 The Judiciary Committee was created in 1813. During its early years a wide range of subjects was referred to it, thus defining a very broad jurisdiction. Each of the other committees described in this chapter was created to administer part of the Judiciary Committee's early jurisdiction, functioned for a period of time, and was eventually reabsorbed into Judiciary.

14.2 Three of the committees—Freedmen's Affairs, Woman Suffrage, and Alcoholic Liquor Traffic—were established to deal with very specific problems, and, in each case, the problem was resolved by the passage of an amendment to the Constitution. Each of the committees was disbanded shortly after the passage of the amendment and its jurisdiction was returned to the Judiciary Committee.

14.3 Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 the jurisdictions of the Committees on Patents, on Immigration and Naturalization, and on Revision of Laws were combined with that of the old Judiciary Committee to form the modern Judiciary Committee. The Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business is described here because some of its duties were similar to those of the Committee on Revision of Laws. The jurisdictions of the Committees on Claims and on War Claims were also transferred to the Judiciary Committee under the 1946 act.

14.4 The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC, 1942-75) was created during a crisis. After the dissolution of HUAC, its jurisdiction and records were returned to the Judiciary Committee, which had traditionally dealt with subversive activities.

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Records of the Committee on Patents, 25th-79th Congresses (1837-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

14.5 Congress is granted the power, under the Constitution: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"; that is, to issue patents and copyrights. In 1790, Congress passed the first patent legislation, which guaranteed certain rights to inventors and granted the authority to issue patents to the executive branch.

14.6 In 1837, the standing Committee on Patents was established in the House, and, under a revision of House rules in 1880, its jurisdiction was expanded to include "patents, copyrights, and trademarks." Before the establishment of the standing committee, most petitions, memorials, executive messages, and legislation relating to patents had been referred to the Judiciary Committee or to select committees on patents.

14.7 The Patent Committee reported legislation concerning patent, copyright, and trademark laws and revision of such laws; the jurisdiction of courts in patent cases; the counterfeiting of trademarks; and the Patent Office and its affairs. Private legislation, usually initiated in response to petition, was an important part of the work of the committee, especially between 1840 and 1890. Private legislative relief was sought by inventors for whom protection was not provided in the existing patent law (such as aliens and government employees) and by patentees who requested extensions on patents because they had not profited sufficiently during the period provided by the original patent.

Records of the Committee on Patents, 25th-79th Congresses (1837-1946)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 16 vols. 41st-47th (1869-82), 50th-56th (1887-1900), 61st (1909-10), 66th-79th (1919-46)
Docket Books 22 vols. 28th-29th (1843-47), 33d (1853-55), 35th-41st (1857-71), 44th-56th (1875-1901), 61st (1909-11), 66th-79th (1919-46)
Petitions and Memorials    10 ft. 25th-61st (1837-1911)
Committee Papers 19 ft. 25th-26th (1837-41), 28th-38th (1843-65), 42d-56th (1871-1901), 58th (1903-05), 60th-61st (1907-11), 66th-79th (1919-46)
Bill Files 13 ft. 57th-60th (1901-08), 66th-79th (1919-46)
TOTAL: 42 ft. and 38 vols.   (3 ft., 2 in.)    

14.8 The minute books and docket books contain information that is especially useful because the records do not contain committee calendars before 1940. The minute books document attendance at meetings, appointment of subcommittees, referral of legislation to subcommittees, markup sessions, and other committee discussions and activities. The docket books generally contain an entry for each bill and resolution referred to the committee, along with a record of activities related to it. During the early years there was usually a minute book and a docket book for each Congress, but after World War I both the minute books and docket books may contain the records for multiple Congresses.

14.9 There are petition and memorial files for every Congress from the creation of the committee until the 61st Congress. After 1911, the petitions and memorials that have been preserved are no longer filed as a separate series, but are usually in the bill file for the bill or resolution to which they relate.

14.10 The petitions and memorials include requests for revision or amendment of various sections of patent laws (28A-G15, 30A-G14, 31A-G13, 33A-G15, 45A-H17, 46A- H18, 48A-H21, 49A-H17, 50A-H21), copyright or trademark legislation (48A-H21, 49A-H17, 50A-H21, 51A-H16, 52A-H17, 54A-H25, 55A-H20, 59A-H19), investigation or reorganization of the Patent Office (30A-G14, 48A-H21), increases in pay for Patent Office employees (25A- G14, 37A-G10), and various other subjects.

14.11 Many of the petitions request extensions of patents and sometimes contain extensive documentation supporting the claims on which the requests were based. Examples of claims petitions include renewal appeals for Jethro Wood's cast-iron plow (30A- G14.2, 7 in.), Woodworth's planing machine (31A-G13.4, 32A-G14.4, 8 in.), McCormick's reaper (32A-G14.2, 33A-G15.3, 34A-G13.3, 36A-D16.1), Goodyear's patent on the vulcanization process for rubber (38A-G14.1), Page's patent on a portable sawmill (38A-G14.2), and Sherwood's patent on door locks (38A-G14.3). Other examples include provisions for the payment of royalties to inventors by other manufacturers (43A-H12.2, 20 in.), the extension of the patent on a steam-driven grain shovel (47A-H16.1, 2 in.), and extension of a patent on a method of forming hat bodies (43A-H12.1, 5 in.).

14.12 The petition files also document opposition to the renewal of certain patents. The records from the 31st Congress (1849-51), for instance, contain petitions against renewal of the patents on McCormick's reaping machine, Parker's improvements on the waterwheel, Jethro Wood's cast-iron plow, Woodworth's planing machine, Blanchard's self- directing machine, and Goodyear's process for manufacturing India Rubber, as well as Goodyear's protest against Horace Day's claims to the patent for the manufacture of India Rubber, and Elizabeth Wells' claim for remuneration for her late husband`s invention of "exhilarating gases" (ether) for use in surgical operations (31A-G13).

14.13 Committee papers are sparse for the years before 1932 and consist largely of manuscript copies of reports that were later printed and collections of printed bills referred to the committee. There are, however, sizable files containing documentation on certain patent cases, such as documents supporting petitions for extensions of patents on Torrey and Tilton's door spring (43A-F20.1, 6 in.), Eliza Well's improvement in machinery for forming hat bodies (43A-F20.2, 6 in.), Wickersham's improvement in sewing machines (43A-F20.3, 3 in.), Cook's sugar evaporator (46A-F25.1, 3 in.), and Twinning's method for the manufacture of ice (47A-F19.1, 2 in.). Other records include hearings on the Hyatt filter (56A-F28) and a privately printed hearing on a copyright bill (54A-F31).

14.14 The committee papers after the 71st Congress (1929-31) consist primarily of correspondence files, usually arranged according to particular legislative subjects. The records from 1935-36 (74A-F28) contain correspondence on copyright legislation (18 in.), patent pooling (30 in.), copyright legislation hearings (12 in.), and the creation of a Federal department of science, art, and literature (6 in.). The 1931-33 files (72A-F23) contain correspondence on copyrights (6 in.) and patents (8 in.).

14.15 The bill files usually contain copies of the various forms of the printed bills, printed hearings, reports, and, when appropriate, the printed public laws. They may also contain correspondence with Government agencies and other interested parties, transcripts of unpublished testimony given at hearings, and other documents related to a bill. After about the 61st Congress (1909-11), petitions and memorials are sometimes filed in the bill files.

14.16 Bill files for the 57th through 70th Congresses (1901-29) are thin, but beginning with the 71st Congress (1929-30) they are more complete and contain files on most or all bills and resolutions referred to the committee. The bill files for the 77th, 78th, and 79th Congresses appear to contain folders on each piece of legislation referred to the committee during each Congress. The bill files for the 79th Congress (1945-46) were maintained so thoroughly that they contain a file on S. 1717, a bill to provide for the development and control of atomic energy, even though the bill was referred to the Committee on Military Affairs and not the Patents Committee. The file on S. 1717 contains letters mostly from patent lawyers who were concerned that sections 7 and 11 of the bill would have an effect on existing patent laws (79A-D27).

14.17 The bill files document the broad range of legislative subjects dealt with by the committee and changes in the emphasis of the legislative workload over time. The bill files indicate that during the 66th Congress (1919-21) various efforts were made to improve conditions in the Patent Office; the files contain correspondence (6 in.) relating to a number of bills proposing the establishment of an independent patent office and an independent court of patent appeals, and an increase in the workforce and salaries in the Patent Office (66A-D22). The records from 1929-31 contain files on H.R. 720, a bill to provide for the purchase by the United States of certain aeronautical and aviation designs and inventions from Edwin F. and Leslie F. Naulty of New York; H.R. 11372, a bill to provide for the patenting of agricultural plants; H.R. 2828, a bill to amend general trademark legislation; H.R. 6990, a bill to generally revise the copyright law; H.R. 2267, a bill to extend a patent to Thomas McKee for an improvement in the design of adjustable chairs; H.R. 13157, a bill relating to suits of infringement of patent where the patentee was in violation of the antitrust laws; and other bills (71A-D23).

14.18 The records of the late 1930's and early 1940's reflect a growing concern with protecting the national interest. The records of the 77th Congress contain bill files on H.R. 3359, a bill to prohibit, in the national interest, the publication of certain patents; H.R. 3360, a bill to prohibit the enforcement of injunctions on patents when necessary for the national defense; H.R. 7620, a bill to adjust royalties for the use of inventions for the benefit of the United States; and, H.J. Res. 32, a resolution defining a principle of international reciprocity involving patents, trademarks, secret formulas, and so forth. The files contain correspondence, hearing transcripts, copies of bills and resolutions, and reports and other documents related to the legislation. The file on H.J. Res. 32, for instance, contains correspondence and other related material, including a copy of a CLICK magazine article on the subject of Nazi patents and the royalties paid to Germans by Americans. The author of the CLICK article was called upon by the chairman of the Patents Committee to testify at a hearing on H.J. Res. 32.

14.19 Both before and after the creation of the standing Committee on Patents, certain petitions and memorials relating to patents were referred to select committees created to consider a particular document. There are, for example, records from the Select Committees on:

  • Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin Patent, 1811-13 (12A-F11.2)
  • Patents & Patent Laws, 1831-33 (22A-G25.5)
  • Petition on Patent Laws, 1833-35 (23A-G21.2)
  • Petition of Inventor of Steam Engine Device, 1833-35 (23A-G21.3)
  • Modification of Patent Laws, 1835-37 (24A-G22.3)
  • Claim of A.C. Goell for A Rocket Machine, 1845-47 (29A-G23.1)
  • Patenting Medicines, 1847-49 (30A-D26.4)
  • Colt's Patent and Other Bills, 1853-55 (33A-D21.4)

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Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, 53rd-79th Congresses (1893-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

14.20 Congress did little before 1860 to regulate immigration, which had traditionally been controlled by the colonies and then the states. After the Civil War, when the issues of States rights had been clarified and the need for a uniform immigration and naturalization system had become more apparent, the Federal Government began to build a system to regulate these areas. By 1893 the regulation and restriction of immigration and naturalization had become complex, and the standing Committee on Immigration and Naturalization was created in the House after having been a select committee for 4 years.

14.21 Its jurisdiction included a variety of subjects: general revision of immigration and naturalization laws; supervision of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization; sites and buildings of immigration stations at U.S. ports of entry; pay and provisions for immigration officers and personnel; and management of resident aliens, including residence, deportation, readmission, and ownership of property.

14.22 The jurisdiction included regulatory measures to restrict immigration, such as literacy tests, head taxes, racial and country-of-origin quotas, money-in-pocket tests, and professional and skills criteria. The committee reported legislation restricting immigration of certain classes of persons—such as Chinese, Japanese, contract laborers, anarchists, dependents, mental defectives, illiterates, paupers, and criminals—and naturalization legislation affecting classes of persons such as aliens who had served in the military during wartime, women married to U.S. citizens, and persons of particular nationalities. The complex regulatory system that was thus constructed was the source of a large number of requests for private legislation designed to provide relief for persons who begged personal exemption from the broad categories defined in the legislation.

Records of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, 53rd-79th Congresses (1893-1946)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 21 vols. 53d-57th (1893-1903), 60th-68th (1907-25), 74th-79th (1935-46)
Docket Books 11 vols. 53d-57th (1893-1903), 60th-66th (1907-21)
Petitions and Memorials    24 ft. 53d-79th (1893-1946)
Committee Papers 34 ft. 53d-58th (1893-1905), 60th-65th (1907-19), 67th-79th (1921-46)
Bill Files 28 ft. 58th-61st (1903-11), 63d (1913-15), 66th-79th (1919-46)
TOTAL: 86 ft. and 32 vols. (2 ft. 8 in.)    

14.23 There are usually minute books for committee meetings before 1920 and after that date the minutes are found loose in the committee papers. In either format, the minutes document the legislation and other topics discussed at committee meetings, attendance at meetings, appointments to subcommittees and subjects referred to subcommittees, markup sessions and proposed amendments to legislation, and yea and nay votes. Most of the minutes contain copies of the bills and resolutions discussed in the meetings and some documentation relating to the administration of the committee. The minute book for 1943-44, for example, contains detailed transcripts of the organizational meetings at the beginning of the session (78A-F16.3). The docket books contain an entry for each piece of legislation referred to the committee and notes on the action taken in committee and on the House floor regarding each bill and resolution.

14.24 More than half the petitions and memorials are from the earliest years of the committee, 1893-1907. Many petitions in the turn-of-the-century records favor restriction of immigration (53A-H12.1, 54A-H12.1, 55A-H7.2, 57A-H8.2, 59A-H8.2), the largest number being from the 55th Congress, 1897-99 (6 ft.). Organizations such as the Patriotic Order of Sons of America and the Junior Order of United American Mechanics urged the passage of tougher immigration restrictions, while the Union of the German Roman Catholic Societies of the State of New York, the North American Gymnastic Union, the Helvetia Society, the German Veteran's Club, and others protested the existing restrictions. The endorsement of a typical pro-restriction petition reads:

  • The undersigned residents of [-----] believing that a large majority of the American people demand a more rigid restriction of immigration to protect American Citizenship and the Working Men now in this country; and feeling that the present immigration laws are inadequate and largely responsible for the hard times frequently attributed to other causes, respectfully petition you to vote for, and use your influence and efforts to secure the passage... [of] a bill similar to that passed by the 54th Congress and vetoed by President Cleveland.
  • Your constituents, irrespective of birth, race or nationality, will heartily approve of your action in this direction. (55A-H7.2)

14.25 The more emphatic petitions state the same sentiments more curtly:

  • Resolutions of the State Council of Ohio, Junior Order of United American Mechanics urging passage of laws to prevent the landing on out shores of the vicious, lawless, pauperized, and anarchistic elements of foreign countries. (57A-H8.2)

14.26 Although the bulk of the petitions and memorials favor restrictions, the petition files also contain evidence of friendly attitudes toward the new immigrants. The records of the 53d Congress (1893-95) contain petitions for the repeal of the Chinese-exclusion, or "Greary," laws (53A-H12.3). In 1904 the United Chinese Society of Honolulu sent Congress a thoroughly reasoned document petitioning against the Chinese-exclusion laws, and the Delaware State Grange petitioned Congress asking for special consideration of the naturalization case of Yan Phou Lee, a "Chinaman" and a lecturer (58A-H7.2). During the same Congress, five circuit court judges from Chicago circulated a petition for the repeal of parts of the immigration law that permitted the abuse of certain immigrants (58A-H7.1).

refer to caption

H.R. 15442, A Bill to Establish a Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, and to Provide for the Naturalization of Aliens throughout the United States from the Committee Papers of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization from the 59th Congress. RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

14.27 The restriction sentiment remained strong through the early decades of the new century. Large numbers of petitions were received on the Burnett-Dillingham bill in 1911-13, which provided for immigration restrictions (62A-H10.2, 63A-H8.1, 2 ft.), and on the Johnson restriction bills, H.R. 101 and H.R. 6540, of 1923-25 (68A-H6.1, 3 ft.). Other subjects of petitions included quotas (69A-H3.1, 70A-H3.4, 71A-H5.1), deportation of aliens (66A-H7.3, 69A-H3.3, 70A-H3.2, 74A-H4.1), a proposed temporary suspension of immigration (66A-H7.6), and an investigation of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (66A-H7.5). Since about 1930, some of the petitions and memorials referred to the committee have been preserved in the committee papers or bill files.

14.28 The early committee papers (1893-1919) include correspondence on immigration restrictions to protect domestic labor (53A-F17.1), on ports of entry and restrictions on idiots and the insane (56A-F13.1), and on Chinese exclusion (57A- F13.2). The papers also include transcripts hearings on immigration (57A-F13.3), naturalization (60A-F13.3), and claims resulting from the Mexican Insurrection of 1911 (62A-F15.1), and copies of printed bills, hearings, reports, and documents.

14.29 After World War I, committee papers contain correspondence files and a large number of committee hearings and prints, some of which may be rare. The files of the 78th and 79th Congresses contain the Attorney General's suspension of deportation reports on persons specified under the Immigration Acts of 1917 and 1940 (78A-F16.1, 79A-F16.1, 13 ft.).

14.30 The bill files contain copies of bills and resolutions, committee reports, committee prints and printed hearings, correspondence, and transcripts of executive session hearings. In many cases they also contain petitions and memorials that refer specifically to legislation. The bill files are arranged numerically under each bill or resolution type: House bills, House resolutions, then Senate bills, and Senate resolutions. Private legislation and public legislation are filed together.

14.31 The earliest bill files are thin and incomplete, but after about 1920 they contain folders on most or all of the bills and resolutions referred to the committee. The records of the later Congresses—after about 1930—contain transcripts of hearings on a large percentage of the bills and resolutions. For example, the bill files of 1935-36 (74A-D15, 20 in.) contain transcripts of unpublished hearings on subjects such as the protection of American actors and artists by restricting admission of foreign competition and the exemption from an entry fee of Boy Scouts entering the country to attend an international jamboree, and a bill to alter the laws regarding alien registration, deportation, and national quotas. In all, 27 of the 38 hearings held during the 74th Congress were not printed, but they are preserved in the bill files. Bill files for later Congresses appear to be at least as complete as those of the 74th.

14.32 Before the establishment of the standing Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, petitions and memorials relating to these subjects were generally referred to the Judiciary Committee or to select committees. There are records from the Select Committees on:

  • Naturalization Laws, 1801-3 (7A-F4.1)
  • Naturalization Laws, 1803-5 (8A-F3)
  • Naturalization Laws, 1837-39 (25A-G24.2)
  • Immigration, 1863-65 (38A-G25.3)
  • Immigration of Contract Laborers, 1887-89 (50A-H33.1)
  • Immigration, 1889-91 (51A-H27, 51A-F46)
  • Immigration, 1891-93 (52A-H28, 52A-F50)

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Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business, 4th-40th Congresses (1795-1868)

History and Jurisdiction

14.33 The Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business monitored the business of Congress during its early years when unfinished business was terminated at the end of each session, and it recommended procedures to accomplish the work of Congress leaving as little unfinished business as possible. The committee continued to exist long after its function had become obsolete. In 1868 the duties relating to revision of laws were transferred to the Committee on Revision of Laws, where they remained until that committee was incorporated into the Judiciary Committee in 1947. In 1975 the House Office of the Law Revision Counsel was created to work in close cooperation with the Judiciary Committee.

Records of the Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business, 4th-40th Congresses (1795-1868)

Record Type Volume   Congresses (Dates)
Petitions and Memorials   <1 in. 26th (1839-1841)
Committee Papers <1 in. 17th (1821-1823), 26th (1839-1841)
TOTAL: <2 in.  

14.34 The committee papers contain two manuscript reports (17A- C24) listing the business remaining at the end of the 1st and 2d sessions of the 17th Congress, and a report from the 2d session of the 26th Congress (1839-41) that comments on the usefulness of extending the session in order to finish certain business (26A-D24). The petitions and memorials contain a petition from "old soldiers and soldiers wives and children," complaining that their claims have not been acted upon for several sessions of Congress and asking that the present session of Congress be extended a few days to deal with claims (26A-G20.1).

Related Records

14.35 Related records are filed as committee papers of Select Committees on the Business of the House of Representatives between 1809 and 1825 (11A-C9.1, 12A-C11.1, 13A-D15.1, 14A-C17.1, 15A-D16.1, 18A-C20.2). The records of several of these select committees include documents of joint committee, such as an April 9, 1816, report from the "Joint Committee appointed to inquire into the Expediency of certain alterations of the mode of transacting the business of Congress" (14A-C17.1).

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Committee on Revision of Laws, 40th-79th Congresses (1868-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

14.36 The Committee on Revision of Laws was established in 1868 after having been a select committee for several years. Its jurisdiction included the revision and codification of the statutes of the United States. When the committee was established, it replaced the old Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business (1795-1868).

14.37 The committee reported bills providing for the revision and codification of the general and permanent laws of the United States. Occasionally, bills concerning changes in law rather than revision and codification were referred to the committee, such as the transfer of certain bureaus from one executive department to another.

Records of the Committee on Revision of Laws, 40th-79th Congresses (1868-1946)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 5 vols. 50th-53d (1887-95), 62d-63d (1911-15)
Docket Books 6 vols. 45th (1877-79), 48th (1883-85), 50th (1887-89), 52d (1891-93), 62d-63d (1911-15)
Petitions and Memorials    1 in. 48th (1883-85), 53d (1893-95), 62d (1911-13)
Committee Papers 12 in. 44th (1875-77), 48th (1883-85), 62d (1911-13), 68th (1923-25), 71st (1929-31), 76th-77th (1939-43)
Bill Files 2 in. 67th (1921-23), 69th (1925-27)
TOTAL: 1 ft., 3 in. and 11 vols. (11 in.)    

14.38 The committee was not one of the most active and during most of its history little legislation was referred to it. The minute books and docket books reflect the lack of activity; none of the minute books includes minutes for more than five meetings per Congress. The minutes for the 51st Congress (1889-91) include only two meetings, and the major business conducted at the organizational meeting was the passage of a resolution providing that the committee would meet only on the call of the chairman.

14.39 The petitions and memorials referred to this committee include prayers concerning government employment of Civil War veterans (1883-85), support for Coxey's army and pleas to give work to the idle through public works (1893-95), and concern from several chambers of commerce over the corporation tax (1911-13).

14.40 The committee papers include copies of bills and resolutions as well as printed copies of several codifications. One file (44A-F34) contains correspondence with executive branch departments regarding proposed changes and corrections in the law. The bill files consist of printed bills, reports, and hearings.

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Committee on Freedmen's Affairs, 39th-43rd Congresses (1866-1875)

History and Jurisdiction

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-43rd Congresses (1866-75)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 1 vol. 40th (1867-69), 42nd (1871-73)
Docket Books 1 vol. 42nd (1871-73)
Petitions and Memorials    2 in. 39th-40th (1865-1869)
Committee Papers 2 in. 39th-40th (1865-1869)
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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Committee on Alcoholic Liquor Traffic, 46th-69th Congresses (1893-1927)

History and Jurisdiction

14.45 The Committee on Alcoholic Liquor Traffic was made a standing committee in 1893 (53d Congress) after having been a select committee since 1879 (46th Congress). Its jurisdiction covered subjects relating to alcoholic liquor traffic, including the manufacture, distribution, and sale of intoxicating beverages in the States, Territories, and Government-owned buildings and land such as the District of Columbia, Indian reservations, and military bases. It was abolished in 1927 (70th Congress).

Records of the Select and Standing Committees on Alcoholic Liquor Traffic, 46th-69th Congresses (1879-1927)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 2 vols. (select) 51st-52nd (1889-93)
Docket Books 3 vols. (select) 47th-52nd (1881-93)
Petitions and Memorials 22 in. 46th-47th (1879-83), 49th-54th (1885-97), 60th (1907-09)
Committee Papers 24 in. 46th-48th (1879-85), 51st (1889-95), 53rd (1893-95), 60th (1907-09), 69th (1925-27)
TOTAL: 2 ft., 3 in. and 5 vols. (5 in.)  

14.46 The petition and memorial files contain petitions requesting the appointment of a commission to study alcoholic traffic and praying for prohibition of the manufacture, sale, and distribution through interstate commerce of alcohol in the United States and in various locations under federal authority and its export to certain countries.

14.47 The committee papers are thin and usually consist of printed bills, resolutions, and committee reports. Records of the 69th Congresses contain a transcript of an unprinted hearing (69A-F2). The bill file for the 60th Congress contains printed hearings on H.R. 22007, H.R. 12405, and H.R. 12406.

14.48 Additional records on alcoholic liquor traffic may be found in the records of the Judiciary Committee, which received petitions and memorials and held hearings on the subject, both before and during the life of the Committee on Alcoholic Liquor Traffic.

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Committee on Woman Suffrage, 65th-69th Congresses (1917-1927)

History and Jurisdiction

14.49 The Committee on Woman Suffrage was created in 1917 and continued to exist until 1927, when it was abolished during the 70th Congress. The resolution to establish the committee gave it jurisdiction over all proposed legislation touching the subject of woman suffrage, a subject that had been in the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee.

14.50 During the debate on the creation of the committee, proponents of the new committee argued that woman suffrage was an important issue and that it deserved the exclusive attention of a committee favorable to its passage. Those opposed to it noted that "the evident purpose... is to create a committee that will report a resolution proposing woman suffrage" and that "when it shall have brought that resolution before the body its functions will be ended, and it can be dismissed as a useless thing."3 Both analyses were essentially correct, for the committee reported a total of five pieces of legislation; its last report was on H.J. Res. 1, 66th Congress (1919), which became the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The committee continued until 1927 even though its function had ceased after the ratification of the woman suffrage amendment in 1920.

Records of the Committee on Woman Suffrage, 65th-69th Congresses (1917-1927)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 1 vol. 66th (1919-21)
Docket Books    1 vol. 66th (1919-21)
TOTAL: 2 vols. (2 in.)    

14.51 The only records that have been preserved are a minute book and a docket book from the 66th congress. These volumes record bills, resolutions, and petitions and memorials that were referred to the committee, and committee action on these documents.

14.52 For additional records relating to woman suffrage, see the records of the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee held hearings on woman suffrage as early as the 43d Congress (1873-75) and in every Congress between the 54th and the 66th (1895-1921). The Judiciary Committee records also contain a large number of petitions and memorials on the subject.

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Committee on the Judiciary, 13th-90th Congresses (1813-1986)

14.53 The standing Committee on the Judiciary was established on June 3, 1813, to take into consideration matters "touching judicial proceedings." In 1880 the rule defining its jurisdiction was revised to read "judicial proceedings, civil and criminal law," and this remained the formal definition of the jurisdiction of the committee until the reorganization of Congress in 1946. Nevertheless, a wide range of subjects was referred to it. During its first 133 years, the committee reported legislation concerning the jurisdiction of the courts; local courts in the District of Columbia, territories, and insular possessions; charges against judges; criminals, crimes, penalties, and extradition; counterfeiting, espionage, and sedition; the Department of Justice; and national penitentiaries. It also reported on revisions of U.S. statutes and the code of law of the District of Columbia.

14.54 It reported legislation relating to the office of the President and to Members of Congress, the refusal of public officers to execute acts of Congress, Government contracts, and impeachment. It was responsible for legislation affecting the organization of the Federal Government or the government of a territory and for settling State and Territorial boundary disputes.

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Petition of Lucinda F. Proebstel, Le Grande, Union County, Oregon, Praying for the Removal of her Political Disabilities (HR45A-H11.7). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

14.55 It exercised jurisdiction over the incorporation of certain organizations by the Federal Government and Federal control of corporations; the relationships between organized labor, the courts, and corporations; and the investigation and regulation of trusts and monopolies.

14.56 It dealt with questions concerning the power of Congress under the Constitution to affect certain aspects of American life as well as questions of law affecting subjects in the jurisdiction of other committees. It examined the constitutionality of bills pending in the House and reported joint resolutions proposing amendments to the Constitution.

14.57 The committee had broad jurisdiction over matters affecting the civil and legal rights of citizens: the rights of citizens under treaties; the removal of political disabilities imposed under the 14th Amendment; woman suffrage and other rights and privileges of women; laws relating to marriage, divorce, and polygamy; the general study of criminals, paupers, defectives, and juveniles; bankruptcy; and alcoholic liquor traffic and prohibition.

14.58 It reported on general legislation concerning claims against the Government; war claims, Territorial and District of Columbia claims; claims between States; claims of States against the United States; international claims; pensioners' oaths and fraudulent claims; and international copyright and patent appeals. It also reported legislation on subjects such as the national anthem, desecration of the flag, and national holidays and celebrations.

14.59 Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the Judiciary Committee absorbed the jurisdictions of the Committees on Patents (created 1837), Revision of Laws (created 1868), Immigration and Naturalization (created 1893), Claims (created 1794), and War Claims (created 1873). The new formal jurisdiction, as stated in House rules, included the following subjects:

  • (a) judicial proceedings, civil and criminal generally; (b)apportionment of Representatives; (c) bankruptcy, mutiny, espionage, and counterfeiting; (d) civil liberties; (e) constitutional amendments; (f) federal courts and judges; (g) holidays and celebrations; (h) immigration and naturalization; (i) interstate compacts generally; (j)local courts in the territories and possessions; (k) measures relating to claims against the United States; (l) meeting of Congress, attendance of members and their acceptance of incompatible offices; (m) national penitentiaries; (n) the Patent Office; (o) patents, copyrights, and trademarks; (p) Presidential succession; (q) protection of trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies; (r) revision and codification of the statutes of the United States; and, (s) state and territorial boundary lines.4

Records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 13th-79th Congresses (1813-1946)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 47 vols. 35th-79th (1857-1946)
Docket Books 54 vols. 20th-62d (1827-1913)
Petitions and Memorials    104 ft. 13th-79th (1813-1946)
Committee Papers 33 ft. 13th-61st (1813-1911), 64th-79th (1915-46)
Bill Files 155 ft. 58th-79th (1903-46)
TOTAL: 292 ft. and 101 vols. (8 ft., 5 in.)    

14.60 The minute books of the House Judiciary Committee are among the most complete and thorough of any committee of Congress. They contain a daily record of the activity in meetings of the full committee, and, in some cases, they include the meetings of subcommittees. They document attendance at meetings, legislation considered, amendments and proposed amendments to legislation, roll-call votes, committee resolutions, the appointment of subcommittee members, and committee decision making on matters such as the selection of witnesses to testify at committee hearings.

14.61 Minute books are useful because they provide background for documents found in the other records series. The minute book for the 40th and 41st Congresses (1867-71), for instance, provides a means for following the complex activities of the committee during this active period following the Civil War. The minutes (40A-F13.5, 420 pages) document the daily activities of the committee relating to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson; the impeachment of Richard Busteed, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alabama; a subcommittee investigation into affairs in the State of Maryland; a subcommittee investigation into conditions in Delaware; the investigation of the Panoche Grande land title case; and the receipt, consideration, markup, and reporting of legislation.

14.62 The docket books generally list the petitions, memorials, bills, resolutions, and other documents referred to the committee, along with notes on committee activity on the documents. The earliest volume (1827-43) contains only very simple entries indicating the documents referred in chronological order. After the 30th Congress (1847-49), an attempt was made in some of the docket books to record the documents in alphabetical order rather than chronologically by date of referral. The alphabetical ordering is useful for research in claims or other private legislation that may be identified by individuals' names, but it complicates research in public legislation that is not identified by proper names.

14.63 After the 62nd Congress (1911-13) there are no docket books in the records of this committee, but the information that was contained in them can be found in the Committee Calendars.

14.64 Petitions and memorials make up a large proportion of the early committee documentation—over 65 percent of the pre-1900 records. For the most part, they consist of four types of documents.

14.65 The first type of petition sought to present a case to Congress in order to obtain legislation of a private nature. Some petitions, particularly those stating claims against the Government, requesting action on an invention patent, or concerning immigration or naturalization, include an inch or more of records that present explanation and evidence supporting the prayer of the petitioner. This type of petition often resulted in private bills or resolutions. The petition and memorial files of most Congresses until after the Civil War contain petitions for claims. Most of the claims concern routine reimbursement of persons harmed by Government activities; however, the records also contain extraordinary documents, such as the claim of Liliuokalani for the restitution of certain crown property in Hawaii (59A-H14.2).

14.66 A second type consists of documents submitted by one individual or a small group of individuals from a common location or sharing common interests and praying for congressional action to resolve a local or otherwise narrow public problem, such as a complaint about a local official or a request for the creation of a judicial district.

14.67 A third type of petition prays for action to resolve problems of national scope by means of legislation or constitutional amendment. Some national subjects, such as slavery and woman suffrage, elicited large numbers of petitions from groups of citizens in various parts of the country. Organized movements to collect signatures often made use of printed petition blanks on which signatures were collected. Large numbers of these signed petition forms were subsequently brought together and glued end-to-end, forming impressive roll petitions to be presented to Congress. Nineteenth-century roll petitions in Judiciary Committee records may be as large as 6 inches in diameter and contain more than 50,000 signatures.

14.68 The fourth type of document consists of resolutions from State legislatures that indicate a preference on certain national issues, such as immigration policy, and pray for legislation to facilitate the preferred policy.

14.69 During the earliest period (1813-69), a number of subjects appear regularly: an improved system of bankruptcy law, revisions in patent laws, revisions in immigration and naturalization laws, congressional action creating or changing judicial districts in States or Territories or increasing the pay of judicial officers, claims of individuals for relief, prayers for release from judicial judgments, and petitions relating to specific patents.

14.70 Periodically, particular subjects elicited large volumes of petitions. Some of the subjects remained current for several decades while others faded into obscurity after a brief period. For instance, although petitions praying for bankruptcy legislation appear in small numbers in the records of many Congresses, a prolonged depression elicited hundreds of bankruptcy petitions (27A-G10.3) between 1841 and 1843. Other topics that appeared briefly during the mid-19th century were the annexation of Canada (28A-G10.4), the Crittenden Compromise (36A-G10.3, 37A-G7.8), the admission of West Virginia to statehood (37A-G7.4), an 8-hour workday (39A-H14.6), and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson (39A-H14.7, 40A- H10.2). Petitions to abolish the offices of chaplains in Congress and in the armed services appear regularly in the records between the 28th and 35th Congresses (1843-58).

14.71 Throughout the period before the Civil War, petitions and memorials relating to the slavery question appear in many records of Congress. Between 1836 and 1844, the 21st rule of the House (the so-called gag rule) provided that no petition relating to the abolition of slavery would be entertained in any way; therefore, all such petitions and memorials received during that period were tabled. During this period, hundreds of petitions (5 ft.) relating to the abolition of slavery, slavery in the District of Columbia, fugitive slave laws and fugitive slaves, the admission of slave states, slavery in the Territories, African colonization, and repeal of the 21st rule were tabled.

14.72 From the early 1840's until the end of the Civil War, petitions relating to the slavery issue appear in the records of the Judiciary Committee. The earliest petitions referred to the committee toward the end of the era of the gag rule protest the rule itself. They maintain that the rule impaired the constitutional right of the people to petition Congress for a redress of grievances. Other petitions approach the slavery issue more directly:

  • The subscribers, legal voters of the town of Hudson, in the county of Summitt & State of Ohio, respectfully pray that the proper steps may be made for the repeal of all laws, & the alteration of all constitutional provisions, by which the people of the Free States, the Federal Government, or the Nation, are in any way implicated or bound to contenance, protect, or in any manner aid in supporting or continuing the institution of slavery or in keeping human beings in a state of slavery. [69 signatures, Dec. 15, 1841 (27A-G10.7)]

14.73 Other petitions and memorials concern many aspects of the slavery issue: Abolition of slavery (28A-G10.2, 30A-G9.2, 32A-G10.3, 36A-G10.5, 37A-G7.2, 38A-G10.1), repeal of the fugitive slave laws (28A-G10.12, 32A-G10.6, 33A-G10.10, 37A-G7.11), protection of free colored persons (33A-G10.8), slave trade (29A-G8.9, 33A-G10.1, 36A-G10.8), slavery in the District of Columbia (36A-G10.6), and freeing slaves through purchase (36A-G10.7). Slavery-related petitions reflect the disparate attitudes in the Nation. The records of the 37th Congress (1861-62), for instance, contain petitions praying for the abolition of slavery (37A- G7.1, 37A-G7.2), instructing Congress to "drop the negro question and attend to the business of the country" (37A-G7.3), praying for repeal of the fugitive slave laws (37A-G7.4), and suggesting creative solutions such as the reduction of South Carolina, Georgia, and part of Florida to Territorial status to be colonized by freed blacks (37A-G7.15).

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Memorial of Alice Wadsworth of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (HR65A-H8.14). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

14.74 After the issue of slavery was laid to rest, the civil and legal rights of blacks became the subject of another set of petitions beginning around 1900. Anti-lynching petitions begin to appear in the 56th Congress (1899-1900) and continue through the 78th (1943- 44).

14.75 After the Civil War, the subjects of woman suffrage and prohibition replaced slavery as major national issues. Concern for the protection and rights of women was also expressed in petitions condemning polygamy (45A-H11.4, 47A-H11.2, 48A-H12.1, 49A- H11.4, 56A-H13.4, 57A-H14.4, 58A-H12.7, 60A-H19.1, 64A-H13.4, 65A-H8.10), praying to raise the age of consent of girls in the District of Columbia (54A-H12.1, 55A-H12.10), and praying for better divorce laws (48A-H12.4, 56A-H13.4) and for more adequate protection of women and girls (50A-H13.5). During the 65th and 66th Congresses (1917-20), petitions relating to woman suffrage were referred to the standing Committee on Woman Suffrage.

14.76 The problems associated with the adoption of a national policy regarding alcoholic liquor constituted a continuing subject of petitions both before and after the passage of the 18th Amendment. There are petitions and memorials relating in some way to the alcohol issue in the records of the Judiciary Committee in nearly every Congress between the 42d and the 79th. During part of this period, petitions and memorials relating to alcohol were referred to the select and standing Committees on Alcoholic Liquor Traffic, which existed between the 46th and 69th Congresses (1879-1927).

14.77 The Judiciary Committee petitions include demands for a constitutional amendment to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol (42A-H8.8, 43A-H8.4, 50A-H13.2, 52A-H11.2, 58A-H12.5, 62A-H17.1, 64A-H13.5) and proposals for legislation to appoint a commission to study alcoholic liquor traffic (42A-H8.4, 43A-H8.1, 44A-H8.1, 45A- H11.1). The records of the 60th Congress (1907-9) contain anti-prohibition protests from bottlers, brewers, distillers, and the German-American Alliance and related organizations (60A- H19.2 and H19.3). The records of the 42d Congress (1871-73) contain petitions suggesting a constitutional amendment to provide that no persons addicted to alcoholic liquors would be eligible to hold a Federal office (42A-H8.3). After the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the committee continued to receive alcohol-related petitions proposing to alter the prohibition amendment and the enforcement provisions of the Volstead Act (66A-H11.16, 67A- H10.6, 68A-H10.3, 70A-H5.2, 71A-H9.5, 72A-H8.3). After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 by the 21st Amendment, the committee received petitions calling for legislation to regulate interstate trade in alcohol (77A-H9.1, 78A-H9.20) and to prohibit the advertisement of alcoholic beverages by radio (76A-F13.1). As late as the 78th Congress (1943-44), the committee records include petitions (78A-H9.20, 16 ft.) evenly divided between those for and against a national policy on prohibition.

14.78 Petitions for a constitutional amendment to recognize God as the Supreme Authority appeared during the period between the 39th (1865) and 45th (1878) Congresses. Other subjects that elicited large numbers of petitions were the direct election of senators (43A-H8.6, 50A-H13.3, 51A-H11.1, 52A-H11.4, 54A-H16.5, 60A-H19.1, 61A-H16.9), Sunday rest laws (50A-H13.6, 51A-H11.7, 55A-H12.12), various ways to regulate and restrict immigration and the activities of aliens (53A-H16.3, 53A-H16.5, 57A-H14.2), anti-injunction legislation (57A-H14.2, 59A-H14.13, 60A-H19.14), interstate gambling over telephone lines (55A-H12.7, 58A-H12.8), and the removal of the U.S. district court from Keokuk to Burlington, IA (43A-H8.8).

14.79 After 1920 petitioner's concerns again shifted and new subjects begin to appear: unemployment (71A-H9.5, 79A-H9.11), fair employment (78A-H9), fair trade (75A- H8.1, 77A-H9.7), birth control (73A-H10.4), un-American activities (74A-H8.4, 75A-H8.10), communism and propaganda (73A-H10.5), sedition and aliens (66A-H11.19, 76A-H13.2), the Hatch Act (76A-H13.9), antitrust laws and the investigation of monopolies (76A-H13.10), poll taxes (76A-H13.12, 79A-H9.12), an equal rights amendment to the Constitution (68A-H10.2, 76A-H13.6, 77A-H9.6, 78A-H9.6), conscription and conscientious objection (65A-H8.6, 79A- H9.5), and administrative procedures (79A-H9.1).

14.80 The committee papers files average less than 3 inches per Congress during the 19th century and 8 inches per Congress between 1900 and 1946, except where they are swollen by special collections of documents, such as material collected for a study of international bankruptcy laws (55A-F19.1, 6 ft.); systematic bill file collections in the records of the 56th and 57th Congresses, 1901-4 (28 in. and 14 in.); an anti-injunction legislation correspondence file (59A-F21.2, 16 in.); a general correspondence file (60A-F30.2, 7 in.); and correspondence and complaints regarding courts and officers of courts (72A-F18.2, 18 in.).

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Red Record of Lynching Map, 1922 (HR67A-D18). This map was submitted to Congress in 1922 to support an anti-lynching bill, H. R. 13, introduced by Rep. Leonidas Dyer of Missouri. RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

14.81 Committee papers generally contain correspondence, reports, and other documents relating to the subjects in the petition and memorial files or to other subjects in the committee's jurisdiction. There are reports and correspondence relating to claims in the records of most Congresses between the 17th and 36th (1821-61), and records relating to courts, judicial districts, judges, and the pay of various court officials in most Congresses between the 13th and 58th (1813-1905). Other subjects that appear include the trial of Jefferson Davis for treason (39A-F13.10); civil and legal rights (43A-F14.1, 45A-F18.2), especially of freedmen (39A- F13.2); anti-lynching legislation (75A-F22.1); constitutional amendments concerning polygamy (56A-F19.1) and legal tender paper money (48A-F16.1); the trial of Susan B. Anthony for illegal voting (42A-F14.14); the meat-packing industry (64A-F20.1); woman suffrage (39A-F13.11, 55A-F19.4, 64A-F20.4); and anti-injunction legislation (58A-F19.1, 59A-F21.2).

14.82 The committee papers also contain records relating to investigations of the governments of Maryland and Delaware (40A-F13.1), the Pacific railroads (44A-F19.1), and the Kansas Pacific Railroad (50A-F18.3).

14.83 Bill files for the Judiciary Committee contain correspondence, hearings, reports, and other documents related to particular bills. Material on certain private bills and resolutions considered before the establishment of a systematic collection of bill files in 1903, may be found in the accompanying papers collection for the 39th through 57th Congresses.

14.84 The average size of the series increased over time from less than 3 feet per Congress before 1919 to about 7 feet between 1919 and 1934 and to about 12 feet per Congress between 1935 and 1946. The records of the 58th (1903-4), 62nd-63rd (1911-14), and 72nd (1931-32) Congresses are small and incomplete, less than 10 inches each.

14.85 The files for each Congress are arranged by type of legislation: House bills, House resolutions, House joint resolutions, House concurrent resolutions, Senate bills, Senate joint resolutions, and Senate concurrent resolutions—and thereunder by bill or resolution number. The bill files for each Congress vary in completeness, and the individual bill files vary in the type of material preserved. A typical file contains correspondence related to the bill, copies of the original bill or resolution and amendments to it, copies of printed hearings, reports, and, occasionally, transcripts of unpublished public or executive session hearings. Sometimes petitions and memorials concerning the legislation are included in the bill file rather than in the petition and memorial series.

14.86 The bill files generally contain bills to amend parts of the judicial code, to establish judicial districts, to appoint additional judges, to amend practice and procedure in Federal courts, and to confer jurisdiction. They generally contain files on joint resolutions to amend the Constitution in various ways.

Records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 80th-90th Congresses (1947-1968)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minutes 7 ft. 80th-90th (1947-68)
Petitions and Memorials    24 ft. 80th-86th (1947-60), 88th-90th (1963-68)
Committee Papers 573 ft. 80th-90th (1947-68)
Bill Files 1,298 ft.    80th-90th (1947-68)
TOTAL: 2,025 ft.  

14.87 The records of the committee during this period are generally arranged by Congress and thereunder in four categories: committee papers, bill files, petitions and memorials, and minutes. The records in the first two categories, however, are much more voluminous than those created before 1947 and are broken down into subcategories, primarily by full committee or subcommittee of referral. The minutes of full committee and subcommittee meetings are generally unbound and are filed along with other committee papers.

14.88 There are full committee general correspondence files for the 80th-84th, 88th, and 89th Congresses. There are minute books of the full committee for the 80th- 84th and 87th Congresses, and collections of minutes from the standing subcommittees (see below) for the 85th through 90th Congresses. The minute books of the full committee not currently at the National Archives are in the custody of the committee. A collection of subpoenas issued by the committee between the 84th and 91st Congresses is filed with the 91st Congress committee papers.

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Telegram to Martin Luther King, Jr., requesting testimony before House Judiciary Committee on Voting Rights Act of 1965. RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

14.89 The petition and memorial files from this period document public opinion and concern over civil rights, displaced persons, income tax, the electoral vote for the District of Columbia, school prayer, the Bricker Amendment, anti-trust legislation, submerged lands, and the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act. Also included are recommendations for the impeachment of certain public officials. Examples of these include the large number of petitions to impeach Earl Warren and other Justices of the Supreme Court (86A-H9.3). Some petitions submitting claims such as a 1958 petition from members of the Bolo Battalion for recognition of its guerrilla activities in the Philippines during World War II (86A- H9.1) are also found among these records. The majority of such claim petitions, however, are in the bill files of the Claims Subcommittee.

14.90 The petition and memorial files and constituent mail on popular issues often do not contain all of the material received by Congress. Many topics, such as school busing, school prayer, and Constitutional amendments, generated huge amounts of mail, much of it on pre-printed postcards or form letters. In some cases these were measured and sampled to provide documentation of citizen interest and opinion. A massive public opinion campaign was waged over the issues of prayer in public schools. The records of the 88th Congress (1963-64) include over 25 feet of petitions and memorials and letters on this emotional subject. The records are arranged by type and opinion: petitions supporting the right to have prayer in school (7 ft.) and against school prayer (6 in.); and correspondence for (12 feet) and against prayer in school (7 ft.).

14.91 Records of the committee that do not fit into the bill file or petition and memorial series are included in the catchall series committee papers. It may contain correspondence; communications and reports from the President, executive agencies, and nongovernment organizations incorporated by Congress; transcripts of public and executive session hearings; minutes of full committee and subcommittee meetings; documents collected as evidence or as research material; committee administrative and financial records, memorandums, directives, working papers, and research material; subpoenas; speech files; clipping files; and other miscellaneous committee records.

14.92 Committee papers are arranged, for each Congress, under the full committee or the subcommittee of referral. Throughout most of the period under consideration, the committee had five standing subcommittees, designated by numbers. Each standing subcommittee had a special jurisdiction within the committee as follows:

Subcommittee    Special Jurisdiction
#1 Immigration and naturalization
#2 Claims
#3 Patents, trademarks, copyrights, revision of laws
#4 Bankruptcy and reorganization
#5 Antitrust

14.93 In addition to the standing subcommittees, special subcommittees were appointed for limited periods to deal with specific problems.

14.94 Committee papers of the full committee (180 ft.) largely consist of executive communications, primarily the annual reports and special reports of agencies of the Federal Government and the annual reports of federally incorporated bodies that fall under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. Many of the executive communications for this period are special reports on the administration of the Federal Tort Claims Act by the Post Office, Defense, and Interior Departments, the Veterans Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and other agencies. Committee calendars, which are generally included in the records of the committee after 1946, list all executive communications referred to the committee.

14.95 The records of Subcommittee #1 on immigration and naturalization (145 ft.), contain an alphabetical subcommittee correspondence file and a chronological reading file for most Congresses. The bulk of the records are case files concerning individuals requesting adjustments to their immigration status under certain sections of immigration acts—suspension of deportations, displaced persons, exclusion of certain aliens and admission of others in non-immigrant status, and various types of refugee problems. Sets of minutes of committee meetings include transcripts of hearings, memorandums, copies of legislation, and other pertinent material not included in the minutes found in the full committee records.

14.96 The activities of Subcommittee #2 on claims are documented by the collections of minutes of subcommittee meetings in the full committee files and by the series of claims bill files. The full committee files contain the minutes of meetings of Subcommittee #3 for the 84th-90th Congresses (1955-68) and Subcommittee #4 for the 86th-90th Congresses (1959-68). Files on bills referred to these subcommittees are filed in the public bill file series.

14.97 The records for Subcommittee #5 on antitrust and monopolies (193 ft.) are generally organized according to specific investigations or projects and not strictly by Congress. The subcommittee was established during the 81st Congress (1949-50) as the Subcommittee to Study Monopoly Power, and during the 82d Congress it formally became known as Subcommittee #5 with special jurisdiction over antitrust matters.

14.98 Records for Subcommittee #5 for the 81st Congress (24 ft.) consist of correspondence, memorandums, hearings, reports, and related papers pertaining to studies on iron and steel, newsprint, amendments to the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts, and antitrust proceedings terminated by consent judgments or pleas of nolo contendere. Records of the 82d Congress (35 ft.) pertain to aluminum, bank mergers, mobilization problems, oil, newsprint, organized baseball, and resale price. Similar collections for the 84th, 85th, and 86th Congresses (1955-60) include studies on oil pipelines, excise taxes, professional sports, AT&T, commercial aviation, shipping, the television industry, and government advisory groups, consultants, and WOCs (without compensation employees). A multi-Congress set of records for the 85th-90th Congresses, 1957-68, includes records pertaining to bank mergers, insurance, joint ventures, foreign commerce and diamonds, newspapers, and computers (57 ft.).

14.99 There are records for Special Subcommittees:

  • To Investigate Immigration and Naturalization Problems, 81st Congress, 1949-50 (2 ft.)
  • To Investigate the Justice Department, 82d-83d Congresses, 1951-54 (29 ft.)
  • On Submerged Lands, 84th Congress, 1955-56 (2 ft.)
  • On the International Court of Justice 86th Congress, 1959-60 (5 in.)
  • On State Taxation of Interstate Commerce, 87th-90th Congresses, 1961-68 (26 ft.)
  • On Reapportionment, 88th Congress, 1963-64 (2 ft.)
  • On Civil Rights, 89th Congress, 1965-66 (2 ft.)
  • On Judicial Behavior, 89th Congress, 1965-66 (4 ft.)

14.100 The enlarged jurisdiction of the committee after the 1946 reorganization is reflected in the size and character of its bill files. During the period just before the reorganization (67th-79th Congresses, 1921-46), the Judiciary Committee bill files average 11 feet per Congress, while the average for the post-reorganization period (80th-90th Congresses, 1947-69), is over 110 feet per Congress. The size of the bill files reflects the overall increase in the number of pieces of legislation referred to the committee. During the 78th Congress (1943- 44), 475 bills and resolutions were referred to the committee, producing 12 feet of bill files. By the 84th Congress (1955-56), these numbers increased to 6,032 pieces of legislation referred to the committee, producing 151 feet of bill files.

14.101 Most of the increase was due to the inclusion of private bills that had previously been referred to the Committees on War Claims, on Claims, and on Immigration and Naturalization. The 6,032 bills and resolutions referred during the 84th Congress included 3,847 on immigration and naturalization, 966 on private claims, 5 on patents, and 1,214 pieces of public legislation. All private bills and resolutions were referred to Subcommittee #1 or Subcommittee #2, which had special jurisdiction over immigration and naturalization and over claims, respectively. All public bill files were maintained in the full committee files, although they may have been referred to any one of the subcommittees.

14.102 The bill files for the 80th-90th Congresses are arranged by Congress and thereunder in three series: "public bills and resolutions," "claims," and, "immigration and naturalization legislation." The public bill files and immigration and naturalization bill files are arranged by bill type: House bills, House resolutions, House joint resolutions, House concurrent resolutions, Senate bills, Senate joint resolutions, and Senate concurrent resolutions, and thereunder by bill or resolution number. The claims bill files are arranged alphabetically by surnames of claimants.

Records of the Committee on the Judiciary, 91st-99th Congresses (1969-1986)

14.103 The records of the Judiciary Committee are consistently among the most voluminous in the House. They are occasionally augmented by special collections of records relating to the activities of the committee regarding significant national events such as the Nixon Impeachment Investigation in the 93rd Congress (484 ft.). The records relating to the impeachment consist of citizen mail (256 ft.), investigative files (224 ft.), index books, and publications of the committee.

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The Saturday Night Special: A Major Cause of Heartburn, ca. 1975 from the Administrative Files of the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary during the 94th Congress. RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

14.104 Other extraordinary records are those of the investigations relating to the proposed impeachment of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, 92d Congress (8 ft.) and the nomination of Nelson Rockefeller (25 ft.) to be the Vice President of the United States; massive petition drives, such as those for the "gay bill of rights" (25 ft.) and the "family protection act" (13 ft.) from the 97th Congress; and by huge correspondence files, such as that concerning school busing and school prayer in the 92d Congress (16 ft.).

14.105 The records of the full Judiciary Committee are kept separate from those of the Judiciary Committee subcommittees. Full committee records usually include bill files; transcripts of full committee and subcommittee hearings; front office files, which include the administrative and financial records of the committee; and general counsel files, which include the petitions and memorials, reports of committees, and certain files relating to the duties of the chairperson.

14.106 The subcommittees of the Judiciary Committee each maintain at least one distinct series of permanently valuable records. The Immigration Subcommittee maintains three such series: Private immigration bill files, general subcommittee correspondence and subject files, and cases referred to the committee under sections 212(d) and 204 of the immigration statutes. The Subcommittee on Administrative Law and Governmental Relations maintained a series of private claims files along with the general subcommittee file. The Subcommittees on Courts, Civil Liberties and the Administration of Justice; on Crime; on Criminal Justice; and on Monopolies and Commercial Law, each of which retired a single series of subcommittee files. The Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights retired some rather large files on special subjects such as the Voting Rights Act, Revenue Sharing, and Drug Abuse. The names and special jurisdictions of the subcommittees changed over time, but the above is a general description of what the researcher will find in the records of the 1970's and 80's.

House Un-American Activities Committee, 79th-94th Congresses (1945-1975)

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Minutes of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, April 15, 1955. RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

14.107 Jurisdiction and History In 1945 the House Un-American Activities Committee was created as a permanent standing committee to replace the temporary Select Committee on Un-American Activities (also known as the Dies Committee) that had existed since 1938. Records of the Dies Committee are described at the series level in the National Archives Catalog. The House Un-American Activities Committee was commonly known by its acronym HUAC until 1969, when its name was changed to the Committee on Internal Security. In 1975 the committee was abolished and its jurisdiction transferred to the Judiciary Committee.

14.108 The committee was authorized to "make from time to time investigations of (1) the extent, character, and objects of un-American propaganda activities in the United States, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle or the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relation thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation."

14.109 Records The records of the committee consist of files for the following organizational units: Administrative Section (138 feet), Files and Reference Section (1,301 feet), Investigative Section (464 feet), Legal Section (139 feet), Research Section (3 feet), Finance Section (13 feet), and Editorial Section (139 feet). The Center's collection also includes the published hearings and reports of the committee.

14.110 The documentation of the committee covers the entire period of its existence and extends as far back as when the Select Committee was chaired by Martin Dies. The early records of the committee include investigations into the activities of various trade union members, Hollywood screen actors, government employees, and others thought to be involved in communist espionage or Communist Party activities. During the 1960s and 1970s the records include information on the Communist Party in the United States, activities in the civil rights and anti-war movements, a major investigation of the Ku Klux Klan, and subversive influences in riots. At least 444 feet of the records consist of investigative files on individuals and organizations along with a set of related index cards.

14.111 Finding Aids The records are described in a 21-page inventory which is available from the Center.

14.112 Related Records Records of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS), 1951-76. This was the Senate counterpart of the House Special Committee on Un-American Activities. The Senate Permanent Investigation Subcommittee, still in existence. Under the chairmanship of Joseph McCarthy, the committee conducted its own subversive activities investigations and hearings in 1953-54. The Special Committee Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and other Propaganda, 1934-35, known as the McCormack-Dickstein Committee. Senate Document 148, 84th Congress, Congressional Investigations of Communism and Subversive Activities: Summary Index, 1918-1956, indexes the published hearings and reports of the many small investigations conducted by select, special, and subcommittees, as well as the major investigations of HUAC and SISS from 1918 to 1956.

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Impeachment Records

14.113 The impeachment power granted to Congress under the Constitution provides an effective tool for the investigation of executive and judicial misbehavior and its elimination through the conviction and removal of the offender. Under the Constitution the power of impeachment is reserved for the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is reserved for the Senate. Since 1789, approximately 90 impeachment-related inquiries have been initiated in the House. Twelve impeachments have reached the Senate, and four of these have resulted in conviction. Of the approximately 80 investigations conducted after the Judiciary Committee's formation in 1813, the committee has been involved in a great majority, including the formal impeachment investigations of two Presidents. The House Judiciary Committee investigation of President Nixon is, however, beyond the timeframe of this guide.

14.114 Impeachment proceedings have been initiated by the introduction of a resolution by a member, by a letter or message from the President, by a grand jury action forwarded to the House from a Territorial legislature, by a memorial setting forth charges, by a resolution authorizing a general investigation, and by a resolution reported by the House Judiciary Committee. After submission of charges, a committee investigation has been undertaken. If the charges have been supported by the investigation, the committee has reported an impeachment resolution, which in four of the five post-1900 cases has included articles of impeachment. The impeachment resolution has been subject to adoption in the House by majority vote. The next step has been the selection of House managers to direct the proceedings in the Senate.

14.115 There are files on 54 impeachment inquiries before the 1946 reorganization. The records of the impeachment inquiries may be filed in several locations; each impeachment may require a thorough search of the records. Many of the records are filed in a special category for impeachment records and not with the records of the Judiciary Committee or other committee involved. Some of the investigative records are filed under the resolution authorizing the investigation in the Judiciary Committee bill files. The records may be filed along with the committee papers of a special subcommittee designated to carry out the investigation, such as the 89th Congress Ad Hoc Special Subcommittee on Judicial Behavior, which investigated Judge Stephen Chandler.

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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.

3 Congressional Record, 65th Cong., 1st sess., Sept. 24, 1917, pp. 7370-74.

4 U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States, Ninetieth Congress, H. Doc. 529, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1967, p. 347.

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.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Guide to the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives