Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 10 Treaty Files 1917-1946

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Chapter 10. Records of the Committee on Foreign Relations, 1816-1988

Records of the Committee on Foreign Relations, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:

Committee on Foreign Relations: Other Records, 1917-46 (65th-79th Congresses)

10.32 The records consist of five series: Committee papers (17 ft.), containing some correspondence of the chairman, arranged by subject, 1917-23 and 1933-46, but few papers for 1923-33, most of which were printed; petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee (27 ft.), arranged by subject for most Congresses through 1940, but thereafter arranged chronologically; minutes of committee meetings, 1933-46 (3 ft.), which are generally complete for 1941-46, but not always before that time transcribed from stenotype;) miscellaneous executive session transcripts, 1941 and 1946 (5 in.); and papers of Francis O. Wilcox (the committee's first staff director), 1945-46 (8 in.), which consist mostly of reference material relating to his experience as Senator Arthur Vandenberg's advisor on the establishment of the United Nations before his formal appointment as staff director.

10.33 These records are supplemented by legislative case files ('papers accompanying specific bills and resolutions") and the Presidential messages ("treaty files" and "records relating to treaties with foreign countries"). A transcript of an oral history interview with Francis O. Wilcox, prepared by the Senate Historical Office, may also be useful for the 1945-46 period.

10.34 World War I and Versailles: Petitions concern U.S. involvement in the war (65A-J20, 65A-J21). Armenian, Irish, and Lithuanian groups petitioned for congressional intervention on behalf of their countrymen's freedom (65A-J17, 65A-J19, 65A-J21; 66A-J20, 66A-J23). Similar documents plead for support for the return of Thrace to Greece (66A-J24) and creation of an independent Ukraine (66A-J25). Subject files of the committee papers (65A-E5), petitions, and memorials (66A-J19, 66A-J21) cover the Italian-Yugoslav conflict over the port city of Fiume. The committee papers for the 66th Congress (66A-F8) contain the original Harbord Report, officially titled Conditions in the Near East--Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia (1919), which has been microfilmed on National Archives Microfilm Publication M820, rolls 229-234.

Letter Woodrow Wilson to Henry Cabot Lodge, Chairman of Foriegn Relations Committee.
Letter Woodrow Wilson to Henry Cabot Lodge, Chairman of Foriegn Relations Committee. (page 2)
Letter from Woodrow Wilson to Henry Cabot Lodge, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, August 15, 1919, from NARA's National Archives Catalog (SEN66A-F8)  

10.35 The League of Nations and the World Court: The struggle between President Woodrow Wilson and Senators with reservations about U.S. membership in the League of Nations, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, is one of the classic battles in the history of the Senate. The committee papers for the 66th Congress (66A-F8) contain original letters from Wilson to Lodge as well as a memo from the Department of State on the withdrawal provision of the League of Nations Covenant. Additional printed material on the League can be found in the committee files for the 67th Congress (67A-F9). There are also petitions concerning U.S. membership in the League (65A-J18, 66A-J22). A longer standing and more popular issue was U.S. participation in the Permanent International Court of Justice, or World Court. Petitions largely supporting U.S. involvement with the World Court were referred to the committee in each Congress from the 68th through the 73d (68A-J25, 69A-J17, 70A-J15, 71A-J30, 72A-J32, 73A-J23). Committee files for the 72d and 73d Congresses (72A-F10, 73A-F10) contain some correspondence of Senator William Borah, leader of the opposition to the Court, and other records relating to committee hearings on the Court. The final vote in the Senate on January 29, 1935, fell seven votes short of the necessary two-thirds to permit U.S. participation.

10.36 Other multinational subjects documented by records of the committee include the Washington Naval Conference of 1921 (67A-F9); the Washington Preparatory Committee for the London Economic Conference, 1933 (73A-F10); and the second London Naval Conference, 1935 (74A-F9).

10.37 Soviet Union: Records of this period relating to U.S.-Soviet relations concern the status of Russian exiles following the Bolshevik Revolution (65A-F5) and recognition of and reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union (66A-J26, 67A-J28). The committee papers also include records concerning the Foreign Service Building Commission and other State Department material relating to the selection of the site of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow (73A-F10).

10.38 Western Europe: In the early 1920's, the committee received petitions and memorials requesting aid for Germany and Austria (67A-J21, 67A-28). Three prominent U.S. ambassadors, Joseph P. Kennedy, William E. Dodd, and Joseph E. Davies, expressed their opinions about political and other conditions in western and central Europe during the late 1930's in correspondence with Chairman Key Pittman of Nevada (75A-F9.1, 76A-F9). Historian Claude G. Bowers offered Pittman his interpretation of the Spanish Civil War (75A-F9). The committee papers include President Franklin D. Roosevelt's message of December 11, 1941, asking Congress to recognize the state of war between the United States and Germany and approved copies of the joint resolution declaring war on Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, and Rumania (77A-F1).

10.39 The Far East: The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese conflict in 1931 was followed by numerous petitions and memorials advocating noninterference (72A-J31). Committee subject files during Pittman's chairmanship (1933-40) contain a large and varied body of material on Japan and China and on relations between them (75A-F9.1, 76A-F9). Records of the committee during the first chairmanship (1941-47) of Thomas T. Connally of Texas contain an original transcript of a hearing on H.J. Res. 276, 76th Cong., relating to U.S. financial aid to China, November 11, 1942. Connally's correspondence files are less extensive and more constituent-oriented than are Pittman's, but they include correspondence relating to the return of Maj. Gen. Patrick Hurley from China (79A-F10).

10.40 Canada and Latin America: The committee papers contain a transcript of a State Department official's briefing of the committee on the Tinoco coup in Costa Rica in 1918 (65A-F5), correspondence of Chairman Pittman about the expropriation of Mexican lands owned by Americans (75A-F9.1), and records relating to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Deep Waterway treaty (72A-F10). Petitions relating to that treaty (72A-J30, 73A-J22), Mexico (67A-J26, 69A-J18, 74A-J11), and expressing opposition to ceding the Isle of Pines to Cuba (68A-J24) also have been preserved.

10.41 Rescue and settlement of Jews: A recurring issue brought before the Senate was the treatment of Jews by certain European countries. Concern for their plight in Russia continued to be the subject of petitions and memorials (66A-J26). Interest in S.J. Res. 191, 67th Cong., pertaining to Palestine as a Jewish homeland (67A-J27) and concern over Nazi persecutions in Germany generated many petitions (73A-J20, 74A-J11). Chairman Pittman corresponded with Jewish organizations writing on behalf of German and Polish Jews (74A-F9, 75A-F9.1). After the war, the committee received petitions (79A-J9) and correspondence (78A-F11) objecting to the British policy that restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine. The committee files also contain minutes of meetings at which Palestine was discussed (79A-F10).

10.42 Neutrality and aid to the Allies: Petitions received by the committee, including a telegram from Albert Einstein and his students and colleagues at Princeton University, support an embargo on arms and munitions to belligerents in Europe (75A-J15.1, 76A-J13). Other records include a transcript of a hearing, February 13, 1937, on S.J. Res. 51 and 60 to amend the Neutrality Act; a Presidential message proposing Neutrality Act amendments, July 1941; and many examples of printed material from the America First Committee and similar organizations (77A-F11).

10.43 World peace: The committee periodically received petitions and memorials resulting from widespread campaigns on behalf of world peace and opposition to munitions exports (67A-J23, 70A-J14, 70A-J16). Most numerous of these are those supporting a peace proposal advocated by Father Divine (76A-J14).

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.