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United States Congressional and Legislative Documents

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Congressional Documents


[Canadian counterpart: Debates of the House of Commons -- or Hansard]

The Annals of Congress, formally known as The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, cover the First Congress through the first session of the Eighteenth Congress, from 1789 to 1824. The Annals were not published contemporaneously, but were compiled between 1834 and 1856, using the best records available, primarily newspaper accounts. Speeches are paraphrased rather than given verbatim, but the record of debate is nonetheless fuller than that available from the House Journal and Senate Journal. It was succeeded by the Register of Debates.

The Register of Debates is a record of the congressional debates of the 18th Congress, 2nd session through the 25th Congress, 1st session (1824-37).  It is the second of the four series of publications containing the debates of Congress. It was preceded by the Annals of Congress and succeeded by the Congressional Globe.

The Congressional Globe, commonly referred to as the Globe, contains the debates of Congress from the 23rd Congress, 1st Session through the 42nd Congress (1833-73). There are 46 volumes in the series, containing a total of 110 books. The volume-numbering scheme is not consistent throughout the entire series, and for that reason citations to the Congressional Globe should refer to the Congress and session number. There are separate indexes for the Senate and House proceedings for each session of Congress. The indexes often appear in front of the book and may be repeated in each part. It was succeeded by the Congressional Record.

The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session.

Year Description Format Location
1994 - current Congressional Record Internet
1873 - 1996 Congressional Record Internet Internet Archive
1954 - 1995 Congressional Record Microfilm US1 X1 C75 (microform cabinets)
1873 - 1975 Congressional Record Paper US1 X1 C75 (compact shelving)
1833 - 1873 Congressional Globe Paper US1 X1 C74 (compact shelving)
1833 - 1873 Congressional Globe Internet Congressional Globe (Library of Congress)
1825 - 1836 Register of Debates of Congress Paper US1 X1 C73 (compact shelving)
1825 - 1836 Register of Debates of Congress Microfilm US1 X1 C73 (microform cabinets)
1824 - 1837 Register of Debates of Congress Internet Register of Debates (Library of Congress)
1791 - 1824 Annals of Congress Paper US1 X1 C72 (compact shelving)
1789 - 1824 Annals of Congress Internet Annals of Congress (Library of Congress)

Journals of the House of Representatives

[Canadian counterpart: Journals of the House of Commons]

The Journals should be seen as the minutes of floor action. It notes the matters considered by the House and the votes and other actions taken. It does not record the actual debates. For those, the user must turn to the Annals of Congress, Register of Debates, and The Congressional Globe.

House & Senate Journals

From its opening session the United States House of Representatives has kept a journal of its proceedings in accordance with Article I, section 5 of the Constitution, which provides that:

Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House, on any question, shall, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.
Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate

In addition to its legislative journal, the Senate has maintained from its first session a separate record of its executive proceedings, those relating to its functions of confirming presidential nominees and consenting to the making of treaties. The Senate Executive Journal was not made public until 1828, when the Senate decided to print and publish the proceedings for all the previous congresses and in future to publish the journal for each session at its close.

Like the House and Senate legislative journals, the Senate Executive Journal progressed in form from daily handwritten notes to a rewritten clean copy, which in turn was set into print. The entries for a given session are much shorter than those in the legislative journal and so each printed volume covers many more congresses.

Year Description Format Location
1804 - 1986 House Journal (some gaps) Paper US1 X2 J53 (Compact shelving)
1789 - 1875 House Journal Internet House Journal (Library of Congress)
1789 - 1983 (some gaps) Senate Journal Paper US1 Y2 J57 (Compact shelving)
1789-1875 Senate Journal Internet Senate Journal (Library of Congress)
1789 - 1906 Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate Paper US1 Y2 J58 (Compact shelving)
1789 to 1837 Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate Internet Senate Executive Journal (Library of Congress)

House and Senate Documents, Hearings, Reports

Year Description Format Location
1976 - current Congressional Information Service (CIS)
See: How to Find U.S. House & Senate Documents in CIS
Index - Abstract- Microfiche US7 CIS C58 (Reference)
1968 - 1976 U.S. GPO Depository Readex Microcard US1 GP M50 (Compact)*
1956 - 1967 U.S. GPO Senate & House Committee Hearings & Prints Readex Microcard US1 XY S23 (Compact)*

*Indexed by: Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, 1930 - current, US1 GP M51 (Reference)

American State Papers, 1789 - 1838*

Description Location (Documents Compact)
Foreign Relations US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Indian Affairs US1 YS A571 (print) or US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Finance US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Commerce and Navigation US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Military Affairs US1 YS A574 (print) or US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Naval Affairs US1 YS A575 (print) or US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Post Office Department US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Public Lands US1 YS A577 (print) or US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Claims US1 XY S23 (microcard)
Miscellaneous US1 YS A579 (print) or US1 XY S23 (microcard)

*Indexed by the U.S. Serial Set, 1798 - 1857, US7 CIS S27 (Reference)

U.S. Serial Set

US7 CIS S27 (Reference)

[There is no Canadian counterpart]

The Serial Set is a collection of U.S. government publications compiled under the directive of Congress. It has been called America's oldest on-going series and the most valuable historical collection of federal publications in existence. In the period covered by CIS's Serial Set Index, 1789 to 1969, there were 330,000 documents. The term serial set refers to both the device used to organize the publications in an open-ended or serial scheme, and to the publications themselves to which Congress has serially assigned report or document numbers.

The Serial Set officially begins with publications from the 15th Congress in 1817. Publications from the period 1789-1816 (the first fourteen Congresses) are contained in the American State Papers (Queen's has 1789 - 1838), a collection that was compiled and printed privately with the guidance and authority of Congress. The American State Papers are usually treated as part of the Serial Set. The are shelved in Government Documents (Compact Shelving, US1 XY S23, on Readex Microcard) and are indexed in the CIS Serial Set Index (US7 CIS S27 Reference). Selected volumes are also available in print at Call Numbers: US1 YS A571, A574, A575, A577, and A579.

The reports are generally from congressional committees dealing with proposed legislation and issues under investigation. Hearings are generally published separately. The documents include all other papers ordered printed by the House or Senate. Documents cover a wide variety of topics and may include reports of executive departments and independent organizations, reports of special investigations made for Congress, and annual reports of non-governmental organizations.

The Serial Set does not contain the Congressional Record or its earlier equivalents, although the House and Senate Journals were included in the Serial Set before 1907. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, executive branch materials were also found in the Serial Set.

Year Description Format
1959-1969 PT.XII. 85th-91st CONGRESS Index only
1947-1958 PT.XI. 80th-85th CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1935-1946 PT.X. 74th-79th CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1925-1934 PT.IX. 69th-73rd CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1915-1925 PT.VIII. 64th-68th CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1909-1915 PT.VII. 61st-63rd CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1903-1909 PT.VI. 58th-60th CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1897-1903 PT.V. 55th-57th CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1889-1897 PT.IV. 51st-54th CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1879-1889 PT.III. 46th-50th CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1857-1879 PT.II. 35th-45th CONGRESS Index - Microfiche
1789-1857 PT.I. 1st-34th CONGRESS Index only

Legislative Documents

A thorough summary of the U.S. legislative process is provided in the document How Our Laws Are Made (PDF), which provides a basic outline of the U.S. federal lawmaking process from the source of an idea for a legislative proposal through its publication as a statute.  Specific holdings at Queen's, along with web-based sources, are listed below.

United States Statutes at Large

[Canadian counterpart: Statutes of Canada]

United States Statutes at Large, commonly referred to as Statutes at Large, is the official source for the laws and resolutions passed by Congress. Publication began in 1845 (covering 1789 to 1845) by the private firm of Little, Brown and Company under authority granted by a joint resolution of Congress. In 1874 Congress transferred the authority to publish the title to the Government Printing Office which has been responsible for producing the set since that time. Every law, public and private, ever enacted by the Congress is published in Statutes at Large by order of the date of passage. The collection includes many laws that never appear in the United States Code (or USCA, USCS or USCAN), plus Concurrent Resolutions, Presidential Proclamations, Treaties with Foreign Nations (through 1949) and all Treaties with the Indian Tribes. For a more complete description of the United States Statutes at Large and how it differs from the United States Code, see History of the United States Statutes at Large and United States Code. In addition, Statutes at Large publishes the text of amendments to the Constitution and of presidential proclamations. The web-version linked below cover the first six volumes (first twenty-four Congresses) as well as all private acts of the first twenty-eight Congresses. Search U.S. Statutes at Large using the "Search All Law Titles" link at the top of the web page cited below.

New volumes are published by the United States Government Printing Office -- a year and a half after each annual session of Congress is concluded. The Law Library of Congress also provides a good overview of Federal Statutes.

Year Description Format Location
1789 - 1997 Statutes at Large Paper US1 YX21 S74
1789 - current Statutes at Large Internet Lexis Advance
1789 - current Statutes at Large Internet HeinOnline
1789 - 1875 Statutes at Large Internet Statutes at Large (Library of Congress)

United States Code

[Canadian counterpart: Revised Statutes of Canada]

The United States Code contains the general and permanent laws of the United States.

Year Description Format Location
1925/1926 - current United States Code Internet HeinOnline
1994 - current United States Code Internet
1994 United States Code Paper US1 YX41 94U66
1988 United States Code Paper US1 YX41 88U66
1982 United States Code Paper US1 YX41 82U66
1976 United States Code Paper US1 YX41 76U66
1970 United States Code Paper US1 YX41 70U66
1964 United States Code Paper US1 YX41 64U66
1946 United States Code Paper US1 YX41 46U66

Federal Register

[Canadian counterpart: Canada Gazette, Parts I & II]

The Federal Register is the official daily publication for Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential Documents.

Year Description Format Location
1936 - current Federal Register Internet
1979 - 1994 Federal Register Microfiche US1 YX99 F26
1966 - 1978 Federal Register Paper US1 YX99 F26

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

[Canadian counterpart: Consolidated Regulations of Canada]

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is a codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the Executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. The CFR is divided into 50 titles which represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation. Each title is divided into chapters which usually bear the name of the issuing agency. (See: Alphabetical List of Agencies Appearing in the CFR). Each chapter is further subdivided into parts covering specific regulatory areas. Large parts may be subdivided into subparts. All parts are organized in sections, and most citations to the CFR will be provided at the section level.

Year Description Format Location
1938 - current Code of Federal Regulations Internet HeinOnline
1996 - current Code of Federal Regulations Internet
1990 - 1993 Code of Federal Regulations Microfiche US1 YX99 F25

Other U.S. Indexes & Holdings

The Documents Unit at Queen's University has a number of major microfiche sets and index/abstract sets covering U.S. government publications. These include:

American Statistics Index (ASI), 1977 - 1994

This is a rich cross-disciplinary, analytical index to sources of 'statistical information'. Any U.S. government publication that contains 'statistics' should be indexed in this set, with the full text of the 'parent' document found on ASI microfiche.

Congressional Information Service (CIS), 1976 - current

This microfiche set provides access to all published Congressional documents (hearings, reports, etc.) with the exception of the Congressional Record, but including the Congressional Budget Office.

Index to International Statistics (IIS), 1983 - current

This index/abstract set provides analytical access to statistics found in a wide range of international publications. It is in indispensable resource for finding 'world' and 'country' level statistics. Queen's does not have the associated microfiche collection, but has most referenced publications in print. Check the Library Catalogue to find items of interest.

Legislative Histories of the U.S. Public Laws, 1984 - current

These legislative histories by CIS enable researchers to trace the development of a law from first consideration through its arrival (often years later) on the President's desk. All significant enactments are covered. Generally, only laws that are essentially ceremonial or 'housekeeping' in nature are omitted.

Year Description Format Location
ASI: American Statistics Index 1995 - 1996 Index & Abstract only US7 CIS A57 (Reference)
ASI: American Statistics Index 1977 - 1994 Index & Abstract / microfiche US7 CIS A57 (Reference)
Congressional Information Service 1976 - current Index & Abstract / Microfiche US7 CIS C58 (Reference)
IIS: Index to International Statistics 1983 - current Index & Abstract only US7 CIS I53 (Reference)
Legislative Histories of the U.S. Public Laws 1984 - current Index & Abstract only US7 CIS C59 (Reference)

Internet Resources of Note

Government Information Guides

Related Resources