Following the assassination of President James A. Garfield by a disgruntled job seeker, Congress passed the Pendleton Act, establishing a merit-based system of selecting government officials and supervising their work. It was signed into law on January 16, 1883, by President Chester A. Arthur, who had become an ardent reformer after Garfield’s assassination.
Congress in the Archives will feature a monthly staff post on our blog. January’s post comes from Center archives technician, Adam Berenbak.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, officially formed in 1816, serves to consider legislation concerning foreign affairs, treaties, and nominations of diplomatic and consular representatives. This role as essential participants in the development of U.S. foreign policy has led not only to extensive travel around the globe, but also the need to host and engage visiting foreign dignitaries. Though often the official state welcome has been at the White House, few visiting dignitaries have missed a lunch or afternoon coffee with senators. The committee has hosted such visitors as members of the North Atlantic Assembly and delegations from a variety of countries, including China (for which a note was left chiding a staffer to ensure the spinach was not overcooked!),
and dignitaries such as Golda Meir, King Hussain bin Talal of Jordan, German Chancellor Willy Brandt, President Mobutu of Zaire, Helen Vlachos, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, Prince (and future King) Juan Carlos of Spain, as well as Imelda Marcos, General Secretary of the USSR Leonid Brezhnev, and our lady of the hour, Margaret Thatcher.
In addition to reports, bills, correspondence, and other sometimes mundane material, the records of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee include memos and seating arrangements, menus, dietary restrictions of guests, as well as profiles and briefing materials on the guests, often times containing pronunciation guides for the more difficult to pronounce names. Among these papers are itemized receipts that show the committee paid for lunch, juice, gratuity, flowers, and cigars for Mrs. Thatcher’s visit on September 18, 1975.
After her visit in 1975, Thatcher would go on to be elected the first woman in her country’s history to serve as Prime Minister in 1979. Her note thanking the committee for their hospitality spoke volumes of her courtesy as well as her political aspirations: “I hope we shall meet again soon.”
Thatcher is being portrayed by Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, which premieres today.
The Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear
In his State of the Union address to Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented his reasons for American involvement in the growing war in Europe. In helping Britain, President Roosevelt stated, the United States was fighting for the universal freedoms that all people possessed.
Roosevelt’s preparation of the speech went through seven drafts before final delivery. The famous Four Freedoms did not appear until the fourth draft. One night as Roosevelt met with his close advisers in his White House study, the President announced that he had an idea for a peroration (the closing section of a speech).
Samuel I. Rosenman wrote down FDR’s words. He later recounted:
“We waited as he leaned far back in his swivel chair with his gaze on the ceiling. It was a long pause—so long that it began to become uncomfortable. Then he leaned forward again in his chair and dictated the Four Freedoms. He dictated the words so slowly that on the yellow pad I had in my lap I was able to take them down myself in longhand as he spoke.”
Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms became the foundational principles for the Atlantic Charter declared by Winston Churchill and FDR in August 1941; the United Nations Declaration of January 1, 1942; President Roosevelt’s vision for an international organization that became the United Nations after his death; and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 through the work of Eleanor Roosevelt.
Here are the notes that were dictated by FDR, and the evolution of the Four Freedoms speech in subsequent drafts.
from the FDR Library
In addition to these awesome notes, check out FDR’s reading copy of this historic address to Congress.
Together We Can Do It!
We just launched the Citizen Archivist Dashboard (http://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist/). We encourage you to get involved in elevating the visibility of the records of the United States. Did you know that many grade school children aren’t taught cursive handwriting anymore and can’t read cursive? Help us transcribe records and guarantee that school children can make use of our documents. I have transcribed one myself!
New Mexico turns 100!
Today marks the 100th Anniversary of New Mexico’s statehood. In honor of this monumental anniversary, we’ve selected a number of documents to feature on our website. Check them out!
Map of New Mexico, 1908, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Congress in the Archives will feature a monthly staff post on our blog. January’s post comes from Center archivist Kris Wilhelm.
Mystery! Drama! Wealth! Fame! The Lindbergh baby kidnapping had it all. Newspapers called it the “Crime of the Century.” Telegraph wires hummed with the latest on the tragic abduction of the infant son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the heartbreaking discovery of the tot’s body more than two months later, and then the grizzly electrocution of the convicted murderer, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, in 1935.
The fiendish (and apparently chatty) kidnapper wrote 13 ransom notes. The President put all the investigative might of the Feds at the disposal of the cops - even the wood in the ladder that reached the nursery window was analyzed by the Forest Service (which they eventually figured out was made from Hauptmann’s attic floor)! The villain leaving all those ransom notes had the Boys in Blue stumped. That’s why my favorite document in the Center for Legislative Archives is the broadside listing the serial numbers on the ransom money. Those tiny serial numbers played a huge role in nabbing Hauptmann. Once those broadsides rolled off the Government Printing Offices’ presses, eagle-eyed cashiers and gas station attendants all over America were hot on the trail of the bills that led right to Hauptmann’s garage where the loot was discovered!
Hauptmann’s trial, which started 77 years ago today, grabbed the world’s attention. Even the witness chair in the court house was wired to the floor to foil willy souvenir hunters! See what I mean? Everything about this story begged for exclamation points!
Broadside of serial numbers, RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Governments, T18.2: L64. Publications of the Government Printing Office, a legislative branch agency, are in the custody of the Center for Legislative Archives.
As the New Year approaches, we want to share with you this Clifford Berryman cartoon from New Year’s Eve in 1913 called A Packing Problem. In it Berryman depicts Father Time having a hard time fitting into the suitcase labeled 1913 all of the year’s major issues, including the debates over the Parcel Post, Currency Law, Tariff Revision, various constitutional amendments,the Mexican revolution, and events such as the first ascent of Mount McKinley, the Democratic take-over of Congress and the presidency, the floods in the Ohio Valley, the sinking of the SS Volturno in the North Atlantic, and the defeat of Tammany Hall.
A Packing Problem by Clifford K. Berryman, 12/31/1913, U.S. Senate Collection (ARC 6011022)
What events would be scattered on the table if someone were to draw a cartoon like this for 2011?
Records of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate illustrate the important role that Congress plays in the creation of states. The 28th Congress was considering annexing Texas, and received hundreds of petitions on the topic. As demonstrated in the two above petitions, one from Pennsylvania and one from Vermont, Americans were divided on the issue. The treaty to annex Texas was defeated in 1844 but passed the following year. Texas ratified its first state constitution (the first and last pages also shown above) in 1845, and sent it to Congress for approval. Texas officially entered the Union on December 29, 1845.
Petition from citizens of Pennsylvania, 1844, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 595387)
Petition from citizens of Vermont, 1844, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 595416)
Texas state constitution, 11/1011845, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 595453)
In honor of today’s holiday, we are featuring The Congressional Santa Claus by Clifford Berryman. In the cartoon, Berryman alludes to the pending appointments which will accompany the inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt, newly elected to a full term in his own right. President Roosevelt appears as Santa Claus while members of Congress dressed in children’s clothes, gather round like expectant little boys. Santa Teddy is about to shake an unusual Christmas tree, a patronage tree filled with tags representing the many positions soon to be available in the new administration, such as diplomatic posts, postmaster positions, U.S. marshals, and revenue collectors. Vice President-elect Charles W. Fairbanks (a U.S. Senator at the time) beams from the center of the crowd, claiming to be content with the well-packed stocking he holds. Berryman’s famous teddy bear is also among the happy group. He sits beneath the tree examining the contents of his own Christmas stocking.
The Congressional Santa Claus by Clifford Berryman, 12/25/1904, U.S. Senate Collection (ARC 6010510)
It’s the first day of winter! Can you believe it? We know, we can’t either! Today we are featuring a cartoon by Jim Berryman, son of Clifford Berryman, called All in the Point of View. In this cartoon, Berryman humorously highlights the differing points of view on winter snow. While on one day you might enjoy the beautiful snow on Washington’s monuments, your view changes considerably when trying to dig your car out the next day. Here’s hoping that none of you have to dig your cars out of the “drifted snow and shimmering ice” this winter!
All in the Point of View by Jim Berryman, 12/2/1928, U.S. Senate Collection (ARC 6011977)