Researchers at the National Archives are still finding fascinating records related to President Lincoln. Our guest blogger David Gerleman of the The Papers of Abraham Lincoln just found a missing piece of Lincoln’s history—his pay and mileage records for the 30th Congress.
Congressional pay was based on a per diem basis stemming from an 1818 law by which members received $8 per day and $8 per 20 miles traveled to and from their districts. However, the legislation did not specify the shortest route, a fact later prompting investigation when former member-turned-newspaperman Horace Greeley publicly reproached members for taking less-than-direct routes home
You can read the whole story here: http://go.usa.gov/gJRV
Image: Treasury Warrant to meet House of Representatives Expenses, National Archives
On December 31, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act admitting West Virginia into the Union. This petition in favor of admission was received by Congress in 1862.
Petition from citizens of Monongalia County, requesting admission of West Virginia into the Union, 1862, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 306643)
…this House desires to obtain a full knowledge of all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot of soil on which the blood of our citizens was so shed, was, or was not, our own soil, at that time…
In 1846, President James K. Polk had asked Congress to declare war with Mexico, he claimed that Mexico had “passed the boundary of the United States … invaded our territory and shed American blood upon America’s soil.” As a result, Congress declared war on May 13. On December 22, 1847, Representative Abraham Lincoln introduced this resolution calling for an investigation of the “spot” where U.S. and Mexican forces had allegedly first clashed.
Resolution introduced by Congressman Abraham Lincoln (Spot Resolution), 12/22/1847, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 306605)
Congress in the Archives will feature monthly staff posts on our blog. Today’s post comes from Kate Mollan.
Did you know that the Center for Legislative Archives occasionally plays a role in movie-making? Back in September 2011, I received a telephone call from a film producer with the Kennedy/Marshall Company in Santa Monica. He explained that he was looking for a high quality digital scan of the vote taken in the House of Representatives on the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. The House had initially rejected the legislation proposing the amendment but on January 31, 1865 they passed it with a vote of 119 to 56. The producer also wanted to know the exact role of the tally clerk during the vote, whether the vote was recorded in a bound volume or on loose ledger forms which were subsequently bound, what the dimensions of the recorded vote were, and other precise details. He explained that the information and the digital scan that I provided to him would be the basis for recreating that historic vote for a film about Abraham Lincoln. I was impressed by the exacting level of authenticity the filmmakers wished to achieve.
The film is, of course, “Lincoln,” produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, and stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field. It is now in movie theaters across the country.
Tally sheet, 1/31/1865, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
After almost a decade of debate in Congress, the Homestead Act was signed into law on May 20, 1862. The debate had started during the 1850s. As westward expansion grew increasingly popular, more and more people argued that the government should give free land titles to settlers. The House of Representatives passed several homestead bills during the 1850s, but each failed when it was opposed by Senators from the South. In 1862, with the country fighting a civil war (and no southern opposition remaining in Congress), the legislation’s proponents finally achieved success. The House passed the Homestead Act on February 28 by the large margin of 107 to 16. The Senate also passed the act easily on May 6 by a vote of 33 to 7. After a few minor changes in conference committee—to which both houses agreed without controversy—Congress sent the final legislation to President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the act into law on May 20.
The Homestead Act encouraged western migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of land in exchange for a nominal filing fee. Its provisions included two requirements: settlers had to reside on the land continuously for five-years before receiving the title to it, and settlers had to be, or in the process of becoming, U.S. citizens. Through 1986, when the last claim was made in Alaska, the Homestead Act distributed 270 million acres of land in the United States making it, arguably, one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history.
HR 125, “An Act to secure homesteads to actual settlers on the public domain, 3/25/1862, SEN37A-C1, Records of the U.S. Senate
The Wade-Davis bill was originally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 15, 1864 and amended on May 4. The bill proposed conditions to be met by the former Confederate states prior to their return to the Union at the conclusion of the Civil War. It required that 50% of a state’s white males take a loyalty oath in order for the state to be readmitted to the Union. In addition, states were required to give blacks the right to vote. This bill passed both houses of Congress in July 1864. It was pocket vetoed by President Abraham Lincoln, and therefore never enacted into law. However, some of the policies included in this bill were later implemented in a series of four Reconstruction Acts (1867-1868), which were passed into law after Congress overrode the vetoes of President Andrew Johnson.
Wade-Davis Bill as Amended, 5/4/1864, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 5049648)
Congress in the Archives will feature a monthly staff post on our blog. March’s post comes from Center reference archivist Rod Ross.
This blog highlights an 1845 petition to Congress from members of the Illinois bar which serves as a great teaching tool for those doing research in the records at the Center for Legislative Archives. The petitioners asked the Federal Government to purchase and distribute copies of the privately-printed work Reports and Decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Among the signers were Abraham Lincoln and state Supreme Court Justice Samuel D. Lockwood.
The petition has been tri-folded with annotated summary written on its middle fold. In the 19th century clerks tied such documents into bundles with red ribbon - the original “red tape.” The annotation on the back of the petition indicates that Senate Sidney Breese (D-IL) introduced it on the Senate floor, where the presiding officer referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary. On February 6, 1845, that committee came up with a bill (S. 119) which met the request of the petitioners.
Through A Center of Lawmaking for a New Nation researchers can view the text of S. 119 for the 28th Congress, 2nd session, as well as see entries on the bill in the Senate Legislative Journal of that session (pages 137, 161, 168) and in the House Journal (pages 377, 396, 466, 561). However, neither the House nor the Senate Journal record debate. By learning the dates from the journals, a researcher can then seek out debate information as recorded in the Congressional Globe, a predecessor of the Congressional Records.
If you are wondering what ever happened to S. 119, the bill passed the Senate but, sadly for the petitions, died in the House.
Petition from members of the Illinois state bar, 1845, Sen 28A-G7.1, Records of the U.S. Senate
New records from the holdings of the Center for Legislative Archives went on display this week at the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) to tell the story of “Congress and the Civil War”. The documents posted above show the new additions to the exhibit which will be on view for the next 6 months. The Center for Legislative Archives provides exhibit support and roughly half the documents for the CVC.
Senate resolution declaring vacant the seats of seceding senators, 3/14/1861, Records of the U.S. Senate
Senate seating chart, Congressional Directory, 1863, Publications of the U.S. Government
Map of the U.S. including Western Territories, 12/1848, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Memorial of Clara Barton praying for the establishment of some mdoe of ascertaining information concering mission soliders, 2/1/1866, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Rolls of missing soldiers accompanying the memorial of Clara Barton, 7/1865, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
An Act for the release of certain person from service of labor in the District of Columbia, 4/16/1862, General Records of the U.S. Government
Frustrated by the perceived failures of a series of senior generals during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Ulysses S. Grant to be Lieutenant General of the Army in this message dated February 29, 1864. The Senate confirmed Lincoln’s nomination in March, and General Grant went on to carry the Union to victory.
Message of President Abraham Lincoln Nominating Ulysses S. Grant to be Lieutenant General of the Army
You can see that Grant was confirmed just three days after this message was received by looking at the “Conf March 2” written in pencil to left of President Lincoln’s signature.