The Library of Congress

1774 - ...

Beginning with the Continental Congress in 1774, America's national legislative bodies have kept records of their proceedings. The records of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the United States Congress comprise a rich documentary history of the construction of the nation, the development of the federal government, and its role in the national life. These documents record American history in the words of those who built our government.

Congress established the library in 1800. It appropriated $5,000 to buy books and furnish a room in the Capitol for the library. This first library was destroyed in 1814 when the British burned the Capitol.

Congress immediately began building up a new library in the Capitol. In 1815, it purchased the private library of Thomas Jefferson for $23,950 which had about 6,000 books. The Library of Congress continued to grow, although several fires -- the most serious in 1851 -- damaged the collections. In 1897, the library moved to a new gray sandstone building east of the Capitol because it was too large to be kept in the Capitol. In 1938, an annex of white Georgia marble was built on an adjoining site. In 1980, the James Madison Memorial Building, the largest library building in the world, was constructed. At this time, the 1897 structure was renamed the Thomas Jefferson Building and the 1938 annex was renamed the John Adams Building. Together, the three library buildings have about 71 acres of floor space.

Books on the law formed a major part of the holdings of the Library of Congress from its beginning. In 1832 Congress established the Law Library of Congress as a separate department of the Library. It houses one of the most complete collections of U.S. Congressional documents in their original format.

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In order to make these records more easily accessible to students, scholars, and interested citizens, "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation" will bring together online the records and acts of Congress from the Journals of the Continental Congress through The Congressional Globe, which ceased publication with the Forty-second Congress in 1873.

This is a collection in progress: additional materials will be added to the site every few months.

Documents from 1774 to 1829 are currently available.

  • Journals of the Continental Congress
  • Elliot's Debates
  • Farrand's Records
  • Statutes at Large
  • House Journal
  • Senate Journal
  • Senate Executive Journal
  • Maclay's Journal
  • Annals of Congress
  • Register of Debates

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