Printing the Acts of Congress

Printing the Acts of Congress/tiles/non-collection/l/lfp_021imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


During its first session, Congress worked out the mechanics of how the government would function. Committee reports received by the Office of the Clerk during the 1st through 4th Congresses were carefully written in a bound volume and preserved as House records. This report chronicles decisions by the House about printing the acts and proceedings of Congress. Clerk of the House John Beckley and Secretary of the Senate Samuel Allyne Otis were authorized to hire a contract printer to reproduce and bind 600 copies of the Acts of Congress and 700 copies of the House and Senate Journals. The report specifies that the Secretary and Clerk would supply the paper at public expense. When printed, the documents were distributed to the executive and judicial branches, federal government department heads, and several state governments.

The printing and distribution of laws and official proceedings served the necessary functions of recording policy and preserving history for the young government. The specifics of printing its laws were some of the first decisions undertaken by Congress. This report—although handwritten—testifies to the early importance of printing in the nation.

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