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