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fication, the United States banks, etc. It is needless to say that the student of public finance, of customs administration, and of similar subjects can hardly hope to make a thorough study of his topic without prolonged use of this material. Other series there are relating to the French spoliation claims, Southern claims, captured and abandoned property, and issues of notes and bonds, and mention should not fail to be made of the five hundred volumes of loanoffice records, 1784-1855, nor of the enormous masses of records in the offices of the auditors.
The correspondence of the Postmaster-General is nearly complete from 1789 and reflects with remarkable fidelity conditions throughout the country at various periods. Especially is it valuable in the study of the westward movement, for the post-office must keep pace with population.
In the Department of Justice the correspondence of the AttorneyGeneral has been preserved since 1817. It deals with a great variety of matters, such for example as proposed legislation of all sorts, land grants to the railroads, frauds in the collection of the revenues, suppression of the Ku Klux movement, protection of voters in federal elections, the Fenian uprising, the Cuban insurrection, filibustering expeditions against Mexico, appointments of federal attorneys, marshals, judges, and clerks, land titles in acquired territory, the execution of the fugitive slave law, and countless other subjects.
In the Department of the Interior are to be found some of the most valuable series, from the student's point of view, in the federal archives. In the office of the secretary, in addition to the general correspondence, are special groups, such as the territorial papers. In the Indian Office are thousands of boxes of letters, reports, accounts, and other papers relating to every phase of the conduct of Indian affairs and history. The records of the General Land Office are among the most valuable of the federal archives and the history of the states that have been carved out of the public domain cannot be fully known until students have made ample use of this source.
The Department of Commerce and Labor is of recent creation but it is in part composed of offices that have long been in existence. Thus its archives include the records of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, rich in maps and correspondence, the records of the Bureau of Navigation with its series of "marine documents" which constitute a record of American vessels since 1815, and the original census schedules beginning in 1790 of the Bureau of the Census."
About the only work yet produced that is based on this material is Miss Annie H. Abel's thesis on The History of Events resulting in Indian Consolidation West of the Mississippi (Am. Hist. Assoc., Annual Report, 1908).
'The schedules of 1790 have been published by the bureau.
The Department of Agriculture, the Civil Service Commission, and the Interstate Commerce Commission all possess records which the student may not overlook, and the records of the courts, somewhat better known because so constantly consulted by lawyers, would well repay a closer acquaintance on the part of the historian.
The archives of the House of Representatives and of the Senate abound in valuable material. Petitions and accompanying papers, drafts of bills, reports of committees, and proceedings of hearings are among the more interesting classes of papers, and in spite of the six thousand or more volumes of Congressional Documents that have thus far been printed, the student of almost any phase of our national history may search with profit among the manuscript archives of Congress.
Having thus considered the material and historical value of the federal archives we naturally inquire what measures the government has taken to ensure their safe-keeping and to render them accessible, not only for administrative use but for historical purposes. It takes but a small amount of space to set forth the general legislation on this subject.
The head of each department is authorized to prescribe regulations for the custody, use, and preservation of the records and papers of his department.10 Provision is made for the punishment of any one who alters, forges, or counterfeits any public record for the purpose of defrauding the government," of any person who wilfully and knowingly steals or destroys any record or paper filed in a public office, 12 or of any public official who withdraws or destroys any paper or record in his custody.13 Copies of books, records, papers, or documents in any of the executive departments authenticated by the seal of the department are to be admitted as evidence equally with the original.1 Accumulations of "files of papers" not needed in the transaction of current business and possessed of no permanent. value or historical interest, are to be reported to Congress by the head of the department in which they exist, and are to be examined by a joint committee of the two houses. If the committee finds the papers to be indeed "useless" it shall report to Congress and the head of the department shall thereupon sell them as waste paper or otherwise dispose of them.15 Finally it is provided:
10 Rev. Stat., § 161.
" Act of April 5, 1866.
Statutes at Large, XIV. 12; Rev. Stat., §§ 5418, 5479.
12 Act of February 26, 1853.
13 Act of February 26, 1853.
14 Rev. Stat., § 882.
Statutes at Large, X. 170; Rev. Stat., § 5408.
15 Act of February 16, 1889. Statutes at Large, XXV. 672. Act of March 2, 1895.
Id., XXVIII. 933.
That facilities for study and research in the Government Departments, the Library of Congress, the National Museum, the Zoological Park, the Bureau of Ethnology, the Fish Commission, the Botanical Gardens, and similar institutions hereafter established shall be afforded to scientific investigators and to duly qualified individuals, students, and graduates of institutions of learning in the several States and Territories, as well as in the District of Columbia, under such rules and restrictions as the heads of the Departments and Bureaus mentioned may prescribe."
These provisions of law seem very satisfactory and might conceivably provide a sufficient framework for a system of archive administration. But it is hard to make bricks without straw, and archives, which accumulate with astonishing rapidity, can not be properly preserved and made accessible without a place in which to keep them, and as yet that place has not been provided. This failure is not due to the fact that the matter has not been called to the attention of Congress. For over thirty years Presidents and heads of departments, as well as historical scholars, have repeatedly urged upon the legislative branch the necessity of making better provision for the records, but thus far without result. The inevitable effect of this apathy on the part of Congress has been to bring about the wellnigh intolerable situation which to-day confronts official and student alike.
This situation has frequently been described and nowhere more accurately nor in more vigorous terms than in official reports,17 but we cannot pass over it lightly in the present connection. The great growth of the business of the government, the expansion of the departments, the creation of new bureaus, the assumption of new functions, have all combined to render quarters that were none too ample a quarter of a century ago almost uninhabitable to-day. To this state of congestion with all its attendant inconvenience the accumulation of the records has contributed its full share. The effect upon the archives of this overcrowding has been most disastrous. Those no longer needed in the transaction of current business have, naturally enough, been considered an incumbrance, and, if they could not be destroyed as "useless papers", they have been stored wherever space could be found for them. Thus they are in cellars, and subcellars, and under terraces, in attics and over porticos, in corridors and closed-up doorways, piled in heaps upon the floor, or crowded into alcoves: this, if they are not farmed out and stored in such rented structures as abandoned car-barns, storage warehouses, deserted theatres, or ancient but more humble edifices that should long
ago have served their last useful purpose.18 Nor do the records in current use fare much better. They are, whenever that is possible, a little nearer the clerks who must consult them, but the line of demarcation between the current and uncurrent records is not a sharp one and the former are gradually absorbed into the mass of the latter. Such a state of affairs cannot exist without subjecting the archives to real and grave dangers. The danger from fire is an ever present one and is clearly set forth in a document of recent origin emanating from the House Committee on Buildings and Grounds. 19 A subcommittee on fire protection after personal investigation and many hearings "found that as a rule the precautions against fire in public buildings were lamentably deficient. In some of the buildings the danger of untold destruction both of life and property is immediate and appalling. Priceless records are in momentary danger of annihilation by fire, being kept for the most part on wooden shelves and cases in non fire-proof structures. The loss of Geological Survey records, Land Office records, historical papers dating from the beginning of the government, records of the Patent Office, Civil Service Commission, and other offices could hardly be measured in terms of millions, and yet, unless wiser measures are followed than at present obtain, we may witness at any moment a loss of Government property beside which the recent Albany State capitol fire would be insignificant."20
The apprehensions of the committee are only too well grounded. The archives most exposed to danger are probably those in certain of the rented buildings which are little better than fire-traps, but even in such structures as the Treasury building and the State, War, and Navy building the danger is by no means slight. While these buildings are supposedly fire-proof or nearly so, they are full of inflammable material, and the attics, which are generally packed with records, would spring into blaze, especially during the hot weather, upon slight provocation.
Nor is the past experience of the government with respect to fires reassuring. In November, 1800, the building occupied by the War Department together with all the records was destroyed.21 Two
18 The principal rented buildings or parts of buildings used mainly for storage are: old car-barns at 1st and B streets, S. W.; Cox Building, 1707-1709 New York Avenue, N. W.; storage buildings, 920 E Street, N. W.; storage buildings, 418 10th Street, N. W.; 1334 F Street, N. W.; 1338 G Street, N. W.; Union Building. Many other buildings might be mentioned which are used for both offices and storage but mainly for the former. House Doc. 785, 61 Cong., 2 sess. 19 Hearings and Reports of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds of the House of Representatives. 62 Cong., 1 sess. (Washington, 1911). 20 Ibid., preface, p. iv.
Am. State Papers, Misc., I. 232.
months later a fire in the Treasury Department destroyed a considerable part of the records in the auditor's office.22 The losses in 1814, when Washington was occupied by the British, were not great either in extent or importance, except in the House of Representatives,23 and in any case need not be considered in this connection as they were due not to negligence but to military incapacity. One of the most serious fires was that of March 31, 1833, which destroyed practically all the correspondence of the Secretary of the Treasury.24 Three years later, the Post-Office records relating to the establishment of post-offices and the appointment of postmasters as well as the journal and orders of the Postmaster-General were burned, together with nearly all the records and models in the Patent Office.25 The Patent Office was again visited by fire in 1877 and lost 87,000 models and 40,000 sets of photographic copies of drawings, but no records or files. 26 In 1880 a fire started in the War Department but caused no loss of archives, an experience which was repeated a few months later.27 There have been no serious fires of late years, although several small ones have occurred in the Geological Survey 28 and the Pension Bureau,29 but this immunity must be attributed solely to good luck and is quite undeserved.
Fire, however, is not the only enemy of archives. Quite or nearly as effective although slower in action are damp and dust, extremes of temperature, lack of ventilation, rough handling, and vandalism. From all of these the archives have sorely suffered. Until recently the archives of the Senate were stored beneath the west terrace of the Capitol, and the writer recalls having found hundreds of volumes covered with mould and literally soaked through. The records of the office of the Treasury auditor are in the sub-basement of the Treasury building, where they absorb moisture during the summer and dry up during the winter while the heating apparatus is in operation.30 Other Treasury records are stored under the grass plot at the north entrance, in close neighborhood to the large fountain erected there. The basement of the building, occupied originally by the
22 Ibid., pp. 241-242.
Id., II. 245, 248-252. It is nevertheless the fashion in the departments when papers antedating September, 1814, cannot be found to attribute their loss to the depredations of the invader.
24 House Ex. Doc. 22, 23 Cong., 2 sess.
Fire of December 15, 1836. House Report 134, 24 Cong., 2 sess.
Fire of September 24. House Ex. Doc. 2, 45 Cong., I sess.
History of the Movement for a National Archives Building, p. 4.
Ibid., no. 10.
See testimony of chief clerk of Treasury Department in Hearing before the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, U. S. Senate, March 1, 1912.