American History and American Studies: U.S. Government Documents

The Purpose of this Page

This page is designed to provide a relatively brief starting point for accessing and using the many online collections of U.S. Government Documents available to you at Columbia University Libraries. A more extensive range of guides to federal, state, and local government documents (including discussions of documents available in print and microform) is provided at our main hub for U.S. Government Documents.

Full-Text Resources

ProQuest Congressional
Coverage: Current, and 20th Century, 19th Century, 18th Century
ProQuest Congressional is usually the best place to start when you are looking for full text of U.S. Congressional (that is, Legislative Branch) publications. It has recently been expanded to include Executive Branch documents that were published 1789-1939. This database includes the Congressional Serial Set; Committee Prints & Miscellaneous Publications; House and Senate Documents; Congressional Research Service Reports; and House and Senate Reports. Please note that House and Senate Hearings are comprehensively covered up through 2010 only in this database, which provides only a relatively small range of hearings published in 2011 and afterwards. For hearings 2011 to current, use FDsys. For U.S. government documents not found in ProQuest Congressional or FDsys, please Ask a Librarian.

FDsys: Federal Digital System (United States. Government Printing Office) [open access]
Coverage: Current; and generally going back as far as 1993-1995
Provides free online access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government: the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. For a list of collections available in FDsys and the dates that each collection covers, click here. Generally speaking, most collections go back as far as the early or mid 1990s. Collections are typically updated as electronic versions of the latest relevant documents become available.  

ProQuest Legislative Insight
Coverage: Current, and 20th Century, 19th Century, 18th Century
ProQuest® legislative histories are comprised of fully searchable PDFs of full-text publications generated in the course of congressional lawmaking. These include the full text of the Public Law itself, all versions of related bills, law-specific Congressional Record excerpts, committee hearings, reports, and prints. Also included are Presidential signing statements, CRS reports, and miscellaneous congressional publications that provide background material to aid in the understanding of issues related to the making of the law. Includes histories for laws passed during the current congress and for laws dating back as far as the first congress. New legislative histories are still being added in 2015. For more on the range of dates covered in Legislative Insight, click here.

HeinOnline
Coverage: Current, and 20th Century, 19th Century, 18th Century
The primary emphasis of HeinOnline is on federal and state laws and on documents that provide context for them. Use this database for access to collections such as U.S. Statutes at Large; State Statutes: A Historical Archive; and U.S. Supreme Court Library. This database also provides access to collections of strong general interest, such as the Federal Register Library; the Congressional Record; and the U.S. Presidential Library. Most document series covered here are covered from their beginnings up until the present.

Declassified documents reference system : DDRS.
The database ranges from the years immediately following World War II, when declassified documents were first made widely available, through the 1970s. Nearly every major foreign and domestic event of these years is covered: the Cold War, Vietnam, foreign policy shifts, the civil rights movement, and others.

The making of modern law. U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs, 1832-1978 (Thomson Gale)
This database contains ... records and briefs brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in the period 1832-1978. The collection is derived from two essential reference sources. For the period 1832 (when printed Court records began) through 1915, the documents are based primarily on the holdings of the Jenkins Memorial Law Library, America's first law library, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For 1915-1978 the source is the Library of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, a nationally recognized research facility and the single largest member supported law library in the United States.--Publisher's web site.

Congress.gov (Library of Congress) [open access]
Coverage: Current; With full text back through mid 1990s
"Congress.gov is the official website for U.S. federal legislative information. The site provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public. It is presented by the Library of Congress (LOC) using data from the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, the Government Publishing Office, Congressional Budget Office, and the LOC's Congressional Research Service. Congress.gov is usually updated the morning after a session adjourns."

voxgov
Coverage: Current and Recent
"voxgov is a discovery platform with a wealth of analytics providing fast and reliable access to unfiltered original source news, media and information direct from all branches of the U.S. Federal Government. voxgov enables users to easily find who in government is saying what and when on any subject throughout all phases of the political, legislative and regulatory process."--Publisher information.

The American Presidency Project [Open Access]
Includes: Papers of the Presidents, party platforms, documents released by the Office of the Press Secretary, and many other resources related to the study of the presidency.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set: Digital Edition (Readex)
Coverage: 20th Century, 19th Century
A digital reproduction of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, which consists of the sequentially numbered volumes containing the Reports, Documents, and Journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Covers years: 1817-1980. Provides an interface and a system of subject headings distinct from ProQuest Congressional, which also provides access to these same publications. Researchers exploring the Serial Set for the years 1817-1980, should find it helpful to work with both of these databases, since different interfaces and systems of subject headings provide different opportunities for discovering relevant documents. One special strength of Readex's Congressional Serial Set is that you can search it through Archive of Americana, a platform that includes a massive number of American non-governmental publications from the same period.

American State Papers,1789-1838
(Readex)
Coverage: 19th Century , 18th Century
A digitization of the American State Papers--a set of 38 folio volumes printed from 1832-1861--that were a retrospective republication of approximately 6280 numbered publications that had been originally issued from 1789-1838. These publications are largely Congressional but also contain Executive Department materials.

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1875 (Library of Congress)
Coverage: 19th Century , 18th Century
Records of the proceedings of America's national legislative bodies, beginning with the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, and followed by the United States Congress.

Declassified Documents

Declassified documents reference system : DDRS (Thomson Gale)
Provides access to "more than 116,000 declassified documents." This "database ranges from the years immediately following World War II, through the 1970s, when declassified documents were first made widely available, up to and including the Iraq War and the War on Terrorism. Nearly every major foreign and domestic event of these years is covered. . . ."

Digital National Security Archive (ProQuest)
Provides access to “a vast trove of important declassified U.S. government documents, providing vital primary source material to advance research in twentieth and twenty-first century history, politics, and international relations. Working in collaboration with the National Security Archive to preserve and widen access to this significant material, ProQuest has created a far-reaching, curated collection of U.S. official documents. More than 650,000 pages are included, with many gathered through extensive use of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act by The Archive.”

Directories, Catalogs, and Manuals

Members of the U.S. Congress (from Congress.gov, Library of Congress)
"Members of the U.S. Congress features Member profiles for Representatives and Senators who have served since 1973 (93rd Congress). Members from the 71st to 92nd Congresses (1929 to 1972) who were still serving as of the 93rd Congress are included. Profiles can be faceted by congress, chamber, political party, and state or U.S. territory. Member profiles provide interactive lists of sponsored and cosponsored legislation."

Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, 1895-1976  
A "comprehensive index to historical information published by the United States federal government. Describing over 1.2 million items published between January 1895 and June 1976, the Monthly Catalog helps you identify important and useful information on all subjects." For items published since July 1976, use the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

The United States Government Manual "The official handbook of the Federal Government. This special edition of the Federal Register is currently updated to provide comprehensive and authoritative descriptions of the programs and activities of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches.  The Government Manual also includes information about quasi-official agencies, international organizations with U.S. membership, and Federal boards, commissions, and committees."

Maps

Many maps have been published in U.S. Government Documents. They are not always easy to find, however, in government document databases. The following two database modules are designed to enable you to search efficiently for maps that appeared in U.S. Congressional Serial Set publications from 1789 to 1969.

ProQuest Congressional: Serial set maps (1789-1969) 
Coverage: 20th Century, 19th and 18th Century
A specialized search module focusing on the maps in the Serial Set. Maps can be searched by keyword, title, map area/subject, map relief method, and/or names on map.

Serial Set Maps (Readex)
Coverage: 20th Century, 19th Century
A specialized search module supplementary to the Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set, Serial Set Maps allows users to focus searches on the maps themselves - the geographic areas they depict, the subjects they represent, their titles, and the names associated with the maps either as cartographers, explorers, or in some other capacity.

Other Columbia Research Guides for U.S. Government Documents

U.S. Government Documents (Columbia University Libraries)
Homepage of the U.S. Government Documents division of the Columbia University Libraries. Includes subject guides providing access to federal, state, and local documents as well as guidance for finding U.S. government documents at Lehman Library.

Foreign Relations of the United States in the U.S. Serial Set (Columbia University Libraries)