Prologue Magazine

Winter 2005, Vol. 37, No. 4

Serving at the Pleasure of the President:
The Nomination Papers of the United States Senate, 1789–1946

By John P. Deeben

Article II, section 2, of the U.S. Constitution gives the President the power to nominate public officials "with the Advice and Consent of the Senate." (General Records of the United States Government, RG 11)

It appeared to be a routine appointment. On December 12, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt nominated William Insco Buchanan to be envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States to the Republic of Panama. Buchanan was a career diplomat, having served previously as U.S. minister to the Argentine Republic from 1894 to 1899, as well as director general of the 1901 Pan American Exposition at Buffalo, New York. He had also supervised the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and was generally regarded a competent expert on Latin America. The Senate immediately referred the nomination to its Committee on Foreign Relations. Four days later, Republican Senator Shelby M. Cullom of Illinois favorably reported the nomination back to the full Senate, and Buchanan was confirmed on December 17, 1903.

The very next day, however, Democratic Senator John T. Morgan of Alabama filed a motion to reconsider the nomination. The Senate took up the matter on January 8, 1904. During the ensuing debate, Senator Morgan presented a written argument vehemently opposing Buchanan's appointment. Although declaring no personal objections to the candidate, Morgan categorically denied the constitutionality of the nomination. Coming as it did on the heels of a revolution in November 1903 that severed Panama from the South American country of Colombia, the appointment appeared to be a hurried, extralegal maneuver by Roosevelt to recognize Panamanian sovereignty (and thereby acquire exclusive rights to an isthmian canal zone) without congressional participation. Such recognition, Morgan argued, required a formal treaty that established consular authority for a U.S. representative to Panama. The American minister to Colombia currently held such diplomatic jurisdiction. Morgan thus warned the Senate not to set a dangerous precedent that would allow the President "to appoint a minister plenipotentiary to any country, or to any state, or any government, de facto, or de jure, civil or military, that in his discretion he may choose to recognize as a power." Despite Morgan's objections, the Senate tabled his motion on January 11, 1904, and upheld Buchanan's confirmation.

For the most part, William I. Buchanan has been forgotten as a public servant in America's diplomatic corps. The existence of a file among the papers of the United States Senate relating to presidential nominations, however, reveals some detail about Buchanan's career. There, one may find the statement of Senator Morgan, preserved by the Senate more than 100 years ago, that eloquently documents Buchanan's involvement in one of the foremost events of early 20th-century American diplomacy. The nomination files of the U.S. Senate thus offer a useful source of information for genealogical research regarding presidential appointments.

The Nature and Arrangement of the Records

The Constitution of the United States (Article II, section 2) requires the Senate to provide advice and consent for presidential nominations to major and minor federal offices, the federal judicial courts, and diplomatic personnel. In the confirmation process, senators typically considered the credentials of the nominee, the importance of the position, and the prevailing political climate. Unless a nominee proved glaringly unqualified, the Senate generally upheld presidential choices regarding appointments, especially for cabinet or other high-level positions. Sometimes, however, they invoked "senatorial courtesy," or the right of any senator who represented a nominee's home state to reject certain appointments when jurisdiction for the position fell within that state. This practice allowed individual senators, in effect, to select nominees, turning the appointment process at times on its head. In a custom similar to that which allowed the President to make nominations without explanation, the Senate staunchly reserved the right to reject any nominee without obligation to specify reasons.

The confirmation of presidential nominations, along with the ratification of treaties, constituted an executive duty the Senate shared with the President. Both tasks were therefore performed in confidential sessions separate from regular legislative proceedings. The Senate only admitted the public and press on occasion if a nomination or treaty proved of special interest. Secrecy regarding executive sessions remained formally in place until 1929, although the results of proceedings were published regularly. Years later, during the 96th Congress (1979–1980), the Senate passed Resolution 474 closing nomination records for 50 years to protect the privacy of nominees.

Presidential nominations covered a wide array of federal positions over the ensuing years. In addition to cabinet-level posts, civilian nominations concerned such diverse positions as customs and revenue collectors; postmasters; territorial administrators; foreign service personnel such as envoys, consuls, and ambassadors; and judicial appointments including U.S. attorneys, marshals, and judges. Military nominations typically involved promotions in the army and navy or appointments of military personnel to civilian boards and commissions. Nineteenth-century nomination files quite often reflected appointments of a local or regional nature, while 20th-century files became more national and worldly in scope, comprising more diplomatic nominations as well as appointments relating to New Deal legislation in the 1930s and world bodies such as the United Nations.

Records in the nomination files vary considerably, both in quantity and content. It is important to remember that files were usually generated when appointments stimulated controversy and debate; a file may not exist for routine appointments. From 1789 to 1867, nominations were often debated and approved on the Senate floor on the same day they arrived from the President and produced no records beyond the President's nominating message.

Some gaps appear in the records of the early Congresses. No nomination papers exist for the Second through Fifth Congresses (1791–1799) or the Eighth Congress (1803–1805.) In 1868 the Senate adopted a rule to refer all nominations to an appropriate committee for consideration, although it is possible to find occasional referrals from as early as 1800. Once committees became routinely involved in the process, the official records of nominations were more reliably preserved.

Report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary concerning the nomination of Joseph L. Smith to be judge of the Superior Court of the Territory of Florida, April 30, 1822. (Records of the U.S. Senate, RG 46)

Nomination papers comprise a wide assortment of documents. Early files from 1800 to the 1860s commonly hold handwritten correspondence, both for and against the nominee, notarized affidavits and petitions, and sometimes committee reports. The file of Joseph L. Smith, who was nominated to be judge of the Superior Court for the Territory of Florida in 1822, includes a significant report from the Senate Committee on the Judiciary that swayed the outcome of his nomination. The committee investigated Smith's suitability for office because he had been cashiered from the army on charges derogatory to his moral character. The committee discovered that Smith had in fact been tried and convicted of a dubious count of breeching military etiquette by making false accounts to the government. The charges were subsequently refuted by credible witnesses, and Smith was immediately restored to rank by President James Monroe. Upon that evidence, the committee endorsed Smith's nomination.

Joseph Harrod was interviewed regarding the nomination of Benjamin Ames as U.S. marshal for the District of Maine. (Records of the U.S. Senate, RG 46)

Files from the 1880s to the mid-20th century contain other types of records as well, including referral cards, financial disclosures, nominee résumés, committee vote tallies, and correspondence from the administration, executive departments, and members of Congress. Quite often, committee members sought the opinions of fellow senators and congressmen on the suitability of nominees. Telegrams and newspaper clippings appear as well if appointees were involved in public controversies.

Hearings conducted by Senate committees generated a particularly important body of documentation that reveals the inner workings of the confirmation process. Committees typically used hearings to investigate and assess a nominee's qualifications and personal character. In the 19th century, unlike today, nominees rarely appeared in person. Hearings simply involved written testimony gathered from witnesses responding to questionnaires. When Benjamin Ames was nominated to be U.S. marshal for the district of Maine in 1824, Judiciary committee chairman Martin Van Buren solicited information from an acquaintance named Joseph Harrod regarding Ames's activities in Bermuda during the War of 1812. (He was suspected of having provided aid to the British.) The committee sent written questions to Harrod's lawyer in Portland, who then arranged to take a deposition from the witness. Hearing records from about 1900 onward comprise verbatim transcripts of testimony and proceedings, and not until the 20th century did Senate committees routinely require appointees to testify in person.

Arrangement of the nomination files changed slightly over the years. From 1789 to 1946, the papers were organized chronologically by Congress, then alphabetically by name. Beginning with the 80th Congress (1947–1948), the nomination papers were filed by Congress and then by the appropriate committee. Under each committee the file order remained alphabetical. The most common committees that contain nomination files include Agriculture and Forestry, Armed Services, Banking, Finance, Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs, Interior and Insular Affairs, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Judiciary, Labor and Welfare, Post Office and Civil Service, Public Works, and Rules and Administration.

Genealogical Value of the Records

The Senate nomination papers offer useful information for genealogy or biographical research in many ways. The files often place individuals within the larger context of their times, providing intimate snapshots of major issues or events that affected nominations. The William I. Buchanan appointment, cited earlier, provides but one of the more dramatic illustrations about America's diplomatic campaign to build the Panama Canal.

Nomination files from the 1920s, mostly involving judicial appointments, also provide an intimate look at the legal community's response to the social and criminal dimensions of Prohibition. Many nominees during this period were accused, rightly or not, of personally violating Prohibition or supporting the criminal activities of bootleggers. Typical is the file of judicial nominee Harry B. Anderson. Appointed by President Calvin Coolidge to be judge of the western district of Tennessee in 1925, Anderson was immediately accused of favoring bootleggers as well as being openly intoxicated at a press dinner in Memphis. Anderson was even accused of accepting a $10,000 bribe from a local Memphis rum runner named Nello Grandi, who was known publicly as "King of the Bootleggers." Anderson's file, however, also contained many affidavits from leading lawmen of Shelby County who supported his nomination, suggesting the allegations were politically motivated.

The nominations of Judge Benjamin Nathan Cardozo to the Supreme Court and Dr. William D. Crum as a customs collector highlight two important social and political issues, anti-Semitism and civil rights. In 1932, President Herbert Hoover nominated Cardozo, who was Jewish, to be an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. At the time, Cardozo was serving as chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals. The appointment generated several letters of protest from various constituents, some of whom openly opposed Cardozo's Jewish background. "We don't have to dip into the New York cesspool for legal talent," quipped one letter writer from Brooklyn, who feared that Cardozo would not protect the interests of the population's Protestant majority. Despite such concerns, which proved to be limited, Cardozo was confirmed as an associate justice on March 14, 1932, becoming the second Jewish jurist after Louis D. Brandeis to attain a seat on the nation's highest court.

Senate committees often used form letters to solicit the opinions of colleagues about nominees, such as this letter from Judiciary chairman G. W. Morris to Senator Royal S. Copeland regarding the nomination of Benjamin Cardozo to the Supreme Court. (Records of the U.S. Senate, RG 46)

Dr. Crum was a black physician residing in Charleston, South Carolina, at the turn of the 20th century. On November 10, 1903, Theodore Roosevelt nominated Crum to be collector of customs at Charleston. At the time of the appointment, Crum had already been serving as collector for several months under a temporary commission issued while the Senate was in recess. After Roosevelt formally nominated Crum, however, the Senate referred the nomination to the Committee on Commerce, where it languished through the first session of the 58th Congress.

Undaunted, Roosevelt resubmitted the nomination the first day of the second session on December 7, 1903, and it was immediately sent back to the committee. This time, Crum's nomination quickly garnered national attention and came to be regarded by the African American community as an early litmus test for civil rights. Petitions supporting the nomination poured into the Senate from black citizens groups and political organizations nationwide. The Commerce Committee favorably reported the nomination back to the full Senate on February 22, 1904.

The barrage of public support continued unabated, now pressing the full Senate to confirm Crum. A petition from one group of registered black voters from Minnesota, noting "the keen interest manifested by the Colored People throughout the United States in the outcome of Dr. Crum's nomination," bluntly observed that the case "is one of the most stubborn that the Colored race has had to contend with since the emancipation." Numerous petitions from California echoed the sentiments of black citizens of San Francisco, who declared that "Afro American voters throughout the country regard the Crum case as a crucial test." The failure of the Senate to confirm the doctor, they believed, would greatly damage support for the Republican Party among black constituents. Even the press, such as the San Francisco Western Outlook, duly noted the political implications of the issue: "The case of Crum is a test and if he is confirmed the door of hope is opened to the Negro, and he is told that his loyalty of years is appreciated and that his presence is still desired in the ranks of the Republican party as a faithful follower."

Despite such outpourings of support, the Senate waited almost two months before it finally considered Crum's nomination. On April 14, 1904, it debated the matter for one day and then postponed further consideration. The Senate revisited the issue almost two weeks later but again deferred discussion. The very next day, the second session of the 58th Congress expired, and Crum's nomination died. The Senate's handling of the Crum appointment, in spite of widespread, documented support, reflected to some extent the racial barriers that prevailed in early 20th-century America.

Brig. Gen. John M. Schofield (111-BA-1416)

Political rivalries played a major role in many nominations as well. Family historians should be prepared to encounter unflattering as well as favorable vignettes of relatives who sought public office. When Brig. Gen. John M. Schofield was nominated during the Civil War to be a major general of volunteers, the General Assembly of Missouri filed a petition decrying Schofield's political sympathies. They openly accused the general, who had previously served in the state as commander of the Military Department of Missouri, of supporting those radical factions of the Democratic Party known as Copperheads or Southern sympathizers. According to the petition, Schofield opposed "the truly loyal citizens, who have been loyal without a single taint or reproach of sympathy for the pro-slavery treason or traitors."

Numerous other nominations, both before and after the Civil War, involved the residency status, or lack thereof, of nominees for state-oriented positions. For the most part, constituents preferred local candidates for such posts, which commonly included postmasterships, revenue collectors, land agents, and district judgeships, and often viewed nonresident appointees as "carpetbaggers."

This printed petition from the state legislature of Missouri protests Schofield's nomination as major general of volunteers. (Records of the U.S. Senate, RG 46)

An early example involved the nomination of David Irvin to be a judge for the Territory of Wisconsin in 1836. Congressional leaders received written complaints from local residents that Irvin was chronically absent from the territory, much to the detriment of the public good: "He has never . . . resided or remained within the limits of the whole Territory of Michigan or Wisconsin for three months in any one year, but was generally absent from the country, in consequence of which the people have been put to very great inconvenience and expense."

Nearly a century later, similar complaints plagued the nomination of Edgar J. Adams for the judgeship of a U.S. district court in Alaska in 1928. In this case, Alaskan congressional representatives complained that Adams was not a state resident and therefore possessed no useful knowledge of the local population. The problem of nonresidency plagued the federal judicial system in Alaska so much, in fact, that one constituent observed, "You might as well resurrect Ali Babba and his forty thieves and confirm one of them as an Alaskan lawyer."

Some nomination files, finally, provide glimpses into the personal or professional character of the candidates. Here again, researchers should be wary of what they might find.

The nomination of Rear Adm. Benjamin F. Isherwood to be engineer-in-chief of the U.S. Navy in 1861 elicited some incredulous complaints of professional incompetence. Even though Isherwood was widely regarded at the time as a pioneer in naval and steam engineering, some petitioners insisted he "does not possess the requisite qualifications for a faithful and efficient discharge of the duties of that important office" and cited examples of shoddy design and workmanship in the construction of engines and boilers for several military steamers. Interestingly, Isherwood was nominated a year later to be chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering. This time, he was widely supported by the naval engineering community, who praised his "devotion to the duties of this highly responsible office" as well as his "acknowledged efficiency and ability." Isherwood's appointment, they concluded, would "be for the best good of our country."

Rear Adm. Benjamin Isherwood. (111-BA-1608)

In these varied contexts, nomination files provide compelling documentation for the social science aspects of genealogy research. In a more traditional sense, many nomination files provide an excellent source for the basic personal data and vital statistics that compose the manna of genealogy. Especially with regard to 20th-century files, researchers may find more personal documentation, including résumés and application forms that include place and date of birth, marriage information, and sometimes even the names and birth dates of parents. The files of diplomatic nominations also contain succinct biographical sketches that include the complete range of personal facts, from birth information, education and dates of graduation, and military service to a résumé-like history of civilian and governmental employment.

Some nomination papers even provide descriptive details of military service. The file of Theodore L. Cogswell, who was appointed register of wills for the District of Columbia in 1927, contains a copy of his Distinguished Service Cross citation for "extraordinary heroism in action" at Landres St. George, France, in 1918. In addition to listing his military rank and unit information, the citation described in detail how Cogswell, in the face of heavy machine-gun fire, scouted forward positions to flank the enemy until he was severely wounded.

Physical descriptions of disabilities resulting from military service may appear in the files as well. Julius Bohrer served in the U.S. Navy in the mid-19th century. In 1855 he was nominated for promotion to lieutenant. Subsequent testimonies from several naval surgeons, however, described disabilities that actually precluded Bohrer from performing the requisite duties of a lieutenant at sea. He contracted opthalmia in 1848 while serving on board the USS Plymouth, impairing the sight of his right eye. In 1851 he also developed chronic rheumatism while attached to the USS Jamestown off the coast of Africa, which affected the joint muscles of his right knee and contracted his leg. Bohrer's hip joint was also impaired by atrophy of the muscles and ligaments. Such medical details usually reside nowhere else except military pension records. In this respect, the nomination papers offer an additional resource for useful family information.

Finding Aids

A variety of published finding aids are available at the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives. If researchers know, at minimum, the name of a nominee, the following resources identify the Congress under which the person was appointed or the Senate committee that reviewed the nomination. Published congressional proceedings provide primary access to the nomination files. The Senate Executive Journal, which was maintained in addition to the regular legislative journal, offers the official record of the executive sessions that met to consider and approve presidential nominations. The journals are arranged by session of Congress, each with an alphabetical name index. They identify the names of nominees, the committees to which they were referred, and in most cases the final action taken by the full Senate.

Several published records of Senate floor debates may sometimes supplement information from the Executive Journal. The Annals of Congress, covering proceedings from 1789 to 1824, contain paraphrased versions of Senate speeches and records of debates culled primarily from contemporary newspaper accounts. The Register of Debates covers 1824 to 1837, with some overlap, and also provides summaries of leading discussions and incidents. The Congressional Globe (1833–1873) contains abstracts of debates until 1851, then more verbatim transcriptions of proceedings. The Annals of Congress, the Register of Debates, and the Congressional Globe contain indexes in each volume. The Congressional Record has published daily transcriptions of proceedings from 1873 to the present, and each session of Congress is indexed in separate volumes. The Senate journals and proceedings through 1875 are searchable as well on the Internet through the American Memory homepage on the Library of Congress web site.

The National Archives and Records Administration publication Special List No. 20: Papers of the United States Senate Relating to Presidential Nominations, 1789–1901, is the primary archival finding aid to the papers. Special List No. 20 offers a simple file list of all existing nomination papers, arranged alphabetically by Congress with a comprehensive name index. The Archives I Research Support Branch recently compiled a supplement to this publication that updates the file list from 1901 to 1946.

Published committee hearing indexes offer another avenue to identify and access nomination files. Congressional Information Service, Inc. (CIS) has produced two series of indexes to Senate hearings. These include U.S. Congressional Committee Hearings Index, 1833–1969, and Index to Unpublished U.S. Senate Committee Hearings, 1823–1964. Other volumes in the Unpublished Hearings series for 1965 to 1980 are available in the National Archives reference library at College Park, Maryland. They may also be accessed online through the LexisNexis Group, an information subscription service. These publications contain personal name and subject indexes. Under the subject index, the subheading "nominations" offers alphabetical listings. Each listing contains the appointee's name, the position or department to which they are being nominated, and a reference accession number. The index also contains Superintendent of Document (SuDoc) classifications assigned by the Government Printing Office. All hearing transcripts have been reproduced on microfiche by CIS; the reference accession numbers refer to the appropriate fiche. Copies of the fiche are available at many federal depository libraries, which may be located online at http://www.gpo.gov/libraries/, or through the National Archives using inquire@nara.gov.

Related Records

Additional documentation for persons nominated to federal office often exists among other textual records of government agencies and departments. Most of these bodies maintained employee appointment files. The Department of the Interior, for example, established an Appointments Division in 1861 that specifically handled business concerning the status of appointed employees. These appointment papers, now part of the Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, Record (RG) Group 48, were arranged into several series, including Central Office (Entry 14), Field Office (Entry 15), and Departmental (Entry 27). The first two series, in particular, reflect many positions filled by presidential nomination, including pension agents, Indian agents, registers and receivers of land offices, patent commissioners, and higher level department administrators. They contain such relevant paperwork as letters of application and recommendation, petitions, oaths of office, reports, and letters of resignation. An additional series of records in the Charges and Protests Files (Entry 17) also relates to departmental employees who were presidential nominees.

The appointment records of many executive departments are also available on microfilm. Of the Interior Department records previously mentioned, field office appointments for 15 states and territories have been reproduced. Other relevant microfilm series include two publications of postmaster appointments from the Records of the Post Office Department, RG 28: M1131, Record of Appointment of Postmasters, October 1789–1832, and M841, Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832–September 30, 1971. Four microfilm publications from the General Records of the Department of Justice, RG 60, cover appointments of federal judges, attorneys, and marshals in Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington from 1853 to 1903. Another set of 11 microfilm series from the General Records of the Department of State, RG 59, reproduce letters of application and recommendation for diplomatic and consular positions from the administrations of John Adams to Ulysses S. Grant.

The Records of the United States Senate, RG 46, contain other documentation for presidential nominees as well. Senate executive session records for each Congress usually include separate series of nomination messages arranged by session. These messages contain the official letters of appointment. The reverse side of the letters often provides the date of transmittal to the Senate, the date of referral to committee, and the confirmation date. Some of the early nomination messages for the Fifth through Ninth Congresses (1797–1807) as well as the Eleventh Congress (1809–1811) have also been microfilmed as part of an ongoing project to reproduce all unbound congressional records from 1789 to 1817.

Many Senate committee records, particularly since World War II, also contain separate series of transcripts for public hearings and executive sessions, which supplement the occasional copies of transcripts that appear within the nomination papers. Committee correspondence may often include references to particular nominees as well. Researchers who wish to examine the records of the Senate should contact the reference staff at the Center for Legislative Archives for assistance.

Even though the United States Senate, along with the House of Representatives, is primarily responsible for writing the laws of the nation, the legislative records it creates bear relevancy to genealogists. A good deal of the business of the Senate, particularly with respect to its unique executive capacity to review and approve presidential appointments, deals directly with the personal history and qualifications of individual federal employees. The papers of the Senate relating to presidential nominations therefore provide a useful, virtually untapped source of information for genealogy research.

Note on Sources

Principal references in this article to Senate nomination papers came from the following files in Papers Relating to Presidential Nominations (Papers re Nominations), Records of the United States Senate, Record Group (RG) 46, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.:

  • Statement of Senator John T. Morgan, January 8, 1904; William I. Buchanan File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 58B-A5]; 58th Congress.
  • William S. Smith File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 6B-A3]; Sixth Congress.
  • Report of the Committee on the Judiciary on the Nomination of J. L. Smith, April 30, 1822; Joseph L. Smith File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 17B-A3]; 17th Congress.
  • Testimony of Joseph Harrod, May 11, 1824; Benjamin Ames File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 18B-A3]; 18th Congress.
  • Affidavits of R. B. Thompson, December 28, 1925, and Matt C. Grantham, December 29, 1925; Harry B. Anderson File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 18B-A3]; 69th Congress.
  • Frank Porter, Brooklyn, New York, to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, February 18, 1932; Benjamin Nathan Cardozo File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 72B-A3]; 72nd Congress.
  • Petition from citizens of Beltrami County, Minnesota, to the Hon. Moses E. Clapp, U.S. Senator from Minnesota, March 9, 1904; Petition from citizens of San Francisco to the Hon. George C. Perkins, U.S. Senator from California, March 23, 1904; The Western Outlook, March 19, 1904; William D. Crum File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 58B-A5]; 58th Congress.
  • Petition from members of the General Assembly of Missouri to the U.S. Senate, December 1863; John M. Schofield File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 38B-A4]; 38th Congress.
  • George W. Jones to Hon. L. F. Linn, U.S. House of Representatives, May 7, 1836; David Irvin File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 24B-A3]; 24th Congress.
  • O. A. McConnell to Senator George W. Morris, Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, December 15, 1928; Edgar J. Adams File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 70B-A3]; 70th Congress.
  • Memorial of Citizens to the Senate of the United States, March 26, 1861; Benjamin F. Isherwood File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 36B-A4-A5]; 36th Congress.
  • Officers of the U.S. Flag Ship Lancaster, Pacific Squadron, Bay of Panama, to the Senate of the United States, November 1, 1862; Benjamin F. Isherwood File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 37B-A5-A6]; 37th Congress.
  • Transcript of Distinguished Service Cross Citation; Theodore L. Cogswell File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 70B-A3]; 70th Congress.
  • David L. Edwards, S. R. Addison, and Charles Everfield, Surgeons in the U.S. Navy, to Secretary of the Navy J. C. Dobbin, January 13, 1855; Julius Bohrer File; Papers re Nominations [SEN 33B-A4]; 33rd Congress.

Other Senate records from RG 46 that relate to presidential nominations, including committee hearing transcripts, committee correspondence, and nominating messages, are described in Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South, Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789–1989 (1989: Senate Document 100-42, 100th Cong, 2nd sess, Serial 13853.) In addition, general information about the confirmation process was derived from the Senate Historical Office home page on the United States Senate web site.

Finding Aids

The Senate Executive Journal, 58th Cong., 1st sess., November 11, 1903; 2nd sess., December 7, 1903 to April 14, 1904, provided additional information about the confirmation process of both the William I. Buchanan and the William D. Crum nominations. National Archives publications, such as George P. Perros, James C. Brown, and Jacqueline A. Wood, Special List No. 20: Papers of the United States Senate Relating to Presidential Nominations, 1789–1901 (1964), provided information regarding the availability of and access to nomination papers from early congresses.

Edward E. Hill and Renee M. Jaussaud, Inventory of the Records of the Department of the Interior, RG 48, Inventory No. 13 (1987), contains information about related textual appointment records, including Entry 14, Central Office Appointment Papers; Entry 15, Field Office Appointment Papers; Entry 17, Charges and Protests Files; and Entry 27, Departmental Appointment Papers. See also the NARA reference report "Interior Department Employees: Records of the Department of the Interior's Appointments Division, 1849–1907." This report is available in the Microfilm Research Room of the Robert M. Warner Research Center at the National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.

Microfilm

Information regarding all microfilm citations came from Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog (Washington: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000). The William S. Smith nomination papers [SEN 6B-A3] were reproduced in Unbound Records of the U.S. Senate, Sixth Congress, 1799–1801 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1706, roll 7). For other unbound records of the U.S. Senate that contain nomination papers, see microfilm publications M1704 (Fifth Congress, 1797–1799); P2000 (Seventh Congress, 1801–1803); M1403 (Eighth Congress, 1803-1805); M1708 (Ninth Congress, 1805–1807); and M1712 (Eleventh Congress, 1809–1811.)

Related appointment papers from the Records of the Post Office Department, RG 28, were found in Record of Appointment of Postmasters, October 1789–1832 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1131) and Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832–September 30, 1970 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M841). Appointments from the General Records of the Department of Justice, RG 60, are reproduced in Records Relating to the Appointment of Federal Judges, Attorneys, and Marshals for the Territory and State of Idaho, 1861–1899 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M681). Publications for other states include M224 (Oregon, 1853–1903), M680 (Utah, 1853–1901), and M198 (Washington, 1853–1902).

The National Archives has also microfilmed the Field Office Appointments of the Department of the Interior, RG 48, as Interior Department Appointment Papers: Alaska, 1871–1907 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1245). Other states in the publication series include Arizona, 1857–1907 (M576); California, 1849–1907 (M732); Colorado, 1857–1907 (M808); Florida, 1849–1907 (M1119); Idaho, 1862–1907 (M693); Mississippi, 1849–1907 (M849), Missouri, 1849–1907 (M1058); Nevada, 1860–1907 (M1033); New Mexico, 1850–1907 (M750); New York, 1849–1906 (M1022); North Carolina, 1849–1892 (M950); Oregon, 1849–1907 (M814); Wisconsin, 1849–1907 (M831); and Wyoming, 1869–1907 (M830).

The earliest letters of application and recommendation for diplomatic and consular appointments in the General Records of the Department of State, RG 59, have been reproduced in Letters of Application and Recommendation During the Administration of John Adams, 1797-1801 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M406). Microfilm publications covering the appointments of other presidential administrations include M418 (Thomas Jefferson, 1801–1809); M438 (James Madison, 1809–1817); M439 (James Monroe, 1817–1825); M531 (John Quincy Adams, 1825–1829); M639 (Andrew Jackson, 1829–1837); M687 (Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, and John Tyler, 1837–1845); M873 (James Polk, Zachary Taylor, and Millard Fillmore, 1845–1853); M967 (Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, 1853–1861); M650 (Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, 1861–1869); and M968 (Ulysses S. Grant, 1869–1877).


John P. Deeben is a genealogy archives specialist in the Research Support Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from Gettysburg College and Penn State University.

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.

Purchase This Issue | Subscribe to Prologue

Top of Page

Prologue Magazine >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

.