Am State Papers


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  • After the Capitol was destroyed in 1814 by the British, Congress began looking into putting their papers in a more permanent and accessible format. It wasn’t until 1832-1861 that the 38 volumes of the American State Papers began to be published by Gales & Seaton. 6,278 documents are included in the these volumes, of which only 750 sets were published.American Memory, LexisNexis Congressional, and Readex contain the entire digital output of these original volumes.
  • Presidential highlights:Washington – 1st presidentJefferson – Louisiana Purchase 1803, Lewis & Clark Expedition 1804-1806.Madison – War of 1812Monroe & Adams– Monroe Doctrine, Erie Canal. Convention of 1818, specified border between U.S. & Canada. 1819 treaty with Spain securing western & eastern Florida for U.S. Later problems arose with U.S.-Mexico border & Texas. Jackson – Indian Removal Act and voluntary exchange of eastern lands for western lands. Indian Territory now Oklahoma.
  • From Indian Affairs, Vol. I, pages 705-743. This starts a very detailed account of the expedition as it pertains to Indian territory. Military Affairs, Foreign Relations, and Miscellaneous volumes also contain information about Lewis & Clarke’s expedition. (The expedition began in May 1804 and ended in St. Louis in Sept. 1806.) Note the spelling of Clarke’s name – we usually see it as Clark.
  • This very detailed account before Congress of the Burr Conspiracy, to become the head of an empire stretching from the Ohio River to Mexico, can be found in Miscellaneous, Vol. 1, pages 468-645. Proceedings began in Jan. 1807 and ended in Sept. 1807. Mr. Burr was acquitted of treason after 25 minutes of deliberation, but fled the United States for Europe. He returned to the U.S. in 1812, and lived in retirement until his death in 1836.
  • The federalgovernment also used land to pay for its debts and meeting other types of obligations. The Claims volume takes its information from reports based on actual applications that the secretary of war sent to Congress between 1792-1795. The original Revolutionary War records were destroyed by a fire in the War Department on Nov. 8, 1800.
  • Land grants and claims in the American State Papers are private land claims on Public Domain, established in areas later ceded to the United States, and based on grants from British, Spanish, or French authorities. Each claim had to be proven and verified to be recognized the United States, regardless of its origin.
  • Louisiana Purchase:1803$15 million dollars, 756,961,280 acres of land at 3.6¢/acreCovered portions of states of Alabama & Mississippi; all of Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Missouri.
  • The following Public Domainstates are treated directly in the Papers: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The original land titles were issued or confirmed by the United States.
  • The American Memory Project’s American State Papers is a treasure trove of Congressional documents from 1789-1838. Most of the images in this resource are actual pages from the Gales & Seaton 38 volume set, of which only 750 complete sets were printed. The exception is Vol. 1-3 of the Public Lands – these were printed by Duff Green and the pages may not correspond with those in the Gales & Seaton version.Though we are focusing today on the Public Lands and Claims series, it is useful to check the other series to get a good sense of America’s early history.The nearly 80,000 land claims in early America (1789-1837) give much of the following genealogical/historical information: ages of claimants; previous places of habitation; names of children, wives, and other relatives; exact location of claims; and the time period of “cultivation and habitation.”Let’s take a look at how to navigate this resource.
  • Go to the index and scroll down until you see the name you entered. It will appear in bold type. You can also do “control F” to find a specific name or event in the index and then highlight each occurrence.
  • Here are the results of your search.
  • While we have focused on the Public Lands and Claims volumes, the other series can also yield results, such as the Indian Affairs volumes, and show us the history of America’s push westward.
  • Both of these resources give you tips on how to search through original documents to find genealogical information. For more information on military bounty lands, look in the chapter Land and Tax Records in The Source.They are available at the University of Houston in the reference department. They can’t be checked out, but you can use them in the library, and make copies of what you need. Houston Public Library also has these books.
  • Check to see if your local library has access to this version of LexisNexis Congressional. Not all of them have the Serial Set. The Clayton Library does have the Serial Set, and you can come to the Anderson Library at the University of Houston and use the public computers to search this database.
  • While all of these resources are helpful,Grassroots of America gives an excellent description of the information contained in the American State Papers. You can request it through Interlibrary Loan via from your local library. I can also email you a pdf of the introductory notes.
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