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Government Publications And Their Use




Revised Edition

The Brookings Institution-Washington, D.C.


The war legislation enacted prior to December 1917, as well as presidential proclamations, executive orders, and analogous legislation since 1775 by the United States, the several states, and the Confederate states, is collected in the volume published by the Department of Justice entitled Emergency Legislation Passed Prior to December 1917 Dealing with the Control and Taking of Private Property for the Public Use, Benefit or Welfare..., by J. Reuben Clark, Jr., 1919 (1,150 pages). There were two editions of this publication-one of 1,150 pages with title as indicated above and a second of 110 + 1,150 pages with one title page reading "Emergency Legislation... Summary Memorandum," and a second title page as noted above. The two editions are identical with the exception of the 110 additional pages in the second edition.

The laws and regulations governing World War II are contained in several publications.

The legislative history, amendments, appropriations, cognates, and prior instruments of security are contained in a five-volume monograph entitled The Selective Service Act, published by the Selective Service System, 1954. These volumes contain the following material: Vol. 1 and 2. Text, Chaps. I-XXIV, 797 pp.

Vol. 3. Apps. A-B, 438 pp. This volume contains background instruments of security from 1181 A.D. through Aug. 31, 1918, and legislative foreground documents from June 4, 1920, through Aug. 5, 1940.

Vol. 4. Apps. B-D, 307 pp. This is a continuation of Vol. 3 and covers the legislative foreground documents through Jan. 2, 1941, and the Selective Service Act from Sept. 16, 1940, through amendments to 1954.

Vol. 5. Apps. E-F, 301 pp. This volume contains the appropriations for and cognates of the Selective Service Act, a bibliography, and subject and name indexes.

(Emphasis added.)

*Excerpts from pages 235-238.


The Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Army prepared a publication for the use of the Committee on Military Affairs, United States Senate, 79th Congress, January 1945 (275 pages). This publication contains The National Defense Act, approved June 3, 1916, and the Pay Readjustment Act, approved June 16, 1942, both with amendments to January 1, 1945, and army-navy pay tables.

The principal statutes conferring war powers with particular reference to the circumstances of their termination are contained in Report to the President by the Attorney General Concerning the Limitation, Suspension, or Termination of Emergency, National Defense and War Legislation, Department of Justice, 1945 (97 pages).

Bulletin No. 5, Acts of Congress Applicable in Time of Emergency as of April 12, 1941, Legislative Reference Service, Library of Congress, 1941 (58 pages), contains a brief analysis of those provisions of federal law which are specifically applicable in time of emergency, including war.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, compiled the Statutes, Proclamations and Executive Orders Pertaining to National Defense Matters, 1941 (108 pages). This publication contains statutes defining criminal offenses, statutes relating to nationality and naturalization, aliens, manner of enforcement, proclamations, and executive orders.

A compilation of statutes, executive orders, regulations, and other documents relating to the construction, financing, operation, and maintenance of community facilities under the Lanham Act, as amended, are contained in War Public Works, Office of General Counsel, Federal Works Agency, 1943 (171 pages).

Laws relating to the control of prices are contained in Price Control Laws and Executive Orders, as amended, Office of Price Administration, 1946 (65 pages).

A selective list of statutes, proclamations, and executive orders pertaining specifically to World War II and the emergency of 1947-48 is contained in Tabulation of War Emergency Legislation Relating to the Navy, Revision 3, 1948, Office of the Judge Advocate General (21 pages).

Laws, executive orders, etc. pertaining to safeguarding military information are included in Military Security, Army Regulation No. 380-10, Department of the Army, 1951 (39 pages).

The National Security Act of 1947 as amended to August 1953, Committee Print 3, 83d Congress, 1st session, 1953 (38 pages), includes the National Security Act amendments of 1949, 1952, and 1953, as well as Reorganization Plan No. 6 of 1953.

To inform the general public of their responsibilities under federal laws relating to sabotage, espionage, etc., the Department of Defense issued a small brochure entitled Federal Laws Covering Espionage, Sabotage, and Subversive Activities, 1953 (12 pages).

A reference manual on all phases of the problem of protecting our internal security is found in the Internal Security Manual, Revised, Senate Document 40, 84th Congress, 1st session, 1955 (409 pages). This manual contains the provisions of federal statutes, executive orders, and congressional resolutions relating to the internal security of the United States through June 30, 1955, and is a revision of Senate Document 47, 83d Congress, 1st session.


While proclamations and executive orders are published in separate series, they overlap in content, and for that reason are discussed together.

Under many statutes the President is given specific power to take certain action, and his action is formally expressed in a proclamation or an executive order. There is no hard-and-fast distinction between a proclamation and an executive order, but proclamations are generally used for matters of widespread interest, although some executive orders have had as far-reaching effects as proclamations. In some cases the law specifically says that the President shall "proclaim," and in such cases the proclamation is necessarily used. In other cases, such as a recommendation for the observance of Fire Prevention Week, the proclamation has no legal effect, but is merely an appeal to the public. Executive orders have a wide scope, ranging from the authorization of the appointment of a chairwoman in a local post office (No. 6420) to prescribing rules and regulations under the Trading-withthe-Enemy Act (No. 2796). Most of them relate to the conduct of ernment business or to organization of the executive departments, but many have a wider significance. Most of the emergency agencies created in 1933 were established by executive order. The codes of fair competition authorized by Title I of the National Industrial Recovery Act (June 16, 1933) were approved by means of executive orders, but the details of the codes were published separately by the National Recovery Administration.


An executive order has never been defined by law or regulation. In a general sense every act of the President authorizing or directing that an act be performed is an executive order, but there are legitimate differences of opinion regarding the papers that should be included in such a classification. In 1907 the State Department began the numbering of executive orders, assigning numbers to those previously issued. As the numbered executive orders by 1936 amounted to less than 8,000, it is evident that all the earlier papers that might fall in this group have not been taken into consideration. On March 31, 1936, the Secretary of the Interior informed the Senate Committee on the Judiciary that there "are estimated to be on file in the General Land Office 12,000 of such executive orders ranging in date from about the year 1806." 2

Many early papers now classed as executive orders were recommendations by heads of departments which the President approved. On August 5, 1933, the President approved a recommendation of the National Recovery Administration that a National Labor Board be created. Apparently this was not transmitted through the usual office staff, but was presented to the President in person, was approved, and

*Excerpts from pages 318-325.

1The method of promulgation and the form of executive orders are prescribed in Executive Order No. 10006 of Oct. 9, 1948. Earlier executive orders on the same subject were No. 5220 of Nov. 8, 1929, No. 5658 of June 24, 1931, No. 6247 of Aug. 10, 1933, No. 6497 of Dec. 15, 1933, No. 7081 of June 20, 1935, and No. 7298 of Feb. 18, 1936.

* 74 Cong. 2 sess., S. Rept. 1756, p. 2.

was taken back to the National Recovery Administration. Apparently no copy was sent to the State Department, and this paper does not appear in the printed series of executive orders. But on December 16, 1933, an executive order (No. 6511) providing for the "Continuance of the National Labor Board, etc." was approved.

On December 11, 1933, the President created a committee "to recommend permanent machinery to coordinate all government relations to American foreign trade." No executive order was issued, the only information regarding the creation of the committee being a White House press release. On March 23, 1934, the office of Special Adviser on Foreign Trade was created by Executive Order No. 6651, which specifically stated that the committee was "supplanted by the present arrangement." In this case an executive order definitely terminated a unit created without an executive order.

Prior to March 14, 1936, executive orders were issued in separate form only, but beginning with that date the method of publication was changed as is indicated below. Notwithstanding their importance all of them have not been assembled or listed in any government publications. In a few cases the departments have printed collections of executive orders relating to their work, notably the executive orders relating to Indian reservations and the executive orders relating to the Panama Canal. Orders relating to appointments in the classified civil service without examination are generally listed or reprinted in the Annual Report of the Civil Service Commission or in the publication of that Commission entitled Civil Service Act and Rules, Statutes, Executive Orders, and Regulations, issued at irregular intervals. The text of some is given in the 1934 and later editions of the United States Code.

For some years prior to March 14, 1936, each proclamation was issued in separate form, but the method of publication of individual proclamations and executive orders was changed with the first issue of the Federal Register on March 14, 1936. Beginning on that date, the Federal Register contains all these papers "except such as have no general applicability and legal effect or are effective only against federal agencies or persons in their capacity as officers, agents or employees thereof." The existing series was continued as heretofore, but the separate prints included only such papers as were not published in the Federal Register.

Separate prints of the relatively infrequent executive orders without general applicability and legal effect were discontinued after the publication of Executive Order No. 10006 of October 9, 1948. This order requires current publication in the Federal Register of all proclamations and executive orders.

Beginning with Proclamation No. 2287 of June 6, 1938, and Executive Order No. 7906 of the same date, proclamations and executive orders have been published by the Office of the Federal Register in the supplements to Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The first of these was published in 1944 and covered the period through June 1, 1943. An additional supplement covered the remainder of

A manuscript checklist of papers bearing the designation "executive order," to Jan. 1, 1937, compiled by Sophy H. Powell, is on file at the School of Government of George Washington University.

1943. Subsequently, supplements covering calendar years were issued annually. Periodically they are cumulated in larger volumes entitled "compilations." As of January 1, 1960, the entire series was composed of the following volumes:

1. Title 3, Book 1, Cumulative Supplement;
2. Title 3, 1943-48 Compilation;

3. Title 3, 1949-53 Compilation; and

4. The 1954-58 Supplements to Title 3.

Prior to September 1947 all proclamations and executive orders were listed in the Monthly Catalog under the heading "President of United States" with citations to the Federal Register if they appear in that publication; in the index they are entered under the subject. In the biennial Document Catalog the detailed entry was under the subject matter, subentry "President of the United States." Prior to Volume 12 (1913-15) a detailed entry appeared also under the main entry "President of the United States," with subentry under the subject matter; in Volume 12 and later issues the only detailed entry is under the subject matter. Under the main entry "President of the United States," subentries "Proclamations" and "Executive orders," were numerical lists of the proclamations and executive orders with cross references to the subject-matter entry.

At present all proclamations are assembled in one section of the Statutes at Large, being generally in Part 2 if more than one part is printed. There is probably no volume or series that contains all the proclamations. Some of these papers issued between 1791 and 1855 are given in Volumes 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, and 11 of the Statutes at Large.

Each volume subsequent to Volume 10 purports to contain the proclamations issued during the congress or congresses covered by the volume. A note in Volume 11 states that it contains all proclamations not previously published, but this is not true, as President Washington's first Thanksgiving proclamation of October 3, 1789, did not appear in the Statutes at Large until 1932, when it was quoted in President Hoover's Thanksgiving proclamation of that year (47 Stat. 2539). It is given by Richardson, who quoted it from Jared Sparks' Writings of George Washington. Several other proclamations which are not in the Statutes at Large are given by Richardson, but one of March 22, 1880, referred to in an act of June 20, 1890 (26 Stat. 169), is in neither Richardson nor the Statutes at Large. The original of the proclamation of March 20, 1880, has not been located, but printed copies are reported at several places.

The files of the General Land Office contain copies of many papers which purport to the proclamations but which were never published in the Statutes at Large. Apparently none of these have been countersigned by the Secretary of State, and this circumstance probably accounts for their not appearing in the Statutes at Large. There appears to be no law requiring the countersignature of proclamations by the Secretary of State, and the absence of such countersignature apparently does not affect the validity of the instrument.

Richardson's Messages and Papers of the Presidents purports to contain proclamations during the period covered by that work, but as has been noted above there are omissions. Proclamations issued prior to 1909 changing rates of duty are given in Tariff Acts of the United

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