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Searchable alone or in conjunction with other ProQuest Congressional information, ProQuest Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations content has begun to go online, and will continue to load from now throughout the first half of 2015 when the product is expected to complete.

Once fully loaded, this new ProQuest Congressional module will allow researchers to examine and compare the changing nature of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations from our Nation’s founding to the present day--from authorization of private armed vessels to seize enemy vessels during the Quasi-War with France, 1798-1800, to the early years of the conservation movement in the beginning of the 20th century, and finally to the executive orders issued by President Obama in our own time.

Although the State Department began to collect and number executive orders in 1905, there was no formal process related to their publication prior to enactment of the Federal Register Act of 1935. Our product includes a unique collection of historic documents that express the will of the President. ProQuest Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations includes over 55,000 unnumbered records collected on a document-by-document basis by our editors, in partnership with dozens of archivists and librarians.

The Emancipation Proclamation is, of course, the most famous proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln, but less well-known orders and proclamations are also important to researchers.  For example, researchers can examine our collection of Abraham Lincoln’s presidential pardons to better understand the circumstances leading Lincoln to pardon many soldiers court martialed for such things as falling asleep on duty or desertion.

Particularly notable are the numbers of pardons extended to the soliders with the rank of private, suggesting that Lincoln felt special sympathy for the youngest and most vulnerable.  At times, Lincoln specifically referred to the pardoned individual as a “boy,” or mentioned his youth as a reason for the pardon. “Suspend execution of young Perry of Wisconsin condemned for sleeping on his post,” Lincoln wrote on Apr. 26, 1864, “until further orders.” In such cases, the “further orders” were not likely to come.

The most famous proclamation by President Andrew Johnson is undoubtedly the May 29, 1865, amnesty proclamation, offering participants in the Rebellion the opportunity to swear an oath, after which all rights of property would be restored, except the owning of slaves. Exempted classes of individuals such as civil or diplomatic officers of the Confederacy were offered the opportunity apply for a special pardon from the President. 

In the 1867 House impeachment investigation of President Johnson, the allegations levied against him included the abuse of his pardoning power, as well as corruptly disposing of U.S. Government property. Testimony at the hearing referred specifically to an executive order of August 1865 requiring that all railroads under control of the U.S. Government in Tennessee be returned to their owners. 

The use of executive orders also comes into play in an examination of various aspects of the complicated “Ballinger-Pinchot trouble” which led to the rift between President Taft and his predecessor and former mentor Theodore Roosevelt. The controversy is said to have begun with the decision of President Roosevelt to issue several proclamations, just prior to leaving office, to expand the boundaries of certain national forests. His purpose was to increase the acreage of public lands in western States unavailable for development.  Roosevelt did this because, as noted in a message published in the Congressional Record on Feb. 19, 1909, he anticipated that the importance of hydropower would increase dramatically within a generation. He feared that General Electric, Westinghouse, and other large corporations were on the brink of creating a hydropower monopoly, which was not in the public interest. 

His successor, President Taft, was more cautious about the use of executive power to withdraw public lands, and Roosevelt’s action was not supported by Taft’s Secretary of Interior Richard Ballinger. Soon Gifford Pinchot, Chief of the Forest Service, entered into a controversy accusing Ballinger of cronyism. 

On Nov. 26, 1909, President Taft issued an executive order stating that no Federal employee should respond to a request for information by any Member of Congress, unless authorized by the head of his department. Remarks in the Congressional Record of Jan. 27, 1909, include: Was this order issued because of the Ballinger-Pinchot trouble? Has the Executive the right to issue such an order? If so, is it a wise order? What purpose can it serve?

ProQuest Executive Orders and Presidential  Proclamations provides insight into the controversy by offering not only the January 1910 letter from President Taft stating his intention to remove Pinchot from office, but also the supporting documentation.

Our unique collection of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations facilitates the ability of even novice researchers to locate the “missing piece” needed to understand all nuances of many events and issues, both past and present.
[Image: Abraham Lincoln pardons “young Perry”]

23 Oct 2014

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