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Each May 1, Law Day is celebrated in honor of the laws that are the guiding principles of the nation. What might be called the original law is the U.S. Constitution. "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation" offers a Special Presentation on "The Making of the U.S. Constitution."

Congressional Pugilists, 1798. Prints and Photographs Division. Introduction to the Annals of Congress, 1834.

Beginning with the Continental Congress in 1774, America's national legislative bodies have kept records of their proceedings. The records of the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention and the U.S. Congress make up a rich documentary history of the construction of the nation and the development of the federal government and its role in the national life. These documents record American history in the words of those who built our government.

Books on the law formed a major part of the holdings of the Library of Congress from its beginning. In 1832, Congress established the Law Library of Congress as a separate department of the Library. It houses one of the most complete collections of U.S. congressional documents in their original format. To make these records more easily accessible to students, scholars and interested citizens, "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation" brings together online the records and acts of Congress from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention through the 43rd Congress, including the first three volumes of the Congressional Record, 1873-75.

To learn about the workings of the current Congress, visit the THOMAS Web site. This site, administered by the Library at the request of the U.S. Congress, is updated daily with the latest information on the nation's lawmakers and the laws they are considering. Since the site's launch in January 1995, the Library has added more types of information, as Congress has requested. THOMAS goes back as far as the 93rd Congress of 1973-74, for "Bill Summary & Status" information.

The Law Library also offers a "Guide to Law Online" with links to "International and Multinational" law, "Nations of the World," "U.S. Federal" law and laws of the "U.S. States and Territories."


A. "Congressional Pugilists," 1798. Prints and Photographs Division. Summary: A crude portrayal of a fight on the floor of Congress between Rep. Matthew Lyon of Vermont and Rep. Roger Griswold of Connecticut. The row was originally prompted by an insulting reference to Lyon on Griswold's part. The interior of Congress Hall is shown, as are Speaker Jonathan Dayton and Clerk Jonathan W. Condy (both seated), Chaplain Ashbel Green (in profile on the left) and several others. Griswold, armed with a cane, kicks Lyon, who grasps the former's arm and raises a pair of fireplace tongs to strike him. Below are the verses: "He in a trice struck Lyon thrice / Upon his head, enrag'd sir, / Who seiz'd the tongs to ease his wrongs, / And Griswold thus engag'd, sir." Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-1551 (b&w film copy neg. of first state) LC-USZ62-9242 (b&w film copy neg. of second state); Call No.: PC/US - 1798.A000, no. 1 (A size) P&P

B. Introduction to the Annals of Congress, 1834. Summary: When Joseph Gales compiled the early debates and proceedings of Congress for publication in 1834 he chose to introduce the first volume with a brief history of the making of the Constitution, followed by the text of the Constitution itself, "as originally adopted," that is, "without the amendments we know as the Bill of Rights. The first page of the Introduction is above.

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