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U.S. Treaties: A Beginner’s Guide, co-authored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, In Custodia Legis, Law Librarians of Congress


Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that the President ‘shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur…. ‘ An early attempt by the President and Senate to negotiate the exercise of this power provided an interesting anecdote. According to the Senate Historical Office, on August 22, 1789, President Washington traveled to the Senate to submit a treaty concerning Native American Indian Tribes. While the President waited, the Senate decided to postpone consideration of the treaty rather than debate the questions in front of the President. According to Maclay’s Journal an irritated, President Washington exclaimed, “This defeats every purpose of my coming here!” and resolved to submit subsequent treaty communications to the Senate in writing. To learn more about the development of the treaty power and its application, please refer to the United States Constitution: Analysis and Interpretation’s discussion of Article II, Section 2.

There are several options for researchers trying to find copies of treaties to which the United States is or was a party. In fact, we were inspired to write this post by the new Treaties digital collection added to the Law Library of Congress website. As of now, the digital collection includes a digital copy of the first four volumes of Charles I. Bevans’s Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949, which includes copies of the English version (or English translation) of multilateral treaties to which the United States was a party. Digital copies of the remaining volumes (5-12), which include the bilateral treaties to which the United States was a party during this period, will be added in the near future.

The Treaties page also links to the United States Department of State’s Treaties and Other International Acts webpage, which includes PDF copies of the ‘executed English-language original of [each published international] agreement and certain other key documents’ for published international agreements entered into from 1996 to the present. The Treaties and Other International Acts series (also known as TIAS), which is ‘the official print publication format for treaties and agreements that have entered into force for [the] U.S.,’ was published by the Government Printing Office in paper form from 1945 to 2006, but is now available online. . . .