The following is a guest post by Taru Spiegel, Reference Specialist in the European Division.
A few weeks ago, I asked if anyone knew who the distinguished man of mystery was on the left side of the photo.
Thanks to Law Library’s Dr. Janice Hyde, we now know he’s Senator Felix Grundy, also instrumental in establishing the Law Library of Congress.
Quoting from Law Library 1832–1982: A Brief History of the First Hundred and Fifty Years, the momentum of the initiative to establish a law library “is finally carried forward successfully by two distinguished Senators with the felicitous names of Felix Grundy and William Learned Marcy. … Their essay results in the establishment of a separate law library within the Library of Congress but under the control of the justices of the Supreme Court. The bill is signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on July 14, 1832.”
The author also describes the growing need for a law library in Washington. “The first initiative to create a separate law department within the Library of Congress comes on February 16, 1816” from Robert Goodloe Harper, the Senator from Maryland. In 1823, U.S. District Attorney for Pennsylvania, Charles Jared Ingersoll, visits the capital and remarks in his diary that the “want [of a law library] is deplorable here. … Charles A. Wickliffe, Representative from Kentucky and later Postmaster General, fails to push such a measure through Congress in 1826, 1828, and again in 1830.”
Finally, the Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, 1789-1873,
Wednesday, December 14, 1831 reports: “The following motion, submitted by Mr. Grundy, was considered and agreed to: Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be instructed to inquire into the expediency of providing a law library for the use of the Supreme Court of the United States.” On January 20, 1832, “Mr. Marcy, from the Committee on the Judiciary, reported the following bill [S. 68]; which was read, and passed to a second reading: A Bill To increase and improve the Law Department of the Library of Congress.” Never give up!
The Library’s Prints & Photographs Online Catalog has images of Senators Grundy and Marcy. Both men held a number of distinguished government offices. For instance, Senator Grundy was appointed Attorney General of the United States by President Martin Van Buren in 1838 and Senator Marcy was Governor of New York 1833-1839.
Special thanks to Janice Hyde for contributions to this post.