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The Business of Congress

Our guest author today is Ellen Terrell, Business Reference Specialist.

In a letter to Samuel H. Smith offering his collection to Congress to re-establish

Thomas Jefferson to Samuel H. Smith, September 21, 1814

the Library after it was burned in 1814, Thomas Jefferson wrote “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from this collection . . . there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”

For business oriented materials this point is illustrated by this list of the top ten legislative items searched on THOMAS (compiled on 6/20/2010 from weekly usage statistics):

  1. H.R. 4213      American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010
  2. H.R. 3590      Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  3. H.R. 5175      Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act
  4. S.Amdt. 4301      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend certain expiring provisions, and for other purposes.
  5. H.R. 4173      Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010
  6. H.R. 4899      Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010
  7. H.R. 5297      Small Business Lending Fund Act of 2010
  8. H.R. 5486      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax incentives for small business job creation, and for other purposes.
  9. H.R. 5136      National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011
  10. H.R. 3548       Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009

In Jefferson’s own collection you can see that there is a wide array of topics he felt Congress would need to refer to.  Many of the titles we would consider “business” would include titles on economics and commerce. If you look at his system, many of the relevant titles are located in the section Jefferson devoted to Philosophy specifically chapter 25 which is devoted to Commerce. Here is a small sample:

  • Notes on the establisment[!] of a money unit, and of a coinage for the United States by Thomas Jefferson
  • Census of 1791
  • The British Merchant
  • Anderson’s history of Commerce
  • Leavenworth on Colony Commerce
  • Sheffield on the American Commerce
  • Explication du tableau economique, par l’abbe Baudeau
  • New and old principles of Trade Compared, by Vaughan
  • Swan on the finances of Massachusetts
  • Swan sur la commerce entre la France et Etats Unis
  • Gee on Trade
  • Carkesse’s book of rates (folio) (tonnage/poundage rates for trade)
  • Tracts on American Commerce, 1783-7, to wit Sheffield 1st Ed., Ruston, Swan, Coxe.
  • Every Man his own Broker

If you want to see Jefferson’s collection it is on exhibit in the Thomas Jefferson Building.  Also, in honor of the American Libraries Association conference in Washington, the Business Reference Section has a small reading room display, that will be available for the next few weeks, of reprints of some of the titles.

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