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Virginia Dynasty: George Washington

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 01/20/2016 - 9:45am

This second installment of the Virginia Dynasty blog posts highlights our first president, George Washington, the “Father of his country.”

George’s great grandfather, John Washington, immigrated to America in 1656 and settled in the Northern Neck of Virginia in 1657, on the Potomac River near the present-day town of Colonial Beach. George was born in 1732 on the land his great grandfather, grandfather, and father owned.  He lived here until he was about three years old.

View from George Washington’s birthplace property. Photo by Fernando O. González.

Historical Marker for George Washington’s birthplace. Photo by Fernando O. González.

At the entrance of George Washington’s birthplace stands an obelisk that is exactly 1/10th the size of the monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

George Washington birthplace. Photo by Fernando O. González.










Sign for George Washington’s birthplace. Photo by Fernando O. González.



At the property, the foundation of George Washington’s childhood home is marked in an outline of oyster shells.  There is also a house with era-specific furnishings on the property.

George Washington’s birthplace home outline. Photo by Fernando O. González.

George then spent the majority of his childhood at Ferry Farm in Stafford County, Virginia.  Francisco had a great post in 2013 that described this home’s history and National Historic Landmark status.

View from Mount Vernon. Photo by Fernando O. González.

George Washington’s most popular and well-known property is closer to Washington, D.C. Mount Vernon was a plantation in the Alexandria region on the Potomac River. George’s father, Augustine, built a farmhouse there in 1735 originally called Little Hunting Creek Plantation.  When Augustine died, ownership fell to George’s half-brother Lawrence who renamed the place Mount Vernon after Admiral Edward Vernon, his commanding officer in the British navy.  George leased and eventually inherited the property, expanding it to the size and style that has been preserved.

Mount Vernon. Photo by Fernando O. González.

Mount Vernon from river. Photo by Fernando O. González.

Bust of George Washington at Mount Vernon. Photo by Fernando O. González.



George Washington died on December 14, 1799 at the age of 67 in his home, Mount Vernon. He was a surveyor, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention before becoming the first president of the United States of America, unanimously elected twice, who shaped the nation.


My next installment will feature Thomas Jefferson and his famous home, Monticello.

Categories: Research & Litigation

On the Shelf – Der Wiener Richter

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 01/19/2016 - 7:30am

It seems as though Collection Services Division’s staff have been composing On the Shelf posts for ages. Since we’ve started posting, I’ve been reminded by colleagues about items found years ago that we would pass around or send photos of or talk about over lunch.

One such item is a book Brian Kuhagen found a couple years back.

He was classing an Austrian serial title, Der Wiener Richter, a journal from the judges of Vienna published by the Austrian Judges’ Association.

As he flipped through one of the volumes he spotted the old Library of Congress logo.

There, reprinted amidst articles on traffic accidents and such, is a letter from the Library of Congress dated 1983. In it, the then-chief of the Exchange and Gift Division Nathan R. Einhorn, asks if the Association would be willing to send the Library a free subscription to their publication.

I consulted our German foreign legal specialist, Jenny Gesley, because my attempt to translate the German-language text (thanks Google Translate) led me to believe that the author might be poking a little fun at the Library.

Jenny said that that wasn’t quite correct:

In the article they seem surprised that big libraries like the LC (they list a few others) are actually interested in their publication even though it contains mostly internal information and articles relevant to judges in Austria and isn’t well-known. They are making fun of themselves for being widely unknown. They are making fun of the frugalness of the LC. Then they have a little play on words (which makes more sense in German), which says that saying that the LC doesn’t want to pay for it is better than saying that the LC wouldn’t even want it if it was for free.

Obviously they must have been flattered enough, because the Law Library owns issues from 1981 through 1993.

The journal is now only available online, according to Jenny.

And so it is that a publication that questioned its own worthiness a third of a century ago is still being talked about today.


Categories: Research & Litigation

Christmas, Soviet Style

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 01/15/2016 - 12:19pm

The following is a guest post by Peter Roudik, director of legal research at the Law Library of Congress. Peter has written a number of interesting posts related to Russia and the former Soviet Union for In Custodia Legis, including posts on the Soviet investigation of Nazi war crimes, lustration in Ukraine, Crimean history and the 2014 referendum, regulating the Winter Olympics in Russia, Soviet law and the assassination of JFK, and the treaty on the creation of the Soviet Union.

Merry Christmas! Old Russian postcard. (Photo by Flickr user paukrus, Jan. 5, 2014.) Used under Creative Commons License 2.0,

As a foreign law specialist who covers Russia, I am often asked why Russians celebrate Christmas after the start of the New Year. Also, what is the reason for celebrating the New Year twice, first on January 1 and then thirteen days later? And is it true that the whole country shuts down for almost two weeks during these seasonal celebrations?

To answer these questions, we need to remember that, in the past, the Russian New Year started in March under an ancient pagan calendar and then under the original local application of the Julian calendar. Then, in the 15th century, the beginning of the New Year was moved to September based on the liturgical calendar of the Orthodox Church. It was not until December 19, 1699, that Peter the Great issued a decree reforming the Russian calendar and ordering that the New Year be celebrated together with other Christian people on January 1. The same decree stated that large houses along major streets should be decorated with pine trees, spruces, or their branches.

However, despite Tsar Peter’s efforts, the actual New Year celebration did not start to coincide with the rest of the world. Instead, Russia continued to operate according to the Julian calendar, which is thirteen days behind the Gregorian calendar that was introduced in Western Europe by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. According to the Julian calendar, Christmas was celebrated in Russia on January 7, and the New Year on January 13. Immediately after the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks changed the calendar, and on January 26, 1918, the government passed a decree “On the imposition of the West-European calendar in the Russian republic.” The decree was intended to “establish the time count as that used by almost all other cultured people.” According to the decree, the next day after January 31, 1918, would be February 14. For several months, both dates were shown in the official documents, and then on July 1, 1918, the country moved to the Gregorian calendar completely.

Attending market in winter, Moscow, Russia (Keystone View Company c. 1919). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

However, this change did not affect the Russian Orthodox Church, which continues to live according to the old Julian calendar. That is why the New Year is celebrated in Russia together with the rest of the world on January 1, then the Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7, and after that the so-called “Old New Year” is January 14, when people pay respect to the old tradition and have another opportunity for celebration.

The tradition of celebrating Christmas and the New Year with decorated trees was widely popular. However, in 1916 when Russia was fighting Germany in World War I, this custom was declared unpatriotic, apparently because of its German roots, and the Orthodox Church officially prohibited the installation of Christmas trees during the holidays.

The antireligious regime that came to power did not overturn this ban and continued to erase Christmas and New Year celebrations from daily life. Then, in 1930, the Council of People’s Commissars, then the Soviet Government, totally eliminated all religious and secular holidays and weekends, and introduced a six-day working week. People simply did not work on the 6th, 12th, 18th, and 24th, and 30th day of each month. January 1 was a regular business day. People were strongly discouraged from observing religious holidays and traditions. On certain days that had been religious holidays in the past, activists were sent to people’s apartments to check that no celebrations were taking place.

This continued through 1935, when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin announced that “life has been improved significantly”; food rationing was cancelled, and more consumer goods appeared in the stores. Suddenly, on December 28, 1935, the main Soviet newspaper Pravda published on page 3, between a report on the growing merchant marine fleet and a telegram from American Armenians to the Soviet leaders, a short eight-sentence article titled Let’s Organize a New Year’s Party Under a Fir Tree for Our Children. The author, who was the second in command in Ukraine, then one of the Soviet constituent republics, wrote that before the revolution bourgeoisie and government officials always had nice New Year’s parties, and workers’ children were not invited to these celebrations. Why now, he asked, are our children denied the pleasure of enjoying winter festivities under a fragrant green fir tree? He called for all city and village administrators across the country to have New Year celebrations in kindergartens, schools, and children’s clubs. Soon after that, Christmas trees, which were now called New Year’s trees, were available for purchase, and Christmas decorations (named Fir tree decorations) appeared in stores. Guidelines on how to conduct a New Year’s party and sample plays were published and distributed to all schools.

Soviet New Year tree decoration. (Photo by Flickr user Elena Ilyinskaya, Dec. 18, 2011.) Used under Creative Commons License 2.0,

Because this winter marks the 80th anniversary of the restoration of New Year’s celebrations in Russia, the Russian State Library prepared a special webpage filled with colorful illustrations dedicated to the history of this holiday. The RSL writes that everything started in Stalin’s car when one of the party leaders who was riding with Stalin complained that Moscow looked boring and the population would like to have Christmas decorations. Stalin liked this idea and encouraged his comrade to come out with the initiative formally.

Another legend about the revitalization of Christmas in the Soviet Union is described by Bill O’Reilly. According to him, Stalin’s daughter Svetlana attended a Christmas party at the British Embassy in Moscow and got excited about glass balls and candles on a tree. She begged her father to grant this joy to children in the Soviet Union, and that is how the holiday was returned to the people.

Even though winter celebrations became immediately popular, New Year’s Day did not become a formal holiday for many years. It was not until 1947 that the Soviet legislature declared that, as of 1948, January 1 would be a non-working public holiday. To recuperate the working time lost during the celebrations, the same decree eliminated another public holiday, the Victory in World War II Day (May 9), which became a working day instead.

Thus, the New Year became the most celebrated non-ideological holiday in the country. It became a tradition to celebrate the New Year with family and close friends, find gifts under the tree (where they are allegedly placed by Grandfather Frost, a Russian relative of Santa Claus), and have a festive dinner to say goodbye to the passing year and hello to the coming year. In 1992, January 2 was declared a non-working federal holiday also. Then, in 2005, the mandatory paid New Year’s holiday break was extended a further ten days, covering the Orthodox Christmas and going almost up to the Old New Year celebrations under the Julian calendar.

However, such a long stretch of family time is not always a positive thing. Too many dinners with relatives often results in domestic conflicts and violence, and up to 20% of all Russian divorces are filed on the first working day after the New Year’s break.

So, we wish you all a happy Old New Year!

Categories: Research & Litigation

Locating Congressional Documents: A Beginner’s Guide

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 01/14/2016 - 10:28am

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists.

Congressional documents concern a wide variety of subjects and include all papers ordered printed by the House or Senate apart from congressional committee reports. As described by the Government Publishing Office (GPO), congressional documents “may include reports of executive departments and independent organizations, reports of special investigations made for Congress, and annual reports of non-governmental organizations.”  Researchers also frequently ask us for assistance in finding Senate treaty documents, which contain the “the text of a Treaty as it is submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification by the President of the United States.”  House and Senate document citations include the number of the Congress and the number of the document. For example, S.Doc. 114-15 indicates the fifteenth document from the 114th Congress. Similarly, an example of a Senate treaty document is Treaty Doc. 114-1.

Potomac Aqueduct, Georgetown abutment at Georgetown waterfront, Washington, District of Columbia. Drawing by Historic American Buildings Survey House Document 459 (1838). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, - provides free access to full-text Senate treaty documents dating back to 1995. If you know the citation, you can search for it. If you do not have a citation,’s facets make it easy to browse for a treaty document. Facets available include Congress, status of a treaty document, and treaty topic. You can use the facets in combination with one another to quickly narrow down your results.

ProQuest CongressionalProQuest Congressional is a subscription database available at many law firms and law schools that  includes congressional documents dating back to 1817. To search for congressional documents, you can perform a basic search and limit your search to House and Senate document under document type. If you have a citation, click on “legislative and executive publications” at the top, then choose “search by number,” and “bibliographic citations.” Next, under publication number, use the drop-down to choose a House or Senate document or Treaty Document under “type,” select the Congress, and type in the publication number. If you scroll down, you can also look for congressional documents by inputting a U.S. Serial Set volume number.

ProQuest Legislative Insight – The ProQuest Legislative Insight subscription database is also available at many law schools and law firms, and allows you to type a citation to a public law, U.S. Statutes at Large citation, or enacted bill number, and retrieve a compiled legislative history that may include House and Senate documents.

FDSys – The Government Publishing Office site, FDSys, contains select congressional documents dating back to the 94th Congress (1975-1976).

U.S. Congressional Serial Set – The U.S. Congressional Serial Set includes a variety of information, including congressional documents. A citation to the U.S. Serial Set takes the form of a volume number. From there, you will then look for the relevant document number.  The U.S. Serial Set has a variety of access points, including subject, keyword, name, reported bill number indexes, and a sequential list of titles and reference information for documents for each session of Congress. To access the U.S. Serial Set in print or on microfiche, visit a Federal Government Depository Library near you.

Congressional Information Service (CIS) Resources – The Congressional Information Service (CIS) provides two resources that are likely of interest to researchers in this area.  First, the CIS Annual and the monthly publication, CIS Index to Publications of the U.S. Congress, which we have mentioned in previous legislative history-related posts, indexes and abstracts congressional publications, such as congressional documents, since 1970.  The CIS also produces the CIS Senate Executive Documents and Reports, which provides coverage of Senate treaty documents from 1817 to 1969.

Century of Lawmaking for a New NationCentury of Lawmaking for a New Nation contains the U.S. Serial Set, including select congressional documents, from 1817-1917. For documents predating the U.S. Serial Set, turn to the American State Papers collection, which is also available on Century of Lawmaking and covers the period from 1789 to 1838.

Readex Serial Set – Readex is a subscription database that provides access to the U.S. Serial Set, which includes congressional documents. There are multiple access points, including a subject index, an a to z index, a personal names index,  an index by names of acts, an index by geographic name, and you can browse documents by Congress. You can also search for a citation or perform a search within the full text.

If you have any questions, contact us through Ask A Librarian.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Randall Hicks, Scholar-in-Residence

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 01/13/2016 - 10:30am

This week’s interview is with Randall Hicks, Scholar-in-Residence at the Law Library of Congress and International Relations Officer in the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT) at the United States Department of Labor. As Scholar-in-Residence, Randall is conducting research on the cultural foundations of law and their impact on rule of law issues in Argentina.


Randall Hicks, Scholar-in-Residence. Photo by Julianna Nagy.

Describe your background.

I grew up in Saratoga Springs, NY, with roots in the Finger Lakes region and the Adirondack Mountains. It is a wonderful place to be from, and I continue to have close ties to the area. My family was instrumental in cultivating my interest in the wider world, and I went to college at the University of Pennsylvania, where I really began to explore it.

What is your academic and professional history?

Before coming to Washington D.C., I was a cultural anthropologist, and I am still one at heart. I finished my Ph.D. a few years ago at the University of Michigan, where my research focused on the corruption of a Bolivian human rights and economic development institution in Argentina.  Through my field work, I was able to show how the cultural and legal dimensions of this corruption shaped one another with consequences for vulnerable populations, the Argentine state, and our understanding of rule of law issues.

My work on Bolivian migrant labor issues in Argentina prepared me for my current position in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), where I work on research and policy initiatives trained on the intersection of human rights in labor and global political economy. I’ve been an International Relations Officer in ILAB’s Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking for the last few years.

How would you describe your job to other people?

In ILAB, I research and report on international child and forced labor issues, and work with foreign governments and the private sector to address them, all according to international legal standards. We have such a wonderful mission and get to travel to our regions of expertise to conduct our work, most often hosted by State Department colleagues at U.S. Embassies. Since I cover the Latin American region, I’ve had the chance to conduct official visits to Bolivia and Nicaragua for research and engagement.

Why did you want to do research at the Law Library of Congress?

In my anthropological research on the culture of corruption, I remain fascinated by the extent to which the law itself is also—and undeniably—a cultural creation, and how this must be accounted for in studies of rule of law issues. The Law Library of Congress has such incredible resources, which include the world’s largest foreign law collection. As a Scholar-in-Residence, I’ve been drawing on the Library’s Argentine collection to see how Argentina’s legal framework for regulating entities of the public good is imbued with a tradition of virtue that stems from Aquinas.  I’m looking at how its attempted reconciliation with the liberal tradition creates spaces for corruption and challenges for regulation when the law is operationalized.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I have wonderful and passionate colleagues, and we share a lot. What they might not know is that I had my beginnings in archaeology, and once excavated Neanderthal sites in France and hunter-gatherer sites in Patagonia. They wouldn’t be surprised to learn of my affinity for the Paleolithic given my challenges in mastering digital age technologies.



Categories: Research & Litigation

Legal Reports on Counterterrorism Laws and other Security Measures

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 01/12/2016 - 9:55am

The Law Library of Congress has recently published a number of legal research reports on the counterterrorism laws of various foreign countries. The full text of these and other relevant reports may be accessed on our website under Current Legal Topics by clicking on War Crimes, Terrorism, and National Security. The reports describe legal and non-legal measures taken by eight countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and Europe, in an effort to combat terrorism. In addition, the reports provide information on how these measures and their possible impact on personal freedoms have been viewed by scholars and commentators in the countries surveyed .

A report titled Turkey: Counterterrorism and Justice (Sept. 2015), written by Wendy Zeldin, discusses the Turkish government’s response to the terrorist threat through the justice system and through military, law enforcement, and intelligence activities.  In addition to describing the increased governmental powers in legislation, Wendy writes about “non legal” measures implemented to address terrorism. These include an outreach program to communities to prevent terrorist recruitment, and a reliance on religious authorities to counter violent extremist messaging.

In a later report, Turkey: Recent Developments in National and Public Security Law (Nov. 2015), Wendy writes about two major “package” laws passed by Turkey’s Parliament in March 2015, which tighten government control over national and public security in the country and provide for enhanced police powers to conduct searches, use weapons, wiretap, detain individuals without a warrant, and remove demonstrators from scenes of protest. The report further reviews a proposed reform of Turkey’s gendarmerie, including the transferring of its control from the Turkish Armed Forces to the Ministry of the Interior. The second major “package law” allows government authorities to request the removal of Internet content and/or blocking of a website in certain circumstances, such as where there is a risk to public or national security, before a court order is issued. Wendy notes that critics of this legislation have expressed concerns regarding the impact of these measures on freedom of the press in Turkey as well as on the rule of law in the country in general.

In a report titled Algeria, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia: Response to Terrorism (Sept. 2015), Issam Saliba describes some of the counterterrorism measures adopted in these countries. He highlights opinions expressed by some local commentators concerning the broad application of definitions of “terrorism” in the relevant legislation. Like in Turkey, the countries covered by this report have adopted legislation that enhances law enforcement powers by easing some procedural requirements for terrorism-related crimes. Issam further reviews special programs aimed at reducing the spread of extremist views.

A collection of legal reports on the Legal Provisions on Fighting Extremism in China, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan (2014-2015) shows how the fight against extremism is often conducted in connection with combatting terrorist activities in these countries, which are associated with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In China, there was no clear legal definition of “terrorism” until recently, and the concept of “extremism” was linked with terrorism and separatism in government instruments as more of a politicized notion. In this report, Laney Zhang analyzes how provisions of the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, which require that acts of extremism be criminally prosecuted in conformity with the national laws of the parties, are implemented in China.

Like China, Pakistan does not have a specific crime of “extremism.” Instead, Pakistani law recognizes a series of “criminal offenses, primarily crimes against the state or incitement crimes.” Discussing Pakistan’s regulation of extremism, Tariq Ahmad analyzes the antiterrorism legal framework adopted in order to address extremist activity in the country. Similar to the non-legal measures discussed in other reports, Pakistan has also attempted to influence public dissemination of extremist views. It has done so by regulating and reforming the madrasa education system and by introducing programs that promote “anti-radicalization” and sectarian harmony in the country.

Somewhat different approaches are described in the reports on anti-extremism legislation and law enforcement in Russia and Tajikistan. Peter Roudik writes that the determining factor in qualifying an activity as extremist under Russia’s Criminal Code is the suspect’s motivation, described as “ideological, political, racial, national or religious enmity, as well as hatred or enmity towards a social group.” Activities deemed “extremist” are stipulated by a special federal law.  Involvement in extremist activities is a ground for imposing restrictions by the state “on one’s political or professional activities, or to liquidate an organization whose leaders have been accused of extremism.”

Similar to Russia, in Tajikistan, organizations and individuals can be held administratively and criminally liable for violating anti-extremism legislation or perpetrating hate-motivated offenses. The government, Peter notes, often explains existing restrictions on religious freedom and its control over religious education and circulation of religious literature by the necessity to fight extremism.

This report includes a chart, which allows researchers to conveniently compare how each country included in the report defines extremist activities. The chart also provides a concise comparison of applicable laws, their enforcement in practice, and major international obligations in the field of fighting extremism that have been accepted by China, Pakistan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

We encourage you to read our reports and hope that you find them interesting and informative.

Categories: Research & Litigation


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