The Developments of Congressional Investigative Power

By M. Nelson McGeary | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTORY

SINCE 1792, when Congressional investigations first appeared above the legislative horizon, they have illuminated many a dark problem, lighted scores of shadowy corners, and sometimes disclosed carefully hidden skeletons. But the record is by no means impeccable. Not uncommonly investigations have become so overcast by clouds of their own making as to nullify every worthwhile accomplishment. The variations in the purposes, procedures, and results of Congressional investigations have led to wide divergence in the opinions of critics, even among legislators themselves. Some have contended, like Senator Nye, that " Out of practically every investigation there comes legislation improving the security of the Government and the people against selfishness and greed." 1 Others, like Representative Warren, have said: " In my opinion 95 per cent of these investigations are absolutely worthless and nothing has been accomplished by them." 2

Until the last decade no extended study had been made of Congressional investigations as a whole. The subject was covered, however, in two full-length studies, 3 published in 1928 and 1929. Both writers carefully traced the development of the investigating power from its beginnings and both drew conclusions as to its future.

The past decade, however, has witnessed broad transformations in both the economic and political settings. The nation has toppled from previously unmatched heights of prosperity to the bottom of a depression judged by many as the worst in history. At the same time the governmental reins passed from

____________________
1
Radio address of May 23, 1933, reproduced in Congressional Record, 73d Cong., Ist Sess., p. 4182.
2
Congressional Record, 74th Cong., Ist Sess., p. 6339, April 24, 1935.
3
Ernest J. Eberling, Congressional Investigations ( New York, 1928) ; Marshall E. Dimock, Congressional Investigating Committees ( Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1929).

-7-

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The Developments of Congressional Investigative Power
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Developments of Congressional Investigative Power *
  • Preface *
  • Contents 5
  • Chapter I- Introductory 7
  • Chapter II- Purposes of Investigations 23
  • Chapter III- Procedure 50
  • Chapter IV- Results 85
  • Chapter V- Recent Decisions by the Courts 95
  • Chapter VI- Concerning Future Methods 115
  • Bibliography 161
  • Index 167
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