Skip to main content

U.S. Treaties: A Beginner's Guide

This guide compiles resources for researchers trying to find copies of treaties to which the United States is or was a party.

Introduction

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.

This guide brings together the published resources patrons can use when trying to research treaties to which the United States was or is a party. 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.

Lithograph by N. Currier. Wm. Penn's treaty with the Indians when he founded the province of Pennsya. 1661: the only treaty that never was broken. Created between 1835 and 1856. Popular Graphic Arts Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Resources Referenced