United States Treaties Research Guide
When conducting U.S. treaty research it is helpful to know all the stages in the treaty process as well as how to locate a full text treaty. This research guide highlights the treaty documents created at each stage and the indexing tools to locate them. Washburn Law Library is fortunate to have a comprehensive set for locating the text and status of U.S. Treaties (Hein's U.S. Treaty Service). For more information or assistance ask a reference librarian.
Stage One: Executive Branch Negotiations
- The President or Secretary of State authorizes negotiation
- Negotiation occurs
- Agreements are made, and the treaty is informally signed by the President or State Department
- The treaty is submitted to the Senate
Public News: The initial negotiations by the President or the State Department may be entirely confidential and unavailable to the public. The best place to find information about these stages is likely to be current news reports, which are available in a variety of sources.
Department of State Bulletin (U.S. Documents: S 1.3:): Washington, D.C.: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs, 1936-1990. This title sometimes had articles describing major treaty negotiation proceedings.
Department of State Treaty Actions: Contains a record of actions taken by the states in regard to international agreements.
U.S. Department of State Dispatch (U.S. Documents S 1.3/5:): Supersedes the Department of State Bulletin and contains official statements about treaties by the President, the Secretary of State, and other administrative officials. Dispatch Magazine Online. The Department of State Dispatch can also be found on Lexis and Westlaw.
Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents: Contains the occasional Presidential statements regarding formal negotiation sessions on such issues as arms control. The Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents can also be found on Lexis and Westlaw.
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (U.S. Documents AE 2.114:): From 1956 to the present.
Stage Two: Senate Hearings
- The treaty is assigned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has hearings on the treaty, and reports to the Senate
- After the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves the Treaty, it is sent to the floor for ratification or discussion. Note that treaties do not die like legislation when the Congress ends. They remain active until the Senate acts on them or the President withdraws the treaty. For example the Genocide Convention was introduced in 1948 for Senate action and was not ratified until 1986. If the Senate does not approve, the treaty may be killed or renegotiated at this stage.
- Ratification occurs when 2/3 of the Senate approve of the treaty.
Note that many treaties have an injunction of secrecy placed on them. However the Senate still issues some Senate Treaty Documents without confidential classification.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee: contains links to hearings, legislation, and press releases. The GPO Access page on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations allows access to materials from the 105th Congress to the current Congress. Earlier materials may be found in print.
CCH Congressional Index (Law Reference: KF49 .C65): Library has Congressional Indexes from the 91st Congress (1969) to the present Congress. Indexes for the three most recent Congresses in are located in the Reference collection, older editions are located in Main Stacks.
CIS Index to Publications of the United States Congress (U.S. Documents Index KF49 .C62)
Senate Treaty Documents (U.S. Documents: Y 1.1/4:): These documents are available online and in print. The online version only contains documents from the current Congress.
Stage Three: Treaties in Force
- President signs the treaty.
- President proclaims the entry into force.
There are several resources for finding treaties in force and historical treaties.
A Guide to the United States Treaties in Force (U.S. Documents S 9.14/a): from 1982 to present.
Treaties in Force (U.S. Documents S 9.14): Also available online. The Law Library has Treaties in Force in microfiche from 1955 to the present. The most recent print volume is located at the Law Library Reference Desk. Treaties in Force web version is only as recent as the print volume.
Statutes at Large (US Doc AE 2.111) and Treaties and Other International Agreements(US Doc S 9.11/9:) for treaties prior to 1950. The text of the later can also be accessed online from on campus. Off campus access requires a valid Washburn ID.
United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (US Doc S 9.12:) became the official source for treaties and agreements after 1950. Note that there is a considerable time lag between ratification and publication.
Hein's United States Treaty Index: 1776-1990 Consolidation (US Doc S 9.12a:)
Hein's Current Treaty Index (U.S. Documents, S 9.12b:) Supplements Hein's United States Treaty Index.
The Avalon Project includes the text of all US Bilateral and Multilateral treaties.
Hein's United States Treaties and Other International Agreements Current Microfiche Service (Microforms Room JX 236.H44)
American Treaties and Alliances (KZ 236 2000)
HeinOnline: This site provides access to official treaty publications, unofficial treaty publications, and treaty guides. If you are off campus or using a wireless connection, you will need to enter your Washburn ID and Number.
Thomas Treaties: Provides information for locating treaty information from the 90th Congress to the present.
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