The power to investigate, implied by the U.S. Constitution, is one of Congress’s most important tools for developing effective public policy, conducting oversight, and informing the public. Congress has investigated issues throughout its history via formal investigations and fact-finding inquiries with wide-ranging results, often significantly affecting the history of the United States.
American exploration has been inspired by individual curiosity and boldness. It has also depended upon government encouragement and financial support. These documents highlight the role Congress has played in promoting scientific investigation and charting the unknown, from the early explorations across the continent to the latest voyages into space.
Congress appropriates funds for national defense and has the power to declare war. By approving international agreements and the appointment of ambassadors, Congress also supports efforts to resolve conflict through diplomacy. Congressional contributions to matters of war and peace throughout the nation's history are registered in these documents.
E pluribus unum—Out of many, one—expresses the ideal of our Union: many states, one nation. Representing all of the states, Congress has promoted national unity through a process of inquiry, debate, compromise, and consensus. These documents record the continuing legislative efforts to meet the broadest needs of the people.
The desire for freedom and the quest for individual liberty are American ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In each era, Congress has debated and enacted measures to secure and expand freedom for all Americans, as demonstrated in these historical documents.
Congress is charged by the Constitution with providing for the general welfare of the country's citizens. Historically, this has meant improving transportation, promoting agriculture and industry, protecting health and the environment, and seeking ways to solve social and economic problems. These documents reflect Congressional actions to ensure "the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."
Knowing that democracy flourishes best in an open environment with an educated citizenry, Congress has promoted public education, supported the arts and sciences, and funded extensive research, as illustrated in these documents. In that same spirit, it established the Library of Congress, now the world's largest library, with unparalleled collections in every field of human endeavor.