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Act Concerning the Library of Congress, January 26, 1802

Establishing a Congressional library became a priority when the government moved to the new federal city of Washington, D.C., in November 1800. During the time Congress had been meeting in New York City and Philadelphia, it had relied upon private libraries in these well-established cities. President Jefferson appointed John Beckley, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the first Librarian of Congress.

General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

Act Concerning the Library of Congress, January 26, 1802

Creating a Knowledge-Based Democracy

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. Recognizing that a democracy cannot succeed without informed and educated citizens, Congress has passed legislation to establish a number of agencies and institutions that preserve and advance knowledge.