Major Historical Acts of Congress

From the BLS Library’s recent New Book List is an item worth reading: The Laws that Shaped America: Fifteen Acts of Congress and Their Lasting Impact by Dennis W. Johnson (Call #KF352 .J64 2009). It tells the story of historical and landmark acts of Congress, and will appeal to those interested in history and politics. Highly readable, it is exhaustive in its research. The list of landmark legislation is set out in the chapter titles:

  • Westward expansion: the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the Louisiana Purchase ratification of 1803
  • Slavery and the territories: Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
  • The promise of land: the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862
  • Women’s right to vote: the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1919)
  • Protecting the working family: the National Labor Relations Act of 1935
  • The grand contract: the Social Security Act of 1935
  • The promise to America’s veterans: the GI Bill of 1944
  • The recovery of western Europe: the Marshall Plan of 1948
  • Ribbons of highway: the Interstate Highway Act of 1956
  • Justice, equality, and democracy’s promise: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Medical care for the elderly and poor: the Medicare and Medicaid Act of 1965
  • Protecting the environment: the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969

The usual problem that arises with the making of any short list is the certainty of omitting important items. For example, the author might well have included the National Prohibition Act (1919), the Securities Act of 1933, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Freedom of Information Act (1966), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967) and many more. For those interested in a more complete listing of major acts of Congress, see the web site which has an alphabetical listing of United States Congress Major Acts with links to text explaining each act, bibliographies as well as the relationship of each act with other laws.