Today marks the end of our week-long look at the Bill of Rights. Last Friday, we wrote about Congress Week’s purpose and the Constitution’s continued influence on modern society. In that same spirit, today’s post discusses the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress’s (ACSC) mission to explore and archive America’s legislative branch.
The National Archives and Records Administration administers presidential libraries, which serve both the public and academia, using federal appropriations. No such appropriations exist for the express study of Congress. Ray Smock, the former Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, says current works of political scholarship “favor presidents and the historical view from the perspective of presidential administrations. Congress, if mentioned at all, is in a supporting role of the executive branch and not examined as the branch that for most of American history was the fulcrum of the government and the center of debate in setting the national agenda.” That this august legislative body fails to inspire the same level of scholarly consideration as its executive and judicial counterparts is not caused by widespread disinterest or apathy. Rather, the lack of critical attention stems from Congress’s eclectic character. A president’s personality dictates history’s perception of an administration; the contradictory dispositions of 435 House representatives and 100 Senators cannot do the same for a legislative session.
But the ACSC can. Its members represent institutions from across the nation and hold the materials of former congressmen, enabling research, policy discussion, and scholarship on the “people’s branch.” The ACSC promotes the study of Congress because Congress deserves to be studied. The branch’s 226 year history embodies the will of the American people better than any other political entity. For this reason – and many others – the Baylor Collections of Political Materials is proud to be a founding member institution of the ACSC.