Executive Documents

In addition to supervising the executive departments and the Federal agencies, the President of the United States functions as a lawmaker in his own right. He can issue Executive Orders and Proclamations and Reorganization Plans, all of which have legal effect. He publishes these and other communications in several documents, including the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (Legal Periodical Collection - Deck 4) and the Public Papers of the President (J80 .A28 - Law Collection - Deck 4).

A guide to researching Presidential materials by the National Archives and Records Administration is available on the Internet.

The Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress has produced two reports on executive orders and proclamations --

Executive Orders and Proclamations by John Contrubis, Legislative Attorney, American Law Division, Congressional Research Service. Updated March 9, 1999.

Presidential Directives: Background and Overview, by Harold C. Relyea, specialist in American National Government, Government Division, Congressional Research Service. Updated November 26, 2008.


Executive Orders and Proclamations

Executive Orders are generally issued by the President to direct and govern the business and activities of government agencies whereas Proclamations are announcements of policy or matters requiring public notice. Both are numbered consecutively in their respective sequence.

Executive Orders can be located in the following, chronologically organized, sources:

  • Federal Register

  • Weekly (through 2008) and Daily (2009- ) Compilation of Presidential Documents

  • Code of Federal Regulations, Title 3 and compilation volumes of Title 3; this is the most comprehensive source available.

  • United States Code Congressional and Administrative News

  • United States Code Annotated, Statutory Supplement (advance sheets)

  • Presidential Executive Orders, 1862 (No.1) - 1950 (No. 10199); 44 v. (REF J80 .A7)

Indices to Executive Orders and Proclamations include:

Proclamations can be located in the following, chronologically organized, sources:


Compilation of Presidential Documents

Now published daily, until January 9, 2009, the Compilation of Presidential Documents was published weekly, each Monday, and contains statements, messages and other Presidential materials released during the preceding week. Each issue contains an Index of Contents for that issue, which organizes the content by addresses and remarks made publicly, remarks made at bill signings, communications to Congress, communications to specific Federal agencies, news media interviews, remarks made at meetings with foreign leaders, executive orders, and proclamations.

Among the supplementary materials included in each issue are a list of acts approved by the President, a checklist of White House press releases, a chronological digest of White House announcements and a list of nominations submitted to the Senate. Indices by name and subject are provided annually.

HeinOnline's Federal Register Library features searchable, online access to the Federal Register from its inception in 1936 to the present. It also offers access to the Compilation of Presidential Documents from the first volume of 1965 to the present.


Public Papers of the Presidents

The Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, publishes hardcover printed volumes entitled The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. These are housed in the Law Collection at J80 .A28.

The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) began publishing the Public Papers of the Presidents series in 1957 as an official publication of United States Presidents' public writings, addresses, and remarks (1 CFR 10).

The series provides an historical reference covering the administrations of the Presidents since Truman. The papers of President Franklin Roosevelt were published privately before the commencement of the official Public Papers series.

Currently, volumes are published approximately twice a year, and each volume covers approximately a 6-month period.

Each Public Papers volume contains the papers and speeches of the President of the United States that were issued by the Office of the Press Secretary during the specified time period. The material is presented in chronological order, and the dates shown in the headings are the dates of the documents or events. In instances when the release date differs from the date of the document itself, that fact is shown in the text note.

The appendixes in each Public Papers volume provide listings of the President's daily schedule and meetings, when announced, and other items of general interest issued by the Office of the Press Secretary; the President's nominations submitted to the Senate; materials released by the Office of the Press Secretary that are not printed full-text in the book; and proclamations, executive orders, and other Presidential documents released by the Office of the Press Secretary and published in the Federal Register.

The Public Papers of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, William Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama are available on the Internet, through a partnership between the Office of Presidential Libraries and the Office of the Federal Register. Also, the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has unofficially made Public Papers available from the Hoover administration (1929) to the present.

Updated October 2021

Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment