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Presidential Documents

Authority to Issue Proclamations and Executive Orders

The President has constitutional and statutory authority to issue executive orders and proclamations.  Other official presidential communications, e.g. "signing statements" (made when signing a bill into law) or explanations of vetoes of legislation, are also of interest to legal researchers. A signing statement, for example, is generally considered part of a statute's legislative history even though it comes from the President and not from the Congress.

Official Compilations

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States

Begins with the papers of President Hoover, skips President Roosevelt (whose papers were published separately), and continues to present. They contain most of the President's public messages, statements, speeches, and news conference remarks. Proclamations and executive orders are included from 1977 on. Both sources linked below contain the Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Weekly/Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents

Weekly from 1965 through January 29, 2009 and daily since then, the Compilation of Presidential Documents was issued every Monday by the Office of the Federal Register and is now a daily publication.  Sources include:

Preferred Citation: The Bluebook states that the preferred citation is to the Public Papers if the document appears in both sources. 

Types of Documents

Proclamations: formal public announcements, often relating to ceremonial or celebratory occasions, that may have significant legal consequences.

Executive Orders: Carrying the force of law, executive orders direct an agency or official to take a specific action. For example, an executive order created the plan of succession for the Department of Homeland Security.

Proclamations and Executive Orders: Sources

In addition to the general compilations of presidential documents described elsewhere in this Guide, proclamations and executive orders are found in:

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