Discover the World of Orchids

A video guided tour of the orchid show "Discover the World of Orchids," a collaboration between the U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) and Smithsonian Gardens.

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Congress and the Separation of Powers

Why does the U.S. Constitution separate the government into three branches? This material examines Congress's unique role and the ways in which it can balance or dynamically shape and challenge the powers of other two branches.

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Congress and the World Wars

World War I and World War II were cataclysmic events, which spurred Congress to address the nation's role in the world. Congress passed landmark legislation affecting veterans, women, American Indians and the structure of the federal government. It also investigated "red scares" with controversial results.

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Congress and the Progressive Era

From the 1890s to the 1920s, the United States experienced dramatic social, cultural and political change. Confronted with domestic and international challenges, Congress reexamined the government's role in the economy and the environment and the nation's place in the world.


Congress Investigates

The power to investigate, implied by the U.S. Constitution, is one of Congress's most important tools for developing effective public policy, conducting oversight, and informing the public. Congress has investigated issues throughout its history via formal investigations and fact-finding inquiries with wide-ranging results, often significantly affecting the history of the United States.


Congress and the War of 1812

Instrumental to our identity and future national development, the War of 1812 both shaped and was shaped by Congress. International in scope and economic in nature, the war would not only inspire a national anthem, but would define Congress' mission for the era to come and fundamentally change the nation's political parties.

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Conflict and Compromise

Congress is the forum where elected representatives address issues facing the nation. These issues sometimes arise from conflicting ideas within the nation, or from the pressures of world events. By providing a place for debate and compromise, Congress has led the nation through challenging times.


Instruments of Change

In Congress, ideas and issues from across the nation are discussed, debated, and acted upon. Petitions, investigations, and Acts of Congress are all instruments of change that can affect the lives of citizens and the direction of the nation.


Congress and the Civil War

The issue of slavery permeated debate in Congress from the founding of the country through the mid-nineteenth century. The failure to resolve differences between states on the issue of slavery led to the Civil War. To manage both the war effort and its consequences, Congress crafted new legislation that addressed a changing nation.


A More Perfect Union

For more than two hundred years, the Capitol has been the place where representatives of the American people have debated how best to achieve the nation's ideals. This material displays some of our most important documents, drawn primarily from the collections of the Library of Congress and the National Archives, to illustrate the role of Congress in defining and helping to realize national goals and aspirations.