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FBI / J. Edgar Hoover

Origin of the FBI

J. Edgar Hoover
The Sources Page
Origin of the FBI
Prohibition and the FBI
"The Roaring Twenties"
Jay Gatsby
FBI 2004
Present Day FBI

How and why it all began

FBI Seal Graphic


     The Federal Bureau of Investigation was created in 1908 by Congress to help in protecting the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.  The Forth Amendment is, "The right of the people to be secre in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated."  Crime was rising and Congress was forced to make a difficult desicion between protecting the individual freedom of the citizens of the United States or to protect them by increasing violations of the law especially the Fourth Amendment.  There was no intention to create a group of secret agents.  Congress reached the desicion to create the Bureau based on their interpretation of the "commerce clause."  The "commerce clause" states Congress shall have Power . . . to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes.  Congress interpreted this as "allowing federal jurisdiction over interstate crime" (Schlesinger 19).  In 1935 Congress changed the name from the Bureau of Investigation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.                        

       The original duties of the FBI consisted of treason, crime on the seas, cimes of Indian reservations, smuggling of opium, impersonation of a federal officer, fraudulent bankruptcies, and violations of the anti-trust laws (Schlesinger 20).  The original FBI employed less than 60 agents and they were mostly politically appointed.

      The FBI slowly began to take on more duties as more laws were created.  The FBI took responsibilty for enforcing the Mann Act in 1910 which stated that it was illegal for women to be transported across the state lines for immoral purposes (Schlesinger 20).  In 1917 the inherited the duty of enforcing the Selective Service Act in which they caught draft dodgers.  They also began to enforce the Espionage Act which was created to protect the United States during World War 1 from disloyal Americans and spies from other countries.  In 1919 the FBI was assigned the task of enforcing the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act by Congress.  The FBI was supposed to lower the munber of car thefts in the United States. 

      The FBI faced many problems after the end of World War 1 due to the citizens fear of foreigners, Communist conspiracies and new ideas that were different from the previous tradtional ideas (Sclesinger 22).  In 1920 the FBI investigated a bomb that went off in New York that killed 33 people and injured another 300.  The FBI had a lot more to deal with during "The Roaring Twenties."

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 Schlesinger Jr., Arthur M. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. New York:
      Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.