The Court of Claims, which was established February 24, 1855, was organized and first sat in Willard's Hotel. Later it moved to the Capitol and occupied the suite of rooms below the Library, the Court holding its sessions in the large room looking west, to the north of the stairway. About 1880, the Court moved from the Capitol to its present quarters in the Department of Justice. Up to March 3, 1887, in this Court only could the government be brought before the bar to plead, and even there in but a few prescribed cases. It differed from every other court in the United States; for they needed only the Executive to enforce their judgments, while the Court of Claims must have appropriations directly for the purpose from Congress or its judgments against the nation go unsatisfied.

One of the rooms formerly devoted to the Court of Claims is now occupied by the Senate Committee on the Library. In it hangs a quaint portrait of Benjamin West by himself. This was purchased of Mr. Barlow, the dealer, in 1876.