Gales and Seaton's Register of Debates in Congress 04/30/1836

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The question is whether Congress should authorize the President to appoint an agent to accept the bequest. The issues under debate are whether the gift was to the United States or to the city of Washington and therefore whether Congress would be acting a beneficiary or a trustee, the relationship of Congress to the city of Washington, whether Congress had the power to establish a national university, and, if Congress could both accept the gift and establish the institution, whether the gift was being offered as a means for Smithson to achieve immortality and whether or not Congress wanted to aid him. The bill to authorize the President to appoint an agent to retrieve the money on the behalf of the United States was read for a third time and decided in the affirmative, yeas 31, nays 7.


  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Preston, William C. 1794-1860
  • Leigh, Benjamin Watkins 1781-1849
  • Clayton, John Middleton 1796-1856
  • Calhoun, John C (John Caldwell) 1782-1850
  • Buchanan, James
  • Davis, John
  • United States Congress
  • United States President


Smithsonian Legal Documents

Legal document information

  • Title 20, Education
  • Congressional Record


See S. no. 4 and H. R. 187 for versions of the bill under debate

Contained within

Gales and Seaton's Register of Debates in Congress vol XII (Book)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


  • 1836
  • 04/30/1836


  • Smithson Bequest
  • Trusts and trustees
  • Constitutional history
  • Act to establish the "Smithsonian Institution," for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge Among Men
  • SI, Early History
  • Congressional Debates


Washington (D.C.)


Congressional Record

Physical description

Number of pages: 5; Page Numbers: 1373-1378

Full Record

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