Calhoun Opposes Smithson Bequest

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Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina announces to the United States Congress that he opposes the acceptance of the James Smithson bequest on the grounds that to do so would be unconstitutional and that it abridged states' rights. His reasoning sparks much controversy in the Senate, but does not prevail.


  • Calhoun, John C (John Caldwell) 1782-1850
  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • United States Congress


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Wilson, Clyde N., ed. Papers of John C. Calhoun, vol. 14. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993., p. 576-577
  • Rhees, William Jones. The Smithsonian Institution: Documents Relative to Its Origin and History: 1835-1899, Vol. 1, 1835-1887. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901., p. 173-181

Contact information

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


February 25, 1839


  • Smithson Bequest
  • Policies
  • Political science
  • Debates
  • Act to establish the "Smithsonian Institution," for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge Among Men
  • State rights

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