Regent Choate Resigns and Congress Investigates Smithsonian




Date: January 17, 1855


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On January 13, 1855, Smithsonian Regent Rufus Choate sends a letter of resignation from the Board of Regents to the two Houses of Congress, giving as the reason his "inability to acquiesce in the interpretation" by a majority of the Board of Regents of the Act of Congress organizing the Institution, namely the resolution to base the apportionment of appropriations on the judgment of the Regents. On January 17th, Mr. Choate's letter of resignation is referred to a House committee inquiring into the management of the Institution.


  • Choate, Rufus, 1799-1859
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Jewett, Charles C (Charles Coffin) 1816-1868
  • Board of Regents
  • United States Congress


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Image of Rufus Choate, c. 1845. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number 2002-32231.
  • Choate particularly objects to Secretary Joseph Henry's lack of support for a national library at the Smithsonian and firing of the Librarian, Charles Coffin Jewett. This is the first serious challenge to Henry's authority as Secretary.
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 835
  • 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. 511-599

Contact information

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


January 17, 1855


  • Policies
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  • Finance
  • Secretaries
  • Act to establish the "Smithsonian Institution," for the Increase and Diffusion of Knowledge Among Men
  • Libraries

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