"We accept a fund from a foreigner, and would … enlarge our
grant of power derived from the States of this Union …. Can
you show me a word that goes to invest us with such a power?"
Senator John C. Calhoun opposed acceptance of the Smithson bequest, largely on the grounds that to do so on behalf of the entire nation would abridge states' rights. He maintained that Congress had no authority to accept the gift. He also asserted that it would be "beneath [U.S.] dignity to accept presents from anyone."
Senator William Campbell Preston for several years was part of a small but vocal minority who questioned the constitutionality of accepting Smithson's bequest. Ultimately, persuaded by advocates for a national university, he devoted himself to developing the newly established Smithsonian Institution.
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