A National Library?
At a time when the Library of Congress consisted of a small
collection of books housed in the U.S. Capitol, some scholars
and legislators argued for a true national library. Senator Rufus
Choate maintained that a national library would fulfill Smithson's
mandate to diffuse knowledge more effectively than would a national
"Why should a German or an Englishman sit down to a repast
of five hundred thousand books, and an American scholar, who loves
the truth as well as he, be put on something less than half
—Senator Rufus Choate
(Massachusetts), January 8, 1845
A National University, After All?
Many people maintained their beliefs that the Smithson bequest
should be applied toward a national university. Senator Asher
Robbins, who had been a teacher, led a movement to consolidate
several smaller colleges into a great national university.
"We have only to tread the path that led the Athenian to his
glory, and to open that path to the youth of our country."
—Senator Asher Robbins
(Rhode Island), January 10, 1839
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