Graphical timeline from Smithson to Smithsonian
From Smithson to Smithsonian - The Birth of an InstitutionAccepting Smithson's Gift

Who Was James Smithson?
Sccepting Smithson's Gift
All-American Compromise
The Smithsonian Building
An Institution Emerges
A National Collection
Smithson's Legacy

Should We Accept Smithson's
Bequest? 1835-1838

Smithson's Bequest Sparks Political Debates

President Andrew Jackson
President Andrew Jackson

Whether or not to accept the Smithson bequest was a matter of controversy among the ranks of those governing the new nation. States' rights advocates, nationalists, federalists, anglophobes, xenophobes, and others disagreed over the possible repercussions of accepting such a gift.

President Andrew Jackson asserted his belief that the people of the United States would ultimately put such opportunities to good use. Unsure whether the Constitution gave him the authority to accept the Smithson bequest, he asked Congress to pass legislation allowing him to do so.

Congress authorized acceptance of the Smithson bequest on July 1, 1836. President Jackson took immediate steps to secure the bequest by sending diplomat Richard Rush to England.

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