Sixth Bill to Establish the Smithsonian (Owen)

[H. 418 ]


A bill to establish the "Smithsonian Institution," for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.

Whereas James Smithson, Esquire, of London, in the Kingdom of Great Britain by his last will and testament, did give the whole of his property to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men; and whereas Congress have heretofore received said property and accepted said trust: Therefore, that the same may be executed in good faith, and according to the will of the liberal and enlightened donor-

Be it enacted, etc. That so much of the property of the said James Smithson as has been received in money, and paid into the Treasury of the United States, being the sum of $515,169, be lent to the United States Treasury, at six per cent per annum interest, from September 1, 1838, when the same was received into the said Treasury, and that so much of the interest as may have accrued on said sum on the first day of July next, which will amount to the sum of $242,129, or so much thereof as shall by the board of managers of the Institution established by this act be deemed necessary, be and the same is hereby, appropriated for the erection of suitable buildings, the enclosing and preparing of suitable grounds, and for other current incidental expenses of the said Institution; and that six per cent interest on the said trust fund, it being the said amount of $515, 169, received into the United States Treasury, on September 1, 1838, payable, in half-yearly payments, on the first of January and July in each year, be, and the same is hereby, appropriated for the perpetual maintenance and support of said institution; and all expenditures and appropriations to be made, from time to time, to the purposes of the Institution aforesaid, shall be exclusively from the accruing interest, and not from the principal of the said fund.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the business of the said institution shall be conducted by a board of managers, to be composed of the Vice-President of the United States, the Chief Justice of the United States, during the time for which they shall hold their respective offices; three members of the Senate and three members of the House of Representatives, together with seven other persons, other than members of Congress, two of whom shall be members of the National Institute in the city of Washington, and resident in the said city; and the other five thereof shall be inhabitants of States, and no two of them of the same State. And the managers, to be selected as aforesaid from Congress, shall be appointed immediately after the passage of this act-the members of the Senate by the President thereof, and the members of the House by the Speaker thereof; and those so appointed shall serve until the fourth Wednesday of December, the second next after the passage of this act; ! and then, and biennially thereafter, on every alternate fourth Wednesday of December, a like number shall be appointed in the same manner, to serve until the fourth Wednesday of December, the second succeeding their appointment; and they shall also constitute and be denominated a joint standing committee of Congress on the Smithsonian Institution; and vacancies occasioned by death, resignation, or otherwise, shall be filled as vacancies in committees are filled; and the other seven managers of aforesaid shall serve for the term of two years from the fourth Wednesday of December next after the passage of this act; when, and on every alternate fourth Wednesday of December thereafter, a new election thereof shall be made by a joint resolution of Congress; and vacancies occasioned by death, resignation, or otherwise, may be filled in like manner by joint resolution of Congress. And the said managers shall meet and organize, by the choice of a president, in the city of Washington, on the first Monday in September next after the passage of this act, and they shall then fix on the times for regular meetings of the board; and on application of any three of the managers to the superintendent of the said Institution, it shall be his duty to appoint a special meeting of the board, of which he shall give notice by letter to each of the members; and at any meeting of the board of managers, five shall constitute a quorum to do business. And each member of the board of managers shall be paid his necessary traveling and other actual expenses in attending meetings of the board, which shall be audited and recorded by the superintendent of the Institution; but his service as manager shall be gratuitous. And whenever money is required for the payment of the debts or performance of the contracts of the Institution, incurred or entered into in conformity with the provisions of this act, or for making the purchases and executing the objects authorized by this act, the superintendent or the managers, or any three thereof, may certify to the president of the board that such sum of money is required; whereupon, he shall submit the same to a committee of three of the managers appointed for that purpose for examination and approval, and upon such examination and approval, he shall certify the same to the proper officer of the Treasury for payment. And the said board shall make all needful rules, regulations, and by-laws for the government of the Institution and the persons employed therein, and shall submit to Congress, at each session thereof, a report of the operations, expenditures, and condition of the Institution.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That after the board of managers shall have met, and become organized, it shall be their duty forthwith to proceed to select suitable ground for horticultural and agricultural purposes and experiments; which ground may be taken and appropriated out of that part of the public ground in the city of Washington called the Mall lying west of Seventh street; and the sites and grounds selected shall he set out by proper metes and bounds, and a description of the same shall he made and recorded in a book to he provided for that purpose, and signed by the said managers, or so many of them as may be convened at the time of their said organization; and such record, or a copy thereof, certified by the president of the board of managers, shall be received in evidence in all courts of the extent an boundaries of the lands appropriated to the said Institution; and upon the making of such record, such sites and lands shall he deemed and taken to be appropriate by force of this act to the said Institution.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That, so soon as the board of managers shall have selected the site for the buildings of the Institution, they shall cause to he erected a suitable building, of plain and durable materials and structure, without unnecessary ornament, and of sufficient size, and with suitable rooms or halls for the reception and arrangement, upon a liberal scale, of objects of natural history, including a geological and mineralogical cabinet; also a chemical laboratory, a library, and the necessary lecture rooms; and the said board shall have authority, by themselves, or by a committee of three of their members, to contract for the completion of such building, upon such plan as may he directed by the board of managers, and shall take sufficient security to the Treasurer of the United States for the building and finishing the same according to the said plan, and in the time stipulated in such contract. And the board of managers shall also cause the grounds selected for horticultural and agricultural purposes to be enclosed and secured, and suitable buildings erected, to preserve such plants as will not hear exposure to the weather at all seasons; and so soon as it may he necessary for the accommodation of the persons employed in said Institution, the said hoard of managers may cause to he erected on the grounds of the Institution such dwelling houses and other buildings, of plain and substantial workmanship and materials, to be without unnecessary ornament, as may be wanted: Provided, however, That the whole expense of the buildings and enclosures aforesaid shall not exceed the amount of the interest which will have accrued on the principal sum and fund on the first day of July next, to it, the sum of $242,129; which sum is hereby appropriated, payable out of money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated; together with such sum or sums out of the annual interest accruing to the Institution, as may, in any year, remain unexpended, after paying the current expenses of the Institution, And provided, further, That the expenditure for enclosing and securing grounds, and erecting buildings to prevent plants from exposure, shall not exceed the sum of $20,000. And all such contracts as may be made by said board of managers shall be deposited with the Treasurer of the United States; and all questions which may arise between the United States and any person claiming under and by virtue of any such contract shall be heard and determined by said board of managers, and such determination shall he final and conclusive upon all parties; and all claims on any contract made as aforesaid shall be allowed and certified by the board of managers, or a committee thereof, as the case may be, and, being signed by the president of the board, shall be a sufficient voucher for settlement and payment at the Treasury of the United States. And the board of managers shall be authorized to employ such persons as they deem necessary to superintend the erection of the buildings and fitting up the rooms of the Institution. And all laws for the protection of public property in the city of Washington shall apply to, and be in force for, the protection of the lands, buildings, and other property of said Institution; and all prosecutions for trespasses upon said property, and all civil suits on behalf of said Institution, shall be prosecuted in the name of the United States in any court having, competent jurisdiction of the same.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That, in proportion as suitable arrangements can be made for their reception, all objects of foreign and curious research, and all objects of natural history, plants, and geological and mineralogical specimens belonging or hereafter to belong to the United States, which may be in the city of Washington, in whosesoever custody the same may be, shall be delivered to such persons as may be authorized by the board of managers to receive them, and shall be arranged in such order, and so classed, as best to facilitate the examination and study of them, in the buildings so as aforesaid to he erected for the Institution; and the managers of said Institution shall afterwards, as new specimens in natural history, geology, or mineralogy may be obtained for the museum of the Institution by exchanges of duplicate specimens belonging to the Institution (which they are hereby authorized to make), or by donation, which they may receive, or otherwise, cause such new specimens to be also appropriately classed and arranged. And the minerals, books, manuscripts, and other property of James Smthson, which have been received by the Government of the United States, and are now placed in the Patent Office, shall be removed to said Institution and shall be preserved separate and apart from the other property of the Institution.

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That the managers of said Institution shall appoint a superintendent, whose duty it shall be to take charge of the ground, buildings, and property belonging to the Institution, and carefully preserve the same from injury; and such superintendent shall be the secretary of the board of managers, and shall, under their direction, make a fair and accurate record of all their proceedings, to be preserved in said Institution; and the said superintendent shall also discharge the duties of librarian and of keeper of the museum, and may, with the consent of the board of managers, employ an assistant; and the said managers shall appoint a professor of agriculture, horticulture, and rural economy, and the said professor may hire, from time to time, so many gardeners, practical agriculturists, and laborers as may be necessary to cultivate the ground and keep in repair the buildings of said institution; and he shall make experiments to determine the utility and advantage of new models and instruments of culture, to determine whether new fruits, plants, and vegetables may he cultivated to advantage in the United States; and all such fruits, plants, seeds, and vegetables as shal1 be found useful, and adapted to any of our soils and climates, shall be distributed among the people of the Union; and the said officers shall receive for their services such sum as may be allowed by the board of managers, to be paid semiannually on the first day of January and July; and the said officers, and all other officers of the Institution, shall be removable by the board of managers whenever, in their judgment, the interests of the Institution require any of the said officers to be changed.

SEC. 7. And whereas the most effectual mode of promoting the general diffusion of knowledge is by judiciously conducted common schools, to the establishment of which throughout the Union much aid will be afforded by improving and perfecting the common school system of the country, and by elevating the standard of qualification for common school teachers; and whereas knowledge may be essentially increased among men by instituting scientific researches, and, generally, by spreading among the people a taste for science and the arts
Be it further enacted, That the board of managers shall establish a normal branch of the Institution, by appointing some suitable person as professor of common school instruction, with such other professors, chiefly of the more useful sciences and arts, as may be necessary for such a thorough, scientific, and liberal course of instruction as may be adapted to qualify young persons as teachers of common schools, and to give to others a knowledge of an improved common school system, and also, when desired, to qualify students as teachers or professors of the more important branches of natural science. And the board of managers may authorize the professors of the Institution to grant to such of its students as may desire it after suitable examination, certificates of qualification as common school teachers, and also as teachers or professors in various branches of science; they may also employable men to lecture upon useful subjects, and shall fix the compensation of such lecturers and professors: Provided, however, That there shall not be established, in connection with the Institution, any school of law, or medicine, or divinity, nor any professorship of ancient languages. And the said managers shall make, from the interest of said fund, an appropriation, not exceeding $6,000 annually, for the gradual formation of a library, composed chiefly of the best works on the physical sciences, and the application of science to the arts of life, but without excluding valuable and standard works pertaining to other departments of human knowledge.

SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That the said board of managers shall make all needful rules, regulations, and try-laws for the government of the Institution and the persons employed therein; and, in prescribing the duties of the professors and lecturers, they shall have reference to the introduction and illustration of subjects connected with the application of science to the productive and liberal arts of life, improvements in agriculture, in manufactures, in trades, and in domestic economy; and they shall also have special reference to the increase and extension of scientific knowledge generally, by experiment and research; and the managers may, at their discretion, cause to be printed, from time to time, any lecture or course of lectures which they may deem useful; and it shall be the duty of each lecturer while in the service of the Institution, to submit a copy of any lecture or lectures delivered by him, to the managers, if required and called upon, for the purpose of being printed; and such lectures, when printed, shall be at all times offered for sale at the lowest rate that will repay the actual expense of publication.

SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That the said board of managers shall also make rules and regulations for the admission of students into the various departments of the institution, and their conduct and deportment while they remain therein: Provided, That all instruction in said Institution shall be gratuitous to those students who conform to such rules and regulations.

SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That it shall be competent for the board of managers to cause to be printed and published periodically or occasionally essays, pamphlets, magazines, or other brief works or productions for the dissemination of information among the people, especially works in popular form on agriculture and its latest improvements, on the sciences and the aid they bring to labor, manuals explanatory of the best systems of common school instruction, and generally tracts illustrative of objects of elementary science and the rudiments of history, chemistry, astronomy, or any other department of useful knowledge; also, they may prepare sets of illustrations, specimens, and apparatus, suited for primary schools: Provided, That the same shall at all times be offered for sale at the lowest rate that will repay the actual expense of preparation or publication.

SEC. 11. And be it further enacted, That of any other moneys which have accrued, or shall hereafter accrue, as interest upon the said Smithsonian fund, not herein appropriated, or not required for the purposes herein provided, the said managers are hereby authorized to make such disposal as they shall deem best suited for the promotion of the purposes of the testator, anything herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding.

SEC. 12. And be it further enacted, That ________ _________ and Joseph G. Totten and Alexander Dallas Bache, members of the National Institute, and resident in the city of Washington, be the seven managers who, by the second section of this act, are to be appointed by Congress.

SEC. 13. And be it further enacted, That there is reserved to Congress the right of altering, amending, adding to, or repealing any of the provisions of this act: Provided, That no contract, or individual right, made or acquired under such provisions shall be thereby divested or impaired.

E-Text by Courtney Danforth