Seventh Bill to Establish the Smithsonian (Morse)


A bil1 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 the creation of a university, academy, or college is liable to constitutional difficulties: sectional jealousies, and would absorb a large proportion of the funds in the erection of buildings, and would more or less interfere with the numerous institutions throughout our country; and with a view of carrying out in the simplest form the benevolent intentions of the donor,

Be it enacted, etc., That the management of this fund shall he entrusted to a board of managers, to be styled the trustees of the Smithsonian legacy, to be composed of the President and Vice-President of the United States, the Chief Justice, during the time for which they shall hold their respective offices, the heads of the different Departments, the foreign ministers, the mayor of the city of Washington, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, together with seven other persons, two of whom shall be members of the National Institute and resident in the city of Washington, 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 in 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 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 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.

And be it further enacted, That so soon as the board of managers shall be regularly and legally organized, it shall be their duty to cause to be published for the space of one year in such of the most widely circulated newspapers in the United States and in Europe, as they may deem best, the offer of suitable rewards or prizes for the best written essay on ten subjects, the most practical and useful which the majority of said board shall determine upon; and when, after a decision upon the relative merits of the different essays, they determine to which the prize shall be awarded on the several subjects, it shall be their duty to have as many copies of each of the essays printed as they may deem best, to be distributed to the governors of the several States, to the several incorporated literary universities, to such European institutions as they may choose, and the balance to be distributed throughout the United States by the members of Congress, thus fulfilling in the letter and spirit the wise and comprehensive intentions of the donor for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.

E-text by Courtney Danforth