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H.R. 5, 28th Congress, Bill to Establish the Smithsonian Institution, 1846

In 1835, the United States received a bequest from an Englishman, James Smithson, “to found at Washington...an establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge.” For the next 11 years, Congressman John Quincy Adams led the search for the best way to honor Smithson’s bequest. In 1846, this bill to establish the Smithsonian Institution was enacted.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

H.R. 5, 28th Congress, Bill to Establish the Smithsonian Institution, 1846

Creating a Knowledge-Based Democracy

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. Recognizing that a democracy cannot succeed without informed and educated citizens, Congress has passed legislation to establish a number of agencies and institutions that preserve and advance knowledge.