President James Polk was born in North Carolina in 1795, and served as President from 1844 to 1848. He was known for a number of expansion land opportunities, including the Oregon Territory in 1846 and the purchase of New Mexico and California from Mexico in 1848.
In 1846, he signed the bill that established the Smithsonian Institution. It is a museum and organization that was founded from the estate of James Smithson. Smithson was a Englishman, who was born and raised in Great Britain.
In his last will and testament he gave to the United States a large sum of money, approx. a half million dollars or more, including a large parcel of land, and that through an act of Congress there was established a trust for the American people.
Members of the House of Representatives, The Senate, the President and Vice President, and other members of the Cabinet and executive branch along with other elected and appointed officials work to administer the “Smithsonian Institution”, which is sort of a foundation that was set up for the benefit of knowledge to be used for the American People.
With the bill, President Polk gave his support for it becoming law, and the money and land was set up in a perpetual trust for the American people, to be located in Washington D.C.
The effects of the “Smithsonian Institution” has been to set up and administer a museum complex and fund the organization now known as the Smithsonian. It gives research and support funding, along with administering the different Smithsonian museums that are located in Washington, D.C. and stand to this day.
After eight years of debate, a British Scientist named James Smithson left his estate to his nephew and that if his nephew passed away without any heirs (as he finally did in 1835) then the estate and money, land and the trust would pass to the people of the United States.
No one really knows the motives behind the large and generous bequeath that British Scientist and subject James Smithson left to the American people, but they have thought that it might have been a sort of swipe at the rigid and proper British Society that had never embraced Smithson or allowed him the legal right to use his father’s name.
No matter the reason, the generous gift that Smithson left that established the Smithsonian Institution, and the Congressional Act that President James Polk signed into law in 1846 will continue to benefit the American people for decades to come.