Lot #31
Andrew Johnson Autograph Letter Signed

Handwritten letter from Andrew Johnson to the Treasury Secretary, asking for an accounting of the "Smithson fund"—the fortune that established the Smithsonian Institution
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Estimate: $5000+

Description

Handwritten letter from Andrew Johnson to the Treasury Secretary, asking for an accounting of the "Smithson fund"—the fortune that established the Smithsonian Institution

Rare ALS, one page, 8 x 10, January 28, 1850. Handwritten letter to Secretary of the Treasury William M. Meredith, in full: "Will you be kind enough to inform me what kind debentures the Smithson fund consist, the prospect of their being paid and when—the original amount received by the United States—the amount of interest paid out of the Treasury upon the same and whether that interest has been reinvested or vested in stocks of the U.S. In sum, I would like to know the precise condition of the fund and whether Arkansas and the other states holding the fund have paid back into the Treasury either interest or principal, or made any arrangements to do the same." After signing the letter, Johnson signs again within his address: "Address—Andrew Johnson, House of Reps." Addressed on the integral leaf in Johnson's hand. Fully silked and professionally inlaid into a slightly larger sheet, and in fine condition. Accompanied by a custom-made quarter-leather clamshell case.

The "Smithson Fund" held the fortune left to the United States by James Smithson in 1835, earmarked for the rather vague foundation of 'an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.' Amidst some controversy over how the funds should be used for that purpose, they were invested into state bonds; any interest earned would be allocated toward the same purpose. In this letter, Johnson requests an accounting of the state of the fund just as ground broke on the construction of the Smithsonian Institution's first building, known as 'The Castle.' Johnson had long opposed the acceptance of the Smithson funds, out of a concern that American taxpayers would be stuck with the bill if the legacy proved insufficient for its lofty vision. A rare, twice-signed letter associated with one of America's prized public institutions.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts
  • Dates: #616 - Ended September 15, 2021





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