Two large questions interest me: First, who really owned the slaves in the antebellum South—the planters or the bankers, especially Brown and Baring Brothers? If the banks owned the slaves as mortgaged property, then it was the bankers, rather than the planters, who were able to control manumission.
Second, what percentage of the U.S. national budget was expended on the arts and sciences, including the Smithsonian project, in the period between 1840 and 1860? Research in all printed records provides a tantalizing clue: Between 25 and 33 percent of the national budget was spent on such projects. If this figure proves to be correct after research through the ledgers by a team of researchers, it changes the complexion of American culture as seen from Tocqueville and a number of those, including the artists and scientists themselves, who have declared the United States government consistently ignorant and parsimonious about the arts and sciences.