STL value semantics
Most container types want to abstract the particular storage strategy, be it linked list, vector, tree-based or what have you. For this reason, you're going to have trouble with both possessing and consuming the aforementioned cake (i.e., the cake is lie (NB: someone had to make this joke)).
So what to do? Well there are a few cute options, but most will reduce to variants on one of a few themes or combinations of them: picking or inventing a suitable smart pointer, playing with templates or template templates in some clever way, using a common interface for containees that provides a hook for implementing per-containee double-dispatch.
There's basic tension between your two stated goals, so you should decide what you want, then try to design something that gets you basically what you want. It is possible to do some nice and unexpected tricks to get pointers to look like values with clever enough reference counting and clever enough implementations of a factory. The basic idea is to use reference counting and copy-on-demand and constness and (for the factor) a combination of the preprocessor, templates, and C++'s static initialization rules to get something that is as smart as possible about automating pointer conversions.
I have, in the past, spent some time trying to envision how to use Virtual Proxy / Envelope-Letter / that cute trick with reference counted pointers to accomplish something like a basis for value semantic programming in C++.
And I think it could be done, but you'd have to provide a fairly closed, C#-managed-code-like world within C++ (though one from which you could break through to underlying C++ when needed). So I have a lot of sympathy for your line of thought.
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