Imatges de pÓgina

was only as parens patria, the guardian and local legislature of the District of Columbia, that Congress had and exercised the right to accept the bequest of Smithson. This may be abundantly shown from the documents to have been the sense of Congress itself.

In the Senate, the President's message, transmitting papers relative to the bequest was referred to the Judiciary Committee. That committee, by their chairman, Mr. Leigh, reported a joint resolution, January 6, 1836. In their report they say :-(See Rep. 42, 24th Congress, 1st session, p. 4:)

“ The committee can see no reason to doubt that the United States must be regarded as the parens patriæ of the District of Columbia ; that, in that character, they have a right, and are in duty bound, to assert a claim to any property given to them for the purpose of founding a charitable institution of any kind within the District, and to provide for the due application and administration of such a fund,” &c.

In the House of Representatives, the message was referred to a special committee, who, by their chairman, Mr. J. Q. Adams, reported a bill to accept the bequest, January 19, 1836. In their report they say (See Rep. H. R., No. 181, 24th Congress, 1st session, p. 3:)

“ The location of the Institution at Washington, prescribed by the testator, gives to Congress the free exercise of all the powers relating to the subject with which they are by the Constitution invested, as the local legislature for the District of Columbia.”

Mr. Leigh said, in explaining and defending his report : “ They (the committee) looked upon the bequest as having been made simply for the benefit of one of the cities of the District of Columbia, of which Congress is the constitutional guardian.”

Mr. Clayton said: “The United States was merely named in the will as the trustee, and was to receive no benefit whatever. It was merely a charitable object, to establish a university in the District of Columbia."

Mr. Southard said: “Congress had the same right to establish this university as they had to charter a college in Georgetown or Alexandria.”

Mr. Buchanan said: “Congress, by receiving and applying this bequest, would only act as the trustees of the city of Washington, for whose benefit it was made."

Mr. Walker said: "He should vote for the bill on the ground that Congress would be doing manifest injustice to the city of Washington by refusing to accept the donation.”

Be it observed, also, that in the whole debate on the aceeptance of this bequest, no senator took ground in opposition to that of the above extracts, except Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Preston. They held that the testator intended this Institution for the benefit of all mankind; and they, therefore, voted against accepting the bequest.

The citizens of Washington memorialized Congress with reference to the application of this fund. Colonel Force and Colonel Seaton, as mayors of the city, exerted themselves strenuously to procure the founding of the Institution. The citizens have acted liberally, have never wished for the exclusive benefit of it, but have ever been willing and desirous that "the scattered millions of the land" should share with

them. Let them not be schooled into silence and submission by an incessant imputation of consulting "local interests,” implying “perversion of the trust.” They have a peculiar interest, and a legal right to insist that the original design of the Institution shall be carried out.

It is well known that a plan of operations has been adopted inconsistent with, and subversive of, the principal objects provided for by the act of incorporation ; a plan entirely different from the original and lawful design ; a plan which gives all or most of the funds to be ex pended in distant researches, and in publishing books printed and distributed elsewhere, and which leaves this city nothing but an empty name of benefit.

It is understood that the present mayor, who, by virtue of his office, is a member of the Board of Regents, has, in the struggle which is supposed to have occurred in the Board upon the adoption of this plan, given to it his whole aid and support. He who ought to have regarded himself in an especial manner bound to respect and defend the rights and interests of the city, has permitted himself to be duped and cajoled anto the support of an illegal and unwise scheme, under the operation vi which, as far as any benefit to Washington is concerned, the Institution might as well have been established in Princeton, New Jersey, as in Washington, D. C. Let this be thought of on Monday.


These were inserted and paid for, as I was informed by one of the editors, by one of the enployés of the Institution in the stereotyping operations under the immediate direction of Mr. Jewett.

During the whole of this time his duties in the library were neglected and his whole time was apparently taken up in this controversy.

He was called upon by Committee of the Board of Regents to present his views on the future distribution of the income, and in answer to this call, instead of confining himself to the question propounded, embraced the opportunity to assail the secretary under his own name, and to repeat many of the statements which had appeared anonymously in the public papers.

On this I resolved to remove him, but as there was a doubt in the minds of some members of the Board whether the secretary had the power, a resolution was introduced by Mr. Mason, intended to express the opinion of the Board as to this point. The removal was made in accordance with this resolution and the recommendation of the committee, to which Mr. Jewett's communication was addressed. The act of removal was a painful one to me, but I considered it absolutely necessary, in order to vindicate the power of the office of the secretary, and to produce that harmony in the management of the Institution with out which no operations could be efficiently carried on. I rested for the time the removal on the character of that paper and the report of the committee in reference to it, because I did not wish to inflict more injury on Mr. Jewett than was absolutely necessary. If, however, the committee should deem it necessary to require additional reasons for the removal of Mr. Jewett, I am prepared to present them.

From the foregoing, however, it is evident ihat he put hiunself in direct opposition to me, and that it was incompatible with the interests of

He or

the Institution that we should both remain connected with it. myself was obliged to leave.

(See private report of the committee on this point; also letter of Judge Taney, already submitted.]

I shall present at the next meeting of the committee a statement in regard to the minor charges of Professor Jewett against myself.




Professor Henry, in his statement, presented to the committee of the House of Representatives, has given at considerable length his opinions respecting the origin of the difficulties which have occurred in regard to the management of the Institution, dating them from the adoption by the Board of Regents of a resolution requiring the appointment of an assistant secretary to act as librarian, and stating in narrative form his impressions and suspicions concerning me during the whole period of our acquaintance.

As my own views materially differ in these respects from his, it seems necessary for me to present them, as briefly as possible, sustaining them with such documentary evidence as can be procured-enough, it is believed, to establish every important point.

When the act of Congress establishing the Smithsonian Institution was first passed, I supposed, as did every one else with whom I conversed on the subject, that the formation of a great national library would be its first and principal object.

I had lately returned from Europe, where I had passed more than. two years, and had devoted much of my time to bibliographical pursuits. I felt an enthusiastic interest in the project of a great central library, and it was with me an object of ambition to superintend its collection and management. My friends recommended me warmly for

No one, so far as I know, ever recommended me as secretary; certainly no one voted for me. I never thought of any position but that of librarian.

I soon learned, however, that the Board of Regents were not agreed as to the extent or character of the library proposed, and that other projects for the appropriation of the funds were in agitation.

At the first session of the Board of Regents, on the second day of the session, two important committees were appointed, the first called the organization committee, “lo digest a plan to carry out the provisions of the act;" and the second called the library committee, "to prepare a report upon the subject of the formation of such a library, indicating its general character and the modes of proceeding to accumulate it."

The committee on organization, on the 1st of December, 1846, presented a report embodying various and very comprehensive schemes, but no action was taken upon it, further than to pass, on the 3d of December, a resolution appended to it, (and numbered 13,) respecting the

Rep. 141-8

the post.

qualifications for a secretary. The same day (December 3) Professor Henry was elected secretary. The same day Mr. Choate presented a report on behalf of the library committee, accompanied by resolutions, which were adopted the next day, December 4.

In this report the committee say: “They see in the language of the act, which the regents are created to administer, and in the history of the passage of that act, a clear intimation that such a library was regarded by Congress as prominent among the more important means of increasing and diffusing knowledge among men.

This intimation, tbey think, should control, in a great degree, the acts of the regents,” &c.

The resolutions appended to the report and adopted, were: 1. “Ro solved, That for the present, out of the interest accruing to the institotion, the sum of twenty thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby, appropriated for the purchase of books, and the gradual fitting up of a library, and all other incidental expenses relating to the library, except the salaries of the librarian or librarians; the said appropriation 10 commence from the first of January, eighteen hundred and forty-eigbl.”

Mr. Hough moved to strike out $20,000, and insert $12,000, which motion was disagreed to. Mr. Rush moved to strike out $20,000, and insert $15,000, which was also disagreed to, and the resolution was adopted as reported.

The second resolution appended to the report and adopted, was : 2. “ Resolved, That the portion of the building to be for the present sti apart for a library be of sufficient capacity to contain not less than one hundred thousand volumes; and that it is desirable that the plan should be such as to render an extension practicable if bereafier de sired."

On the same day was adopted the resolution to which Professos Henry refers as the origin of all the evils of the Institution, recom mending to the secretary « forthwith to employ, subject to the approval of the Board of Regents, an assistant secretary, well qualified io dis charge the duties of librarian.”

Such was the action of the Board respecting a library, before Pro fessor Henry accepted the office of secretary. Such was the EARLIEST action of the Regents on this subject. It showed their FIRST OPINIONS as to the meaning of the law.

Thus stood the matter when, on the 21st of December, 1846, Professor Henry entered upon the duties of his office. He immediately proposed the plan of publication and researches.

It was about this time that I became acquainted with him, and learned for the first time his scheme of operations. I entered into no examination of it—that I fully approved of it I do not at ali admit but I offered, so far as I remember, but one suggestion respecting ii, namely: whether it could be carried out under the act of Congress. To this Professor Henry replied that if the Regents approved bis plan, as he thought they undoubtedly would, the act of Congress could be changed, if thought necessary. I then assured him that my only wish for connexion with the Institution was to superintend the formation of a great national library, and that, as this was not, as he declared, likely to be sanctioned by the Board, I would immediately return home. He urged me to remain and take a position as assistant under his scheme. I emphatically and repeatedly declined. The interview left with me no unpleasant recollections. I went back to Providence, abandoning all thought of connexion with the Smithsonian Institution. But I soon found that others took a different view of the case. They thought it was dangerous to attempt to change the law, and were sure that Professor Henry's plan could not be carried out under the law.

Soon afterwards the matter came up for discussion before the Board, and was settled by the adoption of the "compromise," dividing the funds equally between the plan advocated by the secretary and the plan of collections. At thie same meeting I was nominated and confirmed to act as librarian.

I was informed by the secretary of my appointment, that my "salary would commence whenever the building is ready for the reception of the library,” and that this would probably be in two years.

I received this announcement with surprise. I had never heard or thought of such a proposition as the compromise till it was adopted. My first impulse was to decline the appointment. But, on conversation with gentlemen interested in the library plan, I was induced to accept. The reasons which prevailed with me were, that, although under the compromise but a comparatively small appropriation could be made annually for a library, yet a large sum would be immediately available, which would create a considerable nucleus previous to the period for the full operation of the compromise; and the central position and prominent character of the Institution, its being under government patronage, and the expectation of large accessions from exchanges, all led to the belief that under this arrangement a large central library would gradually be formed.

I supposed that the compromise had been cordially adopted by all parties, and the fact that the principal direction had been entrusted to an officer who had not preferred the library, but who acquiesced in the new arrangement, so far from awakening any apprehension that the library would not be sufficiently favored, was supposed to furnish the best possible guaranty that its claims would be respected.

In confirmation of what I have stated, I present the following extract from a letter which I wrote to Professor Henry soon after accepting the, nomination :

" When I left Waslungton I had quite abandoneil all thought of being connected with the Institution. I supposed it would not be the wish of the Regents to devote any considerable portion of the funds to laying the foundations of a national library, and that was the only work in which I felt ambitious to engage.

But the resolutions which were passed provided liberally for the library, and I was hence led to accept the office tendered to me. I trust you will not have occasion to regret the nomination. I beg you to accept the assurance of my cordial cooperation with you in the measures which you may think best to adopt for the welfare of the Institution. It is matter of much gratification to me that I met you and enjoyed such pleasant interviews with you at Washington. I trust that our future intercourse will be equally agreeable.”

To this Professor Henry replied : “I was, as well as yourself, much gratified with our interview in

« AnteriorContinua »