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recollection. They had no reference to carrying out any plan of my own, but, as I have stated, to his propositions to change the whole plan of the Institution, and to secure my acquiescence in the attempt.
Professor Henry, near the close of his article, attempts to make me responsible for scattered indications of dissatisfaction with the management of the Institution expressed in newspapers.
He indulges in assertions and insinuations. This course is in accordance with that previously pursued towards Professor Baird. We are to be held responsible for the acts of all who are said to be our friends. We are to watch our subordinates and control their acts as citizens. Every one that is dissatisfied is, of course, our friend, and instigated by us. He seems to suppose that the affairs of the Institution had been kept so close that no one could know its concerns except through the other officers. He forgets his own reiterated declarations of hostility to library and museum-his own intimations that he would get rid of the assistants, and supply their places with clerks submissive to his wishes; and on the ground that the assistants were men of too much standing for him; intimations made repeatedly previous to the time he alludes to. His own public and unreserved assertions and declarations of his plans and
purposes were quite sufficient to awaken the distrust of all interested in these departments of the Institution, and to lead them to express, as publicly, their disapproval of his schemes.
He, more than myself, is responsible for the public expression of such disapproval. In no way can I be made accountable for the representation said to have been made to Mr. Maury, (now, for the first time, heard of by me,) nor for newspaper articles wherever published, though the former should be proved as well as asserted to have been made by some of my personal friends, or some of the latter to have been communicated by persons employed under my directions.
It does not become me to suffer myself to be drawn into a discussion of these assertions and insinuations. I have only to say that the course of Professor Henry in this regard is as unjust as it is irrelevant to the present investigation, or to any matter of inquiry under it.
The statement or insinuation that I had neglected the duties of my office in opposing him, or for any cause whatever, is unjust and cruel.
That Professor Henry, at any time, entertained such an impression, was never hinted to 'me until it has been brought forward apparently as part of a system of retaliatory charges.
There has never been perfunctoriness in my character or conduct. I have given myself to my official duties with assiduity and devotion, prompted by a deep interest in the objects upon which I was engaged.
Prominent among these has been the development of the catalogue system. The accomplishment of this object was a task which demanded, on my part, untiring and laborious effort, and involved the arrangement and adjustment of many and various literary and mechanical details. While I was thus somewhat exclusively occupied, the gentleman who assisted me in the labors of the library fell ill, and I was under the necessity of employing the aid of others, for whose services I paid from my own funds. At times, several persons were so employell, and were paid wholly or in part by me, in order that I might devote myself to the task I had undertaken.
Professor Henry has been willing to jeopardize, if not effectually, to destroy this great interest, in order to get rid of me.
The tone and scope of Professor Henry's statement makes clear to my mind conduct which otherwise seemed inexplicable, and indicates most fully the grounds upon which the Board were induced to support him.
He considered me, it seems, as the representative of the library plan, which it was his determination to supersede by his plan of "active operations.” Every effort of well meant zeal for the interests of my particular charge was construed by him into opposition to his plans and to him. As he gradually brought the Institution more and more to his purposes, he became more and more suspicious of me. He favored the catalogue system, because he thought it would withdraw me from the idea of the great library. When he thought I was ready for the proposition, he made to me the overtures which I have stated in my testimony. When he found that I would not consent to effecting the overthrow of the library plan, without the full approval of the Board of Regents, he became incensed against me, and resolved to carry his point of annulling the compromise in his own way. The only opposilion which I offered was in open representations to the Regents
. I said nothing on this subject, so far as I remember, publicly or to individual Regents, that I had not previously said to him. My refusal to aid him in his mode of annulling the compromise, and insisting that it should be openly presented before the Board, was considered by him as insubordination, and he began to assert the most uncontrolled powers over assistants. This led inevitably to irritation among the subordinates, at different times and on different points. There was no combination. This state of things was represented to the Board by the secretary as occasioned by the ambitious or rebellious claims of the assistants. But this, in its extent, was at time unknown to me. I supposed that the regents would soon consider and adjust the question which caused all the difficulty, and declare that the compromise should or should not stand. But delay followed delay for months and almost years. Professor Henry made of it a personal matter, and told the Regents that if they did not approve his course he would resign; that they must choose between him and me. They saw the existence of difficulties. They relied upon his views of their character and bearing. His suspicions seem to have been regarded as facts, and consequently it is not surprising that the Regents sanctioned the course of Professor Henry towards me.
The whole difficulty might have been avoided. The painful personal attitude of Professor Henry and myself towards each other would never have been assumed, had he either kept the compromise, or having openly proposed to the Board its abrogation, allowed the matter to come to as prompt a decision as possible, under a full and fair discussion. I made no personal issues. My whole course was a protest against them. I looked to the public issue alone, the keeping or annulling of the compromise.
Professor Henry alludes to my absence in the autumn of 1852, in a manner not to have been expected. He knew the cause, of a domestic nature, leaving me no election. I was never absent but with his con
sent. Two previous vacations had been devoted almost entirely to work for the Institution, which I could not perform here. My only reason for wishing to return to the Institution at that time was my solicitude to carry into full operation the catalogue system, upon
which so much time and money had been expended, and the success of which was watched with so much interest by the literary public.
I have now the mortification to feel that for want of the superintendence-necessary in the early stages of such a work-of some one person acquainted with both all the mechanical and literary details, this important project, after having its entire practicability and utility demonstrated, is likely to be overthrown. It will, doubtless, at some future day, rise again under different auspices, but meantime the loss to the literary interests of the country will be very great.
C. C. JEWETT. FEBRUARY 28, 1855.
COMMUNICATION FROM PROFESSOR JEWETT.
To the committee of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, to
which were referred the resolutions of Mr. Fitch and Mr. Meacham : GENTLEMEN: I have had the honor to receive from the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution information that I am invited by the chairman of the committee of the Board of Regents, to which were referred the resolutions of Mr. Fitch and Mr. Meacham, to submit, in writing, through the secretary, any statements which I may wish to make on the subject of those resolutions.
I have not a copy of either of those resolutions, and know their port only in general terms. I suppose that the invitation with which the committee have favored me, is intended to allow me to discuss the subject matter of these resolutions ; not exclusively in strict adherence to their precise words, but generally, and with reference to the remarks of the secretary, which led to the offering of the resolution of Mr. Fitch, and also with reference to the remarks of the same officer upon the resolution of Mr. Meacham.
It is most unpleasant to me that in the discussion of the subject of these resolutions much of my communication must, of necessity, wear the form of a reply to the arguments and statements of my superior officer. But, as all the arguments in favor of the charge have emanated from him, I have no alternative, but either to let them
without examination, or to reply to them; considering myself, for the purposes of this discussion, maintaining the same relation to the secretary which, for the same purpose, I should hold towards any other gentleman who might present the same views. There is no other way for me to comply with the invitation of the committee; and I cannot feel that I should be doing my duty to the interests specially entrusted to me, did I not avail myself of the opportunity now offered to me to state my views on this important subject.
The secretary has proposed a substantial variation from the distribution of the annual income, established as the permanent policy of the Institution by the resolutions of the Board of Regents adopted on the
26th and 28th of January, 1847, and commonly called the “compromise resolutions."
As these resolutions were adopted with great formality, after an animated discussion, in the Board of Regents, it would certainly seem imperative that they should not be abrogated, or varied from, without a full, free, and fair discussion, in which all who were originally interested in them should have an opportunity to take a part; that the action should be deliberate and formal.
The proposition of the secretary was made at the last meeting of the annual session of the Board for 1853, when it was not supposed that any important business remained to be transacted. There was not, it appears, a legal quorum of the Board in attendance. It was at this meeting, of four members of the Board, that this most important of all the measures proposed to the Board for the last six years was first formally introduced. Objection was made to hasty action; and it was proposed to refer the subject to a committee, who should report at the next annual meeting. It was then remarked that there would be ample time and opportunity for discussion, and that every one would be allowed freely to express bis views.
The year, however, passed; the next annual meeting of the Board occurred; and no notice of the appointment of this committee had been given to the members of it. The annual report of that year was not printed till October or November. In that the record of the proceedings of the meeting of the 12th of March was not contained. It is true that the report had been presented to Congress before the date of the meeting; but it was returned to the secretary. The remarks of the secretary at the meeting were, in substance, inserted in the report when printed; and on a previous occasion the proceedings of the Board of Visitors, at a meeting held subsequent to the presentation of the report to Congress, were printed with that report.
I cannot forbear to add that the acceptance of an officer charged with the execution of the provisions of a well-understood compromisein the formation of which he was actively concerned—seemed to furnish a strong guarantee of honor for the fair administration of it on the part of the secretary; and that no measures would be taken which would tend to increase the share of funds and influence of the department which he particularly advocated, (and which was thus placed in ascendancy,) to the injury and diminished usefulness of the other department. We should, therefore, be led to the conclusion that it must be in obedience to some overmastering necessity that a proposition to change the plan should come from the party whose views were to be furthered by the proposed change, and to whom the whole administration had been confided; and more especially that not only such a change should be proposed, but, without waiting for the authority of the Board, be actually commenced. The secretary, when he presented his last report, gave in the annual statement of accounts; which showed to the Board that nearly $5,000—(being more than one-fifth of the whole sum divided between the two departments)-$4,691—more had been expended on one department during the year than on the other. The accounts of the previous year, as printed, showed an excess of nearly $3,000 in favor of the same department. In the remarks accompanying
the presentation of the accounts, the secretary offered no further reason for this variation from the compromise than to say that adherence to it had been “impossible."
I am utterly unable to form the slightest conception of the nature of the impossibility alluded to. The arguments which the secretary had previously urged, and then again referred to for departing from the compromise, so as to devote a larger share of the funds to the department of publications, researches, lectures, &c., and less to the library and museum, are contained in his last two printed reports. Upon these arguments I wish to offer some remarks.
A prominent and often repeated reason which the secretary has offered in favor of his scheme is, that the “ active operations,” as he designates the department of publications, researches, and lectures, are most in accordance with the will of Smithson. He goes so far as to call these “ the only plan in strict conformity with the terms of the will,” " the only means of properly carrying out the intention of the donor," " the only legitimate object of the bequest.”
But Congress, after years of animated discussion, during which plans embracing every important feature of those of the “ active operations” were considered, had come to a different conclusion. They rejected these, and adopted other plans, which they declared to be “ for the faithful execution of said trust according to the will of the liberal and enlightened donor."
The government of the United States is the trustee under Smithson's will, and it would follow that Congress alone had the power to interpret it. They exercised this power, and their interpretation must be authoritative and final, till reversed by themselves. They gave to the Board of Regents no power to consider the will of Smithson, except a case which has never arisen, when moneys might accrue at interest on the Smithsonian fund not required for the purposes provided in the act. (See section 9.) It never has been contended that the purposes provided in the act, a library, museum, gallery of art, chemical laboratory, and lectures, have all been provided for on a liberal scale, as Congress required and intended. The argument which I am noticing might be used before Congress to induce them to amend or otherwise change the law, but it has no place or force elsewhere. The right to determine the interpretation to be put upon the will of Smithson vested in Congress exclusively. The Board of Regents were appointed to conduct the business of an institution, the character of which is distinctly prescribed by the charter by which they are constituted Regents. The charter is binding upon them as well as upon others.
" It is the first duty of the Regents,” (says the first chancellor of the Institution, in his address delivered at the laying of the corner-stone of the Smithsonian building,) " it is the first duty of the Regents to obey the unequivocal behests of Congress—to carry them out faithfully on the scale, and in the spirit they obviously import; and to let their measures flow, not from their own discretion, but from the provisions of the law, which they are empowered to execute. I say this (he continued) in explanation of the dimensions which the building must necessarily take. It is consecrated to the various and boundless objects that tend * to increase and diffuse knowledge.' It is designed to participate as a