Imatges de pÓgina

persons in this country to anticipate more from the results of their labors than the terms of the compromise resolutions would warrant as an argument that the Board of Regents ought to facilitate the means for its fulfilment, can have no support unless it be first shown or admitted that the secretary has competent authority to bind the Board of Regents by making it. But this would be a petitio principii. This position established or conceded, all further consideration of any question is superfluous. I am completely at a loss to know how or when such a promise was given-given to all persons, &c.; that the results shall continue to be given, implying that all such results have heretofore been given. Are we to suppose that all the results of original research by persons who are capable of furnishing additions to human knowledge have at any period been published by the Institution ? During the last five years have all the papers published by the learned societies and scientific journals of this country contained no increase of knowledge, or were they all written by persons incapable of increasing human knowledge? Such could not have been the meaning of the secretary, nor can it be his meaning that all the results of original researches shall at any period be printed in the Smithsonian publications. For this purpose neither half nor the whole of the income would suffice. Such was not the plan of the programme. The programme proposed that rewards should be offered for memoirs containing original results, and that researches should be instituted with a view to such results, and that memoirs thus specifically obtained should be published as “Smithsonian contributions to knowledge.” This proposition limited the subject within more definite bounds. The Institution, if it have money for ihe purpose, may thus procure and print papers; otherwise it may not call for them. It was stated in the commencement that it was supposed or hoped that one quarto volume a year might be published. This intimation was predicated on the estimate that the half of the income to be devoted to publications would enable the Institution to do so much, and it does not yet appear that it will not. Indeed it is certain that it will, and thus all reasonable expectations founded upon such a statement or promise are not, under the compromise, likely to be disappointed.

The secretary says that “it is on this condition that the library has been so richly favored, not only with the current volumes of transactions, but also, in many cases, from the oldest societies, with full sets of all the previous volumes of their series of publications.”

The library has not been favored with complete sets of the transactions of many of the oldest societies in exchange, nor indeed of any of the oldest. The full sets of the transactions of many of the oldest societies which we possess—as those of the Royal Society, the French Institute, the Royal Swedish Academy, &c.—have been procured by purchase, excepting the late volumes of them.

But the transactions which we have received were not sent solely in consequence of anticipated returns. They were drawn out by actual gifts-gifts not only of our own publications, but of other valuable works; and were we to send no publications of our own, we could send, for the mere cost of transportation, books which would in Europe be considered a fair equivalent for the books which are likely to be,

or have been, sent to us by learned societies. But, under the compromise, we should continue to send them our own publications. And if this idea of barter of equivalent for equivalent, rather than the idea of literary intercommunication, without primary reference to comparative profit, is to be considered as our ruling wish, we have every facility for keeping it up. Again, the secretary says:

“However proper such a division of the income might have been in the beginning, in order to harmonize conflicting opinions, and to submit with proper caution the several proposed schemes to a judicious trial, the same considerations do not now exist for its continuancechanges have since occurred which materially alter the conditions on which the resolution was founded.” “ The plan of active operations was not at first fully understood even by the literary men of the country; it was considered chimerical, and incapable of being continued for any length of time; and hence it was thought important to provide for the means of falling back upon a library and collections.”

Are we to suppose, then, that the library and collections were merely provided to break the fall of the Institution from active operations, if they proved, as some expected they would, chimerical and impracticable? Was this the object of Congress in providing the library? or is it intended to say that they were retained by the regents on that account, and that if the regents had felt entirely sure that the active operations would not prove chimerical, they would have cast out the library and collections entirely? But the secretary proceeds to add: “The experience of six years has, however, established its practicability and importance, and it is now considered, by the great majority of intelligent persons who have studied the subject, the only direct means of realizing the intention of the donor."

How the opinions of the great majority of intelligent persons who have studied the subject have been gathered, we are not told, nor is it possible for me to conceive. It would be difficult to gather the opinions of the great majority of persons who have studied the subject in any way but as a general and indefinite impression from what is published relative to it in books and journals. But I think it would be difficult to find a single publication, not emanating from some one connected with this Institution, where such an opinion is expressed, except where it is loosely expressed, in such a manner as to betray that if the intelligent person had studied the subject at all it had been only a partial and not a thorough study, only a study of one side of the question. For myself, I have heard a different opinion from this expressed by intelligent persons ten times to a like opinion once. But a “majority of intelligent persons” have no power to repeal acts of Congress, however great the majority or high the intelligence. Their consideration, formed upon whatever study of the subject, however strongly espressed, or however clearly shown to have an existence, has nothing whatever to do with the consideration deliberately adopted by an authority of unquestionable competency, acting within that competency, and clothing their consideration with the form of law as the highest expression of their will. Such a majorily has nothing to do with the intention of the donor, unless it can prevail on Congress to change their ideas as to his intention. Nothing, so far as I know, has transpired or been suggested that would have any bearing towards such a change, unless it be in a remark that the secretary had made to the following effect : That it had recently been ascertained that Smithson once made a will in which he bequeathed his property to the Royal Society ; that he cancelled that will, and made the one under which the United States claimed the legacy; therefore, it is argued he intended to establish something like the Royal Society here. I should draw just the opposite inference, particularly inasmuch as he was, as the secretary has said with apparent reason, a man accustomed to weigh well his words, and a man of science, who knew what were the objects and operations of such a society. If he intended to create such a society, or institute such a set of operations, exclusively, he knew how to say so, and he would have said so. But he used general terms, which might include a great many instrumentalities for the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” without in any way intimating which he preferred. It would be doing injustice to his liberality to suppose that he meant to limit it at all. He doubtless meant that the particular instrumentalities for the increase and diffusion of knowledge to be employed in the future Smithsonian Institution should be left to the suggestions and wants of the civilization of the country to which he confided the trust. And the fact of his having repented of giving his money to the Royal Society, if it were well established, (as it is not supposed to be,) would, if it indicated anything with reference to his subseqent intentions, rather insinuate that reflection had led him to prefer something different, or at least not to positively prefer that.

But to return to the topics of the last extract from the secretary's report.

He intimates that the compromise may have been necessary in the beginning in order to harmonize conflicting opinions, and to submit a variety of schemes to a judicious trial; but that changes have taken place, and it is no longer necessary. The necessity must have reference either to the reconciling of opinions or to the judicious trial.

If it is no longer necessary to harmonize conflicting opinions, it must be either that the harmony has been produced, or that it is no longer a desideratum. That it is not already produced, is evident from the adherence of the original parties to the compromise to their respective opinions; and, from the fact that others still coincide with each ofthem, many more with the opinions of those who favored the library than with those who favored other things as I firmly believe.

I turn now to the supposition, that the necessity mentioned relates to the “judicious trial." . If the compromise were necessary in order to submit various plans to a judicious trial, and it is now argued that changes have occurred which render the compromise no longer necessary on this account, it must be that the trial has been satisfactorily made; and if further it be proposed to found upon the result of the trial a decree, taking away something from one department and giving it to the other, it must be proved not only that the trial has shown the one department to be practicable, and not chimerical, but it must also be proved that the other department has been tried and found impracticable and chimerical.

The necessity of the compromise for the harmonizing of opinions seems as great now as ever; the desirableness of harmony is the same. The trial of the plan has not resulted in the proof that the library and museum are impracticable; therefore, no argument predicated on the result of the trial can be urged against them; consequently, there would seem to be no argument here for breaking the compromise. The asserted opinion of a majority of intelligent persons has not been made to appear, and if it had been, and related to the point mentioned, (the intentions of Smithson,) it would be upon a point which Congress alone is competent to decide, and which Congress has decided.

The principal argument of the secretary which is fully presented in the first four pages of his last printed report, is briefly as follows: The active operations, that is, the publications and reseaches, have born good fruit. This has been acknowledged by scientific men and societies throughout the world. Consequently, they should be made the paramount interest of the Institution.

I am glad that it is not necessary for me, in noticing this argument, to ask whether there is anything to be said in disparagement of the publications which have been made, the researches which have been instituted, and the results which have been secured.

After all that has been given to them in the time of officers and in money, it would be a most humiliating conclusion if all praise could not be given in truth to the results.

It would be additionally mortifying, if no polite and grateful acknowledgments had been given; if the recipients had not showered these profusely upon the donors of munificiently printed and illustrated works. It is not to be supposed that they would stop to inquire into the means by which results to them so gratifying had been produced. They would never raise any question whether these results had been produced by the use of a fund, devoted by due process of law to another purposeor whether they were produced by preventing the success of some other great literary scheme. They would not stop to consider whether the organization by which these results had been obtained was one which could, with safety to science, and to individual scientific right and justice, be entrusted with the permanent management of the system of operations necessary to produce such results. Why should they ask themselves whether this plan is free from liability to abuse, or particularly exposed to it? Such polite expressions of approval are mere matters of course, and have no more weight than the conventional expressions of social intercourse. They have no bearing whatsoever upon the question before the Board, unless such can be produced as show an acquaintance with the act of Congress establishing the lastitution, the subsequent history of the Institution itself, and the discussions respecting the distribution of the fund.

If these letters and testimonials are introduced merely to show the esteem in which the publications are held, they are appropriately introduced, and should have weight according to the ability of the writers to judge and the carefulness of the examination upon which their opinion is founded.

But, unquestionable success, unanimous approbation of results produced, would not justify the Regents in making a paramount interest

out of that which Congress did not place in that position, much less in opposition to that which Congress did place as paramount, and less still, when the scheme thus proposed to be made paramount can only be legally introduced at all under a clause which allows the Regents to dispose of income remaining after other objects have been provived for, on a liberal scale as required by the act.

I understand the proposition of the secretary to go still further. I quote iwo extracts from his report:

“ These are the fruits,” (he says, after an enumeration of the principal publications and researches made and favored,) "of what is called the system of active operations of the Institution, and its power to produce other and continuous results is only limited by the amount of the income which can be appropriated to it, since each succeeding year has presented new and important fields for its cultivation. All the anticipations indulged with regard to it have been fully realized; and after an experience of six years, there can now be no doubt of the true policy of the Regents in regard to it.”

And further on, in the same report:

“Whatever, therefore, may be the future condition of the Institution, the true policy for the present is to devole its energies to the system of active operations. All other objects should be subordinate to this, and in nowise suffered to diminish the good which it is capable of producing. It should be prosecuted with discretion but with vigor; the results will be its vindication.”

It will be seen that I have not misstated the position of the secretary. All other objects are to be subordinate to the active operations. No other object is to be suffered IN ANYWISE TO DIMINISH the good which it is capable of producing, which good is limited only by the AMOUNT OF INCOME which can be appropriated to it. That is to say, the Regents are distinctly told by the secretary, that upon the publications and researches, ("active operations,” as they are called,) it is their duty to bestow all the funds of the establishinent.

But, if the law of Congress, if the solemn compact between two parties among the Regents, adopted by the Board as the permanent policy of the Institution respecting the distribution of its funds, stand in the way, what then?

The answer of the secretary is, "the results will be its vindication." But is it a sound doctrine in ethics that results will vindicate measures? that the end will sanctify the means? Is it safe to establiżh a principle which, if it justifies one set of operations this year, under one secretary, may overthrow it another, under a secretary whose estimate of such results, or the dictales of whose conscience respecting the means, may be different?

It is not results that are to be vindicated, and in no other case has this argument any weight. It is measures, operations, that are under discussion, and measures are to be vindicated only by their legality, and in no degree by any quality of' whatever results may follow.

I have thus remarked upon every direct argument which I have been able to glean from the reports of the secretary in favor of the proposed scheme of devoting more money to the active operations, and less to the library and museum, with the exception of those remarks and

« AnteriorContinua »