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statements of the secretary introduced into various reports, directly opposed to the idea of establishing here a great library of reference and research, and a great museum. To these remarks and statements I wish to call attention for a few moments.
The secretary says it must never be supposed that a great library can be collected with the part of the income that will come to the library under the compromise.
But are we not bound in good faith to try? Are we not bound to make the best use, and to allow the best use in every way to be made of what does, without doubt, under the compromise, belong to the library for this purpose? If we say to the world that we never expected to form a library, and particularly if we argue against a library, and more particularly still, if we say we would not take a library of 100,000 volumes as a gift, if we must provide for it room and custody, we cannot, of course, expect to get a library with the part of the fund under the compromise devoted to that purpose, nor could we with the whole income.
It has never been supposed that by direct purchases with this part of the fund we can form the library which is wanted in this country. But, by showing a wish for such a collection, a liberal and enlightened appreciation of it, a sympathy with those who say they want it, rather than with those who do not feel the need of it, if we buy judiciously with the means which, under the compromise, we have, and accept the means that are offered to us, we shall with astonishing rapidity collect a magnificent library here. Such a library, when fairly started in such a position, is sure to increase rapidly. There is now a library of 25,000 volumes, the best in the world in its speciality, and that speciality the most important of all to this country, which could be had on terms entirely within our means. I met, the last week, a gentleman who had a special collection of autograph letters, which might well be coveted by any library in the world, and which it would cost next to nothing to keep for centuries, and be worth thousands of dollars. He stated that he had made his will, and given this collection to Harvard University, that he had desired to give it to the Smithsonian Institution, but his intentions had been repelled by remarks such as I have alluded to.
With the half or the whole of the available income, the main hope of the library would be on public and private liberality. And such a hope was never known to be deceived, and will not here be deceived if we are true to ourselves, and make an honest and diligent use of our advantages.
There are in this country some of the best private libraries in the world, libraries well nigh complete in particular departments. These libraries belong to men of great wealth, who will never allow them to be sold by auction. There is (besides the Smithsonian Institution) no establishment to which they would be so likely to bequeath such collections. They would wish to place them in a central institution, connected with the government, one where libraries in other specialities would be likely to be given or otherwise gained. This Institution answers precisely to their wishes. Under the compromise, no friend of the library has sought for more than belonged to it, has grudged any.
thing to the museum, or to any other authorized purpose. They have made no use of arguments, which lay in abundance at their hands, against other operations. But they certainly ought to be allowed to make the best use of the means they have without opposition, without discouragements, without being obliged to answer arguments which had been fairly heard and decided on, without having their efforts neutralized, their hopes destroyed, and the friends on whom they relied repelled.
The secretary has frequently urged, as an argument against collections of all kinds, that their tendency is to a “statical condition.” The time must come, he says, when all the income will be needed for the support of the collection, and leave nothing for its increase.
But such an argument would prevent getting anything, unless you can both keep what you get and get more. It would utterly prohibit the accumulation of books and works of art, unless the resources of the Institution were exhaustless. It would allow no institution to get 100,000 books, unless it saw clearly how it could not only keep them but get more.
Nay, further, it is of equal weight against every enterprise, against all effort. It amounts, indeed, to no more than this, namely, that finite causes can produce only finite effects—that a power fully exerted is inadequate to further results. But, if the attainment of this result be necessary or useful, and be equivalent to the power expended, the sooner the "statical condition" be arrived at the better.
But let us suppose the case of a statical condition actually come. We will suppose, for example, that the active operations had not been introduced, and that the library and museum, &c., had been left in full possession of the income for ten years, and that the results produced had been, as they doubtless would have been, a finished building, 200,000 volumes of books, one of the most interesting museums in the world, with lectures, and a chemical department. Now, suppose that the whole of the income of the fund which can properly be bestowed upon the library for the future is only sufficient to support it, has it not already done an immense service; and will it stop? A library like that which I have described exists nowhere in this country, and is not likely to exist for many years. It would attract hither the scholars and scientific men of the country more than any or all other objects. They would concentrate themselves about it. Would they allow such an institution to languish? There is nothing in the history of such institutions to sustain such a belief, but everything to assure us of the contrary. It is only about 100 years since the British museum was commenced by the conditional bequest of an individual, not one-third in amount that of the Smithsonian fund. The statical condition of that institution has not yet arrived, and of all the instrumentalities in England for the increase and diffusion of knowledge, none has been more universally appreciated. But a large proportion of its prosperity has been owing to private liberality.
A library in one of our own cities seemed lately to have reached that condition. The funds had been used in erecting a costly building, and in buying books, and statues, and paintings. There was not even enough to pay the salary of a librarian. Did the enterprise stop? No.
The facts were made known, an appeal was made to the public, and it was almost immediately answered by an increase of $120,000 to the endowment of the establishment.
If it could reasonably be supposed that such a statical condition would ever be allowed to supervene, it would not be a condition of degradation. The good that the library was capable of doing it would still do. The books would be property, worth at any time under the hammer what they would cost. Their worth would be conspicuous to
The great central library of reference and research, which called forth eloquerft and learned speeches, able and frequent articles in reviews, which secured the approbation of Congress and the congratulations of the country, is not less an object of desire and solicitude now.
The Hon. Rufus Choate, who first proposed the measure in the Senate, in a letter dated February 4, 1854, thus expresses his present opinion:
" I insist that it (the Smithsonian Institution) owes a great library to the capital of the new world; something to be seen, preserved, and to grow, into which shall be slowly but surely and judiciously gathered the best thoughts of all the civilizations. God forbid (headds) that we should not have reach, steadiness, and honor enough to this as one great object of the fund, solemnly proposed, and never to be lost sight of."
The national convention of librarians which assembled in New York in September last, numbering over eighty delegates from the principal libraries in all parts of the country, passed unanimously resolutions in favor of a great central library of reference and research, as demanded by the condition of the United States as to general civilization and intellectual advancement, and particularly interesting to that convention, from the bearing it would have upon libraries throughout the country.
It is the general wish that this great library should be here in Wasbington, at the seat of government. The reasons for this are obvious. The great library of reference and research in every country must be near the seat of government, for it is needed in connexion with the study of the goveriment archives, it is needed for the purposes of the government, and there are parts, and important parts, of such a library that cannot be gathered except in connexion with the government, such as all the government publications, (of which no complete set exists in any of the public libraries in Washington,) the publications of the State governments, and the copyright publications. There are many other works of great value, which could only be procured for such an establishment.
The Library of Congress can never meet this want. It is intended for the use of Congress; and very properly so, the principles of gathering and keeping which will render it useful for what it is intended to be, would render it impossible ever to make of it the great central library of reference and research which scholars need In other countries the parliamentary library is separate from the great library of reference and research.
It has been proposed to adhere to the compromise in terms, but to devote a part of the money that would come to ihe library and museum to publications and researches relative to bibliography and natural history. On this proposition I would remark, that so far as such things would be allowable were there no active operations here, that is, so far as they would be allowable in any other library in the use of funds given " for the formation of a library," so far are they allowable here, and no farther, this question should manifestly be submitted to the judgment of the friends of the library and museum, and no plan of the kind could be advocated for any other than the good of the library and museum. To form such a plan for the purpose of benefitting directly or indirectly another system of operations would be an injustice.
I have considered all the arguments which I have known to be urged in favor of the scheme of devoting more of the funds to the active operations and less to the library and museum than the compromise allows. If the statements and arguments with which I reply are found, on careful examination, to be true and sound, the compromise should not be disturbed for reasons yet adduced. I cannot feel, however, that I do my whole duty, when invited to make statements bearing upon this subject, if I stop here. I feel bound not only to reply to the arguments which have been used for breaking up the compromise, so as to favor still further the active operations, but to present a few of the many considerations and arguments which have seemed to myself and to many others to show that this ought not to be done; that it is dangerous to the interests of knowledge; that it would be subversive of the peace and welfare of the Institution; that it would be a change of policy of the Institution, which, if pursued to-day for the benefit of the active operations, would establish a precedent which might annibilate them to-morrow; that it would be such a disregard of solemn compacts as would shake all confidence in the stable policy of the Institution, and that it would be impossible to accomplish it legally under the present charter.
To place the active operations in a more commanding position than they hold under the compromise would be dangerous to knowledge.
All experience has shown that all authority in scientific and literary matters should be most cautiously guarded to prevent abuses; that it should be entrusted only to voluntary associations of men of science and letters, where diversity of views and interests and open discussions prevent the suppression of truth or the sanction of error, and render jealousy and envy inoperative.
The active operations are said to be and they are the same kind of operations which are carried on in the Royal Society and in all other learned academies of the world. It has never before, so far as I know, been attempted or proposed to carry on such operations unless with the checks and safeguards which such societies furnish.
The Royal Society is composed of men eminent in science, who meet weekly during a good part of the year for the promotion of their objects. Ai these meetings papers presented by members (their own papers or those of others which they are willing to present) are read. They are then subjected to criticism, open for discussion, and made known, of course, to all the members. They are then referred to the council, which is composed of twenty-one members, elected annually, eleven from the old council, and ten from other members. The proceedings of the council are formed and regulated by law. The paper must be again read and subjected to discussion. Experts may be called in for the benefit of their judgment, if thought desirable. The vote upon the acceptance of a paper for publication is required to be taken with formality. If the vote is equal, the paper is laid over to the next meeting, and the question again laken. A second tie vote rejects the paper. A like formality is observed in respect to researches to be sanctioned.
Such, mutatis mutandis, is the general organization of all learned societies, and of all institutions proposing to carry on active operations like those proposed for the Smithsonian Institution. The experience of mankind has shown them to be necessary. The Smithsonian Institution is the only one in the world, so far as I know, that has attempted to do the same thing with an organization like that which it has, or unlike that which has been described for the Royal Society. In this respect this institution is, as it has well been called, an anomaly.
These active operations cannot be superintended by the Regents, meeting as they do but once a year; nor could they be under a fluctuating Board so constituted and appointed, however often they might meet. The members are engaged in other business, and if all of them were competent to conduct such affairs, they could not devote to them the necessary attention. This is not disputed. Nor can any committee of the Board be chosen to superintend its details. There is an executive committee, but they have already said, in one of their reports, that “they prefer to leave the principal direction of the affairs of the Institution to the secretary,” as every one must see, sooner or later, under such an organization they must be lefi The whole conduct of this system of active operations must be left to the secretary. That is; to one man must be entrusted the whole superintendence of a system of operations like that of the Royal Society. Can it be supposed that this would be permanently safe? If one man is found of sufficient ability and learning, liberality, universal sympathy with all knowledge, and incorruptible integrity and impartiality to do justice in such a position, it should still be remembered that he must have a successor, for he is mortal. A failure in any of these impossible requirements, a failure of the whole god-like combination might ruin the Institution. Money for the increase and diffusion of knowledge might be squandered in the production and dissemination of false philosophy. Rewards for original researches might degenerate into sops for greedy and influential pretenders.
I know it is said that the papers here published are submitted to a competent commission. But the first examination of the paper rests with the secretary.
If we should have, in the incumbent of ihat office, a man who had prejudices or rivalries among his scientific brethren, would papers presented by those who were not his favorites receive the most impartial attention, or would those who were conscious of such rivalry be likely to present such papers 10 him?
His opinion of the paper is first given to the writer. If it is unfavorable, he still offers to refer it to a commission. But by whom is this commission to be chosen ? By the secretary. Does not the writer well