« AnteriorContinua »
know that, if the secretary chooses to do so, he can appoint a commission sure to coincide with him in opinion?
Besides, does a writer always wish to submit his researches to the silent, secret, irresponsible judgment of his scientific rivals? If they approve the paper, it is published with the sanction of their name, and then responsibility is real. But rivalry and jealousy may lead them to disapprove, to suppress what would give reputation to a rival, whether he be known to them or not, and even to appropriate its original ideas. They know that if they reject the paper, their names will be concealed, and consequently they could not be held responsible to the author or to the public. The author knows only the fact of rejection. The operation of such feelings is the more probable, from the fact that even these commissions do not meet and discuss the paper ; each secretly and silently, by himself, passes upon it. It is obvious that gross wrong may, and, in process of lime, must be done under such a system. If Newton's Principia had been passed upon by such a tribunal, it would, in all probability, have been rejected. But in a society where full and open discussion is allowed, the truth, if not entirely, is comparatively safe.
If it be said that such injustice would lead to complaints, and complaints to reforms, I reply, so they undoubtedly would in time. But let any one consider how such things are done, and see how long it might be before the scattered grievances would come within the range of each other's attraction, and become aggregated into a formidable shape. Each individual aggrieved goes to his home-one in Mississippi, another in Ohio, a third in Maine, perhaps. Each cherishes his individual wound, but how can he know of the wrongs of others? He has suffered injustice, but he says to himself, "What remedy have I? If I come out and attack an institution so formidably entrenched, I shall most likely only dash my own brains out against the wall.” He knows not how many would help him, till, by and by, some bold and powerful voice is raised, and the scattered elements of discontent smothered, yet nursed through long years, perhaps, combine and sweep away the good and bad together.
Were a man in the position of the secretary the very incarnation of intellect, justice, benevolence, and honor, the position alone would, when the whole potency of its overshadowing and all-pervading influence became fully known, be the provocative of jealousy and envy, Would scientific men long consent to a scientific predominance held and exercised by one man, however it might really be in accordance with the dictates of intellecl, of knowledge, of truth, and of honor ? Such is not human nature.
To degrade the library and the department of natural history from the position which they hold under the compromise would be depriving the Institution of one of the most efficient safeguards which it could have against this state of things or any approach to it. The affairs of such an institution must, of course, it properly regulated, be under the immediate cognizance of other officers, not indeed under their direct control, but known to them. If they are such men as they ought to be, and are allowed a proper position, they would have influence in keeping matters right. They could render great assistance in so doing.
This they could not do if they be not allowed a position of dignity and confidence in the administration of affairs.
Are not the corps of professors of a college, with their frequent faculty meetings of use to ihe president, to each other, and to the institution, while at the same time each has his proper sphere, and all are subordinate to the president?
A scheme like that of the secretary would not be liable to the same objections, if kept within narrow bounds, those which one man can be supposed to be able to superintend with the assistance of the other officers. The original plan of the programme was in some degree so limited. It proposed to offer rewards for papers to contain positive advances in knowledge and to institute specific researches; and the Smithsonian contributions to knowledge were to contain papers produced by these rewards and these researches. Thus limited there was a real boundary to its operations. The papers published would have been genuine • Smithsonian contributions to knowledge," procured by the Smithsonian fund. The increase of knowledge would have been such as would not have been made without the fund, and the fund would properly pay for its diffusion. Within this limit the money given to active operations under the compromise is enough to produce definite results, and all which the organization of the Institution renders safe to be aimed at.
But the increase of the funds asked for is wanted for publishing the increase of knowledge procured by others, either entirely without the aid of the fund, or not dependent for its production upon the fund. The knowledge in such a case is not increased by the Institution, the increase was made before the connexion of the Institution with it commenced. The Institution in such case merely diffuses or imparts the knowledge to learned societies, and to the world in general. So far then-quo ad hoc—the Institution is not increasing knowledge. Its relation to knowledge is simply that of a publishing house, except the gratuitous distribution. But as a publishing house it is not of the second order even as to the extensiveness of its operations. A single bookseller has expended more money in a single year in the production and dissemination of a single book than the Smithsonian Institution has in all its publications from the beginning.
But if the Institution proposes to publish all the papers containing positive additions to knowledge which it can procure both in this couniry and in Europe, on the promise of publication in the elegant style of typography and illustration commenced and demanded for such works, neither half the income, nor the whole, nor ten times as much would suffice.
1 have not made a single remark for the purpose of showing the impractibility of the active operations as sanctioned by the compromise; I have wished merely to show the danger and undesirableness of extending them beyond the sphere that is allotted to them.
In the remarks which I have made I have referred to the charter only with respect to its positive requirements.
I have allūded to the requirements of a building for a library, museum, gallery of art, lectures, and a chemical laboratory, on a liberal scale, to the requirement to make an appropriation noi exceeding an
average of $25,000 annually for the formation of a library, and to the authority given to the Board of Regents when these purposes shall have been provided for on a scale and in the spirit of the act, lo expend any surplus of income as they shall deem most suited for the promotion of the purpose of the testator, and to the fact that it is only in such a case of surplus thus left that there is any authority given to the Board for expending money for other purposes than those specified in the act.
It is obvious that under such an act it could not by any conceivable latitude of interpretation be justifiable to give to other purposes a paramount position, or the larger share of the income.
But the public have formed their opinions, and they suppose that the Regents will form theirs, not only upon the act itself, but also upon the manifest intentions of Congress in connexion with the passage of the act. It is true that no law can be interpreted in courts by the action of the legislature not embodied in the law; but where it is desirable that an institution should meet the favor of Congress and of the public, it is desirable to observe indications confirmatory of the passage of the act.
Now no person ever read the proceedings of Congress at the passage of the act and before without seeing that it was the decided intention of Congress, as is abundantly plain from the act itself, to establish with the income of the Smithsonian fund, first and principally, a large library.
The proposition of Mr. Choate, requiring $20,000 a year to be expended for a library, passed the Senate by a very large majority. In a committee of the House of Representatives it was subsequently proposed to make an appropriation of only $5,000 a year for this purpose. The committee finally agreed to recommend $10,000. Great efforts were made in opposition to the prominence of the library, but to no purpose. It was then proposed to limit the appropriation to $20,000 a year, but this was rejected, and the smallest limit that Congress would agree upon was $25,000 a year. This is a matter of history contained in the Congressional Globe. Further, in the bill presented were many features inconsistent with a library, or with the prominence of the library. Mr. Marsh distinctly stated to the House that he had a series of amendments to offer for the purpose of directing the appropriation ENTIRELY to a library. Everything which he proposed was passed by very large votes, and the bill took its present shape in consequence of his amendment, only one amendment having been accepted, which was not, after this declaration, offered by him, and that was offered by Judge Douglas for the benefit of the library, giving to it the copyright publications.
It should be remembered too, that almost every other conceivable project had been presented during the long time that the fund remained in the hand of Congress—had been earnestly discussed and rejected ; that among these projects were some similar in all important respects to those of the present “active operations."
It is apposite here to remark that the act of Congress can be clearly understood in every part only when considered in connexion with the intention of Congress that the Institution should be mainly a library, with a museum of natural history and works of art, lectures and a chemical laboratory.
For example, the section defining the powers and duties of the secretary, section 7, “ That the secretary of the Board of Regents shall take charge of the building and property of said Institution, and shall, under their
direction, make a fair and accurate record of all their proceedings, to be preserved in said Institution; and the said secretary shall also discharge the duties of librarian and keeper of the museum, and may, with the consent of the Board of Regents, employ assistants.” The duties of the secretary as here given are precisely such as would be expected in the kind of Institution provided in the act, principally a library and museum. There are no other duties assigned to him, nor can others be expected of him, nor would others be necessary under the act.
Of course, if the purposes of the Institution are changed, this section, at least, of the act will require to be changed also. On any other supposition than that the library was intended to be the paramount interest, the control of the museum would not have been given to the secrelary acting as librarian, at the risk of misunderstandings and jealousies. By parity of reasoning it would seem that if dissimilar “active operations” are to be introduced, care should be taken to prevent misunderstandings and jealousies between the director of such operations and the librarian and curator.
If several departments are to be introduced under the charge of sereral officers, with interests which may come into competition with each other, it would seem to be the dictate of prudence and of common sense that a set of by-laws should be framed, organizing definitely the several departments, stating the share of the income which should be given to each, establishing the relative position of the several officers, prescribing their duties and stating their authority, privileges, and remedies for infringement of their official rights or of the interests entrusted 10 their care.
I beg the committee to consider the reasonableness of this position, and to weigh this question : whether there is or ever has been an institution of such magnitude as the Smithsonian Institution, and with such purposes, which has existed seven years without such by-laws? I know of no other instance.
It is abundantly clear upon slight reflection that the universal custom of providing by-laws for the regulation of such an institution, in the particulars mentioned, is founded in wisdom.
A large fund is to be administered, to be divided between several sets of distinct objects. Several officers are to be appointed, and the objects to be accomplished require that each should not only be master of his speciality, but, in general, a man of standing in the literary and scientific world ; that each should be a gentlemen, with the respect of a gentleman.
Now, if men of this general stamp can be found, entirely devoid of all personal foibles and frailties, perfect in all respects, they might be placed together, one as the general executive head and the others as assistants, in charge of particular departments, without any collision of interests or views, without jealousies, suspicions, distrust, and without the giving or suffering of injustice, tyranny, or wrong. But, on a like supposition, an absolute despotism would be the perfection of human government.
We must, however, take men as they are, and as we have every reason to suppose they will prove themselves to be under a given set of circumstances. We must, in this case, in order to provide against the difficulties most likely to arise, recollect what are the peculiar characteristics of high-minded, literary, and scientific men which may betray them unconsciously into collisions. We must reflect upon the effect of intense devotion to a speciality, leading the mind unconsciously to over-estimate its relative importance; the love of accomplishing a noble end that has baffled others; which is the greatest and most distinguishing attribute of genius; often leading the genuine devotee of science to scorn wealth, ease, position, honor, fame even, and life itself, in comparison with the result, and that other feeling which grows up with the scholar from his earliest days, gathering strength with every year's familiarity with the masters of human thought; that the realm of letters is a true republic, where no distinctions but those of voluntarily bestowed respect for superior mental endowments, attainments and achievements, and those official distinctions, which are required for the orderly performance of business are allowable.
As the relations of the officers in a literary and scientific institution should be in accordance with the spirit which the cultivation of letters inspires, so the by-laws of such an institution should be modelled upon those which long experience has convinced similar establishments to be necessary, and not upon those found necessary in army or in a government bureau.
The regulation of an army is necessarily despotic—there is no officer, however, but knows the exact limit which he may never transgress in his intercourse with his subalterns. There is no common soldier who has not a legal method of redress for real grievances.
I feel constrained to say to the committee, that the Board of Regents have not only not provided for the protection of the subordinate officers in quiet rights and proper position, but have most effectually cut them off from all suitable means of redress or representation of their own grievances, or of injury to their departments in the possible contingency of such grievance or injury being the act of the secretary wilfully persisted in. They have passed a resolution that the secretary shall be the sole organ of communication between the officers of the Institution and the Board of Regents, and between the officers and the chancellors. They have not, with this, enacted that the secretary shall present any proposition or petition from the other officers to the Board. If the secretary should choose to suppress information or remonstrance, there is no remedy between submission and hostility.
In the British museum there are several by-laws for the special protection of the under officers. They are allowed to present by themselves if they choose, and are not required by law to present through their chief, any scheme for the better ordering of the museum or any part thereof or any complaint against any other officer to a standing committee of 18 members of the Board of Trustees, which committee are required to meet at the museum as often as once a month, and are positively required to report to the general meeting of the trustees held