Imatges de pÓgina

ductions of this sort, our literature is rich and ample beyond that of any other people. There is no way in which the patriotism and virtue of a people can be so effectually fostered and strengthened as by cherishing in their breasts an interest in their ancestry, in the incidents that have marked the fortunes of their States, their towns, and the scenes of their residence—the transmitted reminiscences of their homes and firesides. It would be a great and a good thing, could there be collected in a national library, in distinct alcoves, all valuable publications illustrating the history of the several States of this Union. Different processes of legislation, and various social and political influences, have operated upon them severally, and the records of the results ought to be here for the inspection and instruction of the representatives of the people, of the people themselves, and of the whole world.

But, if every other description of books is avoided or crowded out, there is one which surely ought not to be. If the resources of the Institution are to be exclusively or mainly devoted to science rather than to general literature and knowledge, it ought, at any rate, to have within its walls a perfect and universal library of science and art-not merely modern science and recent researches, but all the publications, of all ages and all countries, that illustrate the progress of science, as such. If we cannot have a universal library, give us, at least, a scientific library such as no other nation can boast.

One advantage of a liberal expenditure for a library, not to be thought lightly of in a government resting entirely on popular opinion, is that it results in something that shows for itself; the people can see in it what has become of the money. It would forever grow before their eyes, and, in all coming generations, from its unapproached and ever expanding magnitude, would be an object of perpetually increasing national pride. Under the present policy the funds disappear, as they are expended, however salutary their application inay have been, and the only monuments are a few volumes, admirable no doubt in their form and substance, highly appreciated by scientific societies at home and abroad, but never seen by the people.

The short time allowed them, the necessary consequent inadequateness of their investigations and deliberations, and the impossibility of any legislative action by this Congress, restrain the committee from reporting any bill to the House ; but, in view of all the circumstances, as a measure of peace, as a mutual concession, which in such a matter is the only way of settling a difficulty, they would express their conviction that the compromise adopted at an early day by the Board of Regents ought to be restored, and that all desirable ends may be ultimately secured by dividing the income equally between the library and museum on one part, and active operations on the other.

The only other suggestion the committee have to make is the expediency, in order to avoid all embarrassment in future, to have each division of the Institution placed under its proper and distinctive head. Let the secretary have charge of the active operations, preside over the scientific researches, and direct the publications. Let the librarian have charge of the library and museum. If the two departments are thus separated, and placed under the control of well devised and clearly defined regulations, never interfering with each other, but working freely

and harmoniously in their respective spheres, each principal responsible only for his own province, and subject alike to a common head, whether the Secretary of the Interior or a Board of Regents, the Institution would, we think, be found to work most auspiciously, and produce the best and greatest results. For the committee,



Mr. Witte, from the Select Committee, madė the following


The Select Committee to whom was referred the letter of the Hon. Rufus

Choate, resigning the office of regent of the Smithsonian Institution, also the resolution thereon to inquire whether the Smithsonian Institution has been managed and its funds expended in accordance with the law establishing it, and whether any additional legislation be necessary to carry out the design of its founders, report:

[Mr. Taylor concurring, and Mr. PurYEAR and Mr. Wells, although

not dissenting from all the views, preferred not to sign either this report or the report made by Mr. Upham alone :]

That they have made a patient examination of the institution, and have concluded that there is no just cause of complaint against the regents or the secretary, in regard to the construction of the act of Congress establishing the institution, and the plan of organization adopied by the regents, or the manner in which its affairs have been administered. The subjects included in the resolution may be appropriately arranged under the following heads:

1. The proper construction of the act of Congress establishing the institution.

2. The plan of organizing and administering the affairs of the institution, adopted by the regents in pursuance of the law.

3. The question whether any new legislation is necessary.
4. The administration of this plan by the regents and secretary.

Of these the committee will treat in the order in which they are stated.

1. The proper construction of the act of Congress.

The question whether the bequest of Mr. Smithson should be applied chiefly to the formation of a great national library, or to researches for the increase of knowledge, and the publication and circulation of their results, for its diffusion among men, divided the opinion of the members of the Board of Regents at their first meeting. These differences of opinion were compromised at the organization of the institution by a resolution, which the regents have lately repealed.

That resolution provided, prospectively, and, on a contingency, which may be said to have just occurred, (the completion of the Smith

sonian building,) for an equal division of the fund committed to the care of the Board of Regents between the two objects above stated-a national library, museum, and gallery of art on the one hand, and researches, publications and lectures on the other.

This compromise resolution has been repealed by the Board of Regents during their present session, and instead of it they have adopted the following:

Resolved, That hereafter the annual appropriations shall be apportioned specifically among the different objects and operations of the institution in such manner as may, in the judgment of the regents, be necessary and proper for each, according to its intrinsic importance, and a compliance in good faith with the law.”

The adoption of this resolution was followed by the resignation of Mr. Choate, one of the regents, and in his letter of resignation, addressed to the Speaker of the House, he assumes that the act of Congress presented a rule of appropriation which is set aside by the resolution. Whether the Board of Regents or Mr. Choate are right in this respect must be determined by a reference to the act of Congress.

When it had created the institution, given it a corporate name, invested it with certain powers, subjected it to specific restrictions, provided for the erection of a suitable building, and directed an annual appropriation not exceeding $25,000, for the gradual formation of a library, it proceeded to declare that of any other moneys accrued, or to accrue as interest on the fund, not otherwise appropriated nor required for the purposes therein provided, the managers were thereby "authorized to make such disposal as they shall deem best suited for the promotion of the purposes of the testator, anything therein contained to the contrary notwithstanding."

Beyond any reasonable controversy, here is a discretionary and controlling power given to the Board of Regents over the whole income of the fund, except only such portion of it as had been appropriated, or should be required for purposes provided by the act. To determine the extent of this discretionary power, it becomes necessary then to ascertain what appropriation had been made, and what purposes were provided by the act.

It directs the selection of a lot and the erection of a suitable building, but does not limit the amount of expenditure, nor make any appropriation for it. It provides that in proportion as suitable arrangements can be made for their reception,” the several objects specified in the 6th section shall be delivered to the order of the Board of Regents, and requires the arrangements and classification of them.

It directs the regents to appropriate “ from the interest of said fund a sum not exceeding an average of $25,000 annually for the gradual formation of a library, and then places the whole residue of the increase of the fund at their disposal. Can this be doubted? For the various purposes provided by ihe act no appropriations are made. The library forms the only exception, and the sole limit of the discretionary power of the regents over appropriations for a library is, that they shall not exceed an annual average of $25,000. Within that limit their discretion is full and entire. Suppose any appropriation made in any given vear for the gradual formation of a library, can any one doubt that the

regents have the power to make such an appropriation, or so to limit it? And is there any reason why they might not limit the appropriation to a still smaller sum? They might, indeed, be liable to the charge of evading the law, if those appropriations were for mere nominal sums, so that in the course of a series of years no sensible progress could be made in the gradual formation of a library. But this is an extreme case, from which no argument can be drawn against their discretion to limit the appropriation for a library, while intending in good faith to provide for its gradual formation.

Then suppose them to apply an amount sufficient to meet all the expenses necessarily resulting from the provisions of the act, still there would remain a considerable sum not applied to any purpose. If the Board of Regents believe that its application to scientific researches and their publication be “best suited for the promotion of the purposes of the testator,” can it be doubted that they would have the right so to apply it ?

The ninth section of the act gives this power in full. When they have met the current expenses of the institution, from time to time made the necessary appropriations for the buildings in process of erection, and, exercising their discretion within the limit prescribed to them, have made an annual appropriation for a library, what remains is placed at their disposal,” to promote the purposes of the testator by the use of such means as “they (the Board of Regents) shall deem best suited” to accomplish this object. In construing the act of Congress the committee confine themselves to the act itself—to the plain import of the terms in which it is expressed, and to the necessary results of the provisions which it contains. They do not resort to what is called its parliamentary history. The reported speeches of members upon the bill while pending in Congress, and even votes upon amendments made or rejected, do not answer this purpose. The first only disclose the individual opinions of the speakers-the second frequently do not exhibit the object of those who voted for or against the particular amendment. A speech made by one member is often at variance with the views of those who unite with him in voting for a particular provision. They frequently sustain it on other and different grounds. So too the majority or intermediate vote is frequently composed of the friends and opponents of the bill; the latter advocating a particular amendment with the hope and on the belief that it will prove an incumbrance to the measure in the view of some of its advocates, and thus contribute to its defeat; or they may think that a particular proviso proposed to be stricken cut is unnecessary as being comprehended in some other part of the act.

A careful scrutiny of the proceedings of the House of Representatives, while this law was pending before them, would show how unsafe a guide the resort to the parliamentary history of a bill would be in the ascertainment of its true construction. This may reconcile us to an adherence to those rules which the wisdom of ages has devised for the interpretation of statutes. We are endeavoring to ascertain the powers and duties of the Board of Regents, and to do this we seek to discover the true interpretation of the act of Congress and the will of Mr. Smithson, which, taken together, confer their powers and prescribe their du


ties. These two sources of power and duty are spoken of as necessarily connected; for, although the Smithsonian Institution was created by act of Congress, and will cease to exist whenever Congress shall think proper to repeal that act, yet both Congress and the institution, so long as it continues to exist, are bound to carry the intention of the testator into effect.

The trust has been accepted by Congress in behalf of the United States, and the faith of the United States has been pledged for its faithful execution “according to the will of the enlightened and liberal donor." While, therefore, Congress, acting as agents of the United States, have the power to divert the fund to purposes other than those which may be according to "the will of the liberal and enlightened donor," their right to do so can never be affirmed; and though the Board of Regents cannot and do not claim a right to place themselves in an antagonistical position to the Congress of the United States, whose sub-agents they are, yet in construing the act of Congress, if it will admit of two constructions, one of which seems to be most conformable to the purposes of the will of Smithson, the regents would not hesitate to accept such construction in preference to the other, which does not conform to the will of the testator. This is merely the application of a principle universally recognized in the interpretation of statutes. In the present case two constructions are given to the act of Con

If the Board of Regents consider one of them to be more consonant to the purposes of Mr. Smithson's will, which was the source of the authority of Congress to legislate on the subject for any purpose, it ought to be adopted, since the act was passed evidently for the purpose of carrying into execution “ the will of the donor," and especially when this interpretation affects two provisions of the act, which otherwise would be without object or operation.

The committee will now proceed to inquire whether the scientific researches, and the publication of their results, are, in the language of the act of Congress, “best suited to promote the purpose of the testator." The question is between such researches, made and published at Washington, or examined under the authority of the institution, and circulated throughout the civilized world, and a great national library, to be established in this city. Mr. Smithson was a scholar, a man of science, an author of scientific memoirs, a contributor to the transactions of the Royal Society of London, familiar with the language in which his will is written, and perfectly competent to decide upon the aptitude of words to convey the ideas they were intended to express.

It might well be expected that the language of such a man would be characterized by simplicity, by the absence of circumlocution and periphrasis, which is well described as the use of many words to express the meaning of one. If he had intended to furnish to the people of the United States, and especially to the citizens of Washington, a great library, comprehending all that was then known in every department of human knowledge and culture, he would have said so in terms not to be misunderstood. The committee cannot doubt that if he had merely designed to provide for the purchase of books, to become, through the agency of the United States, the founder of a library, he would have used the simple language appropriate to such an intention.

« AnteriorContinua »