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sight; not richer than the stone beneath our feet, on which is written the history of the world; than the leaf of the forest, on which is inscribed the thought of its Creator; or than the cloud in the lightnings, of which the laws and the glory of God are as distinctly revealed to the faithful of the present generation as they were upon Mount Sinai.
“ The valuable contributions to knowledge which have already been made by the Smithsonian Institution, are a living proof that vast libraries are not necessary to the development of new thoughts. If you will compare these memoirs with the scientific productions of the same period in Europe, you may find them perchance inferior in erudition, but not in profoundness and originality of thought. Do you believe that Smithson, who was himself engaged in chemical investigations, could have intended a library by his words “an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men ?" If you will examine his nine memoirs to the Royal Society, of which he was an active member, and his eighteen other contributions to science, you will not find one of them which required a library for its production. Each was the natural growth of a deeply thinking mind. Smithson was emphatically a maker, and not a collector of books; and in the scientific circle to which he belonged, the ordinary use of language would have totally precluded the interpretation which some men of quite a different cast of mind have presumed to impose upon his words. Expand his largeness of expression to its utmost extent; include in it all that a generous mind like his own would desire it to embrace; but let it not be cramped and twisted out of shape, and so forced from its original design that it shall wholly fail to accomplish the object of the munificent testator.
“ Most earnestly, then, in the name of science, and especially of American science, do I protest against such a gross perversion of this important trust. I assure you, sir, that the great body of scientific men throughout the country warmly approve Professor Henry's plan of conducting the Smithsonian Institution, and regard it as a faithful esponent of the almost undivided opinion of scientific and learned men as to the proper execution of Smithson's will and the law of Congress.”
Professor Agassiz, also of Harvard University, Cambridge, whose fame as a naturalist is second to that of no man living, has given, in a letter to the chairman of the committee, the strongest expression of his favorable opinion of the working of the institution. The committee has space here only for an extract from the letter referred to:
“Smithson had already made his will and left his fortune to the Royal Society of London, when certain scientific papers were offered to that learned body for publication. Notwithstanding his efforts to have them published in their transactions, they were refused; upon which he changed his will and made his bequest to the United States. It would be easy to collect in London more minute information upon this occurrence, and should it appear desirable, I think I could put the committee in the way of learning all the circumstances. Nothing seems to me to indicate more plainly what were the testator's views respecting the best means of promoting science than this fact. I will not deny the great importance of libraries, and no one has felt more keenly the want of an extensive scientific library than I have since I have been in the United States; but after all, libraries are only tools of a secondary value to those who are really endowed by nature with the power of making original researches, and thus increasing knowledge among men. And though the absence or deficiency of libraries is nowhere so deeply felt as in America, the application of the funds of the Smithsonian Institulion to the formation of a library, beyond the requirements of the daily progress of science, would only be, in my humble opinion, a perversion of the real object of the trust, inasmuch as it would tend to secure facilities only to the comparatively small number of American students who may have the time and means to visit Washington when they wish to consult a library. Such an application of the funds would indeed lessen the ability of the Smithsonian Institution to accomplish its great object, which is declared by its founder to be the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men, to the full extent to which they may be spent, to increase unduly the library.
“Moreover, American students have a just claim upon their own country for such local facilities as the accumulation of books affords.
"If I am allowed, in conclusion, to state my personal impression respecting the management of the institution thus far, I would only express my concurrence with the plan of active operations adopted by the regents, which has led to the publication of a series of volumes, equal in scientific value to any productions of the same kind issued by learned societies anywhere.
“The distribution of the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, has already carried the name of the institution to all parts of the civilized world, and conveyed with them such evidence of the intellectual activity of America as challenges everywhere admiration; a result which could hardly be obtained by applying the resources of the institution to other purposes."
3. Additional legislation.
From what has been already said, it may well be interred that the committee have been unable to see anything either in the provisions of the law, or the administration of the institution, which requires reform by additional legislation. Indeed, they could not have imagined on whal ground additional legislation could be demanded, if they had not been informed by the Hon. Mr. Meacham, who presented the resolution under which the committee was appointed. That gentleman was invited to attend the meetings of the committee, was authorized to present charges and specifications upon any branch of the subject referred to them, as also to direct summons for witnesses, and to conduct the examination whenever he desired to do so. He pointed out only two particulars as requiring additional legislation.
The first was, " that additional legislation was needed to secure impartiality towards authors who apply for the publication of their researches." No instance of partiality or injustice in this respect has been brought to the notice of the committee by proof or by allegation. The idea seems to have been advanced for the first time by one of the assistants of the secretary (Mr. Jewett) in a communication addressed to a special committee of the regents in the year 1854.
The argument there made by Mr. Jewett has been abbreviated by Mr. Meacham, and may be stated as objecting that the power of ac
cepting or rejecting a memoir presented for publication is virtually in the hands of one man.
The practice of the Royal Society of London is stated as being far preferable. On this point the committee would remark that the same plan cannot be adopted by the institution because, as the committee has been informed, it has no fellows from whom an examining council of twenty-one members may be selected. And if the plan could be adopted ihe committee do not think it as good as the one which the regents have chosen. In the present state of knowledge the several branches can scarcely be represented by twenty-one individuals, and it may occur in case of a particular paper that not a single member of the council is fully competent to decide upon its merits. The institution is not thus restricted, it has at its command the learning of the whole country, and is not even confined in its choice of examiners to men of science at home, but can select them from distinguished individuals abroad.
The rules adopted by the regents are in this respect few and simple, and in the opinion of the committee sufficient. They have provided in their programme of organization as follows:
lst. No memoir, on subjects of physical science, to be accepted for publication which does noi furnish a positive addition to human knowledge, resting on original research ; and all unverified speculations to be rejected.
2d. Each memoir presented to the institution to be submitted for examination to a commission of persons of reputation for learning in the branch to which the memoir pertains; and to be accepted for publication only in case the report of this commission is favorable.
3d. The commission to be chosen by the officers of the institution, and the name of the author, as far as practicable, concealed, unless a favorable decision be made.
It will be perceived that there is nothing like a “star chamber of science” in this part of the plan of the institution. The opinion of the commission is formed upon the merits of the work or paper, and cannot be affected by partiality for or prejudice against the author whose name is unknown to them.
If any author should feel himself aggrieved by the appointment of an incompetent or prejudiced commission, he will have no difficulty in presenting a complaint to the Board of Regents by whom another commission may be named. In fact, no well founded complaint on this score has yet been made so far as has been shown to this committee, and the danger complained of seems to them only speculative and fanciful. The Board of Regents have full power to remedy whatever may be wrong in the practical working of this part of the plan, and it will be time enough to ask the interference of Congress when the evils which are now only conjectural shall be realized.
2d. Mr. Meacham suggests, " that the institution should be placed in such a position that legal redress may be gained by those who are improperly deprived of their rights."
It is true that the institution is not a corporation capable of suing or being sued. But no practical evils bavc as yet resulted from the refusal of Congress to make the establishment an incorporation. It is a
peculiar establishment. Its operations are simple and few. Its coniracts are such as can seldom form the subject of controversy. If the institution should find necessity for legal redress, there is nothing to prevent the President, who is a member of the establishment, from directing a suit in the name of the United States. If it denies legal rights to any officer or other person, the same remedy exists as in any other case of claim against the United States. No instance of a denial of legal right has been shown to the committee. An attempt to do so was indeed made on the part of an employee of the institution, who claimed to be entitled to larger compensation than had been paid to him. But the attempt was a signal failure. His own receipts contradicted his claims, and satisfied the committee that he had been paid all he could legally demand ; and the assertion of extraordinary merit in his labors, alleged as an equitable ground of claim, failed when a resort was had to testimony other than his own.
The committee therefore conclude that there is no necessity for additional legislation.
The first of Mr. Meacham's complaints under this head is “ that the regents have made the secretary the organ of communication between them and the other officers of the institution, cutting off other officers from direct official intercourse with the Board, neglecting or refusing to procure or make by-laws defining the position and power of persons employed in the institution, and expressing the opinion that all the assistants are removable at the pleasure of the secretary.”
This complaint seems to be founded on an entire misapprehension of the act of Congress creating the institution, and the proper relations of the secretary and his subordinates. By the act of Congress the secretary is the sole administrative officer of the institution. The other officers are not only his subordinates, but are nothing more than his assistants, who are employed to assist him in his duties because it is physically impossible for him to perform all of these duties himself. The law charges the secretary alone with the duties enumerated, and therefore devolves upon him the sole responsibility, unless when it is shared with the executive committee of the regents, whose functions are not precisely defined in the law, but who act as a Board of control or council to the secretary. We adopt on this subject the reasoning of the special committee of the Board of Regents, in their report of the 20th of May last, as follows:
“ The law is declaratory and positive in charging the secretary with the enumerated duties, and therefore invests him, and him alone, with the corresponding powers. But as it must have been manifest that no secretary could be able of himself to perform personally everything required for the discharge of his enumerated duties, provision is made for aid to him in the clause which says that he “may, with the consent of the Board, employ assistants,' &c
“ The positions of the persons so employed are determined by the word which designates them in the clause authorizing their employment. They are called assistants.' To whom? Not to the regents, but to the secretary. Their position is necessarily subordinate; and, as their duties are those of assistants to their principal, they can no more be indep-ndent of bim than they can be superior to him. This construction is so manifestly proper that it would seem to require no argument to justify it. But if anything further were wanted, it may be found in the fact that the secretary is to employ them in and about that very business with which he is charged, and for which he alone is responsible. The character of this part of the section is permissive. He is not required to employ any one, but is permitted to employ persons to assist him, provided he satisfy the Board that their services are necessary as aids to him.
“In another part of the same section provision is made for the payment and, if need be, the removal of the secretary and his assistants, and in this connexion they are spoken of as officers, but by no ingenuity of construction can that word, in this connexion, be held to assign them special duties, or confer any separate authority.
“ Thus careful has Congress been to provide an efficient system of operations, which can only come from harmony of purpose and unity of action.
“ This view of the intention of Congress, so clearly expressed in the law, would be directly contradicted by the plan which has been suggested, of organizing the institution definitely into several departments, placing at the head of these departments different assistants, establishing their relative positions, prescribing distinct duties for them, assigning certain shares of the income to be disbursed by them, and stating their authority, privileges, and remedies for infringement of their official rights, or of the interests intrusted to their care. All this would tend, not to secure a loyal and harmonious co-operation, to a common end, of the assistants with the secretary, but to encourage rivalry, to invite collision, to engender hostility, to destroy subordination, to distract the operations of the institution, to impair its efficiency, and to destroy its usefulness."
This view of the question has been made very clear to the committee in the course of the examination which they have made, and by the testimony taken for the purpose of supporting Mr. Meacham's charges. All the difficulties in the institution, which have resulted in the dismissal by the secretary of one of his assistants and of a person temporarily employed upon the meteorological computations, seem to have arisen from the desire of independent positions, engendering rivalry and hostility, producing collisions and insubordination utterly incompatible with the proper authority of the secretary and the harmonious action so necessary to the welfare of the institution. The facts developed in regard to those difficulties entirely satisfy your committee that it is not desirable to have such by-laws as Mr. Meacham thinks the regents should have made or procured.
If any just cause of complaint by the assistants against the secretary should arise, they can at all times resort for redress to the regents, by memorial or other proper form of application, and the patience with which such an application, although entirely without cause, has been heard by the executive committee, to which it was referred, and considered by the regents, is quite sufficient to show how needless for the purpose any by-laws are.
It may be proper to say, that the only section of the law in which