Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

received for his use;" “ the petitioner, in his last memorial, discloses the fact that, on the 20th April, 1820, he took the benefit of the insolvent laws of the State of New York; and that, under these laws, all his property passed to an assignee, for the benefit of his creditors: this fact is deemed conclusive against the right of the petitioner to demand,

Your memorialists fully accord in opinion with that expressed in the said report, so far as that the letters from the Secretary and Comptroller of the Treasury did not materially affect the question ; but they Tumbly insist that they entirely do away the supposition, put forth in the former report, that receiving part of the supplemental stock due terminated all claims for further allowance; nor were they, as they are informed and believe, intended or expected by Mr. Barker, when he forwarded them, to have any other effect; he always relying on that principle of right and of law which requires of the citizen his consent before he can be divested of any vested right.

It is most certainly true, as the committee allege, that the contract in question was a public contract, and all that is asked is a fulfilment of the terms of such contract; and it is not disputed that the new purchasers understood all the provisions thereof; but it is by no means conceded that they had any right to construe the word “then” as applicable to any purchaser subsequent to the time when more favorable terms were allowed; and it is denied that they do now so construe the said contract, or that they ever paid anything the more for the stock in consideration of any expected benefit subsequent to that date: whereas Mr. Barker, in consideration of the said condition, paid to the United States, as has been already stated, a much greater price than would otherwise have been allowed for the stock.

It is not necessary here to examine into the soundness of the opinion expressed by the committee, that if the stock had been issued to persons not entitled to it, the rightful owner could recover it from such persons; since no creditor can be held, contrary to his will, to exchange his claim on a solvent debtor for a like claim on an insolvent debtor ; since only a small portion of the supplemental stock claimed has been issued, and since it is confidently believed that your honorable body will not adopt the opinion of the committee in this particular as “conclusive against” the claim here urged.

The condition in question was put on all the scrip certificates issued, on receiving the money, but not on any of the stock certificates, although it was originally determined by the treasury to place the condition also on the face of the stock certificates.

On inquiring of Mr. Campbell, the then Secretary of the Treasury, why it had not been done, he answered, in substance, “that, as soon as the most favorable terms were agreed to, there would be an end of the condition; that the purchasers of the stock subsequent to such agreement would have no claims under the condition, and it would be a useless trouble to have to call in all the stock certificates, and issue new ones, without the condition; and, therefore, they were issued, in the first instance, without it;" to which he added, “that the condition was a public act, put on all the scrip certificates, and published in the newspapers; and as it would be reported to Con

gress, no one would be deprived of proof or information by the conditions not being placed on the stock certificates."

This explanation of Mr. Campbell proved that there was no misunderstanding between the parties when the contract was made.

The committee do not appear to have noticed, in their report, that the paper received by the Treasury, in fulfilment of the second contract for the ten million loan, was dishonored and depreciated not only below the specie standard, but greatly below the value of New York bank notes, on which rests principally the claim of your memorialists:

Whether Mr. Barker, by his insolvency, lost the right of petitioning your honorable body--a right secured to all by the constitution-cannot, in the opinion of your memorialists, affect the intrinsic merits of the question; since his creditors cannot be considered also to have been disfranchised by the “fact disclosed,” which fact is of public record, and could not have happened without a previous notice of many weeks in the newspapers at this place and at Albany, according to the law; and, if it was otherwise, it is believed that when your honorable body reflect that if the stock which became due to Mr. Barker, on the 31st of August, 1814, had been issued to him, his insolvency could not have happened, and that, as soon as your honorable body cause it to be issued, it will relieve him therefrom, you will not consider his having assigned his effects for the benefit of his creditors, and that his person might, under the benign influence of our laws, be exempt from imprisonment, as furnishing a valid objection to a claim otherwise founded in the immutable principles of justice, as defined by the unvarying laws of this land.

In justification of Mr. Barker's having petitioned, it may not be deemed amiss to state that, at the time he petitioned, he held the power of attorney of the assignee under the law, to collect and hand over all moneys due him at the date of his surrender under the aforesaid law of this state, and that he held then, and still holds, a very great equitable interest in the said claim; the same, by the aforesaid construction, amounting to more than ten times as much as all existing claims against him.

Upon the whole, your memorialists respectfully request that your honorable body will take into consideration all the facts and circumstances relating to the case in question, and that they will either authorize the Attorney General to agree to a statement of facts, to be submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, to be detided by the same principles of law and equity as if they had occurred between individuals; or that they will grant such other relief as may be equally calculated to sustain the character and dignity of the nation. And they humbly pray your honorable body to bear in mind the declaration under which that part of the supplemental stock due, which has been issued, was delivered to the stockholders in the ten million loan, which was, as set forth in the Comptroller's letter of the 22d of November, 1814, that “their rights (for the residue) will still remain with themselves, and their remedies with Congress.” And your memoralists, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

R. R. WARD.
F. G. HALLECK.
JACOB LITTLE.

2d Session.

No. 141.

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.

March 3, 1855–Laid upon the table and ordered to be printed.

LETTER OF HON. RUFUS CHOATE, RESIGNING THE OFFICE OF REGENT

OF THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.

To Hon. Jesse D. BRIGHT, President pro tempore of the Senate, and

Hon. Linn Boyd, Speaker of the House of Representatives : I take leave to communicate to the two Houses of Congress my resignation of the office of Regent of the Smithsonian Institution.

It is due to the body which has been pleased to honor me with this trust for some years, and has recently conferred it for a new term, to say that this step is taken not from any loss of interest in the welfare of that important establishment, but in part from the inconvenience experienced in attending the meetings, and in part, also, and more immediately, from my inability to concur or acquiesce in an interpretation of the act of Congress constituting the actual institution and the Board of Regents, which has been adopted, and is now about to be practically carried into administration by a majority of the Board. That act, it has seemed to me, peremptorily " directs a manner," and devises and prescribes a plan, according to which it intends that she institution shall accomplish the will of the donor. By the earlier law accepting the gift, Congress engaged to direct such a manner and to devise such a plan, and pledged the faith of the United States that the funds should be applied according to such plan and such manner. In fulfilment of that pledge, and in the performance of its inalienable and incommunicable duty as trustee of the charity, that body, after many years of deliberation—from which it never sought to relieve itself by devolving the work upon the discretion of others—matured its plan, and established the actual Institution to carry it out. Of this plan, the general features are sketched with great clearness and great completeness in the law. Without resorting for aid, in its interpretation, to its parliamentary history, the journals and debates, the substantial meaning seems to be palpable and unequivocal in its terms. By such aid it is rendered quite certain. A Board of Regents is created to administer it. Some discretionary powers, of course, are given to the board in regard of details and in regard of possible surpluses of income which may remain at any given time while the plan of Congress is being zealously and judiciously carried into effect; but these discretionary powers are given, I think, in trust for the plan of Congress

, and as auxiliary to, coöperative with, and executory of it. They were given for the sake of the plan, simply to enable the Regents the more effectually and truly to administer that very one—not to enable them to devise and administer another of their own, unauthorized in the terms of the law, incom

patible with its announced objects and its full development-not alluded to in it anywhere, and which, as the journals and the debates inform us, when presented to the House under specific propositions, was re jected.

Of this aci an interpretation has now been adopted by which it has seemed to me these discretionary means of carrying the will of Congress into effect are transformed into means of practically disappointing that will, and of building up an institution substantially unlike that which it intended; which supersedes and displaces it, and in effect repeals the law. Differences of opinion had existed in the Board from its first meeting, in regard of the administration of the act; but they were composed by a resolution of compromise, according to which a full half of the annual income was to be eventually applied in permanence to what I deem the essential parts of the plan of Congress. That resolution of compromise is now formally rescinded, and henceforward the discretion of the Regents, and not the act of Congress, is to be the rule of appropriation; and that discretion has already declared itself for another plan than what I deem the plan of Congress. It may be added that, under the same interpretation, the office and powers of secretary are fundamnentally changed from those of the secretary of the law, as I read it, and are greatly enlarged.

In this interpretation I cannot acquiesce; and with entire respect for the majority of the Board, and with much kindness and regard to all its members, I am sure that my duty requires a respectful tender of resignation. I make it accordingly, and am,

Your obedient servant,

RUFUS CHOATE. WASHINGTON, D. C., January 13, 1855.

IN THE House of REPRESENTATIVES, U. S.-January 17, 1855.

On motion of Mr. Meacham, Resolved, That the letter of Hon. Rufus Choate, resigning his place as Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, be referred to a select committee of five, and printed; and that said committee be directed to inquire and report to this House whether the Smithsonian Institution has been managed, and its funds expended, in accordance with the law establishing the Institution; and whether any additional legislation be necessary to carry out the designs of its founders, and that said committee have power to send for persons and papers.

The Speaker thereupon appointed Mr. Upham, of Massachusetts; Mr. Wilte, of Pennsylvania; Mr. Taylor, of Tennessee; Mr. Wells, of Wisconsin; and Mr. Puryear, of North Carolina, the said committee.

Mr. UPHAM, from the Select Committee, made the following

REPORT. The Select Committee of the House of Representatives, to whom were referred the letter of the Hon. Rufus Choate, rcsigning his place as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, with instructions to inquire and report to the Housc whether the Smithsonian Institution has been managed and is funds expended in accordance with the law establishing the institution, and whether any additional legislation be necessary to carry out the designs of the founder; the memorial of Lorin Blodgett for a remedy against the Smithsonian Institution for labor and researches in physical science, made for the benefit of said institution ; and the petition of John Grable and sundry others, citizens of St. Joseph's, Missouri, praying for the publication of a monthly periodical, exhibiting the progress of knowledge and of society, and to be distributed by said institution among the people, beg leave to submit the following report:

The short time allowed for investigating the matters referred to the committee, and the pressure of other duties during the few crowded last weeks of the session, render anything like a full and thoroughly satisfactory report impossible. The transactions to which their aitention has been called are so complicated in their nature and extensive in their details, that it was soon found entirely out of the question to attempt to examine them with sufficient fullness and minuteness to be qualified or justified in pronouncing or even forming a decisive judge ment on the merits of the questions involved. The evidence taken and submitted will guide the members of the House to so much of a conclusion on the several points and issues as the committee have been able to reach.

So far as the case of Mr. Lorin Blodgett is concerned, the committee would observe, that he does not claim to have made any explicit contract, in writing or in conversation with the secretary of the Board of Regents; that the compensation he received appears to have been all that was ever expressly or distinctly agreed upon; and that as it respects the value of his labors above the compensation he received, or the degree to which he acquired any separate, private, scientific, or literary property in any papers or documents prepared by him while in the institution, they have been wholly unable to derive any definite ideas from his statements. In reference to his assertion that certain equitable or legal rights are withheld from him, the committee can only say that, although the hearing afforded him occupied a large portion of their time, he failed to make his own view of the point clearly intelligible, and that it is utterly impossible for them, at this period of the session, to enter into such an examination of the vast amount of documents, resulting more or less from his labors, as would be necessary in order to begin to form an opinion. An impartial arbitration by scientific persons would, it' the committee may be allowed to offer a suggestion to the Board of Regents, probably be the best way to determine whether there is any foundation for the complaints he makes, or for the claim of rights which he imagines himself to possess. The committee feel it due to candor to say that they have not been able to ap

« AnteriorContinua »