Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

They were, however, not opened in my office, but by irresponsible persons in the employment of the absent officers. So much was I an

by whom, on motion of General Totten, it was

Resolved, That all correspondence relative to the business of the Institution be carefully preserved, in bound volumes, and that all such correspondence be open at the call of the Regents or the executive committee, through the secretary.”—(Page 93, Doc. 108, (349.))

It would have been better had I asked the adoption of the rule that all letters written in the Institution on official business should pass through the office of the secretary for his approval.

All the letters of the Patent Office are signed by the Commissioner, although the examiners are men of reputation and scientific attainment, several of them called from professorships in colleges to their present positions.

There is no parallel between the Smithsonian Institution and an ordinary literary establishment. A large portion of the duty of the assistants is clerical. Contracts or agreements are constantly to be entered into, and a large disbursement of money to be made, for which the secretary alone is responsible to the Board of Regents.

I need not say, to those who are acquainted with me, that I had no intention or desire on any account to examine the private correspondence of my assistants, but I deemed it my duty, in their absence, in certain cases, to publicly open, or to direct to be opened, letters addressed to them in their official capacity, and of which there was unmistakable evidence that they related to the business of the Institution.

The statement of Mr. Blodgett, that I proposed to him to assist me in changing the locks on the private desks of Professor Baird for the purpose of making examination of their contents, to indicate who were my enemies or opponents, is, at least, an absurd misstatement. In his next deposition he modifies his assertion by saying "that the propositions made by Professor Henry to me in regard to examination of papers, and the means of doing so, were not confidential, but were assertions of what he had power to do, and would do."

The principal facts of this case have already been given by the testimony of Mr. Girard. They were briefly these :

After the departure of Professor Baird on his annual excursion, I had occasion to consult the correspondence relative to exchanges. I asked for the books in which it was contained, and was informed that they were locked up, not in a private desk, but in one belonging to the Institution. I was displeased with this information, and probably made the remark that I must have the books, and that I would break open the desks for this purpose, if necessary. I think it probable I also asked Mr. Blodgett for the use of a key for the same purpose. Mr. Girard, however, afterwards procured the books for me, one of which I kept in my room until Professor Baird's return, and delivered to him in person. In the course of the examination of this correspondence, I discovered that Professor Baird had written letters which I did not approve, and it was to these to which I referred in my subsequent conversation with Mr. Jewett, and not to Mr. Baird's private correspondence, as might be inferred from Mr. Jeweti's statement.

To explain this a little further, however, on my return from the meeting of the American Association, at Cleveland, I stopped at Pittsburg, to attend a meeting of the American Educational Association, and while there I received a letter informing me that an article had appeared in Putnam's Magazine, in which I was lauded as a man of science, but my official character depreciated, and that this was to be followed by another article, from the same pen, in which my adminisIration of the affairs of the Smithsonian Institution was to be very severely handled. These articles were written by an intimate friend of Professor Baird's, and I was even informed that a gentleman had been invited to his room to hear one of them read. I hastened, on receipt of this information, back 10 Washington, arrived there before Pro fessor Baird had returned, and almost immediately afterwards had the interview mentioned by Mr. Jewett. After the return of Professor Baird, I had a long conversation with him on the subject, in which he removed, in a very considerable degree, the unfavorable impressions I had received in regard to him.

I made no memorandum of my interviews with Mr. Jewett, but the facts are strongly impressed upon my mind.

I had warmly encouraged his plan of stereotyping catalogues, and, as far as I considered myself authorized, had allowed liberal expenditures to be made upon it, the money so expended being charged to the library account. I supposed that Mr. Jewett, by his ready acquiescence in this, was now prepared cordially to co-operate with me. Experience had shown that the income of the Institution was very small in proportion to the demands made upon it; that a valuable library would be collected by exchange without expending immediately any large sum of money ; that the building would cost at least 850,000 more than was contemplated when the compromise was adopted, and might cost much more; that the aitempt to carry out the compromise was exceedingly inconvenient, and led to inharmonious action; and I had resolved to make a statement of these matters to the Board of Regents, and did so at the next session. I saw nothing improper in this; on the contrary, I considered it my duty to point out such changes as experience indicated were necessary.

There was nothing intended to be done, nor was anything done coverily." I never considered the bequest of Smithson as so much money given to the United States to be divided among different parties, but as a bequest for the benefit of mankind. I considered the compromise as one of opinion as to the best means of producing a desired result, viz: that of carrying out the will of Smithson under the act of Congress, adopted prior to all experience, and to be modified as experience might indicate.

Mr. Jewett, in the first interview alluded to in bis deposition, which took place in 1851, probably in December, slated to me that his friends expected that he would continue to advocate and insist upon a large library. l informed him that the blame of any want of effort of that kind would fall upon me, and that I would stand between him and his friends.

In this interview I have no recollection of saying anything in regard to the exercise of my power to dismiss him, and indeed the whole con

versation produced no definite impression upon my mind of special hostility on the part of Mr. Jewett.

In accordance with my previous resolve, in my report for 1851, I made the following remarks, page 215:

“ It will be recollected that the income of the Institution was, by a compromise alluded to in a former report, to be divided into two equal parts; one part to be devoted to the formation of a museum, a library, and a gallery of art; and the other to publications, researches, and other active operations. The terms of this compromise have been rigidly adhered to, as will be seen by a reference to the general statement of accounts given in the last report. Up to the date of the appointment of Professor Baird, in July, 1850, the part of the income devoted to the collections was expended on the library, or on objects pertaining to it. Since that time, a portion has been devoted to the museum.

" It is proper to remark that ihis compromise was founded upon another, namely, that the cost of the building and furniture should be limited to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. But in order to the better security of the collections, the Regents have since found it necessary to add, in round numbers, fifty thousand dollars to this sum, which must, of course, diminish the income which would otherwise have been devoted to the active operations.

" It is evident that one spirit, if possible, should pervade the whole organization, and that the same policy should be adopted in reference to all parts of the plan. Among the maxims which have been acted upon, that of occupying ground untenanted by other institutions, and of doing nothing with the funds which can be equally well accomplished by other means, has commended itself to the intelligent and reflecting portion of the public; and it has always appeared to me that this is as applicable to the formation of collections of books and specimens as to the publications and other operations of the Institution.

"With reference to the library, the idea ought never to be entertained that the portion of the limited income of the Smithsonian fund which can be devoted to the purchase of books will ever be sufficient to meet the wants of the American scholar. On the contrary, it is the duty of this Institution to increase those wants by pointing out new fields for exploration, and by stimulating other researches than those which are now cultivated. It is a part of that duty to make the value of libraries more generally known, and their want in this country more generally felt; to show in what branches of knowledge our libraries are most deficient; to point out the means by which those deficiencies can be supplied ; to instruct the public in the best methods of procuring, arranging, cataloguing, and preserving books ; to give information as to the best form and construction of library buildings; in short, to do all which was originally intended in the plan, of rendering the Institution a centre of bibliographical knowledge, to which the American scholar can refer for all information relative to books in general, and particularly to those in our own country. The libraries of the country must be supplied by the country itself; by the general government; by the State governments ; by cities, towns, and villages; and by wealthy and liberal individuals. It is to be hoped, that in the restoration of the library of Congress, a foundation will be laid for a collection of books worthy of a government whose perpetuity principally depends on the intelligence of the people.

“ The proper management of books, and general instruction as to their use, are matters perhaps of more importance than their accumulation in any one place. It is estimated that about twenty thousand volumes, including pamphlets, purporting to be additions to the sum of human knowledge, are published annually; and unless this mass be properly arranged, and the means furnished by which its contents may be ascerlained, literature and science will be overwhelmed by their own unwieldy bulk. The pile will begin to totter under its own weight, and all the additions we may heap upon it will tend to add to the extension of the base, without increasing the elevation and dignity of the edifice.”

I do not recollect having any further conversation with Mr. Jewett on this subject until he presented his report to me relative to the operations for 1852, nearly a year after, in which, to my surprise, I found he had inserted an elaborate criticism on the several remarks I had made in my report for 1851.

I told him I thought this was not proper, and after consulting with members of the executive committee, I came to the conclusion that I would not publish it, and requested him to strike it out, because bis report was in fact a part of my own, and such a discrepancy in opinion should not appear; and had I published it, I would have been obliged to answer it in the same report. Mr. Jewett had a right to present a separate memorial to the Board, and he was, in effect, finally requested to do so by the committee to which the subject of the distribution of the income was referred.

In the conclusion of my own report for 1852, (page 243,) I made again the following general remarks in reference to the library and museum:

“ In the last report to the regents, some general remarks were made relative to the library and museum, and nothing has since occurred to change the opinions then expressed. On the contrary, the experience of another year has tended to confirm these opinions, and to clearly exhibit the fact that it will be impossible to continue, with the present income, some of the most important operations, and rigidly adhere to the resolution of the regents of 1847, to devote one-half of the whole income to the library and museum, besides all the expenditures still required on the building for the accommodation of these objects. By a reference to the annual reports of the executive committee, it will be seen that the general incidental expenses have continually increased from year to year; and it is evident that they must continue to increase in a geometrical ratio, on account of the greater repairs which, in time, will be required on the building. After deducting from the income the cost of repairs, lighting, and heating; of messenger, attendants, and watchmen; of stationery, transportation and postage; after dividing the remainder by two, and deducting from the quotient the expense of the public lectures, the final sum to be devoted to the most important. and, indeed, the only legitimate object of the bequest, is exceedingly small.

" The attempt bas, however, been made in good faith to carry out the

resolution of February, 1847; and if items which may properly be charged to the library and collections were added to this side of the account, the balance up to the present date would be in favor of the active operations. But the plan has not been found to work well in practice. The income is too small properly to support more than one system of operations, and therefore the attempt to establish and sustain three departments, with separate ends and separate interests, must lead to inharmonious action, and consequently to diminished usefulness.

“However proper such a division of the income might have been in the beginning, in order to harmonize conflicting opinions, and to submit with proper caution the several proposed schemes to a judicious trial, the same considerations do not now exist for its continuance; changes have since occurred which materially alter the conditions on which the resolution was founded. The plan of active operations was not at first fully understood even by the literary men of the country. It was considered chimerical, and incapable of being continued for any length of time; and hence it was thought important to provide for the means of falling back upon a library and collections. The experience of six years has, however, established its practicability and importance, and it is now considered, by the great majority of intelligent persons who have studied the subject, the only direct means of realizing the intention of the donor. Again: the building was to have been finished in five years, and the income after this was to be increased by the interest on the remaining surplus fund; but the Regents have found it necessary, for the better security of the library and museum, to add fifiy thousand dollars to the cost of the edifice; and ten years will have elapsed from the beginning instead of five, before any income from the surplus fund will be available. This additional expense is not incurred for the active operations, and the question may be asked whether they ought to bear any part of this additional burden. Furthermore, at the time the division was made, it was thought obligatory on the part of the Institution to support the great museum of the exploring expedition; but the regents have since concluded that it is not advisable to take charge of this collection; and Congress, by its appropriation for the enlargement of the Patent Office, concurred in the opinion expressed in the Senate by the Hon. Jefferson Davis, that it was a gift which ought not to be pressed upon the Institution. The inquiry may also, in this case, be made, whether it is advisable in the present state of the funds, and the wants of the active operations, to expend any considerable portion of the income in the production of a collection of objects of nature and art. Again: the active operations are procuring annually, for the library, by exchange, a large number of valuable books, which, in time, of themselves will form a rare and valuable collection; and even if the division of the income is to be continued, a sum equal in amount to the price of these books ought to be charged to the library, and an equal amount credited to the active operations.

- Though a large library connected with the Institution would be valuable in itself, and convenient to those who are in the immediate vicinity of the Smithsonian building, yet, as has been said before, it is not essential to the active operations. It would be of comparatively little importance to the greater number of the co-laborers of the Insti

« AnteriorContinua »