Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

ized to expend a portion of the income in the way they might deem best suited for the promotion of the purpose of the testator. It was, therefore, ihe duty of the secretary to give suggestions and deductions from the will of Smithson, and it was the duty of the Board to say how far these suggestions were in accordance with the law of Congress, and to adopt or reject what they might deem proper. Besides this, the secretary would be wanting in truth and duty, if he did not point out any defect which he conceived to exist in the act of incorporation-for while the will of Smithson can never be changed, the act may receive amendments. He is free to declare now, as he was when the programme was first presented to the Board, that, in his opinion the words of the will ought to be interpreted as liberally as their import indicates, and that to confine the benefits of the Institution to one place, or even to one nation, would be at variance with a just interpretation of the words " among men.” He is also of opinion, that if the law as it stands at present does not afford the requisite authority for the active operations, which he is by no means disposed to admit, its provisions should be immediately altered to authorize these the most important of the objects of the Institution.

But, while he makes these declarations, he denies the assumption on bis part of any power which would tend to violate the existing law.

In the construction of a law of Congress, it cannot be denied that the intention of the legislature in the enactment of the law ought to be considered ; but this intention is not to be gathered, as Mr. Jewett would make it appear, from the views expressed in the speeches of a small number of members, nor even from the independent views of those who may have proposed any amendments which were adopted; for these views might not have been the same as those of a majority of the members who voted for the act. The intention of the legislature as a whole is to be gathered from a comparison of the several parts of the law itself, and from the evident object for which it was enacted. Now, what was the object of the law relative to the Smithsonian bequest ? Evidently to carry out the will of Smithson, namely: “ to increase and diffuse knowledge among men.” It was therefore proper to consider, whether the interpretation of the law which would restrict the application of the income to the collection of a library and museum, would fully carry out this intention. Though a library and a museum may be considered as means of increasing and diffusing knowledge among men, they cannot be regarded by any proper interpretation of the terms as accomplishing in themselves the object intended. They are among the implements for producing a desired end, but not the end itself. It could not be supposed that Congress, after a critical examination of the will, could have regarded the library and museum other than aids in accomplishing the objects in view, and therefore it became necessary to inquire whether the law itself did not admit of an interpretation more in accordance with the intention of the testator than that which would restrict the expenditures to these objects.

The whole subject was in effect fully considered and decided by the Regents at their first session, and by men well qualified by professional knowledge and experience, 10 interpret the law. Among these, besides the Chief Justice of the United States, were six members of Congress, and the President of the Senate, who may be considered as the legal representatives of the very legislature that enacted the law, and therefore well fitted to interpret its provisions.

They found that the law of Congress admitted of a more rational and liberal construction than that to which Mr. Jewett is desirous 10 restrict it. The very first section of the act indicates something more extended than a mere organization for the purpose of forming a library and museum. It constitutes an establishment by the name of the Smithsonian Institution, consisting of the President and certain other officers of the United States government, and the mayor of Washington, “ for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." This body has the character of a learned society, with the power of choosing honorary members, of holding meetings, and enacting by-laws for the government of the Institution. Such an organization is wholly at variance with the narrow views which would limit the duty of the members to a single agency in collecting a library and museum, having no choice of the means by which the important objects of the corporation were to be effected.

The business is to be conducted by a Board of Regents, consisting also of some of the highest functionaries of government, and citizens of different States of the Union, who shall elect a presiding officer under the scholastic name of chancellor, and a secretary, who shall also be secretary of the “Institution.” Has the first part of this act no significance? Are the ex officio members of the “establishment," and the honorary members, whom they are authorized to elect, merely intended as supernumeraries? This body “may advise and instruct the said Board of Regents.” Now, if the law of Congress gave such precise instructions to the Regents that there was no latitude or room for discretion, of what use would be the separate organization of the establishment, with its members, honorary members, and its specially appointed secretary; and if they hare power, then it must follow that they may inquire in what way the increase and diffusion of knowledge can be best effected.

It would seem indeed to require no latitude of construction to discover in the whole spirit of the law, and especially in the provisions of the 9th section, complete warrant and authority for the Board to look to the true meaning and design of the testator, whose very language is incorporated into the law itself, as the guiding and controlling principle both of the organic legislation and of all future administrations under it.

At the beginning of an untried experiment, with respect to the shaping of which many discordant opinions existed, Congress thought proper to impress upon the Institution certain features which should be embraced within its organization, but for the execution of these, excepting for the building, no time was specified, and no scale of expenditure definitely prescribed. The building, indeed, being calculated for all time and all contingencies, was to be projected “on a liberal scale," and it is to the building that these words in the act apply, and not, as Mr. Jewett would make it appear, to the library and museum. It is true that in due time the building will be filled with specimens of natural history, a library and a gallery of art, and the liberal scale will then also apply to these objects.

The question as to the introduction of the active operations, warranted by the 9th section of the act is purely one of time. Mr. Jewett contends that a library and museum on a liberal scale must not only be provided for, but actually established before anything else can be done with the money, but the act, as we have said before, applies the words “liberal scale" to the building, and leaves the regents free to adopt a more judicious course, namely, to proceed cautiously, and to expand the scale of the collections as circumstances may offer. The very words of the act for the “gradual formation of a library,” indicate this course. Of a similar opinion was the committee of organization, who, after enumerating the specific recommendations of the charter, added :

“Your committee are of the opinion that the task assigned them would be ill performed if they stopped short here and neglected to avail themselves of the authority liberally and wisely, they think, conferred upon the Board, after providing for the above special objects, to such extent as they may think necessary and proper to dispose of the funds actually accruing in such manner as they shall deem best suited for the promotion of the purpose of the testator.”

The Regents have, therefore, decided this matter. On them and not on the secretary devolved the construction of the charter. The secretary has, indeed, always entertained an opinion on the subject, but with due submission to the judgment of the Board, to which its determination is referred by law.

The secretary is also charged with a violation of honor and faith in presenting suggestions to the Board which would tend to change a set of resolutions adopted prior to experience in order to harmonize conflicting views. These resolutions were known by the name of the "compromise," a term which has at present a political significance, which gives to the suggestions of the secretary a color which, in justice, they ought not to bear.

But what is the real history of the case ? An Institution was left to the management of a number of intelligent men, each desiring, it is to be supposed, to adopt the plan best calculated not to advance the interest of himself or his friends, but to produce the greatest amount of good. One party was of opinion that a certain course should be taken, another party, that another plan should be adopted, and, in order that both might be tried an intermediate provisional course was chosen. Experience, however, has since proved, in the opinion of the secretary, that this intermediate course afier fair trial is attended with evils. Is it not his duty to present his views on the subject to the Board, who are supposed to have no predilections, but to be governed by an earnest desire to ascertain the truth?

In answer to the charge that the secretary has “ actually commenced a violation of the compromise,” it might be sufficient to repeat the remark made in his report for 1852, “that if all the items which might properly be charged to the side of the library and collections were added to that side of the account, the balance up to the present date would be in favor of the active operations," and further, that the library and museum, during the past year, have received within a few dollars of one-half of the whole appropriation made for that period. It is true the secretary expended during 1853 a part of the income derived from the building fund, but not wanted for the building, in order to anticipate in a measure some of the pressing publications wbich have been long on hand and which will be issued at the beginning of the pesent year; but this excess of expenditure on one side, if the Regents think proper, may hereafier be compensated by an additional expenditure on the other side. The transactions have not been kept secret. On the contrary, the facts have been fully presented to the Board. The insinuation therefore of dishonesty is an unjust aspersion of the character of the secretary, and considering the source from which it emanates, it assumes even a worse complexion.

But I deny that any obligation has existed as yet, to make an equal distribution of the income between the two classes of objects mentioned in what is called the “ compromise.” The 7th resolution of this compromise, adopted the 26th of January, 1847, reads thus :

Resolred, That for the purpose of carrying into effect the two principal modes of executing the act and trust pointed out in the resolutions herewith submitted, the permanent appropriations out of the accruing interest shall, so soon as the buildings are completed, be annually as follows:"

By a subsequent resolution of the Board, adopted December 21, 1847, one-half of the annual income, or $15,000, was to be devoted to the current expenses of the Institution, and out of this, by another resolution of the same date, the books to be purchased were restricted to “such valuable works of reference as the secretary or the building or executive committee may consider useful for present purposes, or otherwise likely to be immediately demanded in the prosecution of the plans of the Institution.”

The other half of the annual income was to be devoted to the building, which was not to be finished under fire years from the time of its commencement. The progress of the building was, however, arrested by an accident, which has still further extended the time when the equal division of the income will be obligatory.

So tar therefore from the compromise having been violated in order to favor the publications and researches, the fact is, that much more money has been expended on the library and museum, up to the present time, than they were entitled to under the resolutions of the Board. If the question be asked, why a sum much larger than was contemplated by the resolutions has been thus expended, the answer is, that at the earnest solicitation of Mr. Jewett to come into the Institution before the time specified in his appointment, and his pressing desire to have a library under bis control, which might justify the payment of his full salary, the executive committee were induced to make a more liberal appropriation for the library, and to begin before the time speci. fied in the resolutions to carry out the division of the income.

Another cause why a larger appropriation was made for the library than was intended, was the desire of Mr. Jewett to experiment on a new stereotyping process, in the success of which he was deeply interested.

Professor Jewelt cannot plead ignorance of the precise language of the foregoing resolution relative to the compromise, for he h mself quotes a part of it, and yet afterwards declares that “the under officers have felt that so long as these restrictions remained unrepealed they were to be obeyed; that they could not, without guilt, connive, even for their own personal advantage, or the greater prosperity of their particular departments, in any variation from the letter and spirit of these resolutions." These remarks scarcely come with good grace from a person who, for several years past, has been constantly iinportuning the secretary to allow him to expend large sums of money from the appropriation, for the collections on experiments, whicli belong rather to the active operations than to the formation of a library or museum. The truth is, that if any errors have occurred in the administration of the secretary, they have arisen entirely from his endeavor to gratify as far as possible the wishes of those wiih whom he has been associated.

In the last two reports the secretary has made suggestions with reference to the tendency of the Institution, and has stated that it would be impossible to continue, with the present income some of the most important operations, and rigidly adhere to the resolutions of the Regents of 1847, viz: to devote one-half of the whole income to the library and museum, besides defraying all the expenditures still required for completing and furnishing the building; that an attempt has been made in good faith to carry out these resolutions; that the plan has not been found to work well in practice; that the income is too small to support properly 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 inharınonious action, and consequently to diminished usefulness.” The secretary has also stated that “however proper such a division of the income might have been in the beginning in order to harmonize conflicting opinions, the same considerations do not now exist for its continuance, changes having since occurred which materially alter the conditions on which the resolutions were 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 both its practicability and its 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 10 the cost of the edifice; and ten years will have elapsed from the beginning instead of five, before the income from this suplus 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 this 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

« AnteriorContinua »