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just what they please; may expend it upon books if they like, even although the expenditures for that object may have already reached the assigned limit, or upon any objects not named or alluded to in the act, if, in their judgment “suited for the promotion of the purpose of the testator."
The committee are wholly unwilling to enter at all into the discussion of the private grievances, or personal controversies, or official misunderstandings which were brought before them in the course of the investigation. They regard the evidence that was educed on these matters as important only because it illustrates the difficulties encountered in administering an institution of this sort upon the plan that has been attempted. They are particularly desirous to have it understood that they attach no blame to any person, in any quarter; the evils are the result of the system. At the same time they do not cast blame or censure of any sort upon those who suggested, and have labored to carry out, that system. The design was, in itself, commendable and elevated. It has, unquestionably, been pursued with zeal, sincerity, integrity, and high motives and aims, but it is, we think, necessarily surrounded with very great difficulties.
There is nothing in our constitutional system that authorizes this gorernment to enter the sphere of literature and science. Education is left to the States. This government cannot, without violating the principles on which it rests, become, directly or indirectly, through its official agents or in the expenditure of funds, a censor of any department of the press, an arbiter of science, or a publisher of works of mere literature or philosophy any more than of morals or theology.
No amount of money that could possibly be raised would enable this government to perform these functions, with a just, equal, and liberal hand, for the benefit of all departments of knowledge. Of course, it has no right to make discriminations; not only natural history and physical science, but every branch of learning and inquiry has a right to demand patronage, if it is extended to any. Whatever project in this line may be attempted will be found surrounded with insuperable embarrassments. If, for instance, the funds of the Smithsonian Institution should be appropriated in the manner proposed in the petition from citizens of Missouri, referred to this committee, for the preparation and distribution of a monthly report of the general progress of knowledge, who shall write those reports? To what school of philosophy, or medicine, or politics shall he belong? Shall he confine himself, as the Smithsonian Institution has, for the most part, very wisely done, to particular provinces of natural science, to reptiles, defunct species of animals, mathematical and astronomical computations and researches, to aboriginal antiquities and the glossaries of vanishing tribes of Indians, or shall he rise above dead and brute nature, and treat the subject of MAN, of civil society, of government, of politics, and religion? If he confines himself to the former, not one in ten thousand of the people will be interested or satisfied; if he attempts the latter, he is on forbidden ground, and cannot escape being torn to pieces by parties, sects, and sections.
Moving in the most cautious manner, acting within the most limited sphere, grudges are multiplied, jealousies engendered, resentments kindled, and complaints encountered in all directions. Authors whose pieces are rejected will be likely, in the course of time, to outnumber those who are admitted to the favored circle; one man has the gratification of seeing his works printed, at the public charge, in a splendid style, and circulated, without trouble or expense on his part, to all the learned societies and persons of Christendom, and of feeling that a world-wide reputation is secured to him, but others, whose treatises have been condemned by a secret tribunal, and returned with the stigma of rejection, are brooding in sullen, or breaking out in vehement resentment and indignation.
Men of genius are sensitive; scientific authors and discoverers particularly so. To attain to great excellence in any department, it must be studied and prosecuted with exclusive and all-absorbing zeal. There is a divinity in truth, and whoever attains any portion of it is prone to worship it with a concentrated devotion, and to cherish it as more precious than all things else. However minute the objects, or narrow the provinces, or apparently useless the results of the researches of the man of science, he is wholly wrapt up in them, and feels, to his very heart's core, that nothing transcends them in importance. This makes him sensitive to reputation, tenacious of rights, and morbidly alive to any encroachment upon his labors or attainments. No office is more thankless than to attempt to arbitrate the differences of men of science; no offence more keenly resented than to discredit their claims or slight their productions. It is a curious circumstance, and most instructive in this connexion, strikingly illustrating the fact we are presenting, that James Smithson, who was a fellow of the Royal Society, had made a will, leaving his whole fortune to that institution, which had honored many of his productions by publishing them in its transactions. At length, certain papers offered to them for publication were refused. Under the sting of resentment and wounded pride, he changed his will, and left his fortune to the United States of America. In this way a harvest of dissatisfaction and animosities is constantly maturing. Patronage in politics is the fatal bane of parties. In literature and science it works disastrously, in all directions, upon him who dispenses, upon those who receive, and upon all from whom it is withheld.
The organization of the Smithsonian Institution is as follows:
The “Establishment,” by the name of the “Smithsonian Institution."
FRANKLIN PIERCE, President of the United States.
- Vice President of the United States.
BOARD OF REGENTS.
- Vice President of the United States.
- citizen of Massachusetts.
The active government of the Institution is in the hands of the following officers and committees :
FRANKLIN PIERCE, Ex-officio Presiding Officer of the Institution.
- Assistant Secretary, in charge of Library.
The committee feel it their duty to submit a few remarks in relation to this organization.
It appears by the evidence that so much of it as is called the “Establishment,” has never performed any part whatever in the administration of the Institution. It is obvious that those regents who reside at a great distance from Washington can have but liule to do with its management. Those of them who are members of the Senate or House of Representatives, unless their residence during the recess of Congress is in the vicinity of Washington, cannot be expected, for the most part, to have that influence over its operations which those who reside permanently at the seat of government, or in its immediate vicinity, will more naturally exercise. The executive committee is the body in which the government substantially exists.
It may well be questioned whether it is expedient to surround such an institution with an array of high official dignitaries. Their great offices and characters are committed to all the proceedings of the Institution, while it is impossible for them to give much time and attention to their examination. When the venerable chief justice of the United States, after hearing both parties and a thorough scrutiny of the merits of all questions involved, and in the exercise of the high function to which his life is consecrated and set apart, pronounces a solemn judgment from the bench, we bow to his learning and wisdom; but it may, perhaps, be doubted whether it is expedient to attempt to make him responsible for all the doings of an Institution entirely out of the sphere of his duties and pursuits, and with whose officers he cannot have much communication. As it has been ascertained that the Institution is not a corporation, and its anomalous character, in that respect, may give rise to perplexing and unforeseen difficulties that will reach the legal tribunais, it may well be questioned whether that august judicial personage ought to be mixed up, at all, with its business details.
If the Institution could be organized in a simpler form, and its secretary made the head of a bureau in the Departinent of the Interior, and subject, like other heads of bureaus, to the Secretary of the Interior, he might pursue substantially the same course as at present, if that should continue to be thought advisable, with a clearly ascertained line of duty and responsibility, and a full adjustment of all his relations, above to the head of the department, around to his associates, and to all subordinates of every grade. This, however, we desire to have considered as a mere suggestion, made in passing. If all other plans are found defective, and beset with inconveniences, this may, at some future day, be tried in the last resort.
Whatever arrangements may be made for the administration of the Institution, it is of extreme importance that the relations among the several officers attached to it be defined and settled by law, or, at any rate, by bye-laws. In every organization, to which several officers are attached, such a provision is highly desirable, but pre-eminently so where the said officers are gentlemen of scientific and literary attainment and reputation. The spirit of self-respect and a sensitiveness to personal rights prevail nowhere with greater keenness and intensity than in the republic of letters.
The Smithsonian Institution stands on a different footing from any in this country, and in some particulars, especially in regard to the peculiar character of our government, in any other country. In some leading features it perhaps bears a closer resemblance to the British Museum than to any other. The recent history of that institution may, perhaps, be found instructive to us.
The British Museum was founded about a hundred years ago, upon the conditional bequest by an individual of property less in amount than the bequest of Smithson. It has since received some two millions of pounds sterling of the public funds.
Within the last twenty years there have been two select committees of the House of Commons and one royal commission appointed to inquire into the condition, management, and affairs of this institution.
Its government is vested in a board of trustees, in number forty-eight, one of whom (H. R. H. the Duke of Cambridge) is directly named by the crown, twenty-three are regents ex officio, nine are named by the representatives or executors of parties who have been donors to the institution, and fifteen are elected.
The following is a list of the trustees :
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, principal trustees; the President of the Council; the First Lord of the Treasury; the Lord Privy Seal; the First Lord of the Admiralty; the Lord Steward; the Lord Chamberlain; the Colonial Secretary of State ; the Foreign Secretary of State; the Home Secretary of State ; the Bishop of London; the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench; the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; the Master of the Rolls; the Attorney General; the Solicitor General; the President of the Royal Society; the President of the College of Physicians; the President of the Society of Antiquaries; the President of ihe Royal Academy.
The Earl of Cadogan, Lord Stanley, Sloane family; George Booth Tyndale, esq., Rev. Francis Annesley, Cotton family; Lord H. W. Bentinck, the Earl of Cawdor, Harlein family; Charles Townley, esq., Townley family; the Earl of Elgin, Elgin family; John Knight, esq., Knight family.
The Earl of Aberdeen; the Earl of Derby; the Duke of Rutland; the Marquis of Lansdowne; Sir Robert Peel, bart.; the Duke of Hamilton; Sir Robert H. Inglis, bart.; Henry Hallam, esq.; William R. Hamilton, esq.; the Duke of Sutherland; the Right Hon. T. B. Macaulay; William Buckland, D.D., Dean of Westminster; the Right Hon. Sir David Dundas; the Right Hon. H. Goulburn; the Marquis of Northampton.
Complaints against the management of the institution became so prevalent that, notwithstanding the mighty array of elevated functionaries, and illustrious literary and scientific persons behind which it was entrenched, it became necessary for the House of Commons to turn its attention to it.
On the 27th of March, 1835, it was ordered in the House of Commons, " that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the condition, management, and affairs of the British Museum," with power to send for persons and papers. The committee consisted of thirty-three, including many of the leading men of the House.