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WILLIAM H. DEGROOT.
[To accompany H. R. No. 101.]
JULY 9, 1862.-Ordered to be printed.
Mr. DUELL, from the Committee of Claims, made the following
The Committee of Claims, to whom was referred the memorial of Wil
liam H. De Groot, have had the same under consideration and respectfully report:
That this claim has been acted upon by Congress on two or three occasions, and a very full report made of all the facts in 1860, and to which reference is made. Congress allowed the claim and directed its payment, and it is admitted, and it is undoubtedly true, that there is a just debt due the memorialist.
In brief, the case is this : the memorialist was a party to a contract for furnishing a large amount of brick for the Washington aqueduct. He purchased a brickyard, machinery, and material, at a large cost, (the former committee estimated $60,000,) to make the brick at the rate of 60,000 a day. Colonel Meigs refused to go on with the contract, and at his instance Congress passed a joint resolution, March 3, 1857, to take the property of the memorialist, the brickyard, brick, machinery, materials, &c., and to allow him for the property and for his damages sustained by giving up his contract. He was induced to turn over the property to the United States and give up the contract under this resolution. The claim for his property and damages was allowed, and it was referred to the Secretary of War, (under whose charge the aqueduct then was,) to settle the amount upon evidence. He settled the amount, allowing for the property and damages under the contract some $119,000. After his award was made Congress repealed his authority. He was regarded as corrupt, and his standing was the only ground for the repeal, unless some regarded this as too high. Thus the matter stands; that award is unpaid, and the memorialist asks to throw it entirely aside and refer the claim to the Secretary of the Interior, (who now has the aqueduct in charge,) and that if there has been any fraud, error, or mistake committed it may be corrected, and that he may be paid what is justly due. After Congress agreed by their joint resolution to take this property and pay these damages, (none of which have been paid, the property being still held and used by the government,) it is a claim that ought to be settled. Congress has left nothing to be determined except the amount. Your committee have, therefore, reported a resolution, referring it to the Secretary of the Interior to adjust the amount in strict conformity with the existing laws relating to this claim, and under which the property was transferred to the United States, and recommend that this resolution do pass.
EXPENDITURES ON PUBLIC BUILDINGS.
JULY 10, 1862.-Laid on the table, and ordered to be printed.
Mr. SARGENT, from the Committee on Expenditures on Public Build
ings, made the following
The Committee on Expenditures on Public Buildings, who were instructed by the House, upon the resolution offered by Mr. Wall
, December 19, 1861, to "inquire into the probable cost of the Treasury building extension and Capitol extension, the manner in which the work is done and being executed, and whether the original designs are being carried out or not, and whether the several contracts pertaining thereto are being faithfully performed, and also whether the same objects cannot be attained with less expense to the government, and also whether the officers of the Bureau of Construction are, in the judgment of the committe, qualified to discharge the duties thereof properly, and whether they have done so or not, and that said committee investigate and report to this House such facts in relation to the several matters referred to as they shall deem proper, and that they have power to send for persons and papers,” report:
That in the discharge of the duties devolved upon them they have given to the subjects named in the resolution such attention as bas been possible under the exacting demands of public business during this laborious session, and herewith report the testimony taken by them, and certain documents bearing upon the matters investigated. Many witnesses the committee desired to examine it was impossible obtain, they being scattered by the pending war. But the testimony procured has enabled us to report with confidence upon several questions submitted to us ; and to the rest, if desired by the House, we will address ourselves on a future occasion.
From the testimony submitted to the House we think two things are painfully evident: First, that there is extravagance in the expenditure of the public moneys in constructing public buildings ; second, that the buildings thus constructed, however strong and imposing to the inexperienced eye, lack the thoroughness and abiding strength that should characterize such structures, that while the gov. ernment is caused to pay out sums of money that should procure for it buildings of the most solid and durable character, ignorance or corruption, perhaps both, imposes upon it gaudy and expensive structures deficient in the most essential elements of excellence.
For evidence of the extravagant expenditures of public money under the Bureau of Construction, as now and heretofore organized, we refer to the testimony in relation to the Charleston custom-house and the Treasury Extension. A single item relating to the former will illustrate the system by which a building about one hundred and fifty feet long by one hundred and twenty feet wide from outside to outside of the columns, and carried some forty-five or fifty feet above the ground, entirely unfinished, roofless and bare, has already cost the government over two millions of dollars, and half a million more asked for by the acting engineer, without any intimation that it will do any. thing more than "continue the work.” At Hastings, N. Y., Edward Learned & Co. carry on the business of quarrying and cutting marble. A contract was made with them for the marble of the Charleston custom-house-a contract so indefinite and confused that any construction could be put upon it, even the style of architecture being misnamed, and the material being changed from granite to marble after a previous contract had been made with the same parties. In January, 1861, after South Carolina had seceded, Learned & Co. notified the Treasury Department that they had certain material on hand, and claimed inspection and payment under a clause of the contract. Mr. Clark, the acting engineer in charge, to whom the matter was referred by Secretary Dix, whose letter we herewith submit, went to Hastings and returned with a schedule of material there to the amount of $43,061 60, which he and Mr. Young, the supervising architect, reported to be correct, and the sum of $32, 296 20, or seventyfive per cent. on the whole amount, was paid out on it; that is to say, $28,382 70 in cash, and $3,913 50 allowed by the contractors for a previous over-payment. Mr. Clark, in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, dated February 12, 1861, states as the result of “a careful resumé of his notes, after an official visit" to the quarry, that he found "a large quantity of marble in every style of progress, from the rough block to the elaborate carved orna. mental work, ready for shipment," and he thinks its total value would not much, if any, exceed $100,000." Desirous to ascertain if this large quantity of marble was really at Hastings, the committee sent there Mr. Oertley, the government computer, an officer in the Bureau of Construction, and Messrs. Hamilton and Claskey, practical stonecntters and architects. There was a perfect concurrence between these gentlemen upon their return. Their testimony shows that the marble on which Learned & Co. was paid at the rate of $43,061 60, the schedule of which will be found in the testimony of Mr. Young, was worth at a fair market price from $9,000 to $12,000; that all the marble outside of the schedule, even at the rate of price named in it, could not exceed $10,000, and, as Mr. Oertley said, at a liberal market price would be worth not more than $6,000. By the testimony of these gentlemen it seems that the government, under the auspices of Messrs. Clark and Young, have been paying $5,785 93 for capitals that, cut in Italian marble, would not be worth more than $1,000 or $1,200; that upon the item of capitals alone, as shown particularly by Mr. Hamilton, the government pays $295,081 92 for what would cost at a fair market price $51,000, or an excess over the value of $244,081 93.
The exact responsibility of the enormous prices paid for these capitals is shown by the following extract from the testimony of Mr. Young, the supervising architect. We do not hold the Secretary of the Treasury responsible for these extravagances, for he must rely upon the acting engineer and supervising architect for information as to the value of materials, and also as to the features of contracts made in their department, unless he continues in office incompetent or dishonest men after his attention is called to their true character.
"Question. Who made the measurements for the custom-house at Charleston of the marble now lying at Hastings?
" Answer. I did.
“Question. What amount of stone is now at Hastings ready to be moved?
"Answer. The stones at Hastings now ready for shipment are capitals of corinthian columns and antæ of very elaborate detail and finish, wrought in strict accordance with full sized models furnished by the Treasury Department, and as per invoice are worth when delivered in Charleston $43,061 60, upon which there has been paid $28,382 70, being seventy-five per cent. of their value when finally delivered at Charleston as per terms of contract, less $3,913 50, an ascertained error in the account of March 20, 1857.
** Question. Who made the report to you of the quality of material at Hastings for the Charleston custom house, which the government has settled for?
- Answer. Mr. Clark, the engineer in charge."
By a reference to the schedule contained in the testimony of the same witness it will be seen that the government has paid for a piece of marble, for the mere rough stock, four feet nine and one-half inches by two feet and one-quarter inches and four feet nine and one-half inches, the sum of $650 07, and for the carving of it $1,572 19, and the piece when completed is not a capital, but only a piece of one. This expenditure so vastly disproportionate is attempted to be justified by the terms of the contract, but by the contract as quoted by himself, " for all carving or ornamental work such additional sums -hall be paid as the superintending architect, or the duly authorized agent of the first part, (the Secretary of the Treasury,) shall ascertain to be its fair cost, increased by fifteen per cent."
Admitting that the enormous price for stock is justified by the terms of the contract, and if so, the supervising architect should have varned the Secretary against such extortion upon the government; ret it cannot be admitted that the "fair cost'' of the labor upon a