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qualifications for a secretary. The same day (December 3) Professor Henry was elected secretary. The same day Mr. Choate presented a report on behalf of the library committee, accompanied by resolutions, which were adopted the next day, December 4.
In this report the committee say: “They see in the language of the act, which the regents are created to administer, and in the history of the passage of that act, a clear intimation that such a library was regarded by Congress as prominent among the more important means of increasing and diffusing knowledge among men.
This intimation, they think, should control, in a great degree, the acts of the regents,” &c.
The resolutions appended to the report and adopted, were: 1. "Resolved, That for the present, out of the interest accruing to the institution, the sum of twenty thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby, appropriated for the purchase of books, and the gradual fitting up of a library, and all other incidental expenses relating to the library, except the salaries of the librarian or librarians; the said appropriation 10 commence from the first of January, eighteen hundred and forty-eight."
Mr. Hough moved to strike out $20,000, and insert $12,000, which motion was disagreed to. Mr. Rush moved to strike out $20,000, and insert $15,000, which was also disagreed to, and the resolution was adopted as reported.
The second resolution appended to the report and adopted, was: 2. “ Resolved, That the portion of the building to be for the present sei apart for a library be of sufficient capacity to contain not less that one hundred thousand volumes; and that it is desirable that the plan should be such as to render an extension practicable if hereafierdesired."
On the same day was adopted the resolution to which Professor Henry refers as the origin of all the evils of the Institution, recommending to the secretary « forthwith to employ, subject to the approval of the Board of Regents, an assistant secretary, well qualified io discharge the duties of librarian.”
Such was the action of the Board respecting a library, before Professor Henry accepted the office of secretary. Such was the EARLIEST action of the Regents on this subject. It showed their FIRST OPINIONS as to the meaning of the law.
Thus stood the matter when, on the 21st of December, 1846, Professor Henry entered upon the duties of his office. He immediately proposed the plan of publication and researches.
It was about this time that I became acquainted with him, and learned for the first time his scheme of operations. I entered into Do examination of it—(that I fully approved of it I do not at ali admit) but I offered, so far as I remember, but one suggestion respecting it, namely: whether it could be carried out under the act of Congress. To this Professor Henry replied that if the Regents approved his plan, as he thought they undoubtedly would, the act of Congress could be changed, if thought necessary. I then assured him that my only wish for connexion with the Instirution was to superintend the formation of a great national library, and that, as this was not, as he declared, likely to be sanctioned by the Board, I would immediately return home. He urged me to remain and take a position as assistant under his scheme. I
emphatically and repeatedly declined. The interview left with me no unpleasant recollections. I went back to Providence, abandoning all thought of connexion with the Smithsonian Institution. But I soon found that others took a different view of the case. They thought it was dangerous to attempt to change the law, and were sure that Professor Henry's plan could not be carried out under the law.
Soon afterwards the matter came up for discussion before the Board, and was settled by the adoption of the "compromise," dividing the funds equally between the plan advocated by the secretary and the plan of collections. At the same meeting I was nominated and confirmed to act as librarian.
I was informed by the secretary of my appointment, that my “salary would commence whenever the building is ready for the reception of the library," and that this would probably be in two years.
I received this announcement with surprise. I had never heard or thought of such a proposition as the compromise till it was adopted. My first impulse was to decline the appointment. But, on conversation with gentlemen interested in the library plan, I was induced to accept. The reasons which prevailed with me were, that, although under the compromise but a comparatively small appropriation could be made annually for a library, yet a large sum would be immediately available, which would create a considerable nucleus previous to the period for the full operation of the compromise; and the central position and prominent character of the Institution, its being under government patronage, and the expectation of large accessions from exchanges, all led to the belief that under this arrangement a large central library would gradually be formed.
I supposed that the compromise had been cordially adopted by all parties, and the fact that the principal direction had been entrusted to an officer who had not preferred the library, but who acquiesced in the new arrangement, so far from awakening any apprehension that the library would not be sufficiently favored, was supposed to furnish the best possible guaranty that its claims would be respected.
In confirmation of what I have stated, I present ihe following extract from a letter which I wrote to Professor Henry soon after accepting the. nomination:
“When I left Waslington I had quite abandoneil all thought of being connected with the Institution. I supposed it would not be the wish of the Regents to devote any considerable portion of the funds to laying the foundations of a national library, and that was the only work in which I felt ambitious to engage. But the resolutions which were passed provided liberally for the library, and I was hence led to accept The office tendered to me. I trust you will not have occasion to regret the nomination. I beg you to accept the assurance of my cordial cooperation with you in the measures which you may think best to adopt for the welfare of the Institution. It is matter of much gratification to me that I met you and enjoyed such pleasant interviews with you at Washington. I trust that our future intercourse will be equally agreeable.”
To this Professor Henry replied : “I was, as well as yourself, much gratified with our interview in
Washington, and particularly so when I was requested to nominate you as the selection of a majority of the Board of Regents. I could comply with this request, with the conviction that you were well qualified for the office."
I produce these extracts 10 show
1. That there was real cordiality on my part, a sincere desire to harmonize with the secretary.
2. That I had reason to suppose that he felt a like frank cordiality towards me.
3. That he knew that my only wish and object in being connected with the Institution was to be concerned in the formation of a great library, and that it was only in the belief that he cheerfully acquiesced in that plan, under the resolutions of the Board of Regents, that I accepted the office tendered to me.
The action of the Board previous to the adoption of the compromise fixing the appropriation for the library “for the present" at $20,000 was not rescinded by the compromise, but on the contrary, declared by the committee on organization to be in accordance with it. (See report, page 21.) But the money was not expended, although during the year 1848 extraordinary opportunities occurred for the cheap purchase of books.
By the friends of the secretary's plans it was proposed to expend but little money for books previous to the completion of the building, and devote most of the available funds to the publications and researches.
As this proposition seemed equivalent to the abandonment of the library plan, it was not, of course, regarded with favor by the friends of the library. It seemed at one time likely to open anew the old discussion.
But the matter was settled by an agreement on the part of Professor Henry and others that previous to, as well as after, the completion of the building the equal division of the funds contemplated by the compromise resolutions should be observed.
In proof of this, I refer to the following letter from the Hon. George P. Marsh:
WASHINGTON, February 28, 1855. DEAR Sir: Your letter of the 27th instant propounds to me the following queries :
Ist. Did not Professor Henry promise you that the equal division of the income required by the compromise should be observed before as well as after the completion of the building ?
2d. Did he not understand that you would bring the matter before Congress unless the compromise were observed before the completion of the building as well as afier?
3d. Was it not well understood, wbile you were a member of the Board, that Professor Henry was under obligation to keep the compromise ?
I have the following statement to make by way of answer to these questions :
As a member of the House of Representatives and of the Special Committee of the 29th Congress, which reported a bill for the organi
zation of the Smithsonian Institution, I took an active part in procuring the passage of the law under which the Institution went into operation, and amendments proposed by me constituted some of the most important features of the law.
Although not a member of the Board of Regents until 1847, I continued to take an interest in the management of the Institution, and especially in the plan for the formation of a large miscellaneous library, which I had advocated in the House of Representatives, and I had frequent conversation with Professor Henry, and with other persons influential in the Board, on this subject. In these conversations, the compromise resolutions and the questions, whether those resolutions rescinded the order for the appropriation of $20,000 for a library ; whether that order was to be construed as authorizing a single expenditure or an annual appropriation of that sum, until the building should be completed; and, if the order was rescinded, what application should be made of the income of the Institution in the mean time, were discussed. My own opinions were adverse to the compromise as a departure from the spirit if not the letter of the law, and I thought, moreover, that, in the incipient measures of the Institution, the compromise was not impartially administered, the library not being regarded, as it appeared to me, with the favor due to it as a question of expediency, and by the terms of the compromise itself. On all these points the opinions of Professor Henry, and on many of them, as I understood, those of a majority of the Board were in opposition to my own, and I determined to bring the subject before Congress, and apprised Professor Henry of this purpose.
I had now several conferences with Professor Henry, which resulted in an understanding between us at the time I took my seat in the Board, that we should act together in sustaining the compromise, and that, so far as our influence extended, the expenditure of the income of the Institution should, from that time, be divided as nearly as might be, equally between the library and what were called "active operations."
In pursuance of this understanding, I relinquished my intention of moving the subject in Congress, and though neither Professor Henry nor myself surrendered our previous opinions, we both, as I understood, regarded such an arrangement as the best that could be made under the circumstances, and, so far as I was acquainted with Professor Henry's course, our action was entirely harmonious during my continuance in the Board.
In the spring and summer of 1848, I was extremely desirous that a liberal appropriation should be made from the fund by way of anticipation, in order to take advantage of the unprecedented facilities for cheaply purchasing books afforded by the political convulsions of that year in Europe, but Professor Henry was adverse to this proposal, and, as I considered myself, as well as Professor Henry, bound by the understanding above referred to, I, though with much reluctance, refrained from pressing it before the Board.
Upon the whole, then, my answer to each of your inquiries is substantially in the affirmative. I am, sir, respectfully yours,
GEORGE P. MARSH. Professor C. C. Jewett, Washington.
The equal division of the funds was commenced and followed for several years, the schedule of accounts was made to conform to it, and the secretary frequently alluded to it in his reports, stating that it had been rigidly observed, and implying that good faith required its observance.
Thus, matters continued till Protessor Henry began to vary from the division. The variation was at first supposed to be merely to meet a passing exigency. But the whole distribution of the annual appropriations was virtually left in the hands of the secretary. The appropriations were made in lump, and he assigned them to particular objects. His allowing less freely for the library, however, would not have occasioned any unpleasant discussion, had he not, in the interview to which I have alluded in my testimony, (and which I still think occurred in December, 1852,) expressed his firm determination to set aside the compromise, and endeavored to induce me to unite with him in effecting its abrogation without any open discussion.
Previous to this time, I had no idea that Professor Henry was cherishing towards me the feelings which he avows in his statement. I did not suppose that he considered me in the light of an intruder and an opponent. I felt a cordial interest in all the affairs of the Institution, and a sincere willingness to waive all personal preferences, and not to press the interests of the department particularly entrusted to my care.
I cannot sufficiently regret that Professor Henry had not, in frankness, acquainted me with his real sentiments towards me. We might thus have been spared many unhappy passages.
It seems that Professor Henry was all the time under the influence of a feeling, that, in yielding to the direction of the Regents in nominating an assistant secretary to act as librarian, he had parted with a prerogative; and he seems to have been not less under the impression that some power over the other officers, which he might claim under the law, had been taken from him by the Regents. He has since alluded to this in a way to show that his desire to recover his position led him to wish to exercise himself the power of removal, and thus reassert a lapsed authority.
It is singular that the secretary, after manifesting such indignation concerning charges against the Regents, should here himself represent them as trenching upon his prerogatives, in disregard of the law, and in opposition to the best interests of the Institution, and that, too, in one of their first acts after his appointment.
I repeat, in the most solemn manner, that, so far as I believe, the source of all the troubles in the Institution is solely Professor Henry's determination to set aside the compromise, and the means which he took to effect
. The course wbich he actually took with reference to the compromise is set forth in the paper communicated by me to the special committee of the Regents, and in my reply to Professor Henry's answer to the
The only issue which I have ever made with Professor Henry was in my refusal to co-operate with him in violating the compromise, and in defending myself against the measures which, in execution of his plan, he took to depress me.