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foreign and curious research, and all objects of natural history, plants, and geological and mineralogical specimens, belonging, or hereafter to belong, to the United States, which may be in the city of Washington, in whosesoever custody the same may be, shall be delivered to such persons as may be authorized by the Board of Regents to receive them, and shall be arranged in such order, and so classed, as may best facilitate the examination and study of them, in the building so as aforesaid to be erected for the Institution; and the Regents of said Institution shall afterwards, as new specimens in natural history, geology, or mineralogy, may be obtained for the museum of the Institution, by exchanges of duplicate specimens belonging to the Institution (which they are hereby authorized to make), or by donation, which they may receive, or otherwise, cause such new specimens to be also appropriately classed and arranged. And the minerals, books, manuscripts, and other property of James Smithson, which have been received by the government of the United States, and are now placed in the Department of State, shall be removed to said Institution, and shall be preserved separate and apart from other property of the Institution.

"SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Board of Regents shall take charge of the building and property of said Institution, and shall, under their direction, make a fair and accurate record of all their proceedings, to be preserved in said Institution; and the said Secretary shall also discharge the duties of librarian and keeper of the museum, and may, with the consent of the Board of Regents, employ assistants; and the said officers shall receive for their services such sum as may be allowed by the Board of Regents, to be paid semiannually on the first day of January and July; and the said officers shall be removable by the Board of Regents, whenever, in their judgment, the interests of the Institution require any of the said officers to be changed.

"SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That the members and honorary members of said Institution may hold such stated and special meetings, for the supervision of the affairs of said Institution and the advice and instruction of said Board of Regents, to be called in the manner provided for in the by-laws of said Institution, at which the President, and, in his absence, the Vice-President of the United States shall preside. And the said Regents shall make, from the interest of said fund, an appropriation, not exceeding an average of twenty-five thousand dollars annually, for the gradual formation of a library composed of valuable works pertaining to all departments of human knowledge."

Besides the ninth, of which more hereafter, there remain two additional sections, one of which gives the Institution a VOL. LXXIX.- NO. 165.


copy of every copyrighted work; and the other, the last, reserves to Congress the right to amend or repeal the provisions of the act. No use has as yet been made of this reserved right.

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Such is the law prescribing the plan for the Smithsonian Institution, the plan which seemed to Congress, after the most mature deliberation, the best. Had the provisions of this law been duly executed, there would now be at Washington a noble institution, of which the nation would have a right to be proud. It is because this law has not been faithfully carried out that there is dissatisfaction and controversy.

It will be observed that Congress, by providing a fund for the building, separate from the principal fund, permitted the Institution to command its full annual income from the outset for the execution of the plan laid down. Ample means were placed at the disposal of the Regents for the erection of a building, which was expected to cost less than the arrears of interest; for the act appropriated so much of that sum as the Regents deemed necessary for the erection of suitable buildings and for other current incidental expenses. It is true, that in another place, where it was intended to name a limit to the cost of the building, which was unfortunately omitted, any balance of the annual income remaining after the payment of the current expenses was appropriated for the building, in addition to the blank sum. The evident intent of the act, however, was that the cost of the building should fall within and be defrayed from the arrears of interest, while the income of the principal fund should be annually devoted to the maintenance of the Institution, the resources of which on account of this fund would thus be as large the first year of its existence as at any time afterwards.

This was a most excellent arrangement. In the first place, it was generous; for Congress, in replacing the principal fund, performed a generous act, which might have been held to absolve the nation from the further liberality of paying the interest supposed to have accrued under an imaginary loan of that principal to the Treasury, eight years previously. In the next place, the arrangement was especially wise, in that it should have relieved the managers of the Institution from any diffi

culty in deciding how far they would diminish its permanent resources by an investment in building. This would have been an embarrassing question if the funds of the Institution had been aggregated in one sum. Questions of this nature have generally arisen in similar cases, and have proved very troublesome. As a single instance, we may mention the Peabody Institute, at Danvers, founded by the munificence of the generous London merchant, a native of that town. He gave a very handsome sum of money to the town, for the establishment of a literary institution there. As soon as the preparations were made to begin work, the trustees found themselves embarrassed to decide how large expense they should incur for the building. A building was undoubtedly necessary; but if they should pay the whole cost of such a one as they thought suitable from the fund, they would very materially reduce it, and, in consequence, reduce their annual income. Besides, Mr. Peabody had prohibited this. On the contrary, if they should pay the whole cost from the income, the completion of the building would be greatly protracted, and meanwhile the institution would be entirely paralyzed. The embarrassment was relieved when news of it came to Mr. Peabody's ears, by a prompt additional donation from him for the building. The Girard College is a notorious instance of the waste of the means of a charitable institution in erecting a costly edifice. So deeply impressed was the late John Lowell, junior, the founder of the Lowell Institute in Boston, with the proneness of those in charge of funds in such cases to make an extravagant or injudicious use of them in the erection of buildings, that he expressly prohibited the expenditure of any portion of the funds of the Lowell Institute for such purpose. The halls which are required for the institution are hired, and not owned, by it.

Now it was against precisely this sort of difficulty and embarrassment that Congress attempted to guard, by the generous appropriation of a separate sum of $242,129, out of which the building was designed to be erected. Yet, strange to say, the Regents, with a folly that seems to us almost incredible, have entirely neutralized this wise and judicious provision of Congress, by expending a considerable portion of the income

upon the building, which has exceeded in cost the arrears of interest. By this means the resources of the Institution have been crippled from the beginning to the present time. Instead of bursting at once into the vigor of full life, as was intended, it has struggled through a cramped and painful infancy.

The object of this injudicious manœuvre was the enlargement of the future annual income of the Institution, by the addition to the principal of a part of the arrears of interest. Even this has failed, in the degree anticipated, on account of the extravagant cost of the building. It is probable, however, that $100,000, perhaps $ 150,000, may be added to the principal, so that the annual income may become $ 40,000 instead of $30,910. This will undoubtedly be an advantage, but it is an advantage purchased, in our opinion, at far too dear a cost. In America, the people are impatient of procrastination, and it is a serious blemish upon the good name of the Smithsonian Institution, that it has so lazily entered upon its career of usefulness. Eight years is a long delay.

Whether this proceeding was legal or not, our readers must judge. We have informed them of the provisions of the law. The Regents have more than once petitioned Congress to pass an act confirming the addition to the principal of a part of the income, but Congress has steadily refused. The financial provisions of the law relative to the building doubtless exhibit some obscurity, from the blank in the place where a limit is mentioned for the cost of the building. But it is quite clear that the act contemplated no such procedure. If Congress had thought it best to add the arrears of interest to the principal, and make one sum, the law would have been so drafted; and if Congress had intended to allow the fund to increase by an accumulation of interest, the passage of the act might have been delayed for a further period. The Regents should have hesitated before taking the step, doubtfully legal, of withholding for eight more years the advantages of the Smithsonian Institution, already too long postponed.

Besides the mode of paying for the building, we object to its extravagant cost. A quarter of a million dollars* is a

*The expenditures upon the building to December 31, 1853, amounted to

large sum to be spent upon such a building. The building for the Library of Harvard College cost eighty thousand dollars, and that for the Boston Athenæum cost one hundred and thirty thousand dollars, and there has been a great deal of complaint at the cost of both. Without pausing to compare the Smithsonian Institution building with either of these, it is sufficient to say that it obviously cannot possess any features which will account for the enormous disproportion in its cost. There would be good ground for further objecting to the building, that it does not answer the description of the law, quoted above, that it should be "of plain and durable materials and structure, without unnecessary ornament." It is useless, however, to complain of these matters now. The building is at length nearly finished; and however much we may regret its cost, its character, and the way in which it has been paid for, it is too late to alter them.

It will have been observed, from the statement of the provisions of the act of Congress which we have given above, that, besides the building, the plan of the Institution, as laid down in the act, embraced the following features, and no others; namely, a museum of natural history, including a geological and mineralogical cabinet, a chemical laboratory, a library, a gallery of art, and the necessary lecture-rooms. It will have been further observed, that no specific appropriation is made for any of these except the library, which is distinguished from the rest by the provision of the eighth section of the act, which renders it obligatory upon the Regents to make from the interest of the fund "an appropriation not exceeding an average of twenty-five thousand dollars annually for the gradual formation of a library, composed of valuable works pertaining to all departments of human knowledge." Abundant provision for the museum was made in the sixth section, by the donation to the Institution of the valuable and extensive collections already belonging to the United States, and of all similar objects hereafter to be acquired. Additions to the

$244,393. During the nine months since, the amount must have been swelled to

more than $250,000, as the expenditures in the year 1853 were nearly $30,000. The building is at length believed to be nearly finished.

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