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sand persons visit the museum each year. The great majority of these come to see the curiosities. Some go away impressed with the vastness of what they saw, having a confused panorama of the whole collection, with a certain half-knowledge about a great-many things which renders them no service as a means of education. Others come for a special purpose, remaining one or more days or weeks to study particular things in special departments.

While the highest interests of scientific research must be subserved, the diffusion of knowledge from the stand-point of general education might be greatly increased. Some subjects bearing upon ancient and modern society, archaeology, anthropology, ethnology, history, economics, industries, and arts could possibly be so handled as to make a more direct impression upon the intelligent public, and, while thus giving actual instruction to thousands, furnish a lesson and an example to all State, college, and university museums in the country. But before proceeding further with the discussion let us ascertain what has already been done.


The existence of the Musuem is so closely connected with that of the Smithsonian that a review of the more important historical events of the latter is necessary to a full understanding of the former.

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As is perhaps well known, the original source of the foundation of the Smithsonian was the bequest of James Smithson, an English scientist, who, in his will of October 23, 1826, left all of his property “to the United States of America * * * to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”’’

James Smithson was a gentleman of good family, who devoted his life chiefly to study and scientific writing, particularly in the lines of geol-. ogy, mineralogy, and chemistry; and coupled with a love of science was a desire to perpetuate his name through his works. He says: “The best blood of England flows in my veins; on my father's side I am a Northumberland; on my mother's I am related to kings; but this avails me not. My name shall live in the memory of man when the titles of the Northumberlands and the Percys are extinct and forgotten.”.” Such was the sentiment of a man who chose to bestow upon a young and growing nation his private fortune, to be used for the benefit of mankind.

Prof. W. R. Johnson, in speaking of Smithson, has characterized the

! Fac-simile copy of the will of James Smithson, found in Rhees's Smithson and his Bequest, 24; an exception was made of an annuity of one hundred pounds to.J. Fitall. * Rhees, 2,



spirit of the foremost men in connection with the Institution since its foundation. He says: “The man of science is willing to rest on the basis of his own labors alone for his credit with mankind and his fame with future generations. In the view of such a man, the accidents of birth, of fortune, of local habitation, and conventional rank in the artificial organization of society, all sink into insignificance by the side of a single truth of nature. If he have contributed his mite to the increase of knowledge; if he have diffused that knowledge for the benefit of man, and, above all, if he have applied it to the useful or even to the ornamental purposes of life, he has laid, not his family, not his country, but the world of mankind under a lasting obligation.” 1

The United States Government accepted the gift, and appropriated ten thousand dollars to carry the case through the courts of chancery.

After all expenses were deducted, the net proceeds of the bequest were paid over to the treasury in Philadelphia, to the amount of $508,318.46. This sum was increased by interest, until a statement, made August 10, 1846, exhibits the sum of $773,753.07 in the fund and its accumulations. Out of this fund the building was erected, and other expenses reduced it to $515,109.

In 1867 the Secretary of the Treasury was authorized to receive a residuary legacy of Smithson amounting to $26,210.63, on the same conditions as the original bequest. The fund was also increased by savings and by two private bequests, one by James Hamilton, in 1874, of one thousand dollars, and the other by Simou Habel, in 1880, of five hundred dollars. The total permanent fund in the Treasury of the United States bearing six per cent. interest at present amounts to $703,000.5


The Federal Government thus became the guardian of this bequest, being limited in carrying out the plans of the giver by these words, "the increase and the diffusion of knowledge among men." Although under the direction of the Government, it has ever exercised a whole. some neutrality, never becoming involved in the toils of practical politics.

Professor Langley says in a recent report as secretary of the Smithsonian, “The position of the Smithsonian is that of a ward of the Government, having property of its own, for which that Government acts the part of trustee, while leaving its administration wholly with the regents; it follows that the Institution enjoys a measure of inde

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pendence, and in it a power of initiative good which ought to be deemed its most privileged possession; so that any action which is taken by one having its interests at heart ought to be with this consideration of its independence always in mind.” Much earlier Professor Henry advanced a similar idea when he said: “That the Institution is not a national establishment, in the sense in which institutions dependent on the Government for support are so, must be evident when it is recollected that the money was not absolutely given to the United States, but intrusted to it for a special object.” However, since the establishment of the National Museum in connection with the Smithsonian Institution, which is supported by an increasing annual appropriation, the Government has been drawn continually closer to the Institution, though the constitution and powers of the regents will doubtless lift it above any possible baneful influence of partisanship. After the acceptance of the bequest, the question of deciding in what manner the terms of the will could best be complied with and what direction the proposed new institution should take, arose and produced a long discussion. Martin Van Buren, then President of the United States, through the Secretary of State, Mr. Rush, addressed a communication to prominent men, soliciting their opinions in regard to the best method of disposing of the funds.” The replies were various, and in some instances plans were exceedingly diverse. Thomas Cooper, of South Carolina, thought that a national university should be located at Washington, with studies of a practical tendency, and open only to the graduates of colleges in the United States." He would exclude ethics and politics, and lay great stress upon mathematics, chemistry, botany, etc. Had he advocated the former, he would doubtless have followed the opinions of the illustrious father of our country. Francis Wayland, of Brown University, also recommended a university. “Its object would be to carry forward a classical and philosophical education beyond the point at which a college now leaves it, and to give instruction in the broad and philosophical principles of a professional education.”" Richard Rush, of Philadelphia, submitted a plan" for the collection and diffusion of seeds and plants throughout the world, with buildings, and lecture and publication bureaus in connection. He did not approve of an educational institution, as it appeared too narrow in his conception of the spirit of the bequest. John Quincy Adams was also opposed to plans for education. He said: “I think that no part of the money should be applied to the endowment of any school, college, university, or ecclesiastical establishment.” He did not wish to depend on foreign patronage for the education of American youth, but proposed the erection of an astronomical

1 Report for 1887–'88, 2. . “Ibid., 838. *Smith. Mis. Coll., XVII, 949. *Ibid., 839. *Ibid, 837. 6 Ibid., 849.

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observatory, a favorite theme with him.” “But the great object of my
solicitude,” he continues, “would be to guard against the cancer of
almost all charitable foundations—jobbing for parasites, and sops for
hungry incapacity.”
Many other opinions were given, more or less remarkable, but want
of space will not permit their repetition here. It is sufficient to say
that none of the plans were accepted, although they had influence in
determining the disposal of the bequest. The idea of a university was
defeated by the arguments of Rufus Choate and others, on the ground
of its “narrow utilitarianism.” The subject of organization was brought
up again and again before any conclusion as to the disposal of the be-
quest could be made. The present plan was finally wrought out of
many, through a compromise, Mr. Choate breaking down all opposition
in favor of universities by his masterly oratory.


An organization was finally effected, and the funds made subject to the control of a board of regents. The institution is placed under the control of a board consisting of the President of the United States and his cabinet, the Commissioner of Patents, and a board of regents, comprising the Vice-President of the United States, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, three members appointed from the Senate, three from the House, and six other persons not members of Congress, two of whom must be residents of Washington.” This represents the present organization, slight changes having been made from the original plan.

Professor Benry, in the Secretary's first annual report, submitted a programme of organization of the Smithsonian Institution, which was adopted by the board of regents December 13, 1847, and has since become the settled policy of the institution, with the exception of slight changes by resolutions adopted in 1855. The programme provided for a museum, a library, and a gallery of art, with a building to contain them.

From the will of Smithson the following outline was deduced as a plan of organization: To increase knowledge: It is proposed (1) to stimulate men of talent to make original researches by offering suitable rewards for memoirs containing new truths; and (2) to appropriate annually a portion of the income for particular researches under the direction of suitable persons.

To diffuse knowledge: It is proposed (1) to publish a series of periodical reports on the progress of the different branches of knowledge; and (2) to publish occasionally separate treatises on subjects of general interest.

* In his first inaugural message John Quincy Adams recommended an appropriation by Congress for the establishment of an astronomical observatory. The proposition was received with ridicule.

*Report for 1885, 4.

These main propositions were further analyzed and specified. The secretary is now made responsible to Congress, and reports directly to that body rather than to the board of regents.


It is through this institution that the Government has performed its chief service to the cause of universal knowledge. The National Museum is at present under the direction of the regents of the Smithsonian. The nucleus was formed in 1846, under the title of the “National Cabinet of Curiosities,” the specimens being stored at that time in the Patent Office building. Eleven years after the specimens were placed under the charge of the Smithsonian Institution; their custody was accepted by the regents on the condition that sufficient yearly appropriations should be made by Congress for their proper care. Since then materials have increased rapidly from year to year, and have been collected chiefly from the following sources." (1) “Natural history and, anthropological collections accumulated since 1850 by the efforts of the officers and correspondents of the SmithSonian Institution. (2) “The collection of the Wilkes exploring expedition, the Perry expedition to Japan, and other naval expeditions. (3) “Collections of the scientific officers of the Pacific Railroad Survey, the Mexican Boundary Survey, and the surveys carried on by the Engineer Corps of the Army. (4) “The collections of the United States Geological Surveys, under the directions of the United States geologists, Hayden, King, and Powell. (5) “The collections of the United States Fish Commission. (6) “Gifts by foreign governments to the Museum, or to the President and other public officers of the United States, who are forbidden by law to retain such gifts in their private possession. (7) “The collections made by the United States to illustrate the animal and mineral resources, the fisheries, and the ethnology of the native races of the country, on the occasion of the International Exhibition in 1876, and the fishery collections displayed by the United States in the International Exposition, at Berlin in 1880, and at London in 1883. (8) “The collections given by foreign governments of the several foreign nations, thirty in number, which participated in the exhibition at Philadelphia. (9) “The industrial collections given by numerous manufacturing and commercial houses of Europe and America, at the time of the Philadelphia exposition and subsequently. (10) “The material received in exchanges for duplicate specimens from the museums of Europe and America at the time of the Philadelphia exhibition and subsequently.”

* Report for 1885, II, 4 et seq. Report of Dr. Goode.

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