The Papers of Joseph Henry


My dear H

I have been very busy all day in the affairs of the Smithsonian. Governor Cass[B] was this day appointed to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of Judge Pennebacker.[1] I called this[C] evening to pay my respects to the new Regent and to induct him into my views. He was however not at home and I am to call again tomorrow morning. All things at present look pretty fair for the Smithsonian but I cannot say how matters will go the only thing in the way is the great building. I am to dine tomorrow with Mr Ingersol of Phild Mr Joseph Ingersol who takes a lively interest in my plans[2] and will advocate them to the extent of his abilities in the house and am to meet at[D] his table Mr Rush one of the Regents whom I have not yet seen.[3] Mr Ingersol has agreed to induct Mr Rush into my views previous to our meeting.[4] Bache has been quite sick to day and yesterday; confined to his room with ↑a↓ severe toothache. He had two teeth extracted this evening and is now better. This is a wonderful place for bustle the city is full of strangers—the Hotels are overflowing—among the crowd I caught sight of an old acquaintance whom I have not seen before for 20 years or nearly that time. I allude to George Clinton[E] son of Governor Clinton.[5] I saw him ↑but↓ for a moment and did not speak to him.
I have just been interrupted by by Mr Owen who has called to show me the plan of the building as cut down by Young Renwick it is certainly beautiful but will cost in its present state 202 thousand dollars. I hope however to see the wings cut off and then it will probably cost 150 thousand. Among the articles of Smithson in the patent office is a bronse medal of himself which I propose to have engraved as the embellishment of the transactions. I do not recollect to have informed you that there is a large case of articles which constitute the Personal Effects of Smithson— His knives forks spoons plate &c.[6] If the Regents do not go beyond 150 thousand in the building the Institution will get along very well with the remainder of the surplus of interest.[7]
This has been a very disagreeable drizzly day almost every person is complaining of colds—I have not got entirely rid of my cough but it is better than it was when I left Phild I am quite snugly situated in a very cheerful and comfortable room and were you and our little ones with me I should be quite happy. I fear however you would scarsly enjoy yourself away from Louisa and Stephen at this time.
I shall expect a letter from you by the mail of tomorrow. I hoped to receive one to night but was disappointed. I do not recollect to have mentioned that among the members of the House I find William Campbell[8] the nephew of Dr Campbell[9] the biographer of Mrs[F] Dr Grant[10][G] he is quite attentive and polite to me on account of his old uncle. I wish I could look in[H] upon you this evening an see that you are all well—that I could cover Hellen and see that Mary & Will.[I] are well tucked in. I must however be content with doing this in magination. Kiss the children for me and receive the assurance that I am and always shall be during life only yours.
PP Tell Will. that I expect now that I am away that he will take charge of the affairs of the family as much as possible and that he will be very industrious in the prosecution of his studies every month at this period of his life is of great value to him if properly improved. He must now lay in a store of learning which may serve to make him a man of importance in future life. He will soon be grown up and I hope he will realize the wishes of his father and mother inregard to him. Mary I have no doubt will endeavour to add to the happiness of her mother by doing in all cases what is right and proper and in helping to take charge of the little one[11] who is about to be deprived of her[J] mother and to experience a loss which ↑she↓ will never be able fully to realize. Helen and Carry will also I am sure be good children and continue to be as they have ever been a source of happiness and comfort to their parents.
I hope Sam[12] is attentive and steady— He must not be allowed to be out at nights now that I am away. I would say more but that my paper is full love to Grandmother[13] Stephen Louisa and Charlotte.[14]
Family Correspondence, Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives.
    [1] Lewis Cass (1782–1866), former governor of Michigan, secretary of war, and minister to France, in 1844 was elected to the Senate. He was appointed a Smithsonian regent in place of Isaac Samuels Pennybacker (Henry Papers, 6:470), senator from Virginia, who died on January 12, 1847. Under section 3 of the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution, any vacancy created by the death or resignation of a regent who was a member of Congress was to be filled in the same manner as a vacancy in a congressional committee, namely, by election of the whole House or Senate or by appointment of the presiding officer. Acting in his capacity as president of the Senate, Vice-President George M. Dallas appointed Cass a regent. He served a single term. DAB; Goode, Smithsonian, p. 85; Rhees, Documents (1901), pp. 430, 436–437.
    [2] Remarks which Ingersoll made in April 1846 during the House debates over the Smithson bequest indicate why he may have been receptive to Henry's plans. He firmly believed that the bequest should not be used to establish a great national library in Washington, but rather, in keeping with Smithson's intent, to "cover general ground, in which all objects of science (if possible) should be included." (At the same time, he also shared Robert Dale Owen's hope that at least part of the bequest might be used for a normal school and a lecture series.) Rhees, Documents (1901), pp. 352–353 (quotation on p. 353).
    [3] Richard Rush, former attorney general, secretary of state, minister to England, and secretary of the treasury, had, as a special commissioner, secured the Smithson bequest for the United States. He missed the regents' meetings of December 21 and 23, 1846, the first which Henry attended as Smithsonian secretary. Henry Papers, 6:470; Rhees, Journals, pp. 18, 19.
    [4] In 1838, asked to give his opinion on the application of Smithson's bequest, Rush had suggested that it be used to sponsor lectures on government and law; that the Smithsonian should have its own press; and that it should publish international scientific communications. By 1844, however, he had shifted his views, urging that the bequest be used to revitalize the National Institute for the Promotion of Science; along that line, he supported the candidacy of Francis Markoe, Jr. (Henry Papers, 6:482n), the institute's corresponding secretary, for the Smithsonian secretaryship. Rhees, Documents (1879), pp. 849–856; Rush, "Smithson Bequest," Third Bulletin of the Proceedings of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, Washington, D.C., February, 1842, to February, 1845; Also, Proceedings of the Meeting of April, 1844 (Washington, 1845), pp. 455–460; Henry Papers, 6:482–485, 551–552, 554.
    [5] George W. Clinton, the son of former New York governor DeWitt Clinton (Henry Papers, 1:9n), in 1826 had accompanied Henry on a boating tour of the recently opened Erie Canal. Henry Papers, 1:74n.
[6] Some of Smithson's personal effects—including papers and manuscripts, clothing, several boxes of kitchenware and crockery, mineral collections, and philosophical apparatus—had been turned over to Rush, who shipped them to New York in 1838. They remained at the New York Customs House until 1841, when they were transferred to the National Institute in Washington at its request. With the exception of the clothing, which was donated to an orphan asylum, Smithson's effects were displayed with the National Institute's collections in the "National Gallery" of the Patent Office Building until they were moved to the Smithsonian Building in 1858. Although the 1865 fire in the building destroyed much of the collection, some manuscripts and books escaped the fire and survive today in the James Smithson Collection in the Smithsonian Archives and in the Special Collections Department of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
The bronze medallion to which Henry referred
Bronze medallion of James Smithson. National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
became the source for the institution's official seal, as well as for an engraving of Smithson "to be printed on the title page of the books published by the Smithsonian,"
Title page of the first volume of Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge (1848).
and is in the National Numismatic Collection of the National Museum of American History.
William J. Rhees, James Smithson and His Bequest, 1880, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 21 (Washington, 1881), pp. 13–17; Smithsonian Report for 1865, pp. 16–17; Rhees, Journals, p. 462 (quotation).
    [7] The act had authorized the regents to spend up to $242,129—the accrued simple interest on the fund—on the building. Any amount not spent on construction could be applied to other Smithsonian activities.
    [8] William W. Campbell (1806–1881), a lawyer who graduated from Union College, in 1844 was elected to a single term as a representative from New York. DAB; BDAC.
    [9] William Campbell (d. 1844), a New York surgeon, state government official, and regent of the state university, had been a long-time acquaintance of Henry's. Henry Papers, 1:100n.
    [10] Judith S. Lathrop Campbell, William Campbell's adopted daughter, was the second wife of Asahel Grant (Henry Papers, 3:50n), a physician and missionary. Henry referred to William W. Campbell's biography, A Memoir of Mrs. Judith S. Grant, Late Missionary to Persia (New York, 1844).
    [11] Presumably Charlotte Meads Alexander, the youngest daughter of Stephen and Louisa Alexander. Henry Papers, 5:377n.
    [12] Sam Parker, Henry's domestic worker and former laboratory assistant. Henry Papers, 4:452.
    [13] Maria Alexander, Henry's mother-in-law. Henry Papers, 1:230n.
    [14] Charlotte Meads, Louisa Alexander's sister. Henry Papers, 2:15n.
    [A] From internal evidence.
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    [I] Altered from will
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