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The Record and Guide.
THE RECORD AND GUIDE.
191 Broadway, N. Y.
DECEMBER 16â€”38, 1883,
PRICE OF RECORD AND GUIDE,
PerAmiiun, . - - -
With Supplement, . . . .
Eecord and Guide, Single Copy,
With Supplement, . . . .
A "Gigantic Job" in Congress.
The project of building a national library in Washington has
given occasion for a conspicuous exhibition of that small and mean
spirit of dealing with public expenditures that The Record and
Guide has several times had occasion to combat.
The exhibition was made in the course of the debate in the House
and related to the site of the proposed library and its cost.
The question was between biiying a plot of ground near the capÂ¬
itol for the new library and using one of the Federal reservations
in the city at some distance from tbe capitol. There was rruch to
be said on both sides, and much was said on both sides. In favor
of buying a site it was urged that it was desirable that the library
should be near Congress, and that the spaces owned by the GovernÂ¬
ment, especially since the allotment of part of Judiciary square to
the new Pension building, were no more than was necessary for
public parks. On the other hand, it was urged that since a workÂ¬
ing library was in any case to be retained at the capital for the use
of Congress, it was by no means necessary that the new building
should adjoin the capitol, or even be very near it, and that |500,-
000, the limit allowed for the purchase of the site, was worth
These points were elaborated in the debate, with considerable
force, and it is evident from tho debate that an honest and sensible
legislator might take either side. There was no sort of occasioQ to
impugn anybody's motives. Yet Mr. Blount, of Georgia, was
impelled to say that " whenever anybody has any land to sell in
Washington, there is always some public necessity for its purchase,"
a remark which did not at all elucidate the matter in hand, but
imparted an element of vulgarity in what up to that time had been
an intelligent discussion, and shed some light upon the character
and calibre of Mr. Blount, of Georgia.
Then came the disoussiou about cost. It appears that the
original estimate of the architects had been $8,000,000, or one milÂ¬
lion less than the cost of the New York Post Office, the honesty of the
construction of which has never been questioned that we know
of. But the committee had put an enormous pressure upon the
architects, and the result was another plan, in which the same pracÂ¬
tical requirements were met, but with a solid and plain exterior,
the estimated cost of which was |4,000,000, Thereupon Mr, HolÂ¬
man, of Indiana, moved an amendment that the building should
cost only $3,000,000, and this amendment was adopted by a vote
of 133 to 70,
Let us see what this vote means. The new building is to contain
what is already a large library, which has manifestly outgrown its
present quarters, so that a great part of it is unavailable, and what
is to be an enormous library, since it is growing at a more rapid
rate, perhaps, than any other iiorary in the world. The plan must
take account of the additions which will be made to the library,
and provide for the housing of all the books the library is to conÂ¬
tain many years hence. It is to store these so that they shall be
perfectly secure against fire and dampness, so that they may be
readily accessible, and so that they may be consulted by whoever
has business with them, with all the facilities needful, and finally,
the whole disposition, inside and out, must be suitable to the
dignity of the government, one of whose most creditable possessions
this national library is to be.
The question then arises, what will all this cost? There is only
one way of answering it. Employ a competent architect, let him
take counsel of the experts whose counsel he requires as to the
needs of the library and its probable rate of increase, und make a
plan providing for these, aud then let it be ascertained how much
the execution of this plan will cost. If the country cannot afford
the building, let us go without it. If it can, let us build it.
As a matter of fact the country, as every inhabitant of it knows,
can afford whatever is necessary for such a purpose. And the
method we have outlined is the one actually pursued in this case.
We assume that the architects are competent, and the plan suitable,
and no intimation to the contrary was made in the debate. The
first plan is found by the Committee to be too costly,
and the architect prepared anpther leaving off all decorÂ¬
ation, and reducing the cost 50 per cent. And then
comes Mr. Holman, demanding that this cost shall again
be divided by two. Upon what ground ? Upon no ground whatÂ¬
ever. He does not say that the building contemplated is too large,
that it is built of too costly material, that there is any superfluous
and extravagant decoration in it. He does not pretend that any
competent persou has prepared a plan which meets the requireÂ¬
ments of the case equally well, and the execution of which will
cost less money. He simply fixes arbitrarily in his own mind upon
the sum of $3,000,000 in all, that a national library ought to cost,
and he demands that the cost shall be cut down to that.
Unhappily marble and granite and brick and labor will not
divide their cost by two to please Mr, Holman. What is to be
done? The architects have already cut down the cost of their work
one-half. Are they to cut down the size of the building below
what they think it ought to be, or to omit to make its construction
fire proof, or to build it of poor material, or to cramp i'; in any
way, in order to meet Mr. Holman's parsimonious views. Or are
they simply to pretend that it will cost less money than they know
it will cost, as Mr. Holman puts a tremendous temptation upon
them to do, so that Mr. Holman may pose as a reformer and an
economist, and then go on with the building until they have spent
the $3,000,000, and the building is half done, and give Mr. Holman
another chance to pose as a reformer and an economist, and to
denounce the extravagance and profligacy with which the conÂ¬
struction of the library has been carried on, in defiance of the
mandate of Congress.
Mr. Holman's amendments, and all measures like it, simply put a
premium upon deceit, and invite men who have public work to do
either to resume it or to pretend thatit will cost less than they
know it will cost. That is they invite everybody who has public
work to do to treat the United States of America like a spoiled child,
and deceive it for its own good.
This is a melancholy thing. It is more melancholy that 131 memÂ¬
bers of Congress voted with Mr. Holman for what one minute's
reflection would have shown them to be a senseless and solemn
sham, in order to avoid being accused of complicity in a "gigantic
job," and in order to give Mr Holman a cheap and baseless reputaÂ¬
tion as a guardian of the public money.
To this degredation has Congress been reduced by the attacks of
a free and fearless press.
The Woes of the Wealthy.
Mr, Wiiliam H, Yanderbilt has good reafon to complain, as he
did to a Tribune interviewer the other day, of the newspaper gosÂ¬
sip as to what his plans were in connection with the railroad
system of the country. Every chimerical scheme started in the
" street" is attributed either to him or to Jay Gould. Mr. VanderÂ¬
bilt says that for two years past he has practically retired from
business. Details are now left to subordinates, who are fully as
competent as he to transact ordinary business.
A well known London paper, in commenting recently on rich
men at home and abroad, points out the prominence of the great
railway magnates and capitalists in this country a3 compared with
the much more modest figure cut by wealthy people in England.
The great men over the water are the members of the royal family,
cabinet ministers, political leaders and persons of note in the
sciences and arts. With us, exceptional prominence is given to
the rich, and to them only ; and yet they are not respected, and
are often maligned without just cause. Indeed, in very few
respects is their lot a happy one ; but notwithstanding this every
American envies them their possessions. They are besieged by
beggars, forced to consider any number of absurd schemes,
"blackmailed" by politicians, belied in the newspapers, and, in
short, are subject to every annoyance which can wound the susÂ¬
ceptibilities of the average man.
Then, our leading millionaires are generally sick men, Mr. VanÂ¬
derbilt is a constant sufferer from the disease which killed his
father and his grandfather ; Jay Gould is a dyspeptic, and is afflicted
with chronic nervous prostration; James R, Keene is troubled
with liver complaint, and is in continual danger of serious perÂ¬
manent illness; Russell Sage, although always at business, is
never without a physician's prescription in liis desk. This list
could be extended, but it is enough to say that the very rich in
this country, notwithstanding the power their wealth gives them,
are not, on the whole, in as pleasant circumstances as people whose
means are more limited.
The time cannot be distant when rich men will realize, iC they
wish to be respected and saved from constant humiliation, that
they must recognize the social function of their wealth. Unless
their vast possessions and personal endeavors are used for the pubÂ¬
lic good, they will bring their owners no comfort or consideration.
It is not required of millionaires that they should give away their
money to plausible charities. The best employment of wealth is in
work that is of general public utility. Capitalists ure wise who
use their means so that it will be productive of greater.wealth, but