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Title: Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated May 6, 1854.


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton, 1823-1887


  • Marsh, George Perkins, 1801-1882

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Extent: 1 letter

Genre(s): letter


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Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated May 6, 1854., Original located at the University of Vermont's Special Collections in the George Perkins Marsh Collection, filed by date., (accessed December 12, 2017)


Transcribed by : John Thomas, Ralph H. Orth and Ellen Thomson

TEI mark-up by : James P. Tranowski andEllen Thomson

Published by: University of Vermont. All rights reserved.

Publication Information

Washington May 6' 1854

My Dear Mr. Marsh

I acknowledge with humblest penitence the receipt of the third letter from you this day (the last of April 10) without a single line in reply. My excuse must be that, hoping from day to day that the vexed question of Smithsonian operation and policies would be speedily settled, I desired to write you in full on the subject. The business has however dragged on week after week until the present time, and nothing yet done. The committee on the compromise has had but two meetings on the subject.

I do not know how far you may be posted up on this business, but the affair is now in an exceedingly complicated condition. The committee about two months ago called upon Prof. Jewett and myself to communicate what we might have to say, in writing through the Secretary. I made a brief statement and sent it in. Prof. Jewett however drew up an elaborate memorial, involving a discussion of all the points at issue, and covering some 60 pp. of manuscript. This was sent in on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, a meeting of the committee was to be held. The chairman (Mr. Pearce) however on Wednesday morning notified the committee that a communication had been received from Prof. Jewett of so extraordinary a character as to require a reference to Prof. Henry for answer, and accordingly postponed the meeting until this should be received. Six weeks elapsed without action when a call for a meeting was signed by Messrs. Meacham, Stuart and English, and held a week ago. (April 29). The committee apologised for and excused its delay, but promised faithfully to report next Saturday, May 13. Mr. Choate came on on Saturday night, of April 29, too late for the meeting: but will possibly be back next Saturday. How the matter will turn out, "Quien Sabe" as we Mexicans say. Much will doubtless depend on Mr. Choates presence.

Prof. Jewett and Prof. Henry are in a condition of apparently irreconcileable warfare: the connexion -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- of one or the other with the Institution will probably cease after the final settlement. My relations with Prof. H. are quite pleasant, although we have occasional clouds. I do not think he has treated me justly or kindly on all occasions, though I acknowledge many obligations. I have found it a difficult matter to avoid improper entanglement with one side or other. I agree and disagree with both. I have the active operations as so termed by Prof. Henry much at heart, such as publications exchanges &, while I want as much support to Museum as possible, and a sufficient Library. On all these point however I will write more fully again, after more can be said.

My Natural History operations are expanding prodigiously. You would be astonished to see the hosts of things pouring in, from the Pacific Rail Road explorations & private enterprise. With the very limited sums allowed by Prof. Henry, I am somewhat like the Magicians apprentice who knew the word to cause the broom to bring buckets of water, but could not stop it, and cutting the mop into many pieces only called into action so many buckets. I want to shew all these things to you, and more too, and do so long to have you and dear Mrs. M. back again. When are you coming.

Many thanks for your confidence in my rectitude in any matters at issue, especially in the A. affair. This is not as bad as you infer, and our relationship is perfectly friendly, at least on my part, and as far as I know, on his. How much I shall have to tell and talk about in reference to a thousand and one matters, on your return. Your wishes respecting the note to Gilliss shall be observed, I will carry it to him this afternoon. He has been very busy during the meeting of the American Scientific Association, which adjourned last Wednesday after a session of eight days. He was Local Secretary, and discharged the duties admirably. He read several interesting and valuable papers,--extracts from his report.

Dont descend from the high horse of science as you threaten. Your learned letter was a -------------------------------- Page -------------------------------- feast of good things. When a man [ms torn] in him, should he be selfish in refusing [ms torn] out for the benefit of weaker minds. We can [ms. torn] by striving for what is beyond us; otherwise [ms. torn] go round in a circle. Why dont you prepare a paper for the next meeting of the Scientific Association on the bicipitous saints. The Smithsonian would publish; as the substantiation of the fact would greatly increase knowledge.

Nothing more of the Crystal Palace plan, but it is said to be maturing. I have heard nothing lately. The Mall is healthy enough for its location there. Washington has improved much in its sanitary conditions.

My dear Polly has not been at all well this winter. She has had a kind of intermittent cough or bronchitis for several months. She is I hope much better of it now. I sent her to New York last Friday afternoon where she will spend a week or two, and then return. I will however send bushels of love on her account, as I keep it in large quantity, ready for use.

I cannot write more now, as the dinner bell is ringing and I must attend to what Lucy calls the "Joyful Sound." Write soon again and in your next do give a poor starving mortal a crumb of comfort by telling him when you will be back in America. With warmest love to Mrs. Marsh as well as yourself I remain

Ever yours

Spencer F Baird note:Hon. Geo. P. MarshRome.

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