Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to MARY CHURCHILL BAIRD, dated February 10, 1847.
My dear Mary
You know me well enough to believe me without an oath, when I assure you that it
will give me great pleasure to serve Mr Baird to the utmost of my power not only
because he is your husband, but because I am quite convinced that any influence I
may possess could not be better exerted than in aiding him to accomplish the objects
he has at heart. I apprehend no difficulty in this way on the score of merit or
qualifications but I fear he will have some nepotism to contend against. Mr Owen of Indiana, who is an active &
influential member of the Board, is
believed to be labouring for the appointment of his brother D.D. Owen, a geologist of some reputation, to some place in the institution, & I fear his influence as a member will enable him to effect this object. If the appointment is delayed till next winter, when we confidently hope to have a Whig Congress, I trust Mr Owen will be out of power, and I shall then probably be in a situation to exert much more influence than at present.
The proper course for Mr Baird to pursue is to forward his recommendations to Prof. Henry, with a letter stating his wishes,
& referring to such notices of himself in scientific works as he thinks
useful. He should also secure the influence of much of the Regents as he can, by
letter or otherwise. I will endeavour to secure him the good will of Messr Evans, Choate, & Hilliard, as well as of
secretary Mr. Jewett of Providence, if I can advance his interests in any other way I shall certainly not forget to do so --
I have lately had the pleasure of receiving two letters from your father dated respectively Dec 16 & 28' am glad to learn that he has thus far escaped all the dangers of this accursed war. May the curse fall only on the head of those who are guilty of it!
Mrs Marsh suffers much from her eyes as ever, & both she & Lucy are just now afflicted with the influenza.Mrs M was much gratified with your letter & will soon reply. Be good enough to present our kindest remembrances to your good mother, as well as to your sister of whose brief acquaintance we retain very agreeable recollections, and your husband.
I am, my dear Mrs BairdYour ancient & sincere friendGeorge P. Marsh
References in this letter:
Son of the Utopian socialist Robert Owen, Robert Dale Owen (1800-1877) served as congressman from Indiana from 1848 to 1847. He was active on the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents, leading the faction that wanted the Smithson bequest used to support a national teacher training school, that would ultimately diffuse knowlege the country.
David Dale Owen (1807-1860) was a Scottish-born American geologist who is remembered for his meticulous and accurate field geology as the leader of numerous expeditions as well as the first head of the Indiana Geological Survey.
Trained as a physicist, Joseph Henry (1797-1878) was professor of natural philosophy at Princeton University where he conducted original research on electricity and magnetism. When the Smithsonian Institution was created, he was chosen as its first Secretary. From 1846 to 1878 Henry established basic policies and defined the scope of the Smithsonian's activities.
George Evans (1797-1867) served as congressman (1829-1841) and senator (1841-1847) from Maine. He was a member of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution until he left the Senate.
Rufus Choate Choate and Marsh attended Dartmouth at the same time and remained close friends. Together they represented the faction that wanted to use James Smithson's bequest to establish a great public library. A U.S. Senator and member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Choate (1799-1859) was Charles Coffin Jewett's principal sponsor. When Jewett was forced to leave, Choate submitted his own resignation, making his objections public. In the ensuing uproar a House select committee was formed to investigate Joseph Henry's administration but Henry was ultimately exonerated
Henry Washington Hilliard (1808-1892), Representative from Alabama, served on the Smithsonian Board of Regents from 1846 through the 1850 term.
Charles Coffin Jewett (1816-1868), a distinguished librarian from Brown University, was appointed senior assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1848. He and Joseph Henry were continually in conflict over the importance of the library within the Institution's mandate and he was fired by the Board in 1855. He later became superintendent of the Boston Public Library.