Letter from THOMAS WILLIAM SILLOWAY to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated April 7, 1858.
Mr. Marsh. I returned to M. the morning after I left you. The
doct remains the same, as he was,-- entirely confident that is the
all. I have entered my protest against his using the old and burnt stones that he
has [...] up, and proposes to use also, the lower segm[...] of the columns. He does
not reply, but I think he will not use them. They are poor
things,--fit only for ballast, or for things to condemn. Those who know best of
matters relating to the work invaribly unite in disapproving his course of
operation. There is hardly a man with whom he has yet dealt that does not condemn
his acts. I think I do not at all misstate the case when I say that
contractor without exception has had trouble with him. I have talked with nearly
every one. The invariable story is, He does not know what he is doing. The common
talk of the place is, that he ought not to be in the position he is. I write you
this that you may know who and what we are dealing with, you will of course consider such reports as confidential, if however they are confirmed to you by others, you will act from time to time accordingly I have been to the shop with the men and as best I could posted them up for the future, all is liable to be reversed at any time, and confusion reign. I took such grounds against the circular plinths to the column bases, that they will in time get made square. He treated the matter lightly when I spoke of it but has since signified to the master carpenter a desire to have them amended. Other things that were bad I have taken steps to remedy. I am in hopes that in a short time I shall be in a proper situation to see that the work is done as it should be. this is to be brought about I know not. He is entirely stubborn, and self opinionated, and having power he injudiciously uses it. I have had two good conversations with Mr. Merrill. He is with us. He says no man in the State would he confide in sooner than in you &
as soon as the court is over, (next week) he will aid you as best he can. He does not hesitate to talk as unqualifiedly as do you, and is anxious to have you see to it that no botching is done at the Capitol. He will not think for a moment that the commissioners are without power. He says a report amp;c. is not a completion of service nor a surrender. He is pretty firm in his opinion. However that may be you must in the end decide. I have conversed freely with Mr. Jewett and Mr. Colamer. They are . They had a few weeks ago decided to pay into the treasury $10,000 Powers is after them for it. They partialy agreed to let him have it but fearing things to come refuse to pay it. He is anxious to get it. It may be he fears that gales of it may be, and in time of calm, is preparing for storm. The troubles with workmen amp;c. have intimated to him that "sic transit gloria mundi" My place just now is anything but desirable. The universal advice is to hold on, and not be alarmed. That I shall try and do. Last night we had a long talk (the doct & myself) but his idea is that alone supreme. The Doct need not talk of a need of money and hence
must delay the work. He can get credit for all his materials, copper, lead, amp;c. amp;c. for one year. He has in the shape of credit and funds what is as good as $50,000 now. Tomorrow I go to Woodstock and shall converse freely with Mr. Williams and Mr. Porter. The latter Mr. Collamer says can manage Tom better that any man in the state. I shall not hesitate to inform them of our real condition as see it. Mr. C. says that the Gov. will not dare side with Tom, but as he wishes to again be in office considering how thing will , if he is but properly advised, will side with us. I hope to go to B. on Friday that I may enjoy a little quietness, for a week, the wretched state of affairs about the work has deprived me of anything like peace. Mr. Collamer will go to Burlington to confer with you tomorrow, Thursday. That is the now. In regard to the Statue I have not as yet dared to let him have the specification. He has intimated his intention of getting the carpenter to build it up of planks and sending it to B. to have it carved. As soon as I get to B. I will write out the document and send it to you. If (the statue) gets into the hands of the philistines I tremble for its fate. We cannot amend it. I long for my proper position in this work . He the superintendent. He asks what I shall do if he employs another architect. I say "remain as I am, ready to work, and to protest against attempts at abortion" The shop is hired by , and so are the men. The material is his and I only trespass if I direct, but still I am disposed to hold on and if possible see that no great harm is done. I can be about at the building in . All I want is to have my place which is superintendent of Construction. Then he may do the rest.
Please write me soon at Boston
Yours truly T. W. Silloway
References in this letter:
Dr. Thomas E. Powers, (1808-1876), of Woodstock, Vermont, was appointed by Governor Fletcher to be the Superintendent of Construction of the 1858-1860 project, to build a new State House in Montpelier to rebuild the structure burned in 1857. He and the architect, Thomas W. Silloway, were soon at loggerheads over their roles in the project. Powers became State Senator in 1861.
F. F. Merrill was a Montpelier lawyer who represented Silloway in his proceedings against Superintendent Powers.
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.
George W. Collamer, (1803-1865) held several positions in Vermont state government.
Norman Williams, (1791-1868) was a State Senator in 1854 and 1855 before he was named by Governor Fletcher, to the committee which oversaw the construction of the new State House in Montpelier, to replace the building destroyed by fire in 1857.
John Porter, (1798-1886), of Hartford, Vermont, was State Senator for the years 1842 and 1843, a probate judge for the district of Hartford for the years of 1850-1886, as well as serving as a commission to oversee the reconstruction of the State House in Montpelier.
Governor Ryland Fletcher, (1799-1885), was born in Cavendish, Vermont. He was the first distinctly Republican Governor of the state of Vermont, and was active in the anti-slavery movement. On January 6, 1857, during his administration, the State House in Montpelier was destroyed by fire, and he appointed a committee to oversee the reconstruction.
Thomas W. Silloway, (1828-1910), was only thirty years old in 1857 when he was chosen architect for the new State House in Montpelier. Silloway was from Massachusetts, and had worked in the office of Ammi B. Young, the architect who designed the previous building. Silloway and Dr. Powers, the superintendent of construction for the 1857 job, had worked together to design and build a new courthouse in Woodstock, Vermont, that burned in 1854.