Imágenes de páginas





FEBRUARY 27th, the Senate having under consideration a joint resolution from the House of Representatives, authorizing a contract with William H. Powell for a picture at the Capitol, not to exceed twentyfive thousand dollars in amount, Mr. Sumner said:

[ocr errors]

R. PRESIDENT,I am sorry that my friend from Vermont [Mr. COLLAMER] feels obliged to press this proposition. I do not like to vote against it. Still more, I am reluctant to speak against it. But, satisfied as I am, after careful reflection, that it ought not to pass, I shall express briefly the grounds of my opposition. When it was called up the other day, I ventured to say that I did not think this the time for us to enter upon the patronage of art. Of course such patronage is beautiful and most tempting. It may seem ungracious to arrest it; but I submit confidently, that at this moment, with the national debt accumulating at the rate of millions a day, with brave soldiers still unpaid, with a drain upon our resources at every point, it is not advisable to enter upon the patronage of art, beautiful and most tempting as it is.

There is much to be done to complete the National Capitol in all its parts. Let the work proceed, until

the sublime structure stands forth worthy in everything of the destinies it enshrines. But I think we may hesitate at this time to enter upon any ornamentation not essential to the work. If you order one costly picture, you will be called to order another; and where will this expenditure stop? Better wait for the days of peace, soon to come, I trust, when your means will be greater, and you will approach the question in a calmer mood.

Thus far I have said nothing of the artist. But the vote proposed selects one artist for especial honor, and leaves all others unnoticed. It is like a vote of thanks to an officer in the army or navy. Are the merits of this artist so peculiar and commanding that he should be taken and all others left? I doubt. At least, I know that there are other artists in the country who deserve well of those who assume the patronage of art. Are you ready, in this off-hand way, without inquiry, without even hearing their names, to discriminate against them all? I put these questions in no spirit of criticism, and certainly in no unkindness to the artist, for whom, let me say, I have a sincere regard. There is already one picture by him in the Capitol. A second would be more than enough.

Then, again, are you sure that the subject selected at the present time would be such as a maturer and more chastened taste could approve? This is a period of war. We are all under its influence. But I doubt if it be desirable to keep before us any picture of war, especially of a war with fellow-citizens. There are moral triumphs to which art may better lend its charms. I need only refer to the Proclamation of Emancipation, which belongs to the great events of history.

I send to the Chair an amendment, to come in at the end of the resolution:

"Provided, That in the National Capitol, dedicated to the National Union, there shall be no picture of a victory in battle with our own fellow-citizens."

In the debate that ensued, Mr. Wilson, of Massachusetts, said: "I rise more especially to say that I disagree with my colleague altogether in the proposition that no work of art shall grace the Capitol of this country that represents anything of the present war of a military or naval character. I do not believe in that doctrine." Mr. Howe, of Wisconsin, said: "If there were any one proposition which could make the original resolution more distasteful to me than it is in itself, it would be the proviso moved by the Senator from Massachusetts."

February 28th, the amendment of Mr. Sumner was rejected without a division.

Mr. Sumner then offered another:-

"Provided, That no contract shall be made, until after a competition among the artists of the country, all of whom shall have an opportunity of offering themselves as candidates, and of exhibiting designs for the proposed picture; and the committee shall postpone any contract with Mr. Powell, until they shall be satisfied, after such competition, that he is the most meritorious artist."

This also was lost, - Yeas 15, Nays 23, as also another amendment, to purchase of F. B. Carpenter his picture of "The Emancipation Proclamation," instead of a picture from Mr. Powell, for which there were only two votes. The resolution was then passed.

Among those who expressed sympathy with Mr. Sumner on this occasion was General Robert Anderson, who commanded at Fort Sumter. He wrote:

"I am glad to see that you, like myself, are looking forward to the time when this Rebellion shall end, and do not wish to see perpetuated, on canvas or in marble, a trace of its having existed."1

1 See, ante, Vol. VI. p. 499.



[ocr errors]

FEBRUARY 27th, the Senate had under consideration a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Act, by striking out of the clause relating to printed books the word "magazines," and by inserting after the word 'newspapers" the words "and periodical magazines," so that it would read: "On all printed books, pamphlets, reviews, and all other similar printed books, except newspapers and periodical magazines, a duty of five per cent ad valorem." In commenting on this proposition and another adopted by the House, Mr. Sherman, of Ohio, remarked: “I almost became a convert to the idea of the Senator from Massachusetts, and that it would be better to strike out the whole clause, rather than to attempt to make these discriminations and qualifications and exceptions." Mr. Sumner followed.


AM very glad to hear the Senator from Ohio say

that he had become almost a convert to the idea of removing all tax on books. He reminded me of a certain person who was "almost persuaded to be a Christian." I think it would be better for the Senator, had he become a complete convert. I am sure his influence would be better for the country.

I speak from no motive of self, and from no personal interest whatever, but from a profound conviction that for the best interests of the country there should be no tax on books. What you can extort out of this tax, in any event, is very small; and it is always a tax on

knowledge. Look at it as you will, to that complexion it comes at last. I do not think it worth while for Congress to adopt such a tax. It is the boast of our institutions that they stand upon the intelligence of the people, and it is a further boast that we supply education for all at the public cost; but books are indispensable in this benefaction. Every tax upon books, therefore, is an impediment to that education which is the pride of our country. Plainly it is inconsistent with the genius of our institutions.. The result of this tax will be petty, but, to the extent of its influence, prejudicial.

Mr. Sumner moved to strike out the whole clause. Then, in reply to Mr. Clark, of New Hampshire, he remarked :—

THE Senator from New Hampshire does not quite like to tax the Bible. Sir, I do not like to tax it. My proposition is broader than his; but he knows very well that the real signification of Bible is book.

[blocks in formation]

MR. SUMNER. I do not know about that. The Senator does plead, however, for the manufacturer of the shirt, whose shop is by the side of the bookseller; but the difference between the two cases is, as I have indicated that, if you tax the book, you tax knowledge; if you tax the shirt, you but tax one of the general manufactures of the country. The distinction may not be accepted by all; and yet to my mind it is perfectly clear. You cannot tax a book without taxing knowledge. But it is said there are books that might very well be taxed out of existence. Where run the line? How make the discrimination?

[blocks in formation]

The trouble is more


« AnteriorContinuar »