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Boston, 26th January, 1857.



DEAR SIR, — By a general law of the Commonwealth, passed in 1851, any city or town in the State was authorized to establish and maintain a public library, and to provide suitable rooms therefor, and to appropriate a certain amount of money for that purpose.

About the time of the passage of this act, a commencement was made of a Public Library in this city. The books collected, by donation and purchase, to the amount of about two thousand volumes, were deposited in a small room in the City Hall, but no definite plan for the permanent foundation and endowment of the institution was adopted. Among the projects considered was the assignment for the use of the Library of a suite of apartments in a spacious building, proposed to be erected for all the public bodies of the city. Another plan contemplated the union of the City Library with the Athenæum. In the meantime, the basement floor of the School House in Mason Street, was allotted for the temporary accommodation of the institution.

The munificent donation of Mr. Bates, in 1852 gave a powerful and efficient impulse to the enterprise, and the resolution was now formed by the City government, to proceed with vigor. Application was made to the Legislature for

enlarged powers, and an act was passed on the 12th of March, 1853, authorizing the City of Boston to found and maintain a Public Library, and to make appropriations for that purpose, provided the sum should not exceed one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, within four years from the 1st of January, 1853, nor the sum of ten thousand dollars in any one year after that date.

It was well understood at the time, as it has been ever since, that this authorized expenditure of $150,000 within four years, was designed for the purchase of books, and to defray the expense of management, and not for a building, which had not at that time been determined upon, and which would have absorbed the whole appropriation.

The City government, however, decided wisely that all the plans for accommodating the Library in any other building than one exclusively appropriated to it, were inexpedient, and it was determined to erect one exclusively for that purpose.

In carrying this decision into effect, delays arose, in consequence of the difficulty of fixing upon the spot for the new building, and other causes. About two years were lost in this way, during which active measures for the formation and increase of the Library were suspended. There was accordingly no occasion to take full advantage of the authority granted by the act of 12th March, 1853, to expend annually, for four years, the fourth part of $150,000. The entire appropriations for the four years have been but $38,000, of which $15,000 were appropriated for the current financial year.

It was anticipated that the greater part of this sum of $150,000 would be required for the purchase of books, at the commencement of the undertaking. But the renewed act of munificence on the part of Mr. Bates, and the liberality of the late honored and lamented Mr. Lawrence, of Mr. Jonathan Phillips, and other friends of the institution, have made it unnecessary to resort to the City Treasury for a very large expenditure on account # books; and $112,000 of the sum


authorized remains unappropriated, and is not likely at any time to be called for.

In the meantime, however, the authority to appropriate any sum beyond $10,000 annually, expired on the 1st of January of the present year. That sum will not at present suffice for the necessary calls of the institution. Considerable extra expense will be required the present year, to receive and prepare for the new building the large donation of books so generously made by Mr. Bates, and in preparing a catalogue of the whole collection. For these and other demands, the Trustees look with confidence to the continued liberality of the city government, amply sustained as it has been in this respect by public opinion.

Inasmuch, however, as the act of the 12th March, 1853, limits the authorized annual expenditure to $10,000, it becomes necessary to apply to the Legislature for an amendment. Experience alone can teach what amount will be required to carry on the Library, and to sustain its character as a first class institution, honorable to the city, and forming the completion of that system of Public Education of which Boston is so justly proud. More will be wanted in some years, and less in others; and the Trustees are of opinion that the better course will be to petition the Legislature to remove the limitation, and leave it to the discretion of the City Council to appropriate such sums, from time to time, for the support of the Public Library, as they deem expedient. The experience of the past may be confidently referred to, to show that there will be no danger that such an enlargement of the authority of the city government to appropriate money for this purpose will lead to an improvident exercise of it; it having been already shown that of $150,000 authorized for the first four years, $38,000 only have been used.

All which is respectfully submitted, on behalf of the Trustees, by


President of the Board.


In Board of Aldermen, Jan. 26, 1857.

The foregoing communication having been read, Alderman Frost submitted the following order :

ORDERED, That His Honor the Mayor be requested to petition the General Court now in session, for the repeal of so much of the act of the twelfth of March, 1853, as limits to ten thousand dollars the annual appropriations authorized to be made by the City of Boston, to maintain a Public Library

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