Obrázky stránek

The basement is occupied by committee and document rooms. The room of the Committee on Agriculture is particularly beautiful; the walls and ceiling are painted in fresco, by Signor Brumidi. The arched ceiling is divided into four compartments, in which are represented the four seasons: in the eastern division, Flora is scattering Spring flowers; in the southern, Ceres holds full sheaves of grain; in the western, Bacchus revels in the products of the vine; and in the northern division, Boreas is accompanied by fierce winds and rains. On the eastern wall is a fresco of the call of Cincinnatus from the plough to the dictatorship; and upon the opposite wall is a companion painting of Putnam called from the plough to the battle of Lexington.

The basement is traversed, north and south, by a corridor 241 feet broad, containing thirty monolithic fluted columns of white marble, with capitals foliated with tobacco leaves and buds, supporting a ceiling of cast-iron panels. This corridor extends the entire length of the Capitol, terminating with a door at each end of the basement story.

The Supreme Court Room. The hall occupied by the court was formerly the Senate chamber, and has been used by the court since December, 1860. It is situated upon the eastern side of the north wing of the centre building; is semicircular, 75 feet long by 45 in height to the apex of the domed ceiling, which is paneled with stuccoed mouldings. A screen of Ionic columns, of green breccia or Potomac marble, supports a gallery upon the eastern side of the hall. The bench of the judges is ranged in front of the colonnade, facing the semicircle

occupied by the bar and the lobby for spectators. Attached to the wall opposite the bench are consoles, supporting the busts of the former Chief Justices—John Jay, John Rutledge, Oliver Ellsworth, and John Marshall. The main entrance to the hall is from the corridor connecting the two houses of Congress.

The Library of Congress.-The library, when completed, will embrace the entire western projection of the centre building. It is situated on the west of the rotunda, and opens upon a portico of ten coupled columns, fronting upon the western park and the city, commanding a charming view of the Potomac dotted with white sails, and the green hills of Virginia rising gently in the distance.

The main room is 91 feet long, 34 feet wide, and 38 feet high, and is fitted up with three stories of iron cases, each nine feet six inches high. The lower story consists of alcoves nine feet wide, projecting eight feet six inches from the wall, with seven shelves, graduated in height. The second story has similar alcoves, with a projection of five feet. The wall of the third story is lined with cases without projections. The galleries are continued across the ends of the room, where they are supported by brackets. The galleries are floored with cast-iron plates, and protected by pedestals and railings, and are reached by semicircular staircases recessed in the end walls. The ceiling is of iron, skylighted with ground glass, and rests upon twenty-four massive foliated brackets of iron, weighing a ton each. The pilasters and panels are tastefully ornamented, and the whole is painted a delicate cream color. The railings are bronzed, and the points and drops


are burnished with gold leaf. The room is lighted by five windows in front, besides the skylights. The library was designed by Mr. Walter, and the castings executed by Janes, Beebe & Co.

The purchase of books for the library was commenced under the act of Congress of April 24, 1800, at the suggestion of Mr. Jefferson. That act appropriated $5,000 for the purpose, to be expended by the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives, under the direction of a joint committee of both houses. By an act of January 26, 1802, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, for the time being, were authorized to establish such regulations and restrictions in relation to the use of the library as they might deem proper; and, from time to time, to alter or amend the

By the same act, the President of the United States was authorized to appoint a librarian to take charge of the library. The collection, amounting to about 3,000 volumes, was consumed in the north wing of the Capitol when it was burned by the British, on the 24th of August, 1814.

In view of this loss, Mr. Jefferson offered his own private library to Congress, and on the 21st of October, 1814, the Committee on the Library was authorized to make the purchase, and having agreed upon the terms, on the 31st of January, 1815, an appropriation of $23,950 was made for that purpose. The books, numbering about 7,500, were transferred to the city of Washington, and placed in the Post Office building, where Congress was then sitting. The library was removed from thence, in 1818, to the Capitol, and located in a small room over the hall now occupied by the Supreme Court. Upon the com

pletion of the centre of the Capitol, in 1825, the library was removed to its present location.

On the 24th of December, 1851, the library, then num. bering 55,000 volumes, was partially destroyed by fire, which was accidentally communicated from a defective flue in the adjoining masonry ; 20,000 volumes, occupying a detached apartment, were saved, and among them, fortunately, was a large portion of the collection purchased of Mr. Jefferson.

Temporary accommodations were immediately prepared, and $10,000 appropriated for a commencement of the restoration of the books destroyed. By an act of March 19, 1852, an appropriation of $72,500 was made for the repair of the library room, and the present beautiful structure was completed and furnished, ready for occupation, on July 1, 1853. An appropriation of $75,000 was made, August 31, 1852, to meet the expense of the extraordinary purchase of books necessary to restore the library to its former state.

An annual appropriation of $5,000 is made for the purchase of miscellaneous books, and $2,000 for law books. Selections are carefully made from the best bibliographical and literary authorities, under the superintendence of the Joint Committee on the Library. The purchase of law books is directed by the judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, in accordance with an act of Congress of July 14, 1832.

The library is general in selection, but is particularly full upon politics and international and civil law. The collection now numbers 70,000 volumes, exclusive of documents,—which are kept in separate libraries of the Senate and House, and number about 80,000 volumes, including

duplicates. The classification of the books, upon the shelves and in the catalogue, is the one adopted by Jefferson, and based upon Lord Bacon's division of learning. A complete and critical catalogue is now in press and nearly ready for publication.

According to the regulations established by the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, the library is kept open every week-day during the sessions of Congress, from 9 o'clock A. M. until 3 P. M., and for the same hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays du ring the recess. The use of the library is limited, by acts of Congress, to the President of the United States, the Vice-President, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, Judges of the Supreme Court, Cabinet officers, the Diplomatic corps, the Secretary of the Senate, Clerk of the House of Representatives, and Agent of the Joint Committee on the Library.

The Law Library.—In the basement, directly under the hall of the Supreme Court, in the room formerly occupied by the court, is the Law Department of the Library of Congress, which is separated from the main library for the convenience of the court. The room is of the same dimensions as the hall above, though less in height. The massive arches rest upon Doric columns, and the semicircular wall is studded with alcoves, containing 16,000 volumes of law ; forming the choicest and most extensive collection upon the subject in America. It is particularly rich in works upon the civil, maritime, and commercial law. A complete catalogue was published in December, 1860.

The Old Hall of Representatives. The magnificent

« PředchozíPokračovat »