On Thursday, the 17th inst, the House of Representatives, in Committee of the Whole, while considering the House Bill, making appropriations for the civil and diplomatic expenses of government for the year ending June, 1854, an attempt was made to insert a clause in the bill whereby the Secretary of Int;rior could construe it to take possession ot the east wing of the Patent Office, and thus divert it from its legitimate object, a movement against which we have always spoken on every proper occasion. The present attempt met with a signal and well merited defeat, and resulted in an amendment made to the bill, which is prohibitory of the Patent Office being used by the Secretary of the Interior, until directed so to do by law. The question came up in this way :— The last clause of the section, providing for the expenses of the Department ol the Interior, was then read as follows:— Contingent expenses of said building, viz.: For labot,fuel, lights, and incidental expenses, two thousand two hundred dollais Mr. Houston said, t move to strike out the word said, and insert in lieu thereof the words east wing of the Patent Office. Mr. Stanton asked ot Mr. Houston, the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, what was the meaning of the amendment. He was aaswered. The proposition is, that as the Secretary of the Interior will occupy the east wing of the Patent Office, and the proposition is that the fund shall be applied to that purpose. Mr. Stanton stated that he knew of no law that allowed the Secretary to enter and take possession of the building. Mr. Cartter, of Ohio, Chairman of the Committee on Patents offered the following amendment. Provided, That neither the office of the Secretary of the Interior, nor any bureau thereof, other than the Patent Office, shall be located in the Patent Office Building until di rected by law. Mr. Houston asked the Chair if this amendment to his amendment was now in order. The Cha rman, Mr. Orr, decided that it was not. Mr. Cartter said :— I appeal from that decision. This is an insidious attempt to divert the Patent Office Building from the purpose for which it was designed. I ask for the reading of my amendment. The Clerk read the amendment. The Chairman, The Chairman decide. that that amendment is not in order. From that decision the gentleman from Ohio appeals. The question id, shall the decision oi the Chair stand as the judgment of the Committee? Mr. Sweetser. Upon that question I demand tellers. Tellers were ordered, and Messrs. Polk and Hart were appointed. The question was then taken, and the tellers leported—ayes 39, noes 83. So the decision of the Char was overruled, and the amendment, to the amendment was decided to be in order. Mr. Cartter. I wish simply to remark, without detaining the committee, that m sole object is to preserve the Patent Office Building, to answer the necessities of this self-sustaining Department until Congress shall by law say that tuey shall not have it That is the whole object of the amendment The question was then taken on the amendment to the amendment, and on a division there were—ayes 74, noes 48. So the amendment to the amendment was agreed to. Last year an attempt was made to get law passed for the Secretary of the Interior to have the east wing of the Patent Office ; it was defeated, and here comes up a second attempt, and an insidious one, as stated by Mr Cartter to obtain it again. The movement exhibited a remarkable want of political sagacity. Messrs. Stanton, ot Kentucky, and Mr. Cartter, were the principal defenders of the rights of inventors. Messrs. Stephens and Jones were the advocates of Mr. Houstons amendment. We believe that both Mr. Stephens, of Georgia, and Mr. Jones, of Tennessee would have spoken otherwise than they did if they had understood the question in all its details. They no doubt thought they were in the right upon the information which they had received respecting the Patent Office. The following are a tew of Mr. Cartters remarks :— The gentleman says that the object of the amendment is to make sense of the clause. No sir, it is to plaster the Department of the Interior upon the Patent Office Building, and that is a kind of sense that I do not want made of it. Now, let me say a word or two in reference to the precise attitude of the Patent Office to the Government. In the first place, it is a Congressional office—an office created for a specific purpose, maintained by its own funds, and accountable directly to this body with the co-ordinate branch of the Legislature. To whom are the reports of the Patent Office made ? They are made here and to this body directly. How is the machinery of the Patent Office maintained It is maintained out of the funds contributed to it by the artisans who take out patents—a peculiarity that the inventors and mechanics seek to maintain for it. How are the appointments made? They are made directly by the President. But, sir, in reference to the capacity of this building. My colleague says that this build-ing is sufficiently large lor the accommodation of both of these Departments. Now, there are something like one hundred and fiity clerks in the Department of the Interior.— Stow them away in the Patent Office, and there will not be room for a solitary Ex-atnirer. But my colleague says that the building is abundantly sufficient, or that it beg surplus room. Why sir, is my colleague aware that the damp from the wslls of that building is to-day moulding away the models of patents granted to the genius of this country ? On the 21st inst. the House took up this Bill to act o;: the amend merits reported from the Committee of the Whole, and the amend ment offered by Mr. Cartter was carried by a vote of 104 to 69. We understand that the Secretary of the Interior gave an order two weeks ago for the Commissioner, S. H. Hodges, to vacate the two new rooms now occupied by him; this amendment to the House Bill, keeps him out of the Patent Office. We have intelligence from Washington stating that the new government will retain the new building of the Patent Office, lor its legitimate purpose, and that the new Comrris-ioner of Patents will have a higher salaiy, aud an independence of the Secretary ol the Interior. If the Democrats carry out this -ensible and just policy, they will retain and make many friends. We hope they will do o for the promotion and advancement of science and art.
This article was originally published with the title "The Patent Office Safe" in Scientific American 8, 25, 195 (March 1853)