Columbian Institute

Title

Columbian Institute

Description

The Columbian Institute was a Washington organization dedicated to the promotion of the arts and sciences for the benefit of the nation. In 1820, two years after their official charter was approved by Congress, the Institute was granted five acres of land on the Mall to create a botanic garden, just west of the Capitol grounds. The plans to follow the garden with a museum and library, described in this article, were never realized. The botanic garden was abandoned by the late 1830s as the organization slowly dissolved.

Source

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC).

Date

6/1/1820

Coverage

Text

By a late act of Congress a portion of the public grounds, not exceeding five acres, was granted for the use of the Columbian Institute, to be located under the direction of the President of the United States. On this grant I am informed that the Institute contemplate the establishment of a Botanic Garden, and, when their funds will authorize the important undertaking, the erection of a building for a National Museum and Library. At this establishment visitors, whether excited by curiosity or the desire of instruction, will be enabled to examine the various mineral and vegetable productions of this and other countries; and, in short, every thing connected with natural history, botany, and the arts. An opportunity is now offered for the display of that liberality for which the citizens of this District are so eminently conspicuous; and, as this laudable undertaking has for its object important national benefits, it is presumable that the patriotic citizens of our common country will likewise co-operate with the members of the Institute in completing their design. 

By the act of incorporation, passed the 20th of April 1818, donations and bequests may be received, and applied to the use of the Institute. A small portion of the liberality of my fellow-citizens, properly applied, would enable the Institute not only to embellish the Metropolis, but to promote one of the great objects of the association - that of "collecting, cultivating, and distributing the various vegetable productions of this and other countries, whether ornamental, medicinal, or esculent, or for the promotion of the arts and manufactures."*

The Botanic Garden will likewise afford a delightful retreat, where citizens and visitors may inhale the fragrant breeze, and contemplate the beauties of the creation.

Great additions have been made to botany by the instruct of the moderns, and the discovery of islands and continents. Most of the delicious fruits and fragrant flowers, with the various shrubs and trees, which adorn the European gardens, are from foreign climates. 

Public botanic gardens were first planted in Italy, in the 16th century. To Sir Hans Sloane the British nation are indebted for the establishment of a magnificent museum of natural history, and for a valuable legacy to the botanic garden, which was first planted in the suburbs of London, in 1673, and the first in the island of Great Britain. 

Public collections and museums, systematically arranged, are the proper schools to study natural history, and to make lasting impressions on the memory. In these may be seen animals the most gigantic and minute, from the mammoth to the diminutive insects which almost eludes microscopic vision. In these also we may behold the variegated plumage of the feathered tribe, collected from various climes, and preserved in perfection. 

Centuries have passed away since establishments were first formed for the promotion of the arts and sciences. Among the most celebrated were the Royal Society of London, established by charter , in the year 1663, by Charles 2d, and L'Academie Royale de Sciences of France in 1666. Each was supported by voluntary contributions. In 1670, the Academia Naturae Curiosoram was instituted in Germany. In 1699, under Louis 14th, the patron of arts and sciences, the French Academy was new modelled and improved, and machines was defrayed from the public treasury. In 1711, a Royal Literary Academy was instituted at Berlin, under the direction of Leibnitz; and in 1725, a Literary Academy was established by Peter the Great, at Petersburgh, who alotted a magnificent house and liberal pensions to the Academicians. In 1739 and 1746, the monarchs of Sweden and Denmark each incorporated Literary Societies; and of a more modern date have been established at the French National Institute and the Royal Institution of London; last, though not least in my estimation, are the various literary establishments of our own country, which claim the pen of an able eulogist. 

In these great public establishments the sciences of natural philosophy, including mechanics, pneumatics, hydraulics, hydrostatics, and astronomy; of mathematics, of anatomy, and physiology, chemistry, botany, natural history, obstetric, surgery, and the practice of medicine, have received an immense supply of new experimental facts and observations; and by the application of science, agriculture and manufactures have been benefitted.

Though the Columbian Institute cannot boast of wealth, or the patronage of the government, except in the use of five acres of land; yet I trust it is not destined to a premature decay; on the contrary, I hope that its name will never be erased from the list of American institutions. It may at present, like most of the establishments of our country, whilst in their infantile state, receive "light and science from the East;" but the day, I hope, is not far distant, when it will reflect them in a compound ratio.

It is true, that the energies of its members have been paralized for the want of funds to carry their design into full effect. Nil desperae dum should be their motto. Industry and perseverance will yet overcome difficulties, and establish the character of the association. 

The President of the United States, ever desirous of promoting and fostering those establishments of our country which have a tendency to increase the prosperity and happiness of the people, has been pleased to assign a portion of the "Mall," near the Capitol, for the use of the Institute, where the progress of the Botanic Garden, Museum, &c. may be witnessed, and I indulge the pleasing hope that the establishment will flourish, and attract the attention of the scientific members of the National Legislature.

A Friend to the Institute.

*Should any patron of science feel disposed to aid the Institute by a bequest, its legal title is "The Columbian Institute for the promotion of Arts and Sciences"

P.S. "The corporation are authorized and empowered to take and receive any sum or sums of money, or any goods, chattels, or effects, of any kind or nature whatsoever, which shall or may hereafter be given, granted, or bequeathed, unto the said corporation, by any person, or persons, bodies politic or corporate, capable of making such gift or bequest." - Act of Congress.

Original Format

newspaper article

Description

The Columbian Institute was a Washington organization dedicated to the promotion of the arts and sciences for the benefit of the nation. In 1820, two years after their official charter was approved by Congress, the Institute was granted five acres of land on the Mall to create a botanic garden, just west of the Capitol grounds. The plans to follow the garden with a museum and library, described in this article, were never realized. The botanic garden was abandoned by the late 1830s as the organization slowly dissolved.

Date

6/1/1820

Coverage

1800-1829

Source

Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC).