Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

lawns, and statuary. One may go far in Europe and America and not find so attractive and desirable a quarter.

In concluding this chapter it is proper to state that Governor Shepherd's methods in effecting these improvements were sharply criticised, particularly by the assessed property owners. At length, in Feb. ruary, 1874, on the petition of certain tax-payers of Washington, a joint select committee was appointed by Congress, with Senator Alison as Chairman, to inquire whether unlawful contracts had been made for public improvements, and unlawful taxes and assessments laid, with other and cognate matters. The committee held many sessions, took voluminous testimony, filling two large volumes of Congressional reports, and reported June 16, 1874, in effect that the Board of Public Works had done in two years what should have required several years; that the Board adopted an erroneous and in its results vicious method of letting contracts; that it had expended a sum greatly in excess of the amount authorized by law; and concluded by recommending the abrogation of the territorial form of government, and the adoption of a government by a commission with welldefined and restricted powers instead.

Governor Shepherd had been heard by the committee. He denied that he had connived at any dishonesty in the letting of contracts, although he admitted that mistakes might have been made, as was but natural considering the magnitude of the work and the difficulties of the position. He admitted that more money had been spent than was authorized ; but urged that it would have been impossible to carry out a comprehensive plan of improvement with the money provided, and he boldly told the committee that as the city received no taxes from the government buildings, although they comprised a large portion of the taxable property, and as those buildings had been greatly benefited by the improvements, he considered it but just that the government should assume the liabilities incurred above the amount authorized.

[graphic]

PART II.

THE MODERN CITY

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

IN modern Washington the science and art of government is almost the only pursuit. There is very little commerce or manufacture.

Here are situated the Capitol, the seat of legislative and judicial power; the White House, the centre of executive authority; the Departments, with their bureaus and offices, constituting ganglia of nerves whose influence extends to the farthest corners of the nation.

The Capitol is the Mecca of most visitors. The best approach to it is from the Treasury by way of Pennsylvania Avenue, which gives a fine view of the structure through the mile-long vista of that noble thoroughfare.

Few public buildings have the advantage of so open and commanding a situation, and of so noble an approach. There, surmounting its grassy terraces in the midst of beautiful gardens rises the noble edifice, beautiful in its outlines, massive and grand in its proportions,— dome, statue, column, pilaster, capital, niche, pediment, cornice, entablature, balustrade, contributing each its quota to the harmony and proportion of the whole. The dome is the most conspicuous and beautiful feature. As a work of art it is unsur.

« ZurückWeiter »