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as I could not give him any encouragement that it would be accepted, unless done as I proposed.
Early in September, I received the following letter from Mr. Baxter: [Doc. L.]
To which I replied as before, that I had no confidence in the method he proposed of fixing the dome; adding that I would be at Madison in a few days. · About the same time I received a letter from governor Doty, to which I replied. [See documents M. &.N.]
The lead in the meantime arrived in Milwaukee; and having made arrangements to have it forwarded to Madison by the first opportunity, I set out for that place on the 20th of September. On reaching Madison I found that the lead had not arrived, that there was no one at work upon the capitol, and that but little had been done towards finishing it. Mr. Baxter complained that he could not keep men in his employ; that pay them as promptly as he would, they were ever and anon decoyed from his service by the promise of higher wages, or by representations that their employer was unable or unwilling to pay them as he agreed. I called on several young men who had been at work at the capitol, to ascertain the cause of their leaving. The general complaint was, that they were afraid Mr. Baxter would not pay them. They all admitted that Mr. Baxter had paid them honorabiy, but it had been représented to them, that Mr. Baxter was a bankrupt—that he had put his property out of his hands; and that if they worked for him they would lose their wages. One young man, who had been in Mr. Baxter's employ for a considerable time, remarked to me this: “No man can work for Mr. Baxter upon that capitol, without being insulted and abused by certain men in this town.”
Gov. Doty had all the while expressed a wish that I should turn off Mr. Baxter, and take the funds in the treasury and procure others to finish the capitol. Having refused however to suffer the money to be paid to Mr. Baxter for doing the work, except upon the discharge of the suits, your commissioner could not anticipate that he would be willing it should be paid to any one else upon better conditions, (except it might be to Mr. Bird, or Mr. Morrison,) but believed that it was only an expedient for decoying him into liabilities, from which he could not extricate himself without discharging the suits; but Mr. Baxter not being likely to finish the job during the fall, your commissioner determined to pursue the course insisted on by the governor; so' far at least, as to employ hands to finish the building, and deduct the expense from Mr. Baxter's contract price.
Mechanics were readily found who were willing to do the work immediately, if they could be sure my drafts on the territory would be paid. The Messrs. Van Bergens, whom I had solicited to go 10 work on the building, went to governor Daty and inquired whether the drafts of the commissioner, under those circumstances, would be paid. He replied that they would not—that he was determined the d d scoundrels should not have that money to squander; and if they (the Van Bergens) did not want to lose their labor, that they had better not go to work either for the commissioner or the contractor-that Mr. Baxter was bankrupt, &c., and endeavored to persuade them by all means not to go to work upon the capitol. This explained the whole difficulty about workmen; and your commissioner was forced to the conclusion, that the Executive of the Territory had descended to the despicable expedient of tampering with the workmen, for the sole purpose of defeating the contractor in his endeavors to finish the capitol. The governor remarked to Wm. Van Bergen, that if the commissioner would call on him, an arrangement could easily be made whereby the capitol might be finished without further delay. I immediately called on the governor at his office and requested an interview. He agreed to meet me in half an hour, at the South-East Corner of the Capitol Square. His excellency was punctual to the time and place; where I stated my plan, and he his, which was this:
1st. The suits must be discharged as he had proposed;
2d. The work done by Mr. Baxter must be estimated, and he discharged.
I told him that I could never discharge thuse suits as he had proposed, without further authority from the legislature. Then, said he, "you can never command a dollar of that money." I remarked that the territory would never be forced into submission by any such means, and that if he thought he could sustain himself in so high-handed a measure, he was welcome to try it. He replied, that they were using every means against him, and they must ex
pect that he would employ such means as were in his power against them, and clearly intimated that he was determined that that money should never escape his hands again till the suits were discharged.
Thus your commissioner was thrown back upon the old resource, Mr. Baxter or nothing; and after encouraging him to do all in his power, and addressing the following letter to Governor Doty, left Madison. (Doc. O.)
It may be worthy of remark, however, in justice to the Governor and Treasurer, that they suggested the propriety of finishing the Capitol by private subscription, and generously offered to bear their proportion of the expense.
The lead having reached Madison, your commissioner returned and secured the dome, so far as it could be without re-tinning.
The contractor claimed that the former commissioner had directed that the columns should be put up plain, without fluting. Believing this to be contrary to the original plan and specifications, and not adapted to the general style of the building, I directed that the columns should be fluted, and set up on the full attic base. The contractor also claims that the general style of finish is more expensive than his contract calls for, and claims an extra allowance on that account, as well as for incidental work not distinctly stated in his contract.
Your commissioner is, however, of the opinion that the style is no better, and many of the incidental jobs no more than would have been anticipated and estiinated for by an experienced workman; and that the Territory ought not to suffer in consequence of the ignorance of a contractor who undertakes business which he knows nothing about.
Still it must be confessed that there is an unpardonable degree of looseness about the contract with Mr. Baxter. There is nothing specified to be done in the court room but its ordinary finish as a room No columns to support the Representatives' Hall above it—no Judge's desk; and nothing said about the two cornices in the dome. This is the more unfortunate, as, in the judgment of your commissioner, the appropriation of seven thousand dollars, made by the legislature, was amply sufficient for finishing the building entire and in good style,
That part of the roof put on by Mr. Morrison, comprising the whole of the main roof, is worth just nothing, minus the expense of striking off the shingles and preparing it for new ones. There is scarcely a sound shingle in the whole roof. They were so shaky that many of them which were once a foot wide, now lie upon the roof in splints which will scarcely average an inch in width; and multitudes of them, more than I ever saw in any other lot, are what we call bastard shingles, and never consider them worth laying. Consequently, the roof cannot shelter the building, in any tolerable degree, for more than a year or two longer,
The dome, as before intimated, can never be permanently tight till it is re-tinned in a proper manner. It has been iwice tinned already, but to no purpose, when a trifling addition to the expense at either time would have prevented the possibility of a leakage.
Such is the misery and folly of letting contracts of this kind to men who are totally ignorant of the art of building. They cannot know what materials they want, or whether they are good or bad when they get them. They will give directions to their work. men, when they are neither capable of giving directions i hemselves, or of understanding those given by a workman; and the invariable consequence of such quackery is, the mutual dissatisfaction and injury of the parties.
If your commissioner may be permitted to go behind his commission, he would express his conviction that Mr. Baxter ought never to have had the contract. The bid of Messrs. Hart & Jackson, of Green Bay, was below that of Mr. Baxter, and their known character for workmanship and business energy, entitled them to the contract by a preference of one thousand dollars, at leas!, over Mr. Baxter.
Had the contract been let to these gentlemen, they would doubtless have done it up before the Governor could have had time to repudiate the bonds, and a deal of trouble and expense would have been avoided.
The Territorial suits are not yet disposed of. Previous to the April tern of the court in Walworth county, the counsel for the Territory, at the solicitation of the defendant's counsel, consented to a continuance of the suits upon their agreeing to a preemptory trial at the fall term. At the October term the cases were reach
ed, and after a series of lengthy arguments, the suit against Morrison was withdrawn, on account of a seriolis defect in the decla. ration, and costs fell upon the Territory. In the suit against Doty and his sureties, the declaration was also found to be defective, and could only be amended by the Territory paying the cost What these costs amounted to I have not ascertained, having left court before the decisions were made. I have written to the clerk of the court requesting a statement of the costs, to be forwarded to one of the presiding officers of the legislature. Whether the counsel for the Territory commenced anew against Mr. Morrison, your commissioner has not been informed. No question has as yet been decided which at all militates against the right of the Territory to recover heavy judgments against the defendants.
These judgments, however, can never be reached, while the court is confined to one week only at a session. One half of the week is necessarily occupied with real business, and it is the easiest matter in the world for the lawyers to spout away the other half without getting at a trial; and if it would not be interfering with an Executive prerogative, your commissioner would respectfully recommend that the legislature should take the matter in hand, and assign to the court in Walworth county at least three weeks to a session, which would probably worry their wind and bring them to a trial.
Your commissioner would, in conclusion, respectfully suggest the propriety of some action on the part of your honorable body in relation to the discrepancies existing between Mr. Baxter's contract and the proceedings under that contract, and the existing laws in relation to the capitol, and especially that the meaning and extent of the contract be defined and the question of extra work disposed of. Respectfully submitted,
JOHN Y. SMITH,
Com. of Public Buildings.
Madison, Feb. 23, 1841. Dear Sir:-I have taken possession of the capitol at this place, and left it in charge of the librarian, with directions to allow you