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REPORT Of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, with the documents
accompanying the same.
To the Honorable the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Wisconsin:
The undersigned, commissioner of public buildings, respectfully submits his annual report: and in so doing, would beg the indulgence of the assembly, while he presents in detail all his doings, correspondence, and whatever has come to his knowledge in relation to the public buildings.
It will be remembered that the last assembly, just previous to its adjournment, passed two bills; one to extend the time on Mr. Baxter's contract until the next November, and the other to authorize him to draw the one thousand seven hundred and fiftv-eight dollars in the treasury upon his bonds. Thus the legislature supposed when it adjourned, that all necessary facilities for finishing the capitol were provided. These bills were vetoed by the governor, posterior to the adjournment; and the intended arrangement with Mr. Baxter was thereby frustrated.
A day or two after the adjournment, the governor requested of your commissioner to call at his office and assist him in making estimates and forming a plan for enclosing the capitol square.During our intercourse upon that subject, he took occasion to explain to me the position he had assumed in relation to the powers and duties of the old board of building commissioners, and referred me to the law of congress making the second appropriation, and which he thought confided the expenditure of the appropriation directly and exclusively to the old board of commissioners, and remarked lhat he, having resigned the office of commissioner, I
might, if I chose, consider myself elected to supply the vacancy. After a carefnl examination of the act referred to, your commissioner came to the conclusion, that if congress intended to specify the identical men who should have exclusive authority to expend the money, congress alone could supply any vacancy which might occur; and that if congress intended to confide the expenditure to the commissioners appointed under the act of the assembly, and their successors under that act, it would preclude the idea that either of the old commissioners were still in office.
The governor further remarked, that the old steam'mill was yielding no profit to the territory, and that I had better take possession of it and set it running for my own benefit; that that, and the fence around the capitol square, together with my office as commissioner, would afford me a handsome business, and warrant my spending the year at Madison. I inquired whether the mill belonged to the territory? He replied that he believed Mr. Morrison had some claim upon it as security in some way; but thought he might easily be induced to relinquish his claim, whatever it might be. Your commissioner, however, could not see that running the mill lay very directly in the line of his duty; which, together with a variety of other considerations, induced him not to meddle with the steam mill.
In regard to the bills referred to, the governor remarked that Mr. Baxter had been over paid already for the work which he had done, and that his only motive in withholding his signature from those bills was, that Mr. Baxter might get no further advantage of the territory; and in case Mr. Baxter should do nothing more to the building, that there might be the means on hand for finishing the building by a new contract; but expressed an entire willingness that the money should be paid to Mr. Baxter, should he go on with the work; but if he did not, he thought Mr. Morrison might be induced to do it. Your commissioner could not withhold his assent, that it was highly proper that the money should be so far withheld from the contractor as to secure the territory against loss in the winding up of the contract; and this was the only thing about which the governor appeared at the time to be solicitous.
In the mean time, I called on the former commissioner (Mr. Prestiss) for the copy of the contract with Mr. Baxter, and such other papers in his possession as properly belonged to the office; and although this request has been several times repeated, he has never delivered to me a paper of any description; but has refused to do so until his official bond shall be canceled. It did not, however, appear probable that he held any papers of sufficient importance to remunerate for the trouble of obtaining thern by a legal process. About the same time, I had frequent conversations with the contractor; from which I learned that he was expecting a considerable allowance for extra work, which he expected would be offset against work specified in his contract; but could learn nothing definite in regard to his intentions of finishing the capitol.
On the 23d of February, your commissioner took formal possession of the capitol, and addressed the following letter to Mr. Baxter, who was then absent: [See document marked A.]
In due time the following reply was received: [Doc. B.]
On the 10th of March, I addressed the attorney general as follows: [Doc. D.]
On the 9th of April, I arrived at Madison, and not finding Mr. Baxter, I remained about a week; but as he did not arrive, and not having heard from the attorney general, I renewed to him my request for legal advice, and left Madison; after addressing the following letter to the treasurer, who was then at Mineral Point: [Doc. E.]
To this, I received no reply, but a verbal one, when I was next at Madison: that the work to which I alluded ought to be done; but could not get him to say that he would furnish the means for doing it.
About the last of April, I received the following note from Mr. Baxter, to which I replied: [Doc's F. & G.]
Meanwhile a reply was received from the attorney general, stating in substance that he could give me no definite advice, without seeing a copy of Mr. Baxter's contract.
On my return to Madison in May, I found Mr. Baxter, who showed me his contract; from which it appeared that very considerable items of work absolutely necessary io be done, had been omitted in the contract. Much, however, which the contractor claimed as extra work, your commissioner was of opinion was fair,