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Letter from Secretary Joseph Henry to B. Blanco
Dec. 17, 1850

Smithsonian Institution
December 17 1850

B. Blanco Eq


Your letter of the 14th inst has been received and in answer I reply as follows:

I disclaim all intention of discourteousness in my communication to you, and do not deem it necessary to make any inquiry in reference to your character or standing.

The Smithsonian Institution though founded by the bequest of an individual is frequently considered a national establishment, and is accordingly charged for services rendered at a very high rate. Your letter of Novr 29th presents us with a bill of $192.50 for freight and charges on three images from Central America. We had previously received two similar images from near the same place, on which the whole charge was about $15. Surprised at the amount of the bill transmitted by you we wrote to Mr Squier and in reply received a letter of which the following is an extract:

"This charge cannot astonish you more than it does me. I placed the idols in Realjo free of charge (costing me some $40 -- to get them there,) and left instructions with Dr Brown, an American gentleman to have them forwarded, whenever he could at a low rate. Upon the arrival of the Brewster, he wrote me, saying that the vessel was going home in half ballast or with only a partial cargo, and that her captain would take them at a mere nominal charge. The next day I received information that they had been shipped. I of course heard no more of them until the arrival of the vessel here when Mr. Blanco's clerk inquired of me where they should be sent, and I instructed him to forward them to Washington. I made no inquiries at the time, supposing that the whole charge on them, under the circumstances would not exceed $30 -$35."

From this statement we think we are justified in designating the charge ($192.50) an enormous one, though we do not intend to assert by this, that you are responsible for it, and we are surprised that you have seen fit to consider the remark as applied to the small charges made by yourself. We are willing to pay a reasonable sum for the transportation of the articles which have no commercial value, but under the circumstances of the case should we pay the bill as rendered we would be liable to the charge of an improper expenditure of money left for a benevolent purpose.

We endorse the bill of lading as you request

and remain respectfully

Your Obedient Servant

Signed Joseph Henry

Secretary S.I.

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