I WONDER how many of the family have ever visited the city of Washington, the capital of our Union. Those who have not will be interested in a description of some of the public buildings, which are situated there, and those who have seen these buildings may be glad to have their minds refreshed in regard to them.

We can speak particularly of only one of them this time, though we cannot pass the Capitol, with its halls where assemble three or four hundred senators and representatives, without quite a sacrifice of feeling; for what American youth has not felt an ambition to secure a seat among these distinguished statesmen when he becomes a man?

But we hope the family boys are ambitious to secure a higher place than any that can be conferred upon them in this world, and one which cannot be taken from them,—a place in the kingdom of heaven.

Then there is the Patent Office, with its hundreds and thousands of miniature models of labor-saving machines.  No doubt a description of many of these would be interesting to the boys; for we doubt if ever there was a boy who did not have an idea of making a patent something sometime.

But we will let the boys examine these for themselves if they, ever have the good fortune to visit the Patent Office, While we proceed to the description of another institution which will be fully as interesting if not more instructive.

In the heart of the city, and entered from the open street, are fifty-two acres of ground laid out with all the skill of which the landscape gardener is capable, and planted with more than one thousand and four hundred different varieties of native shade trees. Wandering through these grounds, and listening to the songs of wild birds in the branches of the trees which are found in his native state, one almost fancies himself strolling through the woodlot of his father's farm instead of being in the heart of a great city.

In the middle of these grounds is a large public building, which, in the style of its architecture, is different from any other public building in Washington. It is built of reddish brown stone, and is in striking contrast with the marble walls of the other public structures of the national capital.

This building contains a library, a gallery of art, lecture rooms, etc.  Beside this building is another, larger in size, but not so strongly built.

The latter contains the national museum, which is noted for the extent and variety of its collections.

These buildings, together with the grounds, constitute the Smithsonian Institute. But what is the design of this institution, and how came it to be founded? I will tell you. James Smithson, an Englishman who had devoted his entire life to the study of science, at his death bestowed upon the United States his entire fortune, amounting to $519,169, for the purpose of founding at Washington an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.

This was to be known as the "Smithsonian Institute." The terms of this bequest were made known to Congress in 1835, and three years later the amount was deposited with the government, where it remained on interest at six per cent till 1846, when it was finally decided how the money should be used. In the meantime the interest had amounted to $242,129, -And it was thought that by extending the work over a series of years, it might be done with this interest money, thus leaving the original fund as a perpetual deposit.

Acting upon this plan, the grounds were purchased and improved, and buildings constructed, the entire cost being about $325,000.

The managers were thus enabled to save about $140,090 of the accrued interest. This was added to the original fund, which thus amounted to $655,000. The annual income from this amount is about $40,000, which is used in carrying out the plan of its founder.

The control of the institution is left to a board of regents composed of twenty-two members, among whom are the president of the United States and his cabinet, the chief justice of the United States, and other distinguished men. It is the duty of this board to make reports to Congress of the program and workings of the institution; but the real manager is its executive officer, the secretary of the institution. Prof. Joseph Henry, of Princeton College, N. J., was selected to fill this office, and on the 21st of December, 1846, he entered upon its duties, which he continued to discharge until his death in May, 1878.  Prof. Henry was known no less for his kind and pleasant manner than for his great learning, for there was hardly a child in Washington who did not know him. He has so wisely carried out the design of the founder that under his management the institution has attained a high degree of perfection. Space will not permit a description of the plan upon which the institution is conducted, and we will close by giving the rule adopted by Prof. Henry soon after entering upon the duties of his office. It is this: "This institution will do nothing which can be equally well done by any other similar one."