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and these triumphs have reached such an extent as to signalize the age in which we live. The written scrolls that alone preserved the wisdom and poetry of antiquity, the old quarries of Sicily, the fragmentary arches on the Roman campagna, the beacon towers on the hills of Spain, and even the old crones that twirl the distaff in the sun around the Bay of Naples, yet remind us of the epoch when the art of printing, the railroad, Croton pipes, the electric telegraph, and the loom, were unknown. One of the “ world's gray fathers” might be lost in admiration at the sight of the equipments and architectural beauty of a modern ship; but his sense of wonder would deepen into veneration when he beheld the self-impelling force in her hold, and the needle trembling to the pole in her compass, because of the wise advantage thus practically taken of two great natural laws; bringing a mechanical contrivance into the realm of science, and yoking the very clements into the service of man !
The career of the inventive mechanician exposes him to peculiar trials, not only of patience, but equanimity. The artist and author can privately test their works, before hazarding a public ordeal; but the public nature and great expense of the artisan's experiments render it. often indispensable to submit himself to a kind of scientific jury, and sometimes to an ignorant and curious throng; the least failure, is, therefore, attended with singular mortification. Fulton experienced an unusual share of such discouragement; he prematurely exhibited his submarine apparatus to government commissioners, including such men as Sir Joseph Banks and Laplace; while his attempted negotiations with Pitt and the agents of Napoleon, as well as with his own government, were continually baffled. From individuals and societies he, however, obtained frequent sympathy and aid; and, -while disappointed in the issue of many favorite projects, his incidental successes and the final triumph of his great design thoroughly vindicated his claims to the world.
For many years Fulton had thought, written, and acquired all possible information, with a view to the experiments which he assiduously tried on the Hudson, and one of his first conceptfons seems to have been the use of paddle-wheels. The trial trip of the Clermont, so called from Mr. Livingston's domain near Ilyde Park, is yet memorable on the shores of the noble river now covered with elegant specimens of the same craft.* The British reviews were facetiously sarcastic when Colden’s Life of Fulton appeared, chiefly on account of the enthusiastic view there taken of the effects of this invention upon the destinies of the world. Subsequent events, however, wholly justify the prophetic eulogy. The navigation of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and of the Mississippi river, by steam, is producing such changes in the course of empire and the welfare of society, that the imagination, as well as the reason, is baffled in contemplating ulterior results. It was a conviction of the extensive social benefits obtainable from mechanical science, that impelled and sustained Fulton in his career. This is evident from his written opinions, from the plans he advocated, and the arguments he invariably used, to advance his objects. His mind was comprehensive and philanthropic not less than ingenious; and it was by the inspiration of these sentiments that he achieved his triumphs. We have had countless fellow-countrymen of a mechanical turn, but no one who united
* The following letter, in reference to this event, was addressed by Fulton to Joel Barlow, Philadelphia :
“ NEW YORK, August 2, 1807. “ MY DEAR FRIEND: My steamboat voyage to Albany and back has turned out rather more favorable than I had calculated. The distance from New York to Albany is one hundred and fifty miles ; I ran it up in thirty-two hours, and down in thirty. The latter is just five miles an hour. I had a light breeze against me the whole way going and coming, so that no use was made of my sails ; and the whole voyage has been performed by the power of the engine. I overtook many sloops and schooners beating to windward, and passed them as if they had been at anchor.
“ The power of propelling boats by steam is now fully proved. The morning I left New York, there were not, perhaps, thirty thousand people in the city who believed the boat would ever move a mile an hour, or be of the least utility. And while we were putting off from the wharf, which was crowded with spectators, I heard a number of sarcastic remarks. This is the way, you know, in which some people compliment what they call philosophers and projectors.
“ Having employed much time, and money, and zeal, in accomplishing this work, it gives me, as it will give you, great pleasure to see it so fully answer my expec* tations. It will give a cheap and quick conveyance to merchandise on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, which are now laying open their treasures to the enterprise of our countrymen. And although the prospect of personal emolument has been some inducement to me, yet I feel infinitely more pleasure in reflecting with you on the immense advantage that my country will derive from the invention,''
with such a taste so genuine and earnest a public spirit. This was evinced everywhere and on all occasions. Thus, when in France, he corresponded with Carnot to persuade him to adopt the principles of free-trade; his leisure in Paris was devoted to the execution of the first panorama ever seen there, a branch of art since widely cultivated, and one to the scientific value of which Humboldt gives eloquent testimony. He wrote an urgent appeal to the citizens of Philadelphia to purchase West's pictures as the foundation of an American gallery; and, failing to enlist their aid, bought the two most characteristic of them himself, that his country might possess some evidence of her first artist's skill, and bequeathed them and his other works of art to the Academy of New York. He induced West to make designs for Barlow's ponderous epic, and had them engraved and the work published at his own expense. His avowed object in the torpedo invention, which he carried forward from one tried during the Revolution, was to annihilate war by rendering it absolutely instead of relatively destructive. His cable-cutter, plans for floating docks, and other incidental enterprises, show an indefatigable activity in the intervals of his more important scheme. He impaired his constitution by too long a fast while repairing his submarine boat, in France, after a storm; and his life was sacrificed to the imprudent zeal with which he travelled, at mid-winter, from Trenton, where his great law-suit was pending, and the exposure incurred in superintending the construction of his original steam-frigate.
Thus intent upon some great undertaking, the philosophy of which he eloquently expounded, while its practical details absorbed his active faculties, he pursued his way unbaffled by repeated failures, and undiscouraged by poverty and ridicule. Ile possessed the sublime patience of genius, maintained his cheerfulness under the failure of successive experiments, and manfully lived down the obstacles that crowded his path ; now ardently reasoning for the freedom of the seas, like a statesman, and now sketching a grotesque figure by the road-side in Holland, like a vagrant artist ; now trying his long disused pencil upon the portrait of a friend, and, again, alarming a crowd by explaining the explosive power of a submarine battery; on the waters of the Seine, in the harbor of Rotterdam, about the quays
of New York, his thin, active figure glided to and fro, as he directed some experiment, while his dark eye glowed, and his uncovered hair fluttered in the wind over his projecting brow, and some gazed on with frigid curiosity, others with a shrug of compassionate incredulity, and a few with intelligent admiration at the enthusiasm, simplicity, and confidence of genius. We are not surprised that when he received the first passage-money ever paid for a steamboat trip, in the little cabin of the Clermont, he shed tears at the tangible evidence of a public recognition of the success of his experiment, the crowning achievement of a life of study, disappointment, and irrepressible ardor. The latter quality is doubtless attributable to Fulton's Irish origin, as well as the instinctive and generous feeling which endeared him to his friends. He not only won but retained attachment, and was fortunate, even under the most adverse circumstances, in having the sympathy of men of character and talent. Franklin and West cheered his early life, and its maturity was sustained by the coöperation of Livingston, whose sister he married.
The charge made against Fulton's patriotism and honorable consistency, in regard to his offer of his submarine invention to different foreign governments, appears to have been quite gratuitous. It is evident from his writings, and the well authenticated history of his life in Europe, that his great object was to create a reputation, and perfect inventions there, with a view to return with them to his own country. At that period no aspirant, either in letters, science, or art, could fail to perceive how requisite for success in the New World was an endorsement from the Old; and the superior facilities there afforded in every branch of study, as well as the greater sympathy exten led to the original inquirer and the gifted votary, were equally obvious. · In each instance that Fulton contracted with a foreign power for aid in his torpelo experiments, and guaranteed, in case of success, the exclusive benefit of the invention, he made a special exception in favor of his native land. Thither he sent the written results of his studies; and it was with his own countrymen that he united himself in almost every useful project. Few Americans of that day were so alive to the extraordinary local aptitudes and unequalled natural advantages of this continent. It would seem as if a wise Provi
dence raised up this energetic mechanical genius at the very moment that more rapid and frequent intercommunication becarie essential, not only to the prosperity, but to the nationality of a country destined to form a new, grand, and free arena for humanity. His keen and comprehensive glance took in the immense line of sea-coast, the vast and numerous inland fakes, and the mighty rivers of states embracing every variety of climate, soil, and natural resource; and he felt, and earnestly announced the conviction, that only by an intercourse at once easy, cheap, rapid, and constant, would it be possible to render produce available, to bring the inhabitants into sympathetic relations, and to stamp unity of expression and character upon the nation. The steam-engine and the electric telegraph have wrought this miracle ; and illustrated signally in this country the truth of a statesman's assertion, that mechanical power is the vital principle of the age. This is not only evident in physical results; by creating leisure through economizing human labor, by rapidly transmitting intelligence, and multiplying the means of security, progress, and development, mechanical genius not only emancipates man from the tyranny of nature, but continually multiplies her beneficent agency in his behalf.
It is usual to consider imagination and reason in an antagonistic view; but the analysis of character and genius often reveals their mutual action and united result. To the inventive mind, in all departments of science and art, ideality is essential as the faculty which prefigures and anticipates what, if only realized by actual degrees, would scarcely sustain the courage and hope of the seeker. Hence the enthusiasm, the prophetic spirit, and the confidence of genius — founded on prescience, on the vision of the
, “ mind's eye." Thus imagination gives enlargement and foresight, and is the source of inspiring presentiment. To wholly practical and unsympathetic men, however, those endowed by nature with this ardor, faith in the unachieved, and earnestness in its pursuit, are stigmatized as visionary until crowned with the garland of success, when the loudest scoffers are usually most extravagant in their laudation. All innovators upon the ordinary belief and practice of mankind pass through this ordeal. Columbus was but a dreamer in the estimation of his countrymen until he discovered