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Title: Robert Fulton
Author: Sutcliffe, Alice Crary
Language: English
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                     TRUE STORIES OF GREAT AMERICANS

                              ROBERT FULTON

                             [Illustration]

                          THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                  NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS
                         ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

                        MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
                       LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
                                MELBOURNE

                    THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
                                 TORONTO



[Illustration: ROBERT FULTON.

From a miniature owned by Mrs. R. Fulton Blight.]



                              ROBERT FULTON

                                   BY
                          ALICE CRARY SUTCLIFFE

                  GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER OF ROBERT FULTON
              AUTHOR OF “ROBERT FULTON AND THE _CLERMONT_”
                 AND “THE HOMESTEAD OF A COLONIAL DAME”

                                New York
                          THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                                  1925
                          _All rights reserved_

                 PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

                            COPYRIGHT, 1915,
                        BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

        Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1915. Reprinted
                              August, 1925.

                              Norwood Press
                  J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
                         Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



PREFACE


On board the fine passenger boat, _Robert Fulton_, one of the several
queen steamers of the Hudson River Day Line, on a May morning when
the beauty of the incomparable river spread in calm perfection before
contented eyes, a great-granddaughter of Robert Fulton began to write,
for young readers, this story of the steamboat inventor’s life.

No “Hero of America” may lay more just claim to the title than Robert
Fulton, the fearless, persistent lad of Pennsylvania. His boyhood of
stern self-denial, his struggle for culture and advanced education, and
his constant industry place him in “the rank and file” of all students
who may read this book with the desire to learn his secret of success.

Fulton’s story reveals it. He solved problems locked from the knowledge
of man by a faithful use of the key of _hard work_. Born on a lonely
farm in the country, deprived in early childhood of his father’s loving
care, he earned his own living and carved his path to fame and fortune.
Therefore his progress is typical of possible similar achievements for
all young Americans who wish to render good service to their country and
to their fellow-men.

In writing the story of a man whose work for the world has won fame,
the seeker for historic fact must patiently piece together the threads
gathered from many sources to weave the fabric of connected truth.

For these facts concerning Robert Fulton’s life I have searched during a
period extending over several years. In presenting this volume I desire
to acknowledge my indebtedness to the several biographers who, during the
century since his death, have traced his eventful career: Cadwallader
D. Colden (1817); J. Franklin Reigart (1856); Thomas W. Knox (1886);
Robert H. Thurston (1891); Peyton F. Miller (1908); and, most valuable
because most recent and therefore most comprehensive, H. W. Dickinson
in “Robert Fulton, Engineer & Artist” (1913). Also am I indebted to the
Historical Societies of Chicago, New York, and Pennsylvania; the Library
of Congress; the Estate of Cornelia Livingston Crary; the Hon. Peter
T. Barlow; Messrs. Louis S. Clark, Newbold Edgar, Charles Henry Hart,
John Henry Livingston, Robert Fulton Ludlow, Mrs. Frank Semple, and
Mrs. George Montgomery, individual owners of the inventor’s original
manuscripts and letters shown at the Robert Fulton Relic Exhibit, during
the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909, gathered jointly by the New York
Historical Society and the Colonial Dames of America, of which latter
organization the writer served as chairman of the Hudson-Fulton Committee.

From this vast mass of data is the present modest volume built,—a tale
retold for the boys and girls of America, whose lives, through the
inspiration of famous men and women, may in future years provide records
of equal worth for historians.

                                                   ALICE CRARY SUTCLIFFE.

NEW YORK CITY, November 7th, 1914.



CONTENTS


                                              PAGE

                    CHAPTER I

    AN OLD-TIME FOURTH OF JULY                   1

                   CHAPTER II

    ROBERT FULTON’S BOYHOOD                     10

                   CHAPTER III

    PAINTING PORTRAITS AND MINIATURES           20

                   CHAPTER IV

    THE GIFT OF A FARM                          29

                    CHAPTER V

    STUDYING ART IN ENGLAND                     37

                   CHAPTER VI

    FROM ART TO INVENTION                       48

                   CHAPTER VII

    ACHIEVEMENTS IN PARIS                       62

                  CHAPTER VIII

    BUILDING THE FIRST SUBMARINE                73

                   CHAPTER IX

    BUILDING THE FIRST STEAMBOAT                84

                    CHAPTER X

    IN HOLLAND AND ENGLAND                     100

                   CHAPTER XI

    EXPERIMENTS WITH A SUBMARINE               107

                   CHAPTER XII

    SOME EARLY STEAMBOATS                      121

                  CHAPTER XIII

    BUILDING THE _CLERMONT_                    130

                   CHAPTER XIV

    FIRST VOYAGE OF THE _CLERMONT_             138

                   CHAPTER XV

    STEAMBOATS AND SUBMARINES                  155

                   CHAPTER XVI

    FERRY-BOATS AND RIVER-BOATS                172

                  CHAPTER XVII

    FULTON’S HOME AND FULTON’S HONORS          183



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


    ROBERT FULTON                                      _Frontispiece_

                                                         FACING PAGE

    ROBERT FULTON’S BIRTHPLACE                                     8

    THE BUILDING FORMERLY OCCUPIED BY CALEB JOHNSON’S SCHOOL      34

    THE WASHWOMAN; FULTON’S EARLIEST KNOWN DRAWING                54

    THE FULTON MEDAL                                             134

    THE WIFE AND TWO OF THE CHILDREN OF ROBERT FULTON            184



    A child of Lancaster, upon this land
        Here was he born by Conowingo’s shade;
        Along these banks our youthful Fulton strayed
        Dreaming of Art. Then Science touched his hand,
    Leading him onward, when, beneath her wand,
        Wonders appeared that never more shall fade:
        He triumphed o’er the Winds and swiftly made
        The giant, Steam, subservient to command.

    How soft the sunlight lies upon the lea
        Around his home, where boyhood days were sped!
        These checkered shadows on the fading grass
    Symbol his fortunes, as they fleeting pass:
        “He did mankind a service,”—could there be
        A tribute more ennobling to the dead!

                                             LLOYD MIFFLIN.



ROBERT FULTON



CHAPTER I

AN OLD-TIME FOURTH OF JULY


American Independence was young in 1778,—only two years old. The
patriotism awakened by the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia was active as
this second anniversary of our nation’s birth approached, and sturdy
Pennsylvanians, glad of our country’s freedom from English rule, planned
a Fourth of July celebration.

In Lancaster, less than seventy miles from Philadelphia, the wise men
of the town council foresaw waste and tumult if the young patriots
carried out the programme they had arranged. Upon the first day of July
the Council discussed the matter and passed this resolution, which they
publicly posted:

    “The Excessive Heat of the Weather, the Present Scarcity of
    Candles, and Other Considerations, Induce the Council to
    Recommend to the Inhabitants to Forbear Illuminating the City
    on Saturday Evening Next, July 4th.

                               “By Order,

                                     “TIMOTHY MATLACK, Secretary.”

We can imagine the disappointment of the Lancaster boys when they
read this notice. Angry groups around the sign-board evinced their
displeasure, and some of the bolder ones declared that they would light
their candles anyway!

But one conscientious thirteen-year-old boy tried to think of some
other method to show patriotism. As the town council forbade the use of
candles, he would not disobey their law; perhaps he could prepare a more
novel celebration in honor of the holiday.

He had some candles which he had saved for the event; now they were of no
use. He therefore took them to a brush-maker who kept powder and shot for
sale, and offered to trade them for gunpowder. The brush-maker, surprised
that the boy would part with his candles when they were so scarce, asked
his reason. The lad replied:

“Our rulers have asked the people not to illuminate their windows and
streets. All good citizens should obey law, so I have decided instead to
light the heavens with sky-rockets.”

The dealer, although amused, was glad to get the candles and promptly
gave gunpowder in exchange. Then the boy went to another store, where he
bought several large sheets of cardboard. The clerk was about to roll
the sheets for easy handling, but his customer protested:

“I wish to carry them as they are.”

The curiosity of this man also was aroused. He remembered that the lad
was said to be “always trying to invent something.” As he handed them
over he asked:

“What are you going to do with them?”

Eagerly the boy answered: “We are forbidden to light our windows with
candles. I’m going to shoot my candles through the air.”

“Tut! Tut!” exclaimed the man, laughingly. “That’s an impossibility.”

“No, sir,” the boy responded, with a flash of enthusiasm. “There is
nothing impossible.”

This is a true story, told by an old-time Lancaster historian. The
thirteen-year-old boy was Robert Fulton, who became the inventor of steam
navigation.

It is good to carry the story further in imagination. That group of
boys who gathered in the town during the twilight of Independence Day,
1778, saw a few spluttering rockets shoot skyward from the hand of a
lad determined to carry the good news of freedom to a higher horizon
than that of the home windows of Lancaster. A flash! A whirr! and the
light arose, zigzagged its message through the darkness, like fiery
handwriting in the sky, and then died away. But the fine courage and
courtesy of the boy who would not disobey a local law, although he felt a
national appeal to patriotic jubilee,—these tokens of character have not
faded. They prophesied the boy’s success in life. He foretold it in his
words, “Nothing is impossible.”

Robert Fulton’s father was one of three brothers, David, John, and
Robert. They were of Scotch origin, and came to America from Kilkenny,
Ireland, about 1730. Robert, the youngest, settled in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, where in 1759 he married Miss Mary Smith, daughter of
Joseph Smith of Oxford Township, and bought for their first home a brick
dwelling on the northeast corner of Penn Square, in the center of the
town. In this house they lived until 1764. They took an active interest
in local affairs, for Robert Fulton belonged to every organization then
formed; to be sure, there were only three, for the town was small. He
was secretary of the Union Fire Company, a charter member of the Juliana
Library, and a founder of the Presbyterian Church.

It is pleasant to think of the young couple settling their new home on
Penn Square (where not many years before the Indians had a colony), near
a spring of clear water under a giant hickory tree. It was on this very
spot that the chieftains of “Hickory Tribe,” as they termed themselves,
met to confer with William Penn, the wise and kindly Quaker.

Governor Thomas Pownall visited Lancaster in 1754 and wrote that it was
“a pretty and considerable town, increasing fast and growing rich.” So we
can be certain that when Robert Fulton’s parents established a home of
their own on Penn Square, they felt they had a bright future before them.

Two little daughters, Elizabeth and Isabella, were born to Mr. and Mrs.
Fulton while they lived in this house and were among the first children
to be christened in the new church. Mr. Fulton had a strong voice and was
chosen to “lead the psalm” in the old Court House, where services were
held until the church could be built. He sang the opening words of each
division of the psalm and the congregation joined in unison for the later
words.

In 1763 Mr. Fulton signed the charter for the town library, the third
to be established in the American colonies. Thomas and William Penn,
Esquires of the Province, drafted the papers and named the library
“Juliana” after Thomas Penn’s wife. He was a son of the famous old
William Penn, who had conferred with the Hickory Indians, and for whom
the state of Pennsylvania had been named.

The new church, the Juliana Library, and the Union Fire Company, together
with his business, kept Robert Fulton well occupied, but they yielded
friendly comradeship and varied interests. In 1765 Mr. Fulton sold
his Lancaster home and moved his family to a farm of more than three
hundred acres on Conowingo Creek, in Little Britain Township, which
he had purchased the preceding November. It lay sixty-five miles from
Philadelphia, but not many from Lancaster, so they were not far from
their friends, though they had to give up active work in the town.

The plastered stone farm-house to which the Fulton family moved is still
standing by the country cross-roads. A wide sloping roof shelters the
two-story building and overhangs a porch at the eastern end. There the
ground slopes to the valley where the Conowingo Creek, a picturesque
stream, flows on its quiet way to join the Susquehanna River. It is
a place of great beauty and may well have proved attractive to early
settlers. The low-ceiled parlors remain as they were during Mr. and Mrs.
Fulton’s occupancy, and the upper bedrooms show broad window sills of
great age. The fireplace of the old-time kitchen also is unchanged, the
sturdy crane swinging in the sooty shadows where Mrs. Fulton hung her
kettle to boil, in those distant days of pioneer life. Joseph Swift, of
Philadelphia, wrote in after years that his grandmother “well remembered
in her youth the preparations which a visit to Aunt Fulton required in
the way of baking, boiling and roasting, and in getting ready the camp
equipage which the journey through the wilderness required. It was only
less formidable than a journey across the Atlantic.”

It was in this quiet farm-house[1] that Robert Fulton, the inventor, was
born on the 14th day of November, 1765. He was the first son and there
was great rejoicing at his birth. During the cold winter days he slept by
the open fireside while his mother attended to her household tasks and
cared for the little daughters,—Peggy and Belle, as they were called,—who
toddled about the baby brother’s cradle. When the springtime threw its
mantle of green over the fresh country-side, Robert laughed and grew
strong in the clear country air.

Possibly farming did not pay, for during the succeeding year Mr. and Mrs.
Fulton mortgaged the property to Joseph Swift and two others, arranging
payments to be made during five years. When Robert Fulton finally moved
his family back to Lancaster, Joseph Swift came to live in the house, now
pleasantly shaded by a tall button-wood tree. This tree is said to have
grown from a riding-whip which Joseph Swift’s daughter, Esther, stuck
into the ground one day as she dismounted from her favorite pony.

Although the Fulton family lived but a short time upon these farm lands,
it gave a sufficient reason for a change of name in the township, for
when Little Britain was resurveyed in 1844 the section containing the
farm was entitled “Fulton Township,” in honor of the baby boy who first
saw the light under that sloping roof, on the bleak November day in 1765.

In selecting land near Conowingo Creek, the elder Robert Fulton
realized—as his son came to realize in later years—the importance of
watercourses and turnpike advantages. He continued upon the farm till
1771, when it was advertised for sale as “the place where Robert Fulton
lives.” But he died early in the autumn of 1774, and his widow, with
scanty means, took up the task of rearing their five children, for a
daughter, Mary, and a second son, Abraham Smith Fulton, had been born
since 1765.

[Illustration: ROBERT FULTON’S BIRTHPLACE, LITTLE BRITAIN,
PENNSYLVANIA.]

Robert Fulton, the older son, was then nine years old, a bright, active
boy, eager for all sorts of fun. An uncle, his father’s brother, took him
to his home for a time, but Robert was unhappy away from his mother and
returned to her. He early learned to carve his fortune from the hard rock
of adversity.

[1] In 1909, a bronze tablet, commemorative of Fulton’s birth, presented
by the Lancaster County Historical Society, was unveiled at the entrance
door, by the writer.



CHAPTER II

ROBERT FULTON’S BOYHOOD


So many anecdotes have been told about Robert Fulton’s boyhood that
they will fill a whole chapter. It is an inspiration to boys and girls,
who dream of fame through splendid future action, to realize that a
hero usually begins life by a normal childhood, striving to do well the
trivial tasks. Daily duties well done form character, and only character
creates worth.

Robert Fulton studied at home, under his parents’ teaching, until he was
eight years old. By this time the family had returned to Lancaster, and
Robert was considered old enough to attend the school kept by one Caleb
Johnson, a Quaker.

He had learned to read and write and was eager for school. We can fancy
the scene of his entrance to the class-room, his dark eyes bright with
excitement, his curls brushed to parted order, as he encountered for the
first time the austere schoolmaster, an impressive personage in that
day. He was guarded on either side by his fond elder sisters, Peggy
and Belle, but their care could not protect him later from the tutoring
birch, when Caleb Johnson discovered, as he thought, that Robert was “a
dull boy.” The younger sister, Mary,—or Polly, as she was called,—and the
baby brother, Abraham, were at home eager to hear Robert’s description of
school life.

But after all, Robert seems not to have cared very greatly for his books.
His delight lay in visiting the machine-shops of the town, where he spent
all his spare time in trying to make things he needed or wanted. One
day he explained his late arrival at school by saying that he had been
at Nicholas Miller’s shop making a lead-pencil—“the best I ever had,”
he declared. He had pounded out the lead and fitted it so neatly into
a wooden case that Caleb Johnson admitted it was indeed an excellent
pencil. Within a few days,—so eager are children to follow a leader,—all
the boys had made for themselves, with more or less success, pencils like
Robert’s.

Sometimes his plans for making things so filled his thoughts that he
dreamed over his books and was unprepared for recitation; then Caleb
Johnson, after the stern fashion of those days, called him to the desk
and bade him hold forth his hand for a whipping by the ferule. Once, when
the teacher thought him particularly idle, he struck Robert sharply over
the knuckles, saying, “There, that will make you do something!” The boy,
roused by a sense of injustice, replied with politeness yet with reproof:

“Sir, I came here to have something beaten into my brains, and not into
my knuckles.” With head held high and arms folded, he walked back to his
place, seeming even to Caleb Johnson, at the time, “a strange boy.” When
Robert’s mother called at the school to talk over her son’s progress—for
she was worried at his giving so little attention to his books—the master
replied,

“Robert says his head is so full of original ideas that there is no room
in his brain to store away the contents of dusty books.”

He was beginning to consider life’s problems and he dared to try to solve
them by ways of his own. He was never really idle, for two absorbing
interests claimed attention,—the study of machinery and the study of art.

For it was not very long before that lead-pencil, pounded with such care
at Nicholas Miller’s store, began to reveal Robert’s talent for drawing.
He sketched parts of machinery in the various shops of the village and
made himself so useful to the mechanics that they welcomed his visits.
Then, as Robert realized the beauties in nature, his black pencil seemed
to disappoint him. He could find no paints or crayons at the shops, and
it was not until a playfellow brought a box of paints to school that
Robert realized the possibility of such an aid to making pictures. He
pleaded with his friend for a share that he might try his hand at mixing
colors, so it was agreed that each boy should paint a picture on a mussel
shell. The result proved Robert so excellent an artist that his generous
schoolmate, whose talents lay in another direction, presented Robert with
the entire outfit. His delight knew no bounds, and thereafter he never
was at a loss for occupation.

Like many another famous man, it should be noted that Fulton did not
enjoy the advantages of a liberal education in his youth. Beginning
work at an early age, by the need of earning his living, he necessarily
left his desk and books before he had mastered the higher branches of
knowledge demanded by his later work. Still, he was determined to acquire
knowledge. Busy by day, he studied by night, and in time added higher
mathematics, languages, chemistry and perspective drawing to his mental
stores. In fact, Fulton was a student throughout his entire life.

To-day his spelling seems to us distinctly original and often amusing;
but let us remember that he lived in “the good old days” when that
particular art was largely a matter of inspiration, instead of being
governed, as it is to-day, by stern and unbreakable rules.

The War of the Revolution was in progress during the days of Fulton’s
boyhood, and the town of Lancaster was the scene of many important acts.

There had been many English settlers in Lancaster, so it is not
surprising that the town abounded in “Royalists,”—sympathizers with the
British Crown.

The time and place were rife with excitement. Village boys shared the
news, one with another, and followed every skirmish with active interest.

In 1775, Major John André, with other British officers on their way
to Quebec, was captured by General Montgomery and taken for safety to
Lancaster. So crowded were the barracks that André, on his word as a
gentleman, was allowed the following parole:

    “I, John André, being a prisoner in the United Colonies of
    America, do, upon the honor of a gentleman, promise that I will
    not go into or near any seaport town, nor further than six
    miles from Lancaster, without leave of the Continental Congress
    of the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania, and that I will
    carry on no political correspondence whatever on the subject of
    the dispute between Great Britain and the Colonies, so long as
    I remain a prisoner.”

A man named Caleb Cope received John André into his home and André
tutored his son, John Cope, thirteen years old, and gave him lessons in
art; for André had a decided talent for the brush and loved to depict,
from recollection, the scenes of his English home. One of these pictures,
a landscape with a church and lodge among a bower of trees, André gave to
Mr. Cope who treasured it in later years. He described André as “a gifted
and deceived, but noble-hearted and generous, man.” It is thought that
John Cope was the boy who presented the painting outfit to Robert Fulton,
so it is probable that, indirectly, Robert may have profited from Major
André’s instruction.

Because of its political importance Lancaster was the local headquarters
for supplies necessary to American troops, and rifles, blankets and
clothing were manufactured there. American soldiers patrolled the
streets and had in charge the two thousand British prisoners at one time
garrisoned there.

The boys of Lancaster, in the late afternoons, gathered to view the novel
scenes of the encampment. After a time, growing braver, they challenged
“the rebels,” as they termed the Hessian boys, with the consequence that
boyish battles began to take place between the “Tories” and the “Rebels.”
A rope, stretched across the street, defined a limit which none dared to
pass.

Robert Fulton’s imagination was lively and carried him beyond bounds.
One day he made a graphic sketch of the scene, depicting the “Rebels”
advancing beyond the line to threaten a thrashing to the “Tories.” He
showed the picture to the boys and it had the unfortunate result of
inspiring them to the very action portrayed. The town authorities,
hearing of the skirmish, feared that the boys were carrying their fun too
far and put a hasty stop to these martial games.

Through these stirring days Robert Fulton was daily learning the
excellent lessons of self-reliance and self-support. He learned, as we
all should, in school and out of school. The Continental authorities
employed certain firms to manufacture and repair arms. Guards at the
doorways of factories forbade any interruption of the important work,
which was pushed with speed, and none but employees might enter. Workmen
labored in relays, night and day; even on Sunday the sound of the hammer
and engine could be heard.

Special permit was granted to young Robert Fulton to go within the
shops, for by this time he was so good a draughtsman that his pencil
could occasionally outline a suggestion of value, and his increasing
knowledge of mechanics made him an apt pupil in the study of the tools of
warfare. At this time he commenced to draw designs for fire-arms and as
early as 1779 made himself an air-gun.

A certain druggist sold Robert several packages of quicksilver, and
these formed part of some mysterious experiments which Robert declined
to describe to his curious friends. The workmen in the gun-shop tried
in vain to compel him to explain the use to which he put the silvery,
elusive metal. So puzzled were they by his secret that they called him in
fun “Quicksilver Bob,” and by this name he was known for some time among
the workmen of the shops and among his young comrades.

Robert accompanied the gunsmiths upon their testing tours of marksmanship
on the open common, or village park; he soon learned to prove
calculations of comparative carrying distances of varying sized bore
and balls, by shooting at a mark and finding the relative distances and
forces of carrying powers.

Among the factory clerks was an intelligent youth, Christopher Gumpf,
four years older than Robert, who in 1779 became his intimate friend.
The father was an enthusiastic fisherman and accompanied the boys upon
many a fine excursion in his flatboat on Conestoga Creek. When it was not
in use he padlocked his boat to a tree, but when off on holiday trips he
would ask the boys to pole the boat to certain shady fishing-grounds.

Robert became weary of the hard work of poling the heavy boat for long
distances. During a visit of a week at his aunt’s home in Little Britain,
he planned and made a small model of a boat to be propelled by side
paddles. It was too large to carry home, so Robert placed the model in
his aunt’s attic and asked her to keep it for him. Many years after, when
Robert’s first steamboat had become famous, that model was brought down
from the attic and proudly placed in the aunt’s parlor as the most valued
treasure of the house.

When he returned to Lancaster Fulton told Christopher Gumpf about his
plan, and together they made a set of paddles, propelled by a double
crank action, to move the fishing-boat. Two lengths of timber, with a
blade at each end, were fastened at right angles to the boat: a crank at
the stern turned the blades, while a third paddle, as a rudder, revolved
on a pivot to steer the course. The invention worked well and the
delighted boys abandoned the work of poling. The paddles were removable
from the boat, and, when not in use, were hidden in thick bushes near the
water.

So it was on the Conestoga Creek, with only two witnesses who little
dreamed what the contrivance would lead to, that Robert Fulton, the
fourteen-year-old boy, began to plan a solution to the problem of
navigation.



CHAPTER III

PAINTING PORTRAITS AND MINIATURES


There comes in every boy’s life a day of great decision; it is when
school days are over, and the boy, face to face with the toiling world,
decides by which branch of industry he shall perform his share of the
world’s work to earn his living. Such a day came to Robert Fulton and he
had prepared himself for it.

His mother’s early lessons, the sterner teaching of Caleb Johnson, the
visits to the machine-shops, the constant sketching with pencil and
crayon,—all had enriched his mind for this day of the choice of vocation.
As he felt the call to a larger field of action than Lancaster afforded,
it was natural that in seeking his fortune he should turn to the nearest
big city, Philadelphia, noted as a center for the peaceful arts of the
gentle Quaker folk, its founders.

Robert Fulton was seventeen years old when he left Lancaster to take up
his abode in Philadelphia. With war at an end, the country had entered
upon the enjoyment of the welcome fruits of peace.

As we study the few facts known about Fulton during this period, it is
easy to discover several important reasons which influenced him toward
art as a career, and Philadelphia as a place of residence.

Benjamin West, a native of Chester County, Pennsylvania, was at this time
famous as a painter in London; he was a man whose success had brought
special pride to Lancaster, for he had there begun his career as portrait
painter. West’s father, an intimate friend of Robert Fulton’s father,
allowed his son, at the early age of twelve, to visit Lancaster in order
to paint the portraits of a certain Mrs. Ross and her children. He had
been so successful that orders poured in, taxing his time and strength
to fill them. Canvas could not be had, so he painted his pictures upon
smooth boards. His genius had been shown when he was very young, for at
the age of seven he sketched a correct likeness of his sister’s child
in the cradle. He had no colors to work with until a party of friendly
Indians visited his home, and Benjamin, in boyish pride, showed them his
pencil sketches. They generously gave him the colors they used to paint
their faces and ornaments, hues extracted from the juices of berries and
herbs. They also taught him to mix the paints to form new shades and
combinations. He had no brush, so he made one by taking from the tail
of a cat some furry hairs which he pulled up through a goose-quill. We
remember the adage, “A poor workman blames his tools.” A good workman can
manage to make tools from almost nothing, if he really wants to work.

The fame of Benjamin West in London was a favorite topic of conversation
in Lancaster. Robert Fulton had already been able to sell mechanical
drawings to the shops and had painted tavern-signs, as had West, for
local inns. What more natural than that Fulton, with like talent for art,
should decide to adopt portrait-painting as his profession?

Mrs. Fulton’s heart must have been very full as she bade her eldest son
goodby and saw him mount the stage-coach for the journey to Philadelphia.
He had some friends in the city, Lancaster people who had gone there for
business or other reasons, for a large city always drains the adjacent
villages of the enterprising folk who desire greater fields for action.

Robert Fulton had a cheerful and happy nature and a real talent for
making friends, so he soon added new acquaintances to his list, though he
was always particular to choose his companions wisely.

It was a brave venture for a country lad of seventeen to attempt
self-support by art in a great city, but he was eager to acquire every
kind of knowledge, and applied himself earnestly to whatsoever his hand
could find to do. He designed carriages and buildings; he made mechanical
drawings for machine-shops; he copied sketches in India ink; he painted
tavern-signs, and all the while, he studied the finer art of portrait and
miniature painting, with the hope of making this alone his profession
when time should grant him sufficient skill.

An interesting example of Fulton’s early art is a sketch in India ink of
a French landscape, showing peasant women washing linen by the side of a
stream. It is entitled “La Blanchiseuse” and signed “Robert Fulton, March
15, 1783,” so it was made during his first year in Philadelphia. Probably
it was a copy of a French engraving in the Museum where Fulton took
lessons when he could afford to employ a teacher.

At that time Charles Wilson Peale was the foremost artist in
Philadelphia, and it is thought that Fulton availed himself of his
instruction,—at any rate they were friends during later life.

In 1785 the young Lancaster student was registered in the city directory,
“Robert Fulton, Miniature Painter, Cor. of 2d. & Walnut Streets,” which
indicates that he was launched in his profession. The following year
he painted a portrait of his “Good Friend, Joseph Bringhurst,” a Quaker
patron. This portrait is labeled “Second portrait in oils”, which defines
the time when Fulton began to paint large portraits, although prior to
this date he had made many crayon portraits and miniatures.

At that time Benjamin Franklin, about to go to France as American
Ambassador, was the chief personage of Philadelphia. It was a fine
feather in Fulton’s cap when the great man showed him favor. Franklin
admired Fulton’s painstaking work and pleasant manner; it is said that
he showed him unusual attention and introduced him to prominent men
of the city. From this time Fulton’s services as a portrait painter
were steadily engaged and orders flowed in. In 1787 Benjamin Franklin
himself sat for his portrait, and this, of course, greatly helped to
set the fashion. Its astonishing adventures are thus described in the
_Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography_:

    A portrait of Ben. Franklin painted by Robert Fulton of
    steamboat celebrity. On the back of the canvas is written “R.
    Fulton, Pinxt, 1787.” The history of this rare picture is
    distinctly traceable back thirty-three or thirty-four years, at
    which time it was sold at auction for twenty-five cents. For
    thirty years it hung without frame in the sitting room of a
    Rhode Island farmer. At another time it was used as a barrel
    cover in a farmer’s garret, and still later ornamented an
    engine house. The Rev. Henry Baylies found it in a photograph
    gallery in Fall River, Massachusetts. Mr. Baylies sold it in
    1891 to C. F. Gunther, of Chicago.

Among the prominent citizens to whom Franklin introduced young Robert
Fulton was John Ross, a successful merchant, who in friendly interest
suggested that the artist should make a specialty of crayon likenesses
of the young ladies in society. To set the fashion, Mr. Ross ordered
portraits of his two daughters, Margaret and Clementina.

Mr. Ross was devoted to Clementina and when summoned to Paris on business
for the government, wished her to accompany him; but Mrs. Ross, knowing
that the ocean was infested by pirates, feared that their daughter might
fall into their hands and raised so strong an objection that Clementina
stayed at home. So Mr. Ross had her crayon portrait copied on ivory and
carried the miniature as traveling companion.

Fulton’s portrait shows Margaret Ross in fancy dress, with tall jeweled
head-gear, holding in her hand a full-blown rose.

Perhaps the daintiest bit of work ever accomplished by Fulton was an
exquisite miniature of a certain Mary West, so tiny that it is set, as a
jewel, in a finger ring. The likeness, oval in shape, is surrounded by
brilliants. According to family tradition, Fulton painted the ring that
Mary West’s brother might wear it at the Court of St. James in London.
Her father, William West, came to live in Philadelphia about 1750 and was
probably related to Benjamin West, the artist.

It is easy to see that, by reason of hard work, Fulton was already on the
highway to success. He persevered at his profession and gained not merely
money but also the esteem and confidence of his friends. Unfortunately,
constant labor began to tell upon his health and, when he was twenty
years old, a heavy cold fastened so severely upon him that he fell
ill with inflammation of the lungs, followed by symptoms of the dread
disease, consumption.

He consulted an eminent doctor, by whose advice he immediately left the
city, with a proposed ocean voyage in view for the benefit of his health.
He journeyed first by stage-coach to the famous Hot Springs of Virginia,
where it is said some of his father’s relatives had taken up land. This
change did him great good. He not only gained strength but made many new
friends. Their advice deepened his desire to go to Europe to view the art
treasures of the old world, and, with the doctor’s prescription of an
ocean voyage in mind, he began to plan to cross the Atlantic.

During his stay in Philadelphia, nearly four years, he had grown from a
country lad, eager to earn his livelihood, into a young man of ability,
whose friendship with intelligent men, coupled with his unremitting
study, had given him mental poise and an easy manner of deportment. No
longer was he awkward and shy, but ready to mingle with men and women
of culture and feel himself, as indeed he was, one of them. He had,
moreover, proved the fact that he could earn his living by art, for he
had saved a substantial “nest-egg,” as the result of his industry. With
the happy optimism of youth he looked on the bright side of life and was
eager to see the old world across the seas. It was a wise decision. His
mind was open to receive impressions and keen to recognize universal
needs, which he could later help science to provide.

One anxiety alone clouded the prospect; not his ill health,—for already
he felt stronger and was assured that he was on the way to complete
recovery,—but tender thought for his widowed mother. Up to this time he
had been able, from time to time, to send her gifts of money; now he took
counsel with his friends as to how he might best provide for her future
comfort.

A family who owns its home is free from the monthly bill of rental to a
landlord. A “roof over the head” is of prime importance to ease of mind.
Possibly Fulton’s remittances of money had been devoted to house rent;
be that as it may, he decided before he set sail for England to provide
his mother with a home of her own. She was fond of a garden, and flowers
were her delight; so he decided that a small farm, where food could be
produced for the family of growing girls and the younger brother, would
prove to be the best and wisest gift he could bestow. Our next chapter
will tell of the pleasant farm on which Fulton established his mother and
family before he set sail for the old world.



CHAPTER IV

THE GIFT OF A FARM


Did you ever hold a camera film to the light? All things are turned
about; the right side becomes the left, and the first object in view
appears to be the last, at the extreme end of the picture. So it seems
when we take a mental review of the past,—the point of contact is
reversed and we can balance accurately the lights and shadows that appear.

To the mind of Robert Fulton, about to make a venture which called for
courage,—a voyage to an unknown land,—the chief aim of his life was the
care of his mother, whom he must leave behind. The longer he thought, the
more was he convinced that better than a sum of money, which might be
lost or stolen, would be the gift of a farm-home where she could settle
down to enjoy an old age of security and peace.

We can well imagine that he cast about in his mind properly to determine
the best location for this purchase. It appears that a relative, the
Rev. Joseph Smith, had been called to the pastorate of the Presbyterian
Church in the town of Hopewell, Washington County, Pennsylvania. In order
that his mother might have the care and protection of this relative,
Robert Fulton decided to buy the new home in Hopewell. He selected a farm
of more than eighty acres on Cross Creek, a fertile spot near running
water, not unlike the farm which had been his mother’s earlier home and
his own birthplace.

The long journey through the wilderness which lay between the two
settlements had to be made by coach or wagon. It was like a fresh
start in life to Mrs. Fulton and her family, three growing daughters
and the young lad, Abraham, now about sixteen years of age. The “big
brother,” Robert, was looked upon with great admiration; his success in
Philadelphia, his friendship with the famous Franklin and other prominent
men of the country, and his tangible gift of the new home—all proofs
of his industry—must have filled the mother’s heart with gratitude and
pardonable pride, as she looked, with mingled joy and anxiety, at her
tall son battling with ill health yet resolved to conquer that and every
other obstacle to success. He must indeed have been a son and brother to
be proud of!

The new home was in Hopewell Township, one mile northeast of the present
little village of Buffalo near Pittsburgh. It was sold to “Robert
Fulton, miniature painter of Philadelphia,” for about $400.00—not a large
amount for a home, to be sure, but it was quite a sum in those days. We
know the land had been cleared, cultivated, and planted, a great help
toward its establishment as a productive farm. Upon it was a two-story
peaked-roof dwelling having a central hallway and a kitchen extension.
Chimneys at both ends provided generous hearths for winter comfort and a
tall spreading tree in front gave grateful shade through summer heat. In
an old colored print of the scene several cows are shown in the pasture
near the creek and an adjacent log cabin was probably used as a cattle
barn.

It has been stated that Robert Fulton gave the farm to his mother on his
twenty-first birthday, a generous way to prove that “it is more blessed
to give than to receive.” Most of us are looking for gifts on similar
happy occasions; it is another and a better way to celebrate them by a
gift to the mother who gave us birth. The deed is dated May 6th, and
Robert’s birthday did not occur until November 14th, but the actual
taking possession of the home may have been deferred until the latter
date.

During the month of September of the same year, Robert Fulton also
purchased for seventy-five dollars four lots in the town of Washington,
Pennsylvania, which, through the enterprise of its pioneer settler, John
Hoge, had just been surveyed and mapped into streets. Washington seemed a
promising field for investment and Mr. Hoge a man of integrity and good
judgment. Fulton had great confidence in him, and while in England sent
letters and remittances of money for his mother in Mr. Hoge’s care.

It appears that Fulton bought these four lots with the thought that they
would provide home sites for his sisters and brother when they married.
He later conveyed them to the three sisters, and in a letter to his
mother, directed that the fourth lot be sold to pay the remainder of his
indebtedness to Mr. Pollack for the purchase of the farm.

In 1786 Isabella Fulton married Peyton Cooke. In February of that year
he obtained a deed for “a lot of ground and hewed logs for a home.” At
the end of the document appear these words, “By Peyton Cooke’s direction,
this deed is made for Robert Fulton.” Probably Fulton had advanced money
for the transaction.

Some time later, Elizabeth Fulton, or Peggy as she was called in her
brother’s letters, became the wife of a Mr. Scott, who probably died in
a few years, for his wife and children made their home on the farm with
her mother, and its ownership was secured to her by Robert Fulton’s will
in 1815.

In 1790 Mary Fulton, or “Polly,” married David Morris, a nephew of
Benjamin West. Mr. Morris was a man of local prominence and his
intelligence seems to have rendered him the most companionable of Robert
Fulton’s brothers-in-law.

Abraham Smith Fulton, the only brother, is said to have opened a school
in the town of Washington. During his later life he was employed by his
brother in running an early steamboat on the Ohio River. Some time after
this, in overseeing the building of a log house, on a bluff not far from
Pittsburgh, he was instantly killed by the collapse of the structure.

[Illustration: BUILDING FORMERLY OCCUPIED BY CALEB JOHNSON’S SCHOOL,
LANCASTER, PENNSYLVANIA.]

This, in brief, is the story of the sisters and brother of Robert Fulton.
Through eighteen years’ absence in Europe his love for them remained
true; and when he made his will, in 1814, he left to each a legacy, and
relinquished all right to money which he had at different times lent them.

Mr. Morris built the home for his wife, Polly Fulton, upon the lot
adjoining Mr. Hoge’s home, given her by her brother. A letter, written by
Robert Fulton to his mother, from London, June 14th, 1790, alludes to the
happy event. It shows so clearly his unchanging love and generosity that
I quote it in full:

    DEAR MOTHER;

    I have rec’d yours of January 29th, 1790, and am happy to
    hear of the good health of the family which is the first
    consideration and nearest my heart. May Heaven continue to Shed
    that blessing on you and I shall be happy.

    I can easy conceive your garden to be the best in Washington;
    Gardening ever was your delight, besides you have a taste for
    that kind of cultivation which perhaps the people of your
    Western Country are Strangers to.

    Be assured my Ideas often hover around the little spot. I think
    I see it improved by your Industrious hand whilst the flowers
    of Spring lend their aid to beautify the scene; but chief of
    all I think I see you on a Sunday evening contemplatively
    walking on the grounds and with Silent pleasure viewing the
    labours of the week. And thus each evening Reflect with
    pleasure on the past day. So shall time pass on and pleasure
    Crown the evening of life. Here I could enter into a Chain of
    those Ideas which Crowd upon a heart sensible of the feelings
    of a fond mother and the affection due from a child, but I must
    be silent and only answer your letter.

    It has given me much pleasure that you do not wish me to
    hurry home till I complete my study. Indeed it is of so much
    importance my gaining all possible knowledge that should I now
    return I might have it to repent of ever after. And our hearing
    so frequently from each other is some reason why we should be
    more easy in the subject.

    You tell me Polly is going to be Mar(r)yed. May she be happy,
    but I will write to her on the subject.…

    As for the pictures for Polly, she should have them with
    pleasure but I do not paint anything so Small and the carryage
    of any of my paintings would be very expensive but whenever I
    conveniently can I will send you my own picture.

    I am just getting ready to go to France for 3 months and am
    afraid I shall not have time to write to Abraham but give my
    best love to him and all friends and believe me to be with
    Continued affection,

                         Your loving son,

                                                     ROBERT FULTON.

So Polly wanted some of her brother’s pictures to hang in her new home;
and the home itself was built upon one of the four lots purchased by her
generous brother.

But let us turn in thought to the young Robert Fulton bidding farewell
to his mother and family, in that autumn of 1786. It is probable that he
sailed from New York, for in a later letter he mentions friends in that
city and also in Baltimore, where he had stopped on his way to Virginia.

He was not empty-handed; he carried forty guineas in his purse and one
letter of introduction which was worth more than money, for it was from
the great Benjamin Franklin to the American artist, Benjamin West, then
at the height of his fame in London and soon to become president of the
Royal Academy.

The vessel spread its white sails and turned forth upon the ocean for the
long voyage to England; and one brave passenger, the Pennsylvania boy,
Robert Fulton, set his face forward with eager hope toward a new world.



CHAPTER V

STUDYING ART IN ENGLAND


A voyage to England in a sailing ship took time; probably six weeks at
least elapsed before Robert Fulton could discern the long gray coast line
of “Mother England.” If anxious about the new venture, or lonely for the
family he had left behind, he pushed aside all gloomy thoughts and made
ready to meet the new conditions of a strange land.

He journeyed directly to London to present to Benjamin West the important
letter of introduction which he carried from Dr. Franklin. The strong sea
air and the long rest on shipboard had benefited his health, and he was
thirsting to get to work as soon as possible.

His ease of manner and self-confidence had sufficed for the experiences
of Philadelphia, yet it is reasonable to assume that his heart beat
fast when he finally stood, letter in hand, at the imposing doorway of
Benjamin West’s fine house, for it surpassed his expectation of grandeur.
To his eyes it appeared a palace! The main house was connected by a long
art gallery with the studio, a lofty suite of rooms, filled with sketches
and designs for historical paintings; for West had specialized in this
form of art and had already been favored by royal recognition. Approval
by the king was the highest honor England could bestow, and in time West
was elected president of the Royal Academy. If young Fulton had profited
by his personal intercourse with Dr. Franklin and other men of genius
in America, we may readily believe that he gained even greater mental
stimulus from West, who, like himself, was a Pennsylvania farm-bred boy.

West and his wife gave the young American a hearty welcome and an
invitation to stay in their home until he found suitable lodgings. He
gladly accepted their kind hospitality and a strong bond of friendship
was formed between the two men which endured throughout their lives. One
of the finest portraits we have of Robert Fulton was painted by Benjamin
West.

It is said of West that his work was never a burden to him but always a
joy. He sat at his easel as though in sport, not in labor, and painted
more than a hundred portraits, in addition to large canvases depicting
historical scenes. In studying the life of any and every great man, his
industry becomes our wonder. The same number of hours—twenty-four—are
allotted to us all, yet how sadly different are the results accomplished,
how differing the totals! Hard and well directed work is always the
secret of success.

It was not long before Robert Fulton’s easel was set up in West’s studio,
and, under the tuition of the older man, the student was working with
infinite pains. West must have seemed to Fulton like a king among men,
and he endeavored to gain all possible profit from the master’s lessons.

His dear mother, on the Pennsylvania farm, must have been greatly cheered
when she received letters from over the sea. She treasured the following,
written by Fulton’s friend George Sanderson, of Baltimore. Yellow with
age, it is still carefully preserved. It begins with old-time formality.

                                        BALTIMORE, 25th July, 1788.

    MADAM;

    I am happy in informing you that I arrived here a few days
    since from London where I had the pleasure of meeting with
    your son, Robert Fulton. He was when I left him in perfect
    health & what will I believe be pleasing information to you,
    that his improvement in the liberal art of painting is almost
    incredible. Add to this his personal accomplishments & prudent
    behavior has gained him many friends & those who have ability &
    inclination to befriend him.

    Mr. West, a Gentleman who is the King’s Historical Painter &
    a Man of independent Circumstances I am happy to inform you is
    number’d among his Friends & has in consequence of your Son’s
    ingratiating address & manners, patronized him.

He further speaks of “Bob’s regret that his friends have not dropped him
a line since he arrived in England,” and offers to forward any letters
that may come enclosed to his care in Baltimore. The letter, with its
quaint phrases, gave good reason for joy in the quiet farm-house by Cross
Creek.

Although Fulton stayed for a time with Mr. and Mrs. West in their
delightful home, the burden of self-support was before him. He soon found
lodgings in the vicinity, but a “guinea a week” was too great a price for
his slender purse and he made another change; in fact, he made several
during the succeeding years, “to suit his convenience” as he terms it in
a letter to his mother, but he always arranged to reside near Mr. West.

You will notice that George Sanderson spoke of “Bob’s personal
accomplishments and _prudent behavior_.” It is well to make a special
mental note of this latter fact, for many a temptation comes to a youth
in a strange land, yet there never echoes a whisper of reproach against
Fulton’s conduct. This “prudent behavior” was a safeguard to his
character; he was merry-hearted and had many friends but all of the right
kind.

On April 14th, 1789, Fulton wrote his mother that he was in perfect
health and had good prospect of succeeding in his profession. He
confessed that “painting requires more study than I at first imagined, in
Consequence of which I will be obliged to stay longer than I expected.
But,” he adds, “all things work together for good and I am convinced my
exertions will have a good tendency.” There is brave hope in the letter
but a touch of home-sickness: “In your next letter,” he continues,
“please to give me a very particular account of everything you know,
particularly how you like the little farm,—if you have a good garden, and
what kind of neighbors you have got. And in fact I should like to know
everything that will give you pleasure or promote the happiness of the
family. There is nothing interrupts my happiness here but the desire of
seeing my relations, but time will bring us together and I hope at my
return to see you all happy as the day is long.”

It is a very human letter, just such as any fond son might write from a
strange land. The constancy of affection, the admission of loneliness,
the confession that his task is hard and long, yet withal, the brave
faith in the Bible promise taught by his good mother that “all things
work together for good,” is stronger than any note of weakness.

It was not long before Fulton’s winning manner gained him a host of
friends in London, for in West’s studio he met many prominent men, and
they in turn introduced him to others. With one of these, Mr. Henry
Fulton, a distant kinsman, he became intimate and arranged that all his
letters should be sent in this gentleman’s care, for he was a London
merchant and well known. Mails were very irregular in those days, and it
was uncertain whether a letter, even when properly started, would reach
its destination. Postage rates were high and kindly friends who were
crossing the ocean carried packets of letters which they passed on to
other travelers, until the missives finally reached the persons for whom
they were intended.

At this point we may let Fulton tell his own story, for none could tell
it so well. The letters which follow are intimate; they confide the
secrets he withheld from those about him and confided to his mother only
when times brightened and his success as an artist became certain.

Although happy in forming new friendships in a new land, Fulton could not
forget the comrades of his early days. The fifty letters he so casually
alludes to in the following letter probably represent but a few of the
many friends whom he cherished in memory and desired to touch with that
far-reaching wand, the pen of remembrance.

The letter to his mother was written from London on July 31st, 1789.

    AFFECTIONATE MOTHER;

    With pleasure I imbrace every opportunity to write you and
    these letters will be carryed to Phila. by Mr. Benjamin Barton;
    but as I wrote you some time ago in answer to letters which I
    Rec’d from you and Polly, to which Letters I have as yet had
    no answer, this must be a short one In which I must only give
    you some account of private affairs. My health is perfect: this
    Climate agrees well with me; my Prospect is good and In Short
    I am very happy as I have many Respectable Friends. But the
    Emence desire to see you, together with the rest of my Family
    gives me many anxious hours And but for this I could sit myself
    down with Content in England. But I love my Country and Friends
    And no Consideration shall separate me from them—this is my
    present Resolution. But why do I make this promise?

    Alas I am possessed of no more fortitude than other Men, and
    some unforseen Stroke may separate us for ever; but hope is
    ever by my side and I hope ere long to have the pleasure of
    seeing all of you.…

    As I am frequently changing my Lodgings to Suit my Convenience
    I Shall now give you new directions for your letters. It is to
    a permanent Merchant’s house, a namesake and Intimate friend
    of mine, and the letters will be much more likely to find him
    than me in which case I shall allways get them. You must direct
    them exactly thus

                        Mr. Robert Fulton,
                             Painter,
                 To the care of Mr. Henry Fulton,
                       No. 9 Watling Street,
                              London.

    I beg you’l pay particular attention and have them precisely in
    the above manner and if they come to London I am sure to get
    them.…

    You must excuse the shortness of this letter as I am under
    the necessity of writing to my Phila., Virginia, New York,
    Lancaster and Baltimorien friends, which in the whole makes 50
    letters of much the same length as this. Therefore to conclude
    this I shall (torn place in paper) be very particular and let
    me know every thing that you possibly can when you write—to
    write small and close that you may say a great deal in small
    compass for the ships often put the letters ashore at the first
    port they make, they come post to London And I have often paid
    half a guinea for a small package of letters. The better to
    accomplish this you better buy letter paper as it is thin for
    we pay according to the weight and not the size so if you can
    send me a pound of news upon an ounce of paper I shall save
    allmost a guinea by it.

    I have just left myself room to wish all of you every happiness
    and love and Compliments to Mr. Smith, Polly, Abraham, Bell
    Peyton and all Friends And believe me to be everything that is
    dutifull and affectionate in a Son, Brother and Friend,

                                                         R. FULTON.

He adds in postscript:

    I was happy to hear by your last letter directed to Mr. West
    that you were down in the Country among our old friends and
    that they together with my good old Grandmother were in good
    health.

This letter fairly depicts Fulton’s hopes, longings, and accomplishments
during his student days in London. They were days of anxiety and of
hard work; for hours he would ponder over the “ways and means” of life,
and had it not been for the friendship of kindly acquaintances he might
have yielded to despair, or have been tempted to set aside the chosen
career. In poetic terms he speaks of “Poverties’ cold wind and freezing
rain”; and it is evident that he suffered, as far as his happy nature
could permit, the pangs of loneliness and of almost actual hunger. Yet
he pressed on with his work, and in time the magical wand of industry
wrought a welcome change.

So passed the first four years of his stay in England, years of fresh
impressions, strict economy and untiring labor. Added to his anxieties
were the entreaties of his mother to return home, for he writes, November
21st, 1790, “You must not be uneasy at my not returning home as soon
as I first intended for it is of the utmost importance my continuing
to prosecute my studies in London, and were I to return I must live in
Phila. or New York, which would still be distant from you. Besides the
certain method by which we have letters from each other ought to make us
easy.”

His joy was great when in 1791 he attained the honor and pleasure of
admission of two of his canvases to the Royal Academy and four others to
the Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists; the former were
portraits of young gentlemen, the latter more ambitious works similar to
West’s—a study from the Bible story, “Elisha Raising the Widow’s Son,”
and “Priscilla and Alladine” from Spenser’s “Faerie Queen.”

It was natural that he should take up the study of English history at
this time, and two paintings, “Mary Queen of Scots” and “Lady Jane Gray”
are interesting and beautiful examples of his art. Both were painted in
1793. No doubt West encouraged and instructed him in this sort of work,
and Fulton dreamed of a brilliant future like that of his teacher.

We are grateful for the light which the letters already quoted cast upon
the years Fulton spent in England, for, until their discovery, this
period was obscure. After he had attained fame, his letters and drawings
were treasured, but as a humble student in a strange land, it was
difficult to follow his routine of life. At the close of a hundred years,
when the city of New York celebrated the discovery of the Hudson River
and Fulton’s successful steam navigation upon it, descendants of Fulton’s
sisters lent to the New York Historical Society for exhibition, these
interesting documents which throw some light on the early years of the
inventor’s life. They had been treasured by his dear old mother on that
distant Pennsylvania farm, and handed down through several generations to
the present owners.



CHAPTER VI

FROM ART TO INVENTION


If you had been working very hard, and suddenly received an order from an
influential man to do a responsible piece of work for him, you would be
very happy over it. Such a pleasure came to Robert Fulton in 1791, when
Lord Courtenay, the Earl of Devon, invited the young artist to visit his
famous country estate, Powderham Castle, during the vacation month of
June, to paint his lordship’s portrait.

The castle in Devonshire, which is one of England’s most beautiful
counties, was about two hundred miles from London. There the Earl lived
in princely grandeur, and admitted to his court only persons of equal
rank; all others were entertained by his steward, a gentleman of birth
and education.

This visit proved a turning-point in Fulton’s life. With high hope he
made the journey by stage-coach, reveling in the springtime glory of
the wooded country-side. The study of the art treasures in the castle,
and his appreciation of them, led to a later tour of other famous
country-estates in England, and he became familiar with the great
masterpieces of painting which hung in the spacious private galleries of
the nobility, for Lord Courtenay, pleased with Fulton’s fulfilment of the
intrusted commission, introduced him to all his friends.

It was a novel and valuable experience for the young man. Devonshire is
noted for its scenic beauty and healthful climate: so the trip not only
gave the hard-worked student a beneficial change of air and scene, but
also put money in his purse, and quieted the fears of possible failure
which had occasionally disturbed his peace of mind.

Once again Fulton himself shall tell us, through this quaint and
delightful letter to his mother, of the pleasant change which had
befallen him:

                                     DEVONSHIRE, Jan’ry 20th, 1792.

    MY DEAR MOTHER,

    This morning I rec’d a package of letters from Philadelphia
    among which were one from you, one from Abraham and two from
    Mr. Morris, one of which was for Mr. West. In Consequence of my
    leaving London on June last for to do some business for Lord
    Courtney In Devonshire which is about 200 miles from London
    The letters by some accident have not reached me till now.
    As you rely on it I should have answered them by the first
    Conveyance—But I Rec’d them with Infinite pleasure as they come
    from you and Informed me of your good health. And now I will
    attend to the particulars As I am well convinced every Incident
    Relative to my life will Communicate pleasure to you. You
    express much desire to know how my pictures were Rec’d at the
    Royal Academy—this I believe I answered before but possibly the
    letter has miscarryed You will be pleased to hear that I sent
    eight pictures which Rec’d every possible mark of Approbation
    that the Society could give, but these exertions are all for
    honor—there is no prophet (profit) arising from it. It only
    tends to Create a name that may hereafter produce business.

    My little tour through France proved very agreeable and was
    of some service to me as a painter in as much as I saw the
    works of some of the most able masters in the art, which much
    improved my eye and taste.

    Mr. West and me are on a very familiar footing and when he is
    in town pays me much attention which is extremely agreeable as
    we live near each other.

    … And I must now Give Some little history of my life since I
    came to London. I brought not more than 40 Guineas to England
    and was set down in a strange Country without a friend and
    only one letter of Introduction to Mr. West—here I had an
    art to learn by which I was to earn my bread but little to
    support whilst I was doing it. And numbers of Eminent Men of
    the same profession which I must Excell before I Could hope to
    live. Many, many a Silent solitary hour have I spent in the
    most unnerved Studdy Anxiously pondering how to make funds to
    support me till the fruits of my labours should be sufficient
    to pay them. Thus I went on for near four years—happily beloved
    by all who knew me or I had long ere now been Crushed by
    Proverties Cold wind—and Freezing Rain—till last summer I was
    Invited by Lord Courtney down to his Country seat to paint a
    picture of him which gave his Lordship so much pleasure that he
    has introduced me to all his Friends. And it is but just now
    that I am beginning to get a little money and pay some debt
    which I was obliged to Contract so I hope in about 6 months to
    be clear with the world or in other words, out of debt, and
    then start fair to Make all I Can.

    You see dear Mother this is very different from being Rich(?)
    not that I can say I ever was in absolute want. Heaven has been
    kind to me and I am thankfull—hoping now to go on Smooth and
    happy as the absence from my friends will admit of—I am happy
    to hear that all my relations are well. I shall write to them
    separately. I enjoy excellent health which I hope will Continue
    till I may have the happiness of seeing you. Please to remember
    me kindly to Mr. Smith and all friends And may Heaven Continue
    its blessings towards you is the most unfeigned wish of your
    Obedient Son,

                                                     ROBERT FULTON.

You will notice that Fulton says that Lord Courtenay had introduced
him to all his friends. Among them were two men of rank and high
intelligence, the Duke of Bridgewater and Earl Stanhope, whose influence
at this time seems partly responsible for a sudden change in Fulton’s
line of thought.

The Duke of Bridgewater owned vast coal mines. He sold their product in
the growing town of Manchester where coal was in demand for the many
factories; but every load had to be carried upon the backs of pack horses
and the transportation was slow and difficult. The duke had been trying
to find an easier way and, by the advice of a clever workman, he had
opened a canal through his land, and shipped the coal on barges. This
plan worked well and wealth began to pour into the duke’s coffers. This
led to his desire to dig canals throughout England so that produce from
farms might easily be sold. The idea was not new, for such waterways had
already been used in Europe and in Asia; but the duke’s way of building
them was somewhat novel, and one of the great difficulties he encountered
was that of overcoming the many different water levels.

When we recall the old-time methods,—stage-coaches lumbering their slow
way along post-roads; sailing vessels tacking their roundabout paths
across the oceans; and harvests wilting on the ground because farmers
had no way to send them to the cities where the hungry would gladly have
bought them;—when we remember all this we can quickly realize why the
thoughtful men of the world were beginning to try to plan new and better
ways of transportation.

Robert Fulton could look back in thought to his boyhood days in
Lancaster, and recall the story of the enrichment of certain farmlands
by a clever Swiss settler, who had watered a whole range of hitherto
barren land, by simply cutting trenches along the side of a hill, wherein
water was conducted, from upper springs, to the thirsty lands below. The
digging of channels to form watercourses was not new; it had proved its
value.

Inspired by the need of the Duke of Bridgewater, and impressed by the
money earned by his simple device, Robert Fulton set himself to study out
a better way to build canals.

In fact, about this time he appears to have been pondering on many
practical methods to simplify work. He visited the stone and marble
quarries in Devonshire and found that the digging and raising of the
heavy products was extremely hard work. His first invention was a mill
for sawing marble and stone, which proved so successful that when Fulton
returned to London in the autumn he sent his model to the Society of
Arts, Commerce and Manufactures and received a silver medal and the
thanks of the society.

Two talents were now striving for expression in Fulton’s active mind, art
and science. One or the other had to have his full devotion; and about
this time he seems to have laid aside his brushes, with all their charm
and the rewards which he was just beginning to realize, and to have
deliberately taken up the practical problems of invention.

This change was not because he did not love art, for throughout the
remainder of his life he continued, from time to time, to paint
portraits; he was ever a devoted patron and friend of art, but there was
not time for both professions, and that of the inventor now made the
stronger appeal.

The everyday needs were those which won Fulton’s earliest attention.
He made a machine for spinning flax, perhaps in thought of his patient
mother at home, working at her old-time spinning-wheel; and he next
produced a machine for making rope. It stood in a room forty feet square
and could be worked by one man, twisting cordage of any size and winding
rope yarn on spools.

In these inventions Fulton saw an opportunity to help mankind to better
and easier methods of work, and also a way of securing a competence. His
vision was wide; humanity was one family, and the round world provided a
vast field for labor. It is not probable that he could have gained this
view of life if he had tarried in quiet Lancaster.

[Illustration: THE WASHWOMAN.

The earliest known drawing by Robert Fulton. Owned by the Estate of
Joseph Bringhurst.]

He stayed in Devonshire nearly two years, although he returned to
London for occasional visits. From Devonshire he went to Birmingham,
a town of industrial importance, where he studied the method of the
Duke of Bridgewater for building canals from that point to the seaports
of England. From that time on his mind was concerned with plans for
better means of transport. The years 1792 to 1796 were filled with new
activities, new plans, new friends, new places of residence. He visited
France, he toured Devonshire, he went to Birmingham and Manchester, the
most important manufacturing centers in England where machinery of the
highest type then known was in use.

By 1794 Fulton had invented an inclined plane for use in canals, by means
of which boats could be lifted by upright hoists or rails to different
levels of water; his hope was to avoid the complicated system of locks.
He patented it in London, and described himself “Robert Fulton, late of
the City of Exeter, but now of the City of London, Gentleman,” which
indicates that he had laid aside his former titles, “miniature painter,”
and “painter.”

During his stay in Manchester Fulton met young Robert Owen, the manager
of Drinkwater’s Mill, the first mill to use steam power. Owen was a
fellow of fine intelligence and the two young men found many interests in
common.

With other well-chosen comrades they formed a club which met on winter
evenings to debate all sorts of subjects,—chemistry, science and
religion. They called themselves “philosophers”; and so interesting were
their meetings that they were very popular and well attended.

One of the members was John Dalton, who later became a noted chemist, and
another was the fine poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, then a student at
Cambridge, so he could only come during vacation times.

In 1794 Fulton and Owen formed a partnership for Inclined Planes and
Canal Excavations. Owen promised to advance the money and Fulton “to
apply his whole time and exertions to the said business.” But the
following spring, after a disappointment through the postponement of
digging a canal at Gloucester, the two men dissolved the partnership by
mutual consent. An unbroken friendship continued between them, and in
old age Owen referred with pleasure to the fact that he had been able to
advance Fulton in a career which later was of such benefit to the world.

In 1796 Fulton wrote to Owen that he had made an improvement in the
“tanning business” and that it promised to pay well. This goes to show
how many plans he carried in his fertile brain, but at this time he was
chiefly concerned in canal work.

During this year he produced his first publication, “A Treatise on
the Improvement of Canal Navigation,” and signed it “R. Fulton, Civil
Engineer.” Much time was spent over this production for he illustrated it
with seventeen plates and sent it broadcast to the distinguished men of
the world. In several instances he wrote personal letters to accompany
the book, by which he hoped to awaken wide interest.

He sent one letter to Governor Mifflin of Pennsylvania, another to
Napoleon Bonaparte, and a third to George Washington, then President of
the United States. This letter is interesting as showing how great a
system of canal extension Fulton had in mind:

                                          LONDON, Sept. 12th, 1796.

    To His Excellency, George Washington, President of the United
    States:

    SIR;

    By my Friend, Dr. Edwards, I beg leave to present you with this
    publication; which I hope will be honored with your Perusal
    at a leisure hour: the object of which is to Exhibit the
    Certain mode of Giving Agriculture to every Acre of the immense
    Continent of America By Means of a Creative System of Canals:

    When this Subject first entered my thoughts, I had no Idea
    of its Consequences: But the Scene gradually opened and at
    length exhibited the most extensive and pleasing prospect
    of Improvements; hence I now Consider it of much national
    Importance; and View it like the application of those
    particular principles which produce certain effects:

    Thus the discovery of the Mariner’s Compass Gave Commerce to
    the World.

    The Invention of printing is dissipating darkness and giving a
    Polish to the Mass of Men.

    And the Introduction of the Creative System of Canals as
    certain in their effects will give an Agricultural Polish to
    Every Acre of America. I therefore Beg Leave to Submit to your
    Contemplation the Last Chapter with the Supplement; which
    Exhibits the specific System for America: And hoping that your
    Excellencies Sanction will awaken the Public attention to the
    Subject; I Remain with all possible respect, Your Excellencies

              Most Obedient and Very Humble Servant,

                                                     ROBERT FULTON.

The letter, hopefully sent by a friendly hand, was duly received and
politely acknowledged by our first president, who, on the 14th of
December, expressed his thanks and confessed “the subject is interesting
and I dare presume is well treated but as the Book came to me in the
midst of busy preparatory scenes for Congress I have not had leisure yet
to give it the perusal which the importance of such work would merit. I
shall do it with pleasure, I am persuaded, when I have.”

President Washington’s letter must have seemed somewhat disappointing,
after waiting five months, but optimism was Fulton’s strong point and he
thrived on even a crumb of encouragement. Accordingly, the day after its
receipt, we find that Fulton followed up the matter by another letter;
it shows that the young American had, as a base for calculation, only
the carriage rates from Lancaster to Philadelphia, yet with how sublime
a faith he prophesies the extension of a canal from Philadelphia to Lake
Erie,—the first prediction of the great Erie Canal! It was a brave flight
of fancy but was actually realized during the early part of the next
century,—Fulton having been the earliest to foresee its possibility.

He trusts that “His Excellency will soon have time to peruse his pamphlet
on small canals ‘in tranquil retirement from the busy operations of a
Public life.’” He confessed that the greatest difficulty in the plan was
to devise a method to raise the vast sum of money for the canals. At
first thought, he considered them “national works,” to be built at the
expense of the government, but finally concludes that an incorporated
company of subscribers should be formed who would pledge themselves to
apply one half, or any agreed part, of their profits to extension as it
would then be to their interest to promote the work and to guard the
earnings.

Then Fulton includes other states in the calculation and predicts “a
creative system which would fill the whole country and in less than a
century bring water-carriage within the easy cartage of every acre of the
American States, conveying the surplus labours of one hundred millions of
men, and bind the whole in bonds of social intercourse.”

Fulton wrote also to the great Napoleon and presented his plan with
considerable originality. He said that “fear of envy or the criticism of
ignorance is frequently the cause of preventing ingenious men from making
important discoveries;” and adds, “the mechanic should sit down among
levers, screws, wedges, wheels, etc. like a poet among the letters of the
alphabet, considering them as the exhibition of his thoughts, in which a
new arrangement transmits a new Idea to the world.” He reminded Napoleon
that “men of the least genius are the first to condemn and the last to
praise a new idea, because they have not the sense to grasp the produce
of genius when they see it.”

It was rather a daring deed for a young engineer to venture to offer to
Washington and Napoleon, world-famous men of their day, a new idea to
benefit their respective countries. He also tried to influence public
opinion in England by the publication in the _London Morning Star_ of
some essays on Canal Navigation.

It is to be hoped that these literary productions brought some money to
Fulton’s pocket, for he was so interested in his canal project that he
had not touched his painting for two years. He was on a fearless quest
for new methods to solve world-wide problems. He dared to be original.
Many a man who dared less has failed to bring valuable aid to humanity.

And so Fulton changed his career from art to invention, a turn in the
tide of his thought which brought much good to the world. But he retained
his love for beauty and his hand never lost its cunning; and later, in
hours of leisure, he painted portraits as strong and expressive as in his
younger days.



CHAPTER VII

ACHIEVEMENTS IN PARIS


If we had time to trace all the events in Fulton’s life during these busy
years, they would tell us that the way to fame is by slow plodding. When
we read about great men we ought to remember that they did not rise like
rockets from the darkness but by slow, patient effort climbed into the
light of fame.

During the year 1797 Fulton was encouraged, by the acceptance of his plan
to build a canal from Paris to Dieppe and Cambrai, to move from England
to France. He had earlier visited France to study the art treasures in
famous galleries, but his journey this time assumed quite another aspect,
for the two countries had been at war for four years. At this time,
however, they enjoyed a short armistice, or period of peace, and Fulton
took the opportunity to obtain a passport from the Directory, or French
Governing Board.

He began about this time to try to devise a way to end warfare between
nations,—a dream enjoyed by many kindly men of this day, who have formed
the Tribunal for Universal Peace at the Hague. With this thought in mind
he planned to protect the seas, those vast waterways between continents.
He urged Free Trade between nations, and wrote a paper on the subject
to define his views. It shows how deeply he had studied that world-wide
problem.

The age in which Fulton lived provided the tools to shape his life.
When a boy, he had heard of the horrors of battles during the War of
the Revolution, and had experienced later the joys of peace. Fulton
was an ardent Republican and believed in the right of a people to rule
their nation. When Great Britain began to lay claim to “supremacy on the
sea” the statesmen of America felt some alarm. Not only had their ships
to fear naval prowess, but there were pirates, whose plunderings were
related with horror. These conditions caused Fulton to realize that the
highways of the oceans must be made safe so that all the nations of the
world could live in peace without fear of one another.

In 1798 Fulton wrote to a friend:

    “A free trade, or in other words, a free ocean, is particularly
    Important to America. I would ask anyone if all the American
    difficulties during this war is not owing to the Naval systems
    of Europe and a licensed Robbery on the ocean? how then is
    America to prevent this? Certainly not by attempting to build
    a fleet to cope with the fleets of Europe, but if possible by
    Rendering the European fleets useless.”

From the foregoing we learn the reason for the secret invention he had
in mind during the years he spent in France. Robert Fulton planned to
build a boat to descend beneath the water, which should carry masses of
gunpowder to be placed wherever desired. These bombs, as we would call
them, could be set by time-clocks so that they would later discharge
their fire. We are familiar enough with submarines, now that they are in
use in our own and other navies, but how impossible such a contrivance
seemed in Fulton’s day! He called his invention “torpedo,” a name which
has since been universally used for all such submarine vessels. He had
his inspiration for the name from a strange fish of which he had read in
the travels of Sir Thomas Herbert, where it was described as a “Torpædo
or Cramp Fish” which, when the explorer and his companion took in their
hands, alarmed them so greatly that they trembled; for “it let forth a
cold breath upon them, so they would be so frightened that they would let
it go.” You will see that Fulton’s strange boat, like this fish, was to
let forth a strange breath of fire upon its enemies. He chose the name
well.

This dreadful machine of war seemed indeed a curious instrument to bring
peace. His plan was to manufacture so deadly a weapon of warfare that no
nation would dare to enter into a battle on the seas.

Fulton had to tarry three weeks at Calais before his passport arrived.
With this he soon reached Paris.

He found the city gay and happy, with all remembrance of warfare put away.

He sought lodgings at an excellent hotel where he was fortunate in
meeting an American gentleman, Joel Barlow by name, and his wife. Between
the three there arose a lifelong friendship of rare intimacy. Fulton was
always happy in the selection of friends, in this instance particularly,
for Barlow was a man of considerable distinction in literature,
statesmanship, and philosophy. Fulton was a young man of agreeable
presence and attractive manner and Mr. and Mrs. Barlow became greatly
interested in him. When they moved into their own house, having no son of
their own, they invited Fulton to live with them, and the friendship so
strengthened that for seven years Fulton remained, almost as a son, in
their home.

Mr. Barlow had been American Minister to Algiers, where he made important
treaties and accomplished valuable diplomatic service in what was then
a very difficult field. He was a man of wealth, and when released from
office at the embassy, he moved to Paris where he could establish a home
and live among his books and papers; for he was an industrious writer of
political and historical essays.

Barlow interested himself in strengthening the friendliness between the
United States and France. He knew the great men of both countries and by
his side Fulton found genuine inspiration. He immediately set himself
to the task of making drawings and plans to secure a patent for his
Inclined Plane for Canal Navigation, which was duly granted on the 14th
of February, 1798,—a pleasant valentine!

Again Fulton wrote to Napoleon and to other great men describing the
invention,—in fact, the emperor was to hear much of the American inventor
from this time on.

No sooner was he settled in Mr. Barlow’s home than Fulton commenced
the study of the French language, and later German and Italian. As
his need arose, in the development of his inventions, he also studied
higher mathematics, chemistry, perspective drawing and physics. He was
twenty-nine years of age at this time but was wise enough to know that
“one is never too old to learn.”

Of course he needed money and naturally he took up his brush to earn
it. About this time he painted several portraits, one a fine likeness
of his good friend Joel Barlow. West had probably given him letters of
introduction to the artists of Paris, for Fulton was soon at home among
them. Vanderlyn made a charming pencil sketch of Fulton; and Houdon, the
famous sculptor, who had visited America with Benjamin Franklin, carved
a marble bust of Fulton which is now preserved in the Louvre. During the
Hudson-Fulton Celebration, this bust was reproduced in bronze for the New
York Historical Society and also for the Metropolitan Museum.

The great men of the world are always the busiest. Fulton accomplished
much during the fifty years of his life. He was never idle, and he made
each day count for something. This is a good rule to remember, for so
many days are likely to slip by without real result. The sum total of a
life’s work is only the mere addition of many so-called “small” duties.

Fulton still remembered his dear old mother in the distant farm-home
of Pennsylvania, and in 1799 sent her so delightful a letter, with a
present of thirty-six guineas, that you will want to read this proof
of his faithful affection; and, perhaps, smile a little over his merry
pleasantries about the French ladies, and his sturdy preference for the
ladies of his own land.

                                               PARIS, July 2, 1799.

    MY DEAR MOTHER;

    Still Europe holds me, not by ties of affection but by the
    bonds of business with which I am ever so much engaged that I
    have not had time even to fall in love: And now having arrived
    at the age of 32 years the ladies of my acquaintance, who,
    good creatures, are much concerned for my future happiness
    and honour, begin to fear that I shall die an Old bachelor;
    hence with eyes full of regard and the sweetest arguments they
    persuade me to avoid so miserable an end: In my own mind I have
    determined to avoid it but it is my intention to reserve all my
    affections for some amiable American whose customs and manners
    I prefer to anything I have yet seen in Europe. You will now
    ask when shall this be,—when will I return. This I will no
    longer promise because having promised frequently without being
    able to perform there is not much reliance in them: But still I
    hope the time is not distant when I will step into your little
    neat room, in one corner of which perhaps you have my picture,
    the only donation which I then had in my power to present,
    because being my own work it was attended with very little
    expense.

    But in this letter I send you _thirty six_ pictures of the
    late King of France, known in America by the name of French
    guineas; these, my dear mother, I hope will be of use to you,
    and help to take some weight of cares off your weight of years.
    And each year I will endeavor to aid you in proportion to my
    circumstances.

    I am in excellent health, six feet high and thin; this being
    thin I think rather an advantage because it suffers (allows) a
    man to be active. I would not be loaded with the quantity of
    fat which some gentlemen are obliged to carry into company, not
    for their whole estate.…

    To Mr. Smith, my Sisters, Brothers in law and friends, remember
    me with love and friendship, and believe me everything which is
    right in an affectionate son,

                                                     ROBERT FULTON.

Fulton’s mother died during this year, 1799, in the Pennsylvania
farm-house, and it is doubtful whether his letter reached her. If it did,
the thirty-six guineas, the “pictures of the late King of France,” and
the happy letter, with its promise of home-coming, must have gladdened
her heart.

Before we take up the story of the submarine torpedo-boat work,—as
difficult as that of his later invention of steam navigation,—let us
recall another venture which Fulton made, along quite another line. Upon
his arrival in Paris he had noticed the gayety and joyousness of the
French and he decided to appeal to these happy people with a new form of
amusement, a painted panorama.

It is only necessary to remind ourselves of the astounding popularity,
in our day, of moving-pictures, to realize how fortunate Fulton was in
his plan to amuse the people of Paris. A Scotchman, Robert Barker, had
painted a panorama of the city of Edinburgh, to exhibit in London in
1789. Possibly Fulton had seen this exhibit, for it had proved highly
successful; at any rate, he applied for a French patent, which was
granted in April, 1799, to “Robert Fulton of the United States” for a
term of ten years.

Fulton’s panorama was almost twice as large as the Scotchman’s. He
secured a plot of ground in a central part of the city, and built a
loft, in circular shape, upon it. The queer-looking building attracted
immediate attention. In it Fulton hung the huge canvas, and his
industrious hand painted the startling scene, “The Destruction of
Moscow,” a scene of pillage and devastation, such as Benjamin West had
taught him to depict. The subject was attractive to the people, who were
considering rumors of war, and they flocked in crowds to view the fiery
representation. The entrance fee was a franc and a half, so money began
to pour into Fulton’s empty purse. So noted did the panorama become
that a popular song of the day was sung in the streets extolling its
excellence. One cannot but wonder whether Fulton himself, perhaps at
Barlow’s suggestion, wrote the words to advertise the new amusement.

We can almost fancy that we see and hear the care-free crowd, strolling
through the street, where now an arcade called “Passage des Panoramas”
marks the place, singing the popular air as they crowded to the door
of entrance, just as people flock to-day to an inexpensive and novel
entertainment. Fulton was indeed a clever man to have adapted Barker’s
London success to the people of the French capital. Here is one verse of
the song, with its translation:

    “Paris pas plus grand que cela
    Jouit de succès légitime
    Un savant vous le montrera
    Pour un franc cinquante centimes
    Et tout le monde donne ou donnera
    Dans le pano, pano, panorama.”

    (Paris more than any place
    Rejoices in a lawful success.
    A clever man will show it to you
    For one franc fifty centimes.
    And everybody goes or is going
    To the pano, pano, panorama.)

This business venture proved very successful but Fulton was so busy with
greater affairs that he could not long give his personal attention to
its supervision. In December of that year he sold the patent rights to
an American who carried on the business for several years. Other scenes
replaced the original “Moscow,” possibly Fulton painted them; at any
rate, he kept an interest in the business, and in 1801 took out a second
patent for improvements in panoramas.

But Fulton longed to give to humanity something better than mere
amusement,—he wanted to help them with their work, to make traveling
easier, and, if possible, to banish warfare. His experiences with his
submarine torpedo-boat will be told in the next chapter.



CHAPTER VIII

BUILDING THE FIRST SUBMARINE


And now Fulton began to build his submarine torpedo-boat and named
it _Nautilus_, meaning a sea-shell. He wrote a letter to the French
Directory and offered to submit his plan and explain his engine to
Napoleon, whom he had heard was “a good engineer.”

The emperor was at the height of his power. With France and England at
war, disturbed conditions prevailed throughout Europe and the unrest
hindered all progress. Fulton offered to the French nation, through its
governing body, his original weapon to secure their supremacy upon the
seas throughout the world.

His letters on the subject, which must have seemed like fairy-tales,
fortunately are preserved in the archives of France. In one he asked to
be authorized to build the engine he had invented and to try it against
the English fleet. He himself promised to make the trial and asked
no other compensation for labor extending over eighteen months than
“the happiness of having contributed to the re-establishment of peace,
the freedom of the seas and of commerce, and the consolidation of the
Republic.”

The Directory appointed a committee to consider Fulton’s novel plan;
they made a fairly favorable report, for, they said, “the inventor is no
charlatan, for he proposes to captain his engine himself and thus gives
his head as a hostage for his success.”

But after several years of experiment and trial, Fulton was still far
from finding acceptance of his plan. In 1797, when he began to devise it,
he was possibly inspired by the work of an American, David Bushnell, of
Connecticut, who had built a turtle-shaped boat to dive under water and
attach an explosive to an enemy’s boat. The device met with scant success
in America, so Bushnell crossed to France, where he also failed to arouse
interest.

Fulton’s invention was far more powerful and _agile_, if we may use the
word. It could sail like a common boat on the water, then dive below and
remain under the water at any depth for more than six hours at a time;
guided by a compass, it could move about with ease, and plant torpedoes
where desired. Small wonder that the Frenchmen were slow to believe
all the astonishing statements made in its favor by the enthusiastic
inventor.

But Fulton stood ready to prove them. During the years 1799 and 1800
he was busy demonstrating the accomplishments of his novel craft. He
launched it in July, 1800, and proceeded to make a series of experiments
in the middle of the Seine where he could plunge twenty-five feet. He
took two persons down with him and his tests were encouraging although
the swift currents of the tide made him decide to remove the boat to
Havre on the coast, where he could attempt feats in the open sea.

His queer-looking boat, six feet wide and twenty feet long, was towed
on two barges to Havre, where four days later it arrived and Fulton
proceeded to put her through all sorts of “paces.” The vessel responded
to his every wish and he imagined that universal peace would result from
the use of the new subduing agent, the _torpedo_.

Great ideas move slowly,—their very immensity hinders quick progress.
Fulton was under heavy expense in the building and testing of his
strange boat. Barlow, who remained in Paris, wrote frequent letters of
encouragement and forwarded drafts of money, profits which were Fulton’s
share in the earnings of the panorama. Repeated entreaties to the
Directory finally gained attention, and Napoleon showed enough interest
to appoint a committee to examine the queer-looking vessel.

To this committee Fulton eagerly explained his invention. He tells the
story in simple language and it is so thrilling that a copy will prove
interesting. He writes:

    Not having had time to busy myself with the drawings and
    description of the latest changes I have thought fit to make in
    my _Nautilus_, I take the liberty to recommend the model of it
    to your examination as the best means of enabling you to judge
    of its form and combinations.

    Although having exact details of experiments, I shall limit
    myself to rendering here a succinct account of the most
    important of them:

    _First Experiment_:—The _Nautilus_ is 20 feet long and 5 in
    diameter and according to the calculations of Citizen Guyton
    it will contain a quantity of air sufficient for 3 men and a
    candle for three hours.

    _Second Experiment_:—On 24th of August, 1800, I plunged in
    the basin at Havre to the depth of 15 feet having with me two
    people and a lighted candle; we remained below the surface
    for the space of one hour without experiencing the slightest
    inconvenience.

    _Third Experiment_:—On August 25th I tried to manœuvre the
    _Nautilus_ by means of wings 4 feet diameter like the sails of
    a wind-mill; to this end at first I placed on the bridge two
    men with oars; they took 7 minutes to row about 192 yards, the
    length of the basin; then I ordered the same 2 men to set the
    sails and in 4 minutes the _Nautilus_ covered the distance to
    the starting place;—I proved by this that the speed of sails
    to that of oars is about 2 to 1 and that these sails are very
    suitable to manœuvre a boat under water. The success of this
    experiment has given me several new ideas which I hope will
    facilitate much the use of carcasses [iron cases] of powder or
    torpedoes.

    _Fourth Experiment_:—On the 26th of August I tried balancing
    the _Nautilus_ under water in such a way as to prevent it
    rising towards the surface or descending to the bottom,
    meanwhile advancing. This is executed by means of a pair of
    wings placed horizontally on the front of the _Nautilus_ and
    which communicates with the interior. By turning these wings
    from left to right the _Nautilus_ is made to descend below
    the water, in turning them from right to left, it is raised
    to the surface. My first trial was unfortunate, in not having
    placed the boat in the necessary trim in order that the wings
    could act. The next day I had a decided success and I kept my
    _Nautilus_ below water at a depth of about 5 feet whilst it
    covered a distance of 192 yards, about from one end of the
    basin to the other. This day I made several movements under
    water and I observed that the Compass acts as well under
    water as at the surface. The three people who have been my
    companions during these experiments are so familiarized with
    the _Nautilus_ and have so much confidence at present in the
    movements of this machine that they undertake without the least
    concern these aquatic excursions.

    Having thus assured myself of the ease of immersion and
    submersion of the _Nautilus_ and all its movements as well as
    the effect on the compass, on the 27th of August I half filled
    an ordinary barrel and placed it at anchor in the harbour at
    about 426 yards from the jetty;—I seated myself then in an
    ordinary boat at the distance of about 160 yards and placed
    in the sea a torpedo containing about 30 lb. of powder; the
    torpedo was attached to a small rope 200 yards long; the
    current going under the barrel, the torpedo passed without
    touching it; but turning the helm of the boat in which I sat, I
    made it go obliquely till I saw the torpedo exactly under the
    barrel; I then drew back the cable till at last the torpedo
    touched the barrel; at that instant the battery went off,
    the powder exploded and the barrel was reduced to fragments
    being lost in a column of water 10 feet in diameter that the
    explosion threw into the air to the height of 60 or 80 feet.

    On the 12th of September I left Havre for La Hogue and in this
    little voyage my _Nautilus_ sometimes did a league and a half
    (4½ miles) per hour and I had the pleasure of seeing it ride
    the waves like an ordinary boat.

    On the 15th of September I put into a little harbour called
    Growan near Isigny at 3 leagues from the islands of Marcou. The
    next day the equinoctial gales commenced and lasted 25 days.
    During the time I tried twice to approach two English brigs
    which were anchored near one of the islands, but both times,
    whether by accident or design, they set sail and were quickly
    at a distance. During one of these trials I remained during the
    whole of one tide of 6 hours absolutely under water, having for
    the purpose of taking air only a little tube which could not be
    perceived at a distance of 400 yards.

    The weather being bad I remained 35 days at Growan and seeing
    that no English vessel returned, and that winter approached,
    besides my _Nautilus_ not being constructed to resist bad
    weather, I resolved to return to Paris and place under the eyes
    of Government the result of my experiments.

    In the course of these experiments there has come to me a
    crowd of ideas infinitely more simple than the means that I
    have employed hitherto and in an enterprise so new and without
    precedent one ought to expect that new ideas should present
    themselves, tending to simplify the execution of the great
    object in view.

    As to myself, I look upon the most difficult part of the
    work as done. Navigation under water is an operation whose
    possibility is proved, and it can be said that a new series of
    ideas have just been born as to the means for preventing naval
    wars or rather of hindering them in the future; it is a germ
    which only demands for its developement the encouragement and
    support of all friends of science, of justice and of society.

                        Health and respect,

                                                   (Nov. 7th 1801.)

                                                     ROBERT FULTON.

It is almost beyond belief that Fulton had been able, in so short a
time, to bring to such perfection an invention of such great importance,
yet fraught with so much danger. The recital of his voyage on the high
seas, at war-time, together with his plunging experiments, proves that
he possessed real heroism. The navy of England had received private news
of the invention and the sailors were on their guard, so it is easy to
realize why the brigs “set sail and were quickly at a distance.” Fulton
had become well known in both warring countries and was accounted a power
to be reckoned with.

Fulton offered personally to command the _Nautilus_ and to teach the
French navy the art of the new warfare, as well as to build such
submarine boats as Napoleon would authorize. He asked that he might
employ as co-workers the three men he had already taught; and they, by
the way, must have been courageous indeed to engage in so novel and
dangerous an enterprise.

But the contract “backed and filled” in tantalizing delay to the ardent
inventor. Fulton had a personal interview with Napoleon and tried to
persuade him to adopt the new plan; but no immediate response resulted;
finally, after hope long deferred and repeated letters and visits to
the embassy, Fulton received a letter from the Minister of the Marine,
bearing the good news that Napoleon had accepted Fulton’s proposition;
that 10,000 francs had been placed to his credit to repair the
_Nautilus_, build auxiliaries, and convey his unusual fleet, at his own
expense, to Brest, where he could engage in warfare against the enemy.

From that time, March 28th, 1801, to May, Fulton was busy with the novel
enterprise. The _Nautilus_ was overhauled and conveyed to Brest, mounted
on a long cart drawn by horses. How the boys and girls of the villages
through which the queer boat passed must have gazed and wondered! Finally
it reached the dockyard at Brest, and after two months of fitting Fulton
was ready to attempt an attack on the enemy. But again the English
seamen were too wary to be surprised. Fulton spent an anxious summer but
could find no vessel within reach of possible attack.

However, he conducted a series of successful experiments, and, in the
presence of several influential officials, he blew up a large sloop,
destroying it so completely that nothing was left but the buoy and cable.
He was able to report that he had proved his boat could

    Sail like a common boat,
    Obtain air and light,
    Plunge and Rise perpendicular,
    Turn to the right and left at pleasure,
    Steer by the compass under water,
    Renew the common volume of air with ease
    And add the respirable air, by a reservoir, which may be
        obtained at all times.

Although the invention proved successful, it was exercised for only eight
months. On the first of October the Minister of the Marine resigned his
office, and his successor, a French admiral of the old-school, declined
to listen to or forward any new-fangled ideas. How disappointed Fulton
must have been after his three years of hard work and his unquenchable
faith in the power of his project. The Treaty of Peace, signed at Amiens
in 1802, brought a welcome end to warfare, and Fulton realized that the
nations had no present need for his weapon of naval destruction.

But Fulton did not forget France and the interest Napoleon had shown,
even after his return to his own country. In 1811, the _Boston Weekly
Messenger_, of Friday, November 15th, contained the following amusing
letter in rhyme, addressed to Napoleon’s infant son, the King of Rome.
Perhaps it was a diplomatic move to interest Bonaparte through a
recognition of his tiny heir; perhaps it was merely written in jest and
never crossed the seas. But here it is, in part, for our amusement.

    Great King, two years ago I wrote
    To Lord Marbois a civil note,
    Which he ne’er answered, like a bear,
    So now I send my modest prayer
    To your dread throne, or stool, or chair.

    The plan, my lord, which I have hit on
    Will quite destroy the pride of Britain;
    The great torpedoes I prepare
    Will blow her ships up in the air,
    And every man-of-war will soon
    Ascend just like a vast balloon.
    In half a day one thousand men
    Would scatter all the ships you ken,
    Would clear the Channel and do over
    All between Calais port and Dover;
    Thus in two years, Sir, might be seen
    The end of England’s proud marine;
    And then that Isle, without a doubt,
    Puffed like a farthing rush-light out,
    Instead of reigning o’er the waves
    Would only furnish France with slaves.
    How glorious then were such a thing
    To grace your annals, mighty king!
    And (turn it over in your mind)
    How happy ’twere for all mankind,
    And more, (but that’s a thing between us)
    How worthy of your daddy’s genius;
    This business will be done—this blow up
    Take place, great Monarch, ere you grow up.
    Reflect, Sir, powder was invented:
    And then, Sir, you must feel contented.

    Now, Sir, soon as the haughty foe
    Shall feel a meditated blow,
    Their ships, perhaps, they will abandon,
    That you with ease their coasts may land on;
    Or, England, if I don’t befriend her,
    May quickly all her fleets surrender.

    Now rendered master of the seas,
    You may let ports out as you please;
    These can be rented, understand,
    Just as some kingdoms are on land;
    England, then prostrate at your feet,
    For peace, on any terms, may treat;
    Be this your language firm and bold,
    “While yet the brand of war I hold,
    As you are most completely beaten,
    This basis only will I treat on—
    That you, without the least delay,
    Two millions to Bob Fulton pay.”



CHAPTER IX

BUILDING THE FIRST STEAMBOAT


For the time England and France were at peace. No need now for weapons
of warfare, so Fulton set aside his plan for submarine torpedo-boats
and began to devote his attention to an idea of greater importance,—the
invention of a steamboat.

The thought was not new to him for he had pondered over it since 1793
when he had submitted a description of an original model to Lord
Stanhope. Now he bent all his energies to the task and commenced a series
of new experiments.

He made many sketches of engines, paddles and boats. Some are yet in
existence, notably one made June 5th, 1802. It bears a pen-drawing of a
steamboat, with side paddle-wheels, a forward smokestack, a covered cabin
amidships, with upper deck occupied by imaginary passengers, a pointed
bow and a square stern,—not in reality the shape of the later product
of his skill, but a fanciful sketch of the form then in mind. How far
ahead his imagination darted, in time and space, may be seen from the
inscription, “The Steamboat from New York to Albany in 12 hours.” It was
a brave prediction!

In 1804, when General Armstrong was appointed Minister to France, he
lived in the house formerly occupied by Joel Barlow; and upon the walls
of Fulton’s room he found, plans of steamboats sketched, as a panorama.
Even then the thought had so taken possession of Fulton’s mind that he
lived with it day and night.

By this time Fulton was recognized by thoughtful men as a power to be
considered. At Barlow’s hospitable home Fulton enjoyed the opportunity
of making friends among prominent men; and during 1801 there arrived
in Paris, as Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, Chancellor
Robert R. Livingston, a noted American statesman and lawyer. The meeting
between Fulton and Livingston, at Barlow’s table, proved important. Mr.
Livingston’s keen intellect had already recognized the importance of
providing boats with steam power. Indeed, he himself had experimented in
the matter, and had caused an Act to be passed by the Legislature in 1798
granting to himself “the exclusive right and privilege of navigating all
kinds of boats which might be propelled by the force of steam or fire,
on all waters of the state of New York, for the term of twenty years
from the passage of the Act; upon consideration that he should within a
twelve-month build such a boat, the mean of whose progress should not be
less than four miles an hour.”

The Act was passed but Livingston’s steamboat was not a success. The
trial boat, of thirty tons’ burden, built by the Chancellor’s orders
by an Englishman named Nesbit, near Tivoli on the Hudson, failed to
run! When the Chancellor met Robert Fulton, this clean-cut, energetic
young countryman who had built a much-talked-of submarine torpedo-boat
recognized by Napoleon, he thought, “Here is the clever man whom I am
seeking!” It is characteristic of great men to notice the mental worth of
others and enlist it in their cause, whatever it may be. And Livingston
quickly learned the rare capacity of Fulton.

There could have been no stronger combination than the partnership of
these two men, formally enacted at Paris, in October, 1802. The original
agreement is signed “Robert R. Livingston of the state of New York, and
Robert Fulton of the state of Pennsylvania.”

Fulton’s part of the contract was:

1st: To build a boat one hundred and twenty feet long, eight feet wide,
to draw fifteen inches of water, to navigate the Hudson River between
New York and Albany, at a speed of eight miles an hour and to carry sixty
passengers, allowing two hundred pounds’ weight per passenger.

2d: To secure a patent, in the name of Robert Fulton; to deposit every
necessary drawing, model and specification, and the patent property when
granted was to be divided in value into one hundred shares, half of which
should be owned by each partner, and all profits equally shared.

3d: To go to England to construct an experimental boat,—if possible
borrowing an engine,—the cost of such boat, five hundred pounds English
currency, to be provided by Livingston. If the boat failed of success,
Fulton was to repay half the sum with seven per cent interest added; if
it succeeded, Fulton was to go to America, obtain a patent, and build a
boat; his “reasonable expenses” to be part of the general expense.

The contract continued as follows:

4th: When the work is finished, either partner may dispose of, or
sell, any number of shares less than forty, but the purchasers, or
shareholders, are to have no vote in the management of the business. All
extensions to be paid from revenue received, and the profits equally
divided twice a year.

5th: The partnership is to continue while the patent lasts, that is,
fourteen years, or as long a term as it extends; at its close, all boats,
warehouses and other property to belong to the shareholders.

6th: If Fulton or Livingston die before the termination of the patent,
each heir or assign, holding twenty shares, shall become an active
partner with power to act.

7th: Livingston reserves the right to withdraw from the partnership
any time after his five hundred pounds have been spent in the first
experiment, but is to be considered a partner until he sends notice in
writing to Fulton.

It is evident that the document was drawn by Livingston, who certainly
made a good bargain. The sole responsibility he took upon himself was
the investment of five hundred pounds—twenty-five hundred dollars—with a
return of one-half the amount, plus seven per cent interest, if Fulton
failed to provide the invention. On the other hand, he was entitled to
receive dividends as long as the patent rights could be extended, if the
invention proved, as it did, financially productive.

For practical reasons, Fulton decided to build his trial boat in Paris,
instead of going over to England. This decision was probably made when he
found that he could borrow, or rent, an engine. Fulton had to consider
expense, for he had spent the money he received from the Panorama upon
his torpedo-boats; and his active mind conceived such vast schemes that
they seemed too costly to all his friends, except Barlow; at times, even
he advised against too great ventures. On July 26th he prudently wrote as
follows:

    “My project would be that you pass directly over to England
    _silent and steady_, make Chapman construct an engine of 12
    inches, while you are building a boat of proportionate size.
    Make the experiments on that scale all _quiet and quick_. If it
    answers, put the machinery on board a vessel and go directly to
    New York, (ordering another engine as large as you please to
    follow you) then secure your patent and begin your operation,
    first small and then large. I think I will find you the funds
    without any noise for the first operation in England and if it
    promises well you will get as many funds and friends in America
    as you want. I should suggest a small operation first, for
    several reasons; it can be made without noise; you can easier
    find funds for a small experiment,” etc.

After the contract was signed there was no hesitation on the part of
Fulton; he plunged at once into the task he had anticipated for many
years. As early as 1793 he had written to his friend Lord Stanhope,
giving his first thoughts on the subject,—one part of his long letter
will be enough to quote here; it is of special interest because it shows
that Fulton looked to nature to suggest a practical plan:

    “In June, ’93 I begun the experiments on the steamship; my
    first design was to imitate the spring in the tail of a
    Salmon—for this purpose I supposed a large bow to be wound
    up by the steam engine and the collected force, attached to
    the end of a paddle—to be let off which would urge the vessel
    forward.”

This accords with an old newspaper clipping which states that “the first
rough model of a steamboat made by Fulton in New York was cut out of a
shingle, shaped like a mackerel, with the paddles placed further in front
than behind, like the fins of a fish.”

Of course these “natural propellers” gave ideas to the inventor; he
noticed that a fish with round, unbroken tail is a slow swimmer, while
those which have deeply indented tails, like the mackerel, can make far
greater speed in swimming.

Fulton experimented for nine years before finding the best method; he
did not stumble upon the plan, but patiently worked it out, learning
through each successive test—all noted and recorded,—the correct ratio to
establish between the size of the boat and the power of the machinery.

During the early spring the boat was finished and looked so promising
that Livingston wrote to friends in America to enact an extension
to himself and Fulton, jointly, for the exclusive right to operate
steamboats on the waters of New York State for twenty years, provided the
boat could be produced within two years. Later this time was extended.

Success seemed certain to both Fulton and Livingston. The strange boat
was launched upon the river Seine; the borrowed engine of eight-horse
power was installed; the copper boiler was in place,—and the partners,
disregarding the jeering remarks of ignorant bystanders, were hopeful and
happy in anticipation of the trial trip which was set for an early date.

Naturally, the new invention was talked over by the wise men of the city
who wandered to the dockyard to view the queer-looking boat. It is said
that Prince Tallyrand, during a dinner at Mr. Barlow’s home, sat beside
Robert Fulton and was charmed by his pleasant manner. Fulton’s topic of
conversation—we can imagine his pleasure in the subject—was his invention
of the steamboat upon which he was then at work; and his hope that the
submarine torpedo-boat would end all naval warfare and bring universal
peace. The Prince listened politely but later confessed his sadness in
realizing that the agreeable young American was mad or he would not
devote his time to such impossible schemes! To many Fulton’s dream seemed
utterly vain.

This idea gained strength by the disaster which befell the steamboat just
before the time set for her trial trip. She was completed; and Fulton,
too excited to sleep although wearied by long labor, restlessly awaited
the day to dawn when he could prove her success. During the night a great
storm broke over Paris; the rain fell in torrents accompanied by heavy
winds. At daybreak Fulton was aroused by a breathless messenger whose
anxious face and haste betokened bad news. He was the watchman in charge
of the precious invention. He rushed into Fulton’s bedroom, with the
exclamation:

“Oh, sir, the boat has broken in pieces and gone to the bottom of the
river!”

Fulton arose in dismay, hastily dressed, and rushed to the scene. The
news was all too true! The boat, too weak in structure to bear the heavy
machinery, buffeted by the high waves and heavy winds, had broken in the
middle, depositing the valuable engine and other machinery in the river.
Nothing was in sight above the water!

Fulton later confessed to a dismay never felt at any other time. Many a
man, at this point, would have given up the whole project in despair. But
this crisis of apparent failure was the moment for Fulton’s strength of
character to assert itself. After months of labor the borrowed engine and
Mr. Livingston’s money seemed forever lost. But Fulton set himself to the
task of making the best of this disappointment. He wasted not a moment in
vain regret, but without going back to his home for breakfast, he began,
with his own hands, to try and rescue the boat. For twenty-four hours
he worked, without food or rest, until—wet and weary but triumphant—he
recovered the machinery and engine. They were found to be little hurt,
although the boat itself was a total wreck. But, alas, Fulton paid a
heavy penalty for over-taxing his strength; for a permanent weakness
of the lungs, from which he never fully recovered, resulted from the
exposure and long struggle in the water to save his precious invention.
At no moment in his life did he display such fine courage as at this time
of apparent failure.

Fulton immediately began to build another boat, in which he placed the
recovered machinery. By the month of July he was again ready to show his
friends and the French scientists the working-power of his invention.

Mr. Fulner Skipwith was then our Consul-General in Paris. He was
interested in the idea of steam navigation, and during the preceding
year had sent a letter of inquiry regarding it to Robert Fulton, who
gladly answered his questions. Mr. Skipwith had married in Paris, while
Fulton was busy with his torpedo experiments on the French coast, and the
Consul-General’s first child was born during the spring of 1803. This
accounts for the merry letter of invitation which Fulton sent him on July
24th.

    MR. SKIPWITH;

    MY DEAR FRIEND,

    You have experienced all the anxiety of a fond father on a
    child’s coming into the world. So have I. Your little cherub,
    now plump as a partridge, advances to the perfection of her
    nature and each day presents some new charm. I wish mine may
    do the same. Some weeks hence, when you will be sitting in one
    corner of the room and Mrs. Skipwith in the other learning the
    little creature to walk, the first unsteady step will scarcely
    balance the tottering frame; but you will have the pleasing
    perspective of seeing it grow to a steady walk and then to
    dancing. I wish mine may do the same. My “boy,” who is all
    bones and corners, just like his daddy and whose birth has
    given me much uneasiness, or rather, anxiety,—is just learning
    to walk and I hope in time he will be an active runner. I
    therefore have the honour to invite you and the ladies to see
    his first movements on Monday next from 6 till 9 in the evening
    between the Barriere des Bons Hommes and the steam-engine. May
    our children, my friend, be an honour to their country and a
    comfort to the grey hairs of their doting parents.

                              Yours,

                                                         R. FULTON.

You see Fulton considered his boat as a son, as dear and as promising!

This second time the boat did not disappoint him. In the presence of the
invited guests, it moved successfully forth from the dock and steamed its
way along the river, receiving the applause and admiration of the group
of friends assembled by Fulton and Livingston. A public trial followed
about two weeks later and a newspaper of the day described it so fully
that a translation is here printed:

    On the 9th of August, 1803, a trial was made of a new invention
    and its complete and brilliant success should have important
    consequences upon the commerce and internal navigation of
    France. During the past two or three months there has been seen
    at the end of the quay Chaillot, a boat of curious appearance,
    equipped with two large wheels, mounted on an axle like a
    chariot, while behind these wheels was a kind of large stove
    with a pipe, as if there were some kind of a small fire engine
    intended to operate the wheels of the boat. Several weeks
    ago some evil-minded persons threw this structure down. The
    builder, having repaired this damage, received, the day before
    yesterday, a most flattering reward for his labour and talent.

    At six o’clock in the evening, aided by only three persons, he
    put his boat in motion, with two other boats in tow behind it,
    and for an hour and a half he afforded the curious spectacle
    of a boat moved by wheels like a chariot, these wheels being
    provided with paddles or flat plates, and being moved by a fire
    engine.

    In following it along the quay, the speed against the current
    of the Seine appeared to us about that of a rapid pedestrian,
    while in going down-stream it was more rapid; it was manœuvred
    with facility, turning to the right and left, came to anchor,
    started again, and passed by the swimming-school.

    One of the boats took to the quay a number of savants … who
    will make a report which will give to this discovery all the
    praise which it deserves; for this mechanism applied to our
    rivers, the Seine, the Loire, and the Rhone, should result
    most advantageously to our internal navigation. The tows of
    barges which now require four months to come from Nantes to
    Paris, would arrive promptly in 10 to 15 days. The author of
    this brilliant invention is Monsieur Fulton, an American and a
    celebrated mechanician.

Napoleon’s watchful eye was upon Fulton for he wrote on July 21st to the
Councillor of State in the Department of the Marine as follows:

“I have just read the project of Citizen Fulton which you have sent me
much too late _in that it may change the face of the world_. However
that may be, I desire you immediately to confide its examination to a
commission of members chosen by you from among the different classes of
the Institute. It is here that learned Europe would seek for judges to
solve the question under consideration. As soon as the report is made it
will be sent to you and you will forward it to me. Try and let the whole
matter be determined within a week as I am impatient.”

We may be sure that Fulton welcomed the questions of these learned men,
and sent them “an invitation to see the experiment of a boat ascending
the stream by means of a steam engine,” as their records show. He had
previously made an offer to Napoleon to convey his troops to England for
an attack, saying:

    “The sea which separates you from your enemy gives him an
    immense advantage over you. Aided in turn by the winds and the
    tempests he defies you from his inaccessible island. I have
    it in my power to cause this obstacle which protects him to
    disappear. In spite of all his fleets and in any weather I can
    transport your armies to his territory in a few hours, without
    fear of the tempests and without depending upon the winds. I am
    prepared to submit my plans.”

No wonder Napoleon was impatient to learn more about Fulton and willingly
admitted that his invention might “change the face of the world.” Bignon,
the French historian, wrote in 1829 that had Napoleon listened to
Fulton this important letter might have changed the history of Europe.
He supposes that had there existed a single steamboat in France at that
time, the workshops would have immediately been busied in ‘multiplying
the original.’ In a few years one or two hundred steamships, towing
behind them transports filled with soldiers, would have been ready with
their leader for the boldest of enterprises. Bignon declared that the men
and the times alike were ready for the novelty. England would have been
forced to submit to the terms of peace laid down by France. “Thus may the
fate of nations depend upon a new idea; thus nature conceals within her
bosom many unknown forces of which a single one is sufficient to change
the destiny of the world.”

But Napoleon did not embrace the opportunity. His secretary said that
when he presented Fulton’s memorial to him he exclaimed disdainfully,
“Bah! Away with your visionists!”

And Bignon, who took the trouble later to talk with the members of
Napoleon’s commission, said that they excused their lack of appreciation
by the statement that Fulton’s plan was accompanied by a number of
“foolish ideas” which obscured their view of the great underlying truth.
“Put not your trust in scientists,” exclaims Bignon, in the light of
Fulton’s success.

However, Lord Acton, the English authority upon this period of the
world’s history, when asked what event he considered of greatest
importance in the 19th century, replied, “The sinking of Fulton’s boat
on the Seine,” meaning that accident alone turned Napoleon from its
acceptance.

The words of several historians prove that the sunny day when Fulton’s
steamboat voyaged back and forth upon the waters of the Seine, riding in
triumph over the hidden wreck of its ill-fated predecessor, was really a
great moment in French history!

Fulton was master of its movement and supremely happy in his
accomplishment. He saw, with unshaken faith, as it is easy for us to
see to-day, in a review of the history of the past century, that his
twice-built boat on the river Seine was the forerunner of all the
gigantic fleets of steamboats which now ride upon the waters of the
world.



CHAPTER X

IN HOLLAND AND ENGLAND


I have said that Fulton gave up his art, but only as a profession, for
during the years he spent with Mr. and Mrs. Barlow he painted not only
the panorama but several fine portraits. He made two oil portraits of
Barlow, one as a gift to him, the other to keep for himself; as is proved
by the fact that one is now owned, through inheritance, by a member of
the Barlow family, the other by a descendant of Fulton. He mentions in a
letter having painted a portrait of Mrs. Barlow, but this cannot now be
found.

Joel Barlow had been engaged for some years in writing a long epic poem,
“The Columbiad”; a review of Columbus’s discovery and the colonization
of America; the establishment of the republic; the habits of the Indian
inhabitants; the gradual growth of American welfare and peace. It was a
long recital, in lofty sentences. Columbus, the discoverer, was the hero,
pining in a foreign prison when Hesper, the evening star, enters his
cell.

In thought she leads the captive to a mount of vision and unrolls upon
a screen all that has happened and all that shall happen in the land
Columbus discovered. The theme was vast and proved a pleasant and
prolonged study for both Barlow and Fulton. The latter was so inspired
by the flowing stanzas that he made twelve illustrations which were
skilfully engraved for the large volume, published in 1807, at an outlay
of nearly five thousand dollars. This was generously defrayed by Fulton
to show his appreciation of Barlow’s many kindnesses.

The poem did not meet with much success. Public appreciation failed to
crown it with approval; but as an example of loyal and generous affection
between friends it will always command interest.

We now come to an interesting turn in the tide of Fulton’s affairs. He
had proved that the steamboat would run upon the waters of the Seine; he
had entered into a partnership with Chancellor Livingston to go to New
York to build a boat for traffic on the Hudson River between New York
and Albany; but the agreement, you remember, included Fulton’s return to
England to order a suitable engine.

Accordingly, Fulton wrote a letter to Boulton & Watt, at that time the
most famous engine-makers in the world, and inquired the price of the
engine for which he sent a descriptive drawing. He wanted only parts of
the machinery,—the cylinder of twenty-four horse-power, the piston-rod
and piston, the valves and movements for their opening and shutting; the
air-pump and condenser; all the other parts, he explained, could be made
in New York, “as they require a particular arrangement which must be done
while I am present.”

He had to get a permit to export the engine, so Fulton asked the builders
to ship the engine to Mr. Brockholst Livingston, through the American
Consul, in whose hands he placed the money for payment. He said that if
any difficulty arose about getting the permit, he would seek it through
the American Minister, James Monroe.

Boulton & Watt’s reply appears to have been disappointing, for a month
later Fulton wrote to repeat the order and asked haste in its fulfilment,
as “communication between France and England is daily growing more
difficult.” Four weeks later the engine-builders declined the order, as
they could not get permission to export the machinery. This was certainly
discouraging, as France and England were again declaring war against each
other; but Fulton traveled over to Holland, and wrote from there to Mr.
Monroe, asking his assistance, and adding:

    … “Your desire to see useful arts introduced or created in our
    country is the strongest reason for your urging the permission
    and accepting no refusal; the fact is I cannot establish the
    Boat without the engine. The question is then—shall we or shall
    we not have such boats?”

At the same time Fulton sent a second entreaty to Boulton & Watt, telling
them of his request of Mr. Monroe, and renewing the order. He says,
“It gives me pain to trouble you on a business so insignificant, but I
have no confidence in any other engines, and hope you will give me the
necessary information on the Boiler and other parts so as to produce the
best effect. I wish exceedingly to be obliged by you.”

But no reply came to either of these letters, and Fulton’s plan for
the American steamboat seemed doomed to disappointment. Again he wrote
to Mr. Monroe, but the diplomat probably hesitated to ask for a permit
officially refused to an English firm of established reputation, and
in behalf of an American enthusiast, already under watch by naval
authorities. For the British had kept informed concerning Fulton’s
submarine torpedo-boats, and at the suggestion of the English statesman,
Lord Stanhope, they thought it best to have Fulton on their side of the
channel. Accordingly, Lord Sidmouth, then Prime Minister, contrived
a meeting with Fulton in Paris and persuaded him to take the trip to
Holland, where, on neutral ground, he could confer with a representative
of the British government.

Fulton thus described the meeting: “About this time, May, 1803, there was
a gentleman in London, Dr. Gregory, who had known me in Paris for some
years. I had many conversations with him upon my inventions and their
probable success.” It was this Dr. Gregory whom Lord Sidmouth sent to
talk to the inventor.

Fulton described his invention to Dr. Gregory and offered to put the
English government in full possession of the combinations and movements
of submarine torpedo-boats, so that any good engineer could make and
navigate them; he also promised full directions for making submarine
bombs and to explain the many ways to use them.

Dr. Gregory asked Fulton to go to Holland to await a reply. He promised
to bring it in person, passing, for political reasons, under the assumed
name “Smith.” For three months Fulton waited in Amsterdam, until “Mr.
Smith” arrived in December with unsatisfactory proposals from the
government. Fulton declined these, but drew up another form of proposal
for “Mr. Smith” to take back to England. Then Fulton returned to Paris.

The following March “Mr. Smith” arrived in Paris with a letter from Lord
Hawksbury; it was encouraging; and Fulton decided to go to London to
consider an engagement by the British government.

Busy days followed as Fulton made ready to take his final farewell of
France. Barlow also was about to return to America, to spend his last
days in peaceful retirement. Before leaving, Fulton packed a great number
of his drawings and papers in a large box to ship to America; but the
vessel was wrecked at sea and the box, when finally recovered, was so wet
that much of the writing was impossible to decipher. Cadwallader Colden,
who wrote the first life of Fulton, laments this accident and gives it as
the chief reason that so little is known of Fulton’s life in England and
France. But by the light of many gathered facts, the story of the years
has been pieced together.

Napoleon was ready to declare himself emperor, and this took place on May
18th, 1804. This act was a disappointment to Fulton who had hoped that
the French Revolution would result in the formation of a republic. He
and Barlow were both glad to leave Paris at this time. Indeed, Fulton’s
contract with Livingston necessitated his trip to England to get the
engine, so the overtures of the British statesmen came just at the right
time. Rebuffed and disappointed, after years of waiting for Napoleon’s
recognition of his plans, Fulton, as a neutral, had perfect liberty to
transfer his interests as well as himself to another country. He embarked
for England in May, and in due season reached London.



CHAPTER XI

EXPERIMENTS WITH A SUBMARINE


Lord Hawksbury wrote Fulton, “If you should be disposed to accept active
employment from the British government, you may rely on the most liberal
treatment and recompense proportioned to your efficient service.” No
wonder that Fulton departed happily from France.

Arriving in London, he established himself in lodgings and tried once
more to order the engine for the American boat; he also tried to induce
the British Ministry to accept his submarine torpedo. As his work in
France had been publicly known, he signed his letters to the English
statesmen “Robert Francis,” an assumed name which was no secret to the
English but served to protect the torpedo project from the notice of
French spies, should there be any.

At Boulogne, Napoleon was gathering his army for a possible invasion
of England. France, enriched fifteen million dollars by the American
purchase of Louisiana, was prepared to strike a new blow. History made
rapidly during those days; maps and ruling powers were changing. Fulton
swung his energies to a fresh scene of action at a crucial time.

He was indeed “playing with fire.” Fulton’s danger during his submarine
experiments in the harbor of Brest, was small compared with the risk
he would run should he fall into the hands of the French while using
torpedoes against them. Fulton had been told by Napoleon’s commission
that any one employing such weapons of destruction would certainly be
hung if captured by the enemy; how much greater the likelihood now if
France found the spurned machines effectively turned against Napoleon’s
troops.

For so it was. Fulton was in England only two days when he proposed
to the Ministry a practical trial of his plunging vessel, describing
it as thirty-five feet long, having power to sail like an ordinary
fishing-boat, with a capacity for machinery and provisions for six
persons for twenty days at sea, capable of plunging and remaining three
hours under water without aid. When necessary to renew air, the boat need
not appear above the water, but approaching the surface, could project
two tubes, one to discharge the foul air already breathed, the other to
take in fresh air, accomplishing the change in two minutes, when the
boat could plunge again to remain another three hours below.

In this manner he promised that a crew could conceal themselves under
water during a day of twelve hours, on renewing the air three times, and
could remain many days in the neighborhood of an enemy without detection.

He proposed a submarine expedition to destroy the French fleets at
Boulogne and Brest “as they now lie.” It was a daring plan, but Fulton
admitted no possibility of defeat and offered personally to conduct the
siege. He asked the aid of a good machinist to assist in fitting out
the vessels, and an active sea-officer with power to choose one hundred
hardy seamen from the fleet who were good swimmers,—also about forty
tons of powder and seven thousand pounds, English money, to fit out the
expedition.

But the British halted their judgment. Delay was irksome and Fulton urged
the appointment of a committee to consider his plan.

Lord Sidmouth, who had sent Dr. Gregory to call upon Fulton in Paris,
was no longer in power; but had been succeeded by the Right Honourable
William Pitt, a relative of Lord Stanhope. The latter, with Lord Viscount
Melville, First Lord of the Admiralty, finally drew up a contract, which
was witnessed by Sir Home Popham, and was signed by Fulton in his own
name.

Although Fulton was officially engaged by the English government, his
plan was still under consideration, and the actual expedition met with
several postponements. Pitt, although impressed by Fulton’s drawings and
arguments, said that if the torpedo were introduced into naval practice
it would in time destroy all military marines, and, as England’s pride
and strength was in her navy, he hesitated to encourage a plan which
might injure it.

In fact, Pitt was hoping for peace rather than war; and for several
months the project languished.

We can imagine with how much pleasure Fulton accepted an invitation to
breakfast with Mr. Pitt on the 20th of July at his country house near
Putney Common. Sir Home Popham also was present and Fulton noted that
“Lord Melville was expected but did not arrive.”

Fulton noted in his book of memoranda, that “during breakfast he
explained the general principles of submarine navigation and attack which
appeared to give pleasure and make a strong impression.” The enthusiasm
of the inventor prevailed. Little by little he won by argument the
approval of the half-sceptical British statesmen.

Finally Mr. Pitt directly asked Sir Home Popham if an agreement could be
reached and Sir Home assented, saying Mr. Pitt’s “perusal and signature
alone were wanting.” Then Mr. Pitt read and signed the papers, and
delivered them to Sir Home Popham, with orders to call upon Lord Melville
for his signature.

This was another red-letter day in Fulton’s history,—indeed in the
history of the world’s naval warfare. For the signed papers were a
contract with the inventor to fit out a British torpedo expedition
against the French fleet at Boulogne. Sir Home left early, bearing the
precious documents, and Mr. Pitt when alone with Fulton remarked upon the
extraordinary invention which seemed to “go to the destruction of all
fleets.”

Fulton replied, “It was invented with that view.” He added in his book of
memoranda:

“As I had no desire to deceive him or the government, I did not hesitate
to give as my opinion that this invention would lead to the total
annihilation of the existing system of marine war.”

“But,” said Mr. Pitt, “in its present state of perfectionment those who
command the seas will be benefited by it, while the minor maritime
powers can draw no advantage from what is now known.”

“True, unless plunging or submarine vessels were introduced into
practice,” answered Fulton. “It probably would be some years before any
nation could bring such a vessel to perfection—at all events there would
be time to fit future politics to future circumstances; if at present
the French preparations can be destroyed by submarine attack, it will
convince Bonaparte and the whole world that Frenchmen never can make a
descent on England, for any future fleet prepared by them may be burnt in
like manner.”

Fulton notes that little more was said. It was agreed that the torpedo
attack should take place at Boulogne as soon as the engines could be
prepared, and, after agreeing to call again upon Mr. Pitt during the
week, Fulton returned to London.

But the acceptance was for only one-half of his project. Torpedoes were
to be used, set with clock-work for future explosion, and these weapons,
leaded so they floated below the surface of the water, were to be towed
by catamarans, or rafts, consisting of two long sidewise planks, so
placed that a man sat between them on a submerged seat. He guided the
raft toward the enemy’s ship, attached the torpedo to the anchor-cable,
and then paddled away, under water if need required, leaving the
clock-work agent of destruction to float broadside beneath the vessel,
with the turn of the tide, for later explosion.

In the dusk of the evening of October 2d, 1804, several catamarans, led
by the flag-ship _Monarch_ with Admiral Keith in command, stole quietly
into the harbor of Boulogne. Seamen, in black jerseys, waistcoats and
trousers, with black caps pulled over their faces, managed to paddle
each raft into position, attach the torpedoes and get away in safety.
But the French ships swung about and avoided the bombs; only one wrought
destruction upon a small vessel with a crew of twenty-one men. The other
bombs drifted ashore and exploded without serious harm, and at early
dawn the British sailed away, without losing a man, but with so slight
accomplishment that it was termed a failure. Fulton was present, as were
also Sir Home Popham and Viscount Melville. The inventor’s disappointment
must have been great.

The attack was followed by a storm of protest in England. It was
considered unlawful warfare,—the just idea of mercy construed as unfair
such a form of siege. Others made fun of it, and a merry wag wrote a
ballad for the newspaper, supposedly sung by the Secretary of War:

    See here my casks and coffers,
    With triggers pulled by clocks!
    But to the Frenchman’s rigging
    Who first will lash these blocks?

    Catamarans are ready,
    (Jack turns his quid and grins)
    Where snugly you may paddle
    In water to your chins.

    Then who my blocks will fasten,
    My casks and coffers lay?
    My pendulums set ticking
    And bring the pins away?

    “Your project new?” Jack mutters,
    “Avast! ’Tis very stale,—
    ’Tis catching birds, land-lubbers,
    By salt upon the tail.”

In December another trial of the submarine torpedo-boat was made against
the Red Fort in the harbor of Calais. Only one of the two bombs exploded
and little damage was done.

So passed several months,—months of entreaty on Fulton’s part,—months
of cautious planning on the part of the British statesmen. It was an
open secret that they did not like that sort of warfare. Any man less
persevering than Fulton would have thought their lack of interest a
sufficient dismissal.

But Fulton eagerly continued to plead for a more extended trial of
his new device. He explained that the partial failure of the early
attempts was due to lack of knowledge in the men employed to handle the
explosives. He lost no faith in his plan and urged that it be adopted “as
a system” by the English fleet. Finally his persistence was rewarded; Mr.
Pitt gave permission for a public demonstration of his plan at Walmar
Roads, near Deal Harbor, within a mile of Mr. Pitt’s country residence,
Walmar Castle.

Fulton secured the Danish brig _Dorothea_—a prize of war—and anchored
her within safe range from the shore, in easy sight of the crowd of
distinguished visitors whom he invited to witness the experiment. The
rumor spread that “Mr. Francis,” who had invented and built the machines
used by Sir Home Popham against the enemy’s ships at Boulogne, was to try
to blow up a three hundred ton brig with one of his novel catamarans. A
multitude assembled on the beach eager to see the explosion.

Fulton wrote a letter to Lord Castlereigh, the next day, which gives a
fine account of all that happened. He says:

    “Yesterday about four o’clock, I made the intended experiment
    on the brig, with a carcass of one hundred and seventy pounds
    of powder; and I have the pleasure to inform you that it
    succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations. Exactly in
    fifteen minutes from the time of drawing the peg and throwing
    the carcass into the water, the explosion took place. It
    lifted the brig almost bodily and broke her completely in
    two. The ends sunk immediately and in one minute nothing was
    to be seen of her but floating fragments; her main mast was
    broken in three places; her beams and knees were thrown from
    her decks and sides, and her deck planks were rent to fibers.
    In fact, her annihilation was complete, and the effect was
    most extraordinary. The power, as I had calculated, passed in
    a right line through her body, that being the line of least
    resistance, and carried all before it. At the time of her going
    up, she did not appear to make more resistance than a bag of
    feathers, and went to pieces like a scattered egg-shell.”

The unbelieving statesmen were convinced by this demonstration before
their very eyes. Fulton was of course happy and satisfied; and wrote to
Benjamin West (whom he affectionately addresses as “Mammy”), giving a
graphic account of the event.

                                            DOVER, Oct. 16th, 1805.

    MY DEAR MAMMY WEST;

    You have perhaps seen in the papers a French account of a
    little blow-up which took place at Boulogne on the first of
    this month; it was an experiment on a small scale to try the
    effect of four of my submarine bombs or torpedoes. They were
    carried in by two small boats which the French have magnified
    to many fire-ships with a formidable attack of boats, etc.,
    which shows that they were much frightened or that the public
    must be amused with a long story; however, the torpedoes did
    not produce the desired effect and I saw a great prejudice
    arise in the minds of the officers against them: but sure of
    their effects and convinced that they had only been badly
    applied, I the next day purchased a strong Danish brig of 250
    tons, determined to blow her up and at the same time give the
    officers a lesson how to act: the brig was soon put in order,
    ballast and water casks were laid in, and sails bent as if
    intended for a voyage; she was then surveyed and acknowledged
    on all sides to be as strong as any of the craft at Boulogne:
    Everything being ready she was on Monday morning sent to Walmar
    road and anchored opposite Walmar Castle, about half a mile at
    sea. The public curiosity was soon excited, who expected the
    experiment to be made about 4 o’clock; but that evening and the
    next morning passed in practicing my men. About 3 yesterday I
    came on there and walked down the beach where I made the signal
    of attack: instantly one of my long galleys rushed forward and
    grappled the torpedo line in the cable of the tug. The force
    of the tide then pressed the torpedo, which was set to fifteen
    minutes, under her bottom, and in fifteen minutes the awful
    explosion took place: it lifted the whole body of the vessel
    almost out of water and broke her completely in two in the
    middle; the mainmast and pumps were blown out of her and in one
    minute nothing of her was to be seen but floating fragments.
    The torpedo contained 170 pounds of powder. The experiment was
    the most complete that could be desired but most tremendous
    and frightful and carries with it one reflection which gives me
    some pain, that in vessels thus attacked it will be impossible
    to save the men, and many a worthy character must perish.

    All doubts are now removed on the power and simplicity of
    this invention. The defects which have attended it was bad
    management which is now corrected.

                           Yours truly,

                                                      ROBT. FULTON.

Success was apparently at hand, but again it eluded him. A strong
combination of national forces turned the tide of war. Austria and Russia
combined forces against Napoleon and the emperor was forced to break camp
at Boulogne to transfer the seat of war to Central Europe; nor was this
all; on October 21st, less than a week after Fulton’s demonstration of
torpedo warfare, Nelson with his banner “England expects every Man to
do His Duty,” won the great victory at Trafalgar, routing the forces of
France and Spain, and disposing of any Napoleonic dream of conquest over
England on the high seas. Great Britain held supremacy on the ocean,—she
needed no new weapon of destruction; and with the artillery of France
silenced, the country was unlikely to listen further to Fulton’s plan.
The old way was considered the best way. Pitt was called “the greatest
fool that ever existed, to encourage a mode of war which they who
commanded the seas did not want, and which if successful would deprive
them of it.”

So faded again Fulton’s dream of universal peace through the stratagems
of war. Yet he was under contract with the British government to
supply the invention, which he found, after many inquiries, they did
not want. They offered to grant him an annuity if he would promise to
suppress the submarine torpedo and agree that _neither England nor any
other country_ should adopt it. Fulton sent a fearless reply to the
Arbitration Committee who made the suggestion. He declared that he would
never consent to the abandonment of his project. “In fact, I will do
my utmost to make it a good philosophic work and give it to the world.
I will then form a committee of the most respectable men of America
and proceed regularly in experiments on a large scale, publishing the
result from time to time and thus drawing the attention of the ingenious
and enterprising to such pursuits. I shall hope to succeed in my first
object, that of annihilating all military marines and giving liberty to
the seas.”

The English probably smiled contentedly at the ardor of the enthusiast.
Fulton continued:

“Gentlemen, a man who has the candor to give you this in writing has
but little deception or fear in his character and will not abandon so
glorious an enterprise for trifling rebuffs or mean consideration.

“At all events, whatever may be your reward, I will never consent to let
these inventions lie dormant should my country at any time have need of
them. Were you to grant me an annuity of twenty thousand pounds a year, I
would sacrifice all to the safety and independence of my country. I hope
that England and America will understand their mutual interest too well
to war with each other. And I have no desire to introduce my engines into
practice for the benefit of any other nation.”[2]

[2] On the 6th of June, 1914, the writer laid aside work upon this
volume, to serve as sponsor for the U. S. Submarine Tender _Fulton_,
launched at Quincy, Massachusetts,—the first vessel of its type in our
navy, to serve as Mother of the Fleet of Torpedoes.



CHAPTER XII

SOME EARLY STEAMBOATS


Fulton did not forget his promise to build a steamboat for America, even
though he was so occupied in trying to induce the English people to use
his submarine torpedoes. As soon as he arrived in London, free from the
entanglements of French warfare, he renewed his order for the engine and
tried to gain permission for its shipment to America.

The permit was finally obtained, the engine built, and in March, 1805,
Fulton notes in his account-book that he paid the fee at the Treasury
“on receiving permission to ship the engine for America.” In January he
had paid five hundred and forty-eight pounds for the cylinder and parts
of the engine, and in March four hundred and seventy-six pounds, eleven
shillings, sixpence for the copper boiler.

Some years ago, a story “went the rounds” of the newspapers that the
boiler for Fulton’s American boat was made from melted copper pennies.
Coins of 1799 to 1804 were rare and this fiction was invented to explain
the scarcity, but Fulton’s notebook contradicts it. Copper was hard to
get, and expensive, but Fulton found it and paid for it,—full value too,
one would say!

The engine preceded Fulton across the water by a year, for Fulton stayed
in England until the autumn of 1806. It lay at the Custom House for six
months, and was then carted to a storage-house on South Street until the
boat was built to receive it.

To this period of Fulton’s life belong two interesting letters: they
prove that he was ever mindful of his brother and sisters in far-away
Pennsylvania, even while he was debating anxiously with English statesmen
and planning a novel boat for American waters.

The first letter was written to his brother-in-law, David Morris, and
is full of intimate and wholesome advice for he evidently realized the
shortcomings in his own early education. Written in London, October 25th,
1805, it says in part:

    I wrote you on the 20th and sent you an order on John Mason,
    Esqr. for 300 dollars to be paid out of my dividends of the
    first of January 1806, which will make in the whole 900 dollars
    of which I desired the division as follows:

        300 to Mrs. Scott,
        300 to Mrs. Cook
        200 to Abraham
        50 to your wife
        50 for sundries,

    as you will find detailed when you receive my letter.

    Having observed bad spelling and writing in the letters I have
    received, and knowing that such errors may be corrected with a
    little industry and care on winter evenings, I have desired a
    friend of mine at New York to send you

        4 of Johnston’s spelling dictionaries.
        4 works on Arithmetic.
        4 sets of good copperplate copies of large and small hand.
        4 sets of the _Spectator_.

    One of each to be a fixture in your family for the use of the
    children; one of each for Bell’s family: one ditto for Mrs.
    Scott’s and one ditto for Abraham.

    The dictionaries will, I hope, correct the spelling and by
    reading the _Spectator_ often it will improve the understanding
    and give ideas of a neat style. It is an immense object to
    learn children to write a straight fair hand, to spell well
    and cipher to the rule of three; and although this is not much
    of an education yet when well fixed in the mind with a little
    brains and some industry a man may learn anything. The greatest
    men America has produced had not much more education than
    here mentioned from their parents, but they had a great and
    meritorious industry; Franklin, Washington, and Rittenhouse are
    examples.

    Wishing you all well it will give me pleasure to hear that you
    do well.

                                                     ROBERT FULTON.

It is certain that Fulton had practised what he here preaches to his
nephews and nieces. During his study of the great men of the day,
Franklin, Washington, and Rittenhouse, he had caught the illuminative
spark of their genius, struck out upon life’s anvil by their hard blows
of untiring work. The secret of their power was constant self-culture,
and Fulton applied himself to gain this foundation of strength by the
application of his mature mind to the education which circumstances had
deprived him of in his youth.

Let us hope that the nephews and nieces gladly received these gift-books
from their famous uncle whom they had never seen, welcomed the big
dictionaries and arithmetics with joy, and studied hard during the winter
evenings, as he suggested.

About the same time he also wrote the following letter to Mr. Hoge, the
first settler in Washington, Pennsylvania, from whom he had received an
inquiry in regard to the four lots he had purchased. It shows Fulton’s
unfailing generosity to his brother and sisters:

“I thank you kindly for your friendly letter of the first of June; it is
so many years since I had any communication with you, or accurate account
of my relations, together with many copies of my letters being lost in
my travels, and considering my property in your country of value only
in as much as it was of use to my relatives, I had forgot the grants
I formerly made of the three lots. I find however that one of them has
been transferred to Mr. Morris, one to Mrs. Cook, and one was left by my
mother to Peggy Scott.

“I now desire that those grants may be considered permanent and resigning
all claims to them, from this time I shall not reckon them in my
calculations.”

In his will, drawn in 1814, Fulton left a legacy of money also to each of
his sisters and his brother.

Before we approach the story of the _Clermont_, it is fair and just to
give credit to several men who worked very hard to try to build a “first”
steamboat. There were so many attempts to produce the needed invention
that it is hard to say which man should have the honor of being placed
first.

Perhaps the earliest was Dr. John Allen, of England, who in 1730 wrote
a scientific paper, entitled “Navigation in a Calm,” suggesting that a
“fire engine with its furniture” could be put on board a ship and drive
it twelve or fourteen miles an hour.

Probably most of those who read his pamphlet smiled at his absurd
idea, but six years later, in 1736, Jonathan Hulls took out a patent
for a tug-boat to be moved by wheels at the stern by the power of an
atmospheric engine.

In America, where there are many deep rivers, it is not surprising to
find that there were many experimenters: James Rumsey, of Virginia, built
a boat for trial on the Potomac River and in 1787 had it working so well
that he journeyed to England to try to advance his invention. There he
persuaded a rich American to forward funds to build another boat for a
trial on the Thames, but Rumsey died before his vessel was an established
success. His system was not very practical and failed to work well.

Captain Samuel Morey, in 1793, built a tiny craft, “scarce big enough to
carry himself,” it was said, and tried it upon the Connecticut River, but
the first attempt failed to establish a claim to consideration and his
plan was given up.

In 1792 another Connecticut man, Elijah Ormsbee, a clever carpenter,
moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and built a boat in which his friend,
David Wilkinson of Pawtucket, fitted “flutter wheels” and a “goose-foot
propeller.” They made the boat run several times from Pawtucket to
Providence, but that was the last heard of it. The piston was turned by
atmospheric pressure, not by the direct use of steam.

Nicholas J. Roosevelt, who afterward became Fulton’s and Livingston’s
representative in Ohio River navigation, also had a “try” at inventing
a boat; so had William Henry of Pennsylvania and Edward West; both left
records of their attempts.

There were others, too, a long list of worthies, who labored well, but
neither well enough nor long enough to convince doubting humanity that
they had “found a way upon the waters.” Chief among them should forever
stand the name of John Fitch, who had so sure yet faint a grasp upon the
new science. In 1786, he built a boat thirty-four feet long, and launched
it upon the Delaware River where it proved its worth. He organized a
stock company to finance and direct the enterprise. The boat ran for
a short time between Philadelphia and Bordentown, but the machinery
was cumbersome, the service scanty, and the company lost money. In the
autumn the boat was set aside and never used again. After a visit to
France, where Fitch obtained a patent but failed to secure funds for a
new boat, he returned to America as a deck-hand after his fruitless task.
A few years later he died, a disappointed and discouraged man. To his
mechanical genius there was linked an erratic character and an unsettled
disposition. Had he been able to set aside the belittling influences of
his life, there is no doubt that he would have been a great man.

As in “Prize Contests” of the present day, _honorable mention_ is made
of those whose work was excellent although it failed to win the highest
award; so may we unhesitatingly yield honorable mention to John Fitch
for his years of study. He _did_ build a boat; he _did_ make it run;
but he failed to establish steam navigation as a practical system of
transportation and a commercial success.

In addition to these Americans there were men of science in other lands
who busied themselves with the same problem. Earl Stanhope of England,
whose attempt has been noted; Patrick Miller of Scotland; the Messrs.
Hunter and Dickinson; William Symington, who tried a tug on the Forth and
Clyde Canal; M. des Blanc, of France, who essayed to build a boat for
the Rhone; all are recorded in history as having made honest attempts
to prove that the power of steam could be applied to boats. _But how?_
That was the question. And it should be noted that Robert Fulton did
not accept the theory of any previous experimenter, nor did he merely
_happen_ upon his successful plan. He worked long and patiently, with
varying degrees of success, until he discovered the proper tables of
proportion,—the size and shape of the boat and its paddles, the weight
and power of the engine, the strength of tide and currents, and all
the many contributing forces which united to form the practical and
successful boat he finally produced.

Several interesting descriptions of Fulton’s experiments are in
existence: one, dated Paris, Jan. 9th, 1803, is entitled “Experiments
on the Model of a Boat to be Moved by a Steam Engine.” It describes six
different methods by which he propelled a model of a boat three feet long
and eight inches wide. From the knowledge he gained in these experiments,
he compiled a “table of comparisons” showing the different distances
covered by the use of varying sized paddles. He concluded: “Propelling
a boat through water is the act of separating two bodies,—the boat from
its oars or paddles, or whatever else is applied,—and this is governed by
laws reducible to simple calculation.”

It was this science of calculation which gave Fulton the mastery of
the situation, and his title, Inventor of Steam Navigation. He did not
build a boat by guess-work, but built many boats by actual calculation
of their power and speed; these he introduced upon several waterways
and established each as a commercial success. Other men had produced
the “flower of invention.” Fulton produced the more perfect flower and
matured it to actual fruitage.



CHAPTER XIII

BUILDING THE _CLERMONT_


When Fulton, a youth of twenty-one, sailed from America in 1786, he
carried one letter of introduction in his pocket and forty guineas in his
purse. Twenty years later he returned, a man of prominence, with plans
and purposes enough to fill the remainder of his life. His arbitration
with the British government was finished; he had been paid for services
rendered to the fleet; and the system of torpedo warfare remained his
own, for he had declined to suppress it, at any price. He was content, in
excellent health, “never better,” he said, and in good spirits. Thus he
wrote to his friend Joel Barlow, announcing his return.

It was his hope to arrive in America by the 14th of November, his
birthday, and eat roast goose in Barlow’s hospitable home, “Kalorama,”—a
fine country estate near the city of Washington. But the slow-sailing
ship in which he embarked from Falmouth during the first week in October
did not come to port in Halifax, Nova Scotia, until the 13th of December,
1806.

How happy Fulton was to be again in his native land. He traveled at
once by stage-coach to visit the Barlows in their new and delightful
home, which he called the “Athenian Garden of America.” There he entered
another circle of Barlow’s friends, statesmen of the day, among whom were
Jefferson, Madison, and other men of prominence.

In Fulton’s letter to Barlow he had said, “You know I cannot exist
without a project, or projects, and I have two or three of the first
order of sublimity.” It was true, and he immediately set himself to the
task of forwarding them. He certainly believed in the importance of the
work he was about to begin.

The world has honored Fulton as the “inventor of the steamboat”; his
history shows that his other invention, the submarine torpedo-boat, was
of equal importance in Fulton’s estimation. Pledged to partnership with
Chancellor Livingston to build the boat for the Hudson River, he also
found time, soon after his arrival in America, to interest his countrymen
in his project of submarine navigation. Joel Barlow helped him in this
plan by inviting James Madison, Secretary of State, and Robert Smith,
Secretary of the Navy, to witness an experiment at Kalorama, on the
waters of Rock Creek. These men were favorably impressed, and Fulton
soon after arranged a series of experiments in the harbor of New York;
but three years went by before Congress appropriated money to finance the
invention in a practical way.

Fulton’s fame had spread, and in March he was invited by Thomas
Jefferson, then President of the United States, to examine the ground and
report on the possibility of building a canal to unite the waters of the
Mississippi River with Lake Pontchartrain; but Fulton replied, “although
infinitely obliged by the proposal I am sorry I cannot undertake a work
so interesting and honorable. The reason is I now have ship-builders,
blacksmiths and carpenters occupied at New York in building and executing
the machinery of my steamboat and I must return to that city in ten
days to direct the work till finished, which will probably require four
months. The enterprise is of much importance to me individually and I
hope will be of great use in facilitating the navigation of some of
our long rivers. Like every enthusiast I have no doubt of success. I
therefore work with ardor and when adjusting the parts of the machine I
cannot leave the men for a day. I am also preparing the engines for an
experiment of blowing up a vessel in the harbor of New York this spring.
The machines for this purpose are in great forwardness and I hope to
be able to convince the rational part of the inhabitants of our cities
that vessels of war shall never enter our harbors or approach our coasts
but by our consent. Thus I hope I am usefully employed for six or nine
months.”

How strange seem all these plans in the light of a century’s progress!
We are prone to think that civilization has come by leaps and bounds,
but a letter like this proves that men have had to develop it by patient
industry.

Fulton engaged a boat-builder, Charles Browne by name, whose yards were
at Corlears Hook on the East River, to construct the hull. It was a
hundred and fifty feet long, thirteen feet wide, drawing two feet of
water, bow and stern sixty degrees. You will remember that the engine
from England was safely stored in a warehouse on South Street, and it
was carted over to place in the boat on April 23d, 1807. Fulton kept an
account of all expenses and his worn little note-book tells many details
which otherwise would have been lost.

Plenty of people laughed at the enterprise and few thought it would
amount to anything. Idle-minded men crowded near the ship-yards and gave
their reasons for predicting the certain failure of _Fulton’s Folly_,
as they called the boat. This was unpleasant but Fulton took no notice
of them for he had long before realized that only wise people can grasp
new ideas. His patience was inexhaustible and his temper undisturbed.
He declined to listen to the jeers of the bystanders who often rudely
intended their remarks to reach his ears. And day by day the boat
advanced toward completion.

It will be remembered that Livingston, by the terms of contract, could
not be called upon for more money; we can fancy then how great was
Fulton’s anxiety when he found that the boat would cost more than he
had surmised. It is said that when one thousand dollars were needed to
pay the men, Fulton vainly spent an entire evening trying to persuade
an intimate friend to lend the money. Nothing daunted, he renewed his
entreaties the following day, and finally the friend reluctantly promised
a hundred dollars if Fulton could persuade nine others to subscribe the
same sum. This he did by promising the subscribers that their names
should be kept secret, as they feared ridicule.

[Illustration: FULTON MEDAL.

Struck after the inventor’s death in 1815.

_Courtesy of the Century Company._]

The lack of money was exasperating when Fulton felt so sure of his
plan, but not an angry or fretful word escaped him; and when work went
wrong, as it sometimes did, he commenced again with the same ardor and
calmness. Hot weather came on and still Fulton worked hard at the yards,
superintending every detail; he must often have been exhausted, says
Colden, his biographer, but he never complained. He showed himself a
moral as well as a mechanical philosopher.

We always think of Fulton’s steamboat as voyaging first upon the waters
of the Hudson; it is interesting therefore to learn from a letter Fulton
wrote to Chancellor Livingston, that the boat was launched in the East
River, and there made a successful trial-trip on the 9th of August,
1807, exactly four years after Fulton’s demonstration of his French boat
on the river Seine. He probably chose the date in remembrance of that
never-to-be-forgotten triumph.

The Chancellor was spending the summer at Clermont, his famous country
estate on the Hudson River at Tivoli, a short distance below the city of
Hudson. His delight must have been great when he received the following
letter from his energetic partner. I quote it in full because of its
special interest in showing how fully Fulton tested his new craft and how
personal was his care and exercise of her movements:

                            NEW YORK, Monday the 10th August, 1807.

    DEAR SIR:

    Yesterday about 12 o’clock I put the steamboat in motion, first
    with a paddle 8 inches broad 3 feet long with which I ran
    about one mile up the East River against a tide of almost one
    mile an hour, it being nearly high water. I then anchored and
    put in another paddle 8 inches wide 3 feet long, started again
    and then according to my best observations I went 3 miles an
    hour, that is two against a tide of one; another board of 8
    inches was wanting which had not been prepared. I therefore
    turned the boat and run down with the tide of one mile, boat
    3, equal four, and turned her round neatly into the berth from
    which I parted. She answers the helm equal to anything that
    ever was built. And I turned her twice in three times her own
    length.

    Much has been proved by this experiment; First, that she will
    when in complete order run up to my full calculations; Second,
    that my axles I believe will be sufficiently strong to run the
    engine to her full power; Third, that she steers well and can
    be turned with ease. The sum of the surfaces of the paddles
    were 8 feet, the Bow of the boat 9. My paddle boards should
    have been equal 12 feet which I was afraid to put on at first;
    they are now making.

    The engine having worked for the first time requires
    overhauling and new packing. The cold-water pump for condensing
    is 7 inches and a two foot stroke yet does not furnish
    sufficient cold water for complete condensation and vacuum. I
    am about making it 10 inches diameter; these connections with
    the finishing of the cabins will take me the entire week and I
    shall start on Monday next at 4 miles an hour.

    Yesterday I beat all the sloops that were endeavoring to stem
    tide with the slight breeze which they had; had I hoisted my
    sails I consequently should have had all their means added to
    my own.

    Whatever may be the fate of steamboats for the Hudson every
    thing is completely proved for the Mississippi, and the object
    is immense. Please to forward me 1000 or 1500 dollars as soon
    as possible.

                           Yours truly,

                                                         R. FULTON.

    Best respects to Mrs. Livingston.

    Addressed to Robt. R. Livingston, Esqr. Clermont, New York.

Money was again needed, you see, but we may be sure it was forthcoming
with this proof of the success of the great project. For the trial-trip,
although it made necessary some slight alterations, removed all doubt
as to its power. During the week the boat was moved to its new dock
on the North, or Hudson River, and the carpenters were set at work to
finish the cabins and make the boat ready for her first official voyage
up the Hudson. Fulton promised the Chancellor that it should take place
“on Monday next,”—that was August 17th,—so Fulton’s partner and several
members of his family journeyed to New York, by sloop or stage-coach, to
take the historic trip.



CHAPTER XIV

FIRST VOYAGE OF THE _CLERMONT_


The eventful day, the 17th of August, 1807, dawned with blue, unclouded
skies. There was a buzz of excitement throughout the morning as the
guests, about forty in number, assembled at the dock near the old States
Prison, in Greenwich Village.

Miss Helen Livingston, a young lady who was present, had written her
mother, “Cousin Chancellor has a wonderful new boat which is to make the
voyage up the Hudson some day soon. It will hold a good many passengers
and he has, with his usual kindness, invited us to be of the party. He
says it will be something to remember all our lives. He says we need not
trouble ourselves about provisions, as his men will see to all that.”

She with her sister, Kate Livingston, made the famous trip and many
years later told its story to her granddaughter, Helen Evertsen Smith,
who wrote it out. “Cousin Chancellor” predicted the truth when he
said it would be something to remember all their lives! There were
several ladies in the party, as well as the Dean of Ripon Cathedral,
England, John R. Livingston, and other persons of distinction. Some
were incredulous and all were slightly uneasy. Fulton himself has thus
described the exciting time:

    The moment arrived in which the word was to be given for the
    boat to move. My friends were in groups on the deck. There was
    anxiety mixed with fear among them. They were silent, sad and
    weary. I read in their looks nothing but disaster and almost
    repented of my efforts. The signal was given and the boat moved
    on a short distance and then stopped and became immovable. To
    the silence of the preceding moment, now succeeded murmurs of
    discontent and agitation, and whispers and shrugs. I could hear
    distinctly repeated ‘I told you so; it is a foolish scheme: I
    wish we were well out of it.’

    I elevated myself upon a platform and addressed the assembly.
    I stated that I knew not what was the matter, but if they
    would be quiet and indulge me for half an hour I would either
    go on or abandon the voyage for that time. This short respite
    was conceded without objection. I went below and examined
    the machinery and discovered that the cause was a slight
    maladjustment of some of the work. In a short time it was
    obviated. The boat was again put in motion. She continued to
    move on. All were still incredulous: none seemed willing to
    trust the evidence of their own senses. We left the fair city
    of New York: we passed through the romantic and ever-varying
    scenery of the Highlands;—we descried the clustering houses of
    Albany: we reached its shores,—and then, even then, when all
    seemed achieved, I was the victim of disappointment.

    Imagination superseded the influence of fact. It was then
    doubted if it could be done again, or if done if it could be
    made of any great value.

We must not imagine that the boat was as perfect as the modern steamboats
of to-day. Far from it! She was a strange looking vessel; the uncovered
machinery occupied the center and groaned and creaked from time to time.
The huge paddle-wheels splashed in and out of the water, casting spray on
the decks and high in the air. The rear cabin was set aside for the use
of the ladies,—the forward cabin for the men. There were two tall masts,
provided with sails in case of need. A rude compass on deck guided the
pilot in steering the boat. All together it is not to be wondered at that
the odd-looking boat, spitting forth steam and splashing water at both
sides, excited the lively interest of all who could see the vessel from
both shores of the river.

It is said that the boat had not long been under way when Fulton caused
it to be stopped because he saw a way of improving the paddles. He
lessened their diameter, so the buckets took less hold of the water, for
certainly they splashed too much. When the boat started again it was
found that the alteration had increased her speed. It is said that her
first performance exceeded the expectation of the passengers on board,
and none but Fulton thought that she could be improved.

But after this adjustment there was no further trouble. The wheels went
around with regular stroke as the boat advanced steadily up the river and
convinced the skeptical that Fulton had fulfilled his promise.

One of the newspapers, the _American Citizen_, printed this notice that
morning:

“Mr. Fulton’s ingenious steamboat, invented with a view to the navigation
of the Mississippi from New Orleans upward, sails to-day from the North
River, near States Prison, to Albany. The velocity is calculated at four
miles an hour. It is said it will make a progress of two against the
current of the Mississippi and if so it will certainly be a very valuable
acquisition to the commerce of Western states.”

This news, together with the popular interest aroused near the dockyards,
brought a crowd of people to the shores. During the setting-forth from
the dock, the jeers of many could be plainly heard. As the paddles began
to turn and the boat swung about to position and headed up stream, the
faces of the doubters changed as though by magic. _Fulton’s Folly_ was
not merely afloat, it was moving with majesty and with assurance. The
scoffs subsided, exclamations of wonder took their place; then, as the
triumph of the experiment became evident, a cheer arose from the shore.
It was echoed and repeated until the entire crowd acknowledged its
mistake in a wild tumult of cheers,—the first public acclaim to greet the
new invention.

From Helen Livingston’s letter we know that refreshments were provided
for the party; and there were couches in the cabins upon which the guests
could sleep at night, for the voyage to Albany took thirty-two hours
instead of nine, as at the present day.

The boat splashed on its way, looking it is said “like a backwoods
saw-mill mounted on a scow and set on fire.” Wood was used for fuel and
when the fireman stirred the flames they shot high in the air, throwing
out a multitude of sparks as well, which must have looked terrifying
enough to the people on shore, especially in the darkness of the night.
The sailors on the river sloops were amazed as they saw this queer boat
gaining upon them, while some of the more timid actually ran their boats
to shore and took to the woods in fright. Others gathered on the river
bank and prayed for protection against this “monster” made by man. All
were spellbound with astonishment and passed the word from one to
another, so that the dwellers from all the houses near shore ran forth to
view the strange craft.

After the first fear had passed, happiness prevailed on board. The quiet
ease of Fulton’s and Livingston’s manner, as they moved about among their
guests, restored peace of mind. By night, when filmy shadows fell over
the mountain tops and the setting sun touched the waters with gold, the
guests were thrilled with delight. The presence of the ladies added a
touch of beauty to the strange-looking vessel, and as they proceeded
through the picturesque Highlands, the party sang the melodies of the
day. The Scotch ballad said to have been a favorite of Fulton’s rang out:

    “Ye banks and braes o’ Bonny Doon,
    How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
    How can ye chant, ye little birds,
    And I sae weary fu’ o’ care?”

But Fulton’s care, for the time, had sped away. He was surrounded by
friends whose compliments upon his success must have been both welcome
and pleasant. Helen Livingston’s granddaughter writes: “There were many
distinguished and fine-looking men on board the _Clermont_, but my
grandmother always described Robert Fulton as surpassing them all. ‘That
son of a Pennsylvania farmer,’ she was wont to say, ‘was really a prince
among men. He was as modest as he was great and as handsome as he was
modest. His eyes were glorious with love and genius.’”

A great personal happiness filled Fulton’s thought, beyond that of his
success in the invention, for on the second day of the voyage, as the
boat was about to cast anchor at the Clermont dock of the Chancellor,
the latter, as a crowning touch of romance to the triumph of the
voyage, announced the betrothal of his fair young cousin, Miss Harriet
Livingston, to the inventor. In easy, graceful words he added that the
name of Robert Fulton would descend to posterity as a benefactor to the
world, for it was not impossible that, before the end of the century,
vessels propelled by steam alone might make the voyage to Europe! The
guests were too polite to laugh at this suggestion in the presence of
the Chancellor and the inventor but, after several of the company had
indulged in hidden smiles, John R. Livingston whispered to his cousin,
“Bob has had many a bee in his bonnet before now, but this steam folly
will prove the worst yet!”

It has been reported that the consent of the Livingston family had been
withheld from Fulton’s engagement until he could prove his invention a
success. He had asked the Chancellor if he might aspire to the hand of
his fair cousin and had received the reply: “Her father may object …
but if Harriet does not object,—and she seems to have a world of good
sense,—go ahead, and my best wishes and blessings go with you.”

In the light of later events, it is hard to see why any objection
could have been raised. Fulton, then forty-two years old, had made his
way against great odds, and was a prominent man on both sides of the
Atlantic. Harriet Livingston, a guest of honor on the historic trip up
the Hudson, was the daughter of the Hon. Walter Livingston, Commissioner
of the United States Treasury. The bride-elect had inherited beauty
and talent. She played upon the harp and also sketched in pencil with
delicacy and skill, an accomplishment which naturally appealed to
Fulton’s artistic taste.

Her father, Walter Livingston, son of the last Lord of the Manor of
Livingston, had inherited as his share of the vast grant of land of
1715, which comprised over 160,000 acres, a tract of 28,000 acres, which
he named “Tiviotdale.” Upon this great estate he had built an imposing
mansion to which in later years Fulton and his wife paid many visits.

The party left the boat at Clermont, while Fulton and the Chancellor,
after spending the night at the latter’s hospitable home, continued the
journey to Albany, arriving there at five o’clock in the afternoon. When
the voyage to New York was made, Fulton set about improving his boat that
she might be more comfortable for the many passengers he hoped to carry
up and down the river. He wrote to Barlow, as follows:

“My steamboat voyage to Albany and back has turned out rather more
favorably 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. I had a light breeze against me the whole way, both
going and coming, and the voyage has been performed wholly by the power
of the steam engine. I overtook many sloops and schooners beating to
the windward and parted with 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 persons in the city who
believed that the boat would ever move one 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 in which ignorant men compliment what they call philosophers and
projectors. Having employed much time, money and zeal in accomplishing
this work, it gives me, as it will you, great pleasure to see it fully
answer my expectations. It will give a cheap and quick conveyance to the
merchandise on the Mississippi, Missouri and other great 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 on the immense
advantage my country will derive from the invention.”

And so was _Fulton’s Folly_ changed to _Fulton’s Triumph_! There
are several accounts of the return voyage, notably one written by a
Frenchman, Monsieur Michaux, a distinguished botanist, who happened to
be in Albany at the opportune time when Fulton’s boat was about to make
its return voyage down the Hudson. He with his companion, a man named
Parmentier, had been three days in the capital city when they read in
the paper about the arrival of a “steam boat” from New York, commanded
by the inventor, Robert Fulton. Crowds of people were flocking to the
dock to see the strange craft. Some admitted that a great advantage might
be gained by the novel method of transportation, although many persons
predicted that the boiler would explode and cause serious accidents.

A sign hung upon the side of the boat announced that it would start for
New York on Wednesday, August 20th, and would carry passengers at the
same price charged by sailing-masters on their sloops, seven dollars.

The two Frenchmen decided to try the experiment. They were alone in their
decision, all other travelers preferring to go by the old “slow and
sure” way. The boat set off in sight of a crowd of spectators which had
gathered at the dock. The smoke from the engine could be seen for some
distance throwing a black column to the sky, and many persons gathered on
near-by hillsides to wave their handkerchiefs and hurrah for Fulton whom
they noticed in command when the boat came up the river.

Monsieur Michaux said that when they paid Mr. Fulton their fare, before
they left the boat, he commented on the courage of two Frenchmen to
embark when so many of his countrymen declined to try the experiment.
It is interesting to remember that Fulton carried passengers from both
France and England, the two countries where his preliminary attempts had
been worked out; for an Englishman, probably the Dean of Ripon Cathedral,
who is known to have been a guest of the Chancellor on the first trip
of the _Clermont_, wrote a letter which was printed in the _Naval
Chronicle_, for 1808, Vol. XIX, page 188:

“I have now the pleasure to state to you the particulars of a late
excursion to Albany in the steamboat, made and completed under the
directions of the Hon. Robert R. Livingston and Mr. Fulton, together
with my remarks thereon. On the morning of the 19th of August Edward P.
Livingston, Esq. and myself were honoured with an invitation from the
Chancellor and Mr. Fulton to proceed with them to Albany, in trying the
first experiment up the river Hudson, in the steamboat. She was then
lying off Clermont, the country seat of the Chancellor, where she had
arrived in twenty-four hours from New York, being 110 miles. Precisely
at thirteen minutes past nine o’clock A.M. the engine was put in motion,
when we made a head against the ebb tide and the head wind blowing a
pleasant breeze. We continued our course for about eight miles, when we
took the flood, the wind still ahead. We arrived at Albany about five
o’clock P.M. being a distance from Clermont of forty-five miles, (as
agreed by those best acquainted with the river) which was performed
in eight hours, without any accident or interruption whatever. This
decidedly gave the boat upwards of five miles an hour, the tide sometimes
against us, neither the sails nor any implement but the steam used. The
next morning we left Albany at twenty-five minutes past nine and arrived
at Clermont in nine hours precisely, which gave us five miles an hour.
The current on returning was stronger than when going up. After landing
us at Clermont, Mr. Fulton proceeded with the passengers to New York. The
excursion to Albany was very pleasant and presented a most interesting
spectacle. As we passed the farms on the borders of the river, every
eye was intent, and from village to village the heights and conspicuous
places were occupied by the sentinels of curiosity, not viewing a thing
they could possibly anticipate any idea of, but conjecturing about the
possibility of the motion. As we passed and repassed the towns of Athens
and Hudson we were politely saluted by the inhabitants and by several
vessels, and at Albany we were visited by his Excellency, the Governor,
and many citizens. She is unquestionably the most pleasant boat I
ever went in. In her the mind is free from suspense. Perpetual motion
authorizes you to calculate on a certain time to land; her works move
with all the facility of a clock; and the noise when on board is not
greater than that of a vessel sailing with a good breeze.”

And so the journey to Albany and back was complete, the triumph assured.
That tiny steamboat, with splashing side-paddles, had been acknowledged
a safe transport. With great pleasure the captain, Andrew Brink by name,
who certainly knew more of navigation than of spelling French names,
wrote in his note-book:

    List of passengers on board the North River Steamboat from
    Albany to New York, August 21, 1807:

                         Dollars
    Captain Thomas Hunt     7
    Monsieur Parmentoo
    Monsieur Mishaud       13
    Mr. E. D. Tyle          6
    Captain Davies          1
                           --
                           27

    Mr. Fulton

Captain Brink had previously had command of the river sloop _Maria_. When
Fulton and Livingston journeyed on his sloop to Clermont they discussed
the plan for the steamboat, and finding Brink intelligent and interested,
they promised to employ him upon the new ship. On September 20th, 1807,
Fulton entered his month’s pay-roll in his account book:

    To Captain Brink                      30 dollars
    George, the Steward                   10   ”
    Paid Griffin, the Black Steward,      12   ”
    Paid Richard Wilson, the Black Cook,  10   ”

Captain Brink lived on the west bank of the Hudson, opposite Clermont.
After he had landed his passengers at the Chancellor’s dock, on the
voyage up the river, he borrowed a rowboat, crossed the river, and
brought his wife back to take the remainder of the trip, for he had
promised “to take her to Albany on the boat driven by a tea-kettle.”

The chief engineer was a Scotchman who had to be discharged, for at
Albany he went ashore and indulged too freely in drink as a celebration
of the successful voyage. Fulton promoted Charles Dyke, assistant
engineer, to his place, and he did so well that he remained for many
years in Fulton’s employ, and in time became chief engineer of the first
ferry-boat used at Fulton Ferry.

So Fulton proved himself not merely a master of mechanics, but also of
management and administration of the new method of travel. He not only
began well but continued wisely.

After Fulton reached New York he took time to write a letter to the one
newspaper, the _American Citizen_, which had noted the departure of his
boat. It was well that he did so, for this furnishes an historical record
of the achievement. It is a simple and straightforward account of the
voyage, with no extravagant predictions as to the future.

                                       NEW YORK, August 20th, 1807.

    TO THE EDITOR OF THE _American Citizen_,

    SIR;

    I arrived this afternoon at 4 o’clock on the steamboat from
    Albany. As the success of my experiment gives me great hope
    that such boats may be rendered of much importance to my
    country, to prevent erroneous opinions and to give some
    satisfaction to the friends of useful improvements, you will
    have the goodness to publish the following statement of facts:

    I left New York on Monday at 1 o’clock and arrived at Clermont,
    the seat of Chancellor Livingston, at 1 o’clock on Tuesday,
    time 24 hours, distance 110 miles: On Wednesday I departed from
    the Chancellor’s at 9 in the morning and arrived at Albany at 5
    in the afternoon, distance 40 miles, time 8 hours: the sum of
    this is 150 miles in 32 hours, equal near 5 miles an hour.

    On Thursday at 9 o’clock in the morning I left Albany and
    arrived at the Chancellor’s at 6 in the evening: I started
    from thence at 7, and arrived at New York on Friday at 4 in
    the afternoon; time 30 hours, space run through, 150 miles,
    equal 5 miles an hour. Throughout the whole way my going and
    returning the wind was ahead; no advantage could be drawn from
    my sails—the whole has therefore been performed by the power of
    the steam engine.

    I am, Sir,

                        Your Most Obedient,

                                                     ROBERT FULTON.

Friends were ready enough now to congratulate the inventor upon his
success, but he had scant time to listen, for his first accomplishment
made further work necessary. He plunged at once into hard work for the
development of his plan which included steam navigation for the inland
waters of America.

[Illustration: FULTON’S INKSTAND

_Reproduced through the courtesy of The Century Co._]



CHAPTER XV

STEAMBOATS AND SUBMARINES


Now that Fulton had attained his heart’s desire,—the great plan for steam
navigation,—there was no time to rest upon his laurels. One success is
but a key to future opportunity. He reasoned well that the Hudson had
provided only the opening chapter, as it were, to a great volume of
possible attainments. Every river in the world offered an equal avenue
for the march of progress in transportation.

That first voyage of the _Clermont_ revealed many slight imperfections
which Fulton’s fertile brain immediately remedied in imagination. He laid
the vessel up in dock at New York for two weeks that he might add to her
equipment and improve the conditions on board for the comfort of the
passengers. He boarded the sides, decked over the boiler, furnished each
cabin, fore and aft, with twelve berths, and strengthened the ironwork
in many parts. He also had the boat thoroughly calked, and as much rain
fell during the time, the work was delayed. Fulton described these
improvements in a letter to the Chancellor, and joyously wrote, “The boat
will be as complete as she can be made—all strong and in good order and
the men well organized; and I hope nothing to do but to run her for six
weeks or two months,—I will have her registered and everything done which
I can recollect. Everything looks well and I have no doubt will be very
productive.”

On September 2d, Fulton advertised in the _New York Evening Post_
as follows: “The North River Steam Boat Will leave Pauler’s Hook on
Friday, the 4th of September, at 6 in the morning, and arrive at Albany,
on Saturday, at 6 in the afternoon. Provisions, good berths, and
accommodations are provided.”

An announcement of rates followed; three dollars to Newburgh, and seven
to Albany, with suitable prices for intermediate stations; the rate of
travel was fourteen hours to Newburgh and thirty-six to Albany. It was
stated that the boat would leave Albany twice and New York once during
the succeeding week, after which further schedules would be published.

This time-table was duly carried out; bright and early, at half past six,
on a clear September morning, the fourteen passengers brave enough to
venture started on their northward trip. When they arrived, they found
Fulton already on board, his actions confident and decided, unheeding the
fear of some and the sarcasm of others. His clear tones could be heard
above the hum of the voices of the multitude—which had gathered to watch
the departure—and the noise made by the escaping steam which leaked from
several valves. So we learn from Judge John Q. Wilson, of Albany, one
of the fourteen who dared to make the voyage though warned by a prudent
Quaker friend: “Wilt thou risk thy life in such a concern? I tell thee
she is the most fearful wild fowl living and thy father ought to restrain
thee.”

But though a predicted failure, the voyage proved so pleasant an
experience that the passengers drew up a statement to record their
satisfaction. Gerrit H. Van Wagenen served as timekeeper and Judge
Wilson drafted the testimonial which, signed by the entire company, was
published in the _Albany Register_ of September 8th.

From Verplanck’s Point to Wappinger’s Creek the wind was favorable but
light: after that it was ahead or calm, yet they made the full distance
of 150 miles in 28 hours and 45 minutes. Judge Wilson wrote: “The
subscribers, passengers on board of this boat on her first passage as
a packet, think it but justice to state that the accommodations and
conveniences on board exceeded their most sanguine expectations.”

They had an amusing experience at Haverstraw Bay. As the boat steamed
along, a man in a skiff lay in wait. His appearance showed him to be
a miller, for his hair and clothing were covered with flour. He had
evidently dashed forth from his mill on the riverside when he saw the
queer boat approaching, had boarded his skiff and rowed out into the
stream for a conversation with the captain. He signaled that he would
like to come on board, so Fulton ordered that a rope be thrown him to
draw his skiff alongside the _Clermont_. He called out that he “did not
know a mill could go up-stream, so he came to enquire about it.” One
of the passengers, Dennis Doyle, an Irishman who loved a good joke,
offered to guide him all over “the mill.” The miller climbed on board,
and Dennis showed him all the wheels and machinery and told him in fun
that by a simple contrivance one wheel could be thrown out of gear when
the mill was to go up-stream. “But show me the grindstones,” said the
miller. Dennis kept a straight face and pointing to Fulton answered,
“That is a secret which the master has not yet told us: when we come back
from Albany with our load of corn, if you come on board then, you will
see the meal fly.” The simple-minded miller rowed back to the shore,
wondering whether he could really move his own mill up-stream in the same
fashion.

At West Point the whole garrison was on the river bank to cheer the
boat, while at Newburgh it seemed as though the entire population of
Orange County had assembled; the hillside city was all alert. The ferry,
a sail-boat from Fishkill, was crowded by a party of ladies, and the
captain tacked close to the steamboat, which had just landed a passenger
at the dock. The flapping of the near-by sail attracted Fulton’s
attention and he raised his eyes to meet a flutter of handkerchiefs
and a group of smiling, happy faces. He hurriedly raised his hat in
acknowledgment as he gallantly exclaimed, “That is the finest sight we
have seen yet!”

The passengers’ statement in the newspaper was a fine advertisement for
the new mode of travel and by October the _Clermont_ was well established
as a passenger carrier.

Fulton wrote a letter to Captain Brink, on October 9th, which showed a
good master of the new enterprise. He expected every man in his employ to
do his duty,—there was to be no half-way service. It gives an insight
into Fulton’s strength of character and reveals an important factor in
his success:

                                          NEW YORK, Oct. 9th, 1807.

    CAPT. BRINK;

    SIR;

    Inclosed is the number of voyages which is intended the Boat
    should run this season. You may have them published in the
    Albany papers.

    As she is strongly manned and everyone except Jackson under
    your command, you must insist on each one doing his duty or
    turn him on shore and put another in his place. Everything must
    be kept in order, everything in its place, and all parts of the
    Boat scoured and clean. It is not sufficient to tell men to do
    a thing, but stand over them and make them do it. One pair of
    Quick and good eyes is worth six pair of hands in a commander.
    If the Boat is dirty and out of order the fault shall be yours.
    Let no man be Idle when there is the least thing to do, and
    make them move quick.

    Run no risques of any kind when you meet or overtake vessels
    beating or crossing your way, always run under their stern if
    there be the least doubt that you cannot clear their head by 50
    yards or more. Give in the accounts of Receipts and expenses
    every week to the Chancellor.

                        Your most obedient,

                                                      ROBT. FULTON.

Captain Brink continued in charge of the _Clermont_ during the season of
1807 and was succeeded the following spring by Captain Samuel Wiswall
who was employed by Fulton for many years. The boat ran well, with only
one accident, when, on November 13th, a cast-iron axletree broke, as the
_Clermont_ was setting out from New York and she was obliged to return
for repairs. By this time the weather was cool and ice was forming in
the river. On the 20th of November Fulton wrote to the Chancellor,—“It
is now time to lay her up for the winter. Nothing should be risqued from
bad weather—the gain will be trifling, the risque great.” He adds another
warning in postscript: “Do not risque the engine in the winds and waves
of the season.” He also outlined the changes and enlargements he planned
to make in the boat during the winter.

Through the cold weather she was laid up at the north end of the Hudson
and underwent extensive repairs and alterations. An interesting letter
written by Francis Sayre, of Catskill, describes the changes and gives so
many interesting facts that it is here printed. He writes under date of
September, 1857:

“I am as far as I know the only person now living who was on board the
first steamboat on her trial trip from New York to Albany. I do not refer
to the trial trip which was made in 1807, but to the first trip made by
the old _North River_, the first passenger boat propelled by steam.

“The craft employed by Mr. Fulton on the trial trip (called the
_Clermont_, but probably never registered) was taken to what was then
called Lower Red Hook and in the winter of 1807 and 1808 was hauled
on ways to be enlarged and converted into a commodious steamboat. The
alterations and enlargement were made by ship-builders of the city of
Hudson during the winter and spring. She was launched about the first
of May and called the _North River_. She was taken down to New York by
Captain Samuel Jenkins, who had her in temporary charge, until Captain
(afterward styled Commodore) Wiswall should be able to assume command. On
arriving at New York she was taken to the dock at the foot of Dey Street
(then far up town) where the machinery was put on board, and the cabin
and carpenter’s work were completed. This was done with a rapidity which
in those days was considered extraordinary, Mr. Fulton himself overseeing
and attending to every part. He was usually on board as early as five
o’clock in the morning and would be there almost the entire day. I never
knew a more industrious, indefatigable, laborious man. Fulton’s new
steamboat was the wonder of the day. She was visited daily by hundreds of
the curious who asked many queer questions in relation to the operation
of the steam and machinery; one of these almost invariably was, ‘Where
and how was the steam to be conveyed to the waterwheel?’ The crowd of
visitors became in time a great annoyance and hindrance to the workers on
board and I recollect a very amusing incident connected with the attempt
to prevent intrusion. Mr. Fulton directed a painter to letter a board
with the words:

    ONE DOLLAR FOR ANY PERSON TO COME ON BOARD WITHOUT LIBERTY

which was put up in a conspicuous place.

“One day a sailor came along and read the notice. Jack was not long in
putting his construction upon it, and with a knowing wink of the eye,
jumped on board without ceremony, pointed to the sign, and accosted the
man nearest him with, ‘Mister, who pays me that dollar?’

“Mr. Fulton was standing near and laughed heartily, a thing unusual for
him, for while among the workmen he was generally rather taciturn and
grave, giving his orders and directions in a laconic manner. He would
listen, however, to suggestions made by the more practical, and would
often modify his orders to accord with such suggestions. During the time
these preparations were going forward, trials were made of the working
of the machinery by hauling out into the stream, putting on steam, and
starting the engine. This was no small affair, for when the engineer gave
the notice, ‘All ready,’ all hands were called,—carpenters, joiners,
painters, calkers, laborers and crew,—to prevent what is termed ‘catching
on the center.’ During one of these trials, when going up the river at
the rate of six or eight miles an hour, Mr. Fulton stood looking over
the bow of the boat for fifteen or twenty minutes, intently watching the
motion and speed of the boat, apparently wholly absorbed. Suddenly he
wheeled and addressed a friend who stood near him with great enthusiasm,
exclaiming, ‘My good friend, she is a fine boat and our success is
certain.’

“Commodore Wiswall was now in command. At the hour appointed, 9 A.M.,
for her departure for Albany, Chancellor Livingston with a number of
invited friends came on board and, after a good deal of bustle and no
little noise and confusion, the boat was got into the stream and headed
up the river. Steam was put on and sails were set, for she was provided
with large square sails attached to masts that were so constructed that
they could be raised or lowered as the direction and strength of wind
might require. There was at the time a light breeze from the south, and
with steam and sails a very satisfactory rate of speed was attained.
Fast-sailing sloops were passed with ease, the machinery worked finely
and everything seemed to promise well. After a time, however, it was
discovered that steam was escaping from the boiler. This boiler was
constructed of wood, a cylinder perhaps twenty feet long and ten in
diameter, bound with heavy iron bands, with iron tubes extending from the
lower part of the furnace. The heat imparted to the iron bands by the
steam produced a shrinking of the wood directly under them, while the
spaces between them would swell with moisture imparted by the steam so
that the edges of the planks would be uneven, leaving open spaces through
which the steam escaped. How could the difficulty be obviated? Resort
was had to covering the boiler with blankets and carpets which, to some
extent, prevented this evil and, as the favorable wind continued, we kept
on the even tenor of our way and just before sunrise next morning we
were at Clermont, the residence of the Chancellor, who with his friends
landed, and the boat proceeded to Albany, where we arrived at 2 or 3 P.M.”

When the boat reached New York, on the return trip, Fulton immediately
had a copper boiler made to replace that of wood which had caused the
trouble. He was very energetic and ready to take any trouble or incur any
expense necessary to perfect the boat.

As soon as the _North River of Clermont_, as she was enrolled May
14th, 1808, was completed to Fulton’s satisfaction, he began to build
a companion boat, thereby establishing a service from each port twice
a week. This boat, the _Car of Neptune_, was followed by a third, the
_Paragon_. The last was, of course, the best, for Fulton improved each
model by noting the imperfections of its predecessor. He humorously
wrote, in a private letter, of 1812, “My _Paragon_ beats everything
on this globe, for made as you and I are, we cannot tell what is in
the moon—this Day she came on From Albany 150 miles in 26 hours wind
ahead.”[3]

But during these years, busy as they were, Fulton had not forgotten his
dream of universal peace through the work of his other invention,—the
submarine torpedo-boat. You will remember that when Fulton reached
America he laid his plans before Mr. Madison, Secretary of State, and
Mr. Smith, Secretary of the Navy. These gentlemen were so impressed that
they influenced the government to grant some money for an experiment in
the harbor of New York. In the spring of 1807, to prepare the minds of
the citizens for the new invention, Fulton invited the mayor and other
gentlemen to Governor’s Island, where he showed them his machines and the
copper cylinders for his torpedoes.

In time the meeting developed a humorous aspect. The spectators became
so interested that they crowded eagerly around him as he explained,
“Gentlemen, I have here a charged torpedo with which, precisely in its
present state, I mean to blow up a vessel. It contains one hundred and
seventy-five pounds of gunpowder, and if I were to allow the clockwork
to run for fifteen minutes, I have no doubt that it would blow this
fortification to atoms.” His listeners first looked at each other aghast,
then the more prudent hastily stepped back, and one by one the others
slipped away until Mr. Fulton found himself alone, with only two or
three of the bravest of his auditors peering at him from under a distant
gateway! None dared to return until he placed the deadly torpedo back in
its place in the magazine.

On the 20th of July he blew up a large brig in the harbor of New York,
and described this experiment with others in his book, “Torpedo War or
Submarine Explosions.” After three attempts the vessel was blown to
atoms, only a column of water, smoke and fragments being left to show
where she had been floating. The next day Fulton wrote a letter to the
governor and magistrates of the city in which he said:

“Gunpowder, within the last three hundred years, has totally changed
the art of war; and all my reflections have led me to believe that this
application of it will in a few years put a stop to maritime wars, give
that liberty on the seas which has been long and anxiously desired
by every good man, and secure to America that liberty of commerce,
tranquility, and independence which will enable her citizens to apply
their mental and corporal faculties to useful and humane pursuits, to the
improvement of our country, and the happiness of the whole people.”

So did Fulton dream of peace,—a dream still unfulfilled, yet worthy of
our future hope.

In 1810 Congress appointed a committee to decide upon the worth of
Fulton’s submarine warfare, and Commodore John Rodgers was told to do
all he could to get the sloop _Argus_ ready to resist the attack Fulton
was to make upon her. Commodore Rodgers entered the contest with the
enthusiasm of a boy. He had a strong wire netting stretched around the
bottom of the boat and anchored lashed spars to float at her sides; while
grappling irons, hung far out from the rigging, were ready to plunge at
any boat approaching with hostile intent. Huge scythes were hinged to
her decks, ready to cut off the heads of any sailors who ventured within
reach. It takes an American to beat an American! Fulton confessed that,
for the time, he had been outwitted but promised the officers of the navy
that he would yet find a way to conquer the difficulties.

His method is described in a letter to his old friend Joel Barlow; it
says in part:

“I have had some trouble with the torpedo experiments in consequence of
the determined opposition of the officers of the navy, for which I now
thank them. They had placed splinter nets across the bow of the vessel
with weights which held them to the ground; booms were floated in the
water and spaced out 20 feet from her sides to guard her sides. Grappling
oars with sword blades and ballast in slings, to show how they could sink
my boats, made a formidable appearance against one poor torpedo boat and
eight poor men. Moreover, all this would not have saved them had the nets
not been to the ground; I was not prepared for nets thus arranged. Hence
the committee gave me till the 29th of this month to show how I would
get through the nets or carry them away. I am now prepared to prove that
nets and booms are no better protection than cobwebs. Commodore Rodgers
opposes me with much ardor and ingenuity; the reason he says I cannot do
it is that I have not practical nautical knowledge; this might be true
but reflection for the last 113 days has given me knowledge to the same
effect, so that with a log-ship of about two hundred tons burden arranged
with torpedoes and without cannon, I will destroy any ship that ever was
built, that is, if she dare to lay at anchor, or if in fact she does not
run away faster than I can run to overtake her; this fortunately can be
done in port, along our coast, or in open sea: I have just finished a
model of this log torpedo ship, also a bullet-proof torpedo boat that
acts without oars,—thus you see I am on the highroad to success and in
good spirits.”

But although Fulton’s system was not then adopted, he had gained the
recognition of the United States Navy, and had presented the germ for
expansion in other minds for submarine warfare, now practiced by navies
throughout the world. Moreover, he had the honor of building, in 1814,
the first steam war-ship, the _Demologus_, meaning “The Voice of the
People,” later named _Fulton_.

This alone gives the inventor high honor, for in time it changed all
the navies of the world. Our country has recognized Fulton’s patriotism
by naming its first submarine tender to burn oil in her engines, the
_Fulton_ (1914), and has retained his name “torpedo” for all its
submarine craft.

[3] Extract from letter from Robert Fulton to Benjamin West, March 23,
1809:

“My Steamboats are doing wonders, the one of last year cleared 16,000
dollars. I am now building two more; when finished there will be two
running between New York and Albany and one between New York and New
Brunswick in Jersey on the route to Philadelphia. There is a fair
calculation that these Boats will clear 25,000 dollars a year, of which
I have half so that I am doing very well.”



CHAPTER XVI

FERRY-BOATS AND RIVER-BOATS


The few remaining years in Robert Fulton’s life were very busy ones. In
1809 he formed a stock company to finance the building of steam ferries
to run from New York to Jersey City, and so thoroughly was Fulton trusted
that the entire construction of the new boats was left solely to him.
Before this time there had been rowboat and sail-boat ferries, and a
“horse-boat,” propelled by paddles which were turned by the feet of four
blind horses walking a tread-mill.

We can imagine how welcome were Fulton’s steam ferries. He called
them “twin-boats” because he built each boat with two complete hulls,
connected by a bridge or deck, which provided a wide platform for
carriages and passengers. The ends were rounded, just as they are in
present-day ferries, so that the boats could cross and re-cross the
river without turning; and floating docks were built to receive them,
also “fenders,” to avoid any shock from collision when the boats came to
shore. It has been said that if steam navigation had been applied to no
other purpose than to move these “floating bridges,” over streams where
no other bridge could be built, he who applied it would deserve to rank
among the great benefactors of mankind.

Fulton called his first ferry-boats _York_ and _Jersey_, and the one
he built in 1812 for the East River was named _Nassau_. As traffic
increased between the New York terminals a new street was opened between
the ferries, in 1816-18, and was appropriately named Fulton Street. The
ferry over the East River, where thousands of persons daily crossed to
Brooklyn and other points on Long Island, also honored the inventor, and
was called “Fulton Ferry.”

These busy years of Fulton’s life were harassed by lawsuits over patent
rights; for as soon as steam navigation was proved a success, certain
unscrupulous speculators rushed in to try to make money by the new
invention. Fulton called them “mental pirates” because they tried to
steal the riches of his mind, and in many cases they succeeded in making
more money from the invention than Fulton himself ever gained.

You may remember that during his stay in France Fulton had been impressed
by the splendid possibilities of opening navigation on the great
Mississippi River. This idea came to him when the United States purchased
Louisiana. As soon as the _Clermont_ was established as a passenger
boat on the Hudson River, the partners, Livingston and Fulton, decided
to engage the services of a third person who was interested in steam
navigation, namely, Nicholas J. Roosevelt, a personal friend of both men
and an experimenter, as early as 1781, with an original, although since
abandoned, plan for a steamboat.

At this point comes in an interesting story. Fulton and Livingston
thought it proper and necessary, before launching their new boat upon
western waterways, to write for permission to the governor of the new
state of Louisiana. The fact that they did so would never have been known
had it not been for the discovery of two small boys who went to play, a
few years ago, in an unused loft in Galena, Illinois. There they came
across a box containing papers yellowed by age. Some were written in
French, and these they did not understand, but a few were in English, and
the boys, fresh from school, recognized the well-known names Livingston
and Fulton, when they saw them signed at the end of a letter. So they
tucked that piece of paper into a pocket, and some time afterward,
when it came to light, they told a grown-up person about their find. He
realized at once the value of the old papers and went in search of them,
only to find that the loft had been cleaned since the boys’ visit there
and all the papers cast out and burned by some ignorant person who did
not suspect their value. The documents and letters had belonged to a man
who had been clerk under an early governor of the state. This letter
shows how keenly Livingston and Fulton realized, in spite of doubters,
the advantages which were sure to follow the establishment of steam
navigation:

                                       CLERMONT, STATE OF NEW YORK,
                                                 August 20th, 1810.

    To his Excellency, The Governor of Upper Mississippi;

    SIR;

    Wishing to extend the benefit of steamboat navigation to
    the Mississippi River, a capital approaching to two hundred
    thousand dollars will be required, which capital must be raised
    by subscription; but subscribers cannot be obtained until an
    effectual law presents a fair prospect of securing to them
    such exclusive right as will return emolument equal to the
    risk and trouble. In this point the patent law of the United
    States is at present imperfect, hence after the example of
    encouragement granted by the State of New York we have applied
    to the different governments bordering on the Mississippi for
    their protection and patronage and thus take the liberty to
    transmit to you our petition. To improve the navigation of
    the Mississippi by transporting goods for three fourths of the
    sum which is now paid and in three fourths of the time; to
    render such an establishment periodical, uniform and secure is
    an object of such immense importance to the states bordering
    on the Mississippi, a work of so much labor and hazard to the
    undertakers as we hope will excite the most lively feelings
    of patronage and protection both in your Excellency and the
    Honourable, the Legislature of Upper Louisiana. On the receipt
    of these papers we shall esteem it a particular favor to be
    honored with an answer from your Excellency, expressing your
    opinion on this subject.

    We have the honor to be respectfully,

                 Your Excellencies most obedient,

                                               ROBT. R. LIVINGSTON.
                                               ROBT. FULTON.

The interest of this letter prompts a warning to all lovers of history to
keep any fragment of possible value; even if old papers have no charm for
you, there is probably somebody searching somewhere for just the bit of
information there recorded. Don’t burn old papers merely because they are
old. Read them and pass on their message.

But let us return to the story of Mr. Roosevelt. In 1809 he had married
Miss Lydia Latrobe, of Baltimore, whom we must confess a brave bride. As
soon as Fulton and Livingston had engaged Mr. Roosevelt’s services, he
went to Pittsburgh, ordered a flat-boat to be built, and undertook the
voyage to New Orleans to study the tides and river depths, and report
their condition to Fulton so that he could decide whether a steamboat
could make the journey down the long river against the strong currents.

Mr. Roosevelt did not travel alone, he took his young bride on the
strange honey-moon trip. Flat-boats or rafts were quite common on the
Mississippi. Mrs. Roosevelt has thus described theirs:

“There was a huge box containing a comfortable bedroom, dining-room,
pantry, and a room in front for the crew, with a fireplace where the
cooking was done. The top of the boat was flat, with seats and an awning.
We had on board a pilot, three ‘hands’ and a man cook. We always stopped
at night, lashing the boat to the shore. The rowboat was a large one,
in which Mr. Roosevelt went out constantly with two or three men to
ascertain the rapidity of the ripples or current.”

It was a six months’ voyage. Mr. Roosevelt carried letters of
introduction to prominent citizens of Cincinnati, Louisville, and other
cities, and found that these gentlemen listened with respectful attention
to his account of the success of the _Clermont_ on the Hudson River,
but none would encourage him to hope that a steamboat would prove a
safe venture for the rapid current of the western river. However, Mr.
Roosevelt took soundings of depths, made maps to show the position of
sand-bars, and compiled a record of the swift flow of tides and of the
general weather conditions. He was thought, as Fulton had been considered
in New York, a mad enthusiast, whose plan would prove a total loss to
any persons unwise enough to spend money in building a boat for the
Mississippi.

They did not arrive at New Orleans until the first of December, from
which port they took passage in a sailing vessel for New York. They had
a hard voyage, for their captain fell sick and there was an outbreak of
yellow fever on board. At Old Point Comfort they decided to leave the
ship, and they made the remainder of the journey by stage-coach, arriving
in New York about the middle of January.

We may imagine how eagerly Fulton and Livingston studied the charts and
listened to Roosevelt’s recital. The adverse criticisms of people living
on the shores of the Mississippi were set aside by the facts noted by Mr.
Roosevelt in his journal, or “log-book,” of the strange voyage. Fulton’s
optimism was always ready to surmount any barrier. It was agreed that
Mr. Roosevelt should immediately return to Pittsburgh to superintend
the building of the first steamboat for western waters. Fulton drew the
plan, which was very different from those he had made for the Hudson
River boats, because the conditions were so unlike those in the east. And
he decided to make the steam engine much more powerful to cope with the
heavy currents.

Under a bluff called Boyd’s Hill, close to an iron foundry, the new
boat, named the _New Orleans_, in honor of the city of her destination,
was built. Timber was scarce and the ribs and beams for the hull had
to be floated down stream from the upper forests. The local workmen
could not understand the plan, and skilled ship-builders and machinists
from Fulton’s New York yards had to be sent to finish the work. This
boat, like that on the Seine, suffered mishap, for one night a heavy
freshet caused the water to rise, set afloat all the valuable timber
and backed the whole ship-yard up stream. Not once, but several times,
the high water threatened to launch the boat before she was ready. But
perseverance conquers all, and finally the finished boat was successfully
afloat upon the waters of the Ohio River.

History repeats itself, as the old adage says. Again the scoffers
gathered by the dock and river bank, laughed at the queer construction
and predicted that the boat would never reach New Orleans.

When it became known that Mrs. Roosevelt intended to accompany her
husband she was warned of her folly; indeed, Mr. Roosevelt was openly
reproved for allowing his wife thus to imperil her life. The boat was
supposed to carry passengers, but none appeared. Nevertheless, plans were
carried out and during the autumn of 1811, on a bright October day, the
_New Orleans_ triumphantly steamed forth from Pittsburgh, in the presence
of a great crowd of people. They cheered as the boat went _down_ the
river, but they openly prophesied that she could never come _up_!

From city to city the steamboat made its brave way. When, during the
fourth night out, Louisville was reached in bright moonlight, the steam
whistle aroused the sleeping town and the people hurried to the river,
thinking that the comet of that year had fallen into the stream! When
morning dawned and they could see that Mr. Roosevelt’s promised steamboat
had arrived, the citizens complimented his perseverance and gave a
banquet in his honor. But they all agreed that the queer vessel never
could go up the river against the current, no matter how successfully she
could steam down.

So Mr. Roosevelt played a good joke on them. He invited a number of
friends to a dinner in the cabin of the boat. While the feast was at its
height, a strange rumbling brought the frightened guests to their feet;
they rushed up on deck to discover that the boat had cast off from the
dock, had turned in the river, and was actually steaming _up stream_, in
spite of all their warnings that it never could!

After they had passed Louisville, while they waited for the water to rise
high enough to pass through the rapids, Roosevelt took the time to turn
the boat back as far as Cincinnati, to show doubters in that city that
the feat was quite possible. The voyage through the rapids was exciting
but the boat darted like an arrow through them and again accomplished the
so-called “impossible.”

The year 1811 was one of strange happenings. A comet blazed in the skies,
a flood covered the lands in the valley, causing an epidemic of sickness,
and earthquakes shook the whole region from the Missouri to the Gulf of
Mexico. Small wonder that the Indians who lived in the forests along the
Ohio and Mississippi paddled away in fright from the steamboat as it
approached. They thought it was an evil thing.

The voyage came to an end, and a happy incident marked its close, for
just before the steamboat reached the city of New Orleans, a tiny
passenger arrived on board to give it final blessing, for a little child
was born to Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt.

The boat was kept at New Orleans to use as a packet between that city
and Natchez, but as pioneer it had proved the possibility for other
steamboats to navigate the big river successfully, and they rapidly
multiplied. Within twenty years after the voyage of the _New Orleans_
hundreds of steam-propellers were paddling their easy way up and down the
river. Steam navigation was a proved fact upon the Mississippi.

In this connection it is interesting to read the following extract from a
letter Fulton wrote to his friend Thomas Jefferson, on April 7th, 1813.
It outlines a still more extended system of steam navigation:

    “I am not idle as to torpedoes but secrecy is necessary.
    When peace returns, or in four or five years from this date,
    I shall have a line of steamboats from Quebec to Mexico and
    to St. Mary’s; the route is up the St. Lawrence, over Lake
    Champlain, down the Hudson to Brunswick, cross the Delaware to
    Philadelphia; by land carriage to Pittsburgh, down the Ohio
    and Mississippi to Red River, up it to above Natchitoches: the
    total land carriage about five hundred miles, the other route
    to St. Mary’s land carriage not more than two hundred miles.
    The most of these boats are now constructing.”



CHAPTER XVII

FULTON’S HOME AND FULTON’S HONORS


We have followed Fulton through widely different works,—art, canal
navigation, the invention of the submarine torpedo and the steamboat. In
1814 he had reached almost the end of his busy and useful life.

Robert Fulton lived to be only fifty years old,—not the allotted “three
score and ten” named by the Psalmist; yet during his half-century he
accomplished infinitely more than many another does in a life full of
years. To labor incessantly was his habit and pleasure. As he had written
to Joel Barlow, “I cannot exist without a project, or projects, and
I have two or three of the first order of sublimity.” Herein lay the
secret, if such an openly admitted fact can be so termed, of his valuable
life. He looked upon work as sublime; he exalted it to dignity; and its
product to him was world-wide fame because of his world-wide service to
humanity.

After his marriage, on January 7th, 1808, to Miss Harriet Livingston, to
whom you will remember his engagement was announced on the _Clermont_,
they made their home in New York City, first at 100 Reade Street, then
at 133 Chambers Street, where they moved in 1811, and the succeeding
year, at Marketfield Place, opposite the Battery. The street now known as
Battery Place was then called Marketfield Street; the Hudson River then
flowed in as far as Washington Street and Battery Park extended only as
far as Greenwich Street. Castle Garden occupied a tiny island connected
with the mainland by a foot-bridge.

The foregoing addresses are given from the New York directories of those
years, and some confusion regarding Fulton’s last residence has arisen
from the fact that Cadwallader Colden, who knew him well, says that
he lived at number 1 State Street. In either case, his home commanded
a superb outlook upon the harbor and river, and became a gathering
place for his many distinguished friends. The outlook upon the dancing,
sunny waters of the harbor must have been an inspiration and joy to
the inventor of boats,—of this we may be sure. Works of art, in accord
with Fulton’s taste, abounded; and in the dining-room, the scene of
much pleasant hospitality, was spread the dinner service of fine china,
embossed with the coat of arms of the United States, presented to Fulton
by Thomas Jefferson.

[Illustration: HARRIET LIVINGSTON, WIFE OF ROBERT FULTON.

TWO OF FULTON’S CHILDREN.

Miniatures owned by C. Franklin Crary.]

Mrs. Fulton was an accomplished harpist and when quiet evening hours
closed the busy days, we may fancy her graceful form, with high-carved
tortoise-shell comb surmounting her slender head, as she sat in the
mellow light of the drawing-room, playing sweet melodies to the master
of the house and their four little children,—Robert Barlow Fulton (named
for Joel Barlow whose affection for Fulton never lessened) and the three
daughters, Julia, Mary, and Cornelia Livingston Fulton,—bright, happy,
companionable children who delighted the hearts of their parents.

Several excellent portraits exist of Robert Fulton, for he made a
striking model for the many artists who were his friends; but in addition
to that depicted, let us briefly consider his character, learned from
those who knew and loved him in life; and from them we may gain the true
likeness of the soul and mind of the man.

First we may think of Fulton as a good son, ever loyal and kind to his
mother, providing a home for her old age and sending her gifts of money
from time to time through many years, to provide her with comforts. His
generosity included all who were of kin, for the letters quoted prove him
mindful of the welfare of his brother and sisters, though circumstances
had carried him far from their sight.

He was a good friend as well, choosing his companions for their real
worth, and his affection for them was faithful throughout his life.

He hated sham and falsehood and was brave enough to expose any
make-believe in science. An example of this is shown in the following
story. A man named Redheffer had earned much money in Philadelphia by
exhibiting a machine which he claimed was run by perpetual motion. In
1813 one of these contrivances was brought to New York and advertised as
a modern wonder. Crowds of people flocked to see it and paid a dollar
entrance-fee.

The problem of perpetual motion had vexed the minds of scientists for
many years. Fulton was unwilling to believe that its solution had been
discovered, but his friends persuaded him to visit the house in the
outskirts of the city where the machine was set up. He had not been long
in the room when he exclaimed, “This machine has a crank motion.”

The alarmed showman hastened forward with explanations, but Fulton,
convinced he was right, openly denounced the affair as a fraud. His
trained ear, as it listened to the wheels of the mechanism, detected
an uneven motion and he proclaimed to the audience that the thing was a
cheat and he could prove it. He knocked away some woodwork concealing a
string of catgut, which led along an upper wall to a distant attic where
a poor old man, unkempt and half-starving, sat upon a stool and patiently
turned, with weary hand, a crank.

The angry audience destroyed the machine, and the dishonest proprietor
disappeared quickly. This ended Redheffer’s false theory.

Mrs. Barlow, than whom none could know Fulton better, wrote to Mr.
Colden, in reply to his question about Fulton’s early life:

“Agreeable to your request I shall endeavor to give you the best
information in my power respecting the early life of our excellent
friend, Mr. Fulton. What is previous to 1797, when we became acquainted
with him, was related by himself. He chose to have it known that he was
self-educated and author of his own fortune, if I may so express it.
During the summer of 1797, Mr. Fulton came to Paris to introduce his
system (of canals) and get it patented. He came to lodge at a hotel
where Mr. Barlow and myself were boarders. There commenced that strong
affection and devoted friendship which subsisted between them in the
most extraordinary degree as long as they lived. We went into our own
house soon after, when my husband invited Mr. Fulton to reside with us as
long as we should remain in Paris. He resided in our family as a brother
for seven years. During this period he learned the French language and
something of the Italian and German; studied the higher mathematics, the
sciences, physics, chemistry and perspective, and in short completed his
education as far as it related to his useful elegant pursuits.”

Mrs. Barlow quaintly says that Fulton’s “genteel manners, companionable
and amiable qualities, acquired him many valuable friends among the
nobility and gentry.” We may readily infer that not only did he choose
his friends, but they chose him, because they found pleasure and profit
in his company.

Mr. Colden describes him in these words: “Mr. Fulton was about six
feet high; his person was slender but well proportioned and well
formed. Nature had made him a gentleman and bestowed upon him ease and
gracefulness. He had too much good sense for the least affectation; and a
modest confidence in his own worth and talents gave him an unembarrassed
deportment in all companies. His features were strong and of a manly
beauty. He had large dark eyes and a projecting brow, expressive of
intelligence and thought. His temper was mild, and his disposition
lively. He was fond of society, which he always enlivened by cheerful,
cordial manners and instructed or pleased by his sensible conversation.
He expressed himself with energy, fluency, and correctness, and as he
owed more to his own experience and reflections than to books, his
sentiments were often interesting from their originality.

“In his home he was kind, generous, and affectionate, and he gave freely
of his money to charity, to entertaining friends at home, and to further
his scientific plans. But conspicuous among his virtues were his calm
constancy, his industry, and the untiring perseverance which helped him
to overcome all difficulties.”

Another friend wrote: “Among a thousand individuals you might readily
point out Robert Fulton. He was conspicuous for his gentlemanly
bearing and freedom from embarrassment, for his extreme activity, his
height,—somewhat over six feet,—his slender yet energetic form and well
accommodated dress, for his full and curly dark brown hair, carelessly
scattered over his forehead and falling around his neck. His complexion
was fair, his forehead high, his eyes dark and penetrating, and revolving
in capacious orbs of cavernous depths; his brow was thick and evinced
strength and determination; his nose was long and prominent, his mouth
and lips were beautifully proportioned, giving the impress of eloquent
utterance. Trifles were not calculated to impede him or damp his
perseverance.”

A story is told by a writer in the National Portrait Gallery about the
establishment of the first ferry-boat across the East River to Brooklyn,
and of a painful accident which happened during the second or third trip.
Some trouble occurred with the machinery, and in an attempt to start the
boat the chief engineer was caught in the wheels and so injured that he
died from his wounds the following day. He was carried to the house next
to the home of the writer, who recalled the conversation between Mr.
Fulton and the attending surgeon. Fulton exclaimed, “Sir, I will give
all I am worth to save the life of that man.” When the doctor said his
recovery was hopeless, Fulton turned aside, completely unmanned, and
wept like a child. The neighbor truly observed that while no personal
misfortune ever seemed to disturb Fulton’s calm manner, yet his feeling
toward other people was sensitive and tender.

Paul Sabbaton, who was chief engineer in Fulton’s employ, wrote in later
years, “I was so constantly with Mr. Fulton, saw him at his occupation,
at his family fireside, and in almost every situation, that I have to
this day a most distinct and strongly impressed likeness on my mind. He
had all the traits of a man with the gentleness of a child. I never heard
him use ill words to any one of those employed under him no matter how
strong the provocation might be, and I do know there was enough of that
at times; and ever and anon, my mind recurs to the time when his labors
were severe. His habit was, cane in hand, to walk up and down for hours.
I see him now, in my mind’s eye, with his white, loosely-tied cravat,
his waistcoat unbuttoned, his ruffles waving from side to side, as his
movements caused their movements; he, all the while in deep thought,
scarcely noticing anything passing.”

This agrees with the statement of another employee: “His workmen were
always pleased to see him about the shops. With his rattan cane in hand,
he always appeared to me the counterpart of an English nobleman.”

By gathering these mind-pictures together we can form a composite
likeness of a man who was great in small as well as in large affairs.

Let me add a story of my own recollection. About the year 1890 there came
to Poughkeepsie, New York, a blind Scotch woman ninety years of age. The
infirm old lady was very fond of music and kindly members from the choir
of the Church of the Holy Comforter would go to sing to her, for she was
too feeble to attend church. When she heard the name of the rector of the
church, Fulton’s grandson, the Rev. Robert Fulton Crary, D.D., her face
lighted with pleasure and she exclaimed, “His name, Fulton, is very dear
to me.” When asked the reason, she explained that during her childhood,
her father, a boat-builder, employed at the New York ship-yards,
purchased a small plot of ground adjoining a larger section owned by
Robert Fulton. When the Scotchman came to build his home he found that
his largest and best room could only gain sunshine by opening a window
directly upon the line of Mr. Fulton’s property. With fear and trembling
he plucked up courage to ask this permission, which was so pleasantly
granted that the bright, cheerful living-room was always called, in
memory of that kindness. “Mr. Fulton’s room.” The wrinkled face of the
old Scotch woman was aglow with the pleasure of the recollection, and
the sunshine of that room still lingered even through her blinded eyes
and the long life of many years. How few of us realize the far-reaching
effect of a simple act of kindness.

Never very robust since that early outbreak of lung trouble, Fulton had
worked to the full extent of his strength. When the accident occurred to
his trial boat on the Seine, he imprudently dashed into the water to save
the valuable machinery; and the labor of twenty-four hours, with neither
rest nor refreshment, caused a constitutional weakness from which he
never wholly recovered.

So keen was his interest in his work that when a new idea for some
invention came to him he would pass the whole night in thought, following
the resultant chain of ideas. In February of 1815 he went to Trenton,
New Jersey, to testify in a lawsuit to protect the Livingston-Fulton
rights in steam ferries, and while returning with his friend Mr. Emmet,
a prominent lawyer, and Mr. John R. Livingston, he was obliged to wait a
long time for the ferry-boat. Always eager to make use of spare moments,
he decided to visit his ship-building yards to inspect the work upon his
_Demologus_, the first war-vessel, and also to examine other boats he had
sent there for repairs. He spent three hours at the works, and then with
Mr. Emmet tried to walk across the ice formed at the riverside. Heavy
rain had fallen, and this so weakened the ice that his companion fell
through into the water. Greatly agitated, Mr. Fulton helped his friend
up and out, but both men were wet through by the quantity of water
floating upon the ice. It was a very imprudent exposure and the natural
penalty followed. Fulton took such a severe cold that he was confined to
his room for several days. His great interest in the _Demologus_ tempted
him to venture upon an early carriage drive to the works; he took more
cold, inflammation of the lungs followed, and on the morning of February
23d, 1815, he passed from this world to the life eternal.

Unusual tokens of public esteem followed the announcement. The
legislature in session at Albany resolved that both Houses wear mourning,
a testimonial never before accorded a private citizen. The newspapers of
the day bore black columns; the Corporation of the City of New York, and
literary and scientific associations, assembled to pass resolutions of
sympathy. All members, wearing badges of mourning, attended his funeral
at Trinity Church on the 25th of February. Minute guns were fired from
his steam frigate and the West Battery, while the long procession, in
which were officers of the National and State Governments, the Mayor and
Common Council, and hosts of prominent citizens, wended its way from his
late residence to the historic church, under the shadow of which, in the
vault of the Livingston family, his body was laid to rest.

The lad from Lancaster had earned high honor. He sleeps near the river he
loved so well.

    Time-honored son, whose memory we revere,
        Around the wondering earth thy lustrous name
        Shone in old days, a sudden star of Fame,
        Nor is that glamour dimmed. No leaves are sere
    Among thy laurels. Greater seems each year
        Thy priceless benefaction. Let them crown
        Thy rare achievement with deserved renown
        Who reap the guerdon of thy rich career!

    Long hast thou passed the dark Lethean stream,
        Yet who but envies that illustrious sleep?
        Though thou art dust, yet vital is thy dream;
    The waves of all the world still chant of thee:
        Thy soul pervades the Ship and wings the Deep,—
        Thy Spirit is immortal on the sea.

                                          LLOYD MIFFLIN.





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