|Second attempt to introduce the submarine,
Report of a commision thereon, Paints panoramas for a living, Constructs and
operates the submarine.
We must now follow rapidly the vicissitudes of Fulton's second attempt to influence the French Government to adopt his proposals for making a submarine boat. A new Minister of Marine and of the Colonies had been appointed on April 28, 1798, in the person of Eustace Bruix,l a man then only in his fortieth year, and therefore not so hide-bound as his predecessor by traditions of the service. On the 5th Thermidor, an VI (July 23, 1798) Fulton renewed the encounter by submitting to Bruix his propositions.2 In the covering letter, he states that the project has been examined and approved by citizens Monge, Dufalga, Montgolfier, Perrier, and other distinguished savants, and, after offering once more to make the experiments at his own expense, he ends by saying: " The destruction of the English Navy will ensure the independence of the seas and France, the Nation which has most natural resources and population, will alone and without a rival hold the balance of power in Europe." Bruix, " relying on the opinion of enlightened citizens," i.e. those cited above, transmits these propositions once more to the Directory. Apparently the result was favourable, for, a week later, the minister appointed a commission of experts to examine Fulton s project, and at the same time he convened a meeting of them to take place on the rsth Thermidor (August 2), at Fulton's residence. One of these letters of appointment has been preserved ;it bears a curious device symbolising the liberty of the seas, with the words " Liberty," "Equality," on either side of it. (Translation.) PARIS, 13th Shermider, Year VI. of the Republic One and Indivisible EUSTACE BRUIX, Vice-Admiral to Citizen Adet, 810 RUE DU REGARD, PARIS. CITIZEN, Citizen Robert Fulton having invented a machine for the destruction of the enemy's marine forces, you are informed that I have appointed you one of the Commissioners for examining the same. I invite you in consequence to the residence of Citizen Fulton, No. 5I5 Rue du Bacq, on the Isth of this month at II A.M. The other Commissioners will also attend, and you will come to an agreement with them as to the report which you will make to me relative to Citizen Fulton's machine. (Signed) E. BRUIX, Minister of Affiarzne and of the Colonies. TO CITIZEN ADET, 8IO RUE DU REGARD, PARIS . The experts were Rosily, president of the Commission, for navigation and seaworthiness; Adet for the chemical questions involved ; Pdrier for practical mechanics; Prony for hydrostatics; and Forfait for naval architecture. The names of citizens Gautier, Caching and Burgues Missiessy appear also at the foot of the report; they must have been appointed subsequently. It would have been difficult to have nominated men better qualified in their respective spheres to undertake such a task. The report Of the Commission, which is dated Id Fructidor (5 Sept. 1798), exhibits in consequence, as might be expected, remarkable thoroughness and is instructive even at the present day, because it illustrates so well the growth of an invention; space, however, precludes us from giving it in full. The first part of the report is occupied with a description of Fulton's plans for the construction of his Nautilus, which, it will be seen, was of the type which takes in water ballast until the weight of the volume of water displaced equals that of the boat a type which is most difficult to keep in adjustment and which can give only an erratic depth line. With the report there is a drawing which is here reproduced as a help to the reader. The Hull was to be of the shape of an imperfect ellipsoid 6.48 m. (2I.25 ft.) long and I.94 m. (6.43 ft.) diameter. Below this hull there was to be another hull of metal o.52 m. (I.7 ft.) deep, terminating I m. (3.28 ft.) from the bow with the curve of which it was to " fair." The sides of this hull were to be similarly " faired " to the sides of the ellipsoid while the after end, fashioned like the stern of an ordinary vessel, was to terminate o.75 m. (2.46 ft.) from the end of the ellipsoid. The middle of the hull was to have a flat floor. The object of this hull, which was also to serve as a keel, was to accommodate such a quantity of water ballast as would make the difference between the weight of the whole submarine boat and the weight of the water displaced by it not more than 4 to 5 kilos., so that the introduction of this small quantity of water would be all that was necessary to make the submarine sink or rise to the surface. This was to be accomplished by a suction and force pump worked by lever, pinion, and racks, very much like the air pumps of the period. In the words of the report: " Citizen Fulton, who had in view particularly the object of imitating the mechanism by which fish make their movements in the water, has, by means of the pump just referred to, taken the place of the swim bladder which by its spontaneous dilations and contractions increases or diminishes the volume of the fish and makes it approach the surface or sink to the bottom of the water, at will." At the bow of the ellipsoid, on the upper surface, there was to be a metallic dome or conning tower pierced with sidelights of thick glass and furnished with a manhole serving as an ingress for the crew and stores. At about 1 m. (3.28 ft.) from the bow of the ellipsoid, a water-tight bulkhead cut off a compartment which enclosed the anchor gear and a small winch the use of which will be explained later. Both were worked by shafts passing through stuffing boxes in the bulkhead. The anchor was of the stockless type, the shank being drawn up the hawsehole leaving the flukes resting against the hull. Propulsion which, after all, was the most important point was to be effected by means of a screw, called by Fulton a fly, actuated by cranks and gearing. The diameter was to be I.34 m. (4.4 ft.), and there were to be four wings about 2/3 m. (2.2 ft.) wide. He hoped to obtain when at full speed 240 revolutions, and at ordinary times 120 revolutions, of the screw. The rudder was to be of the usual unbalanced type projecting 1 m. (3.28 ft.) from the stern and .5 m. (1.64 ft.) deep. It was to be worked by a sprocket chain from a crank in the centre of the boat, where the commander of the vessel stood. A second horizontal rudder, intended to maintain the vessel at a predetermined immersion, was hinged on a pin on the vertical rudder and at right angles to it so that it could turn through an angle of 3o deg. half above and half below the horizontal line. It was to be actuated by a pinion working a sleeve on the vertical rudder spindle on which was a collar. The latter came against a hook or stop on the extremity of the horizontal rudder. For propulsion when at the surface, and instead of using the screw, a hinged mast was to be arranged at a point about one-third of the vessel's length from the bow. To this mast was to be bent a sail like a fan, furled by sheets on the ribs. After furling the sail, the mast was to be lowered against the hull and two envelopes shaped like the sheath wings of a fly were to close over it. Three men were to suffice for working the Nautilus, and with a lighted lamp were expected to be able to stay for three hours under water. The attacking apparatus of the Nautilus was to consist of a submarine mine or torpedo, which was merely a copper barrel intended to hold a quintal (100 lbs ) of gunpowder and furnished in front with a gun-lock the trigger of which was to be pulled off by a lanyard. To get this into position and fire it the following apparatus was schemed. Through the conning tower of the Lautzlus, by means of a stuffing box, passed a shaft. The outer end of this terminated in a screw eye, called by Fulton " the horn of the Nautilus." Through the eye passed the tow rope attached to the torpedo from a small winch inside. The Nautilus was to be navigated till under the keel of the ship which it was intended to blow up and the horn was to be embedded in the planking by a few blows on the end of the shaft so that it could then be screwed firmly into the wood. The Nautilus was then to set off, leaving the horn behind, till the tow rope brought the torpedo into contact with the ship's bottom. In the words of the report ala poudre fait une explosion terrible qui, ne pouvant agir sur beau a cause de son incompressibilite exerce tout son effet contre les flancs du vaisseau et le brise." It must be remembered that it was not generally known at this time and indeed till many years later that an explosive would act under water in this way. The Commission did not consider that this apparatus would act satisfactorily, and were of opinion that experiments were necessary to determine the point. The cubic content of the boat was calculated at 10.37 cub. m. (366 cub. ft.). Allowing one-third of this space for the accommodation of men and stores, the remaining 6.92 cub. m. would suffice, according to Lavoisier's experiments that a man consumes 2 5/7 cub. m. of air per hour, for 3 men for 12.5 hours. But to allow for the necessary lamplight and the fact that the carbon dioxide from combustion and the men's lungs would render the air irrespirable long before this point had been reached the Commission put it down at 6 hours. It will be seen later that Fulton and his assistants only remained 3 hours under water. With regard to the equilibrium of the boat, the Commission remarked that it would not do that the conning tower should come flush with the water merely, in order to renew the air by opening the side lights; but that it would be necessary for the conning tower to emerge 3 or 4 decimetres. It would then be necessary to deal with 500 kilos of water instead of the 4 or 5 spoken of by the inventor. Fulton proposed a pipe to the other extremity of the hull in order to establish a current of air. Fulton showed to the Commissioners in action, a model of the boat in which the screw was worked by a spring, but they were of opinion that there was no comparison between it and an actual boat, because the spring was in proportion at least three times the strength of three men working cranks. We shall see later that the Commissioners were right. In his means of propulsion Fulton was following Bushnell, who had employed a single threaded screw of one complete turn. Fulton's propeller, however, was a short portion only of a quadruple threaded screw. It is worthy of remark that when, half a century later, the screw was applied to steam navigation, exactly the same evolution was gone through. Had Fulton's work been made known, a considerable amount of experimenting might have been dispensed with. After approving of the ordinary rudder, they were of opinion that the horizontal one for controlling the rise and descent of the Nautilus would not be effectual. Fulton at once proposed a second screwl under the keel. This was approved, as it was considered that it would give a means of more effectually controlling the vertical speed. The Commission approved the anchor gear, but criticised the sail arrangement on the ground that the largest surface was at the upper part, and would therefore diminish the boat's stability. They remarked that the force with which a floating body tends to resist inclination is proportional to the cube of the ordinates of the plane of flotation. Here the plane of rotation is zero, because the difference between the weight of the entire system and that of the volume of water which it would displace is only 4 to 5 kilos. Therefore, theoretically, the breath of a child would sufffice to capsize the boat. Either the sails must be omitted or the Nautilus must have greater emersion, which means dealing with a larger quantity of water. Further difficulties were suggested, e.g. the enemy might furnish their vessels with netslwherewith to fish for the torpedoes. The Nautilus might be surprised, and it would take the crew some time to furl the sail and plunge. There would be a difficulty in knowing the distance run under water and the depth below the surface. For the latter contingency, Fulton proposed a barometer, but the Commissioners show that it was not practicable The report terminates thus: ( Translation.) " The arm conceived by citizen Fulton is a terrible means of destruction, because it acts in silence and in a manner almost inevitable. It is particularly suitable to the French, because, having a weaker navy (we should say necessarily) than their adversary, the entire destruction of both navies is of advantage to them. "This arm is without doubt imperfect; it is the first conception of a man of genius. It would be very imprudent to risk coming out of the workshop and crossing the high seas to attack the English ships in theirharbours. The inventor, who undertakes to command the boat himself and find the necessary crew, should practise with them, so that he may acquire confidence by experience, perfect his steering, and make experiments to find out the best means of piercing or blowing up sides of vessels; this is certainly not the affair of a day. A convenient spot where there is at least a depth of water of 5 metres is necessary, since the machine is 3 metres deep. There should be still water and also currents, so as to learn to make headway against them and to calculate the leeway. Workshops suitable for the preparation of the necessary apparatus secretly are wanted.... "The Commission invites the Minister of Marine and of the Colonies to authorise citizen Fulton to make the machine, the model of which he has produced, and grant him the necessary means. It cannot be doubted that, with the same brains that have been put into its conception, the elegance and solidity of the different mechanisms comprised in it, he who has executed the model would be able to construct the full-sized machine in a manner equally ingenious." Now at last, one would have thought that Fulton's end was gained; but the difiRculties in his path were far from being removed. On the 27 Vendemiaire, an VII (18th October 1798) he sent the Minister, on behalf of the Company, an amended scheme which, however, differed only from the first proposal in two of the articles. Article 2 was amended to read: "Since the taking or destruction of the first English war vessel will justify the experiments and will prove the importance of the invention, I stipulate that, as soon as the government shall have received certain intelligence of the taking or destruction of the first English war vessel by means of the Nautulus, immediately there shall be paid to me or my order five hundred thousand francs in French money, with which sum I engage to build a fleet of Nautuli in order to put into execution my plan against the English fleet." Article 4 read: " That the government engage to pay to me, my heirs and assigns the sum of a hundred francs in cash for each pound of calibre of the guns of the English vessels destroyed during the war by the Nautulus or put out of commission. That is to say, for a gun of 5 lb. weight of shot there shall be delivered to me five hundred francs; for a gun of 10 lb. weight of shot a thousand francs, and so on. The cash shall be paid to me immediately on the receipt of certain intelligence." The business, however, hung fire, and, as a last resource, Fulton appealed to one of the Directors, the notorious P. J. N. F. Barras, in the following letter, dated 27th October 1798: ROBERT FULTON AU CITOYEN DIRECTEUR BARRAS. CITOYEN DIRECTEUR, D'apres le repport des commissaires nommes par le ministre de la marine il parait que la Machine et les moyens que j'ai proposes pour detruire la flotte Angloise sont prononces praticables, permettezmoi donc de rappeller a votre consideration les consequences [qui] doivent resulter du succes de cette entreprise. Le commerce enorme de l'Angleterre, ainsi que son Gouvernement monstreux, depend de sa marine militaire. Quelques vaisseaux de guerre detruits par des moyens si nouveaux, si caches et si incalculables, la confiance des matelots est aneantie et la flotte rendue nulle de l epoque de la premiere frayeur. Dans cet etat des choses les republicains en Angleterre se leveront, pour faciliter la descente des fransais, ou pour changer eux-memes leur governement, sans verser beaucoup de sang, et sans aucunes depenses pour la France. L'Angleterre republicanisee les mers seront libres; la liberte des meres devendra le garant d'une paix perpetuelle a toutes les nations maritimes; d'une telle paix la France gagnera plus que toute autre nation a cause de sa grande population et de l'immensite de ses ressources. Ce ne sera qu'alors que le genie humain sentira generalement le prix des principes pour lesquels les fransais se sont montres si prodigues de leur sang dans tous leurs miracles de bravoure. Si, au premier coup d'ceuil, les moyens que je propose paraissent revoltons, ce n'est que parce qu'ils sont extraordinaires, ils ne sont riens moins qu'inhumains, certainement c'est la maniere la plus douce et le moins sanguinaire que le philosophe puisse imaginer pour renverser ce systeme de brigandage et de guerre perpetuelle qui a toujours vexe les nations maritimes, pour donner enfin la paix a la terre et pour rendre les hommes a leur industrie naturelle, et a un bonheur jusqu'ici inconnu. Salut et Respect. ROBT FULTON. 6 Brumaire, an 7. (Translation.) CITIZEN DIRECTOR, From the report of the Commissioners named by the Minister of Marine it would appear that the machine and the means which I have proposed to destroy the English fleet are pronounced to be practicable. Permit me then to recall to your consideration the consequences which should result from the su^cess of this enterprise. The enormous commerce of England, no less than its monstrous government, depends upon its military marine. Should some vessels of war be destroyed by means so novel, so hidden and so incalculable the confidence of the seamen will vanish and the fleet rendered useless from the moment of the first terror. In this state of affairs the Republicans in England would rise to facilitate the descent of the French or to change their government themselves without shedding much blood and without any expense to France. With England republicanized, the seas will be free. The liberty of the seas will become a guarantee of perpetual peace to all maritime nations. By such a peace France will gain more than any other nation because of her large population and of the immensity of her resources. Only then will humanity perceive how priceless are the principles for which the French have shown themselves so lavish of their blood, in all their miracles of bravery. If, at first glance, the means that I propose seem revolting, it is only because they are extraordinary; they are anything but inhuman. It is certainly the gentlest and the least bloody method that the philosopher can imagine to overturn this system of brigandage and of perpetual war which has always vexed maritime nations: To give at last peace to the earth, and to restore men to their natural industries, and to a happiness until now unknown." This is a holograph letter, but it is not certain whether it was Fulton's own composition or whether he was helped in it by Barlow or some other friend; if the former it bears out the statement1 that he studied the language assiduously. In his earlier negotiations with the Government, he wrote in English, then he signed letters written by another person in French; finally, he wrote entirely in the latter language. This letter to Barras was of course meant to be propitiatory, but really Fulton must have known that his statements about republicanizing England were altogether wide of the mark. The general feeling here with regard to the French Revolution was one of horror and a dread lest similar excesses should take place. The vast results for good that were to flow from this social upheaval had not yet begun to show themselves. However that may be, the appeal was quite a failure, and nothing whatever was done to carry out the recommendations of the Commission. The cup was dashed from Fulton's lips apparently in the very hour of victory. Fulton communicated a knowledge of his doings to his friends in England. Joshua Gilpin, writing on August 28, 1798, from London, to Lord Stanhope, says "I hear from France that Mr. Fulton has not yet gone to America; and probably it may be some time before he gets away, as an embargo rests on our vessels; besides which the Government and he are amusing each other (I think, however, to little purpose) on his new invention of the submarine boat. I fear this will keep him from more useful pursuits." Fulton refers to it again in a letter 1 written to Mr Gilpin from Paris, November 20, 1798 evidently a reply to friendly criticism: "I thank you for. . . Mr. Chapman's observations on my system of small canals which observations will tend to bring the subject to discussion and Render its importance understood. . . But for the pleasure of Seeing my Canal system stand in its true Light I look to America, and to America I look for the perfecting of all my plans." . . . . . . . . The plan of my Slautilgs you say is not liked, this must be because its consequences are not understood. The Idea is yet an Infant, but I think I see in it all the nerve and muscle of an Infant hercules which at one grasp will Strangle the Serpents which poison and Convulse the American Constitution. Every man who has the least pretension to expanded Reflection and a Knowledge of the interest of nations must admit that a perfect free trade is of the utmost importance, but 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 Licenced 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. A letter has not Room for much on this head, my Reasons on the Subject shall make their appearance in time, and I hope in manner which will carry Conviction. From what I have heard, some of my friends fear that I may become an instrument in the hands of party but of this I believe there is not the least danger.... I cannot unite with any party or polity, nor will I aid them unless I Clearly see that an obstacle between Society and a Lasting Peace or improvement Can be Removed. . . . I am happy Ralph has gone to America where I hope to return early in the Spring. " Remember me also to Mr. Cartwright's family; with Regard to his engines I will write him." This letter shows that Fulton had already relinquished the active pursuit in France of his canal projects. His treatise on canal navigation was however translated by M. de Recicourt and was published in Paris the following year. It is interesting to note that it was also translated into Portuguese and published in Lisbon in I800. It is probably on the strength of this book that Fulton is referred to in contemporary French technical literature as an authority on canals. Fulton is very explicit also in this letter as to the course he intended to pursue with regard to the submarine, and his subsequent conduct was in accordance with it. Clearly, he shared the view which has been held by many other enthusiasts in like case, that ultimately his inventions would do away with warfare altogether by rendering it impossible. It was all very well, however, to write letters in lofty strains, but he had no assured income, and by this time his funds were once more at a low ebb: he was obliged, therefore, to look round for some means of livelihood. It was only natural that his thoughts should turn to his late profession of art, so that we find a few portraits, such as the one of his friend Barlow, dating from this period. Barlow seems to have been a good friend to him financially, and probably gave him this commission as a delicate way of putting him in funds once more. But Fulton's execution was excelled by that of many other artists in Paris, and there was but small demand just then for the art of portraiture. Small wonder that the field of mechanical invention should occur to his mind as a suitable one to delve in; in fact, he became a prolific patentee. He had already turned his attention to the problem of making rope by machinery, instead of by hand as then almost exclusively practiced, as is shown by the following letter to Cartwright: PARIS, June 20th ,1798. MY DEAR SIR, Still I continue in France and thus take the opportunity of writing to you by my friend, Mr. Gilpin, who will convey to America anything you have to communicate to me on mechanical subjects. In a long letter I wrote to you on mechanics on March sth, I mentioned some ideas of a machine for making ropes, the model of which is now finished, capable of making a rope one inch diameter. By Mr. G. I send you a piece of rope fabricated on the engine by which you may judge of its state of perfection. But still I conceive you have superior ideas on the movement of such an engine, particularly the means of giving equal tension to the strands. It was for this machine that Fulton, in conjunction with Nat. Cutting, a compatriot, obtained on 18th May 1799, a patent for fifteen years for 'Machines a fabriquer toutes especes de corded cables et cordages en general." The machine that Cartwright had invented his " cordelier " which is referred to by Fulton in this letter, was patented by the former in England in 1792 (No. 1876). Fulton's machine was no improvement upon his, but it was much superior to the hand methods then in use in France, and therefore had considerable vogue. It must have brought in some addition to his means, especially if it is true, as has been stated, that his machines were introduced into the French Government Dockyards. The success of Fulton's rope-making machine, however, was quite insignificant when compared with that of another of his ventures in which his artistic training stood him in good stead. This was when he hit upon the happy idea of painting a panorama, then quite a novelty, and therefore just the thing to attract the attention of the versatile Parisians and to bring him prominently before the public. So true it is that any way of amusing, or again of feeding, one's fellowman is appreciated whereas any proposal for improving his condition, the advantage of which. requires a little thought to grasp, is generally rejected. The Panorama was, however, not original with Fulton, for it was introduced by Robert Barker, a portrait painter of Edinburgh, who patented the invention in Great Britain in 1787 (No. 1612). No doubt the idea of panoramic representation was older still, but Barker was the first to bring it before the public on a large scale. His Panorama of Edinburgh was exhibited in the Haymarket in 1789; this, however, was only a small affair, 25 feet diameter. He then painted a view of London which was shown in 1792. Finally, in 1793, he took a lease of ground irl Leicester Square and erected three panoramas, the largest being 90 feet diameter. This was opened early in 1794 and was succeeded during subsequent years by others in fact it proved a very remunerative enterprise. Such an exhibition, touching so closely on his then intended profession of art, besides being so close to where he was residing at the time and being a fashionable resort of the town, could not have been unknown to Fulton. It is just possible that he had come to some arrangement with the inventor, just as he had proposed to Dr. Cartwright in regard to one of the latter's inventions,1 but if so we have no record of it. However that may be, a French patent was taken out on April 26, 1799 for the term of ten years by "Robert Fulton of the United States." On I7 Frimaire an VIII (Dec. 8th, 1799) he disposed of his patent rights " par acte notaire " to James W. Thayer, a compatriot, and his wife Henriette, nee Bec. A plot of land situated in a central position in Paris, on the south side of the Boulevard Montmartre, was secured, and upon it was erected a large building 14 m. (46 feet) diameter, to contain the Panorama. The site is now indicated by the " Passage (i.e. an arcade, with shops) des Panoramas," with the exception of the "rue Fulton " l near the Jardin des Plantes the only vestiges in the city to remind those who know the facts, of Fulton's long stay there. The subject of the Panorama that he painted and completed early in 1800, was the "Burning of Moscow," not, of course, the fire which signalised Napoleon's invasion of Russia, for that did not take place till 1812, but an earlier one, of which so many are recorded in the history of Moscow in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Doubtless Fulton chose his subject for this very reason, because he would be on very safe ground, and also because it offered an opportunity for a very lurid production. This was succeeded by another on the same site. As indicating how popular the Panorama was, outlasting even the Republic itself, it is interesting to note that the concessionaires on March 9, 1809, obtained a prolongation of their patent for five years, just when it was about to expire, so that it remained in force till April 27, 1814. It is interesting also, to find that Fulton, on 26th April 1801, obtained a second patent for fifteen years, for improvements in panoramas. Notwithstanding these pre-occupations Fulton continued in an insistent way to importune the Directory to listen to his proposals on submarine navigation. One of these appeals is as follows: To the Citizens composing the military Committee of the executive Directory of the French Republic. PARIS, 29 Messidor, an Vii. (17 July, 1799). Citizen Fulton, American, presented to the Directory 18 months ago, the model of an engine intended to destroy, in the open sea and even in their ports, English vessels and, in consequence, to wipe out their military marine. This project was sent to the Minister of Marine, who nominated to examine it, a commission composed of citizens Borda, Perrier, Adet, Prony, Forfait, Rosily, and Barthelemi: the report of the commission was as favourable as the author could desire: the principles of this engine were found to be simple and in accordance with those of mechanics and augured the happiest success if carried out. Citizen Fulton offered to the Directory to execute the first engine; he did not even ask government for an advance for any expenses if they did not think fit to make them; he only asked for permission to construct this engine at Paris and to make trial of it against some English fleet blockading our ports. Citizen Fulton has never been able to obtain that permission, but he has not ceased to beg for it with all the zeal of a disinterested patriot, who asks neither for place nor money. . . . . . . . .
He proceeds to deduce the conclusion that the motives for refusal were humanitarian and then goes on: Citizen Fulton asks the executive Directory to authorise him to construct at Paris the engine of which he is the inventor and to make trial of it against the enemy. He undertakes to make the trial himself and begs no other compensation after more than I8 months of work, expense, and entreaty than the happiness of having contributed to the re-establishment of peace, the freedom of the seas and of commerce, and to the consolidation of the Republic. Health and respect, ROBERT FULTON. This letter was duly considered by the Committee and their report thereon contains this significant remark: "The inventor is no charlatan he proposes to captain his engine himself and thus gives his head as a hostage for his success." They go on to comment on the delicate mechanism of the engine and the need for actual trial against the enemy before any conclusion can be arrived at. They conclude with the pious opinion that " philosophy would not reprove a means of destroying the destroyers of the liberty of the seas." Fulton's request was simple and demanded a like answer, instead of which nothing was done. Such treatment reminds one of the policy of " masterly inactivity " depicted in Dickens's " Circumlocution Ofice " rather than that of a young Republican government armed with " new brooms," so quickly does bureaucracy creep in with its red tape. There is now a gap in Fulton's life of some months, during which we have no documentary evidence as to his movements. It is asserted, however, by his biographers with every appearance of the truth, that, disgusted with his treatment by the Directory, he approached the executive of the Batavian Republic through the intermediary of their Ambassador in Paris M. Schimmelpennick, with the offer of his submarine Nautilus. This led Fulton to visit Holland, where a commission reported on his plans with such lukewarmness that nothing was done. One gentleman alone a M. Vanstaphast was on his side and offered to back him up with capital. Fulton was not away from Paris very long, because on 13 Vendemiaire an VIII (5 Oct. 1799) he wrote to the Minister of Marine a letter in English, enclosing a very long statement, in French, of " observations upon the moral effects of the Nautilus in case it should be employed with success," and " Reflections upon the general effects which the success of the Nautilus would produce for the extension of the principles of Liberty and the establishment of a lasting peace among the nations." He does this because he considers that it is necessary to refute certain objections that he imagines must be held in high quarters. Five days after its receipt a report is called for and the same day Fulton submits amended conditions, among which he reiterates once more his request for a commission. But a change had come over affairs in France by the Revolution of 18 and 19 Brumaire (Nov. 9 and 10th I799) which resulted in the overthrow of the Directory. In its place Napoleon constituted the Consulate, with himself as First Consul; practically he was in supreme power, because the Second and Third Consuls were merely figureheads. Fulton, who, as we have already seen, had always had the greatest confidence in Napoleon, lost no time, we may be sure, in calling upon the new Minister of Marine: this was none other than Forfait, who had been a member of the first Commission that had reported so favourably on Fulton's plans. Forfait's observations on Fulton's request for a commission dated 25 Germinal an VIII (15 April 1800) are as follows: "It cannot be disguised that the Nautilus is a machine not yet in use and that it infringes in several points the laws of war. It would be dangerous, especially at this moment when so great a number of Frenchmen are in the power of the English, to express any kind of menace in the Commission. In granting it pure and simple, that is to say, in acknowledging as combatants the men serving on the Nautilus and the Nautilus vessel itself, I think that that ought not to create more fear than the menace of reprisals can give security for." Whether Fulton obtained permission to build a submarine or only had a tacit understanding with Forfait we do not know; but Fulton's next letter,1 dated 20 Germinal (10 April), announces that the Nautilus which he is having made in the workshop of C. Perrier is on the point of being finished. He requests the minister to place before Napoleon his conditions, and begs for a prompt and favourable decision. Then follow his 3 conditions which are of similar tenor to those which he had before submitted. He concludes: " I have every reason to hope from Bonaparte the welcome, the encouragement that have so long been refused by Directors and Ministers" thus showing how hope had sprung up again within him at the advent of Napoleon to power. On the authority of an eye witness 2 the trial trip of the IVautzlus is stated to have taken place on the Seine in front of Hotel des Invalides, but it is possible that his memory was at fault, and that he was confusing these trials with those of the steamboat of 1803 because the official documents suggest that the submarine was built at Rouen a much more suitable place. Even if the boat was con structed at Paris, it was certainly taken to Rouen for completion, because correspondence took place between the Minister and both Fulton and the Commissary of Rouen. By the month of July the Nautilus was nearly finished, when a modification presented itself to Fulton and was at once added. This is described by Quesnel, Commissaire de la Marine at Rouen, in a letter ' to the Minister, dated 29 Messidor, an VIII (17 July 1800) as a kind of boat which forms a platform of 6 feet wide by 20 feet long, such that when the Nautilus is on the surface it will have the appearance of an ordinary boat." This would in no way hinder plunging, but would give the crew room to stand outside when the Nautilus was at the surface. Quesnel continues to report progress to the Minister, and from his letters we condense the account which follows. The Nautilus was launched on the 5 Thermidor (24th July) and five days later commenced her trial trips. These took place " in 25 feet of water in the middle of the Seine between Bapeaume and the shipyard of the late citizen Thibault." Fulton took two people down with him (letter of 5 Therm.) and made two plunges, the first of which lasted 8 minutes and the second 17 minutes. The trials lasted for three hours, during which the boat changed her position frequently. The current, however, caused Fulton considerable difficulty, and he resolved to proceed to Havre, where he wished to make trials in the open sea. The following evening he wrote to Forfait ROUEN, the II Thermidor, An 8th CITIZEN MINISTER, Yesterday I tryed my experiments with the Nautilus in water 25 feet deep and have succeded to Render the sinking and Rising easy and famelior, the Current which was at least one League per hour togather with the want of suffecient experience, prevented me making the movements under water which I desired, however time will perfect that part of the operation, having succeded to sail like a common boat and plunge under water when I think proper to avoid an enimy it may be sufficient at present to render an operation against the enimy successful, this day I propose to set off for havre and hope to arrive there on the fourth, be so good as to send me An order for the powder I may want which will be from 8 to I0 Quintals. I have not yet heared any thing of the letter of protection from the Primier Consul be so good as to spech to him on that subject and let me know his determination. Adue, patience and perseverance are the friends of Science. Count on my Zeal to Render the Nautilus useful. ROBT FULTON. The tone of this letter is very confident; but, considering the circumstances, it was justified. The latter part of the letter refers to a passport, or rather a commission, which was to be issued to Fulton. He lost no time, after coming to the decision, in carrying it out, for on July 31st, at 6 A.M., he set out for Havre, towing the Nautilus behind two barges (letter of 12 Thermidor) arriving there four days later. On the 17th Thermidor, an VIII (5th August 1800) Fulton wrote to Forfait from Havre: "You will learn with great pleasure that all my experiments on submarine navigation have fully succeeded." He then gives details of three experiments that he has tried: 1. Using wings like the sails of a windmill for propulsion (i.e. the screw propeller). 2. Plunging by means of lateral wings and retaining the boat at a desired level. 3. Increasing the displacement by means of a weighted anchor so as to make the GautzZus sink. On the 26 Thermidor (14 August 1800) Fulton again addressed the Minister, giving the result of three more experiments: 4. Moving the boat in a straight line without oars. 5. Plunging and remaining down 1 hr. 2 m. 6. Finding that the compass acts in the same way below water as on the surface. It is unnecessary to go into all the details with which Fulton favoured the minister, since he embodied them in a report that he made after he had arrived again in Paris. Before, hoxvever, we go into that report we shall digress slightly in order to show whence came the " sinews of war " that enabled Fulton to prosecute his experiments. For this information and for other scraps of human interest about Fulton's doings we are indebted to the correspondence that passed between Barlow and his wife, who had been ordered by her physician to spend the summer months at Havre for the sake of the sea-bathing, her husband meanwhile staying behind in Paris. Writing on the 29 Thermidor, an 8 (17 Aug. 1800) Barlow says: "Tell Toot he shall have the [$]1000 in a day or two, but Thayer has not paid according to his promise. The pictures go not well 50 or 60 livres a day for both, and at this season ! But the excessive heat prevents everybody from stirring out, especially on the Boulevards, and in the daytime." The "pictures " were of course the panoramas, and the money was Fulton's share of profits from the concessionaires. Fulton was now eager to try his boat on the high seas, and proposed to set out for Cherbourg, whose huge natural harbour would afford ideal facilities for experiment. It was a bold, almost rash undertaking, and so Barlow evidently thought, although he tried to hide from his wife his worst fears in a reassuring letterl to her on the 17 Fructidor (4th Sept.): "And poor Toot, I suppose, is now gone. I have not believed of late there was much danger in the expedition, especially if they don't go over to the enemy's coast.... He is master of all his movements, and it appears to me one of the safest of all hostile enterprises." As a matter of fact, Fulton had not started, for the simple reason that he had no commission or passport. He wrote to Barlow asking him to use his influence with Forfait to get this. Barlow replied on the 19 Fruct. (6th Sept.): " DEAR FULTON, Your letter of the 16th came yesterday about 4 o'clock, too late to see the Minister, and this morning he seems to have got up wrong end foremost. I went to his porter's lodge at 9 o'clock and sent up a letter concise and clear, explaining the affair and telling him I should wait there for an answer, or for leave to speak to him.... I always doubted whether this Government would suffer your expedition to go into effect. It is possible they have reserved to themselves this method to prevent it, always in hopes before that your preparatory experiments would fail, or that your funds and patience would be exhausted." Barlow's pertinacity was rewarded, however, and he succeeded at length in obtaining a promise of the desired commission for Fulton. His letter of the 20 Fruct. (7th Sept.) runs as follows: "Toot: I went to the Marine again yesterday at 3 o'clock and sent up a written request for an answer to my letter of the morning. The minister referred me to Forestier who, he said, had orders to attend to this affair. I went to Forestier's bureau his adjoint told me that the business was done; that the orders were sent that day by post to the prefet of the marine at Havre to deliver you the commission and dispense with the caution. Thus if you can rely on a class of men on whom I have learned long ago not to rely at all, the business is done.... But if there is any more difficulty, which is altogether probable, explain it to me, and I will go to Forfait with pleasure to get it removed.... Your old idea that these fellows are to be considered parts of the machine, and that you must have as much patience with them as with a piece of wood or brass, is an excellent maxim. It bears up my courage wonderfully every time I think of it, and makes me a better part to the machine than I should otherwise be. I have told it to several persons, who say it is a maxim to be quoted as the mark of a great mind. I will take care that it shall not be forgotten by the writer of your life, who, I hope, is not born yet." Barlow's letters now cease, but it appears that his fears for once were ill-founded, and that Forfait's passport did actually arrive, thus enabling Fulton to carry out the plan he had so long looked forward to. The full account of this expedition and the report of his other experiments is dated 16 Brumaire (Nov. 7), and is addressed to his friends Monge and Laplace, who, together with Volney,' were subsequently appointed by Napoleon commissioners to report on the invention. The report reads almost like a romance, so great were the strides that Fulton had made in these few short months in developing and perfecting submarine navigation strides greater, it can confidently be said, than any that had been made in the same time either before or since. For this reason we are tempted to give the report in full: ROBERT FULTON to CITIZENS MONGE & LAPLACE,members of the National Institute. CITIZENS, Not having had the time to busy myself with the drawings and description of the latest changes that 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 Cen Guyton it will contain a quantity of air sufficient for 3 men and a candle for three hours. Second experiment. On the 6 Fructidor (24 Aug. 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 the 7th (25 Aug.) I tried to manoeuvre the Nautilus by means of wings 4 feet diameter like the sails of a windmill; to this end at first I placed on the bridge two men with oars; they took 7 minutes to row about 90 toises (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 90 toises 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 manoeuvre 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 of powder or torpedoes. Fourth experiment. On the 8th (26 Aug.) 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 communicate 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 90 toises, 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 emersion and of submersion of the Nautilus and all its movements as well as the effect on the compass, on the 9th (27 Aug.) I half filled an ordinary barrel and placed it at anchor in the harbour at about 200 toises (426 yards) from the jetty; I seated myself then in an ordinary boat at the distance of about 80 toises and placed in the sea a torpedo containing about 30 lb. of powder; the torpedo was attached to a small rope of 100 toises; 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 25 of the same month (12 Sept.) I left Havre for La Hogue and in this little voyage, my Nautilus sometimes did a league and a half (4.5 miles) per hour, and I had the pleasure of seeing it ride the waves like an ordinary boat. On the 28th (15 Sept.) I put into a little harbour called Growan near Isigny at 3 leagues from the islands of Marcou. On the 29th 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 200 toises. 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 development the encouragement and support of all friends of science, of justice and of society. Health and respect. Robert Fulton PARIS, the 16 Brumaire an 9. The hardihood of Fulton in going in this cockle-shell a voyage of about 70 miles upon what was really a warlike expedition upon the high seas seems almost incredible. His attempt to blow up the English brigs that were cruising along the coast was frustrated not by accident but by design because Fulton's movements generally were known to the British Admiralty. Captain S. H. Linzie, H. M.S. "L'Oiseau," off Havre, writing on Sept. 21, 1800, thanks the Secretary to the Admiralty for his letter 1 of the 14th "giving an account of Mr. Fulton's Plan respecting the possibility of destroying the ships on this station," and says: " I shall be very much on my guard." So that it is explained why the brigs so quickly slipped from their anchorages. Fulton followed up his letter to Monge and Laplace 2 by giving on the 27 Brumaire (18 November) answers to their questions and an estimate of what would be the minimum cost of placing the submarine on a war footing. The latter, he thinks, would be a quarter of a million francs, the fifth of the cost of a man-of-war. He says: "Far from being discouraged, I have undertaken the experiments at my own expense. I have succeeded to such an extent as to leave no reasonable doubt as to the success of the whole design. But I have expended as much as my circumstances will permit and more than one individual should do for an object of general interest." He offers to give up the command of the Nautilus and to instruct French citizens in the use of it and to supervise only the construction of submarines. He regards as absolutely necessary prompt advances for the following: For the construction of a Nautilus of 30 feet long and 6 feet diameter 50,000 livres 2 small boats 2000 " 20 torpedos 2000 " To descend the river from Paris to Havre and to test the mechanical arrangements 3000 " ---------- Total 57,000 ie (z2,280) He also asks that the three persons already instructed by him in the work of the Nautilus should be retained in Government pay at the rates: Captain Sergent 600 livres per month Lieut. Fleuret 400 " " Citizen Guillaume I80 " " If there should be need of two additional men, they would require 180 livres per month each. As for himself he would accept whatever the Government chose to give him. Laplace and Monge lost no time in submitting a report to the First Consul, for it is dated the next day, 28 Brumaire, an 9 (19 November 1800). It runs: ( Translation.) CITIZEN FIRST CONSUL, YOU have charged us to examine the Nautilus of Cit. Fulton, and to give you our opinion on the probability of its success. Instead of giving a description of this machine of which you know the object perfectly well, we beg you to indicate the time when we can see you; Cit. Fulton will bring the model of his Nautilus and at one glance you will know its form, the movements of which it is susceptible, and the nature of the operations which it can execute. We have looked into the projects of Cit. Fulton, his means of execution, and the experiments that he has made already. We do not doubt his success especially if the operation is conducted by the inventor himself who combines with great erudition in the mechanic arts an excellent courage and other moral qualities necessary for such an enterprise. They then go on to suggest that further experiments on the under water effects of powder in blowing up an actual vessel are needed. When these are proved, experiments can be undertaken against the enemy. For this purpose they recommend a grant of 602000 livres. Apparently this letter was submitted to the First Consul at the same time as was Fulton's of the 18th Nov. On the 5 Frimaire the latter document was minuted in the margin and signed by Napoleon: "Je prie Mtre. de la Marine de me faire connaitre ce qu'il sait sur les projets du Cn. Fulton." A few days later Monge and Laplace presented the inventor to the First Consul, warmly recommending him and advising the allowance of the sum he asked for. Apparently this was the one and only time the two notable men met. Nothing coming of this interview, however, Fulton called on Forfait on the II Frimaire (2 Dec.), and the next day wrote from rue Vaugirard, 50, expressing surprise that nothing had been done and saying: "You have said a good deal about economy and the lack of positive evidence, there will be little merit in the Government in adopting this project if it demands that an individual, at his own expense, without protection and without any other encouragement than that it accords to ordinary sailors, should succeed in destroying an English vessel." Fulton encloses this is the fifth time of his doing so his terms which were substantially those which have already been quoted. Evidently Fulton's interview and letter roused Forfait, and the latter on the following day, 13 Frimaire (4 Dec. '00) wrote a report to Napoleon. He acknowledges that Laplace and Monge commend Fulton's views, but considers that their request for an old hulk wherewith to carry out further experiments is out of the question, not only on account of the initial cost, but also because if they succeed a wreck will be formed which it will be expensive to raise. He proposes that Fulton should destroy an enemy's vessel, and then states that Fulton refuses this because it would be necessary to wait till spring. Apparently the minister's idea was that the submarine function of the boat should be abandoned, and that it should be used merely to convey torpedoes to the vessels. He remarks, hypocritically: "I have always been the most ardent defender of the plunging boat, and it is with pain that I see it abandoned; for it is abandoned in the new system since it plays only a secondary part." The vacillation exhibited in this report is only equalled by the myopic refusal to try an experiment on a vessel because the resulting wreck might be difficult to raise ! No wonder Napoleon caused such an unsatisfactory minister to be removed from office a few months later. Laplace and Monge must now have redoubled their efforts at this set-back, and evidently they succeeded, for on the 8 Ventose, an IX (27th Feb. 1801), Fulton received a letter from the Minister of Marine formally stating that his propositions had been accepted, and that 10,OOO francs had been placed to his credit. On the 12 Ventose Fulton accepted the terms which were recapitulated in the Minister's letter of the 7 Germinal (28 March), which is so explicit that we give it in full: ( Translation. ) 1st DIVISION, OFFICE OF THE PORT, PARIS, 7th Germinal, The 9th Year of the One and Indivisible Republic. THE MINISTER OF MARINE AND OF THE COLONIES. TO MONSIEUR ROBERT FULTON, RUE DE VAUGIRARD, NO. 50, PARIS. I announced to you, Sir, on the 8th Ventose that the First Consul had authorised me to accept your proposition relative to the Nautilus. You will have seen by that letter that you will in consequence be credited with the sum of 10,000 francs to repair this machine, construct the auxiliaries, and to convey at your own expense, the Nautilus to Brest. It has been decreed that you will be allowed for the destruction of the Enemy's vessels, according to their armament, as follows: 400,000 francs for those of more than 30 guns. 200,000 francs for those of more than 20 up to 30 guns 150,000 francs for those from 12 to 20 guns. 60,000 francs for 10 guns. This power is the minimum below which you will have no power to return claim. By your letter of the 12th Ventose you declare your acceptance of these conditions and I give the order to put to your account the sum of 10,000 francs by means of which you must put in order the armament, the equipment and the dispatch of the Nautilus. There exist several means of determining in an authentic manner the destruction of the enemy's vessels. The attestations, the declarations and the interrogations put in legal form by competent authorities will serve you as title to claim the payment of the sums which may ultimately be due to you. Since the navigation which you are about to undertake is absolutely different from others, and also the form of warfare which the Nautilus is intended to make upon the enemy, it is not possible to indicate in advance a fixed method of affirming the truth of the facts. But it will be supplied by the information of the Commissary of the English Government, and by the Maritime Prefects every time it becomes necessary. (Signed) FORFAIT. Although Fulton had accepted these conditions it must be confessed that they did not err on the side of liberality. Fulton was, as we have seen, much more than 10,000 francs out of pocket with what he had already done. It is clear, however, that Napoleon intended a further grant in aid to cover the cost of the trials; the prize money in prospect may also have been sufficiently tempting to one of such a sanguine and ardent temperament as Fulton to act as an inducement. To equip Fulton completely for his journey only a passport was now necessary. On the 14th Germinal, an IX (4th April 1801) Forfait forwards to the Minister of the Interior for signature two passports, one of which was for Fulton, with these remarks: " Their duration ought to be for 8 months, and they give to their bearers permission to go at will into the different ports of the Channel or of the Ocean by land or by sea." It is not difficult to realise what a busy and anxious time it must have been for Fulton during the next few months what bid fair to be a turning-point in his career. The Nautilus had to be taken from Isigny to Brest. How he got it there, whether overland or round by sea we do not know, but we can be almost certain it was the former, for it had been exposed all the winter and was not in a seaworthy condition. What an unwonted sight the unwieldy object 21 feet long and 6 feet diameter must have been for the villages through which the cart passed!! Sometime in May, however, Fulton arrived at Brest, and at the dockyard there commenced a refit, which occupied him for two months. Nor was this all, for Fulton was also busy on a plan for carrying his torpedoes not by a submarine but by a pinnace propelled by a screw. It would appear from the records that have been preserved, that the idea was, of the two, the one most favoured officially. Caffarelli, maritime prefect of Brest, who had had instructions to furnish Fulton with everything he wished for from the Arsenal, gave orders for the construction of a pinnace in which was fitted a screw driven by manual power. Although supplied with selected men from the battleship Ocean, Fulton, instead of his expected 12 knots, only attained 4 when he went out into the harbour. This and other experiments are described in a letter from Caffarelli to the Minister, dated 14 Messidor, an IX (3 July 1801): "I have to render an account to you of the trial by Mr. Fulton. "When he came here he asked that a pinnace larger than that which he had and of which the sailing was superior should be constructed. Acting on your authority I have had it constructed under his direction. It is 36 feet long and is perfectly made. With a crew of 24 men applied to + cranks and placed on both sides, it has a speed of about 4 knots, sails very well, but manceuvres slowly, which is attributed to its length and to the small size of the rudder which is not as long as the stern post. The movement of the wheels can be heard at about 200 toises (426 yards) distance. Mr. Fulton proposes to remedy this and to increase the speed. I think this improvement will be difficult to obtain. I say further that the pinnace is only an accessory in the projects of Mr. Fulton which can be served in many ways as far as I can see. There has been no question of a Plunging boat. I believe that it can be dispensed with as well as the pinnace." He then details the blowing up of an old sloop by a torpedo; but as this is described by Fulton himself, infra we need only note Caffarelli's opinion about the torpedo: "A mechanically moved pinnace is not necessary for that: one or two light boats like canoes will fulfil the purpose better, because they require less crew and the paddles do not make so much noise as the wheels. "A plunging boat is not necessary for the operation; for one can be sure always of destroying a vessel with a long enough line by taking a position according to the sea and the wind.... "I think that Mr. Fulton had at one and the same time three ingenious ideas: that of a boat sailing without oars or sails; that of a plunging boat which directs itself and works at will, and that of the Petard; he has wanted to bring them all together as if one alone could not occupy attention enough. The third by itself . . . will suffice for the success of his projects. It is necessary to exercise with the Petard and hook on from a distance under different directions. " . . . An account is being taken of his expenses. . . they are not of great amount. I have promised to instruct him as to the circumstances of the English cruisers, of their anchorages near the coast, and in a word to give him all the facilities which he can desire." It was now decided that Fulton should attempt to destroy some of the British ships cruising at the entrance to the harbour. After an interval devoted to experiments with the submarine (detailed below), on August 8th Fulton went to Conquet to lay in wait, and on the Ioth to Berthaume, but all to no purpose. The English had been warned of the designs upon them, and not only had lookouts at the masthead scanning the seas with their glasses, but also boats were kept rowing round their vessels when anywhere near the entranced. All along, Fulton had been of opinion that the submarine was better than the pinnace; but, unfortunately, the former was not, so he considered, in a really seaworthy condition. In a letters to the First Consul on the 19th Fruct. (6th September), wherein he describes at great length his clockwork torpedoes and the means to be employed for blockading English ports and so obtaining command of the sea, he complains that " for lack of a good plunging boat I have been unable to do anything this summer against the enemy." Caffarelli in the letter of 22 Therm. says: " Mr. Fulton, not making use of the plunging boat, which by its invisibility would assure the success of the operation, does not respond to the expectations of the Government." But he is not quite consistent, for he says later: "This manner of making war on an enemy carries with it such reprobation, that the persons who undertook it and failed would be lost. Certainly it is not a gallant death." That there were cross purposes at work here seems obvious. We must now notice briefly the experiments with the Nautilus upon which Fulton, on his return to Paris, wrote a long report dated 9th September 1801; as it is so lucid, we quote it at considerable length: PARIS the 22d fructidore An 9. Robert fulton to the Citizens Monge, La Place and Volney, members of the National Institute, and Commissioners appointed by the first Consul to promote the invention of Submarine Navigation. CITIZENS, yesterday on my return from brest I received your note and will with pleasure communicate to you the result of my experiments, during the summer, also the mode which I conceive the most effectual for using my invention against the enemy. Before I left Paris I informed you that my plunging boat had many imperfections, natural to the first machine of so difficult a combination: added to this I found She had been much Injured by the rust during the Winter in consequence of having in many places used Iron bolts and arbours instead of copper or brass. The reparation of these defects and the difficulty of finding workmen consumed near two months, and although the machine remained still extremely imperfect, yet She has answered to prove every necessary experiment in the most satisfactory manner. On the 3rd of thermidor (22nd July 1801) I commenced my experiments by plunging to the depth of 5, then 10 then 15, and so on, to 25 feet, but not to a greater depth than 25 feet as I did not conceive the machine sufficiently strong to bear the pressure (i.e. 10-8 lb. per sq. in.) of a greater column of water. At this depth I remained one hour with my three companions and two candles burning without experiencing the least inconvenience. Previous to my leaving Paris I gave to the Cn. (i.e. Citizen) Guyton, member of the Institute, a calculation of the number of cube feet in my boat which is about 212. In such a volume of air he calculated there would be sufficient oxygen to nourish 4 men and 2 small candles 3 hours. Seeing that it would be of great improvement to dispense with the candles, I constructed a small window in the upper part of the boat near the bow, which window is only one inch and a half diameter, and of glass nine lines (i.e. 3/4 in.) thick. With this prepared, I descended on the 5th Thermidor (24th July) to the depth of between 24 and 25 feet, at which depth I had sufficient light to count the minutes on the watch. Hence I conclude that 3 or 4 such windows arranged in different parts of the boat, would give sufficient light for any operations during the day. Each window may be guarded by a valve in such a manner that should the glass break, the valve would immediately shut and stop out the water. Finding that I had air and light sufficient, and that I could plunge and Rise perpendicular with facility, on the 7th Therm. (26th July) I commenced the experiments on her movements. At ten in the morning I raised her anchor and hoisted her sails, which are a mainsail and Gib; the breeze being light I could not at the utmost make more than about two-thirds of a league per hour. I tacked and restacked, tryed her before and by the wind, and in all these operations found her to Answer the helm and act like a common hull sailing boat. After exercising thus about an hour, I lowered the mast and sails and com menced the operation of Plunging. This required about two minutes I then placed two men at the engine which gives the Rectilinear motion, and one at the helm, while I governed the machine which keeps her balanced two ways. With the bathometer before me and with one hand I found I could keep her at any depth I thought proper. The men then commenced their movement and continued about 7 minutes when mounting to the surface I found we had gained 400 metres (1,300 feet). I again plunged, turned her round under water and returned to near the same place. I again plunged and tried her movements to the right and left, in all of which the helm answered and the compass acted the same as if on the surface of the water. Having continued these experiments the 8, 9, 10 and 12th (27th, 28th, 29th, and 31St July) until I became familiar with the movements and confident in their operation, I turned my thoughts to increasing or preserving the air. For this purpose the Cn. Guyton advised me to precipitate the carbonic acid with lime or to take with me bottles of Oxygen which might be uncorked as need required; but as any considerable quantity of bottles would take up too much room, and as Oxygen could not be created at sea without a chemical operation which would be very inconvenient, I adopted a mode which occurred to me 18 months ago, which is a simple globe or bomb of copper capable of containing one cube foot to [join to] a pneumatic pump by means of which pump 200 atmospheres or 200 cube feet of common air may be forced into the Bomb, consequently the Bomb or reservoir will contain as much oxygen or vital air as 200 cube feet of common respirable Air. Hence if according to the Cn. Guyton's calculation 212 feet which is the volume of the boat, will nourish 4 men and 2 small candles 3 hours, this additional reservoir will give sufficient for 6 hours. This reservoir is constructed with a measure and two cocks So as to let measures of air into the boat as need may require. Previous to my leaving Paris I gave orders for this machine but it did not arrive till the 18th Thermidor (6th Aug.). On the I9th I ordered two men to fill it, which was an operation of about one hour. I then put it into the boat and with my three companions, but without candles, plunged to the depth of about five feet. At the expiration of one hour and 40 minutes I began to let off measures of air from the reservoir and so on from time to time for 4 hours 20 minutes without experiencing any inconvenience. Having thus succeeded: To sail like a common boat, To obtain air and light, To plunge and Rise perpendicular, To turn to the right and left at pleasure, To steer by the compass under water, To renew the Common Volume of air with facility, And to augment the respirable air, by a reservoir which may be obtained at all times, I conceived every experiment of importance to be proved in the most satisfactory manner. Hence I quit the experiments on the Boat to try those of the Bomb Submarine. It is this bomb which is the Engine of destruction, the plunging boat is only for the purpose of conveying the Bomb to where it may be used to advantage. They are constructed of copper and of different sizes to contain from 1O to 200 pounds of powder. Each bomb is arranged with a Gunlock in such a manner that if it strikes a vessel or the Vessel runs against it, the explosion will take place and the bottom of the vessel be blown in or so shattered as to ensure her destruction. To prove this experiment, the Prefect Maritime and Admiral Villaret ordered a small sloop of about 40 feet long to be anchored in the Road on the 23rd of Thermidor (11th Aug.) with a bomb containing about 20 pounds of powder I advanced to within about 200 metres (628 feet); then taking my direction so as to pass near the Sloop, I struck her with the bomb in my passage. The explosion took place and the sloop was torn into atoms, in fact, nothing was left but the buye (i.e. buoy) and cable; and the concussion was so great that a column of water, Smoke, and fibres of the Sloop were cast from 80 to 100 feet in Air. This simple experiment at once proved the effect of the Bomb Submarine to the satisfaction of all the Spectators. Of this Experiment you will see Admiral Villaret's description in a letter to the Minister of Marine. Fulton then goes on to outline what appeared to him to be the best methods of using the plunging boat and the submarine bomb, without, however, committing himself too precisely, because experience always suggests improvements. This, however, is only an epitome of what has already been rehearsed and it is therefore unnecessary to give it in full. He concludes: Thus Citizens, I have presented you with a short account of my experiments and Plan for using this invention against the Enemy hoping that under your protection it will be carried to perfection and practised to promote the Liberty of the Seas. Health and sincere respect, ROBERT FULTON. To every impartial mind this plain statement of facts and deductions therefrom at once lucid and logical should have appealed very strongly. Little more than a year had elapsed since the problem of submarine navigation, till then regarded as a chimera, had been tackled on a practical scale, and now it had been solved in all its main essentials. All the principles which govern the construction and operation of submarines had been experimentally demonstrated, and with the only known motor, i.e. muscular power, then available, no better results could have been expected. The Commissioners made a few inquiries on certain points which Fulton answered in the following letter, dated the 20th Sept. 1801: PARIS, the 3rd Complementary Day, an 9 Robert Fulton to the Citizens Monge, La Place, and Volney, members of the National Institute and Commissionaries appointed by the First Consul to promote the Invention of Submarine Navigation. CITIZENS: This morning, I received yours of the 2nd Compl. As to the expense of a plunging boat, I believe when constructed in the best manner with every improvement which experience has pointed out, She cannot cost more than 80,000 Livers (i.e z3200). The Bombs Submarine may be estimated at 80 Livers (i.e. z3, 4s.) each, on an average, independent of the powder. I am sorry that I had not earlier information of the Counsul's (i.e. Napoleon's) desire to see the Plunging Boat. When I finished my experiments, She leaked very much, and being but an imperfect engine, I did not think her further useful, hence I took her to pieces, Sold her Ironwork, lead and cylinders, and was necessitated to break the greater part of her movements in taking them to pieces. So that nothing now remains which can give an Idea of her combination; but even had she been complete I do not think she could have been brought round to Paris. You will be so good as to excuse me to the Premier Consul when I refuse to exhibit my drawings to a Committee of Engineers. For this I have two reasons: the first is not to put it in the power of any one to explain the principles or movements lest they should pass from one to another till the enemy obtained information: the Second is that I consider this Invention as my private property, the perfectionment of which will give to France incalculable advantage over her most powerful and active enemy, and which invention, I conceive, ought to secure to me an ample Independance. That consequently the Sutcliffe, Robert Fulton and the Government should stipulate certain terms with me Before I proceed to further explanation. The first Consul is too just, and you know me too well, to construe this into an avaricious disposition in me. I have now laboured 3 years and at considerable expense to prove my experiments. And I find that a man wilO wishes to cultivate the Useful Arts cannot make rapid Progress without sufficient funds to put his succession of Ideas to immediate proof; and which sufficiency I conceive this invention should secure to me. You have intimated that the movements and combination of so interesting an engine should be confided to trusty persons lest any accident should happen to me. This precaution I took previous to my departure from Paris for my last experiments, by placing correct Drawings of the Machine and every movement with their descriptions in the hands of a friend; so that any engineer capable of constructing a Steam engine, could make the plunging boat and Carcasses or Bombs. You will therefore be so good as to beg of the First Consul to permit you to treat with me on the business. And on this point I hope there will not be much difficulty. Health and sincere respect, ROBERT FULTON. This letter disposes very completely of the statement that Fulton built two submarines, one at Havre and the other at Brest a very natural supposition on the evidence previously available. It also satisfies us as to the ultimate fate of the boat. Unfortunately for Fulton a change now came over the scene. On Oct. 1st, Forfait, who had at any rate not been ill-disposed to him, handed in his resignation as Minister of Marine after two years of office. The First Consul appointed to succeed him Admiral De Cres, who like Pleville-le-Pelley was quite one of the old school, and consequently bitterly opposed to the new method of warfare; in this he only voiced the prejudices of his time. Probably it was this change of ministers which put an end to the matter finally, for the Archives of the Marine make no further mention of Fulton or of his project, and all that is to be found is an account of the expenses which had been incurred on his behalf at the arsenal at Brest, amounting to the sum of 6,820 fr. 43. Thus apparently did Fulton receive his dismissal with what bitterness of soul we can imagine--cherishing nevertheless the hope that he would yet have opportunities of perfecting submarine navigation. By many writers, especially in France, Napoleon has been blamed for not adopting the submarine, the assumption being that the destinies of nations would have been changed thereby. There is also an underlying assumption that other nations could not have adopted the new means of warfare almost as quickly as France could have done. Now Napoleon was above everything a man of affairs he was ready and anxious to employ any means known to science to further his ends, but it was no part of his policy to take up anything that had not been put into practice successfully. He allowed Fulton to work out his invention just to that point where he could judge whether or not it would be of use to him, and having convinced himself that it could not, dropped the matter without hesitation. And he was right; Fulton s series of experiments, brilliant though they were, only showed that until a motor could be developed capable of working under the restrictions imposed, further progress was impracticable. For this development the world had to wait many years longer.
Back to Table of Contents