Second attempt to introduce the submarine, Report of a commision thereon, Paints panoramas for a living, Constructs and operates the submarine. Fulton

     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
     " 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
     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.


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:


     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.


	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
     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
     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
     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
     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
     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.
				. . . . . . . .

Page 98 through 131

     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
				Health and respect, 

     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
     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
     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
     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 

     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 

     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: 

 		        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
     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

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
					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
    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. )

     PARIS, 7th Germinal,
     The 9th Year of the One and Indivisible Republic.


     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
     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
     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
					(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
     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
     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
     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
     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,


     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,

     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. 

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