Return to England, Orders a steamboat engine, Experiments with the Torpedo against the Boulogne flotilla, Leaves for the United States

     FULTON at length left Paris on April 29, and set foot once more on
English soil, reaching London on May 19, 1804. For diplomatic reasons, he
passed under the assumed name of Francis a somewhat thin disguise, but one
that was sufficient, in one instance as we shall see later, to hide his true
     It would naturally be imagined that he would at once report himself at
the Foreign Office, or to the Prime Minister. Probably he did so, only we
have no record of the fact. At any rate we do know that he plunged at once
into the engine business, for we find him writing on May 30 from " Story
Gate Coffee House," asking Mr. Hammond for a passport for Mr. and Mrs.
Barlow to proceed through London to the United States. He also says:  
    "I also beg permission to ship one of Mr. Watt's Steam Engines to New
York for the purpose of carrying into effect an experiment in which I have
fortunately succeeded that of navigating boats against currents of not more
than four miles an hour, hence calculated for most of our rivers." 
     He concludes his letter with remarks as to the prospective advantages
to England.  
     The first request at any rate was granted, for Barlow passed through
London and sailed from Falmouth about August, while Fulton went off to
Birmingham to pay a visit to the Soho Works for the purpose of ordering
his engine. In his notebook under date July 5, 1804, there is the entry: "
Travelling from London to Birmingham and back again to order the Steam
engine z8, OS. od." 
     With his usual ease of manner, he seems to have made himself at home
with the members of the firm, including Matthew Boulton, but apparently he
did not meet the celebrated James Watt, for the latter had retired from the
business in 1800, and was now living at Heathfield Hall some distance away. 
     The correspondence that ensued  is almost self-explanatory, and is so
interesting that we give it in full.
				     SOHO, 4th July, 1804. 

     SIR, In compliance with your request we have prepared an Estimate of
the Materials undermentioned, which fitted up in our usual manner, will
amount to Three Hundred and Eighty Pounds delivered here, and payable by our
Draft upon a banker or merchant in London upon such delivery. 
           We remain, Sir, Your obt. Servts. 
                                   BOULTON, WATT & CO.

Schedule of material above referred to 
1. A Steam Cylinder 24 Inches Diameter, 4 feet stroke, with its top and 
   plate to bottom, gland and brasses compleat. 
2. Piston, its Cover Bottom Plate and spanners.
3. Piston rod, its cap and cutters.
4. Nozzles compleat with Valves and Levers.
5. Working Gear compleat with Brackets.
6. Perpendicular Steam Pipe & Eduction Pipe.
7. Condenser Vessel with Blow pipe & Blowing Valve.
8. Injection Cock, Rod, Handle and Index.
9. Air pump its bucket and top and bottom valves compleat. 
10. Air pump bucket rod with cap and bracket. 
11. Eduction Pipe to Condenser. 
12. Two boxes of Cement.

                             BOULTON, WATT & CO.

SOHO, 4th July 1804.

                             LONDON, July the 13th, 1804. 


     GENTLEMEN, Inclosed I Send you a guarantee for the 380 pounds;, but as
it is possible altering models or making same to fit the engine to my
particular case, may raise your demand to a greater amount any further Sum
shall be paid.
     On writing to Mr. Hammond it may be that you do not receive an Answer
for some time. Ministers are now so occupied with their own affairs, the[y]
often forget or neglect what they consider trifles, however I hope that will
not stop the work, the permit given to me, will I hope quiet you,
particularly as the engine is to be delivered to my order at Soho and I take
the shiping myself for which I must have another permit when the Vessel is
     Since having the pleasure of seeing you and your Works, I have disposed
the condenser horizontal as In the inclosed drawing. if there is no
objection to this it will make the work more compact and well Suited to the
boat, it also avoids the risque of water rising into the cylinder as in the
first drawing. The Air pump I have made to descend between the floor timbers
so as to be lower than the condenser with a view to keep it always clear of
water and have as much space within as possible.
     If you approve of this mode of composing, the bottom of the Cylinder
must be square so as to rest on the condensing Vat. As I never can have more
than one boiler I have sketched a design for the steam to enter the centre
of the upper nozel, and the condensation to pass from the bottom of the
lower one, this arrangement will keep everything trim in the middle line of
the boat, and not interrupt the other movements. If you will have the
goodness to indulge me in those alterations you will oblige me, provided,
however, they do not injure the working of the engine. 
     I forgot to ask you if there are instances of Engines working with Salt
water, and what is the effect on the boiler, condensation and working of the
     Have the goodness to write me and when time will permit please to give
me your thoughts on my boiler, excuse the trouble I give you. I hope at some
future day to acquire sufficient merit to be admitted among the [circle] of
your friends when solicitations to promote useful improvements will give
more pleasure than pain. 
                                Yours with sincere respect 
                                ROBT. FULTON.

     Please to direct for R. Francis Storeys gate Coffeehouse George
Street Westminster.  
     The enclosed Brochure is for Mr. Boulton Senior please to present it
him with my thanks for his civilities.  The guarantees were in the following


					LONDON, 10 July 1804.

     GENTN., Mr. Robert Fulton having informed me that you have agreed to
make a Steam Engine for him, the cost of which will be about z380 sterling,
&; having desired me to guarantee the payment of this Sum to you:
    I do hereby accordingly promise to pay you whatever sum shall be agreed
upon between you and Mr. Fulton on the account aforementioned, on your
complying with the terms settled, or to be settled between you and that
Gentleman. I am, Genn. Your very obt. Sert. 
                                         GEORGE W. ERVING.

     Our friend George Wm. Erving Esqr. having informed us that you require
a farther security than his for the payment of the above z380, we hereby
guarantee to give the due payment of the sum on the terms above stated and
remain, Gentn. Your most hble. Servts, 
                                      LEES, SATTERTHWAITE & BRASSEY.


     The drawing which was enclosed with the letter is dated " July 8th,
1804," and has been preserved; it is to a " Scale one line to an inch," and
is coloured. Besides the condenser in the horizontal position, the centre
lines of the proposed connections, by means of a bell-crank lever, between
the cylinder and the paddle wheels are also shown. This therefore is the
origin of the bell-crank engine.  
     It is obvious from this and subsequent letters that Fulton made no
secret of the purpose for which he wanted the engine, notwithstanding
statements to the contrary. Indeed why should he have done so ? It was not
the first engine that the firm had made for a boat, as witness the ones for
Lord Stanhope.  
     The firm's reply of July I8 has not been preserved, but Fulton's next
letter is:
					     LONDON,July the 20th, 1804. 
     GENTLEMEN, I this morning received yours. You will be so good as to
place the steam pipe on the side of the Nozle as usual, And as I wish to
guard against all events least I should have to act in salt water, you will
be so good as to make the air pump of Brass. As to the Condensor I presume
it must be a considerable time corroding so as to be useless. In this work I
do not take expence into consideration honour me with your confidence your
demand whatever it may be shall be as honorably paid.  
     Does not salt rapidly form in the boiler when salt water is used ?  
     I lament the state of Mr. Gregory Watt's health, and am flattered by his
remembrance of me; his Virtues will render his memory dear to his friends. 
                                   Yours with much respect, 
                                   ROBERT FULTON.

     Gregory Watt, who is here referred to, was the talented and promising
son of James Watt by his second wife. He died of consumption at the early
age of twenty-four in October of this same year, to the intense grief of his
father and mother.
     The firm in their reply to Fulton's instructions and queries asked for
further sanction for the condenser.

					     SOHO, 25th Judy 1804. R

     SIR, We have your favour of the 20th and shall accordingly make the Air
pump its bucket and clack of brass and its rod of Copper. The condenser will
do very well of Iron and we should propose to execute it in the manner
represented in the annexed sketch which is sent for your approbation
previous to our commencing the execution. The Air pump you will see is
placed in the Condenser, which is a construction we have sometimes
practised; the mouth through which the water and air are discharged, is
drawn towards one side but it may be placed in any direction you wish it to
have. We recommend that the Cylinder should be placed on a solid block of
stone or wood rather than on the edge of this Casting which may be of less
dimensions than you had sketched. 
     The Boiler should be about 16 feet long to supply the Engine with steam
at 20 strokes Per minute full load; and in proportion for a less supply, if
you should wish to make it capable of working the Engine at a slower rate.
It is supposed to have no flues at the sides or ends. The Chimney flue
should have an Area of 400 or 500 inches. 
     We have not had the opportunity of making any direct observations upon
the rapidity with which salt would be formed in the Boiler from Sea Water,
but we conceive you will have no difficulty in carrying with you a
sufficient quantity of fresh water for its supply; if not the evil must be
guarded against by frequent emptying and cleaning. We shall be glad to have
your sentiments when you have given the sketch the necessary consideration
and remain, 
                                       Sir, Your obt. Servts, 
                                       BOULTON, WATT &; CO.

     This sketch referred to has been preserved also; it shows the air pump
and condenser vertical and the cylinder on a block of stone 16 in. thick.
There is also a sketch of a wagon boiler. 
     To this Fulton replied as follows:


     GENTLEMEN, I like your mode of placing the air pump in the condensor
but as my measurements confine me to 3 feet in width the condensing vat
ought not to exceed that wzdth. Could not the condensor be made like a box
about 4 feet long 20 inches wide and two feet deep as in this sketch ? If so
I shall be completely accommodated; if not you must use your particular
composition of the parts. I must beg of you however to fit me in this
respect if possible. Perhaps a hole at A may be con venient for a man to
pass his arm and draw away Chips which might get into the [space] under the
valve of the air pump the hole to be covered with a plate. In a former
letter I mentioned that the air pump will have a stroke of two feet. I see
by your drawing you have it 16 inched diameter in the Interior. I presume
this width is calculated accordingly.
     On tuesday I go out of town for 6 weeks or two months I shall not
trouble you further about the construction. You will have the goodness to
proceed immediately to the construction in the manner you deem best suited
to my purpose. I am with much respect, Yours, 
					R. FULTON. 
LONDON the 28th July 1804.

     As we shall see shortly, Fulton had just come to terms with the
Admiralty as to the use of his torpedo; the business that called him out of
town was to superintend the work of making these torpedoes at Portsmouth
Dockyard and the use of them against the French fleet. But before giving a
relation of these doings it will be as well to finish the account of the
engine business. Boulton, Watt & Co. now seem to have put the engine in
hand. Two drawings of it as actually made have been preserved. The drawing
of the cylinder, &c. (see illustration) is marked "R. Fulton, Esq. Inch to
the foot Sept. 13, 1804." The instructions on the drawing show that the
patterns were taken as far as could be done from the firm's " 20 H(orse)
engine." The other drawing (see illustration) shows the " Working and
Injection Gears, Inch to the foot, R. Fulton, Esqre. 6 Nov. 1804." Murdock's
socket valves are shown.
    These drawings, representing as they do the engine that inaugurated
steam navigation on a commercial scale, are invaluable documents of the
highest possible interest. 
    Instead of two months, nearly four elapsed before Fulton was back in
town, when he wrote to inquire about the engine as follows:
			     LONDON, DECEMBRE the 19th, 1804,


     GENTLEMEN, Have the goodness to let me know the state of my engine; when
finished and put together I shall be tempted to go and see it. 
     Some time ago I Saw an engine working at Portsmouth with an Iron boiler
and Salt water a Boiler is good for about 2 years it requires cleening once
in 15 or 20 days which fortunately is much less than I apprehended.
     Can you undertake to make a copper boiler for me or do you advise my
getting it made here ? With much respect your most
                                         obedient ROBT. FULTON.

     Please to direct as formerly R. FRANCIS.

To this the firm at once replied:

     					SOHO, Dee. 22nd, 1804 

     SIR, In reply to your favour of the 19th inst. we have the pleasure to
inform you that the materials of your Engine are compleated. All the
different parts have been tried together and we were preparing to pack them
up when we received your letter.  
    It will be attended with some little trouble and delay to put the whole
together again, but if you are desirous of seeing it in that state we should
make a point of complying with your wish and put them together for your
inspection at the commencement of the week after the Christmas holidays, say
on the 30th inst. We shall send through the hands of our house in town a
detailed drawing of the nozzles working etc. which you may probably find
sufficiently explicit to supersede seeing the parts put together. Upon this
point we shall await your further instructions. You will oblige us also by
saying to what part you wish the articles to be forwarded and the address of
the house to whom they are to be consigned. We presume of course it is your
intention to have them forwarded by Canal.  
    You will get the copper boiler made in London full as well as elsewhere,
and we can recommend Wm. Shears, Coppersmith, Fleet Market, as a good
workman in that line. 
				We are very respectfully, 
				Sir, Your Obed'. ServtS.,

Fulton's reply was as follows:

				LONDON December the 26th, 1804.


     GENTLEMEN, I thank you for the dispatch in executing my engine, had it
not been packed up curiosity would have urged me to visit you, but being
ready for transport I hope it will not be disturbed till it arrives in New
     If there is water carriage to London I wish it to be forwarded to my
Address as soon as the canals are open. In such case I can forward it in the
same Vessel with the Boiler which I propose to get made here.  
     Have the goodness to send me an elevation and ground plan as it stood
when put together drawn by an exact scale of one inch to a foot. Also a
schedule of the parts that I may know if all arrives safe in America. 
     You will please to forward me your account and believe me, Your much
							ROBT. FULTON.


The account was as under:



17th January. To sundry materials of an Engine with a 24 Inch Cylr. 4
feet Stroke as per agreement in their letters of 4th June & I8th July I804,
delivered at Soho . . .					     400 pounds
For difference of cost between an Iron
& Brass air pump ordered per Mr. F's letter of 20 July . . . 148 pounds
							     548 pounds

				     SOHO, 17th January 1805. 

     SIR, We forwarded on the 24 Ult. a drawing of the working Gear of your
Engine, through the medium of our house in London St., which we hope has
been received and fully understood.
    We now inclose a list of the Materials, which are compleatly ready and
packed up, but cannot be sent off by water until the canals are thawed. We
shall thank you to say to what address we are to send them in London.
    Above you have a statement of our Account the amount of which you will
please to settle with our Agent Mr. Woodward.  
    We have paid very particular attention to the fitting of every part so
that you may have as little trouble as possible in putting them together.
The Brass Air pump has come very high owing to the advanced price of copper,
but we hope this will be compensated for by its superior durability. 
     If you should wish for any farther explanation or instructions, they
will be furnished with much pleasure by Sir, 
					Your obt. ServtS, 

     P.S. If more convenient to you, we shall draw upon any house you may

     In this account the extra 20 pounds in the first item must be for the
cost of altering patterns fully explained no doubt in the letter of July 18,
which has not been preserved. The date " 4th June " must be a clerical error
for 4th July. The item z148 for a brass air pump instead of an iron one is
enormous, and shows the profits that were to be made at that time by
engineering firms. "The advanced price of copper" is a happy phrase which
has served its turn many times since. Fulton paid the account, as an entry
in his notebook shows, on January 21, 1805.  
     On the 17th of the month following " R. Francis " wrote to Mr.
Woodward, the firm's London agent, to inquire whether the engine was on the
way, and if so when he expected its arrival. This note was forwarded to
Soho, inquiry was made of the carriers there, and the following reply sent:

						SOHO, 21st Feb 1805 

     SIR, In reply to your enquiry to Mr. Woodward we have the pleasure to
inform you that the Goods for your Engine were forwarded on the 6th Instt.
by Skey & Bird's boats with orders to deliver them to you (same address as
this letter) and you will of course be apprized by them as soon as they
reach London.
      The carriers inform us in answer to a message to them this morning
that they expect they will reach town in 8 or IO days. We are respectfully,
					Your obt. ServtS. 

     P.S. On the other sides you have the weights of the sundry packages,

     On the 23rd February 1805, Fulton wrote to the firm asking for the
return of Mr. Ervings guarantee: on the 26th this was done, and with that
letter the transaction was completed. It only remains to add that according
to an entry in his notebook in March Fulton paid z2.14s. 6d. as "Fee at
the Treasury on receiving permission to ship the Engine for America." A
further entry on March 18 is "To Messrs. Cave & Son, for Copper boiler
weighing 4,399 Ibs. at 2/2 the lb.... z476. 11S. 2d.," showing that the
boiler also was made in England as he had intended.
     It will be proper at this juncture, while we are still on the subject
of the steam engine, to refer to a visit which Fulton admittedly paid to
William Symington to see the steam tug Charlotte Dundas, which had been
engined by him and tried on the Forth and Clyde Canal between 1802 and 1804.
As we have already seen, Symington was no novice in such matters, for he
had engaged in successful trials with pleasure steamboats as far back as
1788-9, and now with funds supplied by Thomas, Lord Dundas of Kerse, was
experimenting with a steam engine for canal haulage on a plan patented by
him in 1801 [No. 2544].
     These experiments were carried out to the complete satisfaction of his
Lordship and other gentlemen, but the majority of their coproprietors in the
canal declined to sanction the use of the tug on the ground that the wash of
the paddles would be destructive to the canal banks.
     No documentary evidence of the date when Fulton went to inspect this
most interesting steamboat appears to have been preserved. Symington in a
statement drawn up in 1829 and attested to by a number of affidavits says: 
     In July 180I a stranger came to the banks of the canal and requested to
see mer He very politely announced himself as Mr. Fulton, a native of North
America, and told me that he intended to return to his native country in a
few months, but having heard of the steamboat experiment he could not think
of leaving the country without waiting upon me in the hope of seeing the
boat and machinery and procuring some information as to the principles upon
which it was moved. He remarked that, however beneficial such an invention
might be to Great Britain, it would certainly be of much more importance to
North America."  
     Symington very generously gave him all the information he wanted,
caused the boiler fire to be lit, and the engine to be set in motion, and
along with others carried Fulton from Lock No. 18 a distance of four miles
to the westward and back, in 1 hour 20 minutes, "to the great astonishment
of Mr. Fulton and the other gentlemen present." 
     A scrutiny of the dates of Fulton's movements from 1801 till his
arrival in England, taken in conjunction with the general nature of his
occupations, will show the impossibility of his having taken a journey as
far as Scotland before 1804. The simplest explanation is that Symington's
statement, not having been drawn up till more than a quarter of a century
after the event, is slightly inaccurate in point of date.
     There have not been lacking detractors who have declared that Fulton
borrowed from Symington all his ideas, even down to the stroke and diameter
of his cylinder; but the difference between the plans of the two engineers
was fundamental, and connotes an independent origin such as we have
endeavoured to establish. Symington had a horizontal engine, with a cylinder
22 in. diam. by 4 ft. stroke, acting directly on a paddle wheel in a recess
in the stern, while Fulton had a vertical beam engine 24 in. diam. by 4 ft.
stroke connected by gearing through d fly wheel to drive side paddle wheels.
Any impartial person, even if not an engineer, must see that there was no
plagiarism here. It is an occasion for surprise rather that Fulton did not
take some hints from Symington. We can only suppose that Fulton was already
too deeply committed to, or enamoured of, his own plan, to change it,
although without doubt Symington's was the better arrangement, yet strangely
enough it was about half a century later before marine engineers, after
trying almost every conceivable arrangement, came back to Symington's simple
direct-acting plan. Fulton's engine was of the bell-crank typed which has
often been thought to have originated with William Murdock of the Soho
Foundry, Birmingham, but the credit, such as it is, must now be assigned to
     It is somewhat humbling to our insular pride to have to acknowledge
that Symington's experiments had no permanent abiding result, else should we
have been the first in this as in so many other technical developments. The
Charlotte Dundas was eventually laid up at Bainsford near Carron
Ironworks, where she lay till 1861, when she was broken up.
     We must now return to the negotiations which were going on between
Fulton and the British Cabinet. It must be remembered that one of the great
objects at this moment in the minds of Ministers,was to repel Napoleon's
threatened invasion of our shores. A flotilla was in Boulogne Harbour, and
only waited for an opportunity, by eluding the vigilance of the British
ships, to descend upon the South Coast. What a reality this scare was, how
the country responded to the call of duty, and what were the schemes of
defence proposed and adopted, are very fully detailed in a recent work 2 Of
great value.
     Among the proposals for counteracting the invasion was that of Fulton,
and the two reasons that seemed to have influenced Pitt to employ him were
the stir made in the House of Lords by his relative, Lord Stanhope, and the
desire to have Fulton, if really dangerous, on the side of rather than
opposed to Great Britain. By July preliminaries had been settled, and the
following agreements had been entered into:
     Articles of Agreement between the Right Honourable William Pitt, first
Lord Commissioner of his Majesty's treasury and Chancelor of the Exchequer,
and the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Melville, first Lord of the
Admiralty, in behalf of his Majesty's government on the one part, and Robert
Fulton, citizen of the United States of America and inventor of a plan of
attacking fleets by submarine Bombs, on the other part. 
     The said Robert Fulton agrees to disclose the principles of his scheme
to Sir Home Popham and to superintend the execution of it on the following

     First. To be paid Two hundred pounds a month while he is employed on
this Service for his personal trouble and Expences.
     Second. To have a credit lodged from time to time for the payment of his
Mechanical preparation, not to exceed Seven thousand pounds.
     Third. That in his Majesty's dockyards and Arsenals shall be made or
furnished all such articles as may be required which are applicable to this
    Fourth. If any circumstance should arise to prevent government carrying
this plan into execution then the parties are each to name two commissioners
for the purpose of examining the principles; and trying such experiments as
they may think proper, and if it should appear to the Majority of the
members that the plan is practicable and offers a more effectual mode of
destroying the enemies fleet at Boulogne, Brest, or elsewhere, than any now
in practise and with less risk, then government is to pay the said Robert
Fulton the sum of Forty Thousand Pounds as a compensation for demonstrating
the principles, and making over the entire possession of his submarine mode
of attack.
     Fifth. When the said Robert Fulton has destroyed by his submarine
carcasses or Bombs one of the enemies decked Vessels, then Government is to
pay him the sum of Forty Thousand pounds, provided Commissioners appointed
As in the previous article shall be of opinion that the same Scheme can be
practically applied to the destruction of the enemies fleets.
      Sixth. If the Arbitrators differ in opinion then they are to draw lots
for the choice of an Umpire and the majority of the Voices to decide all
points of reference within the construction of this agreement and that
decision to be final.
     Seventh. One half the supposed value of all vessels destroyed by Mr.
Fulton's Submarine mode of attack to be paid him by government as long as he
superintends the execution of his plan; but when government has no further
occasion for his services; or that he wishes to retire then he is only to be
paid one quarter of the supposed value of such vessels as may be destroyed
by his scheme, and this remuneration to continue for the space of fourteen
years from the date hereof.  
    Eighth. In case the Vessels destroyed by this scheme should exceed in
amount Forty thousand pounds, then the Forty Thousand pounds first
stipulated to be paid, shall be considered as part payment of the whole sum
which may become due to the said Robert Fulton.
    Ninth. If in the course of practice any improvements Should be Suggested
that can only be esteemed as a collateral Aid to the general principles of
Mr. Fulton's mode of attack, then such improvements are not to demenesh or
set aside his claims on government.  
     Tenth. All monies which may become due to Mr. Fulton to be paid within
six months from the time when they shall be so adjudged according to the
tenor of this agreement.
     Eleventh. This agreement to be considered by both parties as a liberal
covenant with a View to protect the Rights of the individual, and to prevent
any unproper advantage being taken of his Majesty's Government.

      Mr. Fulton having deposited the drawings and plans of his submarine
scheme of attack; in the hands of a confidential friend with a view to their
being delivered to the American government in case of his death, does hereby
bind himself to withdraw all such plans and drawings and not divulge them or
any part of his principles to any person whatever for the space of fourteen
years; which is the term during which he is to derive all the advantages of
their operation from the British Government. 
     The benefit of the foregoing agreement shall be extended to the heir
and executors of the said Robert Fulton.
     Signed this Twentieth day of July One thousand eight hundred and four.     

     There is a note by Sir Home Popham in the margin:  

     "Exchanged with a counterpart signed by the Right Honble. William Pitt
and the Right Honble. Lord Melville. 
						H. P."
     The whole is in Fulton's handwriting; the attesting clause is in different
ink to the rest and the writing is hurried. The seal is missing and it is
interesting as showing the secrecy observed that this document was retained
by Viscount Castlereagh among his private papers till his death in 1819.
    It must be confessed that Fulton's terms were some what grasping. He had
never been able to extract anything from the French, but then their finances
were at a low ebb; now that he had to deal with a wealthy country he seems
to have determined to make as much as possible out of his opportunity. It
may not be inappropriate to remark that there have been similar cases in
more recent times.  
    No time was lost it seems in appointing the commissioners, who were: Sir
Joseph Banks, K.C.B., President of the Royal Society; the Hon. H. Cavendish,
the celebrated chemist; Major William Congreve, himself an inventor of
military projectiles; John Rennie, the civil engineer; and Captain Sir Home
    Possibly the first two were nominated by Fulton and the second two by
the Admiralty, whilst Captain Popham was there to act as intermediary and
    "A packet of sealed papers and drawings were sent to them as coming from
a person of the name of Francis, and on these documents alone they delivered
as they were desired to do . . . a sound and honest opinion." 
    Evidently the balance of opinion was on the whole unfavourable to the
submarine for we hear no more about it. The torpedo, however, was not
altogether condemned and steps were taken to give Fulton an opportunity of
showing what he could do. Immediately he set to work to prepare his engines
for an attack on the Boulogne flotilla, an attack known at the time as the
"Catamaran expedition." The submarine " carcasses," " bombs," or " coffers "
employed by Fulton were similar to those experimented with by him in France.
An officer who took part in the operations describes them as being made
square in section with wedge-shaped ends "of thick plank lined with lead. A
plank is left out for filling it. When filled the plank is put in, nailed
and caulked, paid all over with tar, covered with canvas, and paid with hot
    Clockwork, set to run a certain time before releasing a hammer, was
affixed to the carcass. The clockwork was set going by the removal of a pin,
and a reward depended upon bringing this away. The coffers, some of which
were I8 feet long and weighed 2 tons, were weighted with shot so as to float
just awash and so escape observation. To each coffer were attached two
lines, floated with pieces of cork, one a tow line and the other a grapnel.
The latter was intended to be hooked on the cable by which a ship was riding
at anchor, when the coffer would swing round by the tide and lay alongside.
The coffer was taken in tow by a "catamaran" consisting of "two pieces of
timber about 9 feet long and 9 inches square placed parallel to one another
at such a distance as to receive a man to sit between them on a bar which
admitted of his sinking nearly flush with the water and occasionally
immersing himself so as to prevent his being seen in the dark or by
moonlight." This seaman was clad in black guernsey, waistcoat, and trousers,
with a black cap which covered his face; he had a paddle, and the idea was
that he should drop down with the tide towards the enemys vessel, attach the
coffer to the cable and then paddle back to safety.  
    At last all was ready and on October 2, 1804, at 9.15 P.M. Lord Keith,
Admiral of the Blue, in command on board his flagship, H.M.S. Monarch the
catamarans with coffers in tow, accompanied by five explosion vessels, were
despatched into Boulogne Harbour. The attempt was, however, almost a
complete failure: only one torpedo took effect, destroying a pinnace and her
crew of twenty-one men. The French avoided the explosion vessels, which went
ashore and there blew up without doing any serious damage. The attack ceased
at 4.I5 A.M. without any casualties on the British side. The destruction of
the pinnace was not noticed by the English officers, but is reported in the
French account of the affair.
    It is a significant fact that Admiral Keith's despatches giving an
account of the occurrencesl make no mention whatever of Fulton's share in
the transaction, although we know from his own book that he was present with
the blockading fleet on this as well as on a subsequent occasion in I805.
Captain Sir Home Popham, however, who had charge of all the necessary
preparations up to the eve of the attack, is highly commended. A fact that
shows that the occasion was deemed to be one of some little importance is
the presence on board the flagship of Viscount Melville himself.
     The news of the attack was received in England with indignation, not so
much on account of its failure, but rather because it was considered to be
an unfair method of fighting and against the laws of war.
    The event was lampooned very cleverly in the press in "The Catamarans,
an excellent new ballad," in which the Right Hon. William Dundas, Secretary
for War, is supposed to be speaking: 

    "See here my casks and coffers With triggers pulled by clocks ! But to
the Frenchmen's rigging Who first will lash these blocks ? Catamarans are
ready ( Jack turns his quid and grins) Where snugly you may paddle In water
to your chins. Then who my blocks will fasten, My casks and coffers lay ? My
pendulums set ticking And bring the pins away ? Your project new ? Jack
mutters Avast ! 'tis very stale: 'Tis catching birds, land-lubbers ! By salt
upon the tail.

					. . . .

     Considering the secrecy that appears to have been observed, it is
remarkable that such knowledge of details as is shown in these lines should
have leaked out to the general public.
     Another expedition was made on the night of December 8, when Captain
Sir Home Popham sent in an explosion vessel and two carcasses against Fort
Rouge in Calais Harbour. The explosion vessel was moored against the piles
and exploded. One carcass did not explode for some reason and the other had
to be brought backs.
      There is no doubt whatever that naval officers were averse to the mode
of attack: Lord Keith in a despatch during August, when the expedition was
in contemplation, said that he considered the method costly and likely to
meet with little success.  
      Apparently no further attempts were made to carry out Fulton's plans
till, wearied by the delay, he wrote to the Right Hon. William Pitt the
following letter: 
							August 9, 1805.

     SIR, As the circumstances which led to my engagements with this
Government, and my particular situation, may not be known to Lord Barham,
the heads of them may aid in his decision with you on my business.
     First. My experiments on submarine navigation in France having excited
some curiosity in this country, Ministers thought it prudent to know the
real merits of the invention, and sent an agent to me in Paris, inviting me
to this country; which agent made three voyages with various proposals, the
purport of which on my part were that, on my arrival here, I would exhibit
the principles of my engines to Government, and should they conceive the
introduction of them into practice in France, America, or elsewhere, to be
injurious to the interests of Great Britain, I proposed to take the value of
one ship of the line of 100,000 pounds to let the discovery lie dormant.
Letters to this effect are in possession of Mr. Addington, or Lord
     Second. Being a neutral, and having flattering prospects at home, it
was not my intention to take part in European wars; and when I agreed to act
against the French fleets, I hoped my system would be so well understood and
established by this time, that I might return to America this autumn. But
unforeseen events having occupied Ministers for the last four months,
prevented giving effect to my mode of attack, yet I hope there will now be
time for the following considerations:
     If I am to act, it is necessary means should be adopted which shall
give every possible effect to my system, with the least loss of time and
risk of persons. For this purpose a small squadron of three frigates, and
one or two cutters to carry boats, catamarans, carcasses, and implements,
should be put under the command of an active, enterprising officer, who
should have an independent cruising commission to run along the whole line
of the enemy's coast, and attack any vessel or vessels of the enemy,
wherever he found it practicable with his means. As such might be calculated
an experimental cruise, I conceive the inventor of a new mode of warfare
ought to be considered the best judge of the mode of using his own engines
to advantage; and I ought not to have more than one commander to consult,
who should be a man of resource of mind and some enthusiasm. If this measure
is not adopted, and men exercised to the engines, I despair of doing any
good for Government or honour to myself. Hence if Ministers cannot adopt
this plan the next consideration is: 
     Is this invention, if carried to its full extent and generally known, a
thing which may tend to reduce the British power by sea, or give strength to
minor powers? And is it the best policy of the British Government to make it
my interest to let it rest in its present state ?  
     If the invention is insignificant, I do not expect anything for it. If
it is an invention which is capable of working a total revolution in marine
war and which I believe, I of course must have a high idea of its value to
myself and country. But of this his Majesty's Ministers will judge.
     These considerations lead to the following conclusions: Will Ministers
form it into a system, as before mentioned, so as to give it full effect? If
not will they agree with me to let it lie dormant ? If not, I am willing to
retire. I have so equally balanced each of those cases in my own mind that
either of them will be equally agreeable to me.
     I beg you, sir, to believe that in thus expressing my sentiments I am
nowise displeased with the treatment I have received; on the contrary, I am
fully satisfied with your open and liberal mode of acting; but to prevent
fruitless negotiations and loss of time, and clearly exhibit my turn of mind
on this subject, also to reduce the points for consideration to as few as
possible, I have thought this short explanation necessary. 
					I have the honour, etc., 
					R. FRANCIS.

     Whether in consequence of this appeal or not, greater activity now
seems to have been displayed. Lord Castle reagh, writing to Lord Barham,
First Lord of the Admiralty, on Ioth September 1805, says: 
     " The Ordnance Stores connected with Mr. Francis's mode of warfare were
some time since landed from the Sceptre and Diadem armed defence ships, and
placed for safety in ordnance stores at Portsmouth." He asks for these
stores to be put on board some vessels and sent round to Dover.
     Again writing to Sir Sidney Smith on the 19th September he mentions
having seen Mr. Francis and encloses a memorandum of the latter which
suggests the provision of 9 row galleys with 12 men to each including I
officer= 108 men and Io catamarans with 2 men to each=20 men. It also
suggests a scale of rewards for the vessels to be captured.  
     Mr. Cooke, Lord Castlereagh's private secretary, writing to Mr. Robert
Francis on September 25, 1805, says 
     "I am directed by Lord Castlereagh to acknowledge your letter of the
23rd instant, stating that you have made a contract with Messrs. Caverton
for one hundred carcasses of copper at 2s. 6d. per pound, equal to 550
pounds sterling. Also that you had received an estimate for making one hundred
clockwork locks at 14 each, amounting to z1400 sterling, and I am commanded
by his Lordship to express his approbation of the contract you have entered
into for the carcasses, and to desire that you will lose no time in
contracting for the clockwork locks above mentioned."
     On September 27th Lord Castlereagh signifies to Lord Barham the King's
command to execute a secret service of importance with Captain Sir Sidney
Smith, to whom the Controller of the Navy is directed to imprest z30,000.
Later we learn that of this sum about z3000 had already been advanced to Mr.
Francis, not inclusive of the z1400 for the locks. 
     At length all was ready for another attack on the Boulogne flotilla.
Captain E. W. C. R. Owen, an intelligent and enterprising officer under the
command of Lord Keith, was chosen to superintend the operations. The wind,
weather and tide favouring, an attack was made with two carcasses on the
night of September 30, lasting till 2 A.M., the next morning under the
charge of Captain Seccombe and Lieut. Payne. The carcasses blew up without
doing any damage: no casualties, except one wounded, were sustained.
     In the French account of the affairs1 given with great detail, it is
mentioned that the next morning there was found on the shore "a lock like
that of the fire machines which the English used last year with so much
ridicule and with so little success."
     It was probably the ill-success of this expedition that made Fulton
realise that something must be done to restore confidence and show that it
was the plan of the attack and not the torpedo that was at fault.  
     A Norwegian or Danish brig, the Dorothea, 100 tons, which had been
captured on the 19th April previous by H.M S. Furious, happened to be laid
up in Deal Harbour almost under the windows of Walmer Castle, Pitt's
official residence. On October 15 Fulton placed a torpedo across the bows of
the brig, and, after a predetermined interval, she was blown in two,
completely destroyed and sunk  in the presence of a distinguished company
of naval and military officers and a large concourse of spectators. As
showing how little belief there was in Fulton's torpedoes, it may be
mentioned that one of the naval officers, only ten minutes before the
explosion, said that he would be quite unconcerned if sitting at dinner at
that moment in the cabin of the Dorothea.  
     A contemporary account 1 is as follows:

     DEAL, October 16. " On Monday morning (i.e. the 14th October) Mr.
Francis, who last year contrived the Expedition and constructed the machines
which Sir Home Popham ran among the Enemy's Flotilla at Boulogne arrived
here from Dover; and a rumour was soon spread that he was going to make an
experiment to blow up a brig of 300 tons with one of his new invented
Catamarans. Curiosity was soon alive, and about 4 P.M. great crowds of
People assembled on the Beach, from Deal to Walmer Castle, opposite which
the brig lay." 
     We continue the account in Fulton's own words: 
     "Two boats, each with eight men, commanded by lieutenant Robinson, were
put under my direction. I prepared two empty Torpedoes in such a manner,
that each was only from two to three pounds specifically heavier than salt
water; and I so suspended them, that they hung fifteen feet under water.
They were then tied one to each end of a small rope eighty feet long; thus
arranged, and the brig drawing twelve feet of water, the 14th day of October
was spent in practice. Each boat having a Torpedo in the stern, they started
from the shore about a mile above the brig, and rowed down towards her; the
uniting line of the Torpedoes being stretched to its full extent, the two
boats were distant from each other seventy feet; thus they approached in
such a manner, that one boat kept the larboard, the other the starboard side
of the brig in view. So soon as the connecting line of the Torpedoes passed
the buoy of the brig, they were thrown into the water and carried on by the
tide, until the connecting line touched the brig's cable; the tide then
drove them under her bottom. The experiment being repeated several times
taught the men how to act, and proved to my satisfaction that, when properly
placed on the tide, the Torpedoes would invariably go under the bottom of
the vessel. I then filled one of the Torpedoes with one hundred and eighty
pounds of powder and set its clockwork to eighteen minutes. Everything being
ready, the experiment was announced for the next day, the 15th, at five
o'clock in the afternoon. Urgent business had called Mr. Pitt and Lord
Melville to London. Admiral Holloway, Sir Sidney Smith, Captain Owen,
Captain Kingston, Colonel Congreve, and the major part of the oficers of the
fleet under the command of Lord Keith were present; at forty minutes past
four the boats rowed towards the brig, and the Torpedoes were thrown into
the water; the tide carried them, as before described, under the bottom of
the brig, where, at the expiration of eighteen minutes, the explosion seemed
to raise her bodily about six feet; she separated in the middle, and the two
ends went down; in twenty seconds nothing was to be seen of her except
floating fragments; the pumps and foremast were blown out of her; the
fore-topsail-yard was thrown up to the crosstrees; the fore chain plates,
with their bolts, were torn from her sides; the mizen-chainplates and
shrouds being stronger than those of the foremast, or the shock being more
forward than aft, the mizenmast was broke off in two places; these
discoveries were made by means of the pieces which were found afloat."
     Subsequent to this Fulton had an interview with Earl St. Vincent, to
whom he explained the torpedo and the experiment with it in blowing up the
Dorothea; the Earl said:
     "Pitt was the greatest fool that ever existed, to encourage a mode of
war which they who commanded the seas did not want, and which if successful
would deprive them of it." 
     On the other hand, as showing how different were the views held by
Ministers, Lord Castlereagh, on October 21, commenting on Sir Sidney Smith's
report upon the blowing up of the brig, says1 that " the success of Mr.
Francis's experiment gives me great confidence in our means of annoying the
enemy in their own ports with little comparative risk to ourselves." 
     On October 27, influenced probably by this success, another attempt was
made upon the flotilla in Boulogne Harbour. LieutenantCharles F. Payne, on
board H.M.S. Bloodhound, with boats reached the centre of the enemy's line,
rowed in at 9.30 P.M. and placed a carcass across the second vessel's cable.
They were discovered and fired upon, so withdrew for a short time. When the
firing had abated they rowed in to see the effect: The torpedo "exploded and
made a similar crash as the Brig lately blown up in the Downes," without,
howeverX the same destructive effect.  
     Shortly after this the news of Nelson's great victory off Trafalgar on
October 2I, 1805, completely annihilating the naval power of France and
Spain, reached England, and, as Napoleon was faced by the coalition of
Russia and Austria, he was compelled to withdraw the troops from the camp at
Boulogne to take part in the campaigns of Ulm and Austerlitz. The danger of
invasion was at an end, the tension was relieved, and the necessity for any
further torpedo attempts was obviated.  
     Fulton, however, did not abandon his project, for it was not confined
to a single form of attack, such as that on the Boulogne flotilla, but was
generally applicable at any harbour where the enemy's vessels could be found
at anchor. Nevertheless the fact remained that the immediate purpose for
which Fulton's services had been secured had been gained and there was but
little need to continue the engagement. With his usual pertinacity he kept
on importuning Ministers. On November 25, 1805, Mr. Francis wrote from Dover
to Lord Castlereagh enclosing a copy of a long letter to Sir Sidney Smith: "
    From the day I found Mr. Pitt determined to practice my invention on the
French fleets, I urged that it might be arranged into a system by itself.
After thirteen months' essay and argument I have still to plead that it may
be systematized, and I do believing it the best interest of Government; for
as to myself, having shown how to construct the carcasses and apply them
with simplicity and certainty, little more can be required of me; it must be
for regular bred seamen to use them and seek opportunities to destroy the
    On November 26 Mr. Francis sent to Lord Castlereagh a long letter
suggesting an attack on the fleet in the inner Roads of Brest. On the 28th
Francis sent a memorandum to Sir Sidney Smith suggesting the abandonment for
the present of the large wooden coffers and using small copper carcasses
instead.  On December 13, 1805, from Ibbotson's Hotel, Vere Street, Oxford
Road, Francis sent proposals for a final settlement with Government. On
January 6, 1806, from the same address he wrote to the Right Hon. William
Pitt enclosing a copy of his proposal to Lord Castlereagh:
     Now, in this business, I will not disguise that I have full confidence
in the power which I possess, which is no less than to be the means, should
I thank proper, of giving to the world a system which must of necessity
sweep all military marines from the ocean, by giving to the weaker maritime
powers advantages over the stronger, which the stronger cannot prevent....
     "In the following proposal I have not raised the sum first mentioned to
Lord Hawkesbury; and it must be observed, I did not come here so much with a
view to do you any material good as to show that I have the power, and might
in the exercise of my plan to acquire fortune, do you an infinite injury,
which Ministers, if they think proper, may prevent by an arrangement with
     It can hardly be denied that, considering Fulton's ill-success with his
carcasses against the enemy, this letter was a piece of bluff.
     All along it would appear that it was the Cabinet who had supported
Fulton's schemes and, as William Pitt died in January 1806 and Lord Melville
was impeached for his irregular conduct in not keeping his private accounts
separate from his public ones, these schemes naturally fell to the ground
with the advent of Lords Grenville and Howick, their successors, who were
opposed to such methods of warfare.  
     The closing scenes of Fulton's connection with the British Government
are outlined in the correspondence relative to the final disposition of the
     Lieutenant William Robinson of the Marine Artillery, who, it will be
recalled, was in charge of the boats when the Dorothea was blown up at Deal,
writes to Robert Francis on May 2, 1806, from Dover:
     "I am very sorry that Government have not yet divided on useing the
carcasses, for they are now so well arranged that I think them sure of
success I have got them all on bd the Atalanta Cutter with everything
necessary to compleat them at a moment's notice."
     This letter Fulton encloses to the Secretary of the Admiralty with the
following observations:

     MY LORDS, I beg leave to Submit to your Lordship's consideration a
letter from Lieutenant Robinson. You will have the goodness to decide on the
manner the Atalanta and carcasses are to be disposed of, the removal of such
engines from ship to ship and store to store is the cause of much injury to
the clockwork in consequence of their falling into the hands of curious and
inexperienced persons. My Lords If it be thought proper to take every
advantage of the Enemy which the carcasses can give, a systematic plan must
be pursued; if it be thought improper or impolitic to use them, at present
it will be well to collect everything belonging to them in one warehouse,
where they can be under the care of one person I took the liberty to write
to your Lordships on the 28th April relative to my account. I beg to be
honoured with an answer. I am, My Lords, your Lordships' most obedient and
very humble servant,
     				ROBT FULTON. 

May the 3rd, 1806.

     This letter is docketed " 6 May. Directions for putting them into Store
at Deal. Commodore Owen to be acquainted."
     On May 18 Lieutenant Robinson writes, evidently with a tinge of regret,
to say that he has handed over all his stores marked, numbered, and
lettered, and that he has explained everything as to the method of using the
carcasses. He finishes by asking to be allowed to draw upon Fulton for the
balance of his account. Fulton encloses this letter to the Secretary, merely
suggesting that the financial part should be arranged with Lieutenant
Robinson direct. 
     The Cabinet, however, dealt very fairly with Fulton for although he did
not get the original sum that he had demanded, yet considering the
ill-success that had attended all the expeditions made with his warlike
engines one fourth of that sum, which he did actually receive, must be said
to have been very liberal indeed, especially considering that he was
released from the term of his contract as to time and secrecy. This sum did
not include the cost of the experiments; that had been defrayed out of the
secret service imprest placed in the hands of Sir Sidney Smith. 
     A letter, written to Barlow from London, in September 1806 i.e. when
Fulton was on the eve of his final departure from England, explains the
whole situation: 
    "My arbitration is finished and I have beean allowed the z1O,OOO which I
had received with 5,000,!; salary total z15,000 though z1600 which I have
received on settling account will just square all old debts and expenses in
London, and leave me about z200. My situation now is, my hands are free to
burn, sink, and destroy whom I please, and I shall now seriously set about
giving liberty to the seas by publishing my system of attack. I have or will
have when Mr. Parker sends my two thousand pounds 500 sterling a year with a
steam engine and pictures worth two thousand pounds. Therefore I am not in a
state to be pitied. I am now busy winding up everything and will leave
London about the 23rd inst. for Falmouth from whence I shall sail in the
packet the first week in October and be with you, I hope, in November,
perhaps about the 14th, my birthday, so you must have a roast goose ready.
Do not write me again after receiving this. The packet, being well manned
and provided will be more commodious and safe for an autumn passage, and I
think their will be little or no risk; at least I prefer taking all the risk
there is to idling here a winter. But although there is not much risk, yet
accidents may happen, and that the produce of my studies and experience may
not be lost to my country, I have made out a complete set of drawings and
descriptions of my whole system of submarine attack, and another set of
drawings with description af the steamboat. These with my wz'll, I shall put
in a tin cylinder, sealed and leave them in the care of General Lyman, not
to be opened unless I am lost. Should such an event happen, I have left you
the means to publish these works, with engravings, in a handsome manner, and
to which you will add your own ideas showing how the liberty of the seas may
be gained by such means; and with such liberty, the immense advantages to
America and civilization: you will also show the necessity of perfecting and
establishing the steamboat and canals on the inclined plane principle. I
have sent you three hundred complete sets of prints from the Columbiad by
the Orb, directed to Mr. Tolman, New York, value z30 As the transport by
land to Philadelphia will not be much, I have sent them by this opportunity,
that they may arrive before the law for prohibiting such things is in force,
and that the shipment and risk may not approach too near to winter. All my
pictures, prints, and other things, I mean to leave here, to be shipped in
spring vessels about April next, when the risk will be inconsiderable. How
shall we manage this winter, as you must be in Philadelphia for the printing
and I want to be at New York to build my boat? I am in excellent health
never better and in good spirits. You know I cannot exist without a project
or projects and I have two or three of the first order of sublimity.... Mr.
West has been retouching my pictures; they are charming." 

    The balance of the sum received by Fulton from the British Government
"in satisfaction of all claims " was z1653, 18s. 8d. Apparently after
deducting his living and travelling expenses, the cost of the engine and the
pictures, the remainder of the z15,000 had been invested in order to be
bringing in the income stated.  
    The pictures referred to were Benjamin West's " Ophelia " and " King
Lear," that Fulton had bought for 125 and 205 guineas respectively on May 19
and 20th 1805, at the sale of the contents of Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery.
This purchase created some little excitement, as it was an open secret that
the pictures were intended to form the nucleus of a Gallery of Fine Arts to
be established in Philadelphia. This was probably the first instance on
record of the practice, since so common, of the purchase of original works
of art for America. This sale is referred to in the following letter 
addressed to Richard Phillips, the proprietor of the Monthly Magazine. The
" observations " were not, however, published, although a letter by him on
another topic appeared at a later date.

     DEAR SIR, I gave Mr. Stephens some observations on Mr. Jefferson's
speech to present to you and if no objections arose, to be printed in your
magazine, this I still wish to have done also the inclosed paper on the Sale
of the Shakspeare Gallery, and prospect of encouragement for fine arts in
America, please to let me know by a note if they can both appear in the
magazine for July. Your obedient servant,
				ROBT. FULTON. Jan 4,1804.

     West's "King Lear " is now in the possession of the Athenaeum, Boston,
Massachusetts, but the whereabouts of the other picture is not known.
     Another interesting sidelight upon Fulton's less important
preoccupations during this period is afforded by the following letter to
Lord Stanhope on the subject of stereotype printing; it may perhaps explain
the allusion to "projects " in Fulton's letter to Barlow previously quoted.
No doubt he was brought into contact with the printing fraternity by the
printing of the plates that Smirke had engraved for the Columbiad.  
					BRIDGE STREET, Oct. 4, 1806.

     MY LORD, I wright to beg pardon for not calling in Stratford Place in
my way from Hampstead to Bridge St. I have been anxious to do so, but
various circumstances have conspired to prevent me. I should be happy to
have an opportunity of conversing with your Lordship on the subject of
Stereotype Printing and of explaining the motives which influenced the
Booksellers in their rejection of the Project submitted to them by Mr.
    In the first Place it would have been impracticable to raise within a
year the sum of 14,000 which we were called upon to pay for Buildings, past
expences, loss of time, Ac., &;c. A few, among whom I was one, would have
advanced 500 pounds apiece, but the major part of the 12 or 20 persons
concerned in Literary Property have little to spare and they would not be
unanimous in their opinion of this or any new invention.  
    Secondly: As the Booksellers are of opinion that Stereotype Printing
could only be advantageously applied to about 30 or 40 works, that sum of
14,000 pounds added to the expences of Stereotyping those works would not be
inferior to the expence of setting up and keeping the whole standing in
Movable Types while at the same time those Types would always be worth half
their cost in the event of the works being broken up or rendered obsolete. 
    To account for the indisposition of the Booksellers generally, I shall
observe that it has always been stipulated in every proposal of Mr. Wilson
that the plates should kdworked at his office only, that he should acquire
an Interest in the work stereotyped, and should have it in his power to take
a set of plates for America, [They demur to] all of these points which
seriously infringe on literary Property, militate with the independence of
the possessors of such property, and are most especially alien to those
feelings of which an Englishman is most proud, and which he ought, my Lord,
to cherish above all petty calculations of profit and loss in matters of
    If Stereotype Printing can ever succeed in this country, it must be
placed on the liberal footing of all other manufactures. If thrown open on a
broad basis to all who choose to employ it, free from restrictions, and the
spirit of monopoly, it will succeed, and those who have embarked their
property in it will reimburse themselves with profit. Any other system, a
spirit of opposition to the trade, and an invasion of the property of the
Booksellers, will end in the discomfiture and ruin of the parties even
though they were worth a million. Honesty and Liberality are ever the best
Policy. In this business, my Lord, an attempt is making to rob the
Booksellers of their established copy rights because they will not submit to
illiberal restrictions.  
    You are, my Lord, the last man in the world who can lend your
countenance to so foolish a course. No body of men ever suffered themselves
to be dictated to and the Booksellers would indeed be deserving of contempt
if under such circumstances they did not stand aloof and permit the present
attempt at Stereotype Printing to sink under its own weight. I have nothing
to object to Mr. Wilson but to his wrong estimate of human Nature. He
possesses the intelligence, the integrity and the spirit of enterprise
adequate to the undertaking which your Lordship has sanctioned with your
patronage, but he has taken too high ground and has raised the Jealousies
instead of cultivating the confidence and the co-operation of the
Booksellers. At present I foresee nothing but mischief in a business from
which only benefits ought to have resulted.  
    I write this letter confidentially to your Lordship, and am, my Lord,
				your obdt. and obliged servt., 

     It may be remarked that stereotypy, although invented as early as 1725
by William Ged of Edinburgh, and reintroduced in 1784 by Alexander Tilloch,
who brought it to considerable perfection, had by the end of the eighteenth
century practically been abandoned for reasons that are not far to seek. The
handpress, which was then in use, was quite unequal to printing, nor was
there a sufficient public to warrant, the large editions which alone could
make stereotypy more economical than printing direct from movable types. But
Earl Stanhope, having in 1798 considerably improved the hand-press by the
introduction of the Stanhope levers and by making the whole in iron, had
turned his attention to stereotypy. " After many expensive and tedious
experiments Lord Stanhope, aided by Mr. Walker, an ingenious mechanist,
succeeded in this important invention to the full extent of his highest
expectations."  Lord Stanhope had the advantage of the instruction of
Tilloch, who had removed to London, and of Andrew Wilson, a practical
     In 1804 the invention was with his Lordship's approbation offered to
the University of Cambridge, but the negotiations fell through. In the
letter before us we have evidence of another attempt by Wilson to get the
London booksellers to take up the subject, but under very onerous
conditions. Wilson7s attempt also fell through and stereotyping died out for
more than twenty years. The letter we have quoted is an important
contribution to the history of the subject. 
     We might mention that before bidding final adieu to England Fulton had
contemplated union in marriage with an English widow of considerable
fortune. The only mention of it is in a very fatherly letter from Barlow,
dated 3rd March 1806, wherein he tries all he knows to dissuade Fulton from
his purpose, apparently with success, for he returned to the United States

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