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Lincoln's address at the Cooper Institute, New York, on the evening of February 27, 1860, was, perhaps, the most important single speech which he made before his presidency and the most systematic and powerful statement which he ever made of the case against slavery and its defenders. The occasion itself was noteworthy. Lincoln's debate with Douglas in 1858 had given him a national reputation, and the anti-slavery men of the East were curious and anxious to see and hear him. Nicolay and Hay, in their Life of Lincoln, devote an entire chapter (vol. ii., chap. xii.) to this great speech and the circumstances of its delivery. "Since the days of Clay and Webster," said the Tribune the next morning, "no man has spoken to a larger assemblage of the intellect and mental culture of our city." William Cullen Bryant presided, and the leading Republicans of New York sat upon the platform. "The representative men of New York," wrote the biographers, were naturally eager to see and hear one who, by whatever force of eloquence or argument, had attracted so large a share of the public attention. We may also fairly infer that, on his part, Lincoln was no less curious to test the effect of his words on an audience more learned and critical than those collected in the open-air meetings of his Western campaigns. This mutual interest was an evident advantage to both: it secured a close attention from the house and insured deliberation and emphasis by the speaker, enabling him to develop his argument with perfect precision and unity, reaching, perhaps, the happiest general effect ever attained in any one of his long addresses. . . . If any part of the audience came with the expectation of hearing the rhetorical fireworks of a Western stump-speaker of the 'half-horse, half-alligator' variety, they met novelty of an unlooked-for kind. In Lincoln's entire address he neither introduced an anecdote nor essayed a witticism; and the first half of it does not contain even an illustrative figure or a poetical fancy. It was the quiet, searching exposition of the historian and the terse, compact reasoning of the statesman about an abstract principle of legislation, in language well-nigh as restrained and colorless as he would have employed in arguing a case before a court. Yet such was the apt choice of words, the easy precision of sentences, the simple strength of propositions, the fairness of every point he assumed, and the force of every conclusion he drew, that his listeners followed him with the interest and delight a child feels in its easy mastery of a plain sum in arithmetic."
The next morning the four leading New York newspapers printed the address in full. "Mr. Lincoln is one of nature's orators," said the Tribune, "using his rare powers solely to elucidate and convince, though their inevitable effect is to delight and electrify as well. We present herewith a very full and accurate report of this speech; yet the tones, the gestures, the kindling eye, and the mirth-provoking look defy the reporter's skill. The vast assemblage frequently rang with cheers and shouts of applause, which were prolonged and intensified at the close. No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience." A pamphlet reprint was at once announced by the Tribune, and later a more careful edition was prepared and circulated.
From New York Lincoln went to speak at several places in New England, everywhere making a deep impression; and this Eastern visit did much to bring him into prominence as a candidate for the presidency. See Herndon's Life of Lincoln for an account of the great care which he gave to the preparation of the Cooper Institute speech, and its important influ ence on his own fortunes.
Lincoln's Complete Works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings, edited by Nicolay and Hay, are published in two volumes. There have already been published in the series of Old South Leaflets Lincoln's Inaugurals (No. 11) and the First Lincoln and Douglas Debate (No. 85).
THE DIRECTORS OF THE OLD SOUTH WORK,
Old South Meeting-house, Boston, Mass.
An Historical Account of the Application of Steam for the Propelling of Boats: a letter from Chancellor Livingston to the editors of the "American Medical and Philosophical Register," published in that journal in January, 1812 (vol. ii. p. 256).
It is much to be wished that a regular account of the introduction of useful arts had been transmitted by the historical writers of every age and country, not merely that justice might be done to the genius and enterprise of the inventors, and the nation by whom they were fostered, but that the statesman and philosopher might mark the influence of each upon the wealth, morals, and characters of mankind. Every one sees and acknowledges the changes that have been wrought by the improvements in agriculture and navigation, but seldom reflects on the extent to which apparently small discoveries have influenced not only the prosperity of the nation to which the invention owes its birth, but those with which it is remotely connected. When Arkwright invented his cotton-mills, the man would have been laughed at that ventured to predict that not only Great Britain would be many millions gainer annually by it, but that in consequence of it the waste lands of the Carolinas and Georgia would attain an incalculable value, and their . planters vie in wealth with the nabobs of the East. A new art has sprung up among us, which promises to be attended with such important consequences that I doubt not, sirs, you will with pleasure make your useful work record its introduction; that when in future years it becomes common, the names
of the inventors may not be lost to posterity, and that its effects upon the wealth and manners of society may be more accurately marked. I refer (as you have doubtless conjectured) to the invention of steamboats, which owe their introduction solely to the genius and enterprise of our fellowcitizens; the utility of which is already so far acknowledged that, although only four years have elapsed since the first boat was built by Mr. Livingston and Mr. Fulton, ten vessels are now in operation on their construction, and several more contracted for.
When Messrs. Watt and Bolton had given a great degree of perfection to the steam-engine, it was conceived that this great and manageable power might be usefully applied to the purposes of navigation; the first attempt, however, to effect this, as far as I have yet learned, was made in America in the year 1783. Mr. John Fitch (having first obtained from most of the States in the Union a law vesting in him for a long term the exclusive use of steamboats) built one upon the Delaware. He made use of Watt and Bolton's engine, and his propelling power was paddles. This vessel navigated the river from Philadelphia to Bordentown for a few weeks, but was found so imperfect, and liable to so many accidents, that it was laid aside, after the projector had expended a large sum of money for himself and his associates.
Rumsey, another American, who was deservedly ranked among our most ingenious mechanics, followed Fitch; but, not being able to find men at home who were willing, after Fitch's failure, to embark in so hazardous an enterprise, he went to England, where, aided by the capital of Mr. Daniel Parker and other moneyed men, he built a boat upon the Thames, which, after many and very expensive trials, was found defective, and never went into operation. Rumsey's propelling power was water pumped by the engine into the vessel and expelled from the stern.
The next attempt was made by Chancellor Livingston, to whom, as to Fitch, the State of New York gave an exclusive right for twenty years, upon condition that he built and kept in operation a boat of twenty tons burthen, that should go at the rate of four miles an hour. He expended a considerable sum of money in the experiment, and built a boat of about thirty tons burthen, which went three miles an hour. As this did not fulfil the conditions of his contract with the State, he
relinquished the project for the moment, resolving, whenever. his public avocations would give him leisure, to pursue it. His action upon the water was by a horizontal wheel placed in a well in the bottom of the boat, which communicated with the water at its centre; and when whirled rapidly round propelled the water by the centrifugal force through an aperture in the stern. In this way he hoped to escape the encumbrance of external wheels or paddles, and the irregularities that the action of the waves might occasion. Not being able with the small engine he used, which was an eighteen-inch cylinder, with a three-feet stroke, to obtain, as I have said, a greater velocity than three miles an hour, and fearing that the loss of power in this way was greater than could be compensated by the advantage he proposed from his plan, he relinquished it; but, as I am informed, still thinks that when boats are designed for very rough water it may be eligible to adopt it in preference to external wheels.
Not long after, John Stevens, Esq., of Hoboken, engaged in the same pursuit, tried elliptical paddles, smoke-jack wheels, and a variety of other ingenious contrivances,— sometimes of his own invention, and again in conjunction with Mr. Kinsley, late one of our most distinguished mechanicians. None of these having been attended with the desired effect, Mr. Stevens has, since the introduction of Messrs. Livingston and Fulton's boat, adopted their principles, and built two boats that are propelled by wheels, to which he has added a boiler of his invention, that promises to be a useful improvement on engines designed for boats. Whilst these unsuccessful attempts were making in America, the mechanics of Europe were not wholly inattentive to the object. Lord Stanhope, who deservedly ranks very high among them, expended a considerable sum of money in building a steamboat, which, like all that preceded it, totally failed. His operating power upon the water was something in the form of a duck's foot. A gentleman in France (whose name I have forgotten), when Mr. Livingston and Mr. Fulton were building their experimental boat on the Seine, complained in the French papers that the Americans had forestalled his invention; that he had invented a boat that would go seven miles an hour, and explained his principles. Mr. Fulton replied to him, and showed him that attempts had been previously made in America, and assuring him that his plan was quite different. Mr. would not
answer. He had expended a great deal of money and failed; he made use of a horizontal cylinder and chain-paddles.
After the experiments made by Mr. Livingston and Mr. Fulton at Paris, a boat was built in Scotland that moved in some measure like a small boat that was exhibited for some time at New York by Mr. Fitch. The cylinder was laid horizontally, and her action upon the water was similar to his; but, as her speed upon the water was a little better than two miles an hour, I presume she has gone into disuse.
You will not, sir, find this record of the errors of projectors uninteresting, since they serve the double purpose of deterring others from wasting time and money upon them, and of setting in its true light the enterprise of those who, regardless of so many failures, had the boldness to undertake and the happiness to succeed in the enterprise.
Robert R. Livingston, Esq., when minister in France, met with Mr. Fulton, and they formed that friendship and connection with each other to which a similarity of pursuits generally gives birth. He communicated to Mr. Fulton the importance of steamboats to their common country, informed him of what had been attempted in America and of his resolution to resume the pursuit on his return, and advised him to turn his attention to the subject. It was agreed between them to embark in the enterprise, and immediately to make such experiments as would enable them to determine how far, in spite of former failures, the object was attainable. The principal direction of these experiments was left to Mr. Fulton, who united, in a very considerable degree, practical to a theoretical knowledge of mechanics. After trying a variety of experiments on a small scale, on models of his own invention, it was understood that he had developed the true principles upon which steamboats should be built, and for the want of knowing which all previous experiments had failed. But, as these gentlemen both knew that many things which were apparently perfect when tried on a small scale failed when reduced to practice upon a large one, they determined to go to the expense of building an operating boat upon the Seine. This was done in the year 1803, at their joint expense, under the direction of Mr. Fulton, and so fully evinced the justice of his principles that it was immediately determined to enrich their country by the valuable discovery as soon as they should meet there, and in the mean time to order an engine to be made in England. On the ar