« PreviousContinue »
of traffic; that the ocean floats, in every clime and in all its harbors, fleets of great steamers, transporting passengers and merchandise from the United States to Europe, from Liverpool to Hong-Kong, from London to Melbourne, traversing the "doldrums" as steadily and safely and as rapidly as the regions of the trades or either temperate zone. Steam navigation without Fulton would undoubtedly have become an established fact; but no one can say how long the world, without that great engineer and statesman, would have been compelled to wait, or how much the progress of the world might have been retarded by his failure, had it occurred. The name of Fulton well deserves to be coupled with those of Newcomen and Watt, the inventors of the steam-engine; with those of George and Robert Stephenson, the builders of the railway; and with those of Morse and Bell, who have given us the telegraph and the telephone. Robert H. Thurston.
"Robert Fulton has often, if not generally, been assumed to have been the inventor of the steamboat, as Watt is generally supposed to be the inventor of the steam-engine, which constitutes its motive apparatus. But this notion is quite incorrect. The invention of the steam-engine and that of the steamboat alike are the results of the inventive genius not of any one man nor of any dozen men. Fulton simply took the products of the genius of other mechanics, and set them at work in combination, and then applied the already known steamboat, in his more satisfactorily proportioned form, to a variety of useful purposes, and with final success. It is this which constitutes Fulton's claim upon the gratitude and the remembrance of the nations; and it is quite enough."
The early chapters of Admiral George H. Preble's "History of Steam Navigation” give a very complete account of the various efforts to construct and work steamboats before the time of Fulton. The account by Robert R. Livingston, in the January, 1812, number of the American Medical and Philosophical Register of New York, reprinted in the present leaflet, is of great historical value, as Livingston's own efforts in this direction, both in association with Fulton and earlier, were of such signal imporIt should be noted that in the April, 1812, number of the Register, Colonel John Stevens of Hoboken, the most active of Fulton's rivals, published a rejoinder to Livingston, criticising his letter for "numerous incorrect and defective statements" concerning himself, and showing that he had formed plans for the application of steam power to navigation as early as 1789, and was at work on construction as early, at least, as 1791. "Stevens," says Thurston, "was the greatest professional engineer and naval architect living at the beginning of the present century. He exhibited a better knowledge of engineering than any man of his time, and entertained and urged more advanced opinions and more statesmanlike views in relation to the economical importance of the improvement of the steam-engine, both on land and water, than seem to have been attributable to any other leading engineer of that time, not excepting Robert Fulton." Livingston pays proper tribute to John Fitch for the first attempt in
America to apply steam to navigation in 1783. The career of this man of marvellous inventive genius was a pathetic one. Only the lack of property," to which Livingston rightly ascribes so large a part of the success of the Clermont experiment, prevented John Fitch from achieving the triumph and the fame now associated with the name of Fulton. "The day will come," he wrote in his autobiography, "when some more powerful man will get fame and riches from my invention; but nobody will believe that poor John Fitch can do anything worthy of attention." He constructed steamboats with paddles, and also successfully applied the screwpropeller. "This," he wrote to David Rittenhouse in 1792, speaking of the steam-engine, "whether I bring it to perfection or not, will be the mode of crossing the Atlantic, in time, for packets and armed vessels." There is a Life of Fitch by Thompson Westcott, containing many selections from his autobiography. The Life in Sparks's "American Biography "is by Whittlesey, who also wrote an impressive paper, "Justice to the Memory of John Fitch," for the Western Literary Journal and Monthly Review for February, 1845, reprinted in pamphlet form. There is much interesting matter concerning Fitch, largely communicated by Daniel Langstreth, the younger, in Watson's "Annals of Philadelphia." See also Fitch's own pamphlet, "The Original Steamboat Supported," a reply (1788) to the claims of J. Rumsey.
The earliest important Life of Fulton is that by his friend Cadwallader D. Colden, published in 1817. The Life by Reigart (1856), for the most part a plagiarism from Colden, is a fulsome work, which derives its value from some original letters included (one from H. Freeland, reprinted in the present leaflet, describing the appearance of the Clermont in her first trip up the Hudson) and the reproduction of many of Fulton's sketches and pictures, including his colored illustrations to Barlow's "Columbiad." The Life in Sparks's series is by James Renwick. There is an admirable brief biography by Robert H. Thurston, in the "Makers of America" series; and a capital book for the young people is the “Life of Robert Fulton, and History of Steam Navigation," by Thomas W. Knox. Preble's "History of Steam Navigation " contains original accounts of the first voyage of the Clermont not found in the other books. The date of this historical voyage was Monday, August 17, 1807; for an account of the curious confusions as to the date, see the Editor's Table of the New England Magazine, September, 1900. Fulton became involved in litigation concerning his patents and various rights; and it was in connection with this that he wrote the letter addressed to Aaron Ogden, printed in the present leaflet, which is the most interesting statement of his claim as inventor of the steamboat.
THE DIRECTORS OF THE OLD SOUTH WORK,
Old South Meeting-house, Boston, Mass.
Old South Leaflets.
The Ground of the Free
BY HORACE MANN.
FROM HIS TENTH ANNUAL REPORT AS SECRETARY OF THE MASSACHUSETTS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, 1846.
The Pilgrim Fathers amid all their privations and dangers conceived the magnificent idea, not only of a universal, but of a free education for the whole people. To find the time and the means to reduce this grand conception to practice, they stinted themselves, amid all their poverty, to a still scantier pittance; amid all their toils, they imposed upon themselves still more burdensome labors; and, amid all their perils, they braved still greater dangers. Two divine ideas filled their great hearts, their duty to God and to posterity. For the one they built the church, for the other they opened the school. Religion and knowledge,-two attributes of the same glorious and eternal truth, and that truth the only one on which immortal or mortal happiness can be securely founded!
It is impossible for us adequately to conceive the boldness of the measure which aimed at universal education through the establishment of free schools. As a fact, it had no precedent in the world's history; and, as a theory, it could have been refuted and silenced by a more formidable array of argument and experience than was ever marshalled against any other institution of human origin. But time has ratified its soundness. Two centuries of successful operation now proclaim it to be as wise as it was courageous, and as beneficent as it was disinterested. Every community in the civilized world awards it the meed of praise; and states at home and nations abroad, in the
order of their intelligence, are copying the bright example. What we call the enlightened nations of Christendom are approaching, by slow degrees, to the moral elevation which our ancestors reached at a single bound. . . .
The alleged ground upon which the founders of our freeschool system proceeded when adopting it did not embrace the whole argument by which it may be defended and sustained. Their insight was better than their reason. They assumed a ground, indeed, satisfactory and convincing to Protestants; but at that time only a small portion of Christendom was Protestant, and even now only a minority of it is so. The very ground on which our free schools were founded, therefore, if it were the only one, would have been a reason with more than half of Christendom for their immediate abolition.
In later times, and since the achievement of American independence, the universal and ever-repeated argument in favor of free schools has been that the general intelligence which they are capable of diffusing, and which can be imparted by no other human instrumentality, is indispensable to the continuance of a republican government. This argument, it is obvious, assumes, as a postulatum, the superiority of a republican over all other forms of government; and, as a people, we religiously believe in the soundness both of the assumption and of the argument founded upon it. But, if this be all, then a sincere monarchist, or a defender of arbitrary power, or a believer in the divine right of kings, would oppose free schools for the identical reasons we offer in their behalf.
Again, the expediency of free schools is sometimes advocated on grounds of political economy. An educated people is always a more industrious and productive people. Intelligence is a primary ingredient in the wealth of nations. . . . The moralist, too, takes up the argument of the economist. He demonstrates that vice and crime are not only prodigals and spendthrifts of their own, but defrauders and plunderers of the means of others, that they would seize upon all the gains of honest industry and exhaust the bounties of Heaven itself without satiating their rapacity; and that often in the history of the world whole generations might have been trained to industry and virtue by the wealth which one enemy to his race has destroyed.
And yet, notwithstanding these views have been presented a thousand times with irrefutable logic, and with a divine elo
quence of truth which it would seem that nothing but combined stolidity and depravity could resist, there is not at the present time,  with the exception of the States of New England and a few small communities elsewhere, a country or a state in Christendom which maintains a system of free schools for the education of its children.
I believe that this amazing dereliction from duty, especially in our own country, originates more in the false notions which men entertain respecting the nature of their right to property than in any thing else. In the district school meeting, in the town meeting, in legislative halls, everywhere, the advocates for a more generous education could carry their respective audiences with them in behalf of increased privileges for our children, were it not instinctively foreseen that increased privileges must be followed by increased taxation. Against this obstacle, argument falls dead. The rich man who has no children declares that the exaction of a contribution from him to educate the children of his neighbor is an invasion of his rights of property. The man who has reared and educated a family of children denounces it as a double tax when he is called upon to assist in educating the children of others also; or, if he has reared his own children without educating them, he thinks it peculiarly oppressive to be obliged to do for others what he refrained from doing even for himself. Another, having children, but disdaining to educate them with the common mass, withdraws them from the public school, puts them under what he calls "selecter influences," and then thinks it a grievance to be obliged to support a school which he contemns. Or, if these different parties so far yield to the force of traditionary sentiment and usage, and to the public opinion around them, as to consent to do something for the cause, they soon reach the limit of expense at which their admitted obligation or their alleged charity terminates.
It seems not irrelevant, therefore, in this connection, and for the purpose of strengthening the foundation on which our freeschool system reposes, to inquire into the nature of a man's right to the property he possesses, and to satisfy ourselves respecting the question whether any man has such an indefeasible title to his estates or such an absolute ownership of them as renders it unjust in the government to assess upon him his share of the expenses of educating the children of the community up to such a point as the nature of the institutions under which he lives, and the well-being of society, require.