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4. The Commercial Power of Greal-Britain, exhibiting a complete View of the Public Works of this Country, und:r the several heads of Streets, Roads, Canals, Aqueducts, Bridges, Coasts, and Maritime Ports. By the Baron Dupin, Member of the Institute of France, &c. Translated from the French. In 2 vols. 8vo., with a 4to Atlas of Plans, Elevations, &c. London. 1825. 5. Reports on the Charleston and Hamburg Rail-Road. By WILLIAM HOWARD, U.S. Civil Engineer. Charleston. 1829.
The important interests of society affected by the Steamengine, and by Rail-roads, induce us to devote to these subjects a portion of our pages.
The genius of Wait so effectually applied the mechanical properties of air and of steam, as a moving power, to engines, that he is justly entitled to the name of the inventor of the steam-engine. Into the discussion of this subject we shall, however, not enter. Whatever may have been the suggestions or the experiments of others, and however much the mind of Watt may have received its direction from them, there can be no doubt that until the engines of Bolton and Watt were actually brought into use by the genius of the latter, and the funds of the former, little benefit to society had been experienced from the application of steam as a moving power.
The history of the engine is certainly curious ; it marks the slow progress of mind on important subjects. For, notwithstanding experiments with steam are ascribed to Hero, of Alexandria, who lived one hundred and thirty years before the Christian era; and, notwithstanding, we are informed that “as early as 1543, Blasco de Garay, a Spaniard, patronized by • Charles V., actually exhibited in the harbour of Barcelona, a • vessel propelled by means of a steam-engine,” yet it was not until the year 1769, and six years after his invention of the improved engine, that Watt, in conjunction with Doctor Roebuck, who furnished the necessary funds, obtained his patent. But this was not the only delay he was destined to encounter.
“ Dr. Roebuck suffered considerable loss by the failure of a mining speculation, in which he had engaged, and became so involved and embarassed, as to be unable to supply the funds to carry into execution the design of manufacturing engines. Watt was about to relinquish the further prosecution of his plans, when Mr. Matthew Bolton, a gentleman who had established a factory at Birmingham, a short time before, purchased out Dr. Roebuck's share in the patent, and, in 1773, entered into copartnership with Watt. This connexion was fortunate for both parties. Mr. Watt," says Playfair, “ was studious and reserved, keeping aloof from the world ; while Mr. Bolton was a inan of address, delighting in society, active, and mixing with people of all ranks, with great freedom, and without ceremony. Had Mr. Watt searched all Europe, he, probably, would not have found another person so fitted to bring his invention before the public, in a manner worthy of its merit and importance; and although of most opposite habits, it fortunately so happened, that no two men ever more cordially agreed in their intercourse with each other.”
From these delays, the term of his patent was near its expiration before any benefit had accrued to the inventor. Parliainent extended the term for twenty-five years, froin 1775 to 1800.
“Notwithstanding the manifest superiority of these engines over the old atmospheric engines, yet such was the influence of prejudice, and the dislike of what is new, that Watt found great difficulties in getting them into general use. The comparative first cost also, probably, operated against them, for it was necessary that all the parts should be executed with great accuracy, which entailed proportionably increased expense. In many instances, they felt themselves obliged to induce the proprietors of the old atmospheric engines to replace them by the new ones, by allowing them, in exchange, an exorbitant price for the old engines; and, in some cases, they were induced to erect engines at their own expense, upon an agreement, that they should only be paid if the engines were found to fulfil the expectations, and brought the advantages which they promised. It appeared since, that Bolton & Watt had actually expended a sum of nearly £50,000 on these engines, before they began to receive any return. When we contemplate the immense advantages which the commercial interests of the country have gained by the improvements in the steam-engine, we cannot but look back with disgust at the influence of that fatal prejudice which opposes the progress of improvement, under the pretence of resisting innovation. It would be a problem of curious calculation to determine what would have been lost to the resources of this country, if chance had not united the genius of such a man as Watt, with the spirit, enterprize and capital of such a man as Bolton! The result would reflect little credit on those who think novelty alone a sufficient reason for opposition. Lardner, pp. 79, 80.
The compensation Watt received for the use of his patent, was one third of the saving of coal effected by his engine, compared with the atmospheric engines which it superseded. Actual experiment determined this to be governed by the number of strokes made by the engine; these were ascertained by a clock-work attached to and moved by the engine, and lockVOL. VII.--N0. 13.
ed up in an iron box having two keys, one kept by the proprietor, the other by Mr. Watt. The index and dial of this clock-work were examined at certain times in presence of both parties or their agents.
These engines were first used in mining operations. At Chace-Water mine in Cornwall, the proprietors, after some experience, compounded for the patent at £2400 per annum, so that the whole saving of coal at that mine must have exceeded in value £7,200 per annum.
Let it not be supposed that the invention of Watt was only the happy bit of accident; we shall produce the most undoubted authority as to his scientific attainments, and shall shew, that to these, combined with great genius, we owe this new and important power.
6 Watt was born at Greenock in 1736; and at the age of 16, was apprenticed to a mathematical instrument-maker, with whom he spent four years At the age of 20 he placed himself under a regular mathematical instrument-maker in London. After a short time, finding his health declining, he returned to Scotland and commenced business on his own account at Glasgow. In 1757, he was appointed mathematical instrument-maker to the University of Glasgow, where he resided and carried on his business.
" This circumstance produced an acquaintance between him and the celebrated Dr. Robinson, then a student at Glasgow, who directed Watt's attention to the steam-engine.” Lardner, pp. 57, 58.
It seems that he also became acquainted with Dr. Black, to whom he communicated some observations he had made on the subject of heat, which led the Doctor to explain to Watt the theory he was then teaching of latent heat. We will not attempt to trace the progress made by Mr. Watt in his invention; we must refer to Dr. Lardner and Professor Renwick, whose accounts are interesting
In 1817 the Baron Dupin visited the Forth and Clyde canal. He says :
" The celebrated J. Watt still lived ; he happened to be at Glasgow, the place of his nativity, and we made this interesting excursion together. I listened to and contemplated with a respect, mixed with admiration, this venerable gentleman, eighty-three years of age, who retaining the vigour of his mind, as well as his physical strength, communicated to us a variety of ingenious observations, profound reflections and important facts, relating to British industry and manufacture, of which he more than any other individual accelerated the march during the long period of sixty years. Since 1817, when I visited Scotland, the united kingdoms have lost that great artist, and I have to deplore his death with that of J. Rennie, Joseph Banks and W. Mudge. In less than five years all four have descended into the tomb; but they still live in the hearts of their friends, and their services will endure in the memory of posterity.” Vol. ii. p. 225.
We cannot better describe the advantages of the steam-engiae or do more justice to the great Watt, than by making an extract from an account of the proceedings of a meeting held at London in 1824, for the purpose of erecting to him a mionument.* The writer of that article in the Magazine says:
"Not many weeks have elapsed, since in reading the last published volume of M. Charles Dupin's Travels in Great Britain, (one of the best informed and most liberal works on this country ever produced by a foreigner,) we felt most deeply the national reproach conceived in the passage of which the following is a feeble translation :
"" To a citizen of Glasgow belongs the glory of having given to industry one of the greatest impulses known in the history of the arts. To the improvements invented by the celebrated Watt, it is owing that the steam-engine is become an universal moving-power. No invention ever before comprehended in so small a compass, and at a fourth of the ordinary expense, a power so great, so constant, so regular. In Watt we behold one of the benefactors of his country, yet when I earnestly inquire what brilliant testimony he has received of the national gratitude—my question remains unanswered. It appears that neither king nor minister, nor parliament, have yet discovered that they owe any thing to the life and memory of one, to whom the ancients would have erected statues and altars.
« The ashes of the player, Garrick, repose under the sacred vaults of Westminster, while the ashes of Watt moulder in the obscure nook of some obscure cemetery.'”
This forcible appeal to the national feeling was not in vain, nor did it remain long unanswered. Almost immediately after, M. Dupin had the satisfaction of being present at a public meeting, over which the prime minister, Lord Liverpool, at the special instance of the King, presided for the purpose of erecting a monument to Watt. Other distinguished members of the ministry-Mr. Robinson, Mr. Peel, and Mr. Huskisson, also attended. Lord Liverpool stated that he held in his band a letter from Mr. Canning, in which he regretted that he was prevented attending by the press of public business, and gave his cordial approbation to the purpose of the meeting. Mr. Wilberforce, Sir J. Mackintosh, Mr. Brougham, and Sir H. Davy, were present, as well as other distinguished individuals.
* Mechanic's Magazine, London, June, 1824, p. 242.
The Earl of Liverpool addressed the meeting as follows: “We are assembled to-day for the purpose of paying a public tribute of respect to the memory of one of the most excellent and most extraordinary men to whom this country has given birth.
“ The application of the mighty power of the steam-engine has been compared to the trunk of an elephant; and so far with justice, for as there was nothing so small, so there was nothing so great, as to be beyond its reach. It has improved the finest of our manufactures; and, at the same time, half the difficulties which stood in the way of navigation have vanished before it. We have now no delay with other and distant countries; be the winds of heaven favourable or otherwise, still we .can calculate upon a fixed and certain intercourse. I remember the time when the fate of armies frequently depended on the rapidity with which communications were made ; that difficulty is no longer to be feared, as we can have the most rapid communication by a proper application of the power of steam. I will not detain you by expatiating on the transcendent merits of this invention, but I must say a few words respecting its inventor. I feel much pride and pleasure in stating, that I had the honour of being acquainted with Mr. Watt. That he is to be ranked among the benefactors of mankind cannot be denied, because there are none who deserve more of their country than those who add to the productive powers of industry. It must be observed that Mr. Watt's invention was not the result of accident, but the consequence of long, and steady, and laborious application of scientific knowledge, aided by great genius. With respect to the private character of Mr. Watt, there never was a more amiable, a more honourable, or a more excellent man; and if he did not, in his life time, meet with the patronage and consideration due to his great talents, it was owing solely to his simplicity of character, the modesty of his nature, the absence of every thing like presumption or ostentation, and that disinclination to obtrude himself, not only on the great and powerful, but even upon the scientific world, of which he was so great, so bright an ornament.” &c.
In conclusion the Earl said
“ I have only to add, that I am commanded by his majesty to state that he feels deeply sensible of the merits conferred on his country by the individual to whose memory we are now about to pay a tribute of respect and gratitude ; and that his majesty is most anxious to place his royal name at the head of the proposed subscription for the sum of £500.”
How gratifying to allour better feelings to find learning and genius united, as in Mr. Watt, with such moral excellence. The world may well be proud of such a benefactor.
The happy strain of the remarks from Sir Humphrey Davy, cannot fail of interest.
“I ought,” said he,“ to apologize for rising, immediately, to ad dress the meeting. But as the distinguished person whose memory