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Beacon Lights of History, Volume XIV by John Lord

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creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived
long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited, they
seem to me to become ennobled." And again: "As all the living forms of
life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the
Cambrian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by
generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has
desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some confidence to a
secure future of great length. And as natural selection works slowly by
and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will
tend to progress towards perfection."

For his own part, Darwin could see no good reason why the views
propounded in the two volumes comprising the "Origin of Species" should
shock the religious feelings of any one. Touching the likelihood of
such a result, he reassured himself by recalling the fact that the
greatest discovery ever made by man--namely, the law of the attraction
of gravitation--was attacked by Leibnitz "as subversive of natural, and
inferentially, of revealed, religion." Darwin was confident that, if any
such impressions were made by his theory, they would prove but
transient, and that ultimately men would come to see that it is just as
noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few
original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms
as to believe that it required the fresh act of creation to supply the
voids caused by the action of His laws.


It was, as we have said, in 1868 that Darwin published the two volumes
collectively entitled "Variation of Animals and Plants under
Domestication." It is the second and largely corrected edition brought
out in 1875 which we have under our eye. It is the outcome of the views
maintained by the author in this work and elsewhere that not only the
various domestic races but the most distinct genera and orders within
the same great class--for instance, mammals, birds, reptiles, and
fishes--are all the descendants of one common progenitor, and the whole
vast amount of difference between these forms has primarily arisen from
simple variability. Darwin recognized that he who for the first time
should consider the subject under this point of view would be struck
dumb with amazement. He submits, however, that the amazement ought to be
lessened when we reflect that beings almost infinite in number during an
almost infinite lapse of time have often had their whole organization
rendered in some degree plastic, and that each slight modification of
structure which was in any way beneficial under excessively complex
conditions of life has been preserved, whilst each which was in any way
injurious has been rigorously destroyed. The long-continued accumulation
of beneficial variations will infallibly have led to structures as
diversified, as beautifully adapted for various purposes, and as
excellently co-ordinated as we see in the animals and plants around us.
Hence Darwin regards selection as the paramount power, whether applied
by man to the formation of domestic beings or by nature to the
production of species. Employing a favorite metaphor, he said: "If an
architect were to rear a noble and commodious edifice without the use of
cut stone, by selecting from the fragments at the base of a precipice
wedge-form stones for his arches, elongated stones for his lintels, and
flat stones for his roof, we should admire his skill and regard him as
the paramount power. Now, the fragments of stone, though indispensable
to the architect, bear to the edifice built by him the same relation
which the fluctuating variations of organic beings bear to the varied
and admirable structures ultimately acquired by their modified

Some critics of the Darwinian theory of the origin of species have
declared that natural selection explains nothing, unless the precise
cause of each slight individual difference be made clear. Darwin rejoins
that if it were explained to a savage utterly ignorant of the art of
building how the edifice had been raised, stone upon stone, and why
wedge-formed fragments were used for the arches, flat stones for the
roof, etc.; and if the use of each part and of the whole building were
pointed out,--it would be unreasonable if he declared that nothing had
been made clear to him, because the precise cause of the shape of each
fragment could not be told. This, in Darwin's opinion, is a nearly
parallel case, with the objection that selection explains nothing
because we know not the cause of each individual difference in the
structure of each being. The shape of the fragments of stone at the base
of the hypothetical precipice may be called accidental, but the term is
not strictly applicable; for the shape of each depends on a long
sequence of events, all obeying natural laws; on the nature of the rock,
on the lines of deposition or cleavage, on the form of the mountain,
which depends on its upheaval and subsequent denudation, and, lastly,
on the storm or earthquake which throws down the fragments.

In regard to the use, however, to which the fragments may be put, their
shape may be strictly said to be accidental. Here Darwin acknowledged
that we are brought face to face with a great difficulty in alluding to
which he felt that he was travelling beyond his proper province. "An
omniscient Creator must have foreseen every consequence which results
from the laws imposed by Him. But can it be reasonably maintained that
the Creator intentionally ordered, if we use the words in any ordinary
sense, that certain fragments of rock should assume certain shapes, so
that the builder might erect his edifice? If the various laws which have
determined the shape of each fragment were not predetermined for the
builder's sake, can it be maintained with any greater probability that
He specially ordained for the sake of the breeder each of the
innumerable variations in our domestic animals and plants,--many of
these variations being of no service to man, and not beneficial, far
more often injurious, to the creatures themselves? Did He ordain that
the crop and tail-feathers of the pigeon should vary in order that the
fancier might make his grotesque pouter and fan-tail breeds? Did He
cause the frame and mental qualities of the dog to vary in order that a
breed might be formed of indomitable ferocity with jaws fitted to pin
down the bull for man's brutal sport?"

It is obvious, however, that if we give up the principle in one
case,--if we do not admit that the variations of the primeval dog were
intentionally guided in order that the greyhound, for instance, that
perfect image of symmetry and vigor, might be formed,--no shadow of
reason can be assigned for the belief that variations similar in nature
and the result of the same general laws which have been the groundwork
through natural selection of the formation of the most perfectly adapted
animals in the world, man included, were intentionally and specially
guided. Darwin, therefore, was unable to follow the distinguished
botanist, Prof. Asa Gray, in his belief that "variation has been led
along certain beneficial lines," like a stream "along definite and
useful lines of irrigation." Darwin's conclusion was that, if we assume
that each particular variation was from the beginning of all time
preordained, then that plasticity of organization which leads to many
injurious deviations of structure, as well as the redundant power of
reproduction which inevitably leads to a struggle for existence, and, as
a consequence, to a natural selection or survival of the fittest, must
appear to us superfluous laws of nature.


Next to the "Origin of Species," the volume which sets forth Darwin's
theory of the "Descent of Man" naturally excited the most widespread
attention. This book, which took the author three years to write, was
published in 1871, a second and carefully revised edition appearing
three years later. The data brought together occupy more than six
hundred pages. The conclusions reached may be summed up in a few
paragraphs. The principal induction from the evidence is that man is
descended from some less highly organized form. It was Darwin's
conviction that the grounds upon which this conclusion rests will never
be shaken, for the close similarity between man and the lower animals in
embryonic development, as well as in innumerable points of structure and
constitution, both of high and of the most trifling importance,--the
rudiments which he retains and the abnormal reversions to which he is
occasionally liable,--are facts which cannot be disputed. Viewed in the
light of our knowledge of the whole organic world, their meaning is
unmistakable. The great principle of evolution stands out clear and firm
when these groups of facts are considered in connection with others,
such as the mutual affinities of the members of the same group, their
geographical distribution in past and present times, and their
geological succession. It is pronounced incredible that all these facts
should speak falsely. He who is not content to look like a savage at the
phenomena of nature as disconnected cannot any longer believe that man
is the product of a separate act of creation. He will be forced to admit
that the close resemblance of the embryo of man to that, for instance,
of a dog,--the construction of his skull, limbs, and whole frame on the
same plan with that of other mammals, independently of the uses to which
the parts may be put; the occasional reappearance of various structures,
for instance, of several muscles which man does not normally possess,
but which are common to the Quadrumana, and a crowd of analogous
facts,--all point in the plainest manner to the conclusion that man is
the co-descendant with other mammals of a common progenitor.

Darwin recognized that the high standard of our intellectual powers and
moral disposition constitutes the greatest difficulty which presents
itself after we have been driven by the mass of biological evidence to
accept his conclusion as to the origin of man. Touching this point, he
observes: "Every one who admits the principle of evolution must see that
the mental powers of the higher animals, which are the same in kind with
those of man, though so different in degree, are capable of advancement.
Thus the interval between the mental powers of one of the higher apes
and of a fish, or between those of an ant and scale-insect, is immense;
yet their development does not offer any special difficulty, for with
our domesticated animals the mental faculties are certainly variable,
and the variations are inherited. No one doubts that their mental
faculties are of the utmost importance to animals in a state of nature.
Therefore the conditions are favorable for their development through
natural selection. The same conclusion may be extended to man; the
intellect must have been all-important to him, even at a very remote
period, as enabling him to invent and use language, to make weapons,
tools, traps, etc., whereby, with the aid of his social habits, he long
ago became the most dominant of all living creatures."

It is further pointed out that a great stride in the development of
man's intellect must have followed as soon as the half-art and
half-instinct of language came into use; for the continued use of
language must have reacted on the brain, and produced an inherited
effect, and this again will have reacted on the improvement of language.
The largeness of the brain in man relatively to his body, compared with
the size of that organ in the lower animals, is attributable in chief
part to the early use of some simple form of language, that engine which
affixes signs to all sorts of objects and qualities, and excites trains
of thought which would never arise from the mere impression of the
senses, or, if they did arise, could not be followed out. The higher
intellectual powers of man, such as those of ratiocination, abstraction,
self-consciousness, etc., probably follow from the continued improvement
and exercise of the other mental faculties.

How man's moral qualities came to be developed is an interesting problem
which is considered by Darwin at some length. He holds that their
foundation lies in the social instincts under which term are included
family ties. These instincts are highly complex, and, in the case of the
lower animals, give special tendencies toward certain definite actions.
But the more important elements are love and the distinct emotion of
sympathy. Animals endowed with the social instincts take pleasure in one
another's company, warn one another of danger, defend and aid one
another in many ways. These instincts do not extend to all the
individuals of the species, but only to those of the same community. As,
however, they are highly beneficial to the species, they have in all
probability been acquired through natural selection. In Darwin's
judgment the moral nature of man has reached its present standard partly
through the advancement of his reasoning powers, and consequently, of a
just public opinion, but especially from his sympathies having been
rendered more tender and widely diffused through the effects of habit,
example, instruction, and reflection. It is pronounced not improbable
that, after long practice, virtuous tendencies may be inherited.

Let us look a little more closely at the matter, for the difficulty of
explaining morality forms one of the greatest obstacles to the
acceptance of the Darwinian account of the descent of man. What do we
mean by a moral being? Manifestly, a moral being is one who is capable
of reflecting on his past actions and their motives, and of approving of
some while he disapproves of others. Man is the one being who certainly
deserves this designation, though attempts have recently been made to
show that a rudimentary morality may be traced in some of the lower
animals. In the fourth chapter of the book before us, Darwin undertakes
to demonstrate that the moral sense follows,--first, from the enduring
and ever-present nature of the social instincts; secondly, from man's
appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of his fellows; and,
thirdly, from the high activity of his mental faculties, with past
impressions extremely vivid; in these latter respects he differs from
the lower animals. Owing to this condition of mind, man cannot avoid
looking both backwards and forwards, and comparing past impressions.
Hence, after some temporary desire or passion has mastered his social
instincts, he reflects and compares the now weakened impression of such
past impulses with the ever-present social instincts; and he then feels
that sense of dissatisfaction which all unsatisfied instincts leave
behind them, and resolves to act differently for the future. This
dissatisfaction Darwin would identify with conscience. Any instinct
permanently stronger or more enduring than another gives rise to a
feeling which we express by saying that it _ought_ to be obeyed. Darwin
suggests that a pointer dog, if able to reflect on his past conduct,
would say to himself I _ought_ (as indeed we say of him) to have pointed
at that hare, and not have yielded to the passing temptation of
hunting it.

The belief in God has often been advanced as not only the greatest, but
the most decisive, of all the distinctions between man and the lower
animals. Darwin brings forward in the book before us a quantity of
reasons for holding it to be impossible that this belief is innate or
instinctive in man. In some races of men, for instance, we encounter a
total want of the idea of God. On the other hand, a belief in
all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be universal, and apparently
follows from a considerable advance in man's reason, and from a still
greater advance in the faculties of imagination, curiosity, and wonder.
"I am aware," says Darwin, "that the assumed instinctive belief in God
has been used by many persons as an argument for His existence. But this
is a rash argument, as we should thus be compelled to believe in the
existence of many cruel and malignant spirits only a little more
powerful than man; for the belief in them is far more general than in a
beneficent deity. The idea of a universal and beneficent Creator does
not seem to arise in the mind of man until he has been elevated by
long-continued culture."

How does the belief in the advancement of man from some low organized
form bear on the belief in the immortality of the soul? Sir John Lubbock
has proved that the barbarous races of man possess no clear belief of
the kind; but, as Darwin continually reminds us, arguments derived from
the primeval beliefs of savages are of little or no avail on either side
of a question. Attention is directed by Darwin to the more relevant fact
that few persons feel any anxiety from the impossibility of determining
at what precise period in the development of the individual, from the
first trace of a minute germinal vesicle, man becomes an immortal being.
He submits that there should be no greater cause for anxiety because the
period cannot possibly be determined in the gradually ascending
organic scale.

Darwin was well aware that the conclusions arrived at in the work before
us--namely, that man is descended from some lowly organized form--would
be highly distasteful to many. The very persons, however, who regard the
conclusions with distaste admit without hesitation that they are
descended from barbarians. Darwin recalls the astonishment which he
himself felt on first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken
shore, when the reflection rushed upon his mind that such men had been
his ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and bedaubed with paint,
their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed with excitement, and
their expression was wild, startled, and distrustful. They possessed
hardly any arts, and, like wild animals, lived on what they could catch;
they had no government, and were merciless to every one not of their own
small tribe. Remembering the impression made on him by the Fuegians,
Darwin suggests that he who has seen a savage in his native land will
not feel much shame if forced to acknowledge that the blood of some more
humble creature flows in his veins. "For my own part," he says, "I would
as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey who braved his
dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper,--or from that old
baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his
young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs,--as from a savage who
delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practises
infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no
decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions." Darwin holds, in
fine, that man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen,
though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic
scale; it is further submitted that the fact of his having thus risen,
instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for
a still higher destiny in the distant future.

As a scientist, however, Darwin is not concerned with hopes or fears,
but simply with the truth, as man's reason enables him to discern it. We
must recognize, he thinks, as the truth, established by an overwhelming
array of inductive evidence, that man, with all his noble qualities,
with sympathy which he feels for the most debased, with benevolence
which extends not only to other men, but to the humblest living
creature, with his godlike intellect, which has penetrated into the
movements and constitution of the solar system--with all these exalted
powers--man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his
lowly origin.


We have said that Darwin's theory of the origin of species, together
with its corollary, the descent of man, has met with almost universal
acceptance by scientists. We have to use the qualifying adverb, because
some of Darwin's contemporaries, including Virchow and Owen, not to
mention St. George Mivart and the Duke of Argyll, have withheld their
adhesion. Since his death, moreover, his disciples have tended to split
into two schools. On the one hand, Weismann has rejected the Lamarckian
factors,--the effect of use and disuse upon organs, and the
transmissibility of acquired characters. The importance of these factors
has been emphatically re-asserted, on the other hand, by Lankester and
others. Whether biologists, however, range themselves in the
Neo-Darwinian or in the Neo-Lamarckian camp, the value of the principle
of natural selection is acknowledged by all, and nobody now asserts the
independent creation and permanence of species.


The Complete Works of Darwin, published by D. Appleton and Company.

The Works of Alfred Russel Wallace.

Francis Darwin's "Life of Charles Darwin."

Huxley's Writings, _passim_.

Haeckel's "Natural History of Creation."

Weismann's "Studies in the Theory of Descent" and subsequent papers.

Romanes's "Scientific Evidences of Organic Evolution."

Lankester's "Degeneration."

Fiske's "Darwinism and Other Essays."

For adverse criticism of Darwin, read Mivart's "Genesis of Species," and
the Duke of Argyll's "Unity of Nature."





The exact combination of inspiration, heredity, and environment which
serves to produce genius will perhaps ever be a problem beyond the skill
of human intelligence. When the rare elements do combine, however, the
result is always worthy of most careful study, both because great
achievements furnish a healthy stimulus to emulation, and because some
glimpse may be gained of Nature's working in the formation of her
rarest products.

Few lives better illustrate these remarks than that of John Ericsson.
Born of middle-class parentage and with no apparent source of heredity
from which to draw the stores of genius which he displayed throughout
his life, and with surroundings in boyhood but little calculated to
awaken and inspire the life-work which later made him famous, from this
beginning and with these early surroundings John Ericsson became
unquestionably the greatest of the engineers of the age in which he
lived and of the century which witnessed such mighty advances along all
engineering lines. The imprint left by Ericsson's life on the
engineering practice of his age was deep and lasting, and if one may
dare look into the future, the day is far removed when engineers will
have passed beyond their dependence on his life and labors.

It is perhaps not amiss that, before looking more closely at the
achievements of Ericsson's life and activity, note should be taken of
the large dependence of our present civilization and mode of life on the
engineer and his work.

In different ages of the world's history each has received its name,
appropriate or fanciful as the case may have been. For the modern age no
name is perhaps more adequately descriptive than the "Age of Energy,"
the age in which our entire fabric of civilization rests upon the
utilization of the energies of nature for the needs of humanity, and to
an extent little appreciated by those who have not considered the matter
from this point of view. If we consider the various elements which enter
into our modern civilization,--the items which enter into the daily life
of the average man or woman; the items which we have come to consider as
necessities and those which we may consider as luxuries; the items which
go to make up our needs as expressed in terms of shelter, food,
intercommunication between man and his fellow, and pleasure,--the most
casual consideration of such will serve to show distributed throughout
almost the entire fabric of our civilization dependence at some point on
the power of the steam-engine, the water-wheel, or windmill, the subtle
electric current, or the heat-energy of coal, petroleum oil, or natural
gas. The harnessing and efficient utilization of these great natural
energies is the direct function of the engineer, or more especially of
the dynamic engineer, and in this noble guild of workers, Ericsson
carved for himself an enduring place and left behind a record which
should serve as an inspiration to all who are following the same pathway
in later years.

No one feature perhaps better differentiates our modern civilization
from that of earlier times, four hundred years ago, or even one hundred,
than that of intercommunication between man and his fellow. Compare the
opportunities for such intercommunication in the present with those in
the time of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Isaac Newton, George Washington, or
Napoleon I. We now have our steamships, steam and electric railroads,
cable, telegraph, and telephone. A few years ago not a single one was
known. The modern age is one which demands the utmost in the possibility
of communication between man and his kind, and in this respect the wide
world is now smaller than the confines of an English county a
century ago.

In this field, as we shall see, Ericsson did some of his greatest work,
and left perhaps his most permanent record for the future.

Ericsson's life falls most naturally into three periods chronologically
or geographically, and likewise into three periods professionally,
though the latter mode of subdivision has by no means the same
boundaries as the former. The first mode of subdivision gives us the
life in Sweden, the life in England, and the life in the United States.
The second mode gives us the life of struggle and obscurity, the life of
struggle, achievement, and recognition, and the calmer and easier life
of declining years with recognition, reward, and the assurance of a
life's work well done.

John Ericsson was born in the province of Vermland, Sweden, in 1803. His
father was Olof Ericsson, a mine owner and inspector who was well
educated after the standard of his times, having graduated at the
college in Karlstad, the principal town of the province. His mother was
Britta Sophia Yngstrom, a woman of Flemish-Scotch descent, and to whom
Ericsson seems to have owed many of his stronger characteristics. Three
children were born: Caroline in 1800, Nils in 1802, and John in 1803. Of
John's earliest boyhood we have but slight record, but there seems to
have been a clear foreshadowing of his future genius. He was considered
the wonder of the neighborhood, and busied himself day after day with
the machinery of the mines, drawing the form on paper with his rude
tools or making models with bits of wood and cord, and endeavoring thus
to trace the mystery of its operation.

In 1811 the Ericsson family fell upon evil times. Due to a war with
Russia, business became disturbed and in the end Olof Ericsson became
financially ruined. This brought the little family face to face with the
realities of life, and we soon after find the father occupying a
position as inspector on the Goeta Canal, a project which was just then
occupying serious attention after having been neglected for nearly one
hundred years, and nearly three hundred years after it was first
proposed in 1526. Through this connection, in 1815, John and Nils
Ericsson were appointed as cadets in a corps of Mechanical Engineers to
be employed in carrying out the Government's plans with reference to the
canal. During the winter of 1816-17 and at the age of thirteen, John
Ericsson received regular instruction from some of his officers in
Algebra, Chemistry, Field Drawing, and Geometry, and the English
language. Ericsson's education previous to this seems to have consisted
chiefly in lessons at home or from tutors, after the manner of the time.
He had thus received instruction in the ordinary branches and in
drawing and some chemistry. His training in drawing seems to have been
unusually thorough and comprehensive, and with a natural genius for such
work, his later remarkable skill at the drawing board is doubtless in no
small measure due to the excellent instruction which he received in his
early years. His progress in his duties as a young engineer was rapid,
and he was soon given employment in connection with the canal-work,
involving much responsibility and calling for experience and skill.

At length on reaching the age of seventeen he became stirred with
military ambition, and, dissatisfied with his present prospects, he left
his position with its opportunities for the future, and entered the
Swedish army as ensign of a regiment of Field Chasseurs. This regiment
was famous for its rifle practice, and Ericsson was soon one of its most
expert marksmen. The routine of army life was, however, far from being
sufficient to satisfy the uneasy genius of John Ericsson, and we soon
find him engaged in topographical surveying for the Government, and so
rapid and industrious in his work that as the surveyors were paid in
accordance with the amount accomplished, he was carried on the pay rolls
as two men, and paid as such, in order that the amount which he received
might not seem too excessive for one individual. Even this was not
sufficient to exhaust his energy, and about this time he conceived the
idea of publishing a book of plates descriptive of the machinery
commonly employed in the mining operations of his day. To this end he
collected a large number of sketches which he had prepared in his
earlier years, and made arrangements to take up the work of preparation
for publication. The drawings selected were to be engraved for the book,
and, nothing daunted by the undertaking, Ericsson proposed to do this
work himself. After some discouragement the engraving was undertaken,
and eighteen copper plates of the sixty-five selected, averaging in size
fifteen by twenty inches, were completed within a year. In various ways
the project met with delays, and it soon became apparent that the rapid
advance in the applications of machinery to mining would render the work
out of date, and it was at length abandoned.

At about this time Ericsson seems to have taken up seriously his work on
his so-called "flame-engine," certain experiments made by his father
having suggested to him the hope that a source of power might in this
way be developed which would be more economical than the steam-engine.
At this point we see entering into Ericsson's life an idea which never
left him, which controlled much of his work in mid-life, and which
attracted no small part of his attention throughout his closing years.
This idea was the discovery of some form of heat-engine which should be
more economical than the steam-engine, especially as it was in his day.
The flame-engine idea grew rapidly, and soon absorbed his chief
attention. Military life now lost its attraction, and in 1826 obtaining
leave of absence he left his native land and turned his face toward
London, doubtless with the hope strong within him that a substitute for
the steam-engine had been found, and that his future lay secure and easy
before him.

The characteristic features of Ericsson's life up to this time, when he
had reached his twenty-third year, are energy, industry, independence,
all in most pronounced degree, and combined with a most astonishing
insight into mechanical and scientific questions. It was not a period of
achievement, but one of formation and of development in those qualities
which were soon to make him famous in both worlds. Of his work during
this period of life little or nothing outside the idea embodied in the
flame-engine can be said to belong to the permanent record of his life's
achievement. This appeared in the "Caloric" engine, and still later in
the well-known Ericsson "Air" engine of the present day.

This era was one of development and promise, and richly were the
promises fulfilled in the achievements of his later years. A careful
study of his life to this point is sufficient to show that, with health
and time, such a nature would certainly leave a mark wide and deep on
the world in which it was placed. His characteristics were such that
achievement was the very essence of life, and, with the promise and
potency as revealed in this first twenty-three years of his life, we may
be well prepared for the brilliant record of the remaining sixty-three.

With Ericsson's arrival in London began the second important period of
his life. His first efforts were directed toward the introduction of the
flame-engine, but he soon found unexpected difficulties in the use of
coal as fuel instead of wood, and it became clear that in order to live
he must turn his attention to other matters for a time. Then followed a
series of remarkable pieces of work in which Ericsson's genius showed
itself, either in original invention or in the adaptation and
improvement of the existing facts and material of engineering practice.
While thus occupied, his leave from his regiment expired, and he seems
to have overlooked taking proper steps to have it renewed. He was thus
placed technically in the attitude of a deserter. Through the
intervention of a friend, however, he was soon afterward restored, and
promoted to the rank of Captain in the Swedish Army. This commission he
immediately resigned, and thus his record became technically cleared of
all reproach.

To give a mere list of the work with which Ericsson was occupied during
the years from 1827 to 1839, when he removed to the United States, would
be no small task, and reference to the more important only can be here
made. Compressed air for transmitting power, forced draft for boilers by
means of centrifugal blowers, steam boilers of new and improved types,
the surface condenser for marine engines, the location of the engines of
a ship for war purposes below the water line, the steam fire-engine, the
design and construction of the "Novelty" (a locomotive for the Rainhill
contest in 1829, when Stephenson's "Rocket" was awarded the prize,
though Ericsson, heavily handicapped in time and by lack of a track on
which to adjust and perfect the "Novelty," achieved a result apparently
in many ways superior to Stephenson's with the "Rocket"), various
designs for rotary engines, an apparatus for making salt from brine,
further experimental work with various forms of heat, or so-called
"caloric" engines, and the final development, in 1833, of a type from
which great results were for a time expected, superheated steam and
engines for its use, a deep-sea-sounding apparatus embodying the same
principle as that later developed by Lord Kelvin in the well-known
apparatus of the present day, a machine for cutting files automatically,
various types of steam-engines, and finally his work in connection with
the introduction of the screw-propeller as a means of propulsion for
steam vessels. These are some of the important lines of work on which
Ericsson was engaged during the twelve years of his life in London. In
connection with some he was undoubtedly a pioneer, and deserves credit
as an original inventor; in connection with others, his work was that of
improvement or adaptation; but in all his influence was profound, and
the legacy which we have received from this period of engineering
progress is due in no small degree to Ericsson, and to his work in
London during these years. At a later point we shall refer in some
further detail to these questions, but desire for the moment, rather, to
gain a broad and comprehensive view of his life as a whole.

Ericsson has been by some called a spendthrift in invention, and the
term is not without some justice in its application. His genius was
uneasy, and his mind was oppressed by the wealth of his ideas. It was
this very wealth which led him from one idea to another, without always
taking sufficient time in which to develop and perfect his plans. Rich
in invention, he cared but little for exploitation, and when the truth
of his predictions was demonstrated, or the ground of his expectation
justified, he was eager for new achievements and new combinations of the
materials of engineering progress. In this spirit of struggle and
unrest, he passed the years in London, rapidly becoming known for his
versatility in invention, and for his daring and originality in the
details of his engineering work. From 1833 to 1839, or during the second
half of this term of residence in London, he became in increasing
measure absorbed in his work connected with the screw-propeller as a
means of marine propulsion.

Ericsson's name in the popular mind has been most commonly associated
with the "Monitor" and her fight with the "Merrimac" in the Civil War,
and next, probably, with the screw-propeller as a means of marine
propulsion. It will, therefore, be proper at the present point to refer
in some further detail to the circumstances connected with his relation
to the introduction of the screw-propeller.

Regarding this question an entire volume might be written without doing
more than justice to the subject, but only a brief statement of the
chief facts can be here attempted.

As early as the Seventeenth Century the possibility of developing a
propulsive thrust by the use of a submerged helicoidal, or screw,
propeller, had been vaguely recognized, and during the following, or
Eighteenth Century, the same idea had been brought forward. It had been
viewed in this connection, however, merely as a curiosity, and led to no
immediate results. Later, in 1804, Francis B. Stevens, of New Jersey, in
an experimental boat on the Hudson, operated twin screws, and
demonstrated their applicability to the requirements of marine practice.
These propellers, in fact, had a form far more nearly approaching the
modern screw-propeller than did those which came somewhat later, and
which marked the real entry of the screw-propeller into actual and
practical service.

Again, in 1812, Ressel, a student in the University of Vienna, began to
study the screw-propeller, and his first drawing dates from this time.
In 1826 he carried on experiments in a barge driven by hand, and in 1827
an Austrian patent was granted him. Two years later he applied his screw
to a boat with an engine of six horse-power, and a speed of six miles
per hour was said to have been attained. Then came a bursting
steam-pipe, and the police put a stop to the experiments, which seem to
have had no further results.

Likewise in 1823 Captain Delisle, of the French Engineers, presented a
memorial to his Government in which he urged the use of the submerged
propeller for the propulsion of steam vessels. No especial attention was
given to the suggestion, however, and it was apparently forgotten until
later, when the propeller had become a demonstrated success. Then this
memorial was remembered, and its author brought forward to receive his
share of credit in connection with the adaptation of the propeller to
marine propulsion.

These various attempts to introduce the screw-propeller seem curiously
enough to have had no lasting result. They were not followed up, and in
the mean time had to some extent passed out of memory, or, if
remembered, the absence of result can hardly have acted as an incentive
to fresh effort. At the same time it must be admitted that the
screw-propeller as a possibility for marine propulsion was known in a
vague way to the engineering practice of the day, and it is at this time
of course quite impossible to say how much may have been known by
Ericsson, Smith, or others concerned in later developments, or to what
extent they may have been dependent for suggestion on what had preceded
them. The question of who invented the screw-propeller in the absolute
sense is entirely futile and without answer. No one could ever have
reasonably advanced any such unique claim. At the best it is simply a
question of the relative influence in the introduction, improvement, and
practical application of what was the common property of the engineering
practice of the day.

In 1833, or at the period now under consideration, however, the
paddle-wheel was the recognized instrument of marine propulsion. Since
the beginning of the century it had been growing in use with the gradual
growth in the application of steam, and at this time it held the field
alone. Some years earlier it appears that some of the objections to the
paddle-wheel had become plainly apparent to Ericsson, although,
occupied with other matters as he was, there was no immediate result. He
apparently recognized that the slow revolutions possible with the
paddle-wheel did not favor the improvement of the steam-engine along the
lines which have since been followed, and he saw clearly that for
warship purposes the engines employed, exposed above the water-line to
destruction from the shell of an enemy, were entirely out of the
question. Finally in 1833 and 1834 we find him employed by a carrying
company in London to conduct numerous trials with submerged propellers
in the London and Birmingham canal. In an affidavit made in March, 1845,
he states that in 1833 his attention was particularly called to the
subject of oblique propulsion, and that under his direction propellers
of various patterns and embodying these principles were fitted on a
canal-boat named the "Francis," and later in 1834 to another called the
"Annatorius." Shortly after this, or in 1835, his ideas took more
definite form, and he refers to his work in a letter to his friend John
Bourne in the following terms:--

"1835. Designed a rotary propeller to be actuated by steam-power
consisting of a series of segments of a screw attached to a thin broad
hoop supported by arms so twisted as also to form part of a screw. The
propeller subsequently applied to the steamship 'Princeton' was
identical with my said design of 1835. Even the mode adopted to
determine, by geometrical construction, the twist of the blades and arms
of the 'Princeton's' and other propellers was identical with my design
of the year last mentioned."

At about this same time, or in 1835, the attention of Mr. F.P. Smith
seems to have been drawn to the subject of the screw-propeller, and we
find him taking out a patent for his form, consisting of an elongated
helix or spiral of several turns, under date of May 31, 1836. Ericsson's
patent followed some six weeks later, or on July 13, 1836. While it thus
appears that Ericsson had been studying the problem since 1833 or
earlier, according to his own statements, there is no evidence that
Smith's attention was drawn to the matter earlier than 1835. Delay on
Ericsson's part in the matter of patent gives the earlier date to Smith.
The mere date of a patent, however, is of small moment for our present
purposes. It must be admitted that the modern form of screw-propeller is
quite unlike either of these original forms, although they all involve
of course the same fundamental principles. Ericsson's propeller may
properly be called an engineering success, built on sound principles,
but improved and largely modified by the results of later experience and
research. Smith's propeller, while capable of propelling a boat, was the
design of an amateur rather than of an engineer, and in comparison with
Ericsson's seemed to show a somewhat less accurate appreciation of the
underlying principles upon which the propeller operates.

In the present case, as we have noted above, the question is not so much
one of invention as of influence in introduction, adaptation, and
improvement. The screw-propeller was already known, but had not been
introduced into and made a part of actual engineering practice. Services
in this direction are all that can be claimed for any of those concerned
with the question during the third decade of the Nineteenth Century.
From this point of view we must give to Ericsson large credit. He had
the courage of his convictions, and did not allow his work in this
direction to lapse for lack of effort on his part to secure its
introduction into the practice of the day.

Thus, in 1837, the "Francis B. Ogden" was built for the special purpose
of testing the power of the screw-propeller, and was operated on the
Thames for the benefit of the British Admiralty and many others. Shortly
after this, and largely through the influence of Capt. Robert F.
Stockton of the American Navy and Francis B. Ogden, the American Consul
at Liverpool, Ericsson began to consider a visit to the United States
for the purpose of building, under Stockton's auspices, a vessel for the
United States Navy. While these negotiations were under way, in 1838, he
built for Captain Stockton a screw-steamer named the "Robert F.
Stockton," the trials of which attracted much attention from the public
at large and from engineers of the time. At about the same period
Ericsson's propeller was fitted to a canal-boat called the "Novelty,"
plying between Manchester and London. This was presumably the first
instance of a screw-propeller employed on a vessel actually used for
commercial purposes.

Finally, in pursuance of Ericsson's plans with Captain Stockton, he left
England Nov. 1, 1839, and started for New York in the steamer "Great
Western," where he arrived November 23, after a long and stormy passage.

We now reach the final scene of Ericsson's life and professional
activities. His visit was at first intended only as temporary, and he
seems to have anticipated an early return after carrying out his plans
with reference to a ship for the United States Navy. To quote from a
letter to his friend, Mr. John O. Sargent, he says: "I visited this
country at Mr. Ogden's most earnest solicitations to introduce my
propeller on the canals and inland waters of the United States. I had at
the same time strong reasons for supposing that Stockton would be able
to start the 'big frigate' for which I had prepared such laborious plans
in England." The event was otherwise determined, however, and during the
remaining fifty years of his life he lived and wrought in the New World,
and as a citizen of his adopted country.

If the record of his twelve years of work in London was long, that for
the remaining and maturer years of his life may well be imagined as
vastly greater. During the earlier part of this period, or until the
Civil War, when all his energies were concentrated upon his work in
connection with the "Monitor" type of warship, we find the same wealth
of invention and human energy, but for the most part directed along
lines related to marine and naval construction. It was a period of
training for the fuller fruitage of his genius during the Civil War.

Shortly after his arrival, or in 1840, a prize was offered by the
Mechanics' Institute of New York for the best plan of a steam
fire-engine. With his previous experience in London, Ericsson easily
carried off the palm and was awarded the prize. He further occupied
himself with the introduction of propellers on boats engaged in the
inland navigation of the United States, with the design and construction
of the United States steam frigate "Princeton," with the development of
the compound principle in the steam-engine, then in 1851 with his
hot-air ship "Ericsson," or ship propelled by hot-air or caloric
engines, as they were then termed, and later with caloric engines in
smaller sizes for stationary purposes, of which several thousand were
sold during the next succeeding years.

In the work of introducing his propellers good progress was made,
especially in boats built for use on the Great Lakes, so that by 1844,
when the U.S.S. "Princeton" went into commission, there were in use some
twenty-five vessels with the screw-propeller as a means of propulsion.

The project of building a vessel for the American Navy, the purpose
which had most strongly attracted Ericsson to the United States,
suffered long delay in connection with the arrangements between Captain
Stockton and the naval authorities at Washington. At length, in 1841,
Captain Stockton was authorized to proceed with the construction of a
screw steam frigate of about one thousand tons. This was the U.S.S.
"Princeton," which marks an epoch as the first screw vessel-of-war. She
was followed by the French "Pomone" in 1843, and the English "Amphion"
in 1844, for the equipment of which Ericsson's agent in England, Count
Von Rosen, received commissions from the French and English governments

The "Princeton" was completed in due time and was equipped with two
12-inch wrought-iron guns, one brought by Ericsson from England and one
designed and built under the direction of Captain Stockton. At the
trials of the ship in 1844 the latter gun exploded, killing the
Secretaries of State and of the Navy, besides other prominent visitors
on board, and wounding several others. This terrible disaster threw an
entirely undeserved stigma upon the ship herself and upon Ericsson's
work, and it was not until many years after that his name was entirely
free from some kind of reproach in connection with the "Princeton" and
the deplorable results of the accident on board.

These are some of the principal lines of work with which Ericsson
occupied himself during the twenty-two years between 1839 and 1861. At
the latter date came the supreme opportunity of his life, and his
services in the art of naval construction during the remainder of the
Civil War, which was then in progress, are a part of the history of that
great struggle. Here, as with the propeller, volumes might be written in
the attempt to give a full account of the inception, growth, and final
vindication of Ericsson's ideas regarding naval offence and defence, as
expressed by the means available in the engineering practice of the day.
The leading points only can be summarized.

The question of armored ships was in the air. The advantages of armor
had been already demonstrated on the French ship "Gloire" and others in
connection with the naval part of the Crimean War, and there was a
feeling that ironclads of some kind were a necessity of the situation.
These facts were perhaps more clearly realized at the South than at the
North; and early in 1861 we find Mr. Stephen R. Mallory, the Confederate
Secretary of the Navy, taking active steps to raise the "Merrimac,"
which had been sunken at the Norfolk Navy Yard, and convert her into an
armor-clad. Information regarding this project naturally became known to
the Federal authorities, and occasioned President Lincoln and the entire
Cabinet the most serious anxiety. At length on August 3, 1861, the
appointment of a Board was authorized, the duty of which it should be to
examine into the question fully, obtain plans, and recommend the
construction of such armor-clads as they should judge best suited to the
demands of the situation.

Shortly after this, Ericsson forwarded to President Lincoln a
communication in which he offered to construct a vessel "for the
destruction of the Rebel fleet at Norfolk and for scouring the Southern
rivers and inlets of all craft protected by Rebel batteries." For one
reason or another this communication does not seem to have produced any
immediate result. Later, however, when the Board made its report dated
September 16, they registered the opinion that the present demand called
for "vessels invulnerable to shot, of light draft of water, before going
into a more perfect system of large iron-clad seagoing vessels of war."
In pursuance of this idea they recommended the construction of three
vessels,--Ericsson's floating battery, a broadside vessel later known as
the "Ironsides," and the "Galena." Mr. C.S. Bushnell, who was
instrumental in bringing Ericsson's plans actually before the Board,
later associated with himself and Ericsson in the project two gentlemen
of means, and large manufacturers of iron plate, Mr. John A. Griswold
and Mr. John F. Winslow, who advanced most of the money needed, Mr.
Bushnell supplying the remainder. The keel was laid Oct. 25, 1861, and
the "Monitor," as she was named by Ericsson, was launched Jan. 30, 1862,
and was turned over to the Government Feb. 19, 1862. This brief record
of construction leaves untold all history of the ceaseless struggle
against time and of the superb organization and distribution of the work
which made possible the completion of such a piece of work in the period
of one hundred working days.

One important fact which goes far to explain this astonishing speed in
design and construction is found in the fact that Ericsson was not
dealing with an entirely new and freshly developed proposition. He has
stated that the thought of a floating battery, which should be small in
size, but impregnable to the heaviest guns known and yet heavily armed
herself, had long occupied his thoughts in connection with the problem
of the defence of Sweden. Ericsson never forgot his native land, and
gave to her political troubles and to the question of her defence
against her more powerful neighbors much serious thought. As a result of
this study, he had produced as early as 1854 a design embodying all the
essential features of the "Monitor," and this design, shown by a model,
was in that year sent to Napoleon III., who was then at war with Russia.
This was in the hope that he might in this way contribute to the
overthrow of the latter, the hereditary enemy of his native land.

The design, however, was not adopted, and after it was returned was laid
aside to collect the dust of his office, until the experiences of the
Civil War brought it again to the light. The plan in all its main
features had therefore long been matured, and it only remained to
proceed rapidly with the details and with the realization of the idea in
the most suitable materials to be obtained.

The result of the battle between the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac" in
Hampton Roads is a part of history. The relentless devastation which the
latter had begun on the old wooden ships of the American Navy at Hampton
Roads was stayed, and the wild fears at the North concerning the
destruction which she might cause to the shipping and to the seaboard
cities was calmed. The "Merrimac" met her master, and retired from the
conflict crippled and shorn of power for further evil. A short time
later she sank beneath the waters of the Chesapeake, and is now
remembered only as the antagonist of the "Monitor."

If the result of this battle between the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac"
marked a turning-point in the naval aspect of the Civil War, it wrought
a no less marked change in the standing and fortunes of her designer.
Some of his engineering efforts had not met with the success for which
he or his friends had hoped. The engines of the air-ship, while a
success as a piece of mechanism, were so enormous and heavy that she had
to be considered as a commercial failure, and the venture was not
repeated; the deplorable accident on the "Princeton" was by some held to
be in part chargeable to Ericsson, though a later and full knowledge of
the circumstances shows that such was in no wise the case. Again,
Ericsson, as an experimenter and pioneer, was by some considered as a
dreamer, and before the "Monitor" was completed there was no lack of
croakers who prophesied failure or who openly ridiculed the idea. This
condition was of course natural. In many ways Ericsson was ahead of his
age; and, again, it must not be supposed that he avoided mistakes or
that all of his work fully realized the expectations which were based
upon it. Furthermore, Ericsson's spirit was proud, and he was little
disposed to accept criticism from those whom he felt to be unqualified
to pass adequate judgment on his work, while he was especially impatient
under the system by which government work was done. He was therefore but
little disposed to pleasantly submit to the exasperating delays and
interferences with his work which arose from the methods of doing
public business, and it is no more than the simple truth to say that
during the preceding years the relations between Ericsson and the
officials of the Navy Department had often become seriously strained,
and they were seldom in cordial accord regarding the various questions
which arose in connection with his public work.

With the demonstration made by the "Monitor," however, the attitude of
the public changed in a moment, and Ericsson was hailed on every hand as
a public benefactor. He received the thanks of Congress on March 28,
1862, and of the Legislature of the State of New York a little later.
Besides these, he was the recipient of numbers of memorials and
mementoes, and of such praise in every form as might well have disturbed
the equilibrium of a mind less well balanced. In all this change of
public opinion, the one thing which must have given him the deepest
satisfaction was the change in the attitude of the naval authorities at
Washington. He was now considered as one whose ideas had demonstrated
their right to serious and respectful attention, and a large fleet of
vessels of the monitor type was ordered, similar to but larger than the
prototype, and containing such minor changes as experience had
suggested. Yet even this was not accomplished without objection. The
officers of the navy were accustomed to the old type of wooden ship,
and were slow to realize that naval war was, after all, an engineering
problem, and that the ideas of the engineer must now be substituted for
those which had been sanctified by long ages of past experience. Still,
the demonstration was too convincing to admit of serious question, and
Ericsson and his associates in business were busily occupied during the
remainder of the war in the design and construction of a numerous fleet
of vessels of the monitor type.

Ericsson's work during this period was enormous. One design followed
another in quick succession, while work of supervision and inspection
and cares of a business nature all combined to make a burden which would
have broken down a nature less determined and self-centred, and a body
less inured to physical endurance and sustained nervous tension.

This prodigious load was not so much but that he found time to devote to
the needs of other nations, and in 1862 he offered to construct for the
Chilian government a monitor similar to those under construction for the
United States, while later a similar offer was made to the Peruvian
Government. With the close of the Civil War Ericsson found still further
time to devote to the introduction of this type of vessel into foreign
navies, and a considerable part of his time seems to have been occupied
with projects of this character, and more particularly with the question
of the naval defence of his native land. As regards the introduction of
warships of the monitor type, the results were not so pronounced as
might have been expected, and while the influence of the idea is seen in
the practice of every maritime nation in regard to the construction of
its warships, still, for the most part, the leading nations preferred to
make application of the idea in their own way rather than order such
vessels direct from their original designer. Yet in not a few cases the
original type was faithfully copied, though it is not always clear to
what extent Ericsson himself may have had direct contact with their
designs. In 1866 the Swedes were able to test the first of a small fleet
of monitors built after Ericsson's plans. This was called the "John
Ericsson," and was armed with two 15-inch guns presented to Sweden by
Ericsson himself. Later, in 1868, he designed for Spain and
superintended the construction of thirty small gunboats for use in
Cuban waters.

For nearly ten years now Ericsson had devoted most of his energies to
the art of war. It was a time of change and unrest. Heavy guns and armor
had brought about a complete break with the past. The torpedo, which had
made its appearance in crude form during the Civil War, was attracting
more and more attention, and questions of naval offence and defence and
of the best governmental policy were attracting the serious attention of
all whose duty led them into relation with such matters. Into this
problem in its broadest aspects Ericsson threw himself in the early
'seventies with all the ardor of his younger days.

It is proper to explain here that there was one feature of the earlier
plans which were submitted to Napoleon III. in 1854, which he did not
embody in the "Monitor," and which, indeed, was omitted from all
published plans and descriptions of the system given out in former
years. This was a system of submarine or subaqueous attack, which, he
states in a letter to John Bourne, had attracted his attention since
1826. The time now seemed ripe for the presentation and development of
this idea, and he accordingly developed his designs for a torpedo, and
for a method of firing it under water from a gun carried in the bow of a
boat, and suitably opening to allow the discharge of the torpedo
projectile. This was Ericsson's so-called "Destroyer" system, and was
embodied finally in a boat called the "Destroyer," which he built in
company with his friend, Mr. C.H. Delamater, and with which he carried
on numerous experiments. In the end, however, the system did not commend
itself to the naval authorities, and the "Destroyer" was left on her
designer's hands, an instance of difference of opinion between Ericsson
and those charged with the duty of naval administration, and with no
supreme test of war to provide opportunity for the determination as to
which were the more correct in their judgment. With the "Destroyer,"
and his work in connection with her, closes the record of Ericsson's
connection with the advance in naval construction.

During these later years of his life it must not be supposed that he was
less busily occupied than in earlier life. His was a nature which knew
no rest, and to the last day of his life he was literally in the
harness. Only brief mention however can be made of some of the more
important lines of work which interested the closing years of
Ericsson's life.

In connection with his naval designs, he devoted much study to the
improvement of heavy ordnance, both as to the gun and its mounting. In
particular, his mounting of the guns in the "Monitor" was quite
original, and the friction arrangement for absorbing the recoil was a
great improvement over methods then in use, and served as a model for
many copies and adaptations of the same principles in later years by
other designers. In 1863 he also designed and built for the acceptance
of the Government a forged 13-inch wrought-iron gun. While his design
was an advance on those of the day, the demands on the makers of iron
forgings were more than could be successfully met, and the gun developed
some slight cracks in the test, which prevented further developments on
this line. Ericsson always maintained that the tests to which this gun
was submitted were unfairly severe, and he showed how the defects could
be remedied by a steel lining. But the Naval Bureau of Ordnance insisted
that this should be done at his own expense, and as he had already lost
some $20,000 on the gun, he was unwilling to proceed farther, and the
matter was allowed to lapse.

Throughout his entire career the improvement of the steam-engine
occupied a large share of Ericsson's attention, and in particular was
this the case in connection with his naval designs. From the
"Princeton," in 1841, to the "Destroyer," in 1878, there succeeded one
long series of types and forms of steam-engine, each in his opinion the
best adapted to the circumstances of the case. Naturally, opinions
differ, and he was brought into competition with other able engineers,
and his designs were often called into question or subjected to
criticism. In 1863, in competition with Chief Engineer Isherwood of the
navy, engines were designed for twin ships, the "Madawaska," afterward
known as the "Tennessee," and the "Wampanoag," afterward called the
"Florida." This was a battle royal of types and modes of application of
the power of the steam-engine to the propulsion of ships. The result was
a victory for Isherwood, although the "Madawaska," which was first
subjected to trial, made a speed higher than any warship at that time
afloat. This was exceeded by the "Wampanoag" a short time later; but
neither engine was of an enduring type, and after a time the machinery
of the "Madawaska" was removed, and she was repowered with a later type
of machinery, and long did service as the "Tennessee" in the list of
wooden frigates of the navy. The "Florida" was too expensive to maintain
in commission, and the special circumstances which had called her into
existence having passed by, she was laid up at New London, and never
again saw active service.

Keenly as Ericsson was interested in the steam-engine, it must be
admitted that he always showed a more profound interest in some form of
engine which should be able to displace it with a superior efficiency;
and hence his long series of efforts relating to the flame-engine, the
caloric engine, the gas-engine, and finally the solar engine,--with
either steam or heated air as the medium for carrying the heat. During
the last years of his life some of his most patient and careful study
was given to the perfection of a solar engine, or engine for utilizing
directly the heat of the sun instead of that of coal or other carbon
compounds. Besides this direct line of study and experimentation, he
gave during these years much thought to various scientific problems
connected with solar energy, the tides, gravitation, the nature of heat,
etc., etc. A plan for deriving power direct from the tides, improvements
in high-speed engines for electric-lighting purposes, further
improvements in his hot-air engine in small sizes for commercial
purposes,--these are some of the further lines of work which occupied
the attention of his closing years.

But the most cunningly devised of all mechanisms, the heart and brain,
must sooner or later tire and cease from their labors. The motive energy
becomes exhausted, and the mechanism must cease its work. So it was with
John Ericsson. In the first hour of the morning of March 8, 1889,
Ericsson died. This was within one day of the twenty-seventh anniversary
of the battle at Hampton Roads, the event with which the name of
Ericsson will always be associated, and which has given to it a
significance that will never be forgotten. His remains were first
interred in New York, and then, in 1890, in accordance with the request
of the Swedish Government, they were returned with impressive services
to his native land, where they now rest. In his death he received his
highest honors, for his remains were conveyed across the Atlantic by the
U.S.S. "Baltimore," one of the new ships of the navy specially detailed
for that service, and on both sides, in the United States and in Sweden,
the event was marked with every honor and ceremony which could indicate
the significance of his life and services for his adopted land and for
the world at large.

The two pieces of work which perhaps will be most permanently linked
with the name of Ericsson are the screw-propeller as a means of marine
propulsion, and the "Monitor" as a type of warship. In addition to
these, however, his life-work was rich in results which bore direct
relation to many other improvements in the broad field of marine
engineering and naval architecture. Of these a few of the more important
may be mentioned, such as the surface condenser, distiller, and
evaporator, forced draft for combustion, placing machinery of warships
below the water-line, and their protection by coal, ventilation by
fan-blowers, together with a vast variety of items involved in the
conception and design of the "Monitor" as a whole, and in his other
naval designs.

In order to appreciate the influence of Ericsson's life and work on the
field of marine construction, a brief glance may profitably be taken at
this branch of engineering work as it was before Ericsson's time, and as
it is now.

The material employed for shipbuilding was almost entirely wood. This
was displaced in the 'sixties and 'seventies by iron, which in turn was
displaced by steel, so that at the present time, except for special
reason, no material other than steel is thought of for this purpose.
With the gradual displacement of wood by iron in the mercantile marine,
Ericsson's relation was only indirect. Some of the earlier mercantile
vessels in which he was interested were of wood and some of iron. In the
field of warship construction, however, his influence through the
"Monitor" was more direct, especially as to the value of metal armor as
a protection against great gun-fire. Still, it is no more than justice
to say that with the change from wood to iron which took place during
the active part of his life, Ericsson had only an indirect relation, and
the change would doubtless have come about at the same time, and in much
the same general way as it did, independent of any influence which his
work may have had upon the question. Turning to the means of propulsion,
we find sails as the main, or almost only, reliance during the early
years of the century. The steam-engine operating paddle-wheels had come
to be recognized as a possibility, and under certain conditions as a
commercial success. The screw-propeller as a means of propulsion was
known only as a freak idea, and was without status or recognition as a
commercial or practical means for propelling ships. So far as the
screw-propeller was thought of as a means of propulsion, it lay under a
suspicion of loss of efficiency due to the oblique nature of its action,
and this was supposed to be such as to render it necessarily and
essentially less efficient than the paddle-wheel.

Ericsson lived to see the use of sails almost entirely discarded for war
purposes, and for mercantile purposes relegated to ships for special
service and of continually decreasing importance. He lived to see the
steam-engine take its place as the only means for supplying the power
required to propel warships, and attain a position of almost equal
relative importance in the mercantile marine. He lived to see the
paddle-wheel grow in importance and estimation as a means of propulsion
only in turn to be supplanted by the screw-propeller, which gradually
increased in engineering favor from the days of its obscure infancy
until it became the only means employed for the propulsion of ships
navigating the high seas, while it had become a most serious rival to
the paddle-wheel even for the purposes of interior and shallow-water
navigation,--long a field considered as peculiarly suited to the
paddle-wheel and to the engines adapted to its operation.

Regarding the change from wind to steam for the motive-power of ships,
Ericsson did his full share among the engineers of his day, but it would
be unfair to many others to claim for him any exclusive or
preponderating influence in this movement, and in such matters it is
difficult to clearly define the services of any one man. The lines of
progress, however, have been in accord with his studies, and his work
has certainly had a most direct and powerful influence upon the
movement. The most important points of contact between Ericsson's work
and these advances were in connection with his introduction of the
surface condenser, the use of artificial draft, devices for heating feed
water, his studies in superheated steam and its use, and his work in
connection with the development of the compound principle in
steam-engines, his relation to the introduction of the screw-propeller,
and to the use of twin screws at a later time. He also devised and
adapted many new types of engines for marine purposes, having respect to
the geometrical character of the connections by means of which a
reciprocating motion of the piston may be transformed into a rotary
motion of the shaft. In particular, he was the first to introduce and
show the advantages of engines directly connected to the
propeller-shaft, instead of through the more indirect and clumsy modes
which others had previously thought necessary.

Aside from his relation to the screw-propeller, perhaps no item of his
work in connection with the steam-engine is of more importance than the
surface condenser, with its variant forms in the distiller and
evaporator. If Ericsson had done nothing else, his claims to recognition
and remembrance as an engineer and benefactor might have been well
founded on his work in this connection. As it is, the fact that he was
so largely instrumental in their perfection and adaptation to marine
uses is wellnigh forgotten in the brighter light of his other

Regarding Ericsson's relation to the successful introduction of the
screw-propeller, little need be added to what has already been said.
Whatever may be urged regarding dates and patents or earlier years in
which the screw-propeller was used, it is a fact that in 1833-35 it was
not recognized as an accepted mode of propulsion. While known as a
possibility, it had no standing in the engineering practice of the day.
A few years later it was recognized as an accepted mode of propulsion
and had gained a permanent and definite place in the practice of the
day,--a place which has continued to grow in importance until its
earlier rival, the paddle-wheel, is almost on the brink of relegation to
museums of antiquities, except possibly for rare and special
shallow-water uses. A careful and dispassionate study of the facts, so
far as they can be known at the present time, seems to indicate clearly
that of those who were concerned in successfully adapting the
screw-propeller to the needs of marine propulsion and in laying the
foundation for these changed conditions, especially in the United
States, none was so prominent as Ericsson, or so fairly deserving of the
chief credit; and with this judgment the mature thought of the present
day seems to agree with little dissent.

Turning to a consideration from a similar point of view of Ericsson's
services in connection with warship design and construction, note may be
first taken of the condition of the art of naval warfare in the years
1840-50, or when Ericsson first began his labors in this field.

The material used was wood, the means of propulsion sails, with some
thought of steam-engines and paddle-wheels; the means of offence were
cast-iron guns large in number but small in size, the largest being 9 or
11 inches in diameter and throwing a shell of some 75 or 130 pounds
weight, while the means of defence consisted solely in the "wooden
walls," and modern ideas regarding armor had not even appeared above
the horizon.

Ericsson's contributions to the art of naval warfare are embodied in the
"Princeton," the "Monitor" and its class, and the "Destroyer." In the
"Princeton" the material used was wood, and in the "Monitor" and
"Destroyer" iron, following simply the developments of the age. In the
three the means of propulsion was by screw-propeller. In the "Princeton"
the means of offence were two 12-inch wrought-iron guns, as already
noted. In the "Monitor" and its type the means of offence were two
11-inch smooth-bore cast-iron guns, followed later by larger guns of 13
and 15 inches of similar type. In the double-turreted monitors four such
guns were of course installed. In the "Destroyer" the means of offence
was a single gun for discharging a torpedo under water at the bow. On
the "Princeton" the means of defence consisted still in wooden walls,
while in the "Monitor" and its class the change was profound and
complete. The essential idea of the "Monitor" was low freeboard and
thus small exposed surface to the ship herself, combined with the
mounting of guns in circular revolving turrets, thus giving an
all-around fire and on the whole making possible an adequate protection
of the exposed parts of the ship and providing for the combination in
maximum proportions of armored protection and heavy guns for offence. On
the "Destroyer" the means of defence consisted simply in a light
deflecting deck armor forward, the vessel being intended to fight bows
on and depending on her means of offence rather than defence, which were
made quite secondary in character.

The "Monitor," however, was Ericsson's great contribution to the art of
naval war, and with it his name will always be associated. It broke with
the past in every way. It reduced the number of guns from many to few,
two or at most four; it reduced the freeboard from the lofty topsides of
the old ship-of-the-line to an insignificant two or three feet, and thus
made of the target a circular fort and a low-lying strip of armor. It
placed the guns in this circular fort and covered it with armor thick
enough to insure safety against any guns then afloat, and thus, as
perfectly as the engineering means of the day would permit, insured the
combination of offensive and defensive features in maximum degree. It
cleared away at one stroke masts, sails, and all the lofty top-hamper
which since time immemorial had seemed as much an essential feature of
the fighting ship as the guns themselves. It transformed the design of
the fighting ship from the older ideals expressed in the American
frigate "Constitution," or the English "Victory," to the simplest terms
of offence, defence, and steam motive-power. It made of the man-of-war a
machine rather than a ship, an engine of destruction to be operated by
engineers rather than by officers of the ancient and traditional type.
There is small wonder that in all quarters the idea of ships of this
type was not received with enthusiasm. The break with the past was too
definite and complete. The monitor type represented simply the solution
of the problem of naval warfare worked out by a man untrammelled by the
traditions of the past and determined only on reducing such a ship to
the simplest terms of offence and defence as expressed by the
engineering materials and possibilities of the day. Judged from this
standpoint, the vessel seems beyond criticism. She filled perfectly the
ideal set before himself by her designer, and represents as a complete
and harmonious whole what must still be recognized as the most perfect
solution of the problem in terms of the possibilities of those days.

It is proper here that due reference should be made to the claims in
behalf of Mr. Theodore R. Timby as an inventor of the turret and of the
monitor idea as expressed thereby. These claims and the main facts in
the case have long been known, and there should certainly be no attempt
to take from any one his due share in the developments which gave to our
nation a "Monitor" in her hour of need. It is well known that Mr. Timby
between 1840 and 1850 conceived the idea of a revolving fort of iron
mounted with numerous guns and intended to take the place of the masonry
or earth-structures in common use for such purposes. He seems also to
have conceived of a similar structure for use on a ship of low
freeboard, and a model showing such a design was constructed. In 1843 he
filed a caveat for the invention of the revolving turret. Here the
matter apparently rested until 1862, and after the battle between the
"Monitor" and "Merrimac," when he took out a patent which was dated July
8, 1862, covering "a revolving tower for defensive and offensive
warfare, whether on land or water." Ericsson's associates in the
business of building monitors for the Government acquired these patents
of Timby, presumably as shrewd business men, in order to quiet any claim
on his part, and to have the plan available for land forts, should the
opportunity arise to push the business in this direction. There is no
question but that Ericsson was antedated by Timby in the suggestion of a
revolving turret, at least in so far as public notice is concerned.
Ericsson frankly admitted this, and stated that he made no claim to
absolute originality in this respect. He further stated what is
undoubtedly true, that the main idea in the turret, that of a circular
revolving fort, antedates the Nineteenth Century as a whole, and its
origin is lost in the uncertainties of early tradition. It is simply one
of those early ideas which naturally must have been known in essence
since time immemorial, and as such it was the common property of the
engineering practice of the century. It belongs neither to Timby nor to
Ericsson, and no claims regarding priority in this respect are worthy of
serious consideration. The question is not who first conceived the idea
of a revolving fort, but who designed and built the "Monitor" as she
was, and as she met the "Merrimac" on the 9th of March, 1862. The answer
to the latter is too well known a part of the history of the times to
admit of question or to call for further notice. Ericsson's claim for
recognition in this respect rests not on any priority of idea regarding
the use of a circular fort, but rather upon the actual "Monitor" as she
was built and as she crushed at one blow the sea-power of the South, and
representing as it did a completely and carefully designed whole, dating
back to the earlier dealings with Napoleon III. in 1854. This is an age
which judges men by what they do, and judged by this standard Ericsson's
claims in connection with the monitor type of warship are never likely
to be seriously questioned.

Taking Ericsson's life and work, what portion remains as a permanent
acquisition or as a part of the practice of the present age? This is a
question which merits at least a moment's notice.

We should not make the mistake of thinking that permanency is
necessarily a test of merit, or that the value of his services to the
world should be judged by such parts of his work as are plainly apparent
in the practice of the present day. A piece of work must be judged by
the circumstances which brought it forth, and by the completeness and
perfection of its adaptation to the needs and possibilities of its age.

We have then the steam fire-engine; compressed air which he early
employed in England, and which has become an instrument of enormous
importance in connection with the industrial progress of the age,
although this is in no especial degree due to his efforts; the surface
condenser, distiller, and evaporator are a permanently and absolutely
essential part of modern marine practice; the screw-propeller has almost
sole possession of the field of marine propulsion; modern marine engines
and boilers in naval practice are always placed below the water-line and
are protected by deflective deck armor and frequently by coal as well;
the turret has become a permanent and accepted part of the practice of
the age, while the monitor type in its essential feature seems to be

The modern battleship is a vastly more complex structure, and
represents more complex ideas and combinations than did Ericsson's
"Monitor." It contains a battery of guns of the heaviest type known to
naval ordnance. At present such guns are usually of 12-inch bore and
throw a shell of about 800 pounds weight, with an initial velocity of
nearly 3,000 feet per second. Then there is a supporting battery of
guns, 6, 7, or 8 inches in diameter of bore, and finally a secondary
battery of smaller quick-firing guns, throwing shells of from 1 pound to
20 or 30 pounds weight, and added to these there may be a torpedo outfit
as well. The exigencies of fighting ships at sea and in all weathers
seems to have pronounced against the monitor type with its low freeboard
as unsuitable for use on the open sea, while the enormous advances in
modern guns and armor have made a totally different problem of the
distribution of means offensive and defensive. Again, the monitor type
was never intended for long cruising, or indeed for other service than
the defence of coasts and harbors. The policy of building a vessel thus
adapted only to an inner line of defence, and not adapted to an outer
line of defence and offence as well, has been further called in
question, and the judgment of the present day has decided against such
policy. It is true that in the so-called "new navy," begun in 1883, one
monitor, the "Monterey," has been built, while four others of older
type have been somewhat modernized, and there are three monitors
building at the present time. It may be doubted, however, if they will
be followed by others, at least so long as the conditions of naval
warfare and the spirit of public policy remain as they now are.

The monitor type was a perfect solution of the problem of its day, and
nobly it answered the calls made on it. The problem has now changed, the
conditions affecting its solution have also changed, and it is no
discredit to the original type that it now seems to have had its day,
and that it must give way to other forms more perfectly expressing the
spirit of the present age, and the means available for the solution of
present-day problems in the art of naval war.

In many ways, however, the influence of Ericsson's work still lives in
the modern battleship, and while in our modern designs we have gotten
far away from the essential features of the monitor type, yet it is not
too much to say that the germ of the modern battleship is in many ways
found in the "Monitor," especially as expressed in terms of
concentration of heavy gun-fire and localized protection of gun
positions; and in more ways than may be suspected, the influence of
Ericsson and of his work had its part in the developments which have led
to the splendid designs of the present day.

Returning again to our note of the dependence of the present age on
Ericsson, mention may be made of the blower for forcing the combustion
in steam-boilers as a well-established feature of standard marine
practice, and one absolutely essential to the development of the highest
attainable speeds, such as are required in warships, and especially in
those of the torpedo and modern "Destroyer" types. Likewise the use of
the fan for ventilation, as used by him in his early practice, has
become a necessity of modern conditions both on naval and passenger
ships, for the health and comfort of both passengers and crew. His long
series of experiments and his years of labor on air and other forms of
"caloric" engine are only represented by the "Ericsson air-engine" now
on the market, and having its fair share of service in locations where
simplicity of operation and scarcity of water may naturally suggest
its use.

Of his labors in connection with a solar engine, and with other
questions which occupied much of the time of his closing years, we have
but little direct result. Others are at work on the idea of the solar
engine, and it may be that a practicable solution of the problem will
be found.

Ericsson's lasting imprint on engineering practice, curious as it may
seem, was made in his earlier and middle life, rather than in his later
years, and we have even more in the way of permanent acquisition from
his earlier than from his middle years. This results from the fact that
in middle life he was largely engaged on warship designs, admirably
adapted to the needs of the time and to the possibilities of the age,
but no longer suited to either, while in later life he no longer found
it necessary to work at problems which would produce a direct financial
return, and therefore interested himself in a variety of questions
somewhat farther removed from the walks of every-day engineering
practice than those with which he was occupied in earlier life.

In personality Ericsson possessed the most pronounced and self-centred
characteristics. Professionally he felt that to him had been granted a
larger measure of insight than to others into the mysteries of nature as
expressed in the laws of mechanics, and he was therefore little disposed
to listen to the advice or criticism of those about him. This was
undoubtedly one of Ericsson's most pronounced professional faults. He
did not realize that with all his insight into the laws of mechanics and
all his capacity for applying these laws to the solution of the problems
under consideration, he might well make some use of the work of his
fellow-laborers in the same field. So little disposed was he to thus use
the work of others that a given device or idea which had been in
previous use was often rejected and search made for another, different
and original, even though it might involve only some relatively trivial
part of the work. He was simply unwilling to follow in the lead of
others. He must lead or have none of it, and thus the fact that a device
or expedient was in common use would furnish an argument against rather
than for its adoption. His natural mode of work was utterly to disregard
precedent and to seek for fundamental solutions of his problems, having
only in view the conditions to be fulfilled, the laws of mechanics, and
the engineering materials of construction. This habit of independence
and of seclusion within the narrow circle of his own work so grew upon
him in later years that mechanical science made many advances of which
he took little or no note, and of which he refused to avail himself,
even though he might have done so greatly to his own advantage.

In his later years, in a letter to his friend Captain Adlersparre, he
says: "Do not laugh at me now, Captain, when I say that nobody can
mislead me. Do not condemn me if I at the same time confess that I am
directed by nobody's judgment but my own, and that I never consult
anybody and take nobody's advice." In all matters connected with his
work his will was imperious, and he would brook no interference or
criticism. His temper was high, his organization sensitive, and many
times throughout his life, relations with his best friends became
strained by his instability of temper or impatience with what he might
construe as a criticism regarding his work. With this instability of
temper, however, was combined a deep-seated tenderness and kindness of
heart, and he was as quick to forget the cause of offence as he was to
manifest displeasure upon occasion.

Notwithstanding the asperities of Ericsson's character in regard to his
professional work, and his entire lack of effort to make friends among
the learned of his day, recognition and unsought honors came in upon
him. He was elected to honorary membership in the societies of note in
the United States and Sweden, and in addition to the thanks of Congress
and of the Legislature of the State of New York, he received a
resolution of thanks from the Swedish Riksdag, or Parliament, in 1865.
In 1862 he was granted the rarely bestowed Rumford medal, and received
at other times during his life medals, honors, and decorations such as
have perhaps fallen to no other who has wrought in the same field of
human effort. While recognition of this character pleased him greatly
when it came spontaneously and willingly, he placed but little value on
that which he thought grudgingly or tardily tendered, and in one or two
instances refused membership in societies which he thought granted in
that manner.

A large measure of this independence of character is necessary to the
performance of the work which Ericsson did. Had he been ever ready to
listen to the views of others, and to modify his ideas in accordance
with them, his greatest achievements would never have been accomplished.
In Ericsson, however, this characteristic was carried to an undue
extreme, and he might unquestionably have accomplished more had he been
able to co-operate with others and to accept and use freely the best
work of contemporaries in his own field.

Ericsson was essentially a designing rather than a constructing
engineer. His genius lay in new adaptations of the principles of
mechanics or in new combinations of the elements of engineering practice
in such way as to further the purposes in view. His mode of expression
was the drawing-board. While he wrote vigorously and well, and while he
was a frequent contributor in later years to scientific literature,
especially on the subject of solar physics, yet his best and natural
mode of expression was the graphical representation of his designs on
the drawing-board. Forms and combinations took shape in his brain and
were transferred to the drawing with marvellous speed and skill. Those
who have been associated with him bear testimony that the amount of his
work was simply astounding, and that only by a combination of the most
remarkable celerity and industry could they have been accomplished.

These drawings were furthermore so minute in detail and so accurate in
dimension that as a rule he did not find it necessary to give further
attention to the matter after it had left his hands. Of the many parts
of a complicated mechanism, one could be sent for construction to one
shop and another elsewhere, all ultimately coming together and making a
harmonious and perfectly fitting whole. In no other way could such
astonishing speed in the detailed construction of the "Monitor" and
other vessels of her type possibly have been made; and the fact that
such speed in construction was obtained, and largely in this manner, is
by no means the least impressive of the many evidences of Ericsson's
genius as a designer.

The designs once completed on the drawing-board, however, Ericsson's
interest in the work ceased in great measure, and as a rule he paid but
little attention to constructive details, and took but slight interest
in the completed whole. Thus he is said to have visited his "Destroyer"
but once after she was built, and then simply in search of his
assistant. He also declined an invitation from the Assistant Secretary
of the Navy to visit Hampton Roads and inspect the "Monitor" immediately
after her fight with the "Merrimac." He seemed to have no curiosity to
inspect his work after it had left his hands, or to receive a report as
to the practical working of his designs. This shows a peculiar lack of
appreciation of the value of intimate contact with constructive and
operative engineering work. No one could hope to avoid errors, or to
realize by drawing-board alone the best possible solution of engineering
problems. Ericsson wilfully handicapped himself in this manner, and
might unquestionably have more effectively improved and perfected his
ideas had he been disposed to combine with his designs at the
drawing-board practical contact with his work as constructed.

His work was all done in his office at his house. For the last
twenty-five years of his life he lived at 36 Beach Street, New York,
where he wrought every day in the year, and often until far into the
night. His office contained, beside his drawing-table and other
furniture, a long table, on which at times, when overcome by fatigue, he
would stretch himself and take a short nap, using a dictionary or low
wooden box for a pillow.

His relations with his native land were always close, and, as already
hinted, he gave much of his best effort to the study of means for her
defence. Toward his friends and relatives he was the embodiment of
watchful care and generosity. His private benefactions were for his
means large, and were given with a whole-hearted generosity which must
have added much to the love and esteem in which the recipients regarded
him. His public benefactions were also notable, and during the later
years of his life he gave away regularly no inconsiderable share of his
income. Though gifted with reasonable prudence, he had no conception of
the "business sense," and no capacity as a money-getter. After acquiring
by his inventions and enterprise a modest competence, he devoted himself
almost entirely to work less directly related to a financial return, and
lived comfortably upon the principal which his earlier efforts
had provided.

Ericsson had absolute faith in himself and in his mission to render
available the energies of nature for the uses of humanity and
civilization. His character was framed about the central idea of
fidelity to this mission. He was dogmatic and optimistic as regards his
own work; he had a contemptuous indifference to the work of others, and
a disregard of the help which he might derive from a closer study of
such work. He trained himself, body, mind, and affections, solely with
reference to his mission, and allowed no interference with it. He was
the embodiment of physical and mental vigor, prodigious industry,
continuity of purpose, indomitable courage, capacity for great
concentration of mind, and oblivion to all distracting surroundings.
With such characteristics, combined with the rare endowment of mental
capacity and insight regarding the principles of engineering science,
small wonder is it that his life was one so rich in results. It could
not have been otherwise, and the results simply came as a consequence
of the combination of the characteristics of the man and the
surroundings in which he was placed.

The question as to how much more or how much better he might have done
had he possessed more faith in the work of others and a willingness to
be guided in some measure by their experience is of course idle.
Ericsson was a combination of certain capacities and characteristics; a
combination of other capacities and characteristics would not have been
Ericsson, and any discussion of such a supposition is therefore aside
from the purpose of this sketch.

John Ericsson lived in a period of rapid engineering development and
change. Old ideals were passing away, and the heritage which the
Nineteenth Century was able to pass on to the Twentieth was in
preparation. In this preparation Ericsson bore a large and most
important part. So long as ships traverse the seas, Ericsson's name will
be remembered for his work in connection with the introduction of the
screw-propeller. So long as the memory of naval warfare endures,
Ericsson's name will be remembered for the part which he bore in the
transition from wood to iron, from unarmored ships to turrets and armor,
from scattered to concentrated energy of gun-fire, and for his general
share in the developments which have led to the ideal of a battleship
prevailing at the opening of the Twentieth century. For these and for
many other achievements he will be remembered, and his life and works
should serve as a constant stimulus to those upon whom the engineering
work of the present age has fallen, to see that with equal fidelity they
live up to the possibilities of their endowments and opportunities, and
serve with like fervency and zeal the needs of the age in which they
are placed.


Contributions to the Centennial Exhibition: Ericsson, John.

The Life of John Ericsson: Church, W.C.

History of the Steam Engine: Thurston, R.H.

Steam Navy of the United States: Bennett, Frank M.

Who invented the Screw Propeller?: Nicol, James.

The Naval and Mail Steamers of the United States: Stuart, Charles B.

A Chronological History of the Origin and Development of Steam
Navigation: Preble, Rear Admiral G.H.

A Treatise on the Screw Propeller, Screw Vessels, and Screw Engine as
adapted for Purposes of Peace and War: Bourne, John.






Five years ago Earl Li was at the head of the "Tsungli Yamen," or
Foreign Office in Peking. The present writer, having known him long and
intimately, called one morning to request a letter of recommendation to
aid in raising money for an International Institute projected by the
Rev. Dr. Reid. "He's got one letter; why does he want another?" asked
Li, in a tone of mingled surprise and irritation. "True," said I, "but
that is from the Tsungli Yamen. Nobody in America knows anything about
the Yamen. What he wants is a personal letter from you; because the only
Chinese name besides Confucius that is known outside of China is Li
Hung Chang."

"I'll give it! I'll give it!" he exclaimed, smiling from ear to ear at the
thought of his world-wide reputation.

This was taking him on his weak side; but it was fact, not flattery.

Over forty years ago Li's rising star first came to view in connection
with operations against the rebels in the vicinity of Shanghai, and from
that day to this, every war, domestic or foreign, has served to raise it
higher and make it shine the brighter. It reached its zenith in 1901,
when after settling terms of peace with several foreign powers he passed
off the stage at the ripe age of fourscore. What better type to set
forth his age and nation than the man who, through a long career of
unexampled activity, won for himself a triple crown of literary,
military, and civil honors? In physique he was a noble specimen of his
race, over six feet in height, and in his earlier years uncommonly
handsome. The first half of his existence was passed in comparative
obscurity at Hofei in Anhui, a region remote from contact with
foreign nations.

It was there his character was formed, on native models; there he
carried off the higher prizes of the literary arena; and there he became
fitted for the role of China's typical statesman.

His career in outline may be stated in a few words. His native province
being overrun by rebels, he passed from the school-room to the camp, and
got his earliest lessons in the military art under the leadership of the
eminent viceroy Tseng Ko Fan. The neighboring province of Kiangsu
falling into the hands of rebel hordes a few years later, he won renown
by recapturing its principal cities, by the aid of such men as the
American Ward and the English Gordon. His success as a general made him
governor of Kiangsu, and his success as governor raised him to the rank
of viceroy, holding for many years a post at one or other of the foci of
foreign trade north or south.

Beyond the borders of China he was twice sent on special embassies, and
once he made the tour of the globe; but his most brilliant achievement
was in twice making peace on honorable terms, when his country was lying
prostrate before a victorious enemy.

It remains to expand this incomparable catalogue; but to make
intelligible that remarkable series of events in which he bore such a
conspicuous part, we must first invite our readers to accompany us in a
historical retrospect in which we shall point out the opening and growth
of foreign intercourse.



Of the nature of that intercourse in its earlier period, there exists a
monument that speaks volumes. That is no other than the Great Wall;
which, hugest of the works of man, stretches along the northern frontier
of China proper for one thousand five hundred miles from the sea to the
desert of Gobi. Erected 255 B.C. it shows that even at that early date
the enemies most dreaded by the Chinese were on the north. Yet how
signally it failed to effect its purpose! For since that epoch the
provinces of Northern China have passed no fewer than seven centuries
under Tartar sway. Two Tartar dynasties have succeeded in subjugating
the whole empire, and they have transmitted beyond the seas a reputation
which quite eclipses the fame of China's ancient sovereigns.

In fact, that which first made China known to the western world was its
conquest by the Mongols in the thirteenth century. Barbarous nomads,
with longing eyes forever directed to the sunny plains of the south,
they also conquered India, bringing under their sceptre the two richest
regions of the globe. Of Genghis and Kubla, it may be asserted that they
realized a more extended dominion than Alexander, Caesar, or Napoleon
ever dreamed of. But

"Extended empire, like expanded gold,
Exchanges solid strength for feeble splendor."

Their tenure of China was of short duration,--less than a century. In
India, however, their successors, the great Moguls, continued to
maintain a semblance of sovereignty even down to our own times, when
they were wiped from the blackboard for having taken part in the
Sepoy mutiny.

Liberal beyond precedent, Kubla Khan encouraged the establishment of a
Christian bishopric, in which John de Monte Corvino was the first
representative of the Holy See. He also welcomed those adventurous
Italians, the Polos, and sought to make use of them to open
communication with Europe. Yet we cannot forbear to express a doubt,
whether, aside from the Christian religion, Europe in that age had much
in the way of civilization to impart to China.

Three of the native dynasties, which preceded the Mongol conquest, made
themselves famous by advancing the interests of civilization. The house
of Han (B.C. 202-A.D. 221) restored the sacred books, which the builder
of the Great Wall had destroyed in order to obliterate all traces of
feudalism and make the people submit to a centralized government. Even
down to the present day, the Chinese are proud to describe themselves as
"sons of Han." The house of Tang, A.D. 618-908, is noted above all for
the literary style of its prose-writers and the genius of its poets. In
South China the people are fond of calling themselves "sons of Tang."
The house of Sung, A.D. 970-1127, shows a galaxy of philosophers and
scholars, whose expositions and speculations are accepted as the
standard of orthodoxy. More acute reasoners it would be difficult to
find in any country; and in the line of erudition they have never been

It is reported that in 643 the Emperor Theodosius sent an envoy to
China with presents of rubies and emeralds. Nestorian missionaries also
presented themselves at court. The Emperor received them with respect,
heard them recite the articles of their creed, and ordered a temple to
be erected for them at his capital. This was in the palmy period of the
Tangs, when the frontiers of the Empire had been pushed to the borders
of the Caspian Sea.

If China in part or in whole was sometimes conquered by Tartars, it is
only fair to state that the greatest of the native sovereigns more than
once reduced the extramural Tartars to subjection. Between the two races
there existed an almost unceasing conflict, which had the effect of
civilizing the one and of preventing the other from lapsing
into lethargy.

About B.C. 100, Su Wu, one of China's famous diplomatists, was sent on
an embassy to the Grand Khan of Tartary. An ode, which he addressed to
his wife on the eve of his perilous expedition, speaks alike for the
domestic affections of the Chinese and for their ancient
literary culture.

"Twin trees whose boughs together twine,
Two birds that guard one nest,
We'll soon be far asunder torn
As sunrise from the west.

"Hearts knit in childhood's innocence,
Long bound in Hymen's ties,
One goes to distant battlefields,
One sits at home and sighs.

"Like carrier dove, though seas divide,
I'll seek my lonely mate;
But if afar I find a grave,
You'll mourn my hapless fate.

"To us the future's all unknown;
In memory seek relief.
Come, touch the chords you know so well,
And let them soothe our grief."



In 1388 the Mongols were expelled. The Christian bishopric was swept
away, and left no trace; but a book of the younger Polo, describing the
wealth of China, gave rise to marvellous results. Together with the
magnetic needle, which originated in China, it led to centuries of
effort to open a way by sea to that far-off fairyland. It was from Marco
Polo that Columbus derived his inspiration to seek a short road to the
far East by steering to the West,--finding a new world athwart his
pathway. It was the same needle, if not the same book, that impelled
Vasco da Gama to push his way across the Indian Ocean, after the Cape of
Good Hope had been doubled by Bartholomew Diaz. A century later the same
book led Henry Hudson to search for some inlet or strait that might
open a way to China, when, instead of it, he discovered the port of
New York.

The mariner's compass, which wrought this revolution on the map of the
world, is only one of many discoveries made by the ancient Chinese,
which, unfruitful in their native land, have, after a change of climate,
transformed the face of the globe.

The polarity of the loadstone was observed in China over a thousand
years before the Christian era. One of their emperors, it is said,
provided certain foreign ambassadors with "south-pointing chariots," so
that they might not go astray on their way home. To this day the
magnetic needle in China continues to be called by a name which means
that it points to the south. It heads a long list of contraries in the
notions of the Chinese as compared with our own, such, for example, as
beginning to read at the back of a book; placing the seat of honor on
the left hand; keeping to the left in passing on the street, with many
others, so numerous as to suggest that the same law that placed their
feet opposite to ours must have turned their heads the other way. To the
Chinese the "south-pointing needle" continued to be a mere plaything to
be seen every day in the sedan chair of a mandarin, or in wheeled
vehicles. If employed on the water, it was only used in
coasting voyages.

So with gunpowder, of which the Arabs were transmitters, not inventors.
In other lands it revolutionized the art of war, clothing their people
with irresistible might, while in its native home it remained
undeveloped and served chiefly for fireworks. Have we not seen, even in
this our day, the rank and file of the Chinese army equipped with bows
and arrows? The few who were provided with firearms, for want of
gunlocks, had to set them off by a slow-match of burning tow; and
cannon, meant to guard the mouth of the Peiho, were trained on the
channel and fixed on immovable frames.

The art of printing was known in China five centuries before it made its
way to Europe. The Confucian classics having been engraved on stone to
secure them from being again burned up, as they had been by the builder
of the great wall, the rubbings taken from those stones were printing.
It required nothing but the substitution of wood for stone and of
_relievo_ for _intaglio_ to give that art the form it now has. The
smallest scrap of printed paper in the lining of a tea chest, or wrapped
about a roll of silk, would suffice to suggest the whole art to a mind
like that of Gutenberg. In China it never emerged from the state of wood
engraving. The "Peking Gazette," the oldest newspaper in the world, is
printed on divisible types, but they are of wood, not metal, more than
one attempt to introduce metallic types having proved unsuccessful, for
the want of that happy alloy known as type-metal. It is from us that
they have learned the art of casting type, especially that splendid
achievement, the making of stereotype plates, and, later, electrotype
plates, by the aid of electricity and acid solutions. Chemistry, from
which this beautiful art takes its rise, carries us back to China, for
it was there that alchemy had its birth, as I have elsewhere shown.[4]

[Footnote 4: "The Lore of Cathay." New York: Fleming R. Revell Co., p.

Man's first desire is long life; his second, to be rich. The Taoist
philosophy commenced with the former before the Christian era, but it
was not long in finding its way to the latter. A powerful impulse was
thus given to research in the three departments of science,--chemistry,
botany, and geography. As in the case of gunpowder, the Arabs
transmitted these discoveries to the West, and along with them the
Chinese doctrine as to the twofold objects of alchemic studies,--the
elixir of life and the philosopher's stone.

From this double root sprang the chemistry of the West, which in no mean
sense has fulfilled its promise by prolonging life and enriching
mankind. In all these the West has performed the part of a nursing
mother, but she has brought the nursling back full grown, and prepared
to repay its obligation to its true parent by effective service.

Portuguese merchants made their way to Canton early in the sixteenth
century, but it was not till the latter part of the century that
Catholic missionaries entered on their grand crusade. In 1601 the Jesuit
pioneer Matteo Ricci and his associates, impelled by religion and armed
with science, presented themselves at the court of Peking. The Chinese
had been able to reckon the length of the year with remarkable accuracy
two thousand years before the time of Christ, but their science had made
no headway. The missionaries found their calendar in a state of
confusion, vanquished the native astronomers in fair competition, and
were formally installed as keepers of the Imperial Observatory; and
these missionaries supervised the casting of the bronze instruments
which have since been taken to Berlin.

This honor they retained even after the fall of the native dynasty that
patronized them. When the Manchus effected their conquest in 1644, not
only were the Jesuit missionaries left in charge of the observatory, but
the heir apparent was placed under their instruction. Coming to the
throne in 1662, under the now illustrious title of _Kanghi_, the young
prince showed himself a generous patron as he had previously been a
respectful pupil. He was apparently not averse to the idea of his
people's adopting Christianity as their national religion, and allowed
the missionaries a free hand to plant churches throughout the vast
interior. Rarely if ever has so fine an opportunity offered for making
an easy conquest of a pagan empire. It was lost through the jealousy of
contending societies, and especially through the blunder of an
infallible Pope. The Dominicans denounced the Jesuits for tolerating the
practice of pagan rites, such as the worship of ancestors, and for
employing for God the name of a pagan deity. The name which they then
objected to was Shang-ti, Supreme Ruler, a venerable designation for the
Supreme Power found in the earliest of the Chinese canonical books, and
at this day accepted by a large proportion of Protestant missionaries.

The question as to its fitness was referred to the Emperor, who decided
in favor of the Jesuits. It was then brought before the Papal See,
condemned as idolatrous, and Tien Chu, the Lord of Heaven, adopted in
its stead. That Shang-ti, however pure in origin, had come to be applied
to a whole class of deities was perfectly true, but the name proposed in
its stead was not free from a taint of idolatry,--Tien Chu, Lord of
Heaven, being one of eight divinities, and worshipped along with Ti Chu,
Lord of Earth, Hai Chu, Lord of the Sea, etc.

The manner in which his opinions had been set aside by the Pope had no
doubt a repelling influence on the mind of the Emperor, so that if he
had ever felt inclined to embrace Christianity, he drew back in his
later years. Not only so, but he left behind him a series of Maxims in
which he censures the foreign creed and warns his people against it.
These Maxims were ordered to be read in public by mandarins, and they
continue to be recited and expounded as a sort of religious ritual. Is
it surprising that this lost opportunity was followed by a century and a
half of open persecution? That most of the churches survived, not only
attests the zeal with which the Faith had been propagated, it throws a
pleasing light on the force of the Chinese character. At the dawn of our
new epoch, there were still some half a million converts,--with here and
there a foreign Father hiding in their midst.

In bringing about this change of policy there was indeed another
influence at work. Had not the Emperor of China heard some rumors of
what was going on in the dominion of his cousin, the Great Mogul--how
the French were dispossessing the Portuguese; and how the English later
on succeeded in expelling the French? How could they doubt that a large
community of native Christians would act as an auxiliary to any foreign
invader? A suspicion of this kind had in fact sprung up under the
preceding dynasty. In consequence of it not a single seaport except
Macao was opened to foreign trade; and when foreigners went to Canton,
they were lodged in a suburb and not allowed to penetrate within the
walls of the provincial capital. Such misgivings as to the designs of
foreigners we find strikingly expressed in a book of that period called
"Strange Stories of an Idle Student."

One story is as follows: When Red-Haired Barbarians first appeared on
our coast they were not allowed to come ashore. They begged, however, to
be permitted to spread a carpet on which to dry their goods, and this
being granted, they took the carpet by its corners and stretched it so
that it covered several acres. On this, they debarked in great force
and, drawing their swords, took possession of the surrounding country.



The first great event that woke China from her dream of solitary
grandeur was the war with England, which broke out in 1839 and was
closed three years later by the Treaty of Nanking. It was not, however,
all that was needed to effect that object. It made the giant rub her
eyes and give a reluctant assent to terms imposed by superior force. But
many a rude lesson was still required before she came to perceive her
true position, as on the lower side of an inclined plane. To bring her
to this discovery four more foreign wars were to follow before the end
of the century, culminating in a siege in Peking and massacres
throughout the northern provinces which may be looked on as the fifth
act in a long and bloody tragedy.

In the last three wars Li Hung Chang was a prominent actor. In the
first two he took no part. Yet was it the shock which they gave to the
empire that drove him from a life of literary seclusion to do battle in
a more public arena.

The Opium War of 1839 is not improperly so designated, but nothing is
more erroneous than to infer that it was waged by England for the
purpose of forcing the product of her Indian poppy fields on the markets
of China. Opium was the occasion, not the cause. The cause, if we are to
put it in a single word, was the overbearing arrogance of an Oriental
despotism, which refused to recognize any equal in the family
of nations.

In the Straits settlements and in the seaports of India, Chinese
merchants had been brought under sway of the bewitching narcotic. It
found its way to their southern seaports, and without being recognized
as an article of commerce, the trade expanded with startling rapidity.
The Emperor, Tao Kwang, one of the most humane of rulers, resolved to
take measures for the suppression of the vice. He had come to the throne
in 1820; and there is a story that he was moved to action by the
untimely fate of his eldest son, who had fallen a victim to the
seductive poison.

Commissioner Lin, whom he selected to carry out his prohibitory policy,
was a fit instrument for such a master, equally virtuous in his aims
and equally tyrannical in his mode of proceeding. Arriving at Canton,
his first object was to get possession of the forbidden drug, which was
stored on ships outside the harbor. This he thought to accomplish by
surrounding the whole foreign community by soldiers and threatening them
with death if the opium was not promptly surrendered. While its owners
or their agents hesitated, Captain Elliot, the British Superintendent of
Trade, came up from Macao, and demanded to share the duress of his
nationals. He then called on them to deliver up the drug to him to be

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