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Samuel F. B. Morse, His Letters and Journals by Samuel F. B. Morse

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annoying jealousies of another, I have encountered surrounding hosts,
and, I trust, been instrumental in saving something for the Proprietors
of this great invention, and done something to maintain the rights and
vindicate the fame of its true author. Nothing but your generous
confidence has rendered my position tolerable, and enabled me to meet the
countless difficulties with which my path has been beset with any degree
of success. And now, at the end of a ten years' war, I am prepared to
retire from the field and leave the future to other hands, if I can but
see your interests, secured beyond contingency, and a moderate competency
provided for my family and myself."

The company referred to in this letter was one proposed by Cyrus W. Field
and other capitalists of New York. The plan was to purchase the patent
rights of Morse, Kendall, Vail, and F.O.J. Smith, and, by means of the
large capital which would be at their command, fight the pirates who had
infringed on the patent, and gradually unite the different warring
companies into one harmonious concern. A monopoly, if you will, but a
monopoly which had for its object better, cheaper, and quicker service to
the people. This object was achieved in time, but, unfortunately for the
peace of mind of Morse and Kendall, not just then.

The name of Cyrus Field naturally suggests the Atlantic Cable, and it was
just at this time that steps were being seriously taken to realize the
prophecy made by Morse in 1843 in his letter to the Secretary of the
Treasury: "The practical inference from this law is that a telegraphic
communication on the electro-magnetic plan may with certainty be
established across the Atlantic Ocean! Startling as this may now seem I
am confident the time will come when this project will be realized."

In 1852 a company had been formed and incorporated by the Legislature of
Newfoundland, called the "Newfoundland Electric Telegraph Company." The
object of this company was to connect the island by means of a cable with
the mainland, but this was not accomplished at that time, and no
suggestion was made of the possibility of crossing the ocean. One of the
officers of that company, however, Mr. F.N. Gisborne, came to New York in
1854 and tried to revive the interest of capitalists and engineers in the
scheme. Among others he consulted Matthew D. Field, and through him met
his brother Cyrus W. Field, and the question of a through line from
Newfoundland to New York was seriously discussed. Cyrus Field, a man of
great energy and already interested financially and otherwise in the
terrestrial telegraph, was fascinated by the idea of stretching long
lines under the waters also. He examined a globe, which was in his study
at home and, suddenly realizing that Newfoundland and Ireland were
comparatively near neighbors, he said to himself: "Why not cross the
ocean and connect the New World with the Old?" He had heard that Morse
long ago had prophesied that this link would some day be welded, and he
became possessed with the idea that he was the person to accomplish this
marvel, just as Morse had received the inspiration of the telegraph in

A letter to Morse, who was just then in Washington, received an
enthusiastic and encouraging reply, coupled with the information that
Lieutenant Maury of the Navy had, by a series of careful soundings,
established the existence of a plateau between Ireland and Newfoundland,
at no very great depth, which seemed expressly designed by nature to
receive and carefully guard a telegraphic cable. Mr. Field lost no time
in organizing a company composed originally of himself, his brother the
Honorable David Dudley Field, Peter Cooper, Moses Taylor, Marshall O.
Roberts, and Chandler White. After a liberal charter had been secured
from the legislature of Newfoundland the following names were added to
the list of incorporators: S.F.B. Morse, Robert W. Lowber, Wilson G.
Hunt, and John W. Brett. Mr. Field then went to England and with
characteristic energy soon enlisted the interest and capital of
influential men, and the Atlantic Telegraph Company was organized to
cooperate with the American company, and liberal pledges of assistance
from the British Government were secured. Similar pledges were obtained
from the Congress of the United States, but, quite in line with former
precedents, by a majority of only _one_ in the Senate. Morse was
appointed electrician of the American company and Faraday of the English
company, and much technical correspondence followed between these two
eminent scientists.

In the spring of 1855, Morse, in a letter to his friend and relative by
marriage, Thomas R. Walker, of Utica, writes enthusiastically of the
future: "Our _Atlantic line_ is in a fair way. We have the governments
and capitalists of Europe zealously and warmly engaged to carry it
through. _Three years_ will not pass before a _submarine telegraph
communication will be had with Europe_, and I do not despair of sitting
in my office and, by a touch of the telegraph-key, asking a question
simultaneously to persons in London, Paris, Cairo, Calcutta, and Canton,
and getting the answer from all of them in _five minutes_ after the
question is asked. Does this seem strange? I presume if I had even
suggested the thought some twenty years ago, I might have had a quiet
residence in a big building in your vicinity."

The first part of this prophecy was actually realized, for in 1858, just
three years after the date of this letter, communication was established
between the two continents and was maintained for twenty days. Then it
suddenly and mysteriously ceased, and not till 1866 was the indomitable
perseverance of Cyrus Field crowned with permanent success.

More of the details of this stupendous undertaking will be told in the
proper chronological order, but before leaving the letter to Mr. Walker,
just quoted from, I wish to note that when Morse speaks of sitting in his
office and communicating by a touch of the key with the outside world, he
refers to the fact that the telegraph companies with which he was
connected had obligingly run a short line from the main line (which at
that time was erected along the highway from New York to Albany) into his
office at Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, so that he was literally in touch
with every place of any importance in the United States.

Always solicitous for the welfare of mankind in general, he says in a
letter to Norvin Green, in July, 1855, after discussing the proposed
cable: "The effects of the Telegraph on the interests of the world,
political, social and commercial have, as yet, scarcely begun to be
apprehended, even by the most speculative minds. I trust that one of its
effects will be to bind man to his fellow-man in such bonds of amity as
to put an end to war. I think I can predict this effect as in a not
distant future."

Alas! in this he did not prove himself a true prophet, although it must
be conceded that many wars have been averted or shortened by means of the
telegraph, and there are some who hope that a warless age is even now
being conceived in the womb of time.

On July 18, 1855, he writes to his good friend Dr. Gale: "I have no time
to add, as every moment is needed to prepare for my Newfoundland
expedition, to be present at laying down the first submarine cable _of
any considerable length_ on this side the water, although the first for
telegraph purposes, you well remember, we laid between Castle Garden and
Governor's Island in 1842."

On the 7th of August, Morse, with his wife and their eldest son, a lad of
six, joined a large company of friends on board the steamer James Adger
which sailed for Newfoundland. There they were to meet the Sarah L.
Bryant, from England, with the cable which was to be laid across the Gulf
of St. Lawrence. The main object of the trip was a failure, like so many
of the first attempts in telegraphic communication, for a terrific storm
compelled them to cut the cable and postpone the attempt, which, however,
was successfully accomplished the next year.

The party seems to have had a delightful time otherwise, for they were
feted wherever they stopped, notably at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St.
Johns, Newfoundland. At the latter place a return banquet was given on
board the James Adger, and the toastmaster, in calling on Morse for a
speech, recited the following lines:--

"The steed called Lightning (say the Fates)
Was tamed in the United States.
'T was Franklin's hand that caught the horse,
'T was harnessed by Professor Morse."

To turn again for a moment to the darker side of the picture of those
days, it must be kept in mind that annoying litigation was almost
constant, and in the latter part of 1855 a decision had been rendered in
favor of F.O.J. Smith, who insisted on sharing in the benefits of the
extension of the patent, although, instead of doing anything to deserve
it, he had done all in his power to thwart the other patentees.
Commenting on this in a letter to Mr. Kendall of November 22, 1855,
Morse, pathetically and yet philosophically, says:--

"Is there any mode of arrangement with Smith by which matters in
partnership can be conducted with any degree of harmony? I wish him to
have his legal rights in full, however unjustly awarded to him. I must
suffer for my ignorance of legal technicalities. Mortifying as this is it
is better, perhaps, to suffer it with a good grace and even with
cheerfulness, if possible, rather than endure the wear and tear of the
spirits which a brooding over the gross fraud occasions. An opportunity
of setting ourselves right in regard to him may be not far off in the
future. Till then let us stifle at least all outward expressions of
disgust or indignation at the legal swindle."

And, with the keen sense of justice which always actuated him, he adds in
a postscript: "By the by, if Judge Curtis's decision holds good in regard
to Smith's _inchoate_ right, does it not equally hold good in regard to
Vail, and is he not entitled to a proportionate right in the extension?"

During the early months of 1856 the financial affairs of the inventor had
so far been straightened out that he felt at liberty to leave the country
for a few months' visit to Europe. The objects of this trip were
threefold. He wished, as electrician of the Cable Company, to try some
experiments over long lines with certain English scientists, with a view
to determining beyond peradventure the practicability of an ocean
telegraph. He also wished to visit the different countries on the
continent where his telegraph was being used, to see whether their
governments could not be induced to make him some pecuniary return for
the use of his invention. Last, but not least, he felt that he had earned
a short vacation from the hard work and the many trials to which he had
been subjected for so many years, and a trip abroad with his wife, who
had never been out of her own country, offered the best means of
relaxation and enjoyment. On the 7th of June, 1856, he sailed from New
York on the Baltic, accompanied by his wife and his niece Louisa,
daughter of his brother Richard.

The trip proved a delightful one in every way; he was acclaimed as one of
the most noted men of his day wherever he went, and emperors, kings, and
scientists vied with each other in showering attentions upon him. His
letters contain minute descriptions of many of his experiences and I
shall quote liberally from them.

To Cyrus Field he writes, on July 6, of the results of some of his
experiments with Dr. Whitehouse:--

"I intended to have written you long before this and have you receive my
letter previous to your departure from home, but every moment of my time
has been occupied, as you can well conceive, since my arrival. I have
especially been occupied in experiments with Dr. Whitehouse of the utmost
importance. Their results, except in a general way, I am not at present
at liberty to divulge; besides they are not, as yet, by any means
completed so as to assure commercial men that they may enter upon the
great project of uniting Europe to America with a certainty of success."

And then, after dwelling upon the importance of Dr. Whitehouse's
services, and expressing the wish that he should be liberally rewarded
for his labors, he continues:--

"I can say on this subject generally that the experiments Dr. Whitehouse
has made favorably affect the project so far as its _practicability_ is
concerned, but to certainly assure its _practicality_ further experiments
are essential. To enable Dr. Whitehouse to make these, and that he may
derive the benefit of them, I conceive it to be a wise outlay to furnish
him with adequate means for his purpose.

"I wish I had time to give you in detail the kind receptions I have
everywhere met with. To Mr. Statham and his family in a special manner
are we indebted for the most indefatigable and constant attentions. Were
we relatives they could not have been more assiduous in doing everything
to make our stay in London agreeable. To Mr. Brett also I am under great
obligations. He has manifested (as have, indeed, all the gentlemen
connected with the Telegraph here) the utmost liberality and the most
ample concession to the excellence of my telegraphic system. I have been
assured now from the _highest sources_ that my system is not only the
most practical for general use, but that it is fast becoming the _world's

His brother Sidney was at this time also in Europe with his wife and some
other members of his family, and the brothers occasionally met in their
wanderings to and fro. Finley writes to Sidney from Fenton's Hotel,
London, on July 1:--

"Yours from Edinburgh of the 28th ulto. is just received. I regret we did
not see you when you called the evening before you left London. We all
wished to see you and all yours before we separated so widely apart, but
you know in what a whirl one is kept on a first arrival in London and can
make allowances for any seeming neglect. From morning till night we have
been overwhelmed with calls and the kindest and most flattering

"On the day before you called I dined at Greenwich with a party invited
by Mr. Brett, representing the great telegraph interests of Europe and
India. I was most flatteringly received, and Mr. Brett, in the only toast
given, gave my name as the Inventor of the Telegraph and of the system
which has spread over the whole world and is superseding all others. Dr.
O'Shaughnessy, who sat opposite to me, made some remarks warmly seconding
Mr. Brett, and stating that he had come from India where he had
constructed more than four thousand miles of telegraph; that he had tried
many systems upon his lines, and that a few days before I arrived he had
reported, in his official capacity as the Director of the East India
lines, to the East India Company that my system was the best, and
recommended to them its adoption, which I am told will undoubtedly be the

"This was an unexpected triumph to me, since I had heard from one of our
passengers in the Baltic that in the East Indies they were reluctant to
give any credit to America for the Telegraph, claiming it exclusively for
Wheatstone. It was, therefore, a surprise to me to hear from the
gentleman who controls all the Eastern lines so warm, and even
enthusiastic, acknowledgment of the superiority of mine.

"But I have an additional cause for gratitude for an acknowledgment from
a quarter whence I least expected any favor to my system. Mr. Cooke,
formerly associated with Wheatstone, told one of the gentlemen, who
informed me of it, that he had just recommended to the British Government
the substitution of my system for their present system, and had no doubt
his recommendation would be entertained. He also said that he had heard I
was about to visit Europe, and that he should take the earliest
opportunity to pay his respects to me. Under these circumstances I called
and left my card on Mr. Cooke, and I have now a note from him stating he
shall call on me on Thursday. Thus the way seems to be made for the
adoption of my Telegraph throughout _the whole world_.

"I visited one of the offices with Dr. Whitehouse and Mr. Brett where (in
the city) I found my instruments in full activity, sending and receiving
messages from and to Paris and Vienna and other places on the Continent.
I asked if all the lines on the Continent were now using my system, that
I had understood that some of the lines in France were still worked by
another system. The answer was--'No, _all the lines on the Continent_ are
now _Morse lines_.' You will undoubtedly be pleased to learn these

While he was thus being wined, and dined, and praised by those who were
interested in his scientific achievements, he harked back for a few hours
to memories of his student days in London, for his old friend and
room-mate, Charles R. Leslie, now a prosperous and successful painter,
gave him a cordial invitation to visit him at Petworth, near London.
Morse joyfully accepted, and several happy hours were spent by the two
old friends as they wandered through the beautiful grounds of the Earl of
Egremont, where Leslie was then making studies for the background of a

The next letter to his brother Sidney is dated Copenhagen, July 19:--

"Here we are in Copenhagen where we arrived yesterday morning, having
travelled from Hamburg to Kiel, and thence by steamboat to Corsoer all
night, and thence by railroad here, much fatigued owing to the miserable
_dis_commodations on board the boat. I have delivered my letters here and
am awaiting their effect, expecting calls, and I therefore improve a few
moments to apprise you of our whereabouts.... In Paris I was most
courteously received by the Count de Vouchy, now at the head of the
Telegraphs of France, who, with many compliments, told me that my system
was the one in universal use, the simplest and the best, and desired me
to visit the rooms in the great building where I should find my
instruments at work. Sure enough, I went into the Telegraph rooms where
some twenty of my own children (beautifully made) were chatting and
chattering as in American offices. I could not but think of the contrast
in that same building, even as late as 1845, when the clumsy semaphore
was still in use, and but a single line of electric wire, an experimental
one to Rouen, was in existence in France.... When we left Paris we took a
courier, William Carter, an Englishman, whom thus far we find to be
everything we could wish, active, vigilant, intelligent, honest and
obliging. As soon as he learned who I was he made diligent use of his
information, and wherever I travelled it was along the lines of the
Telegraph. The telegraph posts seemed to be posted to present arms (shall
I say?) as I passed, and the lines of conductors were constantly stooping
and curtsying to me. At all the stations the officials received me with
marked respect; everywhere the same remark met me--'Your system, Sir, is
the only one recognized here. It is the best; we have tried others but
have settled down upon yours as the best.' But yesterday, in travelling
from Corsoer to Copenhagen, the Chief Director of the Railroads told me,
upon my asking if the Telegraph was yet in operation in Denmark, that it
was and was in process of construction along this road. 'At first,' said
he, 'in using the needle system we found it so difficult to have
employees skilled in its operation that we were about to abandon the
idea, but now, having adopted yours, we find no difficulty and are
constructing telegraphs on all our roads.'

"At all the custom-houses and in all the railroad depots I found my name
a passport. My luggage was passed with only the form of an examination,
and although I had taken second-class tickets for my party of four, yet
the inspectors put us into first-class carriages and gave orders to the
conductors to put no one in with us without our permission. I cannot
enumerate all the attentions we have received.

"At Hamburg we were delighted, not only with its splendor and
cleanliness, but having made known to Mrs. Lind (widow of Edward's
brother Henry) that we were in Hamburg, we received the most hearty
welcome, passed the day at her house and rode out in the environs. At
dinner a few friends were invited to meet us. Mr. Overman, a distant
connection of the Linds, was very anxious for me to stay a few days,
hinting that, if I would consent, the authorities and dignitaries of
Hamburg would show me some mark of respect, for my name was well known to
them. I was obliged to decline as I am anxious to be in St. Petersburg
before the Emperor is engaged in his coronation preparations."

While in Denmark Morse was granted a private interview with the king at
his castle of Frederiksborg, whither he was accompanied by Captain

"After a few minutes the captain was called into the presence of the
king, and in a few minutes more I was requested to go into the
audience-chamber and was introduced by the captain to Frederick VII, King
of Denmark. The king received me standing and very courteously. He is a
man of middle stature, thick-set, and resembles more in the features of
his face the busts and pictures of Christian IV than those of any of his
predecessors, judging as I did from the numerous busts and portraits of
the Kings of Denmark which adorn the city palace and the Castle of
Frederiksborg. The king expressed his pleasure at seeing the inventor of
the Telegraph, and regretted he could not speak English as he wished to
ask me many questions. He thanked me, he said, for the beautiful
instrument I had sent him; told me that a telegraph line was now in
progress from the castle to his royal residence in Copenhagen; that when
it was completed he had decided on using my instrument, which I had given
him, in his own private apartments. He then spoke of the invention as a
most wonderful achievement, and wished me to inform him how I came to
invent it. I accordingly in a few words gave him the early history of it,
to which he listened most attentively and thanked me, expressing himself
highly gratified. After a few minutes more of conversation of the same
character, the king shook me warmly by the hand and we took our leave....

"We arrived in the afternoon at Copenhagen. Mrs. F. called in her
carriage. We drove to the Thorwaldsen Museum or Depository where are all
the works of this great man. This collection of the greatest sculptor
since the best period of Greek art is attractive enough in itself to call
travellers of taste to Copenhagen. After spending some hours in
Thorwaldsen's Museum I went to see the study of Oersted, where his most
important discovery of the _deflection of the needle_ by a galvanic
current was made, which laid the foundation of the science of
electro-magnetism, and without which my invention could not have been
made. It is now a drawing school. I sat at the table where he made his

"We went to the Porcelain Manufactory, and, singularly enough, met there
the daughter of Oersted, to whom I had the pleasure of an introduction.
Oersted was a most amiable man and universally beloved. The daughter is
said to resemble her father in her features, and I traced a resemblance
to him in the small porcelain bust which I came to the manufactory to

"_St. Petersburg, August 8, 1856._ Up to this date we have been in one
constant round of visits to the truly wonderful objects of curiosity in
this magnificent city. I have seen, as you know, most of the great and
marvellous cities of Europe, but I can truly say none of them can at all
compare in splendor and beauty to St. Petersburg. It is a city of
palaces, and palaces of the most gorgeous character. The display of
wealth in the palaces and churches is so great that the simple truth told
about them would incur to the narrator the suspicion of romancing.
England boasts of her regalia in the Tower, her crown jewels, her
Kohinoor diamond, etc. I can assure you that they fade into
insignificance, as a rush-light before the sun, when brought before the
wealth in jewels and gold seen here in such profusion. What think you of
nosegays, as large as those our young ladies take to parties, composed
entirely of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and other precious
stones, chosen to represent accurately the colors of various flowers?--
The imperial crown, globular in shape, composed of diamonds, and
containing in the centre of the Greek cross which surmounts it an
unwrought ruby at least two inches in diameter? The sceptre has a diamond
very nearly as large as the Kohinoor. At the Arsenal at Tsarskoye Selo we
saw the trappings of a horse, bridle, saddle and all the harness, with an
immense saddle-cloth, set with tens of thousands of diamonds. On those
parts of the harness where we have rosettes, or knobs, or buckles, were
rosettes of diamonds an inch and a half to two inches in diameter, with a
diamond in the centre as large as the first joint of your thumb, or say
three quarters of an inch in diameter. Other trappings were as rich.
Indeed there seemed to be no end to the diamonds. All the churches are
decorated in the most costly manner with diamonds and pearls and precious

The following account of his reception by the czar is written in pencil:
"On the paper found in my room in Peterhoff." It differs somewhat from
the letter written to his children and introduced by Mr. Prime in his
book, but is, to my mind, rather more interesting.

"_August 14, 1856._ This day is one to be remembered by me. Yesterday I
received notice from the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, through our
Minister Mr. Seymour, that his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor Alexander
II, had appointed the hour of 1.30 this day to see me at his palace at
Peterhoff. I accordingly waited upon our minister to know the etiquette
to be observed on such an occasion. It was necessary, he said, to be at
the boat by eight o'clock in the morning, which would arrive at Peterhoff
about 9.30. I must dress in black coat, vest and pantaloons and white
cravat, and appear with my Turkish nishan [or decoration]. So this
morning I was up early and, upon taking the boat, found our Minister Mr.
Seymour, Colonel Colt and Mr. Jarvis, attaches to the Legation, with Mrs.
Colt and Miss Jarvis coming on board. I learned also that there were to
be many presentations of various nations' attaches to the various special
deputations sent to represent their different courts at the approaching
coronation at Moscow.

"The day is most beautiful, rendered doubly so by its contrast with so
many previous disagreeable ones. On our arrival at the quay at Peterhoff
we found, somewhat to my surprise, the imperial carriages in waiting for
us, with coachmen and footmen in the imperial livery, which, as in
England and France, is scarlet, and splendid black horses, ready to take
us to our quarters in the portion of the palace buildings assigned to the
Americans. We were attended by four or five servants in livery loaded
with gold lace, and shown to our apartments upon the doors of which we
found our names already written.

"After throwing off our coats the servants inquired if we would have
breakfast, to which, of course, we had no objection, and an excellent
breakfast of coffee and sandwiches was set upon the table, served up in
silver with the imperial arms upon the silver waiter and tea set.
Everything about our rooms, which consisted of parlor and bedroom, was
plain but exceedingly clean and neat. After seeing us well housed our
attendant chamberlain left us to prepare ourselves for the presentation,
saying he would call for us at the proper time. As there were two or
three hours to spare I took occasion to improve the time by commencing
this brief notice of the events of the day.

"About two o'clock our attendant, an officer named Thoerner, under the
principal chamberlain who is, I believe, Count Borsch, called to say our
carriages were ready. We found three carriages in waiting with three
servants each, the coachman and two footmen, in splendid liveries; some
in the imperial red and gold lace, and others in blue and broad gold lace
emblazoned throughout with the double headed eagle. We seated ourselves
in the carriages which were then driven at a rapid rate to the great
palace, the entrance to which directly overlooked the numerous and
celebrated grand fountains. Hundreds of well-dressed people thronged on
each side of the carriageway as we drove up to the door. After alighting
we were ushered through a long hall and through a double row of servants
of various grades, loaded with gold lace and with _chapeaux bras_.
Ascending the broad staircase, on each side of which we found more
liveried servants, we entered an anteroom between two Africans dressed in
the costume of Turkey, and servants of a higher grade, and then onward
into a large and magnificent room where were assembled those who were to
be presented. Here we found ourselves among princes and nobles and
distinguished persons of all nations. Among the English ladies were Lady
Granville and Lady Emily Peel, the wife of Sir Robert Peel, the latter a
beautiful woman and dressed with great taste, having on her head a Diana
coronet of diamonds.... Among the gentlemen were officers attached to the
various deputations from England, Austria, France and Sardinia. Several
princes were among them, and conspicuous for splendor of dress was Prince
Esterhazy; parts of his dress and the handle and scabbard of his sword
blazed with diamonds.

"Here we remained for some time. From the windows of the hall we looked
out upon the magnificent fountains and the terrace crowned with gorgeous
vases of blue and gold and gilded statues. At length the master of
ceremonies appeared and led the way to the southern veranda that
overlooked the garden, ranging us in line and reading our names from a
list, to see if we were truly mustered, after which a side door opened
and the Emperor Alexander entered. His majesty was dressed in military
costume, a blue sash was across his breast passing over the right
shoulder; on his left breast were stars and orders. He commenced at the
head of the column, which consisted of some fourteen or fifteen persons,
and, on the mention of the name by the master of ceremonies, he addressed
a few words to each. To Mr. Colt he said: 'Ah! I have seen you before.
When did you arrive? I am glad to see you.' When he came to me the master
of ceremonies miscalled my name as Mr. More. I instantly corrected him
and said, 'No, Mr. Morse.' The emperor at once said: 'Ah! that name is
well known here; your system of Telegraph is in use in Russia. How long
have you been in St. Petersburg? I hope you have enjoyed yourself.' To
which I appropriately replied. After a few more unimportant questions and
answers the emperor addressed himself to the other gentlemen and retired.

"After remaining a few moments, the master of ceremonies, who, by the by,
apologized to me for miscalling my name, opened the door from the veranda
into the empress' drawing-room, where we were again put in line to await
the appearance of the empress. The doors of an adjoining room were
suddenly thrown open and the empress, gorgeously but appropriately
attired, advanced towards us. She was dressed in a beautiful blue silk
terminating in a long flowing train of many flounces of the richest lace;
upon her head a crown of diamonds, upon her neck a superb necklace of
diamonds, some twenty of which were as large as the first joint of the
finger. The upper part of her dress was embroidered with diamonds in a
broad band, and the dress in front buttoned to the floor with rosettes of
diamonds, the central diamond of each button being at least a half inch
in diameter. A splendid bouquet of diamonds and precious stones of every
variety of color, arranged to imitate flowers, was upon her bosom. She
addressed a few words gracefully to each, necessarily commonplace, for
what could she say to strangers but the common words of enquiry--when we
came and whether we had been pleased with St. Petersburg.

"Gratifying as it was to us to see her, I could not but think it was
hardly possible for her to have any other gratification in seeing us than
that which I have no doubt she felt, that she was giving pleasure to
others. To me she appeared to be amiable and truly feminine. Her manner
was timid yet dignified without the least particle of hauteur. The
impression left on my mind by both the emperor and empress is that they
are most truly amiable and kind.

"After speaking to each of us she gracefully bowed to us, we, of course,
returning the salutation, and she retired followed by her maids of honor,
her long train sweeping the floor for a distance of several yards behind
her. We were then accompanied by the master of ceremonies back to the
large reception-room, and soon after we left the palace, descending the
staircase through the same lines of liveried servants to the royal
carriages drawn up at the door, and returned to our rooms. On descending
to our parlor we found a beautiful collation with tropical fruits and
confectionery provided for us. Our polite attendant, who partook with us,
said that the carriages were at our service and waiting for us to take a
drive in the gardens previous to dinner, which was to be served at five
o'clock in the English Palace and to which we were invited.

"Two carriages called charabancs, somewhat like the Irish vehicle of the
same name, with four servants in the imperial livery to each, we found at
the door, and we drove for several miles through the splendid gardens and
grounds laid out with all the taste of the most beautiful English
grounds, with lakes, and islands, and villas, and statues, and fountains,
and the most perfect neatness marked every step of our way.

"The most attractive object in our ride was the Italian villa, a favorite
resort of the emperor, a perfect gem of its kind. We alighted here and
visited all the apartments and the grounds around it. No description
could do it justice; a series of pictures alone could give an idea of its
beauties. While here several other royal carriages with the various
deputations to the coronation ceremonies, soon to occur at Moscow,
arrived, and the cortege of carriages with the gorgeous costumes of the
visitors alone furnished an exciting scene, heightened by the proud
bearing of the richly caparisoned horses, chiefly black, and the showy
trappings of the liveried attendants.

"On our return to our rooms we dressed for dinner and proceeded in the
same manner to the palace in the gardens called the English Palace. Here
we found assembled in the great reception hall the distinguished company,
in number forty-seven, of many nations, who were to sit down to the table
together. When dinner was announced we entered the grand dining-hall and
found a table most gorgeously prepared with gold and silver service and
flowers. At table I found myself opposite three princes, an Austrian, a
Hungarian, and one from some other German state, and near me on my left
Lord Ward, one of the most wealthy nobles of England, with whom I had a
good deal of conversation. Opposite and farther to my right was Prince
Esterhazy, seated between Lady Granville and the beautiful Lady Emily
Peel. On the other side of Lady Peel was Lord Granville and near him Sir
Robert Peel. Among the guests, a list of whom I regret I did not obtain,
was the young Earl of Lincoln and several other noblemen in the suite of
Lord Granville.... Some twenty servants in the imperial livery served the
table which was furnished with truly royal profusion and costliness. The
rarest dishes and the costliest wines in every variety were put before
us. I need not say that in such a party everything was conducted with the
highest decorum. No noise, no boisterous mirth, no loud talking, but a
quiet cheerfulness and perfect ease characterized the whole

"After dinner all arose, both ladies and gentlemen, and left the room
together, not after the English fashion of the gentlemen allowing the
ladies to retire and then seating themselves again by themselves to
drink, etc. We retired for a moment to the great reception-hall for
coffee, but, being fearful that we should be too late for the last
steamer from Peterhoff to St. Petersburg, we were hurrying to get through
and to leave, but the moment our fears had come to the knowledge of Lord
Granville, he most kindly came to us and told us to feel at ease as his
steam-yacht was lying off the quay to take them up to the city, and he
was but too proud to have the opportunity of offering us a place on
board; an offer which we, of course, accepted with thanks.

"Having thus been entertained with truly imperial hospitality for the
entire day, ending with this sumptuous entertainment, we descended once
more to the carriages and drove to the quay, where a large barge
belonging to the Jean d'Acre, English man-of-war (which is the ship put
in commission for the service of Lord Granville), manned by stalwart
man-of-war's-men, was waiting to take the English party of nobles, etc.,
on board the steam-yacht. When all were collected we left Peterhoff and
were soon on board. The weather was fine and the moon soon rose over the
palace of Peterhoff, looking for a moment like one of the splendid gilded
domes of the palace.

"On board the yacht I had much conversation with Lord Granville, who
brought the various members of his suite and introduced them to me,--Sir
Robert Peel; the young Earl of Lincoln, the son of the Duke of Newcastle,
who, when himself the Earl of Lincoln in 1839, showed me such courtesy
and kindness in London; Mr. Acton, a nephew of Lord Granville, with whom
I had some conversation in which, while I was speaking of the Greek
religion as compared with the Romish, he informed me he was a Roman
Catholic. I wished much to have had more conversation with him, but the
time was not suitable, and the steamer was now near the end of the

"We landed at the quay in St. Petersburg about eleven o'clock, and I
reached my lodgings in the Hotel de Russie about twelve, thus ending a
day of incidents which I shall long remember with great gratification,
having only one unpleasant reflection connected with it, to wit that my
dear wife, my niece and our friend Miss L. were not with me to
participate in the pleasure and novelty of the scenes."


AUGUST 28, 1856--SEPTEMBER 16, 1858

Berlin.--Baron von Humboldt.--London, successful cable experiments with
Whitehouse and Bright.--Banquet at Albion Tavern.--Flattering speech of
W.F. Cooke.--Returns to America.--Troubles multiply.--Letter to the
Honorable John Y. Mason on political matters.--Kendall urges severing of
connection with cable company.--Morse, nevertheless, decides to
continue.--Appointed electrician of company.--Sails on U.S.S. Niagara.--
Letter from Paris on the crinoline.--Expedition sails from Liverpool.--
Queenstown harbor.--Accident to his leg.--Valencia.--Laying of cable
begun.--Anxieties.--Three successful days.--Cable breaks.--Failure.--
Returns to America.--Retires from cable enterprise.--Predicts in 1858
failure of apparently successful laying of cable.--Sidney E. Morse.--The
Hare and the Tortoise.--European testimonial: considered niggardly by
Kendall.--Decorations, medals, etc., from European nations.--Letter of
thanks to Count Walewski.

His good democratic eyes a trifle dazzled by all this imperial
magnificence, Morse left St. Petersburg and, with his party, journeyed to
Berlin. What was to him the most interesting incident of his visit to
that city is thus described:--

"_August 23._ To-day I went to Potsdam to see Baron Humboldt, and had a
delightful interview with this wonderful man. Although I had met with him
at the soirees of Baron Gerard, the distinguished painter, in Paris in
1822, and afterward at the Academy of Sciences, when my Telegraph was
exhibited to the assembled academicians in 1838, I took letters of
introduction to him from Baron Gerolt, the Prussian Minister. But they
were unnecessary, for the moment I entered his room, which is in the
Royal Palace, he called me by name and greeted me most kindly, saying, as
I presented my letters: 'Oh! sir, you need no letters, your name is a
sufficient introduction'; and so, seating myself, he rapidly touched upon
various topics relating to America."

On the margin of a photograph of himself, presented to Morse by the
baron, is an inscription in French of which the following is a

To Mr. S.F.B. Morse, whose philosophic and useful labors have rendered
his name illustrious in two worlds, the homage of the high and
affectionate esteem of Alexander Humboldt.

POTSDAM, August 1856.

The next thirty days were spent in showing the beauties of Cologne,
Aix-la-Chapelle, Brussels and Paris to his wife and niece, and in the
latter part of September the little party returned to London. Here Morse
resumed his experiments with Dr. Whitehouse and Mr. Bright, and on
October 3, he reports to Mr. Field:--

"As the electrician of the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph
Company, it is with the highest gratification that I have to apprise you
of the result of our experiments of this morning upon a single continuous
conductor of more than two thousand miles in extent, a distance, you will
perceive, sufficient to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland to

"The admirable arrangements made at the Magnetic Telegraph office in Old
Broad Street for connecting ten subterranean gutta-percha insulated
conductors of over two hundred miles each, so as to give one continuous
length of more than two thousand miles, during the hours of the night
when the Telegraph is not commercially employed, furnished us the means
of conclusively settling by actual experiment the question of the
practicability as well as the practicality of telegraphing through our
proposed Atlantic cable.... I am most happy to inform you that, as a
crowning result of a long series of experimental investigation and
inductive reasoning upon this subject, the experiments under the
direction of Dr. Whitehouse and Mr. Bright which I witnessed this
morning--in which the induction-coils and receiving-magnets, as modified
by these gentlemen, were made to actuate one of my recording instruments
--have most satisfactorily resolved all doubts of the practicability as
well as practicality of operating the Telegraph from Newfoundland to

In 1838, Morse had been curtly and almost insultingly refused a patent
for his invention in England, a humiliation for which he never quite
forgave the English. Now, eighteen years after this mortifying
experience, the most eminent scientists of this same England vied with
each other in doing him honor. Thus was his scientific fame vindicated,
but, let it be remarked parenthetically, this kind of honor was all that
he ever received from the land of his ancestors. While other nations of
Europe united, two years later, in granting him a pecuniary gratuity, and
while some of their sovereigns bestowed upon him decorations or medals,
England did neither. However, it was always a source of the keenest
gratification that two of those who had invented rival telegraphs proved
themselves broad-minded and liberal enough to acknowledge the superiority
of his system, and to urge its adoption by their respective Governments.
The first of these was Dr. Steinheil, of Munich, to whom I have already
referred, and to whom is due the valuable discovery that the earth can be
used as a return circuit. The second was the Englishman, W.F. Cooke, who,
with Wheatstone, devised the needle telegraph.

On October 9, a banquet was tendered to Morse by the telegraph companies
of England. It was given at the Albion Tavern. Mr. Cooke presided and
introduced the guest of the evening in the following charming speech:--

"I was consulted only a few months ago on the subject of a telegraph for
a country in which no telegraph at present exists. I recommended the
system of Professor Morse. I believe that system to be one of the
simplest in the world, and in that lies its permanency and certainty.
[Cheers.] There are others which may be as good in other circumstances,
but for a wide country I hesitate not to say Professor Morse's is the
best adapted. It is a great thing to say, and I do so after twenty years'
experience, that Professor Morse's system is one of the simplest that
ever has been and, I think, ever will be conceived. [Cheers.]

"It was a great thing for me, after having been so long connected with
the electric telegraph, to be invited to preside at this interesting
meeting, and I have travelled upward of one hundred miles in order to be
present to-day, having, when asked to preside, replied by electric
telegraph 'I will.' [Cheers.] But I may lower your idea of the sacrifice
I made in so doing when I tell you that I knew the talents of Professor
Morse, and was only too glad to accept an invitation to do honor to a man
I really honored in my heart. [Cheers.]

"I have been thinking during the last few days on what Professor Morse
has done. He stands alone in America as the originator and carrier out of
a grand conception. We know that America is an enormous country, and we
know the value of the telegraph, but I think we have a right to quarrel
with Professor Morse for not being content with giving the benefit of it
to his own country, but that he extended it to Canada and Newfoundland,
and, even beyond that, his system has been adopted all over Europe
[cheers]--and the nuisance is that we in England are obliged to
communicate by means of his system. [Cheers and laughter.]

"I as a director of an electric telegraph company, however, should be
ashamed of myself if I did not acknowledge what we owe him. But he
threatens to go further still, and promises that, if we do not, he will
carry out a communication between England and Newfoundland across the
Atlantic. I am nearly pledged to pay him a visit on the other side of the
Atlantic to see what he is about, and, if he perseveres in his obstinate
attempt to reach England, I believe I must join him in his endeavors.

"To think that he has united all the stripes and stars of America, which
are increasing day by day--and I hope they will increase until they are
too numerous to mention--that he has extended his system to Canada and is
about to unite those portions of the world to Europe, is a glorious thing
for any man; and, although I have done something in the same cause
myself, I confess I almost envy Professor Morse for having forced from an
unwilling rival a willing acknowledgment of his services. [Cheers.]

"I am proud to see Professor Morse this side of the water. I beg to give
you 'The health of Professor Morse,' and may he long live to enjoy the
high reputation he has attained throughout the world!"

Soon after this, with these flattering words still ringing in his ears,
he and his party sailed for New York and, once arrived at home, the truth
of the trite saying that "A prophet is not without honor save in his own
country" was soon to be brought to his attention. While he had been feted
and honored abroad, while he had every reason to believe that his
petition to the European governments for some pecuniary compensation
would, in time, be granted, he returned to be plunged anew into vexatious
litigation, intrigues and attacks upon his purse, his fame, and his good
name. On November 27, 1856, he refers to his greatest cross in a letter
to Mr. Kendall:--

"I have just returned from Boston, having accomplished the important duty
for which I alone went there, to wit, to say 'yes' before a gentleman
having U.S. Commissioner after his name, instead of 'yes' before one who
had only S. Commissioner after his name; and this at a cost of exactly
twenty dollars, or, if the one dollar thrown away in New York upon the S.
Commissioner be added, twenty-one dollars and three days of time, to say
nothing of sundry risks of accidents by land and water travel.

"Well, if it will lead to a thorough separation of all interests and all
intercourse with F.O.J., I shall not consider the time and money lost,
yet, in conversation with Mr. Curtis, I have little hope of a change in
Judge Curtis's views of the point in which he decides that Smith has an
inchoate right, and our only chance of success is in the reversal of that
decision by the Supreme Bench, and that after another year's suspense....

"I wish there was some way of stopping this harassing, paralyzing
litigation. I find my mind wholly unfit for the studies which the present
state of the Telegraph requires from me, being distracted and irritated
by the constant necessity for standing on the defensive. Smith will be
Smith I know, and, therefore, as he is the appointed thorn to keep a
proper ballast of humility in S.F.B.M. with his load of honors, why, be
it so, if I can only have the proper strength and disposition to use the
trial aright.... Write me some encouraging news if you can. How will the
present calm in political affairs affect our California matters?"

The calm to which he referred was the apparent one which had settled down
on the country after the election of Buchanan, and which, as everybody
knows, was but the calm before the storm of our Civil War. He has this to
say about the election in a letter to the Honorable John Y. Mason, our
Minister to France:--

"I may congratulate you, my dear Sir, on the issue of the late election.
My predictions have been verified. The country is quiet, and, as usual
after the excitement of an election, has settled down into orderly
acquiescence to the will of the majority, and into general good feeling.
Europeans can hardly understand this truly anomalous phase of our
American institutions; they do not understand that it is characteristic
that 'we speak daggers but use none'; that we fight with ballots and not
with bullets; that we have abundance of inkshed and little bloodshed, and
that all that is explosive is blown off through newspaper safety-valves."

The events of the next few years were destined to shatter the peaceful
visions of this lover of his country, for many daggers were drawn, the
bullets flew thick and fast, and the bloodshed was appalling.

It is difficult to follow the history of the telegraph, in its relation
to its inventor, through all the intricacies involved in the conflicting
interests of various companies and men in this its formative period.

Morse himself was often at a loss to determine on the course which he
should pursue, a course which would at the same time inure to his
financial benefit and be in accordance with his high sense of right.
Absolutely straightforward and honest himself, it was difficult for him
to believe that others who spoke him fair were not equally sincere, and
he was often imposed upon, and was frequently forced, in the exigencies
of Business, to be intimately associated with those whose ideas of right
and wrong were far different from his own. The one person in whose
absolute integrity he had faith was Amos Kendall, and yet he must
sometimes have thought that his friend was too severe in his judgment of
others, for I find in a letter of Mr. Kendall's of January 4, 1857, the
following warning:--

"I earnestly beseech you to give up all idea of going out again on the
cable-laying expedition. Your true friends do not comprehend how it is
that you give your time, your labor, and your fame to build up an
interest deliberately and unscrupulously hostile to all their interests
and your own.... I believe that Peter Cooper is the only man among them
who is sincerely your friend. As to Field, I have as little faith in him
as I have in F.O.J. Smith. If you could get Cooper to take a stand in
favor of the faithful observance of the contract for connection with the
N.E. Union Line at Boston, he can put an end to all trouble, if, at the
same time, he will refuse to concur in a further extension of their lines

In spite of this warning, or, perhaps, because Peter Cooper succeeded in
overcoming Mr. Kendall's objections, Morse did go out on the next
cable-laying expedition, and yet he found in the end that Mr. Kendall's
suspicions were by no means unjustified. But of this in its proper place.

The United States Government had placed the steam frigate Niagara at the
disposal of the cable company, and on her Morse, as the electrician of
the American Company, sailed from New York on April 21, 1857. Arriving in
London, he was again honored by many attentions and entertainments,
including a dinner at the Lord Mayor's. The loading of the cable on board
the ships designated for that purpose consumed, necessarily, some time,
and Morse took advantage of this delay to visit Paris, at the suggestion
of our Minister, Mr. Mason, in order to confer with the Premier, Count
Walewski, with regard to the pecuniary indemnity which all agreed was due
to him from the nations using his invention. This conference bore fruit,
as we shall see later on.

In a letter to his wife from Paris he makes this amusing comment on the
fashions of the day, after remarking on the dearth of female beauty in

"You must consider me now as speaking of features only, for as to form,
alas, that is under such a total crinoline eclipse that this season of
total darkness in fashion's firmament forbids any speculation on that
subject. The reign of crinoline amplitude is not only not removed, but is
more dominant than ever. Who could have predicted that, because an heir
to the French throne was in expectancy, all womankind, old and young,
would so far sympathize with the amiable consort of Napoleon III as to
be, in appearance at least, likely to flood the earth with heirs; that
grave parliaments would be in solemn debate upon the pressing necessity
of enlarging the entrances of royal palaces in order to meet the
exigencies of enlarged crinolines; that the new carriages were all of
increased dimensions to accommodate the crinoline? But so it is; it is
the age of crinoline.... Talk no longer of chairs, they are no longer
visible. Talk no longer of tete-a-tetes; two crinolines might get in
sight of each other, at least by the use of the lorgnette, but as for
conversation, that is out of the question except by speaking trumpets, by
signs, and who knows but in this age of telegraphs crinoline may not
follow the world's fashion and be a patroness of the Morse system."

All the preparations for the great enterprise of the laying of the cable
proceeded slowly, and it was not until the latter part of July that the
little fleet sailed from Liverpool on its way to the Cove of Cork and
then to Valencia, on the west coast of Ireland, which was chosen as the
European terminus of the cable. Morse wrote many pages of minute details
to his wife, and from them I shall select the most important and

"_July 28._ Here we are steaming our way towards Cork harbor, with most
beautiful weather, along the Irish coast, which is in full view, and
expecting to be in the Cove of Cork in the morning of to-morrow.... We
left Liverpool yesterday morning, as I wrote you we should, and as we
passed the ships of war in the harbor We were cheered from the rigging by
the tars of the various vessels, and the flags of others were dipped as a
salute, all of which were returned by us in kind. The landing stage and
quays of Liverpool were densely crowded with people who waved their
handkerchiefs as we slowly sailed by them.

"Two steamers accompanied us down to the bar filled with people, and
then, after mutual cheering and firing of cannon from one of the
steamers, they returned to port.... We shall be in Cork the remainder of
the week, possibly sailing on Saturday, go round to Valencia and be ready
to commence on Monday. Then, if all things are prosperous, we hope to
reach Newfoundland in twenty days, and dear home again the first week in
September. And yet there may be delays in this great work, for it is a
vast and new one, so don't be impatient if I do not return quite so soon.
The work must be thoroughly and well done before we leave it....

"_Evening, ten o'clock._ We have had a beautiful day and have been going
slowly along and expect to be in the Cove of Cork by daylight in the
morning. The deck of our ship presents a curious appearance just now;
Between the main and mizzen masts is an immense coil of one hundred and
thirty miles of the cable, the rest is in larger coils below decks. Abaft
the mizzen mast is a ponderous mass of machinery for regulating the
paying out of the cable, a steam-engine and boiler complete, and they
have just been testing it to see if all is right, and it is found right.
We have the prospect of a fine moon for our expedition.

"I send you the copy of a prayer that has been read in the churches. I am
rejoiced at the manner in which the Christian community views our
enterprise. It is calculated to inspire my confidence of success. What
the first message will be I cannot say, but if I send it it shall be,
'Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will to men.' 'Not
unto us, not unto us, but to Thy name be all the glory.'"

"_July 29, four o'clock afternoon._ On awaking this morning at five
o'clock with the noise of coming to anchor, I found myself safely
ensconced in one of the most beautiful harbors in the world, with
Queenstown picturesquely rising upon the green hills from the foot of the

"_August 1._ When I wrote the finishing sentence of my last letter I was
suffering a little from a slight accident to my leg. We were laying out
the cable from the two ships, the Agamemnon and Niagara, to connect the
two halves of the cable together to experiment through the whole length
of twenty-five hundred miles for the first time. In going down the side
of the Agamemnon I had to cross over several small boats to reach the
outer one, which was to take me on board the tug which had the connecting
cable on board. In stepping from one to the other of the small boats, the
water being very rough and the boats having a good deal of motion, I made
a misstep, my right leg being on board the outer boat, and my left leg
went down between the two boats scraping the skin from the upper part of
the leg near the knee for some two or three inches. It pained me a
little, but not much, still I knew from experience that, however slight
and comparatively painless at the time, I should be laid up the next day
and possibly for several days.

"My warm-hearted, generous friend, Sir William O'Shaughnessy, was on
board, and, being a surgeon, he at once took it in hand and dressed it,
tell Susan, in good hydropathic style with cold water. I felt so little
inconvenience from it at the time that I assisted throughout the day in
laying the cable, and operating through it after it was joined, and had
the satisfaction of witnessing the successful result of passing the
electricity through twenty-five hundred miles at the rate of one signal
in one and a quarter second. Since then Dr. Whitehouse has succeeded in
telegraphing a message through it at the rate of a single signal in three
quarters of a second. If the cable, therefore, is successfully laid so as
to preserve continuity throughout, there is no doubt of our being able to
telegraph through, and at a good commercial speed.

"I have been on my back for two days and am still confined to the ship.
To-morrow I hope to be well enough to hobble on board the Agamemnon and
assist in some experiments."

The accident to his leg was more serious than he at first imagined, and
conditions were not improved by his using his leg more than was prudent.

"_August 3, eleven o'clock A.M._ I am still confined, most of the time on
my back in my berth, quite to my annoyance in one respect, to wit, that I
am unable to be on board the Agamemnon with Dr. Whitehouse to assist at
the experiments. Yet I have so much to be thankful for that gratitude is
the prevailing feeling.

"_Seven o'clock._ All the ships are under way from the Cove of Cork. The
Leopard left first, then the Agamemnon, then the Susquehanna and the
Niagara last; and at this moment we are off the Head of Kinsale in the
following order: Niagara, Leopard, Agamemnon, Susquehanna. The Cyclops
and another vessel, the Advice, left for Valencia on Saturday evening,
and, with a beautiful night before us, we hope to be there also by noon

"This day three hundred and sixty-five years ago Columbus sailed on his
first voyage of discovery and discovered America."

"_August 4._ Off the Skelligs light, of which I send you a sketch. A
beautiful morning with head wind and heavy sea, making many seasick. We
are about fifteen miles from our point of destination. Our companion
ships are out of sight astern, except the Susquehanna, which is behind us
only about a mile. In a few hours we hope to reach our expectant friends
in Valencia and to commence the great work in earnest.

"Our ship is crowded with engineers, and operators, and delegates from
the Governments of Russia and France, and the deck is a bewildering mass
of machinery, steam-engines, cog-wheels, breaks, boilers, ropes of hemp
and ropes of wire, buoys and boys, pulleys and sheaves of wood and iron,
cylinders of wood and cylinders of iron, meters of all kinds,--
anemometers, thermometers, barometers, electrometers,--steam-gauges,
ships' logs--from the common log to Massey's log and Friend's log, to our
friend Whitehouse's electro-magnetic log, which I think will prove to be
the best of all, with a modification I have suggested. Thus freighted we
expect to disgorge most of our solid cargo before reaching mid-ocean.

"I am keeping ready to close this at a moment's warning, so give all
manner of love to all friends, kisses to whom kisses are due. I am
getting almost impatient at the delays we necessarily encounter, but our
great work must not be neglected. I have seen enough to know now that the
Atlantic Telegraph is sure to be established, _for it is practicable_."

Was it a foreboding of what was to happen that caused him to add:--

"_We may not succeed in our first attempt_; some little neglect or
accident may foil our present efforts, but the present enterprise will
result in gathering stores of experience which will make the next effort
certain. Not that I do not expect success now, but accidental failure now
will not be the evidence of its impracticability.

"Our principal electrical difficulty is the slowness with which we must
manipulate in order to be intelligible; twenty words in sixteen minutes
is now the rate. I am confident we can get more after awhile, but the
Atlantic Telegraph has its own rate of talking and cannot be urged to
speak faster, any more than any other orator, without danger of becoming

"_Three o'clock P.M._ We are in Valencia Harbor. We shall soon come to
anchor. A pilot who has just come to show us our anchorage ground says:
'There are a power of people ashore.'"

"_August 8._ Yesterday, at half past six P.M., all being right, we
commenced again paying out the heavy shore-end, of which we had about
eight miles to be left on the rocky bottom of the coast, to bear the
attrition of the waves and to prevent injury to the delicate nerve which
it incloses in its iron mail, and which is the living principle of the
whole work. A critical time was approaching, it was when the end of the
massive cable should pass overboard at the point where it joins the main
and smaller cable. I was in my berth, by order of the surgeon, lest my
injured limb, which was somewhat inflamed by the excitement of the day
and too much walking about, should become worse.

"Above my head the heavy rumbling of the great wheels, over which the
cable was passing and was being regulated, every now and then giving a
tremendous thump like the discharge of artillery, kept me from sleep, and
I knew they were approaching the critical point. Presently it came. The
machinery stopped, and soon amid the voices I heard the unwelcome
intelligence--'The cable is broke.' Sure enough the smaller cable at this
point had parted, but, owing to the prudent precautions of those
superintending, the end of the great cable had been buoyed and the
hawsers which had been attached secured it. The sea was moderate, the
moonlight gave a clear sight of all, and in half an hour the joyous sound
of 'All right' was heard, the machinery commenced a low and regular
rumbling, like the purring of a great cat, which has continued from that
moment (midnight) till the present moment uninterrupted.

"The coil on deck is most beautifully uncoiling at the rate of three
nautical miles an hour. The day is magnificent, the land has almost
disappeared and our companion ships are leisurely sailing with us at
equal pace, and we are all, of course, in fine spirits. I sent you a
telegraph dispatch this morning, thirty miles out, which you will duly
receive with others that I shall send if all continues to go on without
interruption. If you do receive any, preserve them with the greatest
care, for they will be great curiosities."

"_August 10._ Thus far we have had most delightful weather, and
everything goes on regularly and satisfactorily. You are aware we cannot
stop night nor day in paying out. On Saturday we made our calculations
that the first great coil, which is upon the main deck, would be
completely paid out, and one of our critical movements, to wit, the
change from this coil to the next, which is far forward, would be made by
seven or eight o'clock yesterday morning (Sunday). So we were up and
watching the last flake of the first coil gradually diminishing.
Everything had been well prepared; the men were at their posts; it was an
anxious moment lest a kink might occur. But, as the last round came up,
the motion of the ship was slightly slackened, the men handled the slack
cable handsomely, and in two minutes the change was made with perfect
order, and the paying out from the second coil was as regularly commenced
and at this moment continues, and at an increased rate to-day of five
miles per hour.

"Last night, however, was another critical moment. On examining our chart
of soundings we found the depth of the ocean gradually increasing up to
about four hundred fathoms, and then the chart showed a sudden and great
increase to seventeen hundred fathoms, and then a further increase to two
thousand and fifty, nearly the greatest depth with which we should meet
in the whole distance. We had, therefore, to watch the effect of this
additional depth upon the straining of the cable. At two in the morning
the effect showed itself in a greater strain and a more rapid tendency to
run fast. We could check its speed, but it is a dangerous process. _Too
sudden a check would inevitably snap the cable_. Too slack a rein would
allow of its egress at such a wasting rate and at such a violent speed
that we should lose too great a portion of the cable, and its future
stopping within controllable limits be almost impossible. Hence our
anxiety. All were on the alert; our expert engineers applied the brakes
most judiciously, and at the moment I write--latitude 52 deg. 28'--the cable
is being laid at the depth of two miles in its ocean bed as regularly and
with as much facility as it was in the depth of a few fathoms....

"_Six P.M._ We have just had a fearful alarm. 'Stop her! Stop her!' was
reiterated from many voices on deck. On going up I perceived the cable
had got out of its sheaves and was running out at great speed. All was
confusion for a few moments. Mr. Canning, our friend, who was the
engineer of the Newfoundland cable, showed great presence of mind, and to
his coolness and skill, I think, is due the remedying of the evil. By
rope stoppers the cable was at length brought to a standstill, and it
strained most ominously, perspiring at every part great tar drops. But it
held together long enough to put the cable on the sheaves again."

"_Tuesday, August 11._ Abruptly indeed am I stopped in my letter. This
morning at 3.45 the cable parted, and we shall soon be on our way back to

Thus ended the first attempt to unite the Old World with the New by means
of an electric nerve. Authorities differ as to who was responsible for
the disaster, but the cause was proved to be what Morse had foreseen when
he wrote: "Too sudden a check would inevitably snap the cable."

While, of course, disappointed, he was not discouraged, for under date of
August 13, he writes:--

"Our accident will delay the enterprise but will not defeat it. I
consider it a settled fact, from all I have seen, that it is perfectly
practicable. It will surely be accomplished. There is no insurmountable
difficulty that has for a moment appeared, none that has shaken my faith
in it in the slightest degree. My report to the company as co-electrician
will show everything right in that department. We got an electric current
through till the moment of parting, so that electric connection was
perfect, and yet the farther we paid out the feebler were the currents,
indicating a difficulty which, however, I do not consider serious, while
it is of a nature to require attentive investigation."

"_Plymouth, August 17._ Here I am still held by the leg and lying in my
berth from which I have not moved for six days. I suffer but little pain
unless I attempt to sit up, and the healing process is going on most
favorably but slowly.... I have been here three days and have not yet had
a glimpse of the beautiful country that surrounds us, and if we should be
ordered to another port before I can be out I shall have as good an idea
of Plymouth as I should have at home looking at a map."

While the wounded leg healed slowly, the plans of the company moved more
deliberately still. A movement was on foot for the East India Company to
purchase what remained of the cable for use in the Red Sea or the Persian
Gulf, so that the Atlantic Company could start afresh with an entirely
new cable, and Morse hoped that this plan might be consummated at an
early date so that he could return to America in the Niagara; but the
negotiations halted from day to day and week to week. The burden of his
letters to his wife is always that a decision is promised by "to-morrow,"
and finally he says in desperation: "To-day was to-morrow yesterday, but
to-day has to-day another to-morrow, on which day, as usual, we are to
know something. But as to-day has not yet gone, I wait with some anxiety
to learn what it is to bring forth."

His letters are filled with affectionate longing to be at home again and
with loving messages to all his dear ones, and at last he is able to say
that his wound has completely healed, and that he has decided to leave
the Niagara and sail from Liverpool on the Arabia, on September 19, and
in due time he arrived at his beloved home on the Hudson.

While still intensely interested in the great cable enterprise, he begins
to question the advisability of continuing his connection with the men
against whom Mr. Kendall had warned him, for in a letter to his brother
Richard, of October 15, 1857, he says: "I intend to withdraw altogether
from the Atlantic Telegraph enterprise, as they who are prominent on this
side of the water in its interests are using it with all then: efforts
and influence against my invention, and my interests, and those of my
assignees, to whom I feel bound in honor to attach myself, even if some
of them have been deceived into coalition with the hostile party."

It was, however, a great disappointment to him that he was not connected
with future attempts to lay the cable. His withdrawal was not altogether
voluntary in spite of what he said in the letter from which I have just
quoted. While he had been made an Honorary Director of the company in
1857, although not a stockholder, a law was subsequently passed declaring
that only stockholders could be directors, even honorary directors. He
had not felt financially able to purchase stock, but it was a source of
astonishment to him and to others that a few shares, at least, had not
been allotted to him for his valuable services in connection with the
enterprise. He had, nevertheless, cheerfully given of his time and
talents in the first attempt, although cautioned by Mr. Kendall.

He goes fully into the whole matter in a very long letter to Mr. John W.
Brett, of December 27, 1858, in which he details his connection with the
cable company, his regret and surprise at being excluded on the ground of
his not being a stockholder, especially as, on a subsequent visit to
Europe, he found that two other men had been made honorary directors,
although they were not stockholders. He says that he learned also that
"Mr. Field had represented to the Directors that I was hostile to the
company, and was using my exertions to defeat the measures for aid from
the United States Government to the enterprise, and that it was in
consequence of these misrepresentations that I was not elected."

He says farther on: "I sincerely rejoiced in the consummation of the
great enterprise, although prevented in the way I have shown from being
present. I ought to have been with the cable squadron last summer. It was
no fault of mine, that I was not there. I hope Mr. Field can exculpate
himself in the eyes of the Board, before the world, and before his own
conscience, in the course he has taken."

On the margin of the letter-press copy of a letter Written to Mr. Kendall
on December 22, 1859, is a note in pencil written, evidently, at a later
date: "Mr. Field has since manifested by his conduct a different temper.
I have long since forgiven what, after all, may have been error of
ignorance on his part."

The fact remains, however, that his connection with the cable company was
severed, and that his relations with Messrs. Field, Cooper, etc., were
decidedly strained. It is more than possible that, had he continued as
electrician of the company, the second attempt might have been
successful, for he foresaw the difficulty which resulted in failure, and,
had he been the guiding mind, it would, naturally, have been avoided. The
proof of this is in the following incident, which was related by a friend
of his, Mr. Jacob S. Jewett, to Mr. Prime:--

"I thought it might interest you to know when and how Professor Morse
received the first tidings of the success of the Atlantic Cable. I
accompanied him to Europe on the steamer Fulton, which sailed from New
York July 24, 1858. We were nearing Southampton when a sail boat was
noticed approaching, and soon our vessel was boarded by a young man who
sought an interview with Professor Morse, and announced to him that a
message from America had just been received, the first that had passed
along the wire lying upon the bed of the ocean.

"Professor Morse was, of course, greatly delighted, but, turning to me,
said: '_This is very gratifying, but it is doubtful whether many more
messages will be received_'; and gave as his reason that--'the cable had
been so long stored in an improper place that much of the coating had
been destroyed, and the cable was in other respects injured.' His
prediction proved to be true."

And Mr. Prime adds: "Had he been in the board of direction, had his
judgment and experience as electrician been employed, that great
calamity, which cost millions of money and eight years of delay in the
use of the ocean telegraph, would, in all human probability, have been

But it is idle to speculate on what might have been. His letters show
that the action of the directors amazed and hurt him, and that it was
with deep regret that he ceased to take an active part in the great
enterprise the success of which he had been the first to prophesy.

Many other matters claimed his attention at this time, for, as usual upon
returning from a prolonged absence, he found his affairs in more or less
confusion, and his time for some months after his return was spent mainly
in straightening them out. The winter was spent in New York with his
family, but business calling him to Washington, he gives utterance, in a
letter to his wife of December 16, to sentiments which will appeal to all
who have had to do with the powers that be in the Government service:--

"As yet I have not had the least success in getting a proper position for
Charles. A more thankless, repulsive business than asking for a situation
under Government I cannot conceive. I would myself starve rather than ask
such a favor if I were alone concerned. The modes of obtaining even a
hearing are such as to drive a man of any sensitiveness to wish himself
in the depths of the forest away from the vicinity of men, rather than
encounter the airs of those on their temporary thrones of power. I cannot
say what I feel. I shall do all I can, but anticipate no success.... I
called to see Secretary Toucey for the purpose of asking him to put me in
the way of finding some place for Charles, but, after sending in my card
and waiting in the anteroom for half to three fourths of an hour, he took
no notice of my card, just left his room, passed by deliberately the open
door of the anteroom without speaking to me, and left the building. This
may be all explained and I will charitably hope there was no intention of
rudeness to me, but, unexplained, a ruder slight could not well be

The affection of the three Morse brothers for each other was unusually
strong, and it is from the unreserved correspondence between Finley and
Sidney that some of the most interesting material for this work has been
gathered. Both of these brothers possessed a keen sense of humor and
delighted in playful banter. The following is written in pencil on an odd
scrap of paper and has no date:--

"When my brother and I were children my father one day took us each on
his knee and said: 'Now I am going to tell you the character of each of
you.' He then told us the fable of the Hare and the Tortoise. 'Now,' said
he, 'Finley' (that is me), 'you are the Hare and Sidney, your brother, is
the Tortoise. See if I am not correct in prophesying your future
careers.' So ever since it has been a topic of banter between Sidney and
me. Sometimes Sidney seemed to be more prosperous than I; then he would
say, 'The old tortoise is ahead.' Then I would take a vigorous run and
cry out to him,' The hare is ahead.' For I am naturally quick and
impulsive, and he sluggish and phlegmatic. So I am now going to give him
the Hare riding the Tortoise as a piece of fun. Sidney will say: 'Ah! you
see the Hare is obliged to ride on the Tortoise in order to get to the
goal!' But I shall say: 'Yes, but the Tortoise could not get there unless
the Hare spurred him up and guided him.'"

Both of these brothers achieved success, but, unfortunately for the moral
of the old fable, the hare quite outdistanced the tortoise, without,
however, kindling any spark of jealousy in that faithful heart.

While Sidney was still in Europe his brother writes to him on December
29, 1857:--

"I don't know what you must think of me for not having written to you
since my return. It has not been for want of will but truly from the
impossibility of withdrawing myself from an unprecedented pressure of
more important duties, on which to _write_ so that you could form any
clear idea of them would be impossible. These duties arise from the state
of my affairs thrown into confusion by the conduct of parties intent on
controlling all my property. But, I am happy to state, my affairs are in
a way of adjustment through the active exertions of my faithful agent and
friend, Mr. Kendall, so far as his declining strength permits.... I wish
you were near me so that we could exchange views on many subjects,
particularly on the one which so largely occupies public attention
everywhere. I have been collecting works pro and con on the Slavery
question with a view of writing upon it. We are in perfect accord, I
think, on that subject. I believe that you and I would be considered in
New England as rank heretics, for, I confess, the more I study the
subject the more I feel compelled to declare myself on the Southern side
of the question.

"I care not for the judgment of men, however; I feel on sure ground while
standing on Bible doctrine, and I have arrived at the conclusion that a
fearful hallucination, not less absurd than that which beclouded some of
the most pious and otherwise intelligent minds of the days of Salem
witchcraft, has for a time darkened the moral atmosphere of the North."

The event has seemed to prove that it was the Southern sympathizers at
the North, those "most pious and otherwise intelligent minds," whose
moral atmosphere was darkened by a "fearful hallucination," for no one
now claims that slavery is a divine institution because the Bible says,
"Slaves, obey your masters."

I have stated that one of the purposes of Morse's visit to Europe in 1856
was to seek to persuade the various Governments which were using his
telegraph to grant him some pecuniary remuneration. The idea was received
favorably at the different courts, and resulted in a concerted movement
initiated by the Count Walewski, representing France, and participated in
by ten of the European nations. The sittings of this convention, or
congress, were held in Paris from April, 1868, to the latter part of
August, and the result is announced in a letter of Count Walewski to
Morse of September 1:--

SIR,--It is with lively satisfaction that I have the honor to announce to
you that a sum of four hundred thousand francs will be remitted to you,
in four annuities, in the name of France, of Austria, of Belgium, of the
Netherlands, of Piedmont, of Russia, of the Holy See, of Sweden, of
Tuscany and of Turkey, as an honorary gratuity, and as a reward,
altogether personal, of your useful labors. Nothing can better mark than
this collective act of reward the sentiment of public gratitude which
your invention has so justly excited.

The Emperor has already given you a testimonial of his high esteem when
he conferred upon you, more than a year ago, the decoration of a
Chevalier of his order of the Legion of Honor. You will find a new mark
of it in the initiative which his Majesty wished that his government
should take in this conjuncture; and the decision that I charge myself to
bring to your knowledge is a brilliant proof of the eager and sympathetic
adhesion that his proposition has met with from the States I have just

I pray you to accept on this occasion, sir, my personal congratulations,
as well as the assurance of my sentiments of the most distinguished

While this letter is dated September 1, the amount of the gratuity agreed
upon seems to have been made known soon after the first meeting of the
convention, for on April 29, the following letter was written to Morse by
M. van den Broek, his agent in all the preliminaries leading up to the
convention, and who, by the way, was to receive as his commission one
third of the amount of the award, whatever it might be: "I have this
morning seen the secretary of the Minister, and from him learned that the
sum definitely fixed is 400,000 francs, payable in four years. This does
not by any means answer our expectations, and I am afraid you will be
much disappointed, yet I used every exertion in my power, but without
avail, to procure a grant of a larger sum."

It certainly was a pitiful return for the millions of dollars which
Morse's invention had saved or earned for those nations which used it as
a government monopoly, and while I find no note of complaint in his own
letters, his friends were more outspoken. Mr. Kendall, in a letter of May
18, exclaims: "I know not how to express my contempt of the meanness of
the European Governments in the award they propose to make you as _the_
inventor of the Telegraph. I had set the sum at half a million dollars as
the least that they could feel to be at all compatible with their
dignity. I hope you will acknowledge it more as a tribute to the merits
of your invention than as an adequate reward for it."

And in a letter of June 5, answering one of Morse's which must have
contained some expressions of gratitude, Mr. Kendall says further: "In
reference to the second subject of your letter, I have to say that it is
only as a tribute to the superiority of your invention that the European
grant can, in my opinion, be considered either 'generous' or
'magnanimous.' As an indemnity it is niggardly and mean."

It will be in place to record here the testimonials of the different
nations of Europe to the Inventor of the Telegraph, manifested in various

_France._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity, and the decoration of
the Legion of Honor.

_Prussia._ The Scientific Gold Medal of Prussia set in the lid of a gold

_Austria._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity, and the Scientific
Gold Medal of Austria.

_Russia._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity.

_Spain._ The cross of Knight Commander de Numero of the order of Isabella
the Catholic.

_Portugal._ The cross of a Knight of the Tower and Sword.

_Italy._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity, and the cross of a
Knight of Saints Lazaro and Mauritio.

_Wuerttemberg._ The Scientific Gold Medal of Wuerttemberg.

_Turkey._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity, and the decoration in
diamonds of the Nishan Iftichar, or Order of Glory.

_Denmark._ The cross of Knight Commander of the Dannebrog.

_Holy See._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity.

_Belgium._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity.

_Holland._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity.

_Sweden._ A contributor to the honorary gratuity.

_Great Britain._ Nationally nothing.

_Switzerland._ Nationally nothing.

_Saxony._ Nationally nothing.

The decorations and medals enumerated above, with the exception of the
Danish cross, which had to be returned at the death of the recipient, and
one of the medals, which mysteriously disappeared many years ago, are now
in the Morse case at the National Museum in Washington, having been
presented to that institution by the children and grandchildren of the
inventor. It should be added that, in addition to the honors bestowed on
him by foreign governments, he was made a member of the Royal Academy of
Sciences of Sweden, a member of the Institute of France and of the
principal scientific societies of the United States. It has been already
noted in these pages that his _alma mater_, Yale, conferred on him the
degree of LL.D.

I have said that I find no note of complaint in Morse's letters. Whatever
his feelings of disappointment may have been, he felt it his duty to send
the following letter to Count Walewski on September 15, 1858. Perhaps a
slight note of irony may be read into the sentence accepting the
gratuity, but, if intended, I fear it was too feeble to have reached its
mark, and the letter is, as a whole and under the circumstances, almost
too fulsome, conforming, however, to the stilted style of the time:--

On my return to Paris from Switzerland I have this day received, from the
Minister of the United States, the most gratifying information which Your
Excellency did me the honor to send to me through him, respecting the
decision of the congress of the distinguished diplomatic representatives
of ten of the August governments of Europe, held in special reference to

You have had the considerate kindness to communicate to me a proceeding
which reflects the highest honor upon the Imperial Government and its
noble associates, and I am at a loss for language adequately to express
to them my feelings of profound gratitude.

But especially, Your Excellency, do I want words to express towards the
august head of the Imperial Government, and to Your Excellency, the
thankful sentiments of my heart for the part so prominently taken by His
Imperial Majesty, and by Your Excellency, in so generously initiating
this measure for my honor in inviting the governments of Europe to a
conference on the subject, and for so zealously and warmly advocating and
perseveringly conducting to a successful termination, the measure in
which the Imperial Government so magnanimously took the initiative.

I accept the gratuity thus tendered, on the basis of an honorary
testimonial and a personal reward, with tenfold more gratification than
could have been produced by a sum of money, however large, offered on the
basis of a commercial negotiation.

I beg Your Excellency to receive my thanks, however inadequately
expressed, and to believe that I appreciate Your Excellency's kind and
generous services performed in the midst of your high official duties,
consummating a proceeding so unique, and in a manner so graceful, that
personal kindness has been beautifully blended with official dignity.

I will address respectively to the honorable ministers who were Your
Excellency's colleagues a letter of thanks for their participation in
this act of high honor to me.

I beg Your Excellency to accept the assurances of my lasting gratitude
and highest consideration in subscribing myself

Your Excellency's most obedient humble servant,


SEPTEMBER 3, 1858--SEPTEMBER 21, 1863

Visits Europe again with a large family party.--Regrets this.--Sails for
Porto Rico with wife and two children.--First impressions of the
tropics.--Hospitalities.--His son-in-law's plantation.--Death of Alfred
Vail.--Smithsonian exonerates Henry.--European honors to Morse.--First
line of telegraph in Porto Rico.--Banquet.--Returns home.--Reception at
Poughkeepsie.--Refuses to become candidate for the Presidency.--Purchases
New York house.--F.O.J. Smith claims part of European gratuity.--Succeeds
through legal technicality.--Visit of Prince of Wales.--Duke of
Newcastle.--War clouds.--Letters on slavery, etc.--Matthew Vassar.--
Efforts as peacemaker.--Foresees Northern victory.--Gloomy forebodings.--
Monument to his father.--Divides part of European gratuity with widow of
Vail.--Continued efforts in behalf of peace.--Bible arguments in favor of

Many letters of this period, including a whole letterpress copy-book, are
missing, many of the letters in other copy-books are quite illegible
through the fading of the ink, and others have been torn out (by whom I
do not know) and have entirely disappeared. It will, therefore, be
necessary to summarize the events of the remainder of the year 1858, and
of some of the following years.

We find that, on July 24, 1858, Morse sailed with his family, including
his three young boys, his mother-in-law and other relatives, a party of
fifteen all told, for Havre on the steamer Fulton; that he was tendered a
banquet by his fellow-countrymen in Paris, and that he was received with
honor wherever he went. Travelling with a large family was a different
proposition from the independence which he had enjoyed on his previous
visits to Europe, when he was either alone or accompanied only by his
wife and niece, and he pathetically remarks to his brother Sidney, in a
letter of September 3, written from Interlaken: "It was a great mistake I
committed in bringing my family. I have scarcely had one moment's
pleasure, and am almost worn out with anxieties and cares. If I get back
safe with them to Paris I hope, after arranging my affairs there, to go
as direct as possible to Southampton, and settle them there till I sail
in November. I am tired of travelling and long for the repose of Locust
Grove, if it shall please our Heavenly Father to permit us to meet there


Before returning to the quiet of his home on the Hudson, however, he paid
a visit which he had long had in contemplation. On November 17, 1858, he
and his wife and their two younger sons sailed from Southampton for Porto
Rico, where his elder daughter, Mrs. Edward land, had for many years
lived, and where his younger daughter had been visiting while he was in
Europe. He describes his first impressions of a tropical country in a
letter to his mother-in-law, Mrs. Griswold, who had decided to spend the
winter in Geneva to superintend the education of his son Arthur, a lad of

"In St. Thomas we received every possible attention. The Governor called
on us and invited Edward and myself to breakfast (at 10.30 o'clock) the
day we left. He lives in a fine mansion on one of the lesser hills that
enclose the harbor, having directly beneath him on the slope, and only
separated by a wall, the residence of Santa Anna. He was invited to be
present, but he was ill (so he said) and excused himself. I presume his
illness was occasioned by the thought of meeting an American from the
States, for he holds the citizens of the States in perfect hatred, so
much so as to refuse to receive United States money in change from his
servants on their return from market.

"A few days in change of latitude make wonderful changes in feelings and
clothing. When we left England the air was wintry, and thick woolen
clothing and fires were necessary. The first night at sea blankets were
in great demand. With two extra and my great-coat over all I was
comfortably warm. In twenty-four hours the great-coat was dispensed with,
then one blanket, then another, until a sheet alone began to be enough,
and the last two or three nights on board this slight covering was too
much. When we got into the harbor of St. Thomas the temperature was
oppressive; our slightest summer clothing was in demand. Surrounded by
pomegranate trees, magnificent oleanders, cocoa-nut trees with their
large fruit some thirty feet from the ground, the aloe and innumerable,
and to me strange, tropical plants, I could scarcely believe it was

"We arrived on Thursday morning and remained until Monday morning, Edward
having engaged a Long Island schooner, which happened to be in port, to
take us to Arroyo. At four o'clock the Governor sent his official barge,
under the charge of the captain of the port, a most excellent,
intelligent, scientific gentleman, who had breakfasted with us at the
Governor's in the morning, and in a few minutes we were rowed alongside
of the schooner Estelle, and before dark were under way and out of the
harbor. Our quarters were very small and close, but not so uncomfortable.

"At daylight in the morning of Tuesday we were sailing along the shores
of Porto Rico, and at sunrise we found we were in sight of Guyama and
Arroyo, and with our glasses we saw at a distance the buildings on
Edward's estate. Susan had been advised of our coming and a flag was
flying on the house in answer to the signal we made from the vessel. In
two or three hours we got to the shore, as near as was safe for the
vessel, and then in the doctor's boat, which had paid us an official
visit to see that we did not bring yellow fever or other infectious
disease, the kind doctor, an Irishman educated in America, took us ashore
at a little temporary landing-place to avoid the surf. On the shore there
were some handkerchiefs shaking, and in a crowd we saw Susan and Leila,
and Charlie [his grandson] who were waiting for us in carriages, and in a
few moments we embraced them all. The sun was hot upon us, but, after a
ride of two or three miles, we came to the Henrietta, my dear Edward and
Susan's residence, and were soon under the roof of a spacious, elegant
and most commodious mansion. And here we are with midsummer temperature
and vegetation, but a tropical vegetation, all around us.

"Well, we always knew that Edward was a prince of a man, but we did not
know, or rather appreciate, that he has a princely estate and in as fine
order as any in the island. When I say 'fine order,' I do not mean that
it is laid out like the Bois de Boulogne, nor is there quite as much
picturesqueness in a level plain of sugar canes as in the trees and
shrubbery of the gardens of Versailles; but it is a rich and
well-cultivated estate of some fourteen hundred acres, gradually rising
for two or three miles from the sea-shore to the mountains, including
some of them, and stretching into the valleys between them."

His visit to Porto Rico was a most delightful one to him in many ways,
and I shall have more to say of it further on, but I digress for a moment
to speak of two events which occurred just at this time, and which showed
him that, even in this land of _dolce far niente_, he could not escape
the griefs and cares which are common to all mankind.

Mr. Kendall, in a letter of February 20, announces the death of one of
his early associates: "I presume you will have heard before this reaches
you of the death of Alfred Vail. He had sold most of his telegraph stocks
and told me when I last saw him that it was with difficulty he could
procure the means of comfort for his family."

Morse had heard of this melancholy event, for, in a letter to Mr.
Shaffner of February 22, he says: "Poor Vail! alas, he is gone. I only
heard of the event on Saturday last. This death, and the death of many
friends besides, has made me feel sad. Vail ought to have a proper
notice. He was an upright man, and, although some ways of his made him
unpopular with those with whom he came in contact, yet I believe his
intentions were good, and his faults were the result more of ill-health,
a dyspeptic habit, than of his heart."

He refers to this also in a letter to his brother Sidney of February 23:
"Poor Vail is gone. He was the innocent cause of the original difficulty
with the sensitive Henry, he all the time earnestly desirous of doing him

And on March 30, he answers Mr. Kendall's letter: "I regret to learn that
poor Vail was so straitened in his circumstances at his death. I intend
paying a visit to his father and family on my return. I may be able to
relieve them in some degree."

This intention he fulfilled, as we shall see later on, and I wish to call
special attention to the tone of these letters because, as I have said
before, Morse has been accused of gross ingratitude and injustice towards
Alfred Vail, whereas a careful and impartial study of all the
circumstances of their connection proves quite the contrary. Vail's
advocates, in loudly claiming for him much more than the evidence shows
he was entitled to, have not hesitated to employ gross personal abuse of
Morse in their newspaper articles, letters, etc., even down to the
present day. This has made my task rather difficult, for, while earnestly
desirous of giving every possible credit to Vail, I have been compelled
to introduce much evidence, which I should have preferred to omit, to
show the essential weakness of his character; he seems to have been
foredoomed to failure. He undoubtedly was of great assistance in the
early stages of the invention, and for this Morse always cheerfully gave
him full credit, but I have proved that he did not invent the
dot-and-dash alphabet, which has been so insistently claimed for him,
and that his services as a mechanician were soon dispensed with in favor
of more skilful men. I have also shown that he practically left Morse to
his fate in the darkest years of the struggle to bring the telegraph into
public use, and that, by his morbid suspicions, he hampered the efforts
of Mr. Kendall to harmonize conflicting interests. For all this Morse
never bore him any ill-will, but endeavored in every way to foster and
safeguard his interests. That he did not succeed was no fault of his.

Another reminder that he was but human, and that he could not expect to
sail serenely along on the calm, seas of popular favor without an
occasional squall, was given to him just at this time. Professor Joseph
Henry had requested the Regents of the Smithsonian Institute to enquire
into the rights and wrongs of the controversy between himself and Morse,
which had its origin in Henry's testimony in the telegraph suits, tinged
as this testimony was with bitterness on account of the omissions in
Vail's book, and which was fanned into a flame by Morse's "Defense." The
latter resented the fact that all these proceedings had taken place while
he was out of the country, and without giving him an opportunity to
present his side of the case. However, he shows his willingness to do
what is right in the letter to Colonel Shaffner of February 22, from
which I have already quoted:--

"Well, it has taken him four years to fire off his gun, and perhaps I am
killed. When I return I shall examine my wounds and see if they are
mortal, and, if so, shall endeavor to die becomingly. Seriously, however,
if there are any new facts which go to exculpate Henry for his attack
upon me before the courts at a moment when I was struggling against those
who, from whatever motive, wished to deprive me of my rights, and even of
my character, I shall be most happy to learn them, and, if I have
unwittingly done him injustice, shall also be most happy to make proper
amends. But as all this is for the future, as I know of no facts which
alter the case, and as I am wholly unconscious of having done any
injustice, I must wait to see what he has put forth."

In a letter to his brother Sidney, of February 23, he philosophizes as

"I cannot avoid noticing a singular coincidence of events in my
experience of life, especially in that part of it devoted to the
invention of the Telegraph, to wit, that, when any special and marked
honor has been conferred upon me, there has immediately succeeded some
event of the envious or sordid character seemingly as a set-off, the
tendency of which has been invariably to prevent any excess of exultation
on my part. Can this be accident? Is it not rather the wise ordering of
events by infinite wisdom and goodness to draw me away from repose in
earthly honor to the more substantial and enduring honor that comes only
from God? ... I pray for wisdom to direct in such trials, and in any
answer I may find it necessary to give to Henry or others, I desire most
of all to be mindful of that charity which 'suffereth long, which
vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, hopeth all things, thinketh no

This check to self-laudation came at an appropriate moment, as he said,
for just at this time honors were being plentifully showered upon him. It
was then that he was first notified of the bestowal of the Spanish
decoration, and of the probability of Portugal's following suit. Perhaps
even more gratifying still was his election as a member of the Royal
Academy of Sciences of Sweden, for this was a recognition of his merits
as a scientist, and not as a mere promoter, as he had been contemptuously
called. On the Island of Porto Rico too he was being honored and feted.
On March 2, he writes:--

"I have just completed with success the construction and organization of
the short telegraph line, the first on this island, initiating the great
enterprise of the Southern Telegraph route to Europe from our shores, so
far as to interest the Porto Ricans in the value of the invention.

"Yesterday was a day of great excitement here for this small place. The
principal inhabitants of this place and Guayama determined to celebrate
the completion of this little line, in which they take a great pride as
being the first in the island, and so they complimented me with a public
breakfast which was presided over by the lieutenant-colonel commandant of

"The commandant and alcalde, the collector and captain of the port, with
all the officials of the place, and the clergy of Guayama and Arroyo, and
gentlemen planters and merchants of the two towns, numbering in all about
forty, were present. We sat down at one o'clock to a very handsome
breakfast, and the greatest enthusiasm and kind and generous feeling were
manifested. My portrait was behind me upon the wall draped with the
Spanish and American flags. I gave them a short address of thanks, and
took the opportunity to interest them in the great Telegraph line which
will give them communication with the whole world. I presume accounts
will be published in the United States from the Porto Rico papers. Thus
step by step (shall I not rather say _stride by stride_?) the Telegraph
is compassing the world.

"My accounts from Madrid assure me that the government will soon have all
the papers prepared for granting the concession to Mr. Perry, our former
secretary of legation at Madrid, in connection with Sir James Carmichael,
Mr. John W. Brett, the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph
Company, and others. The recent consolidation plan in the United States
has removed the only hesitation I had in sustaining this new enterprise,
for I feared that I might unwittingly injure, by a counter plan, those it
was my duty to support. Being now in harmony with the American Company
and the Newfoundland Company, I presume all my other companies will
derive benefit rather than injury from the success of this new and grand
enterprise. At any rate I feel impelled to support all plans that
manifestly tend to the complete circumvention of the globe, and the
bringing into telegraphic connection all the nations of the earth, and
this when I am not fully assured that present personal interests may not
temporarily suffer. I am glad to know that harmonious arrangements are
made between the various companies in the United States, although I have
been so ill-used. I will have no litigation if I can avoid it. Even Henry
may have the field in quiet, unless he has presented a case too
flagrantly unjust to leave unanswered."

The short line of telegraph was from his son-in-law's house to his place
of business on the bay, about two miles, and the building of it gave rise
to the legend on the island that Morse conducted some of his first
electrical experiments in Porto Rico, which, of course, is not true.

There is much correspondence concerning the proposed cable from Spain or
Portugal by various routes to the West Indies and thence to the United
States, but nothing came of it.

The rest of their stay in Porto Rico was greatly enjoyed by all in spite
of certain drawbacks incidental to the tropics, to one of which he
alludes in a letter to his sister-in-law, Mrs. Goodrich, who was then in
Europe. Speaking of his wife he says: "She is dreadfully troubled with a
plague which, if you have been in Italy, I am sure you are no stranger
to. '_Pulci, pulci._' If you have not had a colony of them settled upon
you, and quartered, and giving you no quarter, you have been an exception
to travellers in Italy. Well, I will pit any two _pulci_ of Porto Rico
against any ten you can bring from Italy, and I should be sure to see
them bite the dust before the bites of our Porto Rico breed."

His letters are filled with apothegms and reflections on life in general
and his own in particular, and they alone would almost fill a book. In a
letter to Mr. Kendall, of March 30, we find the following:--

"I had hoped to return from honors abroad to enjoy a little rest from
litigation at home, but, if I must take up arms, I hope to be able to use
them efficiently in self-defense, and in a chivalrous manner as becometh
a '_Knight_.' I have no reason to complain of my position abroad, but I
suppose, as I am not yet under the ground, honors to a living inventor
must have their offset in the attacks of envy and avarice.

"'Wrath is cruel, but who can stand before envy?' says the wise man. The
contest with the envious is indeed an annoyance, but, if one's spirit is
under the right guidance and revenge does not actuate the strife, victory
is very certain. My position is now such before the world that I shall
use it rather to correct my own temper than to make it a means of
arrogant exultation."

He and his family left the island in the middle of April, 1859, and in
due time reached their Poughkeepsie home. The "Daily Press" of that city
gave the following account of the homecoming:--

"For some time previous to the hour at which the train was to arrive
hundreds of people were seen flocking from all directions to the railroad
depot, both in carriages and on foot, and when the train did arrive, and
the familiar and loved form of Professor Morse was recognized on the
platform of the car, the air was rent with the cheers of the assembled
multitude. As soon as the cheers subsided Professor Morse was approached
by the committee of reception and welcomed to the country of his birth
and to the home of his adoption.

"A great procession was then formed composed of the carriages of
citizens. The sidewalks were crowded with people on foot, the children of
the public schools, which had been dismissed for the occasion, being
quite conspicuous among them. Amid the ringing of bells, the waving of
flags, and the gratulations of the people, the procession proceeded
through a few of the principal streets, and then drove to the beautiful
residence of Professor Morse, the band playing, as they entered the
grounds, 'Sweet Home' and then 'Auld Lang Syne.'

"The gateways at the entrance had been arched with evergreens and
wreathed with flowers. As the carriage containing their loved proprietor
drove along the gravelled roads we noticed that several of the domestics,
unable to restrain their welcomes, ran to his carriage and gave and
received salutations. After a free interchange of salutations and a
general 'shake-hands,' the people withdrew and left their honored guest
to the retirement of his own beautiful home.

"So the world reverences its great men, and so it ought. In Professor
Morse we find those simple elements of greatness which elevate him
infinitely above the hero of any of the world's sanguinary conflicts, or
any of the most successful aspirants after political power. He has
benefited not only America and the world, but has dignified and benefited
the whole race."

His friends and neighbors desired to honor him still further by a public
reception, but this he felt obliged to decline, and in his letter of
regret he expresses the following sentiments: "If, during my late absence
abroad, I have received unprecedented honors from European nations,
convened in special congress for the purpose, and have also received
marks of honor from individual Sovereigns and from Scientific bodies, all
which have gratified me quite as much for the honor reflected by them
upon my country as upon myself, there are none of these testimonials, be
assured, which have so strongly touched my heart as this your beautiful
tribute of kindly feeling from esteemed neighbors and fellow-citizens."

Among the letters which had accumulated during his absence, Morse found
one, written some time previously, from a Mr. Reibart, who had published
his name as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. In
courteously declining this honor Morse drily adds: "There are hundreds,
nay thousands, more able (not to say millions more willing) to take any
office they can obtain, and perform its functions more faithfully and
with more benefit to the country. While this is the case I do not feel
that the country will suffer should one like myself, wearied with the
struggles and litigations of half a century, desire to be excused from
encountering the annoyances and misapprehensions inseparable from
political life."

Thanks to the successful efforts of his good friend, Mr. Kendall, he was
now financially independent, so much so that he felt justified in
purchasing, in the fall of the year 1859, the property at 5 West
Twenty-second Street, New York, where the winters of the remaining years
of his life were passed, except when he was abroad. This house has now
been replaced by a commercial structure, but a bronze tablet marks the
spot where once stood the old-fashioned brown stone mansion.

While his mind was comparatively at rest regarding money matters, he was
not yet free from vexatious litigation, and his opinion of lawyers is
tersely expressed in a letter to Mr. Kendall of December 27, 1859: "I
have not lost my respect for law but I have for its administrators; not
so much for any premeditated dishonesty as for their stupidity and want
of just insight into a case."

It was not long before he had a practical proof of the truth of this
aphorism, for his "thorn in the flesh" never ceased from rankling, and
now gave a new instance of the depths to which an unscrupulous man could
descend. On June 9, 1860, Morse writes to his legal adviser, Mr. George
Ticknor Curtis, of Boston: "You may remember that Smith, just before I
sailed for Europe in 1858, intimated that he should demand of me a
portion of the Honorary Gratuity voted to me by the congress of ten
powers at Paris. I procured your opinion, as you know, and I had hoped
that he would not insist on so preposterous a claim. I am, however,
disappointed; he has recently renewed it. I have had some correspondence
with him on the subject utterly denying any claim on his part. He
proposes a reference, but I have not yet encouraged him to think I would
assent. I wish your advice before I answer him."

It is difficult to conceive of a meaner case of extortion than this. As
Morse says in a letter to Mr. Kendall, of August 3, 1860, after he had
consented to a reference of the matter to three persons: "I have no
apprehensions of the result except that I may be entrapped by some legal
technicalities. Look at the case in an equitable point of view and, it
appears to me, no intelligent, just men could give a judgment against me
or in his favor. Smith's purchase into the telegraph, the consideration
he gave, was his efforts to obtain a property in the invention abroad by
letters patent or otherwise. In _such_ property he was to share. No such
property was created there. What can he then claim? The monies that he
hazarded (taking his own estimate) were to the amount of some seven
thousand dollars; and this was an advance, virtually a loan, to be paid
back to him if he had created the property abroad. But his efforts being
fruitless for that purpose, and of no value whatever to me, yet procured
him one fourth patent interest in the United States, for which we know he
has obtained at least $300,000. Is he not paid amply without claiming a
portion of honorary gifts to me? Well, we shall see how legal men look at
the matter."


One legal man of great brilliance gave his opinion without hesitation, as
we learn from a letter of Morse's to Mr. Curtis, of July 14: "I had, a
day or two since, my cousin Judge Breese, late Senator of the United
States from Illinois, on a visit to me. I made him acquainted with the
points, after which he scouted the idea that any court of legal character
could for a moment sustain Smith's claim. He thought my argument
unanswerable, and playfully said: 'I will insure you against any claim
from Smith for a bottle of champagne.'"

It is a pity that Morse did not close with the offer of the learned
judge, for, in spite of his opinion, in spite of the opinion of most men
of intelligence, in defiance of the perfectly obvious and proven fact
that Smith had utterly failed in fulfilling his part of the contract, and
that the award had been made to Morse "as a reward altogether personal"
(_toute personelle_), the referees decided in Smith's favor. And on what
did they base this remarkable decision? On the ground that in the
contract of 1838 with Smith the word "otherwise" occurs. Property in
Europe was to be obtained by "letters patent" or "otherwise." Of course
no actual property had been obtained, and Smith had had no hand in
securing the honorary gratuity, and it is difficult to follow the
reasoning of these sapient referees. They were, on Smith's part, Judge
Upham of New Hampshire; on Morse's, Mr. Hilliard, of Boston; and Judge
Sprague, of the Circuit Court, Boston, chairman.

However, the decision was made, and Morse, with characteristic
large-heartedness, submitted gracefully. On October 15, he writes to Mr.
Curtis: "I ought, perhaps, with my experience to learn for the first time
that _Law_ and _Justice_ are not synonyms, but, with all deference to the
opinion of the excellent referees, for each of whom I have the highest
personal respect, I still think that they have not given a decision in
strict conformity with Law.... I submit, however, to law with kindly
feelings to all, and now bend my attention to repair my losses as best I

As remarked before, earlier in this volume, Morse, in his correspondence
with Smith, always wrote in that courteous manner which becomes a
gentleman, and he expresses his dissent from the verdict in this manner
in a letter of November 20, in answer to one of Smith's, quibbling over
the allowance to Morse by the referees of certain expenses: "Throwing
aside as of no avail any discussion in regard to the equity of the
decision of the referees, especially in the view of a conscientious and
high-minded man, I now deal with the decision as it has been made, since,
according to the technicalities of the law, it has been pronounced by
honorable and honest men in accordance with their construction of the
language of the deed in your favor. But 'He that's convinced against his
will is of the same opinion still,' and in regard to the intrinsic
injustice of being compelled, by the strict construction of a general
word, to pay over to you any portion of that which was expressly given to
me as a personal and honorary _gratuity_ by the European governments, my
opinion is always as it has been, an opinion sustained by the sympathy of
every intelligent and honorable man who has studied the merits of the

He was hard hit for a time by this unjust decision, and his
correspondence shows that he regretted it most because it prevented him
from bestowing as much in good works as he desired. He was obliged to
refuse many requests which strongly appealed to him. His daily mail
contained numerous requests for assistance in sums "from twenty thousand
dollars to fifty cents," and it was always with great reluctance that he
refused anybody anything.

However, as is usual in this life, the gay was mingled with the grave,
and we find that he was one of the committee of prominent men to arrange
for the entertainment of the Prince of Wales, afterward Edward VII, on
his visit to this country. I have already referred to one incident of
this visit when Morse, in an address to the Prince at the University of
the City of New York, referred to the kindness shown him in London by the
Earl of Lincoln, who was now the Duke of Newcastle and was in the suite
of the Prince. Morse had hoped that he might have the privilege of

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