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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

The Chamber of Commerce, New-York
Wednesday, March 4, 1863

 

REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS

OF A

MEETING CALLED TO FURTHER THE ENTERPRISE

OF

THE ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH

HELD AT THE HALL OF

THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, NEW-YORK

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 1863

PREPARED UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF
JOHN AUSTIN STEVENS, JR.,
SECRETARY OF THE MEETING

 

NEW-YORK
JOHN W. AMERMAN, PRINTER
NO. 47 CEDAR STREET
1863

 


CALL FOR THE MEETING.
NEW-YORK, MARCH 2, 1863.

Sir,

Your attendance is requested at a meeting, to be held at the Chamber of Commerce, No. 63 William-street, on Wednesday, the 4th inst., at one o'clock, when some new and interesting statements and information, in reference to the present position and future prospects of the Atlantic Telegraph, will be submitted.

Respectfully yours,

Peter Cooper,
A. A. Low,
Wm. E. Dodge,
E. M. Archibald,
Cyrus W. Field,
Watts Sherman,
Wilson G. Hunt.



THE ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH

A meeting to further, and bring to completion, the great Atlantic Telegraph enterprise, was held in the Hall of the Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday, March 4, and attended by many of the leading merchants and bankers of the city.

Hon. George Opdyke, Mayor of the city, was unanimously called to the chair.

Mr. John Austen Stevens, Jr., was appointed Secretary.

Mayor Opdyke, on taking the chair, said: Gentlemen, - I suppose the object of this meeting is sufficiently explained in the circular of invitation. It is, I understand, to hear some new and interesting statements relative to the Atlantic Telegraph enterprises, a subject of great interest, the importance of which cannot be over-estimated. The gentlemen who are connected with this great enterprise have certainly deserved the commendation of the whole civilized world, because the work is one in which the whole civilized world is interested. Despite all obstacles, in the face of many difficulties and pecuniary disappointments, they still persevere. Let us all hope, therefore, that they will soon bring the great enterprise to a full and perfect consummation. No one, I am sure, could fail to rejoice at the completion of that great connecting link, in what has been happily termed "the whispering gallery of the world." Several gentlemen connected with the enterprise are now present, and I will first call on Mr. Peter Cooper to give us whatever information he possesses on the subject.


Remarks of Mr. Peter Cooper

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, - I shall mainly rely upon Mr. Field, who is in full possession of interesting facts upon the subject, which he can better state to the meeting and to the world than I can. I will merely say that the advantages of an ocean telegraph, that would connect our country by an almost instantaneous communication with the vast continent of Europe, have not, I believe, fully entered into the minds of even its warmest advocates. The signal benefits that will result from the success and use of an ocean cable will amply compensate for all the cost of putting down and completing such a work. I will only advert to two of these: The first, and not the least, is the advantage that would follow from it to the great agricultural interests of the country. At the present time England and France are in immediate telegraphic communication with most of those parts of the world from which supplies of provisions can be obtained. This enables merchants in England, who desire to make purchases of cargoes of grain, to ascertain at once what such cargoes may cost at Odessa, and other places with which they are in communication. They can judge in a moment what that grain will bring in England, and hence they are strongly tempted to order grain from those nearer ports with which they are in instant communication, in preference to ordering it from this side of the Atlantic, at the risk of so much delay; with other difficulties and dangers. If they order grain from this side, they must first write and ascertain what it can be got at. Then some weeks must elapse, a month at least, before they can get an answer, and then the order may come back about the time that prices change, and the merchant may not be in a condition to give a prompt order. Hence the temptation is to order at once at those places where they can ascertain with promptitude and certainty the price they will have to pay, and the profit upon which they can calculate with certainty. But when they order from this side, or when the merchant here ships to the European market, the prices ruling there when the grain arrives may all be changed, and the prices obtained may not pay the cost. If we were in immediate communication with Europe we should avoid sending our goods to unprofitable markets. Hence advantageous results would follow to the great agricultural interests of the country. The produce merchants of America are ready and willing and able to supply all parts of Europe with the necessary provisions. That is one great item in itself, and amply sufficient, if there were no other, to pay the cost of putting down and completing such a work.

But in the long list of advantages that would result, the importance of which none can at present estimate, we may name another, which comes from the possibility of misunderstandings arising between our own country and some of the great governments of Europe. To avoid these misunderstandings, would be one great step taken towards universal peace, and to avoid them, immediate telegraphic communication is necessary. Iii, opening the way to the avoidance of these misunderstandings; great good would be done, and, indeed, this in itself would compensate for all the outlay necessary to complete a work of this kind. To show some of the advantages arising from rapid communication by means of the cable - the advantage of transmitting intelligence of important events - I am informed that but two weeks ago our government, or at least one of the heads of departments, would have given a million of dollars to have had an immediate communication with New-Orleans. This shows the great need there is for immediate communication, and also how soon the transmission of important messages would pay the whole cost of the work. I will not detain you longer, as Mr. Field can better explain the whole subject, with which he is so thoroughly acquainted.


Remarks of Mr. Cyrus W. Field

Mr. Field then addressed the meeting. He said:

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, - I shall not attempt to detain the business men of New-York during the busiest hours of the day, by any extended remarks. Nor will I argue the importance of telegraphic communication across the Atlantic. At this very moment you can telegraph from San Francisco, on the Pacific, to St. Johns in Newfoundland, a distance of more than 5,500 miles; and from the west coast of Ireland to every principal town in Europe, to Algiers in Africa, to Malta in the Mediterranean, to Alexandria in Egypt, to Jubal Island in the Red Sea, to Omsk in Siberia, and to Bagdad in Turkish Arabia. And now, what is required to bring America into communication with almost the whole civilized world, is a connecting link across the Atlantic. I propose, simply, to give you a few facts, and, as there is a very intelligent audience here, I will leave them to draw their own conclusions from these facts. The public generally believe that submarine cables have been failures, and they have come to that conclusion because the Atlantic line, to which the attention of the whole civilized world has been drawn, did not succeed. Now, what is the truth 4 I hold in my hand a letter addressed to me by the Gutta Percha Company, who manufactured cores for nearly all the cables in the world. They write

Gutta-Percha Company,
London, October 27, 1862.

Cyrus W. Field, Esq.,
Atlantic Telegraph Company

Dear Sir, - In compliance with your request, we enclose you herewith a detailed list of the various submarine telegraph cables now in successful operation, the insulated wires for which have been manufactured by us during the last eleven years.

From this you will observe that 44 submarine cables, containing nearly 9,000 miles of conducting wire, are in daily use.

Since the majority of these cables were laid, we have, as is well known to the leading electricians and engineers, many and very important improvements in our manufacture of insulated wires, and we feel confident that at the present time we are able to produce a core which will in every respect meet the electrical requirements for telegraphic communication between Ireland and Newfoundland.

We shall have much pleasure in undertaking the manufacture of a core for such a work, believing that, with the appliances now available for laying down cables in deep water, the enterprise will be attended with perfect success.

We remain, dear sir,
Yours faithfully,
The Gutta-Percha Company,
Henry Ford Barclay.

Thus you see that no less than 44 submarine cables have been successfully laid, and are to-day in actual operation in different parts of the world, and nearly all connecting and communicating with each other. The length of these lines in the aggregate amounts to 8,906 miles. One of these lines has been eleven years in operation. Five have been in operation nine years, and three of them eight years; and so on. I hold in my hand a letter addressed to me by Glass, Elliot & Co., who have manufactured thirty of these submarine cables now laid throughout the world, in which they state their experience of` the working of these cables. They write

London, October 20, 1862.

Cyrus W. Field, Esq.,
Atlantic Telegraph Company

Dear Sir, - In reply to your inquiries we beg to state:

That we are perfectly confident that a good and durable submarine cable can be laid direct from Ireland to Newfoundland, and are willing to undertake the contract upon the following conditions:

First. That we shall be paid each week our actual disbursements for labor and material.

Second. That when the cable is laid and in working order, we shall receive, for our time, services and profit, 20 per cent. on the actual cost of the line, in shares of the Company, deliverable to us in twelve equal monthly instalments, at the end of each successive month, whereat the cable shall be found in working order. .

We are so confident that this enterprise can be successfully carried out, that we will make a cash subscription for a sum of £25,000 sterling, in the ordinary capital of the company, and pay the calls on the same when made by the company.

Annexed we beg to hand you, for your guidance, a list of all the submarine telegraph cables, manufactured and laid by our firm since we commenced this branch of our business, the whole mileage of which, with the exception of the short one between Liverpool and Holyhead, which has been taken up, is at this time in perfect and successful working order. The cable that we had the honor to contract for and laid down for the French Government, connecting France with Algeria, is submerged in water of nearly equal depth to any we should have to encounter between Ireland and Newfoundland.

You will permit us to suggest that the shore end of the Atlantic should be composed of very heavy wires, as, from our experience, the only accidents that have arisen to any of the cables that we have laid, have been caused by ship's anchors, and none of those laid out of anchorage ground have ever cost one shilling for repair.

The cable that we should suggest for the Atlantic will be an improvement on all those yet manufactured, and we firmly believe will be imperishable when once laid.

We remain yours faithfully,
Glass, Elliot & Co.

The list accompanying this letter (see Appendix) contains all the cables laid by them from 1854 to Oct., 1862; the longest of which is that from Malta to Alexandria, a distance of 1,535 miles. The distance from Ireland to Newfoundland is 1,640 nautical miles. This company is the wealthiest concern of the kind in the world. They manufacture and lay down cables, and they have never yet failed in the work they have once undertaken, nor suffered any loss from incomplete work. The breaking of the cable referred to by them, is that of one of the shortest lines, that laid between Liverpool and Holyhead, which is not a loss of one per cent. on all their work; and even that was not lost, for the cable itself was subsequently recovered. With regard to this, the company say: "Every cable manufactured and laid by us is working successfully, except the short line laid in shallow water along the shore between Liverpool and Holyhead, which was broken by the anchor of the Royal Charter, in the gale of wind, just before she was wrecked, and which has since been recovered. None of the cables laid by us out of anchorage ground have ever cost one shilling for repairs" The same company, Glass, Elliot & Co., have also addressed a letter to me relative to laying down a submarine cable for this government from Fortress Monroe to Galveston, in Texas. They will manufacture it in England, bring it out in their own ship, lay it down, and only ask payment when it is in perfect working order. If it is not a success, they are willing to lose the whole of it: a risk sufficient to show their confidence in laying it successfully. From a letter received this morning from Prof. Samuel F. B. Morse, I will read an extract:

New-York, March 3, 1863

Messrs. Peter Cooper, A. A. Low and others

Gentlemen, - While I regret that circumstances will prevent my being present at your meeting to-morrow, on the subject of the Atlantic telegraph enterprise, I cannot but express to you the deep interest I feel in every effort to extend the facilities and usefulness of the telegraph, in whatever quarter of the globe it is made.

If lines connecting Europe and America were multiplied twenty fold, there would be employment for all, amply remunerative to each.

Wishing you that success which you eminently deserve, I am, gentlemen, with great respect,

Your ob't serv't,
Samuel F. B. Morse.

Now, a great many people believe that there never was a message sent through the Atlantic cable when it was laid. The truth however is, that before the cable failed, no less than 400 messages were sent through. Here is one short message sent from London to Halifax, to stop the embarkation of English troops at that port, and which, I was assured by a high official in London, saved the English government £50,000. The message was delivered in Halifax on the evening of the same day that it was sent from London. The message ran as follows:

From the Military Secretary to the
  Commander-in-Chief, Horse Guards,
  London

)
)
)

To Gen. Trollope
  Halifax,
    Nova Scotia.
"The 62d regiment is not to return to England."

These few words saved the government the expense of conveying a regiment of soldiers from Halifax to India, where they were no longer wanted, the mutiny there having been just put down. Besides this, there was another message sent through by Mr. Cunard, of this city, to London, relative to the collision between the Arabia and Europa steamers. The message was as follows

From Cunard, New-York, August 17, 1858, to D. & C. McIver, Liverpool:
"Arabia in collision with Europa, Cape Race. Saturday, Arabia on way here slightly injured. Europa lost bowsprit, cutwater; stern sprung; will remain in St. Johns, Newfoundland, 10 days from 16th. Persia calls at St. Johns for mail and passengers. No loss of life or limb."

That message was received with the greatest anxiety. I received a letter not long ago from Mr. Cunard, who was then in England, describing the effect the receipt of this intelligence through the cable had upon the public mind in England. When the first Atlantic cable was laid, it mere experiment. Up to that time cables had never been laid in so deep water. We were then merely groping in the dark. We did not know the great difference in the transmitting power of copper taken from different mines. The result of late experiments proved the fact, that there was more than 50 per cent. of difference in the transmitting power of copper from different mines. Copper taken from the Lake Superior mines - that, I believe, being the best - will transmit more than double the number of words a minute that a cable composed of inferior copper can transmit. Here is a piece of the late Atlantic cable, recently taken up from the bottom of the sea, upon which it will be seen the water had not the slightest effect, and that it is as perfect now as the day it was laid down. It contained 93 pounds of copper wire per mile. The present cable contains 560 pounds of pure copper, which will increase the power of transmitting intelligence by six times as many words a minute, and is the most perfect cable that can be made at the present time.

The company has the exclusive right of laying submarine cables for a long term of years along the coast of Labrador, Newfoundland, Prince Edward's Island and the State of Maine. That gives a monopoly to encourage the company in carrying out this great and important enterprise of connecting the different parts of the world together. The English government have agreed to guarantee the interest on the capital at 8 per cent. per annum, during the operation and working of the cable, and also agreed with our government to give each £14,000 per annum, to encourage the enterprise; and, if the business for any one year, sent by the government, should exceed that sum, they agree to pay the excess.

The cable could only be injured by anchors of ships near the shores; but a covering has been devised which will prevent them even from this casualty. This plan is to cover them well with iron in shallow water, so that, if an anchor catches hold, they cannot be injured. I have seen a cable so firmly laid, that when the anchors of vessels caught in it, the anchors were lost, while the cable was uninjured.

This enterprise has been taken up with great spirit in England. I recently received a list of subscriptions, among which I see the name of George Peabody, Joshua Bates, of the house of Baring Bros., and others, members of the most prominent firms in England. The company intend to present the enterprise to the people of this country, and to urge them to subscribe to the stock when they have heard all the facts. The shares were formerly one thousand pounds, but now they are fixed at £5 per share, so that almost all can become shareholders.

It may be asked, will the line, if completed, have as much business as it can do? That is readily answered. Why, the line to San Francisco, which has been in operation but a short time, has as much business as it can do. It has earned, in fact, more than enough to pay the whole cost. If you consider that the San Francisco line connects with only a single State, containing a few hundred thousand people, would there not be business, think you, enough for a line that should connect the United States and British Provinces with every commercial town in Europe, Asia and Africa? To express my own opinion, from pretty large experience on the subject, I do not believe that ten cables would begin to do the work which would, in a short time, be given to it. The great commerce of our ports demands prompt communication with Europe. You cannot write to England and receive a reply under twenty days.

From all the estimates the company have been able to obtain, and we have consulted the best authorities in England, they estimate that the line will be able to transmit at the lowest, twelve words, and at the highest, eighteen words a minute. Then it would be working twenty-four hours a day, because one end would be practically in San Francisco, while the other would be in Siberia; at one place it being mid-day, while at the other it would be midnight: Thus it would be kept working the whole twenty-four hours. But estimating it as working sixteen hours a day only, for 300 days, though it would probably have to work every day in the year, that would give, at the rate fixed, 2s. 6d. a word, a net income on a single cable of £413,000 per annum.

The company, if the shareholders should divide all profits, would pay 40 per cent.; but it is recommended they should receive only eighteen per cent. on their instruments, the balance to be used as a fund to lay down further cables, without increasing the capital. It is estimated that this surplus, if allowed to accumulate, would enable them to lay another cable in 1866; another in 1867, one more in 1868, two in 1869, and three in 1870; so that, including the first, you would have nine cables working in 1870, without increasing the capital stock at all.


Remarks of Mr. William E. Dodge

Mr. Wm. E. Dodge said : I have listened with much pleasure to the very simple and satisfactory statement just made, in connection with the Atlantic telegraph. The fact that the cable originally laid was almost the first of the kind, and certainly the first laid in deep water, ought to satisfactorily account for the disastrous result. I was in Liverpool at the time of the collision between the steamers Arabia and Europa, and there was the greatest solicitude manifested; crowds flocked to the Exchange anxiously awaiting the arrival of the steamer. The morning after I went to the Exchange and found it crowded with people, and at every one of the pillars in that large building people were gazing at the report just read to you by Mr. Field. It vas the universally expressed feeling in Liverpool that day, that if the Atlantic telegraph never did any thing else but to assure the people of the safety of these steamers, without having to wait the arrival of a mail, it had amply compensated for all that bad been done. I have heard gentlemen say here, that they did not believe there was ever a telegraphic communication transmitted over the Atlantic telegraph. I was always happy to be able to state beyond all question, that the communication dispatched by Mr. Cunard to England, in reference to the collision, did pass through. I saw myself the deep interest manifested by the people in Liverpool, when the substance of that dispatch was announced; and I have ever since, as I had always been, enthusiastic in regard to the results of the laying down of the Atlantic cable. The intelligent merchants and business men of this city only want to have the subject brought before them, to have their minds at once disabused of all that discouragement which resulted from the first disaster. We are apt to be discouraged under failure. But we have now reliable data to go on. It is no longer an experiment; cables have been submerged for eleven years, and in successful operation, without a single failure. Why should we doubt for a single moment that this cable can be laid; which when laid, will unite in one throb this whole continent with the rest of the world; when we will have the power almost in a moment to communicate with friends socially or on business all over Europe. It is a matter of the most vital importance, and we felt it such at the time we supposed the cable was a success, and the public mind was greatly discouraged when it was found to be a failure. The public only want to be assured of its coming success. If they could have listened to the statements just made, they would feel that it was not only a most desirable undertaking, but that it could not fail to be remunerative to every individual that subscribes to it.

Mr. Cooper. - I intended, this morning, to have brought with me to this meeting a little specimen of the Atlantic cable, which would show clearly the cause of the failure in the cable that was laid down. In that little piece of cable which was taken up is clearly defined the cause of the failure, and but for that cause it would to-day, in all probability, be successfully working, insignificant and small as it appears. Unfortunately, in the manufacture of the cable, when it was being passed out of the shop into the vat, intended to be kept always overflowed with water, the water was allowed to flow off a little, and a part of it was thus exposed, of a hot day, to the sun, which melted the gutta percha, leaving but a thin coating to protect the copper. That accounts fully for the cause of the disaster, but for which that cable, in all probability, would be at work successfully to-day.

Mr. E. E. Morgan remarked, that the difficulty appeared to him to be in the paying out of the cable. He asked if a cable could be found to sink through the heavy pressure of water at great depths.

Mr. Field. - I cannot answer that question better than by asking you if a cable of that character can be laid. (Showing the cable.)

Mr. Morgan. - I yield. No doubt about it at all; you could pay out that cable with your hand. But there is another thing; after making this long wire, it is important that there shall be no hole in any part of it. For this purpose I think that it should be subjected to a test through a cylinder, or other proper machine for the purpose, and then tested mile by mile, according to the heaviest pressure it would be subjected to in water when submerged. There was also the question, whether the cable could be so tested as to prove its efficiency, to communicate while under a certain amount of pressure.

Mr. Field. - Immediately after the failure of the Atlantic telegraph, at the request of the company, the English government appointed a commission, composed of nine members, which sat for two years, and made a most elaborate report, filling a large book, in which they state the importance of having all cables tested under a great pressure, and they tried the experiment of a pressure equal to eight miles of water. The result was, that the cable was not injured by that pressure. All cables now manufactured are passed through immense cylinders, and every three miles of its length is fully tested. The longest cable laid by the English government is 1,535 miles, every single inch of which was tested, and it has never failed for a moment since it was put down, nor has it cost a penny in repairs.

Mr. Morgan. - I never thought it required a single argument to prove the profit of such an undertaking. The only question with me, was the possibility of laying it down; but now seeing this piece of cable, I am perfectly satisfied it can be laid, and I am very glad, indeed, that my only doubt has been thus cleared away. I have been much interested in submarine telegraphs, and, when I commanded a ship, I made some experiments as to the means of excluding the effect of water upon submerged substances, so I know that there are things which will keep water out. On the whole, I am convinced of the success of this enterprise this time.

Mr. E. Cunard. - The fact that messages have been sent across the Atlantic by the electric telegraph ought to be sufficient to remove all doubt of the value of the enterprise from the public mind ; but a doubt still exists in the minds of many intelligent persons whether any telegraphic message has ever been sent across. Mr. FIELD has referred to the information of the collision between the Arabia and Europa, off Cape Race, which was transmitted to England by the telegraph - and as I can speak from personal knowledge, a history of this message may not be uninteresting to this meeting. I was in London in 1858, when Mr. Lamson, and Mr. Saward, the Secretary of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, called on my father, on Friday, the 20th of August, and informed him that a collision had taken place between the Europa and Arabia, and that no lives were lost; that the operator at Newfoundland had received a message from my office in New-York, with a pressing request to him to forward it, but as he had positive instructions not to send any private message till the line was opened to the public, he telegraphed to the Directors in London that he had an important message and asked permission to forward it. The Directors desired him to send the purport of the message to them, and that they would communicate it. I called at four P. M., at the office of the Telegraph Company, and pointing out to the Secretary the importance of having the full particulars, requested him to allow the operator to transmit the message, which he consented to do, and telegraphed to Newfoundland to transmit the message; it was received in London three hours after, and was published in the Times the next morning. This message was sent from my office in New-York late on Tuesday afternoon, and, after having been detained forty-eight hours in Newfoundland, was delivered in London on Friday.

Mr. Field. - In the last interview I had with a member of the English government, I was trying to impress upon him the great importance an Atlantic telegraph would be to Great Britain; telling him that if the cable was laid he could, every hour of the day, communicate with the governors of five British provinces. The Admiralty communicate with the same rapidity and frequency with Halifax, their principal naval station in this part of the world, and the commander-in-chief could transmit speedy orders to all military commandants in the provinces. And I referred to the message which had prevented the embarkation of a regiment, and the great expense thus avoided. I also referred to the advantage that would farther follow to the British government by being in a position to communicate at any moment with their minister at Washington, Lord Lyons. To which he replied : "Mr. Field, I admit every thing you say with regard to the great importance the undertaking would be to our government. But it would not be one hundredth part of the benefit to Great Britain that it would be to the American government and the American people. This work would connect England with America, to be sure, but it would do far more for you, for it would connect America with all Europe, Asia and Africa. In a few months, when the line from England to India shall be completed, your merchants will have no chance to compete with the English merchants, unless you complete this work. I believe that the importance of this work to America, the laying down of a submarine telegraph connecting Newfoundland and Ireland, cannot be estimated." This was the view taken by that enlightened man on the subject. I believe that the plateau lying between Newfoundland and Ireland has been placed there by Providence for his own good purposes. Now, a cable has been already laid. Four hundred messages have been sent through. Shall Americans, and shall Englishmen say, that they cannot do again what they did once before? For my own part, I believe it can and will be done.

Mr. Cooper mentioned one more item of interest. The British government, since the failure of the cable, have authorized and sent out two or three expeditions, which have taken surveys of the plateau on the shore ends, and they have found on the Newfoundland coast a much more favorable place to lay the cable, where the slant of the shore is less abrupt, and the whole ground well adapted to it. The point found on Trinity Bay is altogether more favorable than that originally selected, shortening the distance forty miles, an item of considerable interest.


Remarks of Mr. A. A. Low

Mr. Low. - I have been requested to present the following resolution:

Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting a cable can, in the present state of telegraph science, be laid between Newfoundland and Ireland with almost absolute certainty of success, and, when laid, will prove of the greatest benefit to the people of the two hemispheres, and also profitable to the shareholders; it is, therefore, recommended to the public to aid the undertaking.

It may, perhaps, become me to say a few words with regard to the resolution which I submit, as I stand in the same relation to this enterprise as others who have spoken. Of the benefit of a cable to connect this country with Great Britain it is too late to doubt. We can assume the advantages that would accrue to both countries from such a work, as very great; and no man here needs to be told how great those advantages would be. Mr. Field refers, in proof of the benefits that would accrue, to those which have followed the establishment of telegraphic communication with California. On this point I can state that one of the first messages sent by me over the wires to California, which cost $30, was worth several hundred dollars for every single dollar it cost. And every house in the city that has any connection with the China trade is familiar with the fact, that almost every week, if not every day, the destination of ships sailing from San Francisco is determined upon here, and vessels are dispatched from that port with same facility as if they were lying in the port of New-York. No man can estimate the value of such rapid communication. But the intercourse with San Francisco is limited compared with the vast intercourse that is open to us with Great Britain. I think only one or two questions remain to be considered in connection with the undertaking. I have heard what has been said of the doubts that rest upon men's minds as to a message having ever been sent by the
Atlantic cable. It seems impossible that in these enlightened days such doubts can survive the well-known fact, patent at the time to every one, that messages were sent. I remember, in addition to the facts already stated, that the first news of the Peace between China and Great Britain was received over the Atlantic cable. And it is not to be doubted, because the fact was confirmed through subsequent intelligence by mail. Every one familiar with the China trade knows that the news came by telegraph, and was true.

An objection to this enterprise, in the minds of many of our citizens, grows out of the feeling that our friendly relations with Great Britain may possibly be interrupted. This telegraph takes its start from English territory and terminates on English territory. And it is said that in the event of a war with England, it would be under the exclusive control of Great Britain. That is all very true, sir, and it may be an objection in the minds of men to taking stock in the company. In regard to that, I can only say that I am one of the original subscribers, and that this consideration has not deterred me from subscribing a second time as largely as before, and on my own individual account twice as largely as at first. Yet I have no possible interest beyond that which every individual has who takes stock in the company. I embarked in the undertaking on its own merits, accepting all its hazards. Any one listening to Mr. Field, as, frequently and as attentively as I have, with regard to this subject, could not long entertain a doubt as to the success of the effort. He has studied it in all its bearings, and with the aid of the science and intelligence so readily at command on the other side of the ocean, where he has had the benefit of an experience far exceeding that of this country, with regard to ocean telegraphs. I am confident that whatever hesitation may for a time retard the work, it will not be of that kind to defeat the enterprise. With regard to the argument that this telegraph is in the power of the English government, and that we would be debarred from its use in time of war, let it be borne in mind that it may be built by Great Britain without our co-operation. The English government is alive to all the great necessities of the day; I wish, indeed, our own were equally alive to the urgencies of the age.

The English government, as I said, is alive to all the great necessities of the times, and they will assuredly lay the telegraph, whether we work with them or not. If this government and people participate with the government and people of Great Britain in the work, it will be done under treaty stipulations, which will secure to our country effectually great advantages and facilities. I have faith in Great Britain, and I believe that if Great Britain enters into any compact with this country she will be true to her plighted faith. I have little fear on that score. I have recently given expression to complaints against Great Britain, and I have deplored the action of her people and the non-action of the government. I have done so as an American citizen, alive to the honor of our country and the sensibilities of our people. I have done so, sir, not when smarting under a recent misfortune, for this will not aggravate my complaint or add to its intensity. But I have spoken as I feel, and as every man is bound to speak, who has at heart the good of his country, and who would exert, in a legitimate and proper manner, any influence on the people and government of Great Britain, such as may tend to avert the evils of war. Nor do I intend, in consequence of what has occurred, to add to what I have had occasion to say in this Chamber at other times. But while I deplore the agency of Great Britain, and of the people of Great Britain, in permitting vessels like the Alabama and Oreto to go forth to destroy our commerce, I have that faith in the British government to believe, that when it understands all that is justly felt on this side of the water, the evil will be corrected. And such is my faith in regard to this enterprise, that if Great Britain should enter into stipulations with this country, and the telegraph be completed under these stipulations, I cannot doubt that those stipulations would be honorably and faithfully fulfilled. Our people ought not to be deterred by unworthy considerations from taking part in an enterprise called for by all the intelligence and wisdom of our times - such an enterprise as that now suggested. There is a risk, which may well be incurred in view of all the advantages the work presents. I, therefore, move the adoption of the resolution which I have had the honor to present.

The resolution was seconded by Mr. Cooper, and unanimously adopted.


Thanks to the Chairman

The Mayor having vacated the chair, and Mr. Cooper having taken it, E. M. Archibald, Esq., British Consul, said, I move that the thanks of the meeting be presented to the Mayor for the able and dignified manner in which he has presided. The subject which has been under consideration is one of great public importance, particularly to the City of New-York, and it is one that ought to interest its chief magistrate. He was glad to see that that gentleman had shown his sense of the value of the subject, in attending this meeting. In reference to the great work itself, no argument was necessary to enhance its importance. Such arguments were superfluous at this time, especially in this community. Their opinion of it was emphatically pronounced five years ago.
I will, therefore, conclude, by moving that the thanks of this meeting be presented to his Honor, the Mayor, for the able and dignified manner with which he has presided over the meeting of this day.

The motion was carried unanimously.

Mr. Dodge suggested that a book for subscriptions be opened. There were many persons who would gladly subscribe if a book was opened for the purpose. He had not communicated with any person on the subject, but he merely wished that some plan of this sort would be devised. He would ask how large a sum had been subscribed in England.

Mr. Field stated, that at last accounts, Feb. 7, the subscriptions had reached £195,000, and he had no doubt they would reach £250,000 at the close of February. In this country, Mr. Peter Cooper and Mr. Wilson G. Hunt had subscribed £2,000 each, and Mr. D. D. Field, £1,000; Mr. A. A. Low, £1,000; Duncan, Sherman & Co., £1,000, and other gentlemen various amounts. Mr. Field placed a copy of the original subscription-book on the table.

Several gentlemen then entered their names as subscribers, among whom were -

William E. Dodge, for . . . . . . . . £1,000
Edward Cunard,   " . . . . . . . . £1,000
August Belmont,   " . . . . . . . . £500


 

Mr. DODGE thought the matter of such importance, that a Committee ought to be appointed to call a public meeting, before whom the whole subject should be explained, and with the view of obtaining subscriptions. He moved the appointment of a Committee for that purpose, and that the Chairman appoint the Committee.

The motion was unanimously adopted.

Mr. Field said the subscription-book would be always found at his office; subscriptions would also be received at Mr. Halliday's Office, No. 6 Wall-Street.

The Mayor named the following committee

A. A. Low, William Chauncey,
Peter Cooper, Wilson G. Hunt,
William E. Dodge, Horatio Allen,
Cyrus W. Field, E. E. Morgan,
Edward Cunard, E. M. Archibald,
August Belmont, John Austin Stevens, Jr.

On motion, the Mayor was added to the Committee.


Mayor Opdyke's Remarks

Mayor Opdyke said that this subject had never before enlisted his special attention. He was not one of the earlier or later Subscribers to the stock; but he was now entirely satisfied, from the clear, able and convincing statement by Mr. Field, that the enterprise must now prove a perfect success. In view of the increased scientific and artistic knowledge that will be brought to its aid, and from all the advantages derived from experience since the first attempt was made, it seemed to him that we might regard the success of the next effort as absolutely certain. When other enterprises nearly as great have been successfully accomplished, and in successful operation for many years in European waters - waters not so deep, perhaps, but otherwise alike - there can be no longer any doubt of the success of this.

Nor can there be the smallest doubt of the advantages to be secured by it to the world at large. It will be one of the greatest steps in human progress taken in this age. All telegraph enterprises have been successful and remunerative. Some of them to an extreme degree; and this one, he had no doubt, in this respect, would eclipse all that have gone before it. With a view of testifying his opinion of the matter, he would put down his name for £500, and after looking at the matter more carefully, he should be ready to subscribe more largely.

Mr. Dodge said, that in addition to calling a public meeting, the Committee ought to prepare a condensed statement of proceedings thus far, the opinions entertained in England and here of the great importance of the work, &c.

The Chairman thought that was a duty the Committee itself would assume.

This closed the proceedings, and, on motion of Mr. W. G. Hunt, the thanks of the meeting were returned to the Chamber of Commerce for the use of the room.

Whereupon the meeting adjourned.

John Austin Stevens, Jr.,
Secretary.
New-York, March 4, 1863.

Text courtesy of New York Public Library, Myers Collection at SIBL

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Last revised: 30 November, 2008

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