History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
|1864: Cyrus Field Banquet, London|
TO COMMEMORATE THE
RENEWAL OF THE ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH ENTERPRISE.
Friday, April 15th, 1864.
Mr. CYRUS W. FIELD in the Chair.
The following Guests were present:‑
The Hon. CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, THE AMERICAN MINISTER.
The cloth having been removed, the several toasts of “The Queen,” “The Prince and Princess of Wales, and the rest of the Royal Family,” and “The President of the United States,” were proposed by the Chairman, and enthusiastically received “with all the honours.”
Mr. CYRUS W. FIELD then said: Gentlemen—We are honoured on this occasion by the presence of one to whom both England and America are greatly indebted for his continued, earnest, and sincere exertions during the last three years to maintain peace and good understanding between these two great kindred countries. (Hear, hear.) That gentleman descends from a line of statesmen. His grandfather was considered worthy to be the successor to the Presidential chair of George Washington; his father was the sixth President of the United States; and he himself is the honoured representative of my country in Great Britain. Without another word, I give you the health of His Excellency Charles Francis Adams, the American Minister. The toast was enthusiastically received.
His Excellency the AMERICAN MINISTER. Mr. Cyrus Field: After the very kind notice you have been pleased to take of my humble labours, I suppose I must feel myself as being what is called “ in for a few remarks.” Since I have had the honor of holding the post I at present occupy, I have had the pleasure also of repeatedly seeing my friend on the left, who has come to visit us in pursuit of the great object of his life—the revival of a scheme which, if finally successful, will be among the most memorable events in the history of the world; in connection with which the name of our friend, I think, has about as good a chance of immortality as that of anybody I know at present living. (Cheers.) He has mentioned with approbation the slight efforts I may have made in the course of my mission here, towards keeping in harmony two nations of the same race, when there was a good deal of danger that they might differ; but, after all, I believe that the best and most permanent plan for uniting them is to establish this Atlantic Telegraph, for that and every other thing which tends to bring those two nations closer together will have the effect, I am sure, of increasing their knowledge of each other, and thereby perpetuating a good understanding between them. From the observations I have been enabled to make since I came to England, one thing has struck me with great force, and that is, the existence of prejudices on both sides of the Atlantic, which require to be removed by a more familiar and personal intercourse between them. (Hear, hear.) I have seen statements made in the public prints here in regard to my countrymen, which I know the English people would never have believed, if they had had any opportunity of knowing them by closer personal experience; while, again, on the other side of the Atlantic, there are newspapers which have made statements with regard to Great Britain, which would not have been believed if the American public had been reasonably well informed as to what the British people really are, and what are their true feelings. I do not wish to enter further into this matter, and I will, therefore, conclude with one remark personal to myself in connection with my friend’s project. Although entirely friendly to his scheme, I must confess I am not very anxious it should be carried out immediately. It is a great object no doubt to bring the two countries together, but I cannot help arguing with myself that if, with the two countries three thousand miles apart, I get so many despatches per week that I can with difficulty attend to them all satisfactorily, what would be my fate if the Cable succeeds, and I had to receive and answer them every day? Therefore, I shall wish success to the Submarine Telegraph between Europe and America, but that it may happen with just about as little delay as may bring it to the moment when I hope to be back in my native country.
Mr. FIELD. It grieves me very much to differ from a gentleman so esteemed for his sound judgment as Mr. Adams; but I do so with the greatest respect, and in two particulars--Firstly, I submit that instead of saying “if” the cable be a success his expression should have been “when” it is a success, for of its success I doubt, no more than of the reality of our existence here this evening, and secondly—I submit that as regards the daily despatches, Mr. Adams does not take his usually clear view of the deep interest he has in the immediate success of our cable. When I have had occasion to call on him, at Upper Portland Place, I have been often informed that, by the tedious process of ordinary pen and ink, it frequently occupies him all day to compose and write the elaborate despatches incidental to that form of communication; but if we only had the telegraph in constant work between England and America, he would receive a short message, instead of a long despatch, and would reply to it with equal brevity; and, in that case, instead of being hampered with business all day long, he would have plenty of time to bestow upon his numerous friends. Gentlemen, I next desire to give expression to the peculiar pleasure which I feel in meeting round this table so many gentlemen who have been of service to the Atlantic Telegraph Company and the great undertaking which it has in hand; and at this moment I desire especially to refer to those officers of the British Navy who were engaged in assisting, on the first and second occasion, in submerging the Atlantic cable. There are here Captain Aldham, who rendered such aid in H.M.S. “Valorous,” in 1858, Master Commander Noddall, who so ably commanded the “Agamemnon” in 1857, Captain Otter of H.M.S. “Porcupine,” for whom we were all so anxiously on the look out on the evening of the 4th August, as we were entering Trinity Bay, and who so successfully steered our course to the head of that bay. It is with regret that I have to notice the absence from this table of Captains Wainwright, Preedy, and Dayman, who, unfortunately, are prevented from being present. We have derived great benefit from the cheerful, ready, and intelligent services of the officers of the Royal Navy, who have ever shown themselves most anxious and willing to do all in their power for this enterprise. When I saw the ships of both countries going out to lay the cable it was with great pride I witnessed the generous rivalry between the officers of the two Navies. It was a rivalry to see which would do most towards the success of the work. I hope the same rivalry may always exist as to which may be the most earnest and successful in carrying the blessings of religion, of civilization, and of commerce to every part of the world. I give you “The Army and Navy of Great Britain,” and I couple with the toast the name of the senior officer present, Captain Aldham. (Cheers.)
CAPTAIN ALDHAM. Gentlemen, I am an old tar: I have been 40 years at sea; but during all that time I was never so much taken aback as upon this evening, when I am called upon to return thanks for the service. I can only say, in the name of the navy, that I return you our most sincere thanks, and I regret that we are not all here. As I never before in my life-time made a public speech, I would merely say that I was one of those who had the honour to be appointed by the Admiralty to superintend the laying of the Atlantic cable, and with our friends we did our best. The cable was laid, and it was, I think, a great success. I have two gold medals, given me respectively by the City and the Chamber of Commerce of New York, and I have been a good deal among the officers of the American Navy in the Gulf of Mexico; I have seen a great deal of them, and always found them willing to view every matter in a reasonable manner, and to act in concert with ourselves. I received the greatest attention from all ranks in the American Naval Service. In the name of the Navy I sincerely thank you.
MR. FIELD. Gentlemen, we are honoured to-night by the presence of a distinguished member of the British House of Commons who never rises to speak, whether in or out of that House, but his words are listened to with the profoundest attention, and whose speeches are eagerly read on the other side of the Atlantic—as eagerly as they are here by millions of people. I have tried hard to persuade him to visit the United States, but without any present success. If he would go there he would receive an ovation such as no other man living has ever received. There is, however, another side to this picture. There are a great many male children annually born in the United States, and were he to go there, instead of being John Smiths, and Thomas Browns, and Edward Joneses, there would be so many thousands of John Bright Smiths, John Bright Browns, and John Bright Joneses as possibly to create inconvenience (laughter). I really do not know what the effect would be, and I begin to think after all it would be very wrong for me to induce him to go there, even if anything I might say could prevail on him to do so. I will only add, therefore, that if he will go he shall receive a hearty welcome from all those who know how actively he has striven to maintain friendly relations between the two countries. Gentlemen, I give you long life and happiness to Mr. John Bright. (Cheers.)
The toast having been enthusiastically honoured,
MR. FIELD. Gentlemen, more than sixty years ago there was in college with my father, the father of a gentleman now present In these troublesome times that gentleman has left his home, and his country, and his employments in the legal profession, to do what he can to keep up and restore kindly feelings between the two nations. Of him it may be fairly said, “Blessed are the peace makers.” I am now going to propose to you a sentiment, and I shall mention his name with it. It is “Success to the Atlantic Telegraph, and may it be as enduring as the cliffs of Old, and the granite of New England,” and I couple with that the name of the Hon. Wm. M. Evarts, of New York.
The toast was fully honoured.
The Hon. Wm. M. EVARTS said, Gentlemen, I very well remember, I cannot say how many years ago it is, that on a certain bright summer morning, in a quiet New England town, I left my home in a carriage with a number of guests, for a drive over the hills. At a break in the line of hills the distant village was presented to our view, and our ears at the same moment were struck with the sound of bells. We were surprised, and for a moment feared that it was a signal of disaster, for the fire bell is the only peal which disturbs the serenity of a New England village. But, after a little time we reasoned with ourselves that within the hour they must have received the great news of the laying of the Atlantic Cable. Hence, indeed, that spontaneous outburst of the peoples joy. From every belfry of New England there rang forth peals in commemoration of the new message of peace and goodwill to man. (Hear, hear.) Unfortunately this great guarantee of peace and good-will was interrupted by the sad misfortune of the break of continuity, and you now propose, under surer protections, the restoration of this connection between the two worlds. Mr. Bright, by his allusion to Columbus, suggests to me a comparison which may not seem inapt, between that illustrious navigator and our friend Mr. Field. But a few weeks ago, in the native town of the great Genoese, I read at the foot of a noble statue in his honour, in all the brevity of classical inscription, these words: —”There was one world; he said ‘Let there be two,’ and there were two.” (Hear, hear.) Let us now then say of the Atlantic Cable and its author; “There were two worlds, he said, ‘Let them be one again,’ and they were one.” (Great cheering.)
I was asked, in an intelligent company, on my first visit to England, a year ago, what it was that struck me most as a stranger, in the people of England? Unprepared for the question, I answered, with entire candour, it was this: “That there was so little difference between the people of the two countries, that they seemed so like each other, that it was difficult to control the feeling that they were of one country.” Give us in common, race, language, religion, free government, education, and independence, and those who wish may count the differences between us on the fingers of one hand. (Cheers.) Why is it that so much is attempted and desired, and so much is accomplished in the way of estrangement between our nations, when no man, on either side of the Atlantic, can compare those ties and those relations which bind us to each other, with those which either of us can establish with any other nation on the face of the earth, for a moment?
Why is it that we chiefly rejoice in the laying of the Atlantic cable? Is it not because it is to be the great instrument in the removal of misunderstandings and prejudices between these great nations? They will cease to be dangerous when they can be immediately met and explained, for the danger lies in the delay and in the continued ignorance of those who create or entertain them. Again, we have a guaranty of truth in the necessary brevity of telegraphy, for superfluous falsehood is expensive. Next, we have the essential condition that whatever message or intelligence is transmitted, is made public in the same sense, in the same words, and in the same breath, all over each country, and cannot be made to assume the various forms which the letter writers of particular newspapers may, from interest or under dictation, put upon it. Another condition is, that if a mistake should occur, we cannot long be deceived, nor does the false impression which ii creates, become inveterate, and produce mischiefs which become irremediable before there is a possibility of explanation. For, once let false information come to operate on the minds of those who have received and given credence to it, they become indifferent to its correction; they commit themselves to the fact as they first heard it, they shape their own reasonings, and commit themselves to others upon it, and become, at last, advocates against truth. But in this rapid and continuous communication from day to day you have the source of all this danger removed.
It is greatly to be lamented that the two countries, without being engaged in any open hostilities between themselves, without having any occasion for passion or quarrel, one towards the other, should have been so much estranged in feeling, and should, on both sides of the water, be so prone to give grounds of solicitude and alarm to one another. Let us hope and believe that for the future there will be more reflection on this side of the Atlantic, and more consideration on the other; and if you have perceived that we have faults, and, on the other hand, faults, also, we may have found in you, let us mutually pardon them, as natural traits of the family of which we are both members. Let us, I say, adopt this idea, and keep it ever before us. If the daughter has these inherited failings, let not the mother complain, even although, in the descent, they may have become exaggerated.
Truth is the great interest of nations. The press and the telegraph are both useful servants only so long as they are the servants of truth. (Cheers.) So long as they so minister to us they shall have a title to, and shall receive, our praise; but when they cease to be messengers of truth they become the just objects of our hatred and contempt. Let me then in proposing “The success of the Atlantic Telegraph,” add this sentiment, “May truth preside at either magnet, and may falsehood be for ever buried in the intermediate ocean.” (Cheers.)
Mr. FIELD.—When I visited Great Britain in 1856, the first gentleman connected with the English Government who took me by the hand and said an encouraging word to me, was the Earl of Clarendon. When I had the honor of an interview with him at that time he requested me to put in writing the substance of my scheme, which he promised he would bring before the attention of the cabinet. I complied with that request, and the result was the agreement that when the cable was in working order, we should have a subsidy from the British Government of £14,000 per annum for 25 years. I have a note from Lord Clarendon regretting that he is not able to be here this evening. He is away on an important mission to Paris, but we are honoured by the presence of his brother-in-law, who is the chairman of the largest Telegraph Company in the world, and in asking you to drink the health of the Earl of Clarendon I shall couple with it the name of the Hon. Robert Grimston. (Cheers.)
The Hon. ROBERT GRIMSTON. Gentlemen, I feel it at all times to be very difficult to answer for my own short-comings, and as I belong to a very large family, it would be rather hard that I should have to answer for all my relations. (Laughter.) However, I am proud of my relative Lord Clarendon. He is a gentleman and a man of the world. (Hear, hear.) He has his duties to perform, and I am sure he will ably perform them in whatever station he may be placed. (Cheers.) The gentlemen who have already spoken have dwelt so ably on the political part of the question, that I will not enter into it, but will confine myself to the commercial part of it. Mr. Bidder and his friends have, I think, made one great mistake, I hope he will excuse me telling him so. I am surprised that he has not fought against popular ignorance, but rather encouraged it. He will well recollect the story of Mr. George Stephenson, being instructed by counsel to keep back the fact, that it was possible for a railway train to travel at a greater speed than twelve miles an hour. (Hear, hear.) He must, I think, have been acting upon the same principle, when he put before the public that Government guaranteed the shareholders a return of eight per cent. so long as the cable remains in good working order. Now, with all due deference to his opinion, I would say to Government—”Thank you for nothing.” If the Company fail to lay the cable, Mr. Gladstone will not have to pay them anything; and again, if the Company succeed, he will not have to pay them anything; because, with the cable in good working order, instead of its paying eight per cent. it is more likely to pay eighteen per cent., and I think I might say, eighty per cent.; so that our Government seemed to be playing the game played by little boys in the street, “Heads I win, tails I don’t lose.” (Laughter.)
Mr. FIELD. I regret exceedingly that the Chairman of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, the Right Hon. James Stuart Wortley is not here present this evening, but he has been summoned to Florence, in connection with the illness of a near relative. Mr. Lampson, our much respected Deputy-Chairman, and Mr. Samuel Gurney, another director have left the room. I am, however, happy to say, that other members of the Board are present. We have here, Mr. Pender, Mr. Cropper, Mr. Bidder, and Capt. Hamilton. I give you, then, the health of the Directors of the Atlantic Telegraph Company. (Hear, hear.) But before you drink that toast, I should state to this meeting, that one of the first resolutions passed by the shareholders on the 9th of December, 1856, was, that they (the Directors), should not receive remuneration of any kind until the Company had paid a dividend of at least ten per cent. per annum, and from that day to this moment they have been constantly meeting at the offices of the Company, sometimes daily, sometimes three times a week, and yet not one of them has ever received a single farthing for any services rendered to the Company. (Cheers.)
MR. CROPPER replied to the toast and said, gentlemen, I am for my own part and on the part of my colleagues, deeply indebted to you for the honor you have done us. From the very first I felt the greatest interest in the success of the enterprise, not only on account of its commercial value, but because I agree with Mr. Adams, that by uniting the two nations more strongly and more intimately together, it will afford the means of an easy and satisfactory solution of any misunderstanding which may arise between their respective governments. Therefore, Sir, (addressing Mr. Field) and for other grounds, we should feel grateful to you for the great interest you have always shewn in the success of the Atlantic Cable.
Several gentlemen having called on Mr. Bidder.
ME. FIELD. Gentlemen, I dare say you would feel disappointed if the Atlantic enterprise did not put something into your pockets when laid, by the facility given to business, and, therefore, I do hope that when the cable is laid, neither you nor the public will curtail the company’s profits by abbreviating their messages. When I arrived in this country, in January last, the Atlantic Telegraph Company trembled in the balance. We were in want of funds and were in negotiations with the government, and making great exertions to raise the money. At this juncture I was introduced to a gentleman of great integrity and enterprise, who is well known, not only for his wealth, but for his foresight, and in attempting to enlist him in our cause he put me through such a cross-examination as I had never before experienced. I thought I was in the witness box. He enquired of me the practicability of the scheme—what it would pay, and everything else connected with it, but before I left him, I had the pleasure of hearing him say, that it was a great national enterprise that ought to be carried out, and, he added, I will be one of ten to find the money required for it. From that day to this he has never hesitated about it, and when I mention his name you will know him as a man whose word is as good as his bond, and. as for his bond, there is no better in England. I give you “The health of Thomas Brassey.” (Cheers.)
Ma. BRASSEY. Sir, I feel very much embarrassed by the kind remarks you have made with respect to me. I may say I knew very little of telegraphy, not more than gentlemen ordinarily do, but it occurred to me, only twenty-four hours before I was introduced to Mr. Field, that something ought to be done to renew the communication between the two continents. I then met him and one or two other gentlemen, with the purpose of reviving this business, and to see if we could make a combination to carry out the result in view, and I then felt so convinced of the practicability of carrying out the enterprise to a successful issue that I did not hesitate to put myself down for one tenth of the expense. (Cheers.) I felt, and I still feel, that I undertake a task and an engagement which will be beneficial to myself individually, and especially beneficial to the whole of the human race. (Cheers.) The more I hear, the more I am convinced that I am not deceived in believing, that the matter will be carried out. At all events the risk is not more than one tenth the expense; so that, looking at the magnificent results of the first experiment, and the small chance there now is of failure, no one could, I think, hesitate taking it purely as a commercial question to put money in the enterprise, but above that—far above that—we look forward to great international advantages—great benefits to the human family—to follow an enterprise which exceeds all precedent.
ME. FIELD. The words spoken by Mr. Brassey in the latter part of January, “Let the Electric Telegraph be laid between England and America” encouraged us all, and made us believe we should succeed in raising the necessary capital, and I then went to work to find nine other Thomas Brasseys (I did not know whether he was an Englishman, a Scotchman, or an Irishman, but I made up my mind that he combines all the good qualities of every one of them), and after considerable search I met with a rich friend from Manchester, and I asked him if he would second Mr. Brassey, and walked with him from 28, Pall Mall, to the House of Commons, of which he is a member. Before we reached the House he expressed his willingness to do so to an equal amount. A few days after that it was thought there would be a great advantage arising out of the fusion of the Gutta Percha Company, and Messrs. Glass, Elliot & Co., into a public Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, who would in that form be able, with advantage to themselves to help forward the Atlantic Telegraph. Mr. Pender then entered into it heart and soul, and we have now a list of eminent capitalists in the United Kingdom pledged to carry out that enterprise in the very best manner. I therefore feel we are deeply indebted to Mr, Brassey and Mr. Pender, for the energetic way in which this matter has been taken up by them, and I am truly glad to see the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company established with the object and the power of carrying forward the extension of telegraphic communication in all parts of the world. I give you, then, as a toast, “The prosperity of that company, and the health of Mr. Pender, its able and energetic chairman.” (Cheers.)
MB. PENDER in reply said. If anything could enhance the compliment that had been paid to him, or increase his gratification at receiving it, it would be the circumstance of its being originated by one so well qualified as Mr. Field, to appreciate the full extent of the great work in which they had now embarked; no living man knew better then Mr. Field, the years of toil and anxiety it had taken to bring this great international undertaking to its present stage, and no man could estimate better than he the advantages which the combination now formed would confer, not alone upon this country and America, but upon every nation in the world whom it is desirable to bring into intimate and friendly alliance. The importance of the present project was not to be measured by the mere standard of capital or prospect of commercial gain, great as each of these is, but by the fact which must be borne in mind, that when carried to their legitimate bounds the scope and objects of the new organization were calculated to bring the whole of the civilized world within their influence.
The prospect of being usefully instrumental in achieving so great a result was in itself the highest reward to which he (Mr. Pender) could aspire, and his ambition to attain this, would be the most powerful stimulant to exertion. With such men as were associated with him on the Board of this Company, he had no fear of the result. In little more than fourteen days the Company had been formed, and three times the amount of the capital required had been subscribed. I therefore feel the responsibility of my position, but am encouraged by the importance of the work to be done, and hope to merit by future exertions the compliment which Mr. Field has, by anticipation, conferred upon me.
MR. BIDDER. I have been requested, Sir, to undertake a duty which I will endeavour to fulfil to the best of my ability, and that is, Sir, to propose your health. (Loud cheers.) Encouraged by the manner in which the company has received the simple announcement of my intention, I see that it requires very little eloquence to secure for that toast the reception which it so well merits. I recollect well, Sir, when you came to this country on the first occasion in 1854. I know the zeal which you brought to bear in support of the statements which you made, all which went to show the faith which you had in the enterprise. I know too, the high opinion which the late Mr. Robert Stephenson entertained of your zeal and talents, and a careful consideration of the whole enterprise satisfies me, that the opinion which you have formed of it will be ratified by its results. I have lately been brought much into contact with you, and there is one fixed opinion which I have formed of your character, and it is this, that when you make up your mind to effect a great object you will never abandon it. (Cheers.) If life and health be spared to you, you will live to see the Atlantic Cable successfully laid; and it is, I assure you, the wish of all here that you may live to realize the glory of the enterprise. (Cheers.)
The toast was most enthusiastically honored.
ME. FIELD. Gentlemen, words cannot express to you my feelings on this occasion. One month ago to-night, on the evening of the 15th March, some gentlemen who are now present, honored me with their Company at dinner in this house, and it is an extraordinary coincidence that that evening was the 10th anniversary of the day on which I sailed from Boston for Newfoundland, for the purpose of attempting to obtain the charter of the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company, upon the privileges and exclusive rights of which the Atlantic Telegraph Company was founded and exists, and that to-night is the 10th anniversary of that evening of the 15th April on which the Governor of Newfoundland affixed his signature to the charter, conceding to this Company for 50 years, the exclusive right to land cables on the coast of Labrador, Newfoundland, and the adjacent islands. That privilege has been much criticized. It has been called an odious monopoly. Now, I speak in the hearing of the great advocate of free trade and the opponent of all monopoly, and contend that the Atlantic Telegraph is entitled to the enjoyment of a monopoly, limited as this has been, to a moderate term of continuance. I can say as many of you know, that it was only by very hard work years ago that we succeeded even with the aid of that monopoly, in raising the funds necessary for the laying of the cable in 1858, and it is only within the last few days that the necessary funds have been secured with which to lay its successor in 1865; and I ask you as men of business if we could have got a single farthing for that purpose if we had not had the monopoly of which I speak? Would any one, do you suppose, invest his capital in such an enterprise, if, the moment it was successfully completed any one else was to be at liberty to come in and reap the benefit of it. (Hear, hear.) There are some things in which a monopoly is absolutely necessary, and the Atlantic Cable is one of them, for much is due to those who originate and bear all the expense of such an undertaking. If it had not been for the monopoly, do you think that the Company would have sustained its existence during the five years it has been in abeyance, and do you suppose we could ever again have placed it in the proud position in which we find it this day? It is absolutely necessary that a man should have a monopoly in his own domestic circle. (Laughter.) Then we have patent rights, copyrights, the post office, and I might go on enumerating a great many other things in which a monopoly is right and proper.
My stay in England is now drawing to a close, and never before, when about to embark for America, did I feel more satisfied and rejoiced at the position of our great undertaking; bat, with all this, a feeling of sadness at times steals over me. It seems to me in those moments very doubtful whether many of us will ever meet again. What little I could do has been done, and the enterprise is now in the hands of the contractors, who, I am sure, will carry it out to a triumphant success. It will do much to bind together England and America, and base, indeed, will be that man, to whatever country he may belong, that may dare with an unhallowed tongue or venemous pen to sow discord among those who speak the same language and profess the same religion, and who ought to be on terms of the completest friendship. (Cheers.) I shall leave in a few days for my native land, for I think it wrong on the part of any American to be away in the hour of peril to his country, unless it be on a mission of peace—his place is otherwise at home, at such a moment. I will say, however, that if any one here present should come to see us in America, he will receive a hearty welcome from me at all events. Gentlemen, I thank you very much for the manner in which you have responded to the toast of my health. Before I sit down I wish to say, that those of you who last honoured me with your company at dinner in this house, will recollect, that on that occasion I proposed the health of Mr. George Peabody, and his worthy partner Mr. Morgan, and the latter replied to the sentiment. I had stated in the course of my remarks preliminary to the toast, that when I called upon him in 1856, he gave the name of his house as subscribers for £10,000 of the Company’s stock. In reply to the toast. Mr. Morgan spoke of that £10,000 as lost money, but promised a further subscription, nevertheless, towards carrying out a new cable, and I am happy to say that yesterday he redeemed his promise, (Cheers) ) That statement that he lost his money is not strictly accurate. It is not lost. He knows where the cable is and can go and get it. The money has been sown, and the plant is already out of the ground, and is now growing up splendidly. ,It will soon be in flower—I mean at a premium, and then there will be in the office of Messrs. George Peabody and Company, more rejoicing over that £10,000 which was lost and is found, than over any £99,000 of their profits that were never in danger. When I invited Mr. Morgan here this evening, he consented to come upon the express condition that he should not have to reply to any toast or make a speech. I will, therefore, give you a sentiment; which, remember, he is on no account to reply to it, but I hope you have all by this time drank enough of wine to enable you to imagine what he would say in reply to it—(laughter)--if he were under any obligation to respond. I ask you, then, to drink success to the house of Messrs. George Peabody and Company.
MR. MORGAN. There are many things to be said in regard to what Mr. Field has just stated, but I now simply. rise to return you thanks in the name of Mr. Peabody.
MR. FIELD. In 1858 a committee of eminent engineers, consisting of Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Penn, and Mr. Joshua Field, was appointed to report on the condition of the machinery to be employed in laying the cable, and in 1859, when it came to be thought important to establish general telegraph communication, eight gentlemen were selected as a committee to investigate the whole subject. Moat of the members of that committee are, I am rejoiced to say, here this evening. For eighteen months they pursued their inquiry, thoroughly investigated the science of submarine telegraphy, and presented a most able report on the subject. On the revival of this enterprize in 1863, we solicited the co-operation of five gentlemen to act for us as a consulting scientific committee, namely—Captain Galton of the Royal Engineers, Mr. Wm. Fairbairn, Professor Wheatstone, Mr. Joseph Whitworth, and Professor William Thomson, all men of the highest mark in science. I shall now ask you, then, to drink the health of the gentlemen composing these committees. (Cheers.)
CAPTAIN GALTON. In returning you thanks for the honour which you have done us, I may say, that we all have been very happy to add to the information which has enabled you to start again on what I may call your second career. In 1859 I was, in consequence of the failure of the Red Sea Telegraph, commissioned to inquire into the circumstances of it. I then suggested to her Majesty’s Government that the subject of the Atlantic cable ought to be associated with the commission. On that commission, as originally constituted, there were four gentlemen appointed by Government, and four others were subsequently appointed to represent the Atlantic Telegraph Company. I believe the report we made, the evidence we received, and the experiments which we carried out have been of great value in forwarding the cause of ocean telegraphy. I entirely agree with Mr. Bidder in thinking that Government guarantees are of very little practical value. The Red Sea Telegraph was under a Government guarantee, but it was so worthless that although Government was obliged to pay a large sum in perpetuity on the capital invested, yet they had no control over the working of the line. In all subsequent guarantees Parliament said that the subsidy should not be paid unless the cable was in good working order; but no submarine telegraph in good working order would pay less than the guarantee: therefore, the guarantee, I hold to be of little importance. The members of the committee have endeavoured to suggest such a form of cable as may secure success, and therefore I attach little importance to the guarantee, as the enterprise is sure to pay more than the 8 per cent. guaranteed.
ME. FIELD. I have here a letter from a lady. I shall not state the name of her husband, who is present, but the letter contains a postscript, and that is always the most important part of a lady’s correspondence. That postscript says, “I hope he (that is to say her husband) will not be detained later than 4 A.M. of the 16th.” I mean to test the lady’s sincerity, and in order that I may have the pleasure of your company somewhat later, I intend proposing to you another toast. In 1854 I became acquainted with the firm of Messrs. Glass, Elliot & Co., and I can say most sincerely that more honourable, straightforward, business men I have not met on either side of the Atlantic. They have carried out with great success the laying of many submarine cables, and I am confident they will also carry out this enterprise successfully. I have, therefore, great pleasure in proposing to you their health. (Cheers.)
Ms. GLASS. It is extremely gratifying to us to have our names associated with a great undertaking like this. It has been our good fortune to work harmoniously with you for some years past, and it is very satisfactory to us to think that we have been instrumental in connecting Cape Breton with Newfoundland, which is the means of considerably expediting messages between America and this country. That line completed the telegraph to Cape Race, and was. laid so far back as 1856. The project of the first Atlantic Telegraph is due entirely to yourself. There were, however, circumstances connected with it, which unfortunately led to its failure. But I may say, that since that time, it has been our lot to lay several thousands of miles of cable, which are now in good working order, as I trust will be the case with the cable which is now to be laid across the Atlantic by the new company; for, sir, as you are aware, we are now embarked on a new enterprise, and we enter upon this contract under auspices which must tend to secure the success of an undertaking of such magnitude. I need not, I think, say we are proud of the position which we occupy. We have already done a great deal, and I think that we will not lose a fathom of the cable we are now about to lay, and we feel proud to be connected with Mr. Brassey, Mr. Pender, and others who have joined us, feeling that the enterprise required something more than we individually could supply. I should wish to draw your attention to the permanent character of the cable laid by us between Newfoundland and Cape Breton. It has been for eight years in operation, and has never yet cost a single shilling for repairs. I have no doubt the Atlantic cable will be equally a success. Its capital and the scientific spirit in which it is promoted, are good vouchers for the successful construction of the cable; and as regards our prospects of success in submerging it, considering that we are to have the use of the “Great Eastern” steam ship for that purpose, I can really see nothing which can possibly interfere with the execution of the work, unless it be the action of the elements, and even of that I think there is very little fear.
Mr. CHARLES EDWARDS. I cannot sit down without expressing my sense of the honor which the Company has done us. I wish also to state, that it is our sincere belief, that although we are now associated with a Great Joint Stock Company, our amalgamation with the Gutta Percha Company would not have been successfully accomplished, but for one individual man. I have been long associated with him, and I can assure the shareholders of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, that every shilling they have brought into the concern, will be successful in the same ratio as the amount of capital employed by Glass, Elliot & Co. has been, a success which has been entirely owing to the attention and energy of Mr. Glass. I propose to you then the health of Mr. Glass. (Cheers.)
Mr. GLASS. I find that I have through the kindness of my partner to address you oftener than I at all bargained for. It is true that I have chiefly exerted myself in the practical part of our business, and I have done all you could desire of me. For the future, those exertions will not be remitted, for I hope that the result of the combination we have just formed will be to add laurels to ourselves and to add lustre to the Company.
Mr. FIELD. Gentlemen, as one of the most important causes of the success of submarine cables has been the perfect insulation of the core by the Gutta Percha Company, I give you the health of Messrs Barclay, Chatterton, & Smithies, of that Company. (Cheers.)
Mr. CHATTERTON. Gentlemen, the letter to which our worthy host has alluded, has not, I can tell you, come from my wife. (Laughter.) This notice of us is, I feel, an extremely great honour. So far as the submarine telegraph goes, I think it is only just coming into full existence. Up to the present time we have been merely tuning our instruments, but the time is now come, when all is in order, and we shall have an excellent concern, if we only all act together in harmony. We are reasonably sure of success. The arrangements for the work are in a most efficient state, and any merit the Gutta Percha Works may have earned by their past management, shall not be diminished so long as I may have anything to do with them.
MR. FIELD. Allusion has been already made to the “Great Eastern.” The Great Eastern Ship Company have acted in the most liberal manner towards us, inasmuch as at present they are truly engaged in a labour of love. From this day to the 31st of December, 1865, we are to have the use of that magnificent vessel; and, if the cable be not successfully laid, we shall not have to pay a single shilling for the use of her. Should it be successful, we are then to hand to the Directors of the Great Eastern Ship Company £50,000 in shares. In all my business experience I have never known any offer more honourable, and I am now going to propose to you the health of the Directors of that Company, three of whom are present, namely, Mr. Gooch, Mr. Barber, and Mr. Brassey. (Cheers.)
MR. GOOCH. As one of the Directors of the Great Eastern Ship Company, I am exceedingly delighted to see her take part in such a great scheme which, I feel sure, will be perfectly successful. We are, as you have been told, to receive £60,000 in shares when the vessel has successfully laid the cable. I believe she is the only vessel afloat that could successfully lay it, and they seem to me to have been made for each other.
MR. FIELD. There is another toast which I intend to propose to you in connexion with the Atlantic enterprise of 1857 and 1858, and I regret that Mr. Woodhouse is prevented by illness from being amongst us. Mr. Everett is in America. Sir Charles Bright has not yet returned from the Persian Gulf, and Mr. Canning and Mr. Clifford have left the room, so that there is no person here to respond to the toast;—”To the engineers that laid the cable in 1858,” I can, however, without any such drawback, give you the health of Mr. Saward, the Secretary of the Company, who has served us faithfully and well during a period of more than seven years, having started with us at the first establishment of the Company, and zealously held on with us through all the troubles and anxieties which have attended the progress of its career. (Cheers.)
MR. SAWARD. After what you have heard from so many eminent individuals who have this evening addressed you, it will be quite unnecessary for me at this late hour, to delay your time further, than to enable me to thank you for the honor you have done me in drinking my health.
MR. PENDER. We should not, I think, forget our absent friends, the Directors of the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company, and of the Atlantic Telegraph Company in America, and may they be as much rejoiced as yourself with the good news which you are carrying out to them. I give you then, the Directors in America; of the New York, Newfoundland, and London and Atlantic Telegraph Companies. (Cheers.)
MR. FIELD. As I am the only American Director of the New York, Newfoundland, and London, and Atlantic Telegraph Companies here, I thank you for the kind manner with which you have received that toast. I have been from the commencement a Director of both Companies. I have, however, while a member of the Board of the Newfoundland Company, often felt myself placed in a very delicate position, a position which I did not by any means covet, for having been entrusted by my colleagues with full power to treat with the Atlantic Company, in which I have so large an interest, I felt that I was at one, and the same time both buyer and seller; but it is satisfactory to me to know that on each occasion of my return home, all my arrangements with the Atlantic. Company were confirmed by my colleagues, and I was honored with their thanks for having made them. The Newfoundland and Atlantic Telegraph Companies are peculiar and different from any other Companies that I know of in the world. The books of subscription of the former was opened ten years ago at 6 o’clock in the morning, and in less than one half hour every share was subscribed for, and not a single original shareholder has ever sold a shilling of his interest in it, but on the contrary some of them have, whenever an opportunity presented itself, increased their stake in the enterprise, so that each one of them now holds a larger interest in it than at the commencement. The Directors are proud of their undertaking, which they look upon as one promoting the benefit of the whole human race. I have now to give you the health of the Electrician of the Atlantic Telegraph Company. That gentleman has, within the last five years visited America, and the report which I heard of him from our chief Electrician was, that he never met with a man who knew so much about electric science. I give the health of Mr. Cromwell F. Varley. (Cheers.)
Mr. VARLEY. I am indeed very much obliged to you, sir, for your kind attention to me on this occasion. At this late hour I will not attempt to go into the political bearings of the subject—I shall only slightly refer to the commercial, and say a word or two on the scientific part of the question.
It is my opinion, that you should get rid of the Government guarantee, which is of no benefit if the cable works, and none whatever should it unfortunately fail. It however fixes the maximum charge that can be made to the public, beyond which you cannot go, and this amount is, in my opinion, far too low, when it is considered that your cable will have to connect the whole of the vast telegraphic system in the United States, in Canada, and Nova Scotia with the innumerable telegraphic ramifications of Great Britain, the Continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia. At present there are between thirty and forty wires connecting England with Europe, and these are for the most part full of traffic. If, then, so many wires be required for the business between England and the rest of Europe, how many will be required to connect the one half of the world to the other—certainly more than one cable. If, then, your rates be so low that you have more work than your wire will transmit, great delay will be the consequence, and I am perfectly certain, that unless you charge very much more than the maximum fixed by the Government, your cable will be so deluged with work, that your telegraph will be slower than the mail packet. The only remedy for this is to charge so much money that the number of messages received within the twenty-four hours shall be sufficiently limited to be transmitted within that time, otherwise you would get more and more behind every day. A telegraph is of no use unless it does its work with certainty and despatch. If you take the steps I recommend, the commercial success of the undertaking is guaranteed. Your earnings will be vastly greater than what yon have hitherto calculated. Why, the telegraph from New York to California has paid cent. per cent. per annum.
If one wire be barely sufficient to transact the business between California and the rest of the United States, how is it possible that one wire shall be sufficient between Europe and America.
I feel great confidence that when once a cable is successfully laid across the Atlantic, the demands upon it will be so great, that you will have to lay one or two per annum for the next twenty years, or even more.
With regard to the science of the question. I claim to be a practical, as well as a theoretical man, and in order to study the best means of utilising your cable when laid, it occurred to me that the best method of proceeding was to construct an artificial Atlantic Cable, possessing the same electrical conditions, and consequent retardation as that which the cable about to be manufactured will have. This I have succeeded in doing, and I have already tried a number of experiments on it. There is no doubt that through an Atlantic Cable 1,900 miles in length, and of the dimensions of that now about to be made, eight words per minute can be transmitted, and I have considerable hope that we shall be able to increase that number to twelve or thirteen.
Judging from the rates charged, and willingly paid, for messages between California and New York, and also between Alexandria and London, I feel no doubt whatever that if you charge so much per message as shall only just keep your cable from being blocked up with work, it will pay 200 or 300 per cent. (Cheers.)
MR. FIELD. A few days since, we heard of the successful laying of the cable in the Persian Gulf, which, when the land line from Bagdad to Bussorah is completed, will place this country in daily communication with the whole of India. We have present a gentleman connected with that great work. I now propose to you to drink the health of Mr. Latimer Clark.
Mr. LATIMER. CLARK. I feel sir very deeply the honour you have now done me, and I feel an honour too in having been once connected with the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Ocean telegraphy is calculated to do universal good, not only pecuniarily, but morally. England will be soon now connected with India, China, and from thence with Australia, and I hope for the success of your cable, that the connexion with those countries may be also extended to the American continent; and, I may add, after examining with close attention the plans that are now being adopted, that I have the fullest confidence in its complete success. (Cheers.)
Mr. FIELD. I regret much that that great man, Professor Faraday, is unable on account of his health to be with us this evening. When I came to this country in 1854, I waited on him and requested him to make some experiments for me, telling him that whatever might be his charge, I would willingly pay it. His reply was, “I shall have great pleasure in making the experiments for the sake of the enterprise, and shall not charge you anything.” I will now propose to you the health of Professor Michael Faraday.
Captain GALTON, in the absence of Professor Wheatstone who had just left, briefly returned thanks, and the festivities of the evening came to a close.
Extract from the Speech of the Right Hon. JAMES STUART WORTLEY, Chairman of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, at the Seventh Ordinary Annual Meet of the Shareholders held at the London Tavern, Bishopsgate Street, in the City of London, on Wednesday, March 16th, 1864,:—
“Without saying anything to detract from my deep source of gratitude to the other Directors, I cannot help especially alluding to Mr. Cyrus Field, who is present to-day, and who has crossed the Atlantic thirty-one times in the service of this Company, having celebrated at his table yesterday the anniversary of the tenth year of the day when he first left Boston in the service of the Company. (Hear, hear.) Collected round his table last night was a company of distinguished men—members of Parliament, great capitalists, distinguished merchants and manufacturers, engineers and men of science, such as is rarely found together even in the highest house in this great metropolis. It was very agreeable to see an American citizen so surrounded. To me it was so personally, as it would have been to you, and it was still more gratifying, inasmuch as we were there to celebrate the approaching accomplishment of the Atlantic Telegraph.” (Loud cheers.)
Wm. Brown & Co. Printers, London
Return to the Atlantic Cables index page
Last revised: 3 January, 2021