History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
1873: Cyrus Field Banquet, London
Monday, 10th March, 1873.
MR. CYRUS W. FIELD IN THE CHAIR.
PROCEEDINGS AT THE BANQUET.
Mr. CYRUS W. FIELD, who on rising was received with loud cheers, said:—Gentlemen, I regret exceedingly that the debate on the Irish University Bill in the House of Commons this evening has deprived us of the company of several distinguished Members of Parliament. It is not the first time Englishmen and Americans have been deprived of some pleasure by Irishmen—(laughter)—or Irish affairs; but another gentleman is not here to-night from a very different cause, and I have this moment received a letter by a special messenger, which has given me great pain, and will bring tears, I am sure, to the eyes of every shareholder of Submarine Cables. It is as follows:—
Since we have been seated at this table telegrams have been sent to America, and I will now read the reply to one of them. This is from Mr. William Orton, the President of the Western Union Telegraph Company, the largest Telegraph Company in the world:—
Gentlemen,—Since I arrived, in London I find that amalgamations are the order of the day, and with your permission I will unite in one, two toasts which are always received with enthusiasm in England and America. The health of Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of His Excellency the President of the United States of North America. (Cheers.)
Mr. FIELD again rose and spoke as follows:—My Lords and Gentlemen,—On the 10th of March, 1854, after four consecutive evenings of consultation, there was signed on my dining-room table an Agreement to form a Company to establish telegraphic communication between Europe and America. After more than twelve years of struggles, which I, shall not attempt to describe, that enterprise was crowned with success. When the New York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company was formed, the longest submarine cable in the world was between England and Holland, and there had never been one submerged in water one hundred fathoms deep. What a change in these nineteen years! I think of them with mingled feelings of joy and sadness—of sadness, when I reflect that, of the five gentlemen that originally entered into this enterprise with me, of the six distinguished individuals whom I constantly consulted in the early stages of this undertaking—Professors Faraday, Morse, and Bache, Lieutenant Maury, and Messrs. Stephenson and Brunel—of the seven that formed the Provincial Directors of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, and of the thirty that were, on the 9th December, 1856, elected in London Directors or Honorary Directors of the Atlantic Telegraph Company—every one has sold his entire interest and retired from the business, or has gone to that world from which no one returns—except my friend, Mr. Pender, who is here. I cannot but feel that my time is short, and that what I have to do should be done quickly; and as long as a kind Providence gives me health and reason I shall retain an interest in Submarine Telegraphy, and exert myself to the utmost to extend it around the globe. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) On the 28th day of November last, the American Thanksgiving, there was formed in the City of London a Company with the modest name of the Globe Telegraph Company. This Company was organized by Sir Daniel Gooch, Bart., the largest owner of Submarine Telegraph property in the world; Mr. John Fender, M.P., the Chairman of the Eastern Telegraph Company, which has extended its lines to India and China; Mr. Julius Beer, the eminent banker, who is always ready to furnish means for the legitimate extension of Submarine Telegraphy—(cheers); Baron de Reuter, Sir James Anderson, Captain Sherard Osborn, and Mr. Siemens, gentlemen all well known in the telegraphic world, and myself, for the purpose of amalgamating into one great Company the principal Submarine lines, and to lay cables to every part of the world. Methinks I hear some one of you say, you are forming a monopoly. It is not so. I desire no monopoly, but that which we can obtain by doing our business cheaper and better than any other company in the world. (Cheers.) The Globe Company might with great propriety have been called the Submarine Telegraph Insurance Company, for the risk is reduced to a minimum by extending it over many lines. (Hear, hear.) And we can reduce our tariff from time to time to the lowest point which will give the Shareholders a fair return for their money. With these few remarks I ask you to join with me in drinking “Prosperity to the Globe Telegraph Company,” and to couple with it the Health of the Directors, several of whom are here, and I feel sure will respond to this toast. (Loud cheers.) Gentlemen—“The Globe Telegraph Company.”
Mr. JOHN PENDER, M.P.: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,—This is rather an unexpected call on the part of my friend. I had no idea that the modest little Company, the “Globe,” was to take such a prominent part in this evening’s proceedings. When this very beautiful card was handed to me, I was taken by surprise, but there is no man living who knows better how to bring great things out of small than the honorable gentleman at whose hospitable board we have met this evening. Mr. Field has told you that nineteen years ago the first contract was signed for an Atlantic Cable. He has given you a statement of the number of men that have passed away, or have retired, or have sold their shares, who were connected with him in the first instance. I hold my original Shares in the Atlantic Telegraph Company, and I was associated with Mr. Field at the time the Atlantic Telegraph first assumed a practical form in December, 1856. I continued my connection with it through all its vicissitudes; and at a time when its future was generally considered hopeless, I undertook to form the Telegraph Construction Company, a Company which undertook to lay an Atlantic Cable, and although the cable of 1865 was lost, they were so emboldened by an experience, very dearly bought, that they resolved to lay another cable. Their having then successfully laid the new cable, and having picked up the ’65 cable during the same voyage, placed Submarine Telegraphy in a position which made one proud to be connected with it. But there was greater work yet to be done. India, Australia, and China were to be brought in communication with us; that has now been achieved. There is but one link left necessary to complete my friend’s ambition of surrounding the world by a telegraphic girdle, and that will be provided by uniting California with Japan. In regard to amalgamation, I must say that to bring all the Companies together is a somewhat difficult task. There are conflicting interests hard to reconcile. There are different views as to the values of the respective lines, but if all this can be surmounted (and I see no reason why it should not be) in such a way as to secure a fair return to the respective. shareholders, and to give a benefit in point of tariff to the general public, we shall have reason to congratulate ourselves. I am satisfied that any system which does not consult the customers’ interests and convenience will scarcely meet with success. I would just say one word to the representatives of the different telegraph systems who are present to-night. If they wish to see the “Globe” a success, they must be moderate in their demands, and if they believe with me that amalgamation would give additional security to shareholders, they must not forget that with that security they cannot hope to preserve the high prices they have been receiving for telegraph property up to this time, and this is particularly applicable to the Atlantic system. The days of monopoly in this country have passed away, and I hope that an amalgamation of telegraphic interests will not assume that form, but will be so managed that whilst it will give a fair dividend to shareholders, it will do the work better and cheaper than could be offered by any competitors who might be disposed to take the field against them. Unity is strength and power. Let us use that strength and power in a broad and liberal spirit, and in so doing we shall do much for the promotion of human progress, by binding distant nations together. Gentlemen, I thank you on behalf of the Globe Company; although a small one, it is formed to carry out a great object. It is now in its infancy, it has a great work to do, and I trust that work will be accomplished, and be crowned with the success which those who are so deeply interested in it wish it to achieve. (Cheers.)
Sir DANIEL GOOCH, Bart, M.P., on rising, was received with loud and prolonged cheering. He said: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,—Mr. Pender has stated to you very much the principle upon which the Globe Company has been founded. I perhaps do not altogether agree in some of the remarks made as to the manner in which I think that scheme should be carried out. I do not look upon the Globe Company as a reality; it is a fancy thing of my friend on my left. But I think the principle intended to be represented by that £2,000 of Capital which constitutes the Globe is really the important point; and it is not, I think, that the Globe is to purchase the Atlantic cables, the Eastern cables, and all the other cables; but I think it represents this principle, which I feel you will agree is a wise one—it is that these large cable companies, which are now become of great importance, should, if they could, (and I think they could if they would), combine to form a property which shall be a safe and sound investment for people who are not acquainted as we are with this class of property. (Cheers). What we want is this. We want to have our property so secure that, if one of the cables breaks down, the others will be earning money while that is being repaired, and will not materially interfere with our regular dividends. Now, I am not one of those who advocate doing things for the public. I don’t care a bit about the public; as a shareholder in joint stock companies, I know the public don’t care a bit about us. If it is not our interest to satisfy the public, I would not do so; but it is our interest to do so; therefore, the public do get the full benefit of these undertakings. The public are the foundation upon which we have to build; and I can only say, they so far satisfy the interests of those for whom we are trustees, viz., our shareholders. (Cheers). The object of the Globe is more to establish a principle than the idea that they are going to buy up all these large companies. I am glad to see in to-day’s papers there is an announcement that three of these detached companies are going to be amalgamated; I think the Australian, the British Indian Extension, and the China, and I believe another small company, in which I have a slight interest, are going to be amalgamated. We have already seen the advantages of amalgamation in the existing lines between England and India, and there is no doubt the Western amalgamation will also be carried out. The day for completing it is a matter to be settled by the laying of the fourth cable. We are therefore, I think, gradually arriving at that position which I hope cable property will assume, and in a short time I trust we may say that these respective combined companies will be in a position to amalgamate, and form one strong and important body. It has been said (but I don’t believe a word of it) the difficulty is, the Directors do not like to give up their position. I do not for a moment believe this, as I know most of the gentlemen who are connected with those companies; and I am quite sure that there is no one of those gentlemen who, in a matter of this importance, concerning millions of capital, would suffer a consideration of a paltry £250 or £300 a-year, or whatever it may be, to stand in the way of the consolidation of this property. No man of honor would, I am sure: and all the gentlemen I have met with in these companies look at it in this light. If the Directors do not see what is the right interest of the shareholders, and shareholders see it themselves, of course the proper course is for the shareholders to do it, and they will do it sooner or later. Look at the advantage of such a scheme. Supposing we were representing a combined capital of about fifteen millions, or the whole capital of the present cable companies, and it was necessary to duplicate a cable or lay a new line, what would be so easy as for the Company, with that capital at its back, to go into the market and raise money at 4 or 5 per cent. as railways do, instead of going into the market at a sum certainly not advantageous to what I call the fair commercial interest of these enterprises? (Cheers). We ought to be able to raise money now at 4½ to 5 per cent. at the outside. We know very well we have to pay a great deal more than that for it, and the disadvantage is that these new lines of telegraph cost a great deal more than they would do under the other way of working. I am very anxious to see this consolidation carried out as early as possible, because I and some of my friends who have taken a large and deep interest in these matters want to see our property made safe. What is safe to me must be safe to every other shareholder. I may be wrong in my views in the mode of arriving at security; but I believe I am right, and believing I am right, I shall do all in my power to advocate a principle which will improve this class of property, place it in the position it deserves, and will largely benefit the shareholders who invest their money. (Loud cheers.)
Sir JAMES ANDERSON, who was received with much applause, said:—Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,—I hardly expected to be called upon to speak to the same subject upon which Mr. Pender and Sir Daniel Gooch have already spoken. Neither do I, in any one point which they have expressed, differ from them in the smallest degree. Sir Daniel Gooch especially has said exactly what every one must fully believe to be the common sense of the question, that is, that if we were all amalgamated in one grand company, even though we only made 6 or 7 per cent. upon the ordinary stock, we could lay cables round the world even to less remunerative parts, such as the Cape of Good Hope and New Zealand and other places. The capital could be obtained by such a company without the necessity of holding out prospects of large dividends. The sense of security in such a combination would be fully appreciated by bona fide investors, and this class of property would then be exempted from undue fluctuations upon the market. Well, gentlemen, speaking practically, there is another point, and I need not speak at all if I had no other point to refer to. I believe that what has been done in telegraphy is nothing at all to what we will do. We have only been up to this time making a kind of livelihood dividend to our shareholders. We have been beaten hitherto by many circumstances: by the fact that while we promised to carry so many messages a day, these messages have been condensed into one-tenth part of the number, and now we find merchants, our own customers, our own friends, and shareholders condensing their telegrams, and keeping them back until they have got enough to make one twenty word message. Now, gentlemen, to lay cables and make prospectuses is one thing—to make them pay and progress with the times is a different thing. We have been so far deprived of our anticipated profit by the economy of the commercial world, which has learned a new and condensed language by which they can express all their wants, but as an old sailor, I have always thought it was never wise or safe to try and defy the current, but rather to go with it, and make the best use we could of it, and I would rather go with the current of commercial interest than go against it. And this seems to me to point to another important feature worthy our attention.
If we accept the fact that commercial telegrams must be reduced to the smallest possible cost by condensation—and I think it is proper on our side to accept it, then—I would accept another view, namely, that we have not fulfilled our mission in keeping the public informed of the great events occurring all over the world; and I maintain that there is a large field open to that enterprise if the associated companies could be either amalgamated as the Globe Company, or by agreeing together as separate large sections of telegraphy, and arrange an international system of supplying information so as to give the whole world the leading events—day by day and week by week—as to what is passing likely to interest each other at either ends of the world. That, I think, is a very large element yet to be developed. There is a great sphere for social telegrams outside the ordinary limits in which we carry commercial telegrams. There are intervals in which no line is very busy, and if these intervals were occupied in carrying social telegrams codified by ourselves—not by packers outside—thus giving the social community the full benefit of the commercial rate, that would be another element in the growth of our revenue. This is to be done only by means of a combination. No one section can do it unless the other sections are ready to cooperate. If we can only agree to amalgamation, or to some system of consolidation in sections, we would attain practically all the points we can well desire. These being my views, I shall welcome every step towards amalgamation, every step towards consolidation, and every step towards agreement by which the managers, directors, and others shall work out any general system, not for the benefit of the public alone (for I agree with Sir D. Gooch in thinking that the public good is too much made a convenient cry whenever any one is expected to give up something which others envy), but for what we think will benefit both shareholders and the public. We can no more stand still than the Government of this country can; we must progress, and amalgamation, or the adoption of some such system of increasing our revenues as I have referred to, seems to me in the direction of true progress.
Mr. FIELD: Gentlemen,—At seven o’clock this evening I sent a telegram to my wife in New York. It is nearly half a mile from the nearest telegraph station to my house. Her reply I received a few moments since:—
(Cheers, and hear, hear.)
Gentlemen, the next toast is—“The Press of England and America.” May it be enlightened, pure, and independent, and work in harmony with the telegraph in extending the blessings of civilization around the globe. I couple with this toast the health of my friend Mr. Smalley. (Cheers.)
Mr. G. W. SMALLEY: Mr. Field and Gentlemen,—Two speakers this evening, Sir Daniel Gooch and Sir James Anderson, have told us that they do not care anything about the public, and it seems to me this is a telegraphic family party, in which neither the public nor the press, so far as it represents the public, is very much concerned. But I cannot refuse to acknowledge the kind reference which my friend Mr. Field makes to the press. I have no title except that of a complete outsider, to answer for the English press, nor to say anything more than anybody else who knows it as well as I do would say, that it deserves the eulogy, or rather that it anticipates the wish, which Mr. Field expressed in its behalf—that it may be enlightened, pure, and independent. Nor yet in respect to the press generally will you desire me to speak, except in its relation to the telegraphs. Of course no journalist can say anything about telegraphs without acknowledging the great services which they have done to the newspapers. At the same time, any journalist who knows what journalism is, knows the other side of the case. He knows how much additional toil and responsibility, and wear and tear of all sorts, the telegraphs have imposed upon him. There was a time when a newspaper editor might go to bed with a clear conscience, feeling perfectly sure that the last post was in, that the last express had arrived, and that nothing could happen to mar the ingenious speculations which he had contributed to his journal for the next morning (laughter) for the benefit of that public which our friends here think so little of. (Laughter.) But now he never knows that a dispatch may not arrive after his leader has been written, and after his leader-page has gone to press, and after he has gone to bed, which will turn into nonsense his best conjecture and his soundest opinion. The happy conjecture and the unhappy fact which proves it absurd may appear side by side the next morning (laughter)—an accident which has occurred, I may add, even in an English newspaper. Don’t suppose I am going to say which. (Laughter.) But putting all that aside—of the services which the telegraphs have done to the press—the greatest of all, if I may choose one out of many, has been to make it cosmopolitan. (Hear, hear.) There never was a time when Englishmen cared so much to know what happens everywhere else in the world as they care to-day, and it is the telegraph which has given them that wider interest and that larger concern and that nearer relation to the rest of the world more than any other single influence. The most surprising fact in this surprising century is, that every Englishman to-morrow morning will read in his newspaper an epitome of the whole world’s history of to-day, and feel that he has a share in it and an interest in it. Well, not to speak with any disrespect of any Company in which friends of mine have shares, or which has representatives around this table, it was chiefly the Atlantic Cable which led the way to that new spirit of enterprise. The press on this side of the water never, in any large sense, began to use the telegraph until the Atlantic Cable was laid. I can remember that so lately as 1870, in the early part of the war, a dispatch, a column long, in a London newspaper, giving an account of a battle which had occurred just across the channel, was looked upon as a phenomenon—it certainly had no precedent. We have got further than that now, and the London press bristles daily with special despatches. It sounds trite to say, after this inference of their relations, that the press and the telegraphs have many interests in common. What Sir James Anderson hinted at a moment ago, shows that their Directors are alive to the way in which these interests are beginning to work. My friend, Mr. Field, I know, has the same idea, that the press and the telegraph ought to work together, and I have no doubt there is a good deal in it, and that before long that despised public will begin to profit by their ideas. Their view seems to me to be that the telegraphs, when they have nothing better to do, may consent to send matter to the press at a cheaper rate than if the press came into competition with the rest of its customers. Before we can say how much can be done in that way, we must look at certain qualifications. I cannot say the press will accept any such proposition as that. I have no authority to say it will. All I say is, that there is something in it to think of. Of course if there is a great piece of news, the press must have it as soon as anybody else, and sooner if we can get it. But there is a good deal besides that, which is not so urgent, and which undoubtedly the telegraph may transmit to us, and which we shall, I dare say, in the interest of the public, be very happy to receive, on one condition, and as this is a purely business meeting, I do not hesitate to mention it—that you shall send it cheap enough. (A laugh). What Mr. Field and Sir James Anderson really suggest is, that the telegraph should come into competition with the Post Office. Well, that may be done. The telegraph is, in fact, only a quicker post office. (Hear.) It takes us a little time to get accustomed to a novel method of transmission. ’There is a piece of news in Calcutta, in Australia, in New York. It may come over by steamer perhaps, or by post, or by telegraph. There are two questions only to determine in the method of transmission—its importance and its cost. Now, it may be, if it is worth sending at all, you can make it worth our while to take it. That is for you to decide. Let us have it as cheap as the post will bring it; we shall take it of course. You will hardly do that, and you will negotiate to see how much you can get for it, and we shall negotiate in a contrary sense, and there is probably a point where we may meet. The thing is quite capable of being worked out. Whether we settle that or not, it remains, and must remain true; that telegraphs are no longer a luxury, but a necessity, not merely to journalists, but to modern life in general. If the telegraphs were suddenly blotted out of existence, and all the telegraphists’ and electricians perished off the face of the earth, there would have to be another Morse to re-invent it, and another Field—no, not another, but the same, I trust, for, in spite of his long and splendid services, I believe our host is one of the youngest men here to-night (cheers)—to lay an Atlantic Cable once more, and reunite the two hemispheres. I have only one other word to add. I do not forget the debt telegraphy owes to science; and, least of all, can an American forget what science has done in the person of one of its members, nor our obligation to him. I beg, therefore, if you will permit me, to propose as a toast “Science and the Telegraphs,” and to couple with it the name of one of its most distinguished members in this or any other country—Professor Tyndall. (Cheers.)
Professor TYNDALL, who was received with much applause, said:—Mr. Field and Gentlemen,—I should like to begin my few observations to-night with a brief disquisition on the connection of mind and matter. They are, as everybody knows, intimately connected. For instance, if I prick the end of my finger with a needle pain results, and most people imagine that the pain is felt the moment the wound is inflicted. Nothing at all of the kind. The human body has its telegraphic system, which transmits the intelligence of the wound to the proper office. The prick first affects the nerve, and along the nerve the impression travels at a rate far slower than that of your electric messages. It reaches the brain, but after this the brain itself requires a certain measurable time to arrange its molecules before consciousness can be complete. I am here stating scientific facts. Now it is natural to suppose that the time thus required is different in different brains, depending on the molecular viscosity, or the molecular nimbleness of the brain. I am sorry to say that my brain belongs to the viscous category; and it is such a brain that Mr. Field has called upon to compose a speech without giving it any time whatever for preparation. I paid great attention to the speeches of my predecessors, hoping to discover a peg on which a few observations might be hung. But the hope was vain. Mr. Field spoke of historic matters which I understood, but could not turn to account; while the discourses which followed on shares, dividends, and amalgamations, were mere Hebrew to my undisciplined mind. When Mr. Smalley began I had great hopes of assistance; but even he, before he ended, slid into mysticism and left me in the clouds. And now, with regard to the relation of science to telegraphy, I have already said what I had to say, before audiences of the weightiest calibre; in the United States. And remembering what I said, I know not which to wonder at most, their sympathetic kindness or my own audacity. I ventured there to tell audiences composed in great part, like the one before me, of practical men, that practical men did not invent the electric telegraph; that the discovery of the telegraph implied the discovery of electricity itself and the development of its laws and phenomena. The ancients had observed the electricity of amber, and in the year 1600 Gilbert extended the force to other bodies. But this form of electricity, though tried, did not come into use for telegraphic purposes. Then appeared the great Italian, Volta, who discovered the source of electricity which bears his name, and applied the most profound insight and the most delicate experimental skill in its development. Then arose the man who added to the powers of his intellect all the graces of the human heart, Michael Faraday, the discoverer of the great domain of magneto-electricity. Oersted discovered the deflection of the magnetic-needle, and Arago and Sturgeon the magnetisation of iron by the electric current. The Voltaic circuit finally found its theoretic Newton in Ohm, while Henry of Princeton, who had the sagacity to recognize the merits of Ohm while they were still decried in his own country, was at this time in the van of experimental inquiry. In the works of these men you have all the materials employed at this hour in all the forms of the electric telegraph. Nay, more; Gauss, the celebrated astronomer, and Weber, the celebrated natural philosopher, both professors in the University of Gottingen, wishing to establish a rapid mode of communication between the observatory and the physical cabinet of the University, did this by means of an electric telegraph. The force, in short, had been discovered, its laws investigated and made sure, the most complete mastery of its phenomena had been attained, nay, its applicability to telegraphic purposes demonstrated by men in whose ears the music of dividends never rung, and whose sole reward for their immortal labours was the noble joy attendant on the discovery of natural truth. (Cheers.) These words were not unkindly received by the people of the United States, and I am rejoiced to find, gentlemen, that the spirit of them finds a friendly response among you; that you know the need of such workers as those to whom I have referred. And assuredly they need you; for it is by the interaction of thought and fact—of truth conceived and truth executed—that science has been raised to the commanding position it now occupies. And that science and its applications may continue thus to interact, to the enlightenment of man’s mind, and the bettering of man’s estate, is I am sure the wish of all of you, as it is mine. I thank you, Mr. Smalley, for the manner in which you have proposed this toast, and I thank you, gentlemen, for the manner in which you have received it. (Immense cheering.)
Mr. FIELD:—There is at this table a gentleman who is a legal authority all over the united kingdom. I should like our friend, Mr. Lloyd, to tell us whether what we are doing about amalgamation is legal or not, and if in his experience the amalgamation of railroads and of other large Companies has been wise or not. I propose to you the health of Mr. John Horatio Lloyd. (Cheers.)
Mr. JOHN HORATIO LLOYD said:—Gentlemen,—I think this is rather hard. We know that it is the practice of legal gentlemen, of my branch of the profession at least, to be approached by other ways than those now proposed. (Laughter.) To expect that any lawyer, having regard for his reputation, or any care for the interests of those whom he is called upon to advise, could, in an after-dinner speech, and after imbibing a certain quantity of good wine, be prepared to give an opinion off-hand, upon one of the most important questions which could be submitted to a legal mind is, I think, a little exacting. (Laughter.) If my friend, Mr. Field, thinks fit at some future time to approach the legal authority through the recognised channels, and with a written case properly endorsed—(laughter)then, gentlemen, I shall only be too happy to give him and you, in a careful and well considered judgment, the benefit of the experience and knowledge which my long practice and my special acquaintance with these peculiar matters will enable me to give. (Laughter.) At present I can only say that I see nothing, because I know nothing, which should prevent this great amalgamation from taking place, so far as the Courts of Law or Equity are or may be concerned with it. This is all I venture to say on that part of the subject. But then my friend, Mr. Field, whose requests to me are always equivalent to commands, because I have known and admired him so long, and have been indebted to him for so many kindnesses, asked me further to say what, according to my experience of the working of the railway system, with which I have been connected for some thirty years, was the result of my observation on the question of competition or amalgamation. Well, gentlemen, I am not indisposed to answer that question, and I think I may with0ut any breach of professional etiquette do so without the honorarium to which I have adverted. (Laughter.) I would venture then to say this, that all my observation (and it is large and long as those who are about me know) leads me to this result, that whatever good competition may have done in the inception of these great undertakings, yet latterly, and now that the system has become established, and in a great measure completed, it has been productive only of unmitigated evil. (Hear, hear.) Therefore, as to the antagonistic principles of competition and combination, I give it, without hesitation, as my opinion, that both in the interest of the Companies concerned, and in that of the public (for I do not agree with some of the previous speakers that the public and their interest are to be ignored), combination is better than competition. (Cheers.) As I have been acquainted with railway arrangements and railway contests for so long a period, I think I have a right to speak with some authority on these matters, and I say that competition means waste and extravagance, augmented capital with consequently diminished dividends for the company, and to the public restricted accommodation and higher rates, without obtaining the facilities of intercommunication which ought in every case to be afforded by a great chain of railways in such a country as this. (Cheers.) And I say that the same thing will be applicable, and applicable in a greater degree, to telegraphy. You, who are pioneers in this great work of telegraphic communication, and who deserve to reap the fruits of your enterprise, and of that resolution and perseverance by which it has been achieved, are assailed on every side by those who, envying the position you occupy, now seek to reap what they have not sown. Well, mankind is so constituted that, however we may regret, we cannot prevent this predatory propensity. But I do say it works mischief not only to those against whom rivalry is directed, but also for the public. As respects the companies themselves, the matter does not admit of doubt. We (for as an original Shareholder I venture to include myself) have now at great expense, with great effort, and with great risk, and after failures and disappointments which might well have strangled the enterprise in its infancy, finally established a magnificent system of electric inter-oceanic communication. And after all this, how easy it is for somebody to come and say, ” Well, you have spent a great deal of money in all this, and have created a. large amount of capital on which you have to pay a dividend, and now I will avail myself of all your knowledge and experience, and with a much less capital will plant a rival line and deprive you of the fruits of your enterprise, or will fight with you for a share of them.” Well, it is very difficult to guard against this, but it seems to me that it is beyond all question your interest to protect yourselves from its consequences. But how is it to be done? To set up a competing project is the easiest of all things. The promoters do not require parliamentary sanction, and therefore incur no expense of a parliamentary contest. They have no standing orders to fulfil, no Lord Redesdale to satisfy. They have no land to buy, no compensations to make to the greedy owners of property. A man has only to say, “I have got a concession; I intend to lay a cable between this country and that country; I have a Construction Company, eager and gaping for the job, and a syndicate of speculators who will undertake to raise the capital from the easily gulled public, and in this way I will meet you in the field and beat you out of it.” Well, all this, I say, is very easy, and the question is—How is it to be successfully encountered? There is only one way to do it, and that is to make yourselves so strong by combination and amalgamation that successful rivalry shall become hopeless. (Hear.) It is by this and this alone that you can make yourselves impregnable. All experience teaches, and it has become a proverbial saying, that Union is Strength. Individual efforts may do much, but by association and combination the powers of individual men are multiplied and augmented a thousand fold. I therefore say it to you all, who have present interests to preserve and protect: Combine—unite—amalgamate. Present to this cloud of skirmishing Free Lances a solid, compact, and serried phalanx; act and work as with one will, one government, one purse, and then you may defy them all. (Loud cheers.) This, I repeat, is the only way by which you can get rid of this most unfair and disastrous competition. (Cheers.) And therefore it is that I hail with great satisfaction this gigantic project, which has sprung from the brain, as one might expect, of the man who initiated, and, by his indomitable energy and pluck, has done so much to carry to successful completion the great scheme of inter-oceanic telegraphy. But, gigantic as it seems, I believe it is quite practicable. And my hope is that every one here will consider that it is a glori0us thing to have his name emblazoned in that scroll of fame which will record to posterity—first, the names of those who subscribed their thousands to the laying of the first Atlantic Cable, and next of those who consummated the great work then began by enrolling themselves among the subscribers to the Globe Telegraphic Company. An ancient classic poet, in a sort of serious banter, said that it was to no purpose that the Deity in his Providence had severed lands by the dissociable ocean, if, nevertheless, impious ships were to bound ever over the forbidden waters. If that man could have been present in imagination, if not in the flesh, to-night, and seen here the body of men who are met to commemorate the achievements of the past, and to inaugurate the magnificent project for the future which is to be the crown of all that which has already been accomplished, what would he have thought—what would have passed through his mind, if his poetic fancy could have carried him some nineteen centuries, and he had seen that same ocean which he, by a bold epithet, described as dissociable, made the band of social intercourse? If he could have seen, not only thousands of vessels—impelled by a force then unknown and undreamt of—darting across its surface, but, reposing in its lowest depths, a sympathetic chain linking continents together, and binding the nations of the earth together as one family for mutual help and friendly intercourse? These triumphs are the outcome of the growth and development of humanity. So far from thwarting, they fulfil in the highest degree the beneficent designs of Providence, and they are accomplished by a combination of inventive genius, of resolute purpose, and of that great principle of association which, as I have said, is the true secret of human strength. (Cheers.) Before I sit down, will you allow me to propose a toast? I think one naturally associates with this great scheme the man who has brought us here to inaugurate its incepti0n; and I think als0 that many of us, perhaps all here, know en0ugh of him to say not only that the world is better for what he has done towards establishing what is perhaps the greatest marvel of this or any other age, but that there are qualities which make us regard him as our friend as well as our benefactor; and I may say I should like to couple with this toast the lady who has been mentioned, and who sent us to-night a telegraphic message of congratulation. I am told she has been overheard to say that she wished her husband’s cables were at the bottom of the sea. (Laughter.) Well, her wish has been already in part fulfilled, and let us now lay this one at the bottom of the Pacific, thus giving to poor Mrs. Field a hope of conjugal comfort, and to this perturbed spirit a hope of final rest. Gentlemen, I propose we drink, with full honours, the health of Mr. Field and his good wife. (Loud cheers.)
Mr. FIELD (whose rising was greeted with loud cheers) said:—Mr. Lloyd and Gentlemen,—I thank you, Mr. Lloyd, in the name of Mrs. Field and in my own, for the kind words that you have spoken and for the toast that you have proposed; and you, gentlemen, for the cordial manner in which you have received it; but with your kind permission I will postpone what I have to say until the cable encircles the globe. Gentlemen, we are honored to-night with the presence of one who has done much to bind England and America together. We have one here who labored hard, in the first instance, to induce England and America to make what is called the Treaty of Washington (hear); and one who, when that treaty was in danger, exerted himself to the utmost to prevent its failure. I give you, gentlemen, the “Treaty of Washington,” and I couple with it the name of Sir John Rose. (Loud cheers.)
Sir JOHN ROSE said: Mr. Field and Gentlemen,—If Professor Tyndall had reason to complain that he had only a few hours’ notice to prepare a speech, I think I have a double right to complain; for I can assure you, Sir, nothing ever took me more by surprise than the kindly words you just gave utterance to. I must disclaim, however, any personal merit whatever with respect to the negociations that preceded the Treaty of Washington, or with reference to its consummation. I believe, in the first place, that the kindly feeling that existed on the part of the people of both countries was the impelling motive of it; and I bear witness, cordial and unqualified witness, to the earnest desire on the part of the statesmen of each nation, of neither more than the other, to the perseverance and the earnestness with which they all laboured to see that treaty accomplished. Although there has been a great deal of criticism upon it—diverse criticism—I believe that in the result it is one of those measures on which both countries have a great deal to congratulate themselves. It is not a treaty in which either has gained a vast advantage over the other; but a fair settlement of long pending and irritating controversies. I believe it will do much to cement in kindly feeling two nations who have so many ties in common. I thank you, Sir, for your mention of my name in its very undeserved connection with that treaty. I am grateful to you for asking me to be present to-night, especially as I am simply here in the character of a member of that, I will not say despised, but unappreciated class, the public. (Laughter.) With reference to the union of all telegraphic lines into one Company, I think there is a great deal of consideration due to those who in past years struggled so much, risked so much, labored so earnestly, and with such courage and perseverance, to bring about a system that we cannot do without now. We expect our telegrams as regularly as we do our letters. I have listened with great attention both to what has fallen from Sir Daniel Gooch and Sir James Anderson, as to the advantages of combination in securing your capital, and in enabling you to work for less dividends. At the same time, I don’t think you can do without the public any more than we can do without you. (Laughter.) I think our interests and yours are one. (Cheers.) I believe you are right in seeking to secure your capital, and that you will then be in a position, with the diminished risk affecting it, to reduce your rates to the public. (Cheers.)
Mr. FIELD: Gentlemen,—We are, as you are probably aware by this time, a Telegraph family—we are brothers. We are, in fact, Quakers, (laughter), we are Friends; and if the spirit moveth any one round this table to speak, let us hear him. (Laughter, and hear, hear.)
Sir JAMES ANDERSON: Mr. Chairman,—I think it is a great pity that no one responds to your general invitation, and I would not do so myself for the sake of speaking, did I not feel it a duty, and a becoming tribute to others who are esteemed amongst us, and who, after all these nineteen years, since you initiated the question of ocean telegraphy around your table with your venerable and esteemed friends, are again met on this anniversary of that event. We cannot with justice overlook the services of such scientific men as my friends, Mr. Varley and Mr. Willoughby Smith, Mr. Chatterton, and Captain Halpin, who are all here to-night. I think I also see Mr. Siemens and Mr. Hooper here, and other men who have laboured long and earnestly in the same cause. We should not omit on such an occasion to mention such names as these, and I hope, therefore, you will respond very heartily to the toast, and wish long life to all of them.
Mr. VARLEY: Mr. Field, Sir James Anderson, and Gentlemen,—I wish that I could. have seen Captain Halpin on his legs before me, because I think, as commander of the Great Eastern on the last and the forthcoming expedition, he is the man to whom you must more particularly look for the successful laying and completion of the Atlantic scheme, and therefore I will not, as he is present, attempt to do his duty for him, a duty which he is able to do so exceedingly well himself. With regard to the scientific question, that is one which I think ought to be postponed until Mr. Field has completed his cables round the world. I will, however, make one remark, which ought not to be forgotten in connection with Atlantic telegraphy, because the Atlantic Cable has been the parent of all the deep sea cables that have been laid since. (Hear, hear.) If the Atlantic Cable had not been a success, I don’t suppose we should have telegraphs to India, Australia, China, and Japan at this time. When Mr. Field came over in 1854, the idea which he wished to execute seemed to us scientific men wild and chimerical. He did not see the difficulties with which the question was beset, and those scientific men who were working out the suggestions given them, and endeavouring to solve the problem of giving insulation to a wire of such a length, and depositing it safely at a depth of two or three miles, were not then prepared for the work. Mr: Field and the other gentlemen who were associated with him in his work were not, however, dismayed by the difficulties which beset their task, and when Mr. Field set to work, with an energy which Americans only possess—from the excessive amount of sunshine with which they are blessed, I suppose—scientific men saw that the great work must be done, and one by one, during a period of several years, managed at last to overcome all difficulties, and the result has been the success which we have met this evening to celebrate. (Cheers.) We must all remember the investigations undertaken by Sir Joseph Whitworth, by Sir William Fairbairn and myself, to ascertain what form of external covering would give the greatest amount of strength with the least amount of specific gravity. The efforts of Mr. Chatterton and Mr. Willoughby Smith, too, overcame the difficulty of insulation, difficulties which were so serious that it was impossible at that time to manufacture even half-a-dozen miles of wire that were fit to go to the bottom of the Atlantic. There were other difficulties also. Let us not forget poor Statham, who did so much to perfect the manufacture of Gutta Percha, nor the successful labours of Sir Samuel Canning and Mr. Clifford. I remember, in 1863, in this very room, making a statement, that through the Atlantic Cable that was then to be laid, we would certainly have eight words a minute, and I said it might eventually give 13½ words per minute. This is more than realized, as 17½ words per minute are now transmitted across the Atlantic, and even more. (Hear, hear.) I refer to this little incident, because I was libelled so seriously in a Journal called the “Electrician,” for making that statement, (which I was accused of knowing to be untrue, and issuing from interested and not honest motives,) that I was impelled by the advice of my friends to take legal proceedings against that Journal to defend my character from the libel which had been passed upon me. The result of these proceedings was that the Journal died a natural death. I am not going any further into the scientific case to-night, because it has been proved to you by the actual results of the cables themselves. We all know that what was difficult ten years ago is easy work to-day. I cannot hold out any hope that there is to be any great increase of speed in transmission through the cable, because the point at which we have now arrived so nearly approaches the limit of the electric law, that the margin for improvement is very small. As several gentlemen are bursting with desire to address you, I shall say no more, but thank you for the honour you have done us this evening.
Mr. WILLOUGHBY SMITH: Mr. Field and Gentlemen,—I am much obliged for the kind way in which you have received the mention of my name this evening. It affords me great pleasure to meet Mr. Field at these splendid banquets which he so frequently gives us, but on this occasion I am rather disappointed in Mr. Field. I remember well, in 1866, during the laying of the Atlantic Cable, as we went on day by day, Mr. Field used to say to me, “Thank goodness, we are over another day; only let us get safely across with the cable, and I will retire on the largest farm in America, and keep the largest cows and fowls, and receive my dividend daily in the shape of eggs and milk.” (Laughter.) I believed him then, for it was to all on board the Great Eastern a very anxious time; but to-night I learn for the first time that Mr. Field is anxious to establish a Telegraph Company whose wires shall encircle the globe. I am sure there is no gentleman deserves more praise than Mr. Field in connection with submarine telegraphy, and I hope I shall have the pleasure of congratulating him on the completion of the Globe Telegraph Company Cables.
Captain HALPIN: Gentlemen,—I have to thank you for the kindness with which you have mentioned my name to-night in connection with science, although I have little claim to such distinction. I thank you on my own behalf, also in the names of the gentlemen who worked with me in the many large works in laying which I have been connected with, and I hope our success will continue till we do get round the world. (Cheers.)
Mr. CHATTERTON: Mr. Field and Gentlemen,—I cannot refrain from saying a few words, in acknowledging the kind mention of my name with other workers in submarine telegraphy. We have always worked together with great pleasure and satisfaction, inasmuch as our exertions have, been rewarded by success. (Cheers.) We have enjoyed a further reward in the privilege of being invited to Mr. Field’s banquets. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, I beg to thank you f0r myself, and others with whom I am professi0nally associated, for the high compliment you have paid us.
Mr. FIELD: I hope we shall hear from Mr. Ford, the eloquent champion of the shareholders. (Cheers).
Mr. FORD: Mr. Cyrus Field and Gentlemen,—For the last two hours my head has been leaning upon my hand, consequent upon the extreme depression occasioned in my mind by the painful announcement, communicated to us by Mr. Cyrus Field, that Captn. Osborn, the Managing Director of the Telegraph Construction Company, has been unable to participate in the generous hospitality of this evening, in consequence of the physical and mental suffering which he is enduring from the reduced prices at which that company is compelled to send in contracts for cables. ( Laughter.) I confess, Sir, that, for a period of two hours, I have been very much in the position of Rip Van Winkle. At the commencement of my sleep I heard three speeches, one speech from Mr. Pender, one speech from Sir Daniel Gooch, and another speech from Sir James Anderson. But, after the lapse of two hours, I have aroused myself, and I hope that the opinions which were then expressed are now fortunately reversed. I cannot believe, Sir, that the sentiments then expressed can be the opinions of my contemporaries. I cannot believe that the Chairman of the Eastern Telegraph Company, and of the China Telegraph Company, also a Director of the Australian Company (who has been a party to the recent announcement in the public papers that the Trans-Indian Telegraph Companies are about amalgamating at prices giving British Indian Extensions per share above the nominal value, and China and Australian shares at a proportionate increase) could seriously ask us to go into the Globe Company as telegraph proprietors at par. I consider such a suggestion to be an insult to my common sense; and I was exceedingly sorry to hear that such was the opinion the chairman of that company entertained in reference to the value of my property. Sir, I have been accustomed to hear the British shareholder spoken of as a most remarkable individual. I have heard him spoken of as a creature of no more firmness than a jelly fish, and of no more consistency than a chameleon. I have heard him described as possessing the vanity of a peacock, the pretentious ignorance of a Mrs. Malaprop, the avarice of a Sir Giles Overreach, and the ingratitude of a Judas Iscariot. (Loud laughter.) But, Sir, I venture to say this of the shareholders in the Submarine Telegraphs, that they are an intelligent, far-seeing, enterprising section of the investing public. (Hear, hear.) The shareholders in these companies are men who have been content to listen to the instructions of science, and they have had the boldness to invest their capital when they have found reliable promoters asking subscriptions to bona fide schemes which were likely to be productive of benefit to themselves and the public. (Cheers.) I confess I very much regretted to hear Sir Daniel Gooch speak of the public interest in the manner in which he did. I have never spoken at any of the meetings of telegraph companies in the cause of the shareholders simply. I have always said that the interests of the shareholders and the public are identical, and I will always maintain that opinion. (Hear.) My belief is that the original subscribers of the capital of these companies were instigated, not so much with a view to dividends, but with a view to carrying out what they believed to be the beneficent design of their Creator in the development of science for the benefit of mankind. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, I fancy that I know something of the British shareholder. I have been in correspondence and personal communication with shareholders in all parts 0f England and the globe. I have had communications from the mansions of the wealthy, from the cottages of thrifty workers, from barracks, from cloisters, from studios and chambers, from quiet parsonage homes, from the busy mart and exchange, from the schoolmaster’s desk, and from the widow’s home; and I am bound to say, that taking these communications in the aggregate, they have been marked by a liberality of sentiment, by a breadth and comprehensiveness of principle, by a commercial astuteness and ability, and by a far-seeing wisdom, strangely in contrast with the description of shareholders which I have sometimes heard from persons who have spoken of shareholders’ criticisms and suggestions as of the “common cry of curs whose breath they hate as reek o’ the rotten fens,” and affected a contempt of their “greasy purses,” as if they had not contributed to the common capital. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, I tell you that Science and its teachers—Engineers and Construction Companies—Financiers and Syndicates—Chairmen, Directors, and Officials—may do much; but from the purse of the British shareholders, sooner or later, the capital must come which is to carry your commercial enterprises to success. Gentlemen, I hope it will not be suggested that I have been covertly proposing my own health, and doing myself the assumed honor of responding to it. (Laughter.) But I do feel very much on behalf of the British shareholders. The Prince de Joinville, in a recent discussion as to the statue which should crown the restored column in the Place Vendome, is reported to have suggested that, in lieu of the effigy of a renowned military conqueror, the figure of a Soldier of the Line would best adorn and honor the monumental record of the victories which the personal blood and valor of the French Army had achieved for the nation; and, gentlemen, by parity of reasoning, I say that the toast of “The Shareholders of the Submarine Telegraph Companies,” which I have now the honor to propose, is a relevant and appropriate one at this festivity. (Loud cheers.)
Globe Telegraph Company, Limited
At present Directors of the undermentioned Telegraph Companies.
Sir JAMES ANDERSON
JULIUS BEER, Esq.
CYRUS W. FIELD, Esq.
Sir DANIEL GOOCH, Bart., M.P.
Captain SHERARD OSBORN, R.N., C.B
JOHN PENDER, Esq., M.P.
Baron JULIUS DE REUTER
C. W. SIEMENS, Esq., F.R.S.
[Text courtesy of Special Collections, Smithsonian Institution Libraries]
Last revised: 28 December, 2009