Introduction: After the failure of the 1858 Atlantic cable, the financial situation of the Atlantic Telegraph Company became untenable. An Extraordinary General Meeting of the company was held in London in December 1858 to present the situation in its best light to the shareholders.
Interestingly, despite the acrimonious public arguments between the company and its former electrician, Wildman Whitehouse, which were played out in the press for many weeks after the failure of the cable, Whitehouse is treated fairly gently at the meeting. He cannot resist, however, taking a parting shot at the company in the form of a letter sent four days after the meeting—see below.
The text reproduced here is from a copy of the 26-page printed report in the New York State Library, the only one listed in all libraries worldwide. The Wheeler Gift Catalogue has this entry, but the documents may or may not be at the NYPL and if present are almost certainly inaccessible:
4544. Minutes of proceedings at the I. and II. extraordinary general meeting. 24+16+28+12+6+16+24+8+21 pp. 8vo. London, 1858-1859.
From this entry it is clear that in 1859 there was another Extraordinary General Meeting, but I can find no available source of the report for this event.
See also the full text of the Report of the Directors to the Ordinary
General Meeting of Shareholders to be
held on the 18th day of February, 1858.
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING
AT THE LONDON TAVERN, BISHOPSGATE STREET
(IN THE CITY OF LONDON),
ON WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15TH,
THE RT. HON. J.S. WORTLEY, M.P., IN THE CHAIR.
LIST OF THE PRESENT DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS
OF THE COMPANY.
WILLIAM BROWN AND CO., (LATE ROYSTON AND BROWN), PRINTERS,
40 & 41, OLD BROAD-STREET.
Incorporated by Act of Parliament—Session 1857.
REPORT OF THE DIRECTORS
EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING OF SHAREHOLDERS,
HELD ON THE 15TH DAY OF
The RIGHT HON. JAMES STUART WORTLEY, M.P., 29, Berkeley Square,
C.M. LAMPSON, 64, Queen Street, Cheapside, London.
|BRETT, J. W.
BROWN, WILLIAM, M.P.
GURNEY, SAMUEL, M.P
HAMILTON, CAPTAIN A.T.
HORNBY, THOMAS DYSON
LE BRETON, FRANCIS.
SCHWABE, GUSTAV CHRISTIAN
THOMSON, PROFESSOR W., LL.D.
|2, Hanover Square, London.
Richmond Hill, Liverpool.
26, Booth Street, Manchester.
65, Lombard Street, London.
12, Bolton Row, Piccadilly.
Aigburth, near Liverpool.
Exchange Buildings, Liverpool.
Allerton Hall, near Liverpool.
3, Crosby Square, London.
22, Old Broad Street, London.
Mount Street, Manchester.
11, Rumford Place, Liverpool
Exchange Buildings, Liverpool.
2, The College, Glasgow.
|ARCHIBALD, THE HON. E.M.
CORBIN, FRANCIS P. Esq .
HUNT, WILSON G
LOW, A. A.
CARTIER, THE HON. GEORGE E.
ROSS, THE HON. JOHN
YOUNG, THE HON. JOHN
ROBERTSON, THE HON. JOHN
H.M. Consul, New York.
Quebec, Lower Canada.
Toronto, Upper Canada.
Montreal, Upper Canada.
St. John, New Brunswick.
SOLICITORS—FRESHFIELDS & NEWMAN.
JONATHAN RIGG, 17, Mark Lane, London, Merchant.
HENRY W. BLACKBURN, Bradford, Yorkshire, Public Accountant
BANKERS—THE BANK OF ENGLAND.
ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH COMPANY.
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
AT AN EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING HELD AT THE LONDON
TAVERN, BISHOPSGATE STREET, IN THE CITY OF LONDON, ON
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15th, 1858.
THE RT. HON. JAMES STUART WORTLEY, M.P., IN THE CHAIR.
THE RIGHT HON. J. STUART WORTLEY, M.P., having taken the chair at twelve o’clock, said:‑
As it is now twelve o’clock, and there is present, I believe, more than a quorum, as required by the Act of Parliament, we had better, I think, at once proceed to business. But before doing so, perhaps I may be allowed to express my regret that the Chair is filled upon this occasion by one who has but a limited experience in commercial matters, and my deep regret that we have not to preside over us that distinguished gentleman who was originally the Chairman of this Company—I mean Mr. Brown—or my friend, Mr. Gurney, who was the last occupant of this Chair. With the modesty, however, which characterises the latter gentleman, he has been anxious to be relieved from the arduous duties which I have been bold enough to undertake; and I can only say, as I am now in a position very different from any that I have ever held before, I confidently look for the indulgence and support of this meeting in the performance of the duties which I have undertaken. (Hear, hear). I have had a deep interest in this concern from the beginning. I don’t come here as a mere “show” Chairman. I have endeavoured to inform myself on all matters interesting to this Company. I have given time and industry to meet that task, and I have taken the chair at the request of my brother Directors, not with the view of endeavouring, in any way—to, use a common and disagreeable phrase—to “make things pleasant;” but, on the contrary, to give to the Shareholders every information that it is in my power to give.
Inspired with that feeling, I trust I shall have the support of the meeting on this occasion in conducting the business. (Hear, hear). Before proceeding further, I will call upon the Secretary to read the notice convening the meeting.
Mr. SAWARD (the Secretary) read the advertisement as follows:—
“Atlantic Telegraph Company. Extraordinary General Meeting. Notice is hereby given, that an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Shareholders in the Atlantic Telegraph Company will be held at the London Tavern, Bishopsgate-street, within the City of London, on Wednesday, the 15th day of December, 1858, at twelve o’clock at noon, for the purpose of receiving a report from the Directors as to the present position of the Company’s affairs, and for the adoption of such resolutions, if any, in reference thereto, as may then and there be deemed expedient by the Shareholders. By order, GEORGE SAWARD, Secretary. Chief Office, 22, Old Broad-street, EC., Nov. 30, 1858.”
THE CHAIRMAN.—The next business will be the reading of the Report.
MR. SAWARD read the Report of the Directors as follows:—
Report of the Directors to the Extraordinary Meeting of Shareholders in the Atlantic Telegraph Company, held at the London Tavern, Bishopsgate Street, within the City of London, on Wednesday, the 15th day of December, 1858.
ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH COMPANY,
22, OLD BROAD STREET,
London, 14th December, 1858.
THE present position of the Company’s affairs and the unsatisfactory state of the cable having determined the Board to call the Shareholders together in advance of the ordinary Annual Meeting, it is intended in the present Report to lay before them, concisely the chief events in the history of this undertaking since February last.
At the Annual Meeting in that month, an appeal was made for further capital to enable the Directors to send out a greater length of cable than had been sent on the first occasion. This was responded to by the subscription, among the existing Shareholders, of the sum of £37,860, in shares of £20 each; and it should be stated, as illustrating the sincere desire manifested for the accomplishment of this enterprise, that this was done at par when the original shares were at a very considerable discount in the public market.
The Directors were thus enabled to order 400 miles of new cable, by which addition the total length was increased to 2963 miles; a precaution shown by the result to have been absolutely necessary; for, without such a provision, the Telegraphic Squadron could not prudently have sailed on that final expedition, which, though sadly marred by subsequent untoward events, must nevertheless be regarded as a great and eventful success, demonstrating by practice the perfect possibility of laying and working a Telegraph across the Atlantic.
The machinery manufactured by Messrs. Easton and Amos for paying out the cable was completed and fixed on board during the month of May, and the cable having been also shipped during the same period, the “Niagara” and “Agamemnon,” which had been again devoted to this work by their respective governments, sailed into deep water about 200 miles from the port of Ushant, accompanied by H.M.S. “Gorgon,” to assist in taking soundings. They there proceeded to rehearse a number of preliminary experiments which proved on the whole to be very valuable and satisfactory.
The three ships returned to Plymouth on the 3rd of June, and all the necessary arrangements having been completed, the Telegraphic Squadron set sail for the Atlantic on the 10th of that month.
The violence of the repeated gales which subsequently occurred in the North Atlantic—so graphically described by the Special Correspondent of the “Times” Newspaper, who sailed in the “Agamemnon,” —caused the entire squadron to part company, and postponed the first attempt until the fifteenth day from the date of their leaving Plymouth. The detailed account of the experiments in the Bay of Biscay, and the particulars respecting the accident to the cable on the 26th of June, and the two succeeding accidents on the 27th and 29th of June respectively, have been already fully set forth in the Engineer’s reports, which were published in the daily papers immediately after they had been received by the Directors, and will doubtless be within the recollection of the Shareholders.
After the last-mentioned accident, the entire squadron returned to Queenstown, as had been arranged, and a careful discussion and consultation having taken place in reference to the position of affairs, it was decided that another and final attempt should be made to lay the cable during the present year.
Accordingly, on the 17th of July, the squadron sailed once more for the Atlantic,—on this occasion to complete, though in a measure only, and for too brief a period, the great work upon which so much of toil and anxiety has been so long and unremittingly expended.
The particulars of this voyage having been so widely published, it will be sufficient to state that the “Agamemnon” landed the end of her cable at Valentia on Wednesday, the 5th of August, and that the end of the “Niagara’s” cable was brought ashore at Bay Bulls’ Arm, in Newfoundland, on Thursday morning, the 6th of the same month.
Immediately after the arrival of the “Agamemnon,” Professor Thomson, who had generously given up the whole of his arrangements for the summer in order to supply on board the “Agamemnon” the place of the Company’s Electrician, whose plea of indisposition, supported by medical certificate, was accepted by the Directors,—came on shore, and continued to Mr. Whitehouse, who had then arrived at Valentia, his assistance and advice both in the electrical department and as a Member of the Board, until the 10th August, when he left for a few days to visit his family:—returning on the 21st. It was during this temporary absence that the circumstances occurred which have been related in an address to the Shareholders which the Directors have been reluctantly compelled to publish. The circumstances referred to led the Directors to the unavoidable conclusion that, as the engagement of Mr. Whitehouse in the position of a salaried officer of the Company had terminated when the cable was laid, it would not be for the advantage of the undertaking to enter into any new arrangement with that gentleman.
Professor Thomson having again returned to Valentia, was kind enough to take charge of the station until the end of October; and it is due to him to say, that from the time when signals began to arrive from Newfoundland, it has been chiefly owing to his arrangements that it has been possible, on this side of the Atlantic, to demonstrate fully and fairly the possibility of Telegraphing successfully across it. On the Newfoundland side, the Company has been greatly indebted for the same result to the attention, intelligence, and practically scientific knowledge displayed by Mr. C.V. De Sauty, the Electrician in charge of that station, and of Mr. J.C. Laws, who sailed with Mr. De Sauty, to take share of the duties on board the “Niagara.”
Immediately after the laying of the Cable, a meeting of the Board was summoned, and among other arrangements then settled, authority was given to charter a proper ship to lay the shore-ends at Valentia and Newfoundland. Some few days necessarily elapsed after this before a suitable vessel could be obtained; but, at length, the Managing Committee decided on chartering the “Bilboa,” then lying at Queen’s-town, from whence she proceeded to Keyham, and as soon as possible afterwards commenced taking in the whole of the heavy shore Cable and other property belonging to the Company, which was required to be removed from the Government premises.
Meanwhile, however, the defective state of the Cable (which had not at first been communicated to the Board in London), had become more and more seriously developed, and the Directors having gone to Valentia, called to their aid Mr. C.F. Varley, who was kindly permitted by the Electric and International Telegraph Company to go and inspect the cable, and Mr. W.T. Henley, well known for his practical experience in Telegraphic Science.
These gentlemen agreed with Professor Thomson that the fault was not within or near Valentia Harbour, and the scientific opinions upon the subject being in the ratio of three to one in favour of a distance of 250 miles, and the Directors having been distinctly informed and advised that the laying of even twenty miles of shore end would not in any way improve the electrical condition of the Cable, they sent the “Bilboa” round to the Thames, there to deliver the stores and Cable she had removed from Keyham, and which must, under any circumstances, have been immediately taken away from thence. She was there discharged, being an expensive vessel, hired under the belief that she would have to cross the Atlantic to lay the end at Newfoundland, and the Directors having engaged a schooner, at a small expense, to go round to Valentia with sufficient shore Cable, the laying of it was placed under the charge of Captain Kell, who held responsible positions in this Company’s Engineering Department both in 1857 and during the present year, and whose execution of this work, notwithstanding very bad weather, has been highly satisfactory.
The event has proved that this was not a false economy, but a prudent and proper arrangement, inasmuch as the testing of the main Cable from the point of junction with the shore end towards America is now precisely the same as it was before the thick Cable was laid while the eleven miles of thin Cable, in lieu of which a similar length of Shore Cable has been submerged, having been taken up and tested carefully, is found to be electrically perfect, and also free from any external abrasion of consequence; thus demonstrating that there has not at any time been any injury to the Cable, either within the harbour or within that distance of shore.
The Directors are very sorry to report that they have just received intelligence of a new and serious defect in the cable which has been developed on the Newfoundland side—appearing, by the tests, to be about 400 miles from the station. This fault would seem to be similar in its character to that near Ireland, and differs little from it in magnitude.
The Directors do not venture at present to give an opinion as to the cause of these defects, or of the present condition of the cable, beyond suggesting that the various coilings and uncoilings to which it has been subjected, and the severe treatment some portion of it must necessarily have sustained during the repeated gales of last June, may, in all probability, have so far strained it, in one or more places, as to produce faults into which the water has gradually found its way, and which may have been further enlarged by the use of a great amount of battery power.
As to the future of the existing cable, the Directors believe it can only be got to work again by under-running, or otherwise raising and mechanically repairing it, although Mr. Henley and others are even now engaged in various investigations, in the hope of possibly bringing about some partially useful results independently of that process.
To have attempted to underrun the cable to any distance, during the continuous bad weather which has recently prevailed in the Atlantic, would have been the height of imprudence, and, considering this circumstance in connexion with the present financial condition of the Company, the Directors have felt it their duty to decline for the present to enter upon so expensive an undertaking, and one which, during the prevalence of heavy seas, would be so fraught with risk of absolute and final ruin to the property under their charge.
The Directors append to this Report a cash statement, showing the receipts and payments of the Company to November 30th.
The capital account shows that £350,000 have been received on the old shares; £36,435 on the twenty pound shares, and £1,043 19s. 8d. on interest account; making the total cash received amount to £387,478 19s. 8d. Besides these cash receipts, the share account shows that free shares to the value of £75,000 have been issued to the projectors in purchase of the release of their original rights and privileges, as authorised by the ordinary Annual Meeting in February last.
On the other side of the account, the chief items are: The cable, which, with the expenses attending its coiling and shipment, has cost £324,142 13s. 5d.; the expenses of the engineering department, including salaries, travelling, and cost of machinery and engines, £20,399 11s. 8d.; the electrical department, which includes the salaries and wages to August last, £15,711. 18s. 11d.; and the Secretary’s department, which includes rent, furniture, fittings, books, stationery, and salaries, £3,793 9s. 6d.; making a total under these four headings of £364,046 16s. 6d. The total expenditure to November 30th has been £379,029 17s. 3d.; the cash balance at the same date being £7,996 13s. 10d. against which sum there are various liabilities at present outstanding.
The directors would here observe, that the books are regularly posted up, and are, as they always have been, at all times during office hours, open to the inspection of any shareholder or other person properly authorized on his behalf.
Having regard to the foregoing summary of the Company’s affairs, it is manifest that without further means no operation of any magnitude, such as the repairing of the cable, could be entered upon. Indeed, looking at present resources, the Directors have felt it incumbent upon them to enforce the strictest economy, and as a precautionary measure have given provisional notices of discharge to the whole of the Company’s staff. They have, however, vigorously applied themselves to ascertain the best means of obtaining subscriptions for further capital, both for another cable and for the repair of the present one; and believing it to be impracticable to raise money for an undertaking of this nature without security for some return upon it, they have made application to Her Majesty’s Government for a guarantee upon the balance of the Company’s unissued capital, amounting to £537,140, of a similar nature to the guarantee conferred upon the Red Sea Telegraph Company. This application has been supported and enforced by most influential memorials from nearly all the large commercial towns throughout the country, and from various important corporate bodies. It was hoped that the Directors would at the present meeting have been able to lay before the Shareholders a satisfactory result; but they are unable to say more at present than that negotiations are still pending, and that the Board have sanguine hope that Government will be willing to assist the Company in the mode they require,—not indeed unconditionally,—but on such terms as is believed will enable the Company to raise the requisite capital without fettering the enterprise. Until these negotiations are completed and the result known, it will probably be desirable that the present meeting should be adjourned to some date that will enable the Directors to come again before the Shareholders with a full statement of the definite intention of the Government.
The Directors have to report that the Act of Parliament applied for last Session for conferring borrowing powers on the Company, and powers to raise preference capital, received the Royal assent on the second day of August, 1858.
As the proposed arrangement, if made with Her Majesty Government, will have to be confirmed by an Act of Parliament, the Directors have thought it right, in view of this circumstance, to deposit a Bill for the ensuing Session, that will secure the necessary ratification of any agreement the Company may be required to enter into.
Since the ordinary meeting of the Shareholders, the following gentlemen, viz., the Vice-Chairman, (Mr. T.H. Brooking),—Mr. T.A. Hankey and Mr. W. Logie, have retired from the Directorship of this Company, and the remaining Directors under the powers of the Company’s Clause Act, have elected the Right Hon. J. Stuart Wortley, M.P., in the place of Mr. Brooking, and Captain A.T. Hamilton in the place of Mr. Hankey.
Mr. Gurney, M.P., having desired to vacate the office of Chairman, of the Board, Mr. Stuart Wortley has acceded to the unanimous wish of the Directors that he would undertake that office, and Mr. Lampson has also consented to act as the Vice-Chairman.
Before closing this Report, the Directors feel that it will not be superfluous, to place upon record some of the actual services accomplished by the Atlantic Cable during the short time of its successful operation. By the agency of this Company, a message of peace and mutual congratulation was interchanged between Her Most Gracious Majesty and the Chief Magistrate of the United States, in terms calculated to cement the alliance and foster the good feeling existing between these two great nations; and though the Directors felt reluctantly compelled to refuse the important messages which during that period were urged upon them for transmission by private individuals, intelligence was conveyed by our wires, which in announcing the safety of the ship Europa, containing hundreds whose lives were known to have been perilled, brought relief and consolation to the anxious friends of all on board.
On behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, orders were despatched to our Colonies in North America during those few days, which saved large sums of money to the nation by countermanding operations, which could have been arrested in time by no other channel.
It is not unimportant to add that the improvements already accomplished and still in daily progress in the instruments applied to submarine Telegraphy, give a well founded prospect of such rapidity in recording messages, as will insure a commercial profit on the working of the cable far beyond what experience had until lately appeared to promise.
In part, if not mainly by this enterprise, an impulse has been given to practical science throughout the civilised world, which has elicited information and developed resources, by the light of which the future course of this Company will be rendered more easy in its advance to final and complete success.
In their belief that this success is certainly attainable, the Directors are confirmed, by the universal testimony of the most eminent men, of philosophical and practical science, and when in possession of the further capital which is sought to be raised, they will be able to avail themselves of all that genius, experience and perseverance have now established for their guidance, and, supported by the shareholders, they will be prepared to enter upon a fresh and energetic course, to the triumphant completion of this great undertaking.
London, Dec. 14, 1858.
The Atlantic Telegraph Company
Cash Statement, showing the Receipts and Payments of the
Company from its commencement to November 30th, 1858.
Mr. Wright (to the Secretary).—Are there no copies of the Report for distribution among the Shareholders ?
The Chairman.—The question which has just been addressed to the Secretary shows me that I was right in supposing that my first duty would be to apologise to the Shareholders, on the part of the Directors, for not having been able to circulate amongst the Shareholders at an earlier period the substance of this Report. In general it is customary to circulate the Report beforehand, so as to enable every Shareholder to come to the meeting with a perfect knowledge of the facts and elements on which he is to form his judgment. The circumstances under which this Extraordinary Meeting has been called, however, are peculiar. Down to the last, communications have been passing constantly between the Directors and the Government, which induced us to hope that we should be able to give the result of those communications to the meeting. It was not, therefore, until the latest moment that we were able to complete the Report; and, indeed, I may be permitted to say that it is entirely owing to the industry, assiduity, and devotion of the Secretary, and to the time and labour which he has given to it, that we have been able to bring it before you now. (Applause.) Great pains have been taken by him; every exertion has been made, and the result is that the Report is now complete, and in the printer’s hands; and before the meeting is over, I hope that it will be circulated. However, with the exception of the financial part, I think there is nothing in the Report that cannot be clearly comprehended from the reading in the distinct voice of our Secretary; and I trust therefore that you are all aware of the contents of it. This is, as you know, an extraordinary meeting, and it is called under very peculiar circumstances; but I trust you will not think that it is called without reason. For myself, having been a Shareholder, to a considerable extent, from the outset of this enterprise, I but very recently came into the direction; but from the moment that I had the honour of joining the Board, I felt that it was desirable to take the earliest opportunity of putting the Shareholders and the general body of the Company in full possession of what our condition was. I believe that there has been no time, when, through the courtesy of the Secretary and of every member of the Board, information in detail could not be obtained on application at the Office, by any gentleman interested in the Company; but there has been no opportunity of conveying to them as a body—and to the distant Shareholders particularly—what has been done, and what is the real condition to which we have now come. That condition is one on which I cannot altogether congratulate the Company, because, frankly speaking, I am afraid that the report that has just been read must be anything but agreeable. Still there are circumstances surrounding our condition which do justify me in saying, that if we are supported by the generous unanimity of the proprietors of this great Company, there opens before us at this time a prospect which, if not so exciting as that at first developed, is, if rightly considered, even more encouraging; affording a view of grander undertakings and of a greater success than was contemplated at the beginning of this enterprise. No doubt, as far as finance is concerned, it cannot but be matter of regret to the original Shareholders, that for the present, at least, all their capital has been expended without any immediate prospect of return—but I have always regarded this Company as not a mere commercial partnership, having reference solely to commercial profit and the pecuniary benefit of its Shareholders; but as of a mixed character, involving a great national work, involving a great step in civilization, and the material advancement of society; and in that view it is, I believe, that a large proportion of those who were the original contributors to this undertaking took shares in its property. (Cheers.) I don’t wish to speak of myself, but it has undoubtedly been in that view that I have been willing at a time when certainly, commercially speaking, or with an eye to profit, there was very little temptation, to undertake, with your sanction, the arduous and most responsible duties which attach to the position I now hold. And if on this occasion I draw more largely than I am willing upon your patience, it is because I am anxious to put this matter in such a form as to show you that it is not a concern of the eventual success of which we ought to entertain any doubt, and to convey, through those channels which are likely to give publicity to these proceedings, what is the real question which is involved in the success or defeat of this Company.
It is true that there is at present no amount of funds in the hands of the Directors, to enable them to carry on this great project with any prospect of energetic action. Indeed, it has been the misfortune of the Directors, from the moment that I joined the Board, that our hands have been absolutely tied by the want of funds to undertake any great operation.
I think that the Shareholders will sanction us in the desire to exercise strict economy in our proceedings, and, as far as possible, to avoid any hazardous outlay. (Hear, hear.) It has been that which has confined us to the partial operations which have taken place at Valentia, and which—although I believe them to have been sufficient to decide some questions which have been raised with respect to our Cable—were yet not so extensive as the Directors would desire to have undertaken, if they had been in the possession of funds. But they thought it was their duty—the first object being, if possible, to resuscitate the present Cable—to ascertain whether there was any ground for supposing that the Cable had been injured, by attrition or any other cause, within a limited distance of the rockbound coast of the west of Ireland; and, with that view, Captain Kell, a very able seaman and most intelligent man, was instructed to underrun eleven miles of the Cable, immediately adjoining the western coast of Ireland; and by that operation it has been ascertained that those who imagined that there was any injury to the Cable—within that short distance, at all events—were misled. (Cheers.) Any further operations for the purpose either of raising the Cable or of underlaying it, or of ascertaining exactly where the injury is, we have been unable to undertake, owing to the state of the finances of the Company. Under these circumstances, it was thought by the Directors that the best course would be at once to appeal to their Shareholders, to sanction the course which they have taken in asking the assistance of the Government. Other counsels have not been wanting, and there have been those who have suggested various modes of procuring capital—by preference shares, for example—a course to which, individually, I should be most unwilling, if we can possibly help it, to resort. (Hear, hear.) That is the general sentiment of the Directors, and, by your applause, I gather it also to be the general feeling of the meeting at large. (Cheers.) Others have counselled us to adopt the course which has been acted on with success in the case of the Great Ship Company; but I trust, although that resource is left open to us in case of necessity, that this Company is not reduced to that strait; and I believe that if we are unanimously supported by the proprietary, and out of doors (as I have no doubt we shall be) by the general commercial world that there are means of resuscitating this Company, of bringing it into energetic action, and of completing our design without resorting to any such course as that. But unless we are prepared to take one or other of those courses, I am at a loss to under‑ stand what other suggestion can be made than that on which we have acted—namely, to endeavour to place ourselves on the same footing, and the same principle as that of the great undertaking connecting this kingdom with its eastern possessions, and which is in the hands of what is called the Red Sea Company. (Hear, hear.)
In the course of the summer that Company obtained from the Government not an “unconditional guarantee,” for there is a great misunderstanding with respect to that expression—of 4 per cent. on its capital; but a guarantee not contingent on success (in that respect unconditional), but subject to conditions to which they submit for the protection of the Government, and of the national revenues which were pledged for their support. It is for that, therefore, that we have been applying. In order to show that we are entitled to that assistance, it is important to ascertain what is the state and prospect of this Company. As some men’s minds are easily dashed and disappointed, and the accidents which happened during the first experiments, and the untoward circumstances which have occurred since the completion of the connection between England and America by the last expedition, may lead some to suppose that our prospects, at this moment — even if we had capital—are not so good as they were at the outset, I can confidently state to you that I believe it to be the opinion of the great body of persons—whether scientific or otherwise—who have given attention to this subject, that the prospects of the Company, if it were in possession of capital, are infinitely better, infinitely more encouraging, infinitely safer than they have been at any period since its commencement. That sounds bold; but I undertake to prove it. (Cheers). In the first place, it has been now, by the exertions of this Company, clearly demonstrated that electrical communication between these two great continents, is possible. It is admitted on all hands, that that which was before conjecture, is now a fact. That scientific problem has been solved. You can pass an electric message through 2,500 miles of submerged marine Cable. Besides that, it has been ascertained—and I’ll give you proof of it—that it can be applied to actual use and service, not only in a commercial sense, but for the benefit of the nation and of the world. (Cheers). With regard to its prospects in a scientific sense, I have had the privilege since I have occupied the chair, of communicating with some of the first men of science in this kingdom, both philosophical and practical. I have communicated through their president, with the members of the Royal Society; I have had the pleasure of communicating with Mr. Professor Faraday, Mr. Professor Wheatstone, and others of the leading men who have devoted themselves to these great subjects; and I believe that their unanimous opinion is, that there is no really scientific difficulty in accomplishing the object which this Company has in view. Indeed, in the most formal manner, and deliberately, those gentlemen have placed that opinion upon record; for they were kind enough to give us their assistance by sending a memorial to the Government, signed on behalf of the Royal Society by their new President, Sir Benjamin Brodie; on behalf of the British Association of Science, which represents, I may say, the science of the world, by Professor Owen, its President; by that distinguished man, Sir Roderick Murchison, in his character of President of the Geographical Society; by Mr. Professor Faraday, and by Mr. Professor Wheatstone, all expressing to the Government their sense of the importance of the undertaking, and its perfect practicability. In the words of the Memorial they say:—
“This work we believe to be practicable, while we are confident of its conferring great benefits on our fellow subjects in both hemispheres; we humbly submit, that its success will redound in every way to the honour of Her Majesty’s Crown, and of the British Nation.” (Cheers.)
Therefore, scientifically speaking, you have accomplished a great fact,—you have gained a great triumph, and you have established for the scientific world the certainty of the possibility of laying not only this Cable but many others, in different directions, connecting the most distant portions of the globe, and covering the earth with a network of electricity, But, if it were merely the solution of a problem in science,—great as would be that work—it would be insufficient to justify us in endeavouring to present this undertaking in a national point of view, or in asking for the assistance of the Government; but, as the Report has already informed you, during the very short period—unfortunately too short—in which this Cable was in action, it showed the essential service which it might render, not merely to the material and commercial interests of society, but to those higher interests which are involved in all our social affections and in the government of this great empire. (Cheers.) In the first place you have been reminded that, as becoming the inauguration of this Cable, friendly messages were mutually interchanged between the Sovereigns—if I may so speak without offence to our Transatlantic brethren—or between the two Chief Magistrates of England and America, calculated in every way to promote peace and good will, and to excite and foster good feeling between the kindred nations of the two continents. (Hear, hear.) This, perhaps, you may say is a matter of show; but what were the real essential benefits conferred ? Could there be a stronger instance than that of the “Europa,” where hundreds, perhaps thousands, were interested in the lives of those who were supposed to have been lost and known to have been perilled in the collision off the coast of Newfoundland, and to whom were conveyed comfort and consolation by the instant passage of the electric spark, reviving hopes and relieving anxieties by informing them of the safety of their friends ? But in order to justify our application to the Government, it is for us to show that the Company may be of essential service in the government and administration of this kingdom and its dependencies. What is the fact? In the height of that Indian mutiny and rebellion, which now so happily is mitigated—if not entirely subdued—in the emergency of that moment orders were sent from this country for the embarcation of certain troops—at least of two regiments—from the shores of Canada direct to India. In the meantime intelligence of the increasing success of our arms in India reached the Government, and they believed that the enormous expense of sending those troops from the Western Hemisphere and transferring them to the Eastern, might be saved. The troops would have embarked in a few days. No power hitherto known—no power was there, at all events in action, to have prevented that embarcation and that expense. The ministers availed themselves of the privilege granted by this Company under its agreement with the Government, and sent a message to countermand the embarcation of those troops; and I won’t take upon myself to tell you how many thousands of pounds were saved to the nation by that one message. (Cheers.) Therefore, when people speak of the risk to the nation in guaranteeing an interest upon that half a million of money—which is all we ask—what is it when compared with the material financial benefits which this Company may confer upon the country ? When we consider the number of troops in our western provinces, and the number of ships upon their shores, putting out of sight all the commercial advantages, all the mercantile marine, all the orders which may be sent by merchants and others, and which, by increasing the capital of individuals, augments the revenue of the country; putting aside all this, I believe that it can be easily demonstrated that if this communication should be established—even in a much less perfect manner than I hope it may be—that, materially and commercially speaking, it would save to the nation a much larger turn than the Government, under the most unfavourable circumstances, could be called upon to contribute. (Cheers.) There is one other instance of good service rendered be this Company, which, though not mentioned in the Report, I should not omit to notice. We all remember the surprise and gratification with which this country received the news of the Chinese peace and treaty. Coming as it did, as a surprise not only upon commercial men, but upon politicians also, that great event was, by the agency of this Cable, communicated within a few hours, instead of weeks, to the whole community on the other side of the Atlantic; and we find in the American papers of that day, among the somewhat exuberant joy and glorification, perhaps, exhibited on that side, recorded the miraculous fact (for it was little less than that) that the news of the Chinese treaty which first arrived at St. Petersburg, and afterwards at this great centre of intelligence and commerce, within an incredibly short time, had actually reached the other side of the Atlantic and the whole American community in the flashing of an hour. (Cheers.) That, I think, shows that we have the elements of encouragement in what we have actually done. (Applause). And, although untoward circumstances have checked us, and for a time interrupted our good services, there is every reason to hope that they can be revived. But, are there not other circumstances to show that we stand now in a better position than we did ? It is stated, truly, in the Report, that the operations of the Company have given an impulse to scientific enquiry, practical and philosophical—throughout the world, such as it has not received for centuries. Every man’s mind is addressed to the subject; and what is the consequence ? That great discoveries are daily advancing, and that the truth of our principle becomes more clear, more certain, and our object more easy of accomplishment, as each day adds to the discussion and elucidation of the subject. More Cables have been laid in every direction, shorter, but still long Cables; in shallower, but still deep water, 1,900 fathoms, until at last the laying of ordinary Submarine Cables—anything under 500 miles in length—has become a matter of course. You talk now of cables here and cables there; and engineers draw their pens in red ink across charts for new cables, just as twenty years ago they would do for new railways; or fifty years ago for new turnpike roads. In fact the laying of Submarine Cables has become not a question of abstruse science, but simply of practical skill in the mode of their manufacture and laving them down. That relates to short cables. With regard to longer ones, we cannot disguise from ourselves, that there is still considerable difficulty and mystery in the management of that extraordinary agent, electricity, when applied to great lines; but, that all those difficulties will be overcome by science, no man of real learning for a moment doubts. (Cheers.) Again, day by day we receive information of the improvement of the instruments. I don’t speak of the instruments for passing the current through the wire, or to the questions which are being raised as to the benefit of employing stronger or lighter currents; but, I am speaking of the recording instruments. To my mind one of the most discouraging circumstances in connection with our experiments was, that the recording of the instruments at Valentia was so slow as to make it doubtful whether it would ever be sufficiently rapid to enable us to earn much profit; but a great advance has been made in that respect. Every day new inventions are coming out; the ingenuity of man is turned to the subject; and day by day the moat intellectual men, both in England and America, are submitting to us instruments of a kind greatly calculated to improve the means of recording messages. (Applause.) Within the last fortnight I have seen an instrument of Professor Wheatstone’s (which though not adapted to this kind of cable may, with modifications, probably be made applicable to it) by which, in my presence, within the space of one minute, 400 letters were recorded-80 words—and translated into English—recorded I mean, not in cipher, but recorded and translated in English letters legible to the merest clerk, or person of the most ordinary attainments. These are some of the things which encourage us. (Hear, hear.) That distinguished gentleman is now in Paris; for such is the nature of our institutions, that we are jealous of Government interference, and the Government, in their turn, are so afraid of the House of Commons, that they can give no great encouragement in cases of this nature. I am sorry to say, therefore, that he has gone to lay this invention before that illustrious man, the Emperor of the French, who, whatever we may think of his other qualities, is at least a man of large mind, which induces him wisely upon every occasion to give his patronage to every design or invention which is calculated to advance the material interests of his people. (Hear, hear.) These circumstances ought to give us great encouragement as to the probability of making our undertaking more efficient and more profitable than it ever promised to be before. Still, with all that, I am not stating these facts in the hope of being able to induce you, or any other commercial gentlemen, to advance fresh capital unless I can give you some more substantial security than mere hopes afford. And we have come to the conclusion—not without consulting the first men in the City, and those who were best able to advise us —that there is no prospect of obtaining fresh capital merely upon the speculation of success in this undertaking. The answer to our statements is, “We agree with you; we think you’ll do it, or that somebody will do it some day; still, there are other investments which insure us a return for our capital, and we won’t subscribe.” That is the general feeling. Besides that, the misfortunes which have occurred to our Cable have discouraged others, and the universal feeling is that though we may be successful, yet that the design is too hazardous for persons to advance capital on it. All that we want to do, therefore, is to get such assistance from the Government as shall not cast a heavy burden upon the nation; and what we wish is, that by lending us their credit—the credit of the nation—speaking commercially, “by lending us their name,” we may be enabled to raise that capital. But you may say, “If your prospects are so good,—if you are supported, as you say you are, by the first commercial men in London and elsewhere, by great capitalists like the Barings and the Rothschilds, why can’t you get money?” Well, I am not a commercial man. My only answer is, that we can’t. I don’t know how it is; but we can’t. (A laugh.) Then persons tell us, that if we were to advertise at this moment for contractors, we should have a competition amongst those who would be willing not only to lay the Cable down for us, but to undertake a large proportion of the risk; and they say, “If you have people willing to contract, and to undertake the risk, why can’t you go on without Government assistance?” My simple answer is, that people will contract if they think they can do it with a profit; but they won’t contract with a penniless pauper in the street, however clever he may be, however scientific his project, however correct his calculations. No one will contract with people who have not capital; and therefore, if we have no money the contractors will remain at home. Again, if we were in a position to contract, we must, in all probability, advance money to the contractors; for men don’t undertake to lay out half a million of money unless they have some advances; and therefore, we must have money to start with. But, I believe that nothing will give it us in the present state of the public mind, scarcely recovered from the difficulties of commerce which prostrated this and many other cities not eighteen months ago, unless we can show something like a certainty of a moderate return. (Hear, hear.) On these grounds, and with these considerations, we have thought it right to apply to the Government to endeavour to put us on the same footing as the Red Sea Telegraph. I quite admit as a legislator the justice of the principle that Government should interfere as little as possible with commercial affairs; above all, that they should avoid giving a preference to one commercial body to the injury and prejudice of others; but I say that this is an exceptional case (hear, hear); and I have read this morning with great pleasure an article in a great organ of public opinion, which at first sight would appear to owe its origin to a hostile feeling against this Company, but which, in my opinion, is likely to afford us the greatest assistance that we have yet received, because it places before the public the exceptional circumstances which justified the Government in acting as they have done in giving a guarantee to the Red Sea Company. My object in communicating with the Government has been all through, and still is, to press upon their notice that this, like the Red Sea, is an exceptional case, and that there are considerations connected with the Atlantic Telegraph Company which can apply to no other commercial company except the Red Sea. The grounds on which they gave a guarantee to the Red Sea Company are, I believe, accurately stated in the article in question —namely, that they regarded it as an imperial undertaking—that it connects this kingdom with its great eastern possessions—with the great vice-royalty of India—that it enables the Government to conduct their concerns with the greatest facility, to order their troops, to instruct their governors, to recall their Viceroys or to encourage or rebuke their agents. They therefore look upon it as an Imperial concern, and there can be no doubt that the rebellion in India gave great urgency to that consideration at the time; and I believe that it is the additional importance which has been given to the India connection by that rebellion which makes the Government less alive than they ought to be to the most important considerations which refer to the Western hemisphere. That this is a concern of the same nature has been testified by the general opinion of the commercial world. Most of you have, no doubt, seen some of the memorials which have been presented from all the great leading houses in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Belfast, and from all the great centres of intelligence in every part of the kingdom, expressing to the Government their belief that this is an Imperial concern, important not merely to commerce or to the individual shareholders, but to the Government itself and to the nations over which they are presiding. (Cheers.) If that be so, it is a consideration on which I think we may fairly hope that the Government will be disposed to give us the assistance which we require. I am afraid that the mutiny in India has, as I have hinted, rather blinded them to the comparative importance of our connexion with our western possessions; but I must recall to their recollection that if there are many millions in India, there are millions also in Canada, in Nova Scotia, in New Brunswick, and in British Columbia; and when we remember the number of troops, and the number of Queen’s ships which are necessarily engaged in those colonies, I ask whether, if it be an imperial consideration to have ready access to the Eastern, it is not equally so to have similar access to the Western portion of our possessions? (Applause). There was a time, too, when there was a rebellion in Canada, and I remember well the alarm which was created in Parliament and in the country in consequence; and what would they not then have given to have been able to communicate to the governors and the commanders between sunrise and sunset, in every province, all the detailed orders of the Home Government? (Cheers). We stand then, on exactly the same footing as the Red Sea Company; and I am not sure, looking to the future, whether we may not contemplate, great as are the interests in the East, when we consider the difference between the people in the East, and contrast it with the intelligence and activity of the Anglo-Saxon race, who are beginning to people the vast districts of North America; I am not sure whether in the course and flood of time, it may not come to pass, that the position of affairs in that hemisphere may be even more important to this country than in India itself. (Cheers.) These are considerations wholly apart from commerce; call them political, if you will; at all events, they are imperial considerations which give a distinctive and practical character to the undertaking on behalf of which we are now pleading. (Renewed applause.) Again, there is another consideration which gives this Company superior claim over the Red Sea Company. The Red Sea Telegraph passes at present over the Continent of Europe, and it can’t avoid at any time passing the Isthmus of Suez. It cannot, therefore, under any circumstances, be rendered wholly independent of other nations. But it is the peculiarity of this line that, throughout its enormous length, connecting dependencies at a distance of 6,000 or 7,000 miles—as it probably will do—it is all on British soil, (Cheers.) Our terminus at Valentia is on British soil—although it may be doubtful whether in future operations it may not be advisable to alter that terminus, and bring it nearer home. Our terminus at Newfoundland is on British soil. By the connection with the New York and Newfoundland Company, our terminus on the coast of Nova Scotia is on British soil. The whole is on British soil, and all is subservient to, within the control of, the British interests and British nation; and in that respect, therefore, it has an advantage over the Red Sea Telegraph. Now, what is it that we ask of the Government? We ask a guarantee upon £535,000 of new capital. There is half-a-million already sunk. We don’t ask, and we can’t ask, that the Government should give us any help with respect to that, except such indirect assistance as those who have sunk it will derive from the general prosperity of the Company; because, undoubtedly, if the Company should realise profits by means of a guarantee on the new capital, those profits will come to be divided among the old as well as the new Shareholders. Beyond that, we can ask no assistance with regard to that capital, so expended and sunk for the present. We ask a guarantee of 44 per cent.,-which, if paid upon the whole, would amount to £22,500 a-year. That is not a very enormous sum, but I am aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would feel a difficulty in guaranteeing the expenditure even of that sum. But it is a very, very false view of the risk which we really ask the Government to incur. In the first place,—if we succeed, they will have to pay us a great deal more than that, in all probability, for the messages they may have to send. Again, they have a very bad bargain with us at present, from which we could release them if we got this guarantee. There can be no doubt upon the correct anti legal interpretation of our present agreement with the Government, that if we could get our Cable into such working order as to enable us to pass only two words an hour they would be bound to pay us £14,000 a year; and yet the Cable would be comparatively useless to them. To be relieved from that, would be a great advantage to them. The time is not limited; and therefore, virtually, so long as we could pass two words an hour they would be bound to pay us £14,000 a year. Again, the Government will have an opportunity, if they embrace it now, of negotiating with the American Government, and of obtaining a much more satisfactory arrangement with them. Indeed, in all probability, that country might be induced to share with the British Government the responsibility which we ask them to incur. We are told that we may have contractors who will take, at least, two-thirds of the risk upon themselves, and that there will be competition for such a contract. We know that there are many persons who would be anxious to take a contract on those terms if we were liberal in our price; and, if that be so, the £22,500 is reduced at once £7,500, which would be the whole risk to the Government in case of failure. But even that amount may, I believe, be very materially reduced by some project of insurance by means of under-writers, or by insuring among ourselves, or by some plan of that description, if they should force that condition upon us; so that, in point of fact, the risk of the Government would be almost nominal. (Applause.) Then they say, “Why do you want our guarantee at all?” Our answer is—“We want your name—we want your credit, for we can’t get money without it.” It is just as if I—who though a professional man, and tolerably well to do, am not well-known in the commercial world, or as a capitalist—were to go to the house of Gurney & Co., and were to offer our acceptances, and were to say, “Here is a project for uniting all the nations of the world, which I can show by the plainest demonstration will bring 5 per cent. profit.” Well, I rather think that they would be very apt to take up the little piece of paper, look at it, turn it over, and wind up by saying, “But who are you?” I should be able, I am afraid, to give a very bad answer with respect to my responsibility if I were asking for £200,000 or £300,000; but if they saw the names of some great British merchants on the back of the document, they would put us in possession of the capital at once: yet those merchants might be aware that they were incurring no risk, and that nobody would ever be likely to conic upon them. That is our position, we say to the Government, “Give us the benefit of your name to get the money, and when we have got it we will save you from risk.” That is what I call a conditional guarantee. A conditional guarantee, contingent on success, will be of no use to us, and the Government dread getting into the course of giving unconditional guarantees. But we don’t ask for that; we ask for a conditional guarantee, subject to such conditions as will protect them from risk. All that we ask is a guarantee which shall not be contingent on success. There is another point to which I wish to allude. I have had the opportunity of speaking with many members of Parliament, and I never heard any one object to the principle of the Government giving a guarantee of that description to us; but I have heard repeated remarks which show that there is a good deal of misunderstanding on one subject—on what is supposed to be our monopoly of the shores of Newfoundland. They say that that is an objectionable thing, and that the Government should hold off from any Company who is in possession of a monopoly. Now, what is the fact? We have established no monopoly, nor are we, strictly speaking, in possession of any monopoly. The facts are these: some years ago a few spirited gentlemen—some of them citizens of the United States—formed a company for the transmission of electric messages between Newfoundland and New York, and they obtained from the legislature of Newfoundland, with the consent of the British Crown, an act giving them the exclusive privilege of landing cables on the shores of Newfoundland. That exclusive right was established, therefore, in the hands of American citizens, and all that we have done is to purchase from them the right of landing our Cable upon those shores. We have not got their monopoly; but we have got a license from them, for a limited time to land our Cable on those shores. We have only transferred from American citizens those exclusive rights, for a time, to British subjects. There is nothing, therefore, in our proceedings of a grasping or monopolising character, such as is sometimes objected to us, which would justify Parliament in refusing us assistance, if it ought to be given to us on other grounds. (Hear, hear.) Before concluding, I cannot avoid offering, on the part of the Directors and Shareholders, a few words of thanks to the many scientific gentlemen by whom we have been assisted. (Cheers.) I have been in communication with many of the first men in the kingdom; and on our Board we have the happiness to have one member whom Professor Faraday, with the strength and generosity of his nature, has spoken of as one of the most eminent men of science in the kingdom—as a most valuable man—a most capital man—I mean Professor Thomson. (Cheers.) To him, and to all of those who have given us their advice and assistance, it is impossible not to feel deeply grateful. We have been, generally speaking, served with the greatest fidelity, and industry, and zeal. Amongst those whom I am anxious to distinguish in this respect is my friend who sits on my right (Mr. Saward, the Secretary), and if you knew as much as I do of his zeal and industry, I am sure you would think that I could not too highly speak of his services to this Company. (Cheers.) But we are in a position now to present ourselves to the Government, I think, in a light which may justly demand their attention, and eventually induce them, as we emphatically hope, to give us their assistance. We have friends in the Government. No doubt there are those who still hesitate; but I cannot help thinking that a very favourable result will yet be arrived at. Apologising for the very imperfect manner in which I have performed my duties, and claiming your indulgence, I wish to add, that, checked for a period in the pursuit of my ordinary avocations, I have time which I am willing, if you desire it, to devote to the interests of this Company. (General applause.) I do trust that we shall have at your hands to-day the support which we are entitled to expect, without reference to any extraneous matters which individuals might wish to introduce. We are met for a great object, and we are met at an Extraordinary Meeting—not a General Meeting—for a particular purpose. I trust that I have said nothing which can possibly give offence to any individual. (Cheers). My anxiety has been to avoid it. I came into the Direction at a time subsequent to any of those unfortunate discussions which have, unhappily, disturbed the course of this Company, and I, therefore, am not, in that sense, any party to them. I hope, if necessary, that I should look into them with the most impartial mind; I don’t shrink from responsibility; but I trust that there will be no attempt made to divert this meeting into any personal discussions, or into questions of abstruse scientific differences or personal animosities. (Cheers). I trust that nothing of that sort will be introduced on this occasion. (A voice, “We won’t have them.”) I look forward very confidently to that not being done. There have been indications which led us to suppose that there is a spirit abroad somewhere, which would be disposed to create dissensions among us, if it could. Gentlemen, I can only say, that it is of the utmost importance, if this Company is to flourish, if this great undertaking is to prosper, if the Atlantic Cable is to be laid, if the communication between the two hemispheres of the world is to be completed, that there should be united and determined exertions on the part of every member of this Company (Cheers); but if our exertions are to be frittered away in discussions upon bye points, or upon the particular rights, or claims, or grievances of individuals, then I say, that we shall be held up to public scorn and ridicule, and that the consequence will be the defeat of this great undertaking. (Cheers). But don’t mistake me, I don’t for a moment underrate the claims or rights which any individual may be supposed to have. Time and a season may be found for the discussion of those questions, if necessary; but I do most earnestly deprecate the introduction of anything of the kind at this time; and I trust that no attempt will be made to disturb the unanimity and efficiency of this meeting. I have in my hand a circular addressed to this meeting, professing to be signed by “A Shareholder.” I have always throughout my life had the greatest suspicion of anything that comes before me anonymously. (Cheers). And for my part, I don’t believe that it is a Shareholder who has written and signed that document. At all events, if he be, he will have the courage and manliness, I am sure, to avow himself; and if he has any grounds for objecting to the course which we now propose, I promise him the fairest hearing, if it be on a matter relevant to the question which we have now met to discuss. (Hear, hear.) He deals largely in allegations and imputations. Those allegations are, in point of fact, incorrect. He says, for example, that we are concealing how we spend our money, whereas the books are open at the office constantly to every Shareholder; and the Secretary reminds me that they are here now for the purpose of being examined by any gentleman who may wish to know the details of the large figures which have been read. He deals in imputations upon individual members of the Direction, which they would no doubt be perfectly ready to meet, but which I, at least, if they shrink from mixing themselves in such matters, am quite ready to meet. I have read the whole of the correspondence with every one who was ever in the service of the Company. I have the contents generally in my mind at the present time, and I could go into them all; but I think not only that that would be unnecessary, but it would be injurious to the interests of the Company were I to do so. I conclude by again thanking you for your attention, and earnestly entreating you to unanimity on this occasion. Looking to this not merely as a commercial and as a profitable concern, but as a great public undertaking, which I hope will eventually be remunerative to its undertakers, but which has higher objects, and higher aspirations, and which, if conducted on proper, manly, and honourable grounds, will lead to ultimate success, and to the future fame of all who have been connected with it, I now beg to move:—
That the Report just read be received and adopted by this Meeting.
Mr. Alderman Rose.—After the time which has been occupied in the very able exposition of the affairs of the Company with which you, sir, have favoured the Meeting, I am anxious not to trespass upon the patience of the Shareholders; and I, therefore, rise, intending to add nothing to what you have so well said, for the purpose of seconding the Motion, which you, from the Chair, have proposed. It seems to me that you have so clearly explained that unanimity is the only watchword we have to guide us, that I cannot doubt that the Meeting will adopt the suggestion which you have made. If there be any personal feeling, and we all know that there is something of the kind in the Meeting, I hope that it will be waived, that the Report will be adopted, and that the country at large will accept your statement, which I believe is the true one, that this is a great national and imperial undertaking, and that it will result in large profit to the Government if they will act upon your suggestion, and give us the guarantee which is absolutely necessary for carrying out this important project. (Cheers.) I do not knew that I can do more than express my own adhesion to what you have said. I hope that the Meeting will be unanimous in supporting the Board of Directors, and that before we assemble here again the Government will have seen, from the arguments which you have so ably brought before them and this body of Shareholders, that it would be good policy for them to give us the necessary means of carrying into effect this great and national undertaking. (Cheers.) The Resolution was put from the chair, and was carried unanimously.
Mr. C. M. Lampson, (Vice Chairman,) I rise to propose:‑
That the further business of this Meeting be adjourned to the Ordinary Annual Meeting of Shareholders in February next.
After the eloquent manner in which the Chairman has spoken, there is nothing left for me to say; but, I may be allowed to state what the Proprietors cannot know—that the Directors know—how much they are indebted to him for his indefatigable exertions, and for undertaking the office of Chairman at the time he did. I myself feel under the greatest obligations to him, for I am persuaded, that if we succeed in our undertaking, it will be mainly owing to his efforts. (Applause.)
Mr. Gurney.—I have great pleasure in seconding the motion, and in corroborating all that, the last speaker has said with reference to the unwearied and invaluable exertions of the Chairman. (Cheers.)
Mr. Whitehouse.—I have something to lay before the Meeting. From what I have heard said it might be supposed that I was prepared to offer some opposition to this Company; but so far from that being the case, it has always been my wish to support the efforts of the Directors for the benefit of the Company. (Hear, hear.) It is wrong, however, that I should conceal the fact that another Company has been proposed, and that the promoters have placed themselves in communication with me. At first I declined to have any communication with them, for I felt that my loyalty was still due to this Company, and that so long as I could be of service to the Atlantic Telegraph Company I should enter into no correspondence with others. I soon heard that they had half the capital subscribed for a new Cable, and they thought that they might expect a fusion of their capital with our own. After hearing this I had interviews with them, and I find that they are ready, on certain conditions, to come forward and join this company. I have thought it right to draw up a sketch of their proposals, in order to submit it to the Meeting, if it should seem desirable. I hardly know how to do it, however. I thought that I might have done it as an amendment on the Report, but as that would have the appearance of a hostile proceeding, I will take any mode of bringing it forward that may be wished. Perhaps you might appoint a Committee, say, of five Shareholders, to investigate the terms and circumstances of the proposition. If you please I will now read it to you.
Mr. J. H. Lloyd. Perhaps it would be better that Mr. Whitehouse should fall in with the views of the Chairman, and, instead of interrupting the progress of the Meeting by submitting the details of the proposition now, should lay them before the board; for I think we may now all feel satisfied that there is such energy and vitality infused into the executive, that any proposal having merits of its own to recommend it will receive due attention. (Cheers.)
The Chairman.—I was very unwilling to interrupt the honourable gentleman, but it certainly occurred to me that his proposal was hardly a matter with which the Meeting could deal. I am perfectly ignorant, and so are my brother Directors, of what the Company is to which he refers, although we are aware that there are others in the field. It appears to me that it would be better that his proposition should be laid before the Directors in the first place, and if they do not entertain it, it might then be referred to the Company at large. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Whitehouse.—I am ready to take any course you may prefer.
Mr. Strousberg.—I would suggest that Mr. Whitehouse’s proposal should be made to the Chairman, and not to the Shareholders.
The Chairman.—It is desirable that both the Directors and the Shareholders too should be made acquainted with it at the proper time.
Mr. Whitehouse.—The objection to delay is that unless something be done quickly the Company to which I refer may take a substantial and independent form.
Mr. Alderman Rose.—I submit that it is absolutely impossible that this meeting can go into the details of any proposition. Let it be laid before the Directors, and they, if there be merit in it, will recommend it to the next General Meeting, or will call a Special Meeting for the purpose of considering it. (Cheers.)
The Chairman.—I believe it is not altogether new to us, for, as I have said, we are aware that there are others in the field. Of course, if the proposal in question comes from any responsible body, supported by persons likely to command confidence, it will be received with the deepest respect by the Board. I don’t know whether I am too sanguine; but I contemplate if this Company gets on its legs again, and becomes the powerful Company which I hope to see it, that we ourselves shall not be confined to one line, but that we may lay various lines across the Atlantic, with the view of bringing the British dominions into more direct communication with other places. Any proposal, however, emanating from any respectable body of men shall receive my attention. Personally, I say if Mr. Whitehouse will submit to us the details of his plan, or will introduce to us any gentleman who is acquainted with the details, he shall be received with every courtesy and every attention. (Cheers.)
Mr. J.H. Lloyd.—I think that we ought to express, perhaps, in some way, our acknowedgments to Mr. Whitehouse for the reserve which he has thought right to adopt to-day, and for his grateful concession to the request from the Chair not to disturb the unanimity of the meeting. (Cheers.) I am sure that no one can doubt the great ability, scientific knowledge, and the ardent zeal of Mr. Whitehouse. That he may have committed errors is beyond doubt, but it is fair to attribute them to excess of zeal in the cause of the Company. This, at all events, we do owe to him—that he has forborne to-day from pressing matters not very relevant, perhaps, upon the meeting, and that he has sacrificed to a considerable degree his own personal feelings. (Applause.) I think, therefore, that I may venture to say, both for the Shareholders and the Directors, that Mr. Whitehouse’s conduct will be duly appreciated; and that in any communication which he may make to the Board, whether on his own account or as the organ of others, he will be received with courtesy and consideration. (Applause.)
Mr. F. Wright.—As it is by no means impossible that this communication of Mr. Whitehouse’s may be something substantial and likely to be productive of benefit to the Company, I trust that the Directors will make up their minds to hear at an early day the proposal which he is authorized to make. If the Report, which has been carried unanimously, conveyed something substantial in prospect, it might not be necessary to take further steps for a fusion with other parties; but unfortunately it does not go to that extent. It points rather to substantial work remaining to be done, than to any that has been yet accomplished. I trust, therefore, that any proposal emanating from other persons having reference to the work still to be done, will, at an early date, be taken into anxious consideration by the Directors. (Hear.)
The Motion (for the adjournment of the meeting) was then carried unanimously.
Mr. Crawford.—I rise to propose that an unanimous vote of thanks be given to the Chairman for his conduct in the chair, and for the very lucid statement which he has laid before us. (Cheers.) Unanimity, even amongst a body of Shareholders, is not sufficient to carry everything to a successful issue, unless there be also honour, ability, and energy on the part of the Directors. On this occasion I am sure that I speak the universal sentiment of the Shareholders when I return to you for your energetic services their most sincere thanks, and wish you health and strength to conduct your labours to a final and successful issue. (Cheers).
(The Motion was seconded by Mr. Alderman Rose without verbal comment, and was carried with acclamation.)
The Chairman.—I am much obliged, gentlemen, for your vote of thanks; but as I have told you, I am new to this sort of work. I am not a commercial man, and I have very little practice in matters of this kind. I am most heartily grateful for the support which you have given me upon this occasion, and I believe that it will have a very beneficial effect upon the prospects of the Company. Although I feel that I have already detained you too long, I cannot resist the pleasure, in concluding, of reading a passage from an address by Professor Owen, to the British Association at Leeds. Speaking in the presence of the whole scientific world, and from the resources of a mind which is as capacious and powerful as it is acute and accurate, Professor Owen said:—
“On the 6th of August, 1858, the laying down of upwards of 2,000 nautical miles of the telegraphic cord, connecting Newfoundland and Ireland, was successfully completed. Shortly afterwards a message of thirty-one words was transmitted in thirty-five minutes, along the sinuosities of the submerged hills and valleys forming the bed of the great Atlantic. This first message expressed, ‘GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST: ON EARTH PEACE, GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN.’ Never since the foundations of the world were laid could it be more truly said, the depths of the sea praise Him.
“More remains to be done before the far-stretching engine can be got into full working order; but the capital fact, viz., the practicability of bringing America into electrical communication with Europe, has been demonstrated; consequently, a like power of instantaneous interchange of thought between the civilised inhabitants of every part of the globe becomes only a question of time. The powers and benefits thence to ensue for the human race can be but dimly and inadequately foreseen. Some results stand out more prominently than others. The investigator of natural laws manifests his success by the degree in which he substitutes latent natural force for manual labour in effecting his purpose. Sennacherib, as we see on the slabs from Nineveh, added the lever to traction in the transport of the colossal symbolic statutes of his Majesty; but the power by which he worked both mechanical adjustments was that of slaves, stimulated by the stick. Hundreds of human beings were sacrificed in the operation. Watt achieved an equal effect by the scientific eduction and direction of the latent force contained in a few pounds of coals. If this test be applied to the present state of the science of governing peoples, it would seem to show but little progress therein. The Conscription Committee of France for 1858 proposed a levy of 100,000 men, because less would not suffice to keep up the requisite army of 500,000 men, Europe being at peace. Even the United States of America have progressively increased their standing army to a present total of 17,000 men. The probability of a further augmentation of the military force of the federal government in reference to a possible rupture with the mother country, must be greatly diminished by an Ocean Telegraph. And we may confidently hope that this and other applications of pure science will tend to abolish wars over the whole earth; so that men may come to look back upon the trial of battle between misunderstanding nations as a sign of a past state of comparative barbarism; just as we look back from our present phase of civilization in England upon the old Border warfare.” (Cheers.)
The proceedings were thus brought to a close, and the Meeting separated.
Four days subsequent to the Extraordinary Meeting, the following letter was received by the Chairman from Mr. Whitehouse, in reference to the recommendation of the Shareholders that he should lay before the Directors the particulars of a proposed arrangement entrusted to him (Mr. Whitehouse) by a new Company unknown to the Directors, but respecting which Mr. Whitehouse informed the meeting that half its capital was subscribed towards a new Cable:—
10, Titchfield Terrace, Regent’s Park,
18th December, 1858.
SIR,-Referring to the proposal which I endeavoured to lay before the Shareholders at the Meeting on the 15th inst., the terms of which I was not even allowed to read, I have to acquaint you that I have no authority to treat with the Directors, my instructions having been simply to lay the proposal before the Shareholders, and to suggest the appointment of a Committee to examine into the details thereof.
I remain, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
The Right Hon. James Stuart Wortley, M.P., Chairman,
Atlantic Telegraph Company.
The following is the Chairman’s reply to the above letter
Upper Sheen House, Mortlake,
December 22nd, 1858.
SIR,-On my return to town last night after a short absence, I found your letter bearing date the 18th of December, in which, referring to the proposal which you say you endeavoured to lay before the Shareholders at their Meeting on the 15th instant, you do me the honour to acquaint me that you have no authority to treat with the Directors of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, your “instructions having been simply to lay the proposal before the Shareholders, and to suggest the appointment of a Committee to examine into the details thereof.”
In accepting your assurance that your purpose was friendly to the Atlantic Company, I must express the regret with which I received this unexpected intimation, and I am sure that your candour must admit, that, if you were not allowed (as you say) even to read the proposal you had to make, it was only by the general feeling of the Meeting, that the occasion was inopportune, that you were prevented from so doing, and not by any interruption from the Chair, or any impediment thrown in your way by the Directors. In fact, as the announcement was new to us, we should have been glad to hear the nature of your suggestions, and the names of those whom you represented.
In the absence of this information, I can only repeat, that if you had thought proper to abide by, what I understood to be arranged, with your consent, at the Meeting, and had laid your proposition before the Board, it would have received courteous and instant attention.
If there is any Company already formed having an organised scheme for laying a Telegraphic Cable on any other line across the Atlantic, and with half their capital subscribed, as you were understood to represent, I need not say that the importance of any proposal for amalgamation from such a body would command the most respectful consideration of the Board and all connected with them.
Though good faith and policy alike bind the Atlantic Telegraph Company to complete, in the first instance, the existing line across Lieut. Maury’s surveyed Telegraphic plain to Newfoundland, yet, as the undertaking ought to be treated as an Imperial concern, I regard any line for establishing electrical communication from hence with the opposite shores of the ocean, which may be required for British interests, and has been ascertained by actual survey to be practicable, as coming within the province of the Company, if effected consistently with existing obligations; and the proposal for a second line between Gibraltar and the continent of America, uniting some of the islands intervening, is not new either to my colleagues or myself.
As your letter is not marked “Private,” and has no confidential character, and as no doubt many Shareholders who heard you at the Meeting will share in my disappointment and surprise at its contents, I take for granted that you will not object to its publication, together with my answer, as the readiest means of making known to our proprietors the result of this correspondence.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
J. STUART WORTLEY
Wildman Whitehouse, Esq.
&c. &c. &c.
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