Memoirs of a Trait in the Character of George III. of these United Kingdoms/Appendix 1
REMARKS [BY JOHN HARRISON] ON A PAMPHLET LATELY [IN 1767] PUBLISHED BY THE REV. NEVIL MASKELYNE, UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE BOARD OF LONGITUDE.
A Publication having lately been made by the Rev. Mr. Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal, under the authority of the Board of Longitude, manifestly tending, by the suppression of some facts and the misrepresentation of others, to impress the world with an unjust opinion of my Invention, and falsely asserting that my Watch did not at certain periods therein mentioned keep time with sufficient exactness to determine the Longitude within the limits prescribed by the Act of the 12th of Queen Anne; I think it incumbent upon me to submit some observations thereon to the impartial public; and the rather, because the said Pamphlet is rendered so confused by unnecessary repetitions, and voluminous tables, that a man must be pretty conversant in these matters, to trace and combine the facts, so as to check the conclusions, which would consequently be taken upon trust by the generality of readers, unless publicly contradicted. As it will be my endeavour so far to avoid the use of all terms of art as to make the subject generally intelligible, I flatter myself I shall not be thought impertinent for giving a short explanation (though quite unnecessary to the far greater part of my readers) of what the Longitude is, and what the service required of the Watch.
The Longitude of any place is its distance East or West from any other given place; and what we want is a method of finding out at sea, how far we are got to the Eastward or Westward of the place we sailed from. The application of a Timekeeper to this discovery is founded upon the following principles: the earth's surface is divided into 360 equal parts (by imaginary lines drawn from North to South) which are called Degrees of Longitude; and its daily revolution Eastward round its own axis is performed in 24 hours; consequently in that period, each of those imaginary lines or degrees, becomes successively opposite to the Sun (which makes the noon or precise middle of the day at each of those degrees;) and it must follow, that from the time any one of those lines passes the Sun, till, the next passes, must be just four minutes, for 24 hours being divided by 360 will give that quantity; so that for every degree of Longitude we sail Westward, it will be noon with us four minutes the later, and for every degree Eastward four minutes the sooner, and so on in proportion for any greater or less quantity. Now, the exact time of the day at the place where we are, can be ascertained by well known and easy observations of the Sun if visible for a few minutes at any time from his being ten degrees high until within an hour of noon, or from an hour after noon until he is only 10 degrees high in the afternoon; if therefore, at any time when such observation is made, a Timekeeper tells us at the same moment what o'clock it is at the place we sailed from, our Longitude is clearly discovered.
To do this, it is not necessary that a Watch should perform its revolutions precisely in that space of time which the Earth takes to perform her's; it is only required that it should invariably perform it in some known time, and then the constant difference between the length of the one revolution and the other, will appear as so much daily gained or lost by the Watch, which constant gain or loss, is called the rate of its going, and which being added to or deducted from the time shewn by the Watch, will give the true time, and consequently the difference of Longitude.
I shall now proceed to make such remarks as occur to me on perusal of Mr. Maskelyne's Pamphlet.
Mr. Maskelyne begins by telling us that the Board of Longitude, at their Meeting, April 26th, 1766, came to a resolution that my Watch should be tried at the Royal Observatory under his inspection, and that he accordingly received it on the 5th of May, 1766. He then says, 'I most days wound up and compared the Watch with the transit clock of the Royal Observatory myself; at other times it was performed by my assistant Joseph Dymond, and afterwards William Baily; this was always done in the presence of, and attested by one of the Officers of Greenwich Hospital, when he came to assist in unlocking the Box in which the Watch is kept, in order to its being wound up.'
Not one of those attestations appears in the Book: perhaps Mr. Maskelyne thinks his assertion of the fact will be sufficient for the public, and indeed so it might have been to me, had I not received different information: but the truth is, the Commissioners appointed a set of Gentlemen to attend by rotation the winding up of the Watch; they were to unlock the Box the Watch was in, to see it wound up and compared with the Clock, then to lock the Box again and take the Key with them, and Mr. Maskelyne was to have another Key, there being two Locks to the Box: the Officers of Greenwich Hospital were appointed for this service, some of whom from the infirmities of age, and misfortunes in the service, were scarcely able to get up the hill to the Observatory, so that when they came there, as can be proved from undoubted eye-witnesses, they only unlocked the Box, sat down until Mr. Maskelyne had done what he thought proper, and then locked the Box again, and departed: and whatever attestation they may be supposed to have made, I can prove that at several times when Gentlemen of my acquaintance happened to be present, the attendance of the Officers was by no means an effectual check upon the comparison of the Watch with the Clock. I would not be thought to accuse those Gentlemen of neglect of the duty imposed upon them; on the contrary I applaud their diligence in being ready at all hours of the day to attend when Mr. Maskelyne was pleased to appoint: and therefore I will even for the present (though contrary to fact) suppose they have been the check proposed by the Commissioners of Longitude against any unfair access to the Watch, still the Clock with which it was compared was left entirely in Mr. Maskelyne's power, and an alteration of the one could not but produce just the same effect as an error of the other, nor is there even the least pretence of a check either on the Clock, or on its comparison with observations of the Sun; nay on the contrary, Mr. Maskelyne did at this time take the Key of the Clock from Mr. Dymond in whose custody it used to be, and kept it himself.
Mr. Maskelyne then proceeds to give us an account of the Watch's going from day to day, which in his 15th page he concludes thus: 'From the foregoing numbers it appears, that the Watch was getting from the very first near 20 seconds per day; a circumstance which is not my business to account for; but which, as it kept near mean time in the voyage to Barbadoes, seems to shew that the Watch cannot be taken to pieces and put together again without altering its rate of going considerably, contrary to Mr. Harrison's assertions formerly.'
When I made the discovery upon oath, of the principles and construction of the Watch, to six gentlemen appointed by the Board of Longitude and to Mr. Maskelyne, (who insisted on having a right to attend, as being a Commissioner) which discovery was finished on the 22nd of August, 1766, as appears by the annexed certificate,the Watch then remained in my hands, all taken to pieces: I little imagined the Board of Longitude would take it from me, as not conceiving any use they could make of it: and having besides received assurances from them, that they only wanted the formal delivery of it, in compliance with the terms of the new law, without meaning to deprive me of the use of it: I therefore went on making some experiments, and altered the rate of its going, thereby to determine a fact I wanted to be satisfied about. The Watch was under this experiment the latter end of October, 1765, when upon receiving the Certificate for the remainder of the first moiety of my reward, I was ordered to deliver it to the Board. My Son, attending with it, being asked if it was then as fit as before to ascertain the Longitude, replied in the affirmative; for as I have before shewn, the rate of its going, when once ascertained, does not prevent its keeping the Longitude. He was not asked the present rate of its going, nor could he have answered with precision if he had, because we had not had notice sufficient to determine that point; but we did, at that time, tell several of our friends that it went about eighteen or nineteen seconds a day, fast, and we have at several times since (without ever dreaming that this was to become a point of public discussion) had occasion to mention the same thing to several Members of Parliament, Commissioners of Longitude and other Gentlemen, insomuch that we did not believe any body was uninformed of it, who at all attended to the business of the Longitude.
This may to account for the circumstance which Mr. Maskelyne declares, it was none of his business to account for, why the Watch was getting near twenty seconds per day; but as to his inference, I must say it betrays the most absolute ignorance off Mechanics, and of this machine in particular, in which it is obvious (and for this fact I appeal to the Watchmakers who saw it taken to pieces) that its going at the same rate when put together again, as before, depends (if none of the parts are altered) upon nothing more complicated than putting a single Screw into the same place from whence it was taken. Indeed this passage, and the ignorant and puerile remarks which Mr. Maskelyne has been suffered to prefix to my written description of the Watch (to the disgrace of this country in those foreign translations it has already undergone) bring strongly to my remembrance an observation made by some of the Gentlemen present at the discovery, "that they wondered at his patience in attending so long to a subject he seemed so totally unacquainted with."
Mr. Maskelyne then proceeds to tell us of a change that happened in the going of the Watch, and says, 'this change began in the beginning of August, on the few and only hot days we had last Summer, which yet were not extreme, the Thermometer within doors having never risen above 73 degrees, the rest of the Summer in general was remarkably cool and temperate.' When I took this Watch to pieces I informed Mr. Maskelyne and the other Gentlemen, that in trying any experiments with it, in respect to heat and cold, it would be proper that it should be so fixed thmt, as far as could be, the heat should have an equal influence on all sides of it; and it is obvious that the Thermometer ought to have been kept in the same Box with it; but as this was not done, I apprehend the effects of heat mentioned above do not merit much attention; and therefore shall only observe that the Watch was placed in a Box with a Glass in the lid and another in one side, in the seat of a window level with the lowest pane of the window, and exposed to the South-East, whilst the Thermometer, which was to ascertain the degree of heat the Watch was exposed to, was placed in a shady part of the room: now it is obvious that while the Air surrounding the Thermometer might be very temperate, there might, if the Sun shone upon it, be a heat in the Box, superior to what was ever felt in the open air in any part of the world; and perhaps grater than any human being could subsist in, and consequently improper, or at least unnecessary for this experiment.
Mr. Maskelyne next tells us of an irregularity which he says happened in cold Weather, and says, 'However, it seems in general that the Frost must have been the cause of these irregularities, as well as of the Watch's going so much slower in the month of January, than it had gone before.' Mr. Maskelyne ought along with this, to have published what I told Him when I explained it; that the provision against the effects of heat and cold was not in this machine extended to all degrees; that I never had tried it so low as the freezing point, which according to the best informations I have been able to procure is a degree of cold that never did exist between the decks of a ship at sea, in any climate yet explored by mankind.
Mr. Maskelyne then comes to the rate of its going in different positions; and says, 'It is obvious, these last-mentioned trials of the Watch in a vertical position could not be designed to shew how near it would go at sea, where it can never obtain these positions: the intent of them is to prove how near Mr. Harrison's execution of his Watch comes up to his principles, with respect to the making all the arcs described by the balance, whether large or small, to be performed in the same time, as Mr. Harrison asserts them to be.' Mr. Maskelyne here also might have had candour enough to inform the public, as I did him, that although the Watch was quite sufficient to answer the purposes required of it in navigation, and to fulfil what was prescribed by the Act of Queen Anne, yet it was far from being in a state of perfection, as an universal exact Timekeeper for every purpose; I shewed him and the rest of the Gentlemen the reasons why the machine then before them, would not go at the same rate in such different positions into which the motion of a ship could never put it; and whilst I explained to them those imperfections in the particular machine we were examining, I also in the clearest manner I was able, pointed out the means of remedying them with certainty in others, which the Gentlemen skilled in Mechanics seemed perfectly to comprehend, and to be satisfied of the truth which I again assert, that Watches made on my principles will endure a much greater motion and change of position than they can ever be subject to in a ship; and that they will not be affected by any degree of heat or cold, in which a man can live.
If any thing was meant to be concluded with respect to me by this experiment, either in point of property or reputation, common justice would have required that I should have had an opportunity of seeing the facts ascertained; and when such a trial was directed as put the result in the absolute power of a single person, that I should have been satisfied of his integrity, disinterestedness, and ability for the purpose. I would not be understood to attack Mr. Maskelyne's knowledge of the theory of Astronomy: as for any thing I know to the contrary, it may be of the very first rate, especially as the Commissioners have thought proper to entrust him with the execution of their commands; and which he has ever been as ready to undertake: but alas! as to his skill in Mechanics, he knows little or nothing of the matter he has ventured to take in hand.
I think it more consistent with the respect I owe to the public, and myself, to speak out plainly, than to have recourse to insinuations, on a subject of this nature; I therefore declare, that I am not satisfied with the truth of his reporting other observations relative to the Longitude, as I do maintain that in both his voyages the observations which he said he made the land by, were not calculated till after he had seen the land; and I am certain those he has given, in the publication now before us, are not genuine, for he pretends to find each observation of the transit of the Sun to the hundredth part of a second of time,—a degree of exactness about twenty times beyond what any other observer has hitherto found practicable: moreover I know him to be deeply interested in the Lunar Tables; a scheme set up some years ago for the reward in competition with my Invention, and for which large sums of money have already been paid by the public.
Although I flatter myself the reader is already in possession of very sufficient reasons for rejecting the whole Pamphlet as partial and inconclusive, yet I intreat his patient attention whilst I advance one step farther, and shew, that although Mr. Maskelyne has presented us with a set of observations which according to his mode of calculation, prove what he advances, yet those very observations when lightly reasoned upon prove the contrary; and that in each of the periods he refers to, except those of the severe frost and improper positions (against which Mr. Maskelyne ought to have informed the world I never warranted this particular Watch) it kept time with sufficient correctness to determine the Longitude within the limits of the Act of Queen Anne.
The reader by this time knows enough of the subject to see, that in order to try whether the Watch would or would not keep time with sufficient exactness to determine the Longitude, Mr. Maskelyne's first operation, after receiving it, should have been to ascertain the rate of its going. But no such thing happened; he knew it had not gone exactly correspondent to mean time, during the voyage to Barbadoes; it had been publicly enough declared that its rate of going had been since altered; and, if he had not received that information, he might nay must have discovered it in the first twenty-four hours trial; however, without once attending to this essential circumstance, he goes to work, comparing the first period of six weeks (which he observes is generally reckoned the term of a West India voyage) when it was in an horizontal position, with mean time, instead of the corrected time, and each succeeding period with that immediately preceding it! Who cam hesitate, in pronouncing that his conclusions mast be all erroneous? He should first have ascertained the rate of its going by a length of observations of the Sun or Stars, or by a perfect pendulum Clock if he had such a one, and then have corrected the time shewn by the Watch accordingly. However, supposing for a moment his facts to be genuine, I will deduce the real result in the best manner the observations will admit, rejecting those made while the Watch was in improper positions, and those during the frost, for the same reasons that Mr. Maskelyne lays no stress upon them, and for those I have already stated. I shall therefore (pursuing his idea of six weeks) take it during the first tranquil six weeks that it had, viz. from July the 6th, to August the 17th, in which time it gained in all 11 minutes, 50 seconds, or 169 seconds per day which I will assume as the rate of its going, or if Mr. Maskelyne pleases I will take the average of his whole time of examination, from the 6th of July to the 3rd of January, and from the 9th of January to the 4th of March, which will come out at the rate of 168 seconds per day fast, and I say that according to either of those rates of going, the Watch kept the Longitude within the limits of the Act of Queen Anne, during any period of six weeks that can be pointed out, excepting those of extreme cold, and improper position which have already been explained. I do not trouble the reader with the calculations: if I assert an untruth, I shall hardly escape contradiction.
There is another inaccuracy, which though of less consequence, ought not to escape notice. One would naturally suppose when Mr. Maskelyne found the Watch went at this rate of gaining on mean time, he would have been very exact in his time of comparing it with his Clock; but on the contrary we find he was so irregular as to vary his comparisons on succeeding days from half an hour to four hours and forty-eight minutes, and this not for a time or two, but for one third of the whole time he had it. Mr. Maskelyne having shewn from the result of his calculation (which I have here proved to be false) that the Watch is not to be depended upon to determine the Longitude in a voyage of six weeks, then says, 'these considerations are sufficient to explain the motives which might have actuated Mr. Harrison, as a man of prudence, in desiring to send his Watch two voyages to the West Indies, upon his idea that he should be entitled to the large rewards prescribed in the Act of the 12th of Queen Anne, in case his Watch kept time within the limits there mentioned, whether the method itself was or could be rendered generally useful and practicable, or not;' this insinuation (published under the authority of the Board of Longitude) that I had contrived a trial which I knew the Watch would fulfil, whilst I was conscious that it would not answer the general purpose of the Act of Queen Anne, and consequently that I had formed a villainous scheme to rob the public of the reward without really and effectually performing the conditions, strikes me as a charge of so atrocious a nature, that I think myself not only justified in publishing to the world what has been done with respect to trials of the merit of my Invention, but even indispensably obliged so to do. I well know what I hazard thereby, and if the rest of my reward cannot be obtained on principles of national faith and public spirit, I am contented to forego it, but I will not descend into the grave loaded with that dishonour which my enemies, availing themselves of their rank or offices, have, in various ways, attempted to throw upon me.
In the first place I must remark, that the trial referred to was not fixed by me, but by an Act of Parliament passed so long ago as the year 1714, which (after vesting certain discretionary powers in Commissioners to judge what methods are likely to prove practicable, and authorizing them to issue smaller sums of money) goes on to fix the last grand test of the merit of any such Invention, and enacts 'that when a ship, under the appointment of the said Commissioners, shall thereby actually sail from Great Britain to the West Indies without losing her Longitude beyond certain limits, the Inventor shall be entitled to certain rewards.' Having from the year 1726, employed myself in adapting those principles which I had at that time executed in a pendulum Clock, to an instrument or Timekeeper so constructed as to endure the motion of a ship at sea, and having made a voyage to Lisbon and done sundry other things during a course of years, mostly under the direction of the Commissioners of Longitude, by way of preparatory experiments, I thought the Invention sufficiently perfect about the latter end of the year 1760, to go upon the ultimate trial, which I accordingly applied for. My Son, after being sent to Portsmouth with the third Timekeeper (the fourth or Watch being to be sent to him) was kept there five months, waiting for orders; which having by returning to London at length obtained, he went to Jamaica in the Deptford Man of War, and returned in the Merlin Sloop of War, having fulfilled every instruction of the Commissioners. It remained to compute from the astronomical observations made at Portsmouth and Jamaica, whether the Watch had or had not kept the Longitude within the prescribed limits; and as my title to £20,000 was to be determined thereby, I thought it but reasonable that I should name some person to check the computations, which was refused. The Commissioners appointed three Gentlemen for that purpose, and on receiving their report were pleased to declare that the Watch had not kept its Longitude within the above-mentioned limits. Thoroughly convinced of the contrary (for I had the same materials they had to calculate from) I required a copy of the computations which was also refused me; nor could I ever obtain a sight of them either officially or through private favour, until three years afterwards, when they were ordered to be laid before the House of Commons; and it then appeared that two of the three computations were absolutely inconclusive, proving nothing, and the third decided in my favour. Further proof of the Watch having succeeded in this voyage may be found in the Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. XXIX. page 546, in the evidence of George Lewis Scott, Esq. and Mr. James Short.
The reader will easily believe I did not feel perfectly easy under this treatment of an Invention to the perfecting of which (encouraged by the long continued patronage of a Graham, a Halley, a Folkes, &c. &c.—learned friends to society, and public good, whose minds were too enlarged, and spirits too liberal to admit that little jealousy of inferior artists, which since their death I have been exposed to) I gloried in sacrificing every prospect of advantage from other pursuits, and had willingly submitted to lead a life of labour and dependence. However it was too late to retreat; and I had only one means of success left, which was to follow the Commissioners in their own way. Accordingly after many difficulties (with a relation of which I will not tire the reader, as it is by no means my intention to meddle with any subjects, of complaint, except such as are material to the forming a right judgment of the trials made and proposed) a second voyage to the West Indies was agreed to in the latter end of the year 1762, which agreement was afterwards well nigh overset, by the Commissioners insisting on such astronomical observations being previously made, as were next to impracticable in this climate, and could be put into the instructions for no other reason that I could conceive, but to throw insuperable difficulties in my way, as they were not at all material to the determination of the matter in question. However the Commissioners at length gave up this point, on my opinion of the impracticability being confirmed by that of an Officer of the Navy distinguished for his abilities and skill in matters of Astronomy; To take away all possibility (as I thought) of this voyage being rendered fruitless like the last, I then desired to have inserted at the end of the instructions some few words to this purpose, "that provided the experiment answered, the Commissioners present were of opinion I should without further trouble receive my reward;" but my Son attending the Board with this proposition was told by Lord Sandwich at that time president, that it would be mere tautology, for that their giving instructions implied the same thing, and that if the Watch kept its time within the limits of the Act there could be no doubt of my being entitled to and receiving the reward, and nobody could take it from me. Upon the faith of this, my Son went the voyage to Barbadoes, in which the Watch kept its time "considerably within the nearest limits of the Act of Queen Anne," as certified, even by the Commissioners themselves.
On the success of this trial being known, and after having employed near forty years of my life on the faith of an Act of Parliament, was a doctrine broached to me (as I solemnly declare for the first time) that the Commissioners were invested with a discretionary power of ordering other trials and the fulfilling of other conditions than those specially annexed by Act of Parliament to the reward; an exposition of the law, which I ever did and ever shall (until it is supported by legal authority) totally reject and refuse obedience to; for I do maintain, that before passing the last Act of Parliament I had as full and perfect a right to the reward of £20,000 as any freeholder in Britain has to his estate; and I never would have desired nor ever will desire any better satisfaction than a judicial determination of that point; which however it was very soon thought proper to preclude me from, by a new law, passed at the instance of the Commissioners of Longitude, placing me too certainly under the discretion of the Commissioners and totally changing the terms on which the reward was to be given me; enacting that I should have half of it when I had disclosed the principles and construction of the machine, and assigned over for the use of the public the last made Timekeeper, together with the three others which were not so perfect as the last; and the other half when I should have made more Watches, without determining how many, and proved them to the satisfaction of the Commissioners, without defining the mode of trial.
I frankly confess that from thenceforward I considered the second moiety of the reward as lost for ever. The first moiety I obtained, though it was with great difficulty, as the Act required me to explain my invention upon oath, and the Commissioners were pleased to put into that oath, words of an indeterminate and unlimited meaning, and refused to explain them, or even permit me or my Son to ask what was meant by them. We at length agreed to take it (finding we should never get any thing if we did not, such was now the power of the Commissioners) and they declared that themselves and the Gentlemen appointed by them to whom we were to explain it, would be upon honour not to disclose it, that I might have an opportunity of obtaining the reward promised by foreign powers; however, in less than a month an account of it appeared in the public newspapers, signed by the Rev. Mr. Ludlam, one of the six Gentlemen named by the Commissioners to receive the discovery, and therefore, I make no doubt, by leave of the Board. Nor did they stop here, for they have since published all my drawings without giving me the last moiety of the reward, or even paying me and my Son for our time at the rate of common mechanics; a discouragement to the improvement of arts and sciences, and an instance of such cruelty and injustice as I believe never existed in a learned and civilized nation before.
I have already had occasion to mention, that at the time I received the certificate for the first moiety of the reward, the Watch was delivered up; it remained six months locked up at the Admiralty, and was then removed to Greenwich, to be the subject of those experiments concerning which I now trouble the public. The other three machines, were (by order of the Commissioners) soon after demanded of me by Mr. Maskelyne. One of them which had been going more than thirty years, was broke to pieces under his careful and ingenious management, before it got out of my house; and the other two were so far abused in the carriage by land to Greenwich, as to be rendered quite incorrect and as far as I can learn, incapable of being repaired without having some essential parts made anew: thus perished the first essays of this long-wished for Invention!
Unwilling however that the public should lose the benefit of the discovery, or the chance of further improvement, I applied, by repeated letters, to the Board, praying that the Watch might be lent to me (offering security for it if required) for the sake of employing other workmen to make the different parts by model, with quicker dispatch, and in order to determine by experiments, whether some expensive parts of the machinery might not be abridged or totally left out. Still have my requests been refused, and of late they have alleged that they cannot keep their engagements with Mr. Kendall if they were to lend me the Watch. What those engagements are may be seen below. The new Act, as I have already observed, did not determine how many more Watches were to be made before I should receive the other moiety of the reward: it was seven months before I could get them to fix how many, and then they would neither agree to any mode of trial proposed by me, nor propose any themselves till eleven months after that, viz. not till the 11th day of April last, when (an enquiry having been set on foot in the House of Commons) they were pleased to propose, that instead of the length of a West India voyage, which is about six weeks, the Watches should be placed with their very good friend and well-wisher Mr. Maskelyne, for ten months, and then be sent for two months on board a ship in the Downs; and all this I am required to submit to, without the least shadow of assurance on their part, that they will be satisfied with this trial, let it answer ever so well, or that I shall thereby be brought at all the nearer receiving what is due to me, although (independent of making the Watches) it must necessarily employ one whole year of mine or my Son's time, in superintending an examination, which, after all, can only prove that I, who have made one machine, can make another like it; and the point of general practicability, about which so much stir is affected to be made, would not be one jot advanced beyond what it is at present.
I cannot help begging the reader will here allow me to add a remark or two upon the general practicability of my Invention, as that is how said to be the only thing that was in dispute between the Commissioners and me, and that they only wanted to be satisfied as to this point. In order to clear it up then, I will submit to the public to determine whether the general use and practicability of my Invention can, in the nature of things, be attacked, unless under one of these three following heads:
1. That a Timekeeper, however perfect, is an insufficient means of ascertaining the Longitude at sea.
2. That such information has not been given as will enable other workmen to make other Timekeepers of equal goodness with that which is certified to have kept the Longitude.
Or 3. That they will come to so enormous a price as to be out of the reach of purchase.
From the benefit of the first objection (even if it was founded in truths which I utterly deny) the Commissioners have surely precluded both themselves and the nation, as with respect to me, by their repeated orders and instructions, and after leading me on for near half a century, to employ my whole time and make long voyages for perfecting the Invention, they can never be permitted now to come and say the Invention itself is good for nothing. Sould any one however continue to propagate such an opinion, I beg leave, in contradiction to it, to offer that of Sir Isaac Newton, and that of Martin Folkes, Dr. Halley, Dr. Smith, Mr. Graham, and eight other persons of great eminence, both publicly given to the House of Commons and to be found in the Journals, viz. Sir Isaac's in Vol. XVII. page 677, and the others in Vol. XXIX. page 547.
The second objection is flatly contradicted by evidence lately before the House of Commons, by which it appears that the description and original drawings from which the Watch was made, as given in by me upon oath, are printed and published; and that Mr. Mudge (the only one of the Watchmakers to whom the discovery was made, who has been examined by the House of Commons) declared he could make these watches as well as I can. Moreover I am ready, on condition of receiving the remainder of what is due to me, upon oath to give all manner of future information and instruction in my power; and I hope it could never enter into any man's idea of general practicability, that I should actually teach every indifferent workman in the nation, and furnish each of them with a set of tools for the trial of his ability, at my own expense, before I could be entitled to the reward.
With regard to the third objection, no estimate of the future expense can (from the nature of the subject) be grounded upon any authority better than that of opinion. The price of common Watches, where each part is made by a different workman, bears no proportion to what must necessarily be charged by any man who was to make the whole with his own hands: the same reduction will naturally take place when a number of workmen are instructed to make the different parts of these. My opinion is, that they might in a very few years be afforded for about £100 a piece, and if a reduction of the machinery can be effected (which I am strongly inclined to think is the case, but have not had an opportunity of proving by experiment for want of my models) the expense may be reduced to about 70 or £80.
By this time I think the reader may naturally exclaim, how can all these things be? What can induce a number of noblemen, statesmen and officers of the first rank and most unblemished characters; what can induce the President of the Royal Society, and the Professors of the Universities (to each of whom his Majesty has been most graciously pleased to order payment of £15 per day for every Board of Longitude they attend) and what can induce the Astronomer Royal, thus to discourage an invention which they are specially constituted to improve, protect, and support? I might answer with Mr. Maskelyne, "that is none of my business to account for."—The facts are so, and this public relation of them is extorted from me, by a conviction that no other way is left me to obtain justice, or so likely to prevent the Invention from perishing. However, if it is expected of me, like Mr. Maskelyne, to deliver an opinion on this point; I shall declare what I believe very sincerely, that by far the greater part of the Commissioners are perfectly innocent of the treatment I have met with: most of them are Commissioners by virtue of great employments which engage their time and attention: a Board so constituted is continually changing: and this being a matter of science which to many may seem rather abstruse, it was very naturally left to the management of a few of those members who stand in the most immediate relation to science, and whose opinions, upon a business of this nature, the rest of the Board had too much modesty to call in question. How well they have merited that, degree of confidence is left to the impartial world to determine. To return again to Mr. Maskelyne's account: he, as I think has been already shown, having said and done every thing in his power to the dishonour and discouragement of my Invention, scruples not to sum up his opinion of it in the following terms:
'That Mr. Harrison's Watch cannot be depended upon to keep the Longitude within a degree, in a West India voyage for six weeks, nor to keep the Longitude within half a degree for more than a fortnight, and then it must be kept in a place where the Thermometer is always some degrees above freezing: that, in case the cold amounts to freezing, the Watch cannot be depended upon to keep the Longitude within half a degree for more than a few days, and perhaps not so long, if the cold he very intense: nevertheless, that it is a useful and valuable Invention, and in conjunction with the observations of the distance of the Moon from the Sun and fixed stars, may be of considerable advantage to navigation.'
Having sufficiently refuted the first part of the opinion already, it only remains for me to make such remarks on the Lunar method of finding the Longitude, as this coupling of my Invention with it seems to call upon me for.
It is with reluctance that I follow Mr. Maskelyne into a subject in which I may seem, like him, to be actuated by a selfish preference to my own scheme; however, as I shall give my reasons for what I advance, I will not hesitate to submit them to the public. I beg to be understood as a warm and declared friend to that and every other mode which can be devised of ascertaining the Longitude at sea, so long as they keep within the bounds of reason and probability. Here are now two methods before the public; would to God there were two hundred! The importance of the object would warrant public encouragement to them all; but, called upon to say something on the subject, I think it incumbent upon me to point out those limits beyond which its utility cannot, from the nature of the thing, be extended.
The method of finding the Longitude by the Moon, in which Mr. Maskelyne is in a pecuniary way interested, is this.—If the apparent distance between the Sun and Moon, or between the Moon and some fixed star, at any certain part of the globe, was for every hour of the year known; and if a navigator, when at sea, could also, by observations, ascertain what is the apparent distance, at the place where he is, between the Sun and Moon, or between the Moon and a star, and likewise their respective altitudes; and if he could also, at the same moment, ascertain the time of the day, either by an immediate observation of the Sun, or by a watch which would keep time pretty exactly from the last solar observation; these matters of fact being given, the difference of Longitude may from thence be calculated. I admit the principle to be absolutely true in theory. The Lunar tables for which the rewards have been given, are calculated to show the distance between the Sun and Moon, or Moon and stars, at Greenwich; I admit the practicability of making such tables; but with regard to the other requisites, I beg leave to observe that, for six days in every month, the Moon is too near the Sun for observing, consequently, during those days, the method falls totally to the ground; that^ for about other thirteen days in every month, the Sun and Moon are at too great a distance for observing them at the same time, or are not at the same time visible; therefore, during those thirteen days, we must depend upon observations of the Moon and stars, and upon a Watch to keep time, from the last solar observation with sufficient exactness, which common Watches cannot be depended upon to do; well therefore might Mr. Maskelyne admit that my Invention would become of considerable value, even if taken in aid of the Lunar tables. I leave the reader to judge of the practicability of making these observations from what follows:
To ascertain the Longitude by the Moon and a star, requires a distinct horizon to be seen in the night, which is next to impossible, and if you have not an horizon, the altitude of neither Moon nor star can be taken: it also requires (and this perhaps when a ship is in a high sea) the distance of the Moon and star, in order to come at which, the image of one of them must be reflected through a silvered glass, and the other seen through an unsilvered part of the same glass; and they must be brought into conjunction in the line that connects the silvered and unsilvered parts, and this to an exactness only true in theory, for an error of a minute of a degree committed in this observation, will mislead the mariner half a degree in his Longitude; now I call upon any Astronomers of reputation publicly to declare, that they have, even at land, and with the best instruments Europe affords, been able to make this observation of the Moon and a star with any thing like the precision required to determine the Longitude within the limits required by the Act of the 12th of Queen Anne; I know it cannot be done. Nay I further call upon any such Astronomers to declare, whether even in observations of the distance between the Sun and Moon, two of them observing together have generally speaking agreed in this observation within a minute of a degree: I know that in general the difference between the best observers even at land will be more, and as a farther proof of this assertion, I refer the reader to the note below: and if these matters of fact are still doubted, I shall beg leave to call upon Mr. Maskelyne and Mr. Green to declare how near they, with Admiral Tyrrel agreed in determining the Longitude by the Sun and Moon in their voyage to Barbadoes; and also whether during that voyage they ever did determine their Longitude by the Moon and stars.—I know they did not, for they found the observation too difficult, and indeed it is only true in theory. From the foregoing premises I infer,
1st. That during six days in every month, no observations can be made by this method to ascertain the Longitude at sea.
2ndly. That during thirteen other days in each month, it is impracticable to ascertain it by this method with any instruments hitherto contrived, or which the nature of the service to be performed seems to admit of.
And 3rdly. That during the remaining eleven days in each month, when the Sun and Moon may, if the weather is clear be observed at the same time, no reliance can safely be placed upon the best instruments in the hand of the best observer for ascertaining the Longitude within the limits of the Act of Queen Anne; and consequently, that how valuable soever the Lunar tables may be for correcting a long dead reckoning, and thereby telling us whereabouts we are, when we are not afraid of falling in with the land, yet even during these eleven days, they do not extend to the security of ships near the shore.
This method of ascertaining the Longitude by the Moon has already cost the public the sum of £6,600 at least, and yet no proper experiment has been made of it.
I shall not presume to make any reflections on the different treatment the two Inventions have met with, nor will I take up more of the reader's time by a detail of the very earnest attention paid by the French Government to this object. If our rivals in Commerce and Arts should rob us of the honour as well as the first advantages of the discovery, I hope it will be admitted that the fault is not mine: and I likewise flatter myself that I have now furnished sufficient materials for the justification of my Friends, and for shewing that the cause which they from public spirited motives had the goodness to espouse, was not unworthy of their patronage.
June 23, 1767.
- The ensuing paragraph would have been left out, had not Mr. Mudge, admiring it for its clearness, given it insertion in his reply: and also by reason that in a work adapted as far as the writer could effect it, for general perusal, it may be of use to some tyros; and occasionally serve to make the Ladies distinctly acquainted with a word so often in their way, on taking up a newspaper. They will please to observe that four seconds of time are equivalent to a geographical mile, rather more than a statute mile, in space; which gives fifteen such miles to a minute, and sixty, or a degree, to four minutes. By the same progression, the earth revolves 21,600 miles at the equator in the twenty-four hours; but the motion of our globe on its polar axis becomes trifling when compared with its velocity in its orbit, for Mr. Whiston tells them—that while he is writing, himself and his study are carried at the rate of 25,000 miles an hour!
- It has been shown in the work that this trial, although nominally the resolution of the Board, does not appear to have been wanted by any persons at the time, except Lord Morton and Dr. Maskelyne, between whom the private business was concocted;—which enabled the latter to exhibit a set off against his own unsuccessful demonstrations by the Moon. We will yet do the other Commissioners, including the consequential Peer, the justice to suppose they were ignorant of what passed at Barbadoes; for, with a knowledge of that scene, to have expected much fairness from the Astronomer Royal, and that he would not be glad to avail himself of any defect he thought he had discovered in the Timekeeper, whether real or imaginary, might have reminded the Clergymen, who formed the Lunar party, of what was often in their way, that "men do not gather grapes from thorns, nor figs from thistles."
- It may not perhaps be improper here to observe, that the Locks were such as might be picked with a crooked nail, that the Lock of which the Officers had the Key was on the 10th of July out of order, and that Mr. Maskelyne was sorry this should ever come to the ear of the public.—Pamphlet.
- This blunder, which, if he had been of Irish manufacture, might have passed for a good bull of that country, was perfectly characteristic of Lord Morton's understanding; by whom the rules to prevent any tampering with the Timekeeper were produced ready prepared, at the Board, in April, 1766, to which the trial previously determined on by his Lordship and Dr. Maskelyne (the personal enemies of the Inventor, to wit) was submitted as a matter of form, rather than of necessity. What estimate can be made of the judgment, or of the good nature of those present, when no person pointed out the ridicule these precautions involved? although it was the more obvious, because in Dr. Halley's plan, some years before, which all of them knew, (or they did no honour to their office) and which was to send the Timekeeper to roll six months on board a ship in the Downs: the vessel being to communicate by signal with Deal Castle, where the Clock was kept, it is ordered 'that the astronomical Clock should be locked up in the room where it stands, and the keys of the said room put in possession of some proper person, to be named by the Commissioners of Longitude, and by Mr. Harrison; and that no person should be allowed to take the time from the said Clock by a Watch, or otherwise.' Here it is evident as much precaution was thought necessary to prevent any unfair dealing with the Clock, as with the Timekeeper; and yet his Lordship, who certainly desired to be thought as clever a fellow as any round the Wrekin, had not an item of any such particular in his plan. We would not insinuate he had but one piece of learning, like Ephraim Jenkinson, in the Vicar of Wakefield, but the northern Peer recals to mind that "astronomical jargon" which an eminent Statesman, who was above affectation, but found it necessary to make something like a flourish, tells his Son, he got by heart from a Master, when he was to bring in his bill for the reformation of the Gregorian calendar. It leans to no impossibility, if we suspect the Gentlemen of the Royal Society were now and then mystified by plausible quotations from their President, which if closely questioned, it would have been found he did not understand himself: such at least is the safest conclusion left for those who compare the specimens he has given of his capacity, in common things, with his elevation to the chair of Newton.
- 'We whose names are hereunto subscribed do certify, that Mr. John Harrison has taken his Timekeeper to pieces in the presence of us, and explained the principles and construction thereof, and every thing relative thereto, to our entire satisfaction; and that he also did to our satisfaction answer to every question proposed by us or any of us relative thereto; and that we have compared the drawing of the same with the parts, and do find that they perfectly correspond.'
NEVIL MASKELYNE, THOMAS MUDGE, JOHN MICHELL, WILLIAM MATTHEWS, WILLIAM LUDLAM, LARCUM KENDALL. JOHN BIRD, August 22, 1765
- That our passions make us listless to what a common sense of propriety might otherwise have preserved our attention, is exemplified here, when the Astronomer Royal in his eagerness to make the most of a machine that overset his own pretensions to the reward, so entirely overlooked the delicacy of his situation, as to have neglected fortifying the projected inquest with a certificate to the effect, that when he received the Timekeeper, it was declared by the Inventor, or by some competent person with his sanction, to be in a fit state for the examination, and that its rate of going was so and so.—The want of such a document, which, in the usual course of things would have preceded the pages occupied with the daily registering, or the calculations consequent, becomes a hiatus which those Commissioners who authorized the publication of a trial so surreptitiously commenced, should have been aware might thereafter make their mental remains stink in the nostrils of all who honour genius contending with the storms and adverse currents of life; and would deprecate the despotic treatment seen here, even by the tacit admission of the parties; for it never was denied that the Watch gaining near twenty seconds a day was known to several Gentlemen, members of Parliament and others, some of whom were Commissioners: which makes the chance almost as a centum to an unit that Dr. Maskelyne could not be ignorant of what it was not very convenient to him to know. But this discreditable affectation in a collateral descendant of Ignatius Loyola (as he seemed) proved in the sequel an important link in the concatenation of events which made his Majesty, who placed no kind of reliance on the Doctor's demonstrations, very desirous to ascertain the merit of the last made Timekeeper under his own observation;—a propitious circumstance for the Inventor, when application was made for that very purpose, as has been described.
- Even though he took thought for the morrow, to be prepared for the explanations, according to Mr. Mudge, as follows—'there has been a time when the Doctor was very ready to court him [Mr. Mudge, senior] and that was when Mr. Harrison was about to make a discovery of the principles of his Timekeeper, that he might, through the assistance of my Father, obtain such information in mechanical matters, as not to appear absolutely ignorant of a subject which he was desirous of being thought properly acquainted with; and in order to get this information, he was then almost a daily visitant of my Father's, and very often, that he might have as much of his time as he could, dined with him.'
Some men, (we hope not the present scribe) says Pope, are
———forced, in spite
Of nature and their stars, to write.
Dr. Maskelyne seems to have equally contended with his destiny, in desiring to be master of mechanics; for not all the lessons he sought of Mr. Mudge were available to any purpose: which makes it rather ludicrous, when his name appears at the head of the list of three Gentlemen and three Watchmakers who attested that the Inventor had fully disclosed the principles and construction of the timekeeper. We may conclude the Gentlemen who attended would willingly have dispensed wit the Doctor's signature, as a frontispiece to their own, for from some passages in his Pamphlet, it would appear he either did not understand what was explained, or (in the sailor's phrase) forgot it before you could say Jack Robinson. But to form an idea of the offensiveness of this passage to Dr. Maskelyne, let us only suppose some one had told Cardinal Richlieu, be was a mere pretender to poetry; or Sir Robert Walpole, that he knew nothing of polite gallantry.
- To any objection to this arrangement, which no logical adroitness could have made a case in favour of the Timekeeper, Dr. Maskelyne would have coldly answered—that the Commissioners (Lord Morton and the Lunars, to wit) had seen it, and had not ordered to the contrary.—A disposition of the Timekeeper and of the Thermometer so incongruous that it may be called fantastical, is remarkably opposed to that guardian solicitude which it may be said "hopeth all things, and endureth all things" in pusuit of its enlightened purpose, which was seen at Richmond, and might be summed up in the consideration that his Majesty wished well to the Invention. On the contrary, the Astronomer Royal has left it to be inferred from his overt acts, that he was much worse than indifferent to the success of the result.—About twenty years after, Mr. Mudge, who had two Timekeepers on trial for the rewards under the 14th George 3rd, complained that they were carried backwards and forwards every day across an open court intersected by some steps, on account of its unequal level; justly thinking that if the bearer accelerated his pace in bad weather, he might, without intending it, give the Watch a motion in the plane of the balance prejudicial to its accuracy. Whether this arose from the Doctor's apathy towards the success of the Machines, or from his deficiency in mechanical knowledge, we cannot say, but that there was something disingenuous in his conduct, is rendered suspicious by the very singular perversion of a common word. In adverting to the situation of the great room at Flamstead Hill where the Timekeepers were kept, and that of the transit room, where they were compared with the Clock, he says the former was one pair of stairs above the other: which of course, notwithstanding the difficulty of supposing any apartment above the transit room, would be universally understood to mean over head: yet in fact it was in a separate building, on the other side of the court mentioned.
- Would not Dr. Maskelyne himself, had the case been reversed, and had he had no interest in the particulars, have thought what passed at Barbadoes incompatible with his superintendence of the trial?—a remark which may be extended further by those who recollect that in Parliament any member is expected to withdraw from a question involving his own private concerns; yet John Harrison never found the benefit of this decorous sentiment at the Board of Longitude, where his personal enemies instead of absenting themselves, had effrontery enough to take the lead against him.
- There was more decorum than earnestness in the deference to their commands; for though he was not wanting in respect for Dr. Maskelyne in his official department, he held the other mathematical Commissioners very cheap as practical astronomers, and the following, among other particulars found in his Journal, illustrate the cause. One conclusion which we do not hazard much in advancing is, that our Mechanician, by whom his son had been ably instructed in whatever was necessary to his purpose, was better qualified for the Professor's chair than his superior scientific opponents, as they thought themselves. But it may have been unfortunate for him to foil them at their own weapons in this manner; as their conduct leaves it to be sufficiently inferred that they would chew the end of resentment now and then, and certainly knew how to indulge it: he is found elsewhere complaining of personal rudeness from them.
At a Board, August 9th, 1763, William Harrison desired to know how many observations of the first satellite of Jupiter were necessary for ascertaining the difference of Longitude between Portsmouth and Jamaica? to which Mr. Blisse [Astronomer Royal] answered, he thought fourteen emersions, and fourteen immersions. William Harrison said he thought that must be a work of a long time; for scarcely more than half that number was ever to be had at any one place in a year.—At length the Board determined there should be as many observations got as could be that season, and it should be satisfactory.
Mr. Harrison then desired the Board would please to explain what they meant by equal altitudes made on three days. Mr. Blisse answered, they meant that they should be three succeeding days; and that the preceding and following limb of the sun should be taken at each hair in the instrument; and there being three hairs in the instrument, consequently there would be six observations each day.—Mr. Harrison informed the Board, he looked upon this to be next to an impossibility, and that he could say so from experience: that he had been kept five months, by order of the Board, at Portsmouth before, and that during that whole time no such thing could have been done: so he hoped they would put it on three different days, and that if they only got one correspondent equal altitude, that should be a sufficient observation for the day.—This was agreed to by the Board: they having first called in Captain Campbell, to have his opinion, which agreed with Mr. Harrison's.
- Not Adams's proposal to borrow some silver of brother Truliber could be more offensive to that dealer in live bacon than this reiterated charge of ignorance of what, it so happened, the Doctor desired of all things to be thought to possess a consummate knowledge—without prejudice to his reputation as an astronomer, on which he felt sufficiently comfortable, according to precedent, and any compliments levelled to batter in breach at his solid works would have been a waste of powder. His interest being of very material consequence at the Board of Longitude, as he could command the votes from Oxford and Cambridge, and it being discovered that he was constitutionally disposed to inhale the subtle particles from Watchmakers' shops and workrooms, he became of course the Mecænas of horological mechanics:—three of whom, with whose merits we would not be understood to interfere, received mainly through his services £500 each, for their improvements in chronometry; and matters prospered as they should, both with the Patron and his Clients, till one day, like the snuff collector in the Spectator, having taken too large a pinch of—some laudatory stuff, it produced a quarrel between the Doctor and Sir Joseph Banks, who denied either the originality or the utility accruing from an invention for which the learned Collegians had voted £500. This sparring gave birth to a pamphlet from Flamstead Hill, for private circulation only, which the Author has not seen; but from his confidence in the Baronet's superior knowledge, he surmises, that when a case is to be made out at all events, the party may be resembled to a barrister, who cannot deviate from the purpose for which he has received a retaining fee.
- Dr. Maskelyne, knowing his Antagonist had incontrovertible evidence of this humiliating fact, thought it the safer course to attempt no reply. But what can be said of the majoity at the Board, who, in 1772, Lord Morton being then dead, inherited the mantle of that Philosopher by experiment, and assuming it by turns, disregarded the most palpable truisms, to so good purpose as to insist on the last made Timekeeper being tried at Greenwich, and nowhere else: id est, by their colleague, a person noways remarkable for self control, and who might be reasonably presumed to have been excited almost to frenzy by the astounding failure recorded here, which he had no ink that would blot out. Without undervaluing the professional abilities of the Astronomer Royal, it was obvious that such a cause of exasperation was likely to make his hand unsteady, and to show his heart not "hung in the right place." It was consistent therefore with the character of George 3rd immediately to interfere on seeing this state of the business; which—in its result, produced a remarkable domestic state paper; for as such may be regarded the minutes of the Board of Longitude that sat November 28th, 1772, from the serious public consequences that might have followed the contest the Commissioners were provoking. Had not this paper been official, it might have seemed incredible that any set of men seated in an apartment at the Admiralty, could in such peremptory terms, addressed to a person who they all knew had waited on them by his Majesty's direction, signify to the occupant of the throne, as in effect they, do, that he had better mind his own business and not interfere with them. The acrimony of political and of religious zealots is proverbial enough, yet here we have a scientific Cabal, supported by volumes stratum super stratum',' whose conduct might make it supposed that not one of them could read or write.
- See the Preface.
- In his answer to Mr. Mudge, Dr. Maskelyne fancied he had an avenue of escape, by appealing to the commonplace resort, that it is impossible to please everybody; and alleging that Harrison and Mudge did not agree on the point. But his antagonist clearly shows him inconsistent in his efforts. He had thought a rate deduced from nine days going, and applied to a trial of six weeks quite insufficient; and yet he afterwards founds that a rate, taken from one month and applied to six was proper enough; forgetting that one month bears a less proportion to six, than nine days do to six weeks.
- The contrast between this inattention in a person whose accustomed habits, as they were to be presumed, conduced to precision on such a point, and the punctuality of the King at his private observatory, is too remarkable, and withal too important to be passed over; for though we do not say that Dr. Maskelyne's neglect contributed to the exactness which William Harrison noticed; because it would have been seen independent of any such circumstance; yet to the resentment which his Majesty felt in behalf of the oppressed individual, thus complaining, not a little of the determined opposition he gave to the proceedings of the Board of Longitude is to be attributed.—One obvious reason is, either that the majority who authorized the publication of a trial conducted with so little regard to regularity, notwithstanding it was intended to set the public right, had none of them seen it; or, which would be more incredible, although undoubted, that the same majority, almost wholly composed of Graduates, insisted on the last made Timekeeper being tried at Greenwich and nowhere else: an ultimatum which led to that total failure of the respect shown by all ranks towards the Crown; but which these Ecclesiastics were grossly deficient in on the date recorded.—Such we venture to conclude will be the sentiments of the Gentlemen of Oxford and Cambridge, now that the views and interests then predominant no longer agitate so many minds, and warp the better resolves of the "self approving hour," They may recollect those fine lines of Waller; often but too applicable to the deformity and party spirit of the transactions in which their predecessors were engaged above sixty years ago.
Our passions gone, and reason on her throne,
Amaz'd we view the mischiefs we have done;
After a tempest, when the winds are laid.
The calm sea wonders at the wrecks it made.
- It was well observed by Lord Chesterfield, that "an injury is not to be measured by the notions of him that gives, but of him that receives it."[subnote 1] And never was this axiom better illustrated than by the prudence, as he calls it, with which Dr. Maskelyne attempts to saddle his antagonist, as if designing that for a compliment, which in the construction of things where it was addressed, was synonymous with low cunning and dissimulation of purpose. If the Doctor was sincere in his view of the case, he has given us a feature in his own portrait enough to have put on their guard either public or private men having transactions with him; for it is perfectly consonant to what is looked for in the disreputable character called a man of the world, with which every large town is plentifully sprinkled. The spirit of such men is directly opposed to that of Christianity; insomuch that they have given occasion for more volumes of sermons than any other description of offenders deficient in good works.—The man of the world will take any fair advantage of you; by which he means such as will not absolutely compromise his (qualified) reputation for probity, however mean or unprincipled the motive may be, if that is locked up in his own breast. The Astronomer Royal argues as if he really had no apprehension of the disingenuous, crafty, and indefensible conduct he was imputing to his antagonist. He calls it prudence in John Harrison, to have, as be believes, contrived a machine which he knew would keep time within the nearest limits of the Act in a first, or second voyage, but not in a third or fourth; and falling into the everlasting error of selfish men, he measures the Claimant by bis own scale, although nothing could be more abhorrent to him than the villainous scheme (for so he calls it) which he was so strangely charged with. Particulars have been given under their dates in the Work, shewing that our Mechanician had something chivalrous and romantic in his cast of mind; he would of course require his honesty of purpose to be as much above suspicion as Caesar did his wife. This Dr. Maskelyne might not know, but several of the Mathematicians who authorized the publication of so cruel an insult to this worthy man had had ample opportunities of becoming acquainted with the cast of his character and in them (as we believe George 3rd would have said) it was unpardonable to sanction such treatment.
Before Dr. Maskelvne favoured the world with his own scale of rectitude for candidates for national premiums, and that of the Lunar party inclusively, it would have become him to have made some enquiry on the subject; which, had he been willing to learn, would have shown him the calumny he was fabricating. For the Invention was in such a state twenty years before the fourth Timekeeper was shipped for Jamaica, as to have fully enabled the candidate to compass we will say, if not the largest reward, nor even the next in degree, being ₤15,000, yet, baiting unforeseen casualties, to have insured himself the minor one of £10,000; which being gained, would enable him to prosecute his experiments under less constraint and difficulties; till by subsequent improvements, having come within the nearest limits allowed by law, he could carry off the other £10,000.—When it is considered that in the course or two decennaries how often the scene changes in human affairs; how want of health, some interminable lawsuit, and sundry vexations, might have frustrated the whole design, this was plainly the track which calculating prudence would have marked out for him; but it was incompatible with the high spirit of our Claimant; he would have thought it neither doing justice to the public nor himself, to solve the problem in this piecemeal way. He always believed he could come considerably within half a degree, or thirty miles (which the event verified) and to have lowered that hope would have deprived him of a powerful incentive to his labour. The same sterling honesty, but directly opposed to the prudential maxim
———what's the value of a thing
But so much money as 'twill bring?
is conspicuous in his romantic offer to the Board, 26th February, 1763, to concur with them in procuring an Act of Parliament to alter the mode of trial, for, says he, "many may be thought on, that will do more justice to the Timekeeper than that prescribed by the 12th of Queen Anne."[subnote 2] This was certainly true, but if a trial by sea, of longer duration was contemplated, it is evident that as the risks on that element would have been greater in proportion, so nothing could be more contrary to the prudence with which Dr. Maskelyne compliments him, whether sincerely, or maliciously, we say not, but he had no right to impute motives to this original genius, which he might have found, if he was willing to know it, were quite to his character.
- An outline of this part of the Transactions was given in the Work, unavoidably showing how strangely the great Lord Anson had fallen off from that consistency of character so much admired in his circumnavigation.
- This refusal, though of the utmost consequence, as all the subsequent proceedings may be said to hinge on it, will not be found on the minutes of the Board. The Mathematicians nominated were all strangers to the Candidate, who thence could not judge of their fitness for the office they accepted, and he had no confidence in the judgment of the Astronomer Royal, whose personal friends they were: but we presume not disinterestedly in this affair: for though their remuneration does not appear on the minutes, yet that they had much may be inferred from a particular of a subsequent date, Dr. Bevis and Mr. Witchell, (Master of the Academy at Portsmouth) two of the Computers employed after the trial to Barbadoes, having received £50 each for their trouble.
- A note appended says: 'It may not be amiss to take notice here of an objection that was raised by two of the Commissioners, both famous for their knowledge in Astronomy; viz: that the observations of equal altitudes made at Portsmouth, could not be depended on, because the equal altitude instrument had been removed from the place of observation in the morning, to another place to make the afternoon observations; from which it is plain that these great Astronomers did not understand either the principles or use of one of the most simple instruments in astronomy.' These Commissioners were not remarkable for their scientific knowledge, though our Mechanic diverts himself with their supposed fame. They were Nathaniel Blisse, Master of Arts, Astronomer Royal, who had been Professor of Astronomy, likewise of Geometry, at Oxford; and the Rev. ——Shepherd, Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge. The adjusting of the instrument, wherever it was set, depended on a level, attached to it: and finding their objections by no means tenable, they professed themselves satisfied. But the incident argues practical astronomy to have been at a very low ebb in both our Universities in that day. Had Dr. Knox stumbled on this singular deficiency, he might have applied it to the degrading view he has given of those national establishments.
- He and his son were not literally refused a sight of these computations (on which the payment of £20,000 depended) but it was allowed under circumstances so unavailing, and even ridiculous, that it is surprising any set of mathematicians, or men of business, could ever think of it. August 17th, 1762, Mr. Ibbetson, the Secretary, came to them in the outer room with some papers in his hand, and said to Mr. Harrison, [senior]—I am ordered by the Board to let you look at these papers; they are the computations and opinions of Mr. Howe, Mr. Roper, and Mr. Morris, and the Board desires that you will look at them.—John Harrison asked Mr. Ibbetson, if the Board meant be was to take and look them carefully over, or did they mean that they were then to look at them?—Mr. Ibbetson said, he was ordered to let them look at them, and to take them back again. To which Messrs. Harrison both replied—It was to little purpose to look at papers which seemed to be so long, and of so much consequence to them; therefore they both hoped that the Board would please either to give them more time to look them over, or oblige them with copies.—Mr. Ibbetson went back with the papers.' Were it not that to look at, or look over, and to examine, as regards arithmetical calculations, is synonymous with scientific men and those of business in every class, the strange scene above, in which the Father and Son were tantalized with the sight of papers of the greatest consequence to their interest, which yet it was denied them to understand, might disprove the notion. The transient view and measured glance, by which they were required to profit, if they could, to those well acquainted with Addison's pages, may recal the story of the Gentleman who, from a habit of turning over books with great expedition, had "by frequent consultations with an ingenious joiner," contrived a circular machine, on which a number of them were placed, in such a manner, that "in the most rapid whirl he could catch a sentence out of each." The contributor of this humourous extravagance could never have foreseen that it would one day be realized, to a certain extent, in an affair of magnitude; and that too by certain literati summoned from the Professor's chair, and, by courtesy, supposed replete with learned lore, who yet have left their names to be preserved by this brand of ignorance, if they were unknown beyond their college rolls. It becomes difficult to contemplate this proceeding without a suspicion that their own superficial inspection of these papers led to such indefensible trifling: they forgot, at the moment, that the same indolence was not to be expected from a consistent man, who had so great an interest in the computations. Poetry, romances, and political intelligence, seem best adapted for such an evanescent perusal, because the imagination of the reader often supplies a sentence, by anticipation, and sometimes a paragraph; but metaphysics, didactic works, and, above all, mathematical corollaries (computations inclusively) call for a deliberate attention, very different from that expected by the scientific Professors on this occasion; who, we conjecture, were enamoured with Euclid's Elements as well as Parson Barnabas was with Sermons—which he loved (says Fielding) as much as grocers do figs.—And what will Mr. Croker, or Mr. Barrow, say to a function fitter for a Merry Andrew, or some boy clever at bob cherry, than for a Secretary of the Admiralty, to wit.—The parties concerned in this awkward cross purpose, certainly exposed themselves to the reprehension of being told that debtor and creditor accompts; regular entries and balance sheets, are no more kept back in science than in trade, except in smuggling transactions, fraudulent bankruptcies and affairs of similar repute.
- The current reason assigned for the non-payment of the reward after the trial to Jamaica, which had proved so successful, was that the Longitude of that Island was not sufficiently known. This was not disavowed at head quarters,[subnote 3] although, if admitted, it compromised the integrity of those who directed proceedings with a knowledge of that uncertainty, and yet construed it as a nullity of his claim. But the Longitude of Jamaica had been correctly determined by a transit of Mercury, on October 25th, 1743, given in the Philosophical Transactions; which having been communicated to Lord Anson, was laid before the (mathematical) Commissioners above a month previous to the trial: but by them appears to have been disregarded; a reason for which flighty tokens the Candidate's Journal indirectly discloses, viz. that the paper alluded to, on the transit, was by Mr. James Short, F. R. S. and then (1761) a member of the Council, who, from certain items which we omit (in this abridgment) was personally unacceptable to the Lunar party. But the collision leaves no more respect for what the Professors kept out of sight, than we are wont to have for the conferences of the whispering Kings of Brentford. We could not, however, have anticipated such a scene of shifting and tergiversation as the following,—on August 9th, 1763: before the voyage to Barbadoes.—'William Harrison found that Mr. Blisse had proposed the trial should not be to Jamaica, but to some other Island. He then desired, if the Board pleased, it might be to Antigua: to which Mr. Blisse made answer, "No Sir, the Longitude of Antigua is also known."—By this Mr. Harrison found that he was not to go to Jamaica because the Longitude was known: and therefore said to Mr. Blisse—"Pray how long has the Longitude of Jamaica been known? to which Mr. Blisse answered—"a long time." William Harrision then said; "my fate is very hard; that I must not go to a place, because you say the Longitude of it is known; whereas a little time ago you would not give me the reward because, you said, the Longitude of that place was not known."—It was at last agreed that he should go to Barbadoes.'[subnote 4] It would be doing injustice to the rest of the Board to suppose they could deliberately sanction such gross prevarication and imbecile unfitness for what he appeared to direct; but it was evidently their duty to have interfered, if they were not parties to the misconduct of their interlocutor—Nathaniel Blisse, A. M. Astronomer Royal—who seems to have been a weak man, though he had filled the Sidereal chair, and also that of Geometry, at Oxford. So that the Journal quoted from unintentionally aids the strictures of Dr. Knox, who, had he lighted on this ornament to the University, might have mixed more wormwood with his unpalatable account of what was passing in those foundations on Cam and Isis.
- Mr. Short was the excellent friend who assisted him in embodying these details; for though he could express himself with clearness by word of mouth, as the Gentleman who received the explanation of the Invention found; yet (which is a very rare case) his manner, when he took up a pen was altogether peculiar and uncouth. This he could be shown, till his faculties were clouded by age, and availed himself of the assistance of his friends to remedy. We may digress here, to observe how that modesty for which John Harrison was conspicuous in his bright days had forsaken him when, in 1775, at the age of eighty-two, he published his pamphlet entitled, "A DESCRIPTION CONCERNING SUCH MECHANISM AS WILL AFFORD A NICE, OR TRUE, MENSURATION OF TIME:" which also refers to the attempts for finding the Longitude by the Moon, and to a Scale of Music of his invention.[subnote 5] He would accept of no assistance in revising this work;, which is so encumbered by his singular, and undefinable manner of expressing himself in writing, as to be unintelligible to the general reader without a translation: and although it has valuable hints for those who are thorough masters of the subject, it may be set down altogether as a memento mori. Yet that native sincerity and openness which exposed him to be maltreated by his enemies at the Board of Longitude (who were his judges without appeal, except to Parliament) is observable in this tract. After all his labours, and a success so much within the limits prescribed by the enactment of Queen Anne, he was dissatisfied that the compensation for heat and cold, in the Timekeeper, was not in the balance itself; an acknowledgment of a defect, which drew from the writer of an article, we think in the Encyclopædia Londinensis, the praise, that—"he was candour itself."
- Yet the details both of this and of subsequent passages in his singular history would have been sufficiently amusing, and not a little instructive; for he had fully experienced the hostility of those Commissioners, of learned designations, who, like that opprobrium of history, Hanno the Carthaginian, had more respect for their own opinions than the good of their country; who were openly opposed to the success of the Mechanics; and who refused him to name a check on the computations, after the first voyage, although the commonest sense of equity called for it: so that Goldsmith's stricture on Pope's sentiment—
might have been successfully refuted here;[subnote 6] for they were not honest pothouse cobblers, or carters, who paid so little regard to meum and tuum, but literary men, in holy orders, whose private passions and propensities were so self-ended, that many a man in the lowest grade of society might have been found fit to be deemed a nobler work of God, according to the Poets standard.—But never was genius seen contending with despotic power engrafted on ignorance (an ignorance of mechanics certainly) more remarkably than in the consummate effrontery of James Earl of Morton, and its consequences. A singular retribution may be thought to have overtaken him, by the revolting particulars brought to light above sixty years after his sands were run out, which were the principal source of these memoirs. It is enough to teach the proudest of the proud more circumspection, lest at any time they totally frustrate the homage they covet from the mouths of men, especially if they desire to be on good terms with posterity, the common wish of mankind. This Nobleman, insignificant as he was, if measured by his understanding, though the Royal Society were ostensibly of a different opinion, might have slept undisturbed with his chivalrous forefathers, had it not been incumbent on the Author, in tracing those transactions which finally resulted in the interference of George III. to drag his mental remains into the noontide glare. If their exhumation is offensive, his own neglect and want of principle, or of humanity, or of both, is the reply. Neither this Douglas, nor his supporters, most of whom were of the sacred profession, ever thought of the wholesome counsel they might have derived from a phrase of comprehensive meaning in the Canonical Book, entitled emphatically, the Preacher, which the Adventures of John Harrison remarkably illustrate. Had our knowledge of the proceedings of the Commissioners of Longitude depended on their official minutes, it might never have transpired that they delegated their authority in fact, though not in form, to their Colleague; who told them of the contumacy of the Candidate under the separate Commission; his own total want of common sense in that affair being out of the question. Neither could it have become like "truth to the touch" that the real source of the Act to amend, explain and alter the 12th of Queen Anne was not in the trumpery pretences adduced for the same, but because the enchafed northern blood of the Thane could not brook his defeat two years before. All this might have passed off plausibly enough, had not the parties implicated set no store by the pithy suggestion "a bird in the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter."[subnote 7]
An honest man's the noblest work of God,—
- This was Captain (afterwards Admiral) Campbell. As often as disputes occurred between the younger Harrison and the University Gentlemen, on points connected with the observations to be taken, this Officer was called in, and his decision was always unfortunate for the Professors of abstract sciences, as our Candidate called them: taking the liberty to observe that, as such, they were not proper judges of the question before them.—As Captain Campbell makes his appearance without delay on these occasions, he may be concluded to have been in waiting by desire of the Admirals, who were unequal to contending with the palaver of their learned colleagues: but they could not have much inducement to send their sons to either of our staple emporiums of sciences, when they saw that two plain men, like John Harrison and his Son, knew more to the purpose than Masters and Doctors of such sounding designations; but—waiving this: the marvellous ignorance which these graduates showed of the commonest sea affairs, connected with the examination of the Timekeeper was well adapted to promote mirth among sailors of every grade. August 9th, 1763. 'Dr. Shepherd and Dr. Hornsby then denied that Mr. Harrison should take his departure from Greenwich, and not from Portsmouth. William Harrison answered, he had no objection to this; if they would please to allow for the length of tine in going round, for that was sometimes longer than a voyage to the West Indies: adding 'that ships always took their departure from the last land they saw, which never could be Greenwich.—At length the Board determined that the departure should be from Portsmouth.' It thus appears that these gownsmen did not know what almost any cabin boy could have told them of; and yet from the determination having been come to at length it may be inferred they disputed the point to save their honour and—no doubt, to make fun for the Admirals, who must have thought these learned lubbers curiosities in their kind, but would have looked doubtfully, had they been proposed to them for schoolmasters of their respective ships. But, passing this by, aad considering that logic is professionally cultivated among them, or is supposed to be so, it could not be expected they would make no better figure in it, as Commissioners of Longitude, than their bed-maker at college would have done.—4th August, 1763. 'Some time after, Mr. [William] Harrison was asked which of the instruments he intended to take on this trial? He answered the small one, commonly called a Watch [the same that had been taken to Jamaica] as that was now by far the most perfect,—Professor Biisse said, that the third, or last large machine, should also go. Mr. Harrison said, he could not see the least reason why it should go, as he should not abide by it, for he knew it was not so perfect as the Watch; and that the large ones, had done their duty, by opening a principle upon which the small one was made; which might not have been found, could his Father have begun a small one at first.—To this the Astronomer Royal [Professor Biisse] made answer, Sir, the instruments are all the public's, and, if we insist upon it, which ever we please must go.—Mr. Harrison, said, if that is the case, you may send the first, which is by far the most imperfect: but certainly I am not to abide by such determination. But Professor Blisse, Dr. Hornsby and Dr. Shepherd, insisted upon it, that they had a right to send which they pleased. And then Mr. Harrison said, that with submission to this honourable Board, he did not think they had any such right, for it was he that was to say which instrument would be most proper. They were to be judges to what degree of exactness it came: so that, if he was to take an old shoe; and by their orders to go with it; and at his return it should have been found to answer, that certainly would be fulfilling the Act. Upon this it was agreed that the Watch only should go.'—The Mechanic will be allowed to have been the better manufacturer in the argument here; his stuff is of a more durable texture than that of the logicians by trade, although, like Mr. Shandy, senior, he did not know the names of his tools."
- The Earl of Sandwich did not deny the fact, but with an inconsistency savouring more pf the Jack-a-dandy than the Jack Tar or a good seaman, which he desired to be thought, he was offended at being reminded of it. With a caprice too, which we hope is uncommon among the nobility, from being favourable towards the Candidate, he became, from that time, his decided enemy. George 3rd coalesced with this Nobleman for political purposes, but without entertaining a personal esteem for him. When his unhappy malady had removed all disguise, his attendants related that he would talk to himself about Lord Sandwich, under the appellation of Jemmy Twitcher. This was a nickname he had got by having affixed it to a political pamphlet, of which he was unluckily discovered to be the author: and therefore could not complain when his enemies used it in derision.
- Neither would it have been broached at that time, nor at any subsequent period, had not the Earl of Morton taken his seat among them. The unpardonable misconduct of the Commissioners in giving credence, without the least examination or enquiry, to the gross misstatements of that Nobleman, in a case on which £17,500 depended, was commented on in its place; and seldom has Lord Chesterfield's favourite position, of the discrepancy between the real and the ostensible motives of public men, been better illustrated than by the deformity of his whole transaction; for the pretended doubts and difficulties, which were acted on even in opposition to the opinion of the law authorities, all resolve themselves into an affront given to the proud Thane two years before, and that too by not complying with impossibilities!
- In a note he asks, "If this interpretation of the Act was true, and the Commissioners had a general discretionary power, where was the reason or use of specifying any trial at all in the original Act?" There would have been no occasion to ask a question involving a paradox, had the real state of these concerns, which the public never had the slightest knowledge of, been brought forward. The Commissioners, when they authorized their colleague. Lord Morton, to supersede the 12th of Queen Anne, after, and not before the success of the Timekeeper, by procuring an Act to embody his own ideas, which included the ruin of the Claimant, as far as he could effect it, were as grossly deficient in common care as if they had decided the question by a toss up of heads or tails. It has been shown that they never enquired into the real state of affairs under the separate Commission, where the vengeful misgivings of this philosopher by experiment originated, and from this novel and important item remaining unknown, a false view of the case has always been unintentionally given by those who have treated of the transactions between the Claimant and the Board of Longitude, after the return from Barbadoes.
- Although he well knew the origin of the Act to amend, explain, &c. which pointed at the Earl of Morton; yet he thought himself constrained to advert to the Commissioners in general terms only.
- This uncertainty, both in the mode of trial, and the degree of exactness required, was suitable to the framer of the Act, which Lord Morton called his own. But if the rest of the Commissioners were not become perfect cyphers, they should have told him he was contravening his professed purpose, to amend the 12th of Queen Anne, in which both those points were distinctly settled: that his Lordship ought to know the total want of precision, which he was substituting, proved only his incapacity for intermeddling in such concerns.
- If the Admirals are passed by, because they are so much accustomed to deal with people who do not always appreciate the sanctity of an oath; yet the same indulgence can noways be extended to the Clergymen at the Board, whose professional duty it was, not to suffer two men to take an oath which they openly declared they did not understand. A passage in the Journal bears on this statement.—'William Harrison having read it, said,—there are two words in this oath—Lord Morton 'interrupted him, and said, stop, stop, stop. Sir, you were not desired to pull it to pieces; you were only desired to look at it, and to tell us whether, or not, you will take that oath, and therefore you have no business to say any thing about it—only to answer to the question asked you; that is, will you or will you not? and your answer is only to be. Yea, or No.'
We read in Roman story of a Commander whose personal enemies after a successful campaign, put him to his oath, to find whether he had not embezzled a portion of the spoils captured from the foe; and he confessed he had reserved to himself a small wooden oil vessel for making libations to the Gods! An awkward discovery surely; yet the process which showed he did not want whitewashing was legitimate enough. But an oath does not make that clearer which cannot be understood without it,[subnote 8] unless to such clouded faculties as his Lordship's, who directed 'That he [the Inventor] shall go regularly through the explanation of the whole machine; and if in this process there shall happen to be any thing which the Gentlemen do not understand, then Mr. Harrison shall be put upon his oath, and explain the same upon oath, and that shall be satisfactory.' You find subjoined, that 'the Gentlemen shall have liberty at all times to ask what questions they think proper; and if they think it necessary, Mr. Harrison shall answer the same upon oath.'
It savours of Jack Pudding's jokes, if a description, not sufficiently clear, could be rendered so by being subjected to an oath. But we must observe that the one required from the Claimant previous to the explanation, and which he objected to, for being improperly worded [by Lord Morton] was far from being the only obstacle to the proceedings; for when the method of disclosing the Invention came under discussion, the Commissioners (if it be not a solecism to speak in the plural) required that exclusive of the drawings, with the written descriptions annexed, which were given up, and also, of those verbal expositions which would be wanted when the Timekeeper was to be taken to peices, there should be "experimental exhibitions" for the satisfaction of the Gentlemen selected to attend. And to this our Mechanician objected, unless they would give him some distinct idea of the experiments that would be wanted. Which was refused, as they said, they would not be confined; but they afterwards named "the tempering of his springs." When this was mentioned, of which it is fair to conclude none knew the drift, except John Harrison and his rival, he evinced so pointed a repugnance, as may be readily admitted to have made him appear unreasonable and awkward to treat with, by those who had no clew to the irritated feelings he betrayed at the time, although he was a good-natured man. Had the Gentlemen of the Board looked round them a little, instead of submitting to be led in a string, like the Simkin family, in the frontispeice to the New Bath Guide, they would have found that the Act (he called very properly his own) to amend, explain and alter the original enactment, was as far as possible copied from those resolutions he brought with him ready out and dry to the meetings of the separate Commission, without troubling himself about any difference of opinion on the subject (as there could be none in his construction of things.) The 4th of them, which his Lordship, who, like the talkative Barber of Bagdad (we remember from our horn books) having all the arts and sciences at his finger ends, never consulted a Watchmaker about, ran thus—'That Mr. Harrison do explain the method by which he tempers his metals, particularly his springs, or worms, and show the experiment of tempering a number of them at once in presence of the said Commissioners, or a major part of them.'
This was assuming the Claimant to have been accustomed to temper a number of his springs or worms at once, which it would have much become the P. R. S. first to have ascertained the correctness of, and still more to have pointed out at whose expense a number of them were to be manufactured for the experiments he projected.—On the Claimant's being informed of the test that would probably be required, he immediately recollected the source of this ignorant trifling, as he thought it, the description of the process being clear to the commonest capacity. These experiments by a natural retrospect likewise recalled the irksome memento of that abortive Commission which the everlasting intermeddler who now presided at the Board of Longitude, had been the sole cause of entirely frustrating.—After every arrangement was in danger of being overset: after compromised objections, and that et cætera of—what you will; when the real cause of dispute is different from what appears on the surface; who would imagine that when the Invention came to be closely scrutinised, not a single experiment was called for, nor even contemplated! neither was an oath administered or wasted!! The cause was simply that the Gentlemen who received the explanation understood the subject; while the philosophical fribble, who so oddly controlled his colleagues, knew nothing to the purpose.
This Nobleman's bad judgment, his propensity to multiply oaths, in cases where they were either superfluous, or misplaced, might have been palliated, had he tried to introduce the practice of his own country in administering them: but not an item on this point (the only one in which he could have been of any use) is discoverable. Jonas Hanway, in his "Defects of Police," complains much of the careless and irreverent manner in which they are tendered and taken in judicial proceedings on this side the Tweed, recommending the practice of the Scotch courts as a corrective. In England, a person taking an oath, does not ocularly know (without inspection) that he swears on the New Testament; for any other book, much resembling it may be substituted. Consonant to which, in the farce of the Romp, the puppy who is the hero of the piece, boasts how he had imposed on his Cousin, by having made use of Robinson Crusoe, instead of the Gospels, when he pledged his faith to her. In Scotland, an examinant laying his left hand on the open book, holds up his right, while he makes this solemn appeal.
Having adverted to the irritated feelings of our Mechanician under the singular provocation to which he was exposed, we can adduce as an instance of his urbane spirit and good temper, under casualities that seldom fail to attest the irritability of most people.—A school-boy had one day strolled into the workroom and study with a half eaten apple in his hand, the acid property of which some how or other occasioned a spot of rust to be found next day on the balance of the (last made) Timekeeper; which if it had not been observed might have proved of serious consequence. The good-natured old man gave the offender a proper caution to prevent the recurrence of such an accident; but knowing his unconsciousness of the mischief, he could not find in his heart to muster a frown for such a delinquent. Hence, when at a Board, held 30th May, 1765, to settle the mode of disclosing the Invention, on "experimental exhibitions" being proposed to him, and particularly the tempering of his springs, he exclaimed—"he would not consent to such a proceeding, while he had a drop of English blood in his body." It did not arise from want of temper in this man of genius, but his native sincerity, and his sovereign contempt for the affectation and love of display in which he knew these teazing difficulties originated.
The reader may be further gratified to learn that John Harrison had none of those eccentricities,[subnote 9] often injurious to themselves, as well as annoying or offensive to others that are frequently noticed in men of uncommon genius. The following official letter from the first Lord of the Admiralty, in 1736, bespeaks attention. The answer of Captain Proctor, bears testimony to the respect and good-will which the Officers of the ship conceived both for the enterpirize, and the Candidate's deportment among them.
We might remark on the sentiments of these distinguished Officers, for the surprising contrast they evince to the treatment the Candidate afterwards experienced from certain other quarters. That propriety of demeanour, which wrought in his favour, was not constrained, for under other times and circumstances, he might have reminded the observer of Dr. Johnson's remark on his friend. Sir Joshua Reynolds—that be was "the most invulnerable man he knew." By which he meatnt one, with whom, if you should quarrel, you would find it difficult to abuse; because there was nothing in his character to give scope to your flippancy. The peculiarities of John Harrison were so few, and so trifling, that the Doctor might have extended the complimentary critique to him, had he been of his
From Sir Charles Wager to Captain Procter.
Admiralty Office, 14th May, 1736.
The Instrument which is put on board your ship has been approved by all the Mathematicians in town that have seen it (and few have not) to be the best that has been made for measuring time; how it will succeed at sea, you will partly be a judge; I have written to Sir John Norris, to desire him to send home the Instrument, and the Maker of it (who I think you have with you) by the first ship that comes. Perhaps Admiral Balchen may bring it, or a ship that comes to Chatham, if any do so, may be better. The Man is said by those who know him best, to be a very ingenious and sober Man, and capable of finding out something more than he has already, if he can find encouragement. I desire therefore, that you will see the Man be used civilly, and that you will be as kindto him as you can.
I am, Sir, &c.
Captain Proctor's answer.
Right Honourable Sir,
I am very much honoured with yours of the 14th, in relation to the Instrument I carried out, and its Maker; the Instrument is placed in my cabin, for giving the man all the advantage that is possible for making his observations, and I find him to be a very sober, a very industrious, and withal, a very modest man, so that my good wishes cannot but attend him. But the difficulty of measuring time truly, where so many unequal shocks and motions stand in opposition to it, gives me concern for the honest man, and makes me fear he has attempted impossibilities. But Sir, I will do him all the good, and give him all the help that is in my power: and acquaint him with your concern for his success, and your care that he shall be well treated: and be proud in every thing to show myself. Sir, &c.[subnote 10]
Centurion, at Spithead,
May 17th, 1736.
- The passage in reference, copied from the Journal of John and William Harrison, under date. May 25th, 1765, is,—'The Gentlemen are to be upon oath not to divulge the Invention to any one till they shall have leave from the Board of Longitude; and the Commissioners are also to be upon their honour not to tell it till they have given Mr. Harrison an opportunity to make what he can of other Powers.'
On the Minutes of the Board, about the same date, we find—"that the Gentlemen who attend be enjoined not to make any discovery of the principles of the Watch to any but the Board, without leave of the Commissioners."—This was well enough, but the difference between the intention and the performance of any thing is often very remote; and it is but justice to Mr. Ludlam to observe, that it made no difference whether the injunction to secrecy was to be upon oath, or upon honour, for it never reached the parties who received the explanation: not at least, Mr. Mudge, one of the watchmakers that attended: who being sent for, and interrogated at a Board, March 14th, 1767, the following odd cross purpose came out,
Question. Did you think yourself at liberty after receiving; the said explanation to communicate the same?
Answer. I thought it my duty to do it, and that it was the intention of the Board I should do so.
Question. To what number of English workmen did you communicate it?
Answer. To ten or twelve I believe, and to several Gentlemen curious in mechanics besides.[subnote 11]
The cause of this singular blunder would probably be found in the gross impropriety of the Commissioners having left the management of this public concern to so incompetent a busy body as the Earl of Morton, who either was too much engrossed by his own importance, and love of display, to remember what he should have communicated to the Gentlemen who attended in Red Lion Square, or designedly left them ignorant of it; for to judge by the general tenor of his conduct, and the words "Harrison will get all the money," which more than once escaped this inimitable petit maitre of philosophers, he neither wanted the Claimant to profit by the powers abroad, nor those at home. A circumstance coinciding with the belief that this discrepancy might be traced to the Manager is that, it was not convenient to him to be present, on April 11th, when the affair was to be enquired into, although there was a full attendance on that day, there being fourteen Commissioners at the Board. The occasion which led to Mr. Mudge being sent for as above, was that the French Government being attentive to the subject but not aware that they had only to wait perhaps a few months for the publication of the principles and construction of the Timekeeper, sent over M. Berthoud, the best watchmaker in Paris, to purchase the secret, if he could, of the Inventor; but who, as the Gentlemen who had received the explanation were by the agreement strictly enjoined to secrecy, would not attend to the proposal, unless in an open and undisguised manner. Afterwards hearing that Mr. Mudge had explained the particulars as well as he could to this foreigner, he addressed two letters on the subject to Sir Charles Saunders (then at the head of the Admiralty) by whom they were transmitted to the Commissioners. The minutes of the Board furnish no information as to the result of this enquiry; what is stated is very brief, and they pass on to other matters; which leaves it to be inferred that the Lunar party, who identified their interests with those of the Manager contrived to quash further proceedings; and the Journal of the Adventurer having been discontinued after the delivering up of the three machines; the letters to Sir Charles, and other particulars which might have been preserved in it are wanting. We may yet be allowed to remark, that what is known leaves no trace of the calculating prudence for which Dr. Maskelyne complimented the Inventor of the Timekeeper, whether sincerely or with an ironical purport, we decline to decide.
- From the Commissioners being spoken of in the plural of course, the real state of the business is often kept out of sight.—Had the Board come under the management of some person of superior abilities, it would have been consonant to what is very common in corporations, or at meetings like this. But here the Cromwell, or Protector, who by sufferance, trod on the necks of these rump Commissioners was only a consequential pretender, conspicuous for his affectation, and of such inordinate self-conceit, that no man could differ in opinion with him whom he was not disposed to think non compos. He was the cause that many of the advantages which might have been derived from the distinguished genius and prolonged life of John Harrison were lost to the world.[subnote 12] After the discovery of the Longitude, the great desideratum was to simplify the construction and reduce the expense of the Timekeepers, which it was obvious he was best qualified to accomplish, if not the only person that could undertake it. Yet the Commissioners, wilfully blinded to this consideration, gave a carte blanche to their colleague, who from enmity engrafted on ignorance compelled the Claimant to waste his valuable time in copying his own work (if he could do that without seeing it, or have the drawings it was made from.) The Board employed Mr. Kendal for the object spoken of; which he undertook very reluctantly, as appears on their minutes. He was an excellent workman, but not gifted with inventive powers: so that the Manager of the concern persisting in employing him, instead of the proper person, cannot be too much reprobated.—The meanness charged on the Commissioners in the paragraph, was not applicable to them as a body in pecuniary concessions, but arose from the sordid spirit of the northern Aristocrat, who either from education or habit, as different instances in these transactions show, would always appropriate the labour of others without any recompence if he could: and when on an occasion described, he advised the Candidate to borrow all the money he could, he did not offer to lend him a shilling.
- Although no manner of precaution was observed in the removal of these curious, if not highly valuable Machines, which the Manager ever and anon designated as public property (vide his own Act) yet the minutes of a Board, 2nd May, 1767, lay down a plan altogether elaborate, and in which the Hospital barge is introduced for the removal of a box about ten inches square, and six or seven deep, with a handle on each side, when it was to be conveyed from Flamstead Hill to Mr. Kendal's house in Furnival's Inn Court, to be subjected to no experiment but that of being taken to pieces immediately. This over-acted part contrasts so clumsily with the total want of the commonest care when the Machines (mentioned in the next line) were taken possession of, that whoever is no novice in such matters will not read it as the contriver of the business (we believe Lord Morton) designed he should. The parade of the most scrupulous attention to the transit of the Timekeeper, after, and not before it had been subjected to experiments that were to counteract the complete satisfaction it had given to the seamen, becomes by this posterior arrangement nauseous to those who are sufficiently conversant with books and with men to be on their guard against such commonplace expedients. The details, "the pomp and circumstance" of the removal of the small box, with the Timekeeper, which the Inventor used to carry on his lap in a coach, can never palliate the gross ignorance of mechanics, or the refined malice, displayed in the transfer of the three machines. Instead of calling in one or more experienced clockmakers, the Astronomer Royal sent for a blacksmith; with whose assistance, and while they were carrying it between them, he stupidly let fall, and extremely injured that machine,—the one which by order of Sir Charles Wager, had been sent (successfully) to Lisbon. This contact between the floor, or the stairs, and our Mechanic's first-made Timekeeper, if it could not be resembled to the crash of St. Paul's, when Sir Christopher plied his battering ram, yet amounted to the wreck of the Doctor's reputation for mechanics: which he understood no better than Sir Robert Walpole did polite gallantry.—And what can be thought of their care of this public property, as the Commissioners (in subserviency to their Manager) always affected to call it? Had they been openly upbraided with not being trust-worthy on the occasion, it does not appear how they could have repelled the accusation; their colleague (who, no doubt, continued to pester them with his knowledge of chronometry) never having been called on to make good the damage out of his own pocket; neither was there any motion, as far as the writer knows, to be aiding to so indispensable an obligation out of their own private funds. The principal in this public injury, who, when he reached Flamstead Hill, might have exclaimed, with Old Chaos, "havoc, and spoil and ruin are my gain!" well knowing the good men and true he could depend on, would have indulged a Sardonic sneer at the expense of some worthy simpleton, who might have told him the Board of Longitude would make him answerable for the consequences.—We must subjoin here, as a necessary justice to the Manager, that he does not appear to have contemplated the destructive consequences of employing the Astronomer Royal to superintend the removal of the three Machines; for at the Board, April 26th, 1766, where it was ordered that the successful Timekeeper should be tried at Greenwich; it is further directed—'That the three other Timekeepers, the property of the public, which are now in Mr. Harrison's custody, be demanded, and sent to the Observatory, that their rates of going may be compared with the regulator at the same time with the Watch.'
- In 1749, our Mechanician, on the recommendation of that eminent philosopher, Sir Hans Sloane, was honoured with the medal of the Royal Society, for the ingenuity displayed in these machines. The discourse of Sir Martin Folkes on that occasion is given in the Appendix of the original Work. (The Society were further desirous of choosing him of their body; an honour which he declined in favour of his Son.) "These curious progressive specimens of genius" (as is seen) were partially destroyed by Dr. Maskelyne, under circumstances which need not be repeated, and are only adverted to here, because we would ask—did the ignorant or the malicious author of this public injury (which either he was) take his seat unquestioned at the next meetings of the Society?—for, if so, the consistency of the Noblemen and Gentlemen who had thus testified their sense of the Inventor's merit, cannot be much commended.
- The regular course would have been to have placed them on what, in London, is called a chairman's horse; by which being conveyed to the waterside and embarked for Greenwich, on their arrival there, the former mode of transit would have been resorted to. But these precautions, although no more than what common care pointed out, the consummate self-sufficiency of the Astronomer Royal, disregarded. To judge from the injury these Timekeepers received, for neither of the two smaller ones could be put in motion at Flamstead Hill, exclusive of the large one so grievously marred by a perfect master of mechanics (who possibly had but one method with all subjects, like Sangrado with his patients) they must have been placed on a cart without springs, to be jolted over an execrable London pavement, such as it was in that day, and on to their destination.
Nature having imbued John Harrison with as much sensibility as commonly accompanies genius, it cannot be difficult to form an idea of the effect, not only at parting with these memorials of a life of good works, in a double sense, but of being severed from them for ever under circumstances so ruinous to the persevering labour of many years.—The apathy shown to the feelings of a man of so much private worth, as well as public distinction, partook of those operations in anatomy, in which a passive subject of the brute creation is exposed to the razor, or the actual cautery, of some zealous enquirer into the nervous system, some disputant concerning the seat of the sensorium, and whether the heart, or the brain, is most liable to be affected under experiments of his devising. It would have mitigated the privation, had they been left at Flamstead Hill in apparent order and security; but this consolation the custody to which they were consigned, alas! forbade.—This public property was in the first floor at Red Lion Square, and from the second, where was his study and workroom, the master spirit that till then had presided over these works, collectively and in detail, heard the crash occasioned by the excusable ignorance of the smith, and the pertinacious self-opinion of the astronomer.—If we imagine him present at this "confusion worse confounded," and that instead of leaving the room from anguish, he had, in a paroxysm of resentment, broken a cudgel over the head of this consummate Vandal—that the usual legal resort had followed, &c.: it is not likely any jury, if the defendant's counsel understood his brief, would have adjudged more than one shilling, or, to mark their contempt, not more than one farthing damages to this deputy of a public trust; who, according to the witnessed statement, professed a perfect knowledge of all matters in hand, and—began with asking what he was to do! And—who commiserates not the veteran genius, who had achieved what till then was thought impossible; when from the upper window he saw these proofs of his inventive faculties carried off like common furniture?—the whip cracks; the wheels "grate harsh thunder" and—"the iron entered into his soul."
Mr. Burke could not have been aware of the circumstances attending the extraordinary transfer described, when (as was shown in its place) he warmly espoused the cause of the aged Claimant, and deprecated the treatment he had received; or the double-refined and unnecessary cruelty exhibited on the above transmission, under a public plea, which the conduct of die responsible parties thus outraged, would have shown him touching spontaneously those chords which chime in unison with the finer feelings of our Common nature—
While wond'ring senates hung upon his tongue.
Neither did that Gentleman know the strange incongruity of one class of candidates becoming judges of the merits of another, or he would have pointed out, in his forcible language, with apposite illustrations, its tendency to such results. Leaving the reverend Astronomers (Maskelyne and Long) to renew their defensive arguments, like the water in the tub of the Danaides, or to invoke sublunar mountains to cover them from the odium their conduct would excite.
The first in order of the three machines, and the one which, from the gross mismanagement described, was actually let fall in the removal; was that which by direction of Sir Charles Wager had, in 1736, been sent to Lisbon. On its return from whence, though almost on a meridian, it corrected the reckoning of the Orford near a degree and a half. It had not been prejudiced by the rolling of the ship in the bay of Biscay, but experienced a different fate when demanded by the Board of Longitude. And now—what said the trustees of this public property? who met on the 24th of May,[subnote 13] fully prepared for the Rev. Nevil Maskelyne's report of the transactions of the preceding day, and indeed without any other business apparently, excepting to order the notes of the Astronomer Royal [he being so skilled in mechanics, to wit] to be printed along with those of the Gentlemen who had attended the disclosure of the Invention, and given in an appendix to the plates, with the drawings and explanations thereof.—If the reader is impatient to know what circumlocutory process, or opaque varnish, or methodicial arrangement of syllogisms, tropes and figures, cut and dry from Alma Mater, was employed to mystify those Commissioners whose wits were not in the Moon, he will be wholly disappointed; for the Manager and his deputy through whose affectation, ill concealing their ignorance, so much injury was done to these curious machines, with one exception, before mentioned, knew too well the men of straw they had to deal with, whose duty it certainly was to have been certified of the safety of this public property (always so called) but who slept on their watch, instead of seizing the helm, and kicking down the hatchway ladder, head or heels foremost, these mechanical impostors.—In place of the long report of the transfer, and still longer exculpation of the disasters on the 23rd, not a word of either will be found on the minutes; this suppression having it seems been resorted to as the preferable course, by the two principals implicated in this disgraceful affair: with whom Professor Long would have shared the reproach had the particulars been then known. Dr. Maskelyne, who, in his writings (as far as the Author knows) took care to preserve a religious silence on this subject; as he has also done on the original quarrel at Barbadoes, which he forgot it furnished a suitable comment on, was never required to repair the serious injury to these machines out of his own pocket, under the inspection of the Inventor, as he should and would have been, had not the spirit of party superseded that of equity, in this Commission, as it is liable to do in others, which thence get the name of jobs. The job here was not lucrative, but it administered to the self-consequence of two men who had an inordinate appetite for such marmalade; to improve the sacharine of which, the whole conduct of the Manager shows, that had John Harrison been made responsible for the safe removal of this public property, (which he would have been glad to have been) and had any thing happened; not "the act of God, or the King's enemies;" he would have been required to make good the damage, at his own expense, to the uttermost farthing! His oppressor, like Shylock, would have "found it in the bond;" but he did not find in the Act of Parliament he called his own, that he was to grant him any facilities, including the use of these machines—"it was not in the bond."—Such was the unequal proportion of good and evil weighed out to his rival by the northern lubber, whom these gallant Admirals suffered to pipe all hands in chase, and steer them to run down, if he could, the renowned genius whose bark with some splicing and caulking from George 3rd, rides on the ocean of time with a light at her mast head, that scatters its rays afar over Europe, reflected to Australia.
- The Commissioners would no doubt, like any other public men, have taken umbrage, at the charge of gross incapacity in the management of their trust; but the vindication of George 3rd has led to the discovery, that a philosopher, by experiment, who, unlike Irax the voluptuary, in Zadig, would not have been weary of hearing his own praises, and whose powers of persuasion must have been contemptible, dictated to his colleagues like some Tribune, armed with the veto, to a knot of striplings, ere they had assumed the toga virilis in old Rome.—How could those men look to the approbation of posterity, or suppose the juggle would not one day transpire, and show the springs and movements behind the curtain (of their official reports) not much to the honour of a trust which so palpably sacrificed the public advantage to the sinister purposes of the Earl of Morton; who when he brought in his bill, knew well (or, if he did not, it was his duty to enquire) that the Claimant was in the habit of resorting to his former works, in prosecuting his new ones. So that if he was not actuated by undisguised revenge (for his never to be forgotten, or forgiven, repulse under the 2nd George 3rd) if he had bona fidœ consulted the best interests of the country and of science, the obvious course was to have left these machines in the care of the Inventor during his life, taking security for their being delivered up afterwards; in perfect order (the act of God excepted.)—Had they remained in Red Lion Square, with the advantage of such a Ciceroni, they would have been a treat to scientific men at home, and to intelligent foreigners not a few. But at Greenwich, in their injured state, they were a memento of dishonour to the parties concerned in claiming and removing then, which will not want magnifying to posterity.
- The injury to these curious machines was not only never resented by the Commissioners of Longitude, by whom they had been claimed, and in whose trust they were, but from a circumstance stated by the continuators of Dr. Rees, the misconduct in their removal was aggravated in no ordinary degree by the bungling expedient resorted to to conceal it; which also prevented the public from benefiting by these specimens of progressive advances to the great object sought.—'On an application by our Draughtsman to the Astronomer Royal to inspect the interior parts of one of the machines, by the maker in question [Harrison] placed at the Observatory, he was informed that permission to undo any of the covers, or other parts of the mechanism, could not be granted.' This was in direct contravention of what is expressly stated, and repeated on the minutes, when they reserved a claim to them, which was "for the use of the public"—and if this catches the notice of Mr. Croker, under whose special cognizance the proceedings of the Commission of Longitude were latterly, we hope he will take measures to rectify this shameful repulse of scientific enquirers.
- If it be alleged that the Plates, when published, would have been expected to give him sufficient advantages, and that he ought himself to have evinced their utility in the first instance, especially as Mr. Mudge had said he could make the Timekeepers from them; it will yet be conceded that to him they could not be equivalent to his own Drawings, with which he had not been allowed to compare the engravings; and as he had no reliance on the abilities of Dr. Maskelyne for such a purpose, to whom the superintendence of transferring these outlines to the Plates had been very improperly confided, the benefit accruing was trifling, when compared with that of having the different detached parts of the Timekeeper to show to the workmen he employed.—The Commissioners, or, as we should say, their Manager, directed that as soon as finished, a set of the impressions should be forwarded to Mr. Kendal (a courtesy which was not extended to John Harrison, although, as above said, his drawings were taken from him) but whencesoever it arose, the plates are not mentioned in Mr. Kendal's subsequent transactions with the Board, referring to his contract.
- An ignorance of chronometry, which it may be supposed they knew little better than Lord Morton, to whom it had served for display and a parade of his accomplishments, seems the only plea that can be wedged in by their advocates, if such avow themselves, but it will not soften the harshness of a particular which being level to every apprehension will enable the reader to judge better of the treatment he received.—When the Lunar party (for it would be a misnomer to say, the Commissioners) were informed that the last made Timekeeper would soon be ready for a trial, they proposed to John Harrison, at a Board, November 28th, 1771, that it should go in one of the sloops, the Resolution and Discovery, then fitting out for the South Sea, "if he thought proper," though they knew he was at the age of seventy-eight, and the voyage might occupy above three years, with a liability to casualties proportionably extended. That under such circumstances a trial of three or four years duration should be substituted for that of half a dozen weeks, on the faith of which he had set to work forty-five years before, shows the assurance of these honourable men (as no doubt they thought themselves) to have been above par. To allege they were authorized so to do under Lord Morton's Act, only aggravates so sinister a conduct: for many people would say that those Commissioners who lent themselves, without enquiry, to abet the personal animosity of that vain and obstinate philosopher by experiment, deserved to live on bread and water three or four years.
- He told them distinctly, that having the Timekeeper by him six or eight months, would save him the labour of one year in three. The refusal therefore, when his age is considered (seventy-three) had a brutality in it which the wit of man cannot extenuate; aggravated, if possible, by excluding from their minutes his repeated applications on this most important subject. Thus the ostrich, a simple bird, is said, by hiding its head, to imagine its whole body is concealed.[subnote 14]—The concealment being now done away, leaves an insurmountable memento of reproach to posterity; principally pointed at James, Earl of Morton, P. R. S. the origin of which has been shown. Yet great as the injury was to the individual, it became immeasurably augmented to the public, and was indeed defeating in express terms, the special purposes of their institution, when we learn he wanted "to determine by experiments whether some expensive parts of the machinery might not be abridged, or totally left out." As he was the only person properly qualified to accomplish an object which the general interest loudly called for, it becomes impossible to acquit the majority at the Board either of gross incapacity, or palpable dishonesty. The principal clew to the intrigues this affair is so strongly tainted with may be found in the conduct of the Earl of Morton, who if he was not born, like the Caliph Omar, for the general obstruction of science, yet either from a total want of judgment, or the northern sentiment "none shall provoke me,"[subnote 15] did every thing in his power to reader useless the labours of this indefatigable man. He had secured the whole management of this public concern (so called) although, as we have said, he pretended to have himself discovered one of the principles employed in the construction of the Timekeeper, by virtue of which he claimed some degree of equality with the Inventor; but unluckily John Harrison, who had all the pride of spirit, in a certain sense, which often accompanies genius, could not be brought to compliment this Birmingham philosopher on his merit, in any view.
- Had he so chosen, he could have stated more distinctly the ill treatment he had experienced, as well as the magnitude of the injury to the public. The Timekeeper was first locked up six months at the Admiralty, as if by the advice of John Gilpin,[subnote 16] being what might have been expected from his table sagacity. Ten months more were wasted on a trial which nobody called for, except those interested in the failure of the experiment. It was besides directly contrary to the public sentiment, for at a date somewhat later, a meeting of bankers, merchants, ship-owners, &c. was convened in the city, to petition Parliament against the neglect and hindrance of the Commissioners on this subject;[subnote 17] whose Manager, thus compelled, affected some exertion, but it was so ill directed that it only showed his incompetency for any such purpose, though it did not lessen his presumption. Will any person in these days say otherwise than that the common sense of the question plainly pointed out no time should be lost in adopting such measures as were best calculated to bring the Invention into use; yet the opinion of the only man equal to that absorbing desideratum was uniformly rejected by—Lord Morton; and when the importance of the circumstances is considered, it shows very remarkably how the vanity and weakness, or the revenge of an individual of rank, can frustrate without any enquiry, a national concern such as this was. To have admitted that John Harrison understood best what was necessary for giving those finishing touches to his own Invention, would have implied that his Lordship did not understand the subject better than any mathematician or mechanic round the Wrekin: although his notions do not appear to have been of more value than Cardinal Richlieu's criticism on the Cid of Corneille.
- Those engagements we pass by here, but the following passage is of the greatest consequence, by its bearing on these nefarious proceedings. 'My Timekeeper is now in his (Mr. Kendal's) possession, though he is not yet ready to make use of it; there are some parts in the making of which the model can be of little or no use to him; I only desired it for six or eight months, and am confident he can have no occasion for it before that time is expired: however I have offered to have it forthcoming whenever Mr. Kendal declares that he wants it, therefore I apprehend their engagements with Mr. Kendal afford no solid reason for the Commissioners to refuse lending it to me.' Certainly not, and—with the exception of their Manager, whose effrontery was equal to any thing, if they pretended to give grave reasons for a conduct so revolting towards a man of seventy-four, it is difficult to conceive how two Commissioners could look each other in the face, without reddening with shame. In the concatenation of events, yet, they were preparing the way for the final refuge which the Claimant found with his Sovereign, who reprobated in unqualified terms the treatment he had received; as did moreover those eminent statesmen. Sir George Saville and Mr. Burke, which makes it unnecessary the present Writer should apologize for the severity with which he feels constrained to visit the memory of the parties principally concerned in this odious oppression.
- This was the uniform assumption of that party at the Board of Longitude who were not periodically, like Endymion, attracted by the phases of the Moon, but always finding reasons for preferring lunations to chronometry, which the immortal founder of their philosophy disapproved. It is indeed an extraordinary fact (rendered so by the conduct of his professed followers) that Sir Izaac, when examined at the bar of the House of Commons, placed an exact Timekeeper at the head of his list of the expedients by which the desired object would most probably be accomplished: but, he observes, "by reason of the motion of a ship, the variations of heat and cold, wet and dry, and the difference of gravity, such a watch had not been made."—It may be alleged that Professor Mayer's Tables were not known then, but they were at the time in reference, yet neither that scientific Officer, Captain Campbell, nor Dr. Maskelyne himself could show any thing conclusive for the safety of ships. Granting, we will say, that the ingenious Professor's Tables enabled the observer to overcome all difficulties for the time being, except in cloudy nights and an unsteady ship, yet as they could avail nothing towards setting aside the physical impossibilities arising from the Moon being accessible only during so limited a portion of her orbit (a consideration which Dr. Maskelyne, with invincible pertinacity affected to overlook all his life) we are fully justified in assuming that Sir Izaac, like Dr. Halley and Admiral Campbell, would never have been found appreciating this method higher than its practical merits deserved.—We repeat, therefore, and (bating small powers) we would have repeated with a loud voice to the Lunar mathematicians at the Board of Longitude, that they were diametrically opposed to the opinion of their founder, in a question on which no considerate person could be silent, for it involved the safety of thousands of lives and millions of property.
Had this discrepancy been confined to speculative dogmas, it might not have been worth bestowing paper and ink on, but the senior Arnold on seeing Mr. Mudge's pamphlet, came forward, and offered to make oath, that Dr. Shepherd had told him, in presence of his Wife, it never was intended that Timekeepers should gain the rewards; and—which is synonymous with truly illiberal meanness, the elder Mudge was assured by Sir John Pringle, then a Commissioner, that when the Act, the 14th George 3rd was drawn up, some of the Professors were for having the Mechanics wholly excluded from benefiting by the pecuniary encouragement it provided; but the rest of the Board thought this so unreasonable, they would not consent to it. But although their effrontery (in thus cotemning Newton) was opposed in the first instance, yet these Collegians, who knew not, or who cared not, for the real wants of the Mariner, were suffered to have it all their own way in the details, which, if they had changed places with the Mechanicians, became a pointed infraction of the golden rule you bear from them so often, to "do unto all as ye would that others should do unto you." It was obvious they carried their plan in fact, though not in form,[subnote 18] for the sundry long trials required for two Watches were incompatible with the casualties incident to human affairs, and Especially those of the sea. Supposing however the first of them, of a year at Flamstead Hill, and afterwards twice round Great Britain, in contrary directions, to have been successfully completed; yet still the
Candidate could never know if he was near achieving the reward: for the clause referred to was continued in these words—"and in such other voyages to different climates as the said Commissioners shall think fit to direct and appoint." We will suppose then the two Timekeepers returned from different climates in the four divisions of the globe, including Australia; to which trials three or four years may be reasonably allotted—that they have both passed uninjured through the casualties they were exposed to, and, which is most important, had both proved correct within the terms of the Act: then comes the fag end of this business, which is another year's trial at Flamstead Hill: this likewise (begging the question) we will suppose is successful. Yet after such an expenditure of time and patience, if the Mathematicians at the Board, not having one Mechanic's agent to oppose them (while the Admirals kept to windward, instead of bearing down) choose to profess themselves not satisfied, they could order a repetition of the whole experiments. So that they might have adopted, towards the opposing class, the language of Belial "in like gamesome mood:"
———the terms we sent were terms of weight,
Of hard contents, and full of force, urg'd home.
The expression, to throw cold water on any scheme, implying, to damp and discourage it effectually, never was better understood than by these pretenders to fathom the profound; but while they were indulging their spleen, under patriotic pretences no more entitled to credence than the assumptions of Clodius, they left any dispassionate observer to infer, that learning is neither a stimulant to virtue, nor synonymous with common prudence—for there could be none in the nefarious uncertainty, which Lord Morton, years before, hung in terrorem over a genius who refused to homage his superior knowledge of mechanics,[subnote 19] which is thus seen transmitted by the Lunar party, like a heirloom, from one Board of Longitude to another; and well might Dr. Maskelyne (deficient in self-command as he was) let slip the splenetic vaunt, that "they had given the Mechanics a bone to pick that would crack their teeth." A bravado, or rather, a sneer, which though he replied in form to the younger Mudge, he did not venture to deny, except in general and evasive terms: leaving it to be inferred, that neither political nor sectarian party spirit are exceeded in malevolence by what may find its way into the haunts of science. Who would expect, after which, to find, on the above reply, this humiliating exposure of himself (though not designedly so.) 'I had a hand as one of the Committee of the Board, who drew up the sketch of particulars, &c., imposing this painful task on myself and my successors in office—in the reasons for which I heartily concurred, because they were to render the trial more accurate and authentic than it would be, if conducted by any private person.'—Admitting which position, still it has nothing to do with the uncertain number and nature of the voyages to different climates—a system of entanglement and hopeless confusion, which the brotherhood of Ignatius Loyola's foundation could have profited by, but which was wholly adverse to the straightforward course of Englishmen: for when any public bodies, the Society of Arts, for instance, advertise premiums for discoveries, or improvements they are cognizant of, they invariably announce the conditions as distinctly as possible; avoiding any thing like such a source of disputes and complaints as these Lunar craftsmen devised. But the Astronomer Royal overlooking or despising considerations, for his contempt of which, we opine Newton would have sent him and his brethren to Coventry forthwith, is not ashamed to avow he had a hand in framing a clause, which immediately reminds us of what occurred at Barbadoes, &c.
Another clause, of some magnitude, in this Act, he passes by: but we cannot wander out of the record in believing he had a hand, and an active hand too, in fabricating it: and moreover that he heartily concurred in this Lunar deviation; by which two-thirds were necessary to constitute a majority at the Board, instead of the larger half, as usual. We will not enquire after the special reasons methodically adduced for this proceeding, after they "had given the Mechanics such a bone to pick;" for no brawling demagogue could more flippantly advance patriotic motives to hoodwink his sinister purpose and selfish ends, than these "men of theory"—whose assurance must have been above par, if, with allusion to Tully's well known remark on augurs, they "could look one another in the face without changing countenance"—The junior Mudge asserts, uncontradicted, that the real motive, and bona fidœ intent was, that if they mustered their forces, they could always prevent the rest of the Board from carrying any measure contrary to their interest.
We have passed by a very obvious question, which occurs at the mention of this Act and its purposes.—Had not the Longitude been discovered in 1765, or, properly speaking, three years before; then what occasion for this new enactment and its provisions? It is shown in the preceding pages, that no sooner was the fact admitted (for the Lunar junta could not dispute it, as they had before done, by refusing the Candidate a check on the computations) but in consequence of the aggravated misstatements of the Earl of Morton, in asserting the contumacy of the Candidate, under the resolutions of a majority at the separate Commission, the authenticity of which majority was never enquired into, our Adventurer was delivered up to the personal revenge of the proud Peer, who did every thing in his power to suppress the Invention; in which ignoble purpose he was too well supported by the party that clashed with the Mechanics, who, as is seen, uniformly rejected the opinion of the only man that understood the subject, and employed a person who, though an excellent workman, had not inventive powers, and did not affect them. These premises produced suitable consequences; and finding the Timekeepers were not come into use, they conceived there was a good opening to advertise (by Act of Parliament) rewards for improvements in the Lunar scheme, and for discoveries of the Longitude by it. How they learned so much assurance from Alma Mater, we know not, but as has been shown, they would have excluded the Mechanics altogether from competiting with them, had not the Admirals and the Civilians refused to concur in so sinister a purpose.—It should not be omitted that they were killing two birds with one stone by this device; they were taking their revenge for having been publicly defeated only the year before, by the humane perseverance of George 3rd in befriending their injured opponent: and there is nothing irregular in the supposition, that it was designed all who heard of this fresh application to Parliament, should infer his Majesty had exerted himself in an useless cause.
- He might here have mentioned some of the impracticable extravagancies of Lord Morton, under the separate Commission, in 1763, his non-compliance with which appears to have subjected him to the inexhaustible enmity of the Northern Peer. The particulars, which are given more fully in the original work, lead to the strange discovery that there was not the least foundation for the majority his Lordship asserted to have had at that Commission; the refusal to comply with the resolutions of which, by the Candidate, became the groundwork of the bill to amend, explain and alter the original Act. This extraordinary circumstance, which the public never knew an item of, is easily traced in the Journal of the two Harrisons, and wants no voucher; for when the Claimant would have conformed to the new Act the best he could, every delay and obstruction that ignorance or hatred could devise was thrown in his way.
- It appears that so far back as 1755 (above six years before the Timekeeper was sent to sea) he had given the fullest consideration to the means of effecting a modification of the successful Watch (as it afterwards proved) for to have discovered the Longitude, unless the machine was brought within a reasonable price, would have left the business but half done, in his estimation. The minutes of a Board, June 19th, in that year, vindicate his solicitude on this most interesting point. They inform us 'that his third machine is now nearly perfected, save only in what further relates to its adjusting, which he hopes may be completed by next spring (the appointed time) and proposing, if he can be enabled so to do, to make two Watches; one of such a size as may be worn in the pocket, and the other bigger, while his machine is adjusting; having good reason to think, from the performance of one already executed according to his direction (though not brought to perfection) that such small machines may be rendered capable of being of great service with respect to the Longitude at sea: and may, after being brought to perfection, be purchased at a much cheaper rate than his superior machines, and therefore praying the same may be taken into consideration.' The smaller Watch intended for the pocket, and the original of the chronometers used for finding the Longitude at this day, is now in the Author's possession. It was made under the Inventor's inspection by a clever workman, whom he allowed to put his name on it, viz. John Jefferys, which is repeated on the cap, with the addition of the date, and this being 1753, shows it to have been constructed two years prior to its being brought forward. It was always John Harrison's pocket watch, except when Admiral Campbell borrowed it, to find his Longitude by, for which it answered nearly as well as the larger but more expensive Timekeepers.—In the context of the minutes quoted, he was ordered an advance of money to complete these works:—but after the discovery of the Longitude, all his future plans for bringing the means of it into general use were frustrated; and it becomes a blot never to be erased from the escutcheons of those Commissioners who, on the 9th February, 1765, delivered over this enterprising genius (metaphorically) in chains, to his disgraceful opponent, the P. R. S. to be dealt with in the best way that low revenge and a palpable ignorance of chronometry could contrive. The conduct of the Commissioners on the date referred to, when its most injurious consequences to their country, and indeed to all commercial nations is considered, would have exposed them to the unqualified reprobation of posterity, had it not been unknown to this day; that—how many lives were sacrificed we cannot say, nor what an aggregate of property continued to be annually lost, for no reason but that this most ingenious man, who, if left unfettered to adopt the best expedients for brining his Invention into use, would have given no occasion for the meeting of bankers and merchants and shipowners, to complain that nothing had been done, was placed under the imperative control of— an ignoramus, we would say, though we are not wanting in respect for the Royal Society. He had given irrefragable proofs of being deficient in common sense, by having required the Candidate to make bricks without straw, in figurative language, or in plain truth, to employ workmen without having wherewithal to pay them: taking due caution, albeit, not to advance him a bodle out of his own pocket. The Claimant, as is seen above, gives it as his opinion that "in a very few years" his Timekeepers might be afforded for £100.[subnote 20] But it further appears, from his pamphlet on mechanism, that if those like the one which gained the reward, which was about five inches in diameter, had been attended with too much delay in the work, or were from different causes too expensive for general use, he had other resources for the public advantage. He is arguing on the palpable inferiority of the Lunar method (notwithstanding which, the Priests, as he calls the Professors, wanted to get the reward) and thus continues;—'I am sure, from my last improvement, that by or from the performance of a Watch of such a size as may be bore with in the pocket (but I should not advise for it always to be kept there)[subnote 21]—the Longitude may be had, and that to a much greater certainty or exactness, as well as with more ease and frequency, than ever it will, or can be by the Moon.' So that, allowing for subordinate contrivances between the one and the other watchmaker, the principles and the practice of John Harrison in chronometry are at present the main dependance of the mariner for finding his Longitude, and probably will continue so through many ages.—How and whence then arises the surprising incongruity that (sixty years after his death) no public monument exists, devoted to the memory of the scientific Client[subnote 22] patronized by George 3rd?—Is the reverend Gentleman, at the head of the Chapter in Westminster, so immersed in metaphysics that he cannot rise to the surface and breathe a freer element? Though not possessing a thousandth part of Dr. Ireland's erudite acquisitions, the Author is well disposed to buckle on the armour of a cockney, and to break a figurative lance with him on the position,—that no superior poet, moralist, or musician, like Dryden, Addison, and Handel, for instance, ever did, or ever could, confer an obligation on the whole civilized world like the discovery of the Longitude. How comes the order of affairs to be reversed then, in the case of the distinguished Genius who reached the goal in a race of so much competition?[subnote 23] Is the tympanum of the learned Gentleman and his Associates (in the Chapter of accidents) impervious to a sonorous blast from the Goddess whose foot (in the magnificent thought of Virgil) rests on earth, while her head pervades the heavens! or is it indispensable that the approach to procure an adequate monumental site should be made like that of Jupiter to Danae in a golden shower?—Were a proper situation assigned for such a testimonial, in either of those national mausoleums, St. Peter's Abbey, and St. Paul's Cathedral, we dare say, there is no person concerned in horological mechanics—not a clock or watchmaker in these dominions, nor probably in Europe, but would subscribe according to his ability as a token of respect to "the father of modern chronometry."
- It might have been supposed, that on reading this (if the supposition is conceded) the Commissioners would have become sensible of the ignorant presumption of the P. R. S. who was leading them a course the most opposite that could be conceived to the public interest; for it neutralized the great abilities of John Harrison, and rendered them useless for a purpose by far the most important to which they could be directed.—They should have procured a strait waistcoat for their Manager, if there was no other way to deal with him; and lost no time in getting his own bill (as he called it) repealed, if that was necessary. The same promptitude (unless they were wholly indifferent to the contempt of posterity, should have been shown in restoring to him the advantage (for it was the advantage of the country too) of frequently inspecting his former models in prosecuting his new works, which they had been purposely informed was his custom, and which none but a consummate blockhead would have deprived him of: for so would Swift have written, and so we believe George 3rd said, judging from his resentment at the general tenor of their conduct.
- This will be understood of each Board to which they were summoned: not each day they were from home, either going, or returning. The liberality of this provision was commendable, but the policy of it may much be questioned; for we should observe that the Professors from Cam and Isis were supposed to have been long influenced by an idea, that, the reward once paid, their services would be no longer required—no trifling consideration withal: for, if they were not bad economists, they could pocket a few guineas by this jaunt to town; visit their clerical and lay friends inclusively; perambulate the repositories of arts and science, see Garrick and other wonderments;—from whence a summons now and then to attend this Commission was not likely to be overlooked among the advantages of a mathematical chair: and public motives for rendering the troubles of one of those homines centenarii who do honour to their age and country indefinitive and endless would never be wanting among men who evinced the selfish spirit shown in these memoirs.
- Not always so, for in the discussions which took place between them and the younger Harrison, the Professors gave much cause to doubt their proficiency as practical astronomers: and it has been shown it was usual to call in Captain Campbell to decide disputed points. The opinion of that Officer, it is remarkable, was always in favour of the Mechanic.—If they ventured, on their return to College, to relate how they were discomfited by this nautical Umpire, it is likely it would produce some scenes which a Sterne, or a Moliere, was wanting to preserve.
- That Dr. Maskelyne should have suffered this assertion to escape him, and yet without adverting in a note, or otherwise, to the tangible logic, that in two voyages (or four) the Timekeeper had bona fidœ performed with, an accuracy directly at variance with such a declaration may well occasion it to be asked, why philosophers must think it necessary to despise the hearty contempt of the vulgar; when, as it may happen, and as it does happen here; any sailor who had belonged to the Deptford, the Merlin, or the Tartar, though he could neither read nor write, and although his reasoning was confined to the adage, which says, the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it, would have been more approved by Bacon and Locke, above all by Newton, than the mathematical triflers who had the assurance to sanction this miserable proof of the superiority of the Lunar method, which in effect is the sum and drift of the whole purpose.—We may add that in England, where a wager so frequently settles a dispute, the Gentlemen of the Jockey Club would immediately have taken three, four, or five to one, on the result of as many trials of the machine, under the care of some competent person, not a zealous bigot to the Lunar process, as was the case in the trial commented on.—Not long after the present affair, Dr. Maskelyne published a very large quarto of "Tables of Refraction and Parallax," highly creditable to his industry and professional researches, but equally a proof of his infatuation, in expecting masters of merchantmen, as well as the gentlemen of the navy, to conform to such complicated rules for finding the situation of their ship. Yet he says that "Lunar observations are now happily understood and practised, with the help of the Nautical Almanac, both in the Navy and the Merchants service."—That there is here and there a mercantile Captain accomplished enough to conform to these purposes,[subnote 24] is true, but they form an exception to the aggregate of those commanders, among whom there are deficiencies so great, that at Hull, one of the four great seaports of the kingdom, the Author is well assured there are Masters who do not know how to calculate their Longitude by the chronometer, as simple as it is, but adhere to the exploded practice by the log; with the addition of the alliterative maxim, "lead, latitude and look out." Those people, who after rise from before the mast, if they acquire a character for sobriety and diligence, are seldom troubled with the enquiries of the shipowner, concerning their ability to discuss the Astronomical Ephemeris, much less to know their acquaintance with the ponderous volume of tables (just spoken of.) Even when they are qualified to avail themselves of the Astronomer's vigils in their behalf, they know what the occupant of Flamstead Hill, with invincible pertinacity, affected to conceal from himself,—that a clouded sky, or an unsteady vessel, may serve only to illustrate the precariousness of everything on earth, or in "the great sea-deeps." Waiving this, however, we remember the opinion of an experienced naval Officer; which was that the Tables might be of some use in long voyages, but not in short ones, because the voyage would be finished before the observations would. In the preface of his reply to Mr. Mudge, the Doctor warmly attacks a certain German, Professor Zach, for what?—for sacrificing Astronomy to Timekeepers!—Thus it is, the learned and the ignorant equally illustrate the observation, how much easier it is to detect the mote in your neighbour's eye than to feel the beam in your own. For what was the main drift of the trial concerted between the Sardonic confederates (Lord Morton and himself) but to sacrifice Timekeepers to Astronomy?—and that too in contravention of the notorious fact, tHat the Astronomers bad been completely beaten at sea. To decide that the Mechanics were entitled to a secondary and subordinate place only, after such unanswerable evidence that they had a right to the first distinction , directly tended to make the authority of the Board (and his own) no more respected among seafaring men than the judgment of a mountebank would be. And this "sacrifice of Timekeepers to Astronomy" would not unsettle the belief of those who value an ounce of experience more than a hundredweight of hypothetical demonstrations.
- At every turn men are met with who remind us of the old notion of a town about to be beseiged; when it was consulted how to fortify it; and the mason, the carpenter and the currier advised each as best suited his interest. Perhaps this common place has seldom been better illustrated than by the pertinacity with which the Astronomer Royal gives his own craft the preference. How he could impliedly assume as if he actually did not know, that in the outrun to Jamaica the error of the Watch was little more than a mile; while in his own pamphlet, "The British Mariner's Guide," he does not undertake for the Longitude nearer than sixty miles. How, after such tangible evidence, he could, on the strength of the present surreptitious trial (which is preceded by no certificate that the Watch was properly prepared) come to the conclusion seen here, suggests no better answer than that, instead of being authorized by the Board of Longitude (and of Latitude) to publish his proceedings, that Board if it had not totally swerved from its purposes, might have been justified in reporting him a fit subject for a writ de lunatico enquirendo: for it is, in effect, a new version of Lord Peter's assertion, in Swift's tale—when he swears that the crust is good mutton. It reminds us, however, of a Colossus of ambition, "damn'd to everlasting fame" who, after all his plans were overthrown on the memorable field of Waterloo, more decisively than those of Charles XII. at Pultowa, had the weakness to demonstrate on paper, illustrating it with a diagram of six Vs that by all the rules of the art of war he ought to have had the victory; and, as if emulating the Astronomer, he would needs try to demolish the reputation of his rival, to plant his own statue on the ruins! The affair between Mr. Mudge, junior, and the Astronomer Royal, gave occasion for a curious and important illustration of the superiority of mechanism being appealed to, by the former.—Admiral Campbell was on his return from Newfoundland, with a fleet of men of war; and, having a Timekeeper by Mudge with him, carried a press of sail in the night as they were approaching the Scully Rocks to the great dismay of the other Commanders, who, their reckonings being up, were in dread every moment of the fate of Sir Cloudesly Shovel.—It is almost superfluous to add that this Officer, who, we learn from Dr. Maskelyne was a skilful astronomer, would certainly never have thought of placing the same dependance on the best Lunar observation he could get: if the Moon was not then in her zenith at the antipodes.
- So he was, by his own account, when at Barbadoes; where a curious scene occurs (given in the Preface) which explains the tendency of the examination thus commented on, if we have recourse to a dry Spanish proverb, quoted in Croxall's Æsop; viz. "The man who has injured you, will never forgive you."[subnote 25] He certainly left himself too open to the charge of ingratitude (the sin by which the Angels fell) for had William Harrison, supported by Sir John Lindsay, exerted his right to exclude him from taking observations that were to determine the correctness of the Timekeeper, he would not only have lost the handsome recompense he was to have for the voyage (£800 besides his expenses) but his future prospects for achieving either the Longitude or lawn sleeves, would have been extremely prejudiced.
- The Author is induced to remark here, that in such of Dr. Maskelyne's works as he has seen, that distinguished Astronomer invariably argues as if he concealed from himself that the laws of nature interpose insurmountable obstacles to the Mariner two-thirds of his time, that would avail himself of the Moon, with the assistance of the tables, compiled for his use. Even under other circumstances, the agitation of the ship, or succession of cloudy nights, may disappoint the most enthusiastic ardour after the object sought. A common answer resulting from which untoward combination, when the Gentlemen of the Navy are questioned on the subject, is, that "the Moon may be depended on nine days out of the twenty-eight, if the weather is clear and the ship steady"—reservations which amount almost to a nullity.—How could it be supposed that so ordinary a case as that of a ship taking her departure from Portsmouth for Madeira, when the Moon is at the full, and expecting to arrive in a fortnight, would be overlooked by any dispassionate enquirer, even admitting that we are all of us "disposed to exalt in estimation what has engrossed much of our time and more of our labour, like the man on whom Alexander of Macedon bestowed a basket of peas, because he could throw them from a distance through the eye of a bodkin, or some such implement, without missing; and who no doubt thought his method could not be too much prized on account of its difficulty. Yet in 1818, Mr. Croker, who had not the same professional bias as Dr. Maskelyne and Co., is found volunteering on the same side of the question. After adverting to "a Frenchman, of the name of Meran, in the time of Lewis XIII. having first hit on the idea of lunar observations" thus applied; and the failure of this method, for want of the tables which were afterwards invented, he continues—"that though it was originally thrown aside, as not likely to lead to a successful result, it was now relied on with the greatest confidence." But unluckily the learned Secretary's illustrations are inversely as his argument, for when he would show from the log-books of the Navy, three of which he cites, the extraordinary accuracy now attained in finding the Longitude, which in one ship (the Bucephalus) was actually without a fraction; instead of adducing his instances from what he calls, and which he repeats is the surest method, they are all drawn from chronometry. So that the honourable Gentleman, by his previous decision, may be said to have discharged a bullet at the Mechanics, so inexperiencedly levelled at their metallic defences, that in its rebound it knocks him down head over heels: and possibly furnished some entertainment, and a few ironical potations to his health, at the houses of call in Clerkenwell.
Mr. Croker being himself, we conclude, no ordinary mathematician, will excuse us, if we bring him forward, like the genius just mentioned, but with more science, calculating his distance from the bodkin secundum artem, and his throw in the true parabola of a curve, instead of stepping up, and passing the pea through it at once, for there could be no difficulty in that. This inartificial method was however, we can inform him, greatly preferred by George 3rd to the countervailing difficulties so often attending the Lunar process. And—exclusive of the singular quotation from the log-books, there is a test by which this merely mechanical practice, as Mr. Croker designates it (according to the reporters) may be pitted against the scientific method, by him regarded as the most certain, and even indirectly deemed suitable for the gentlemen on the quarter deck, while the other expedient might with propriety be consigned to the warrant officers forward. The Author knows more than one mercantile Captain whose confidence in his chronometer induces him to forego the precarious mode of reckoning by the log, which is now regarded as a farce in the Navy, but were it proposed to any sailor worth his salt to rely solely and unreservedly on Lunar observations for the safety of his ship, would not the propounder of so hopeful a plan have reason to recollect a couplet (in the tale about a Squire swallowing a Cobbler) with which many of us were familiar in by-gone days: viz.
The Doctor having heard the case,
Burst into laughter in his face.
- In the fifth volume of M. de la Caille's Ephemerides, p. 31, he says, 'that any person would be in the wrong to suppose that the Longitude at sea can be determined by the Moon, to a less error than two degrees, let the method which is employed be never so perfect, let the instruments, of the sort now in use, be never so excellent, and let the observer be the most able and accomplished. For if we examine, without prejudice, all the circumstances which enter into the calculation and into the observation of a Longitude at sea, we shall be easily convinced, that it would be ridiculous to maintain, that the sum of the inevitable errors should not amount to five minutes of a degree, that is, to two degrees and a half of Longitude.' N.B. M. de la Caille published this in the year 1765, and is universally allowed to have been an excellent observer, and made several voyages by sea, where he made trials of this method by the Moon. Dr. Halley and Dr. Bevis (as appeared to the honourable House of Commons upon an examination of the latter) did, with an excellent Hadley's quadrant, rectified by Mr. Hadley himself, and in his presence, attempt to take the angular distance of the Moon from Aldebaran, a star of the first magnitude; but with such bad success (some of the observations removing Greenwich from itself almost as far as Paris) that Dr. Halley seemed to be out of hope of obtaining the Longitude by this method.—Pamphlet. [To the Appendix No. 4.]
- And—(he might have added) troublesome enough in practice, for to many Officers it would be insupportably so; as the reader may judge from the statement herewith, which, taking "The British Mariner's Guide" for a fair criterion, but not having the Pamphlet by us, we insert from the Monthly Review; and it may be regarded as a curiosity, for its contrast with the facility found in resorting to the Timekeeper.—'In the method here proposed, four observations are requisite to determine the Longitude. The first is an altitude of the sun, or some bright star, for regulating a watch, by which the other observations are to be made. The second is the distance of the moon's enlightened limb from the sun or star. The third and fourth observations are, the altitudes of the moon and the sun, or the star, from which the moon's distance is observed; to be taken by two observers assisting the person who takes the distance of the moon from the sun, or star, at the very instant, or, at the utmost, within a minute of the time he gives notice that he has completed his observation. At the same instant, or, at the utmost, within a quarter of a minute, and before the observers attempt to read off the degrees and minutes from their quadrants, somebody must note the hour, minute, and quarter of a minute, of the watch regulated as above-mentioned." This scientific melo-drama would require a rehearsal, like those on other boards: but granting that the Officers of the Navy, from a first to a fourth or fifth rate, might be found at quarters, according to this discipline, and that the mate of some East Indiaman mustered as clever a display as could be wished, yet the security promised is not nearer than twenty leagues from land.—Now, the identical Timekeeper, which the Inventor's antagonist thus depreciates without producing a certificate, that it was in a fit state for the scrutiny intended, had, in the voyage out, foretold the ship's approach to the several Islands in her track, including Barbadoes, with all the precision the seamen could desire. While Dr. Maskelyne by the method opposed to mechanism, with Admiral Tyrrell and his Officers to assist him, foretold nothing to the purpose. So that, under such circumstances, to affect to stand on higher ground, as the Astronomer Royal actually does, and to allow only that Watches may be useful as an auxiliary to the method he practises; a concession which is thus demonstrated to be a contradiction in terms, could only excite the mirth of a Jack-tar; with whatever gravity it might be heard by the learned gownsmen in an Oxford, or a Cambridge, common room. Altogether a condescension so untoward becomes the bitterest irony on the Lunar recreant, the proofs of whose superiority never were forthcoming; it leans too much to "erring reason's spite" and anon recals the Doctor's exposure (through his own indiscretion) to Sir John Lindsay and other respectable Gentlemen at Barbadoes; which he leaves to be inferred, rankled at the core of his material substance, and infused more gall into his ink than the maker intended.—It cannot be too much condemned, that while the proofs are inaccessible (unless Mr. Croker has seen them somewhere) Dr. Maskelyne arrogates a superiority for his adopted method without evidence, and presuming, as the vulgar often do, that mere assertion will be satisfactory in his own cause. Without disparaging this Gentleman's professional eminence, he certainly injured himself by a proceeding that inverts the order of things. And, unless the authority for publishing the trial was the sole act of Lord Morton, whose reasons were no more worth searching for than "two grains of wheat in a bushel of chaff," what can be thought of the Commissioners from Oxford and Cambridge? persons whom politeness supposes qualified to fathom the profund of science, as well as of the Bathos, not one of whom came forward to vindicate his sanction of the superiority assumed by his colleague over horological Mechanics; supported, as it was, by what?—by a total failure of the attestations indispensably necessary to give it any weight.—Several years ago it was becoming .common for the burglars in London, to set fire to some dwellinghouse or comptinghouse, for an opportunity of plundering in the confusion. When detected, their examination before the magistrates led to the remark, that there were wretches, who, for the sake of some booty worth a few guineas, would not scruple to involve a whole neighbourhood in total ruin, including the loss of lives. We shudder with horror at such an account: but it behooves to recollect that philosophers infatuated with a favourite theory, of extreme uncertainty in practice, are in danger of leading us to a similar result. So it was, and the why and wherefore cannot be known till the consummation of all things. Neville Maskelyne, D.D. and Astronomer Royal, uniformly exhorts those concerned in navigating ships to distant climes and hazardous shores, to place their chief dependance on Lunar observations for the safety of themselves and their charge—he would not see his advice was incompatible with the established order of the firmament, and the elements: for it often happens, if observations of this description can be got, yet the ship being in no danger of falling in with land, they are available no farther than for the correction of casual errors in the watches on board. On the contrary, when the crew apprehend being in soundings, this superior method is most commonly useless; and for ever must remain so, unless the supreme Being were to vouchsafe us to multiply our facilities fourfold, like those of the planet Jupiter; or seven times, like those of Saturn.
- Although Dr. Maskelyne must have been more willing then able to dispute this cogent exposition of the extreme precariousness attending the Lunar method of finding the Longitude at sea (and even at land) which his own ill success so strikingly confirmed; yet with an infatuation in science bordering on that of Johanna Southcot in divinity, and reckless of the castigation he had received herewith, which he enhanced by the climax of affectation, in pretending there was no occasion he should reply to what he could noways controvert; he is found twenty years after (in his reply to the younger Mudge) repeating his decided opinion of the superiority of the Lunar process; but without producing any thing to counterbalance the blunder he had been detected in, of finding the Longitude after, and not before the ship's crew saw land. He does not indeed show the misplaced condescension with which he had before allowed, that Timekeepers might be useful as auxiliaries to Luna: but—waiving this: the trial, which brought out the reply of John Harrison, appearing to have been concerted between Lord Morton and the Astronomer Royal, leads with other points, to the inference that he was more associated with a philosopher so deficient in common sense than any other of the Commissioners: and as he introduced matters in the appendix of his answer to Mudge, which had no more to do with his subject than would a dissertation on the Runic alphabet, those who would desire to see Dr. Maskelyne exculpated from participating in the vengeful predilections of the anomalous character, brought forward; which were carried to the extent of refusing the aged Claimant all manner of facilities for prosecuting his labours; greatly to the injury of the public, as well as the individual; will be disposed to thank that prudence especially called on him, both in behalf of himself and his mathematical colleagues, to have found room in that appendix or in some other of his writings, for an explanation extremely wanted, to relieve them, if it was feasible, from so strong a brand, as that of fellowship or their being aiding and abetting in the vindictive inhumanity exposed. The improvidence of the parties thus implicated, if they looked to the respect of posterity, as public men commonly do, may be remarked. Since after excluding from their official minutes what would not bear enquiry, like the tautological assurance of Lord Sandwich (but withal forgetting those of the 28th November) knowing nothing of the Journal, kept by the sufferer; and imagining that the small pamphlet, reprinted herewith, which their united talents were unequal to enter a caveat against, would be soon forgotten, they had no idea that the deformity of their conduct towards the Candidate, and their disgraceful demeanour to their Sovereign, would some day, many years after (as it happens) be given to the world in these MEMOIRS illustrative of the character of George 3rd.
- It was a source of frequent anguish to the Claimant, that while he had to fight his way unceasingly against an opposition ever resorting to the state pretext, that they were careful of the public money, he knew and saw that no regard was paid to that consideration, if pecuniary aid was wanted for a scheme which, while the laws of nature remain the same, can never be available beyond a scanty portion of each month. That ignorance of the marine, conspicuous in the other gownsmen from Cam and Isis, could not be alleged in behalf of the Astronomer Royal, who had twice crossed the line, yet when Mr. Mudge wrote, about two decennaries after the date of this pamphlet, he informs us that £25,000 (and all the patronage connected with it) had passed through the hands of Dr. Maskelyne for a purpose (we add) of such equivocal advantage to the seaman, that it is never regarded, if he expects to fall in with land. Dr. Maskelyne thinking his honour impeached, and that it behooved him to show he had clean bands, informed his antagonist, in his answer, that he is not a candidate for any of the premiums connected with the Lunar discovery of the Longitude, or for the supervision of the Nautical Almanac: that he regularly produces his vouchers for the specific appropriation of what he receives—and certainly the Author would not cast a shadow of doubt on the correctness of the learned Gentleman's assumption. But withal, he cannot forego his amazement at the assurance it involves, as exemplified in the words "I have never shown any inclination to become a candidate for any of these rewards."—That the Astronomer Royal in maturer years having married a lady of fortune, who enlarged his family by an only daughter—that having preferment in the church, and being altogether at his ease in a pecuniary view, could make a merit of discarding all mercenary schemes, and yet without once alluding to his inordinate and interested ambition at a former period of life: of which, exclusive of his embarking for St. Helena and for Barbadoes, an extraordinary proof is preserved, in the curious scene at the latter Island, which was so near toppling down his ladder of preferment, is enough to preclude any further comment on such a strange vagary. Had he been involved in totally different concerns, some colour might have been given to the tabula raza which his mind had become on this subject; but with a daily, and hourly recurrence to the same ideas, who will exonerate him from as rank an affectation as ever disgraced a man of science?—That notwithstanding the oblivious assertion, so consummately advanced, Dr. Maskelyne had not forgotten his loquacious and extravagant indiscretion at Barbadoes, where, like Ixion, he had grasped a cloud instead of the reward worth a goddess, were there not better evidence, might have been inferred from the awkward extreme and needless reserve he was noted for, on occasions when to withhold the information he could give, had a silly appearance, and might be construed as a want of common politeness. Thus, in an article of the Encyclopædia, some discrepancy is noticed between the statements of the Doctors, Mackay and Hutton; the writer then continues—to reconcile which accounts, "we applied to Dr. Maskelyue for authentic information; but, with his usual reserve, the Doctor declined giving us any information on the subject."
- The circumstance of the French Government under Lewis XVI., having sent over an eminent watchmaker in their employ to purchase the secret of the Timekeeper, was stated at page 141. M. Berthoud, who is alluded to, was latterly a member of the Parisian Board of Longitude, and it suggests that our neighbours seem to have been desirous to profit by a proceeding so sinister, and defective, as that of making one class of candidates for arriving at the Longitude, exclusive judges of the merits of another, more likely in the opinion of the great Newton to accomplish that object; yet they had no representative or advocate to look after their interests. This defect, although so obvious, and exciting the attention of foreigners, Mr. Croker unaccountably transferred to the new Board, when, in 1818, he remodelled the Commission; for the scientific members were all of them Astronomers and Mathematicians without an associate of eminence in the theory and practice of chronometry. It may be said there would be a jealousy among men that line of pursuit; but the rivalry in all professions is essentially different from that esprit du corps which incites them to join against the common enemy: and from which John Harrison so often drank the cup of bitterness.
- The Author had somewhere read that the sentiment was borrowed from an antient, but on enquiring of three gentlemen of learning, the first thought it was in the Iliad, but had forgotten the passage; the second believed it would be found in Cicero; and the third in Seneca. As it Is an idea which persons of every age and country may concur in, there is no occasion to make his Lordship a plagiarist in adducing it.
- It is singular enough; but he was answered, 'that it was next to impossible to procure and Act of Parliament to be altered, though it were for the public good.'—And this came from those persons, who were subsequently instructed by Lord Morton, that nothing was easier than such a feat, when a public and a severe private injury resulted.
- The refusal of a check on the computations, and the doubts respecting the Longitude of Jamaica, were not the only resources of the Lunar party, for Dr. Maskelyne, in his answer to the younger Mudge, takes occasion to say, that the reason of the trial to Jamaica being unsatisfactory, was that the Candidate had not given in a rate of going for the Timekeeper. But upon turning to the Instructions for the Voyage, it is found they are wholly silent on this point—leaving a very dishonourable inference: for if the previous rate of going was indispensably necessary to the claim, it is incredible that it was omitted in the Instructions by accident, or if it were, the injury in making him responsible for the consequences of such omission can never be got rid of.
- From the Minutes of the Board, it may be inferred that this Island was finally decided on to accommodate Dr. Maskelyne, who objected to the others on account of his health.
- Voltaire observes of Newton (speaking of his chronology) that he was of a turn to carry improvement into whatever engaged his full attention—a remark which may be extended to our Mechanician. Precarious as is the mode of measuring a ship's way by the Log, he thought they did not make the most of it. His voyage to Lisbon (with the first Timekeeper) having brought him practically acquainted with it, he sketched an improvement, and drew up an account of it, the title of which the Author once saw; and, according to his recollection, it was, "A description of two Pallets, to be introduced in the middle of a great Log." But neither the theory, nor the model, if it was executed, can now be found.
- It is contended, in the Vicar of Wakefield, that an ignorant peasant, however honest, cannot be deemed so noble a work of God as a Newton.—Without interfering with the argument, may it not be said that the instance of Newton is neutralised by that of Bacon,
The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind?
- Ecclesiastes, Chapter x. verse 20.
- In questions involving principles in mechanics, it may happen, an intelligent man can swear no more than to the best of his belief; and his belief this year, in consequence of repeated experiments, may not be the same the following.
- It was said in the Quarterly Review,—it is not that men bf genius have more peculiarities than other people, but results from their celebrity drawing more observation on them. Yet Shenstone seems to have thought differently on the subject; for he remarks that—"an acquaintance with men of genius is rather reputable than satisfactory; genius is commonly attended with strong passions, and passion makes people humourists."
- In the pamphlet quoted, a certificate follows, by Mr. Roger Wills, Master of the Orxford Man of War, dated in June the following year, who states, that when they made the land, on their return to England from Lisbon, by his reckoning and those on board, it would have been the Start: but before they knew what land it was, Mr. Harrison told them, by his Machine, it was the Lizard; which proved to be correct, thus showing the ship near a degree and a half more to the West than they had supposed.
- It is much to be regretted that, in another part of this examination, Mr. Mudge does not speak with approval of the labours of his successful predecessor; especially as the Continuators of Dr. Rees point out different coincidences between his improvements, and those of John Harrison, too great to be accidental.
- We learn from his pamphlet on Mechanism and Music, that it had been his intention to have presented a clock or regulator of his construction to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich; but the treatment he received from the Commissioners of Longitude frustrated this public benefit, as we may estimate it: their conduct, he says "made him hate to make one wheel turn another." He left such a clock unfinished, which, had he proceeded with, he expected to have brought to the surprising accuracy of not erring more than a second in one hundred days.—In connexion with this subject, it appears, that the correctness he looked to from his Timekeeper for the Longitude was a second in a fortnight, which the one tried at Richmond was something within, the error being 4 ½ seconds in ten weeks. If they were manufactured, as it could not be expected that all should be equally accurate, he would allow four seconds in a fortnight for their deficiency, but not beyond that.
- At this Board the letter dictated by Sir John Cast was delivered in, which it took five months to answer in as many lines. [See the Preface.]
- There is reason to believe that during Lord Morton's administration the minutes of their meetings were often revised, if not essentially fabricated at his Lordship's residence in Brook-street.
- By the way, how do the Scotch divines, and the educated part of the laity, reconcile this spitfire impulse, with a leading tenet of the Christian religion, which enjoins to love your enemies, and to bless them that curse you?—A difficulty of the same kind, though not so cogent, applies to the motto of the Garter, in England; for the genuine Christian is forbidden to wish evil to any one. We should like to know how the Chancellor of the Order (the Bishop of Winchester) deals with it.
- In his pamphlet on Mechanism, some years after, John Harrison has a note on this subject, in a caustic manner, part of which we insert—"they took great care about my Watch, for they locked it up in a closet at the Admiralty,—because it had performed two voyages so well; and so they would keep it as a piece of treasure, for fear any body else should eyer be able to make such another; a fair sign indeed, that they did not understand it"—In other passages he is found complaining into what ignorant hands he had got. The Commissioners certainly did not understand the subject much, and least of all their Manager, whose plebeian cast of mind (notwithstanding his hereditary honours) rendered him incapable of adopting any course advantageous for the public—so it was, they uniformly treated this man of genius as if he had no design but to impose on them; which his spirit could not brook.
- What would have been said at this meeting, had it being known that the opinion of the only man that understood the best means to bring the Timekeepers into use was rejected; and that the business could not be in more improper hands than those of Lord Morton and the Lunar junta, who denied the Inventor every facility that could be named.
- Mr, Mudge was a candidate Under this Act, but he began his first Timekeeper three years before the passing of the bill, which thence had the effect of an ex poste facto law to him, and (according to his Son) had he known the prescribed conditions of it, and their uncertain bearing, he never would have been concerned with so sinister a blow at the Mechanics. The rewards of 10,000 and of £15,000, according to the degree of accuracy specified in Queen Anne's Act, having continued unapplied, though the larger premium, (in 1771) had been one half paid, and the other in abeyance, Mr. Mudge and his friends (mistakenly we apprehend) not conceiving that the two former rewards merged in the latter, he became a candidate for them, till the 14th George 3rd having wholly superseded the original enactment of 1714 left him in an awkward situation.
- See No. 5.
- He was the only person fitted to overcome these difficulties; as may be inferred from the fact, that when Mr. Mudge, junior, previously to his father's death, attempted to establish a manufactory of Timekeepers, at the price of one hundred and fifty guineas, the concern proved a losing one.
- It is not unlikely the hint was taken from this passage for chronometers, of a size for the pocket, to be frequently mounted in a box made on purpose, as is now the practice.
- The remains of John Harrison were consigned to a vault on the south side of Hampstead Church; but a difference of opinion arising between his Son and Daughter, on the subject of a monument, the place remained unnoticed for several years. After the death of his sister, William Harrison erected a tomb from a regular design, in the prevailing style, with an inscription indicative of his respect for his Father's genius, but the taste of which cannot be commended, as it may be said to smell of the oil in a sense different from that applied to the compositions of Demosthenes. The celebrity of the first man that found the Longitude might have been estimated here, for, although it was many years after he had departed this sublunary scene, the news of the monument and of the epitaph soon travelled repeatedly through an alphabetical nomenclature, and parties were formed in great Augusta (as the poets called London) for a walk to Hampstead, to view this sepulchre and the record of its occupant—not indeed so numerous as the pilgrims of Thomas a'Becket, but yet sufficiently so to show the contrast between the ignorant, or the learned inattention (which must we call it?) and this plain manifestation of the public sentiment; for the Sexton told a stranger who was making enquiries, "he was sure not fewer than ten thousand people had visited the place within two or three months after the masons had left it."
- Several men of genius from time to time attempted the solution of this memorable problem of the Longitude, by horological mechanics; among whom we find Monsr. Hygens; Hutchinson, the theologian (known otherwise by the extravagance of his opinions;) Thevenot the traveller and librarian to the Ring of France; whose machine was further intended to show the declination of the needle. In 1728, Henry Sully, an ingenious young watchmaker in London, bid fair to succeed, but fell a martyr to his exertions.—Along with these distinguished aspirants, a host of ill-informed projectors appears (including, till now unknown, a certain northern Peer) insomuch that till John Harrison established the fact, the discovery of the Longitude became a by word to denote any thing much desired, but impracticable of attainment. Hogarth has not forgotten to introduce it in the lunatic scene of the Rake's Progress; and the Rambler in his dream of the Garden of Hope, finishes a period with this current allusion.
- One of these (Captain William Collinson, the younger) stated to the Author, that with all possible care, and under the most favourable circumstances, he could not avoid an error equal to thirty miles. It would be a great mistake to imagine they prefer Lunations to a Timekeeper. On the contrary their opinion, in coincidence with that of his lamented friend, the reverend John Barnes Emmett (one of the best astronomers we had) is that the proper use of observations, when they can be had, is for the correction of any casual irregularity in the chronometers on board their ship:—but as this would have been assigning them only a secondary place, in utility, Dr. Maskelyne would sooner have parted with his dexter hand than affixed his signature to such a heterodox article of mechanical belief.
- In a quarrel between two Ladies (Mrs. Fitzherbert and Miss Paget) well known at the west end of the town, in their day, and the former of whom had much injured the other by unfounded jealousy—"she felt that she had wronged her, cruelly wronged her, yet consistently with that most singular trait in the human character, she could not, as the injurer, be brought to forgive her friend, whereas the forgiveness lay entirely on the part of the latter."