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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/813

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795
A CENTURY OF THE TELEGRAPH IN FRANCE.

The Convention, which had succeeded to the Legislative Assembly in the meanwhile, resent the petition to the committee, but it was not until the 1st of April, 1793, that the deputy Romme mounted to the tribune for there to give reading of an admirable report, of which the following is a little excerpt, describing briefly the invention:

"The citizen Chappe offers an ingenious means of writing in the air by displaying some characters very trifling in number, simple as the straight lines of which they are composed, very distinct between them, of a rapid execution, and sensible at great distances. To this first part of his procedure he uses a stenography used in the diplomatic correspondences. We have made some objections to him; he has foreseen them, and has responded victoriously. He removes all the difficulties which may present themselves on the land over which is directed his line of correspondence; a sole case resists his means: this is that of a very thick fog which comes over the north, in the aqueous countries, and in winter; but outside this very rare case (which resists equally all the processes known) they will have recourse momentarily to the ordinary means. The intermediary agents employed in the procedures of the citizen Chappe can not in any manner betray the secret of his correspondence, because the stenographic value of the signals will be unknown to them. Two verbal processes of the municipality of the Sarthe attest the success of this procedure in an essay which the author has made for them, and permitting the author to advance with some assurance that with his procedure, the dispatch which reported the news of the taking of Bruxelles had been transmitted to the Convention and translated in twenty-five minutes."

[That was, note, a hundred years ago. Bruxelles is six hours by express from Paris. The speed of transmitting over the aërial telegraph of then was much quicker than by the electric telegraph of to-day, for at present it takes much longer than half an hour—generally an hour—to remit an ordinary telegram from an office in the Belgian capital to a domicile in Paris.]

In the same sitting the National Convention rendered a decree authorizing the trials, and naming three commissaries—Lakanal, Daunou, and Arbogast. A violent opposition was soon manifested, but Lakanal sustained Chappe with all his authority, and the inventor could construct a veritable telegraphic line of thirtyfive kilometres, starting from the lake St.-Fargeau, at Ménilmontant.

Finally, on the 12th of July, 1793, took place the definite trials, which were for Chappe a veritable triumph. He received the title of engineer-telegraphist, with the appointments attributed to lieutenants of artillery.