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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/39

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35
COUNT RUMFORD

Major Thompson sought to redeem his reputation by entering the continental arm}'. He applied to General Washington, then at Cambridge, for a position in the artillery, but his enemies had preceded him and his services were declined.

Deeming it imprudent to longer remain at home, he left Woburn in October, 1775, boarded a British vessel at Newport, by which he was conveyed to Boston, where he remained until the British evacuation. He then sailed for England bearing despatches to Lord Germaine, announcing the fall of Boston. Altogether Major Thompson was a bearer of bad news, friendless, poor and but twenty-three years of age, yet he so impressed Lord George Germaine with his intelligence, graceful manners and knowledge of American affairs that he was at once taken into his employ. In less than three years from the time of his arrival in London, he was advanced to the position of under secretary of state.

Judge Curwen, a tory refugee from Salem, Mass., then residing in London, wrote in his journal:

This young man, when a shop lad to my next door neighbor, ever appeared active, good natured and sensible; by a strange occurrence of events he is now the Under Secretary of State to Lord George Germaine. His income arising from this source is, I am told, near 7000 Pounds a year. He is besides a member of the Royal Society.

Thompson made a series of experiments to test the cohesive attraction of different liquids, the results of which he communicated to Sir Joseph Banks, as a means of introduction to that eminent naturalist, then president of the Royal Society. This self-introduction was so successful that he was placed in Sir Joseph's intimate circle of friends, and he soon became one of the most active members of the Royal Society.

His activities were prodigious. He made a careful study of military details; advised and procured the adoption of bayonets for the fuses of the Horse Guards for fighting on foot; extended his experiments with gunpowder; determined the proper position for the vent in fire arms; measured the velocity of bullets and cannon shot; determined the rapidity of combustion and pressure of gunpowder; published a pamphlet on naval architecture; made a series of experiments in firing broadsides with the frigates of the Channel Fleet, commanded by his worthy friend Sir Charles Hardy; cultivated the acquaintance of men of station and distinction everywhere; and in addition to all of the above—as under secretary of state—he had the oversight of the details of recruiting, equipping, transporting and victualing, the British forces.

When the official news of the surrender of the British forces at Yorktown reached London, Lord George Germaine and his under secretary were obliged to resign, because of the fall of the administration of