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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

"Mr. Thomas Waghorn's Lecture on the Wrongs of Inventors in England

"Mr. Thomas Waghorn's Lecture on the Wrongs of Inventors in England.

"Mr. Waghorn, on coming on to the platform, at once proceeded to the business of the evening and spoke as follows:—When I read the lives of English Inventors, I never can avoid recalling the terrible declaration of the great Whitefield. 'Men,' said Whitefield, 'are half beasts and half devils' (here the speaker brought his clenched fist from two feet above his head down rapidly and forcibly to two feet below his face);' but we must beg the beast's pardon, page 96 for a beast never becomes half so vile as man does when left alone fully to develop his bad passions.' (Here the speaker repeated previous gesture.) The cruelty with which inventors are treated in their later days is only equalled by the insane stupidity with which, in their early days, they are regarded as lunatics and fools, by both friends and foes. I always get so indignant when I think of this latter point, that I positively cannot trust myself to select an illustration from the lives of English Inventors, lest I should be stirred up to intemperate wrath. I shall therefore choose an illustration from French history, being careful, in reference to all the other points of my lecture, to choose illustrations from English history. Alison, in his magnificent History of Europe, narrates the following fact:—'When Napoleon was paying his court to Josephine shortly before their marriage, neither of them having a carriage, they walked together to the notary Raguideau, to whom the latter communicated her design of marrying the young general. "You are a great fool," replied the cautious formalist, "and you will live to repent it. You are about to marry a man who has nothing but his cloak and his sword." Napoleon, who was waiting in the ante-chamber, unknown to Josephine, overheard these words, but never mentioned them to her till the morning of his coronation, eight years afterwards, when he sent for Raguideau. The astonished old man was brought into the presence of the Emperor, who immediately said to him, with a good-humoured smile, "What say you now, Raguideau? have I nothing but my cloak and my sword?" 'Now,' said the speaker (stamping on the ground vigorously with his right foot, and smiting the palm of his left hand with his clenched right hand), 'is not the heartless, calculating stupidity of that old worldly lawyer the evil by which English Inventors are crucified at the very outset of their career?'" &c.

Englishmen who attempt to criticise any new system of short-hand should exercise great caution, for several reasons, among which are the following. In the first place, Englishmen as a rule know next to nothing about short-hand, and under such circumstances they are only too apt to incur the condemnation of the proverb, "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame to him." In the second place, inventors of new systems of short-hand, while publishing as much regarding them as is necessary to give the public a general notion of their merits and defects, may yet see fit, for very good reasons, to keep secret, at first, page 97 some very important details, which when published with the explanation of their first concealment will cover carping objectors with ridicule, shame, and confusion.

I recommend all who take an interest in short-hand to purchase Max Müller's Selected Essays, and study the essay which recommends Pitman's Reform in Spelling. That reform will almost certainly be an accomplished fact, some day. And the soonerthe better. I recommend them also to purchase Anderson's History of Short-hand, which is, as far as I know, the best history yet published on that subject.

In conclusion, I may state that I might have adduced several far more cruel instances of persecution for professing to be an inventor, than the comparatively harmless one described here. But persecutors are oftentimes powerful, and as they are still alive, I have refrained, from prudential motives. The time may come, however, when it may be prudent both to speak and to write.

What then do inventors want? They want their cry to be heard and attended to. They belong to the persecuted, despised, hated, envied, and defrauded classes. The cruelties perpetrated on them recoil with terrific violence on the State. It is, surely, much better for the country that deserving inventors should become rich, than that purse-proud gambling speculators should lord it haughtily over their fellows as millionaires. It is surely much better for the country that capitalists should lend money to inventors in England, as Americans do in America, than that they should vainly try to fill bags full of holes, as they commonly do. Not long ago, Mr. McCoan, in his place in Parliament, asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any diplomatic action had been taken by Her Majesty's Government to recover any part of the hopeless debt of four hundred millions sterling borrowed recently by South American Republics, chiefly—if not solely—from English money-lenders. A tidy little sum, that of four hundred millions sterling, to be thrown away on insolvent South American Republics! Had it been lent to inventors, perhaps a tenth of it would have been lost, and nine-tenths of it would have produced a golden harvest.

A grateful nation gave Marlborough and Wellington, and other victorious commanders, life pensions of £2,000 per annum. Liberality is almost always blest by God, and such liberality has doubtless produced many benefits to England. But without, for a moment, wishing to diminish the reward page 98 due to those who have hazarded their lives in defence of thei country, it is abundantly evident that if England had been either just or wise, she would have given greater pensions to the inventors of the steam-engine, the electric telegraph, the paddle-wheel, the screw-propeller, and the sewing machine, as well as an exceedingly magnificent pension to Thomas Waghorn, the true pioneer of the Suez Canal.

Since the commencement of the century (as the Peace Society with crushing logic has conclusively shown), of every pound raised by taxation 16s. 3½d. has been spent for war or war debts, and only 3s. 8½d. for civil government. This shows a shameful and disgraceful prostitution of public money to the pampering of the cruel arts of war, and a still more reprehensible starving of the useful arts of peace. Nothing tends to nourish Socialism, Nihilism, and Communism so vigorously as such conduct.

America is rapidly acquiring the first position in the world. This is largely owing to the extraordinary encouragement which she gives to inventors. Proofs of this might be afforded to an enormous extent. But I shall mention only one—a very important one—which has already been quoted:—"On the 11th April, 1884, the Legislature of the State of New York passed the following Resolution:—

"Whereas The incentives and rewards given to Inventors by the Constitution of the United States, and the laws of Congress passed thereunder, have done more, perhaps, than any one cause to advance our whole country to the front rank in wealth, resources, and industries among all nations in the world" (and then follow the resolutions for the benefit of inventors). (Scientific American, April 26th, 1884.)

Unless England is determined to remain content to fall behind America in wealth, influence, and power, she had better bestir herself and become a very, very great deal kinder to inventors than she has hitherto been.

A friend has very obligingly sent me a Hindoostan newspaper, which, as far as I can learn, is one of the leading English papers in Hindoostan. It is called the Englishman. It bears date September 8th, 1884. It contains the following most suggestive letter:—

"The Patent Act.

"

To the Editor of the Englishman.

"

Sir,—

In reply to 'Nemo,' Statute 15 and 16 Vict., c. 83, sec. 26, and Sec. 5, Act 15, 1859, Indian Patent Act, page 99 authorise the issue of patents, 'subject to any such conditions and restrictions' as the Government in either country 'may deem expedient.' In England the clause is taken to mean that the conditions and restrictions shall be in favour of the public. In India it is interpreted to mean that they shall be in favour of Government. Since the year 1870 the Indian Government, in granting patents, reserve to themselves the right of using them free of all charge for royalty. It is true they seldom do so without paying something, but they pay what they think proper, not what the patentee may consider he is entitled to. In England the matter of compensation is settled by three assessors, one appointed by Government, one by the patentee, and these two nominate a third. If not thus settled, however, the English Government can use any patent without the patentee's licence, and no injunction can be obtained against such use, but the patentee can sue for infringement, and recover his royalty. As a matter of course, any Government servant can take out a patent, but under the present procedure he is a shred worse off than one of the public, because the Government claims the sole use of all his members (legs, arms, and brains). It is hard to say which is the most inequitably dealt by, the patentee in, or the patentee out of, Government service in India.

"

E. L. Cantwell

, "Patent Agent. "Calcutta, ."

The above speaks for itself. It shows how cruelly, how heartlessly, how wickedly, two of the best Governments in the world rob a most deserving section of their subjects of their rights; and how necessary, in consequence, it is for English inventors, all over the world, to agitate, and agitate, and agitate, until such crying wrongs—wrongs which injure the State quite as much as their immediate victims, are for ever removed.

If the British Government is desirous of encouraging inventors, it should at once create a new State appointment. It should appoint a State inventor, and give him a salary of—say the same as that enjoyed by the Archbishop of Canterbury—viz., £15,000 a year, on the condition that the net profits of his inventions are divided between the State and himself. This would doubtless be found to pay so well that the Government would soon wish to have a large num- page 100 ber of State inventors, on account of the revenue derived from them.

This would not only be an act of justice to inventors, but it would also provide what is terribly wanted at present—a legitimate means by which men of education may acquire wealth. At present, almost every means of acquiring wealth in England is illegitimate. What is the making of money by speculating in shares but gambling? From Alison's History of Europe it can be most conclusively shown that one great reason why England lost her splendid American colonies, now called the United States, was because the generals of her armies, who dishonestly made a lot of money by the continuance of the war, prolonged it when they could easily have finished it victoriously for England. Now, the only wise way of preventing men from making money dishonestly, is by giving them every facility for making it honestly. That diabolical and loathsome abomination known as Mormonisim, which may yet rend the United States in pieces by a worse war than the slave war, would never have been heard of, if sufficient encouragement had, during the past century, been given to the poor in Europe to marry. One of the best means of destroying an illegitimate state of things is to encourage the contrary legitimate condition.

A warning is, in this pamphlet, given to the British people against the continuance of their cruelty towards inventors. They had better take it, otherwise the consequences will most certainly be disastrous. There is nothing more senseless than to spurn and contemn a warning which is based on sound reason. In 1716 a terrific accident occurred at the Royal Cannon Foundry at Moorfields, in London. Some captured French guns were about to be melted down and recast. A short time previous to the tapping of the furnace, a Swiss-German officer named Schalch, who happened to be on a visit to London, and who took a great interest in everything relating to furnaces, visited the foundry. On looking at the moulds he saw that they were damp, and at once informed the superintendent of their dangerous condition. All experience proves that if molten metal is brought into contact with moisture, a terrific explosion is the consequence. In fact, it would seem from the few and imperfect data of such accidents preserved by history, that the force generated by molten metal, when it explodes after contact with water, is far more terrific than that generated by an explosion of gunpowder. It is sup- page 101 posed, but not proved (simply because nothing but dust and wreckage remained to give evidence), that a large copper smelting factory was blown to pieces solely from one of the workmen spitting into a ladle of molten copper. This exploded apparently, and brought, perhaps, a large quantity of molten copper into contact with a tank of water, and the consequent explosion blew the whole factory and its inmates to pieces. What a suitable simile, by the way, is this fact of the consequences of ill-treating inventors! They are like molten copper at a white heat of fervent zeal, like Waghorn with his Suez Canal scheme, in promoting some inventive project;—and when they ask for help and pecuniary assistance, the envious metaphorically spit upon them, giving rise to an explosion of retribution, which in God's providence may perhaps ruin some branch of the prosperity of a whole kingdom.

To return, however, from this digression. Schalch was laughed at by the superintendent of the gun factory for his pains. His warning was completely disregarded. Next day the molten metal was run into damp moulds, and Moorfields Royal Cannon Foundry was blown to pieces, all within a certain distance of it sharing the same fate. The Government, now thoroughly frightened, made inquiries after Mr. Schalch, and entreated him to select a site for a new foundry farther from the town. He pitched upon the Warren at Woolwich, which has since blossomed into the vastest arsenal in Great Britain. The Government also immediately made Schalch the superintendent in room of the man who had spurned his warning, who, as far as can be ascertained, was blown to pieces in the explosion.

Now the above true fact is a correct simile of the consequences which arise from kingdoms neglecting the warnings which are, from time to time, uttered against the folly of their ill-using their inventors. This useful body of men do not resort to dynamite. Either through weakness, or in faith, they leave their case in the hands of Him to whom vengeance belongeth. And He does not fail to take it. On the contrary, as a punishment to the cruel, he blights the sources of their national wealth and strength, even as He did the hosts of Sennacherib around Jerusalem. I believe there are many sources of national wealth to which the words of Byron do most emphatically apply:—

"And the might of the Gentile unsmote by the sword

Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord."

page 102

It is a true proverb which declares, "He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous, him shall the people curse; nations shall abhor him. But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon him." And it is also a true proverb which affirms, "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Rebuke a fool, and he will hate thee. Rebuke a wise nation, and they will love thee; rebuke a foolish nation, and they will hate thee." England is about to hold an exhibition of inventions. But unless she begins to treat inventors with far more kindness than she has hitherto done, she will only be building the tombs of the prophets, and garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous, which she and her fathers have slain by the cruellest of all deaths—a broken heart. As Macbeth and Herod were terrified—the one at the thought of Banquo, the other at the thought of John having risen from the dead,—so let the English when they read this pamphlet, which purports to be written by Thomas Waghorn, be terrified to some good purpose, and resolve that henceforth they shall treat inventors far far better than has been the case in the past. Then shall the national annals never again be disgraced by the record of such cruel neglect as that which has been shown to Thomas Waghorn and many others. Then also shall a glorious exemplification be furnished of the truth of the first part of the proverb, "Rebuke a wise nation, and they will love thee; rebuke a foolish nation, and they will hate thee."