It was impossible for the inventor during the next few years to devote himself entirely to the construction of a machine to test his theories, impatient though he must have been to put his ideas into practical form. His two brothers came nobly to his assistance, and did what lay in their power and according to their means to help him; but it was always repugnant to him to be under pecuniary obligations to any one, and, while gratefully accepting his brothers’ help, he strained every nerve to earn the money to pay them back. We, therefore, find little or no reference in the letters of those years to his invention, and it was not until the year 1835 that he was able to make any appreciable progress towards the perfection of his telegraphic apparatus. The intervening years were spent in efforts to rouse an interest in the fine arts in this country; in hard work in behalf of the still young Academy of Design; and in trying to earn a living by the practice of his profession.
“During this time,” he says, “I never lost faith in the practicability of the invention, nor abandoned the intention of testing it as soon as I could command the means.” But in order to command the means, he was obliged to devote himself to his art, and in this he did not meet with the encouragement which he had expected and which he deserved. His ideals were always high, perhaps too high for the materialistic age in which he found himself. The following fugitive note will illustrate the trend of his thoughts, and is not inapplicable to conditions at the present day:—
“Are not the refining influences of the fine arts needed, doubly needed, in our country? Is there not a tendency in the democracy of our country to low and vulgar pleasures and pursuits? Does not the contact of those more cultivated in mind and elevated in purpose with those who are less so, and to whom the former look for political favor and power, necessarily debase that cultivated mind and that elevation of purpose? When those are exalted to office who best can flatter the low appetites of the vulgar; when boorishness and ill manners are preferred to polish and refinement, and when, indeed, the latter, if not avowedly, are in reality made an objection, is there not danger that those who would otherwise encourage refinement will fear to show their favorable inclination lest those to whom they look for favor shall be displeased; and will not habit fix it, and another generation bear it as its own inherent, native character?”
That he was naturally optimistic is shown by a footnote which he added to this thought, dated October, 1833:—
“These were once my fears. There is doubtless danger, but I believe in the possibility, by the diffusion of the highest moral and intellectual cultivation through every class, of raising the lower classes in refinement.”