“’I wish you to go up in my sanctum and examine a piece of mechanism, which, if you may not believe in, you, at least, will not laugh at, as I fear some others will. I want you to give me your frank opinion as a friend, for I know your interest in and love of the applied sciences.’”
Here follow a description of what he saw and Morse’s explanation, and, then he continues:—
“A long silence on the part of each ensued, which was at length broken by my exclamation: ’Well, professor, you have a pretty play!—theoretically true but practically useful only as a mantel ornament, or for a mistress in the parlor to direct the maid in the cellar! But, professor, cui bono? In imagination one can make a new earth and improve all the land communications of our old one, but my unfortunate practicality stands in the way of my comprehension as yet.’
“We then had a long conversation on the subject of magnetism and its modifications, and if I do not recollect the very words which clothed his thoughts, they were substantially as follows.
“He had been long impressed with the belief that God had created the great forces of nature, not only as manifestations of his own infinite power, but as expressions of good-will to man, to do him good, and that every one of God’s great forces could yet be utilized for man’s welfare; that modern science was constantly evolving from the hitherto hidden secrets of nature some new development promotive of human welfare; and that, at no distant day, magnetism would do more for the advancement of human sociology than any of the material forces yet known; that he would scarcely dare to compare spiritual with material forces, yet that, analogically, magnetism would do in the advancement of human welfare what the Spirit of God would do in the moral renovation of man’s nature; that it would educate and enlarge the forces of the world.... He said he had felt as if he was doing a great work for God’s glory as well as for man’s welfare; that such had been his long cherished thought. His whole soul and heart appeared filled with a glow of love and good-will, and his sensitive and impassioned nature seemed almost to transform him in my eyes into a prophet.”
It required, indeed, the inspirational vision of a prophet to foresee, in those narrow, skeptical days, the tremendous part which electricity was to play in the civilization of a future age, and I wish again to lay stress on the fact that it was the telegraph which first harnessed this mysterious force, and opened the eyes of the world to the availability of a power which had lain dormant through all the ages, but which was now, for the first time, to be brought under the control of man, and which was destined to rival, and eventually to displace, in many ways, its elder brother steam. Was not Morse’s ambition to confer a lasting good on his fellowmen more fully realized than even he himself at that time comprehended?