“The scene must have been a very ridiculous one, and we cannot wonder at Judge Hopkinson making such comic use of it. The British must have imagined that every keg was the visible part of a torpedo, intended for their destruction.”
“We cannot wonder at their consternation, while in constant danger of being blown into the air,” said Mr. Jackson Harmar. “Just place yourself in their position; and, knowing that several attempts had been made to blow up the ships, how would you have acted?”
“I should have made quite as much noise, I suppose,” replied old Harmar; “but then it was so laughable. I don’t think the folks aboard of those ships slept for a week after finding that there was powder in the kegs. That, I believe, was Bushnell’s last attempt to destroy the fleet.”
“For my part,” remarked Wilson, “I never liked such contrivances; and it is a very pregnant fact that in most cases they have failed, when, from the skill and science displayed in their construction, success was anticipated. It’s my opinion, God works against such things. As much as I hated the enemy, I could not sanction such wholesale murder—for murder it would have been, to have sent hundreds of men into eternity, without giving them an inch of fair fighting ground. I would not have minded blowing up the British government—that I could have done myself without any more sting of conscience than the hangman feels; but soldiers and seamen fight fairly and openly for their country’s honor and rights, as they understand those things, and they should be met in the same manner.”
“You’re right, Mr. Wilson. Torpedoes, catamarans, and such inventions, might be employed by both parties in war, and with destructive effect. But wars ought to be conducted in such a manner as to gain the desired end with as little loss of life as possible; besides, in the eyes of all really brave men, these things must seem cowardly,” said Morton.
“You must permit me to differ with you, gentlemen,” put in Mr. Jackson Harmar; and, in a very dignified, Congressional style, he delivered himself of the following defence of the innovations of modern warfare: “I view all such contrivances as the triumph of the genius and skill of man over mere brute force, and as tending to the great ends of the peace and happiness of mankind. They place the weak upon a level with the strong, and make it evident to every one that the best course would be to submit all questions of right to the arbitration of the mind instead of the arm and sword. Suppose I, being a small, weak man, should quarrel with a man of great physical strength, and a hatred to the death should be declared between us. Now, upon whichever side the bone of right lay, the strong man would have the power to destroy me; but if I set my brain to work, and contrive an ‘infernal machine,’ I shall be superior to him, and drive him to the same resource. Now, we both see by this, that we stand an even chance of being destroyed, and reason resumes her reign. We see that the wisest and safest course for both would be to submit the question involved in the quarrel to the judgment of a mutual and impartial friend. Even so these inventions operate among nations, which, by the way, should be ruled by the same general principles as individuals.”