[In view of the fact that no railroad can now be run safely without the aid of the telegraph, the cautious care with which the right to remove it if it should become a nuisance was reserved, strikes one at this day as nearly ludicrous.]
A short pause ensued, and the assent of the company was about to be assumed, when one of the older directors, famed for the vigilance with which he watched even the most trivial measure, begged to be heard.
He admitted that the rights and interests of the work were all carefully guarded by the terms of the resolution, and that the company was not called upon to lay out any of its means for the promotion of the scheme. But notwithstanding all this, he did not feel, as a conscientious man, that he could, without further examination, give his vote for the resolution. He knew that this idea of Mr. Morse, however plausible it might appear to theorists and dreamers, and so-called men of science, was regarded by all practical people as destined, like many other similar projects, to certain failure, and must consequently result in loss and possibly ruin to Mr. Morse. For one, he felt conscientiously scrupulous in giving a vote which would aid or tempt a visionary enthusiast to ruin himself.
Fortunately, the views of this cautious, practical man did not prevail. A few words from the mover of the resolution, Mr. Nicholas, who still lives to behold the wonders he helped to create, and from Mr. Kennedy, without whose aid the appropriation would not have passed the House of Representatives, relieved the other directors from all fear of contributing to Mr. Morse’s ruin, and the resolution was adopted. Of the President and thirty directors who took part in this transaction, only three, Samuel W. Smith, John Spear Nicholas, and the writer, survive. Under it Morse at once entered upon that test of his invention whose fruits are now enjoyed by the people of all the continents.
It was not, however, until the spring of 1844 that he had his line and its appointments in such a condition as to allow the transmission of messages between the two cities, and it was in May of that year that the incident occurred which has chiefly led to the writing of this paper.
MR. LATROBE’S RECOLLECTIONS.
MY DEAR MR. POE: Agreeably to my promise, this morning I put on paper my recollection of the introduction of the magnetic telegraph between Baltimore and Washington. I was counsel of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. at the time, and calling on Mr. Louis McLane, the President, on some professional matter, was asked in the course of conversation whether I knew anything about an electric telegraph which the inventor, who had obtained an appropriation from Congress, wanted to lay down on the Washington branch of the road. He said he expected Mr. Morse, the inventor, to call on him, when he would introduce me to him, and would be glad if I took an opportunity to go over the subject