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Oh that you were not so eager for the end! Oh that I might tell you, what now you will never know,--of the great campaign which we then and there inaugurated! How the horrible loss of the Royal Martyr, whose longitude was three degrees awry, startled the whole world, and gave us a point to start from. How I explained to George that he must not subscribe the one hundred thousand dollars in a moment. It must come in bits, when "the cause" needed a stimulus, or the public needed encouragement. How we caught neophyte editors, and explained to them enough to make them think the Moon was well-nigh their own invention and their own thunder. How, beginning in Boston, we sent round to all the men of science, all those of philanthropy, and all those of commerce, three thousand circulars, inviting them to a private meeting at George's parlors at the Revere. How, besides ourselves, and some nice, respectable-looking old gentlemen Brannan had brought over from Podunk with him, paying their fares both ways, there were present only three men,--all adventurers whose projects had failed,-- besides the representatives of the press. How, of these representatives, some understood the whole, and some understood nothing. How, the next day, all gave us "first-rate notices." How, a few days after, in the lower Horticultural Hall, we had our first public meeting. How Haliburton brought us fifty people who loved him,--his Bible class, most of them,--to help fill up; how, besides these, there were not three persons whom we had not asked personally, or one who could invent an excuse to stay away. How we had hung the walls with intelligible and unintelligible diagrams. How I opened the meeting. Of that meeting, indeed, I must tell something.
First, I spoke. I did not pretend to unfold the scheme. I did not attempt any rhetoric. But I did not make any apologies. I told them simply of the dangers of lee-shores. I told them when they were most dangerous,-- when seamen came upon them unawares. I explained to them that, though the costly chronometer, frequently adjusted, made a delusive guide to the voyager who often made a harbor, still the adjustment was treacherous, the instrument beyond the use of the poor, and that, once astray, its error increased forever. I said that we believed we had a method which, if the means were supplied for the experiment, would give the humblest fisherman the very certainty of sunrise and of sunset in his calculations of his place upon the world. And I said that whenever a man knew his place in this world, it was always likely all would go well. Then I sat down.
Then dear George spoke,--simply, but very briefly. He said he was a stranger to the Boston people, and that those who knew him at all knew he was not a talking man. He was a civil engineer, and his business was to calculate and to build, and not to talk. But he had come here to say that he had studied this new plan for the longitude from the Top to the Bottom, and that he believed in it through and through. There was his opinion, if that was worth anything to anybody. If that meeting resolved to go forward with the enterprise, or if anybody proposed to, he should offer his services in any capacity, and without any pay, for its success. If he might only work as a bricklayer, he would work as a bricklayer. For he believed, on his soul, that the success of this enterprise promised more for mankind than any enterprise which was ever likely to call for the devotion of his life. "And to the good of mankind," he said, very simply, "my life is devoted." Then he sat down.
Then Brannan got up. Up to this time, excepting that George had dropped this hint about bricklaying, nobody had said a word about the Moon, far less hinted what it was to be made of. So Ben had the whole to open. He did it as if he had been talking to a bright boy of ten years old. He made those people think that he respected them as his equals. But, in fact, he chose every word, as if not one of them knew anything. He explained, as if it were rather more simple to explain than to take for granted. But he explained as if, were they talking, they might be explaining to him. He led them from point to point,--oh! so much more clearly than I have been leading you,--till, as their mouths dropped a little open in their eager interest, and their lids forgot to wink in their gaze upon his face, and so their eyebrows seemed a little lifted in curiosity,--till, I say, each man felt as if he were himself the inventor, who had bridged difficulty after difficulty; as if, indeed, the whole were too simple to be called difficult or complicated. The only wonder was that the Board of Longitude, or the Emperor Napoleon, or the Smithsonian, or somebody, had not sent this little planet on its voyage of blessing long before. Not a syllable that you would have called rhetoric, not a word that you would have thought prepared; and then Brannan sat down.
That was Ben Brannan's way. For my part, I like it better than eloquence.
Then I got up again. We would answer any questions, I said. We represented people who were eager to go forward with this work. (Alas! except Q., all of those represented were on the stage.) We could not go forward without the general assistance of the community. It was not an enterprise which the government could be asked to favor. It was not an enterprise which would yield one penny of profit to any human being. We had therefore, purely on the ground of its benefit to mankind, brought it before an assembly of Boston men and women.
Then there was a pause, and we could hear our watches tick, and our hearts beat. Dear George asked me in a whisper if he should say anything more, but I thought not. The pause became painful, and then Tom Coram, prince of merchants, rose. Had any calculation been made of the probable cost of the experiment of one moon?
I said the calculations were on the table. The brick alone would cost $60,000. Mr. Orcutt had computed that $214,729 would complete two flywheels and one moon. This made no allowance for whitewashing the moon, which was not strictly necessary. The fly-wheels and water-power would be equally valuable for the succeeding moons, it any were attempted, and therefore the second moon could be turned off, it was hoped, for $159,732.
Thomas Coram had been standing all the time I spoke, and in an instant he said: "I am no mathematician. But I have had a ship ground to pieces under me on the Laccadives because our chronometer was wrong. You need $250,000 to build your first moon. I will be one of twenty men to furnish the money; or I will pay $10,000 to-morrow for this purpose, to any person who may be named as treasurer, to be repaid to me if the moon is not finished this day twenty years."
That was as long a speech as Tom Coram ever made. But it was pointed. The small audience tapped applause.
Orcutt looked at me, and I nodded. "I will be another, of the twenty men," cried he. "And I another," said an old bluff Englishman, whom nobody had invited; who proved to be a Mr. Robert Boll, a Sheffield man, who came in from curiosity. He stopped after the meeting; said he should leave the country the next week, and I have never seen him since. But his bill of exchange came all the same.
That was all the public subscribing. Enough more than we had hoped for. We tried to make Coram treasurer, but he refused. We had to make Haliburton treasurer, though we should have liked a man better known than he then was. Then we adjourned. Some nice ladies then came up, and gave, one a dollar, and one five dollars, and one fifty, and so on,--and some men who have stuck by ever since. I always, in my own mind, call each of those women Damaris, and each of those men Dionysius. But those are not their real names.
How I am wasting time on an old story! Then some of these ladies came the next day and proposed a fair; and out of that, six months after, grew the great Longitude Fair, that you will all remember, if you went to it, I am sure. And the papers the next day gave us first-rate reports; and then, two by two, with our subscription- books, we went at it. But I must not tell the details of that subscription. There were two or three men who subscribed $5,000 each, because they were perfectly certain the amount would never be raised. They wanted, for once, to get the credit of liberality for nothing. There were many men and many women who subscribed from one dollar up to one thousand, not because they cared a straw for the longitude, nor because they believed in the least in the project; but because they believed in Brannan, in Orcutt, in Q., or in me. Love goes far in this world of ours. Some few men subscribed because others had done it: it was the thing to do, and they must not be out of fashion. And three or four, at least, subscribed because each hour of their lives there came up the memory of the day when the news came that the---- was lost, George, or Harry, or John, in the----, and they knew that George, or Harry, or John might have been at home, had it been easier than it is to read the courses of the stars!
Fair, subscriptions, and Orcutt's reserve,--we counted up $162,000, or nearly so. There would be a little more when all was paid in.
But we could not use a cent, except Orcutt's and our own little subscriptions, till we had got the whole. And at this point it seemed as if the whole world was sick of us, and that we had gathered every penny that was in store for us. The orange was squeezed dry!
HOW WE BUILT IT
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The Brick Moon and Other Stories -by- Edward Everett Hale