Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to HIRAM POWERS, dated August 13, 1855.
I have been longer in answering your welcome and interesting letter of June 1' than I
intended, but I find I have less time when as at present, I am engaged in nothing
than when, as formerly, I had a multitude of real affairs pressing upon me. I am
extremely glad to hear of the favorable promise of your
file, which I always had great confidence in, & hope very soon to
see the machines at work on this side of the Atlantic. This however can hardly be
before you visit next winter, which I hope you will, on no account omit. I shall be
in Washington during a part, perhaps the whole, of the winter, & hope we
shall hold great caucuses together. I wrote some time since to a friend who is
intimate with Gen. Cass to ascertain, if possible,
the reason of Gen C's opposite to your appropriation. He could give me no
information on the subject, but says "as to Powers, I can only say, that if he will
take the trouble to come on here, while Congress is in session, he will carry all
before him. He has been out of sight so long that half his countrymen believe him an
idea or myth.They think of him as dimly & indistinctly as of Phidias or
Lyssipus, and query whether he didn't make the Venus
de Medici as well as the Greek Slave. Make him come on!
This is hyperbole, but there is sense at the bottom. I have made inquiry as to the order, but though I presume you may have heard from the President, I cannot learn that Majesty has come to any decision on the subject. Atlee's case is not singular. 'Tis the regular course at Washington. Nobody is surprised or indignant at such doings. I hope you may not be involved in Atlee's disgrace with the powers that be.
I don't know whether I mentioned in my last two contrivances of my own. One of these
is a new protractor--a very beautiful looking if not very useful instrument. I have
applied for a patent, but as the principle appears to have been anticipated, though
in a very imperfect manner, it is doubtful whether I shall obtain it. The other is a
mode of measuring & laying down distances on paper with greater accuracy
than by the common method combined with a new vernier. The model I hope to finish
this week, & as I believe there is no doubt of its originality, I shall in
all probability obtain a patent. Whether I do succeed or not, I think a young friend
of mine, a skillful & ingenious engraver & mechanic will go into the
manufacture of both, as there is a prospect
of a good sale, and I should be very glad to be able to combine with his arrangements the use of your machines for manufacturing files, in Vermont or Massachusetts unless you dispose of the whole patent, or make some other arrangement respecting it.
In getting up these inventions, I have had to return to my old trade of working in brass, iron & glass, & have arrived at great skill in this latter material. I can drill a hole less than the fortieth of an inch in diameter through glass half an inch thick, & am quite an expert engraver on the same substance. I do not expect much pecuniary advantage from either of these inventions, but think they will be found useful.
Your plan about the paper strikes me favourably, but where is the capital &
where are the associates? There is another doubt. Could an honest paper be supported
in any great city of America or Europe? Does not the London Times owe its success to
its profligacy as much as to its ability? And what else but the same utter venality
& want of principle gives currency to the New York Times the Tribune or the
Herald, which latter, the pioneer in knavery, has now been left far
behind, by the greater shamelessness of its more youthful rivals? I shall however keep the subject in mind, & make inquiries with reference to it as opportunity offers.
George was to sail from Liverpool for Boston in (I know not why) a sailing ship on the 7' of July, but I have not yet heard from him, though it is now time for the ship to be in.
I understand that Crawford's pediment is to be executed in this country by Italian workmen in Lee (dolomite) marble. A very large deposit of variegated (red & white) marble with infinite varieties has been recently found three miles from here & extending a great distance. Some of the specimens are of great beauty. I am offered an interest in it & shall advise George to take a share if I do not. Mrs Marsh desires kind messages to you all in which she is heartily joined by
Yours trulyG. P. Marsh
H Powers Esq
References in this letter:
Lewis Cass (1782-1866), Brigadier General in the U.S. army and for eighteen years (1813-1831) governor of the Michigan Territory, was a U.S. Senator (1845-1857), Democratic candidate for president in 1848 (losing to Whig Zachary Taylor), and Secretary of State under James Buchanan (1857-1860).