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Fulton, Robert (1765-1815) to Earl of Stanhope

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04661.03 Author/Creator: Fulton, Robert (1765-1815) Place Written: Paris, France Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 14 April 1798 Pagination: 26 p. ; 25.3 x 19.8 cm.

Summary of Content: Writes that all wars are a waste of money and labor. Improving a country's infrastructure is the best use of these funds and energy, through projects such as his canals. He estimates just how much the canals would save England. Fulton comments: "Manual labor is true riches...There is not true policy but that which tends to multiply the produce of labor and increase the conveniences of life."

Background Information: Robert Fulton was an engineer and entrepreneur, often credited with inventing the steamboat. While Fulton did not invent any of the individual components of the steamboat, he did combine the ...ideas of many other men to make the most successful steamboat. He was also involved in a number of other engineering projects, including his attempt to revolutionize canal building by making canals smaller and using them as a country's primary means of transporting goods. His plan, though intriguing, met with little success in the end.
Charles Stanhope, the third Earl of Stanhope, was a British politician and noted inventor, and a patron of Fulton's.
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Full Transcript: Selected Excerpts:

…First that all unnecessary War is a Waste of Manuel [sic] Labour [sic]. Second if I prove that Foreign [2] possessions and Restrictions on trade Commercial Treaties & are ...of no advantage to nations but absolutely a Loss - it proves that all Wars entered Into for such [struck: subjects] [inserted: objects] have been unnecessary, Consequently a Wast [sic] of Manuel Labour - and an Injury to Society -

[2]…I will Consider the Expence [sic] Which American Independence Cost England, {It is now agreed on all Sides that the trade of England has not been diminished by the american [sic] Independence, nor can it be made [inserted: to] appear that England has Lost any one advantage In her Commerce [strikeout] by such Independance [sic] Consequently this War was unnecessary - And the [struck: hundred and illegible] [inserted: 139] Millions which [3] it Cost England was an Actual Loss to the Nation and Burden to the people of at least 6 Millions of taxes per year -

[3]…I will now Consider how the 139 Millons [sic] [struck: spent] spent In the American war would appear if Laid out In home Improvements for Instance In Canals
England, Ireland, and Scotland Contains 115.287 Square Miles - which [inserted: is] equal to about 340 Miles Square. for the Improvement of Which and to offer the best possible Conveyance to all its parts I will Suppose Canals to be but In every direction at only 10 Miles distance from Eachother [sic], Which for the ease of Calculation I [struck: ve] [inserted: will] suppose at [4] Right angles, or the Number of Miles to [struck: to] equal to the Right angle Lines - this would Require 21.760 Miles of Canal Suppose this at 3000 £ per Mile the expence would be 65.280.000 £ Instead of 139 Millions In [struck: war] this american war: Consequently the saving would be 73.720,000 hence a tax would be avoided of 3.626.000 per annum On Constructing the Canals this whole Carriage of [struck: Great] the three [struck: king] kingdomes [sic] would move on Water, facilitating the Cultivation of from 25 to 30 Millions of Barren Acres and Accommodating the Carriage of the produce of 40 Millions of Cultivated Acres with the Conveyance of immense Manufactures of Which it is difficult to ascertain the [struck: the] Expence…

[6] It is Calculated that there are 2 Millions of [struck: of] horses in the agriculture and Conveyance of the Kingdome by the system of Canals at Least 500.000 would be saved Whose keep being worth 15 £ each per year wear and tare Harness &c &c Considered would produce a Saving of - 7.500.000 £ pr year The Whole [inserted: Lands For] agriculture of the Kingdome, In Consequence of the Facility of Irrigation and Easy Conveyance to all Markets would be Improved at Least 5 Shillings Pr Acre amount to - 10.000 000 £

[7] From the Commencement to the termination of the american War was a space of about 8 years during which time [struck: there] [inserted: England] must have been employed in all the departments of War not Less than 150 thousand Men. this number of Men Could with Ease Construct 2 thousand Miles of Canal per year or the necessary Quantity In about [8] 11 years Which is not equal to the time spent In the American and present war.

[10] It is thus in Consequence of Legislatures mistaking the true objects of honour [sic], - Conceiving it to be Conquest, Foreign possessions Fleets and Armies, that we see home Improvement Neglected, the Political System full of errors and the civil police Imperfect, it is from this Cause we se [sic] systems of education neglected which should [struck: elaminate] the mass of the people and teach them to know Right from Wrong it is for the same Reason. We see Misery [inserted: shivering in Rags] [struck: shivering in Rags] with her hapless Child [inserted: shivering in Rags] Prowling along the streets [struck: extracting] [inserted: Collecting] subsistence from the hand of pity [11] and the Gibbet hang out the poor degraded Image of a Man - Is this the Wisdom of Legislators. - No it is ignorance darker that Erebus. And I freely Risk my opinion that [strikeout] A Man has no Idea of Politics unless he understands the most effectual means of Improving society, nor Can he have the Least hope of [inserted: acquiring] Political honour or [inserted: Lasting] Fame unless he Applies himself, to Correcting the Gross [struck: abuses] [inserted: errors] before Enumirated [sic]…

[18]…how is the system of free trade be Accomplished? In a general Way I would [struck: say] [inserted: answer] Let every Man who [struck: hopes for fame and] loves his Country [inserted: and hopes for fame] exert himself to make the principle understood, And having truth for its foundation it will make Friends; - This is at present the Case in France In this Country the freedom of Commerce & the perfect Liberty of the seas is Contemplated, And urged by Men of the first [19] suppose Instead of Expending 139 Millions for the American War government had appropriated the Mony [sic] to Building a City. Which at 1000 £ per house And comfortable houses may be built for that sum, It would pay for 139 thousand houses - Which is more than the Number of houses in London…

[22] I would ask Englishmen What they are to Loose [sic] by a free trade. Nothing but they will gain immense advantages they will gain perpetual peace with foreign Nations. And having the Superiority In Manufactures. they will trade to all Countries without Interruption. And Riches will flow In to the [struck: Country] [inserted: England] In proportion as her Manufactures are Superior to that of any other Country, this superiority is Well established In Consequence of the [illegible] Machinery - to facilitate all kinds of Labour [23] And thus Superiority will be mantained [sic] better under a system free trade than any other. First because [strikeout] when the Channels of trade are free the Manufactures of England will be exchanged for the Natural produce of other Countries. and thus Nations finding themselves free to barter will not be to much neglected to Manufacture goods similar to [those] of England - but will naturaly [sic] exchange their home produce for such goods [inserted: as they may Require] - Second under free trade the great expences of the Navy [struck: would] [inserted: and army will] be avoided and this would Reduce the taxes about 10 Millions per annum and Relieve the people of near a [struck: third] [inserted: half] of their Whole Burden which enabling Labourers to Work Cheaper Would [illegible] Improve [24] the [fate] of Manufactures [inserted: and give them a preference for foreign Markets.] [struck: and direct] [inserted: It would also direct] Many thousands to productive Labour who are non Consumers and not producers
In fact In Whatever Light free trade is viewed It appears of the very first Importance, to all Nations. to accomplish it France will Lead the way. And every Friend to Justice and humanity will [struck: given] [inserted: unite] in the Cause, -

[25]…Governers [sic] who do not direct their Reflections to this [ind] [sic] are not only Ignorant but Wicked, sacrafising [sic] the public good to an Ignorant ambition which produces nothing but Misery with the pity or Contempt of thinking and Rational Man -
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People: Fulton, Robert, 1765-1815
Stanhope, Charles Earl of, 1753-1816

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: InventorInventionInfrastructureCanalsCommerceMerchants and TradeTransportationTaxes or TaxationFinanceGovernment and CivicsFranceGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsLabor

Sub Era: The Early Republic

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