The Inventor of The Electric Telegraph
( Originally Published 1902 )
PROFESSOR SAMUEL MORSE, the brilliant young painter, sculptor, and scholar, became deeply interested in experiments with electro-magnetism. On the ship Sully, from Havre to New York, the idea of the electric telegraph appeared to his mind, and before he landed, he had the plans of his instrument all drawn, to the minutest detail, to be used in the application for his patent, and in its practical work. After having spent all his own money and as much as he could borrow, in his attempts to operate his machine, as a last possible hope he appealed to Congress for help. He asked for $30,000 for the construction of a little line from Baltimore to Washington. The last day of the session was drawing to a close, and it looked as though Congress would deny his request, and he would utterly fail in his project. He went to bed that night about heartbroken. At the breakfast table the next morning, a young lady congratulated him, and on asking the reason, he learned that the last act but one passed by Congress, was to furnish him the money he desired. He was so delighted with the news, that he promised the young lady that she should send the first message over his wire. And this is the one which she sent: " What bath God wrought ?"
What a difference there was between his feelings in the hotel that night, and those he experienced thirty years from that time, in the Academy of Music in New York, when a grand reception was given in his honor ! Distinguished men from all callings were present, and he was enthusiastically praised as one of the greatest inventors of the world. The instrument on which he sent his first message had been fastened to a wire in the Academy, and during the exercises he stepped up to it, and sent the following salutation : "Greeting and thanks to the telegraph fraternity throughout the world. Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will to men."
How appropriate was the first message, " What hath God wrought?" If the professor had selected one himself it could not have been more in harmony with his spirit. In his intellectual conceptions ; in the aid he secured from Congress ; in a hundred other things connected with his practical experiment, he felt that he had been divinely led. The Holy Ghost brooded over the intellect of the nineteenth century, and the marvelous inventions that have multiplied the conveniences of civilized living have been the offspring. No devout person can look at them and appreciate their worth without saying, " What hath God wrought ?"
What an appropriate message was the one sent from the Academy of Music! It was the one which the angels had flashed by wireless telegraphy to the humble shepherds. It was the one that had been reported in the first communication from England to America over the Atlantic cable. It was the one that filled his heart to overflowing as, a man over eighty years old, with hair and beard white as snow, he walked to the instrument a veritable prophet of God, and telegraphed : " Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will to men."
Professor Morse's great invention has contributed to peace and good-will among men, by fastening cities and nations together by closer ties of commerce and stronger bonds of friendship. His life of purity, benevolence, and devotion, did its part to usher in a knowledge of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. There will come a time in the future when the quivering wires of earth will be united with the ecstatic wires of heaven in ascriptions of " Glory to God in the highest," at the fulfilment of the prophecy, " peace on earth, good-will to men."