Broken Cable Did Not Discourage Him
( Originally Published 1902 )
FEW of us, as we read of it, realize what terrible struggles were necessary to make such a thing possible, or what a debt of gratitude is due Cyrus Field for having successfully laid the first Atlantic cable. Mr. Field was a dry-goods clerk in A. T. Stewart's store, where his ability and service secured him the promotion which he deserved. He began business for himself by manufacturing paper. At the early age of thirty-six he found himself with a competency, and in his leisure turned his attention to literature, art and travel. It occurred to him that the news between London and New York could be considerably shortened by a telegraph line from Newfoundland, where the ships touched first, to New York City. On consultation with Peter Cooper, who was his next-door neighbor, and two or three other special friends, he organized a company for the purpose. The difficult problem was the cable connection in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but he set himself to the task with courage and energy, and though, after having laid forty miles of the cable in the gulf, it broke, and had to lie useless for a year, he renewed his endeavors, which were crowned with success. This success led him to believe in the possibility and probability of submarine communication between England and America, and he went to London for the purpose of organizing a company to establish it. Although he secured the cooperation of men of wealth and influence, and obtained favors from the British Parliament and American Congress, he had a succession of most aggravating failures. The American Government detailed two ships to help on this side, and the British Government two ships to help on the other side. At first they tied the cable to either shore, and unwound it as the ships approached each other. It broke and was mended a number of times, till at last it reached three hundred miles from the American shore, when it snapped for good, a hundred miles of it being at the bottom of the water, two miles deep. Then the project was tried of splicing the cable in mid-ocean and unrolling it from the ships toward either shore. It snapped often and was mended as many times, till at last it reached two-thirds of the way across the ocean and worked splendidly, when it broke and had to be left useless in the bottom of the ocean. Another one was made, and after many difficulties it was stretched from shore to shore, and this first message was sent over it : " Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, good-will toward men." There was the wildest rejoicing in the Old World and in the New; the enthusiasm in America was unbounded, because one of its own sons, under such great discouragements, had given success to the enterprise. But the shouts of the people had scarcely died down before the thing quit working and was dead forever. A cable of better material was made, and the Great Eastern laid it down to stay, and the problem of submarine telegraphy was settled forever.
It makes one proud of his race, to see an imperial will like that of Cyrus Field overcome such obstacles as confronted him. They were almost endless in succession and as high as mountains. That will stood undaunted in the face of twelve years of failure, because he had such faith in his ability to fasten the two hemispheres with steel ; and, sure enough, on the thirteenth year, his supreme purpose overcame every barrier and gave him success.
Mr. Field's faith in Divine Providence was as sure as his will was strong; like Professor Morse, he had unfaltering faith in God and a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. He was so wrapped up in the one work to which he had given so much of his life, that he prayed earnestly to God every day that he might be spared to accomplish his purpose. At a banquet given to him by the Chamber of Commerce of New York, he acknowledged his gratitude to God for having answered his prayer, in the following words:
" It has been a long struggle. Nearly thirteen years of anxious watching and ceaseless toil. Often my heart has been ready to sink. Many times, when wandering in the forests of Newfoundland in the pelting rain, or on the decks of ships on dark, stormy nights, alone, far from home, I have almost accused myself of madness and folly to sacrifice the peace of my family and all the hopes of life for what might prove, after all, but a dream. I have seen my companions, one and another, falling by my side, and I feared that I might not live to see the end. And yet one hope has led me on, and I have prayed that I might not taste of death till this work was accomplished. That prayer was answered, and now, beyond all acknowledgments to men, is the feeling of gratitude to Almighty God."
There will be some cable that will break about every day, but it must be mended and the work continued. A strong will is indispensable in overcoming earthly difficulties and in surmounting spiritual obstacles. It is when the human will is energized by the Divine Will that there is the greatest power or success for either world. It is only thus that the difficulites of the sea can be overcome, and successful communication be established between the rocky coasts of time and the golden shores of eternity.