3 pages, 4to, 244 x 201 mm. (9 5/8 x 7 7/8 in.). Very fine. " />
New York, Park Avenue
21 April 1997
The Property of
A EUROPEAN GENTLEMAN
FULTON, ROBERT. Autograph letter signed ("Robt. Fulton") to General Tureau, New York, 28 May 1811. 3 pages, 4to, 244 x 201 mm. (9 5/8 x 7 7/8 in.). Very fine.
FULTON OFFERS HIS SUBMARINE TORPEDO SYSTEM TO NAPOLEON, FOR USE AGAINST THE ENGLISH FLEET
An important letter in which Fulton expounds on the military advantages of his submarine torpedo (an invention with which he had been experimenting since 1797) and urges that Napoleon order its operational use against the British Navy: "I have the honor to present you with three of my pamphlets on Torpedo War [not present]...[T]his system, when rendered familiar by practice and improved by experience must be successful..." Fulton also addresses "arguments which may be raised against it on reasons of humanity. As to the liberty of the seas which I am convinced can and in time will be effected by this invention [Fulton believed that it would virtually end piracy]...you...must feel its importance in promoting lasting peace...The...Emperor [Napoleon] must have frequently contemplated the happiness which the people of France would enjoy could the liberty of the seas...be obtained...And... could he find time to examine my plans, or...order a Corps of 500 men ...to make the Engines...he would be convinced of the facility of destroying Vessels of War...[A]n organized corps well experienced to the use of Torpedoes could clear the British Channel of the British fleet..." Fulton urges that a special corps be formed to test the weapon and forwards "the report of the Torpedo committee who attended my experiments in the autumn of 1810," which describes his "mode for attacking ships of war with small Vessels each having a Torpedo fixed on a long boom or spar." These would "be run at a Man of War"; their momentum would push the Torpedo beneath the target's hull, where it would be detonated, destroying the target. Thus, "each gun vessel at Boulogne may be rendered more dangerous to an Enemy than a fire ship" by being converted to a "Torpedo Vessel." He confidently predicts that "1500 men practiced to this mode of attack" with small boats, especially acting "under cover of the night or the smoke of the enemy's fire...might destroy many vessels in succession." He concludes respectfully, with "the most ardent wish for the liberty of the seas, for peace and the promotion of the useful arts..."
Fulton presented his plans for submarine vessels to the Directory as early as 1799, and Napoleon appointed a commission to investigate Fulton's "diving boat." While the prototype, the Nautilis, was successful, the boat was unable to overtake any British vessel and the French lost interest. Fulton turned thereafter to the design of the steamboat and returned to America in 1806. Continuing his experiments with the torpedo, in July 1807 he successsfully blew up a ship in New York harbor with the device.
Contact Client Service
New York +1 212 636 2000
London +44 (0)20 7839 9060
Asia +852 2760 1766
As Christie’s offers 178 works from his personal collection, the illustrator of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory offers us a glimpse of his creative process
Christie’s is auctioning some of Thomas Chippendale's most iconic designs, 300 years since the birth of Britain’s most famous furniture maker