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340 HIS GENERAL KNOWLEDGE. Chap. XTL
Stephenson implored the directors, who were no engineers, only to afford a fair opportunity for a trial of the locomotive. Their common sense came to his rescue. They had immense confidence in that Newcastle engine-wright. He had already made stedfast friends of several of the most influential men amongst them, who valued his manly uprightness and integrity, and were strongly disposed to believe in him, though all the engineering world stood on the one side, and he alone on the other. His patient purpose, not less than his intense earnestness, carried them away. They adopted his recommendation, and offered a prize of 500?. for the best locomotive. Though many proclaimed the Liverpool men to be as great maniacs as Stephenson, yet the result proved the practical sagacity of the directors and the still of their engineer; but it was the determined purpose of the latter which secured the triumph of the locomotive. His resolution, founded on sound convictions, was the precursor of what he eventually achieved; and his intense anticipation was but the true presentiment of what he was afterwards found capable of accomplishing.
He was ready to turn his hand to anything,—shoes and clocks, railways and locomotives. He contrived his safetylamp with the object of saving pitmen's lives, and perilled his own life in testing it. Whatever work was nearest him, he turned to and did it. With him to resolve was to do. Many men knew far more than he; but none was more ready forthwith to apply what he did know to practical purposes.
Sir Joshua Walmsley mentions, that, when examining the works of the Orleans and Tours Eailway, Mr. Stephenson, seeing a large number of excavators filling and wheeling sand in a cutting, at a great waste of time and labour, after the manner of foreign navvies, went up to the men and said he would show them how to fill their barrow in half the time. He showed them the proper position in which to stand so as to exercise the greatest amount of power with the least waste of strength; and he filled the barrow with comparative ease again and again in their presence, to the
Chap. XVI. CHIEF WORKS OF HIS SON. 341
great delight of the workmen. ^'hen passing through his own workshops, he would point out to his men how to save labour and to get through their work skilfully and with ease. His energy imparted itself to others, quickening and influencing them as strong" characters always do,— flowing down into theirs, and bringing out their best powers.
His deportment towards the workmen employed under him was familiar, yet firm and consistent. As he respected their manhood, so did they respect his masterhood. Although he comported himself towards his men as if they occupied very much the same level as himself, he yet possessed that peculiar capacity for governing others which enabled him always to preserve amongst them the strictest discipline, and to secure their cheerful and hearty services.
One of the most beautiful features of Mr. Stephenson's character was the affectionate interest which he took in the education of his son, stinting himself when only a poor working man in order to provide his boy with useful learning. He was not satisfied till he had obtained for him the advantages of a University course. Then he found him a most valuable fellow-worker.
From the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Eailway, the works of the father and the son can scarcely be separated. In their great engineering enterprises, and in the successive improvements effected by them in the arrangement and construction of the locomotive, their names are indissolubly united. Of the distinguished works of the son, it would be out of place to speak at length. But the London and Birmingham Eailway, the Tubular Bridge over the Menai Straits, and the High Level Bridge at Newcastle, are works which future generations will point to as worthy of the greatest engineer of his day, and as noble results of George Stephenson's self-denying determination to educate his son to the fullest extent of his ability.
We cannot, however, refrain from mentioning the manner in which Mr. Stephenson's son has repaid the obligations which both were under to the Newcastle Literary and Fhilo
sophical Institute, when working together as humble experimenters in their cottage at Killingworth. The Institute 'was, until quite recently, struggling under a debt of 6200L, which seriously impaired its usefulness as an educational agency. Mr. Eobert Stephenson offered to pay one-half of the entire sum, provided the local supporters of the Institute would raise the remainder; and conditional also on the annual subscription being reduced from two guineas to one, in order that the usefulness of the institution might be extended. The generous offer was accepted, and the debt extinguished.
Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Institute.
Probably no military chiefs were ever more beloved by their soldiers than were both father and son by the army of men who, under their guidance, worked at labours of profit, made labours of love by their earnest will and purpose. True leaders of men and lords of industry, they were always Chap. XVT. HIS GENEROSITY AND DISINTERESTEDNESS. 343
ready to recognise and encourage talent in those who worked for and with them. It was pleasant, at the openings of the Stephenson lines, to hear the chief engineers attributing the successful completion of the works to their able assistants; whilst the assistants, on the other hand, ascribed the entire glory to their chiefs.
A fine trait in Mr. Stephenson's character was his generosity, which would not permit an attack to be made upon the absent or the weak. He would never sanction any injustice of act or opinion towards those associated with himself. On one occasion, during the progress of the Liverpool and Manchester works, while he had a strong party to contend with at the Board, the conduct of one of his assistants was called in question, as he thought unjustly, and a censure was threatened. Bather than submit to this injustice to his assistant, Mr. Stephenson tendered his resignation: but it was not accepted, and the censure was not voted. The same chivalrous protection was on many occasions extended by him to the weaker against the stronger. Even if he were himself displeased with any one engaged about him, any attack from another quarter would rouse him in defence, not in the spirit of opposition, but from a kind and generous impulse to succour those in difficulty.
Mr. Stephenson, though a thrifty and frugal man, was essentially unsordid. His rugged path in early life made him careful of his resources. He never saved to hoard, but saved for a purpose, such as the maintenance of his parents or the education of his son. In later years, he became a prosperous and even a wealthy man; but riches never closed his heart, nor stole away the elasticity of his soul. He enjoyed life cheerfully, because hopefully. "When he entered upon a commercial enterprise, whether for others or for himself, he looked carefully at the ways and means. Unless they would "pay," he held back. "He would have nothing to do," he declared, "with stock-jobbing speculations." His refusal to sell his name to the schemes of the railway mania,—his survey of the Spanish lines without remuneration,—his offer to postpone his claim for payment 344 COMPARED WITH WATT. Chap. XVI.
from a poor company until their affairs became more prosperous,—are instances of the unsordid spirit in which he acted.
Another marked feature in Mr. Stephenson's character was his patience. Notwithstanding the strength of his convictions as to the great uses to which the locomotive might be applied, he waited long and patiently for the opportunity of bringing it into notice; and for years after he had completed an efficient engine he went on quietly devoting: himself to the ordinary work of the colliery. He made no noise nor stir about his locomotive, but allowed another to take credit for the experiments on velocity and friction made with it by himself upon the Killingworth railroad.
By patient industry and laborious contrivance, he was enabled to do for the locomotive what James Watt had done for the condensing engine. He found it clumsy and inefficient; and he made it powerful, efficient, and useful. Both have been described as the improvers of their respective engines; but, as to all that is admirable in their structure or vast in their utility, they are rather entitled to be described as their Inventors. While the invention of Watt increased the power, and at the same time so regulated the action, of the steam-engine, as to make it capable of being applied alike to the hardest work and to the finest manufactures, the invention of Stephenson gave an effective power to the locomotive, which enabled it to perform the work of teams of the most powerful horses, and to outstrip the speed of the fleetest. Watt's invention exercised a wonderfully quickening influence on every branch of industry, and multiplied a thousand-fold the amount of manufactured productions; and Stephenson's enabled these to be distributed with an economy and despatch such as had never before been thought possible. They have both tended to increase indefinitely the mass of human comforts and enjoyments, and to render them cheap and accessible to all. But Stephenson's invention, by the influence which it is daily exercising upon the civilisation of the world, is even more remarkable than that of Watt, and is calculated to have still more important consequences.