previous next
[62] enormous benefit to the planters — cotton being then worth from twenty-five to thirty-three cents per pound. But no single manufactory could turn out the gins so fast as wanted, and planters who might readily have consented to the terms of the patentees, had the machines been furnished so fast as required, could hardly be expected to acquiesce so readily in the necessity of doing without machines altogether because the patentees could not, though others could, supply them. And then the manufacture of machines, to be constructed and worked by the patentees alone, involved a very large outlay of money, which must mainly be obtained by borrowing. Miller's means being soon exhausted, their first loan of two thousand dollars was made on the comparatively favorable condition of five per cent. premium, in addition to lawful interest. But they were soon borrowing at twenty per cent. per month. Then there was sickness; Mr. Whitney having a severe and tedious attack in 1794; after which the scarlet fever raged in New Haven, disabling many of his workmen ; and soon the lawsuits, into which they were driven in defense of their patent, began to devour all the money they could make or borrow. In 1795, Whitney had another attack of sickness; and, on his return to New Haven, from three weeks of suffering in New York, learned that his manufactory, with all his machines and papers, had just been consumed by fire, whereby he found himself suddenly reduced to utter bankruptcy. Next came a report from England that the British manufacturers condemned and rejected the cotton cleaned by his machines, on the ground that the staple was greatly injured by the ginning process! And now no one would touch the ginned cotton; and blockheads were found to insist that the roller-gin — a preposterous rival to Whitney's, whereby the seed was crushed in the fibre, instead of being separated from it — was actually a better machine than Whitney's! In the depths of their distress and insolvency, Miller wrote (April 27, 1796) from Georgia to Whitney, urging him to hasten to London, there to counteract the stupid prejudice which had been excited against ginned cotton; adding:
Our fortune, our fate, depends on it. The process of patent ginning is now quite at a stand. I hear nothing of it except the condolence of a few real friends, who express their regret that so promising an invention has entirely failed.

Whitney endeavored to obey this injunction, but could nowhere obtain the necessary finds; though he had several times fixed the day of his departure, and on one occasion had actually engaged his passage, and taken leave of some of his friends. October 7, 1797, Mr. Whitney wrote to an intimate friend a letter, wherefrom the following is an extract:

The extreme embarrassments which have been for a long time accumulating upon me are now become so great that it will be impossible for me to struggle against them many days longer. It has required my utmost exertions to exist, without making the least progress in our business. I have labored hard against the strong current of disappointment, which has been threatening to carry us down the cataract; but I have labored with a shattered oar, and struggled in vain, unless some speedy relief is obtained. I am now quite far enough advanced in life to think seriously of marrying. I have ever looked forward with pleasure to an alliance with an amiable and virtuous companion, as a source from whence I have expected one day to derive the greatest happiness. But the accomplishment of my tour to Europe, and the acquisition of

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
London (United Kingdom) (1)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)
Europe (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Eli Whitney (7)
Phineas Miller (2)
England (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
October 7th, 1797 AD (1)
April 27th, 1796 AD (1)
1795 AD (1)
1794 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: