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Son of the South. Life and services of Commodore Maury. [from the Boston Journal.]

Proposed monument to his Memory—The immense Benefits to the country that Originated in his fertile Brain—Sketch written by his daughter.

[A movement was inaugurated by prominent gentlemen in this city and of this State, in November last, to secure the means, by subscription and by the aid of Congress, for the erection of a monument to the [366] memory of Commodore Maury. It is to be hoped that this grateful object will be pressed to a speedy consummation.—Ed.]

Some persons have proposed that a sum of money be set apart by the Congress of the United States for the purpose of erecting a suitable monument to the memory of the great American hydrographer and meteorologist, M. F. Maury, in grateful acknowledgment of his services to the marine, commercial, agricultural and other interests of our great country. The monument should be erected in the city of Washington in the year 1892, and thus not only perpetuate the memory of the man, but of his deeds for the contemplation of future generations, and as an incentive to lofty ambitions. Perhaps I, as a member of his family, may speak thus for him. Maury was a Virginian by birth, but he emigrated to Tennessee with his parents when in his fifth year, and entered the navy, when a lad of nineteen, from that State in 1825. After continued sea service for six years he was appointed sailing master of the sloop-of-war Falmouth, in 1831, and ordered on a three years cruise to the Pacific. Before leaving New York on this voyage he had searched in every direction for reliable information as to the winds and currents to be encountered, and the best path for his vessel to follow. He soon found that little or nothing was known on the subject, and he forthwith began to collect material and make observations. In this connection he noticed the curious phenomenon of the low barometer off Cape Horn. He wrote his first scientific paper on this subject, and it was published soon after his return by the American Journal of Science. Shortly after, he wrote another much-talked — of paper entitled ‘The Relation of Terrestrial Magnetism to the Circulation of the Atmosphere.’ These small beginnings he soon expanded into his celebrated wind and current charts and sailing directions. ‘These charts completely revolutionized commerce,’ said the Secretaries of the Navy (in their annual reports for the years 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1855 and 1856), and have not only saved millions of dollars to those “who go down to the sea in ships,” but have added glory and honor to his country. A calculation of the amount saved to the commerce of the United States by shortening the voyages fifteen days by the use of these charts will show the following startling results: The average freight from the United States to Rio is 17.7 cents per ton per day; to Australia 20 cents. The mean of this is a little over 19 cents per ton per day, but to be within the mark we will take it at 15 cents, and include all the ports of South America, China and the East Indies. We estimate [367] the tonnage of the United States engaged in trade with these places at 1,000,000 tons per annum. With these data, we see that there has been effected a saving for each of these tons of 15 cents a day for a period of fifteen days, which will give an aggregate of $2,250,000 saved per annum. This is on the outward voyage alone, and the tonnage trading with all the other parts of the world is left out of the calculation. Take these into consideration, and also the fact that there is a vast amount of foreign tonnage trading between those places and the United States, and it will be seen that the annual sum saved will swell to an enormous amount; beside, to many ports the voyage is shortened forty and even ninety days. Sir John Packington, of the British Admiralty, said: ‘The practical results of the researches of this great American philosopher of the seas have been to lessen the expenses of the voyage (by shortening the passage) of every 1000-ton vessel from England to Rio, India, or China, by no less a sum than ,250, while on a voyage of every ship of this tonnage to California or Australia and back the saving effected was £ 1,200 or £ 1,500.’ When the San Francisco with hundreds of United States troops on board foundered in an Atlantic hurricane, and the rumor reached port that she was in need of help, the Secretary of the Navy sent to Maury for information. He at once showed on a chart where the winds and waves acting upon a helpless wreck would drift her. To this spot relief was sent, and there the survivors were picked up. When the Prince of Wales returned from his visit to the United States he sailed from Portland, Maine; his coal gave out; he got into a region of contrary winds, and was overdue ten days. The Lords of Admiralty waited on Maury and asked for information of his whereabouts. Maury showed them, and they sent aid and brought him home in triumph, in time to celebrate his birthday. These were mere incidents in his study of the winds an d waves. ‘By the use of Maury's whale charts, the New England fishermen have saved millions of dollars. There he shows at a glance those parts of the ocean where at any season of the year whales (sperm or right) may be found. The observations of one whaleman would necessarily be limited, but this arrangement of Maury enables him to profit by the experience of thousands of others.’ [See report of Committee on Naval Affairs in 1856.] Besides these there were Maury's ‘Pilot Charts,’ his isothermal charts, &c., which are of incalculable value.

In 1853 the Government of the United States invited all the European nations to meet Maury in a meteorological conference at Brussels. [368] This was done, and he then urged that the system of meteorological observations he had already inaugurated at sea should be extended to the land, and thus form a weather bureau with observers in all parts of the world. He spoke of this soon after his return, in an address before the United States Agricultural Society at Washington, and said: ‘The atmosphere is a great basin which envelops the globe, and every plant and animal that grows there is dependent for its well-being upon the laws which govern and control the “wind in its circuits,” and none more so than man, “the Lord of all.” To study these laws we must treat the atmosphere as a whole. We have now the sea made white with floating observatories, all equipped with instruments that are comparable, observing the same things according to a uniform method and recording these observations according to a universal plan. In the process of discussing these observations, thusobtained from the sea, I have arrived at that point at which observations on the land are found to be essential to a successful prosecution of my investigations into the laws which govern the grand atmospherical machine. I want to see the land, therefore, spotted with co-laborers observing also, according to some uniform plan, such as may be agreed upon with the most distinguished meteorologists at home and abroad, and I have addressed myself to the agricultural interests of this country because they have in this matter the most at stake.’

In furtherance of this plan he delivered, early in 1858, a series of lectures in the larger cities on the great lakes, urging the extention to the lakes of that system of co-operation and research which has already proved so beneficial for commerce and navigation at sea, with this difference, viz.: ‘That certain of the observations be reported daily to a central office by telegraph, and my lake scheme proposes to warn you, from observations made to-day, as to the weather you may expect to-morrow, and then, for the further investigation of any particular phenomenon that may present itself, my plan proposes to refer to and consult the monthly records after they have been made and returned to a central office from the observing stations.’

By means of the electric telegraph the meteorologist may become well nigh omnipresent. It may tell of the barometric changes at distant points and foretell the coming storm. Then the Associated Press may become another agent. It can take up and bear the news to the bulletin boards in distant cities, which will diffuse the intelligence to all quarters with a speed that ‘Roderic Dhu and Malise’ never dreamed of, and thus all will know of the coming storm while yet thousands of miles away. [369]

By these lectures Maury produced such an impression in the Northwest that eight of the lake, cities, Buffalo among them, memorialized Congress in the same year ‘to establish a general system of daily telegraphic reports of the wind and weather for discussion at a central office.’ The law thus prayed for was not passed by Congress at that time, but it has been since, and under its fostering care has grown into the vast Weather Bureau of the present day. It will scarcely be believed that in the history of that grand work the name of its illustrious founder is not mentioned, and although to-day almost every one in the civilized world ‘listens to the thunder,’ no one remembers where to look for the lightning.

From this time until the war—and after—he did not cease, by lectures before the agricultural societies all over the country, to urge the farmers, &c., to memorialize Congress for appropriations, instruments, stations, and a weather bureau, have storm signals, and telegraph the approach of storms, severe changes of weather, &c., and later on to establish crop and weather reports daily. (See letters on all these subjects on file at the Naval Observatory from 1847 to 1860.) In 1848-49 Maury prophesied ‘the existence of a plateau under the Atlantic,’ and suggested that a sub-marine telegraphic cable uniting the two continents might be laid there. He urged the Secretary of the Navy to have soundings made there under his direction to ascertain the truth of his theory. This was done. In 1851-52 three small vessels were placed at his disposal, and Lieutenant Berryman's soundings fully demonstrated the existence of the ‘telegraphic plateau.’ Maury's suggestion of a ‘fascicle of copper wires within a coating of gutta percha, the whole to be no larger than a ladies' finger,’ was adopted. He also invented a machine for coiling and laying the cable, and in fine, as Cyrus W. Field said at a public dinner in New York, given to celebrate the arrival of the first message, ‘Maury furnished the brains, England gave the money, and I did the work.’ The cable company, ‘in gratitude,’ gave ‘Maury priority of use of cable when finished.’ (See many letters on file at the Observatory, also a full account of the whole in Maury's ‘Sailing Directions.’)

Besides all these schemes for national advancement Maury's papers on ‘Naval Reform,’ under the caption of ‘Scraps from the Lucky Bag,’ and over the signature of ‘Harry Bluff,’ led to the building of the Naval school at Annapolis and the adoption of ‘Maury's Navigation’ as a text-book. ‘Big Guns and Little Ships,’ ‘The Establisement of Forts and Lighthouses at Pensacola and Key West,’ ‘The Memphis Navy Yard,’ and ‘The Illinois Ship Canal [370] and Ports on the Great Lakes,’ followed (for which last a vote of thanks was offered by the Illinois Legislature). These papers were received and acted on with so much enthusiasm that he was placed at the head of the ‘Depot of Charts and Instruments’ at Washington, which office he soon extended, in the course of five years, into the world-renowed National Observatory and Hydrographic Department (which since his death has been divided up into three separate offices). While in charge of those he published for several years his ‘Astronomical Observations Cataloguing the Stars,’ and his ‘Physical Geography of the Sea,’ by which, as Baron Humbolt said, he founded a new science. He also established ‘Water works and river guages for the Mississippi river and its tributaries,’ and directed Lieutenant Mann to make a series of daily observations for three hundred and sixty-five consecutive days on the temperature, velocity, evaporation and precipitation and amount of salt contained in its waters, which observations, reported to and digested by Maury, contribute the main data of the knowledge we now possess of the habits of this, our greatest river. Maury was the originator of the plan to ‘Redeem the drowned lands on the Mississippi river,’ of the ‘Warehousing System,’ of the ‘Great Circle Routes’ between American and European or Asiatic ports. The ‘Steam Lanes’ which are still used by all steamers crossing the ocean, were laid off by Maury, and the merchants and underwriters of New York were so pleased with their success that they presented him with a service of plate and five thousand dollars.

Maury planned the two Arctic expeditions of Dr. Kane and De Haven, and both those officers received their instructions from him. The same was the case with Captain Lynch's exploration of the ‘Dead Sea’ and Herndon's exploration of the Amazon and its tributaries—as a resultant of which Maury hoped to see established intimate commercial relations with Brazil and the South American Republic. (See Maury's Inca Papers, &c.) And just as the war came on he was organizing an expedition to the South Pole. He made many efforts to arrest the war by appeals to the governors of the border States, by peace commissions, &c., and he died while filling the post of Professor of Physics at the Virginia Military Institute in 1873. His last work was a ‘Preliminary Report on the Physical Survey of Virginia’ (setting forth in an attractive manner her great resources of the field, forest and mine, to induce immigrants to come and settle up her waste places).

‘In grateful recognition of the past services conferred by Maury upon navigation and science,’ gold medals were struck in his honor [371] by Prussia, Austria, Holland, Sweden and Norway. Spain, France, Sardinia, the Republic of Bremen, and Pope Pius IX presented him with a set of all the medals struck during the pontificate. England and Belgium also offered medals. Denmark, Portugal, Russia, France, Belgium and Mexico presented decorations and orders of knighthood, which last he declined (being an officer of the United States Navy). He had, besides, about twenty diplomas from as many foreign scientific societies, but from the United States nothing, except his pay as a commander in the navy.

The Czar of Russia offered him ‘a princely home on the banks of the Neva, and abundant means to prosecute his scientific researches,’ and the Emperor of France made a similar offer, but he declined both; he ‘could not leave his native State.’

We are every day making history. What will be the fate of that nation that fails to make an honorable history for itself by fitly eulogizing its departed great ones?

Is England less proud to-day of the laurels won and worn by Milton because he threw himself on the side of the Protector? or does not France erect monuments equally beautiful to the memory of Coligny and Turenne? Maury's life work and greatest services were given freely to the United States several years before the war, and a grateful nation should gracefully acknowledge the services by which she has so largely profited. As an American shipmaster said in the New York Tribune in a recent article on the subject: ‘The money saved to the commerce of the United States by the use of Lieutenant Maury's charts would erect a monument of precious stones sparkling with diamonds.’

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