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Dr. Franklin, among the other inquiries that had engaged his attention, during a long life spent in the uninterrupted pursuit of useful improvements, did not let this escape his notice; and many useful hints, tending to perfect the art of navigation, and to meliorate the condition of seafaring people, occur in his work. In France, the art of constructing ships has long been a favourite study, and many improvements in that branch have originated with them. Among the last of the Frenchmen, who have made any considerable improvement in this respect, is M. Le Roy, who has constructed a vessel well adapted to sail in rivers where the depth of water is consider. able, and that yet was capable of being navigated at sea with great ease. This he effected in a great measure by the particular mode of rigging, which gave the mariners much greater power over the vessel than they could have when of the usual construction.
I do not hear that this improvement has in any case been adopted in Britain. But the advantages that would result from having a vessel of a small draught of water to sail with the same steadiness, and to lie equally near the wind, as one may do that is sharper built, are so obvious, that many persons have been desirous of falling upon some way to effect it. About London, this has been attempted by means of lee boards (a contrivance now so generally known as not to require to be here particularly described) and not without effect. But these are subject to certain inconveniences, that render the use of them in many cases ineligible.
Others have attempted to effect the purpose by building vessels with more than one keel; and this contrivance, when adopted upon proper principles,
promises to be attended with the happiest effects. But hitherto that seems to have been scarcely attended to. Time will be necessary to eradicate common notions of very old standing, before this can be effectually done.
Mr. W. Brodie, ship-master in Leith, has lately adopted a contrivance for this purpose, that seems to be at the same time very simple and extremely efficacious. Necessity, in this case, as in many others, was the mother of invention. He had a small, flat, ill-built boat, which was so ill constructed as scarcely to admit of carrying a bit of sail on any occasion, and which was at the same time so heavy to be rowed, that he found great difficulty in using it for his ordinary occasions. In reflecting on the means that might be adopted for giving this useless cobble such a hold of the water as to admit of his employing a sail when he found it necessary, it readily occurred that a greater depth of keel would have this tendency. But a greater depth of keel, though it would have been useful for this purpose, he easily foresaw, would make his boat be extremely inconvenient on many other occasions. To effect both purposes, he thought of adopting a moveable keel, which would admit of being let down or taken up at pleasure. This idea he immediately carried into effect, by fixing a bar of iron of the depth he wanted, along each side of the keel, moving upon hinges that admitted of being moved in one direction, but which could not be bent back in the opposite direction. Thus, by means of a small chain fixed to each end, these moveable keels could be easily lifted up at pleasure; so that when he was entering into a harbour, or shoal water, he had only to lift up his keels, and the boat was as capable of being managed there,
as if he had wanted them entirely; and when he went out to sea, where there was depth enough, by letting them down, the lee keel took a firm hold of the water, (while the other floated loose,) and gave such a steadiness to all its movements, as can scarcely be conceived by those who have not experienced it.
This gentleman one day carried me out with him in his boat to try it. We made two experiments. At first with a moderate breeze, when the moveable keels were kept up, the boat, when laid as near the wind as it could go, made an angle with the wake of about 30 degrees; but when the keels were let down, the same angle did not exceed five or six degrees, being nearly parallel with the course.
At another time, the wind was right a-head, a brisk breeze. When we began to beat up against it, a trading sloop was very near us, steering the same course with us. This sloop went through the water a good deal faster than we could: but in the course of two hours beating to windward, we found that the sloop was left behind two feet in three; though it is certain, that if our false keels had not been let down, we could scarcely, in that situation, have advanced one foot for her three.
It is unnecessary to point out to sea-faring men the benefits that may be derived from this contrivance in certain circumstances, as these will be very obvious to them.
TO THE PENNSYLVANIA ALMANAC, ENTITULED "POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC, FOR THE YEAR 1758." WRITTEN BY DR. FRANKLIN,
I HAVE heard, that nothing gives an author so great pleasure as to find his works respectfully quoted by other learned authors. This pleasure I have seldom enjoyed; for though I have been, if I may say it without vanity, an eminent author (of Almanacs) annually now a full quarter of a century, my brother authors in the same way (for what reason I know not) have ever been very sparing in their applauses; and no other author has taken the least notice of me so that, did not my writings produce me some solid pudding, the great deficiency of praise would have quite discouraged me.
I concluded, at length, that the people were the best judges of my merit, for they buy my works; and, besides, in my rambles, where I am not personally known, I have frequently heard one or other of my adages repeated, with 'As poor Richard says, at the end on't. This gave me some satisfaction, as it showed not only that my instructions were regarded, but discovered likewise some respect for my authority; and I own, that, to encourage the practice of remembering and repeating those wise sentences, I have sometimes quoted myself with great gravity.
Judge then how much I have been gratified by an incident which I am going to relate to you. I stopped my horse lately where a great number of people were collected at an auction of merchant's goods. The hour of sale not being come, they were conversing on the badness of the times; and one of the company called to a plain, clean, old man, with
white locks, Pray, father Abraham, what think ye of the times? Won't these heavy taxes quite ruin the country? How shall we ever be able to pay them? What would you advise us to?' Father Abraham stood up, and replied,' If you'd have my advice, I'll give it to you in short; for a word to the wise is enough; and many words won't fill a bushel,' as poor Richard says.' They joined in desiring him to speak his mind; and gathering round him, he proceeded as follows:
Friends (says he) and neighbours, the taxes are indeed very heavy; and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us, by allowing an abatement. However, let us hearken to good advice, and something may be done for us; 'God helps them that help themselves,' as poor Richard says in his Almanac.
'It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their time, to be employed in its service; but idleness taxes many of us much more, if we reckon all that is spent in absolute sloth, or doing of nothing, with that which is spent in idle employments, or amusements that amount to nothing. Sloth, by bringing on diseases, absolutely shortens life. Sloth,, like rust, consumes faster than labour wears, while the key often used, is always bright,' as poor Richard says. But dost thou love life? then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of,' as poor Richard says. How much more than is necessary