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Some account of the

and of the rise and progress of the
commercial Navy of Great Britain. 1834

SOURCE: The Saturday Magazine, No. 117. Supplement, April, 1834


THE advance of steam-navigation, and its effect in promoting the prosperity of commerce, is one of the most interesting subjects connected with our inquiries.

In 1807, when Fulton first proposed to propel a vessel by steam on the American waters, his project was received with derision and incredulity;—little more than twenty years after, the discovery was applied by our enterprising countryman, Captain Ross, in facilitating his progress in the arctic regions* and, in 1833, an iron steamer has traversed that celebrated river** in the interior of Africa, whose very existence was so long deemed little else than a fable.

But although America first applied this gigantic power afloat to practical uses, yet it is to Britain that the honour of that discovery is exclusively to be attributed. A native of Glasgow, Mr. Henry Bell, was the discoverer of steam-navigation. He communicated his ideas to Mr. Fulton, and they finally proceeded to the United States, to endeavour to carry the plan into effect. Mr. Bell returned to Scotland, when its success had been established, and in 1812, constructed the Comet, a small vessel of three horse power, for the conveyance of passengers between Glasgow and Greenock, on the Clyde. The success of this experiment led to the construction of other vessels of larger power and this leads to a curious steam-reminiscence of the Thames. A Mr. Lawrence, at that period, constructed a steam-boat at Bristol, which he brought to London to ply on the Thames for passengers. The Company of Watermen, however, made so strenuous an opposition to this extraordinary innovation on their "vested rights," that the proprietor was obliged to return with his steamer to Bristol; but others soon succeeded, and about twenty years subsequently, at the time we are now writing, at least 100 steam-boats plough the waters of the Thames.

* See Saturday Magazine, Vol. III., p. 255.
** Ibid. Vol. I., p. 198.

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