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REMOVAL TO BIRMINGHAM
ATT'S permanent settlement in Birmingham
had for some time been seen to be inevitable, all his time being needed there. Domestic matters, including the care of his two children, with which he had hitherto been burdened, pressed hard upon him, and he had been greatly depressed by finding his old father quite in his dotage, although he was not more than seventy-five. Watt was alone and very unhappy during a visit he made to Greenock.
Before returning to Birmingham, he married Miss MacGregor, daughter of a Glasgow man of affairs, who was the first in Britain to use chlorine for bleaching, the secret of which Berthollet, its inventor, had communicated to Watt.
Pending the marriage, it was advisable that the partnership with Boulton as hitherto agreed upon should be executed. Watt writes so to Boulton, and the arrangement between the partners is indicated by the following passage of Watt's letter to him:
As you may have possibly mislaid my missive to you concerning the contract, I beg just to mention what I remember of the terms. 1. I to assign to you two-thirds of the property of the invention.
2. You to pay all expenses of the Act or others incurred before June, 1775 (the date of the Act), and also the expense of future experiments, which money is to be sunk without interest by you, being the consideration you pay for your share.
3. You to advance stock-in-trade bearing interest, but having no claim on me for any part of that, further than my intromissions; the stock itself to be your security and property.
4. I to draw one-third of the profits so soon as any arise from the business, after paying the workmen's wages and goods furnished, but abstract from the stock-in-trade, excepting the interest thereof, which is to be deducted before a balance is struck.
5. I to make drawings, give directions, and make surveys, the company paying for the travelling expenses to either of us when upon engine business.
6. You to keep the books and balance them once a year.
7. A book to be kept wherein to be marked such transactions as are worthy of record, which, when signed by both, to have the force of the contract.
8. Neither of us to alienate our share of the other, and if either of us by death or otherwise shall be incapacitated from acting for ourselves, the other of us to be the sole manager without contradiction or interference of heirs, executors, assignees or others; but the books to be subject to their inspection, and the acting partner of us to be allowed a reasonable commission for extra trouble.
9. The contract to continue in force for twenty-five years, from the 1st of June, 1775, when the partnership commenced, notwithstanding the contract being of later date.
10. Our heirs, executors and assignees bound to observance. 11. In case of demise of both parties, our heirs, etc., to succeed in same manner, and if they all please, they may burn the contract. If anything be very disagreeable in these terms, you will find me disposed to do everything reasonable for your satisfaction.
Boulton's reply was entirely satisfactory, and upon this basis the arrangement was closed.
Watt, with his usual want of confidence in himself in business affairs, was anxious that Boulton should
come to him at Glasgow and arrange all pecuniary matters connected with the marriage. Watt had faced the daughter and conquered, but trembled at the thought of facing the father-in-law. He appeals to his partner as follows:
I am afraid that I shall otherwise make a very bad bargain in money matters, which wise men like you esteem the most essential part, and I myself, although I be an enamoured swain, do not altogether despise. You may perhaps think it odd that in the midst of my friends here I should call for your help; but the fact is that from several reasons I do not choose to place that confidence in any of my friends here that would be necessary in such a case, and I do not know any of them that have more to say with the gentleman in question than I have myself. Besides, you are the only person who can give him satisfactory information concerning my situation.
This being impracticable, as explained by Boulton, who thoroughly approved of the union, the partnership and Boulton's letter were accepted by the judicious father-in-law as satisfactory evidence that his daughter's future was secure. Boulton states in his letter, July, 1776:
It may be difficult to say what is the value of your property in partnership with me. However, I will give it a name, and I do say that I would willingly give you two, or perhaps three thousand pounds for your assignment of your third part of the Act of Parliament. But I should be sorry to make you so bad a bargain, or to make any bargain at all that tended to deprive me of your friendship, acquaintance, and assistance, hoping that we shall harmoniously live to wear out the twenty-five years, which I had rather do than gain a Nabob's fortune by being the sole proprietor.
This is the kind of expression from the heart to make a partner happy and resolve to do his utmost
for one who in the recipient's heart had transposed positions, and is now friend first, and partner afterward.
The marriage took place in July, 1776. Two children were born, both of whom died in youth. Mrs. Watt lived until a ripe old age and enjoyed the fruits of her husband's success and fame. She died in 1832. Arago praises her, and says "Various talents, sound judgment, and strength of mind rendered her a worthy companion."
It is difficult to realise that many yet with us were contemporaries of Mrs. Watt, and not a few yet living were contemporaries of Watt himself, for he did not pass away until 1819, eighty-six years ago, so much a thing of yesterday is the material development and progress of the world, which had its basis, start and accomplishment in the steam engine.
The reasons given by Boulton for being unable to proceed to the side of his friend and partner in Glasgow, shed clear light upon the condition of affairs at Soho. Their London agent, like Watt, was also to be married and would be absent. Fothergill had to proceed to London. Scale, one of the managers, was absent. Important visitors were constantly arriving. Said Boulton:
Our copper bottom hath plagued us very much by steam leaks, and therefore I have had one cast (with its conducting pipe) all in one piece; since which the engine doth not take more than 10 feet
of steam, and I hope to reduce that quantity, as we have just received the new piston, which shall be put in and at work tomorrow. Our Soho engine never was in such good order as at present. Bloomfield and Willey (engines) are both well, and I doubt not but Bow engine will be better than any of 'em.
He concludes, "I did not sleep last night, my mind "being absorbed by steam." Means for increasing the heating surface swept through his mind, by applying "in copper spheres within the water," the present flue system, also for working steam expansively, “being "clear the principle is sound."
To add to Boulton's anxieties, he had received a summons to attend the Solicitor-General next week in opposition to Gainsborough, a clergyman who claimed to be the original inventor. "This is a dis
agreeable circumstance, particularly at this season, "when you are absent. Harrison is in London and "idleness is in our engine shop."
Watt wrote Boulton on July 28, 1776, apologising for his long absence and stating he was now ready to return, and would start "Tuesday first" for Liverpool, where he expected to meet Boulton. Meanwhile, the latter had been called to London by the Gainsborough business. A note from him, however, reached Watt at Liverpool, in which he says, "As to your absence, 'say nothing about it. I will forgive it this time, "provided you promise me never to marry again."
In due time, Mr. and Mrs. Watt arrived and settled early in August, 1776, in Birmingham, which was