AN EPISTLE To a Member of PARLIAMENT, CONCERNING Mr. George Oldner's Invention To Preserve SHIPS FROM Foundering or Sinking at Sea, &c.

London, Printed in the Year. 1699.

An Epistle to a Member of Parliament, con­cerning Mr. George Oldner's Invention to Pre­serve Ships from Foundering or Sinking at Sea, &c.


IN Obedience to your Commands, I have made it my Business to Search out for most of the New Pamphlets that have been Publish't, since I had the Happiness of your Conversation, at your House in the Countrey. 'Tis true, we live in a very Teeming Age: Never was the Press more guilty of Impertinent Productions, than since the Expi­ration of the Act of Licensing: The whole Nation seems to have run a Gadding, and every little Trifler sets up now for Wit, Politicks, or Projects. But amongst all that have ap­pear'd openly, none seems to be more endu'd with such a Mon­strous and Unaccountable Air of Whimsie and Confidence, as the Invention of Mr. George Oldner, to preserve Ships from Foun­dering and Sinking at Sea, &c. A noble Undertaking, I con­fess, if it can ever be Accomplished: But by the Method of his Proposals, which I have sent you, it may justly be suspected to savour both of Design and Vanity. For he must certainly have a very mean Opinion of Mankind, to suppose they can be prevail'd upon to Join in his Subscriptions, upon so slender a Foundation, as an Experiment of his Invention made in a Model of Six Foot long, in the River, upon the Testimony of Half a Score Honest Gentlemen, some of whom, possibly, are not equal Judges; and one of the most Honourable of them, by his own Marginal Acknowledgment, was not present at the Trial. For, what Proportion is there, I beseech you, betwixt [Page]a Ship of Three or Four Hundred Tun, and his Diminitive Mo­del? Or betwixt the Thames and the Main Ocean? Can there be any possible Comparison between the Effects of his little Model, and those of a Loaden Ship of a Thousand Tun in Tempestuous Weather? Besides, that there is a Wonderful dif­ference in the Effects of Water near the Surface, and Deeper down. But because I wou'd not exceed the Dimensions of a familiar Letter, I shall only take notice of some few Observati­ons that occurr'd in the reading his Proposal, and so leave it to your more mature Consideration, whether it may deserve any Encouragement from the House, if ever it shall have the Con­fidence to appear in Parliament.

There is then no manner of Argument from the Performance of his Model: An Averrment in such Cases is very Doubtful and Presumptuous, and the Event has put very Wise Men to a Nonplus. As great Certainties, and as well Founded as This, have utterly failed in the Proof, as in the Experiment of the Diving Engines, where there appear'd a wonderful Dispro­portion in the Effects of the Model, and the main Works.

The Disingenuity of these Patentees ought to be Consider'd, who have made bold to Misapply to their Service, a Certificate given by the Chirurgeons in favour of a much more Consider­able Invention; which has so far approv'd it self by sundry full and open Experiments, as to merit a Vote from the House of Commons, the last Sessions, for its Favour and Encouragement. This is a very Un-Gentleman-like Prevarication, to Impose a Certificate of another's Invention upon the World, in Evidence of the goodness of their Project: And in primo limine, in the very beginning of their Endeavours gives us probable Grounds to suspect the Sincerity of their whole Proceeding.

Again, considering they Affirm their Invention to be so Con­triv'd, that it will take very little Room, requires little Labour, not Difficult, but done with small Charge, &c. If it be so Cheap and Easie, had it not been reasonable for them to have made their Experiment at large, in a Ship already Built, and not pre­tend [Page]to Wheedle Mankind with the Chimerical Effects of an Insignificant Model? This wou'd have put the Matter out of all Dispute, and have been a Noble and Incontestable Induce­ment to bring in Subscribers.

Besides, one of the Patentees offers, upon a Conditional Re­ward, to go to Holland in a Ship that has such Breaches, that Twenty of the best known Pumps, tho' manag'd with as many Hands as can Work them, shall not be able to save her from sinking Four or Five Hours together: But it would have been much more for his purpose, if he could truly have told us, that he return'd from thence in such a Ship. All this, he says, is to be done with the Use but of Two Pumps, standing in as little Room, and requiring as little Strength, as those now ge­nerally used.

Now it is to be Observed, That a Ship Pump, in Use, delivers Eighty Tun of Water in an Hour; and a Gentleman preten­ded to the last Parliament, to produce a Pump shou'd do Fifteen times as much, which Amounts to Twelve Hundred Tun an Hour, and these Two little Pumps pretend to exceed that Twenty times, which arises to Twenty four Thousand Tun of Water an Hour: Credentne Posteri! Here's a brave Foundation now, whereon to build a Creed for Apella the Jew! For no Man but a Solifidian can Entertain such a Be­lief.

Again, A Secret, liable to so many Doubts and Objecti­ons, and yet promising such wonderful Effects, ought not to be hid in the Dark. It ought to support it self upon its own Sufficiency, and not suppose that the Attestation of a few pri­vate Gentlemen, is sufficient to Overbear and Inveigle Mankind into Preposterous Subscriptions against common Reason, and plain Sence, without very good Security, that the Subscribers shall be reimbursed their Payments, if the Project prove ineffe­ctual. Truth loves the open Light; 'tis Error and Imposture that desires Veils and Lurking Holes; to Conceal the Mystery of their Project, under pretence of making an Advantage with Fo­reign [Page]N [...]tions, smells very Rank of Partiality and Design; as the Treaty they say they are upon with the French, Dutch, Sweeds, and other Neighbouring States, by way of Advantage and Rewards.

It had been a fairer Proceeding, to have postpon'd the vast Desire of Improving their own Interest, to the Good of the Pub­lick, and not pretend to go Proling and Hawking abroad af­ter Foreign Rewards, and in the mean while neglect the put­ting their Works forward at Home, for the Good of their Country. By this Method they wou'd have gotten more by ad­vancing the Value of their Shares, than they could reasonably expect from those Exotic Rewards: Which, besides, if the In­vention answers their Pretensions, can never be lost. This would have facilitated the Design of engaging Subscribers, and have been no Prejudice to the Undertakers, because they are assur'd of their Invention.

Again, These Proposals are Matters of great Consequence; 60000 l. is a very large Summ, to be rais'd upon a blind Con­fidence, and requires a due and mature Consideration of the Foundation, whereon they are built, and can never, without a strict Examination, have any Weight with thinking Men, much less a Parliament, who know by Experience, That main Works very often fall short, in answering the Ends that Mo­dels pretend to.

If they alledge, that the Sincerity and Integrity of the Per­sons Certifying, is a sufficient Foundation for Encouragement of Subscriptions; I reply, That nothing but meer Hopes of Gain, can induce any Rational Man into such a Belief, who knows that Water in its own Nature will not rise above its Le­vel without Force or Violence: And that Length, Breadth and Depth, Number, Weight and Measure, Centre and Cir­cumference, give Laws to all Natural and Mechanical Moti­ons. Neither do the Qualifications of the Persons, making or composing any Engine or Instrument, whether they are Wise and Honest, Knaves or Fools, vary its Effects. For as [Page 7]they are Composed, so they will Operate; for the L [...]w of Na­ture is [...]overaign, and without Subjection.

To Conclude; for Innumerable Instances of Suspicion and Insincerity may be advanced against these Proposals; they tell us, that for removing all Doubts, and for full Satisfaction of all Persons that shall be concerned with them, they resolve and declare, that no more than Fifty Shillings shall be paid, till a Conditional Grant of a Reward is obtain'd from the Go­vernment, and a Trial of the said Invention be made by a Voyage to Holland, and the safe Arrival of the Ship at Rot­terdam.

This is a new way of Removing of Doubts, by throwing us into greater; for 'tis desir'd they would make it out, how a Promise of a Conditional Reward from the Government, will any ways ascertain the Truth of their Invention? And how a Certificate from a Notary Public in Rotterdam, is of any Avail, to justifie what past in the Ship at Sea? Surely they needed not have been in such haste; but have stay'd till the safe Return of the Ship to England.

But what seems more strange to me, is, That they abate the Value of their Invention, as they fall in their Price. For when they propos'd their Invention, at 60000 l. Mr. Lurtin and Mr. Warren were for making the Experiment in a Ship to the Streights, or the West-Indies; but now when they have descen­ded to a Subscription but of 15000 l. they will make their Voyage but to Holland: It seems now they begin to mistrust the Sufficiency of their Invention, being caution'd, perhaps, by the Success of Sir William Petty's Double-Keel'd Experiment.

You may understand, Sir, by these few Obvious Hints, what a Basis such mighty Pretensions are founded on: Notwith­standing which, they have the Vanity to tell the World, in the Flying-Post, that several eminent Merchants have signify'd their Intentions to Subscribe, and Pay large Sums of Money beforehand, to save themselves the Trouble of Attending.

This is a [...]er palpable Plan, and as Incredible as the Prin­ [...] [...]roposal it self; certainly 'tis the first time that ever the, [...]rchants were so fond of parting with their Money, espe­cially upon a Prospect so doubtful, that few or none have yet been let into the Mystery of the Invention.

Really, Sir▪ I would do any thing, rather than lessen the Reputation of any Proposal that shou'd tend to the Advan­tage of Mankind: But this is the boldest Stroke that I ever met with, propos'd with a serious Countenance; and a Prospect of such Effect and Influence as this pretends to, sought to have something more than a bare Attestation for its Encourage­ment and Confirmation.

When they have finish'd this Exploit, I hope they will find out a Method to teach Ships to fly, and shape a better Course to the Moon, than Monsieur Bajerac with all his Wit cou'd ever imagine.

Sir, I shall interrupt you no farther, but recommend the Proposal it self to your Perusal, which I doubt not will give you a second Tedious Entertainment.


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