National Maritime Museum Manuscripts : Sandwich Papers

National Maritime Museum Manuscripts

<p>One of four items from the correspondence of the <a href='/search?keyword=Earl%20of%20Sandwich'>Earl of Sandwich</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/14482.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] , Lord High Admiral and therefore essentially chair of the Board of Longitude, between 1770 and 1776. Much like the Barrington Papers [<a href='/view/MS-BGN-00000/1'>BGN</a>], they give us an invaluable insight into the internal workings of the Board of Longitude, the relationship between its commissioners, and especially their problematic relationship with the clockmaker <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Harrison'>John Harrison</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/136321.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] .</p> <p>By the 1770s, Harrison's watch (H4 [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.nmm.ac.uk/collections/objects/79142.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] ) had been trialled at sea and been found to fulfil the limits of exactness in finding longitude established by the 1714 Act [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00001/19'>RGO 14/1:10r</a>]. The Commissioners had decided, however, that they needed a better understanding of how the watch worked, and proof that it could be replicated before he could be awarded the full 'great reward.' In 1767, the Commissioners had published the results of the disclosure, with a preface by <a href='/search?keyword=Nevil%20Maskelyne'>Nevil Maskelyne</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/379043.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] , Astronomer Royal, fulfilling the first part of these requirements, but Harrison was still fighting in the 1770s against the expectation that he would make replicas. Items here form part of that fight. Also, in 1767, Harrison had published <i>The Case of Mr. John Harrison</i> , exclaiming against his treatment by the Board, and arguing that the purpose of the 1765 Act [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00001/57'>RGO 14/1:29r</a>] had been to cheat him out of his reward, to which he had been legally entitled by the 1714 Act. Here, <i>The Case</i> [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(5);return false;'>18:1-18:4</a>] is included with a letter to Sandwich [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(1);return false;'>17:1-17:4</a>], reinforcing Harrison's main complaints: that he was now old, that he had been unjustly treated, that it was unnecessary to make more watches to prove H4's accuracy, and that in any case he was being deprived access to the watch which made making copies particularly hard.</p> <p>Harrison's complaints were directed particularly pointedly against Nevil Maskelyne, ' the Man in the World from whom he had the least reason to expect Candor [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(7);return false;'>18:3</a>].' Maskelyne had arranged the publication of the details of the watch as <i>The Principles of Mr Harrison's Time-Keeper</i> , he had tested it at length at the <a href='/search?keyword=Royal%20Greenwich%20Observatory'>Royal Greenwich Observatory</a>, and published the negative results, also in 1767, as <i>An Account of the going of Mr John Harrison's Watch</i> (the notes for which [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00311/1'>RGO 4/311</a>] are among the Maskelyne papers). Most importantly for Harrison, he had also been involved in promoting the rival lunar distance method of finding longitude. Harrison was convinced that Maskelyne was intentionally jeopardising Harrison's chances of the reward in order to win it, if not for himself, at least for his preferred method. Also in 1767, Harrison had published a vitriolic attack on Maskelyne as <i>Remarks on a Pamphlet lately published by the Rev. Mr Maskelyne</i> . Maskelyne's letter to Sandwich [<a href='/view/MS-SAN-F-00004/1'>SAN/F/4:22:1-22:4</a>] here shows that he was affected by these attacks, something which the published sources never show, and that he had written a response to Harrison but had ' dropt the design of completing & publishing the same, thinking such abuse thrown out without probability or proof required no refutation [<a href='/view/MS-SAN-F-00004/2'>SAN/F/4:22:2</a>].' Echoing <a href='/search?keyword=Barrington'>Barrington</a>'s (see portrait [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw120496/William-Wildman-Barrington-2nd-Viscount-Barrington?LinkID=mp64005&search=sas&sText=wildman&role=sit&rNo=1'>link</a>] in the National Portrait Gallery) concerns in 1765, Maskelyne's letter again shows his concern to explain the wording of the 1714 Act, and what the Commissioners therefore understood the requirements to be for winning the reward and, interestingly, proposes [<a href='/view/MS-SAN-F-00004/4'>SAN/F/4:22:4</a>] adding a clause to a future act to put a time limit on Harrison making further watches, and therefore curtail his 'rightful' time period to complain about the requirements imposed by the Commissioners.</p> <p>This letter and the other [<a href='/view/MS-SAN-F-00036/1'>SAN/F/36:23:1-23:4</a>] in this group show, however, that despite Harrison's central role in the debates over longitude at this point, the Board of Longitude continued to discuss other matters. Maskelyne informs Sandwich of the relative accuracy of copies of H4 made by <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Arnold'>John Arnold</a> (see portrait [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_details.aspx?objectId=55293&partId=1'>link</a>] at the British Museum)and <a href='/search?keyword=Larcum%20Kendall'>Larcum Kendall</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/usercollections/f9c8ad8b198e42bb44947210a901ffb3.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] , and comments on different means of fixing them in the ship. Likewise, he discusses the Board's wish to send an astronomer on <a href='/search?keyword=Captain%20Cook'>Captain Cook</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/14102.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] 's third voyage, and his desire to get <a href='/search?keyword=James%20Bradley'>James Bradley</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/127545.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] 's (a previous Astronomer Royal) observations returned to the Observatory by his family. This had been an ongoing dispute between the Board and the Bradleys since 1765, ended by Bradley's son <a href='/search?keyword=Samuel%20Peach'>Samuel Peach</a> presenting the papers to <a href='/search?keyword=Lord%20North'>Lord North</a> (see portraits [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw02776/Frederick-North-2nd-Earl-of-Guilford?LinkID=mp01941&search=sas&sText=frederick+north&OConly=true&role=sit&rNo=1'>link</a>] at the National Portrait Gallery), Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1776. Thus Maskelyne's comment about calling on Lord North. The volumes of observations that Maskelyne was seeking would eventually return to Greenwich in 1861.</p> <p>Katy Barrett<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /> </p>


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