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management, from which one of their number, Gregory Watt, was too soon removed by his premature death in 1804. This lamented person, having never felt much interest in the dry details of business, had been by the kindness of his elder brother, James, in great measure relieved from them, and enabled to devote his mind solely to those higher pursuits of science and literature in which he found delight; retaining at the same time the independent circumstances and command of leisure which his share of the profits from the steam-engine manufactory enabled him to enjoy. In the case of the other two gentlemen, the business connection endured without any material alteration for a period of no fewer than forty years. And it is a remarkable fact, demonstrative alike of the continual advance in the development of the various resources of this country, and of the energetic ability with which the affairs of the Soho manufactory were conducted, that notwithstanding the cessation of the exclusive privilege, and the immense competition in the construction of steam-engines which speedily followed, so far was the business of Boulton and Watt from diminishing, that it continually increased, and became greatly more profitable than it ever had been in the days of its original founders. Even after all of his manifold improvements had been secured by patent, and were in course of execution in the various engines turned out from the Soho manufactory, Mr. Watt had made a very moderate estimate of the remunerative nature of the business ;-for although in the summer of 1782 he mentioned that the clear income realised by it was 30001. per annum, and might be 50001., he at the same time added that it might be less, or nothing; depending on how far Mr. Boulton and he might be able to defeat their opponents. “ From the many opponents we are like to have,” he also wrote to Mr. Boulton,* “I fear that the engine business “ cannot be a permanent one; and I am sure it will not in “ any case prove so lucrative as you have flattered yourself :" -and“ I will stick by the engine business while it sticks to
* 20th February, 1782.
“me; but we have got so many pretenders now, that I fear
they will make us little people. If so, let them.”* “I do “ not think that we are safe a day to an end in this enter“prising age. One's thoughts seem to be stolen before one
speaks them. It looks as if Nature had taken an aversion “ to monopolies, and put the same thing into several people's “ heads at once, to prevent them; and I begin to fear,”—he very unreasonably went on to say,—“that she has given over
inspiring me, as it is with the utmost difficulty I can hatch anything new.” +
But, towards the close of the last century, and on the favourable termination of the long law-suits, the business became so profitable as fully to satisfy the moderate desires of Mr. Watt; and, by providing an obvious source of independent income for his sons, it removed the fears which had often pressed heavily on his mind, that he might possibly outlive its success.
At the very beginning of the century, viz, on Christmas eve, 1800, a great robbery was attempted at Mr. Boulton's silver-plate manufactory ; a building which adjoined the engine-yards and workshops, and was at no great distance from his mansion-house. The following account of this affair appeared in the Birmingham newspapers at the time :—“On
Tuesday night last, a most daring robbery was attempted to “ be perpetrated at Soho, by a gang of five men, which they “ endeavoured to effect by bribing the watchman, who dis“ covered their intentions to Mr. Boulton; in consequence of
which, Messrs. Boulton and Co. procured the constables “ from this town, and other assistants, to the number of
twenty in the whole, who were well armed, and concealed “ in the manufactory. At the appointed hour the gang broke “ into the premises, took 150 guineas, and loaded themselves “ with a variety of silver articles. As soon as they attempted “ to depart, the parties in ambush rushed upon them, and a “ terrible conflict ensued; fire-arms were discharged on each “side ; and, after a severe struggle, four of the five offenders
* 22nd May, 1782.
† To Mr. Boulton, 14 February, 1782.
“ were secured. The fifth, though severely wounded, made “ his escape from the premises, over the top of the building, “ from which he fell, and got clear off. The course he took “ has been discovered by his loss of blood, but he has not yet “ been taken, though 50 guineas are offered for his appre“ hension. Four of the prisoners,” (the whole number taken], “are wounded, and Mr. Boulton's watchman was shot in the “ neck, but he is in a fair way of recovery. The four prisoners
were examined on Wednesday evening, and committed to “ Stafford gaol."
The robbery need scarcely have been mentioned here, but for the accidental circumstance of it having become known to Sir Walter Scott, and having furnished him with an incident of great pictorial effect in one of his most romantic scenes, that, viz., in ‘Guy Mannering' between Meg Merrilies and Dirk Hatteraick in the cavern :-"During this dialogue, Meg
-“ “ was heaping some flax loosely together. Before answering " to this question, she dropped a firebrand upon the flax, which “ had been previously steeped in some spirituous liquor, for it
instantly caught fire, and rose in a vivid pyramid of the “ most brilliant light up to the very top of the vault,” &c. * Sir Walter's graphic description of the robbery is given in Allan Cunningham's Memoranda, published in Lockhart's *Life of Scott;' +_“I like Boulton,” continued Sir Walter; “he is a brave man, and who can dislike the brave? He "showed this on a remarkable occasion. He had engaged to “coin for some foreign prince a large quantity of gold. This " was found out by some desperadoes, who resolved to rob the
premises, and, as a preliminary step, tried to bribe the porter. “ The porter was an honest fellow,-he told Boulton that he was " offered a hundred pounds to be blind and deaf next night. “Take the money,' was the answer, and I shall protect the
place.' Midnight came,—the gates opened as if by magic, “ —the interior doors, secured with patent locks, opened as of “their own accord, and three men with dark lanterns en“tered and went straight to the gold. Boulton had prepared
* Vol. i. p. 655, Abbotsford Edition.
† Chap. liii.
“ some flax steeped in turpentine,—he dropt fire upon it, a “ sudden light filled all the place, and with his assistants “ he rushed forward on the robbers the leader saw in a “ moment he was betrayed, turned on the porter, and shoot“ing him dead, burst through all obstruction, and with an “ ingot of gold in his hand, scaled the wall and escaped." “ That is quite a romance in robbing,' I said ; and I had
nearly said more, for the cavern scene and death of Meg • Merrilies in
mind.” Sir Walter, although quite correct as to the main feature of the illumination of the scene of plunder and rescue, was slightly inaccurate in one particular; for the porter, or watchman, although shot in the neck, recovered, and lived long afterwards on a pension which was the reward of his fidelity to his employer. He was, however, removed from the neighbourhood of Birmingham, to be safe from the threatened resentment of other members of the same lawless gang
which had been so largely decimated; and so strictly was his incognito obliged to be preserved, that we have heard that his place of concealment was not communicated even to his wife :
a strong measure of domestic economy to which he must of course have been a consenting party. For three nights previously, the robbers had tried keys and examined the premises, “ which, by our wise law,” says Mr. Watt, “is no
felony; and, had we apprehended them, they would soon “ have been let loose upon the public, and we could not have “rested in safety. We were, therefore, obliged to let them “ commit the robbery; and, on their coming out, fell upon “ them with guns, pistols, bayonets, and cutlasses. *
young men were commanders-in-chief, and laid their plans
very well; but one of our guards came not soon enough “ to their station, by which the escape took place, though by “ a way deemed impracticable.” Four of the thieves were taken. The fifth member of the marauding party was, as we learn from the proclamation of reward issued at the time, as well as from another part of Mr. Watt's letter just quoted, surnamed the “Little Devil,” and had come from Manchester expressly to join what we may call the shooting-party;
he broke his arm, and was otherwise badly wounded and bleeding from his fall; but, although some slugs had passed through his hat, he was uninjured by shot. He was not apprehended for four or five months afterwards. All the five prisoners were tried at the next assizes at Stafford, and the four first secured were sentenced to death ; "the Little « Devil” was sentenced to be transported for seven years, possibly from having borne no active part in the murderous affray, and also, perhaps, in consideration of the suffering he had already undergone. In regard to the others, a point of law, as to how far the plate manufactory, which was within Mr. Boulton's grounds at Soho, but of course apart from his residence, came within the definition of a dwelling-house, and consequently, how far the offence committed was or was not a burglary, was reserved for the opinion of all the Judges; and we rather believe that the capital sentence was ultimately not carried out on any of the culprits.
We need scarcely observe, that during the last half-century the Soho works have been one of the principal sources,—(for a great portion of the time, indeed, the principal source),-of that vast supply of steam-power which the inventions of Watt have enabled this and other countries to obtain. At the public meeting in London on the 18th of June, 1824, at which a monument to Mr. Watt in Westminster Abbey was voted, the power which had been thus created at Soho was stated by the late Mr. Boulton to be, in round numbers, equivalent to that of one hundred thousand horses; and since that time, up to 1859, an addition of considerably more than the same amount has been made ; giving a total sum of power equivalent to upwards of two hundred thousand horses. We subjoin a return of the particulars, prepared from the most authentic records ; and as more than seven hundred men have been kept in full employment at the great establishment to which we refer, there seems no reason to apprehend any diminution in the future extent of its usefulness and prosperity.