W2615 TO ISAAC B. MCQUESTEN from William Dunn
Nov 27 1883
From: New York
After having waited patiently and at great personal sacrifice of time and expense hoping to see or hear something definite respecting the Patents &c. of which I have written so repeatedly. I am forced unwillingly to the conviction that it is folly for me to waste more time in the fruitless endeavour to do anything further in the matter at present And that I had better turn my attention towards some other channel of occupation. Although knowing that it would was only entailing loss to me as well as yourself, But as circumstances often compel the doing of that which is contrary to judgement or inclination. I by force of these circumstances have no alternative but bow to them and be guided accordingly even at the risk of the imputation of dishonesty. This information however is within my power to clear away. Somewhat anticipating the unpleasant turn of affairs and not deeming it prudent to wait supinely for a [reification??] of the issue, I have taken steps towards securing employment for my meagre ability in manner, not altogether binding until I was thoroughly convinced in my own mind of the wisest most honourable and better course to pursue. I do but little without meditating over the subject in all its bearings. Were I influenced only by the present regardless of the past or future, I would arrive at a conclusion very rapidly and satisfactory to myself.
Be that as it may if things turn out as I have some grounds to expect The possibilities are I may find it advantageous to remove from here to a distance of some 500 miles in the west. In that event I might pass through Hamilton but will not stop over. Should I obtain such position it will necessitate my undivided attention for some time and debar me from devoting any time (no matter how anxious) to the present business, hence if you have any desires respecting the disposition of the Patterns of the Coupler & that are stored in Buffalo. I shall endeavour to have them attended to if it does not involve too much time and expense. This is all that I can do under the present state of affairs. I have submitted every proposition that was possible or practicable and all of which the majority would pronounce decidedly equitable. To none of the propositions have I been honored with a reply expecting through the medium of the Telegraph.--This course releives [sic] me from the doing of a carrying out of what I otherwise would consider obligatory on my part. The foregoing is my reason for troubling you in reading or myself in writing this letter.
In closing this correspondence There [is] one or two little incidents that I like to refer to and then I am decidedly through. As I but seldom reiterate, recapitulate, or recount. And never consider my personal affairs of sufficient interest to anyone,as to induce me to burder them with hearing or myself with relating them. But to the point from the outset if our mutual interest in those Patents the evident intention was to impress me and others that I was entirely incapable without guidance of doing anything towards negotiating the Patents and my office was merely to be subservient not having expended any money in the business and had nothing at stake, expecting my time that was otherwise valueless. What are the facts of the case. Before I ever saw any of those now interested in the Coupler I had expended somewhere near $1000. I had the Models made and in the Patent Offices. The Patterns for the Couplers themselves The Couplers put on cars and tested and the commendations resulting therefore, and then I wished to sell a portion of the Patent and I sold it In all this I had no assistance or advisers excepting such as I saw fit to engage. Thus single handed I did more than has been done since. True it might be said Mr. Alison did the selling. But I employed him and of course he acted to a certain extent under my instructions. And if I had not found him and then the same purchasers I would easily have found others. Hamilton is but a small portion of America, As [on??] evidence that I was not entirely dependent on Mr. A's efforts. I have distinct recollections of receiving a communication from Mr. [And??] of Toronto ( [thereby??] days after I had accepted the proposition submitted by Mr.A) Advising me "not to accept as I could do better." It was too late, I had crossed the Rubicon.1 With the solace from Mr. Alison that it was now in the hands of those who would speedily make it a success without any efforts on my part excepting the purely mechanical. This communication from Mr. [And??] was no intereference in anyway [sic]. Merely the outcome of an interest that one friend took in another. I have had many such.
From the above it is evident that the realization on these Patents was not dependent on any one or two individuals. If it has not been sold to you it would have been to someone else. It is also plain that money had been expended to develop it before it was offered in sale. And that it was in practical use before it was offered and the question as to who did all this. And the answer can only be "myself." I has assistance but it was of my own seeking and finding. Now if this was accomplished alone when the Coupler was incomplete and the U.S. Patent in a state of embryo. Why is it not reasonable to suppose that it could be realized again when in a state of completeness. It may be said that I was afforded the opportunity and that is what I am coming at. It requires no argument to convince That a person deputed to negotitate any scheme should be seated with a certain amount of authority and upheld rather than deprecated. Knowing this I stipulated that I must be permitted to carry out the scheme as circumstances might advise and without intereference. This was agreed to.2--
Prior to leaving Hamilton, I spoke of advisability of getting Mr. [And's??] assistance, being an authority on Patents. I called on him and requested his assistance he informed me that it was against the policy of their office to engage in aid of selling Patents but as a friend he would assist me all in his power in a private way, and to assist me personally. I gave him to understand that I would consider it a private matter between ourselves. But the fact of your calling on him immediately after me and explaining to him the usual [themes??]. My dependence and incapability did not imbue him with the desire to interest himself much in the matter Intimating to me although saying but little, that I was not going to be able to conduct the business with satisfaction and judged from the uncalled for affair and depressing estimate of my capability. So it was when brought in contest with Law, Fletcher and others. And as they all told me the same thing. I wondered what could be the object, and did think it rather strange that I was expected to hand out the proper parties and then have myself commented on, unfavorably to those very persons whom I had intended to use. What was to be gained I cannot see, what has been the result I know well, I made up my mind to avoid allowing interferences or conferences as much as possible. And not to bring my personal friends into the matter at all. For no sane person will voluntarily make himself the medium by which becomes be-littled to his friends [sic], when in Toronto the position was so distasteful to me. I wished and so expressed myself at the Yonge St. Station to you, to relinquish the business altogether. This was not satisfactory. I must go on to Buffalo and leave Toronto to itself. I went to Buffalo and made acquaintance of some of the influential men there. But it was certainly not through the influence of any one directly interested in the Coupler and therefore I take the credit to myself . When you came to Buffalo at Hall's Office I explained everything as candidly as I could There before your brother (a stranger), the office boy, and whoever else happened to be there. The question was put to me What was I going to do with the Band Saw Setting Machine if you did not help me. how could I get money to make them &c. At that time I had not asked you to do so and consequently it gave me the privilege of putting the question "Have I asked for assistance in this matter" you admitted I had not In fact had the Patent been in my own name I could have got plenty of capital to have manufactured the machine and without many of the disagreeable features that have attended it. However that has nothing to do with it. it requires no great stretch of the imagination to conceive how humiliating the above must have been to me, and how baneful to my usefulness. I could enummerate many other instances but stop, With regard to my ability to handle the Coupler. Events have given the power to judge by comparison. I had sole control for a few months and accomplished what has been told, for several years I have acted under the guidance, or at least I have acted so as to avoid if possible any disagreements and refrain from expressing myself. But determined to carry out as far as possible all instructions regradless of my own judgement. The result can be seen and I am through.
I know yet that I could find a market for the Coupler and recoup the outlay but under no consideration would I permit any interference or gain an opportunity to have myself depreciated. I should rather that the whole thing went to perdition In every sense of the word. I love harmony and hate discord. I have submitted to unfair insinuations because I took them as but hasty expressions begot by annoyance And I do not think at this moment they were intended to hurt or injure me. Because I have received as many kindnesses (and perhaps more,from you) than annoyances. But for all that, the matter has been none the less distasteful. And I think there has been an error in judgement. That I have endeavoured to do the best I could, I know. But I made a great mistake, particularly in the band Saw Sett, in inducing you to invest in it When I should and could have got someone who had had experience in the manufacture and sale of machinery .This would have releived [sic] me and not embittered you. However I did it for the best and would have made a success of it but I have the faculty of submitting to the inevitable, I have lost and made large sums in my time. I can survive this. But I must say that it is the first time in my experience of writing so many letters and receiving no reply. The motive I do not comprehend, but will assume it is for the best, I will not trouble you further nor touch on this subject orally or otherwise again.
1 To "cross the Rubicon" is to take an irrevocable step. In 49 BC, Julius Caesar moved his army South from Gaul towards Rome to fight Pompey for political power in Rome. By Crossing the Rubicon River (in contemporary Northern Italy) despite the Roman Senate's command that he disband his army, he announced his military and political intentions, igniting a civil war.
2 Dunn reminds Isaac of his agreement not to interfere with business on several occasions, and Isaac occasionally mentions it in letters to his brother Calvin Brooks (W2573, W2599, W2648, W2643). Dunn always seemed to desire to be left to sell patents and machinery in his own way as much as possible, but never seemed to accomplish much. See W2554a for more information about the McQuesten's business with Dunn.