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  The research archive of Gary W. Ewer regarding the history of the daguerreotype

This is the last notice in my files regarding the dispute between Gouraud and Morse. Rather than losing the momentum by waiting until June, the date of this text, I will give it today (although I will also archive today's post under the June date.) On this day (June 26) in the year 1840, the following notice appeared in "The Boston Daily Evening Transcript." - - - - - - - MR. GOURAUD. We copy the following communication from the New York Commercial. The letter we were permitted to read in the original when first received by Mr. Gouraud, and we could not suppress our indignation at the miserable vanity, or still more miserable cupidity, which could induce any man so far to degrade himself as to attempt to degrade another in the estimation of the best friend of the calumniated party. We may well ask in echo to the question by Mr. Rendu, a true friend of Mr. Gouraud--Who is this Mr. Morse? What is this National Academy? Who are the Academicians? Who and what is the man who signs himself President, and distributes diplomas? He must be some monstrous charlatan--or a man of most remarkable idiocracy. The best proof of this is Mr. Gouraud's own story--supported by his intelligent friend's letter: NEW YORK, June 1840. Messrs Editors: During a controversy in which I unhappily found myself involved, some months ago, with Mr. S. F. B. Morse, and in a letter published in the Evening Star of March 19th, I used this expression, after replying to some injurious and unfounded assertions published by that individual: "Would you know, you who have read these lines, with what design Mr. Morse distilled them so against me? With the design of exciting against me the exquisite susceptibility and the well-known delicacy of M. Daguerre, IN ORDER TO RUIN ME IN THE MIND AND ESTIMATION OF THAT GREAT MAN! and who can say, if long ago, some generously circulated private communication of this kind has not been made already to M. Daguerre, in order to get some reply to be treacherously given to publicity as an arm against me? Time only will answer that question," etc. In truth, when I wrote that sentence I did not myself wholly believe it. I could not wholly believe that a motive so base could have place in the bosom of one professing to be a Christian and a gentleman. But I did myself injustice. Here is a letter I have just received from a friend in Paris, which I submit to the judgment of all honorable men. ______________ From the Ministere of Public Instruction. PARIS, 25th April, 1840 My Dear Gouraud: I write in haste to give you some intelligence of high interest. Intelligence of a nature hard to be believed, if my own ears had not been my informants. The British Queen starts for New York on the 1st of May, and I have but a few hours to advise you that your good name is most shamefully attacked, and your position menaced by new enemies, whose attempts to ruin you are as unremitting as they are base and envious. As you suggested, I went this morning to see M. Daguerre. I asked him if he had received your two letters; and expressed to him the pain and anxiety which you suffered on account of his silence. A silence which you could not understand, and of which he at once explained to me the cause. "I have reason to be offended," he said, "with M. Gouraud. I have lately received a letter from one Mr Morse, president of the National Academy of New York, in which he tells me that M. Gouraud has represented himself in America as sent by me to speculate with the Daguerreotype, and that he has done so in an unworthy manner--a manner dishonoring to my invention. I hesitated at believing this report, but as I received at the same time a diploma of honorary membership of the NATIONAL ACADEMY, of New York, signed by Mr Morse as PRESIDENT, I thought myself bound to credit the truly surprising information conveyed to me by him. I have therefore disavowed M. Gouraud, as it was my duty to do, in a letter written to Mr Morse, for that purpose. Happily, my dear friend, there is nothing really injurious to you in M. Daguerre's disavowel: I give it to you almost in the very words employed by him. He wrote to Mr Morse that he had sent no person to America to speculate with his discovery in his name; that he had indeed encouraged, assisted with his advice and experience, all young men of talent who were devoting themselves to the study and extension of the Daguerreotype; that he had noticed M. Gouraud as one of the most enthusiastic and assiduous; but that he had authorized no one to abuse his name and compromise his reputation. At these words I begged permission to interrupt M. Daguerre, to express my surprise and indignation. I assurred him that you were the victim of some new slanderer, for it was impossible, I said, that he who had shown himself the most assiduous, most devoted, and intelligent of his admirers, could descend to such an act of baseness. I told him that I had read very many American newspapers, which teemed with evidences of the exertions you had made worthily to introduce his great discovery, and that far from having compromised his as well as your own reputation and dignity of character, you had done every thing to exalt his fame in the estimation of the most intelligent and most keenly-judging people in the world; in a word, that I knew you too well, and that your good name was too well established in Paris, to admit of the belief that you were capable of any unworthy action. I repeated that you were calumniated in the most artful and infamous manner; for I saw in a moment that the title of honorary member of the NATIONAL ACADEMY had been given to M. Daguerre by this Mr Morse, only to give his slanders more effect, and secure for them a more certain triumph. But what then is this Academy, and who are the Academicians? Since I have had the honor to hold office in the ministry of public instruction, I have never known the President of an Academy, no matter what its nature, who could stoop so low as to be the calumniator of an absent man, deprived of an opportunity to defend himself. Let me know, at once, the causes that have excited against you this unworthy machination. I can readily believe that envy, or some even viler feeling, holds a conspicuous place among them. I feel confident, from words dropped by M. Daguerre, and from the expression of his countenance, that before I left him, he regretted having lent his ear, for a moment, to prejudicial reports concerning you. Your devoted friend, ABEL RENDU, Attache au Ministere de l'Instruction Publique. ________________ Without enlarging upon this matter--with nothing more than a bare passing allusion to the unworthy and ungentlemanly character of this proceeding, on the part of Mr Morse--I conclude, Mr Editor, with the expression of a hope that the press of this city and of Boston, which has been the witness--allow me to say the kind and encouraging witness- -of my efforts to disseminate, worthily, the knowledge of M. Daguerre's most brilliant discovery, and to make his fame known in America, will bear that public testimony in my behalf which every honorable man takes pleasure in affording, when its effect will be to disabuse a mind that has been poisoned by unjust calumnies. Yours, respectfully, FRANCOIS GOURAUD. -------------------------------------------------------------- 06-26-00

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