Towards the close of 1841 he wrote to Alfred Vail: 'I have not a cent in the world;' and to Mr. Smith about the same time he wrote: 'I find myself without sympathy or help from any who are associated with me, whose interests, one would think, would impell them at least to inquire if they could render some assistance. For nearly two years past I have devoted all my time and scanty means, living on a mere pittance, denying myself all pleasures, and even necessary food, that I might have a sum to put my telegraph into such a position before Congress as to insure success to the common enterprise. I am crushed for want of means, and means of so trifling a character too, that they who know how to ask (which I do not) could obtain in a few hours.... As it is, although everything is favourable, although I have no competition and no opposition--on the contrary, although every member of Congress, so far as I can learn, is favourable--yet I fear all will fail because I am too poor to risk the trifling expense which my journey and residence in Washington will occasion me. I WILL NOT RUN INTO DEBT, if I lose the whole matter. So unless I have the means from some source, I shall he compelled, however reluctantly, to leave it. No one call tell the days and months of anxiety and labour I have had in perfecting my telegraphic apparatus. For want of means I have been compelled to make with my own hands (and to labour for weeks) a piece of mechanism which could be made much better, and in a tenth part of the time, by a good mechanician, thus wasting time--time which I cannot recall, and which seems double-winged to me.
'"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick." It is true, and I have known the full meaning of it. Nothing but the consciousness that I have an
invention which is to mark an era in human civilisation, and which is to contribute to the happiness of millions, would have sustained me through so many and such lengthened trials of patience in perfecting it.' Morse did not invent for money or scientific reputation; he believed himself the instrument of a great purpose.
During the summer of 1842 he insulated a wire two miles long with hempen threads saturated with pitch-tar and surrounded with india- rubber. On October 18, during bright moonlight, he submerged this wire in New York Harbour, between Castle Garden and Governor's Island, by unreeling it from a small boat rowed by a man. After signals had been sent through it, the wire was cut by an anchor, and a portion of it carried off by sailors. This appears to be the first experiment in signalling on a subaqueous wire. It was repeated on a canal at Washington the following December, and both are described in a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury, December 23, 1844, in which Morse states his belief that 'telegraphic communication on the electro-magnetic plan may with certainty be established across the Atlantic Ocean. Startling as this may now seem, I am confident the time will come when the project will be realised.'
In December, 1842, the inventor made another effort to obtain the help of Congress, and the Committee on Commerce again recommended an appropriation of 30,000 dollars in aid of the telegraph. Morse had come to be regarded as a tiresome 'crank' by some of the Congressmen, and they objected that if the magnetic telegraph were endowed, mesmerism or any other 'ism' might have a claim on the Treasury. The Bill passed the House by a slender majority of six votes, given orally, some of the representatives fearing that their support of the measure would alienate their constituents. Its fate in the Senate was even more dubious; and when it came up for consideration late one night before the adjournment, a senator, the Hon. Fernando Wood, went to Morse, who watched in the gallery, and said,'There is no use in your staying here. The Senate is not in sympathy with your project. I advise you to give it up, return home, and think no more about it.'
Morse retired to his rooms, and after paying his bill for board, including his breakfast the next morning, he found himself with only thirty-seven cents and a half in the world. Kneeling by his bed-side he opened his heart to God, leaving the issue in His hands, and then, comforted in spirit, fell asleep. While eating his breakfast next morning, Miss Annie G. Ellsworth, daughter of his friend the Hon. Henry L. Ellsworth, Commissioner of Patents, came up with a beaming countenance, and holding out her hand, said--
'Professor, I have come to congratulate you.'
'Congratulate me!' replied Morse; 'on what ?'