From the Earth to the Moon HTML version

Chapter 10. One Enemy V. Twenty-Five Millions Of
The American public took a lively interest in the smallest details of the enterprise of the
Gun Club. It followed day by day the discussion of the committee. The most simple
preparations for the great experiment, the questions of figures which it involved, the
mechanical difficulties to be resolved-- in one word, the entire plan of work-- roused the
popular excitement to the highest pitch.
The purely scientific attraction was suddenly intensified by the following incident:
We have seen what legions of admirers and friends Barbicane's project had rallied round
its author. There was, however, one single individual alone in all the States of the Union
who protested against the attempt of the Gun Club. He attacked it furiously on every
opportunity, and human nature is such that Barbicane felt more keenly the opposition of
that one man than he did the applause of all the others. He was well aware of the motive
of this antipathy, the origin of this solitary enmity, the cause of its personality and old
standing, and in what rivalry of self-love it had its rise.
This persevering enemy the president of the Gun Club had never seen. Fortunate that it
was so, for a meeting between the two men would certainly have been attended with
serious consequences. This rival was a man of science, like Barbicane himself, of a fiery,
daring, and violent disposition; a pure Yankee. His name was Captain Nicholl; he lived at
Most people are aware of the curious struggle which arose during the Federal war
between the guns and armor of iron-plated ships. The result was the entire reconstruction
of the navy of both the continents; as the one grew heavier, the other became thicker in
proportion. The Merrimac, the Monitor, the Tennessee, the Weehawken discharged
enormous projectiles themselves, after having been armor-clad against the projectiles of
others. In fact they did to others that which they would not they should do to them-- that
grand principle of immortality upon which rests the whole art of war.
Now if Barbicane was a great founder of shot, Nicholl was a great forger of plates; the
one cast night and day at Baltimore, the other forged day and night at Philadelphia. As
soon as ever Barbicane invented a new shot, Nicholl invented a new plate; each followed
a current of ideas essentially opposed to the other. Happily for these citizens, so useful to
their country, a distance of from fifty to sixty miles separated them from one another, and
they had never yet met. Which of these two inventors had the advantage over the other it
was difficult to decide from the results obtained. By last accounts, however, it would
seem that the armor-plate would in the end have to give way to the shot; nevertheless,
there were competent judges who had their doubts on the point.