McADAM, John Loudon, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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McADAM, John Loudon (1756-1836). Builder and administrator of roads.
Good Autograph Letter Signed to Lord Melville, 2½ pages 4to with contemporary endorsements on the reverse, Salopian Coffee House, London, 5 July 1819. Explaining that he had found himself too late to present a petition in the present session of parliament, and appealing for payment for his services in building and repairing roads.
'... Without being considered presumptuous I hope I may appeal to my past exertions as a pledge of my continued zeal in this important service, but I have so entirely exhausted my own reserves as well as the assistance of my friends, that I am placed in a situation of incapacity to proceed farther and the reliance I had placed in obtaining relief this session of Parliament has only, by its disappointment increased my difficulty.
 'The advice and assistance I proposed to give to the Trustees of the Edinburgh roads and the example it would afford to other places in Scotland was a part of the occupation of the summer which I proposed to have devoted to the public service.
 'The obstacles which my situation may throw in the way of this and all my future operations towards promoting a better system of road repair are not under my controul to remove.'
McAdam has given his name to the modern system of road building, although the application of tar to road surfaces (now known as 'Tarmacadam' or 'Tarmac') only became usual with the advent of the motor car. McAdam's system used a firm base of smallish stones which would be compacted by passing traffic into a hard and durable surface. The system previously adopted by Thomas Telford had used far more stone but to lesser effect.
 It is interesting and perhaps significant in that this letter was written from the Salopian Coffee House (Charing Cross), the home of Telford from about 1800 for a period of 21 years, which would suggest that the other great civil engineer was in residence at this time.
 It seems likely that McAdam chose to write to Lord Melville (Robert Saunders, Second Viscount, 1771-1851) because of his influence in Scotland, where the engineer hoped to extend his activities. The endorsement to the letter reads: 'Reply. Remuneration for his services in repairing the Roads in England'.
[No: 25275]

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