Image showing James Watt Jr

James Watt Jr (1769 to 1848)

Before taking over the family business James Watt Jr. had experiences arguably far more dangerous to himself than Matthew Robinson Boulton’s escapades. After being educated in Europe he arrived in England in 1788 and joined the Manchester textile firm Taylor and Maxwell, later moving to another textile firm Thomas and Richard Walker. It was with this position as a foreign agent that led to him being present in Paris during the French Revolution. He wrote several long letters to his father describing the revolution after his arrival in 1792:

I do not know whether it is not more prudent to remain where I am, at a moment when the whole country is up in arms and peoples minds in a state of agitation never before known.”
[Letter. James Watt Jr. to James Watt 4 Sept 1792. MS 3219/4/13/40]

He also recounts the September Massacres, including the placing of Princess de Lamballe’s head on a Pike, and such events divided his opinion of the revolution:

I am filled with involuntary horror at the scenes which pass before me and wish they would have been avoided, but at the same time I allow the absolute necessity of them.”
[Letter. James Watt Jr. to James Watt 4 Sept 1792. MS 3219/4/13/40]

James Watt Jr.’s close proximity to the revolution made his return to England problematic so he spent the next few years travelling for business around Europe. His notebook from 1792 to 1793 records journeys to Bordeaux, Marseilles, across Switzerland, Naples and Sicily. [James Watt Jr. Notebook 1792 to 1793. MS 3219/6/29] Despite such unusual experiences in his first jobs, Watt returned to the UK and successfully ran the engine business at Soho until his death in 1848.

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