OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

National Progress (continued) page 2

Pages: 1 <2> 3 4 5 6

In consequence of the dissatisfaction felt by the manufacturers of machinery and implements, the subject was considered by another committee of the house of commons; and ultimately a clause was inserted in the Customs Duty Bill, 6 and 7 Vic., by which the exportation of machinery was rendered as free as any other British manufacture. The value of machinery shipped to foreign countries in 1831 was only £29,000; in 1836, it was £166,000; in 1837, £280,000; and in 1840, £374,000, the increase continuing till in 1848 it reached £588,000. " In the extraordinary state of progression," says Mr. Porter, " that has attended the various branches of our staple manufactures, and our mining operations, the system of prohibition, as affecting the exportation of machinery, has not produced so much effect as might have been expected upon the prosperity of our machinists. The trade has partaken of the general extension, but certainly not to the degree that would have attended it under a different system. Our engineers and millwrights may be said to have as much work upon their hands as the number of their workmen enables them to undertake; and skilled artisans such as they must employ are not to be formed without a long course of instruction. It would fill many large volumes to describe the numerous inventions which during the present century have imparted facility to our manufacturing processes and given perfection to the articles made. A description of all the improvements which have been made in steam machinery alone since the beginning of this century would lead to investigations that could be properly entered upon only in a treatise on mechanics."

In order to the successful development of national resources, it is not only necessary to have facilities for commercial intercourse with foreign nations, an extensive sea-board with good, safe, and commodious harbours, but likewise a good system of internal communication. Without this the price of an article may be doubled or trebled, simply by the cost of carriage from one town to another, and the most valuable productions would be worth little in the absence of cheap modes of conveyance and interchange. It often happens that even within twenty or thirty miles where there are no roads, or only bad ones, and where goods can only be carted, the difference in the price of wheat will be 25 per cent., and in potatoes in Ireland, it was often 50 or 100 per cent., so that there might be a superabundance of provisions in one place, and dearth in another, not many miles off. There is nothing in respect to which England is so much an object of envy as in this matter of internal communication. Being surrounded by seas, with such an irregular outline of coast, she is unrivalled in the number and excellence of her harbours, and in the extent of her water communication. But her internal communication by means of roads and canals is a still more admirable exhibition of skill, industry, and persevering energy. If we could take a bird's eye view of the whole country from a balloon, we should behold it a complete net-work of roads and canals, all alive with commerce - one vast hive of industry laid bare to the view. This intersection of the island for the purpose of communication is rendered more easy by the numerous inlets of the sea. For example, there is n© spot south of the county of Durham at a greater distance than fifteen miles of water conveyance, while in the greater part of the area the distance is not more than ten miles, and all the principal seats of our manufactures have their arteries in canals and navigable rivers, maintaining easy communication with the great commercial ports. By this means the raw materials of the manufactures are laid down at the doors of the factories at a slight charge, and the finished goods conveyed away with economy and rapidity for distribution through the markets of the world. This is what the French call our viabilité immense, our vast and unrivalled way power, by which heavy and bulky materials, such as iron and coals, the great elements of manufacturing success, can be cheaply conveyed from place to place. A curious fact has been mentioned in connection with one element of cost with regard to the roads and conveyances in France, as showing the great advantage of water communication. Messrs. Villiers and Bowling, in their report on the commercial relations between France and Great Britain, calculate that 1,500,000 ploughs are used in France, which consumed iron to the value of £2,700,000 before its importation was permitted from England. There is also an enormous quantity of iron consumed in the wear and tear of travelling on public roads. It was stated before a committee of the house of commons in 1833, that every coach which travelled between London and Birmingham lost about 11 lbs. of wrought iron along the road between those two places, although it was unusually level and kept in perfect repair. How much greater must be the wear and tear to the wheels of carriages and the shoes of horses upon rough roads like those upon the Continent. This material of iron alone, then, must have added greatly to the cost of internal communication on the Continent, not to speak of the enormous horse-power that was required, and which so greatly enhanced the price of all the products of industry.

The construction of common roads has been greatly improved in the United Kingdom by the general adoption of the plan of Mr. Macadam, who has given his name to the process of substituting stones broken small for the old rough pavement. We read with astonishment of the state of English roads a century ago, of carriages breaking down and sticking fast in deep ruts, and of days passed in a journey which now only occupies as many hours. Yet in early times England was better off in this respect than other countries. Of all the proofs of social progress which our country now exhibits to such a marvellous extent on every side, there is nothing more decisive or more wonderful than the rapidity with which we have improved and extended our internal communication. From 1818 to 1839 the length of turnpike roads in England and Wales was increased by more than 1,000 miles. In the former year England and Wales contained paved streets and turnpike roads to the extent of 19,725 miles. The other public highways extended to 95,000 miles, making altogether nearly 115,000 miles, occupying about 540 square miles of ground, or 482,000 acres. Scotland also made great progress in the construction of highways from the commencement of the century. Since the appointment of its board of works in 1803, no less than 1,186 miles of road were added, and more than 1,000 bridges were constructed. Mr. Griffith, afterwards Sir Eichard Griffith, speaking of the internal communication in Ireland in 1822, said, " The fertile plains of Limerick, Cork, and Kerry are separated from each other by a deserted country, hitherto nearly an impassable barrier. This large district comprehends upwards of 200 square miles; in many places it is very populous. As might be expected under such circumstances, the people are turbulent, and their houses being inaccessible for want of roads, it is not surprising that during the disturbances of 1821 and 1822 this district was an asylum for white-boys, smugglers, and robbers, and the stolen cattle were drawn into it as to a safe and impenetrable retreat." Roads were constructed through that wild district, and in seven years a great social change was effected. Upwards of sixty new lime-kilns had been built; carts, ploughs, harrows, and improved implements had become common; houses of a better class had been built; new inclosures had been made, and the country had become perfectly tranquil, exhibiting a scene of industry and exertion at once pleasing and remarkable. A large portion of the money received for labour on the public works had been husbanded with care, and some poor labourers had been enabled to take farms, build houses, and stock their lands. In a report which Mr. Nimmo made in 1824, referring to a part of the county of Kerry, he said, "A few years ago there was hardly a plough, car, or carriage of any kind. Butter, the only produce, was carried to Cork on horseback; there was not one decent public-house, and only one house slated and plastered in the village, the nearest post-office, thirty miles distant. Since the new road was made there were built in three years upwards of twenty respectable two-storey houses, a shop with cloth, hardware, and groceries, a comfortable inn, a post-office, Bridewell, a new chapel, a quay covered with limestone for manure, a salt work, two stores for oats, and a considerable traffic in linen and yarn." In 1841 the population exceeded 1,500 souls, and the number of houses increased to 250. Such were the effects of making about seventy miles of new road on a level line. The flourishing town thus created is Cahirciveen, in the vicinity of Derrynane, the celebrated mountain home of the late Mr. O'Connell. The great agitator had thus before his eyes an exhibition of what could be accomplished by a wise government directing its energies to practical improvement, in contrast with the barren results of political agitation, having for its object only to gratify the ambition of place-seekers.

The Irish Board of Works, in its reports, gives a glowing account of the benefits resulting from the construction of new lines of road through remote and wild districts. These roads have been the means of fertilising deserts, of depriving the lawless disturbers of the public peace of their place of refuge, and of affording them at the same time resources for an active, honest industry, of which they showed no indisposition to avail themselves. "Traversing a country covered with farms, and in a high state of cultivation, showing every sign of a good soil, and of amply remunerating produce, it becomes difficult to credit the fact that ten or twelve years since the whole was a barren waste, the asylum of miserable and lawless peasantry, who were calculated to be a burden, rather than a benefit, to the nation; and that this improvement may entirely be attributed to the expenditure of a few thousand pounds in carrying a good road of communication through the district."

We shall be less surprised at the extraordinary effects produced by the improved means of communication and transit in Ireland, if we bear in mind the revolution effected in England within a century, and the state of things even in the neighbourhood of the metropolis not very long ago. For example, the road from Horsham, in Sussex, was, in the memory of very old men, in such a state that sheep and cattle could not be driven on it to the London market, the consequence of which was that a quarter of a fat ox generally sold for fifteen shillings, and mutton was only five farthings a pound. The effect of making a good macadamised road was, that the journey was travelled in four hours by stage-coaches, of which thirty passed through Horsham every day, on their way to the metropolis, besides innumerable private carriages, post- chaises, and carts, as well as constant droves of cattle and sheep. The great western road into London was so bad, that in some places, even so near as Knightsbridge, in winter the traveller had to wade through deep mud. Many of the roads into the metropolis were but rutted tracks, through heaths and commons, like the approaches to turf-bogs in Ireland, the deeper holes being occasionally filled up by large stones thrown into them. The country was but partially enclosed, and guides were necessary to strangers to conduct them to the fords, in the absence of bridges; and, to enable them to avoid quagmires, beacons were erected in some places. " In some of the old settled districts of England," says Mr. Samuel Smiles, " old roads are still to be traced in the hollow ways or lanes, which are met with in some places eight or ten feet deep. Horse- tracks in summer and rivulets in winter, the earth became gradually worn into these deep furrows, many of which, in Wilts, Somerset, and Devon, represent the tracks of roads as old, if not older, than the Conquest. They were narrow and deep, fitted only for a horse passing along laden with its croups. Similar roads existed until recently in the immediate neighbourhood of Birmingham - long the centre of considerable traffic. The sandy soil was sawn through, as it were, by generation after generation of human feet and by pack-horses, helped by the rains, until in some places the tracks were as much as from twelve to fourteen yards deep; one of these, partly filled up, retaining to this day the name of Holloway Head. In the neighbourhood of London there was also a Hollow-Way, which now gives its name to a populous metropolitan parish. Hogbush Lane was another of such roads. Before the formation of the great north road, it was one of the principal bridle paths reaching from London to the north of England, but it was so narrow as barely to afford passage for a single horseman, and so deep that the rider's head was beneath the level of the ground on either side."

In 1690, Chancellor Cowper described the "Sussex Ways " as bad and ruinous beyond imagination, and said it was melancholy that mankind should inhabit such a heap of dirt for a poor livelihood. The country was " a sink of about fourteen miles broad." Fuller saw an old lady there being drawn to church in her own coach by the aid of six oxen. Dr. John Burton accounted for the long legs of the Sussex girls by the practice of pulling the foot out of tenacious mud, which strengthened the muscle and lengthened the bone! Lord Hervey, as late as 1736, complained of the road between Kensington and London as being so infamously bad that they lived there in the same solitude as they would if cast upon a rock in the middle of the ocean; and all the Londoners told them that there was between them an impassable gulf of mud. We are not surprised, then, to learn that even the royal carriage bearing majesty took two hours to perform the journey in bad weather, and sometimes stuck fast in a rut. In the fens of Lincoln the country was so often flooded that the people were rowed to church in boats.

In 1770, Arthur Young travelled on the turnpike road between Preston and Wigan, a sort of trunk line of road, connecting whole counties, which he says one would naturally expect "to be at least decent. But," he adds, " let me most seriously caution all travellers who may accidentally purpose to travel this terrible county, to avoid it as they would the devil, for a thousand to one but they break their necks or their limbs by overthrows or breakings down. They will here meet with ruts which I actually measured four feet deep, and floating with mud, only from a wet summer. What, therefore, must it be after a winter? The only mending it receives in places is the tumbling in some loose stones, which serve no other purpose but jolting a carriage in the most intolerable manner. These are not merely opinions, but facts, for I actually passed three carts broken down in these eighteen miles of execrable memory."

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 <2> 3 4 5 6

Pictures for National Progress (continued) page 2

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About