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National Progress (continued) page 3


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It is only by contrasting our present advantages with the inconveniences and discomforts of our fathers and grandfathers, that we can realise a vivid conception of the wonders of civilisation by which we are surrounded. The mechanic, for example, now travels with a rapidity and comfort which royalty might have envied a few ages ago. Queen Elizabeth travelled for the most part on horseback, sitting on a pillion behind one of her lords. When she rode into the city the lord chancellor occupied this post of honour. She was at length provided with a coach, made by Bodenen, a Dutchman, said to be the first used in England. It was a sort of cart without springs, the body resting upon the axles, which must have fearfully shaken her majesty when passing over a rough pavement. The example was followed by the nobility; and the appearance of one of these coaches, or " wagons," excited as much wonder as the first railway train in a remote rural district. The judges, naturally, availed themselves of this new mode of conveyance, in order to inspire awe, and add dignity to their office. But it often happened that their dignity was sullied by being tumbled in the mud, out of which their carriages had to be dragged by the main force of plough-horses. A stage-wagon soon after came into use, but was so inconvenient and slow that a great advance was made by the introduction of stage-coaches about the seventeenth century, though they travelled only four miles an hour, and their jolting was terrific. Charles II. disliked the stage-coach so much that he went from London to Dover in a wagon, drawn by six horses, tandem, and driven by a wagoner clothed in black, who walked the whole way. In the beginning of the eighteenth century a devout traveller blessed God for his mercy to himself and his family in having brought him safely from Leeds to York, a journey of twenty-four miles, in eight hours; and not without reason, considering the state of the road. When rain fell in some districts, pedestrians, horsemen, and coaches were all obliged to stand still till the floods abated and the roads dried. Yet when stage-coaches were introduced, they were denounced as one of the greatest evils that had come upon society- mischievous to the public, destructive to trade, injurious to the breed of horses, and rendering men so effeminate that they were " not able to endure frost, snow, or rain, or lodge in the fields." And, moreover, stage-coaches were injurious to trade, because they enabled travellers to dispense with swords, belts, pistols, holsters, portmanteaus, and hat-cases. Persons were able thus to get from York, Chester, or Exeter, to London in five days; and " when they are there they must be in the mode, have all the new fashions, buy all their clothes there, and go to the plays, balls, and treats, where they get such a habit of jollity, and a love to gaiety and pleasure, that nothing afterwards in the country will serve them, if ever they should fix their minds to live there again; but they must have it from London, whatever it costs."

It would be an interesting subject of study, the effects of modes of travelling upon national manners and habits. In the religious world in the present day, ministers and others, when announcing a sermon or a lecture, or a public meeting, are careful to say, "God willing," or "D.V.," in order to indicate their conscious dependence upon Divine Providence. The same devout precaution was used by the owners of stage coaches in the times of our forefathers. They were advertised to start, " God willing," and as it seemed good, at or " about" a certain time. The coach was said to have slept at certain places night after night on the way, and towards the end of the journey " the coach was shaved," which operation was sometimes performed by a woman. The want of proper roads, while it made some things, such as farming produce, excessively cheap, made other things excessively dear. London was mostly supplied by sea; but the price of goods conveyed inland from London was enormous, the carriage from London to Birmingham being from 5 to 7 a ton, and from London to Exeter 12. It is needless to remark what facilities this state of things afforded for highway robbery, which was then rather a flourishing occupation. The state of the population in winter, so far as their relations with the outer world were concerned, resembled that of a blockaded city, or an American village snowed up. They laid in a stock of provisions and goods of all sorts for that dreary season, during which the men, when they could not work, passed the time in athletic sports, drinking, or gambling, and the women in sitting round the large blazing fire on the hearth-stone, by the light of which they went on with their spinning and sewing, as windows were then a rare luxury, and candles were neither good nor cheap. When the season opened, the chapmen came in gangs, for mutual protection, upon their pack-horses, in order to supply the various country towns with goods. No one travelled through the country except from necessity, and England was an unknown land to most of its inhabitants. The news of public events travelled very slowly. The death of Queen Elizabeth was not known in Devon till the days of court mourning were ended. The chief means of intercourse were the fairs, which were great festive occasions, on which the population turned out and enjoyed a holiday. Acts of parliament, however, were passed for the construction of good turnpike roads around London, which gave an immense advantage to the farmers and market gardeners who supplied the metropolis with provisions, and constituted a monopoly which, of course, they were very anxious to retain unimpaired. Accordingly, they vehemently protested against the extension of the turnpike roads into the country. But at last common sense prevailed, and in the course of time engineers and practical scientific men did not think it beneath their dignity to bestow their attention upon road-making. One of the most remarkable and interesting of the memoirs which Mr. Smiles has given us in his valuable work, " The Lives of the Engineers," is that of John Metcalfe, a blind man, commonly known as " Blind Jack of Knaresborough," the constructor of nearly 200 miles of capital roads. It is a singular fact that a blind man should have been the pioneer of social progress, as the first great professional road-maker in England.

When once the work of improvement in a department upon which the industry and progress of the nation so much depended had commenced, and when the spirit of enterprise began to spread among the active minds of the country, the advancement was very rapid. Mr. Porter travelled in 1798 by a fast coach called " The Telegraph," which left Gosport at one o'clock in the morning, and arrived at the Golden Cross, Charing Cross, at eight in the evening, thus proceeding at the rapid rate of four miles an hour. By the improvement of the common roads, and in the construction of vehicles, stage coaches had subsequently attained the speed of ten miles an hour. Upon the stamp office returns for 1834, a calculation was based, which showed that the extent of travelling on licensed conveyances in that year would be equal to the conveyance of one person for a distance of 597,159,420 miles, or more than six times the distance between the earth and the sun. There were, in 1837, in England, fifty-four mail coaches drawn by four horses, and forty-nine by two horses, drawn at an average speed of nine miles an hour. Ireland had at the same time thirty four-horse mails, and Scotland ten.

The first act of parliament for the construction of a railway, or, rather, a tramway, for trucks drawn by horses, was passed in the year 1801. This was the beginning of a system of internal communication which has been developed in the most marvellous manner, and has worked a great social revolution, universal in its effects. The number of railway acts passed during the first half of the century was more than 1,000; and the sums which parliament authorised the various companies to expend in the construction of railways from 1826. to 1849, amounted to the enormous total of 348,012,188, the yearly average being 14,500,508. The Liverpool and Manchester Company was the first that contemplated the conveyance of passengers, which, however, was regarded as a sort of subsidiary traffic, that might produce some 20,000 a-year, the main reliance being on the conveyance of raw cotton, manufactured goods, coals, and cattle. It need not be remarked how widely the result differed from their anticipation. The receipts from passengers in 1840 amounted to 343,910, and it has been estimated that the saving to the public on that line alone is nearly a quarter of a million annually. The aggregate length of railways completed and in use in the United Kingdom at the end of the year 1849, was 5,996 miles, of which 4,656 were in England, 846 in Scotland, and 494 in Ireland. It is stated in the report of the commissioners of railways, dated 10th of July, 1850, that "these 5,996 miles of railway represented a capital of about 197,500,000, showing an expenditure of about 33,000 per mile in the construction of the line, and the provision of the necessary plant and material for working."

It was at first apprehended that the danger from railway travelling would be very great, in consequence of the speed and the tremendous forces brought into action. But it appears that the danger has been greatly exaggerated. "If the road is perfect," says Captain Huish; " if the engine is perfect; if the carriages are perfect, and I will go on to say, if the signal-man is perfect, and if everything about the railway is perfect, almost any amount of speed that can be got out of an engine may be done with safety." But none of these are perfect, and therefore some accidents are inevitable. The question of railway communication divides itself into two great parts: there is the great commercial principle involved; there is the great public principle of safety and convenience; and the aim of legislation should be, and has been, to bring the former principle in aid of the latter, by making it the interest of railway companies to guard, as far as human precaution can avail, against railway accidents. In the official report of the Railway Commissioners for 1849, the following comparative statement is given, from which it appears that the proportion of the number killed to those conveyed was, in 1848,1 in 286,934, and in 1849, 1 in 316,047; while the proportion of persons receiving injury short of death was, in 1848, 1 in 264,661; and in 1849, 1 in 341,398. These proportions embrace the whole number of casualties, however arising; but if we take into the account only those cases which resulted from causes beyond the control of the sufferers, we shall find that in 1848 the killed were 1 in 2,520,034, and the injured 1 in 362,255; and that in 1849, the killed were no more than 1 in 3,192,077, and the injured 1 in 665,016. Limiting the calculation to the cases of passengers, the proportion killed from causes beyond their own control was in 1848, 1 in 6,440,087, and in 1849, 1 in 12,768,308; while the proportion injured was, in 1848, 1 in 452,818, and in 1849 1 in 760,018.

One of the most astounding chapters in the history of our modern legislation is the cost of railway acts, and their number, complexity, and contrariety. The London and North-Western Railway alone is regulated by nearly 200 different acts. In 1855 it was shown, by a return of Mr. Had- field, that the parliamentary, legal, and engineering costs on the then existing railways amounted to 14,000,000. Colonel Wilson Patten, in 1859, showed by a return that the parliamentary expenses alone amounted to more than 3 per cent. The Trent Valley Railway Bill was lost in 1836, because a barn worth 10, though shown in the original plan, was not exhibited upon an enlarged sheet; 450 allegations were made against it before the Standing Orders Committee, and it was doubted if the ultimate cost of making the railway was greater than the cost of obtaining liberty to make it. For one line in 1845 there were eighteen competitors contending before the committee. During that period, when the mania for speculation in railway shares raged, railway legislation was a desperate scramble between speculators, parliamentary agents, and schemers of all sorts, who were encouraged by the legislature in their ruinous proceedings. The cost of obtaining the Great Western Railway Act was 88,710; the London and Birmingham Act, 72,868; and the Eastern Counties Act, 45,190. In the earlier years of railway legislation, the legal and parliamentary expenses have varied from 650 to 3,000 per mile. In one contest 57,000 was spent among six counsel and twenty solicitors. One company alone expended in nine years, in legal and parliamentary expenses, not less than 480,000, averaging 53,300 a-year. Millions have been paid to landowners for ground, which sums have been justly said to be " so much money put into their pockets, as an inducement to allow their property to be increased in value." " Owners of estates," says a writer in the Edinburgh Review, " once the. greatest obstacles to railway enterprise, have of late years, been amongst its chief promoters. Since the Liverpool and Manchester line was first defeated by landed opposition, and succeeded with its second bill only by keeping out of sight of all mansions, and avoiding the game preserves; since the time when the London and Birmingham Company, after seeing their project thrown out by a committee of peers who ignored the evidence, had to conciliate their antagonists by raising the estimate for land from 250,000 to 750,000; since the time when parliamentary counsel bolstered up a groundless resistance by the flimsiest and absurdest excuses, even reproaching engineers with having trodden down the corn of widows, and destroyed the strawberry beds of gardeners; since then a marked change of policy has taken place, nor was it in human nature that it should be otherwise. When it became known that railway companies commonly paid for land in compensation sums varying from 4,000 to 8,000 per mile; that men were indemnified for supposed injury to their property by sums so inordinate that the greater part has been known to be returned by the heir as conscience money; that in one case 120,000 was given for land said to be worth but 5,000; when it was bruited abroad that large bonuses, in the shape of preference shares and the like, were granted to buy off opposition; when it came to be an established fact that estates are greatly enhanced in value by the proximity of railways, it is not surprising that country gentlemen should have become active supporters to schemes to which they were once the bitterest enemies."

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Pictures for National Progress (continued) page 3


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