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National Progress (continued) page 4


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The Eastern Counties Railway Company had, up to 1846, paid not less than 809,950 for land in compensation^ equal to about 12,000 a mile. The Great Northern, however, eclipsed all others in the amount of its preliminary expenses, which, up to 1857, had reached the enormous sum of 763,077 spent as parliamentary charges for leave to construct 245 miles, being at the rate of 3,115 per mile, while the cost of land and compensation amounted to nearly 2,000,000 sterling. Both charges put together give nearly 11,000 per mile of the original line, being nearly one-fourth of the capital forestalled before the ground was broken. It appeared in evidence before a committee of the commons in 1858, that during the eleven years from 1847 to 1857, the number of railway bills introduced was 913, or 83 per annum, on which committees sat 102 days per annum.

The natural results of this extravagant preliminary expenditure have shown themselves in a variety of ways, which are most injurious to the interests of the public, and detrimental to the shareholders themselves. Proper means for securing the safety of the passengers have, in too many instances, been neglected, from the crippled resources of the companies, or their, under the circumstances, not unnatural desire to economise. Their servants are, almost as a rule, indifferently paid and overworked; the consequence of which is a want of energy and zeal, and frequently of the physical powers required for the proper performance of their duties. This leads but too often to a serious loss of life and property; and, by entailing on railway companies the payment of large sums as compensation to the injured, or their families, diminishes the already small returns received by the shareholders for the money they have embarked in these undertakings. And, by a strange anomaly, while the profit on the sums actually spent in the construction of railways is large, the interest for the money they have cost is inconsiderable. To obviate this inconvenience, the working expenses are reduced to a minimum, but the security of travellers is diminished to an equal extent; and this, by destroying the confidence of the public in the safety of railways, and exciting the fears of the timid, lessens the traffic, and thus augments the evil it is intended to counteract.

The railway system diverted the currents of traffic from old roads, and from a number of towns and villages through which the old coaches travelled. But, if it destroyed employment in some localities, it created it to a much larger extent in others. A parliamentary return shows the number of persons employed by railway companies in various capacities on the 13th of June, 1849. Secretaries or managers, 156; treasurers, 32; engineers, 107; superintendents, 314; store-keepers, 120; accountants or cashiers, 138; inspectors or time-keepers, 490; station-masters, 1,300; draughtsmen, 103; clerks, 4,021; foremen, 709; engine-drivers, 1,839; assistant drivers or firemen, 1,871; guards or breaksmen, 1,631; artificers, 10,809; switchmen, 1,540; gate-keepers, 1,361; policemen or watchmen, 1,508; porters or messengers, 8,238; plate-layers, 5,508; labourers, 14,029; miscellaneous employment, 144 - total, 55,968. At the same date there were 103,816 persons employed on railways under construction.

The advance which Great Britain has made in practical science and the mechanical arts within a single century must strike the mind with astonishment in view of the foregoing record of mechanical achievements. The contrast between the past and the present is well put by Mr. Smiles.

"Our first lessons," he says, " in mechanical and civil engineering were principally obtained from Dutchmen, who supplied us with our first windmills, watermills, and pumping engines. Holland even sent us the necessary labourers to execute our first great works of drainage. The great level of the fens was drained by Vermuyden; and another Dutchman, Freestone, was employed to reclaim the marsh near Wells, in Norfolk. Canary Island, near the mouth of the Thames, was embanked by Joas Croppenburgh and his company of Dutch workmen. When a new haven was required at Yarmouth, Joas Johnson, the Dutch engineer, was employed to plan and construct the works; and when a serious breach occurred in the banks of the Witham, at Boston, Matthew Hake was sent for from Gravelines, in Flanders, and he brought with him not only the mechanics, but the manufactured iron required for the works. The art of bridge-building had sunk so low in England about the middle of the last century, that we were under the necessity of employing the Swiss engineer, Labelye, to build Westminster Bridge. In short, we depended for our engineering even more than for our pictures and our music upon foreigners. At a time when Holland had completed its magnificent system of water communication, and when France, Germany, and even Russia had opened important lines of inland navigation, England had not cut a single canal, whilst our roads were about the worst in Europe. It was not until the year 1760 that Brindley began his first canal for the Duke of Bridgewater. After the lapse of a century we find the state of things had become entirely reversed. Instead of borrowing engineers from abroad, we now send them to all parts of the world. British-built steamships ply on every sea; we export machinery to all quarters, and supply Holland itself with pumping engines. During that period our engineers have completed a magnificent system of canals, turnpike roads, bridges, and railways, by which the internal communications of the country have been completely opened up. They have built lighthouses around our coasts, by which ships freighted with the produce of all lands, when nearing our shores in the dark, are safely lighted along to their destined havens; they have hewn out and built docks and harbours for the accommodation of a gigantic commerce, whilst their inventive genius has rendered fire and water the most untiring workers in all branches of industry, and the most effective agents in locomotion by land and sea. Nearly all this has been accomplished during the last century, much of it within the life of the present generation."

England has utilised to the utmost extent her water power in perfecting the system of inland navigation. The canals used for the transport of goods and produce in England alone are estimated at 2,200 miles; while the navigable rivers exceed 1,800 miles, making together more than 4,000 miles of inland navigation. One immense advantage of this kind of navigation is its regularity, its being independent of wind and tide, and its being worked by a power that can be always controlled and regulated according to circumstances. Fortunately for the development of our external communication and our commerce with foreign countries, as well as our coasting trade, the power of steam was applied to navigation just at the time when it was required; and by this power we are enabled to extend the same regularity to our maritime commerce, and to secure to a large extent the same independence of wind and tide, and to be able not only to cross the channels between different parts of the United Kingdom, but to traverse the broad Atlantic with nearly the same punctuality that attends our internal communications. Steam power has been made as tractable and subservient in the hands of science as horse power, or as human labour. The first steamboat that was worked for hire in this kingdom was the Comet, a small vessel with an engine of three horse power. Two years later the Elizabeth, of eight horse power, and the Clyde, of fourteen horse power, were placed upon the river Clyde. Thus Scotland has had the honour of leading the way in this great line of improvement. In 1820 there were but three steam-vessels built and registered in England, four in Scotland, and one in Ireland. In 1826 there were fifty in England, and twenty-two in Scotland, with 9,000 tons burden. The building of steamers proceeded regularly, with an increasing amount of tonnage, till the number rose in 1849 to 1,296 steam-vessels, the aggregate burden of which was 177,310 tons. They were distributed as follows: - In the ports of England, 865 vessels, 103,154 tons; Scotland, 166 vessels, 29,206 tons; Ireland, 111 vessels, 26,369 tons; the Channel Islands, 7 vessels, 955 tons; the colonies, 147 vessels, 17,626 tons.

The social advantages of steam navigation can scarcely be exaggerated. Its effect on commerce is not more wonderful than upon society in promoting public health, and enlarging the sphere of enjoyment for the masses of the community. The English people, formerly so fond of home, so tied to the localities in which they lived, have been excited by the facility, and economy, and ease, and pleasure of steam navigation to move about from place to place, thus improving their knowledge and augmenting their happiness to a degree that if predicted half a century ago would have appeared an idle dream. The river Thames alone, covered with tiny steamers shooting along like swallows on the surface of the water, would have been a picture beyond the conception of a poet's fancy. The number of passengers conveyed between London and Gravesend by steam packets in 1835 was ascertained, by the collector of the pier dues at the latter town, to have been 670,452. It was stated in evidence before a committee of the house of commons in 1836, that 1,057,000 persons passed Blackwall in steam-vessels every year. It might have been thought that this newly-excited propensity to locomotion upon water would have diminished the demand for land conveyances and for horses; but the reverse has been the fact, as appears from the continually increasing number of licences for stage-coaches issued from the Stamp Office, and the enormous number of omnibuses plying in the metropolis and in the large provincial towns, especially in connection with railways, and this without displacing the hackney carriages or cabs, which have been multiplying likewise. It might be supposed that the opening of a railway in the same direction as a line of steam navigation, or vice versa, would seriously diminish the traffic one way or the other. On the contrary, it but increases it. For example, the number of passengers conveyed by the Hull and Selby steam-packets during the twelve months that preceded the opening of the Leeds and Selby railway was 33,882, whereas in the year which followed the opening, the number conveyed by the steamers increased to upwards of 62,000, or nearly doubled. Not only is steam communication kept up between all the principal ports of the United Kingdom, but it is also regularly maintained with all the neighbouring ports on the Continent, with those of France, Holland, Belgium, and other countries. Steam communication was established with the United States of America, with our West Indian Colonies, and with the East Indies. A committee of the House of Commons was appointed in June, 1837, to inquire into the best means of establishing communication by steam with India by way of the Red Sea. It appeared in the course of that inquiry that the directors of the East India Company had sent orders to the governor general of India, to dispatch a steamship at stated periods from Bombay to Suez. In order still further to expedite the transmission of mails between England and India, a dromedary post was established between Bagdad and Damascus, and thence to Beyrout on the coast of the Mediterranean, to which port was extended the voyage of the steam-vessel that before stopped at Alexandria. In 1836 the governor of Bombay stated in a dispatch to the directors that the three last mails had brought dispatches respectively in 58, 45, and 64 days, stating that this " early intelligence " had given an energetic impulse to the mercantile interest, and had produced unbounded satisfaction, because, in addition to its commercial advantages, it had deprived the painful feeling of separation from home and country of half its bitterness. The dispatch concluded with an earnest prayer for the much desired boon of frequent and regular communication with Europe, by the employment of a sufficient number of steam-vessels for that purpose. During the year 1837, accordingly, arrangements were made for the establishment of a regular monthly steam communication between this country and India by way of the Red Sea upon the following basis: - The government undertakes the transmission of the monthly mails between Great Britain and Alexandria at the sole charge of the public; and the East India Company undertakes the transmission of these mails between Alexandria and Bombay, upon condition that one- half of the expense incurred in the purchase and navigation of steam-vessels, and of any other expense incurred in the service, is defrayed by the government, which is to receive the whole money connected with postage of letters between London and Bombay." This arrangement was carried out, and a further economy of time was obtained by the overland route to Marseilles, instead of transmitting the mails by steam-packets from Falmouth through the Straits of Gibraltar. In this way the journey was shortened to the extent of more than 1,000 miles, the direct distance by Marseilles and Malta being 5,238 miles, and by way of Falmouth, 6,310 miles. This system of conveyance was maintained till 1841, when the government entered into a contract with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which undertook to employ powerful steam-vessels for the carrying of letters and passengers between England and Egypt, and between Suez, Ceylon, Madras, and Calcutta, towards the expenses of which the East India Company undertook to contribute 20,000 per annum for five years. After some time there was a further extension of the plan, by which the government engaged to contribute 5.0,000 per annum towards the expense of the line of steam-packets between Bombay and Suez, 115,000 per annum for the service between Calcutta and Suez, and 45,000 for the service between Ceylon and Hong Kong, making a total of 210,000 per annum, of which one-third was to be repaid by the East India Company. By these arrangements we obtained a regular and safe steam communication twice a mouth to India, and once a month to China, at a cost which, though large in amount, cannot be considered extravagant when we consider the magnitude of the advantages secured by it. both political and mercantile, not only to our Oriental empire, but to the United Kingdom. We may judge of the extent of the intercourse thus carried on by the fact that in 1836 we received from Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and Ceylon about 180,000 letters, and that we sent to those places in the same year nearly 112,000 letters. There has been a steady increase ever since in both letters and newspapers. In 1843 we sent out 370,000 letters, and 429,000 newspapers. In 1845 we sent 448,335 letters, and 686,561 newspapers. The number of both letters and newspapers, inwards and outwards, in 1845, was 1,795,028.

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Pictures for National Progress (continued) page 4


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