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cHAP. xix.] MR. ALDERSON'S SPEECH. 239
way” through Chat Moss, and he contrasted with his evidence that given “by that most respectable gentleman we have called before you, I mean Mr. Giles, who has executed a vast number of works,” &c. Then Mr. Giles's evidence as to the impossibility of making any railway over the Moss that would stand short of the bottom, was emphatically dwelt upon; and Mr. Alderson proceeded to say,+“Having now, sir, gone through Chat Moss, and having shown that Mr. Giles is right in his principle when he adopts a solid railway,+and I care not whether Mr. Giles is right or wrong in his estimate, for whether it be effected by means of piers raised up all the way for four miles through Chat Moss, whether they are to support it on beams of wood or by erecting masonry, or whether Mr. Giles shall put a solid bank of earth through it, in all these schemes there is not one found like that of Mr. Stephenson's, namely, to cut impossible drains on the side of this road; and it is sufficient for me to suggest and to show, that this scheme of Mr. Stephenson's is impossible or impracticable, and that no other scheme, if they proceed upon this line, can be suggested which will not produce enormous expense. I think that has been irrefragably made out. Every one knows Chat Moss–every one knows that Mr. Giles speaks correctly when he says the iron sinks immediately on its being put upon the surface. I have heard of culverts, which have been put upon the Moss, which, after having been surveyed the day before, have the next morning disappeared; and that a house (a poet's house, who may be supposed in the habit of building castles even in the air), story after story, as fast as one is added, the lower one sinks! There is nothing, it appears, except long sedgy grass, and a little soil, to prevent its sinking into the shades of eternal night. I have now done, sir, with Chat Moss, and there I leave this railroad.”* Mr. Alderson, of course, called upon the Committee to reject the bill; and he protested “against the despotism of the Exchange at Liverpool striding across the land of this country. I do protest,” he concluded, “against a measure like this, supported as it is by such evidence, and founded upon such
* Report and Evidence, p. 478.
The case, however, was not yet concluded. Mr. Stephenson (another of the counsel on the same side) declined addressing the Committee, after the speech of Mr. Alderson, “in which he had so clearly, so ably, and so fully shown the utter impracticability of the scheme; ” but the case of the other numerous petitioners against the bill still remained to be gone into. Witnesses were called to prove the residential injury which would be caused by the “intolerable nuisance" of the smoke and fire from the locomotives; and others to prove that the price of coals and iron would “infallibly” be greatly raised throughout the country. This was part of the case of the Duke of Bridgewater's trustees, whose witnesses “proved ” many very extraordinary things. The Leeds and Liverpool Coal Company were so fortunate as to pick up a witness from Hetton, who was ready to furnish some damaging evidence as to the use of Mr. Stephenson's locomotives on that railway. This was Mr. Thomas Wood, one of the Hetton company's clerks, whose evidence was to the effect that the locomotives, having been found ineffective, were about to be discontinued in favour of fixed engines. The locomotives, he said, were greatly affected by the weather, and the waggons had then to be drawn on by horses. The engines were also frequently getting off the road, and were liable to accident. The evidence of this witness, incompetent though he was to give an opinion on the subject, and exaggerated as his statements were afterwards proved to be,
.* Report and Evidence, p. 485.
chap. xix.] EVIDENCE AGAINST LOCOMOTIVES. 241
was made the most of by Mr. Harrison, when summing up the case of the canal companies. “At length,” he said, “we have come to this, having first set out at twelve miles an hour, the speed of these locomotives is reduced to six, and now comes down to two or two and a half. They must be content to be pulled along by horses and donkeys; and all those fine promises of galloping along at the rate of twelve miles an hour are melted down to a total failure — the foundation on which their case stood is cut from under them completely; for the Act of Parliament, the Committee will recollect, prohibits any person using any animal power, of any sort, kind, or description, except the projectors of the railway themselves; therefore, I say, that the whole foundation on which this project exists is gone.” After further personal abuse of Mr. Stephenson, whose evidence he spoke of as “trash and confusion,” he closed the case of the canal companies on the 30th of May. Afterwards Mr. Adam replied for the promoters, recapitulating the principal points of their case, and vindicating Mr. Stephenson and the evidence which he had given before the Committee. Even Mr. Adam himself, however, seemed to have fears of the railway formation across Chat Moss, after the positive evidence given by Mr. Giles. “Supposing that Mr. Stephenson is rash,” said he, “ and I do not deny it, I say his error is an error from want of caution, and not from want of knowledge; and he ought not to be reproached with his want of knowledge of railways, being a man of great practical experience,”—which Mr. Giles was not, as respected railways. “Will you now,” he said to the Committee, in winding up his speech, “will you now—when this experiment is brought before you and discussed so fully for the first time, while we are in the infancy of the application of this most powerful agent for the purpose of forming a communication for goods throughout the country —will you reject it because my learned friend, by some R
ingenious objections, has endeavoured to throw discredit upon it? All I ask you is, not to crush it in its infancy. Let not this country have the disgrace of putting a stop to that which, if cherished, may ultimately prove of the greatest advantage to our trade and commerce, and which, if we do not adopt it, will be adopted by our rivals. . . . My learned friends appeal to the Committee on the ground of private rights, all of which will be recognised. I appeal to you in the name of the two largest towns in England, the one as a commercial port and the other as a commercial town; I appeal to you in the name of the country at large; and I implore you not to blast the hopes that this powerful agent—steam — may be called in aid for the purpose of land communication; only let it have a fair trial, and these little objections and private prejudices will, I am quite sure, be instantly dispelled.” The Committee then divided on the preamble, which was carried by a majority of only one,— thirty-seven voting for it, and thirty-six against it. The clauses were next considered; and on a division, the first clause, empowering the Company to make the railway, was lost by a majority of nineteen to thirteen. In like manner, the next clause, empowering the company to take land, was lost; on which Mr. Adam, on the part of the promoters, withdrew the bill. Thus ended this memorable contest, which had extended over two months—carried on throughout with great pertinacity and skill, especially on the part of the opposition, who left no stone unturned to defeat the measure. The want of a third line of communication between Liverpool and Manchester had been clearly proved; but the engineering evidence in support of the proposed railway, having been thrown almost entirely upon Mr. Stephenson, who fought this, the most important part of the battle, single-handed, was not brought out so clearly as it would have been had he secured more efficient engineering assistance,—which he
CHAP. xix.] DEFEAT OF THE BILL. 243
was not able to do, as all the engineers of eminence of that day were against the locomotive railway. The obstacles thrown in the way of the survey by the landowners and canal companies also in a great measure tended to defeat the bill. From this temporary failure, however, the projectors drew a valuable lesson for the future; and when they next appeared before Parliament, they were better prepared to meet the obstinate opposition both of the canal companies and the landowners.