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THE LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER RAILWAY BILL CARRIED, AND MR. STEPHENSON APPOINTED ENGINEER.
THE result of this first application to Parliament was so far discouraging. Mr. Stephenson had been so terribly abused by the leading counsel for the opposition in the course of the proceedings before the Committee,_stigmatised by them as an ignoramus, a fool, and a maniac, -that even his friends seem for a time to have lost faith in him and in the locomotive system, whose efficiency he continued to uphold. Things never looked blacker for the success of the railway system than at the close of this great parliamentary struggle. And yet it was on the very eve of its triumph. The absolute necessity for a new line of communication between Liverpool and Manchester had been proved beyond all doubt; and the Committee of Directors appointed to watch the measure in Parliament were so determined to press on the project of a railway, even though it should have to be worked merely by horse-power, that the bill had scarcely been defeated ere they met, in London, to consider their next step. They called their parliamentary friends together to consult as to their future proceedings. Among those who attended the meeting of gentlemen with this object, in the Royal Hotel, St. James' Street, on the 4th of June, were Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Spring Rice, and General Gascoyne. Mr. Huskisson urged the promoters to renew their application to Parliament. They had secured the first step by the
chAp. xx.] A NEW SURVEY UNDERTAKEN. 245
passing of their preamble; the measure was of great public importance; and whatever temporary opposition it might meet with, he conceived that Parliament must ultimately give its sanction to the undertaking. Similar views were expressed by other speakers; and the deputation went back to Liverpool determined to renew their application to Parliament in the ensuing session. It was not considered desirable to employ Mr. Stephenson in making the new survey. He had not as yet established his reputation as an engineer beyond the boundaries of his own county; and the promoters of the bill had doubtless felt the disadvantages of this in the course of their parliamentary struggle. They therefore resolved now to employ engineers of the highest established reputation, as well as the best surveyors that could be obtained. In accordance with these views, they engaged Messrs. George and John Rennie to be the engineers of the railway; and Mr. Charles Vignolles, on their behalf, was appointed to prepare the plans and sections. The line which was eventually adopted differed somewhat from that surveyed by Mr. James and Mr. Stephenson, — entirely avoiding Lord Sefton's property, and passing through only a few detached fields of Lord Derby's at a considerable distance from the Knowsley domain. The principal game preserves of the district were carefully avoided. The promoters thus hoped to get rid of the opposition of the most influential of the resident landowners. The crossing of certain of the streets of Liverpool was also avoided, and the entrance contrived by means of a tunnel and an inclined plane. The new line stopped short of the river Irwell at the Manchester end, and thus in some measure removed the objections grounded on an illegal interruption to the canal or river traffic. With reference to the use of the locomotive engine, the promoters, remembering with what effect the objections to it had been urged by the opponents of the measure, intimated, in their second prospectus, that “as a guarantee of their good faith towards the public they will not require any clause empowering them to use it; or they will submit to such restrictions in the employment of it as Parliament may impose, for the satisfaction and ample protection both of proprietors on the line of road and of the public at large.” It was found that the capital required to form the line of railway, as laid out by the Messrs. Rennie, was considerably beyond the amount of Mr. Stephenson's estimate; and it became a question with the Committee in what way the new capital should be raised. A proposal was made to the Marquis of Stafford, who was principally interested in the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal, to become a shareholder in the railway. A similar proposal, it will be remembered, had at an earlier period been made to Mr. Bradshaw, the trustee for the property; but his answer was “all or none,” and the negotiation was broken off. The Marquis of Stafford, however, now met the projectors of the railway in a more conciliatory spirit; and it was ultimately agreed that he should become a subscriber to the extent of 1000 shares. The survey of the new line having been completed, the plans were deposited, the standing orders duly complied with, and the bill went into Committee. The same counsel appeared for the promoters; but the examination of witnesses was not nearly so protracted as on the previous occasion. Mr. Erle and Mr. Harrison led the case of the opposition. The bill went into Committee on the 6th of March; and on the 16th the preamble was declared proved by a majority of forty-three to eighteen. On the third reading in the House of Commons, an animated, and what now appears a very amusing, discussion took place. The Hon. Edward Stanley moved that the bill be read that day six months; and in the course of his speech he undertook to prove that the railway
cHAp. xx.] SIR ISAAC COFFIN'S SPEECH. 247
trains would take ten hours on the journey, and that they could only be worked by horses. Sir Isaac Coffin seconded the motion, and in doing so denounced the project as a most flagrant imposition. He would not consent to see widows' premises invaded; and “how,” he asked, in the most dignified senatorial manner, “how would any person like to have a railroad under his parlour window? . . . What, he would like to know, was to be done with all those who had advanced money in making and repairing turnpike-roads? What with those who may still wish to travel in their own or hired carriages, after the fashion of their forefathers? What was to become of coach-makers and harness-makers, coachmasters and coachmen, innkeepers, horse-breeders, and horsedealers? Was the House aware of the smoke and the noise, the hiss and the whirl, which locomotive engines, passing at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour, would occasion ? Neither the cattle ploughing in the fields or grazing in the meadows could behold them without dismay. . . . Iron would be raised in price 100 per cent., or, more probably, exhausted altogether It would be the greatest nuisance, the most complete disturbance of quiet and comfort in all parts of the kingdom, that the ingenuity of man could invent l” Mr. Huskisson and other speakers, though unable to reply to such arguments as these, strongly supported the bill; and it passed the third reading by a majority of eighty-eight to forty-one. The bill passed the House of Lords almost unanimously, the only opponents being the Earl of Derby and his relative the Earl of Wilton. “ The evidence on both sides,” says Mr. Booth, “was similar in effect to that offered in the House of Commons. On the subject of the locomotive engine, however—a machine which had been represented to the House of Commons in so formidable a light—evidence was brought forward by the opponents of the bill; but so poor a case was made, and so little objectionable did the engine appear to be, even from the testimony of the opponents, that the Lords did not think it necessary to have any evidence on the other side, although it was tendered by the counsel for the bill.” The cost of obtaining the Act amounted to the enormous sum of 27,000l. At the first meeting of the directors of the Company at Liverpool, the selection of a principal engineer was taken into consideration. The magnitude of the proposed works, and the vast consequences involved in the experiment, were deeply impressed upon their minds; and they resolved to secure the services of a resident engineer of proved experience and ability. Their attention was naturally directed to Mr. Stephenson as the best man to carry out the undertaking; at the same time they desired to have the benefit of the Messrs. Rennie's professional assistance in superintending the works. Mr. George Rennie had an interview with the directors on the subject, and proposed to undertake the chief superintendence, making six visits in each year, and stipulating that he should have the appointment of the resident engineer. But the responsibility attaching to the direction, in the matter of the efficient carrying on of the works, would not admit of their being influenced by ordinary punctilios on the occasion; and they accordingly declined Mr. Rennie's proposal, and proceeded to appoint Mr. George Stephenson their principal engineer at a salary of 1000l. per annum. The appointment of Mr. Stephenson was alleged as a grievance by the Messrs. Rennie ; but we cannot see that the directors could have acted differently on the occasion. His practical experience and ability were undoubted; his fertility in expedients had been tried and proved in the course of a