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c11 Ap. xxxi.1.] THE RAILWAY KING. 449
the continuity of the main line of communication—it was found necessary to secure the Durham junction, which was an important link in the chain, he and Mr. Stephenson boldly purchased that railway between them, at the price of 88,500l. It was an exceedingly fortunate purchase; the liability was afterwards undertaken by the parent Company, to whom it was worth double the money. This act was a successful stroke of policy, and was lauded as it deserved to be. Mr. Hudson, thus encouraged, purchased the Brandling Junction line for 500,000l., in his own name—an operation at the time regarded as equally favourable, though he was afterwards charged with appropriating 1600 of the new shares created for the purchase, when worth 211. premium each. The Great North of England line being completed, Mr. Hudson had thus secured the entire line of communication from York to Newcastle; and the route was opened to the public in June, 1844. On that occasion Newcastle eulogised Mr. Hudson in its choicest local eloquence; and he was pronounced to be the greatest benefactor the district had ever known. The adulation which now followed Mr. Hudson would have intoxicated a stronger and more self-denying man. He was pronounced to be the man of the age, and was hailed as THE RAILwAY KING. The grand test by which the shareholders judged him was the dividends that he paid, although subsequent events proved that these dividends were in many cases delusive, intended only “to make things pleasant.” The policy, however, had its effect. The shares in all the lines of which he was chairman went to a premium; and then arose the temptation to create new shares in branch and extension lines, often worthless, which were issued also at a premium. Thus he shortly found himself chairman of nearly 600 miles of railways, extending from Rugby to Newcastle, and at the head of numerous new projects, by G G
means of which paper wealth could be created, as it were, at pleasure. He held in his own hands almost the entire administrative power of the companies over which he presided: he was chairman, board, manager, and all. His devoted admirers for the time, inspired sometimes by gratitude for past favours, but oftener by the expectation of favours to come, supported him in all his measures. At the meetings of the companies, if any suspicious shareholder ventured to put a question about the accounts, he was summarily put down by the chair, and hissed by the proprietors. Mr. Hudson was voted praises, testimonials, and surplus shares, alike liberally; and scarcely a word against him could find a hearing. He was equally popular outside the circle of railway proprietors. His entertainments at Albert Gate were crowded; and he went his round of visits among the peerage like any prince. Of course Mr. Hudson was a great authority on railway questions in Parliament, to which the burgesses of Sunderland had sent him. His experience of railways, still little understood, though the subject of so much legislation, gave value and weight to his opinions; and in many respects he was a useful member. During the first years of his membership he was chiefly occupied in passing the railway bills in which he was more particularly interested. And in the session of 1845, when he was at the height of his power, it was triumphantly said of him, that “he walked quietly through Parliament with some sixteen railway bills under his arm.” One of these bills, however, was the subject of a very severe contest—we mean that empowering the construction of the railway from Newcastle to Berwick. It was almost the only bill in which Mr. Stephenson was that year concerned. Mr. Hudson displayed great energy in support of the measure, and he worked hard to ensure its success both in and out of Parliament; but he himself attributed the chief merit to Mr. Stephenson,
chap. xxxii.] EULOGY OF MR. STEPHENSON. 451
Lord Howick, the leading supporter of the rival atmospheric line, proposed a compromise; but Mr. Stephenson urged its decided rejection. At a meeting of the York, Newcastle, and Berwick Company, held shortly after the passing of the bill, Mr. Hudson thus acknowledged the services rendered to them by their consulting engineer. “This Company,” said he, “is indeed under great obligations to Mr. Stephenson. Every shareholder who is about to get his additional share is almost entirely indebted to him for it. I know, and my brother directors know full well, the resolute and energetic manner in which he held us from any compromise in reference to the Berwick bill. He felt so strong in the integrity of his case, that whenever compromise was named, he always resisted the offer, and urged us to fight the battle on principle. By his indomitable perseverance and high tone of feeling we were induced to do so, and thus at length we have so successfully accomplished our object.”
Mr. Hudson accordingly suggested to the proprietors that they should present some fitting testimonial to Mr. Stephenson, as a recognition of the important services which he had rendered to them, as well as to the railway interest generally. With the same object, he appealed to the proprietors in the Midland, the York and North Midland, and the Newcastle and Darlington Companies, of which he was chairman, and they unanimously adopted resolutions, voting 2000l. each for the erection of a statue of George Stephenson on the High Level Bridge at Newcastle, and the presentation to him of a service of plate, “in testimony of the deep obligations under which the above-mentioned Companies,incommon with the whole country, feel themselves placed towards that eminent person.””
Mr. Ellis, M. P., then deputy chairman of the Midland, in seconding the resolution voting 2000l. for the purpose indicated by Mr. Hudson, said, “it might appear to many strange that he should do so [statues not being recognised objects amongst the Society of Friends]; but he did so with all his heart. He believed he had the distinguished honour of having known George Stephenson longer than any one then present. Perhaps he could not say more of him than that he had always found in him an upright, honourable, and honest man.” At the meeting of the York and North Midland Company, the great benefits which Mr. Stephenson had conferred on the public, by opening up to them cheap and abundant supplies of fuel by means of railways, were strongly expressed ; and Mr. Hudson, in concluding his observations, said:—“By adopting this step, we shall show that we are not the sordid persons whom some have represented us to be — merely looking for our own pecuniary benefit; but that we are a body of men who know how to appreciate and admire genius and talent, and that we are not unmindful of the benefits which that talent has conferred upon us and upon mankind.”f The resolution, like those passed by the other Companies, was adopted unanimously, and with “loud applause.” But there ended the shareholders' appreciation of Mr. Stephenson's genius and talent; and Mr. Hudson's repudiation of sordid motives, on his part and theirs, thus proved somewhat premature. The contribution of subscriptions to present a testimonial to Mr. Hudson himself went on apace, and railway shareholders in all parts of the country subscribed large sums of money to present him with a fortune for having already made one. But Mr. Stephenson pretended to fill no
* Resolution of the York, Newcastle, and Berwick Company, unanimously adopted, 31st August, 1845.
* Report of proceedings at the meeting of the Midland Railway Company, 25th July, 1845.
f Report of proceedings at the York and North Midland Company, 29th June, 1845.
cHAP. xxxii.] RESULT OF THE SATURNALIA. 453
man's pocket with premiums. He was no creator of shares; he could not, therefore, work upon shareholders' gratitude for “favours to come; ” and their testimonial accordingly ended with resolutions and speeches. Mr. Stephenson never asked for nor expected a testimonial. He had done the work of his life, and had retired from the field of railway enterprise, reposing upon his own sturdy independence. Mr. Stephenson was afterwards somewhat indignant to find that, notwithstanding the “great obligations,” which the chairman of the York, Newcastle, and Berwick Company had informed the proprietors they were under to their engineer for the labour and energy which he had devoted in their service, so much to their pecuniary advantage, the only issue of their fine resolutions and speeches was an allotment made to him of some thirty of the shares issued under the powers of the act which he had been mainly instrumental in obtaining. The chairman himself, it afterwards appeared, had at the same time appropriated not fewer than 10,894 of the same shares, the premiums on which were then worth, in the market, about 145,000l. The manner in which the gratitude of the Company and their chairman was thus expressed to their engineer, was strongly resented by Mr. Stephenson at the time, and a coolness took place between him and Mr. Hudson which was never wholly removed, though they afterwards shook hands, and Mr. Stephenson declared that all was forgotten. Mr. Hudson's brief reign was now drawing rapidly to a close. The saturnalia of 1845 was followed by a sudden reaction. Shares went down faster than they had gone up ; the holders of them hastened to sell, in order to avoid payment of the calls; and the fortunes of many were utterly wrecked. Then came sudden repentance, and professed return to virtue. The betting man, who, temporarily abandoning the turf for the share-market, had played his heaviest