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EULOGY OF MR. STEPHENSON.
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 thein, 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 20001. 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, in common with the whole country, feel themselves placed towards that eminent person.
Mr. Ellis, M. P., then deputy chairman of the Midland, in * Resolution of the York, Newcastle, and Berwick Company, unanimously adopted, 31st August, 1845.
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
* 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 stake and lost, — the merchant who had left his business, and the doctor who had neglected his patients, to gamble in railway stock, and been ruined,—the penniless knaves and schemers, who had speculated so recklessly, and gained so little, — the titled and fashionable people, who had bowed themselves so low before the idol of the day, and found themselves so deceived and “done,”— the credulous small capitalists, who, dazzled by premiums, had invested their all in railway shares, and now saw themselves stripped of everything, — the Average Directors, who “never knew what was going on and thought all was right,” but now found that all was wrong, -the tradesmen who had sold their business to become sharebrokers, and had now reached the Gazette,_ were all grievously enraged, and looked about them for a victim. In this temper were shareholders, when, at a railway meeting in York, some pertinent questions were put to the Railway King. His replies were not satisfactory; and the questions were pushed home. Mr. Hudson became confused. Angry voices rose in the meeting. The monarch was even denounced. A committee of investigation was appointed, and the gilt idol of the railway world was straightway dethroned. A howl of execration arose from his deluded worshippers: and those who had bowed the lowest before him during his brief reign, hissed the loudest when he fell. The gold which he had put in their pockets might still be heard chinking there; but no one had yet found them out, and they joined in the chorus of popular indignation. Then committees of investigation were appointed on nearly all the railways; able reports by patriotic candidates for seats at boards were successively published ; and, railways having been exorcised, and one of their evil spirits cast out, railway virtue was again supposed to be in the ascendant.
MR. STEPHENSON'S CONNECTION witH FOREIGN RAILWAYS. JOURNEYS INTO BELGIUM AND SPAIN.
LEOPOLD, King of the Belgians, was the first European monarch who discovered the powerful instrumentality of railways in developing the industrial resources of a nation. Having resided in England during the infancy of our railway enterprises, he had personally inspected the lines in operation, and satisfied himself of their decided superiority over all known modes of transit. He therefore determined at the earliest possible period to adopt them as the great highroads of his new kingdom. Belgium had scarcely escaped from the throes of her revolution, and Leopold had only been a short time called to the throne, when by his command the first project of a Belgian railway was laid before him. It was a modest project, it is true, a single line from Antwerp to Liege, requiring a capital of only 400,000l. But small though it was, his ministers even feared that the project was too ambitious, and that the king was about to embark his government in an enterprise beyond its strength. There was as yet only the experiment of the Liverpool and Manchester passenger railway to justify him; but in his opinion that had been complete and decisive. The bill for the Antwerp and Liege line struggled with difficulty through the Chambers, and it became law in 1834. Before the measure received legislative sanction, the plan had been enlarged, and powers were taken to construct an almost