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CHAP, XXX11.] 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 145,0001. 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
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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
entire system of lines embracing the principal districts of Belgium ; connecting Brussels with all the chief cities, and extending from Ostend eastward to the Prussian frontier, and from Antwerp southward to the French frontier. The total extent of railway thus authorised was 246 miles. The eventual success of this measure was mainly due to the energy and sagacious enterprise of the king. He foresaw the immense advantages of the railway system, and its applicability to the wants of such a state as Belgium. The country being rich in coal and minerals, had great manufacturing capabilities. It had good ports, fine navigable rivers, abundant canals, and a teeming industrious population. He perceived railways were of all things the best calculated to bring the industry of the country into full play, and to render the riches of his provinces available to all the rest of the kingdom. King Leopold therefore openly declared himself the promoter of public railways throughout Belgium. The execution of the works was immediately commenced, the money being provided by the state. Every official influence was called into active exertion for the development of these great enterprises. And, in order to prevent the Belgian enterprise becoming in any sort converted into a stock-jobbing speculation, it was wisely provided that the shares were not to be quoted on the Exchange at Antwerp or Brussels, until the railway was actually completed.
Mr. George Stephenson and his son, as the leading railway engineers of England, were consulted by the King of the Belgians, as to the formation of the most efficient system of lines throughout his kingdom, as early as 1835. In the course of that year Mr. Stephenson visited Belgium, and had some interesting conferences with King Leopold and his ministers on the subject of the proposed railways. On that occasion the king appointed him by royal ordinance a Knight of the Order of Leopold. Improvements of the
system were recommended and adopted; and in 1837 a law was passed, authorising the construction of additional lines, — from Ghent to Mouscron on the French frontier,— from Courtray to Tournai, — from Brain-le-Comte to Namur,with several smaller branches. These, with the lines previously authorised, made a total length of 341 English miles.
Much diligence was displayed by the government in pushing on the works; the representatives of the people in the Chambers now surpassing even the king himself in their anticipation of the great public benefits to be derived from railways. The first twelve miles between Brussels and Malines were opened in 1835, a year after the passing of the law; and successive portions were opened from time to time, until the year 1844, when the entire national system was completed and opened, after a total outlay on works, stations, and plant, of about six and a half millions sterling. Never did any legislature expend public money in a wiser manner for the promotion of the common good. The Belgian lines being executed as an entire system by the state, there was no wasteful parliamentary expenditure, and no construction of unnecessary duplicate lines; the whole capital invested was remunerative; and the Belgian people thus obtained the full advantages of railways at less than one-half the average cost of those in England.
At the invitation of the king, Mr. Stephenson made a visit to Belgium in 1837, on the occasion of the public opening of the line from Brussels to Ghent. The event was celebrated with great ceremony. At Brussels there was a public procession, and another at Ghent on the arrival of the train. Mr. Stephenson and his party accompanied it to the Public Hall, there to dine with the chief ministers of state, the municipal authorities, and about five hundred of the principal inhabitants of the city; the English ambassador being also present. After the king's health and a few others had been