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ment has made so prominent. It was reserved for our day to exhibit that gross form of cowardice which would trust arms to the few, but dreads their being put into the hands of the many—— which would drill and arm exclusive castes and professions, but trembles lest the mass of the people should be such as their fathers were.
“It has been seen that the practical method heretofore in active use, and still the law, is, that every parish should find the means for learning the practice, by all its inhabitants, of such weapons as are most eflicient; if these are costly, the parish should provide enough at the general charge for the practice in turn of every inhabitant. The device now on foot, of either forcing every ‘volunteer’ to buy his own rifle, or getting the government to furnish them—-while they are ingeniously contrived to keep the rifle clubs exclusive, and to give government the excuse for interfering in their arrangements—are neither convenient in themselves, nor, as has been shown, are they consistent with the only ground on which the importance of the knowledge and use of arms by a free people rests.”
We have now given to the reader, who may hitherto have been unacquainted with “The Parliamentary Remembrancer,” an opportunity of judging for himself of its merits and utility. If he agree with us, he will be glad to commence next session a regular acquaintance with Mr. Smith’s work. Whether as a lawyer, or one of the body politic interested in constitutional history, and willing to know accurately the actual deeds and misdeeds of the legislature, we can promise him, if indeed we have not persuaded him, that he will not regret at the end of the session having applied himself to the perusal of “The Parliamentary Remembrancer.”
ART. IX.—RAlLWAY ACCIDENTS AND THEIR
LL ranks and conditions of men deem themselves to understand the importance of Railways, and of course every one
is familiar with the mere commonplace railway facts. Probably it is nothing new to many people to hear, that one person in every fifty throughout the population is directly dependent for maintenance upon railways; that the number of journeys made annually is greater than would be arrived at, if each of the men, women, and children, in this country were to travel five times a year a journey of twelve miles ;' that the average fare paid by each railway traveller is one shilling and sixpence ; that of the whole number of passengers conveyed in 1858, the killed were in the proportion of 1 in 2,728,257; that this is the greatest proportion occurring since 1853 1; that of this number about one half, or 1 in 5,565,645 passengers met his death from causes arising out of his own misconduct or want of caution. That there are now in operation no fewer than 3128 miles of single line railways, is a circumstance not calculated to diminish the number of accidents. It is well known, also, that railways of small traific carry on their business free from accidents ; it is on lines of large and mixed traflic that accidents occur. Thus, for the last eight and a half years, the mean length of line open for traffic has been 8382 miles ; and upon 6860 miles owned by 58 companies, above 849,000,000 passengers have been conveyed in that time, and 142 persons have been killed from causes beyond their control ; whilst in 1522 miles owned by 85 companies, upon which above 71,000,000 passengers have been carried, no accidents have occurred. Again, it is known, to every one, that some of the great , 1 Parliamentary Papers, Session 1, 1859, Nos. 2472, 2498, and 2513. Number of passengers, 139,141,135. Number of killed, 51. In the five years ending December, 1858, the proportion of killed to carried was 1 in 7,907,044 ; ill the traffic companies are more remarkable for clean bills as to accidents than others of them ; showing the same thing, which many other facts go to show, that a very high proportion of the actual accidents are attributable to causes which it is within the power of the management_of the lines to put down.‘ The same was last year reported, by a French commission, to be the state of things on the lines in that country. Let the above facts be borne well in mind, and we shall be the better prepared to come to the consideration of the vitally interesting but complex questions—What are the causes of railway accidents ? In what degree are companies fairly responsible for them ? In what degree do the existing laws operate to protect the public from accident, and to enforce a due amount of responsibility when accidents occur; and is there any point in which these laws can be altered with probability of beneficial results P
eight years and a. half, ending 30th June, 1858, the proportion of passengers killed was one in 6,480,013.
VOL. VIII. NO. XV. I
According to the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, appointed on the 8th Feb., 1858, to inquire into the causes of accidents on railways, and into the possibility of removing any such causes by further legislation, which report was founded on a large body of evidence given by otficers of the Board of Trade, by eminent engineers, and by directors and various other oflicers of railways, the causes of accidents may be classified under the heads-—inattention of servants : defective material either in the works or the rolling stock : excessive speed. We will take the last assigned cause in the first place, because it is always made a prominent object in every inquiry of this class, whether taken before a coroner, an officer of the Board of Trade, or a judge and jury in a court of law. But here a. difficulty at once arises. How is the speed at which a train is proceeding at the moment a collision, or other miscarriage happens, to be ascertained ? At first sight the thing seems clear as daylight, and so it is, given the daylight, perfectly easy for any one in a train, who can see the quarter-of-mile stones on the side of the line, to tell accurately by his watch what is the pace of the engine over the quarter of a mile. In the night there are no means whatever
1 Parliamentary Paper, Session 1, 1859, No. 249s, pp. 21, 22, 25.
at present for ascertaining with precision what is the velocity of a railway carriage over a small distance. Moreover, the passengers who may have marked the time, &c., shortly previous to the accident, when it comes to be inquired into, are not to be had as witnesses, having proceeded to their destinations, and dispersed in all directions. In practice, therefore, the testimony on this head is confined to that of engine-drivers, guards, and stokers, persons more or less interested and biassed, and who moreover are, at the best, deposing to an opinion on a matter exceedingly critical and dificult to estimate. Hence, there is no difficulty in acquiescing with the opinion expressed by the ofiicers of the railway department of the Board of Trade, that it is practically impossible to arrive at satisfactory proof of the speed of a train at the time of an accident. Besides, it is not easy to see how excessive speed ever directly causes accidents, except in the rare case of a train being driven, at such a rate, round a sharp curve as to start the carriages off the line, and the still rarer case of over rapidity bringing a train up to a given point in its course, so much in anticipation of its proper time of being there, as to run it into another train that otherwise would have been well out of its way. No doubt, of course, in cases of collision, the greater the momentum with which the colliding bodies impinge, the more serious will be the disaster; but the question is not, whether the excessive speed does not aggravate accidents, but whether it ever, per se, causes accidents. There is a confident opinion abroad, in utter denial of speed (excepting the above cases) ever causing accidents. Men of high intelligence and long experience tell you they never knew a case where it was the pace that killed. It may well be that an unusual speed, with a heavy load, may bring out, at once, the defect in a worn or illfitting tire, or a weak axle, or the unfastened joint of a rail, and so lead to a mishap; but, in such cases, the unusual speed, though it is the proximate reason, is not the causa causans: in other words, the real responsibility rests not on the engine-driver, but with the departments whose duty it is to keep the rolling stock, or the permanent way, in a safe and sound condition. But it. is
sufficiently evident how strong the tendency will be, for a railway company and its oificiails, to throw the blame upon an imputed violation of their regulations as to rate of travelling, rather than take it upon themselves, by admitting their own laches and inefficient superintendence. From 40 to 4.5 miles an hour appears to be the maximum at which the railways are now travelling; but whether this, or 50 or 60 miles an hour, is an unsafe pace, it is impossible to say absolutely. That may be a perfectly safe pace—that is to say, a pace attended with no probability of risk—with carriages in proper order, along a good road free from obstructions, which would be far from safe, all things else remaining the same, if the road be crowded with trains, or be in a bad condition. An instance is mentioned where a speed of twenty miles an hour was unsafe, with the engine and the road in the condition they were in? But, for the reasons just indicated, there is always an interest at work to refer every misadventure, on these roads, to over rapidity of motion rather than any other cause : this is always a resource, because it is always a mystery. The device is analogous to the old logical trick of zynotum per ignotius. The accident at Tuxford, on the Great Northern Railway, is an instance. The government inspector, Colonel Wynne, who investigated it oflicially, says, it cannot be accounted for. The doctrine of railway authorities is, that the speed was the cause. We see a speed clock is spoken of, which is to register the times in which given spaces are passed over; but at present it is a mere ingenious, unshapen project—an infant en centre ole sa -mm --of no practical utility whatever. What has been said will, we trust, be found not altogether without its value in use, for pro-p fessional men engaged on inquiries on railway accidents. A very full body of evidence, comprising numerous facts, and the most trustworthy opinions on this subject, is contained in the minutes of evidence taken before the committee above mentioned.” There
2 See Captain Galton’s Evid., p. 31.
8 See Evid. of J. Locke, M.P., pp. 69,70 ; Captain Huish, p. 83; Lt.-Col. Yolland, pp. 26, 28, 30 ; and see pp. 17, 25, 31, 32, 49, 61, 6'2, 69, 104, 112; Mr. Gooch, pp. 140, 141 ; and see pp. 146, 150, 162, 165, 1158, 173.
As to Speed Clock, Evid. p. 95.
To us, we must own, the evidence, both in quantity and weight, seems to pieponderate unmistakeably in favour of the conclusion, that accidents (wi.li the exceptions in the text) are never caused by mere speed.