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The writer proceeds to give further illustrations of the principle laid down in the Bill of Rights, that one of the ancient rights and liberties of Englishmen is to have arms for their defence, suitable to their condition, and as allowed by law.” This last doctrine, we may in passing remark, would hardly justify arming uniformly gentle and simple with either the Enfield rifle or Lancaster breach-loader,
Mr. Smith then proceeds to shew that the more expensive kind of arms used to be provided, not by individuals, but by the parishes, in their corporate capacity, just as the latter maintained butts for common practice. These more costly arms were usually kept within the church for safety's sake when not in use; and hence got to be often called “church armour,” or “harness." With the constitutional system,” where the genuine object was that all should have a knowledge and practice of the use of arms, so that, if need were, every man could be ready to defend his country, and when drillings and dress uniforms were not thought of, but each marksman learnt to hit the bull's-eye, Mr. Smith contrasts the pedantry, ornamental outside, and vanity of the new volunteer rifle clubs, which has bestowed far more eloquence and thought “upon the cut and colour of their uniform, than the sort of weapon they are to handle, and how they are to practise it.” This, we think, is not quite just. It exhibits in a minute instance, it is true, somewhat of the writer's exaggeration and undue generalisation when working on a favourite subject; for in modern warfare between rifle corps, it is of no small importance, as the deer-stalkers will testify, to be aptly clothed, and in the next place there has been (goodness knows) debate enough, though not conclusive, upon the comparative merits of a multitude of weapons, and the modes of getting sites and opportunities to practise shooting. To sum up the subject, Mr. Smith, as might be expected, insists upon his beloved parish. “It has been shewn," says he, in a couple of characteristic paragraphs, “that the fundamental law of England neither recognizes nor allows of any
exclusiveness or distinctions of classes in the use of arms, such as the new rifle club move
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 manywhich 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 efficient; 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 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.-RAILWAY ACCIDENTS AND THEIR
LL ranks and conditions of nien deem themselves to underA
stand 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 inisconduct or want of caution. That there are now in operation no fewer than 3128 miles of single line railways, is a circumstance pot calculated to diminish the number of accidents. It is well known, also, that railways of small traffic carry on their business free from accidents ; it is on lines of large and mixed traffic 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 ; in the eight years and a half, ending 30th June, 1858, the proportion of passengers killed was one in 6,480,013, VOL. VIII. NO. XV.
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 ?
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 officers of the Board of Trade, by eminent engineers, and by directors and various other officers 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
Parliainentary Paper, Session 1, 1859, No. 2498, pr. 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 åre, at the best, deposing to an opinion on a matter exceedingly critical and difficult to estimate. Hence, there is no difficulty in acquiescing with the opinion expressed by the officers 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
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 causu 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
of its way.