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BURNING ALIVE ON RAILROADS.
To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.
SIR, HAVING gradually got into this little controversy respecting the burning human beings alive on the railroads, I must beg leave, preparatory to the introduction of the bill, to say a few more words on the subject. If I could have my will in these matters, I would introduce into the bill a clause absolutely prohibitory of all locking doors on railroads; but as that fascinating board, the Board of Trade, does not love this, and as the public may, after some repetitions of roasted humanity, be better prepared for such peremptory legislation, the better method perhaps will be to give to the Board of Trade the power of opening doors (one or both), with the customary penalties against the companies for disobedience of orders, and then the board may use this power as the occasion may require. To pass a one-legged law, giving power over one door and not the other, would, perhaps, be too absurd for human endurance. If railroad companies were aware of their real and extended interests, they would not harass the public by vexatious regulations, nor, under the plea of humanity (though really for purposes of economy), expose them to serious peril. The country are very angry with themselves for having granted the monopoly, and very angry for the instances of carelessness and oppression which have appeared in the working of the system: the heaviest fines are inflicted by coroner's juries, the heaviest damages are given by common juries. Railroads have daily proofs of their unpopularity. If Parliament get out of temper with these metallic ways, they will visit them with Laws of Iron, and burst upon them with the high pressure of despotism.
The wayfaring men of the North will league with the wayfaring men of the West; South and East will join hand in hand against them. All the points of the compass will combine against these vendors of velocity, and traders in transition. I hope a clause will be introduced, compelling the Board of Trade to report twice a year to Parliament upon the accidents of railroads, their causes, and their prevention. The public know little or nothing of what happens on the rail. All the men with letters upon the collars of their coats are sworn to secrecy—nothing can be extracted from them; when anything happens they neither appear to see nor hear
y In case of conflagration, you would be to them as so many joints on the spit. It has occurred to 500 persons, that soft impediments behind and before (such as wool) would prevent the dangers of meeting or overtaking, It is not yet understood why a carriage on fire at the end of the train cannot be seen by the driver of the engine. All this may be great nonsense; but the public ought to know that these points have been properly considered; they should know that there are a set of officers paid to watch over their interests, and to guard against the perpetual encroachments, the carelessness, the insolence, and the avarice of monopoly.
Why do not our dear Ripon and our youthful Gladstone see this, and come cheerfully to the rescue 2 and, instead of wrapping themselves up in transcendental philosophy, and the principles of letting-aloneness, why do they not at once do what ought to be done—what must be done—and what, after many needless butcheries, they will at last be compelled to do?—Yours,
SYDNEY SMITH. June 18. 1842.
THE HUMBLE PETITION of the REv. SYDNEY SMITH to the House of CoNGRESS at WASHINGTON.
I PETITION your honourable House to institute some measures for the restoration of American credit, and for the repayment of debts incurred and repudiated by several of the States. Your Petitioner lent to the State of Pennsylvania a sum of money, for the purpose of some public improvement. The amount, though small, is to him important, and is a saving from a life income, made with difficulty and privation. If their refusal to pay (from which a very large number of English families are suffering) had been the result of war, produced by the unjust aggression of powerful enemies; if it had arisen from civil discord; if it had proceeded from an improvident application of means in the first years of self-government; if it were the act of a poor State struggling against the barrenness of nature—every friend of America would have been contented to wait for better times; but the fraud is committed in the profound peace of Pennsylvania, by the richest State in the Union, after the wise investment of the borrowed money in roads and canals, of which the repudiators are every day reaping the advantage. It is an act of bad faith which (all its circumstances considered) has no parallel,
and no excuse. e Nor is it only the loss of property which your Peti
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