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GOVERNMENTS WORKING BY DEPUTY.
of simple deputation does not? The industrial, commercial, and philanthropic agencies, which citizens form spontaneously, are directly deputed agencies; these governmental agencies made by electing legislators who appoint officers, are indirectly deputed ones. And it is hoped that, by this process of double deputation, things may be achieved which the process of single deputation will not achieve. What, now, is the rationale of this hope? Is it that legislators, and their employés, are made to feel more intensely than the rest these evils they are to remedy, these wants they are to satisfy? Hardly; for by position they are mostly relieved from such evils and wants. Is it, then, that they are to have the primary motive replaced by a secondary motive—the fear of public displeasure, and ultimate removal from office? Why, scarcely; for the minor benefits which citizens will not organize to secure directly, they will not organize to secure indirectly, by turning out inefficient servants: especially if they cannot readily get efficient ones. Is it, then, that these Stateagents are to do, from a sense of duty, what they would not do from any other motive? Evidently this is the only possibility remaining. The proposition on which the advocates of much government have to fall back, is, that things which the people will not unite to effect for personal benefit, a law-appointed portion of them will unite to effect for the benefit of the rest. Public men and functionaries love their neighbours better than themselves ! The philanthropy of statesmen is stronger than the selfishness of citizens !
No wonder, then, that every day adds to the list of legislative miscarriages. If colliery explosions increase, notwithstanding the appointment of coal-mine inspectors, why it is but a natural moral to these false hypotheses. If Sunderland shipowners complain that, as far as tried, * the Mercantile Marine Act has proved a total failure;” and if, meanwhile, the other class affected by it—the sailors-show their disapprobation by extensive strikes; why it does but exemplify the folly of trusting a theorizing benevolence rather than an experienced self-interest. On all sides we may expect such facts; and on all sides we find them. Government, turning engineer, appoints its lieutenant, the Sewers' Commission, to drain London. Presently Lambeth sends deputations to say that it pays heavy rates, and gets no benefit. Tired of waiting, Bethnal-green calls meetings to consider “the most effectual means of extending the drainage of the district." From Wandsworth come complainants, who threaten to pay no more until something is done. Camberwell proposes to raise a subscription and do the work itself. Meanwhile, no progress is made towards the purification of the Thames; the weekly returns show an increasing rate of mortality; in Parliament, the friends of the Commission have nothing save good intentions to urge in mitigation of censure; and, at length, despairing ministers gladly seize an excuse for quietly shelving the Commission and its plans altogether.* As architectural surveyor, the State has scarcely succeeded better than as engineer; witness the Metropolitan Buildings' Act. New houses still tumble down from time to time. A few months since two fell at Bayswater, and one more recently near the Pentonville Prison: all notwithstanding prescribed thicknesses, and noop-iron band, and inspectors. It never struck those
* So complete is the failure of this and other sanitary bodies, that, at the present moment (March, 1854), a number of philanthropic gentlemen are voluntarily organizing a “Health Fund for London,” with the view of meeting the threatened invasion of the Cholera; and the plea for this purely private enterprise, is, that the Local Boards of Health and Boards of Guardians are inoperative, from “ignorance, 1st, of the extent of the danger ; 2d, of the means which experience has discovered for meeting it and 3d, of the comparative security which those mcans may produce.”
FAILURE OF GOVERNMENTAL PROJECTS.
who provided these delusive sureties, that it was possible to build walls without bonding the two surfaces together, Bo that the inner layer might be removed after the survey. or's approval. Nor did they foresee, that, in dictating a arger quantity of bricks than experience proved abso. lutely needful, they were simply insuring a slow deterioration of quality to an equivalent extent.* The government guarantee for safe passenger ships answers no better than its guarantee for safe houses. Though the burning of the Amazon arose either from bad construction or bad stowage, she had received the Admiralty certificate before sailing. Notwithstanding official approval, the Adelaide was found, on her first voyage, steer ill, to have useless pumps, ports that let floods of water into the cabins, and coals so near the furnaces that they twice caught fire. The W. S. Lindsay, which turned out unfit for sailing, had yet been passed by the government agent; and, but for the owner, might have gone to sea at a great risk of life. The Melbourne-originally a State-built ship—which took twenty-four days to reach Lisbon, and then needed to be docked to undergo a thorough repair, had been duly inspected. And lastly, the notorious Australian, before her third futile attempt to proceed on her voyage, had, her owners tell us, received “the full approbation of the government inspector.” Neither does the like supervision give security to land-travelling. The iron bridge at Chester, which, breaking, precipitated a train into the Dee, nad passed under the official eye. Inspection did not prevent a column on the South-eastern from being so placed as to kill a man who put his head out of the carriage win
* The Builder remarks, that “the removal of the brick-duties has not yet produced that improvement in the make of bricks which we ought to find, . .... but as bad bricks can be obtained for less than good bricks, so long as houses built of the former will sell as readily as if the better had been used, no improvement is to be expected.”
dow. The li comotive that burst at Brighton lately, did so notwithstanding a State approval given but ten days previously. And—to look at the facts in the gross—this system of supervision has not prevented the gradual increase of railway accidents; which, be it remembered, has arisen since the system was commenced.
“Well, let the State fail. It can but do its best. If it succeed, so much the better: if it do not, where is the harm ? Surely it is wiser to act, and take the chance of success, than to do nothing.” To this plea the rejoinder is, that unfortunately the results of legislative intervention are not only negatively bad, but often positively so. Acts of Parliament do not simply fail; they frequently make worse.
The familiar truth that persecution aids rather than hinders proscribed doctrines-a truth lately afresh illustrated by the forbidden work of Gervinus—is a part of the general truth that legislation often does indirectly, the reverse of that which it directly aims to do. Thus has it been with the Metropolitan Buildings' Act. As was lately agreed unanimously by the delegates from all the parishes in London, and as was stated by them to Sir William Molesworth, this act “has encouraged bad building, and has been the means of covering the suburbs of the metropolis with thousands of wretched hovels, which are a disgrace to a civilized country."
Thus also has it been in provincial towns. jhe Not. tingham Inclosure Act of 1845, by prescribing the structure of the houses to be built, and the extent of yard or garden to be allotted to each, has rendered it impossible to build working-class dwellings at such moderate rents as to compete with existing ones; it is estimated that, as A consequence of this, 10,000 of the population are debarred from the new homes they would otherwise have, and are forced to live crowded together in miserable places, unfit for human habitatior ; and so, in its anxiety to insure
STATE AUTION WORSE THAN NO ACTION.
sealthy accommodation for artisans, the law has entailed on them still worse accommodation than before. Thus, too, has it been with the Passengers' Act. The terrible fevers which arose in the Australian emigrant ships a few months since, causing in the Bourneuf 83 deaths, in the Wanota 39 deaths, in the Marco Polo 53 deaths, and in the Ticonderoga 104 deaths, arose in vessels sent out by the government; and arose in consequence of the close packing which the Passengers' Act authorizes.*
Thus moreover has it been with the safeguards provided by the Mercantile Marine Act. The examinations devised for insuring the efficiency of captains, have had the effect of certifying the superficially-clever and unpractised men, and, as we are told by a shipowner, rejecting many of the long-tried and most trustworthy: the general result being that the ratio of shipwrecks has increased. Thus also has it happened with Boards of Health, which have, in sundry cases, exacerbated the evils to be removed; as, for instance, at Croydon, where, according to the official report, the measures of the sanitary authorities produced an epidemic, which attacked 1,600 people, and killed 70. Thus again has it been with the Joint Stock Companies Registration Act. As was shown by Mr. James Wilson, in his late motion for a select committee on life. assurance associations, this measure, passed in 1844 to guard the public against bubble schemes, actually facili. tated the rascalities of 1845 and subsequent years. The legislative sanction, devised as a guarantee of genuineness, and supposed by the people to be such, clever adventurers have without difficulty obtained for the most worthless projects; having obtained it, an amount of public confidence has followed which they could never otherwise
* Against which close packing, by the way, a private mercantile bodythe Liverpool Shipowners' Association-unavailingly protested when the Act was before Parliament.