Images de page
PDF
ePub

regulations or precautions can be thoroughly effective; and we imagine that few of our readers will contend that the present supply is sufficient. Indeed, they would most probably say, that the sooner the present system is abolished the better. Besides, the proposed terms of purchase (the average market price during two years, if not less than twenty-five years' purchase of the income) were so very fair, that they must have met with general approbation. They neither exhibited that over sensitive, or rather, partial regard for the extreme rights of the few, which entirely overlooks the simplest rights of the many; nor that unscrupulous and wanton disregard of the just rights of the enterprising few, which would inevitably produce such distrust in all speculative improvements, that all enterprise would be destroyed, and the object in view the good of the many-thus defeated. And with respect to the heavy expense in which this purchase would involve towns, whose water companies are realising large profits, and which might be supposed by some to be absolutely ruinous, we have to remark, that the purchase money given for the water-works, however high it might be, would only be the sum required to redeem in perpetuity that portion of the water rates which is charged by the water company over and above the sum that would repay their expenses, and also the value of their works, mains, &c. To make this more evident, we will suppose such a case as the following. A town is supplied with water by a company whose capital is £100,000, whose profits are 20 per cent, and whose £100 shares are worth £500, the town must of course give the enormous sum of £500,000 for the works; but it would thus redeem for ever the annual charge of £20,000, and possess all the works of the company. If we take the market value of money at four per cent, we shall find that the town would be in exactly the same position financially, whether it purchase the works or not; with this very important advantage on the side of the purchase, however, that for a very slight increase of expenditure, a constant and unlimited supply of water might be substituted for the present intermittent and wretchedly inadequate supply. Even under the new Act this may be done, and we trust in this age of enormous wealth and boasted liberality, the wealthier classes will eagerly embrace such an opportunity of conferring an immense boon on their poorer brethren, especially when they consider that the purity as well as the quantity

of the water depends on the adoption of the new system, the water being often totally unfit for use in consequence of the necessity of keeping it in rotten barrels or filthy tanks.

It will be observed that this is the only case in which we have appealed to the charitable feelings of our readers. We have not done so on other occasions, because we thought the facts that we have detailed would be sufficiently convincing to enlist the sympathies of every philanthropist in favour of the measure, without any appeal from us; and with those who could remain unmoved by them, we feared that anything we could say would have but little weight. We therefore preferred to use the weapons which they would probably employ themselves. We have also but slightly alluded to the higher advantages which may be hoped from attention to the cause we advocate; but surely there is no one who has even but little studied the moral condition of our poor, who is not convinced how constantly external purity is the index to purity of conduct, and how certainly, in the opposite case, habits of disorder and uncleanliness lead ultimately to habits of vice.

Before we conclude, we must briefly notice two or three omissions, common alike to the Health of Towns Bill and the Public Health Act, concerning matters with which, though of great importance, it could scarcely be expected with justice that a single measure should deal, and to one of which in particular-the window-tax, which has been so aptly termed a tax on virtue-no one who knows the Chancellor of the Exchequer's peculiar sensitiveness to anything that affects the revenue, could have anticipated any reference. Our readers will not perhaps have suspected, that the exclusion of the metropolis from the act is one of the omissions which we have stated to be, in our opinion, not unreasonable. Our reasons for this we shall give below. With respect to burial-grounds and slaughter-houses (the omissions to which we have referred) it will be readily confessed the Act is very deficient, when we state that the only power conferred by it, is that of closing the former when certified to be dangerous to health, and of keeping a register of the latter.

In the case of burial grounds and slaughter-houses in towns, there are no considerations of revenue to hinder their abolition; but then, there is that almost insuperable obstacle, vested interests, to contend with. So completely

does the injustice of interfering with pecuniary vested interests always absorb men's ideas of justice, that it never seems to enter their minds that the poor, at whose expense these interests are generally supported, can by any possibility possess moral-vested interests, or rather rights. Even on occasions where the highest interests of human beings are concerned-those of eternity-we see them constantly sacrificed to vested temporal interests. The spiritual destitution of the large towns of England is acknowledged by all; yet, when the ecclesiastical commission recommended that the income of the majority of the bishops should be reduced to £4,000 or £5,000 a-year, and all pluralities abolished, not a hint was given that it was desirable the alterations should take place immediately. No; vested interests must be respected; and though thousands meantime might be swept off, ignorant of all religion, the thousands of the bishops must be held sacred from interference. We consider the present a parallel case, (of far less importance, of course), with this exception, that we do not demand the sacrifice of any vested interests, without adequate compensation. We are averse to their confiscation, fully as much on grounds of policy as of justice. Many of the vested interests at present standing in the way of sanatory improvements, were originally created by the privileges granted to bodies whose works were of great public utility, such as gas-works and water-works. The arbitrary confiscation of works like these would eventually lead to such universal distrust, and act as such an incubus upon enterprise, as would far more than counterbalance any temporary benefits that might be experienced from it. Whilst, therefore, we disclaim all sympathy with those who would unhesitatingly sacrifice the rights of the few to those of the many, we must earnestly request our readers to reflect, whether the poor have not as strong vested rights to life and health, as the proprietors of burial grounds and slaughter-houses have to their property, and whether some sacrifice might not be made by the wealthy to rid our large towns of these nuisances. By the abolition of interment in towns, and by taking such measures as would prevent noxious exhalations from the old burial grounds, we might convert a source of disease into a means of health, burial grounds being necessarily open spots. With regard to slaughter-houses, so much more fruitful in discase, and so much more numerous than burial grounds,

we beg to offer a suggestion which has occurred to us, and which, if carried into effect, would, we think, neutralise the evils arising from them, at the same time that it would facilitate the establishment of baths and wash-houses. Our plan is, that the basements of these establishments should be employed as slaughter-houses, and the first floors be devoted to the baths; by this means, the cost of the sites, (so heavy in large towns), would be divided between them; the amount of the profit would be doubled; the immense quantity of water consumed in the baths above could be employed to deluge the slaughter-houses below; and the quantity of hides, offal, &c., would be so great, from the number of animals killed, as to render it profitable to remove them daily, thus preventing putrefaction from taking place before removal.

In conclusion, we must observe that our reason for not considering the exemption of the metropolis from the new Act as unreasonable, that a city containing an eighth of the population of England and Wales may fairly claim to have a special act, instead of being included in a general one. Besides, much has been done in London during the last year in constructing spacious sewers; and the consolidation, of sewerage commissions which the government has already effected, and the activity and energy which it has displayed in carrying out the ordnance survey of London, now in progress, give us confidence in its promises, that the metropolis shall not escape.

ART. VI. Travels in Siberia: including Excursions Northwards, down the Obi, to the Polar Circle; and Southwards, to the Chinese Frontier. By ADOLF ERMAN. Translated from the German by WILLIAM DESBOROUGH COOLEY. In two volumes. London: Longman and Co., 1848.

FEM

EW pleasant associations are connected with Siberia. The world in general regards it as a region of ice and snow, barren plains, bleak hills, and interminable forests.

* Messrs. Brunel and Walker, in their late report on the state of the city sewerage, say, that during the last ten years, a greater extent of sewerage has been constructed than in the previous one hundred and thirty, and that there are now but three miles of street, out of fifty, without sewers.

When the English reader directs his attention towards the vast tracts of country which stretch between Russia and the further east, he is apt immediately to conjure up pictures of long winters, and scorching, but brief summers, whose duration barely serves but to render more bitterly felt the gloom of the succeeding seasons. But in dwelling on the melancholy features of Siberia, on its desert forests, its naked plains, its snowy valleys, its pine-clothed mountains, its dreary towns, cities, and fortresses, its communities of exiles, and the thankless servitude everywhere apparent, we should remember that a land so little favoured has not been abandoned to unproductiveness, nor been left utterly destitute of beauty. The woods and plains, whose dreary and unpeopled extent serves at first only to impress the imagination with the idea of gloom, furnish to the luxury of the surrounding nations those magnificent furs which pour wealth into the coffers of the hunter and the trader; the recesses of the mountains are rich in precious minerals and costly stones; while timber of noble quality may be obtained. During the summer months, too, a Siberian landscape offers not a few pleasant combinations of beauty, containing within itself most of those elements which go to the making up of a fine picture-green woods, plains covered with verdure, elaborately cultivated lands, busy towns, and quiet villages, while thickets of white and red roses, with flowers of many other species, and blossoming hedge rows, add a gentle loveliness to the scene, and form altogether a striking contrast to the desolate aspect of winter. But even during that icy season it would be difficult to find a more striking spectacle than that presented by the Siberian landscape, with its broad plains sheeted over with glittering snow, its clusters of houses capped with dazzling white, and its mountains rearing their wooded heads to the sky, while their slopes are covered with deep

pure snow.

Still, while regarding these features of attraction, it is not unnatural that unpleasant associations should connect themselves with the name of Siberia. These, however, are not to be traced so much to natural as to artificial sources, which may be found in the dreary depths of Russian policy. This it is chiefly that has gained for Siberia so unwholesome a notoriety, which has rendered it a byword for all that is comfortless and miserable. So widely diffused is the feeling, that it is a fact known to all

« PrécédentContinuer »