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Art. VI. — Chemins de Fer Américains ; Historique de leur

Construction ; Prix de Revient et Produit; Mode d'Administration adopté ; Résumé de la Législation qui les régit. Par GuilLAUME-TELL Poussin, ex-Major au Corps du Génie Américain, et Aide-de-Camp du Général du Génie Bernard. 410. Paris, 1836.

When we last took occasion to discuss a subject having relation to rail-roads, we labored to convince the public, that there were adequate motives for undertaking one of these great works of improvement, between the cities of Boston and Albany. The splendid results, which might be anticipated from such an undertaking, appeared worthy of exciting the efforts of the rich commonwealth of Massachusetts. But we felt then, that we were arguing to the deaf. Projects of this sort were, without ceremony, denounced as visionary ; and those who urged them with any degree of confidence were regarded, by that class of men, who place the highest estimate on their own superior judgment and prudence, not merely with distrust, but literally as persons of unsound mind. There were, it is true, many individuals, who had calmly examined the subject, and who clearly foresaw, that this great improvement was destined to produce a revolution in the habits of society. There were also great numbers, who readily listened to, and as readily believed, the splendid predictions which were daily published, of the future success of this improvement. But the great mass of sober men,

those who mutually look to one another for lessons of prudence, who fully understand the mystery of making profitable investments, and who lead the counsels of legislative bodies, in all matters relating to public revenue and expenditures, - were as incredulous of any practical benefit to result from the introduction of rail-roads, as they still are of the utility of the aeronautic labors of Mr. Durant or Mr. Lauriat. The futility of the projects which were urged upon them, by those who had taken a different view of these subjects, was so self-evident to their minds, that they deemed all demonstration, argument, or examination altogether superfluous. They boldly shut their minds against conviction, with the intrepidity of men who believe that an appeal to their understandings is but a prelude to an attack upon their pockets.

This prejudice did not prevail with equal force throughout the country. Its influence was strongest in New England. Here the triumph of this improvement has wrought its way, in opposition to the determined incredulity and apparent hostility of a great majority of that class of men, who, by the share which they hold in the wealth of the country, are most interested in its success, and who, from their general intelligence and foresight, might have been expected to be its earliest patrons. In Massachusetts, particularly, rail-roads have been successfully introduced in spite of the opposition of many who will be most benefited by them, and without the aid of such as alone could have given it without personal sacrifice. It is now proved by actual experience, that these works, when introduced with judgment, may become a source of reasonable profit to those who invest their property in them, and that their influence in promoting the public welfare is even more extensive and more striking, than the most sanguine of their advocates had ventured to predict. Throughout the country, there is now no want of confidence in the efficacy of this improvement on the public prosperity, and in general no want of disposition to patronize it. On the contrary, there is in

. almost every part of the country, too much ardor in pushing forward projects for these works, without sufficient consideration, and in undertaking enterprises beyond the means which can be brought to their support. The danger is that the country will suffer rather from the undertaking of too many, than too few works of this description.

We cannot admit, however, that the most ardent have formed an over-estimate of the benefits, which are to result from this new instrument of social and commercial intercourse. It will make a new era in the history of civilization. It multiplies the resources of society, by facilitating the intercourse between distant places, and still more, by enlarging the circle in which the members of the same community may act together with a concentrated effort. The distance by which towns and States are separated, is reduced by it, for all practical purposes, more than one half. The circle, within which the whole population may have a daily or hourly intercourse, is enlarged, at least, threefold, and the practical effect of this change is to leave to the population, scattered throughout this enlarged area, the advantages of their respective local positions, and to secure to them at the same time all the benefits of a frequent and easy communication with one another, which before could have been obtained only by means of actual juxtaposition. The city of Boston, for example, possessing within her own limits about eighty thousand souls, is surrounded, within a little more than forty miles, by a population of four hundred thousand persons, engaged in various occupations for which their respective situations are adapted, with the advantages of soil, ample space, water power, and many other privileges, which could be enjoyed by them, only in their respective dispersed places of residence. By means of the four rail-roads stretching towards the four points of the compass, with their respective branches diverging in all directions, the most remote of this population, instead of being distant a day's journey, will be placed within the compass of a three hours' ride from the city, and many of them within the limits of a single hour. In other words, the advantages of vicinage to the metropolis are extended to twice the distance, and of course embrace four times the area, over which the same advantages extended, before this improvement was known. What will be the ultimate effects of this concentration, it is impossible to foresee ; but it is evident that it will give an impulse to the movements of society, which no other known cause could produce.

It having been at length demonstrated, beyond the power of contradiction, by the actual success of rail-roads already in operation, that they are destined to have an important influence on the welfare of communities, it is natural that each portion of the country should exhibit an eagerness to secure its share in the benefit. All men have discernment enough to perceive, that while the public at large are about to derive a benefit from the general introduction of this improvement, its most striking advantages are of a local character, and are to be secured only by an appropriate direction of the respective improvements. They perceive also, that there must be a limit to the number and extent of these improvements, and that in many cases, to secure the benefit to a particular tract of country, it is necessary to seize the occasion of appropriating it, before it is appropriated by more active competitors in some neiglıbouring region. The improvement consists in the introduction of new and improved channels for the intercourse of society. When it was first discovered that rivers were not the only channels for this intercourse, the whole country VOL. XLIV. No. 95.


was open for a new competition. There was a wide field for selection, in the choice of these channels. But when the selection is once made and the ground occupied, it will be obviously much more difficult to change the direction of these channels, or to introduce substitutes for them, than it would have been in the first instance, by a prudent foresight, to have given them a different direction. For this reason, a much greater degree of eagerness in the pressing of works of this description is excusable, in situations in which the inmediate prospects of business seem hardly to justify it, than would otherwise be thought judicious. The great channels of business have been ofien formed by the mere force of a current, which was produced at first by slight and perhaps accidental causes. Cities continue to grow, not because their situation is intrinsically the most advantageous, but because they have already acquired a certain growth, which of itself contains within it the elements of further increase.

The commercial advantages of the city of New York secure to her a decided preeminence over the other ports of the Union. Her unrivalled inland navigation, - her steamboats stretching their regular and rapid voyages to Albany, to Hartford, to Providence, and even to Charleston, — her lines of packets, to Liverpool, to London, to Havre, and to many other ports, - her canals, extending the line of navigation to Lake Champlain and Lower Canada, to Lakes Ontario and Erie, and to the whole western country, — and her unlimited resources in the wealth and enterprise of her citizens, seemed destined to give her, at no remote period, a monopoly of the great foreign trade of the country. The towns of a secondary class, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, and Charleston, were approaching daily the condition of provincial towns, dependent for all the principal operations of commerce on the port of New York. A great part of the domestic trade of Massachusetts had by degrees formed a direct connexion with that city. Canals were dug leading in that direction, from the counties of Hampden, and Hampshire, and even from Worcester, the very centre of the State. Boston, the metropolis forinerly of New England, bad almost ceased to be the commercial metropolis of her own State. The other cities of the Union were suffering under a similar influence. The whole trade of the country seemed destined to be re

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stricted to those channels, which were adapted to either steam or canal navigation.

In this state of things, rail-roads were introduced on public routes in England, and became known in this country. It was evident from the first proofs of their efficacy, as a method of travelling, that they were capable of producing a great change in the face of things; that the currents of traffic and of personal intercourse, instead of passing only through channels where water could be made to flow, might be led across mountains, and through every region enlivened by human industry; and that the prosperity of cities, instead of depending on the accident of being placed on a navigable stream, which can float its commerce to a vast interior, would hereafter depend upon the foresight and energy of their inbabitants, in forming for themselves the channels of intercourse, and in supplying them with the fruits of their industry.

These considerations serve to account for the earnestness of the early friends of rail-roads, in endeavouring to impress on the public mind a conviction of their utility and iniportance; and for the eagerness of the public, in undertaking these improvements, as soon as they become convinced of their utility. Under these circumstances it is not surprising, that in many instances the zeal of those who undertake these works, should far outstrip their ability to carry them into execution ; or that among the many judicious projects, which promise successful results, there should be also many, which are likely to disappoint the expectations of their projectors, and still more which are impracticable and visionary.

The volume of M. Poussin, the title of which is placed at the head of this article, consists of a classification and general description of all the rail-roads which are completed, and which are in the process of construction in the United States. Had it embraced also but a brief notice of the rail-roads projected, the volume would have been swollen to a much larger size. On the list of those which are yet but projects, there are many which are destined to form an important part of the system of internal communication in the United States. But those which are completed, with those which are in rapid progress, form an ample subject for an important and interesting work. M. Poussin classifies the different works which came within the scope of his plan, under two heads; 1st, those


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