« PreviousContinue »
quitted, after a defence marked by M. Carrel's* accustomed ability. All these proceedings are of evil tendency and of evil omen. The excesses of the Press in Paris, as in London, may have alienated many of its natural supporters from it for a while; but any oppression of so great an engine of improvement, so essential a safeguard of freedom, must at once rally round it for its defence whoever values the best interests of the people.
There can be no doubt, that all these errors, and the existence of a ministry without weight, enjoying little or no confidence in the country, have led to a sensible increase of the Republican party in France. Men begin there, as indeed here, to count the heavy cost of monarchical government; and nothing can be less desirable than that we should be obliged to defend a limited monarchy against such attacks as all these events are bringing upon it in France. If the people's interests are neglected, and there is no vigour, no stability, no continuance of one set of statesmen in power, and one line of policy in favour-if all is uncertainty, alarm, and change-no abiding principles established, no consistent course of conduct pursued men's minds will of necessity be familiarized with the impression, that they are suffering all the evils of a republic, and, at the same time, the expense of a monarchy-and from such an impression the step is but short to a desire, that if the benefits of kingly government are no longer to be enjoyed by the French people, they may at least be spared its grinding burdens. Accordingly, no man who has well observed the recent course of events among our neighbours, can doubt that, if any change happens now among them, it will be in the direction of a commonwealth-for nobody of course now dreams of any more Bourbon restorations. That no such change may be resorted to, the friends of peace and good government here, as well as there, must heartily hope. But the event appears far from impossible, if a more popular policy, under more respected ministers, be not resorted to. The King and his family appear universally to give all the satisfaction which brilliant talents, great virtues, and important services have a right to expect. But, whether it be from the unfortunate state of parties, or from some error in judgment to which the greatest men are occasionally subject, his Majesty has not succeeded in surrounding himself with such servants as can justly claim the confidence of his people.
This eminent individual is not a professional man, but a literary character; having originally been an officer in the Imperial French
ART. XIII.-Report from the Select Committee on Lighthouses, with the Minutes of Evidence. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 8th August, 1834.
a former article on the British Lighthouse System,* we directed the attention of the public to the ignorance and jobbing which disfigure that important branch of the public service, -to the insufficiency of the Boards to which it is intrusted,to the incapacity of the functionaries by whom its objects are executed, to the profligate expenditure which exhausts its treasures, to the severe and unequal exactions which it levies from the shipping interest,-and to the utter recklessness of commercial property, and of human life, which characterises this hideous spawn of unreformed and corrupt legislation.
The nature of our lighthouse system had been long concealed from general observation, and the best informed of our public characters were entirely ignorant of its rules and its practices. The Boards themselves covered their proceedings with the mantle of official mystery; and, while they dispensed rushlights to the benighted mariner, they burned their office candles at both ends, under a bushel! Curiosity, however, gradually penetrated into their secrets; accurate information was collected; and we had the good fortune not only to perform the part of the public prosecutor, but to furnish the materials for the indictment. The House of Commons, on the motion of Mr Hume, was at last roused from its apathy, and a committee was appointed in 1834, to investigate and report. This committee, with Mr Hume as its chairman, pursued the enquiry, in the course of last summer, with activity and zeal; and the voluminous and interesting Report before us, contains the results of their labours.
Before we proceed to analyze this Report, and make our readers acquainted with its general results, and with the new arrangements which it renders necessary, we trust we shall be excused for stating, that there is not one allegation which we brought against the lighthouse system which is not amply substantiated by the evidence in the Report; and not one suggestion which we made for the future management of our lighthouses, and for their scientific improvement, which has not been recommended, either directly or indirectly, by the committee.
There is one topic, however, and that, too, of great importance on which we must acknowledge our information to have
been extremely limited; namely, that of private lighthouses, which had been leased to individuals either by the Crown or the Trinity House, or which had been granted in perpetuity by acts of Parliament. We had given, indeed, a faithful though a very general picture of this branch of the lighthouse system; but it is only from details which the labours of the committee have but now brought to light, that any idea can be formed of this blot upon English legislation.
With the exception of the Isle of May lighthouse, which formerly belonged to the Duke of Portland, as proprietor of the island, and which was purchased from him in 1816 by the Scotch Commissioners, under the authority of an act of Parliament, there never have been any lighthouses in Scotland or Ireland held for the profit of private individuals. It is,' as the committee emphatically remarks, in England only that any private individuals have a right to levy tolls on the commerce and shipping of the country for their private benefit;' but we may safely extend the force of the observation, and increase the poignancy of the satire, by adding, that it is in England only, among all the civilized communities upon earth, that such acts of monstrous rapacity are perpetrated in open day, and under the sanction, too, of royal grants, corporation leases, and Parliamentary enactments!
These private lighthouses, which are fourteen in number, more than one-fourth of all those held by the Trinity House, are divisible into three classes,-those held under leases from the Crown; those held under leases from the Trinity House; and those held under patents and acts of Parliament. The following Table contains a condensed view of their statistics :
The seven lighthouses held under leases from the Crown, are two at Harwich, leased by General Rebow; one at Dungeness, leased by Mr Coke of Norfolk; three at Wintertonness and Orfordness, leased by Lord Braybrooke; and one at Hunstanton Cliff, leased by Mr Lane. At the expiration of the last leases, the Trinity House resisted the renewal of them; but the Treasury Boards, which existed in 1828, 1829, and 1831, with a culpable negli
gence of the public interest, extended the leases till 1849, on the condition, that only one half of the former dues should be levied, and that the surplus revenues should be divided between the lessees and the Crown.*
The three lighthouses held in lease under the Trinity House are the Longships, leased by H. P. Smith, Esq., for fifty years, from 1795; the Smalls, held by Mrs Elizabeth Buchanan and Mr T. P. Clarke, under a lease of ninety-nine years, from 1778; and the Mumbles, by the trustees of Swansea harbour, on a lease of ninety-nine years from 1794. Previous to 1822, the Trinity House had granted leases of other three lighthouses; but on the recommendation of the select committee in 1822, they repurchased three of these, viz. the Flatholm, the Ferns, and the Burnham lighthouses, at an expense of L.66,185!— a large sum,' as the committee justly observes, for their inconsiderate conduct in leas'ing these lights.'
The four lighthouses held by patent, are the Spurn High lighthouse, belonging to Mr Angell and Mr Thomson, and granted by letters patent in the 28th and 30th of Charles II.; the Tynemouth Castle, granted in fee to Edward Villiers in the 17th of Charles II.; and the Skerries, granted in the 13th of Queen Anne, and now held by Mr Morgan Jones.
Such is a brief chronicle of the jobs which disgrace this small corner of the lighthouse system. The Crown, and a few private individuals, enjoy the vested right of charging L.79,677 annually, for maintaining fourteen farthing candles to light the British and the foreign sailor past their doors,-a sum which doubtless exceeds in amount all the plunder of all the buccaneers and pirates of the world during a whole century of their depredations.
The great extent of the foreign and coasting trade of Britain, the magnificent equipment of her royal navy, and the lengthened and sinuous outline of her indented shores, might have led us to anticipate a splendid establishment for lighting up her coast; and alongst with it, a system of management upheld by the characteristic liberality of the nation, and marked with all the science and ingenuity which have been so abundantly displayed in the other public works of the kingdom. Those who have cherished such expectations, however, will suffer a severe disappointment. The only British features which appear in the lighthouse system are
When Mr Lane applied to the Lords of the Treasury in 1829, he pleaded, that the grant had been made to an ancestor of his family, nearly two centuries ago, as a reward for faithful services rendered to
an exiled Monarch!
those of misdirected liberality, and culpable prodigality of the public money; and for the truth of this opinion we have only to bring forward the following table :—
Abstract of the number of Public General Lighthouses maintained in the United Kingdom, by whom held, the Amount of Light Dues received, the amount expended, and the net surplus in 1832.
6 ‹ Thus it appears,' adds the committee, that a sum amounting 'nearly to one quarter of a million sterling is annually collected as lighthouse dues on the shipping of the country; although the expense of maintenance of these 134 lights does not amount to 'more than L.74,832, exclusive of L.22,135, the charge of col'lections, which sum alone exceeds twice the amount of the ex'pense of maintaining the whole of the French lights.' *
This abstract of our lighthouse statistics presents us with several appalling results.
1. The enormous sum of L.240,304 is levied annually from the shipping interest of Great Britain, and placed at the disposal of irresponsible Boards, or used for the benefit of private individuals.
2. The annual sum actually applied to the purpose for which the whole is levied is only L.74,832.
3. The net surplus, or the sum unnecessarily levied, amounts to L.142,436.
4. The expense of collection, amounting to L.22,135, is a little less than one-third of the expense of maintaining all the lights in
* Mr Fresnel states, that the expense of lighting the coasts of France amounted in 1834, exclusive of official charges, to L.8328; and that it will amount only to L.16,656, when the lights are completed and improved in conformity with the orders given by the Administration.