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the kingdom and is twice the expense of maintaining all the French lighthouses.
In considering the manner in which this enormous income is levied and applied, we shall first direct the attention of the reader to the commercial, and then to the scientific department of the lighthouse system. We stated in our former article, that with some exceptions the lighthouses of Great Britain are under the charge of three independent and irresponsible Boards, viz. the Trinity House of Deptford Strond, the Commissioners of Northern Lights, and the Ballast Corporation of the city of Dublin. The Trinity board consists of thirty-one persons, eleven of whom are honorary members, while the other twenty are efficient for the duties of the board. The Scottish board, consisting of maritime sheriffs and magistrates, contains twenty-five commissioners; and the Ballast board of Dublin consisted, in 1834, of twenty members, chosen for life, beside the mayor and sheriff's of the city for the time being.
In the appointment of the individuals who compose these boards, their fitness to perform their duties is never once considered; and, true to the ruling principle, the boards themselves never looked for any peculiar qualifications in their engineer or in their clerk of works. A lighthouse, indeed, is but a stone lamp-post with a large burner on its top, and every body knows what slender capacities are requisite for keeping such a vulgar article in order. To degrade men of science into lamp trimmers and link boys would not be very seemly when Government are heaping wealth and honours on the dignitaries of science. Why should Mr Faraday welcome a Newcastle collier to the Thames, or Mr Babbage hand a convict hulk through the sinuosities of the British Channel? Let Mr Jardine attend to his waterworks, and Mr Brunel perform the part of earthworm under the Thames: Their services cannot be required to direct the pursuits of the vilman and the tinsmith. If an awkward servant places a light upon the chair in place of the table, we have only to ring him back and correct the venial mistake: So when the Irish Board erected a lighthouse at Arranmore at the instance of the Marquis of Conynghame, the blunder was easily remedied by taking it down again and placing it on Tory island! When the lights on the north Foreland chose to burn dim, the enraged engineer resolved that
The spangled covering, bright with splendid ore,
and having heard that lenses were good applications for sickly lights, he overlaid each superannuated reflector with a lens at
VOL. LXI. NO. CXXIII.
the expense of L.750; and for twenty or thirty years the tender vision of the passing sailor was preserved from injury by a decent shade of thick glass. And in like manner, when the Scottish engineer wished to warn the sailor against the Bell Rock, he treated him with an alternate twinkle of red light, but by a mistake entirely clerical, he drew his colour from the weakest in place of the strongest burners. He only shot his red ball from his musket in place of his rifle; and the Dutch skipper was defrauded only of a small per centage of the red rays.
But in addition to the total want of professional knowledge, some of the boards and their functionaries have exhibited much incapacity in the exercise of their legislative powers, and in the ordinary management of their affairs. The rules by which the lighthouse dues are levied are of the most extraordinary description, and have been justly reprobated by the committee. This charge requires no evidence to support it. Each of the three boards has adopted not only different, but to a certain degree opposite, principles of assessment; and if we are wrong in our judgment that all the three systems are bad, the boards themselves will admit that at least two out of the three merit this character. But if one of the three boards happens to be right in its rule of assessment, they are evidently all at fault in the common principle of rapacity under which they levy double rates from the helpless foreigner.
But not only is the foreign vessel thus mercilessly taxed when it brings to our harbours the luxuries which are almost necessary to our existence, or when it replaces with gold and carries off our superabundant produce;—it is equally taxed when, on its way to more distant kingdoms, it is driven by stress of weather into the shelter of our bays and headlands; and the captain is called to pay a heavy penalty for attempting to save the property of his employers and the lives of his shipmates. The same absurd and cruel regulation is applicable also to British vessels; and there can be no doubt that ships and lives are frequently lost in their attempt to shun the Scylla of the lighthouses, while they are escaping from the Charybdis of the elements.
The inequality of the light dues has also been a source of much vexation and complaint; and it is solely owing to the great variety of managements and interests that such palpable evils
A vessel sailing from Yarmouth to London, and driven by stress of weather to Aberdeen or the Firth of Forth, is compelled to pay for the whole of the Northern Lights, and all the lights of the coast of England, on her way back.
have not been long ago redressed. In reference to this subject the committee make the following observations :—
Your committee submit, that the simple inspection of the chart and situations of the lights, with the charges made for light dues, will at once show the injustice and hardships of such inequalities.
Many instances of the inequality of the charge have been stated to the committee: for example, a vessel of 142 tons burden, on a voyage from Leith to London, is charged by the Northern Commissioners L.1, 9s. 7d. for the voyage, or 24d. per ton, being a charge for the whole twenty-three lights round the coast of Scotland, although she may only pass two of them; and for her return the same amount, or L.2, 19s. 2d. for the whole voyage. But from Berwick to London there is a charge of L.4, 17s. 3d., being at the rate of 81d. per ton for the passage, for the nineteen English lights the vessel must pass. Another case, on a ship of 439 tons, going by the North and South Channels to and from the Clyde to Bombay; if by the South Channel, she would be charged L.42, 10s. 7d., or at the rate of 1s. 11id. per ton, and if by the North Channel, L.13, 14s. 44d., or at the rate of 74d. per ton.'
The singular variety of lighthouse legislation is equally conspicuous in its petty as in its leading details. The Trinity House exempts from dues all vessels that are navigated wholly in ballast; while the other boards and the private lessees inflict the same charge whether they are in ballast or laden. By the act 50 Geo. III. fishing vessels are most judiciously exempted from the lighthouse dues on the coast of Ireland; and in England the Trinity Board exempt all vessels that are actually employed in catching fish; but in Scotland the light dues are rigor ously levied, and become a heavy burden on the herring and other fishing vessels. A particular statement of one of these charges has been given in the Report, and it forms a striking example of robbery by act of Parliament. On four fishing vessels, of the burden of thirty-two to forty tons each, belonging to the port of Montrose, the sum of L.26, 7s. 6d. was levied, though the whole of the four cargoes produced only 3268 barrels of fish!
The immense advantages which Great Britain derives from steam navigation might have led us to expect that a liberal and wise Government would have sought to extend them by some national encouragement. The exemption from lighthouse dues would have been a simple and reasonable boon, and the more so as these vessels derive less benefit from the lighthouses than ordinary coasters. The committee have urged this exemption with that sagacity and sound judgment which form a leading feature in their Report; and they have stated the important fact that no less than L.3261, 3s. 6d. was charged as lighthouse
dues in 1833 upon fifteen steam-vessels between the river Clyde and Liverpool, Belfast, Dublin, and Londonderry.
There is one exception, however, from lighthouse charges which we believe has not been noticed by the committee at all, and which is pre-eminently characteristic of the British Government. The Royal Navy of England is exempted from lighthouse dues. The three boards are unanimous in this exemption; or rather, we ought to say, that while the Government of the day have allowed acts of Parliament to pass most injurious to the interests of various classes of his Majesty's subjects, they have taken care of that interest which was more germain to themselves. We cannot discover any principle of justice or of common sense upon which the Royal Navy of England is to be lighted across the deep at the expense of the commercial marine. The British navy is the bulwark of all classes of the community,-of the agricultural as well as of the commercial interest,-and while the national treasury advances nothing either in erecting or maintaining the national lighthouses, there can be no just plea for the exemption of the national marine. The Crown, on the contrary, shares the lighthouse plunder with the private lessees, and has, therefore, a still less claim to saddle its navy as an establishment of paupers upon the generosity of the shipping interest. We hope that Mr Hume will not overlook this topic in the bill which he has obtained leave to bring into Parliament.
Among the notable peculiarities of the lighthouse system, we may distinguish the charities and pensions which are kept up by the Trinity House. These pensions are granted to poor masters, mates, and petty officers, and seamen (including their widows and children) of ships or vessels in the foreign trade,—of colliers from the East coast, and of coasters of every description, and of other colliers who pay Trinity light dues.
The number of pensioners in 1834, was 8431. They receive pensions, varying from 3s. per month to L.30, per annum. It would be interesting to show the distribution of these pensioners over the three kingdoms; but our space will allow us only to state in general that they amount,
In England, to nearly
In Ireland, to nearly
a disproportion which indicates a singularly unequal distribution of the fund.
In the year 1820 there was expended out of the surplus lightdues the sum of L.32,035, for alms-houses and pensions, and in 1832 the sum was L.32,861; although the committee on
foreign trade, in 1822, having questioned the right as well as the propriety of applying the surplus dues to the purposes of charity, recommended that the amount should be gradually reduced to about L.13,000 a-year.
It is impossible to contemplate this statement without expressing the strongest disapprobation of the system which has been so long tolerated in spite of the remonstrances of a committee of Parliament. To support the indigent of every class is a paramount obligation from which neither corporations nor individuals can escape; but to give one class of the poor a pre-eminence over another, and to support that class out of a fund wrung from the pockets of classes upon whom they have no claim for support, is a solecism in legislation which could have appeared only in a country where corruption was indigenous to its soil. The lighthouse rates are not paid by the masters and crews of the vessels which they navigate; nor are they, in reality, paid by the shipping interest itself to which the vessels belong. They are paid by every consumer of foreign and domestic produce carried coastwise: every child that sucks an orange, and every dandy that smokes a cigar, is a contributor to the lighthouse revenue, as well as to that of the customs. Under the influence of views such as these, the committee came to the following conclusion:
Your committee do not object to the present mode of appointing the objects of charity, but to the principle on which those payments are made; and after mature consideration, and referring to the reports of the select committees of 1822 and 1824, they recommend that all pensions and charitable allowances now paid by the Trinity Corporation from the surplus of the light dues under their management (except to servants and others belonging to the lighthouse establishment), shall cease with the lives of the individuals now on the pension list, so far as the same may legally be done; and that from and after this time no new pensioners, save as above excepted, shall be admitted on or paid out of the surplus of the lighthouse dues.'
Before we quit the disagreeable task of complaint, we must unite our voice with that of the committee, in reprobating the system of lighthouse management which has prevailed in Ireland; and we need scarcely add a word to the mild but severe reproof contained in the following passage of the Report.
There is one general inspector of the whole of the works of the port. of Dublin, who attends to the lighthouses as well as to the other works under the board. Mr Halpin has been inspector sinec 1810; and, although not educated for an engineer, has performed all the duties as such; he has the ordering of almost every article of stores; he directs even the building of lighthouses, of which only one has been erected by contract, nor has it always been the practice to lay estimates before the board before commencing the work, of the probable expense of completing new lighthouses.'