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counteracting evil,- as, for instance, without causing any crime or recklessness that may afterwards have more deleterious effects on vitality, it ought to be saved by the State at whatever cost. When Captain Hunter, the governor of New South Wales, lost his ship by putting back for a man who had fallen overboard, he vindicated himself before a court-martial by saying that he
considered the life of a British seaman of more value than any ship in his Majesty's navy;' and we have always considered the remark as sound as it was humane, presuming it to be applied to circumstances where neither the national defence, nor the safety of others, would be endangered. Nulla unquam de vitâ hominis cunctatio longa est. If a human being is in risk of his life, and can possibly be saved; in case a well, for instance, has fallen in, or a building has given way, and there is one beneath who may yet be spared to breathe and live with his fellow men,
is there any wealth, or labour, or enthusiasm, that will be withheld to procure his rescue? Indeed, large as we have calculated the number of deaths by violence, we question whether the proportion would be as small in any other country exposed to an equal multiplicity of dangers. The cool indifference to life, by which as late as the time of Henry the Eighth we were supposed to be nationally distinguished, has passed into a respect for it which scarcely allows us to hang a murderer. The fatali: ties, of which we have to complain, have arisen not so much from apathy or bad intention, as from a want of systematic arrangements having the safety of the public for their immediate end.
Though we fear that the few remarks we are about to offer may be characterised by the looseness which generally attends an attempt for the first time to classify and systematise útterly vague and chaotic materials, we shall commence ana
As the statistics of this element of mortality are so imperfect at home, we cannot expect to obtain them in a very complete state in foreign countries. În France, according to some tables published by the Registrar-general, accidental deaths were, in 1843, 6,436, and in 1844, 6,729. This would be a small comparative number, if it formed a considerable proportion of the kinds of death counted violent in England. But, while their habits of life are exposed to much fewer risks, there is on the other hand an excess of those worst kinds of violent death which are excluded from our consideration on this occasion. Thus, in 1843, the murders were 306, and in 1844, they were 403. In England, the number of murders in 1840 was 65, and the number in the two preceding years was 156 — being an average of 78 for each year. In France, the suicides were for 1843, 2, 142, and for 1844, 2,200. In 1839, the number in England was 943.
Gambling Propensity of Human Nature.
lytically by adducing two propensities as the great productive cause of fatal accidents. The one is the spirit of gambling, apparently an inherent propensity in mankind, though mostly in the most barbarous; the other is a more topical prejudice or superstition against permitting any thing to interfere with trade. From the valuable things which men will stake, life is not exempt. The most reckless chances are constantly run by the ignorant and the brutal; but even highly civilised people are not entirely exempt from the propensity. Fool-hardiness persists in playing with edge tools the same as with blunt: and the love of excitement and the reliance on their own good fortune add to the perils not only of the Mississippi, but of the Hudson and the Humber. A person of good social position and recognised prudence will commit himself to a questionable steam boat, in the full knowledge that after a certain number of voyages it must founder, but in the trust that the fatal event is not to take place on this particular trip. Men sit without apprehension in crowded meeting-rooms, theatres, and churches, conscious of the edifices being so constructed that, were an alarm of fire to be raised, there would be imminent danger of their being crushed to death by the frantic multitude rushing to escape by narrow doors and winding passages. If no one would knowingly either embark in an unsafe steam-boat, or put himself under the guidance of an unskilful captain or driver, or enter the doors of any public building not properly supplied with the means of tumultuous exit, - if individuals, in short, would run no unreasonable risks, -- there would be a self-acting remedy for the deficiencies by which life is so often sacrificed. But we must take the gambling propensity as an innate characteristic of human nature - a fact never more strongly exemplified, in a small way, than on the late boiler explosion at Bristol, or, on a still larger scale, by the passengers of an American steamer subscribing to pay the penalty rather than wait till their vessel was examined. So viewing it, perhaps a method may be found for mitigating its mischief.
We are not now unaccustomed to act on the uniform returns of statistics. They have brought the phenomena which used to be consigned to the chaotic province of chance into systematic order. Among their lessons is this one, very material to the present point, — that those calamities which are to individuals matter of chance are to the public matter of cause and effect. If there be in existence throughout the country a certain number of agencies of destruction, A. B. and C. may calculate *on escaping them, but a determinate number of the community must suffer. Thus the question, so far as the public at large
are concerned, is no longer one of uncertainty, but of ascertained results. The State can enumerate its dead and wounded from any particular cause of calamity. It can then balance the loss by death and injury against the expense of removing the cause, and calculate whether it shall incur that expense. If we begin at the most reckless end of the community, we find among the mining population, and those connected with the rough labour of public works, a large number of casualties. The workman habitually neglects to use the Davy lamp, or for high wages works in dangerous cuttings; he acts, as though he had put into a lottery, — but the consequence is, that a large number of his class are annually killed by explosions and other accidents, and the corresponding pressure from their deaths appears arithmetically on the poor rate. If in blasting, an iron rod be used instead of a copper one, the chances may be small indeed that a spark shall be elicited and the powder ignited; the sanguine miner therefore takes his chance. But the country would be saved a small amount of annual mortality by the systematic substitution of the safest material. To come to instances of more rare occurrence, which yet it would be practicable to classify over long intervals. On an evening in February, 1849, an alarm of fire was raised in the Dunlop Street theatre of Glasgow, from one of the audience having attempted to light a pipe. There was a frantic rush to the door. At the spot where the money is collected the passage of a theatre is generally narrow. There, some of the foremost of the crowd fell and literally plugged up the passage. Shrieks of distress and alarm made those behind only press more fiercely onward, and in a few minutes the narrow passage was a compact mass of human carcases. Sixty-five lives were thus sacrificed to the neglect of structural rules which are laid down by Vitruvius *, are exemplified in the remains of ancient amphitheatres, and were enforceable by the Roman edile police, on the sound old principle that no structures of a character calculated to endanger the public safety should be permitted to exist. Such accidents as the Dunlop Street and the Kirkcaldy tragedy are ever occurring at intervals of a few years; and we are all acquainted with edifices where the same thing would occur to-morrow if a panic terror should take possession of a full
* Aditus complures et spatiosos oportet disponere, nec conjunctos superiores inferioribus, sed ex omnibus locis perpetuos et directos sine inversuris faciendos ; uti cum populus dimittitur de spectaculis, ne comprimatur, sed habeat ex omnibus locis exitus separatos sine impeditione. --Vitruvius, lib. v. ch. iii., De Theatro ejusque salubri Constitutione.
Risks, natural and artificial.
audience assembled within them. Suppose the top of the Crystal Palace had been carried off the other day by Mr. Graham's balloon, and its 60,000 visitors had had to struggle over each other for their escape, how grateful they would have felt for the simplicity of its construction.
As statistical science brings us directly to the sources of these calamities, the progress of the engineering and other practical sciences is ever bringing their causes more completely under human control. In the elements, in the structure of the earth, and in the muscular power of irrational animals, there are sources of destruction, which of course it is beyond the power of man with certainty to overcome. An extreme instance of this was the fall of the Rossberg in Switzerland, where a cake of mountain stratum slipping down some thousands of feet into a valley, buried a village within the crust of the earth, and cast a lake in one huge wave over the district at its opposite extremity, sweeping away houses and villages. Of a like uncontrollable character are earthquakes; such volcanic eruptions as those which became renowned by the death of the older Pliny, and the burial of cities for the instruction of posterity; the avalanches which in spring sometimes heap up the rich narrow valleys of the Swiss graziers with the wintry burden of their overloaded mountains; the inundations, fed from the same sources, and rushing over the alluvial flats which the mineral and vegetable detritus laid down by previous floods has tempted man to hoard and economize as riches; the swamping of the diked polders under the level of the sea in such countries as Holland, where the broad ocean • leans against the land,' and sometimes breaks through it; and not the least terrible, though perhaps the rarest, a forest territory on fire, with the flames devouring unpenetrated and unknown woods, and travelling as fast before the wind as a flood comes down a hill:—such was the New Brunswick conflagration of 1825, which, after laying waste thousands of square miles of forest, bore down on the poor emigrant town of Miramichi, and burnt it like a piece of paper.
Even though utterly unable to control them, science, however, can teach men to flee from places exposed by nature to such calamities. But in our artificial world, a red signal hoisted instead of a green, a plate wrong laid, an insecurely welded axle, a deficiency of water in a boiler, may cause in a travelling village a calamity not less terrible than the fall of the Swiss mountain or some great earthquake. Vast is the power set in motion by science; but, on the other hand, it is more easy to hold it in check for the safety of the thousand travellers committed to its mercy, than to curb a spirited horse with a single rider on its back. The progressive substitution of scientifically-created powers for those provided by nature, in the wind, the waters, and the brute creation, makes us, with all our freedom and restlessness, the appendages of a sort of system of machinery, all the operations of which, however potent they may be, are capable of acquiring the regularity and adaptability of clockwork. Hence arise new functions and responsibilities, suited to the means possessed of serving the public by protecting it, or, justly speaking, by performing with precision and accuracy the duties for which the public pay. The more we become civilised, the more we are dependent on each other; and the change in this peculiarity of the progress of our race, wrought and made apparent to us by any rapid improvement in one department of men's habits, becomes positively startling when it is reflected on. Take, for instance, locomotion. The pedestrian, with his staff in his hand, crossing the desert where other travellers adopt the same primitive conveyance, has himself in his own hands. The horseman is not so entirely self-dependent; he is in some measure at the disposal of a brute, but his own skill and courage still avail him much. He who is car-borne has gone a step further in giving up the governance of himself. In case he travel in a vehicle driven by himself or his servant, he retains a considerable command over his fate; though if he travel in a public stage coach he ceases in a great degree, but not absolutely, to have influence over or choice concerning the dangers to which he is to be exposed. The next step, however, in speeding the traveller on his way - the railway train— completes the transition and transfers him from his own care to that of a railway company. The passenger in the express may do much towards endangering his life, as by sticking his head out of the window, or jumping out while the train is in motion; on the other hand, he is utterly helpless for self-protection in case of a collision or any other crisis. He may be excused therefore, perhaps, should he not consent to trust his life and limbs to the cautious foresight and skill of stipendiaries along the line, but should desire to be under the protection of a code of regulations which, instead of making his preservation a matter of merit to the officers who have him in charge, shall render it criminal to expose him to danger.