Although he took no part in debate, and attended the House rather as a club than as a senate, he possessed a great and peculiar influence in it. He was viewed with interest, and often with extraordinary regard, by every sporting man in the House. With almost all of these he was acquainted; some of them, on either side, were his intimate companions and confederates.
The labours of Lord George Bentinck had been supernatural, and one ought perhaps to have felt then that it was impossible they could be continued on such a scale of exhaustion; but no friend could control his eager life in this respect; he obeyed the law of his vehement and fiery nature, being one of those men who in whatever they undertake know no medium, but will â€˜succeed or die.â€™
CHAPTER VII. Railroads for Ireland
The cause of the weakness in Ireland to prosecute these undertakings was the total want of domestic capital for the purpose, and the unwillingness of English capitalists to embark their funds in a country whose social and political condition they viewed with distrust, however promising and even profitable the investment might otherwise appear. This was remarkably illustrated by the instance of the Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland, one of the undertakings of which the completion was arrested by want of funds, yet partially open. Compared with a well-known railway in Great Britain, the Irish railway had cost in its construction ?ï¿¡15,000 per mile, and the British upwards of ?ï¿¡26,000 per mile; the weekly traffic on the two railways, allowing for some difference in their extent, was about the same on both, in amount varying from ?ï¿¡1,000 to ?ï¿¡1,300 per week; yet the unfinished British railway was at ?ï¿¡40 premium in the market, and the incomplete Irish railway at ?ï¿¡2 discount. It was clear, therefore, that the commercial principle, omnipotent in England, was not competent to cope with the peculiar circumstances of Ireland.
Any misunderstandings that may have for a moment irritated him seemed forgotten; he appeared conscious that he possessed the confidence and cordial regard of the great majority of the Protectionist party, although he chose to occupy a private post, and he was proud of the consciousness. He was still more sensible of the sympathy which he had created out of doors, which he greatly appreciated, and to which, though with his usual modesty, he more than once recurred. â€˜The thing is to get the people out of doors with you,â€™ he repeated, â€˜men like the merchants; all the rest follow.â€™ It was evident that the success of his colonial committee had greatly satisfied his spirit. He had received that day the vote of thanks of the West-India body for his exertions. He said more than once, that with a weak government, a parliamentary committee properly worked might do wonders. He said he would have a committee on import duties next year, and have all the merchants to show what share the foreigners had obtained of the reductions that had been made of late years. He maintained, that, quite irrespective of the general arrangements of the new commercial system, Sir Robert Peel had thrown away a great revenue on a number of articles of very inferior importance, and he would prove this to the country. He said our colonial empire ought to be reconstructed by a total abolition of all duties on produce from her Majestyâ€™s dominions abroad.
I fear these failures of East and West India houses must entail great distress upon Manchester, and the manufacturing interests generally. You have given an account of the bankruptcies in the cotton trade during a long series of years till last year inclusive; are you able to say how the first nine months of the current year stands in comparison with its predecessors?
What then was the reason of this debility in Ireland in prosecuting these undertakings? Were they really not required; were the elements of success wanting? The first element of success in railway enterprise, according to the highest authorities, is population; property is only the second consideration. Now, Ireland in â€˜46 was more densely inhabited than England. A want of population could not therefore be the cause. But a population so impoverished as the Irish could not perhaps avail themselves of the means of locomotion; and yet it appeared from research that the rate of passengers on the two Irish railways that were open greatly exceeded in number that of the passengers upon English and Scotch railways. The average number of passengers on English and Scotch railways was not twelve thousand per mile per annum, while on the Ulster railway the number was nearly twenty-two thousand, and on the Dublin and Drogheda line the number exceeded eighteen thousand.