Page images
PDF
EPUB

universal servitude. As in Italy, the son of fifty years will still be under the hand of an imperious mother, and the weary and disgusted lover will yet bear passively the incubus of a secretly detested mistress, so the landlord will from habit and from indolence allow himself to be made the prey of a rapacious and energetic middleman standing for ever between him and his peasantry to the injury of both. Of course, the methods of the mezzadria lend themselves to this peculation of the steward, and facilitate it in a far greater degree than the system of tenantry by money-rental would do. It is impossible for any gentleman having half-a-dozen estates in half-a-dozen parts of a province to check in any effectual way the returns made from them by their respective stewards. An enormous amount of thieving is carried on by the fattore which is beyond punishment, even beyond detection, and the peasantry take him all the first and best fruits of everything as a propitiatory offering. If a colono complain to his master, his complaint is generally referred to the fattore, and might as well never have been made. That under these circumstances, and with this middle-man for ever between them, the relations of landlord and cultivator remain as amicable as they are, is due to the good nature and courtesy of the former and the docility and good temper of the latter. It is often urged by foreigners that the mezzadria produces an agriculture scarcely advanced since the days of Virgil and very wasteful and unproductive. I am not concerned at this moment with this side of the question, though I may say in passing that I am convinced high farming will never be suited to Italy with its intense sun and its parching soil. All I have sought to show in these few pages is the actual working of the agricultural laws in Italy, and the legal lines upon which they are traced. Because, it is surely noteworthy that in a country which cultivated its fields when all the rest of Europe was a wilderness of marsh, or moor, or forest, the rights of the landlord are recognised and protected in the clearest manner; and that even in Italy, where the laws of primogeniture have been abolished and a new national life has been commenced, the interests of the landowner are still considered paramount, and are allowed an absolute and even arbitrary power, which is defended by law and conceded by custom without a murmur from the body of the peasantry. This recognition of the supreme right of the owner of the soil over the soil appears to me much juster and much healthier than the communistic clamour for the cultivator thereof to push out and supersede the possessor. That there are many abuses under the mezzadria system is not to be denied; that the lot of the peasant under it is often hard and thankless is often true ; but the

rural life in Italy is a sane and wholesome one, and the relations of the labourer and the master are on the average cordial, and marked by courtesy on the one side, docility on the other. That it is a remainder of feudalism is not to be denied ; but, though the contadino is not sufficiently protected against change and caprice on the part of the landlord, and though the landlord will not or cannot protect himself and his people from the oppressions and extortions of his steward, yet this one healthful and honest fact is always recognised in the system of the mezzadria-the owner of the soil is the undisputed master of it.

OUIDA.

[ocr errors]

SCIENCE NOTES:

AN IMPROVEMENT ON THE CHANNEL TUNNEL.

T'

HE merits and the demerits of the proposed Channel Tunnel were

very fully discussed lately at the Society of Arts, and among other suggestions was that of Dr. Siemens, who proposes to suffocate the enemy by pouring a small rivulet of hydrochloric acid upon lumps of chalk, and thereby generating carbonic acid.

Assuming that a sufficient number of unfortunates can be found to supply the enormous capital required for digging the tunnel, I think I could improve upon the carbonic acid suffocation by a much simpler and more effectual application of chemical science. A few gallons of bromine in a glass carboy, connected with a device for breaking the bottle, would do it at once. No army could survive the resulting vapour which would be immediately given off, and would presently fill the tunnel with horrible fumes. I once spilled less than a quarter of an ounce in the midst of a class of young ladies, and we all had to make a hasty retreat, though the room in which the accident happened was a rather large one.

But this, and the carbonic acid, and the dynainite, and the flood. gates, and all the other devices for killing the supposed enemy, are equally open to the objection so clearly stated by Mr. E. A. Cowper —viz., that if the arrangement is kept ready for immediate operation it may “go off” by accident at any time, and thus despatch a train or two of passengers ; while, on the other hand, if it requires any elaborate preparation, it is likely to be frustrated by military vigilance.

I have been looking out for a counter project to the tunnel, expecting it to be proposed by some enterprising engineer; but, as he does not come forward, I will now propose it myself.

This is to do all the philanthropic, cosmopolitan, fraternising, and other sentimental business, so eloquently described by Sir Edward Watkin, by means of a ship canal connecting Paris with London viâ the Seine. Seeing that the carriage of pork from Chicago to Liverpool costs less than its carriage from Liverpool to London, the commercial advantages of direct water communication between the two cities would be far greater than that obtainable by any further development of the already overdone railway monopoly.

There are absolutely no difficulties in the way of such a canal, either from Folkestone or Dover, or Newhaven (for Dieppe), to London. It would be cut through soft chalk all the way, and not a single lock would be required beyond the entrance of the tidal basin that should form its mouth. Two or three short tunnels, or deep cuttings, across the Downs, are the only costly work to be done. By commencing at the sea end, all the material of the cuttings could be loaded on barges at once, carried out to sea, and then discharged; or shipped to ports where limestone is in demand. If I am not mistaken, one-half the capital required for the Channel Tunnel would suffice.

Besides communicating with Paris, such a canal would supply London with sea-water for baths and other purposes, thus covering all the conduit schemes that have from time to time been projected for this purpose.

If to Newhaven, it would open a route for all our shipping trade to the Mediterranean, to the Cape, and from London to Canada and Americı, by cutting off the tedious tidal journey of the river, and the dangers of the Straits of Dover, the Goodwins, &c. I have myself spent five weary days in a clipper schooner between Beachy Head and Blackwall, and vessels are sometimes detained for two or three weeks by fogs and east winds when homeward bound, or west winds when going outwards. Whole fleets are commonly to be seen lying at anchor in the Downs between the Goodwins and Deal.

I am not speaking of a petty gutter like the Paddington Canal, but a cutting worthy of the maritime greatness of Great Britain, and fit to connect its metropolis with all the southern and western regions of the world, by an unbroken water way, wide enough and deep enough for half a dozen ships to pass at once, and walled to resist the wash of screws and paddles.

On the French side, a canalisation of the Seine between Paris and Rouen, and a cut of thirty-five miles to Dieppe, would complete that route ; or from Boulogne or Abbeville, the Somme and the Oise would be utilised. Compared with the existing Canal de Midi, with its ninety-nine locks, either would be but a trifle. London is on the sea-level, and Paris is a small trifle above it. The barriers between the sea and either capital are inconsiderable.

Probably the French would display no remarkable eagerness to co-operate in a scheme affording them no military advantages; but putting them aside altogether, the saving of time, tugging, pilotage, NO. 1819.

I

VOL. CCLIII.

and risk on all our vast navigation to and from London viâ the Channel, would amply repay the fifty miles of chalk cutting between Newhaven and Deptford Reach.

THE BIRTH OF THE MOON.

I

ASSUME, as a matter of course, that all who read these Notes

have read Mr. Proctor's paper on this subject in the last number of this Magazine, and that they agree with me in appreciating the great value of such contributions to the intellectual progress of the present generation. Proctor is doing for the English-speaking peoples, and Flammarion for the French, what has never been well and widely done before, viz., bringing the most sublime results of mathematical demonstration and mathematical speculation within the reach of all intelligent men and women.

We all have a natural tendency to exalt our own special branch of study, and this is perhaps desirable. It appears to me that mathematicians are prone to go further than others in this direction; their usual assumption being that whatever has been demonstrated mathematically must be infallibly true. No mathematician of corresponding attainments is more free from this or any other form of scholastic dogmatism than Mr. Proctor, and yet this mathematical self-righteousness crops out occasionally, as in the paper above named, where, referring to Mr. Darwin, he says, “ the reasoning relating to this part of his views does not belong to the sure domain of mathematics, but to speculation."

This reads oddly when closely following a description of how Adams, twenty years or so ago, discovered a notable flaw in Laplace's reasoning,” which was purely mathematical ; and further, that both Leverrier and Pontecoulant have rejected Adams' results, the latter “even denouncing Adams' method of treating the subject as analytical legerdemain."

All this was in “the surc domain of mathematics” of the purest and highest order, and among mathematical giants; the difference of result was quantitative, i.e. mathematical, and not a mere fractional percentage, the result obtained by Adams being "only one-half of what Laplace had made it."

Such instances of error to which mathematicians, like all other human beings, are ever liable, enforce the necessity of continual verification of mathematical conclusions by comparing them with facts revealed by observation and experiment.

I will thus examine the conclusions of Darwin and Ball as ex

« PreviousContinue »