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ERRATA. In our last number, page 78, thirtieth line from top, for "one pound more," read, one pound less.
In No. 2 of FULTON, p. 68, 4th line from bottom, for "locks," read canal. p. 69, 3d line from top, insert a period after the word canal.
The recent melancholy disaster, the burning of the Steamboat Lexington, has already been announced to our readers in all its distressing detail, through the columns of the daily press. As usual, public feeling has been much excited, and our papers have teemed with communications of every sort from the most bitter and injudicious invective against the captain and owners of the ill-fated vessel, down to the most elaborate apologies in their behalf. Although, in all this, there is undoubtedly much nonsense, yet good may eventually come from it, if the conductors of our daily press are careful to exclude such communications as bear marks of extreme ig norance or violent feeling.
It may be thought by some that there can be no use in discussing the matter at this late date, but we are of opinion that it is pre-eminently the duty of a Journal devoted to Internal Improvement to suffer no such acci+ dent to pass without a careful and candid notice.
On all occasions of this kind we find the majority of persons in the two extremes. One party rails against monopolies and chartered rights, etc., finding fault sometimes, where praise really is due, while the other blindly maintains the absolute infalibility of the company and all its employees.In this vast discrepancy of feeling, it is hard to get at the real merits of the case in the present instance, however, the proper view of the matter seems to be generally taken, and there is, therefore, less difficulty in arriv ing at the truth.
In making our remarks, we shall freely and unhesitatingly express our opinion, in hope that others may be led to investigate the matter. In the first place we are to consider whether the owners are culpable in employ. ing an unfit vessel or one not under proper management. In the evidence before the Coronor's Jury much stress seems to have been laid upon the fact that the vessel was sea-worthy. This doubtless would have been an important question, if the Lexington had gone to pieces, but has little or
no bearing upon the present accident. It seems that the vessel was one of ordinary strength with her boilers below. This is said to be much more dangerous than boilers on the guards, and the English steamers, in which the boilers are always below. are adduced as an example, accidents by fire it is said being in them by far the most numerous. We are not aware that this
is a fact, on the contrary, we think that in English steamers there are fewer disasters occasioned by fire than by any other cause. The specimens of this mode of building which we have had in the Sirius, British Queen, Great Western, ect., have convinced us that there is not a steam vessel in our waters so well guarded against fire. In fact there is no combustible in the vicinity of the boilers or engine with is not covered by metal.
So far it seems that instead of resembling the English steamers, the Lexington was unlike them in every thing save the position of the boilers.——— That she was well guarded against fire could not be the fact, since it is stated on the best authority that fires frequently occurred, and sometimes threatened the destruction of the boat. This is attempted to be glossed over by the testimony of some one that it is a common thing for steamboats to take fire. If this is so, it is an alarming fact that hundreds of persons are daily endangering their lives without the slightest consciousness of their peril. It may be that the company owning this boat was not aware of her unsafeness in this particular, but we fear that it will require more white washing than they can accomplish to free themselves from all blame. From the manner in which the boat came into their possession, it cannot be supposed that they could have had much regard to her safety, even as far as concerned their own interests, and from the occurrences of the past year, it does not seem that they have valued public convenience so much as their own aggrandisement and the extinction of all opposition. We are to remember that during the last year an accident of unusual character occurred on one of their boats-at which time it was stated, and without contradiction, that the same difficulty had occurred before, though not with such a dangerous termination.
Again, is there any thing in the management of the boat or disposition of the freight so faulty as to throw blame upon the owners or their agents. It is said that cotton is too dangerous to be carried in steam-boats. This is certainly a very sweeping assertion, and one calculated to impose unnecessary restrictions upon steam-boat traffic. But was this cotton stowed in such a manner as to become a hazardous freight? This is quite another matter, and we fear will prove culpability on the part of the agents or persons employed in this part of the business. It does seem that a large quantity of cotton was stowed where, from the frequent fires on board, there was a great risk of setting fire to it and the vessel. If, as asserted,
Since the above was in type, we find that the number of disasters in British steamers in 10 years is 92. Of these, 40 were such as might happen to all vessels at sea, 23 from explosion, 12 from collision and 17 from fire—the majority of the latter being caused by care
fires are common in steam-boats, such matters as cotton should certainly be placed as far from their place of occurrence as possible.
It is plain that the owners furnished the vessel in the proper manner with boats, (one of them a life boat too,) that they provided, as far as they could judge, an excellent captain, a sufficient crew and a fire engine, ast well as iron rods for steering, as directed by law-but that they employed a vessel, known to be dangerous as to fire, not properly guarded in this respect, and that a large quantity of cotton was stowed in a dangerous place, They of course cannot be charged with wantonly sacrificing the lives of many persons-but they cannot wipe off the stigma of having by this culpable carelessness, encountered risks which finally ended in an auful disaster as serious to them, as far as pecuniary loss is concerned, as to any one else.
The next matter of inquiry, is one of more delicate nature, since it concerns one of the sufferers, we mean the captain. His conduct has always been gentlemanly, and as far as respect goes, that of an able commander. From the record of the awful occurrence, as given by the few survivers, it is thought by some that probably from constitutional inability, the energies of the captain were not equal to the dreadful immergency, while others are of opinion that he did all that could be done under the existing circumstances.
But whatever blame attaches to others, as having caused the accident, its fatal termination was brought about by the absolute madness of the passengers. The most horrible disorder must have attended the tumultuous efforts to escape in the boats. No one doubts, that on board a man-of-war every thing would have taken a different course, and that all would have been saved. But in the unorganized crowd of passengers, no one is found to command and no one to obey.
From the astonishing coolness and presence of mind, together with uncommon powers of endurance, manifested by Capt. Hilliard, it is presumed that the knowledge of his presence would have inspired confidence, and a right direction might have been given to the united labors of the passengers. A bold and unflinching demeanor, assumed by the proper person, might have restrained the unnatural disorder that prevailed. It is said by some that this fearful abandonment of reason in the extreme of danger is human nature. It is not-the assertion is a foul libel upon the human race, and a doubt of the goodness of our Maker. Who has not seen the timid, the sickly, even of the gentler sex, roused in the extreme of danger to uncommon exertion of mind and body. The very case before us furnishes four instances of human exertion and endurance of almost miraculous extent. In the case of the Pulaski, out of a smaller number of passengers, at a far greater distance from land, fifty-four were saved, and among them women and children. It is true that the present case was so far worse that it was in the winter season, and that many perhaps perished merely from cold.
To what then are we to attribute the extraordinary fright which in this
case, as in previous ones, has produced such fatal consequences? We conceive it to be almost a national peculiarity to manifest an utter recklessness and want of providence against danger and as utter a want of self control, and presence of mind in the crisis. The intense selfishness which is a prevailing trait at the present day-not only here but else where-prompts each one to take care of himself, to the exclusion of all others. It is morally and physically impossible for more than one hundred persons, situated as the passengers of the Lexington were, to attempt to provide each the means of individual safety, without endangering that of all.
It is not recollected that passengers as well as owners and captains, have responsibilities which are as binding and necessary to safety as those more frequently considered and commented upon. There is too much dependance upon the ordinary imperfect provision against accident, and no trust in a over ruling Providence, and when danger comes, and the reed we lean upon is broken, having no thought of a higher power, despair soon drives reason from her throne. We must say that in time of danger, we have often heard of conduct befitting a savage rather than a christian people. In an unbounded reliance upon our mechanical perfection, we seldom reflect, that moral causes have much bearing,
One word more before we leave this melancholy subject. There are peculiarities in the construction of English marine engine well worth our imitation. The whole machinery is firmly bolted and fastened into one mass of iron, without any dependance upon wooden support, except on the very bottom of the vessel. The most serious accidents may happen to the boat without deranging the machinery, or impairing its perfect action. A fire might destroy the whole upper works without stopping the engine. Although in the case under consideration, the better course might have been to stop the boat, there is no reason why we should not have machinery that could be trusted in such an emergency.
The use of a small deck fire engine, has sometimes proved of the greatest service when from the smoke and flame the large one below had become useless. At a trifling expense this additional means of safety could always be procured.
Having expressed our opinions as freely as we have considered our duty to require, we leave the subject with the hope that we shall never again be called upon to notice a similar disaster.
TABLE OF CUBICAL QUANTITIES, FOR DETERMINING THE AMOUNT OF EXCAVATION AND EMBANKMENT, IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF RAILROADS AND CANALS, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS.
TABLE OF QUANTITIES, EOR TRACING RAILROAD CURVES, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS.-BY EDWIN F. JOHNSON, CIVIL ENGINEER.
The first of the above tables differs from any of the numerous tables for a similar purpose, which have fallen under our observation. The ordinary tables give the cubic contents from the centre cutting, supposing the
ground to be level transversely of the line; or, from the outside stakes, supposing the ground to be even between these two points. It is obvious that these tables must be calculated anew for every different slope and breadth of roadway, besides which they are only sufficiently accurate in very even ground. It is said by Lieut. Lecount, (p. 33,) "The average height, however, can, in almost every case, be taken perfectly near enough for every practical purpose." Such is not the general opinion or practice in this country, and except in very even ground, at least two cross levels are taken on each side of the centre stake. Two are, however, in the great majority of cases, quite sufficient to ensure all desirable accuracy, and Mr. Johnson's tables are peculiarly applicable to this mode of calculation, though by no means limited to it, being also adapted to the measurement of masonry in piers, culverts, walls, etc.
The linear measures are supposed to be taken in feet, and the solid contents are given in the table in cubic yards, all calculated for a length, or distance, of 10 feet, so that it is only necessary to remove the decimal point one place to the right to obtain the contents, per chain of 100 feet, or, to multiply by a single digit, for lengths of 30, 40, 50, etc., feet.
The table embraces 4 different slopes, 1, 1, 14, and 2 horizontal to 1 vertical, and gives the solid contents of pyramids, frustrums of pyramids and triangular prisims, for these slopes, besides a column for rectangular prisms into which all trapezoidal areas may be reduced. The latter column is calculated for a breadth of 10 feet, and, as the contents are directly as the breadth, it is easily applied to any breadth whatever.This is evidently not the case with the pyramids and triangular prisms, which vary with the slope as well as with the depth. These latter values being given and the length remaining constant, (10 ft.,) the cubic contents are at once obtained by multiplying the areas by one-third the length for the pyramids and by the whole length for the prisms. These solids require, therefore, only one column for each of the 4 slopes.
The contents of the frustrums, however, are not so easily obtained, depending on the ratio of their basis. They form, moreover, the majority of cases in practice, and occupy two-thirds of the table, being calculated, not only for different slopes, but for different ratios of basis. The illustrations are particularly full on this point, and we shall conclude by the following quotation from the "Introductory Remarks," which says more for the usefulness of the table than any opinion of ours:
"As an evidence of the utility of the table, it may be stated that a few manuscript copies were taken in its original form, which, although less general in its application than the one here presented, have been for some time in use on several public works, and have been found to answer well the purpose designed."
The table for curves gives the offsets from the tangent to the curve for every 25 ft. from the point of tangency to the distance of 200 feet, and, as