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of Russia, America, or Spain? If they are dishonest, you have the worst of all possible results, viz., a bad ship declared to be good by a lying official certificate.
4. But setting aside dishonesty, control is either apt to become formal and a sham, or if zealously exercised, to be rigid, embarrassing, and a hindrance to legitimate business. Sufficient attention has not been given to this point. The tendency of an honest and zealous official, if courageous, is to exaggerate his own importance; if timid, to free himself from responsibility; and in either case to make his requirements more and more stringent. In no case has he at heart the commercial success of the undertaking, and his requirements, if excessive or unreasonable, may make just the difference between commercial profit or loss. In the case of shipping this is peculiarly dangerous, for nothing is easier than to transfer ships to a foreign flag, or to transfer freights to foreign ships, which we cannot subject to our restrictive regulations. And these ships, thus exempted from British control, may then be owned, manned and, navigated, by the same men who now own, man and navigate them under the British flag. Already there are ominous symptoms of this form of mischief. Cases have appeared in the newspapers, from which it appears that there has been an organised business set up for the purpose of making colourable transfers of British ships to nominal Belgian owners, for the purpose of escaping the Board of Trade survey. Canadian shipowners are growling at what they call Plimsollian legislation, and, threatening to press for a separate Canadian national flag and jurisdiction-a step, it is scarcely necessary to say, which would not only be attended with the most serious practical inconvenience, but which would break one of the last and most important of the ties which still bind the colony to the mothercountry. Finally, there is reason to apprehend that the action of the Board of Trade may, even under the present law, injure a class of vessels and of trade which it is most important to protect and preserve. There is a numerous class of small coasters which would scarcely pass any official survey, but which, being manned and navigated by the same men who own them -themselves some of the hardiest and most experienced sailors, in the world—are, for all practical purposes, much safer than many finer vessels. To drive such men from the trade by official surveys and requirements, however it might suit the purpose of wealthy competitors, would not only be a personal hardship, but a national evil. In fact, those who wish to protect the sailor too often forget that vexatious protection from possible risks may destroy the very employment by which he exists,
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'You do take my life
5. A rule fixed by law must necessarily be the minimum that prudence requires; otherwise it becomes an arbitrary restriction on the legitimate profits of the British shipowner. But this minimum is no sooner fixed by law than it becomes a maximum ; and owners and builders, who would otherwise do more and better, build, load, and equip down to this rule. For instance, the Government are asked to fix load-lines—a matter of the very greatest difficulty, since the depth to which a ship may be properly loaded differs with the infinitely-differing elements of size, form, and construction of ship, nature of cargo, stowage of cargo, nature of voyage, and season of the year. To fix the line too low is to handicap the British shipowner and to injure the trade, or to drive it to a foreign flag; therefore the line must be fixed as high as is consistent with ordinary prudence. The moment that it is so fixed it becomes the line to which the shipowner will, as a matter of course, load down; and down to which all his neighbours and rivals, who might, and would very possibly, have otherwise adopted a safer course, must and will load down also. The Government load-line thus becomes the means of lowering the general standard of prudence and safety. This is no mere speculation. The law prescribing a certain number of iron bulkheads in iron ships was repealed because it was found that it led to the adoption of fewer and less effective bulkheads than builders adopted without the law.
6. Many excellent things, the adoption of which is desirable for public safety, e.g., life-boats, safety valves, bulkheads, &c., are not things which can be once for all settled, defined, and prescribed, but things of gradual growth, invention, and improvement. Had any of these been defined by law at any past time they would probably not have been what they are now; and were they now prescribed and defined by law future improvement would be checked. This is a most insidious form of evil, for we do not know the good which we thus prevent. It is no answer to say that Government control will be intelligent, and will encourage improvement. It is not Government or its officers who invent or adopt inventions, and those who do are far less likely to continue to improve when Parliament or Government has defined and prescribed a definite course, the adoption of which frees them from responsibility.
7. Lastly, it is impossible to maintain at the same time any general system of Government control, and any effectual responsibility on the part of the shipowner. At present the shipowners, when they do not protect themselves by insurance and
by stipulations in their bills of lading, are under heavy liabilities for accident and danger in Courts of Law. Actions for damage and loss of cargo appear constantly in the Law Reports. Once admit Government control, and these liabilities are at an end. The Government certificate is an answer to any passenger or shipper who sues for damages, or to any insurer who disputes his liability. No one can find fault with a shipowner for that which the Government has sanctioned. With a system of control, even Government inquiry will be useless, for the Government officers would be inquiring into their own acts.
It is scarcely necessary to add that the reasons against Government control which are above advocated, are entirely consistent with a thorough system of Government investigation of accidents. The function of throwing light on all practices of the trade; of investigating all dangers, and of ascertaining the true cause of accidents, is one which the Government can exercise with the utmost possible advantage and without fear of dangerous results. It is one which is useful to the shipowners, for it points out to them real sources of danger. It brings to bear on them the powerful motives of fear of loss of traffic, and of legal liability for damages. And it does this without ulterior ill consequences. But for the reason above given it is inconsistent with Government control.
It is still more needless to add that the above observations are consistent with and support a strict enforcement of the legal responsibilities of the shipowners.
It is, we are satisfied, in this latter direction, and on this principle, that legislation can and ought to be made effectual. Under the wholesome doctrines of the Common Law, the shipowner is liable for any loss or injury sustained in consequence of his own neglect or that of his servants, by any passenger or shipper of goods. He would also, but for insurance, be himself the loser by accident to his ship. But the Legislature has, probably wisely, limited the liability of the shipowner to a certain fixed amount; and he, not satisfied with this, too often gets rid of it altogether by stipulations introduced into his bills of lading. He can further not only cover himself by insurance against all possible loss, but can turn a loss into a gain; and in doing this, he is protected and encouraged by the present state of our law.
It is true that he is now made liable criminally for criminal neglect, and that he cannot by contract rid himself of this liability. But it is not easy to prove criminal neglect; nor is a public prosecutor animated by the same constant motive of self-interest which prompts the civil remedy. A court and a
jury are ready to give a decision against a shipowner when the question is one of damages between him and a sufferer by his neglect, where they would hesitate to find him guilty of a crime.
To enforce this civil liability, and to prevent insurance from becoming a temptation to negligence, would go much farther and deeper than all the superficial remedies which philanthropists are so ready to prescribe; it would reach the motives of the shipowner, and in this way would operate, not on one particular outward symptom, but on all the points on which there is any temptation to negligence or any possibility of precaution. If every shipowner is made to feel, as no doubt the great majority of shipowners do feel, that his real interest lies in the safety and success of his enterprise, and that the loss of the ship, cargo, passengers, and crew is his loss, it will make him look—and he is the only person who can effectually look-to everything which can conduce to her safety, to her build, her equipment, her loading, her manning, and her navigation. It will not interfere with the good shipowner, for he does this already, and has a motive for doing it. But it will test and punish the bad shipowner far more severely than any system of legislative rules or Government supervision, all of which he well knows how to meet and evade, and which, indeed, he is quite ready to accept, because he knows that they save him from a responsibility which he dreads above all things. Add to this, the very important consideration that remedies of this description, unlike the supposed remedy of official supervision, will reach the Foreign shipowner who carries on trade in our ports or who seeks his remedy in our Courts of Law, equally with the British shipowner.
To legislate on these points is no easy matter. The measures necessary for this purpose are difficult to frame, and still more difficult to carry, since they do really touch the tender sore. But the present state of public feeling affords a great opportunity, and it would be ten thousand pities if the motive power, for which we are so much indebted to Mr. Plimsoll, were allowed to waste itself in the false and mischievous remedies of prescription and supervision, instead of effecting a vital reform by making the responsibility of the shipowner certain and indefeasible.
ART. I.-A Short History of the English People. By J. R. Green, M.A. With Maps and Tables. London. 1874.
HE extraordinary popularity of Mr. Green's Short History' must be regarded as one of the most curious literary phenomena of the day. Within the space of a brief twelvemonth, or a little more, it has reached the unprecedented sale of 32,000 copies, according to the announcement of its publisher. The fact is noticeable. Had Mr. Green suddenly dawned upon the world as a delightful poet or fascinating novelist of the latest stamp, his success could not have been more remarkable. The reading public are not so indulgent to historians in general. A second or third edition moves off languidly enough. The sale of a few thousand copies satisfies the most ambitious expectations of author and publisher. But here is an author comparatively unknown, or known only to a small circle of friends, who distances at once all competitors-not in some new field of inquiry, not in the pathways of scientific discovery, but in the well-trodden arena of English history. Those who have little acquaintance with the subject, and those who are, or at least profess to have been, familiar with it from their childhood, who are fully persuaded that there are no fresh facts to be elicited, and no further discoveries to be made, are equally loud in Mr. Green's praises. Hostile criticism in every quarter is fascinated and disarmed.
The secret of this extraordinary success it is not difficult to divine. Mr. Green's style is eminently readable and attractive. A lively imagination, not always under the most rigid control, imparts its own colours to the dry details of history, where a more scrupulous or conscientious writer would have wearied himself, and fatigued his readers, unwilling to venture beyond the arid region of facts. Every one nowadays demands that whatever else history may be it shall be made interesting. It must trench as closely as possible on the borders of fiction. The influence
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