Press, Volume I, Issue 1, 25 May 1861, Page 2
r* ■ AMONGST* the . first Colonists who landed in Lyttelton tv jßCartiour in December, 1850, there was a short, jp v lluSfe-made, ljullet-headod man, with a rapid and jjjj, decisive mode of talking, and active and energetic habits f$ of business. He became a sort of commission agent and fc'auciioneer, and in the early days of the settlement ||f considerable notoriety as the George Bobbins of He was an especial benefactor to the , filling its advertising columns; enppoaing himto have pAid his bill, of which we no knowledge. Thie gentleman was of a remarkal>, , %ly speculative turn of mind, and, displaying that pecuflv liarity which attaches to many adventurous spirits, he H; preferred speculating mt other people's money to his U.< own f - But it may have been that he had none of the to risk*. One fine morning at all events, the Dr , /-Canterbury Bobbins was found to be, what is sometimes called in England, but never hero where we are more I . JJolite, i fraudulent bankrupt. That is to cay he sold we goods of persons who employed him as an auctioneer the money into his own pocket. Ultimately- he— ip bolted j leaving behind him the legacy of a bright example |KlW the "future auctioneers of Canterbury. Now, this gentleman was the first who proposed the and Christchurch Railway, tunnel and all: and surveyors at his own oxpense to survey the ihjp'work. . "Honour to whom honour is due."
He had his little failings, but he was the first author of the Railway. As one of the passes iuto our inland country is called after a notorious sheep-stealer, surely our tunnel should display some memorial of its real author. From that time to the present there has been no dispute as to the propriety or necessity of a railway and little difference or opinion as to the line. The main matters in dispute have boon, "What will the work cost? Can the money be found? How soon can the work be done? And how soon will it pay ? "
When the first Superintendent took office, the revenues of the Province were estimated at £4000 a year; when he left, they had reached upwards of £40,000. Mr. FitzOerald continued amidst great opposition to open the Sumner Road, and when he left, about £10,000 only were wanting to complete that work. The result has shewn the correctness of his judgment, for in the present dangerous and unfinished condition of the road, and with the disadvantage of having to lift goods over 300 feet of steep zigzag, we are told that out of 16,000 tons of goods sent between Lyttelton and Christchurch last year, 2000, that is nearly one-fifth, were sent by the Sumner Road. Were the short tunnel through Evans' Pass completed, it is obvious that a much larger proportion of goods would pass that way, at a much smaller cost than at present: In other words, if the Sumner Road can even now compete with the boats and steamers, at all events in light and costly goods, where speed and certainty in delivery are essential, it would, if the enormous drag of the zigzag were removed, actually undersell the other present modes of transit.
Now, when Mr. Moorhouse took office, he found a revenue of about, £60,000 a-year, and a balance of about £25,000 to begin with. The road into Port was left incomplete whilst there was no possible prospect of any better communication for ten years to come. There never was any rivalry between the road and]the railway, for the road would have paid itself over and over again before it was possible that the railway could be opened. As matters are we have neither one nor the other, nor are likely to have for years to come.
The extraordinary advance made by the Province under the first Government; and the largo income at command owing to the admirable laws for the disposal of the waste rnVbhttMy or goYennntrtiv induoed the new government to think that the time had arrived for entering on the large work of the direct Railway. We think that that decision was precipitated. We look over the estimates and calculations made by the Government to justify their belief that the Railway would pay, and we are at-a loss to determine whether those figures arc the result of folly or of fraud. If the Government believed those calculations to which Mr. Marshman attached his name, and for which we are told he always repudiated any responsibility, then they exhibited a credulity which the event was sure to expose; if they did not believe them, their publication was a fraud. We shall havo occasion to go at some future time into the question of these estimates. At present we turn to the simple fact that, in order to make the Railway, a government guarantee for the money was thought necessary. This was evidence, on the face of it, that the Government thought the railroad would not, at all events at first,, pay the interest on the loan; or at least, that they could not persuade money-lenders to think it would. Now we do not entertain the smallest doubt but that some day this Railway will pay. The only question is, when ? We shall return to this matter week by week, for we are satisfied that the public have been thoroughly humbugged from the first. There are two classes of persons who have, or think they have, a direct iuiberest in the Railway. First, the , land-holders and land-jobbers who have sections of land to sell, in and about Cbristcburch, and who think their properties will increase in valae; and secondly the laborers who think the expenditure of £300,000 will throw something into their pockets. The latter will be bitterly deceived, as the contractors will of course bring down their own workmen, who will monopolise one great part of the loan/whilst another great part will bo spent in rails and other plant in England.
These two interests, however, have teen eogaged in hurrying on the work, and have shouted down the few more reflecting men who disinterestedly and honestly asked themselves—"Will it pay ?
Therefore, we aay, we shall return to this matter probably again and again, so that the public shall stand thoroughly and completely informed of the financial condition in which the Province will probably stand at the time the work is completed.
Now, at starting, our readers will understand we do ! not intend to oppose the Railway; on the contrary, we shall : advocate its being made with the utmost possible expedition. We are unable to take up the question from the first. We ; come into the discussion of it when the original subject,; is disposed of, and the Province has p"ublicly committed 1 itself to the work. The public have gone too far to recede 1 It is in that position, that to go back would now do more mischief than to go on. But if we shall not oppose, still less shall we cavil and snarl without an object. We shall write for a specific object, and in order to that end, the first step will be to establish clearly and honestly what , I the financial prospects of the Province are likely to be j during the construction of the line and at its completion, j Many persons seem to think that having determined on the work, the only thing is to borrow the money and go ! ahead. They appear to imagine that there is only one way of doing things of this nature. We hope we shall j be able to show that there are many ways. We verily j believe we shall meet with some sympathy in the Province | when we say, there is an honest and there is a dishonest ! way of doing work. The honest way is doing it at our own risk; and the dishonest way is doing it at the risk of others. We have therefore hoisted our standard with this motto,—" Nihil utile quod non honestum." :
The Superintendent will no doubt be vexed at this view of matters. He considers himself the apostle of the ' railway, and loses his temper at every appearance of opposition. When the melting mood followed the divine wrath . exhibited in the gallery of the Town Hall the : other day, he dwelt pathetically on the sacrifices he must submit to if he stood another election, which he would do to save the Railway. So the poor man will be not only apostle but martyr. And then, " please God, he will make a railway from north to south of the Province." Now, in some things, we are not without respect for Mr. Moorhouse; but there is such a remarkable amount of i vanity in his nature, that it will do him no harm to hear common sense and common truth in this matter. A man is not a great man even if he does make a railway. Of course railways will be made from north to south of the Province; who ever doubted it? They will be made whether he is Superintendent or not; perhaps much sooner if he be removed. When the time comes that railways will pay, when there are, or are likely to be, people,JuitVcopda ta^svib* , *^Jbs^^i i4> y-> 1 j "and will constitute the great means of peopling the j wilderness. But if they be made too soon; if they dd not pay; if they load the Province with debt, and soi cramp our means of importing that very population which alone can makethem pay : then, we say- and common sense says, they will not advance, but will most seriously and grievously retard the progress of the Colony. It is idle to suppose that the laws which govern all the commercial machinery of the world can be violated with impunity. And for every instance in which daring ; rogues have leaped into wealth by taking advantage of adventitious circumstances to speculate at the risk of their •■ friends, there are ten instances in which less fortunate •.! swindlers have met ruin and disgrace. Now, at present,, the Province seems to us jiist in the position of the gambling trader. We do not believe that this Province will be able to pay £24,000 a-year of debt, in addition to its present expenditure, until the Railway shall become remunerative. We look at the accounts, and as simple men of business we see no chance of such a result j and therefore, we deem it a duty to call public steadily and continuously to the financial state of the Province, with a view to such measures as shall main-f tain intact the high character which Canterbury ha*, hitherto held.