HC Deb 29 February 1844 vol 73 cc406-11
Sir V. Blake

rose pursuant to notice, to bring under the consideration of the house the subject of the practicability and utility of establishing a ship canal in connection with a railroad from Dublin to Galway, and facilitating the communication between these islands and America. It was but natural and proper of the hon. Members for the town of Dover to advance the local interests of their constituents, and in emulation of that laudable example he would endeavour to show, that the port of refuge that would be most consistent and valuable for the political and commercial interest of the United Kingdom would be the port of Galway. He would briefly state the grounds upon which he founded his claim for this preference. He brought forward this question early in the last Session, but his Motion was then opposed by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), on the ground that it was a Motion for a Committee of the whole House, and that it ought to have been a Motion for a Select Committee. In this view of the subject the noble Lord for Tiverton (Visc. Palmerston) concurred, and he recommended that the Motion should be withdrawn and the subject brought before the House again in shape of a Motion for a Select Committee. Thus encouraged on both sides, and in compliance with the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet he (Sir V. Blake) now brought forward his Motion for a Select Committee, with the addition that the present Motion comprehended also the execution of a ship canal across Ireland. The hon. Baronet said, it would be easily seen that the present Motion had important reference to the peace and prosperity of Ireland, and dwelt at great length with much ability on the subject of the late monster debate. He (Sir V. Blake) called upon the right hon. Baronet to show some disposition to do justice to Ireland. Let him increase the number of Irish representatives, and enlarge the Franchise so as to place them on an equality with England. Let him imitate the example of Mr. Pitt when he sent Lord Fitzwilliam to Ireland with ample power to do justice. Let him select such a man as Lord Spencer, with power to sweep out, in one mass, the personification of bigotry by which Dublin Castle had been so long infested. Let him give employment to the people by the establishment of public works of great national importance, such as were now proposed. Let him elevate the most talented man in the Empire to the first judicial seat in Ireland, and then, let him, to crown all, give a six weeks Session in College Green of the Imperial Parliament for the transaction of Irish business only, and then the right hon. Baronet might be placed in the proud elevation of universal confidence and permanent power. With these few observations he would content himself and proceed to the immediate object of his Motion. His plan was to establish a ship canal from Dublin to Galway, and on the bank of that canal he would propose the formation of a railway. The harbour of Galway was formed by nature into one of the noblest harbours of refuge in the United Kingdom—it would be a harbour of protection in case of war, and a harbour of refuge against the elements, to protect the commercial marine of the country throughout the year. [Here the hon. Baronet read a letter from Sir James Anderson in support of his views, and referred to several authorities.] The writer of that letter intimated that there was a new company about being formed to carry out the design of a newly-invented steam-carriage, by which it was intended to be proposed to the Government to carry the mails gratis to Holyhead, in nine hours, and from Dublin to Galway in four hours, without the necessity of the expenditure of 500,000l. over the Menai, without which expenditure the present steam cannot proceed to Holyhead. The Railway Commissioners were directed to inquire and report with reference to the most expeditious mode of communication with America across Ireland, and in their report they recommended the establishment of the harbour of Cork, which was an erroneous recommendation, for as expedition in the post-office department was the object, they should have selected the port which was nearest to Dublin, and equally near to America; the time that would elapse after the arrival of a vessel at Cork or Valentia, before that arrival would be notified in Dublin, would be just twice as much as when the communication would be between Galway and Dublin. Besides the Commissioners' reports related to railways, and to the probability of remuneration by the internal trade of Ireland. It had no relation whatever to the making of a ship canal; that was a project which originated several years ago with an Irish nobleman (Lord Cloncurry). He, at his own expense, employed eminent engineers to ascertain the practicability of the execution of a ship canal to Galway. The facility of the undertaking was demonstrated to exceed the most sanguine expectations—meetings were held in Liverpool and Dublin. The gallant and hon. Baronet (the Member for Liverpool) was present at the Liverpool meeting, and was afterwards examined in the House of Lords; and by a paper ordered to be printed on the 11th of August, 1834, it appeared the gallant Officer deposed that he was so present, and that the project of a ship canal was universally applauded. [Sir Howard Douglas was not in the country in 1839.] He spoke from official documents printed by order of the House in 1834, and consequently did not refer to the year 1839. In this last-mentioned year the noble Lord, the Chief Secretary for Ireland under the late Administration, brought forward his proposition in that House for the application of 2,500,000l. of the public money for the construction of a railway; that railway would have traversed the country longitudinally, and the distance of its termination would be twice as great, and the expense of construction would be twice as much as the cost of constructing a railway between Dublin and the nearest harbour on the western coast of Ireland. This proposition fell to the ground when Lord Morpeth went out of power, and so the matter rested till the last Session, when the hon. Member for Roscommon renewed the proposition of Lord Morpeth. But that Motion was strenuously opposed by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), who objected to the Motion on the mere grounds that the State should not interfere in matters of that kind, and that it would be much better to leave them to private speculation. The hon. Baronet proceeded to quote the evidence of Sir John Burgoyne, and many other authorities, and concluded by an impressive appeal to the Government to take this and every other opportunity to alleviate the distress of the Irish people and give them employment. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving, that A Select Committee to inquire and report how far it might be practicable, expedient, and useful to promote a more speedy intercourse between Great Britain and America, by the establishment of steam carriages (in connection with a ship canal also to be executed) across Ireland, and thence by steam communication across the Atlantic Ocean. The Motion having been put,

Sir R. Peel

said, it would be impossible for the House to concur in the Motion of the hon. Baronet without consenting to make Galway the particular port of communication between the United Kingdom and the United States, and it would, therefore, be highly inexpedient to acquiesce in a Motion of this kind, emanating from an hon. Member, representing a local interest, as other hon. Members representing other interests might claim a similar privilege. Without disguising the importance of others, still having regard to the great interests of Ireland, the Railway Commissioners in their report recommended two great lines of railway as the preferable means of communication in that country, one a south-western and the other a northern line, and of the southwestern line they proposed that Cork should be the terminus, deeming that port the most convenient packet station or port of call in the event of a communication being established with America through Ireland. Should this line be determined on, it could not fail to confer benefit on Galway. The Commissioners did not recommend the construction of any railroads which could interfere with the interests of the two great canals, in which a large amount of property was invested. He had that day had an interview with some Gentlemen who were disposed to construct a railway in the direction of Galway to Cashel, and who would, if they had succeeded in serving their notices sufficiently early, have brought in a Bill for that purpose during the present Session. He trusted that they would be able to bring it in early in the ensuing Session of Parliament. Under these circumstances, where the object was in a fair way of accomplishment by means of private enterprise, he thought the interference of Parliament would be injudicious, and therefore suggested the withdrawal of the present Motion, as likely to have a prejudicial effecon the efforts of those who were endeavouring to accomplish the same object in a legitimate way.

Mr. Sergeant Murphy

rejoiced to hear that a probability existed of the construction of a railway between Dublin and Cashel by individual enterprise, the effect of which must be a great stimulus to the investment of capital and the employment of labour in Ireland. He hoped, therefore, that if after Easter they came prepared with their Bill, the House would give their favourable attention to the subject, and consent to the suspension of the Standing Orders, which had been done on a former occasion with so beneficial a result. In reference to the right hon. Baronet's observations respecting the demands likely to be made by other Members representing local interests, he could only say that his regard for the interests of Cork would never make him regret an advantage conferred on Galway.

Sir V. Blake

replied, the Commission issued, had reference to voyages from land to land with sailing vessels only. Post Office expedition was not the primary object, nor were steam vessels then in existence. If Post Office expedition had been the primary object, the ports of Cork or Valentia would not be thought of, because the distance of those ports from Dublin would be an insuperable objection, in as much as the nearest western port to Dublin, was equally as near to America, as Cork or Valentia. The preference given by the Commissioners to Cork harbour, would not have been so given if a ship canal was contemplated, and upon looking to a work published in Ireland by that early, constant, talented, and patriotic advocate, for the execution of railways in Ireland, Thomas Birmingham, Esq., it will appear that the able and eminent engineers, Messrs. Bald and Henry, have actually made a survey of the line from Dublin to Galway, and report that that line consists of a "series of levels, straightness of line, and cheapness of execution as yet unequalled in railway engineering." One thing is certain, that whatever difference of opinion may exist as to railways, none can exist as to the station of the line for a ship canal—nature has ordered that Galway should be selected for that purpose, if ever it be executed—nor would the interests of the Grand Canal be prejudiced as the property would be purchased for the purpose of executing the ship canal, on the line now occupied by the Grand Canal—and the Grand Canal proprietors would probably become parties in the more comprehensive national undertaking. In the event of a war with France, you must have a ship canal across Ireland, or the trade of Liverpool will be extinguished—the responsibility belongs to the right hon. Baronet. He had done his duty in bringing the matter forward, while there was time to anticipate and prevent the evil, consequent upon a war, which will be a war of extermination on the one side or on the other.

Motion withdrawn.