Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

solutely necessary, together with the hearty concurrence of the authorities and inhabitants of the Isthmus. In proposing the subject to the general government, they have invariably started what might fairly be called an extravagant pretension, equivalent to this—that any foreign power, wishing to open the Isthmus, should guarantee to them the integrity of the territory thus benefitted, fearful, it would seem, that the inhabitants, when in the enjoyment of this advantage, and the facilities of communication shall have attracted among them settlers from other climes, will become so strong and unruly as to seek a separation. On the other hand, the municipality and leading men of the Isthmus have always insisted as a peremptory condition, that whatever line was opened, should terminate at or near their city.*

To remove these difficulties, if such have arisen, and as an essential groundwork to reconcile discrepancies in interests and opinions on the part of those who have a voice in the affair, must require both time and dexterity. In the mean while, any one who reads M. Garilla's authorized account, brief as it is, will be convinced that the natural impediments to a water communication, on the scale proposed, are of the most appalling kind, even when an outlet at the two extremities shall have been secured, although in Europe perhaps not insurmountable. The digging of forty-six-and-a-half miles for a wide canal, at least twentythree feet deep, could only be performed by negroes (and even then under awnings), working in the dry season, which commences in December and ends in June, or July. As free labourers, having an abundance of food around them, by the lure of unusual earnings, these men might be induced to toil underground, but although tractable and well disposed, they would in all probability consider this as hard and monotonous work, and if a prejudice were once excited against it, nothing which their employers could do, would induce them to return to the task. Compulsory labour only enabled the Spaniards to dig their mines, and it would besides require years to complete the line. The difficulties of making a cut to Limon Bay from the Chagre bank, at the point opposite to the Trinidad junction, have already been alluded to, and, after all, it is acknowledged that on each declivity, thirty locks would be required (of course of the very largest dimensions), and the capital needed nearly one million sterling! For the present, the Garilla canal scheme can be viewed in no other light than that of a beautiful project.

* This disposition on the part of the Panamanians, evidently arises from an anticipation of the increased value which such an event would give to their property. The city contains about 10,000 inhabitants, but is capable of receiving an acquisition of twice as many more. No other town, or city, on the western side of the continent, presents so many good and substantial edifices, although for more than half a century they have been falling to decay. In the time of the Porto Bello fairs, Panama was a scene of busy traffic, the produce of Guayaquil, Paita, Peru, and Chile, on the one side, and of Western Mexico and California on the other, being brought thither in order to exchange for European goods. Hence, the present residents, who daily witness the decline of their city, even in the appearance of the streets, are so tenacious in wishing the line to come near them, and, from the interest which they have at stake, it will readily be deduced that they are willing, and even eager, to second the efforts of any responsible party, in a situation to undertake the work on terms acceptable to them.

How much more preferable then would be a railway along one of the lines proposed by Mr. Lloyd, and since approved of by other intelligent travellers, as well as residents! This would be a safe and easy expedient, the accomplishment of which requires only as many months as the other would years, and not cost one-fourth of the money. For a work of this kind all the requisite elements exist, and the natives would besides readily co-operate, more especially if the line terminated at Panama. In the performance of their task the labourers also might easily be kept in good-humour, as the drudgery would not be so oppressive, and the progress made constantly before their eyes. This mode of opening the communication certainly would not altogether correspond with the views of naval powers, wishing a transit for their war-vessels,* or, indeed, wholly answer the expectations of that class of merchants who extend their operations to India, but still it would afford great facilities for the conveyance of passengers, mails, and merchandize; and by corresponding steamers being stationed on the Pacific (the ocean of all others best calculated for this kind of navigation, now that the existence of coal on various points of the Western coast of South America has been ascertained), a most material part of the great desideratum would be attained.t

The one plan can, at once, be reduced to a certainty, and no reasonable objection alleged against it, while the other is shrouded in doubt and distrust. It would be almost an act of ingratitude to Providence, were we to overlook the facilities afforded by the navigation of the Chagre, limited as they are. On entering from the Atlantic, by at once proceeding to the Trinidad, where proper establishments for the reception of passengers and goods might be formed, the dangers apprehended from the low and swampy ground, round the town of Chagre, would be avoided. The two operations are besides perfectly distinct, and one could in no way interfere with the other, provided the line runs in the direction of Panama and terminates within the point named by M. Garilla. Sufficient room would still be left to pierce the intervening ground, either in a direct line or diagonally, should it be so deemed advisable, after the two shores, together with the interior, have been more carefully searched and fresh elements accumulated. The conflicting opinions of professional men who have visited the spot, and the results of whose surveys have been sent forth to the world, under high authority, ought moreover to be previously reconciled, otherwise the responsibility, in case of failure, becomes very heavy. The cutting of a canal is a gigantic undertaking, and should not be commenced preinaturely, or without the most eligible spot being deliberately weighed and judiciously determined. The narrowest part of the Isthmus is supposed to be from Mandinga Bay, on the Atlantic, to the Gulf of San Miguel, on the Pacific ; but this section of the country is inhabited by independent Indians, who never acknowledged the supremacy of the Spaniards, and have not been molested by any of the new governments. They have hitherto invariably refused a passage through their territory, consequently its capabilities are not known. The line from Boca del Toro, on the Atlantic, to Cherokee, on the Pacific, would also be an interesting one, if the configuration of the land should prove favourable, the ports, at each extremity, being good and coal at hand. This ground also remains to be visited.

* As regards a canal, another consideration presents itself, which ought not to be overlookedl. If the works were performed by, or for account of, any one European nation, without a special understanding with the rest, the right of passage might hereafter lead to disputes, more especially in case of war. This is a subject to which the natives, fearful of being embroiled in foreign disputes, are perfectly alive, and with the United States any preference might become a serious bone of contest.

For ages the Indians, and after them the Spaniards, have trodden upon beds of valuable coal, without observing them, which are, nevertheless, situated in regions so cold and denuded of wood, that they were obliged to collect the droppings of Llamas and Alpacas to use as fuel. Since the country has been opened to general intercourse, coal has been found upon the coast as high up as Chile, more especially at Taleaguano, as well as on various points lower down.

It is, therefore, to be hoped that, in the enterprise upon which they are about to enter, the Directors of the Royal Mail Company will turn their sole and undivided attention to the construction of a railway, from and to such points as, after mature consideration, their commissioners may pronounce best suited. By this means passengers, mails, and goods, might cross the Isthmus in four hours*, allowing one for stoppage at the first terminus, a part of the traffic which could never be carried on by means of a circuitous canal, encumbered with locks and sluices. With a work of this description we ought, for the present at least, to be satisfied and leave the rest to time, although, it must be acknowledged, there is something noble and grand in the idea of a 74, an Indiaman, or even a South Sea whaler, towering among the lofty forests of the Isthmus—in regions where the cane grows to an elevation of 100 feet, and in reality crossing the Andes. The anticipation of such a sight seems like a dream ; still our children may live to witness it.t

But even a railway, economically constructed, and kept up, over such an interesting strip of land as the one here sketched, would be considered not only as an achievement corresponding to the spirit of the age in which we live, but also received as an expedient calculated to redound more to the advantage of commerce than any other that could be devised. It would tend to bring nearer together remote regions, abounding in resources, and disposed to exchange them. It would become a new bond of union between the most important of our distant settlements and the parent state ; and the time has arrived, when British subjects, both at home and abroad, expect that Govern

• Passengers frequently have come down from Panama, along the river, to the town of Chagre, in seventeen hours, who, on their return by the same route, expended a week.

+ If for such a spectacle a parallel anywhere exists, it will be found, although upon a small scale, on the Andes, in Upper Peru, at an elevation of 18,000 feet above the level of the sea. A few years ago, through the enterprise and perseverance of a few Englishmen, interested in the neighbouring mines, a brig of large dimensions was built and launched upon lake Titicaca, which may almost be compared to an inland sea, where it still navigates, being employed to carry provisions for the miners from one side to the other. The iron work, small anchors, cables and ropes, were brought up the mountains, over long and rugged roads, on the backs of mules, from the coast, where they originally formed part of an English vessel, stranded there.

ment will give to such an undertaking as this all the patronage and support in their power.

Since the opening of China, and our late successes in India, our affairs in the East have assumed a new and more anxious character, and safe and early communications with both countries become desirable, nay, essentially necessary. Even when established, the route by Suez to China and India, like our present passage through France, may be rendered precarious by incidental causes; and, at all events, that route does not embrace so wide a scope, neither is it so well calculated for the conveyance of heavy goods, as the one proposed. A mere glance at a map will shew the geographical position of the Isthmus of Panama, and convince even the most casual observer, that this interesting point of land was intended to become a great commercial thoroughfare_the highway of nations.

As before stated, a railway would not answer all the purposes desired, but still it would do an incalculable amount of good; and for the construction of one, beyond all doubt, the physical aspect of the country is propitious. To an undertaking of this kind, every Englishman who has his heart in the right place must therefore wish well, under the conviction that our numerous countrymen in India and China, in the Indian Archipelago, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific, as well as along the western coasts of South and North America, even as far as the Columbia River, will, under all circumstances, consider it the greatest and most seasonable boon that could be conferred upon them. But this is not all. Our West India Islands would thus become the advanced posts to a grand mart, opened for the supply of British commodities, and by the new route receive from the Pacific direct and regular supplies of guano, that valuable fertilizer so essentially requisite to the cultivation of their lands, exhausted by the uninterrupted growth of the sugar-cane, and without which the efforts making to afford them additional free labour will only be attended with one-half of the effects contemplated.

London, March 6th, 1845.

“JOTTINGS FROM MY JOURNAL."

BY A MEDICAL OFFICER OF THE BENGAL ESTABLISHMENT.

CHAPTER XIV. GOLGOTHA.

The little grave-yard filled rapidly. Two companies of artillery had already lost half their number.

“How is poor P.?” I asked, as I entered the room of an officer attending upon him. The inquiry was useless, for he had just died. Sent down the river alone to fill a vacancy, he had been deeply oppressed with a feeling that he was doomed, and ere he arrived, he had caught the fever of Scinde.

I was struck down—revelled at night under the temporary mania of the disease—sat up in bed with shaven crown and sparkling eye, abused the medical attendant, and whilst the sleeping domestics knew it not, I wandered about searching for ice, which I knew would cool my scorching forehead, and I fancied that a boat-load of it was dropping down the Indus. Towards morning, when the exacerbation went off, and the medical attendant came, a confused recollection of these freaks and ideas was present; but as the domestics denied all knowledge of them, the doctor did not credit the frenzy of my nights. I knew it full well, however, and dreaded the approaching evening, for I had an instinctive horror of what I might do. It was full moon, and one night I made my way to the house-top, the Indus hard by running glassy and like an arrow beneath the porch, and I thought how cool it would be to spring into it, and as I thought so, the fancy struck ne that I might swim to Kurrachee and get the beautiful seabreeze there, and I thought I would stay a day with the officer who had lost his life in crossing from Roree, and whom I needs must see on my journey ; and I sat down upon the ledge of the house-top to think over this glorious plan, and I laughed to think how I should trick the domestics who had slept while their master raved. Then, becoming chilled, I stole down again unseen by any, and, exhausted, betook me to my couch. Many a night I passed in manner like this, and in fourteen days was a shadow rather than aught else ; nor was it wonderful, for many months had passed since my head had known the comfort of any other shelter than the fly of a subaltern's tent. Many a night I had passed on a hillock of sand, the bear-skin-covered saddle my pillow, a more sleep-bearing one than the medicated cushion of the sleepless inhabitant of the city. There is nothing like exposure and fatigue for rendering sleep what it ought to be; induced by these, a bed of good sand, heated to 100°, forms a luxurious place of repose, and I have certainly slumbered as serenely under a tropical rain of a night's duration as ever I did on a bed of down. But work like this is not calculated to ensure longevity, and it closed my book in the way I have stated. “ The Faculty” agreed I was a fitting subject to return to Hindostan, but a difficulty existed in the Indus being beset, above and below Sukkur, by predatory bodies of Belooch horsemen, in whose warfare

« ZurückWeiter »