« AnteriorContinuar »
it as moderate a measure of reform as the state to which contending factiousness has brought the question will permit. They can use their own discretion in employing their strength to modify its details in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. But the course of their leaders during the late Administration has too plainly proved to them that it is only in opposition that they can exert this restraining power with success. It is impossible for them to upset the Government by their own unaided strength, and they may be quite sure that any assistance tendered to them by the Radicals is as honest as perjured Sinon's' friendship. The game of the Radicals is very clear, and they pursue it with characteristic perseverance. An annual change of government serves their purpose in two ways. paralyzes legislation, and enables them to proclaim that until Parliament is democratic it cannot be efficient; and it gives them a succession of ministers each more conceding than the last. A bath in the waters of opposition is a sovereign remedy for too stiff-necked an aversion to democracy. Each party comes out of it with an extra coating of liberalism on its skin. The last application of the remedy brought Mr. Disraeli down to ten pounds in the counties, and Lord Palmerston down to eight pounds in the towns. This, in Mr. Bright's eyes, is but the beginning of a cure; and he naturally expects to achieve wonders by the repetition of a treatment that has already been so happy in its results. Another plunge or two for each of the patients, and he hopes to see Mr. Disraeli not disdain five pounds in the counties, and Lord Palmerston eager for household suffrage in the towns. With this judicious and well-considered plan before him, it is not at all surprising that every successive spring he should offer his aid to the opposition of the day in turning out the Ministry. The only surprising thing is that the opposition should be simple-minded enough to accept it. And that it should have been ever accepted by an opposition consisting of the landed gentlemen of England is a specimen of political wisdom only to be paralleled by the sagacity of the French Republicans in allowing Louis Napoleon to help them to organize the revolution of 1848.
The choice is before the landed gentlemen again whether they will repeat this policy. It is, of course, impossible to predict what the Government measure may be. It may be good, bad, or indifferent; but whatever its provisions are, it is not likely that they will be extreme enough to satisfy the reformers of the Bradford school. Disaffection in the ministerial ranks will be the result; and in the present balance of parties, disaffection, however slight, will enable the opposition to aim a fatal blow. The attack will probably be made-for
decency's sake such combinations always are-on some question with which home politics have no concern. A foreign policy in difficult times always presents weak points; a practised player will not need to wait for long to find a blot. Unless a change, equivalent to a political regeneration, has come over Mr. Disraeli, he will accept aid from any allies, and will not be careful to inquire into their ultimate objects. The only hope is that he may not find his party as pliable as before. If they have learned anything from the past, they will not again stoop to receive office at the hands of Mr. Bright, durante bene placito. Such a refusal may not be the shortest way to office; but it will secure the infinitely more important gain of giving to the country a sound and safe Reform Bill. If they are not equal to this self-denial, the old scene with the old results will be re-enacted. 'Conservative Government' will be again installed amid much jubilation, and amid many promises of forbearance from the Radical leaders. A programme magnificently worded, and so judiciously vague that it might have been composed either by Lord Eldon or Mr. Ernest Jones, will be delivered by its distinguished chief in the House of Commons. Leaning on the Radicals for support, it will be forced to fling them such small concessions as it can wring from its followers, and to make up the deficiency by fatal pledges. The pledges will turn out to be delusive, and the Government will be contemptuously cashiered; and the Conservative party will return to opposition still more damaged in fame, and still more deeply committed to the measures it abhors. Meanwhile the Liberals will have returned to power the same persons probably to much the same offices, with about the same majority as now; but with one great change. They, too, will be pledged to fresh concessions, and will have been forced to buy at a still higher price the allies who by a temporary desertion have so cogently proved their own necessity. The short manoeuvre will seem to have left everything as it was; but we shall all have travelled another stage down the terrible incline. Mr. Bright will by that time be almost in sight of his Promised Land, in which the poor shall vote the budget, and the rich shall bear the taxes, and the squires shall pay, in political annihilation, the penalty for having combined with their bitterest enemies to spite their cast-off friends. In that supreme hour they will at least have the solace of feeling that they have been a great parliamentary party,' unconnected with any great political question;' and that though they may have given strength to the Radical leaders, and smoothed the path of democracy, yet that they have succeeded in making Mr. Disraeli thrice Chancellor of the Exchequer.
THE ORDNANCE SURVEY.*
HE first impression which is produced on the mind of any one who visits an unfamiliar scene of mechanical or scientific labour is always a sense of bewilderment and complication. The simplest object seems to require a score of intricate contrivances, and the unity of the whole establishment is hidden from view by the apparent complexity of the mechanism employed, and the puzzling intricacy of the calculations which are necessary to work out the desired results. A little patient examination invariably reverses this first idea, and substitutes for it a conviction of the extreme simplicity of the essential processes which all the multiplied expedients to which the engineer or the philosopher is driven are designed to perfect and assist. While looking at a condensing steam-engine, with its apparatus of cylinders, and pistons, and pumps, and cranks, and valves, one can scarcely realize the fact, that the whole machine is nothing but a contrivance for introducing steam in the most economical and effective manner alternately above and below a moveable piston. If you watch the patient and
* 1. Ordnance Trigonometrical Survey of Great Britain and Ireland. Account of the Observations and Calculations of the Principal Triangulation, and of the Figure, Dimensions, and Mean Specific Gravity of the Earth as derived therefrom. Published by order of the MasterGeneral and Board of Ordnance. 1858. Drawn up by Capt. A. R. Clarke, R.E., F.R.A.S., under the direction of Lieut.-Col. James, R.E., F.R.S., M.R.I.A., &c., Superintendent of the Ordnance Survey.
2. Report of the Ordnance Survey Commission. 1858.
3. Report of the Progress of the Ordnance Survey and Topographical Depót to the 31st Dec. 1858.
4. The Figure of the Earth.
Sciences, Vol. iii.
5. Papers on the Deflection of the Plumb Line by Local Attraction. Phil. Trans. 1855. Proceedings of Royal Society, Vol. vii. pp. 176 and 440. By Archdeacon Pratt.
6. Ditto. Phil. Trans. 1855. Proceedings of Royal Society, Vol. vii. p. 240. By the Astronomer Royal.
7. Ditto. Proceedings of Royal Society, Vol. viii. pp. 45 and 111. By Col. James.
8. Pendulum Experiments for the Determination of the Density of the Earth. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Vol. viii. p. 25. By the Astronomer Royal.
9. Note by Capt. Clarke. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Vol. viii. p. 58. 2 A
VOL. II. N. IV.
incessant observations and calculations which form the business of an astronomical observatory, it takes an effort to comprehend the fact, that nine-tenths of all this labour has no other object than to keep a clock continually right, or, what is the same thing, to ascertain and allow for the exact amount of its error from time to time. It is the same with almost every department of practical science. The theory of the operations is the simplest thing in the world, and all the ingenuity and toil of mechanicians and calculators are devoted to the measurement and elimination of the errors to which the process is liable.
A striking illustration of these truths is afforded by the ordnance establishment for the survey of the British Islands, which has been recently brought to a condition of almost perfect organization under the superintendence of Colonel James. The central station at Southampton has all the appearance of a great manufactory with its various departments in orderly arrangement for the production of the maps and charts which are the object of the whole undertaking. The field apparatus, by the aid of which the observations are made, embodies the matured experience of observers of all countries and times, and secures a minute accuracy which a stranger might be disposed to think equally needless and impossible. Thus the scale, by which the lengths of the measuring bars employed in the Survey are determined, takes account of a unit of length, so minute, that about a quarter of a million of them go to make up a foot. Every step in the process has to be conducted with corresponding precision. If the attraction of a mountain is suspected of deflecting the plumb-line by a hair's breadth from the true vertical, the amount of the error is estimated by measuring and weighing the disturbing mass with the nearest approach to accuracy which science can command. The unconscious and scarcely appreciable discrepancies between the results which different experienced observers are found to give, on a repetition of the same observation, are estimated and allowed for by personal equations. The possibility of error beyond a certain limited amount is excluded by the multiplication of observations; and the theory of probabilities is called in aid to combine the vast mass of almost equivalent determinations into a result which shall give its due weight to each separate element of the calculation, and reduce to a minimum the probable error of the finally accepted value. But perhaps the most startling, and certainly the most palpable, evidence of the amount of labour involved in the survey, is afforded by a glance at the work which gives an account of the principal triangulation-the basis on which the
map is to be constructed. A general description of the methods employed, together with the scientific reasoning which determined their adoption, an outline of the process of reduction of the observations, and a collection of the final results, fill a huge quarto of nearly eight hundred pages, every figure in which represents an accumulated amount of work, which, if it had all been exhibited in detail, would have almost filled a library instead of a volume. The primary object of all this effort is simply the determination of the relative distances, bearings, and elevations of rather more than two hundred prominent stations scattered over the surface of the British Isles; and it may not be uninteresting to consider how it happens that the methodized labour of a highly-trained staff for very many years has been required to determine, with the marvellous exactness which science demands, data which might have been ascertained by a few hundred simple observations, though with a rudeness of approximation which would have deprived the results of all scientific value. In scientific circles the value of the work which has just been completed is already well understood, but to the world at large the Ordnance Survey is still somewhat of a mystery; and in the account which we purpose to give of the methods and the issue of the enterprise, we shall endeavour to make the nature of this important national achievement intelligible even to those to whom the calculations of the astronomer and the instruments of the surveyor are equally unfamiliar. The special merit of the Ordnance, or any other surveying operations, consists almost exclusively in the precision attained by what may at first sight be thought a fanatical devotion to accuracy in every detail, both of the observations and the calculations founded upon them; and it is only by a rather minute attention to apparently trivial matters, that any idea can be formed of the marvellous perfection to which the survey of the British Isles has been carried, surpassing probably, by many degrees, any other operations of the like kind which have ever been attempted. Our readers must therefore pardon us if we seem to descend into dry scientific minutiæ in our narrative of the progress of the undertaking. In this, as is more or less the case in all human enterprises, it is in the details that the elements of success are found. Just as the grandest strategical combinations would fail to avert the destruction of an army without the most careful provision for the vulgar necessities of its daily existence, so, in practical science, the highest mathematical skill is of no avail unless backed by unflagging attention to seemingly insignificant arrangements in the prosecution of each department of the work. The operations of a survey are nothing more than the repeated