On Something/A Blue Book

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On Something by Hilaire Belloc
A Blue Book

I have thought it of some value to contemporary history to preserve the following document, which concerns the discovery and survey of an island in the North Atlantic, which upon its discovery was annexed by the United States in the first moments of their imperial expansion, and was given the name of "Atlantis."

The island, which appears to have been formed by some convulsion of nature, disappeared the year after its discovery, and the report drawn up by the Commissioners is therefore very little known, and has of course no importance in the field of practical finance and administration. But it is a document of the highest and most curious interest as an example of the ideas that guided the policy of the Great Republic at the moment when the survey was undertaken; and English readers in particular will be pleased to note the development and expansion of English methods and of characteristic English points of view and institutions throughout the whole document.

Any one who desires to consult the maps, etc., which I have been unable to reproduce in this little volume, must refer to the Record Office at Washington. My only purpose in reprinting these really fascinating pages in such a volume as this is the hope that they may give pleasure to many who would not have had the opportunity to consult them in the public archives where they have hitherto been buried.

A. 2. E. 331 ff.

REPORT OF THE THREE COMMISSIONERS APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC TO REPORT UPON THE POTENTIAL RESOURCES, SITUATION, ETC., OF THE NEW ISLAND KNOWN AS "ATLANTIS," RECENTLY DISCOVERED IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC AND ANNEXED TO THE REPUBLIC, TOGETHER WITH A RECOMMENDATION ON FUTURE TREATMENT OF SAME.

TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC.

YOUR HONOUR,

[Sidenote: Preamble.]

Your Honour's three Commissioners, Joshua Hogg, Abraham Bush and Jack Bimber, being of sound mind, solvent, and in good corporeal health, all citizens of more than five years' standing, and domiciled within the boundaries, frontiers or terms of the Republic, do make oath and say, So Help Them God:

[Sidenote: Arrival off Atlantis.]

I. That on the 20th of the month of July, being at that time in or about Latitude 45 N. and betwixt and between Longitude 51 W. and 51.10° W., so near as could be made out, the captain of the steamboat "Glory of the Morning Star" (chartered for this occasion only by the Government of the Republic, without any damage, precedent or future lien whatsoever), by name James Murphy, of Cork, Ireland, and domiciled within the aforesaid terms, boundaries, etc., did in a loud voice at about 4.33 a.m., when it was already light, cry out "That's Hur," or words to that effect. Your three Commissioners being at that moment in the cabin, state-room or cuddy in the forward part of the ship (see annexed plan), came up on deck and were ordered or enjoined to go below by those having authority on the "Glory of the Morning Star." Your three Commissioners desire individually and collectively to call attention to the fact that this order was obeyed, being given under the Maritime Acts of 1853, and desire also to protest against the indignity offered in their persons to the majesty of the Republic. (See Attorney-General's Plea, Folio 56, M.) At or about 6.30 a.m. of the same day, July 20th, your Commissioners were called upon deck, and there was put at their disposal a beat manned by four sailors, who did thereupon and with all due dispatch row them towards the island, at that moment some two miles off the weather bow, that is S.S.W. by S. of the "Glory of the Morning Star." They did then each individually and all collectively land, disembark and set foot upon the Island of Atlantis and take possession thereof in the name of Your Honour and the Republic, displaying at the same time a small flag 19" x 6" in token of the same, which flag was distinctly noted, seen, recorded and witnessed by the undersigned, to which they put their hand and seal, trusting in the guidance of Divine Providence.

JOSHUA HOGG

ABRAHAM BUSH

JACK BIMBER.

[Sidenote: Shape and Dimensions of the Island]

II. Your Commissioners proceeded at once to a measurement of the aforesaid island of Atlantis, which they discovered to be of a triangular or three-cornered shape, in dimensions as follows: On the northern face from Cape Providence (q.v.) to Cape Mercy (q.v.), one mile one furlong and a bit. On the south-western face from Cape Mercy (q.v.) to Point Liberty (q.v.), seven furlongs, two roods and a foot. On the south-eastern face, which is the shortest face, from Point Liberty (q.v.) round again to Cape Providence (q.v.), from which we started, something like half a mile, and not worth measuring. These dimensions, lines, figures, measurements and plans they do submit to the public office of Record as accurate and done to the best of their ability by the undersigned: So Help Them God. (SEAL.)

[Sidenote: Appearance and Structure of the Island.]

III. It will be seen from the above that the island is in shape an Isosceles triangle, as it were, pointing in a north-westerly direction and having a short base turned to the south-east, contains some 170 acres or half a square mile, and is situate in a temperate latitude suited to the Anglo-Saxon Race. As to material or structure, it is composed of sand (see its specimens in glass phial), the said sand being of a yellow colour when dry and inclining to a brown colour where it may be wet by the sea or by rain.

[Sidenote: Springs and Rivers.]

IV. There are no springs or rivers in the Island.

[Sidenote: Hills and Mountains.]

V. There are no mountains on the Island, but there is in the North a slight hummock some fifteen feet in height. To this hummock we have given (saving your Honour's Reverence) the name of "Mount Providence" in commemoration of the manifold and evident graces of Providence in permitting us to occupy and develop this new land in the furtherance of true civilization and good government. The hill is at present too small to make a feature in the landscape, but we have great hopes that it will grow. (See Younger on "The Sand Dunes of Picardy," Vol. II, pp. 199-200.)

[Sidenote: Harbours.]

VI. The Island is difficult of approach as it slopes up gradually from the sea bottom and the tides are slight. At high water there is no sounding of more than three fathoms for about a mile and a half from shore; but at a distance of two miles soundings of five and six fathoms are common, and it would be feasible in fine weather for a vessel of moderate draught to land her cargo, passengers, etc. in small boats. Moreover a harbour might be built as in our Recommendations (q.v.). There is on the northern side a bay (caused by indentation of the land) which we think suitable to the purpose and which, in Your Honour's honour, we have called Buggins' Bay.

[Sidenote: Capes and Headlands.]

VII. These are three, as above enumerated (q.v.); one, the most precipitous and bold, we have called Cape Providence (q.v.) for reasons which appear above; the second, Cape Mercy, in recognition of the great mercy shown us in finding this place without running on it as has been the fate of many a noble vessel. The third we called Point Liberty from the nature of those glorious institutions which are the pride of the Republic and which we intend to impose upon any future inhabitants. These titles, which are but provisional, we pray may remain and be Enregistered under the seal, notwithstanding the "Act to Restrain Nuisances and Voids" of 1819, Cap. 2.

[Sidenote: Climate.]

VIII. The climate is that of the North Atlantic known as the "Oceanic." Rain falls not infrequently, and between November and April snow is not unknown. In summer a more genial temperature prevails, but it is never so hot as to endanger life or to facilitate the progress of epidemic disease. Wheat, beans, hops, turnips, and barley could be grown did the soil permit of it. But we cannot regard an agricultural future as promising for the new territory.

HERE ENDETH your Commissioners' Report.

(Seal)

JOSHUA HOGG. ABRAHAM BUSH. JACOBUS BIMBER.

* * * * *

RECOMMENDATIONS

Your Commissioners being also entrusted with the privilege of making Recommendations, submit the following without prejudice and all pursuants to the contrary notwithstanding.

As to the land: your Commissioners recommend that it should be held by the State in conformity with those principles which are gaining a complete ascendancy among the Leading Nations of the Earth. This might then be let out at its full value to private individuals who would make what they could of it, leaving the Economic Rent to the community. For the individual did not make the land, but the State did.

This power of letting the land should, they recommend, be left in the hands of a Chartered Company. Your Commissioners will provide the names of certain reputable and wealthy citizens who will be glad to undertake the duty of forming and directing this company, and who will act on the principle of unsalaried public service by the upper classes, which is the chief characteristic of our civilization. I. Jacobs, Esq., and Z. Lewis, Esq. (to be directors of the proposed Chartered Company) have already volunteered in this matter.

Your Commissioners recommend that the Chartered Company should be granted the right to strike coins of copper, nickel, silver and gold, the first three to be issued at three times eight times and twice the value of the metals respectively, the said currency to be on a gold basis and mono-metallic and not to exceed the amount of $100 per capita.

Your Commissioners further recommend that the same authority be empowered to issue paper money in proportions of 165% to the gold reserve, the right to give high values to pieces of paper having proved in the past of the greatest value to those who have obtained it.

Your Commissioners recommend the building of a stone harbour out to sea without encroaching on the already exiguous dimensions of the land. They propose two piers, each some mile and a half long, and built of Portland rock, an excellent quarry of which is to be discovered on the property of James Barber, Esq., of Maryville, Kent County, Conn. The stone could be brought to Atlantis at the lowest rates by the Wall Schreiner line of floats. In this harbour, if it be sufficiently deepened and its piers set wide enough apart, the navies of the world could be contained, and it would be a standing testimony to the energy of our race, "which maketh the desert to blossom like a rose" (Lev. XXII. 3, 2).

Your Commissioners also recommend an artesian well to be sunk until fresh water be discovered. This method has been found successful in Australia, which is also an island and largely composed of sand. It is said that this method of irrigation produces astonishing results.

Finally, in the matter of industry your Commissioners propose (not, of course, as a unique industry but as a staple) the packing of sardines. A sound system of fair trade based upon a tariff scientifically adjusted to the conditions of the Island should develop the industry rapidly. Everything lends itself to this: the skilled labour could be imparted from home, the sardines from France, and the tin and oil from Spain. It would need for some years an export Bounty somewhat in the nature of Protection, the scale of which would have to be regulated by the needs of the community, but they are convinced that when once the industry was established, the superior skill of our workmen and the enterprise of our capitalists would control the markets of the world.

As to political rights, we recommend that Atlantis should be treated as a territory, and that a sharp distinction should be drawn between Rural and Urban conditions; that the inhabitants should not be granted the franchise till they have shown themselves worthy of self-government, saving, of course, those immigrants (such as the negroes of Carolina, etc.) who have been trained in the exercise of representative institutions. All Religions should be tolerated except those to which the bulk of the community show an implacable aversion. Education should be free to all, compulsory upon the poor, non-sectarian, absolutely elementary, and subject, of course, to the paramount position of that gospel which has done so much for our dear country. The sale of Intoxicants should be regulated by the Company, and these should be limited to a little spirits: wine and beer and all alcoholic liquors habitually used as beverages should be rigorously forbidden to the labouring classes, and should only be supplied in bona fide clubs with a certain minimum yearly subscription.

IN CONCLUSION your Commissioners will ever pray, etc.

MS. note added at the end in the hand of Mr. Charles P. Hands, the curator of this section:

(The Island was lost - luckily with no one aboard - during the storms of the following winter. This report still possesses, however, a strong historical interest).