Page:Rivers, Canals, Railways of Great Britain.djvu/13

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PREFACE.


The Origin of Inland Navigation, like most other useful discoveries, is involved in great obscurity, and any attempt to ascertain the precise period of the invention or the name of him, who first pointed out the utility of these important adjuncts to the convenience and profit of commercial nations, would be merely to speculate on a subject, which has hitherto bid defiance to conjecture, and which will, in all human probability, for ever remain without satisfactory elucidation. Not so, however, the results to which it has given rise—as the great Newtonian Sytstem of Gravitation owed its existence to a trifling accident of almost daily occurrence, so the numerous canals, which intersect nearly every country of the civilized world, though they might possibly be traced to circumstances of the same trivial import, are no less remarkable for the astonishing effects they produce and the advantages they hold out, as well to the industrious artisan as to the enterprising trader.

That the ancient inhabitants of every part of the globe, wherewith history has made us acquainted, were alive in a greater or less degree to the benefits resulting from the adoption of inland navigation, is a fact that may without difficulty be substantiated.

In India, particularly in that part of it known to us as the province of Bengal, the use of canals was early appreciated; not later than 1355 the Emperor Ferose III. made a canal one hundred miles long, from the River Suttuluz to the River Jidger: in the following years of his reign the same illustrious monarch completed no less than five other canals, all of which were of the greatest utility to the districts through which they passed, inasmuch as they afforded a supply of water for the fertilising of the