Page:Rivers, Canals, Railways of Great Britain.djvu/14

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viii
PREFACE

lands upon their banks, and an easy conveyance for the produce thus obtained. Nor should the Ganges and Burrampooter pass unnoticed, since these rivers, with many tributary streams, form a series of natural canals, which, with little aid from the art of man, add at once to the convenience and prosperity of the extensive district through which they flow; and which, we have substantial reasons for concluding, were a principal source of emolument to the people of India from a very early period.

In Egypt, the great canal, whereby a communication was made between the Nile and the Red Sea, was commenced so early as the reign of Necos, son of Psammetichus, and completed by the Second Ptolemy. Its breadth was such that two gallies abreast could easily be navigated thereon, and by it the riches and merchandize of the east were conveyed from the Red Sea to the Nile, from thence to the Mediterranean, and to all the commercial nations of that day. The Nile also with its numerous branches, and if we may here use the term, its collateral cuts, afforded ample means of water carriage to the people both of Upper and Lower Egypt; the result of which was an astonishing increase in the commerce, and consequently in the prosperity, of every part to which this mode of conveyance extended.

In China, particularly in the eastern provinces of that immense empire, multitudes of canals are every where met with; most of which furnish undeniable evidence of their antiquity and of the skill of their original constructors. The Royal Canal which was completed in the year 980 and occupied the labour of thirty thousand men for forty-three years, is a most stupendous monument of the enterprise, ingenuity and perseverance of the ancient Chinese. Its length of main line is upwards of eight hundred and twenty-five miles, and innumerable collateral branches are cut from it in every direction. Upon the surface of this canal and its subsidiaries many thousand families live in vessels, which form their travelling habitations, and which they seldom quit from their birth till their decease. And some idea may be formed of the traffic upon it, when it is stated that the Emperor alone has ten thousand vessels constantly employed upon the different parts of its line.

The utility of inland navigation was hardly likely to have escaped the notice of Greece, skilled as her ancient people were