Page:Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II Dec 1859 to June 1860.pdf/80

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January 21, 1860.]
67
A HARBOUR OF REFUGE.

A HARBOUR OF REFUGE.

alt = View of Portland Harbour, with sailing vessels, in 1860

The genius of England is universally admitted to be of an eminently enterprising and speculative character. No scheme, however daring, which can show a reasonable prospect of paying a good per-centage for property invested, ever waits long either for money or men to bring it to a successful issue. This is especially the case in our marine commercial enterprise; English ships are everywhere, and English ship-owners always ready to encounter risk, difficulty, and danger in opening a new field for trade, or exploring the most distant countries in the hope of widening our already enormous foreign commerce.

As a consequence our vessels are countless, and the amount of wealth invested in them something incredibly large. For the protection of these great national interests from all preventable disaster, large sums of money are freely spent, both from the public and private purse. Grants are made annually, by parliament, for maintaining and improving our protective measures, and the increasing perfection of our hydrographic surveys, our naval charts, and our lighthouse and buoying arrangements, do much to prove the wisdom of a wise liberality in these matters.

It will be noticed that almost all of the efforts in this direction are the work of government; and it is right that this should be so, for great as is the marine wealth of the country, the English people are too just to desire that the heavy outlay involved by these works (an outlay without direct appreciable return), should fall upon the ship-owner.

His first object must ever be to obtain a fair remuneration for his money and his enterprise, while it is clearly the duty of the people whom that enterprise benefits to afford it all the security possible. Nor has there generally been wanting, on the part of successive governments, a large liberality for the establishment of means of protection for shipping, though it is to a point which was for long years neglected that we propose to direct attention in this paper. It is comparatively very few years since the construction of harbours of refuge, greatly needed as they are upon our coast, has come under legislative consideration.

In the year 1843, the attention of the government was particularly directed to the subject, in consequence of a recommendation contained in the report of a select committee of the House of Commons, which had been appointed for the purpose of inquiring into “the shipwreck of British vessels and the preservation of lives of shipwrecked persons.” Shortly afterwards, in April, 1844, a commission was formed to inquire into the most “eligible situation for constructing a harbour or harbours of refuge in the channel.”

This seems late in the day for the claims of breakwaters to be first considered, but the expense and time required to accomplish these works must have had great influence in deferring their
VOL. IV.
30