Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/821

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799
MODERN EXPLOSIVES.

these do not apply to long journeys. Before railroad days it was well understood that Congress controlled carriage of dangerous articles by water, for to regulate navigation was early understood to be a duty of-the Federal Government. But in those days nitro-glycerine was unknown, and the fulminates were little used. Hence both were ignored in the early laws of Congress regulating water-carriage of dangerous articles, which mentioned only gunpowder and acids, and the like. Recently it has been thought that the authority of Congress extends to railroad-trains running from State to State, for this is a branch of "commerce among the States." When Congress came, in 1868, to legislate as to carrying nitro-glycerine and its compounds, the law was made to apply equally to vessels, and to railroads extending from one State to another. But no one has noticed that the old laws as to gunpowder ought equally to be extended to through railroad-trains. Apparently there is no Federal law prescribing precautions for railroad-carriage of gunpowder across the country, and yet, according to the most advanced views, the States have not power to pass laws on the subject. Each State has, however, power to say how explosives shall be carried within her own boundaries; and this leads to another infelicity, which is, that the law of the Union and of a State may clash. For example, United States law requires the blasting-powders made from nitro-glycerine, and the oil itself, to be packed and labeled in a peculiar way, when they are to be sent by rail from one State to another. The law of Colorado imposes restriction on nitro-glycerine, but, as amended last summer, for the convenience of the miners, it exempts dynamite and other powders. Now, if a train in Colorado should be wrecked by explosion of dynamite in the loading, the victims will not derive much comfort from being told that the offending keg did not come from the eastward States, and so was not subject to the United States rule, but was put aboard at Denver. Whatever restriction is needful ought to be imposed by Federal and State laws alike, and for short journeys as well as upon long.

The subject of dynamite is "a cloud with a silver lining"—the topic has its lighter aspects. One journal narrates that workmen, employed in blasting, left about a hundred pounds of dynamite exposed in an open box. Two cows of a neighboring farmer drew near, looked, smelled, tasted, and, finding that the compound had a saltish flavor, began to regale themselves heartily: in a moment those cows were staggering without heads. At a certain military post there was a mule who had "outlived his usefulness," also a commanding general who desired to experiment in instantaneous photography. The animal was placed in position before a camera, his forehead bearing a cotton bag containing six ounces of dynamite; the slide of the camera was supported by a fuse, and this fuse and the dynamite were connected in the same electrical circuit, by wires leading to a battery