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consequences may readily be surmised. The bridge has become unsafe here, or actually broken down there, or the embankment has frittered and melted away from both sides of the bridge, which now stands alone and in silent appeal, as it were, to the traveller; in the course of a couple of days' march not one, but twenty bridges may be seen thus situated, the present road or track marked by country carts running round them, at a considerable distance, and with a proportionate increase of delay to both man and beast while, as if to give a practical commentary on Burke's famous dictum, the vacuum created by the fallen embankment is invariably the place where the water remains the longest, where the first showers of May and June collect soonest into a puddle and where under the sun of the succeeding February they are the last to dry up. The most energetic outpourings of rhetoric could not add to the strength of our cause or the truth of our appeal. The bitterest invectives poured forth by some "Mofussil untravelled Englishman on his first dawk trip over roads" could never speak with one quarter the force of the mute eloquence of broken bridges, destroyed embankments, and the muddy pool in the very centre of the road, where a numerous and half-naked population are employed in catching the neverfailing fish.
The old Hindu Rajahs were, we take it, not much given to road-making. The evidence of their labours is most seen in occasional tanks and reservoirs. Their whole system, religion, morals and politics is wrapt up in itself and knows nothing of expansive or centrifugal force. The Mahommedan rulers were more aware of the advantages of intercourse, and roads were amongst the great works by which Akbar and Jehangir hoped to leave a lasting memorial of their sovereignty in Upper India. Even their Viceroys were not insensible to the wants of Bengal, and a road was made from Dacca to Murshedabad, the old to the new capital, for the conveyance of treasure and state prisoners, whenever the one or the other were paid in or caught. Traces of this road still remain, where destructive inundation, or the still more destructive encroachments of agriculture have not carried it away. We have seen this road in some places almost as complete and in as perfect repair as the day it was laid down,— its breadth, solidity and permanency doing honor to its founders, who were in all probability either Murshid Kuly Khan or his successor Aliverdi: and the great banyan or pípul tree, which with a singular perversity the road-makers had planted not on both or one of the sides but exactly in the centre, still flourishes as a grateful protection to the wearied traveller, with the
honours of a hundred years on its aged brow, and only wanting the sacred bard to rival the fame of Cowper's Yardley oak.
Bacon was not more constant in his recrimination of the mistakes made by the old philosophers: Demosthenes not more earnest in his recommendation of action as the grand qualification of an orator: Chesterfield not more interminable in his paternal injunctions to study les bienseances and to sacrifice to the graces, than we shall be in putting forward the great advantages of good lines of roads. They are the keystone to all improvement. Without them every other change for the better is at a dead lock. On them hangs the efficiency of alterations in the departments of the Revenue, the Police, the Post Office, and even Education. All our excellent institutions of vernacular schools, of local Magistrates placed in charge of sub-divisions, all our more stringent or more equitable regulations for the suppression of crime, or even for the payment of Revenue, are half neutralized from the want of facility in moving from place to place. Nothing tends to foster in its original length and breadth the unchanging Toryism of the Hindu, so much as the want of roads. Without them every village is a republic of itself, with its own demagogue at whose beck and call the mob move, and every bazar is a small commercial city which contracts, while it seems to extend, the traffic of all places just within its sphere. With good roads available at all times of the year, justice would be brought much nearer to every man's door than it ever could by even further additions of local Magistrates or energetic Darogahs. Intelligence would be communicated in hours and not in days as is too often the case at present. The Revenue of great landholders or of Europeans with large ijarahs would be collected with much less of the time and trouble now expended in the process: some portion of the resources of the country would find their way to Calcutta by the more expensive but at the same time more secure and expeditious mode of land carriage, in preference to the circuitous and dangerous route of the Sunderbunds, and a general spirit of activity or enquiry would be set on foot everywhere. With us in Bengal it is at present the old fable of the belly and the limbs in its strictest and most literal sense. The former when well filled set all the other springs agoing and the whole machine moved well, although the limbs were loathe to acknowledge this truth. When deprived of its rightful food from that short-sightedness which would not recognise the effect till it was forced to follow up the cause, the limbs lost their play and became weak, puny, and inefficient. Just so with roads save that as yet they have never had a fair field. Let their importance once be
practically recognized and the dependant limbs of vernacular education, efficient police, intelligence of events, and civilization generally, will mainfest a healthiness and activity to which they have been utter strangers. Without them the police officer will never move about quickly, the dawk runners will have the invariable excuse of wading through mud and water to account for their delay, and the direct superintendance over the laudable institution of vernacular schools will be to the public servant it concerns, a piece of duty only performed, in the teeth of many obstacles, at occasional and uncertain intervals. Our objectis for the most part to depict things as they are and not to advance remedies. But in the present instance we may be excused for stating our views on reform at some length. In the absence of stone quarries or of kankar, it has been usual throughout Bengal to lay down roads of brick. A via lateribus munita when in complete repair is of course inferior only to macadamized England. But once it falls into decay and a wheeled conveyance of any kind, except perhaps the all-enduring hackery, might almost as soon pass over a broken down brick wall, as go in safety over their uneven surface. Consequently brick roads are generally confined to the immediate vicinity of a station where constant superintendance is available through the medium of convicts. The district is left to roads made of the common earth, whose rise, fall, and present condition we have attempted to describe. Yet we desire nothing more than such roads, be they only provided with bridges where necessary and of sufficient breadth. To be brief in short with our proposed improvements. The Roads should be made of the common earth, and if sandy, so much the better. They should be at least eight feet higher than the surrounding country and broad enough for six bullock carts to move abreast at the same time. We have erred in making them too narrow. Not only are narrow roads sooner worn away by the common country carts, which from necessity are driven in one and the same track, but they are less able to resist the rush of waters in the rains, and almost invariably melt away on both sides of a bridge. The mention of bridges-and by bridges we do not mean those thrown across streams and nullahs, but those in low places where there is water only for six months in the year-leads us to correct another error. We do not crave for pucka roads, but wherever it is necessary to construct a bridge, the road for fifty yards on either side of it, should be laid down in brick or otherwise metalled. Without this measure, the divorce of bridge and road may be confidently predicted, and the former is left alone, without perhaps, a single brick displaced, every
trace of the raised road leading to it, having faded away. But suppose the broad road with a capacious ditch on each side, once in full play, we have yet to cope with the formidable opposition of rushing rivers and corroding streams. To bridge these must be a work of time. Even common wooden bridges, like those over the alpine torrents in Switzerland, whose current is full as destructive as that of any of their muddier Bengal brethren, would be of inestimable benefit. Hereafter it may be that private liberality will cause the arch to span the flowing river, when we once have a good set of roads laid down, and when the Zemindars of a later generation shall have learned that there are more worthy and enduring objects of expenditure than idle nautches and extravagant Pújahs. Meanwhile we should like to see a general reform of the public ferries. The boats in which horses and even wheeled carriages are now crossed over in every district, we believe, but that of Midnapore, are of the most fragile description, and built exactly on the model of the bark of the great ferryman
gemuit sub pondere cymba Sutilis, et multam accepit rimosa paludem.
Every traveller on the Rhine, whose current when pent up between the frowning range of the Taunus hills, is as rapid as the Ganges itself in July, will remember the broad flat-bottomed ferry boat, with a moveable stage or draw-bridge at both ends, easily managed by a couple of men, into which horses and carriages might be driven bodily, often without loosening the traces or disturbing the unconscious inmates of the dickey. These are just the sort of boats we require in the public ferries of Lower Bengal.
We beg pardon of our readers for what may seem prolixity, but the importance of the subject will, we trust, plead our excuse. As rulers of India, we are to civilize the land, and we never yet heard of real civilization in any country, ancient or modern, which had not good roads. To them Rome owed something of her universal dominion. The Highlands of Scotland before the time of the famous General Wade, immortalized in a well-known couplet, were always turbulent and disaffected; and without roads, some parts of Spain, as Gallicia, and some provinces in France are in a condition as regards civilization really not much if at all better than that of the most settled provinces under our rule.
There exists, it is well known, a committee in every zillah termed the Ferry Fund, with a certain sum of money at their
disposal for the improvement of intercourse in the district. But there are two things which generally render these functionaries inefficient. In the first place there is the name of the committee, in the second their labour is unpaid. Our experience in the east teaches us the almost proverbial inefficiency of committees, and the established axioms of political economy tell us of the utter unproductiveness of unpaid labour.
With four good trunk roads, running from the sudder station of every district towards the four principal points of the compass or to the neighbouring stations, kept constantly in order by judicious repairs made at the close of the rains, furnished with their proper complement of bridges, and available for transit at all times of the year-we should soon have a net work of smaller roads crossing and recrossing each other. Zemindars will not spend money on great and patriotic measures, and it Would perhaps be too much to expect that they should give us, each, their ten and twenty miles of road. But every landholder is clear-sighted enough where his own interest is at stake; and if the main road in good repair lies at a moderate distance from his country seat, or his most profitable bazar, he will very soon lay down a cross road to meet it, and thus secure, in the one case a speedy transit for himself, and in the other, the commerce of all the adjoining neighbourhood. This to our knowledge, has been done in several instances. We here take our leave of this important subject, on which much more might be written, though much has been said. There is an old proverb about things always mending when at their worst. Let this but hold good and the roads of Lower Bengal might almost be expected to mend of themselves. The above remarks have been penned in the spirit not of cavil, but of unfeigned regret. We do lament that England, while bestowing so many real advantages on India and her people, has not given them the one advantage which gives permanency and effect to all the rest. The thinking minds who acknowledge the real blessings which our rule has conferred on the natives can best determine how much these blessings are neutralised by the want of roads, and how certainly they would be doubled by facilities of intercourse. If, as seems likely, the next ten years are to be rendered memorable in Indian History by the introduction of railroads, we shall possess the highest results of science in this respect before we have enjoyed her commonest fruits, and shall emerge at one step from the traces of primitive barbarism to the evidences of the most enlightened civilization.
Our subject is the plains and their peculiarities whether of agriculture, fertility or manners and customs. It may then