|Wednesday, May 19, 1847||The Examiner (Toronto)||Page 3, col. 1|
Toronto and Lake Huron Railroad.
From 1836 to 1847, eleven long years, the Toronto and Lake Huron Railroad Company have been talking, surveying, scheming, sleeping, and issuing prospectives. Canadian enterprise presents itself in a most contemptible view to foreigners. During the period of eleven years, which has elapsed since this project was formed, we have done nothing but quarrel and get up opposition schemes, while the whole surface of the inhabited portion of the United States has been covered with a network of railroads. In war, if new weapons of destruction are invented by one of the belligerent powers, the other would be in danger of suffering extermination, unless it could also arrive at a "knowledge and secure the benefit of invention." So it is in commerce. It would be better for us that railroads had never been invented, if we do not secure the benefits arising from their use, when every country in the world is taking advantage of them.
The public mind has lately been bewildered by the multiplicity of conflicting railroad projects; and the very strange proposals for carrying them into effect. To revive the discussion of the Goderich scheme would be a waste of time. The Directors of the Toronto and Lake Huron Railroad, after eleven years cogitation, have positively something new to propose. Their proposition, embodied in a Memorial to the Governor-General, we give in this number. The gist of it lies within a narrow space. They ask the Government to loan the Company two-thirds of the capital required to construct the road, and for the repayment of which the revenue of the road is to be made available. That 2,000,000 [acres] of waste lands lying to the North of Stratford, be brought into market; that a kind of scrip be given to the Company, and be made available for the payment of wages, part of which, as much as will subsist the labourer, to be paid in money, the remainder being held back to be thus paid in land. That the Company pay the Government money for the land; and if the Company fail to meet their engagement, the government are to have the power to take the work into their hands. This scheme is certainly preferable to either of those proposed by Mr. Gwynne or Sir Allan McNab. The estimated expense of the road is £654,525. The Company in fact ask a loan from the Government of two-thirds of this sum, which will be something more than £400,000. For this sum the Government would have to go to the English market. If the Government is to find the money to construct the railroad, the question naturally suggests itself, whether it should not be a Government work, placed under the superintendence of the Board of Words. If not the Board of Works would be superseded, and the Government would become the jackall of a private Company, who are counting upon a dividend of 16 per cent to share. If the Government is to find the money, why should it not have the profits? The holding back part of the wages of the labourers is objectionable in principle, as being an improper interference with the rights of labour. It is impossible that every labourer should wish to settle on land in the neighbourhood of the road, and the species of compulsion contemplated would be found very untasteful. The reason for not making the scrip transferable does not appear upon the face of the Memorial, but it would have the effect of chaining the labourer to the soil, in many instances against his will. If the object is to prevent monopoly, it is so far commendable; though if it were obtainable only by this means, it is questionable whether it would be worth the purchase. The security offered to the Government is of a novel and not very fascinating description. If the Company fail to meet their engagement with the Government, the latter may take the road after it has been used "a number of years." If the Crown Land Department be incompetent to manage its legitimate business, there would be less objecting to the business of the department being confided to a Railroad Company.
The Memorial does not, like that of Sir Allan MacNab, appear to cover any deep scheme of speculation; and it even expresses a desire that the Government should undertake the management of the whole affair. It is unfortunate that the Directors are not business men.
The scheme has it it one element of success. If Sir Allan MacNab has destroyed the confidence of the people of England in our public enterprises, the [illegible] of faith of the Province is untarnished; and of our Railroad Stock will not sell in the English market, Government Debentures will.