Cornhill Magazine,  9 (1864), 41–50.

Parliamentary Committees

William B Rands


Essay, Dialogue


Government, Politics, Environmentalism, Transport, Railways, Expertise, Specialization, Engineers, Analytical Chemistry, Commerce, Anti-Scientism, Engineering, Mathematics

    Insists that the preliminary discussion of private legislation in Parliamentary committees 'ought to be public considering that the greater proportion of it relates to nothing less than the disposal of the surface of the planet for purposes either of locomotion, or of something connected with locomotion. In fact, the greater number of private bills relate to what is called Dockizing the water, or Gridironing the land; in other, and, it must be owned, less felicitous phraseology, to the making or regulating of docks or railways' (42). Additionally, 'measures for incorporating gas and water companies make up a not inconsiderable part of the business of private legislation', and often require 'evidence from experts,—engineers and chemists with specialities'. It is amusing, however, to 'hear how experts contradict each other about the qualities and quantities of water and gas, when their opportunities of information appear to be equal, as well as their reputations for ability'. Accordingly, 'it is not wonderful that hurried men of business should be apt to exclaim, not only that scientific witnesses are humbugs, but that science itself is humbug. The exclamation is, in fact, constantly made. Yet it would be just as fair if men of science (who, meanwhile, know better) were to say that arithmetic and engineering are humbug. For engineers and contractors for executing railway, gas, and water works will differ in their estimates quite as widely as chemists in their analyses'. (46)

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