THE HOUSE IN THE STRAND.
IT has been proved before the Coroner's inquest, certainly not without sufficient examination, that the fall of the house in the Strand was occasioned by the carelessness of the architect, in neglecting to sustain the building by sufficient supports during certain alterations ; thus causing the death of the persons who were killed by the fall. Any relation of cause and effect was never more distinctly made out than in the present instance; and, in conformity with the verdict of the Jury, the Coroner has issued a warrant against Mr. Abraham on the charge of manslaughter. It is probable, however, that from this point the proceedings will become specimens not of the common sense exemplified by the verdict, but of illogical conclusion and injustice. Not- withstanding our sense of responsibility, We do not apply it to others in matters of trade with arty exactness. So
• long as men do not contemplate the consequences that are nevertheless essentially included in the natural course of their actions, there is a disposition to exonerate them, and es- pecially when those consequences are collateral to the main ob- jects which the public has most distinctly in view. A man who can keep down expenditure, who can save materials, who can push on a process within a very short period of time, will enjoy the sympathy, the support or leniency of the public, notwithstanding. the fact that his pushing such objects too closely may bring about the death of his fellow creature. We see that imperfect control daily illustrated in the history of the railway ; and the same spirit of undue parsimony or want of care which ends in the fall of railway viaducts or bridges has been pronounced by a Jury to have occasioned the accident in the Strand. It is probable that on the tried, however, for want of means to carry out the good sense of the Jury, the person so far pronounced to be culpably re- sponsible will be let off, as railway directors and officers have been ; and in that event the proceedings before the Coroner's Jury will be stultified.
Yet the architect, who is here fastened upon for retribution, is
likely to undergo an injustice of an opposite kind. The fact of being brought before a Jury, and marked out by a verdict of " manslaughter' " may do him injury in his business ; and thus, by a very imperfect process, he will be subjected to severe punish- ment; while the whole force of example which might tell upon his brethren will be nullified, and in the end the individual will have been persecuted without any advantage obtained from his punishment.
The Coroner's Jury, indeed, to a certain extent exemplified the imperfect reasoning common in such matters, when they endea- vour to modify their verdict out of "kindness" to Mr. Abraham. They were not answerable for the law ; they had nothing to do with the measure of retribution proper in his case ; all that they had to do was to pronounce a verdict or " true-saying " upon the cause of the accident; and kindness has nothing to do with the declaration of truth, although it properly has much to do with the infliction of penalty by erring humanity upon its fellows. Sub- stantially, ,however, the jury made us understand their purpose,
which rwas in itself sufficiently intelligent and sensible. .They are not professional lawyers, and therefore not answerable-for stridt professional accuracy. It is different, however, with ahnost every -other party -responsibly concerned: Ihe-Legishiture,-whiohrega- lates these matters, ought to understand-the business of lawmaking. judges and others who administer the law ought to be able to lead us from facts to a just conclusion, from- a neglect of responsibility to the penalty ; and more especially all architects 'and surveyors ought to be able to prove that they have fulfilled all thatteckaiee duty requires. The sufficiency of supportv-iii building is not „` a matter of opinion," although we observethatcertain arehiteets and surveyors who reported to the jury :haven:die:hired-AA° 'be so ; but it is a matter to be distinctly ascertained. In reeelianict, known materials will sustain a known weight with certainty; a greater weight, or a subtraction of materials, may induce uncer- tainty; but the full extent of this doubtful margin may be mea- sured, and the equivalent of certainty again reetered by 'allowing more than sufficient. It is the custom of paring away- Material-+. of shaving away half-bricks, of using lime improper in quality, of employing a few shores less than the absolutely safe number-- which enables one constructer to undersell another, and introduces the element of doubt. In most cases, it is that underselling pro- pensity that is the kernel of the manslaughter ; and it is the com- mercial spirit that sets architect against architect to gamble in the risk of life, which teaches men to betray their duty. And this will continue so long as we have sham trials ending in smoke. If we had genuine straightforward punishments, whether for ar- chitects, or railway directors, or steam-ship managers, who had risked life through the use of insufficient materials or bad me- thods' we should have the many professional men with which this country abounds reducing their calculations to a more substantial certainty, and refusing to undertake the responsibility of works unless the precautions against danger were more than sufficient.