25 DECEMBER 1852, Page 13


IMMENSE activity prevails in the shipbuilding trade : several large companies are extending their marine, besides private speculations, and besides the activity in the Royal Navy. In the port of Sun- derland alone there are twenty new vessels fitting out with an aggregate tonnage of 8666. On the Tyne the activity is not less ; vessels are building for every quarter of the world—for Australia, for the Austrian Lloyds, Portugal Sicily, Demerara, and Africa. It is to be wished that the certainty of success were equal to the rapidity of completion throughout the building-trade ; for there are signal examples during the week to remind us how most haste may be worst speed. Two vessels intended for Australia have been obliged to return to port. In the case of one, the Adelaide, the failure is the more grave, since the three vessels, and the only three, previously sent out by the same owners, had given occasion for very loud complaints ; and it was to be supposed that the fourth vessel, intended to reestablish the good name of the com- pany, would have been rendered perfect in every inch of its timbers. In the other case, that of the W. S. Lindsay, there are the two remarkable circumstances, that the ship was bought by a very expe- rienced owner while it was on the stocks, and that the same maer is now _pushing forward to rapid completion four other vessels. Mr. Lindsay, the owner of the vessel which is named after him, has indeed taken a course which fully sustains the character of the British merchant. Understanding that the ship was not perfectly fit for sea, he has recalled it, and has taken upon himself all the consequent expense and loss. He has not limited his liberality to telling his passengers that they might seek passages in other ships, at their own expense, and merely "without prejudice" to ulterior claims upon himself. He has not forced his master to continue the voyage, in spite of a certificate from the medical officer that disease would inevitably break out within the Tropics. He must incur a very large sacrifice by his handsome treatment of the passengers ; but that price will probably purchase its full worth to himself. Every one who has future dealings with his house will feel that his mere name, is a guarantee in full for all that the passenger can claim; and, as in the case of the Peninsular and Oriental Mail Steam volamiany, and some others which are well conducted, straightfor- conduct, at a present sacrifice, will secure constancy and con- tinued growth of business. It is no derogation of Mr. Lindsay's handsome spirit to say that his munificence will be a sound invest- ment But these failures in our mercantile marine ought to have a further moral for the public. It is understood that the roving commission from the Admiralty which has been surveying the state of naval architecture and appointments in our royal docks, and has resulted in no formal report, has, however, conveyed to the official mind a strong sense that the royal marine is &r behind the mercantile marine in its architecture and in its arrangements generally. There is every probability that experience has strength- ened the previous disposition to rely upon the mercantile marine as a valuable auxiliary, for the royal marine in case of war- like emergencies. If, however, the newest and most important ships, pushed forward with great haste, and multiplied daily, are liable to these serious mistakes, the trust to such an aux- iliary must be qualified by a considerable reserve. We may rely on those ships which have already been tried, but we can scarcely rely upon them for qualities which have not been tested; and evidently we cannot rely, with any implicit confidence upon future additions. The art of naval architecture is as yet too em- pirical for us to trust to anything except practical experience. The very speed with which new ships are hurried forward, and the very multiplication of improvements' must increase our dis- trust. An ill-made ship is not easily got rid of, and it would be better if the money sunk in making an indifferent ship in a hurry were reserved for making a better one rather more at leisure. On the other hand, if our official marine is so far behind this mer- cantile marine, which is at its best so imperfect, how much the more diligence ought to be roused in the official mind to make good arrears !