ISLE OF WIGHT RAILWAY
Opposition and support – 1852
Isle of Wight Observer December 18, 1852
THE LAND, THE RAIL, AND THE PRESS
Some of the landholders have taken the following steps to oppose the introduction of Railways into the Isle of Wight:-
1. – Issued a Petition for signature.
2. – Published a Protest.
3. – Convened a Meeting exclusively of the landholders, from which the Press was excluded. The particulars of which are under the Newport head.
As to the first and second acts in themselves they are perfectly fair, but when it is stated in the Protest that “the construction of a Railway in the Isle of Wight, is in opposition to the expressed wishes of a large majority of every class of its inhabitants,” the questions arise, how were those wishes “expressed?” Where was the “large majority” obtained? When was “every class” consulted?
We believe no majorities have “expressed” themselves as against the Rail. If, then, the gentelmen met to organise an opposition (as they had a perfect right to do), surely they are bound PUBLICLY to state some legitimate and reasonable ground on which such opposition is based; especially as a large number of the inhabitants generally think the undertaking, if accomplished, will be fraught with great benefit to every class of the community, and far outweigh any personal inconvenience which a few may experience. But is it not a bad example, to see gentlemen, many of whom occupy the high position of justices, hold secret meetings? Do they not once weaken their own influence by such a course?
Admitting that a large majority of every class have so expressed themselves, what useful purpose was to be gained by a secret meeting? What right had one class to meet and withhold from the others a report of the proceedings? Were the arguments so weak, the grounds of opposition so purely selfish, that publicity was dreaded? Cannot the Isle of Wight secret policy for once be put aside? Every evil motive will be imputed, when nothing certain is known. Secrecy raises suspicion upon character even where honour prevails.
PUBLIC MEETINGS IN FAVOUR OF THE RAIL
We have given the extended reports of the Public Meetings called by the Directors of the Isle of Wight Railways, to ascertain the feelings of all classes of society with regard to that scheme; and the results are, overwhelming majorities in favour of the undertaking. We should have been absolutely puzzled, if the contrary circumstances had occurred; as, apart from considerations of a personal nature (which ought to be set aside) it is absolutely impossible to raise a single valid objection to the introduction of Railways into the Isle of Wight. We are, nevertheless, aware that objections founded upon personal interest or predilections are most obstinately maintained, and most difficult to remove; and that the gentlemen who are opposed to the project will view these majorities as not decisive of the question, and will vainly attempt to defeat the realisation of the scheme. The meeting at Newport was stormy, and more angry feeling was displayed than the occasion demanded; but it can be palliated by a consideration that a rival project – the deepening of the River – heated the tempers of some, and the use of personalities that of others. At Ryde strong language, without any direct provocation, was employed by one speaker, who at once retracted it, and apologised: another used more sarcasm than good advocacy required, but unanimity prevailed. At Ventnor, Sir Raymond Jarvis, Bart., uttered these liberal and enlightened sentiments, –
“It has been used as an argument against the Rail that the town would be inundated with holiday-keeping members of the working classes; he (Sir Raymond) thought that if such were the case it would be more an advantage than otherwise, as, thanks to the improved education of the working classes of late years, the members of that important class of the community know perfectly well how to conduct themselves.”
At Cowes, too, the result was unanimous in favour of Rail. This terminates the meetings for the present; a copy of the Petition to Parliament will be found in another column, and copies lie for signature at Ryde, Newport, Cowes, and Ventnor.