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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/330

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lessness, forgetfulness, or lapse of conscious thought, the duties of that post should be sustained.

Does any one for a moment suppose that, if there had been a second officer whose business it was to inspect that Wabash switch and see and certify that it was properly set, or that if the Yonkers brakeman had been followed by a second signal light fifty yards in the rear, either of those catastrophes would have occurred, or any of these recent rear-end and siding calamities?

When, ordinarily, human life is taken, the whole machinery of the criminal law is exercised to bring the offender to justice. But here a score of persons are put to death, or to a torture the like of which exists not elsewhere in any portion of our globe, either civilized or savage torn, mangled, crushed, scalded, burned and it is held excusable as an "unavoidable accident."

To say that these things are a necessary part of the progress of mankind is a libel on civilization. To declare them unavoidable accidents is, for the most part, to assert that which is not true to attempt a justification through what we know to be false. Accidents they are not. They are simply criminal maladministration.

When one's life is sacrificed, or when one is maimed for the remainder of his miserable years, it is of little import to the sufferer or to his family whether it be the result of criminal intent or of criminal neglect. The shade of difference is not so very clear between life needlessly taken and life purposely taken.

Since the foregoing was written, the death-angel has pursued his appalling railway harvest with unabated fury, seventy-seven deaths and one hundred and eighty-four mangled in thirty days, being the record for the United States, so far as heard.

From the general facts as given in the public prints, these calamities, like those above referred to, and like the most of those now occurring, appear to be attributable to "the men" and not to "the road." There have also appeared in the public press some explanatory or apologetic statements from officers of several roads, some of which are worthy of attention as expressing the views of the officials into whose care the public intrusts its welfare; none of which, however, give it any assurance of any greater degree of safety.

An officer of the New York, Lake Erie, and Western is reported as saying, "I can not explain the unusual number of accidents just now"; adding, however, "the train-dispatcher's duties have become very much more exacting." This means, if it is intended to mean anything, that the fault lies in the train-dispatcher, not in the road or machinery.

One of the superintendents of the New York Central says: "Railroad accidents are like epidemics; they can no more be fore-