CHAPTER III. MAINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE, AND VERMONT.
But I do not believe that the question of expenditure has had anything to do with it. I conceive it to be true that the railways are afraid to put themselves at variance with the general feeling of the people. If so, the railways may be right. But then, on the other band, the general feeling of the people must in such case be wrong. Such a feeling argues a total mistake as to the nature of that liberty and equality for the security of which the people are so anxious, and that mistake the very one which has made shipwreck so many attempts at freedom in other countries. It argues that confusion between social and political equality which has led astray multitudes who have longed for liberty fervently, but who have not thought of it carefully. If a first-class railway carriage should be held as offensive, so should a first-class house, or a first-class horse, or a first-class dinner. But first- class houses, first-class horses, and first-class dinners are very rife in America. Of course it may be said that the expenditure shown in these last-named objects is private expenditure, and cannot be controlled; and that railway traveling is of a public nature, and can be made subject to public opinion. But the fault is in that public opinion which desires to control matters of this nature. Such an arrangement partakes of all the vice of a sumptuary law, and sumptuary laws are in their very essence mistakes. It is well that a man should always have all for which he is willing to pay. If he desires and obtains more than is good for him, the punishment, and thus also the preventive, will come from other sources.
It will be said that the American cars are good enough for all purposes. The seats are not very hard, and the room for sitting is sufficient. Nevertheless I deny that they are good enough for all purposes. They are very long, and to enter them and find a place often requires a struggle and almost a fight. There is rarely any person to tell a stranger which car he should enter. One never meets an uncivil or unruly man, but the women of the lower ranks are not courteous. American ladies love to lie at ease in their carriages, as thoroughly as do our women in Hyde Park; and to those who are used to such luxury, traveling by railroad in their own country must be grievous. I would not wish to be thought a Sybarite myself, or to be held as complaining because I have been compelled to give up my seat to women with babies and bandboxes who have accepted the courtesy with very scanty grace. I have borne worse things than these, and have roughed it much in my days, from want of means and other reasons. Nor am I yet so old but what I can rough it still. Nevertheless I like to see things as well done as is practicable, and railway traveling in the States is not well done. I feel bound to say as much as this, and now I have said it, once for all.
Few cities, or localities for cities, have fairer natural advantages than Portland and I am bound to say that the people of Portland have done much in turning them to account. This town is not the capital of the State in a political point of view. Augusta, which is farther to the north, on the Kennebec River, is the seat of the State government for Maine. It is very generally the case that the States do not hold their legislatures and carry on their government at their chief towns. Augusta and not Portland is the capital of Maine. Of the State of New York, Albany is the capital, and not the city which bears the State's name. And of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg and not Philadelphia is the capital. I think the idea has been that old-fashioned notions were bad in that they were old fashioned; and that a new people, bound by no prejudices, might certainly make improvement by choosing for themselves new ways. If so, the American politicians have not been the first in the world who have thought that any change must be a change for the better. The assigned reason is the centrical position of the selected political capitals; but I have generally found the real commercial capital to be easier of access than the smaller town in which the two legislative houses are obliged to collect themselves.
What must be the natural excellence of the harbor of Portland, will be understood when it is borne in mind that the Great Eastern can enter it at all times, and that it can lay along the wharves at any hour of the tide. The wharves which have been prepared for her - and of which I will say a word further by-and-by - are joined to, and in fact, are a portion of, the station of the Grand Trunk Railway, which runs from Portland up to Canada. So that passengers landing at Portland out of a vessel so large even as the Great Eastern can walk at once on shore, and goods can be passed on to the railway without any of the cost of removal. I will not say that there is no other harbor in the world that would allow of this, but I do not know any other that would do so.