Hampshire Telegraph February 8 1813
To the Landholders of the Isle of Wight
I address you by a title which is common to us all, on a topic of common interest, whether we occupy ten, a hundred, or a thousand Acres. I mean the intended plan of introducing Turnpikes into our Island, against which I will offer the arguments, which have determined me to dissent.
Our insular situation precludes the application of the general principles of Turnpike Roads – the Island is no thoroughfare: it has not and cannot have internal manufactures, or trade beyond the mere transport of its surplus agricultural produce to the nearest shore: it has hitherto been free from all projects except the imaginary Pier of Ryde, and the ineffective state of this solitary speculation might give no useless hint to our Turnpike Schemes.
For seven months in the year our own Waggons only rumble in our Ruts, for the other five it is true our Roads are covered with the Carriages of the curious and gay, rattling in endless succession, and I much suspect that a Tax upon these Foreigners is counted as one of our resources: but the resource is precarious and temporary; the expense of Toll-gatherers and Toll-gates permanent.
It is now about 30 years, since our little spot emerged from its humbler and happier obscurity, to the sphere of Fashion, Taste and Wealth. Our unturnpiked Roads have conveyed our Summerlings into every cranny and corner of the place, until retirement has retired from our recesses, and privacy has been laid as bare as some of our Female Fashionable Visitants: until we are become the Inhabitants of one vast Vauxhall, parading and paraded in the roundabout of our Gardens, in endless display of the little Rock and Waterwork of our Scenery.
It is entirely within recollection when one Coach and four was the fashionable, the dashing, and the solitary equipage of Ryde, which can now sport its two daily Stages, and three separate and superb establishments of Coffee House, Tavern, and Hotel; from a hack Poney, a paltry Gig, with a ragged, breeched Boy behind, or a Chaise from Newport, bespoke by the messenger of the preceding week, we have started up into Post Chaises, and Sociables, with liveried and gold beaded drivers, and our Lacquey of the Gates, instead of bumping his bottom on the board of a springless Whiskey, places that delicate and unstable part on the genteeler cushion of a Saddle. Our shores are covered with Mansions: Ryde and Cowes have started into rapid opulence, Shanklin is converted into a Village of Villas. Taste embattles himself in his Castle, or squats in his Cottage: and the bowed and balconied window of the Marine of last year, is jostled from its prospect, by the upstart of this year, which must in its turn give way to its affronting successor, whose rudiments are perhaps already marked out on the sod before its door. – All these miracles have been performed without the Intervention of Turnpikes! What then is the necessity? Let me now say, why I think that they will produce litigation and hostility in a society where there exists at present an enviable scarcity of dispute.
1st. The Roads, of some Parishes of the Island, are in much better condition than those of others. The former Parishes will not very easily agree to Tax themselves for the negligence of the latter, or the smaller Parishes for the benefit of the larger.
2nd. As the Head-quarters of the Commissioners, must be at Newport, the attendance from distant Parishes, especially on disputed cases, will be very burthensome.
3rd. The allotments on the Roads will be matter of perpetual jealousy and discontent, especially in the first stated case – as between Parishes, the Roads of which are in different conditions.
4th. The spirit of discontent having once arisen, what is to prevent any individual from indicting any Public Road, which is got in the best repair for any sort of Carriage? An Inhabitant will understand not. – This source of expense and animosity will be endless.An Inhabiatant knows that the great line of Road removing from Cowes through Newport, Wootton Bridge, Ryde, St Helens, Brading and Shanklin to Bonchurch, and the Undercliff, is for the most part in excellent repair, and that where it is steep, narrow, or rough, the removal of these defects would laugh our puny purse to scorn, even when garnished with all the plunder of the Holiday makers; he knows too, that there are many Public Roads, which are in indifferent repair for Waggons, and impractical for a Carriage, what may he say? “If I was let alone, I would leave others alone, I would not annoy my neighbours of the next Parish, by forcing them to repair a road for me when I can pass by a more frequented way, although not so near, so convenient, or so pleasant; this I do for good neighbourhood, but sweep all the Roads of the Island into one bag, and my neighbourly feeling is at an end. I don’t like your general Rate, but if you will have that, I will have my Road.
There are numerous Roads to which this may be applied, Roads not deserted, but less frequented, which must always be used by the neighbourhood, and therefore cannot be shut up and I could name some, the conveyance by which I should prefer, but the repair of which would fall very heavy on the funds.
It may be said “Your whole argument amounts to this, you choose to have bad Roads”. The answer is “The Roads are full good enough for all purposes of internal communication, and the high road to our shores, for the most part excellent. The money and ill blood, which will be raised by a compulsory system, cannot be calculated, until that system is brought into action. There is no benefit adequate to all this turmoil, ‘Pray leave us alone.’
If I have said enough to induce you to resist, remember that “Prevention is better than Cure”. An early declaration and a firm moderate conduct may stop the application to Parliament, and that would save an ocean of expense. Advertise a Meeting of Persons disapproving the Turnpike Scheme; pass the necessary Resolutions, and subscribe, subscribe, subscribe; without this you do nothing, or without even calling a formal Meeting, and those who are inclined to join this opposition should make their sentiments known. It is a fact, that much real and respectable disinclination to this scheme exists. it only requires to be embodied, to be taken by the hand and brought forth, with that same consciouness of the right to act on our own opinions, which the promotors of the new scheme have to act on theirs. It is a fair subject for diversity of opinion, but until stronger arguments are abduced than I have hitherto appeared for the necessity of this innovation I shall not envy the Roads of the Continent – there is no accounting for tastes, and as the Inhabitants of the inland parts of England are said to love stale fish, so shall I with insular perversity hope still to enjoy the jumbling and jolting of our
January 22 1813