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The subject of the biography which we have named above is probably quite unknown to the great body of our readers. The inquiry will perhaps be made: “Who was Thomas Brassey ?” He was a native of England, who was born in Cheshire, in 1805, and who died in 1870. He was a man of modest character, making no claims to distinction or position. Yet his life seems worthily to challenge our attention, because of the nature and the magnitude of his undertakings, the success with which they were prosecuted, and the sources of his success. The results of Mr. Brassey's life may be briefly told.

He constructed 6,700 miles of railroad. These were located in five of the continents (including Australia). He began his career upon his native soil. Presently, he undertook a road in France; then one in Spain; afterwards lines in Italy, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Canada, Denmark, Bengal, Mauritius, Australia, the Argentine Republic, Austria and Russia. In addition to railroads, he undertook, and accomplished, docks, sewers, bridges, and tunnels, in all parts of the world. For the various works which he undertook, he was paid £78,000,000. At one time, with his associates, he was employing about 80,000 laborers. In addition to the works for which he contracted, he made estimates and bids for works, amounting to £150,000,000, which he did not undertake. Such, in brief, were the dimensions of Mr. Brassey's labors. His success was complete—his work was well done.

Of his own financial success, it is sufficient to say that his profits on his contracts were two and a half millions sterling. He left a vast fortune, said to amount to $35,000,000, the result of his own labor, increased by investment and accumulation. Monarchs and prime ministers courted his favor, and felt themselves happy when he consented to take in hand the internal improvement of their dominions. It was at the earnest request of the British ministry, that he, with Sir M. Peto, assumed the charge of constructing the Crimean railway, designed to carry stores and munitions to the forces employed in the siege of Sevastopol. From the late Emperor of France he received distinguished attention; while Count Cavour put himself as a pupil under his instruction, desiring, as he said, "to take his lesson from the most experienced contractor in Europe.” Certainly a successful man; successful in directing skillfully the forces of human industry; successful to such an extent as gives interest and moment to the inquiry, “What were the sources of his success?".

First among these we must find the fact that he understood his business. There is (as is justly remarked by the Athenæum) "a knowledge of work, a natural gift, in some men, amounting to an instinct, which enables them wisely to utilize the labors of others, often including men of far higher education and general abilities than themselves. The way in which a man could tell, after merely walking over the ground, for how much money he could remove a hill, or bridge a valley, would be incredible to those who were not personally acquainted with the fact."

Whether Mr. Brassey had this instinct implanted by nature, we are not informed. This is one, among many respects, in which Sir Arthur Helps' biography is defective. It tells us a vast deal that does not belong to the subject. It leaves out a vast deal without which there cannot be an answer to the question,“ Who was Thomas Brassey ?" But we learn that he came of good stock, of a family respectable, yet not eminent.

There is [says Sir Arthur) a certain amount of culture and of knowledge in such a family, while at the same time it has run no risk of being enervated by luxury, or of having thought itself out.

There are amongst us but few descendants of our most eminent men. It certainly seems as though a family, after long ages, like some slowly developing plant, produces its best flower, and then dies off.

Mr. Brassey's natural powers were good, and they were developed by an education which was begun at school, and was carried on under the charge of an eminent surveyor. But, perhaps, he received not the least important part of his education on the day that he became acquainted with George Stephenson. This gentleman, forming a high opinion of the promise of his young friend, made a successful effort to ally him with the then infant railway interest. Under his encouragement, Mr. Brassey made his first offer (an unsuccessful one) for a viaduct. From this hour he was a contractor.

Well endowed naturally, and fitted by education for his work, Mr. Brassey further concentrated himself upon his business. Nothing had the power to call him off. He was not to be diverted by prospects of speedy and less toilsome accumulation. During the course of the American Rebellion, he was invited to buy cotton, in expectation of a speedy rise. He declined, saying: “I have come to the conclusion that if successful, I might be tempted to go on to a large amount; and should in fact become a large cotton speculator, which I have no desire to become. If, on the other hand, I was to make a loss, I should feel annoyed that I had departed from my legitimate business."

His mind was always occupied in getting through the work that he had undertaken, and there was a certain apparent carelessness about his own private affairs, which only gives us a higher notion of the unselfishness of the man. It was not connected with deficiency of financial ability. Mr. Brassey knew a good investment from a bad one; but he never seemed to take the trouble to think about investments.

Ambition was equally powerless. All invitations to go into Parliament, or to accept any office, he steadily declined. The Crosses of several Orders, bestowed on him by various monarchs, he valued only as they might please his wife.

As little was le drawn aside by a weak and foolish social ambition. He once said: “It requires a special education to be idle, or to employ the twenty-four hours in a rational way, without any particular calling or occupation. To live the life of a gentleman," he would add, “one must have been brought up to it. It is impossible for a man who has been engaged in business pursuits the greater part of his life, to retire." At another time he said: “I understand

. it is easy and natural enough for those who are born and brought up to it, to spend £50,000 or even £150,000 a year; but I should be very sorry to have to undergo the fatigue of even spending £30,000 a year. I believe such a job as that would drive me mad.”

We have said that ambition was powerless. This remark should be modified. Rather, we should say, that his aspirations all ran in one channel. His ambition was to be a great railway contractor, to undertake large and difficult works in his own and in other lands, to execute them faithfully and promptly, and to afford constant employment to his great and ever increasing army of workmen. This ambition was gratified.

He acquired an almost preternatural power of making estimates. One of his agents relates :


After dinner, Mr. Brassey, and Mr. Strapp, the principal representative of the contract, were going into details of prices; and Mr. Brassey called me to take a chair by them, and go into details of prices of different kinds of work. I noticed especially, after we had given him the cost, for instance, of a bridge—all the details of the bridge, and the total cost-he said : “How many bridges of that kind are there upon the line at the same prices ?" Again, as to the culverts, or bridges of a different size. After going through the quantities of the masonry, we went into the earth works, and talked about the nature of the material and average length of “lead " from the different cuttings, and how much this would cost, and how much such and such a bank would cost, or such and such a deviation, and the prices of different parts of the works. Then we came to the question of rails: They would cost so much, delivered at the station, and so much delivered on and along the line. There was a


very great distance to convey them; but there was a great facility for carting during the winter months, owing to a great deal of wood being carted into the towns for the winter fires, so that we could get the rails carted by a sort of back carriage on sledges.

We had to get all these details as to carting the rails, and we gave him the average cost of the rails on the line; and then, almost in a few seconds, he arrived at the approximate cost of the line per mile, mentally.

We could wish that this lesson of Mr. Brassey's life might be laid to heart by our working men, our mechanics. How few are there who take the trouble to be masters of their calling! The smallness of the amount of brains, and, we must add, of conscience, that they put into their work, is something surprising. Very few are there who take a pride in their work; who have an ambition to excel in it. Their ambition all runs to politics, or social position.

Is not one man called to be a carpenter, another to be a farmer, and another to be a minister? And is it not as truly a call in the one case as in the other? We do not say that it is as high a call; though, indeed, neither do we deny it. Mr. Brassey felt that he had a destiny. He seems to have said: "I will be the railway contractor of Europe." If every man would say, “I will be a good weaver, blacksmith, gardener,” we should enter on a new era.

Another element in the success of Mr. Brassey was his industry, or, rather, we may with more propriety say, his constant and sugtained force. It was not alone that the machine was always running, but it was always running under high pressure. Possibly this intensity shortened his days; for he ought to have lived to eighty, insteady of dying of paralysis at sixty-five. But he could not have enkindled others with his resistless and unceasing energy, if his mind had been at a lower temperature. In illustration of his active habits, his brother-in-law says:

I have known him to come direct from France to Rugby. Having left Havre the night before, he would have been engaged in the office in London the whole day; he would then come down to Rugby by the mail train at twelve o'clock, and it was his common practice to be on the works by six o'clock the next morning. He would frequently walk from Rugby to Nuneaton, a distance of sixteen miles. Having arrived at Nuneaton in the afternoon, he would proceed the same night by road to Tamworth; and the next morning he would be out on the road so soon that he had the reputation, among his staff, of being the first man on the works. He used to proceed over the works from Tamworth to Stafford, walking the greater part of the distance; and he would frequently proceed that same evening to Lancaster, in order to inspect the works then in progress under the contract which he had for the execution of the railway from Lancaster to Carlisle.

He had dealings ( says his biographer ) with hundreds, I may almost say with thousands, of people. They came and told him their views and their wishes, their schemes, their intentions, and their grievances. He heard them all; and if he did not reply to them at the time, as it was often impossible to do, for he had to make inquiries in relation to what they stated, it was perfectly certain that they would receive answers in writing, showing a complete knowledge of all the facts which it was necessary for him to refer to. He was one of the greatest letterwriters ever known. Retaining in his mind all he had to write about, he was ready at any halt in his innumerable journeys, if it were only a halt of a quarter of an hour at a railway station, to sit down and write several letters, generally of the clearest and most distinct nature, embodying all the requisite facts and circumstances.

Closely allied to his force, was the unfaltering and cheerful courage with which he confronted undertakings, obstacles, and disasters. “If any disaster occurred, his first thought seems to have been, not who was to blame, or upon whom the loss would fall, but how the work in question should most promptly be restored.

His secretary says:

I remember Mr. Bartlett, who had known Mr. Brassey as a younger man than I did, telling me that Mr. Brassey never appeared so happy as when he had lost £20,000. Whether it was that he made an effort at cheerfulness to throw it off his mind, I cannot say ; but Mr. Bartlett said that he used to rub his hands, and that any one would have supposed that he was delighted rather than otherwise. I remember, even at the time of the panic, when things were at the worst, Mr. Brassey saying one night, at the Westminster Palace Hotel, “Never mind, we must be content with a little less; that is all." That was when he supposed he had lost a million of money.

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The biographer also narrates this instance of his courageous cheerfulness:

During the construction of the Bilbao line, shortly before the proposed opening, it set in to rain in such an exceptional manner that some of the works were destroyed. The agent telegraphed to Mr. Brassey to come immediately, as a certain bridge had been washed down. About three hours afterwards another telegram was sent, stating that a large bank was washed away; and, next morning, another, stating the rain continued, and more damage had been done. Mr. Brassey, turning to a friend, said, laughingly: "I think I had better wait until I hear that the rain has ceased, so that when I do go, I may see what is left of the works, and estimate all the disasters at once, and so save a second journey."

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That there was, and could be, no disaster which industry, courage,

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