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Whence then is the courage of the English vulgar? It proceeds, in my opinion, from that dissolution of dependence which obliges every man to regard his own character. While every man is fed by his own hands, he has no need of any servile arts ; he may always have wages for his labour ; and is no less necessary to his employer, than his employer is to him. While he looks for no protection from others, he is naturally roused to be his own protector ; and having nothing to abate his esteem of himself, he consequently aspires to the esteem of others. Thus every man that crowds our streets is a man of honour, disdainful of obligation, impatient of reproach, and desirous of extending his reputation among those of his own rank ; and as courage
is in most frequent use, the fame of courage is most eagerly pursued. From this neglect of subordination I do not deny that some inconveniences may from time to time proceed ; the power of the law does not always sufficiently supply the want of reverence, or maintain the proper distinction between different ranks ; but good and evil will grow up in this world together; and they who complain, in peace, of the insolence of the populace, must remember, that their insolence in peace is bravery in war.
PLANS OFFERED FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF
BLACK FRIARS BRIDGE.
IN THREE LETTERS, TO THE PRINTER OF THE
Dec. 1, 1759. THE plans which have been offered by different arch itects, of different reputation and abilities, for the construction of the bridge intended to be built at Black Friars, are, by the rejection of the greater part, now reduced to a small number ; in which small number three are supposed to be much superior to the rest ; so that only three architects are now properly competitors for the honour of this great employment; by two of whom are proposed semicircular, and by the other elliptical arches.
The question is, therefore, whether an elliptical or semicircular arch is to be preferred ?
The first excellence of a bridge built for commerce over a large river, is strength ; for a bridge which can not stand, however beautiful, will boast its beauty but a a little while ; the stronger arch is therefore to be pre
ferred, and much more to be preferred, if with greater strength it has greater beauty.
Those who are acquainted with the mathematical principles of architecture, are not many; and yet fewer are they who will, upon any single occasion, endure any laborious stretch of thought, or harass their minds with unaccustomed investigations. We shall therefore attempt to shew the weakness of the elliptical arch, by arguments which appeal simply to common reason, and which will yet stand the test of geometrical examination.
All arches have a certain degree of weakness. No hollow building can be equally strong with a solid mass, of which every upper part presses perpendicularly upon the lower. Any weight laid upon the top of an arch, has a tendency to force that top into the vacuity below ; and the arch thus loaded on the top, stands only because the stones that form it, being wider in the upper than in the lower parts, that part that fills a wider space cannot fall through a space less wide ; but the force which laid upon a flat would press directly down. wards, is dispersed each way in a lateral direction, as the parts of a beam are pushed out to the right and left by a wedge driven between them. In proportion as the stones are wider at the top than at the bottom, they can less easily be forced downwards, and as their lateral surfaces tend more from the centre to each side, to so much more is the pressure directed laterally towards the piers, and so much less perpendicularly towards the vacuity.
Upon this plain principle the semicircular arch may be demonstrated to excel in strength the elliptical arch,
which approaching nearer to a straight line must be constructed with stones whose diminution downwards is very little, and of which the pressure is almost perpendicular.
It has yet been sometimes asserted by hardy ignorance, that the elliptical arch is stronger than the semicircular ; or in other terms, that any mass is more strongly supported the less it rests upon the supporters. If the elliptical arch be equally strong with the semicircular, that is, if an arch, by approaching to a straight line, loses none of its stability, it will follow, that all arcuation is useless, and that the bridge may at last, without any inconvenience, consist of stone laid in straight lines from pillar to pillar. But if a straight line will bear no weight, which is evident at the first view, it is plain likewise, that an ellipsis will bear very little ; and that as the arch is more curved, its strength is increased.
Having thus evinced the superior strength of the semicircular arch, we have sufficiently proved, that it ought to be preferred ; but to leave no objection unprevented, we think it proper likewise to observe, that the elliptical arch must always appear to want elevation and dignity ; and that if beauty be to be determined by suffrages, the elliptical arch will have little to boast, since the only bridge of that kind has now stood two hundred years without imitation,
If in opposition to these arguments, and in defiance at once of right reason and general authority, the elliptical arch should at last be chosen, what will the world believe, than that some other motive than reason influenced the determination ? And some degree of partiality cannot but be suspected by him, who has been told that one of the judges appointed to decide this question, is Mr. M–1-r, who having, by ignorance or thoughtlessness, already preferred the elliptical arch, will probably think himself obliged to maintain his own judgment, though his opinion will avail but little with the public, when it is known that Mr. S-18--n declares it to be false.
He that in the list of the committee chosen for the superintendency of the bridge, reads many of the most illustrious names of this great city, will hope that the greater number will have more reverence for the opinion of posterity, than to disgrace themselves, and the metropolis of the kingdom, in compliance with any man, who, instead of voting, aspires to dictate, perhaps without any claim to such superiority, either by greatness of birth, diguity of employment, extent of knowledge, or largeness of fortune.
Dec. 8, 1759. In questions of general concern, there is no law of government, or rule of decency, that forbids open examination and public discussion. I shall therefore not betray, by a mean apology, that right which no man has power, and, I suppose, no wise man has desire to refuse me ; but shall consider the letter published by you last Friday, in defence of Mr. M........'s* design for a new bridge.
Mr. M........ proposes elliptical arches. It has been objected that elliptical arches are weak; and therefore
* Mr. Milne.