Our Duty Towards Halifax.
(We invite all men in the University to submit communications on subjects of timely interest, but assume no responsibility for sentiments expressed under this head.)
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
Nothing quite like the Halifax disaster has ever occurred. Plenty of munition depots and munition ships as large as the Mont Blanc have doubtless been blown up in this war, and scores of costly collisions between vessels have occurred. But never has an explosion on board ship had the disastrous effect of this one. It is supposed that the Mont Blanc carried a huge amount of the new explosive, trinitrotuluol, T.N.T., a glistening pale-yellow powder, as potent as nitroglycerine, though safer to handle. Moreover, the situation of the ship in the half-mile-wide Narrows, between two rising shores, seems to have caused the blast to rake the city with peculiar effectiveness.
As nearly as can be made out from the newspaper accounts, the completely ruined area is the poorer, northern section of Halifax, called Richmond, lying along the Narrows for a mile and a quarter, and extending inland half a mile. But for a half mile further south--toward the centre of the town--and inland, the destruction is only less complete. And still another three-quarters of a mile of wharves and warehouses is badly shattered. The waterfront laid waste is equal in extent to that of Boston from the South Station around to the North Station, and across Charlestown to beyond the Navy Yard; only in Halifax the property was less valuable, and the wharves and buildings more scattered; two-fifths of it was railway frontage, two-fifths Imperial docks and barracks, and only one-fifth private property. In size and sort, the residential area destroyed would almost correspond to East Boston. And beyond the area of practical destruction enormous damage has been caused by the peculiar vicious swiftness of the explosion. Thirteen hundred persons have been killed and a great many more wounded. Nothing like the amount of blinding has ever been observed in a disaster of this sort.
The city of Halifax has a peculiar claim upon our sympathy. The Canadians are our allies, of course, but historically Halifax is closely related to Boston. It was founded in 1749 largely at the instance of the New Englanders as an offset to the French fortress of Louisburg; the trade relations of the two towns have always been close; and at the time of the Revolution many of the prominent citizens of Boston--the Tories or Loyalists--emigrated to Halifax; and fine old Boston names--some of them extinct here--are to be found on the tablets of the interesting eighteenth-century Church of St. Paul. The generosity of the United States to their unlucky neighbor has been so notable that it ought to warm the hearts of all Canadians toward us. It is to be hoped that our students will do their share today. K. G. T. WEBSTER.