No railroad in the world deserves greater encouragement

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Thomas1

Senior Member
polszczyzna warszawska
No railroad in the world deserves greater encouragement than the one which bears this name, at once so peculiar and so expressive.
http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/jbrown/jbrown.html

The sentence begins a chapter that describes the Underground Railroad -- a network of secret roads and houses in North America used by the slaves who fled from the southern states up north.

I would like to know the meaning of encouragement. The meanings I found i Merriam Webster, as well as in a few others, don't help me much, unfortunatley.

Thanks,
Tom
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    It sound slightly peculiar to contemporary readers to speak of encouraging any sort of railroad, but encouragement can describe providing support, physical or otherwise.
     
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    Waylink

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    Similarly, the very long-established British educational organization commonly known as the RSA has the full title of "Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce".
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I think it's important to mention that this text was written in 1854. Brown was probably using the word "encourage" quite literally. The emancipation of the slaves was still in the future and the underground railroad was being used by people to escape to the northern states.

    I haven't read the whole text, but he is probably talking about offering material assistance to the people who smuggled the slaves north and sheltered them then helped them get established as free people. It is these people who were the underground railroad, not roads and houses.
     
    In view of the great risk run by both the organisers of the "underground railroad" and the escaping slaves using it, I think that "encourage" is being used in its moral and psychological sense, with a meaning close to its etymological root.

    Think of the structure of the original French word en + courager: to put courage into somebody.

    In context I think it referred to the whole operation, to those who operated it and to those who used it.
     

    kitenok

    Senior Member
    In view of the great risk run by both the organisers of the "underground railroad" and the escaping slaves using it, I think that "encourage" is being used in its moral and psychological sense, with a meaning close to its etymological root.
    I certainly see your point here and would agree entirely, but for one thing: the original sentence explicitly compares the degree of encouragement due to the underground railroad to the degree of encouragement due to other railroads. Presumably other railroads refers to tracks, trains, and the companies that build and operate them. These were receiving a great deal of material "encouragement" at the time, but it seems strange to suggest that they would need "encouragement" in the literal, psychological sense. It seems to me that the author is suggesting that the underground railroad deserves the same kind of material support, and maybe what we might today call "energy," as are being given to the development of actual railroads.
     
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    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Your answers clarify much, thanks. :)

    I would like to add for clarity however that the chapter was most probably not written by John Brown, right under the heading there is:
    (From the Anti-Slavery Reporter, April 1853.)
    The chapter tells mainly about what it all looked like, I believe aimig to incite people to give moral support to the general idea of the Underground Railroad.

    By roads and houses I also meant people who provided them or gave information about them The network was composed of many elements beginning with the most trivial like roads and houses thrugh slaves who were naturally part of it, ending with people who helped them.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Let's not forget that the underground railroad had no trains and no tracks. It was a secret ("underground") system of smugglers and safe houses to help enslaved people escape to freedom. I am sure that material support was needed in terms of people to take the risk and others to take care of the families of those who were away doing the smuggling.

    "Encourage" seems to me to be used here in the sense of "support, promote and assist".

    I suppose I'd better read the whole text now, but at this point I believe that the encouragement in question is both material and moral.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Ditto what Nun-Translator says. Also, the book was published in England so perpaps it was more about psycological support to the Underground Railroad and changing the attitude of the English as well (Brown came across disapproving attitudes towards himself in England even though he rather didn't expect it, most likely thanks to the accounts by John Glasgow).

    Tom
     
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