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Mr. INGALLS put in evidence the following letters, addressed to Mr. George H. Snelling, in regard to filling in the lands on the Back Bay, and the effect of so doing upon the sanitary condition of the city:
DORCHESTER, March 30, 1857.
GEORGE H. SNELLING, Esq., Boston:
Dear Sir, I have your note of yesterday now before me, in which you ask for my opinion as to the effect of density of population on its health, and especially as to the effect of various plans of occupying the Back Bay lands on the life and health of the people of Boston, especially of those who may live on those new lands.
The principles involved in your inquiries are fully set forth and established by abundant facts in the various sanitary reports made by order of the British and French Governments, and especially in the two reports of the Health of Towns' Commission in 1846. You will find these reports in the Boston City Library. They should be in the State Library. They should be within the reach of, and consulted by, and familiar to, all legislators, all whose business it is to provide for the public weal. They contain facts and principles, which if known to, and acted upon by our State and city governments, would save great expenditure and loss of money, great loss of time and comfort in sickness and of productive power, and prevent much premature death.
I reviewed these and some other sanitary reports in the Philadelphia Journal of Medical Science, April, 1848. You will find the article on pages 419-51 in that number, which, if you do not find the original reports, will give you their great points. The most important is the effect of density of population on health. That is most strikingly shown in a table which I made and printed in that Review, page 435. I quote it here entire :
Some districts of these cities are crowded much more closely than these figures. In one part of London people live in the proportion of 243,000 per square mile; and in a part of Liverpool 460,000 per square mile. In Broad street, Boston, Massachusetts, they had only nine square yards for a person, which is equal to 441,552 per square mile.
I will quote and condense more facts of the same sort found in the English Reports, which show the difference of life in the different parts of the same cities, differently peopled:
Density of Population.
Inhabitants to Average one death. Age.
The same is shown in the growth of towns and condensing of population at different periods. Take Preston, England:
Population. Surrey, rural, 229,733 Liverpool, 223,434
Average age at
Deaths in 1841.
Per cent of Deaths.
Comparing the rural with the civic or town districts of Eng
Country, 3,559,333 inhabitants, 206 in a square mile, one died in 54.91 living.
City, 3,759,002 inhabitants, 5,045 in a square mile; one died in 38.16 living.
In the former 20 per cent, and in the latter 9 per cent, survived their seventieth year. That is, for every one hundred that died in the country, one hundred and forty-five died in the cities, in the same number of people.
Comparing the rural part of Surrey with Liverpool shows a greater contrast:
or one in 57, average 45 years. . 29,
A comparison of the country with the city, as to the causes of death, leads to the same results. I have not time now to make a new analysis, which shall include the experience of England down to my latest reports (1857); but I have here an analysis of four years which I made ten years ago, and I doubt not the same results will be shown by an examination of the subsequent years.
We have not the records sufficiently complete as to this country to make the same comparison here, but so far as I am furnished with the facts, and have been able to compare, I am led to similar results in regard to the value of life and its dangers in the cities and rural districts of our own nation.
The remark of Mr. Jefferson, that cities were ulcers on the public body, is certainly true in respect to the vital force of a nation. Cities consume and waste more life than the country. There is more sickness and more early death, and consequently less longevity, among a dense than among a sparse population. This being the case, it is important for every city to be laid out in as near a resemblance to the country as possible, with wide, straight streets, with open squares and spaces, with everything that will admit as free a circulation of air and as full access of light, and prevent the concentration of animal life as much as possible.
Whatever is saved in narrow streets, density of population, and narrowness of dwelling, is lost and more than lost in vital force. Whenever and wherever a community packs itself together in