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Saturday, Nov. 6.
My Dear Sir: I see that you are strongly opposing the plan of taking away from us the broad expanse of water in the rear of the city, and leaving in its place a channel of only a few hundred feet. It seems to me impolitic on many accounts, but I object to it particularly on the score of comfort and health. I shall never forget the year that I passed at the Massachusetts General Hospital, when I was a medical student, and how delightfully cool and refreshing the breezes were, as they came over the water, which then almost washed the foundations of the building, the heat at such times up in the city being often perfectly oppressive; and the same luxury I have often enjoyed since then in the upper rooms of the Medical College, which look out towards the water. Trusting that you will effectually put down this scheme, and convince those who favor it of its impolicy, I remain,
J. B. S. JACKSON.
Dr. O. W. HOLMES.
218 TREMONT STREET, Monday.
My Dear Sir: Your note of Saturday, addressed to my brother, asking for information about the Binnen Alster in Hamburg, is just received. In reply, I beg to state, that the Binnen Alster is not only an ornament and source of comfort and health to the city of Hamburg, but it has been the starting point of making it one of the most beautiful cities of Germany, if not of Europe.
I believe the citizens of Hamburg would as soon think of burning up their city as of filling up their Binnen Alster, and I should think our citizens would as soon see cows turned into the Common as to part with the beautiful sheet of water on our Charles River. Faithfully yours,
Dr. O. W. HOLMES.
SEBASTIAN B. SCHLESINGER.
PROVIDENCE, Nov. 6, 1869. Dear Uncle: My answer to your note is unavoidably written in haste. The basin in the centre of Providence was originally a Cove of mingled salt and fresh water and mud, into which two small rivers ran, and from which one flowed out, going by Weybosset point, where the great bridge is built, and thence down to the harbor. This Cove and the river have been gradually encroached upon. Dr. Snow, who is a first-rate sanitarian, gives his views of the probable effects of filling up the Cove, towards the last part of his report. But it needs no authority to tell us what must be the good of a central expanse of water, open to the purifying influence of sunshine, swept over freely by breezes direct from the hills, and daily stirred like the pool of Bethesda by the health-bringing angel of the tide. I fear that we have not enough public spirit to keep our natural advantages, and hinder this river from degenerating into a cloaca. If things go on as I fear, it will be a triumph of trade over the best good of the city, deeply to be regretted in future years. All high and far reaching considerationsregard for health, beauty, man as compared with present gain of money—go against the projects which are now obscurely intimated. We look to Boston's example, as you will see by the enclosed from our Journal of a few days ago.
CHARLES W. PARSONS,
[Extract from Report upon the Sanitary Effects of filling the Cove basin in the City of Providence, by EDWIN M. STONE, M. D., p. 10.]
The conclusions in relation to the whole subject, to which I am forced, and of which I have not the least doubt, are briefly as follows:
1. The filling up of the Cove basin as proposed would prove a great, immediate, and permanent injury to the public health of the city of Providence.
2. It would prove the complete destruction, for purposes of navigation, of the harbor from Weybosset bridge to Fox point.
3. It would put the property in a considerable portion of the city into imminent and constant danger from freshets and southerly gales.
4. It would destroy one of the greatest and most attractive ornaments that the city contains.
Such would be the certain effects of filling the Cove basin as is proposed, while the contraction of its limits to any extent whatever would produce precisely similar results, and to an extent in exact proportion to the extent of the contraction.
I sincerely trust, then, that the Cove will not be filled up; that its present limits will not be contracted; and that thus a great calamity to the health, to the prosperity, and to the beauty of our city may be avoided.
EDWIN M. STONE, M. D.,
Superintendent of Health.
PROVIDENCE, Dec. 24, 1867.
The committee then listened to the final arguments of the counsel for the various remonstrants.
Mr. INGALLS. Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee: I am not presumptuous enough to think that I can teach this committee much about this subject; but perhaps I can aid you somewhat in your deliberations by calling to your minds some of the material portions of the testimony. You are sitting here somewhat in the nature of a court of equity, to hear the facts in regard to this case, and to apply them as you understand the law. And as it is the duty of counsel before the courts to recall the evidence to the minds of the court, and state the law, so it is the duty of counsel appearing before you here, to aid you, so far as may be, in arriving at a thorough understanding of the evidence which has been presented before you; always bearing in mind that the court is far better able to appreciate the gen eral principles of the evidence adduced, while as to particular facts it may desire aid.
There is one difference between your committee and a court,
and that is, that no court of this Commonwealth ever was called upon to consider a matter of such importance as this in respect to its pecuniary results, and one so pregnant with injury to thousands now and thousands to come. And I may, therefore, be pardoned, perhaps, for trespassing upon your time somewhat in calling your attention to a few of the important facts which have been presented here, whether by counsel or by witnesses.
The proposal which is made here is to change the estuary of the Charles River from its present line. The line of that river as it exists upon the Beacon street side, where the proposed filling is to be made, was fixed by the act of 1840, chap. 35, which has been cited to the committee in the opening argument of Mr. Shattuck. I wish simply to call the attention of the committee to a clause which has been brought to my notice since the act was cited before you; and I wish to state to the committee that the effect of the act, as it seems to me, and I think the committee will agree with me,-is, that no pier or structure beyond this harbor line should ever be built, neither could any pier or structure be extended to it, unless by permission of the legislature. The permission of the legislature clearly, as you will see by reading the act, refers to the piers and structures already in existence within the harbor line. The word "nor" is used, and the punctuation shows that such was the intent of the act. And I think that every member of the committee, looking at the wording of the act, will agree with me in this view.
I do not propose to take the position before the committee that the legislature cannot alter and modify the act. I think the substance and effect of the act is this: that the legislature may alter and change that line for several reasons; that they may alter and change it whenever the public health demands it; that they may alter it if the public necessities demand it; that they may alter it if the interests of the harbor or the commerce of Boston demand it; always bearing in mind that if they change that line, then they are to compensate everybody who may be
injured thereby; and this must be a full and complete reparation to every man, no matter how remote that injury may be.
When this committee was appointed to report to the next legislature, and a meeting was called in reference to the filling. of Charles River, the very fact that legislation was proposed, affecting so large an amount of property, naturally suggested the question of, What great overriding necessity called for this filling; whether the health of Boston, or public necessity, or the interest of the harbor and commerce of Boston?
Now, it is a well-known principle in law, and I think it has always been laid down as a rule by the legislature, that where a legislative measure is sought for, its necessity must be shown, and he who desires a change must show the reasons for such a change. In this matter we appeared here, supposing that we should hear the reasons for making any changes in this harbor line; and that, nobody appearing to tell us what great exigency demanded this change, the committee might well stop there, and report that there was no proof that any necessity existed for the change proposed. But I suppose that the subject was so important that you wished to do your whole duty, and have therefore given us an opportunity of proving a negative, and for that purpose you assume that an affirmative case is already made out. The committee will bear in mind that, whatever mistakes we have made in putting in our case, we have been in the difficult position of proving a case to meet an assumed case, and to prove a negative when of the affirmative we knew nothing, nor of the reasons upon which it was based.
In order, therefore, to prove that this change is not demanded, we have produced evidence (1) that it would be an injury to the harbor of Boston; (2) that, financially, it would be a failure; (3) that it would greatly injure property for which compensation must be made, and (4) that in a sanitary point of view it would prove injurious to this city.
The first question is a matter entirely for experts. Some