Page images

of your committee, I have no doubt, are more competent to judge upon that matter than any of the counsel, and perhaps as competent as some of the experts; but what testimony they have produced before you is certainly useful, and has an important bearing on your proposed action. We have brought before you two of the best experts in these matters, Mr. Boschke and Mr. Pratt. In fact, they are about the only two men in Boston who are competent to give you an opinion in such a matter as this. Without going into the detail of their testimony, I will merely say that the general substance of it is, that this filling would prove injurious to the harbor, and that the least that can be said of it is that it is an experiment, and one that is fraught with danger and peril.

And at once the question comes home to the committee whether, in order to make an experiment, you are willing to put in peril the existence of Boston harbor and the vast interest of the commerce of Boston, without any testimony in favor of it, and without any reason shown to justify it, when the best experts in the country tell you it will be dangerous and injurious. I leave this without further comment. I think no committee of the legislature of Massachusetts will recommend undertaking such a work as that, against such testimony.

Secondly, the proposed change would be financially a failure. It has been rumored that the committee would recommend this filling for purposes of speculation. But I am happy to state that during this hearing I have heard no suggestion that would give color to any such intimation. And I do not think this committee, or any other committee of the legislature of this State, will so far forget their duty or the honor of this Commonwealth as to propose to speculate in property of this kind. It is property which is held in trust, and for certain limited purposes; and it would be as great a breach of trust for the legislature to speculate in property so held, as it would be for a trustee to speculate in the private property which he holds for another.

It will be useful to examine the financial results of this proposal, and to ascertain whether or not it will pay, in order that we may the better weigh other reasons for or against it. The financial results may be so bad that they will override the necessity, if there is any, for carrying it out. I understand that Mr. Derby has gone over this part of the case very carefully, and I leave the details of it to him. Sufficient is it that witnesses who have been before you, men who are competent to give an opinion upon such a matter, have told you that as individuals they would not take this basin and fill it up if you were to give it to them. Witness after witness has told you this. Mr. Hills, who is perhaps the most competent man there is to judge of the results of this proposed change in a financial view, says that he would not take this property as a gift, and be obliged to fill it up. If private individuals will not take this property as a gift, do you expect that the State is going to make anything by the operation? Do governments generally make anything where private individuals fail? I think there is but one undertaking in which this State is engaged (and has been for many years) which can properly be compared with this, and the financial results of that have certainly not been very gratifying. I refer to the Hoosac Tunnel, which is perhaps something of similar magnitude; and no man knows better than your chairman, or can tell you more correctly than he, what the financial results of that enterprise have been. And judging from the effect of the State going into a speculation of this kind, we can judge something of what the result would be of its going into a speculation in the Charles River which private individuals will not undertake.

This filling would injure other property of the city, and of the State, upon the borders of this river, property upon Charles and Brimmer and Beacon streets,-estates having a water front. There is property there the assessed valuation of which is nearly eight millions of dollars. Is there a gentleman upon

this committee who will not admit that, under the act of 1840, if you fill in to the extent of a thousand or fourteen hundred or fifteen hundred feet, and put upon it buildings of no matter what kind, it will be an injury to these houses? And if you do it, under that act of 1840, you have got to make full and complete compensation.

Now, what is the testimony as to the damages which will accrue? Of course we cannot have positive evidence on this point, as it must naturally be in a great measure speculative. But what is the testimony of men who are certainly qualified to judge to a certain extent of the financial results to be expected? And we have produced before you, as I say, the best men in Boston; none of them put the damages at less than twenty-five per cent of the present value. Some of them go as high as fifty per cent. Call it twenty-five or thirty per cent, and you have got damages to pay, to start with, of two million dollars. These witnesses tell you further, that the damages in a sliding scale would extend further than Beacon street. And there is an amount which is incalculable of damages which you must pay, if you are going to give full and complete compensation to every man who has acted on the faith of the establishment of the line of 1840.

Then the testimony before you is, that the filling would cost substantially five million dollars before you can get back a single dollar. Because you must go on and build a sea-wall before you can fill in, and before you can sell the land. You have got to spend five millions besides the interest; you have got to pay the damages in Beacon street, and also in other localities; and before you can use this land, you must incur an expense of two millions for damages in Beacon and Brimmer streets alone. There will not be a demand for this land at once, and you have therefore got to keep an interest account during all that time; and your five millions will be doubled and trebled before you get any returns.

Now, are you, as men of judgment, who are appointed in a quasi-judicial capacity, willing to report and advise the State to go into an undertaking of this kind with these facts before you? That is the only question for the committee to consider.


There is another matter to which I wish briefly to call your attention, and that is, that this proposal will prove injurious to the city of Boston and the adjacent localities as a sanitary measThe basin should be reserved as an open space for air and ventilation. This matter, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, of breathing spaces for cities is no new thing. Years ago, in the early settlement of Boston, the Common was reserved and left as an open space for ventilation. The Public Garden was also reserved for the same purpose. And when the temptation was held out to the citizens to sell the property in the Public Garden and pay their public debt, they refused the bribe. In 1859-60-61, Mr. Snelling argued in favor of keeping open a space on the Back Bay out as far as to Brookline; and he brought in favor of that, letters from some of the most eminent men in the country, and from eminent surgeons, some of which have been put in evidence, and all of which are collected in a pamphlet that I shall leave with the committee. It contains the opinions of the best medical men of that time, that it would be injurious to occupy it. I am sorry to say that Mr. Snelling's project was not taken into consideration with much favor by the legislature. In 1861, however, his project in a modified form was carried through the legislature. Chapter 87 of the Acts of 1861 shows the result of Mr. Snelling's labor in a modified form; and by it the legislature adopted this policy of reserving open spaces in the city. It is true that the public commissioners have never carried it out to the extent that was intended, as they could not get all the necessary parties to agree to it.

Now, in 1866, the legislature by an act in relation to this same Charles River carried out this theory, that there should be reserved an open space, and also impliedly recognizing the line of

1840; because by that act of 1866 that provided that it should only be filled by contract with the riparian owners, and that in no case should it be occupied by buildings. That is, they might make an esplanade or promenade there, but it should never be occupied by buildings, upon any condition. From the first settlement of Boston to the present time, it has been the settled policy of Boston to reserve these spaces. From 1855, the time it was first brought to the attention of the legislature of this Commonwealth, down to the present time, it has been the steady and uniform policy of the State to preserve these localities for air and ventilation. I might go into the history of other places in this respect, but I have not the time; and you yourselves know better about it than I do.

Now, the experience of the past, all agree to be in favor of open spaces for health. The opinions of medical experts in the past all agree. The policy of the city and of the Commonwealth, up to the present time, has been in favor of them.

Then the question comes, whether, with the progress of science in the last ten years, medical experts have changed their opinion upon this matter? And we have shown you by some of the most eminent surgeons and physicians in Massachusetts, that their opinion is the same. They tell you that unquestionably this would be injurious as a sanitary measure, and that it ought not to be done. We might have gone on day after day and produced medical experts, until we had called all the physicians in the city, and nine-tenths, if not ninety-nine one-hundredths of them, would have told you that this was a matter full of danger, and which ought not to be carried out.

In this pamphlet of Mr. Snelling's to which I have referred, there is a letter from the Hon. John A. Andrew, and there is also a letter from the Hon. Charles Sumner, which is certainly authority in Massachusetts to some extent; and both of these letters are quite pertinent. Mr. Sumner says: "I know well the value of water in scenery. Perhaps nothing else adds so much to the

« PreviousContinue »