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by an honorable member of the committee, because the basin is outside of the city, and it was likened to a lung on a man's head or on his foot. Now, gentlemen, whether that analogy was correct or not, so far as Boston itself is concerned, it certainly is with respect to Boston and its suburbs.
On one side of this basin lies our own city; and on the other side is Cambridge, with its forty thousand inhabitants. The southwest wind blowing over it strikes directly upon Charlestown with its thirty thousand more, and above are Brookline and Brighton with ten or twelve thousand more, and which are destined to contain a very large population; so that this basin is already surrounded by between three and four hundred thousand souls, and to this population it can well be regarded as a lung.
An honorable friend of mine on your committee has asked whether the benefits which Boston thus gains from Charles River might not be increased by filling up and laying out a part of the basin as a public pleasure ground. A public promenade along the border of this basin would add to the beauty and health of the city, and perhaps such an one as has been more than once spoken of here, might be laid out without incurring serious danger; but the finest park with trees fully grown would not cool the air as the water does. I am the last one to depreciate the value of parks; I hope to live to see Boston with a very splendid one, but we are not yet so put to it for land for this purpose that we desire to rob the sea in order to get it. Two of the localities spoken of for a public pleasure ground, Corey's Hill, and the marshes between Parker street and the Western avenue, would lose a large share of their attractions if the Charles River basin were not in existence.
The argument has been advanced that the injurious exhalations arising from the marshes and flats left bare at low water, with the sewers emptying upon them, counterbalance, to a great extent, the benefits of which I have been speaking. I believe that all agree that it would be well now to round off the shore
between Mount Vernon and Berkeley streets; but if that were done to prevent the sewage collecting there, I doubt whether anything else is required. If the sewage and bare flats were as offensive as has been intimated, certainly those living along the shore of the basin would be the first to perceive it. Not only do they not ask to have the basin filled, in order to abate any such nuisance as this, but they are here to protest against it. In fine weather, the Western avenue has long been a favorite walk of mine, and I have for ten years been well acquainted with Charles River at all states of the tide, and in the hottest summer weather. I have ridden and walked along the Mill-dam, I have lounged upon Cambridge bridge, I have rowed upon the water, and I can say that I never noticed anything in the hottest weather and at the lowest tide which really could be called offensive. The flats along the Boston shore are only bare for a very short time, and the saline qualities of the sea water remedy, to a great extent, what might otherwise taint the air. If the sewage should ever become injurious, as I have already said, means can be found for curing it.
Much that I have said I know would apply equally to the filling which has gone on for the last ten years on the other side of Beacon street, in the so-called Back Bay. The building of the Mill-dam fifty years ago had indeed made that a nuisance, which needed to be remedied in some way, and the whole subject was of a widely different character from that now before you. But I do think that in filling those marshes solid, and reserving neither pleasure ground nor a basin for a tidal lake like the Binnen Alster at Hamburg, we were guilty of a short-sightedness and a blindness to the sanitary wants and to the beauty of our city which will not raise us in the estimation of our descendants. When, in the next century, Boston antiquaries dig out of the alcoves of the Public Library and the Athenæum the history of that boasted public improvement, and learn that while we were resolutely shutting out the sea from that territory, and
bartering the health and beauty of the city for gold, gentlemen like my friend Mr. Snelling persistently raised their warning voices against so suicidal a policy to no purpose, but received much opposition and obloquy from interested parties in return, they will not be very proud of their ancestors; and I should not be surprised if the newspapers of those days were to speak
of us in terms which it will be well we cannot hear. Is not so discreditable a tale as that enough for one generation? Most certainly it is; and the city may yet in consequence have to spend on pleasure grounds and gardens sums of money which would swallow up all that has been made by the Commonwealth out of that land speculation.
I shall notice but one other argument which has been adduced in favor of any scheme for what is called improving these flats, and that is the alleged need of more land in Boston. Now, gentlemen, I deny that there is any such necessity. It will be a century before this territory can possibly be required for business; and as for dwelling-houses, at the rate we have been building during the last ten years, it will be thirty years at least before the Back Bay lands are occupied; and beyond these is an inexhaustible supply of land for building purposes in Brookline, Roxbury and Dorchester, high land, picturesquely diversified, and infinitely more healthy than any land taken from the sea ever will be. It is farther away, I admit, but you cannot, with Boston increasing as it is now, continue to have all the advantages of a country town. The compactness of Boston in past times has spoilt us for anything more extended, and makes us feel vexed if we ever are obliged to walk more than a few steps. And some excellent citizens, imbued with these Little Pedlington ideas, think that the heavens would fall if they were not able to walk home daily to a two-o'clock dinner. Surrounded as we are on so many sides by water, distances here must eventually get very great. You can no more confine the Boston of the future to this peninsula than you and I, Mr. Chairman, can be
forced back into our cradles. And besides, in trying to remedy one evil, you may incur much greater ones. Captain Vaughan, whom I have already quoted, said before a Parliamentary committee, that by building wide embankments on both sides of the Thames, they might relieve the streets of part of their traffic, but they might also relieve the river of her commerce. So you, by pushing out the sea, may obtain plenty of land, but at sacrifices which will render the land valueless.
In conclusion. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I must ask you, what need is there for any "comprehensive scheme" of im provement in relation to these flats? Who asks for it? Who desires it? Certainly the voice of this neighborhood has been heard distinctly enough, and in tones of which there can be no mistaking the meaning. And while I most fully admit that in all matters of State policy the opinion of no one part of the Commonwealth should have the control, yet I respectfully submit that in a matter like this the feelings and wishes of the neighborhood should be treated with respect and even indulgence, and I cannot see why we should yield our opinions to those of people far more remotely, far less vitally interested. But the sovereign prerogative by virtue of which the Commonwealth owns the sea-shore is one of a very peculiar kind. It is not held as she holds ordinary property, but on a special trust for the benefit of commerce and navigation, and other kindred objects. Certainly she does not hold it for the purposes of money-making, or of deriving a revenue from it by means of any species of alienation. If any such profit can be justified when made from it, it is only when subordinate and incidental to some higher and more important purpose. I shall not dwell upon this, but shall refer you to the able opening argument of my friend Mr. Shattuck, and to one authority, but that the very highest -the views of the late Chief Justice Shaw in the cases of the Commonwealth vs. Alger, 7 Cushing, 81, and the Commonwealth vs. The City of Roxbury, 9 Gray, 481. To
dispose of the shore for the benefit of revenue seems to me very much as if the Corporation of Harvard College were to apply funds given it for a special purpose to the general expenses of the University. We all know how quickly the courts would stop that, and although from the sovereign authority of our legislature on most questions, there may be no similar check on its action, I cannot think it the less unjustifiable. The fact that there is no constitutional restriction on you will not justify you. A law may be dishonest, oppressive or cruel, and yet be constitutional. The legislature may repeal the entire criminal law of the Commonwealth if it sees fit, and allow us to be plundered and murdered with impunity, and such a statute would be perfectly constitutional. Such checks have never been placcd on your action, because it was rightly judged that they were not needed; and I trust and believe that the continued preservation of the Charles River basin will show that no constitutional restriction on legislative power was needed to save it for the purposes for which the Almighty Creator intended it.
An attempt has been made to discredit our opposition to this proposal by asserting that it is incited by the wealthy gentlemen whose residences skirt the river. If that were so, it would be no argument. The residents on Beacon, Charles and Brimmer streets are disturbed, and most naturally disturbed, at the idea of losing all the glorious beauties and advantages of that open basin. All men would be, under the same circumstances. Their opposition may be selfish, but happily the interests of all in this world are so interwoven with the interests of their fellow-men that an enlightened selfishness is often the highest wisdom, the highest benevolence. Why, gentlemen, if that basin be once filled up, and if, in consequence, the health of the city should be poorer than before, the air in summer closer, the heat more op pressive, who is it that will suffer? Is it the wealthy citizen, who, by means of a carriage drive, can be refreshed by the country air and the ocean breezes, or seek shelter from heat