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I say, necessary in that view to show negatively that the exigencies did not exist which would justify the proposed action of the State. The public exigencies that naturally occurred to us, as possibly inducing the committee to believe that such action should be taken, were those upon which we have introduced evidence.
First, the harbor. Is there anything in the condition, present or future, of Boston harbor that makes it necessary that any such great change in the basin of Charles River should be made as proposed here now ?
I do not suppose that the views of the members of this committee, who have investigated the subject, on the present regime of the harbor, and the effect of the present forces that constitute and keep up the harbor, differ very materially from those of the scientific men who have made the harbor a special study and the commission intrusted with the charge of it by law. I suppose if there is any difference of opinion between you and them as to the condition and requirements of the harbor, it is as to the importance of keeping up the present system. I do not suppose that you, Mr. Chairman, differ with all the commissioners who have reported upon the harbor in the main point, that the force of the current in the harbor, is kept up by means of the power of the ebb tide issuing from these broad tidal reservoirs through comparatively narrow channels, carried at a greatly increased velocity and keeping up through the main channel of the harbor a certain velocity and a certain depth. I suppose that you would agree that the narrowing and the abridging of the areas of the tidal reservoirs would probably diminish the force of the curBut where I take it you disagree, if you disagree at all, is in the value of the force of this current. If you disagree at all, I suppose it would be in the amount of importance that you attach to the keeping up of this current. They say, "Here is a combination of natural forces, keeping up this tremendous force, this current of water between Boston and East Boston, which
is known as the upper harbor. This is a tremendous force (I use big words, but I am speaking of big things, and I use them with a full sense of their meaning). Here is this tremendous force. It has the power of carrying off a certain amount of silt and other matter, and preventing it from sinking to the bottom. How much solid matter there is there that might be deposited we do not know, and they do not know. They think there is a great deal, and therefore think it is important that this natural machinery should be kept going, as it is now. You may think that if this machinery were stopped, and the harbor were made a mere arm of the sea, without reservoirs, it could be kept open by artificial means, without a great injury from the loss of the natural forces. I suppose if there is any difference of opinion, it is at that point, and not at any point further back in the course of the inquiry as to the theory of the harbor. I do not suppose you differ, and it is not necessary for me to argue, as to the character of these forces; but I suppose that if you disagree, it is as to what their importance is, and what the effect of removing them would be.
Now, their effect has been, that the harbor has been kept from the beginning of things to the present time substantially the same harbor. The reservoirs have been narrowed, but the outlets have been narrowed proportionately; so that on the whole, from the beginning of our history to the present time, the changes, although they sound large when stated in cubic yards of material removed and deposited, have left the harbor substantially as it was before. Now, whether we can diminish these reservoirs and reduce the power of these currents, and still keep the harbor open and free from deposits, is a speculative question, and one on which you, Mr. Chairman, may entertain one very decided opinion, and on which scientific men may entertain a different and equally decided opinion. It is purely a speculative question. But everybody seems to agree that on the whole the present forces of the harbor have kept it in tolerably good condition.
I speak of the upper harbor particularly. The general opinion seems to be, that the natural machinery of the harbor is a good machinery, and has kept the thing going very well. Can it be possible that you or any other committee of the legislature would think it worth while to abandon that natural machinery, or essentially and substantially change its proportions, and injure its working, for the sake of proving the truth or falsehood of any theory as to what the result would be? You agree, everybody agrees, I presume, what the forces of the harbor do The question at issue is a purely speculative one; how should we get along without them? Well, can it possibly be that you will think of abandoning them, or materially changing their relative magnitude, for the purpose of testing that question? Would you shut up Charles River for the purpose of showing that Boston harbor could be kept open by dredging? I am sure that you would not, even though you were thoroughly convinced of it. Even if it were possible that you would run the risk of trying it, if it were a matter of your own, I do not believe that you would urge the Commonwealth, the city, or the private interests concerned in the harbor, to run any such risk on any conviction of your own, however well you might be satisfied of it. I should as soon think of your inventing an ingenious machine for flying, and, being extremely confident of its success, make your first experiment by jumping with it from the roof of the State House. I think you would prefer to continue to use your legs to go down stairs with, rather than try your machine in that way. And it would be quite analogous to that, to abandon the scouring forces of these tidal reservoirs with a view of deciding the question whether they are needed or not.
Then on the question of sewerage; that is the next public exigency that we considered might possibly weigh with the committee. It is very clear that any interference at present with the river, with a view of accommodating it to a future system of drainage, would be premature; because the river is essential to
the present system, and nobody can tell what the future system is to be. This whole subject of sewerage is in its infancy; and we can afford to wait until the many large cities in England, upon which the question is now pressing with a force which must be met at once, have given us the results of their experiments. It is not necessary to do anything about sewerage at present, except for the purpose of removing any immediate nuisance; and there is no pretence of any such nuisance as would justify interference on the part of the Commonwealth.
I am not going into the argument upon the question of health, gentlemen, because that has been thoroughly considered by others, who speak on the subject with authority.
There has been an argument, and evidence has been put in, as to the importance of developing the commerce of Watertown and the upper part of the river. The learned counsel who argued in favor of this scheme said, if I understood him rightly, that Charles River was one hundred miles long from its mouth to its source. That is the distance by water. You know, Mr. Chairman, how far it is by land, about fifteen or twenty miles, I believe; and that proportion expresses very well the value of Charles River as a navigable stream. I am not here, however, to oppose the opening of the navigation of the Charles, if the committee think it desirable. But that any such exigency exists for deepening Charles River up to Watertown as would warrant you in destroying these rights of ours, merely to give them a dumping-ground for their dredgings, is a proposition that does not need to be met by argument. It needs only to be stated.
One other suggestion has been thrown out here; that the purpose of this committee was to lay out a plan for future guidance, to prevent the flats being seized by private speculators, and to establish lines which should regulate the future arrangement of the riparian territory, and should prevent any further stealings by interested parties. Well, there are occasions when
undoubtedly such action on the part of the State is necessary. But so far as this particular locality is concerned, all the action of that kind that was needed seems to have been taken when the harbor lines were established in 1840. These were limits. They limit the right of private parties to build out. There can be no more thieving, since these lines are established. And I believe along here on the Cambridge side, it turns out that the harbor lines are within the limits of riparian right; so that the harbor lines are now merely restrictions of private ownership, instead of invitations to encroachments. So that here there does not seem to be any necessity for drawing new lines, for the rescue to the flats from private speculation, or from being taken for improper purposes.
But, gentlemen, if you can do anything to stop the stealing of flats in the Commonwealth, do it by all means. If you see any way in which you can lay down lines, or establish regulations that will prevent the absorption of any more of the harbor areas, or the water areas held by the Commonwealth for the public use, why do it. You are the guardians of the harbors, and to a certain extent and for certain purposes you are the owner of the soil under the sea. Protect the public rights from plunderers, by all means. But don't go into the matter with a view of speculating in land on behalf of the Commonwealth, and so making the Commonwealth the chief plunderer; protect the public domain from the encroachments of individual waterthieves, but don't let us have to fear that the Commonwealth, itself is the most rapacious and the most dangerous, because the most powerful of the water-thieves. Don't let us have to fear that the government of the State, the guardian of all our rights, like a sheep dog that has tasted blood, is a greater danger than the whole pack of wolves.
At the conclusion of Mr. Putnam's argument, the chairman declared the hearing closed.