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streets and houses of the smallest possible dimensions, covering the least area of ground, they diminish the amount of their own and their families' vitality. A larger proportion of the children born and raised there die, and a smaller proportion grow to manhood and womanhood. The men and women have less power to labor, to produce and make money, to enjoy life, to think, and to resist disease. The narrow street and the narrow house diminish the force of life, and shorten its duration.
I always think of this when I pass those streets which are built south of the Providence Railway Station, in Boston. I feel it when I go through some which are on the South Cove lands. I hope that now, when you are laying out the new extension west of the Common, you and your city and State governments will avoid these errors, and provide as largely as can be done in a city for the health, the vital energy, power of production and longevity of those who may dwell thereon hereafter.
This, of course, is to be modified by many existing circumstances, as difference of drainage, cleanliness, habits of people, etc.
Beside the English Reports on this subject, which I have mentioned, there are many others published by order of Parliament, on these topies, all of which should be in the State library and in the library of every city, so that our people may profit by the experience and the suffering of other nations, and especially of Great Britain, whose government is now giving so much of its time, authority and money to these sanitary investigations, and to find the means of preventing sickness and debility, the needless waste of strength, of productive and industrial force, and of life among its people.
Beside these, I commend to your consideration a valuable essay, by Noah Webster, On the Proper and Healthy Construction of a City, which is appended to the second volume of his History of Epidemics. If you care to look at it, and do not find it elsewhere, I shall be pleased to lend it to you.
I believe I have herein answered all your questions. If not, and you will again inform me, I will make another attempt.
Trusting that you will persuade the powers that be, and direct
them to lay out those lands in such a manner as will best insure the health and power of their future occupants, and of the rest of dear sir, very truly, your obedient servant,
the city. I am,
GEO. H. SNELLING, Esq.:
DORCHESTER, Mass., 2d April, 1859.
Allow me to quote one or two more facts illustrative of the principles laid down in my former letter.
In two parishes in York, England, the "old buildings were taken down, the streets widened, and the population diminished.” The mean age at death, which was 26.2 years in the five years ending 1821, before the change, increased to 36.6 years, the five years ending 1851, after the change, and the infant mortality diminished from 45.9 per cent in the former period to 30.4 per cent in the latter. See Review, p. 436. See also Health of Towns'
In the rural districts of Ireland, the expectation of life at birth is thirty years; while in the cities it is only twenty-four years.
The rate of mortality and the average age are not stated in the report in the densest districts of London and Liverpool, which last facts I quoted in my letter.
It is not necessary to print the mathematical ratio of the mortality in different densities. Yet you wish to present the facts that show, and the principles that prove, that decrease of life goes in a positive ratio, hand in hand, with the increase of density of population
Yours, very truly,
GEORGE H. SNELLING, Esq.:
QUINCY, July 29, 1859.
Dear Sir,— According to your request, I have signed the memorial to the legislature, soliciting a modification of the plan of building on the Back Bay lands. In doing it, I have deviated from a rule of conduct I had prescribed to myself. At my period of life, to take a lead in suggesting or advocating local city improvements I deem an assumption which I avoid. I have yielded to the obviousness of the vital importance to the future health and comfort of the inhabitants of the city, which your memorial so fully and ably illustrates and explains.
The prospects of Boston for future extent and population are magnificent. Massachusetts, although she has already, by voluntary self-sacrifice, deprived herself of by far the largest portion of her ancient territory, is yet, by her intellect and moral power, destined to be the leading influence in these Northern States. For this distinction she is largely, if not chiefly, indebted to the skill, wealth, and enterprise of the inhabitants of this city. I trust, therefore, and cannot doubt, that the legislature will realize that the permanent interests and prosperity of every part of the State are identified with patronizing improvements such as you suggest, apparently so essential to the future health and accommodation of the inhabitants of her capital.
With great respect, I am yours,
G. H. SNELLING, Esq.:
BOSTON, February 9, 1860.
Dear Sir,- In reply to your note of yesterday, requesting my views upon the Back Bay question, I would say, that if any word of mine can be of service to you in your praiseworthy efforts to preserve from mutilation the original and natural features of that which gives to Boston her greatest charm, and constitutes her most valuable public property, the Common, I shall consider it not only a pleasure and a privilege, but a duty to give it. So
far as I have had opportunity for observing, there is in no city of the United States a park that can compare, in some most desirable features, with the Common of Boston. Other parks are usually surrounded on all sides by a dense population, and all the air that circulates in them must have passed over, and been contaminated more or less by, the exhalations of numerous human bodies, and accumulations of artificial filth. The Common of Boston is, on the contrary, like a great opening into the country. It is a section of the country coming up into the very heart of the city, - not an isolated section, but connected and communicating with the great expanse and body of nature (as a branch is connected with its parent tree), from which life and freshness constantly circulate through it. In it the citizen may inspire the fresh breeze, and commune with the spirit of rural nature. And, either by wise foresight and design, or else by a happy accident, the Common opens exactly on the right side of the city, the southwest, from which point the winds usually come during the hottest and most unhealthy season of the year, when such free circulation of air is most needed. It is a great ventiduct, conveying pure air into the city as your aqueduct brings water. In short, it is a great windpipe, through which the city breathes; and the opening out into Back Bay is, as it were, the mouth of the city; and to obstruct it by buildings at the outlet would be a kind of public strangulation, and should never be permitted.
No part of the outlet of the Common should ever have been permitted to be built on; but now all should be saved which it is possible to save, at least as much as your beautiful plan contemplates. And it is certainly to be hoped that the enlightened body of men who constitute the legislature of Massachusetts will not suffer the free ingress of pure air to the Common, and the wide view of nature, of water and of the distant beautiful hills, and of the evening sun sinking behind them, which has hitherto been enjoyed from it, to be obstructed and shut out by the Bay being filled up and built upon.
This is not a mere question of pleasure, or even of profit. It is a question of justice. It may do for the rich, and for the sons and daughters of the rich, who, when health, comfort, and pleasure
shall bid, can escape from the city and visit the distant mountains, or sojourn by the sea, or go when they will and return when they will. But for those who depend upon daily labor for support, and who constitute the great majority of the population, there is no such escape. Necessity holds them prisoners in the city and in their confined habitations through the long, hot, and unhealthy summer, as well as all other seasons. It is these that most need the protection of law. Suffer not to be shut out from them the freest inflowings of the life-giving, health-preserving breath of heaven.
It is only by communion with nature that the heart of man can be properly educated. By looking upon the great works of God in nature, the soul is incited to lofty aspirations, is raised to greatness. But if the work is suffered to be consummated, how many thousands and hundreds of thousands of children in all coming generations, who, through narrow circumstances are confined to the city, will pass their existence shut out from these ennobling influences of nature! How many children shall be born and die, to whom the glories of a setting sun shall have been a forbidden sight? Surely, it is not for a Christian community and an enlightened legislature, to suffer considerations of gain thus to imprison the souls or to obstruct the free breath, or in any manner or degree to diminish the health and happiness of the millions who, in the probabilities of nature, are hereafter to pass their lives in this city. Very respectfully,
E. Y. ROBBINS.
Mr. G. H. SNELLING:
BOSTON, March 1, 1860.
My Dear Sir, I understand that your Back Bay memorial is to have a hearing before the committee to-morrow. I do not know what the prospect is. I do not know what questions there are about titles, claims, and public interests, or how they are complicated with engagements or bargains already made. But one thing. I do know, which is, that when that wall of houses is built along Arlington street, it will cut off the loveliest view of land and