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Full text of "Address of the mayor to the City Council of Boston, January 7, 1839"

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City Document. — No. 2. 



ADDRESS OF THE MAYOR, 



CITY COUNCIL OF BOSTON, 



JANUARY 7, 1839. 




PRINTED BY ORDER OF THE COMMON COUNCIL, 



BOSTON: 

JOHN H. EASTBURN, CITY PRINTER, 

No 18 Stale Street. 



1839. 



CITY OF BOSTON, 



In Common Council, January 7(h, 1839. 

On motion of Mr. Gordon, 

Ordered, That Messrs. Gordon, Thayer and Wells, be a Committee to 
request of the Mayor a copy of the Address delivered by him before the City 
Council, this day, and that said Committee cause the asual number of the 
same to be printed for the use of the Council, 

Mtest, 

Richard G, Wait, Clerk C. C. 



ADDRESS. 



Unexpectedly called again to meet the City Council, 
nt the beginning of a new term of service, I cannot forbear 
to congratulate you, Gentlemen, on the general prosperity 
which prevails at the present time in the City, and which 
has been gradually augmenting, till, from a low point of de- 
pression, we have reached that state of active and success- 
ful exertion, of which the effects are now so happily visible 
around us. The crisis through which we have passed has 
been a lesson of prudence, which may and should be of 
great value to the community, both politically and commer- 
cially, as the disasters we have experienced were clearly 
attributable to mismanagement of both public and private 
interests. The sphere of duty of the City Government, 
however, cannot affect the causes either of our past distress 
or our present prosperity ; and I refer to them merely as 
likely to have an important bearing on those projects of 
public improvement, which have been long in contempla- 
tion, as well as those which have been more recently sug- 
gested. No time would seem more suitable than a period 
of advancing activity, and apparently durable prosperity, for 
undertaking those works of utility, convenience or orna- 
ment, which may be considered desirable. The first of 
these works, as well in importance as in the length of time 
it has been under examination and discussion, is that by 



4 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. Jan. 

which a supply of soft water may be brought from the 
vicinity into the City. 

On this topic I can add nothing to what I have said on 
former occasions. I have uniformly expressed the opinion, 
that it is now the interest of the City, and will soon become 
a matter of necessity, to introduce such a supply of water. 
The sources from which a sufficient quantity can be obtained 
are well known, and have been thoroughly examined by 
skilful engineers ; and although the commissioners appoint- 
ed by the City Government have not agreed in opinion as 
to which of two sources is the best, yet they have satisfacto- 
rily demonstrated that either of the two is not merely suffi- 
cient, but of remarkably fine quality. The question before 
the City Council is one which any person of practical judg- 
ment is competent to decide, — a question of expense mere- 
ly. If it once be determined that it is expedient to intro- 
duce water, it cannot be deemed a proof of wisdom to hesi- 
tate long in the choice between two means of supply, of 
which either is unexceptionable. My effiirts have been 
constant to promote the progress of an enterprize, which I 
deem so important for the true and permanent welfare of 
the City ; and no future exertions will be spared on my 
part, to hasten the moment when the work shall be begun. 
It must be obvious, however, that till both branches of the 
City Council have formed a decisive opinion favorable to 
the project, no individual efforts can be successful. The 
appropriation of money is necessary, and that must be done 
by those who control that branch of the public service. 
The City Council of the last year directed me to make ap- 
plication to the Legislature, for the grant to the City of the 
powers necessary to bring the water from either of the two 
sources recommended by the commissioners. As the order 
was passed, however, near the close of the session of the 
Legislature, no action was had on the petition, which was 
immediately presented ; and I have taken the course pre- 
scribed in the Revised Statutes, for bringing it to the early 



1839. CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 2. 5 

attention of the Legislature, during their present session, 
by pubUshing the petition in the newspapers, and serving 
notice on all the towns interested in the subject. 

The erection of a new City Hall is a business which has 
been referred to your consideration by the Council of last 
year, and which will claim much of your attention. Plans, 
models and estimates have been prepared, and the City is in 
possession of a piece of land which affords a very desirable 
location for such a building. I cannot but urge the subject 
upon your attention at an early period, — as I esteem the 
erection of a City Hall a work of very pressing importance, 
— not for the accommodation of the city officers, but for 
that of the public, and for the safe keeping of important 
records and other documents. 

It is impossible that the public business should be done in 
the present confined apartments of the city offices, with as 
little delay and as much convenience, as if it were transacted 
in more spacious and suitable rooms ; while no one can re- 
collect the constant danger from fire to which the City Hall 
is now exposed, without the most serious anxiety for records 
of great historical and pecuniary interest. Some delay has 
arisen from doubts entertained as to the extent to which the 
City should purchase, in the immediate neighborhood of the 
land occupied by the old Court House ; but when it is con- 
sidered that any purchases by the City would always be at 
the disposal of the municipal government, if required for 
public purposes, and that some regard is due to the suitable 
appearance of a building of such size and degree of orna- 
ment, it will not be thought superfluous, I trust, for me to 
express the hope that in situation, as well as in beauty 
of structure, the new hall may be worthy of the taste and 
wealth of the City, and that it may be found compatible with 
a just economy to provide for its being surrounded by suffi- 
cient space to secure to it an abundance of air and light, and 
to afford proper views of the edifice to those who pass in its 
vicinity. Whenever a new City Hall shall be erected, it 



6 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. Jan. 

will be necessary to provide for the accommodation of the 
Probate Office, and the Registry of Deeds, which are now 
in the old Court House. By a recent purchase the City 
has obtained possession of the estate known as the Museum 
estate, and after throwing into the street all that is requisite 
for public use, there will be left a sufficient quantity of land 
for the erection of the fire proof building necessary for the 
safe keeping of the immensely important documents of those 
offices. 

Another building, the erection of which I have before re- 
commended, still appears to me important in many respects. 
The improvements which, within a few years, have been in- 
troduced into the structure and discipline of penitentiaries, 
it is found by recent experience can be beneficially employ- 
ed in County Jails. Hartford, in Connecticut, is now enjoy- 
ing the advantages arising from the improved and admirable 
discipline and economy of the jail in that City. There is no 
doubt that similar benefits might be obtained in this county, 
by reconstructing the jail on the plan which has elsewhere 
proved so useful. I beg leave to invite your attention 
to this subject, and in connexion with it, to the dis- 
position of the valuable estate on Leverett street, which is 
now used for no other purpose than the support of the jail. 
Should a portion of the property be sold, it might probably 
reimburse to the City the expense of a new building ; and 
should the whole be disposed of, and the jail and jailer's 
house be erected on the City land at South Boston, there is 
little doubt that the exchange would leave a balance in the 
city treasury, and diminish materially the future current ex- 
penses of the estabhshment. 

The House of Cor^-ection has been conducted the last 
year with the same skill and success which have heretofore 
distinguished the institution, and which, under the direc- 
tion of the present overseers and master, have rendered 
it a model of the discipline that is most desirable in such 
establishments. The completion of the West Wing of 



1839. CITY DOCUMENT— No. 2. . 7 

the building, for the imprisonment of females, and of a 
work-shop for their employment, has given additional fa- 
cilities for the maintenance of correctional discipline and 
productive industry. A large number of the male con- 
victs has been employed in the erection of the hospital 
for the Insane in the Houses of Industry and Correction, for 
which an appropriation was made the last year ; and it gives 
me much pleasure to be able to state that this very desirable 
and important edifice has made great progress towards com- 
pletion, on a plan, and in a style of workmanship, which 
leave nothing to desire in either respect. The probability 
now is that the building will be finished in tlie course of the 
next summer, and within the original estimates of its cost ; 
and it will be honorable alike to the liberality of the City 
government, and to the judgment of those to whom its con- 
struction was confided. I will take this opportunity to sug- 
gest to the Council the propriety of an early appointment of 
a superintendent of this hospital, that as soon as it shall be 
ready for occupation, a competent person may be secured 
for the care of the patients. I will also call your attention 
to the propriety of applying to the Legislature for an act 
empowering the courts of the county to send lunatics to 
this hospital, instead of that at Worcester, and the House 
of Correction. 

The other institutions at South Boston have pursued their 
usual course, and have produced, to a good degi'ee, the ef- 
fects for which they are designed, in alleviating the ills of 
poverty and restraining juvenile delinquency. The building 
erected by the City, a few years ago, for the accommodation 
of the children belonging to the House of Industry, and the 
Boylston Asylum, has become insufficient for the great 
numbers who have been crowded into it ; and one conse- 
quence, perhaps, of the inadequate space and air, has been 
the breaking out of that distressing disease, the opththalmia, 
which has been a very serious evil to the whole establish- 
ment, for several years past. By the vigorous and perse- 



8 • MAYOR'S ADDRESS. Jan. 

vering efforts of the Directors and the physician of the 
house, it has at length been partially subdued ; but the in- 
stitution will very probably be liable to its recurrence, unless 
more space and better ventilation be secured to it. I es- 
teem it my duty, therefore, to recommend the erection of 
another building, of at least equal size with that now used 
for the asylum. 

The general health of the City has been remarkable during 
the year. Notv^thstanding the great heat and copious rains 
of the summer and autumn, the health of the community has 
never been interrupted by infectious disease, and the bill of 
mortality shows an uncommon security of life in so large a 
population. This must be in part attributed to the excel- 
lent system of drainage, of sweeping and of collecting offal, 
which has long been pursued here, and has rendered the 
City distinguished for its cleanliness, and the purity and 
wholesomeness of its atmosphere ; a system which ought 
never to be abandoned, notwithstanding that it naturally 
occasions some controversies and embarrassment in its ex- 
ecution. 

The public peace has also been uninterrupted during the 
past year, and it is a matter of sincere congratulation that 
the reputation of the City has suffered no such blow as was 
inflicted on it in the previous year. Great pains have 
been taken, and, it is believed, not without a good effect, to 
prevent the violation of the laws and ordinances, especially 
of those the violation of which has a tendency to the breach 
of the peace. 

Another circumstance, for which the last year has been 
remarkable, is the exemption of the City from the destruc- 
tion of property by fire ; the amount of loss since the first 
of January last being ^48,618 00, of which ^25,000 were 
lost at a single fire, about three weeks since. While we 
are grateful for this mercy of an over-ruling Providence, we 
must not be unmindful of the efficient services of those of 
our fellow-citizens whose particular task it is to contend 



1839. CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 2. 9 

with this fearful enemy, and who have uniformly shown 
themselves prompt and able to check its ravages. It is the 
opinion of many whose experience gives weight to their 
judgment, that considering the increased number of reser- 
voirs, the character, the alacrity and the discipline of the 
Fire Department, and the care exercised to keep the appa- 
ratus in good condition, the City was never better guarded 
against danger from fire than at the present time ; so that 
the somewhat greater expenditure required by the existing 
system of the department may, perhaps, be compensated by 
additional security. It gives me great pleasure to bear tes- 
timony to the uniformly correct deportment of those vifho 
have charge of this important branch of the public service. 
Another interest of the City, of greater moment than any 
I have mentioned, is that of public instruction. , The school 
sy^stem -of Boston has done more than any thing else to pro- 
duce the character by which the City has long been distin- 
guished ; and as the population increases, it becomes of 
more and more importance that the system should be adher- 
ed to and improved. During the past year one new gram- 
mar school house has been erected at East Boston, and one 
in Bennet street has been rebuilt, of a larger size and better 
construction. Three others, — situated in Hawkins street, 
Mason street, and South Boston, — -have been greatly im- 
proved in their internal arrangement; and a committee of 
the City Council have recommended that a sufficient sum be 
provided in the next annual appropriation bill, for the erec- 
tion of another on the land belonging to the City, on Cooper 
street. Should this be done, the City will have fourteen 
grammar schools, capable of accommodating from six to sev- 
en thousand children, from seven to fifteen years of age. 
This may reasonably be expected to suffice for the present; 
and if suitable attention be paid to the wholesomeness of the 
rooms, and the school committee continue to exercise the 
vigilant care, and ever wakeful am.bition for the improve- 
ment of the modes of instruction, which have of late years 
distinguished them, there will be little to be feared, unless it 

2 



10 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. Jan. 

be an excess of intellectual excitement in the tender minds 
of the pupils. Besides the grammar schools, there are no 
less than eighty-five primary schools, for children from four 
to seven years of age, the rapid increase of vs^hich demon- 
strates at once the utility of the system, and the just appre- 
ciation of its advantages by the inhabitants'. More than five 
thousand children are taught in these schools. Forty-two of 
the rooms in v^hich they are instructed belong to the City, 
and it is of much importance that they should all be the pro- 
perty of the public, as they can then be constructed in a far 
better manner for the purpose than rooms in private houses. 
The annual appropriation for the erection of primary school 
houses has for several years past been ^ 12,500, and the gain 
of school rooms over the increase in the number of schools 
is so slow^, that it may be deemed advisable to enlarge that 
appropriation till the supply of public rooms shall be more 
nearly adequate to the existing wants of the community. 

Another appropriation which, in my judgment, it would 
be wise to increase, is that for the reduction of the City debt. 
Every year there appears in the annual accounts a provision 
for diminishing a debt, which, notwithstanding that provis- 
ion, continues to increase. If it be proper that any such 
appropriation should be made, it is surely expedient that it 
should be effectual, and that in the course of years, there 
should actually be some reduction in the amount of debt. 
Otherwise it carries with it an appearance which certainly 
could never have been designed, of an attempt to disguise 
the facts in the case. 

It is sometimes thought that the debt is increased by the 
extravagance of those who have the care of the public mon- 
ey ; but so far as I am competent to judge of this point, I 
feel it no more than just to say that the charge seems to 
me without foundation. It is difficult to imagine that great- 
er economy, or a stricter accountability could be introduced 
into the management of the public property ; and if any one 
will examine the accounts he will immediately perceive that 



1839. CITY DOCUMENT.— No. 2. 11 

the important items are for expenditures which must, to 
some extent, be continued, viz : for school houses and teach- 
ers ; for widening, paving, lighting, and cleaning the streets ; 
for the watch and the fire department : — in short, for things 
which are indispensable in all well regulated towns, and the 
cost of which must be expected to increase with the growth 
of the City. It is rare that any expensive enterprise is un- 
dertaken which has not been long and loudly called for ; 
and in all improvements in which we share the advantage 
with posterity, it seems reasonable that a certain proportion 
of the cost should find its way to the tax bills of the present 
generation, rather than that the whole should be put on the 
shoulders of our successors. If the consequence of such 
suggestions should be an increase of the whole tax of the 
City, I am pursuaded that it would even then be found not 
to exceed that of other places of the same size, nor even of 
many towns in this vicinity. It is, however, scarcely proba- 
ble that any increase would be necessary. If the deficien- 
cies in valuation were corrected, it would probably swell 
the amount of tax without adding to the ratio. But it 
would be a very unnecessary timidity which would be re- 
strained by the weight of the City debt, from prosecuting 
any improvement of which the benefit is unquestioned, from 
the fear of adding to our burdens. There is a large amount 
of property which has been created by the loan, the rents of 
which more than meet the interest ; and there is much of 
which we are in the daily use, for which, if we did not own 
it, we should be obliged to pay rent. All this ought to be 
offset against the debt ; but taking merely the rents derived 
from that portion of the City property for which a debt has 
been incurred, they pay somewhat more than half the inter- 
est of the whole debt. This is a virtual extinction of that 
amount ; and a debt of half its present nominal size is one 
of which the City need stand in no fear. Its disposable 
property will, if properly managed, be far more than suffi- 
cient to liquidate the whole. 



12 MAYOR'S ADDRESS. Jan. 

I have thus, at some risk of incurring the charge of tedi- 
ousness, expressed, as distinctly as I am able, my views on 
the topics of greatest interest to the City ; and I have only 
to assure you of my cordial co-operation in all you may un- 
dertake for the pubhc good, whether it be in economy or in 
enterprize. I should be ungi-ateful if I did not acknowl- 
edge the indulgence shown to my past efforts by my fellow 
citizens ; and the only return I can make to them, — increas- 
ed exertion to deserve their favor — shall not be wanting — 
and may God be with us as he was with our fathers. 



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