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Full text of "A plea for pure water : being a letter to Henry Williams, Esq."

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A PLEA FOR PURE WATER : 



BEING A LETTER TO HENRY WILLIAMS, ESQ, 



WALTER CHANNING: 



WITH AN 

ADDEESS "TO THE CITIZENS OP BOSTON," 



BY ME. H. WILLIAMS. 



A PLEA FOR PURE WATER : 



BEING A LETTER TO HENRY WILLIAMS, ESQ, 



WALTER CHANNING: 



WITH AN 



ADDRESS " TO THE CITIZENS OF BOSTON," 



BY ME. H. WILLIAMS. 



B O ST O H5 

8. V. DICKINSON, PRINTXE. 

WASHINGTON ST. 



TO HENRY WILLIAMS, ESQ. 



Dear Sir : — The interest you have so long and so faithfully- 
taken in the question of supplying Boston with pure and soft 
water, has led me to address to you this letter on the subject. 
Perhaps at no time in the history of this long vexed question, 
has the public want of water been so deeply and widely felt, or 
so strongly expressed. It has reached all classes, and is daily 
becoming more pressing and more emphatic. I write you, to 
offer such views as I have on the reasonableness of the demand, 
and on the ease with which it may be satisfied. I shall en- . 
deavor to show: — 

That the water in constant use in this city from natural 
springs is not pure, and so is not suitable for the uses to which 
it is put: 

That it is deficient in quantity : 

That the quantity is constantly lessening, while the quality is 
growing worse : 

That the city is able to supply itself with the best water, and 
that such water is within our easy reach : 

I shall notice some of the objections which have been brought 
against the plan now under discussion, — speak of the advantages 
of the aqueduct proposed; and, finally, allude to the sources of 
supply which have been commended to the notice of the city 
government. 

I shall be obliged to consider the subject in detail^ for it is my 
purpose to state facts. I would avoid exaggeration, for it is my 
desire to make true issues. I would state the evil under which 
we labor as strongly as the case authorizes, for its remedy is 
certainly at hand. Without farther preface, I proceed to my task. 

My first proposition is, That the water used in this city from 
7iatural springs is not pure, and hence is unfit for use. 

The proof of this proposition is on every side. Here we are 
on the "verge of the salt flood," our whole shore bathed in the 
ocean. The soil is sand or gravel, allowing free course to fluids 
every where ; and, to aid the introduction of salt water, portions 



of the common sewers receive it at every tide. The pressure of 
the tide is so great that in thickly populous parts of the city, and 
in which the population is rapidly increasing, houses are every 
day built upon piles, the pressure of the tide making it too 
expensive to lay other foundations ; or, where others are used, 
the piles become absolutely necessary to support the boxing for 
excluding the sea. Now look at this state of things. The 
springs, in such neighborhood especially, (and, in its measure, it 
is so every where,) are so impregnated with salt, and other impu- 
rities which tide-water brings with it, that, in these places, it is 
unfit for use, and is not used. But salts exist in the best water 
in such a soil, surrounded as it is by the sea. The product is 
hard ivater, — brackish water ^ — salt water. It will not combine 
with soap, but decomposes it, and so is only made more impure 
by the soap mixed with it. It cannot be used for washing either 
the skins or the clothes of the people. You cannot be made 
clean by such water, in any use you may make of it. It cheats 
you every day into the idea of being cleaned because you are 
"washed," when the truth is, but for the ceremony of half wet- 
ting yourself, you are hardly a whit cleaner after the process than 
when you began. 

Then, for cooking, how wholly unfit is our spring water for 
this important business of every-day life. The least amount of 
chemical knowledge — and every body studies science now-a-days 
— will serve to show how unsuitable is such water for such uses. 
It hardens the meat you attempt to boil in it. It alters the charac- 
ter of vegetables, often making them unpalatable, hard, and heavy, 
and so of difficult digestion, and unfavorable to health. ArticL^s of 
food which depend on flavor for much of their recommendation, 
have this quality diminished, and, in some instances, they do not 
seem to be the same articles when prepared in hard or soft water. 
Now people may ask, " Why this exaggeration of what is of 
such little importance ? Are we the most unhealthy people on 
earth, or, rather, are we not the most healthful? The water is 
hard, is salt, is disagreeable ; but we have, among us, drank it 
a good while, and we are alive to say so. Why all this talk 
about nothing?" I reply, that that is not " nothing," but some- 
thing quite worth talking about and correcting too, which is of 
every day every hour annoyance, and which time makes worse 
instead of better. The long endurance of what is disagreeable, 
or which answers its purpose very imperfectly, is never to be 
made for a moment an argument for its continuance, if, by 
proper means, it can be removed, and replaced by that which 
will answer the whole purpose. It is not a reason that the 
people of a large and very wealthy city should submit to a con- 
stantly recurring annoyance, — one, too, which involves health 
and other grave interests, because they have long patiently 



endured such things. And they will not, if, in the apprehension 
of the whole evil, and in the possession of means to remove it, 
they determine that it shall be removed. 

Secondly. Water is not only made impure by the admixture 
of salts, but our mode of drainage must add to its impurity. 
Drainage is by sewers beneath the surface, or by gutters in the 
streets, or on the surface. The method adopted is important in 
its connection with the springs of a place. There are cities in 
which waste and foul water is made to flow on the surface in 
order to secure the greatest purity to the water. You see how 
readily this mode answers the purpose, if there be such a supply 
of water as to wash the, gutters daily. The common mode of 
drainage is by sewers, — gutters beneath the surface. This 
city has adopted this mode. How are springs injured by sew- 
ers ? Sewers are so made, that their liquid contents pass readily 
from them into the surrounding loose soil. How loose this is, 
may be seen any day where a sewer is laying', — caving in only 
being prevented by boarding the sides. Now what are the con- 
tents of these sewers ? This may be learned any day by stand- 
ing in the neighborhood of an open sess-pool, especially when 
the workmen are emptying one. But what do they contain, and 
give very slow passage to ? The whole filth of the city. All 
the liquid refuse about our houses, and, within a few years, the 
liquid contents of vaults, and the whole of water-closets, run 
freely into the sewers. Now is it possible, but that such an 
amount of foul, most offensive liquid, running freely into the 
soil, and such a soil as I have described, must find its way to 
springs and make them impm-e ? Why, the sea water of the 
harbor, which receives all that flows to it by the sewers, and 
which reaches the springs, is itself rendered foul by the same 
cause. Just at low tide, with an east wind raging, walk on the 
edge of the city, and you will learn how foul the water there 
must be. Do you not recollect that some years ago a very valu- 
able mineral spring somewhat suddenly burst up into a well, in 
Hawkins street, if the place is as well remembered as is the fact. 
Thousands visited that celebrated spring. Many, many were 
cured of very grievous maladies. The fame of the water spread 
far and wide. But, alas! for the spring, and for its owner, it was 
discovered that the mineral impregnation was derived from a 
source of such questionable character (if question it could be) that 
some serious mistake must have been made concerning its medi- 
cinal qualities ; and in a day, nay, in a moment from the dis- 
covery, its virtues faded away. Has not this portion of city 
history a wider application ? 

Look, for one moment, at the extent of surface of the yard room 
of our modern houses, and of so many of an earlier date, and 
learn how impossible it must be to preserve springs pure. The 



house, the cistern, the well, and the privy, are in the closest 
proximity. There they stand huddled together, and see how 
near are the conveyances of their various filth, their excretory 
ducts, as the anatomist might call them. They all run so near, 
and enter so shortly into each other, that they soon form a com- 
mon trunk, rolling on the slow, foul curi^ent to the common sewer 
in the street. Could there have been a better contrivance for 
making springs impure ? > 

My second proposition is. That the present supply of water is 
luholly and totally insufficient for the demand, and that great 
inconvenience and danger are the direct results. 

"What need, Sir, have I to argue this proposition for a single 
moment? Who does not know and feel its truth in the experi- 
ence of every day ? But we all know that the mere abstract 
knowledge, or, what is the same in such cases, the admission of 
an evil, has in it no promise of its abatement. " We all know that 
such a thing is wrong. It has been so for centuries. Why dis- 
turb us with its remedy ? Let us alone. Let us rest. We are 
for the ' oldness of the letter,' — trouble us not with the ' newness 
of the spirit.' " So men have always said. When, in America, 
men woke to the extent and ruin of the intemperance of this 
whole land, — when Samuel Dexter and Nathan Dane had that 
meeting, in February, 1813, in the hall over the Boston Bank, 
in the good old Town, — when these men met to consider if any 
thing, and what, might be done to put a check only — they 
designed nothing more — to this national vice, and deep disgrace, 
men wondered what was coming. When the evils of intem- 
perance, its deep guilt and utter wretchedness, were talked about 
and written about, and lectured about every where, the current 
argument was, " We know all this. Who doubts that intemper- 
ance is a very bad thing ? Why disturb the public peace about 
what is every man's own private business, and of the conse- 
quences of which every body is full of practical knowledge ? 
Our almshouses, and jails, and workhouses are full of drunkards, 
and their families living preachers to the people. Why send out 
these hired sober people, to tell them what they know already so 
well?" But the men were sent out. They told of the evils of 
intemperance. At last, the drunkard himself, having been healed 
as by a miracle of his awful disease, — the voluntary dethrone- 
ment of the reason, — the drunkard became the apostle of tem- 
perance, and by the story of his own experience has converted 
millions. There was knowledge before, but it was a " dead let- 
ter." It moved to no true effort. It left the evil just where it had 
been for ages. So with the Peace movement, which also began 
in America. Every body said, " Who doubts the miseries of 



war?" But the story of those miseries, told in thousands of 
ways, has roused nations to the study and apprehension of 
those evils, and to settled purposes of bringing them to an end. 
So of the Anti-Slavery movement, — of the Prison Discipline 
organization, — in short, of every effort made by the individual 
or by the masses, it has been proved by all these, that the mere 
admission, the mere knowledge of an evil is no assurance that 
it will be removed. Men must work if they would eat. They 
must work, and talk, and write, too, if they would drink Pure 
Water. 

The want of water of every kind, except Salt water, is univer- 
sally felt, and universally declared. What there is of exception 
to this will be stated in its place. Wells and cisterns have rarely, 
if ever, been so frequently empty as now. Every day increases 
the inconvenience. The drought is not confined to our neighbor- 
hood. We have accounts of it from near and remote regions. 
The winter is coming, and nothing but uncertainty about supply 
exists. It is a remarkable fact, that wells, which have never before 
failed in this city, but which have supplied many families, are 
now so low that their owners are obliged to refuse water to 
others. Said a friend, " I unlock my gate at seven in the morn- 
ing, and leave it open for an hour or two, that many poor fami- 
lies and others may get a partial supply for the day. There is 
no other supply for them. My gate is then locked. Were not 
this done, and were I not apparently cruel, or unkind,'! should 
have no water for myself or for others." I believe there are but 
two wells, which can be relied, on, in the whole and crowded 
district of Broad street. The Well-street well is locked up most 
of the time, and crowds may be seen there waiting for the water. 
Water for daily family use is sold in this city, — so many tickets 
for a dollar being given out, — notice to this effect being on the 
pump. A person had lately a cistern in a store cellar, for which 
he had no use, and was about to have it filled up, in some change 
he was making in his property. He gave notice that the water 
in the cistern was at any one's service who would come for it. 
His premises were crowded with poor people, and it was not 
without emotion, you saw women and little children going for 
the water with buckets, and pails, and boxes, and barrels, and 
the smallest vessels, too, to get a little water, which they so much 
needed, for which they had paid, it may have been, but a little 
qf which they now might, in the general rush and scramble, get 
without paying for it. Said Dr. Ware to me, a day or two since, 
when talking of the present effort to furnish pure water to the 
city, and which, as a physician, he felt was so much needed, — 
said he, " I have rarely been more moved than I have been in 
Ann street, during a rain, in seeing the children, with all sorts of 
vessels in their hands, catching the falling drops, themselves liter- 



ally soaked through in the labor." Go where you will, ask whom 
you will, the answer is every where the same. The want of 
water is felt every where, — never so seriously as at this moment 
in which I am writing. Said a medical friend to me, " the poor, 
in Boston, suffer as much for water, in summer, as they do for 
fuel, in winter." I shall never forget what a poor woman once 
said to me, in this connection. She, with her husband and six 
children, lived in a wretched tenement, in one room, and to 
which was attached neither well nor cistern. There was, then, 
no possibility of keeping such a place, or the clothes of the 
inmates, in a state at all approaching being clean. One day I 
found the floor had been washed, and I could not but ask how 

she had contrived to do it. " Mrs, , across the way yonder, 

gives me her dirty water washing days!" And who do you 
suppose was the father of a family so utterly destitute as was 
this of the smallest comforts, nay, absolute necessaries, of life ? 
He had been a drunkard for many years. He told me he had 
drank more rum than any man in Boston. Four years ago he 
signed the pledge ; and he said, the other day, as he sat in my 
parlor, " I have never broken my pledge. I signed it in secret. 
You know how I have been obliged to live, but I have kept the 
pledge, and I will keep it forever." Is not such a man worthy 
all honor? Who of us have fought such a fight, or so kept the 
faith ? and yet a more loathsome house, a more suffering family, 
I have never visited. But such firmness of purpose, or a mind 
which could make and keep it, will enable the possessor to rise 
somewhat. It has done so for this poor man. But what a bless- 
ing would water be to such a family. The wife ekes out the 
small income by washing, when water can be bought or begged, 
and so helps pay the rent. 

I have spoken of failure of wells and of cisterns. We have one 
other means of supply, — Jamaica Pond. The Boston Aqueduct 
was laid, I believe, between forty and fifty years ago. The city had 
then about one third its present population. The aqueduct was 
taken by comparatively a few families, and, doubtless, answered 
its purpose tolerably well. But, even in its early history, so - 
imperfectly was it laid, — so unsuited were the junctures of the 
logs to resist the pressure of the water, that they were constantly 
bursting, so that I recollect very well the remark, that quite as 
much water was wasted by these "burstings" as was used by 
families ; and they always deprived such families of the water 
until they were repaired. Cisterns gave a supply, at such times, 
and well water was abundant, and more pure than now. But 
the city has gi'eatly increased. It has, of late, mainly increased 
on new made land, for ages flooded by the sea. Wells, in such 
a district, would be sunk at great expense, and the water, if 
obtained, very impure. This, and the earlier but rapid increase 



9 

of the people, has led the Aqueduct Company to extend its 
operations greatly. To avoid ivastage, they have substituted 
ample iron mains to bring the water to the city, and they have 
carried their distributing pipes, or logs, almost every where. It was 
attempted to supply the city with water from that one source, — 
Jamaica Pond. The company, very few in number, knew, 
every man, how much demand existed, and how fast it increased. 
They sunk logs between twenty and thirty feet, in at least one 
place, below the surface, to allure the distant stream, not up hill, 
but along that lazy level ; and, for a few days, the water did drag 
its slow length along, and did furnish a small supply. But it 
soon gave out ; and not only so, the generous distribution of it to 
new regions, soon lessened the quantity in others, and, at last, 
the whole dependency fell into a common comparative desti- 
tution. The company had killed the Goose which laid the 
Golden Eggs. 

I was promised some facts, touching this matter, from a large 
establishment in my neighborhood, which would have showed 
how much time, money, and log were wasted in a pretty recent 
attempt to supply that, and neighboring establishments with 
water. I am sorry that a promise, very kindly given, should have 
been forgotten, for on such a subject facts are of the last impor- 
ta,nce. But in place of the statement, I see from my window 
almost daily, the hogshead, its contents costing $2 50, with its 
hose, emptying its " clayey" contents into the neighboring cistern. 
This may somewhat answer the purpose of another supply. 
But in want of the expected statement in wTiting, I have oral 
accounts, almost without number, of failures of the aqueduct. 
I have been told, and there can be no question of its truth, that, 
within a few years, and especially latterly, houses have been, and 
daily are built, which have no other supply of water than the 
aqueduct. They have neither wells nor cisterns, and are in 
places in which it would be very difficult to procure well water. 
The process is this : the owner has a log, from the aqueduct 
pipe, carried into the cellar or kitchen for a very small sum, and 
does no more. He sinks no well, makes no cistern, and so is 
saved much expense. His tenant either pays the aqueduct bill, 
or the owner does, and puts it into the rent. Now compare this 
with the earlier arrangements. Then was the well,— the never- 
failing well,— and the large cistern, and, lastly, the aqueduct. 
The cistern water was comparatively pure, instead of being, 
what it now is, a cold infusion of soft coal soot, and hard coal 
ashes, — as disagreeable a compound as one could wish to bathe 
his face and body in of a summer's or a winter's day. What 
can be more striking than this difference between the older and 
the present arrangements for domestic wants and comforts ! The 
aqueduct fails. It fails either entirely, or on certain days in each 
2 



10 

week. Said a housekeeper to me, the other day, " We have no 
water on Saturdai/, because houses are washed, and the water ig 
drawn off for that purpose. We have none on Monday^ hecause 
clothes are washed that day, and the water is drained for that." 
I absolutely asked for a glass of water, on one of those days, 
during a protracted professional visit, and in the details of which 
water might be useful for others, as well as myself, and was told 
the aqueduct " did not run." It was a hot day. What, asked I, 
will you do for water? The house was near the Lowell Depot. 
" O, we send to Leverett street!" was the answer. Said an- 
other, " We are in constant trouble about the water. We have 
to watch the aqueduct, sometimes most of the night, and catch 
the water as it runs. But for this we should often have none." 
Think of '•'■ fitting up" with an aqueduct log, down cellar! "I 
was about to enter upon business," says Mr. A., " in which I use 
a good deal of water. When I hired my place, Mr. B. asked if 
I would have the aqueduct or a well, former tenants having de- 
pended upon a suction in a neighbor's well. I preferred the 
aqueduct. The fixtures cost over a hundred dollars. The water 
ran for a time, but now for months I get none. I am promised 
the water every day, and folks hope it will run. But this is all 
I get. Why, Sir, Mr. C, up there, and Mr. D., across the way, 
I can name hundreds, are dreadfully in want of water. Mr. C. 
will give over a hundred dollars a year for it." I was attending 
a sick person. One day I saw a water bucket at the front door. 
I asked how they were off for water. " We have none, said the 
widow woman. Since my daughter has been sick, I have been 
obliged to give twenty-five cents a barrel for water. Yesterday 
I hired an Irish woman to get me two buckets of soft water. 
She had to go to the end of Granite Wharf, before she could 
get any." (The woman lives in Thacher street, not far from 
Charlestown Bridge.) "Was not that hard?" Some of the 
pamphlet writers, or the newspaper ones, may make a pun out 
of this last word in the question. But they would have seen 
little cause of such merriment in that woman, as she spoke of 
her want of a necessary of life, and in this wealthy city too. 

I need not multiply similar statements. I saw, a day or two 
since, what I never met with before, namely, barrels on the side- 
walk with " soft water for sale," in chalk marks, on the heads. 
Every thing around us tells the same story of the want of water. 
It becomes more emphatic every day. I trust it will be heard, 
and its lesson now obeyed. 

The danger referred to in this proposition is from fire. I give 
this subject a distinct place, because it deserves it, and not be- 
cause there can exist any doubt concerning it. The danger is 
to the person and to property. It must be increased to both, 
according to the material employed in building, and the want of 



11 

water. We have among us wooden buildings going up in all 
directions. Many of these are large and are in the neighborhood 
of very valuable property. We have no law which can prevent 
this. The danger must increase daily. Here are facts within 
the knowledge, or easy reach, of every body. And yet, whether 
we shall have an abundant supply of water, which will never 
fail us, is made a very serious question, and every species of 
argument used to prevent the city's obtaining such a supply. I 
do not mean here to argue the question of danger. It may be 
recurred to when considering the cost of an abundant supply, 
and the numerous expenses and losses which such outlay would 
certainly prevent. I do not mean here to speak of the premiums 
paid for insurance, or show how small they would be, or how 
universal insurance would become, if the risk of fire were greatly 
diminished, as it would be, by an abundant supply of water. I 
only refer here to the existing danger from fire, and how^ that is 
daily increasing. People may think they have some security in 
the " Fire Plugs," which are pointed out by finger-boards in so 
many streets. But the security, I assure them, is only in the 
finger-boards; for water, in most instances, can be none; or can, 
in no useful sense, be available in time of need. 

My third proposition is, That an abundant supjdy of pure and 
fresh water directly promotes health and longevity, and as surely 
tends to diminish, or prevent, pauperism. 

This proposition hardly needs labored argument. The con- 
nection between health and long life, — their dependence on 
habits of personal cleanliness, and the best pre))aration of food 
for digestion, and healthful nourishment, have been abundantl}^ 
proved. The proof comes to us from the earliest history, and 
lies broad cast over every succeeding period. The Levitical law 
every where enforces the obligation of cleanliness, and makes 
washing a religious rite, or a preparation for religious rites. 
Eastern nations adopted much of the practice of the Jews in this 
regard. At a later period physicians enforced the same. Hip- 
pocrates has left a treatise on " Waters." Mahomet made wash- 
ing one of his ritual observances. Christianity, by the water of 
baptism, admits man into its faith and its promises. 

Antiquity is full of the proof of our proposition. Ancient 
Rome lives and will live in the monuments of her care of indi- 
vidual, and public health. Her fourteen aqueducts, according to 
some, and twenty, according to others, brought pure water in 
exhaustless profusion, distributing it every where, supplying 
families and baths, from three thousand fountains, or outlets, for 
ornament, and for use. Well might that city be called the " City 
of Fountains." The Campagna is covered with the ruins of old 



12 

aqueducts, while two remain for .daily use now, which were 
built more than two thousand years ago, and are as firm, and as 
little injured by time, as if built yesterday. Rome carried with 
its conquests what contributed so much to the public benefit at 
home. Look at the Pont du Gard, in Nismes, France, the work 
of Agrippa; at the Claudian aqueduct, in Lyons; at the splen- 
did structure at Alcantara, in Spain, and learn how true was 
that world's Empire to its mighty mission. Then, for the pur- 
pose of removing at once from Rome all refuse matters which 
might render the air impure and hurt the public heahh, examine 
the Cloacffi of the Tarquins, built towards three thousand years 
ago. These sU'uctures are in the most perfect preservation. 
They are many feet high, receive all the lilth, and were kept 
constantly clean by receiving the overflowings of the Tiber, and 
the washings of the surrounding hills. When we see these 
monuments of a great state, and which have come to us through 
so many ages, do we not see some reason for the designation of 
that metropolis of the ancient world, and rightly call it, to this 
day, the "Eternal City"? 

Every later state and city which has had true regard for the 
public health, has followed the example of ancient Rome. Our 
own times are full of illustration and proof of this remark. I 
was struck with the truth of this, in what within a few years has 
been done in Marseilles, for irrigation only. An aqueduct is 
building, or finished there, which has already cost nearly half a 
million pound sterling. London is supplied by its eight water 
companies. Come nearer home, and look at the Fairmount 
Works in Philadelphia. The Schuylkill not only supplies the 
city with its water, but absolutely does all the work in its distri- 
bution. The other day I learned from a friend, a resident in 
Philadelphia, that for a very small sum, a few dollars a year, his 
whole establishment is supplied with pure and soft water. " My 
cistern," said he, " holds three hundred barrels. I have it filled 
in winter when the river is frozen over, and after its yet liquid 
portion has had time to deposit all impurities. The annual tem- 
perature of the earth in which the cistern is placed, is between 
50° and 60° of Farenheit, so that I have pure, and sufficiently cool 
vrater for constant use, and nearly a barrel of it a day. This 
water is principally used in cooking, and for drinking, as the 
aqueduct supplies water in profusion for all other purposes." 
Now this is true luxury. And what effect, pray, has this abund- 
ant supply of pure water, had on the public health, which our 
proposition asserts to be one of its results ? It is notorious that 
the health of Philadelphia has constantly increased since the 
means of personal and general cleanliness have been so in- 
creased. The yellow fever, has not, I believe, appeared in that 
city in a single instance since the Fairmount Works were 



13 

completed. How was that city formerly ravaged by the epidemic 
form of that disease ? And how common were single cases of 
it met with in the years just before those works were finished? 
Another friend, an inhabitant of Portsmouth, N. H., gave me, a 
few days since, an account of the aqueduct in that place. For 
four or five dollars a year he has an abundant supply for domes- 
tic purposes, and for constantly watering his garden, and was 
told he might have a fountain in his garden without additional 
charge, upon condition that, if the supply should ever diminish, 
he would agree to give up his fountain. 

The great work of the age is the Croton aqueduct, which sup- 
plies New York with water. Says an English writer, " The 
advantages of such an undertaking as this great public work are 
oot confined to the community which executes it. Its history 
furnishes a most profitable study to the philanthropist and the 
•engineer, the deviser and the instrument, of similar schemes of 
public benefit in other countries." This is the true, and the 
only view which should be taken of such noble works, the means 
of such wide good. It is grateful to record such distinguish- 
ed approbation, coming as this does from so able a source. 
Compare it with what has been the burden of remark on 
the Croton Works here, since the new attempt has been made 
by the city government, to supply this city with water. While 
the expense, the dollars and cents, have been talked about, and 
written about, till one is almost nauseated by the reiteration, not 
a word has been said of the real character of that splendid 
monument to the civilization, and to the philanthropy, of our 
sister city. It is a national ivork. It is a work which will carry 
into the time long to come, the enlarged intellect which planned, 
and the noble spirit which completed it. Who does not thank 
that munificent city that it has made such noble use of its hon- 
orable wealth ? and what community would shrink from the 
office of following so worthy an example ? 

In 1744, when the population was 20,000, the subject of better 
supplying that city with water had forced itself on the public at- 
tention. Many plans were discussed, but nothing done. Popu- 
lation increased. Yellow fever was a frequent visitant. In 1 832 
came the cholera, and in a short time swept off, I think, 10,000 
persons. This started men as from a long sleep. In 1633, a 
commission was appointed, and in 1835 reported finally in. favor 
of bringing in the Croton water. " This stream derives its wa- 
ters from some twenty natural reservoirs, presenting an aggre- 
gate surface of nearly 4000 acres. At a spot forty miles from 
New York, where the minimum flow equals 27,000,000 gallons 
in twenty-four hours, and the medium 50,000,000, it was found 
possible, by a dam raised thirty-eight feet above the natural level, 
io throw back the waters six miles, and form a fountain reservoir 



14 

of 400 acres." The water was admitted into the reservoirs con- 
structed in the city for their reception, on July 4th, 1842, very 
nearly a century from the time when the public attention was so 
strongly attracted to the subject. Willingly would I copy more 
of an excellent notice, which lies before me, of Mr. Tower's " Il- 
lustrations of the Croton Aqueduct," and which work has re- 
ceived such high commendation abroad ; but I must content 
myself with recommending it to all who feel interested in this 
most interesting subject. Cheerfully would I notice at length 
what is doing abroad, especially in England, in regard to public 
health. Dr. Southwood Smith, and Lord Ashley, are among 
those who are devoted to this great work, especially in its rela- 
tions with poverty. The new Registration Law, and the Reports 
which it has produced, are worthy the highest consideration in 
these regards. I cannot omit referring to the Reports of Mr. 
Barrister Chadwick, in this connection. They are most valuable 
contributions to the same noble undertaking, and reflect the high- 
est honor on their author. The proposition speaks of pauperism 
in its connection with the public health, and that it will be 
diminished or prevented by means which promote health, and 
that an abundant supply of pure water was among the chiefest 
of these means. Our subject, Sir, gets new interest from the 
truths contained in this proposition. No body who is acquaint- 
ed with the social habits of the poor in this city, who does not 
daily meet with proof of this, my third proposition. The poor 
here suffer for water. Said a friend, whose profession gives 
,hira ample opportunities for observation, "The poor suffer as 
much for water in summer, in Boston, as they do for fuel in 
winter." They live on the least possible amount of it. The 
dark lanes and alleys they live in are rarely cleaned. They are 
never washed. Their wretched, dark, ill-ventilated rooms are 
scarce ever washed. Their persons are foul. Their clothing 
dirty. Every thing about them is most wretched, most unfit to 
minister to self-respect, or to promote physical health, or moral 
progress. They become — are they not made — intemperate by 
such hard trial of virtue, such stern discipline, which is daily 
dealt out to them by those who alone possess the means of 
making happier and better that stern lot? I speak here from 
Imowledge. I have heard the complaint of the want of w^ater, 
as a means of preserving health, and of obtaining a living. 
No body knows, and no body can learn what deprivation means, 
who does not see the actual workings of a system which denies 
to the people the use of water. Men sit by their firesides, 
and talk of what is done in the Capitol. But they know noth- 
ing of the misery around them. There is a form, indeed, in 
which they are made to feel SQmewhat about it. It is when the 
tax-gatherer comes for their portion of what supports the State 



15 

Prison, — the House of Correction, — the City "Watch, — the 
Fire Department, — the House of Industry, and the City Jail, 
which their personal neglect of great interests directly produces. 
Crime comes of such pauperism, and of the intemperance with 
which it is so often associated. Disease directly comes of such 
destitution of a necessary of life, of being. I was very much 
struck with a remark of ray Philadelphia friend, above referred to. 
He is a man of fortune, and has what money can buy. Said he, 
" Before the Fairmount Works, and before this supply of pure 
water, I was in the daily habit of using intoxicating drinks, and 
scarce ever drank water without mixing them with it. Since 
the introduction of that water, I have almost abandoned the use 
of such drinks. Days and weeks pass without my using them 
at all. I do not want themP Here is most valuable testimony 
on the dependence of temperance on pure water, and that in 
abundance. My friend is no "fanatic," — he is no "reformer," 
a word of ill omen now-a-days, " unmusical to Volscian ears." 
He is a man of profound science, and of most benevolent dis- 
positions, and rejoices in the possession, and daily use of a great 
blessing. If the 19th of Sept. 1844, did no other, or more good, 
than to bring here this intelligent witness to the blessing of pure 
water to a city, — to the dependence of good health, and good 
morals upon it, and its agency in diminishing poverty and crime, 
— for one I would thank those who took in hand so much work, 
and labored so hard. 

Let me recur to the subject of quantity of water necessary for 
common domestic purposes. We hardly know how great this 
is, until circumstances make it necessary to limit the quantity 
used by the supply, or the quantity on hand. A friend, an offi- 
cer in the navy, a man of much observation, told me, that, until 
he had been put on short allowance, he was wholly ignorant of 
the quantity of water necessary for the comfort or supply 
of one person. He had been limited to half a gallon a 
day. His mess of eight drew four gallons. This was to serve 
all occasions, cooking, washing, and drinking. With the strict- 
est economy, they could scarcely reserve a junk bottle, about a 
pint and a half a day, out of the whole quantity allowed the mess. 
It will seem hardly possible that half a gallon of water daily 
should be insufficient for one man, but the fact of the " short 
allowance," places this beyond question. It makes but little odds 
to health or comfort, whether the " short allowance" is ordered 
by a commander of a ship of war, or is enforced by the negli- 
gence of a community in providing for its nearest and most 
pressing v^ants. 

I have now finished that part of my undertaking which regards 
the necessity which exists for adopting measures at once to sup- 



16 

ply Boston with pure and soft water. I proceed to consider 
other topics which belo'ng to, or grow out of, the subject. I 
shall speak of the Objections which have been made to this en- 
terprise, and reply to them, as I proceed. It is my purpose to 
state objections fairly, and to reply to them in the spirit which 
they deserve. There is a wide and common interest in the 
subject. This will save it, I trust, from the personal, and from 
unusual prejudice. 



It is objected, in the first place, Tliat, to supply the city with 
water, a Debt must be created. 

This is true. Money must be borrowed, and a Debt pro- 
duced. 

Debts are created in two ways. 

First. Money is borrowed on ample security of real estate, 
and it is so used as to produce a revenue, which will not only 
pay the interest, but produce also a sinking fund, which in time 
will extinguish the debt. Here is an investment which can 
hardly be otherwise than profitable to the parties concerned. 

Second. Money is borrowed on personal credit. It is used 
in operations, of the success of which, there cannot be any cer- 
tainty, but which depend entirely on contingencies. This is a 
speculation. 

Now, to which of these belongs the debt which this city must 
incur to introduce Pure Water in quantities fully equal to the de- 
mand ? I answer to the first, and I proceed to show this. I am 
informed on what should be the best authority in the munici- 
pality, that the real estate belonging to the city corporation will 
cover the whole debt which may be required for the object in 
view. No risk is incurred by the government in prosecuting it. 
But there will be no steps taken towards its execution, except 
under the du'cct authority declared by vote of the citizens. And 
now, what was the entire amount of their taxable property at the 
latest valuation ? 

I answer, 

Amount of Taxable Real Estate, 1843, $67,673,400. 

« « Personal « " 42,372,600. 



$110,046,000. 



Here we have, over and above the property owned by the cor- 
poration, and which it has been said will cover the debt for -water, 



.» 17 

one hundred and ten millions and forty-six thousand dollars, 
which will stand pledged for the same debt. Now, what amount 
will be necessaiy for the object? The largest amount which 
has been named, and which deserves attention, is tivo millions 
and a half of dollars. At four per cent., and at which rate, such 
a loan could now be readily obtained, the annual interest will 
amount to one hundred thousand dollars. 

Suppose the whole of this to be collected by tax. AVhat 
would this amount to on each individual, or on each family ? 
The population is estimated to be 115,000. Allow five to a fam- 
ily, and we have 23,000 families. A tax of four dollars and a 
fraction, on a family, would pay the interest. Now, does not 
every family, the poorest in the city, pay as much as this for the 
no supply of the present day ? What they do not pay for by 
the bucket, they pay in rent. But suppose this estimate greatly 
exaggerated. If less than one half of these families, say, 10,000 
only, were to take the water, and at the amount actually paid by 
large and by small payers for the aqueduct, and the interest of 
the loan, and every incidental expense would be amply provided 
for. Much less than an average of $10 would do this, making 
the assessment for those who have least demand for water, not 
more than five or six. 

Again : What was the amount of tax assessed for the present 
financial year ? I answer, 

$712,379 70. 
Of warrants for, 685,000 00. 



Excess of means, 27,379 70. 

Here we have a balance over the assessment, which remains 
for the very purpose about which we are now making inquiry. 

Another fact should have a prominent place in this consider- 
ation of city debt, produced by the introduction of an abundant 
supply of water. I refer to the annual loss to the city by fire, 
and the amount paid for premiums of insurance. It is here re- 
ferred to because, what saves expense in such a direction, affords 
means for diminishing the debt incurred to prevent such expense. 
I find that the account of the Chief Engineer exhibits actual 
losses, by fire, from Sept. 1, 1843, to Sept. 1, 1844, to the amount 
of $183,208. Insurance on the same, $95,777. 

Another item, in the same connection, is the present expense 
of the Fire Department. For the year 1843-4, the expense of 
this Department was about $40,000. 

Here we have, then, $40,000, the amount paid the last year 
to the Fire Department. Who doubts that this amount would 
be diminished by the abundant supply of water proposed ? 
Nay, would not the city expenses be diminished, while the pub- 
lic safety would in proportion 'be increased? The annual dimi- 
3 



18 'd 

nution of the debt, which may be confidently looked to, would, 
of course, bring about a diminution of expense. 

Secondly. It is objected, that the debt under consideration, 
must be provided for by the rich, both interest and principal; and 
that it would be unjust for the many, the people, to create a debt, 
the liabilities for which would fall on the few. 

It has been stated above, that the value of the real property of 
the city corporation is believed to be ample to cover the whole 
expense of bringing in water. In the event of paying off the 
debt, the aqueduct would become the property of the city. In 
this case, the use of the water might be made free, or a small 
annual tax upon it would, in the least objectionable manner, 
furnish a large revenue to the city. But putting aside these, and 
kindred considerations, let us look at the objection as it stands in 
the above head. Is it true ? Is it true, that the rich would have 
to pay the interest on the debt proposed to be created? I will 
suppose a case which will better answer the question than an 
argument. 

Suppose Mr. pays $5000 tax on real estate. He lives in 

a house valued at $10,000, and for this, pays tax, $50 a year. 
Now, who pays the remainder, $4950? Does he pay it? It is 
on his tax bill. He gets credit for a large tax. I knew a man 
who asked his tenant to allow the tax on the house he hired to 
be charged in his bill, as a favor. It was important that he 
should seem rich, or that he should be known as being rich, and 

the tax bill was a test. Not only does Mr. get credit for his 

large tax, but he scolds about it as exorbitant. But who pays 

that $4950 ? The tenantry of Mi*. . He does not pay a 

cent of it. The poor woman who hires a room for fifty cents a 

week, in a tenement belonging to Mr. , and in which he 

would not stable his coach-horses for a night, — that widow 
woman, who lives and supports her children by washing, when 
the rains from heaven supply her great need, or she can buy 
water of a wealthy neighbor, — that woman pays a part of that 
tax. Nay, she pays in proportion to her means, and what of 
shelter they buy for her, more than the rich owner of her house, 
more in proportion than any of his rich tenantry. 

We are a Christian community, I believe, and there are three 
verses in the book of the Christian doctrine and faith, which 
may serve to illustrate my meaning. 

" And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in 
(into the treasury) two mites, which make a farthing. 

" And he (Jesus) called unto him his disciples, and saith unto 
them. Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow has cast more 
in than all they which have cast into the treasury. 

" For all thei/ did cast in of their abundance ; but she of her 
want did cast in all that she had,even all her living." 



19 

The parallelism between the two cases is complete, except in 
the object of the two poor widows in their act. The widow in 
the Bible, cast her all into the treasury of God, for religious and 
charitable purposes. Our widow gives hers to pay the city tax 
of her rich brother. 

There is, finally, another view in which this matter of debt 
should be regarded, and especially, when it is the price, the pur- 
chase money of a great and permanent interest. The proposed 
aqueduct is not to be made for ourselves, for this city as it is, or 
for this age. It is to be made also for the coming time, the long 
future, a blessing beforehand, and in the beginning and com- 
pletion of which the future has no concern. In view of these 
questionless statements, whose debt is it, about which so much 
has been said, and the shadow of which, if that which has no 
substance can have one, is scaring the city from its propriety, 
and beneath which men are laboring to prevent one of the 
most important measures ever attempted by any city? Whose 
debt is it? I say it is the debt of the city in all the days of its 
being, till it is paid. We of to-day work, and pay money in 
this matter, and for what ? that when this generation has died 
out, the city shall destroy that aqueduct, and our successors 
build for themselves another ? No such thing. We are work- 
ing, in all we do, for our successors, and paying for them, 
too, and we cannot help it. What is the present but the child, 
the product of the past ? So shall we be in relation to the 
future, — its great parent ; and as we are living in the mighty- 
legacy of the whole past, so shall we bequeath what we are, 
and what w^e do, to the future. Whose debt then is it ? It is 
the debt of all who are, or who may be, till it is paid; and most 
grateful will the long future be that we created such a debt, 
which, in its product, wdll be to that future so great a blessing. 

I remember something of the history of the Hospital, in this 
city ; that monument of public and individual munificence, — of 
great, and wise philanthropy. In an early day of its being, it 
was necessary to add to it to meet the public demand, and to 
spend more money than its resources yielded. The question of 
debt arose, and well do I remember how it was answered. " We 
are establishing a permanent work," said one of its earliest 
patrons, and latest friends. " AVe are providing for the long 
future. That future will inherit all we may do; let them enter 
into our labors for them. It is their debt, as it is for their 
benefit it is incurred. Let us not be stopped at this most im- 
portant moment of our history, by any such consideration. We 
will be wise and prudent, but the public want must be met." It 
was met. And see what is the inheritance of the new-born 
generation ! What has become of the debt ? It has died out in 
the life of the public's great heart; and now, this day, new walls 



20 

are rising round the old building, the latest monument of the 
Undying munificence of this city. Do not, do not let us say a 
word more about debt, when talking of the cost of the means 
of the widest public good ! 

Second. It is objected. That if the water project be carried 
out. that, to escape the additional tax which the interest on the debt 
luill involve, the rich men will leave the city before the l.v/ of May. 

In other words, will escape the tax on their personal estate. 
To support this objection, it is further said, that the rich are not 
now taxed in proportion to their property, lest they should run 
away. The objection was made in a public meeting, on the 
subject of bringing water, in a speech by a citizen opposed to 
the project. Its support has had frequent place in conversation. 

Let us now look at this second objection. If the lirst were 
untrue, to some this may seem offensive. But let this pass. The 
objection reminds me of an anecdote of my early days. A 
friend had become very careless in many matters which society 
deems very important, and, going on to violate more and more 
of the fashionable code, a female friend, who felt much interest 
in him, told him that people would give him up, "cut" him, in 
the more modern phrase. Said he, " O, do not be uneasy for 
me, on that account. I have got the start of them. I have ' cut'' 
them, — I have given them upP It is said that our rich men leave 
the city already, and before doomsday comes round, and so have 
the "start" of our third objection. 

But why do they run away? The removal is to avoid taxes. 
Now what docs this removal involve, and why does it lead to 
controversy ? The rich man, who thus escapes taxation, leaves 
behind him his personal estate, his furniture, his library, his 
palace treasures, — he leaves his bank stock, his deposits, his 
most important securities, — he leaves warehouses loaded, and 
groaning with his manufactured goods from half the mills and 
workshops of the State or country, — he leaves, finally, behind 
him his stores full of goods, which he comes to town every day 
to look after. And who protects these vast interests ? Who saves 
them from fire and from plunder ? I answer, the Fire Depart- 
ment, which you and I and others are taxed for, and which tax 
we cannot escape by crossing the county or city line on the oOlh 
of April. We must slay and work as well as pay. The city 
watch, at a tax of about $50,000 a year, which our personal estate 
is taxed for, and which we cannot escape, also protects the 
absentee's property. In short. Sir, look where you will, into the 
Health Department, the Police Department, in fine, every where, 
and you see, at a glance, that those who remain in the city, and 
whose occupations and condition do not permit them to leave. 



21 

do, by the tax they pay on personal estate, contribute in every 
way to the protection and comfort of those who, having vast 
weaUh, go away, it is said, to avoid paying their taxes, or con- 
tributing to expenditures, in the resuhs of which they have the 
deepest interest. 

Is it asked, shall rich men be called upon to pay for the water 
they do not use ? Shall they be taxed for what yields them no 
benefit? No. They should pay because they i^zY/ use it. They 
should be taxed because they will derive most important benefit 
from it. . But they go away. Yes. But they also live here ; and 
it is for the vast benefit they will derive from pure water, when 
they are here^ that they should pay their part of the expense of 
getting it for all, and not avoid the expense because they are for 
a few months away. 

But, again. Why do the rich men leave the city? Or why 
will they do so, as the objection asserts? Is it because their tax 
is large; or because they are over-taxed? There is an impor- 
tant difference between the two things. Let us consider them, 
and the difference will appear. What is over-charge, or over- 
tax ? It is being taxed for a greater amount of property than is 
possessed. What is large, or apparently excessive taxation ? It 
is when large property is known to be possessed, but the whole 
amount not known. Here the tax is levied on what is believed 
to be not beyond the amount possessed by the person taxed. On 
what is tax levied? On personal and on real estate. How is 
it ascertained what each man owns of these, of the personal in 
particular. In other words, what is the basis of taxation here ? 
The early word was doom. The later is guess. By the latter 
mode, the assessors must in a great measure be governed. True, 
they have now authority, by law, to ascertain by various docu- 
ments, what a portion of the personal property is. But even 
this cannot reach the whole case, and so approximations to ac- 
curacy can, in the first place, only be made. The public know 
what is charged on one hundred dollars. The assessors, by going 
from house to house, and by every means within their reach to 
obtain information, doom, or tax the people, in exact conformity 
with the knowledge they obtain, with the principles established 
by law, and with what they believe a just application of those 
principles to every case. Here, it would seem, their public func- 
tion ceased. But no. They now advertise, and for months, and 
at great expense to the city, too, that their books are open for the 
inspection of the public ; and if any over-charge or other error 
have been made, it shall, upon exhibition of the proper evidence, 
be con-ected. Nay, more ; abatement of taxes may be granted 
in other cases, if demanded by the circumstances, and which, 
from inadvertence, have not been duly presented. 

What ample protection of the citizen against excessive, or 



ovey-laxation ! If the assessors err, and in the exercise of a large 
discretion, and under the circumstances, they may err, the remedy 
is in the hands of every citizen, the means of the immediate 
Correction of error. Go to the assessors' room, and under oath 
or afiirmation, for a man's word is not taken now-a-days, or on 
such occasions — give in, in, writing, a fair inventory of your prop- 
erty, and if it prove that you have been over-taxed, the excess 
will be at once deducted. I have done this, and the correction 
Was at once made. I did not choose to live in what seemed to 
me a lie, in a published, annual falsehood in regard to my prop- 
erty. Such is the remedy for over-tax. Now, suppose it were 
universally employed. Suppose it were to prove, as in my own 
case, and especially in the cases in which alleged over-tax pro- 
duces periodical exile of citizens, — suppose, I say, that the 
proved real and personal property should not, with the present 
amount taxed on each hundred dollars, meet the city expenses, 
one of two remedies at once occur, — either reduce those ex- 
penses, or add to the pro rata per centage. 

What is lars:e and so called excessive taxation ? A is worth 
a million of dollars in personal property. B is worth twenty 
thousand. It cannot be learned with accuracy what A's property 
is. So, to prevent the appearance of excessive taxation, and to 
prevent his leaving the city too, as it is said, he is doomed., or 
taxed, on half a million. This makes a very large tax. It seems 
enormous. It is complained of, and, to avoid a like tax, A leaves 
the city, on or before the 80lh of the next April. B's property 
is also assessed. It is easily learned what he owns. The approx- 
imation may not greatly err. If he be over-taxed, he can easily 
say so, and the error is at once corrected. But j^ou see, Sir, B is 
taxed for all he owns — A, for only one half. I know a case in 
point. A man was taxed for about $5000 personal property. 
This was the doom, under the knowledge possessed. Upon ex- 
amining the bank books under the new law, he was found to 
own about $60,000 in bank stock. He was at once taxed for 
that amount. He never complained of over-tax on that $5000, 
and I have not learned that he has complained of the tax on the 
$60,000. His tax is large. But I suppose he knows he is not 
over-taxed. I do not know if he left the city April last. 

Now what has this to do with the water project? It has this 
to do with it. It shows that no reasonable objection can lie 
against any such increase of taxation as the project may lead to. 
Excessive taxation has its remedy in a mere statement of the 
fact, with the proof. Large taxation probably never reaches to 
the whole property, and it is the direct and necessary product of 
great wealth. It is then one of the inconveniences of excessive 
riches, to be largely taxed. It is the product simply of excessive 
wealth. I see no injustice in the tax, because I see no fault in 



2^ 

the possession. Most unreasonable should I regafd that oppO" 
sition to a public measure fraught with the widest and best pub- 
lic interests, which would proceed from either asserted excessive^ 
or larg'e taxation. For the one, the remedy is at hand. For th^ 
other, as above explained, no remedy can be demanded. I have 
never heard a rich man make the objection we have now con- 
sidered. I have heard it made /or the rich, in the public meet- 
ing, in conversation, and in the public press. And it has not been 
contradicted. But this last, is no evidence that what has been 
so freely said for others, is in any sense approved by them. 
Men do not always feel called upon to repel groundless charges. 
I have noticed the objection at so much length, becaiise it is 
calculated to influence many minds. Threats have their power; 
and such threats as the alleged objection malves, must have some 
influence. I have labored to show that the objection is as un- 
reasonable as it is groundless. 

Third. It is objected to the project, that the city provide itself 
with water, That private companies ivill do it much better. 

This objection is much urged on the grounds that, there being 
many companies, they would obtain water from different sources, 
— that the supply would be more abundant, — that the competi- 
tion would make it cheaper, and that London is supplied in the 
same way. Theory and precedent are thus brought in support 
of this form of objection. I have little to say of the theory. I 
question much if competition, in just such an interest, would 
make the water cheaper, or that the supply would be more cer- 
tain, because of its different sources. I do not believe either assertion 
well founded, and do not think they require distinct refutation. Let 
us, then, for a moment, look at the precedent, London. London, 
then, we are told, is supplied with water by eight companies. 
And wh^t is London ? Do you suppose it to be of the size of 
Boston, a single municipality of one hundred and odd thousand 
inhabitants, and under one government? This would not de- 
scribe London. It has nearly two millions of inhabitants, — as 
many as eleven distinct divisions, parishes, and districts; many 
of them independent of each other. We have even tivo Lon- 
dons, properly so called, — one within and one vjUhoiit the walls, 
■ — the limits remaining, though the walls have long disappeared. 
So distinct are each, that when Queen Victoria makes a visit to 
her liege subjects of London, she always finds the gate at Tem- 
ple Bar closed. Her herald must knock at said gate, and when 
a satisfactory answer is given to the inquiry within, " Who 
knocks ? " the gate is opened, and the keys of the city are 
handed to her majesty. Each- department has its own water 
company, as far as water is supplied, and the reason exists in 
the fact that each has power to supply itself. In the very popu- 



94 

lous district across the Thames, including Southwark, Lambeth, 
&C.J I believe no supply by water company has yet been ob- 
tained, showing how independent each is of the other. But, let 
all these things be as they may, I quote a very recent English 
writer on aqueducts and canals, of questionless authority, for an 
opinion of what real benefit to London is all this complex appara- 
tus of companies, compared with the supply of water furnished 
by an American city to its inhabitants. I quote it with the 
greater pleasure, as it come from a source not noted for its 
interest in American success. - In allusion to what Rome did to 
secure to the people the blessing of abundant and pure water, 
and in -the presence of the eight water companies of London, 
the writer says : 

" It is not in England that we can find a fit subject of direct 
comparison with the Pont du Gard, or the aqueducts of Italy. 
We fear our science has only taught us to be niggardly in its 
application," — to substitute for value in use, value in exchange; 
and to sell by the quart what Romans supplied gratis, hy the tun. 
Till London, with all its water companies, is as well supplied 
with accessible water as modern Rome is by only two of the 
aqueducts, whether fourteen, as some count them, or twenty, 
which ancient Rome possessed, we must content ourselves, An- 
glo Saxons as we are, with resorting to New York for our wise 
saw and modern instance, and must lead our readers to drink at 
the Croton aqueduct." 

It is thus we are taught by a dweller in the midst of those eight 
"water companies," that they fail to accomplish their object, and 
that what they do is at comparatively an enormous cost to the 
consumers. Let us be taught by such a witness. He teaches 
us that a city should be the patron of its own great, permanent, 
universal interests. These should be committed to the charge of 
no other corporation, company, nor individual. The water it 
drinks, the air it breathes, the light which blesses it, neither of 
these should be given in charge to any man, or body of men. If 
profit can be made of them, let the city make it. It will go from 
it, from its government, back to the people again, in new forms of 
usefulness and of blessing; with full interest added, to make 
its agency more important and more useful. 

Fourth. The present aqueduct, it is said, forms another objection. 

The argument on which this rests, I would consider with 
the deepest respect. It is that a city aqueduct would be fatal 
to the old one. That, like the Manhattan, which the Croton 
strangled, so would our present aqueduct be destroyed by the 
new one. 

We are here referred to an instance of the violation of vested 
rights amongst us, which stands to the unfortunate credit of the 



25 

Commonwealth, and which the history of such acts will never 
forget. We are told, that the aqueduct is a very valuable franchise, 
and that, the last year, it yielded forty per cent, to its owners. 
I have respect for the whole argument, in whatever form. But 
has not the aqueduct failed of its function ? Has it any resem- 
blance to those other interests with which it has been compared ? 
Does it, or, better, can it, supply this city with water? Does it 
in any degree supply the two or three thousand families, if so 
many, among which it has been distributed ? Have not all these 
questions been already put and answered, in what has already 
been said in this Letter ? If not, most cheerfully would I enter 
anew on the discussion. The experience of all great cities 
abundantly proves, that private water companies have not suc- 
ceeded, and that they must involve much more expense to the 
consumer than the public work. It is not because most of the 
property in our own aqueduct is owned out of the city, and 
because its proprietors, being non-residents in Boston, can never 
be taxed in their personal property to aid in defraying the city 
expenditure, — it is not, I say, on this account alone, or princi- 
pally, that I should feel called upon to oppose any gross or wil- 
ful violation of their rights, they being absent ; but because, with 
the most strenuous exertions, and at much cost, those proprietors 
have failed to supply the city; and, from the absolute necessity 
of the case, must everlastingly fail to do it. It is because of this, 
and of like failure of private bodies, in other cities, to accom- 
plish the object, that it is urged upon the people here never to 
intrust so important an interest to such or similar agents. 

An argument for the objection was offered the other day in 
conversation, which, to me, had more in it than any other I 
recollect. I was speaking on the importance of placing the 
obligation of supplying the city with water where it really be- 
longed, napiely, in the city itself. The benefit was to be uni- 
versal, — the agency in conferring it should embrace the whole. 
I was speaking with a petitioner for the latest act of the legisla- 
ture, which gives conditional power to introduce water^to a private 
company. Said he, " I signed that petition because I want 
water,— because it is physically impossible for the aqueduct to 
reach me, and because I know the city will not supply me. Un- 
derstand w^hat I say. I want it for myself, and for my family. 
I do not want it for the poor, nor for the rich. I cannot bring it 
here to my door myself. It will cost too much. So, I have 
joined with others to get the act. We shall make a stock of it, 
and sell the water to families enough to pay the interest, &c., 
and secure to ourselves a supply. You understand, now, just 
what I want, and how I mean to supply my want. If others 
have the same, why, they may have their need supplied." The 
act was obtained, but the condition of personal liability of the 
4 



26 

stockholders for the debts of the company, has prevented the 
acceptance of the charter, or action under it. 

Now there is nothing in this argument to complain of. He 
who advanced it is desirous to secure to himself a great privilege, 
which others around him are so indifferent about, that they have 
not taken the steps to secure it. He has acted just as a man does 
who puts rods on his house to protect it from lightning. Others 
care nothing about the matter. He does ; and buys and pays 
for the privilege of not being " struck." He wants water and is 
willing to pay for it. Let the city supply him and all others. 

I have now. Sir, noted some of the objections to the city 
project of supplying the city with water. I have replied to 
them. Others are made. It is saidj that, the public safety being 
increased, premiums of insurance against fire will be dimin- 
ished. This is an objection made for the offices. I do not 
know that one of them, or a single proprietor, ever made such. 
Increase the public safety and premiums will be less. But, as 
soon as this is done, insurance is increased. When ice was 
sold in the West Indies for fifty cents a pound, profits were 
small. When it was sold for six or less, a vast fortune was 
made out of the winter's growth. Again. Increase safety and 
diminish premiums, and you increase insurance by policies for 
buildings which were never before insured. But the objection is 
too groundless for sober thought. 



OF THE BENEFITS FROM THE SUPPLY OF WATER PROPOSED. 

These have already occupied us. We have seen them in 
the increased heahh and longevity, and in the prevention of 
pauperism which it promises ; in the increased the universal 
cleanliness of the person, the dress, the house, the street. Look 
where we may, health and comfort come not as incidental, but 
as direct prodqcts from it. There are economical interests too. 
Here We are, the beginning, or the ending, of numerous and vast 
railroads. They are spanning the State and nation, carrying us 
every where, and bringing every body here. To these roads an 
abundant supply of pure water is, so to speak, a necessary of 
life. All other water injures the machinery of motion. The 
boilers are coated with foreign bodies, the expense of procur- 
ing steam directly increased, and the machinery injured. Sup- 
ply these engines, of such wide good, with pure water. It is 
your interest to do it, and your investment will make for the city 
a return of thanks, and of most liberal interest. 

But apart from the use, and of which we have said so much, 



27 

there is another advantage which will commend itself to all. 
I refer to water as a means of ornament, and of taste. Con- 
struct fountains in public places. Give to the public eye these 
beautiful objects, and you give tone and purity to the public 
heart. You increase the amount of safe pleasure ; and he or 
they who do this are benefactors to men. You will not say 
that these views are fanciful. They have their foundation in the 
moral nature ; and that nature, in these days of morbid excite- 
ment, of excessive interest "in those things which do not 
profit," that nature asks for food by which it may grow into 
that excellency, beauty, and honor, for which it was made. I 
cannot go farther now. New York has set us a noble exam- 
ple in furnishing these means of public pleasure and improve- 
ment ; and at home and abroad, the skill and taste of that great 
city are in every body's word. Said a friend the other day, 
" there is nothing finer in Europe." An English writer says in 
amount the same. Read the following, from " Tower's Illus- 
trations of the Croton Aqueduct," and be in love with the beauty 
it records : 

" To those who had watched over the work during its con- 
struction, and looked for its successful operation, this was 
peculiarly gratifying. To see the water leap from its opening, 
and rise upwards with such force and beauty, occasioned pleas- 
ing emotions, and gave proof that the design and execution 
were alike faultless, and that all the fondest hopes of its pro- 
jectors would be realized. The scenery around this fountain 
added much to its beauty ; there it stood, a whitened column, 
rising from the river erect, or shifting its form like a forest-tree 
as the wind swayed it, with the rainbow tints resting on its 
spray, while on either side the woody hills arose to rival its 
height. All around was nature : no marble basin, no allegorical 
figures wrought with exquisite touches of art to lure the eye, 
but a fountain, where nature had adorned the place with the 
grandeur and beauty of her rude hills and mountain scenery." 
p. 112. 

I have entered into some detail of facts, which bear upon the 
expense of the proposed aqueduct. I have done so, to show that 
great expense will not be incurred by doing the work. But I 
do not suppose thai it can be done without cost; nor do I see 
any reason why people should expect it. I would rest this 
enterprise on broader grounds. I see its necessity in the wide 
public want. I look for its accomplishment in a wise care for 
the public good, in generous purposes, in large and true policy. 
1 see this project to supply this city with pure water in its moral 
relations. It is in these its real importance lies. Look at in 
these, and the money power, whether from ivithout, or from 
within, which is put forth to defeat it, ceases to exist. 



28 



SOURCE OF SUPPLY. 



Many sources for supplying Boston with water are recom- 
mended to the public, and with many arguments for each. 
No one can object to this. The best is demanded, and this 
can be got only by knowing the whole. The same thing oc- 
curred in New York. One plan proposed that the water 
should be brought from New Jersey. This was only twenty 
miles from the city, but then the Hudson must be crossed, and 
its navigation so interrupted, that it would have been necessary 
to call for the interference of Congress. Other sources were 
proposed, but at length Croton river selected, deriving its ex- 
haustless waters from some twenty natural reservoirs, having an 
aggregate surface of 4000 acres. We have no such source as 
this, and we do not require it. But we have such as, it is 
believed, will meet the whole present demand, and constitute an 
ample provision for the future. I will briefly allude to some of 
the sources which have been named. 

The latest source was suggested to me a few days since. A 
citizen, very anxious for a supply of pure water, and for others 
as well as for himself, being daily made acquainted with the public 
want, proposed that a reservoir, of great extent, should be made 
in the "empty basin," — that it should be walled and bricked, 
and that artesian wells should be made in such numbers as to 
keep the reservoir constantly full, and that the water should be 
distributed by steam. The cost, he said, would be $250,000. 
I asked on what facts he relied in support of his plan. He 
answered, experience. " I live at the north end," said he. " I 
was in want of pure water, and I determined to get it. I 
directed an artesian well to be made. It was done. They 
bored through sand, gravel, clay, and came to the underlying 
slate. This was bored through, and immediately there gushed 
up a stream of water which nothing could resist. I can supply 
hundreds with water. I supply all who ask for it." How much 
did it cost ? asked I. Five hundred dollars^ said he. Has it ever 
failed? Only once, was the reply. Is it soft water? No. It 
is hard water. I thought this experience was any thing but 
encouraging. Here, at a cost of $500, a well has been made 
which has once failed, and which, abating the impurities of 
drainage, affords water no better than every body else gets. 

I need not more than allude, here, to the other sources which 
have been named. Among these are Spot Pond, — the Middle- 
sex Canal, — Charles River, — Long Pond. I do not enter into 
the controversies which have grown up out of this variety of 
sources which have been proposed. The whence must be left 
to engineers, — to commissioners who deserve confidence, and 



29 

are deeply interested in the prosperity of the city. Such com- 
missioners have been appointed, and are at work in the execution 
of their commission. They have been directed to examine Long 
Pond, to learn if that will supply the city. It was surveyed some 
years ago, and a favorable report made of its water, both in regard 
to quality and quantity. The city government have done wisely, 
in the pressure of conflicting opinions, to appoint a new com- 
mission, which may confirm or correct the earlier reports. Strong 
convictions are daily expressed of the necessity of an aqueduct, 
— a CITY AQUEDUCT. A private water company, or many such 
companies, cannot answer the public demand, nor should such 
be permitted by the city to control either in price or quantity the 
supply of a necessary of life, yes, of that which is as necessary 
to the poorest, as to the richest amongst us. Let now the whole 
public want enter into the question, and give character to the 
answer which the whole people are about to make. If the exe- 
cution of so beneficial a purpose involve some sacrifice, some 
expense to the rich, what occasion more worthy the act, than that 
which secures the public health, lengthens useful life, and dimin- 
ishes and prevents poverty ? 

It is a noble work in which the city is now engaged. I have 
read the city documents concerning it with deep interest. They 
are full of facts showing how great is the public want, — how 
small will be the expenditure when compared with that want, — 
and how readily water may be procured. The people will soon 
be convened to express, by vote, what action shall be recom- 
mended to the government in regard to the matter. Let all come 
forward and record their vote on the subject. It will give little 
individual trouble. It may lead to the production of a work 
amongst us which will survive the generation which accom- 
plishes it, and carry it forward, in honored memory, to the 
remotest future. 

I remain your friend, &c., 

WALTER CHANNING. 

Boston, Oct. 1st, 1844. 



[On page 5, line 10, is a reference to gutters on the surface, instead of sev^ers, to carry 
off foul water and other refuse, in order that spring water may be kept pure. I have 
learned, that in New York, where this mode is adopted, it is now proposed to lay ample 
sewers, which are to be kept constantly clean by water from the Croton Works, for the 
promotion of the public health. W. C] 



TO THE CITIZENS OF BOSTON, 



I HAVE carefiilly examined the " Plea for Pure Water^^ which 
Dr, Clianning has been pleased to write, and address to me. I 
propose not to review it, in detail, but I cannot forbear the ex- 
pression, in general, that I think it able, and sound, and excel- 
lently well adapted to promote the great object in view; and 
that a liberal circulation of it among our citizens would be highly 
expedient. 

On receiving it, I felt that I could not be satisfied with its 
publication in the newspapers, from day to day in numbers, to 
be but partially read, and then cast aside, for the subject is of 
such vast importance, and the essay so clearly and unanswera- 
bly to the point, that it deserves to be placed in the best form, in 
the hands of all our intelligent people. 

Cherishing these views, but not choosing to rely solely upon 
my own judgment, I consulted numerous friends of the " water 
project^'' who warmly sanctioned my opinion that it ought to be 
pulDlished and circulated m pamphlet forr)i, in order that it might 
have that calm and sober consideration which it rightfully merits. 
In pursuance of this decision, and by the advice of friends, I 
arranged, with the consent of Dr. Channing, for the publication 
of the "P/ea," in the mode I have described. 

And here I might stop and let the matter rest, without further 
remark or comment, but that, as Dr. Channing has not entered 
minutely into an estimate of the cost of the contemplated enter- 
prise, or set forth the ^^ modus operandV^ of its execution, and as 
these are points of great, if not of paramount importance to ihe 
public, at the hazard of being thought officious^ I propose to state 
my views of the probable outlay, the manner in which it is pro- 
posed to carry on and accomplish the enterprise, and to treat of 
the direct^ and the indirect income and advantages that may be 
expected to ensue. 

And, first, of the probable cost of the enterprise. It may seem' 
to be somewhat premature to undertake an estimate at this mo- 
ment, as it may be expected that the commissioners appointed 



82 

for that purpose, will, at an early day, present us with the result 
of their labors. But, when it is considered that it is altogether a 
matter of uncertainty when the report of the commissioners will 
be made, and that our newspapers are teeming with exaggerated 
statements of the opponents of the project, carrying up the esti- 
mate of the cost to most unnatural and unreasonable amounts, 
varying from four to eigJit millions of dollars, without a sem- 
blance of proof of accuracy, it seems to me that the friends of 
the project should lose no time, nor leave any efforts unessayed 
to disabuse the public mind of the gross errors that are attempted 
to be palmed upon them. What are the facts in the case? What 
is the reasonable probability in the matter? And whence the 
disposition, and efforts, to swell up, so enormously, the estimates 
of the cost of the '-'• loater project V Whence do these efforts 
come, and how far has actual investigation ruled in their pro- 
duction? These are questions, all having an important bearing 
on the matter. History, a minute knowledge of the past, is a 
stern and tolerably safe pilot in matters of this kind. It will not 
do to pass lightly over that which has been matter of honest and 
intelligent investigation, — that which has been made the subject 
of record, under circumstances not obnoxious to the suspicion 
of any taint of duplicity, or unfairness. And what is the history 
of the present case ? Is there any doubt of its authenticity, of 
its perfect fairness? No man has the hardihood to aver it. 

The facts are, and I rely upon them, a commission was estab- 
lished in 1837, consisting of Baldioin, Treadiuell and Hale, to 
examine, estimate, and report upon the various sources whence 
an abundant supply of good water could be obtained for the 
city. Among other sources, the said commissioners reported 
their surveys and estimates of the cost of introducing water 
from Long Pond, in Natick and Framingham. As to the quality 
and quantity of the water, there was no doubt ; the former was 
pronounced by them to be unexceptionable; and, as to the latter, 
they set forth that the source was amply sufficient to supply much 
more than double the amount of our present population. Since 
then, it has been discovered, by raising the dam at the outlet of 
the pond, which experiment was continued for many months, 
that a vast additional amount of water might be sequestered to an 
amount sufficient to meet the wants of a gi'eatly increased popu- 
lation beyond what I have before named. These commissioners, 
two of them professional engineers, and the other intelligent and 
experienced, under the solemnity of the obligations which they 
had assumed, at the hazard of their reputations, as fair and faith- 
ful agents of an intelligent public, in the grave and important 
matter of a very large outlay of capital, reported as follows, 
namely : 

That the cost of the whole enterprise would be one million 



33 

six hundred eightij4wo thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight 
dollars^ only ! In making this estimate, which was presented to 
the public under the solemn sanctions of their stations, which 
I have described, they calculated on bringing the water to Corey'' s 
Hill^ in Brookline, by a substantial brick aqueduct laid in cement, 
thence to be brought into the city in iron pipes, and to be dis- 
tributed in iron pipes throughout the city to the extent of sixty- 
two miles. In their estimate bricks were put down at $7 50 
per thousand — they can now be had, at least, as low as $7 per 
thousand — iron pipes at (as I have high authority for saying) 
twenty dollars per tun higher than present prices — cement at 
about double its present cost, and lead at 6^ cents per pound, 
Avhich can now be furnished as low as 3f cents per pound — 
water rights and land damages were put at $110,000 ; and, to 
meet contingencies, 10 per cent, was allowed, amounting to the 
sum of one hundred fifiy-tivo thousand nine hundred and seventy- 
nine dollars. At the time this estimate was made and presented 
to the public, it is believed labor was no cheaper than at the 
present time — probably it was about the same. 

Now I ask, and confidently, too, with this estimate before him, 
made under the circumstances I have stated, if any man, having 
any pretens'ions to fairness and candor, is justified in attempting 
to delude the public by a confident " bug-hear " estimate of four 
to eight millions of dollars? The estimate I have described is 
obviously a fair one, taken in the general, and no man should 
seriously dispute it without entering into the details, and estab- 
lishing their fallacy. 

I am aware that, not improbably, it will be found at this later 
day, seven years having elapsed since the estimate was made, 
and our city greatly increased in population, a larger expense 
may be found necessary ; and, too, that the present commission- 
ers may recommend a more spacious aqueduct, and pipes of 
higher capacity, which may enhance the cost. Beyond this, I 
think it probable that the item allowed by the commissioners for 
water rights and land damages, is less than the result will prove 
to be necessary. But still, I think it morally certain, if not 
mathematically so, that under no circumstances, even with a 
vastly extended project from the one originally contemplated, the 
aggregate cost will not exceed tvjo millions and a half of dollars. 
My belief is, that the cost will be much less ; but 1 am willing 
to assume that it will reach that maximum ; say $2,500,000. 

Against my hypothesis, I know I shall have to encounter the 
^'- ad captandum^^ argument of those who have a smattering 
knowledge of the famous " Croton Works,^^ at New York. They 
will trumpet forth the numerous millions that work has cost, and 
make deductions accordingly. But the ready answer to such 
cavilling is, that there is no strict analogy in the two cases ; for 
5 



34 

it is matter of notoriety, that in the case of the Croton Works 
the line of aqueduct passes over a country entirely dissimilar to 
ours ; that a constant succession of hills and deep ravines had 
to be encountered and overcome, involving vast and expensive 
structures, one of which, alone, it is estimated, will cost a million 
and a quarter of dollars ; whilst our whole line, from Long Pond 
to Boston, is comparatively a dead level, on which there will be 
necessary but two bridges, or viaducts, involving only a cost of 
a few thousand dollars each. In short, whilst I admit the pro- 
priety and wisdom of availing of all the experience that has 
been had in the prosecution of the " Croton Woi'ks,'" of looking 
to the details of the cost of that work, of adopting and following 
the successful features of their action and policy, I can no more 
think of taking their actual and aggregate results as a correct 
guide, than I should of adopting as the standard of the cost of 
an elegant church, that of St. Peterh, in Rome, w^hich, beyond a 
doiibt, cost more than all the churches in the United States. But 
I will not dwell upon a point so perfectly within the compass of 
every man of intelligence, and which needs only actual investi- 
gation to satisfy the minds of the most querulous. 1 will only 
add, that I desire most heartily to meet in public, before a Bos- 
ton audience, the man who will hazard his reputation by the 
espousal of a fanciful estimate of eighty or even of four millions 
of dollars. 

I pass next to the manner of accomplishing the enterprise in 
view, and to the probable operation and effect of it. By many 
it has been supposed, and, indeed, it has been urged, that the 
friends of the project were disposed to prosecute the work at the 
city's expense, and that the outlay was to be furnished by a 
^^dry tax^^ on the people! Beyond this, that the Vv^ater once 
introduced into the city, it should be "/ree as the air ive breathe, 
to every body I" Nothing could be more foreign to the views 
of the friends with whom I am acting than such opinions. For 
myself I propose no such thing ; I never dreamed of it, and most 
confident I am that such a policy finds but feeble support in the 
minds of the intelligent and ardent friends of obtaining a sup- 
ply of ^'■pure soft water'''' for Boston, 

My views are, and so far as I am informed, they correspond 
with those of the great mass of the advocates of the project, that, 
in the first place, the necessary charter shall be obtained from 
the Legislature in which it shall be provided, among other things, 
that a permanent board of commissioners shall be created, 
clothed with full powers to go on and execute the work ; that 
they shall hold their ofiices by as permanent a tenure as the Jus- 
tices of our Supreme Court ; that they shall have full authority 
to issue and dispose of the scrip of the city, redeemable at distant 
periods, to such an amount as may be necessary to complete the 



35 

enterprise, including the interest that may accrue on the outlay 
during the prosecution of the work, and even for a longer period 
if found necessary, and that on the completion of the work a 
tariff of exactions shall be fixed and established for the use and 
supply of the water, by the Commissioners, and that the net avails 
of the said Tax shall, in pursuance of the provisions of the 
Charter, be irrevocably sequestered for the payment of the inter- 
est of the debt incurred, and for the gradual extinguishment of 
the same. In this way it will be seen that, for the present, not a 
dollar of additional tax upon our people will be necessary. The 
expense of the project will be kept entirely distinct from the 
common fiscal concerns of the city. The enterprise will stand 
upon its own bottom, bringing no immediate burden upon any 
man, and the only hazard will be its ultimate operation. 

And who can, or who dares to doubt the final operation ? 
Who can be so blind to the probable future^ as not to anticipate 
with strong confidence that, in the lapse of a very few years, 
the rents from water will fully meet the interest of the outlay, and 
besides, furnish a handsome per centage to be applied to the ex- 
tinguishment of the debt ? So confident do I feel of this opera- 
tion, so fully persuaded am I that it will be more than realized, 
that I should think it absolutely suicidal to forego or postpone 
the enterprise. 

It is urged that this project of obtaining water " is a very good 
thing," but " it ought not to be undertaken by the city," that " far 
better would it be to leave it to private corporations!^^ How 
miserable and weak is such an assumption. What ! leave the 
supply of the important element of water to our populous and 
noble city, to private corporations I The idea is preposterous in 
the extreme. I would as soon countenance the farming out 
the pure air of heaven, of placing it in the hands of a few men 
among us to be stintedly doled out at a price, to the numerous 
members of the human family. The argument is, that the cost 
of the water will be much greater if the enterprise is undertaken 
by the city, than if individuals undertake it. 

The argument lacks soundness. It is not true. The fact is, 
the reverse is true. In either case, whether the project is under- 
taken by a private corporation, or by the city, its execution must, 
of necessity, be intrusted to a board of commissioners or agents. 
And what man in his sober senses can say that a commission 
composed of three or five men will be truer, more faithful, and 
more economical if they act for a private corporation, than they 
would be if acting for the whole city of Boston ? As to the 
checks of oversight, and watchfulness, there would be more of 
it on the part of the whole city, than in the case of a diffuse pri- 
vate corporation. And then as to the comparative expense ; 
every body knows that, in the present state of public opinion, if 



36 

a private corporation were to be got up for the object, even if it 
were practicable, it almost necessarily would follow that it would 
be composed of a vast number of the elite of our city, embrac- 
ing many of our active business men, who would be influenced 
to take stock in the concern upon the principle of "jyro bono pub- 
lico,^^ whose every dollar subscribed would be worth to them, at 
least 6 per cent, per annum ; whereas, if the city undertakes, 
such is her credit, that beyond a doubt, she could command all 
the capital needed at a rate of interest not exceeding four and a 
half per cent., and not improbably as low as four per cent. ; thus 
making a saving of tiventij-five to thirty-three and a third per 
cent, in the interest of the capital employed. This position is 
not only plausible, but it is literally true, as every practical and 
calculating man must admit if he candidly brings his mind to 
the subject. 

And here I leave this branch of my subject, copious and fruit- 
ful as it is of affording the most ample ground of support to the 
doctrine I espouse, that of, by all means, and at any rate, making 
the project a public, rather than a private one. 

It remains now only, that I should advert to the probable di- 
rect income that may be expected to result upon the completion 
of the work, and to notice, briefly, some of the incidental advan- 
tages consequent upon its accomplishment. And here, I am 
aware, I enter upon the broad field of conjecture. The exact 
operation of any great project that is' future, cannot be mathe- 
matically fathomed. Still, it is not the less true that, taking for 
guides the varied and extensive experience that has been had in 
analogous enterprises in other cities, and the natural tendency 
and operation of effecting and introducing to the public a great 
and important improvement in the convenience and comforts of 
life, extending to all the individuals, of whatever rank or condi- 
tion composing a community, it would seem, that at least an ap- 
proximation to a correct estimate of what may be expected could 
be made and relied upon. I feel that it is fair, and safe, to act 
upon this principle ; and that it is not visionary conjecture to 
expect certain inevitable results from the enterprise in question. 
It is hardly necessary for me to say, that my anticipations are 
that, in the present case, they can hardly fail of being of the 
most auspicious character ; such as will put to the blush in their 
realization all those who now falter and hesitate about encour- 
aging the beneficent project now before the public. On this 
ground I put the matter. However it may be thought by oth- 
ers, whatever doubts and misgivings may be cherished, virulent 
and heated as may be the opposition set up against the adoption 
of the project, and all the means that can be brought to bear 
against it, I hesitate not at all in declaring my settled belief to 
be. that the enterprise once accomplished, in the way I have 



37 

marked out, it will not only meet the approbation of our com- 
munity, but will elicit and call forth their enthusiastic admiration. 
I pass from speculation and prophecy to specific details — to 
a calculation of dollars and cents. 

It has been urged that if the water should be introduced into 
the city, the people woiild not avail of it ; that an e:xample has 
been furnished in the instance of the Jamaica Pond Company, 
tliat few, comparatively, take that water, which is all true. But, 
at the same time, the reason is obvious. The Jamaica Pond 
Co. furnish water to our people only in some of the lower parts 
of the city ; conducted into their cellars, and lower rooms, and 
even in this miserable accommodation, but partial and unsteady 
supplies are furnished. Hence it is argued that the people 
would not take the water if brought to them ! A most lame 
and false conclusion ; for who does not see that the argument is 
entirely fallacious, inasmuch as that in the one case the accom- 
modation is exceedingly limited, and precarious, whilst in the 
other, in the contemplated project, the supply will be abundant 
and constant, and in lieu of a cellar, or kitchen supply, nineteen 
twentieths of the houses in the city will be supplied to their very 
attics I And, instead of a parsimonious calculation of securing 
a supply for a day, or a half day to come, there will be, at all 
times, enough of water to justify its most exuberant use ; enough 
not only to meet household wants, but a sufficiency to keep 
clean, and sweet, and wholesome, the side-walks and streets of 
the city. 

But to the point of Income. The friends of the project, pro- 
pose to impose a tax upon those who take and use the water, of 
eight dollars per annum, on each family of six persons. Our 
present population is, probably, at the present day, 115,000 per- 
sons. Now suppose the whole of our present population should 
take the water in the outset, and pay the tax ; then it would fol- 
low that nineteen thousand and one hundred families would 
contribute to the enterprise, and that, at an exaction of only ^8 
per family, the income, in the gross, would be one hundred and 
fifty-two thousand and eight hundred dollars ! Again, suppose 
that only two thirds of our people should avail of the water, then 
the amount of income from this source would amount to $101,- 
856. In addition to this, it is a moderate calculation to assume 
tliat the extra quantity of water that would be wanted and taken 
by our numerous taverncrs, by stablers, by truckmen, for steam 
purposes, and, especially, for the supply of our commercial marine, 
would amount, if paid for in the same ratio that it is proposed 
to exact of families, to at least fifteen thousand dollars, which 
added to the former sum of $101,856, presents an aggi-egate of 
about $117,000 ! Further than this, it may be safely assumed, 
that by the time the works are completed our population will 



38 

have increased to 130 or 135,000 inhabitants, which increase 
might be rehed upon to make up any deficiency that should hap- 
pen in the estimate of consumption I have made. 
' I have assumed that the maximum cost of the enterprise will 
not exceed $2,500,000, and that the money can be obtained at an 
interest not exceeding 4|- per cent, per annum. If so, then the 
annual interest would amount to $112,500 ; but, as not improb- 
ably the money could be commanded at an interest of 4 per 
cent., then the annual amount wouldhe but one hundred thousand 
dollars, a sum of money for a rich and populous city to pay 
utterly insignificant in comparison with the inestimable blessing 
of a liberal supply of pure soft water. 

A few words of the indirect benefits of the enterprise and I 
have done. I forbear remark upon the comfort, the cleanliness 
and the health of the city, for these points have already been 
ably handled and set forth by Dr. Channing. The reduced value 
•oi fire insurance consequent upon the adoption of the project 
that would certainly follow, is worthy of the serious considera- 
tion of the public. A few months since I wrote to a very intel- 
ligent gentleman in New York, inquiring of him what was the 
effect of the introduction of the Croton water into the city on 
the rates of fire insurance ? He took a week to answer me, say- 
ing that he " had delayed thus long, in order to make such in- 
quiries as to be enabled to furnish accurate information," — he 
advised me, "^/m^ the value of fire insurance had fallen full fifti/ 
per cent ! In 1837, Messrs. Treadwell, Baldwin and Hale, 
Water Commissioners for the city, reported that " the amount of 
property in the city of Boston, exposed to the hazard of destruc- 
tion by fire, is probably not less than $75,000,000. Admitting 
therefore that the risk of insurance on this property is at this 
time equal to 4-lOths of one per cent., and that the proposed sup- 
ply of water would reduce this risk by one third, the saving 
which would then be made to the inhabitants of the city in the 
risk of loss by fire woidd be equal to one hundred thousand dol- 
lars per annum I " At the present time no one can doubt that 
the amount of property at risk in the city is as much as $90,- 
000,000, and if we adopt the estimate of the Commissioners of 
1837, it will appear, that a saving would be produced in the re- 
duction of the value of insurance to the amount of one hundred 
and itveniy thousand dollars per annum ! If any one cavils at 
this estimate, or doubts its soundness, I object not in the least to 
cutting down the result to the amount of one half, and then there 
will be a saving left of sufficient magnitude to have a most im- 
portant bearing upon the wisdom, and propriety of embarking 
in the enterprise. 

Another and most important consideration is, and it should 
be constantly borne in mind, that the work in contemplation is 



39 

not only intended for the present day, but is lo be fitted and cal- 
culated for Boston, as she will be centuries to come ; and that, 
beyond all question, for a long period hence, there will be a great- 
and rapid increase of our population ; ihus creating an annual 
increased demand for water which cannot fail so to enlarge the 
income from water rents, as at no distant period to justify the re- 
duction of the tax to such an extent that no one will feel it to be 
a burden. 

I have set forth these views and calculations in the honest be- 
lief of their soundness. Nay, more, so far am I from believing 
them extravagant, and visionary, and likely to prove so, I cher- 
ish anticipations of a vastly more favorable result than I have 
ventured to predict. My confidence is not the result of a loose 
view of the subject, but that of a careful, and rigid investi- 
gation of the whole matter. I desire, most ardently, that the 
numerous strong, clear, and powerful minds that are to be 
found in our community, may be directed to a thorough ex- 
amination of the subject, for sure I am, that if this is done, the 
public will no longer falter, and doubt, and withhold their sup- 
port of a tneasure so vitally important to the true interests of 
our city. 

HENRY WILLIAMS. 



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