Parks for the People online

. (page 1 of 4)
Online LibraryVariousParks for the People → online text (page 1 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Betsie Bush, Martin Pettit and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from scans of public domain works at the
University of Michigan's Making of America collection.)



JUNE 7, 1876.









" " REV. J. P. BODFISH 27



" " HON. P. A. COLLINS 36




Pursuant to a call published in all the daily papers, and signed by a
large number of prominent citizens and tax-payers of Boston, a public
meeting was convened in Faneuil Hall on the evening of Wednesday, the
7th of June, 1876, to take action on the recommendations contained in
the Report of the Park Commissioners. The hall was crowded by an
intelligent and enthusiastic audience; and the proceedings as reported
_verbatim_ in the columns of the "Boston Morning Journal," were as
follows: -

The meeting was called to order at eight o'clock by Mr. JOHN W. CANDLER,
who said, -

GENTLEMEN, - As Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, I have been
requested to call this meeting to order. It is usually the case, that,
when a mass meeting of citizens is to be held, a great deal of labor has
to be performed in preparing for and organizing the meeting. But I am
glad to say, that, on this occasion, the important advantage of having a
public almost entirely in our favor was enjoyed by the Committee. We
found a strong and intelligent and deep-seated sentiment almost
unanimous throughout the community, in favor of having the City
Government take prompt and favorable action upon the report of the Park
Commissioners. [Applause.] We found the community earnest and
enthusiastic in the desire that a system of parks should be projected
for the city of Boston, to insure the health, and to make certain and
positive the prosperity, of our citizens in the future. The Committee
had only to present the call or address through the press, which some
of you have read, to find hundreds ready to indorse it; and the
authorities had only to open wide the doors of Faneuil Hall to have the
people throng here, as they have to-night, to manifest the sentiment
which they feel so generally.

Gentlemen, we have with us to-night men of science, philanthropists, the
representatives of the learned professions. We have the capitalist; we
have the merchant; we have the mechanic; and we have the daily laborer,
who toils from the rising to the setting sun, - we have them all here, to
give out a voice to-night, expressing the opinions of the people, which
can neither be misrepresented nor misunderstood. [Applause.]

It is not my duty, gentlemen, to make a speech. You have here this
evening to address you, the representatives of every class, the best
that can be afforded in any city, the leading men of the city of Boston
in the different professions. It is only necessary, in the discharge of
my duty, that I should read to you the names of the gentlemen whom you
will be asked to elect as the officers of this meeting. They are as
follows: -







The list of names was unanimously approved; and the announcement of the
election of the gentlemen named therein was received with applause.

Mr. CANDLER continued, I have the honor of introducing to you JOSEPH S.
ROPES, Esq., a merchant of Boston, who has been called to fill a great
many places of trust, and who has always been found able in the
discharge of every duty, and faithful in every trust committed to him.


FELLOW-CITIZENS, - I thank you for the honor you have done me in inviting
me to preside on this auspicious occasion. You have come together
to-night, not to quarrel with one another's politics, not to abuse one
another's rival candidates, but to hold a friendly consultation upon one
of the most important and interesting and agreeable subjects which can
engage your attention, - the subject of public parks for the city of
Boston. [Applause.]

Gentlemen, I was born in Boston; and I well remember the time when our
cows were pastured on Boston Common, when the Back Bay was not a myth,
but a reality, and when at least a portion of the summit of Beacon Hill
was covered with green fields, on which were seen sometimes "raree
shows" and travelling menageries. Since that time, our city has grown
and swelled, and stretched itself north and south, and east and west,
striding over one arm of the sea, filling up another, swallowing the
neighboring towns one by one, taking two mouthfuls for Roxbury, and one
for Dorchester, and one for Charlestown and Brighton together, until it
has expanded its population sevenfold, and its area almost seventy times
seven, within fifty years. Yet there stands Boston Common just where and
just what it was - no larger, and thank heaven! as yet no smaller [loud
applause] - than it was fifty years ago.

Where are the breathing-places for this enlarged metropolis? Where are
the places of common resort for quiet and healthful enjoyment and
peaceful recreation for this expanded population? Where are the noble
parks and the wide-spreading groves? Where are the places fit for public
entertainment, which we find in every other large city in the civilized
world? - such as we see in London and Paris and Berlin and Vienna and
Florence and Rome and Naples - yes, even for the few brief months of
summer, in the northern capitals of Stockholm and St. Petersburg? And
echo answers, "Where?" [Laughter and applause.]

"Gone like a vision!"

My friends, I need not tell you that this matter has excited the
interest of our philanthropic and public-spirited citizens, and
especially of the medical faculty, to whom it is, in its sanitary
aspect, a matter of most important practical interest. And, through
their representations to the city government and to the state
legislature, a bill was brought before the legislature, which I had the
honor myself to report in the House of Representatives a little more
than a year ago, and which was passed by large majorities in both
houses, authorizing the city of Boston to purchase and to take lands
within its own limits for laying out public parks, and to co-operate
with adjacent towns in laying out conterminous parks for the common
benefit and advantage of citizens on both sides of the line.

This measure was opposed (as all such measures are opposed) on the
ground that "it would lead to jobbery and extravagance." And the answer
was ready at hand, that all public enterprises are liable "to lead to
jobbery and extravagance," but that the abuse of a good thing is no
argument against its valid use [applause]; that it is for the citizens
themselves, and for the government of the city of Boston, to see that
their trust is rightly and honestly carried out.

Again: it was argued that the people of Boston possess already, in their
beautiful suburbs, all that is required in pure air and beautiful
scenery. And this, again, is most true as regards those who live in
those suburbs, and those whose wealth enables them to pass to and fro in
their carriages, and regale their senses with the luxury of what they
there find. But what application has this, my friends, to the
working-man, to the masses of our population, whose sole idea of the
suburbs consists of an hour's rattling drive in a crowded street-car,
and an hour's seat by the side of a dusty thoroughfare?

Again: it was argued that the city of Boston could not afford this
expensive luxury of parks. And to this again it was easy to reply, that
so long as the city of Boston could afford prisons and jails, and any
number of millions spent for liquor and for hurtful indulgences, and for
the repression of vice and crime, it could afford to spend money for
this peaceful and healthful and elevating enjoyment for the people.

In a word, gentlemen, this bill became a law; and, in pursuance of that
law, a Commission was appointed by the city of Boston, the names of the
gentlemen composing which Commission I need not repeat to you; for they
are in all your hearts, as well as on all your lips. The Report of that
Commission is now, and has been for weeks, in your hands; and it is the
object of this meeting to indorse that Report, and to stimulate and
incite the government of the city of Boston to act in accordance with
its suggestions. We cannot expect that all its details will be approved
by every one; nor are we to suppose that all its details will be carried
out in action by the government. But it is not too much to say that it
is so well digested, so full and complete, and in every way so
satisfactory to the city and the citizens, that we cannot do better than
recommend it as a whole to the municipal authorities. [Applause.]

Now, my friends, it is not for me to do what will be so much better done
by those who succeed me on this platform, - to give you the reasons, and
enforce the arguments, for your action at this time. But as a
representative of the city of Boston, as an almost constant resident
within it for nearly thirty years past, as in my humble sphere a
representative of the merchants of Boston, as a taxpayer of Boston, and
in every way identified with the best interests and all the highest and
best aims of our city, I call upon you to-night to adopt and to indorse
and to commend this admirable system to our city government. [Applause.]
I have now the pleasure of introducing Mr. GEORGE B. CHASE, who will
present the resolutions.


MR. PRESIDENT, - On behalf of the committee who have had in charge the
arrangements for this meeting, I have the honor to offer for its
acceptance several resolutions which have been prepared for it by a
gentleman, than whom none is more versed in all that relates to the
business questions and interests of the city of Boston, and who, during
long and faithful service as secretary of the Board of Trade, became
familiar with all subjects relating to the development and prosperity of
the city. It is hardly necessary, Mr. Chairman, in such a connection, to
mention the name of Mr. HAMILTON A. HILL. [Applause.]

Mr. CHASE then read the resolutions as follows: -

_Resolved_, That this meeting would hereby emphatically re-affirm the
opinion which has been expressed, at the polls and elsewhere, by the
citizens and tax-payers of Boston, that the time has arrived when this
city should be provided with a park or parks similar to those which have
been projected by the other great cities of the United States, adapted
to the wants of our large and steadily increasing population, and on a
scale commensurate with the growing commercial importance and
metropolitan influence of the city.

_Resolved_, That the plan for a system of parks and parkways, prepared
and recommended by the Park Commissioners, commends itself to this
meeting as broad and comprehensive in its general features, fair to all
sections of the city in its details, admirably suited to meet all the
necessities of the case, and promising, when carried out, to make Boston
one of the most healthful, attractive, and beautiful cities in the

_Resolved_, That the pressing need which exists for a radical
improvement of the sewerage in some parts of the city, the present
cheapness and abundance of labor, the diminished value of land, and the
exceptionally favorable terms on which the city can now negotiate for
money, render it of the first importance that there should be no delay
on the part of the city government in the acceptance of the proposed
plan, and in the adoption of decided and vigorous measure for carrying
it into execution.

_Resolved_, That this meeting would therefore respectfully and
earnestly ask for immediate and favorable official action upon the
Report of the Commissioners, and that the chairman and secretaries are
hereby authorized and requested to communicate a copy of these
resolutions, properly authenticated, to his Honor the Mayor, and to each
branch of the City Council.

_Resolved_, That a committee of one hundred be appointed by the Chair,
to represent this meeting before the city government, and to secure the
desired action by it without loss of time.

THE CHAIRMAN. Gentlemen, you have heard the resolutions, which evidently
meet with your unanimous approbation. You will now be addressed in
behalf of those resolutions by one who needs no introduction from me,
Mr. RICHARD H. DANA, Jun. [Prolonged applause.]


FELLOW-CITIZENS, - I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this very
kind welcome I have received at your hands to-night on coming upon the
platform. I assure you, gentlemen, if I felt at liberty to waste the
precious hours of this evening upon any thing relating to myself, I
could say much more than I do to thank you for your great kindness.

But, gentlemen, we are met here on public business. You have heard what
we are asked to do. We are asked to petition the city government, and
send a committee of force to the city government (not as if the
government were at all reluctant, but that they may know the feeling of
the people of Boston), and ask the city government to go to work at
once, and see that Boston has, as soon as possible, these necessities
for her honor, her health, and her beauty. [Applause.]

In thinking of this subject, Mr. President and gentlemen, it occurred to
me that it was a very singular fact, and not altogether to the credit of
human nature, that great numbers of persons cannot live together without
extreme inconvenience. Now, Robinson Crusoe, when he lived on the Island
of Juan Fernandez alone, was not troubled with any question of public
parks, or drainage, or health. Things took care of themselves. But when
you get two or three or four hundred thousand Robinson Crusoes in a few
square miles, you find the whole state of things is reversed, that you
require all the patience, all the science, a large part of the money,
and a large part of the industry, of the population, that you may live
at all, and on any terms. The lower parts of our nature, the animal
parts, tend to produce certain results which the intellectual parts are
expected to meet and control. If they do not that, men become savages;
if they do, they are enlightened.

Now, in this great and enlightened city of Boston, the pride of us all,
the "Athens of America," as we all know we are [laughter], and, as our
friend Dr. HOLMES there has told us, the "Hub of the Universe"
[laughter], it would hardly be respectful to say that one of the
questions before us was, Which of those two roads we were going to
take, - whether we were going to let the intellectual and moral parts
have the upper hand, or whether we were going to sink beneath the
material part. And yet, gentlemen, that is a good deal the question that
is before us to-night.

Why, look at the progress which is inevitably made where you get great
numbers of human beings together. You must have drainage, you must look
to the health of the population, and then you must look to their
recreation and their amusements (for they will have them); and, if they
are not good and creditable and honorable, they will not cease to exist,
but they will come before us in the most shameful and unwholesome form.
We used to be told, gentlemen, that Boston had natural parks all about
her, and she did not need any artificial parks. Well, now, I am not in
favor of any artificial parks. All I ask is, that the beauty of the
environs of Boston may be preserved. [Applause.]

We are on the defensive. We are defending the wholesomeness and the
beauty of our beloved city against this encroachment of population. Why,
the time was - Mr. ROPES will tell you when the time was - when the Back
Bay was a beautiful sheet of water, filled at high tide, carrying the
healthful air through the whole city. But then the necessity of
population called for its filling up, and it is now piled in upon, and
we have there now what Dr. CLARKE called "a natural cesspool."

We changed the Back Bay from a beautiful bay, where the wholesome tides
of the ocean swept in, to a natural cesspool.

Well, now, look at the lanes and roads in the suburbs of
Boston - beautiful. As you ride over them, there are trees hanging over
them, and there are bushes on each side: you say it is charming. Well,
go out there the next year. The selectmen if it is a town, the city
government if it is a city, have changed all that. They have made a
straight line right through it, and widened the streets sixty feet; cut
down every tree, and made it one of the most disagreeable and painful
spectacles that the eyes could rest upon. It is their duty so to do: it
is a necessity. And so you go on destroying the beauties of the city,
destroying its wholesomeness, destroying its charm; and now we have got
to meet that tendency, and we have the power to meet it. We have the
intellect, we have the money, we have the will, and we have the taste;
and we would be incensed if any one should suggest that we do not. And
yet we have allowed every city in the United States to get in advance of
us. [A voice, "That's so."] Chicago has three thousand acres of parks;
Philadelphia, five thousand; New York, one great park of about one
thousand acres; and almost every city in Europe has better, more
handsome and attractive accommodations than the city of Boston. I am
ashamed to say it; but it is so. I trust, however, gentlemen, that,
before I ever have the honor of addressing you again, we shall have
taken the first step to remove this odium from the city of Boston.

Some six years ago, I think it was, the people got greatly in earnest
that this park should be undertaken. They saw that the progress of the
manufactories was fast destroying the beauties of Boston; that they were
taking up the land in the suburbs rapidly: and, when I said that your
green lands were destroyed, with their beautiful curved lines, I forgot
to mention that your beautiful sheets of water are in the same danger.
Why, look at Fresh Pond, look at Jamaica Pond! They are beautiful
objects to gaze upon: but when manufactories begin to surround them,
when there are soap manufactories and tanneries, and I do not know what,
draining into the pond, the result is, that the water is unwholesome,
that the fish die, the water cannot be drunk, and then physicians begin
to tell their patients, "You had better move out of that neighborhood."
Are you aware, gentlemen, that that is coming upon us, that we must meet
it, and avert it?

Some years ago, the people of Boston were earnestly in favor of a park,
or system of parks. The legislature, for some reason or other, required
that the project should receive a vote of two-thirds of the people. That
was extraordinary and hard. But it did receive a vote of two-thirds of
the people of Boston proper, and more than two-thirds; but from the
accident of a newly added portion of the city, for some reason or other,
taking a slant in a certain direction, they voted very largely against
it, and it fell through. We must take warning from that; for land that
would have made then a handsome park, which we could have had, we cannot
have now at all. It would cost altogether too much to take
dwelling-houses and factories and railroad beds, if we could, for a

Well, after six years of restlessness, at last we went before the
legislature again; and we got an act passed, authorizing the appointing
of commissioners with powers. That act passed, helped by our most able
fellow-citizen, MR. ROPES, chairman of this meeting; and it was
submitted to the votes of the people of Boston; and the park project was
carried by the votes of this entire population, - Boston, East Boston,
Charlestown, South Boston, Dorchester, Brighton, which make, all
together, a very large and most decisive majority. And therefore,
gentlemen, the question is not, Shall we have parks? you have decided
that; but the question is, Whether, having determined to have them, we
shall rest content with saying so? whether we will have our paper parks,
as we have our paper money, with nothing to rest upon [laughter], or
whether we shall have genuine parks, with life and trees, and have
sheets of water? Now we are here to-night to say it is the latter that
we want. [Applause.]

Fellow-citizens, that statute authorized the appointment by the MAYOR,
subject to approval, of three commissioners. Well, that was wise. It
was not nine, seven, nor five; but it was three. Well, his Honor the
Mayor, who has presided with so much dignity, wisdom, and integrity
[applause] over the city of Boston for two years, - and we would be glad
to get him for a third year, if his health would permit it
[applause], - his Honor the Mayor appointed three gentlemen as
commissioners, in whom this community have entire confidence. There are
no politics among the Board of Commissioners; there is no jobbery in the
Board of Commissioners; and I will venture to predict, gentlemen, that,
when they finish their task, there will be no investigation. [Great

I was amazed on looking over their charge. Why, I found an item of
coach-hire for the whole period of their service, nine dollars. Why, it
would not have been enough to take three common councilmen from Parker's
or Young's. [Laughter.] But it is all they have charged; and how, on
that sum, they succeeded in riding around Boston, I do not know. Their
experience with persons who let carriages must have been much more
favorable than mine has been. But not only have they done honorably,
economically, and frugally, they have put into their work an amount of
brain-labor, an amount of patient investigation and of good judgment,
which no one can have an adequate opinion of who has not read their
book; but, if he has not, I hope he will. And at least this I may be
allowed to say, I do not think any citizen of Boston has the right to
object to those parks, or to be silent or indifferent on the subject,
unless he has read the report of the Commission, and knows what is
proposed, and has been done. [Applause.] They have consulted the best
authorities. They have consulted Mr. FREDERICK LAW OLMSTEAD, who laid
out Central Park in New York, and he is the highest authority on the
construction of parks in the country; and he has been all over this
neighborhood, viewing the localities, and they have taken every thing
into consideration; and, gentlemen, what is the result? They do not
propose to us one great park of a thousand acres, at an almost
unattainable distance; they do not propose a great park that nobody can
get to, unless he gives a day to it, and a good deal of money: but they
have adopted a system based upon the natural characteristics of the
neighborhood of Boston. And what better could they do? At East Boston,
they have given them a park upon the water-side, where they will always
have the fresh breezes of the sea. At South Boston, they have given them
a park upon the water-side, one directly opposite Fort Independence, and
then another one, called the South Park, larger; and Chester Park, which
you are all familiar with, is already extended, and nearly ready to be
used as far as Beacon Street; and thence it is to go over to Cambridge,

1 3 4

Online LibraryVariousParks for the People → online text (page 1 of 4)