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Reasonable UseThe People, the Environment, and the State, New England 1790-1930$
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John T. Cumbler

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138139

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195138139.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 22 January 2022

Cooperation, Conflict, and Reaction

Cooperation, Conflict, and Reaction

Chapter:
(p.119) 7 Cooperation, Conflict, and Reaction
Source:
Reasonable Use
Author(s):

John T. Cumbler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195138139.003.0011

When James Olcott spoke before Connecticut farmers for “anti-stream pollution,” he urged the public to mobilize to stop water pollution by “ignorant or reckless capitalists.” In identifying the “ignorant and reckless capitalists,” Olcott focused the attention of the farmers on industrial waste and the role of manufacturers in their search for profits in causing pollution. Although manufacturers and the courts argued that industrialization brought wealth and prosperity to New England and hence was a general good, Olcott challenged this idea. He saw the issue as a conflict between industrialization and its costs on the one hand and the public good on the other. Concern over industrial pollution and the potential conflict between it and public health had already arisen in Massachusetts. Although the Massachusetts State Board of Health realized that the interests of the “capitalists” and those of the public health officials might be in conflict, in 1872 it hoped that with improved knowledge, “a way will be eventually found to joining them into harmonious relations,” much as Lyman believed science and technology would resolve the conflict between fishers and mill owners. The board's interest in “harmonious relations” also reflected a realization that at least for the last several years, the courts had seen pollution as an inevitable consequence of civilization and had been favorable toward industrialists, especially if no obvious alternative to dumping pollution existed. In 1866, William Merrifield sued Nathan Lombard because Lombard had dumped “Vitriol and other noxious substances” into the stream above Merrifield's factory, “corrupting” the water so badly that it destroyed his boiler. Chief Justice Bigelow ruled that Lombard had invaded Merrifield's rights. “Each riparian owner,” the judge wrote, “has the right to use the water for any reasonable and proper purpose. . . . An injury to the purity or quality of the water to the detriment of the other riparian owners, constitutes in legal effect, a wrong.” In 1872, Merrifield again went to court, claiming the City of Worcester regularly dumped sewage into Mill Brook, by which the waters became greatly corrupted and unfit to use.”

Keywords:   antimodernism, courts, doctors, individualism, industrialization, lotteries, riparian right

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