Benjamin Franklin Papers

Pennsylvania Assembly Committee: Report on the Dock, [9 February 1763]

Pennsylvania Assembly Committee: Report on the Dock

Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1762–1763 (Philadelphia, 1763), p. 23.

“A Remonstrance and Petition from divers Inhabitants” of Philadelphia was presented to the Assembly, Jan. 24, 1763, complaining, among other things, that the public dock or creek in the southern part of the city4 was “in a great Measure useless, and in its present Condition a Recepticle for the Carcases of dead Dogs, and other Carrion, and Filth of various Kinds,” and had become most offensive and injurious to health. The petitioners pointed out that the dock might be rendered navigable for small craft and useful for conveying firewood, building materials, and other necessaries if properly cleaned, walled, and provided with a plank bottom. Another petition read the next day asked for a law for cleansing the dock and keeping it open under proper regulations.5 The Assembly considered these complaints, February 3, and appointed a committee of six members, including Franklin, to inquire into the condition of the dock, find whether there were any private claims on it, and determine what sites suitable for public landings might be available for purchase along the river front. The committee reported six days later.6

[February 9, 1763]

The Committee appointed to enquire into the State of the Dock, the private Claims thereon, and whether any suitable Lots for public Landings are to be purchased, beg Leave to report to the House,

That they have enquired into the State of the Dock, and find it very necessary for the public Utility that the same be cleansed, and properly walled; and that they cannot find that any Persons have any just and legal Claims to the said Dock, or the Streets laid out adjoining thereto; and that they apprehend convenient Lots for Landings for the City of Philadelphia, may be purchased at a reasonable Price, above and below the City, on the River Delaware.7

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4For the location of the dock and creek see the map of Philadelphia, above, II, facing p. 456.

5Fifteen years earlier, in February 1748, BF had been on a committee of the Philadelphia City Council to consider what should be done about the dock and the swamp out of which the creek flowed. The committee had recommended extensive improvements, but nothing of lasting benefit had been done because of the expense involved. See above, III, 276–9.

6Votes, 1762–63, pp. 15, 21, 23.

7The six members of this committee had already been appointed, January 28, to bring in a bill supplementary to the act of 1762 for paving the city streets. The committee now incorporated in that measure clauses authorizing the purchase of one convenient lot on the river “at or near each side of the said city” as public landing places, directing the street commissioners to clean, repair, and make navigable the dock, and requiring owners of lots on the streets flanking it to wall in with stone at their own expense their sections of its banks. This bill became law, March 4, 1763. Another act approved the same day contained a clause to forbid throwing any “carcase, carrion or filth,” or any dirt or rubbish into the dock under penalty of 40s. fine. Votes, 1762–63, pp. 18, 24, 28, 29, 32, 35–36; Statutes at Large, Pa., VI, 232, 238–40.

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