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The power of the Commonwealth, by the legislature, over the sea, its shores, bays, coves, and all tidewaters, is not limited, like that of the crown at common law.
Defendant, Cyrus Alger, was indicted for an alleged breach of the statutes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which established the commissioners' lines, so called, in the harbor of Boston, by which defendant erected, built, and maintained a wharf over and beyond those lines into said harbor. The defendant was found guilty and the presiding judge, being of opinion that the questions of law arising in the case were so doubtful and important as to require the decision of this court, reported the case to present those questions.
Was the defendant guilty of breach of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts statutes that established the commissioners’ lines?
Yes. The court affirmed the decision of the trial court.
The court held that the act of fixing a line within the harbor of Boston, beyond which no riparian proprietor should erect a wharf or other permanent structure. To some extent, it prohibited the defendant from building such a structure on flats of which the defendant owned a fee, which was constitutional law, and one which was competent for the legislature to make. Also, the court said that the law was binding on the defendant, thereby rendering the defendant obnoxious to the penalties if the defendant violated the provisions.