Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 13
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 13
 
strength of the foundation walls.” What matter? They were not intended to last. The rent was high enough to make up for the risk—to the property. The tenant was not considered. Nothing was expected of him, and he came up to the expectation, as men have a trick of doing. “Reckless slovenliness, discontent, privation, and ignorance were left to work out their inevitable results, until the entire premises reached the level of tenanthouse dilapidation, containing, but sheltering not, the miserable hordes that crowded beneath smouldering, water-rotted roofs, or burrowed among the rats of clammy cellars.” 1
 
 
One of the Five Points Fifty Years ago.
 
  We had not yet taken a lesson from Nero. That came later. But otherwise we were abreast. No doubt the Roman landlord, like his New York brother of a later day, when called to account, “urged the filthy habits of his tenants as an excuse for the condition of the property.” It has been the landlord’s plea in every age. “They utterly forgot,” observes the sanitarian who was set to clean up, “that it was the tolerance of those habits which was the real evil, and that for this they themselves were alone responsible.” 2
  Those days came vividly back to me last winter, when in a Wisconsin country town I was rehearsing
Note 1. Report of Select-Committee of Assembly, New York, 1857. [ back ]
Note 2. New York Health Department Report, 1866, Appendix A, p. 6. [ back ]

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