Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 234
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 234
 
the policeman on the street sitting on his safety-valve and holding it down, he is bound to explode. When he does, when he throws mud and stones, and shows us the side of him which the gutter developed, we are shocked, and marvel much what our boys are coming to, as if we had any right to expect better treatment of them. I doubt if Jacob, in the whole course of his wizened little life, had ever a hand in an honest game that was not haunted by the spectre of the avenging policeman. That he was not “doing anything” was no defence. The mere claim was proof that he was up to mischief of some sort. Besides, the policeman was usually right. Play in such a setting becomes a direct incentive to mischief in a healthy boy. Jacob was a healthy enough little animal.
  Such fun as he had he got out of law-breaking in a small way. In this he was merely following the ruling fashion. Laws were apparently made for no other purpose that he could see. Such a view as he enjoyed of their makers and executors at election seasons inspired him with seasonable enthusiasm, but hardly with awe. A slogan, now, like that raised by Tammany’s late candidate for district attorney, 1—“To hell with reform!”—was something he could grasp. Of what reform meant he had only the vaguest notion, but this
Note 1. In the first Greater New York election. [ back ]

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