Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 34
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 34
 
a hallway on Crosby Street; they had never been used to a yard; as for the darkness, that they had always been used to. They were “manured to the soil,” in the words of Mrs. Partington. But at length business claimed the last foot of the block, and peace came to it and to us.
  All the while we were learning. It was emphatically a campaign of education. When the cholera threatened there was the old disposition to lie down under the visitation and pray. The council pointed to the fifteen hundred cases of smallpox ferreted out by its inspectors “in a few days,” and sternly reminded the people of Lord Palmerston’s advice to those who would stay an epidemic with a national fast, that they had better turn to and clean up. We pray nowadays with broom in hand, and the prayer tells. Do not understand me as discouraging the prayer; far from it. But I would lend an edge to it with the broom that cuts. That kind of foolishness we got rid of; the other kind that thinks the individual’s interest superior to the public good—that is the thing we have got to fight till we die. But we made notches in that on which to hang arguments that stick. Human life then counted for less than the landlord’s profits; to-day it is weighed in the scale against them. Property still has powerful pull. “Vested rights” rise up and confront you, and no matter how loudly you may

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