Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 4
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 4
 
sent up a cry of distress that had in it a distinct note of menace. Political freedom we had won; but the problem of helpless poverty, grown vast with the added offscourings of the Old World, mocked us, unsolved. Liberty at sixty cents a day set presently its stamp upon the government of our cities, and it became the scandal and the peril of our political system.
  So the battle began. Three times since the war that absorbed the nation’s energies and attention had the slum confronted us in New York with its challenge. In the darkest days of the great struggle it was the treacherous mob; 1 later on, the threat of the cholera, which found swine foraging in the streets as the only scavengers, and a swarming host, but little above the hog in its appetites and in the quality of the shelter afforded it, peopling the back alleys. Still later, the mob, caught looting the city’s treasury with its idol, the thief Tweed, at its head, drunk with power and plunder, had insolently defied the outraged community to do its worst. There were meetings and protests. The rascals were turned out for a season; the arch-chief died in jail. I see him now, going through the gloomy portals of the Tombs, whither, as a newspaper reporter, I had gone with him, his stubborn head held high as ever. I asked myself
Note 1. The draft riots of 1863. [ back ]

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