Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 7
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 7
  Put it this way: you cannot let men live like pigs when you need their votes as freemen; it is not safe. 1 You cannot rob a child of its childhood, of its home, its play, its freedom from toil and care, and expect to appeal to the grown-up voter’s manhood. The children are our to-morrow, and as we mould them to-day so will they deal with us then. Therefore that is not safe. Unsafest of all is any thing or deed that strikes at the home, for from the people’s home proceeds citizen virtue, and nowhere else does it live. The slum is the enemy of the home. Because of it the chief city of our land came long ago to be called “The Homeless City.” When this people comes to be truly called a nation without homes there will no longer be any nation.
  Hence, I say, in the battle with the slum we win or we perish. There is no middle way. We shall win, for we are not letting things be the way our fathers did. But it will be a running fight, and it is not going to be won in two years, or in ten, or in twenty. For all that, we must keep on fighting, content if in our time we avert the punishment that waits upon the third and the fourth generation of those who forget the brotherhood. As a man does in dealing
Note 1. “The experiment has been long tried on a large scale, with a dreadful success, affording the demonstration that if, from early infancy, you allow human beings to live like brutes, you can degrade them down to their level, leaving them scarcely more intellect, and no feelings and affections proper to human hearts.”—Report on the Health of British Towns. [ back ]



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