Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 9
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 9
 
I. Battling Against Heavy Odds
 
  THE slum I speak of is our own. We made it, but let us be glad we have no patent on the manufacture. It is not, as one wrote with soul quite too patriotic to let the Old World into competition on any terms, “the offspring of the American factory system.” Not that, thank goodness! It comes much nearer to being a slice of original sin which makes right of might whenever the chance offers. When to-day we clamor for air and light and water as man’s natural rights because necessary to his being, we are merely following in the track Hippocrates trod twenty-five centuries ago. How like the slums of Rome were to those of New York any one may learn from Juvenal’s Satires and Gibbon’s description of Rome under Augustus. “I must live in a place where there are no fires, no nightly alarms,” cries the poet, apostle of commuters. “Already is Ucalegon shouting for water, already is he removing his chattels; the third story in the house you live in is already in a blaze. You know nothing about it. For if the alarm begin from the

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