The Madding Crowd
When Jacob Riis, the eminent humanitarian, started his campaign for amelioration of the living conditions of the poor, the American slum had already come to be regarded as a social evil of primary importance. Years of agitation and legislation have reaped no material harvest, and the slums are now larger, filthier, and a more serious menace than ever. Recently New York officials were forced to evacuate a few of that city's 4,000 or more firetraps, of which three immediately justified the move by burning to the ground--or rather to the dingy concrete courts which surrounde+2d them. This dumping of the more noisesome rabbit warrens has hardly scratched the surface, and has done little save excite the traditional opportunist shouts about private rights and "American ideals."
As a rule the periodic attempts at reform have taken the shape of tenement laws which aimed to force the owner to modernize his premises. This half-hearted legislation has seldom been either enforced or obeyed, and any really permanent improvement of housings under private management is rendered impracticable by the financial incapacity of the owners. Obviously the landlord, by very definition, can effect no change for which his impecunious tenants are unable to compensate him. The vast area of tottering, overcrowded structures common to all American cities cannot be patched or braced; it must eventually be scrapped in toto and replaced by a group of modern apartments fit for human habitation.
England has been the first to recognize that the Industrial Revolution, creator of urban slums, has at the same time given to civilization the tools for clearing them away. She has inaugurated a public building program embracing all of England and Wales. This move comes as a result of long consideration and represents the only effective solution to the problem. The American government has realized that crime, vice, and disease can be combatted only by concerted action. This logic must and eventually will be extended to wipe out the slum, insidious breeder of these evils. TERTIUS.