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most needed. Chicago can still claim to be the dirtiest city in the world; and besides the filth and disorder of its streets and alleys, it permits such unpardonable acts as dumping the garbage of some of the best wards upon vacant lots in the poorest wards. Surely the destruction of the poor is their poverty!
Our cities fail generally to provide the people with pure and abundant water. Philadelphia has for years had a notably bad water-supply, and the water-supply of Chicago is frequently polluted by the sewage of the city, so as to render it unfit for use. The Chicago school-board ordered the water turned off from the public schools five months of this year, until a system of filters should be decided upon, and two hundred and twenty-five thousand children. went thirsty for five months while the board wrangled over filter contracts. Public baths and wash-houses are practically unknown in most American cities, and the homes of the poor are only rarely equipped with bathrooms. The report of the government investigation of the Slums of Great Cities issued in 1894 showed that ninety-six per cent of the houses investigated in New York, and eighty-two per cent in Philadelphia, were entirely without bathroom accommodation.1
The sewerage system and sanitary conditions of houses in tenement districts is no better than the bad street-service and polluted water-supply. Indeed the city's neglect of sanitary and livable conditions in the poorer districts is one of the crying evils of the time. The homes of the people are the chief factors in determining our present and future civilization, and the cities allow the building of insanitary houses, overcrowding on lots and in houses, and insufficient provision for comfortable or even decent home life.
It is a mere grasp-and-greed policy, benefiting no one but the landlord and the dishonest contractor, and it in1 Seventh Special Report of U. S. Commissioner of Labor, 1894-95, p. 95.
creases the expenses of city government continually by filling the hospitals, almshouses, and prisons with the victims of the tenement-house. Our cities are hot-beds of crime as well as of disease, largely because of the wretched and overcrowded homes of the poorer citizens. Jacob Riis of New York, speaking of the origin of the criminal gangs in cities, says: "There is no more cause for wonderment about the 'gang' than there is about the excessive mortality in the homes of the poor. It is the tenement-house setting that accounts for both," and he quotes the prison statistics of the New York State Reformatory showing that of more than six thousand prisoners reported upon in 1893, over fifty per cent were shown to have come from homes reported as positively bad, while only nine per cent came from good homes,-the rest were put down as fair only.
From the masses huddled into tenements unfit for homes there comes forth a great army of physically and morally degenerate youth each year to prey upon society. Does city government interfere to reform these conditions? Very rarely! The degeneracy of those representative officers to whom the city delegates its responsibility is shown in the reply of the Chicago commissioner of public works to me last winter, on my protest against the building of tenements over the entire lot in all the poorer districts of the city, and my inquiry as to the ordinances respecting this wretched. abuse. The commissioner declared that there was no law forbidding it; but if "I were a poor man," he added, "and had a mortgage on my lot, I would build a rear tenement covering the entire lot, law or no law." When reasonable intelligence and common regard for law are thus lacking in the city's high officials, the hope for improved social conditions seems very slight. The chief of police in the same city just recently met with oaths and utter indifference a
1 Michigan Christian Advocate, May 5, 1895.
citizens' committee come to ask for enforcement of law against saloons in a residence district.
The city's disregard of its own laws and the toleration of institutions which foster crime and vice is forcibly illustrated in its attitude toward the saloon and gambling-den, which are systematic law-breakers, and schools of vice as well. Rigid enforcement of the ordinances as to Sunday and early closing, sale to drunkards and minors and the rest of the long list, would do much to curtail the evils growing out of these places, and tend to stem the tide of reckless disregard for law which is perhaps the most serious of our social disorders. Urgent as the need is for the total extinction of the saloon, it can hardly be demanded with justice in the present social condition of the city. The saloon is the poor man's only club, his sole refuge from the insanitary, dreary, and unsocial tenement-home. The saloon, with its free assembly halls and meeting-places, its free lunches, its public comfort stations, its banking facilities for the working-men, its warmth, light, and welcome for rich and poor alike, cannot be utterly condemned, and must certainly hold an important place in the social life of the city, until the municipal government, the church, or some other agency shall provide something equivalent for the masses of the people. The social reformer who denounces the saloon in toto, and demands its immediate extinction, must be prepared to offer in its place something to meet the legitimate social needs of the people. But we can justly demand a rigid enforcement of ordinances regulating the saloon and other vicious institutions. The gambling-den and the brothel are as heedless of the laws and ordinances as the saloon, and the police force of our cities, in collusion with these law-breakers, systematically levy tribute upon these establishments as the price for the privilege of breaking the law.
A walk or drive through the poorest city wards con
vinces one that our cities have provided no parks or playgrounds for the tenement-house dwellers, the people who need them most. The parks, large and small, are in the region of the better class homes, where good streets, fine lawns, parkways, and trees abound; while the homes of the poor are in treeless deserts and generally out of walking distance of any green spot or breathing space. That there is an awakening conscience and the beginning of active steps for reform on the subject, is cause for rejoicing. Few of our cities realize "the truth," as Edwin D. Mead forcibly says, "that beauty has a claim upon the whole life, and should determine the whole environment of a rational people, shaping and ordering their homes, their school life, their shops and their cities; that the city of a rational, well-educated, and properly organized people must be a work of art, not an agglomeration of freaks, where the wise man and the fool is each alike permitted to rear what he will;-where there is no hint in the aspect of the whole city of any corporate consciousness or care for noble and beautiful effect." Health, comfort, and beauty alike demand that small parks and playgrounds should be set aside in the poorer and overcrowded wards, and that direct supervision should insure the enforcement of ordinances against insanitary overcrowding, and for making attractive and healthful the environment of the working-people.
But the public school atones for all the other ill conditions of city life for the masses, some one may exclaim. And the public school is certainly the greatest civilizing agency of our cities,-working over as it does, five days of each week and ten months of the year, the raw material from every country under the sun, in an attempt to "make" good American citizens. The cities come nearer to success in their conduct of the schools than in any other undertaking for the social welfare. But their success here is marred by their failure to provide for thousands of children of
school age, and their neglect to provide those best antidotes of youthful vice and crime-kindergarten and manualtraining departments. In Chicago thirteen thousand children attend school only for half-day sessions for lack of room. The New York school-board estimates that forty thousand children are without school accommodation in that city, and the president of the New York school-board said in his inaugural last winter, that "perhaps the most conspicuous feature of the public school situation is the opportunity for improvement."
The city fails nowhere more conspicuously than in the fact of its hundreds and thousands of unemployed citizens,men and women willing to work, but unable to secure the means of a livelihood. The American statistical society published recently some records of the charity organization societies of New York, Baltimore, and six smaller cities as to the cause of need among the families whose condition was investigated last year, and it is a notable fact that lack of employment was shown to be the cause of distress in as many cases as sickness, intemperance, and shiftlessness combined. The rush of people to the cities has far outstripped the city's ability to employ them, and all temporary panaceas are worse than useless. Something fundamental has got to be done, and I hope the practical suggestions I have to offer later on will commend themselves as of that nature.
All this may seem a pessimistic and unfair indictment of the city in view of the splendid progress of our great cities in some directions,-their vast trade and manufacturing interests, their immense business blocks, large bank-clearings and increasing wealth, their splendid park systems, libraries, museums, and philanthropic institutions. I do not deny the glory of the city and its great achievements. I simply maintain that it fails to secure to the majority of its citizens tolerable social conditions in which to live and rear their families. I hold that the city fails to