Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/604

This page has been validated.
586
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

great sinners in this respect. While they are continually extolling the natural advantages of the city, her magnificent river-front and harbor, her advantageous situation, her brilliant sky, they are also constantly bewailing her bad government, her lukewarm public spirit, and the universally asinine quality of her public officers. One would think that her present position as a metropolis is entirely due to natural advantages, and has been gained in spite of the most earnest opposition from her leading citizens. The elevation of an honest, sober, intelligent citizen to a public office makes him straightway an ass in the estimation of his fellows. A public officer, who declines to do what certain citizens want him to do, is believed by them to be prima facie corrupt. If he agrees to do what they wish, some other citizens are equally certain that he has been bought. It seems impossible for a man to remain in public office in New York City for six months without having charges or intimations of bribery come to his ears, in one form or another. And not only are our public officers all supposed to be open to corrupt influences, but, when they are put in office, they are believed ipso facto to become suddenly ignorant of all that they knew before. And not only are they taunted with ignorance, incapacity, and an itching palm, but they are continually reminded that things are much better managed elsewhere, and that the sooner they learn how a city ought to be governed, by observing how other cities are governed, the sooner they will become of some use in their places.

One of the things New-Yorkers complain most about is the dirty streets, including the garbage-box nuisance. It is a popular belief, fostered by the leading newspapers, that New York is the only large city in the civilized world where such a filthy nuisance as the garbage box would be tolerated, and those officers who have charge of the public health are continually reminded of Paris and London, where no such frightful eyesores exist, and where the public service in this regard is immaculate, as every person who has taken a flying summer trip through those cities is ready to testify.

Another frequent cause of complaint is the offensive odors from manufacturing establishments, which also are believed to be kept under such strict watch in Paris and London that they are never nuisances; and the American visitor, being sure that such things are banished from those cities, wants to have them driven out of this one.

The purpose of this paper is not to show that the complaints of our citizens are unfounded, for they are, unfortunately, too well founded, but to do something toward stemming the prevailing current of opinion—1. That the dirty streets and offensive odors of New York are entirely due to the negligence, stupidity, or corruption of public officers; and, 2. That Paris and London are free from the same kind of nuisances. I shall, in other words, try to show that Paris and London, in similar circumstances, are troubled with dirty streets and offensive odors, depending upon the same causes as in New York, and that the public