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The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 4 (January 1904)

Gans, Charles
The workingman's dwelling in France,   pp. 367-377 PDF (3.9 MB)

Page 368

larger numbers than elsewhere. It created
a movement which rapidly spread and devel-
oped. Scarcely instituted, it was propa-
gated from man to man. All those who
think, all those who comprehend, were led
away by the beauty of the idea. And now,
to-day, in all classes of society, among
tradespeople, manufacturers, authors, scien-
tists, and artists, there are men, who, con-
vinced of the justice of the theory, are mak-
ing interesting and serious attempts to ac-
complish what they believe to be a social
duty. Carried forward by the movement,
the legislator has been forced to aid it, and
of late years numerous laws have been en-
acted with the object of bettering the condi-
tion of the workingman. This universal
impulse, still active, has produced excellent
   The thought which, of necessity, came
first to the original apostles of the principle
of the right to existence was the imperative
need of removing the workingman from the
dwelling then inhabited by him, which was
not only unhealthy for his body, but de-
structive to his mind. It appeared impos-
sible to reformers to afford to the human
being a healthy moral and intellectual exist-
ence, if his material existence were not first
-anified by removing him from the hovel in
which he was confined, and which ren-
dering home-life impossible, attracted him
to the vulgar and demoralizing but in-
expensive   pleasures  alone  within   his
means and reach. The reformers easily
understood that before adorning the minds
of the poor, it was necessary to cleanse them,
and that beings born in vile places, deprived
of family life, constrained during childhood
and youth to wander in the street, and later
to lounge and prowl about the wineshops,
were incapable of the effort of reflexion
which alone could afford them intellectual
and moral existence. This thought was
afterward followed by effective realization.
  At this time, the question formulated it-
self in terms much more simple than those
in which it is to-day included. It was then
a mere question of removing the working-
man from those odious tenements in the
artisan-quarters of cities, which confined
within four cracked and damp walls an
incredible number of individuals. It was a
question of creating a hearth for the work-
ingman, of inspiring him with a taste for
family life and home pleasures. Since then,
this idea has become definite; this conception
has broadened. But, at first, the only
thought was to provide for the workingman
a dwelling in which comfort and hygienic
measures should operate alike upon his
moral and his physical health. This was
only a beginning, but yet a movement which
necessitated a pronounced effort.
  The houses inhabited by the workingmen
were most defective in arrangement. Some-
times they were old buildings, dating from
times when the respect for cleanliness and
sanitation did not as yet exist. The neces-
sity of fitting them to contain a large num-
ber of tenants had made them still more to
be condemned. There were other houses
which had been built for the express purpose
of lodging workingmen, and with the sole
aim of utilizing every inch of ground. But
whatever their origin, their appearance,
sometimes picturesque, revealed an absolute
contempt for the rules of hygiene and even
of the most rudimentary morals. It must
be added that many of these houses still
exist. Their   condition is pitiable. In
Paris, they consist generally of immense

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