Economic History of the United States

By Chester W. Wright | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
ECONOMIC CONDITIONS UNDER THE NEW GOVERNMENT AND WAR'S REACTIONS, 1789-1815.--(Continued)

Population and Immigration. The first census was taken in 1790 to determine the basis of representation in the House of Representatives and indicated a total population slightly less than 4,000,000 including some 700,000 slaves. In the two succeeding decades the population was increasing at a rate that would have doubled it every 26 years, indicating that the rapid growth that prevailed before the Revolution continued unabated. The influx of immigrants, interrupted during the Revolution, was also resumed; and, although no definite figures are available, it is estimated that the number of arrivals averaged about 4,000 a year between 1784 and 1794; from then on to 1810, about 6,000 yearly. Through this influx and the rapid natural increase plus the small addition from the acquisition of Louisiana the total population of the country rose to more than 7,000,000 in 1810, over one-seventh of this number being slaves.

The Westward Movement of Population. An important feature in the internal migration of the population during these years was the rapid influx of settlers into the region beyond the Alleghenies which began after the Revolution. This movement was furthered by the acquisition of title to various sections through treaties with the Indians, by the sale of lands belonging to the various states or to the Federal government, and by the introduction of better means of transportation.

During the earlier years most of those going to the West came from the upland of the Southern states and followed the old trail through the Cumberland Gap to the small settlements previously made in Kentucky and Tennessee. But after 1800, with the growing number migrating from the middle states and following the roads through Maryland and Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh became the immediate objective of an increasing proportion of the western emigrants. There they could obtain supplies which were loaded on a flatboat and thus fitted out could float down the Ohio until they reached the point nearest the place where they wished to locate; then they would disembark, proceed through the wilderness to a spot favorable for settlement, make a clearing, and erect a log cabin.

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