The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government - Vol. 2

By Nathaniel Southgate Shaler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII.
INDUSTRY AND FINANCE.

THE industrial achievements of the American commonwealth have become commonplace. The extraordinary advance in population, in wealth, in mechanic arts, in the establishment of civilization in what had been, a space ago, a wilderness--these phenomena have attracted the attention of all who have watched the progress of mankind. But it is not the volume and quantity of these achievements which chiefly interest the thoughtful observer. It is their quality: the proofs which they afford as to the future of mankind, the hopes which they really justify as to the progress of the race; above all, the lessons which they teach as to the success of democracy and of self-government not only in its political but in its economic and social aspects.

We may begin with a sketch of the increase of the community in population. The growth in numbers has been unexampled in the history of the world. Since the early part of the seventeenth century the population of what are now the United States has increased at a rate probably the most rapid at which the human race can increase. A doubling of population in the space of about twenty-five years was supposed by Malthus to represent the maximum rate at which the human species could propagate. Malthus's estimate was indeed based upon the very growth which we are now considering: the rate of increase in the American colonies he supposed to indicate the most rapid advance which human society had showed. Later students of statistics, considering the physiological possibilities--the child-bearing capacity of women and the proportion of unpreventable deaths that must yearly occur--have concluded that this rate, in fact, represents the maximum; nay, have even doubted whether the increase known to have taken place in the American communities could have been maintained by natural growth, unaided by immigration. The somewhat uncertain figures which we have as to the growth of population in the colonies indicate that a population of

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