The Fertility of American Women

By Wilson H. Grabill; Clyde V. Kiser et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

The history of our country coincides in time with that of a tremendous upsurge in world population. According to the best estimates available, the population of the world was about one-half billion in 1650 and was still under one billion (836 million) in 1800--150 years later. Since then the curve of growth has risen sharply. The number of people reached about 1.6 billion in 1900--almost twice the 1800 figure--and is now about 2.7 billion. In short, world population has increased fivefold since 1650, and if the rate of the last 5 years is maintained, it will more than double between the years 1950 and 2000.

Even within the setting of large increases in world population, the population growth of the United States has been outstanding, because the process has been the peopling of a rich, empty country. It has been estimated that before the white settlers came, there were only about one million aborigines in the whole of what is now the United States and Canada.1 Whatever the exact size of the Indian population may have been, the colonists initiated the great population growth. Since the first settlers were few in number, their rates of increase were frequently very high although the absolute increments were fairly small.

In this connection it may be recalled that one of the complaints lodged against the King of England in the Declaration of Independence was:

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither and raising the conditions of New Appropriations of Lands.

Since Thomas Jefferson, the chief author of the Declaration of Independence, was also an astute observer of population trends, it seems likely that the aforementioned complaint was directed against "obnoxious legislation" rather than any real "prevention of population." Benjamin Franklin had called attention earlier to the more rapid increase of population in the Colonies than in England.

Whatever may have been the attitudes of Jefferson and Franklin toward

____________________
1
Carr-Saunders has stated, "The size of the aboriginal population [in North America] before the arrival of white men has often been exaggerated; but the figure of one million for the United States and Canada, adopted by Willcox, now meets with general acceptance." See A. M. Carr-Saunders, World Population, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1936, p. 32.

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