The American States during and after the Revolution, 1775-1789

By Allan Nevins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOURTEEN FACING WESTWARD: CONCLUSION

In less than a generation, 1760- 1790, the compact belt of settlement which flanked the Atlantic coast approximately doubled in area. At the beginning of this period there were perhaps 1,500,000 people in the colonies, and at its close the United States held almost 4,000,000. The former date found the white population confined to the southeastern parts of New York and Pennsylvania, and about half of the present area of North Carolina and Virginia; in North Carolina it stretched a narrow finger of settlement up the Wateree only as far as Camden, and in Georgia another finger up the Savannah as far as Augusta. Considerable portions of even Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland remained to be settled. From Albany, from Lancaster, and from Hillsborough in North Carolina the traveler might strike west and plunge immediately into the primeval forest, wholly untouched by man. But despite the interruption of two wars, immigration, the fecundity of the people, and the irresistible call of the west wrought their changes with amazing rapidity. By 1790 the tide of population had covered all of what is now Virginia, the two Carolinas, New York southeast of Fort Stanwix, and the lower half of Pennsylvania, where it was spilling over into Ohio. Outposts of settlement had been thrown forward into central Tennessee, and in Kentucky an irregular patch of colonization was fast covering the middle part of the State.1

Even by 1791 the population of what we may strictly call the West remained small, but it was rapidly increasing. Of the 4,000,000 Americans, not more than 150,000 dwelt beyond the watershed of the Alleghenies.2 What is now Tennessee then contained at the utmost 60,000 people; a few of them in the Mero or Nashville

____________________
1
The first census gave the United States 1,929,000 people. Consult W. S. Rossiter, "A Century of Population Growth in the United States." There is an excellent map in E. B. Greene "The Foundations of American Nationality,"530, showing population in 1790.
2
Channing, III, 528, says 125,000 at the utmost in 1790; but this may represent too small an allowance for the Tennessee country. An imperfect return by the Governor in 1791 with five districts missing, gave 35,691 people in Tennessee; see Winterbotham's "United States," III, 234.

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