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BY EDITH WHARTON
WILD winged thing, O brought I know not whence
Only I know at last
Sister, my comrade, I have ached for you,
VOL. 106 - NO. 6
To the sentinel pacings of the outmost stars -
And you have made a secret pact with Sleep,
her, to my side you steal,
Yet other nights, my sister, you have been
And I have climbed with you by hidden ways
Yet farther have I fared with you, and known
THE MATTER WITH US
BY WILLIAM S. ROSSITER
What is the matter with us?' is, in compels us to remember that at length effect, the question which has been the United States has emerged from asked many times of late in the Halls national childhood and arrived at a of Congress and in thousands of homes considerable degree of maturity. We in the cities and towns of the United endured our 'growing pains' with comStates.
placency, realizing their cause. Having This query does not relate to our grown so rapidly, however, we seem external affairs, nor to any failure to not to appreciate that our national achieve material success at home, but ailments are no longer the mere aches primarily to our daily experience, in of youth. In reality we are now subject the course of which the dwellers in all to the graver distempers which afflict larger communities (forming a decided the full-grown state. “The matter majority of the American people) find with us’ is principally population, themselves so heavily penalized by the an ailment of national maturity. advancing cost of the necessities of life, When the federation of states adoptespecially food-supplies, that much of ed the Constitution and founded a the advantage of increasing prosperity nation, the republic possessed a large - perhaps all of it - is sacrificed. geographical area and a meagre sup
The most reasonable answer to this ply of inhabitants. During the period inquiry carries us back from theorizing which has elapsed since that date, the to a common-sense point of view; it increase in number of inhabitants has
far outstripped increase in territory countries, whether large or small, it is In 1790, when the first census of the recognized that great density of popUnited States was taken, the density of ulation carries with it definite limitapopulation was but 4.8 inhabitants per tions upon the individual. In France, a square mile (computing total area). In property-owner is not permitted to cut 1900, it was 25.1. In 1790, the density down a tree upon his own land; he may, of population in the settled area was however, climb his tree and snip off 9.4 per square mile, but in 1900 in the twigs and small branches for firewood. same area it was 80.4. In short, in num- In consequence, in large areas many ber of inhabitants we have expanded of the trees are disfigured, but they rapidly into a huge nation, but thus still remain standing and form a part far we have failed to realize the limit of the national resources. In Japan, ations which of necessity accompany human beings do most of the work immense increase. In this census year which in less densely populated coun1910, the population of the United tries is performed by beasts of burden. States approximates at least eighty- In a country so densely populated as nine million souls. How many have Japan, this work is required for the awakened to the fact that this republic support of a large element of the laboris now the fourth largest nation in ing class. In this sense, therefore, Japan numbers upon earth?
literally cannot afford to breed and Moreover, the three nations which maintain many horses and other beasts are more populous than the United of burden. States are significant: Russia, with one If a traveler asks for accommodation hundred and thirty million inhabit- in a hotel in which there are but few ants, composed principally of a dense- other guests, a generous landlord may ly ignorant agricultural peasantry; assign him even more liberal accomIndia, with three hundred millions, of modation than he requires; but if the whom much the greater part are ignor- hotel be crowded, the newcomer will be ant human beings subsisting upon compelled to share a bed with a strangthe equivalent of a few cents per er, or perchance to sit up in the office. day; and China, with possibly three Again, if a man's house is located upon hundred and fifty or four hundred mil- a ten-acre lot, he is at liberty to act as lions of persons who maintain their riotously as he pleases at any hour of existence only by methods of living the day or night, with little danger of undreamed of and utterly impossible annoying others; but if a citizen elects
a in Western lands.
to occupy quarters in a city apartment It appears not to have occurred even house, liberty to do as he pleases is at to thoughtful Americans who have ob- once restricted, and those actions or served the conditions which prevail in sounds will not be tolerated which inoverpopulated countries that some of terfere with the convenience or comfort the symptoms there noted are likely to of others. These illustrations in a way develop in the near future in our own suggest the curtailment of individual land, and are possibly even now begin- freedom which must necessarily attend ning, since everywhere the struggle for great increase of population in the existence becomes fiercer as popula. United States. tion grows more dense.
In developing the resources of this Such change, indeed, is inevitably continent, the pioneers and their deattended by decreased individual free- scendants speedily forgot the frugality dom of action. In densely populated and the economical methods of Europe
which had been developed there by the ninety per cent of the population of the stern necessity for preserving soil and United States in 1790 was engaged in forest and mine. Not only have the or supported by some form of agricultcitizens of the United States by inherit- ure. This means that of approximateance been reared in an atmosphere of ly three millions of people, two milindividual extravagance, but they early lion seven hundred thousand derived summoned the world to migrate to their support from the soil, and three America to aid them in exploiting their hundred thousand from other callings. resources. Our case, in fact, resembles In 1900, the agricultural element rethat of a poor man coming suddenly presented about one third of the total into a great inheritance.
population, and the remaining two Confronted at length by an increas- thirds were engaged in industrial and ing tendency to dense population, we other occupations. still seek means of continuing the It is possible to imagine the proporsame wasteful methods of living which tion of 1790 as in existence in 1910. have prevailed in the past. Nothing, Upon such a supposition the United however, is more certain than the law States of course would be a distinctivethat dense population can be success- ly agricultural nation. In that event, fully and comfortably maintained only our eighty-nine millions of inhabitants by strictest frugality, proper distribu- would be divided in the proportion of tion, and with a reasonable adjustment eighty million one hundred thousand of callings. The abject poverty and persons engaged in agriculture, and suffering of great numbers of persons in eight million nine hundred thousand England at the present time in all prob- persons otherwise occupied; but, on ability largely result from disregard of the other hand, observe that it is not the altered conditions caused by dense practicable to apply the proportions of population.
1910 to the population which existed It is frequently urged that the Unit- in 1790. If it were, the spectacle would ed States is capable of supporting a have been presented in that year of vastly greater population than at pre- two millions of persons crowded into sent lives within its borders. This as- the cities, shops, and mines of the young sertion may be admitted as true solely nation, with but one million persons upon one condition: that the agricult- living upon the farms to produce the ural areas shall be fully peopled and food-stuffs and other material required intensively cultivated by inhabitants for the support of two thirds of the popcontented with reasonable returns. In ulation. It is safe to assert that at that that event, immense increase might period so small an agricultural element occur without economic revolution; in as one third of the total number of infact, it might thus have been possible, habitants could not have produced the so vast is our area and so great are our food-stuffs required for the support of resources, to have reached our present the remaining two thirds. population and to have materially ex- These comparisons not only suggest ceeded it, without curtailing to any the degree to which the elements inhermarked degree our inherited extravag- ent in the population of the nation ance of living. But normal distribu- have been adjusted during the century tion of population between town and which has elapsed since the Constitucountry would have been absolutely tion was adopted, but clearly indicate essential.
the real problem that the people of this To the best of our present knowledge, republic are now confronting.