Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

the limits of the Union; of about 4 per cent, the places of parentage were unknown. In European countries, the bulk of the population work for hire, and are too poor to be able to change their locality; they lack rather the ability than the disposition to emigrate. But both in Europe and America, the rule holds, that, in general, only the poorer people, the laborers for wages, are inclined to seek a new home. If, therefore, within twenty years, about half a million of our people have migrated into these three States, it is a proof that the laboring class here generally have the pecuniary means for such migration, or, in other words, they have a small capital, which, if they saw fit, (and many of them actually adopt such a course,) they might employ in establishing themselves in business on their own account, in the places of their nativity, and thus ceasing to work for wages. Taking the whole population of the United States together, according to the same census, it appears that about 4,175,000 native-born white Americans, or over 21 per cent of the whole number, are now resident in other States than those in which they had their nativity.

The doctrines of the English Political Economists respecting wages, that any increase of the laboring population is necessarily an evil, as it increases the demand for the means of subsistence without proportionally increasing the supply of those means, and as it increases the competition in the labor market, thereby depressing the rate of wages; that the natural or necessary rate of wages is the smallest sum that will purchase those articles for a family which, according to the custom of the country, are regarded as requisite for the necessaries and decencies of life, or, in other words, that the only limit to the depression of wages is this conventional standard of what is absolutely requisite for the maintenance even of the poorest family, — these doctrines, I say, cease to be applicable, or to have even the appearance of truth, here in the United States. Our natural standard of wages is, not the smallest sum which will enable the temperate and industrious native-born laborer to support a family with decency, but the smallest that will enable him to do not only thus much, but to amass capital, — that will induce him to forego the independence and the other advantages of trading or working for himself. A true regard for the interests of the class to which he belongs would lead us to seek rather to lower, than to elevate, his idea of what is necessary for this end. The love of independence, the thirst for adventure, the hope of drawing one of those glittering prizes that often reward a daring spirit, though accompanied with a vast proportion of blanks, tempt far too many to abandon the safe course of slowly collecting a moderate property by savings from wages. Many a bankrupt farmer, tradesman, or master-mechanic might have safely earned independence by continuing to work for hire.

The progress of the population, unparalleled as it has been for rapidity, has been far from producing here what the English Economists regard as its necessary result, — the depression of wages. The real value of wages, or the quantity of the necessaries of life which they will purchase, may be rather said to have steadily increased in this country ever since the beginning of the present century, when our population was less than one fourth of its present amount. Neither can the phenomenon be wholly explained by the recent date of our settlements, nor by the extent of fertile, unoccupied land in our Western territory. It is only by comparison that the States on our Atlantic border, in which this phenomenon of high wages is exhibited, can be called recent settlements. Most of them are already over two hundred years old, and have long since passed beyond the stages of colonial infancy and childhood. True, the drain that is caused by the constant migration westward tends to explain the effect; but the question remains, why a similar result is not produced even in England; for, as I have already remarked, the way from Massachusetts to Iowa, Kanzas, and Minnesota, is nearly as long, and quite as expensive, as from Dublin and Liverpool to Nova Scotia and Canada. I attribute the result, therefore, to moral rather than to physical causes, — to American institutions, more than to the fact that America is still a new country, and is rich in fertile and yet unoccupied land. The mobility of society, the wider distribution of property, the absence of castes, la carriere ouverte aux talens, and other peculiarities created and fostered by our laws, are alone sufficient to account for the phenomenon.

The only two causes which strongly tend to a depreciation of wages in this country are the vast and constantly increasing immigration of foreigners, and the discouragement of our manufactures through the want of a protective tariff. These two causes, in a great degree, work together, and their combined action may soon produce as lamentable an effect upon wages in the United States, as other agencies have caused in Great Britain and Ireland. At present, our institutions are preserved, and general content exists among the people, because no class in the community finds itself doomed to irretrievable penury, and not one individual is without the well-grounded hope of improving his condition, and perhaps of rising even to high rank in the social scale. But let the rate of wages here be reduced to what the English Economists regard as their natural and necessary standard, — that is, to a bare sufficiency for subsistence from day to day,— and the class of laborers, who must always form the majority in any community, and who, with us, also have the control in politics, will not be satisfied without organic changes in the laws, which will endanger at once our political and social system. Our immunity thus far ought not to betray us into a blind confidence for the future. A few years have produced a marvellous alteration in our prospects, and the change has not been altogether for our advantage. The Atlantic has been bridged by steam, and the ties which connect us with Great Britain, and link our commercial and social well-being with hers, are strengthening every day. Ireland is depopulating itself upon our shores; and already the rate of increase from abroad is two thirds as great as that of the natural growth of the population at home. During the year 1854, the number of immigrant foreigners brought by sea to our shores was 427,833; the average for the last four years exceeded 400,000 annually. The annual average for the three years ending December 31, 1845, was but 121,000, or considerably less than one third of the present average. In one particular, this result is inevitable; we might as well try to dam up the Mississippi with bulrushes, as to stop this great westward migration of the nations. But we may enlarge the field of employment, and increase the number of the applications of industry, so that this immense influx shall not produce its full effect in depressing the price of labor.*

* The number of passengers arriving in the United States by sea from foreign countries, from September 30, 1843, to December 31,1854, was as follows: —

The tide of emigration was first turned with overwhelming force upon our shores in 1847, a year of famine in Ireland and Scotland, and of great distress in several other parts of Europe. The census taken by the English government in 1851 not only affords evidence of the extent of the calamity then endured, but has brought to light another startling fact, which is without a parallel in the history of the world; — a great and fertile country, inhabited by a civilized people, enjoying a mild and equitable government, and yet, without the agency of war, pestilence, or any sudden paralysis of its industry from external causes, actually becoming depopulated by famine and emigration.

The population of Ireland in 1841 was 8,175,124. Assuming that the natural rate of increase of the Irish people for ten years is twelve per cent, which is the estimate of the Census Commissioners for 1841, it follows that the number in 1851, if it had not been diminished by the two causes just mentioned, would have been 9,156,139. But the actual population of Ireland in 1851 was 6,515,794; that is, 1,659,330 less than it was ten years before, and considerably over two and a half millions less than what it should have been, if the natural law of increase had not been checked*

[table]

1,666,874 1,110,492 404,029 3,174,395

From the number" of arrivals here given for 1854, we should deduct 32,641, as the number of citizens of the United States returning home, leaving 427,833 immigrant foreigners, as stated in the text. A corresponding reduction should be made for the other years; but, on the other hand, this table includes only the number of arrivals by sea, and takes no account of those who came into the country over our inland frontier, from Canada and elsewhere. The number of foreigners entering the United States by land would be more than an offset for the number of Americans included in the preceding table among the arrivals by sea.

Of those who arrived in 1854, about 215.000 are reported as coming from Germany, 101,606 from Ireland, over 58,000 from Great Britain, and 13,317 from France. In former years, the proportion of Irish immigrants was much greater.

What has become of these millions of human beings? The official returns of the total emigration from the United Kingdom for the ten years ending in March, 1851, show that only 1,741,476 persons emigrated during this period. This includes the drain from England and Scotland also; but it is probable that nearly as many Irish passed over into the sister island as would make up for the number of natives who left it to go abroad. And yet there remain about 900,000 Irish to be accounted for, — an immense loss of population, to be attributed to famine and the diseases consequent upon extreme misery and want. And the drain still continues; a panic seems to have seized the population of Ireland, and they rush to the seaports to embark for any other portion of the earth, as if the whole island labored under a curse. The emigration for 1849 and 1850, amounting to 432,491, is included in the numbers already given. But in 1851, we learn that 254,537 Irish emigrants left their native land; 224,997 left in 1852, and 199,392 in 1853; thus making a total of 678,926 persons who quitted Ireland during the next three years after the last census was taken. The population of the island at the close of 1853, therefore, cannot have amounted to six millions. The total emigration from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, for the three years ending in December, 1853, (including the numbers already given for Ireland,) amounted to 1,033,537, a number somewhat exceeding the natural increase through the excess of births over deaths, so that the population of the kingdom actually declined during this period.

* The actual rate of increase in Ireland from 1831 to 1841 was only five per cent. But during this period, the causes had already hegun to operate, which, in the succeeding decade, had so remarkable an effect in thinning the population. In the preceding ten years, 1821 to 1831, the rate was fourteen per cent, which is about two per cent lower than the corresponding rate in England for the same period. There is reason to believe that the Irish tend to multiply faster than the English or the Scotch; that is, that the births among them are proportionally more numerous. The Irish Census Commissioners show that their estimate, which I have adopted in the text, is a safe one, by proving from the returns that 572,464 persons emigrated from Ireland during the ten years preceding 1841, —a number sufficient to raise the proportion for that decade from five to twelve per cent,

« НазадПродовжити »