Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 123: Social and Economic Future - The American Commonwealth, vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
chapter 123: Social and Economic Future - Viscount James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 2 
The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995). Vol. 2.
Part of: The American Commonwealth, 2 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Social and Economic Future
If it be hard to forecast the development of political institutions and habits, how much harder to form a conception of what the economic and social life of the United States will have become when another half century of marvellously swift material progress has quintupled its wealth and tripled its population; and when the number of persons pursuing arts and letters, and educated to enjoy the most refined pleasures of life, will have become proportionately greater than it is now. The changes of the last fifty years, great as they have been, may then prove to have been no greater than those which the next fifty will have brought. Prediction is even more difficult in this sphere than in the sphere of government, because the forces at work to modify society are more numerous, as well as far more subtle and complex, and because not only the commercial prosperity of the country but its thought and culture are more likely than its politics to be affected by the course of events in the Old World. All I can attempt is, as in the last preceding chapter, to call attention to some of the changes which are now in progress, and to conjecture whether the phenomena we now observe are due to permanent or to transitory causes. I shall speak first of economic changes and their influence on certain current problems, next of the movements of population and possible alterations in its character, lastly, of the tendencies which seem likely to continue to affect the social and intellectual life of the nation.
The most remarkable economic feature of the years that have elapsed since the war has been the growth of great fortunes. There is a passage in the Federalist, written in 1788, which says, “the private fortunes of the President and Senators, as they must all be American citizens, cannot possibly be sources of danger.” Even in 1833, Tocqueville was struck by the equal distribution of wealth in the United States and the absence of capitalists. Today, however, there are more great millionaires, as well as more men with a capital of from $500,000 to $2,000,000, in America than in any other country; and before 1950 it may probably contain as many large fortunes as will exist in all the countries of Europe put together. Nor are these huge accumulations due to custom and the policy of the law, which in England keep property, and especially landed property, in the hands of a few by the so-called custom of primogeniture, whereas in the United States the influence of law has tended the other way. An American testator usually distributes his wealth among his children equally. However rich he may be, he does not expect his daughters to marry rich men, but is just as willing to see them mated to persons supporting themselves by their own efforts. And he is far more inclined than Europeans are to bestow large parts of his wealth upon objects of public utility, instead of using it to found a family. In spite of these dispersing forces, great fortunes grow with the growing prosperity of the country, and the opportunities it offers of amassing enormous piles by bold operations. Even an unspeculative business may, if skilfully conducted, bring in greater gains than can often be hoped for in Europe, because the scale of operations is in America so large that a comparatively small percentage of profit may mean a very large income. These causes are likely to be permanent; nor can any legislation that is compatible with the rights of property as now understood, do much to restrict them. We may therefore expect that the class of very rich men, men so rich as to find it difficult to spend their income in enjoying life, though they may go on employing it in business, will continue to increase.
It may be suggested that the great fortunes of today are due to the swift development of the West, so that after a time they will cease to arise in such numbers, while those we now see will have been scattered. The development of the West must, however, continue at least till the middle of the century; and though the wealthy do not seek to keep their wealth together after their death by elaborate devices, many are the sons of the rich who start with capital enough to give them a great advantage for further accumulation. There are as yet comparatively few careers to compete with business; nor is it as easy as in Europe to spend a fortune on pleasure. The idle rich of America, who, though relatively few, are numerous enough to form a class in the greatest Atlantic cities, are by no means the most contented class in the country.
The growth of vast fortunes has helped to create a political problem, for they become a mark for the invective of the more extreme sections of the Labour or Socialist parties. But should its Collectivist propaganda so far prosper as to produce legislative attacks upon accumulated wealth, such attacks will be directed (at least in the first instance), not against individual rich men, but against incorporated companies, since it is through corporations that wealth has made itself obnoxious. Why the power of these bodies should have grown so much greater in the United States than in Europe, and why they should be more often controlled by a small knot of men, are questions too intricate to be here discussed. Companies are in many ways so useful that any general diminution of the legal facilities for forming them seems improbable; but I conceive that they will be even more generally than hitherto subjected to special taxation; and that their power of taking and using public franchises will be further restricted. He who considers the irresponsible nature of the power which three or four men, or perhaps one man, can exercise through a great corporation, such as a railroad or telegraph company, the injury they can inflict on the public as well as on their competitors, the cynical audacity with which they have often used their wealth to seduce officials and legislators from the path of virtue, will find nothing unreasonable in the desire of the American masses to regulate the management of corporations and narrow the range of their action. The same remark applies, with even more force, to combinations of men not incorporated but acting together, the so-called trusts, i.e., commercial rings or syndicates. The next few years or even decades may be largely occupied with the effort to deal with these phenomena of a commercial system far more highly developed than the world has yet seen elsewhere. The economic advantages of the amalgamation of railroads and the tendency in all departments of trade for large concerns to absorb or supplant small ones, are both so marked that problems of this order seem likely to grow even larger and more urgent than they now are. Their solution will demand, not only great legal skill, but great economic wisdom.
Of the tendency to aggregation there are happily few signs so far as relates to agriculture. The only great landed estates are in the Far West, particularly in California, where they are a relic from Spanish days, together with some properties held by land companies or individual speculators in the Upper Mississippi states, properties which are being generally sold in small farms to incoming settlers. The census returns of 1900 and of 1910 did no doubt show an increase in the number of persons who hire from others the lands they till. While the increase in the number of farms cultivated by the owner during the decade ending with the latter year was only 8.1 per cent, that of farms rented for money by the cultivator was 9.9 per cent, and that of farms rented for a share of the products 20.0 per cent. This may, however, be due partly to the growth of small Negro farms in the South, partly to the disposition of many Western farmers to retire from active labour when old age approaches, letting their farms, and living on the rent thereof, partly also to the buying up of lands near a “boom town” by speculators for a rise. Taking the country as a whole, there is no indication of any serious change to large properties.1 In the South, large plantations are more rare than before the war, and much of the cotton crop is raised by peasant farmers, as the increase in the number of farms returned in 1910 proves. It is of course possible that cultivation on a large scale may in some regions turn out to be more profitable than that of small freeholders: agriculture as an art may be still in its infancy, and science may alter the conditions of production in this highly inventive country. But at present nothing seems to threaten that system of small proprietors tilling the soil they live on which so greatly contributes to the happiness and stability of the commonwealth. The motives which in Europe induce rich men to buy large estates are here wholly wanting, for no one gains either political power or social status by becoming a landlord.
Changes in economic conditions have begun to bring about changes in population which will work powerfully on the future of society and politics. One such change has been passing on New England during the last twenty years. Its comparatively thin and ungenial soil, which has generally hard rock at no great depth below the surface, and has been cultivated in many places for nigh two hundred years, has been unable to sustain the competition of the rich and virgin lands of the West. The old race of New England yeomen have accordingly mostly sold or abandoned their farms and migrated to the upper valley of the Mississippi, where they make the prosperity of the Northwestern states. The lands which they have left vacant are frequently occupied by immigrants, sometimes French Canadians, but chiefly Irish, with some Poles and other Slavs and a few Italians, for comparatively few Germans settle in rural New England; and thus that which was the most purely English part of America is now becoming one of the least English, since the cities also are full of Irish, Jews, Slavs, and Canadians. In Massachusetts, for instance, the persons of foreign birth were in 1910 31.5 per cent of the population, while the foreign born and their children were more than half. In Rhode Island the percentages of foreigners are even higher. It is impossible not to regret the disappearance of a picturesquely primitive society which novelists and essayists have made familiar to us, with its delightful mixture of homely simplicity and keen intelligence. Of all the types of rustic life which imagination has since the days of Theocritus embellished for the envy or refreshment of the dwellers in cities, this latest type has been to modern Europe the most real and not the least attractive. It has now almost entirely passed away; nor will the life of the robust sons of the Puritans in the Northwestern prairies, vast and bare and new, reproduce the idyllic quality of their old surroundings. But the Irish squatters on the forsaken farms rear their children under better conditions than those either of the American cities or of the island of their birth, and they are replenishing New England with a vigorous stock.
Another change is now beginning to be seen, for immigration is already turning from the Northwest towards the Southern region, the far greater part of which has remained until now underdeveloped. Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia and Alabama, and Eastern Tennessee possess enormous mineral deposits, only a few of which have yet begun to be worked. There are also splendid forests; there is in many places, as for instance in the vast swamp regions of Florida, a soil believed to be fertile, much of it not yet brought under cultivation; while the climate is not, except in a very few low maritime tracts, too hot for white labour. As the vacant spaces of the West are ceasing to be able to receive the continued influx of settlers, even with the room which has been made by the migration of farmers into the Western provinces of Canada, these Southern regions will more and more attract settlers from the Northern and Western states, and these will carry with them habits and ideas which may further quicken the progress of the South, and bring her into a more perfect harmony with the rest of the country.
The mention of the South raises a group of questions, bearing on the future of the Negro and the relation she will sustain to the whites, which need not be discussed here, as they have been dealt with in preceding chapters (Chapters 93 to 95). The alarm which the growth of the coloured people formerly excited was allayed by the census of 1890, which showed that they increase more slowly than the whites, even in the South, and form a constantly diminishing proportion of the total population of the country. The Negro is doubtless a heavy burden for American civilization to carry. No problems seem likely so long to confront the nation, and so severely to tax the national character on its moral side, as those which his presence raises. Much patience will be needed, and much sympathy. The Negroes, however, are necessary to the South, which has not enough white workers; and their labour is helpful not only to the agriculturist but also to the mine-owners and iron-masters of the mining regions I have just referred to. Their progress since emancipation has been more rapid than those who saw them in slavery expected, for no section has relapsed into sloth and semi-barbarism, while in many districts there has been a steady rise in education, in intelligence, in thrift, and in the habit of sustained industry. The relation of the two races, though it presents some painful features, is not, on the whole, one of hostility, and contains no present elements of political danger. Though the great majority of the Negroes are now excluded from the exercise of the suffrage, their condition is not the same as though that gift had never been bestowed, for the fact that the Negro is legally a citizen has raised both the white’s view of him and his own view of himself. Thoughtful observers in the South seem to feel little anxiety, and expect that for many years to come the Negroes, naturally a good-natured and easy-going race, will be content with the position of an inferior caste, doing the humbler kinds of work, but gradually permeated by American habits and ideas, and sending up into the walks of commercial and professional life a slowly increasing number of its most capable members. It might be thought that this elevating process would be accelerated by the sympathy of the coloured people at the North, who, as they enjoy greater educational opportunities, might be expected to advance more quickly. But the Negro race increases comparatively slowly to the north of latitude 40°, and does not make sufficient progress in wealth and influence to be able to help its Southern members.2
Two other questions relating to changes in population must be adverted to before we leave this part of the subject. There are Europeans who hold—and in this physiologically-minded age it is natural that men should hold—that the evolution of a distinctively American type of character and manners must be still distant, because the heterogeneous elements of the population (in which the proportion of English blood is smaller now than it was in 1850) must take a long time to become mixed and assimilated. This is a plausible view; yet I doubt whether differences of blood have the importance which it assumes. What strikes the traveller, and what the Americans themselves delight to point out, is the amazing solvent power which American institutions, habits, and ideas exercise upon newcomers of all races. The children of Irishmen, Germans, and Scandinavians are certainly far more like native Americans than the current views of heredity would have led us to expect; nor is it without interest to observe that Nature has here repeated on the Western continent that process of mixing Celtic with Germanic and Norse blood which she began in Britain more than a thousand years ago. The ratio borne by the Celtic elements in the population of Great Britain (i.e., the Picts and Gaels of Northern Britain and those of the Cymry of Middle and Western Britain who survived the onslaught of the Angles and Saxons in the fifth and sixth centuries) to the Teutonic (Low German and Norse) elements in that population as it stood in the seventeenth century, when England began to colonize North America, may probably be a ratio not much smaller than that which the Irish immigrants to America bear to the German immigrants; so that the relative proportions of Celtic and Teutonic blood, as these proportions may be taken to have existed in the Americans of a hundred years ago, have not been greatly altered by Irish and German immigration.3
On the whole, we may conclude that the intellectual and moral atmosphere into which the settlers from Europe come has more power to assimilate them than their race qualities have power to change it; and that the future of America will be less affected by this influx of new blood, even Italian and Slavonic blood, than anyone who has not studied the facts on the spot can realize. The influence of European immigration is so far to be traced, not in any tinging of the national character, but economically in the amazingly swift growth of the agricultural West, and politically in the unfortunate results it has had upon the public life of cities, in the outbreaks of savage violence which may be traced to it, particularly in the mining districts, and in the severe strain it has put on universal suffrage. Another possible source of evil has caused disquiet. The most conspicuous evidence of American prosperity has been hitherto seen in the high standard of living to which the native working classes of the North have risen, in the abundance of their food and the quality of their clothing, in the neatness and comfort of their homes, in the decent orderliness of their lives, and the fondness for reading of their women. The Irish and German settlers of last century, though at first behind the native Americans in all these respects, have now risen to their level and, except in a few of the larger cities, have adopted American standards of comfort. Will the same thing happen with the new swarms of European immigrants who have been drawn from their homes in the eastern parts of Central Europe by the constant cheapening of ocean transit and by that more thorough drainage, so to speak, of the inland regions of Europe which is due to the extension of railways?4
Some have feared that possibly these immigrants, coming from a lower stratum of civilization than the German immigrants of the past, and, since they speak foreign tongues, less quickly amenable to American influences than are the Irish, retain their own low standard of decency and comfort, and menace the continuance among the white work people of that far higher standard which has hitherto prevailed. But experience has hitherto shown that these latest comers, though they live far more roughly than native Americans, soon cease to be content with lower wages, so if they do depress the average of decent living, it will not be through underbidding the older inhabitants.
The intrusion of these inauspicious elements is not the only change in the population which may cause anxiety. For many years past there has been an indraught of people from the rural districts to the cities. More than one-third of the whole population is now, it is estimated, to be found in cities with a population exceeding eight thousand, and the transfer of people from a rural to an urban life goes on all the faster because it is due not merely to economic causes, such as operate all the world over, and to the spirit of enterprise which is strong in the American youth, but also to the distaste which the average native American, a more sociable and amusement-loving being than the English or German peasant, feels for the isolation of farm life and the monotony of farm labour.5 Even in 1844 R. W. Emerson wrote: “The cities drain the country of the best part of its population, the flower of the youth of both sexes goes into the towns, and the country is cultivated by a much inferior class.” Since then the Western forests have been felled and the Western prairies brought under the plough by the stalwart sons of New England and New York. But now again, and in the West hardly less than in the East, the complaint goes up that native American men and women long for a city life, and gladly leave tillage to the newcomers from Germany and Scandinavia. To make rural life more attractive and so check the inflow to the cities, is one of the chief tasks of American statesmanship today. Fortunately, the introduction of the telephone, of electric car lines traversing the rural districts, of automobiles, and of a delivery of letters over the country are all tending to reduce the loneliness and isolation which have made country life distasteful.
Whether a city-bred population will have the physical vigour which the native rural population has shown—a population which in some of the Western states strikes one as perhaps more vigorous than any Europe can point to—is at least doubtful, for though American cities have sanitary advantages greater than those of most towns in Europe, the stress and strain of their city life is more exhausting. And it need scarcely be added that in the oldest and most highly civilized districts of the country, and among the more refined sections of the people, the natural increase of population is much smaller than it is among the poorer and the ruder.
We have been wont to think of the principle of natural selection as that which makes for the progress of the race in mankind, as it has done in the other families of animated creatures. But in the most advanced communities this principle is apt to be reversed, and the section of the population which tends to propagate itself most largely is that very section which is least fitted to raise, or even to sustain, the intellectual and moral level, as well as the level of physical excellence, already attained. Marriages are later and families smaller among the best nurtured and most cultivated class than they are among the uneducated and improvident; more children are born to the physically weak and morally untrained than to those among the rich whose natural gifts would in ages of violence, when men and families survived by physical and mental strength, have enabled them to prevail in the struggle for existence. Thus a force which once worked powerfully for the improvement of a national stock has now been turned the other way, and makes for a decline in the average capacities wherewith each man is born into the world. So in New England and the Eastern states generally, though there are a few families, historic by the number of eminent names they have produced, which still flourish and count their cousinhood by hundreds, it is nevertheless true that the original English stock, if it maintains its numbers (which seems in some parts of the country to be doubtful), grows less swiftly than do the immigrant stocks, and far less swiftly than it did a century ago.6 Yet here also that assimilative power of which I have spoken comes to the help of the nation. Those who rise from the less cultivated classes, whether of native or foreign extraction, are breathed upon by the spirit of the country; they absorb its culture and carry on its traditions; and they do so all the more readily because the pervading sense of equality makes a man’s entrance into a class higher than that wherein he was born depend solely on his personal qualities.
European readers may ask whether the swift growth not only of wealth but of great fortunes in the United States will not end in creating an aristocracy of rich families, and therewith a new structure of society. I see no ground for expecting this, not merely because the wealthiest class passes down by imperceptible gradations of fortune to a working class far better off than the working classes of Europe, but also because the faith in equality and the love of equality are too deeply implanted in every American breast to be rooted out by any economic changes. They are the strongest beliefs and passions of the people. They make no small part of the people’s daily happiness; and I can more easily imagine the United States turned into a monarchy on the one hand or a group of petty republics on the other than the aristocratic ideas and habits of Germany established on American soil. Social exclusiveness there may be—signs of it are already discernible—but visible and overt recognitions of differences of rank, whether in the use of hereditary titles, or in the possession by one class of special privileges, or in the habit of deference by one class to another, would imply a revolution in national ideas, and a change in what may be called the chemical composition of the national mind, which is of all things the least likely to arrive.
I have left to the last the most difficult problem which a meditation on the future of American society raises. From those first days of the Republic in which its people realized that they were Americans and no longer merely English colonists, it has been a question of the keenest interest for them, as it is now for the world, when and how and in what form they would develop a distinctively new and truly national type of character and genius. In 1844 Emerson said, addressing those who had lately seen the coincidence of two fateful phenomena—the extension of railways into the West and the establishment of lines of swift ocean steamers to Europe:
We in the Atlantic States by position have been commercial and have imbibed easily a European culture. Luckily for us, now that steam has narrowed the Atlantic to a strait, the nervous rocky West is intruding a new and continental element into the national mind, and we shall yet have an American genius. We cannot look on the freedom of this country in connection with its youth without a presentiment that here shall laws and institutions exist on some scale of proportion to the majesty of nature. To men legislating for the area between the two oceans, betwixt the snows and the tropics, somewhat of the gravity of nature will infuse itself into the code.
Since these words were spoken, many events have intervened to delay that full expression of the national gifts in letters and arts, as well as in institutions, by which a modern people must reveal the peculiar nature of its genius. Emerson would doubtless have admitted in 1874 that the West had contributed less of a “new and continental element” than he expected, and that the majesty of nature had not yet filled Congress with its inspiration. Probably another generation must arise, less preoccupied with the task of material development than the two last have been, before this expression can be looked for. Europe, which used to assume in its contemptuous way that neither arts nor letters could be expected from commercial America—as Charles Lamb said that the whole Atlantic coast figured itself to him as one long counter spread with wares—Europe has now fallen into the opposite error of expecting the development of arts and letters to keep pace with and be immediately worthy of the material greatness of the country. And the Americans themselves have perhaps, if a stranger may be pardoned the remark, erred in supposing that they made, either in the days of the first settlements or in those when they won their independence, an entirely new departure, and that their new environment and their democratic institutions rendered them more completely a new people than the children of England, continuing to speak the English tongue and be influenced by European literature, could in truth have been expected to become. As Protestants have been too apt to forget the traditions of the mediæval church, and to renounce the glories of St. Anselm and St. Bernard and Dante, so the Americans of 1850—for this is a mistake which they have now outgrown—sought to think of themselves as superior in all regards to the aristocratic society from which they had severed themselves, and looked for an elevation in their character and an originality in their literature which neither the amplitude of their freedom nor the new conditions of their life could at once produce in the members of an ancient people.
What will be either the form or the spirit of transatlantic literature and thought when they have fully ripened is a question on which I do not attempt to speculate, for the forces that shape literature and thought are the subtlest the historian has to deal with. I return to the humbler task of pointing to causes whose already apparent power is producing a society such as has never yet been seen in Europe. Nowhere in the world is there growing up such a vast multitude of intelligent, cultivated, and curious readers. It is true that of the whole population a vast majority of the men read little but newspapers, and many of the women little but fiction. Yet there remains a number to be counted by millions who enjoy and are moved by the higher products of thought and imagination; and it must be that as this number continues to grow, each generation rising somewhat above the level of its predecessors, history and science, and even poetry, will exert a power such as they have never yet exerted over the masses of any country. And the masses of America seem likely to constitute one-half of civilized mankind. There are those now living who may see before they die three hundred millions of men dwelling between the Atlantic and the Pacific, obeying the same government, speaking the same tongue, reading the same books. A civilized society like this is so much vaster than any which history knows of, that we can scarcely figure to ourselves what its character will be, nor how the sense of its immensity will tell upon those who address it. The range of a writer’s power will be such as no writers have ever yet possessed; and the responsibility which goes hand in hand with the privilege of moving so great a multitude will devolve upon the thinkers and poets of England hardly less than upon those of America.
The same progress which may be expected in the enjoyment of literature and in its influence may be no less expected in the other elements of what we call civilization. Manners are becoming in America more generally polished, life more orderly, equality between the sexes more complete, the refined pleasures more easily accessible than they have ever yet been among the masses of any people. And this civilization attains a unity and harmony which makes each part of the nation understand the other parts more perfectly, and enables an intellectual impulse to be propagated in swifter waves of light than has been the case among the far smaller and more ancient states of Europe.
While this unity and harmony strengthen the cohesion of the Republic, while this diffused cultivation may be expected to overcome the economic dangers that threaten it, they are not wholly favourable to intellectual creation, or to the variety and interest of life. I will try to explain my meaning by describing the impression which stamps itself on the mind of the stranger who travels westward by railway from New York to Oregon. In Ohio he sees communities which a century ago were clusters of log huts among forests, and which are now cities better supplied with all the appliances of refined and even luxurious life than were Philadelphia and New York in those days. In Illinois he sees communities which were in 1848 what Ohio was in 1805. In the newer states of Wyoming and Washington he sees settlements just emerging from a rudeness like that of primitive Ohio or Illinois, and reflects that such as Ohio is now, such as Illinois is fast becoming, such in a few years more will Wyoming and Washington have become, the process of development moving, by the help of science, with an always accelerated speed. “If I return this way twenty years hence,” he thinks, “I shall see, except in some few tracts which nature has condemned to sterility, nothing but civilization, a highly developed form of civilization, stretching from the one ocean to the other; the busy, eager, well-ordered life of the Hudson will be the life of those who dwell on the banks of the Yellowstone, or who look up to the snows of Mount Shasta from the valleys of California.” The Far West has hitherto been to Americans of the Atlantic states the land of freedom and adventure and mystery, the land whose forests and prairies, with trappers pursuing the wild creatures, and Indians threading in their canoes the maze of lakes, have touched their imagination and supplied a background of romance to the prosaic conditions which surround their own lives. All this is fast vanishing; and as the world has by slow steps lost all its mystery since the voyage of Columbus, so America will from end to end be to the Americans even as England is to the English. What new background of romance will be discovered? Where will the American imagination of the future seek its materials when it desires to escape from dramas of domestic life? Where will bold spirits find a field in which to relieve their energies when the Western world of adventure is no more? As in our globe so in the North American continent, there will be something to regret when all is known and the waters of civilization have covered the tops of the highest mountains.
He who turns away from a survey of the government and society of the United States and tries to estimate the place they hold in the history of the world’s progress cannot repress a slight sense of disappointment when he compares what he has observed and studied with that which idealists have hoped for, and Americans have desired to establish. “I have seen,” he says, “the latest experiment which mankind have tried, and the last which they can ever hope to try under equally favouring conditions. A race of unequalled energy and unsurpassed variety of gifts, a race apt for conquest and for the arts of peace, which has covered the world with the triumphs of its sword, and planted its laws in a hundred islands of the sea, sent the choicest of its children to a new land, rich with the bounties of nature, bidding them increase and multiply, with no enemies to fear from Europe, and few of those evils to eradicate which Europe inherits from its feudal past. They have multiplied till the sapling of two centuries ago overtops the parent trunk; they have drawn from their continent a wealth which no one dreamed of; they have kept themselves aloof from Old World strife, and have no foe in the world to fear; they have destroyed, after a tremendous struggle, the one root of evil which the mother country in an unhappy hour planted among them. And yet the government and institutions, as well as the industrial civilization of America, are far removed from that ideal commonwealth which European philosophers imagined, and Americans expected to create.” The feeling expressed in these words, so often heard from European travellers, is natural to a European, who is struck by the absence from America of many of those springs of trouble to which he has been wont to ascribe the ills of Europe. But it is only the utterance of the ever-fresh surprise of mankind at the discovery of their own weaknesses and shortcomings. Why should either philosophers in Europe or practical men in America have expected human nature to change when it crossed the ocean? When history could have told them of many ideals not less high and hopes not less confident than those that were formed for America which have been swallowed up in night. The vision of a golden age has often shimmered far off before the mind of men when they have passed through some great crisis, or climbed to some specular mount of faith, as before the traveller when he has reached the highest pastures of the Jura, the line of Alpine snows stands up and glitters with celestial light. Such a vision seen by heathen antiquity still charms us in that famous poem of Virgil’s which was long believed to embody an inspired prophecy. Such another rejoiced the souls of pious men in the days of Constantine, when the Christian church, triumphant over her enemies, seemed about to realize the kingdom of heaven upon earth. Such a one reappeared to the religious reformers of the sixteenth century, who conceived that when they had purged Christianity of its corrupt accretions, the world would be again filled with the glory of God, and men order their lives according to His law. And such a vision transported men just a century ago, when it was not unnaturally believed that in breaking the fetters by which religious and secular tyranny had bound the souls and bodies of men, and in proclaiming the principle that government sprang from the consent of all, and must be directed to their good, enough had been done to enable the natural virtues of mankind to secure the peace and happiness of nations. Since 1789 many things have happened, and men have become less inclined to set their hopes upon political reforms. Those who still expect a general amelioration of the world from sudden changes look to an industrial and not a political revolution, or seek in their impatience to destroy all that now exists, fancying that from chaos something better may emerge. In Europe, whose thinkers have seldom been in a less cheerful mood than they are today, there are many who seem to have lost the old faith in progress; many who feel when they recall the experiences of the long pilgrimage of mankind, that the mountains which stand so beautiful in the blue of distance, touched here by flashes of sunlight and there by shadows of the clouds, will when one comes to traverse them be no Delectable Mountains, but scarred by storms and seamed by torrents, with wastes of stone above, and marshes stagnating in the valleys. Yet there are others whose review of that pilgrimage convinces them that though the ascent of man may be slow it is also sure; that if we compare each age with those which preceded it we find that the ground which seems for a time to have been lost is ultimately recovered, we see human nature growing gradually more refined, institutions better fitted to secure justice, the opportunities and capacities for happiness larger and more varied, so that the error of those who formed ideals never yet attained lay only in their forgetting how much time and effort and patience under repeated disappointment must go to that attainment.
This less sombre type of thought is more common in the United States than in Europe, for the people not only feel in their veins the pulse of youthful strength, but remember the magnitude of the evils they have vanquished, and see that they have already achieved many things which the Old World has longed for in vain. And by so much as the people of the United States are more hopeful, by that much are they more healthy. They do not, like their forefathers, expect to attain their ideals either easily or soon; but they say that they will continue to strive towards them, and they say it with a note of confidence in the voice which rings in the ear of the European visitor, and fills him with something of their own hopefulness. America has still a long vista of years stretching before her in which she will enjoy conditions far more auspicious than any European country can count upon. And that America marks the highest level, not only of material well-being, but of intelligence and happiness, which the race has yet attained, will be the judgment of those who look not at the favoured few for whose benefit the world seems hitherto to have framed its institutions, but at the whole body of the people.
 Of 6,361,502 farms returned in the census of 1910, 3,948,722 were cultivated by the owner and 2,354,676 rented by the farmer; and of those owned a little more than one-third (33.6) would appear to be subject to mortgages. The proportion to the whole number of dwellings not owned but hired by those who live in them is, of course, very much larger, viz., 53.5 per cent for the whole country, and 74.3 per cent for 160 cities with at least 25,000 inhabitants.
 In 1790 the coloured people were 19.3 per cent of the total population of the United States, and in 1880 only 13.1. In 1900 the percentage had sunk to 11.6, in 1910 to 10.7, and is still on the decrease.
 The analogy may be carried one step farther by observing that the Scandinavians who now settle in the Northwestern states, as they have come to America later than Celts or Germans, so also have come in a proportion to Celts and Germans corresponding to that borne to the previous inhabitants of Britain by the Danes and Norwegians who poured their vigorous blood into the veins of the English race from the ninth century onwards. The larger and more obscure question of the influence of Slavonic, Jewish, and Italian immigrants has been dealt with in Chapter 92.
 The largest percentages of increase of foreign population, where absolute numbers were significant, were, in the decade of 1900–10 the following: Persons born in Hungary 240.1 per cent, in Russia 177.4 per cent, in Italy 177.5 per cent, in Austria 139.2 per cent. In the preceding decade these percentages had been 133, 132, 165, and 124, respectively.
 There is sometimes a scarcity of labour on farms in the Eastern states, while the cities are crowded with men out of work.
The percentage of urban to total population, which in 1790 was 3.35, was, in 1890, 29.12, in 1900, 33.1, and in 1910, 46.3. In the New England and Middle Atlantic states it was 83.3 and 71 per cent, respectively, of the population. The increase in these states was chiefly in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and a part was of course due to the large increase of immigration into New York City.
 General F. A. Walker gave the rate of increase of the native whites generally in the United States at 31.25 per cent in the decade 1870–80, but that of native whites born of native parents at 28 per cent. The thirteenth census, 1910, gives the rate of increase in the years 1900–10 as 20.8 per cent of native whites, and of native whites born of native parents as 20.9 per cent. The average size of the family decreased in 1870–80 from 5.09 persons to 5.04. In 1900 it had further fallen to 4.7 and in 1910 to 4.5 and in some of the states where the population is most largely native born it was still lower, e.g., Maine (4.20), New Hampshire (4.20), Indiana (4.20), whereas in the South it was comparatively high, e.g., West Virginia (4.90), Texas (4.9), North Carolina (5.00).