« PreviousContinue »
tinctly American not the old American descended almost wholly from English ancestors, but a vigorous, active, and probably open-minded composite American. The negro problem is serious in only half a dozen of the valley States, and does not hem in the future of the Mississippi Basin as it does that of the South Atlantic States.
The greatest checks to the rapid increase of national population in the history of the world have been famine, disease, and war. .. Yet, so far as we can look into the future, there will be bread and to spare for the children of this great household. . . . The advance of medical science makes the Mississippi Valley reasonably safe from devastation by pestilence. As for war, the Mississippi Valley has now no enemies within the Union, and from invasion St. Louis is as safe as Nijni-Novgorod or Stanley Pool.
Hence the only probable check upon the rapid increase of population is one which has already made itself felt throughout the Union — the increasing difficulty of giving children a good start, and the consequent diminution of the size of families. . . . This means a slower rate of increase. The Mississippi Valley has more than doubled its population in every twenty-five years during the last century. At that rate it would have 560,000,000 in the year 2000, but he would be a bold man who would predict a population of 200,000,000 in that year, for it would be almost as dense as Belgium or Holland.
If the present average scale of living continue, every doubling of the population will mean a doubling of available capital and wealth. But who can say whether the mechanical discoveries of the next century may not vastly increase the average wealth? and, on the other hand, who can say how far property may be concentrated in a few hands or combined in some kind of national socialism? The wealth of the Mississippi Valley in arable land already lies beneath the feet of the people, but the upper slopes on the Appalachian rim of the valley are still very little cultivated, though the Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia mountains are probably capable of supporting as abundant and as thriving a population as that of the Black Forest or the ranges of the Jura Mountains. In the lowlands exhausted soils, formerly allowed to go to ruin, are now restored by the wide-spreading use of fertilizers; and as population grows and land becomes more valuable, a stop will be put to the annihilation of soil through cutting off the timber and the consequent waste of the steep slopes thus exposed to running water. Everywhere a more intensive cultivation must come in. The day is past
when twenty-five good crops of wheat can be raised from the same land except by rotation and skilful husbandry. The amazing heritage of wealth in the rich soil must be hoarded. . . .
Pork, corn, wheat, cotton, sugar, steel rails, reapers, wagons, shelf hardware, and shingles will take care of themselves in the West. will the Mississippi Valley take its place among the great intellectual communities of the world? ...
if popular education, intelligence, and natural keenness make up civilization, the West is a highly civilized community; and there are many reasons for supposing that it has the conditions for a broader intellectual growth. First of all, it is freer than any other great area of the earth's surface from the trammels of an official religion; several of the coast colonies had established churches, but not one community in the Mississippi Valley except Louisiana. . . .
. . . the district schools in the West are probably as good as those in the remote parts of New England; and the great city systems are, upon the whole, superior to those of the East. . . .
. . . When it comes to universities, the average provision in the West is excellent, and most of the newer States have a general system of complete government education, for the State universities have direct relations with the public schools, and are superior in equipment and prestige to the denominational colleges.
The difficulty about intellectual life in the Mississippi Valley is not so much a lack of interest in the things of the mind as a lack of local traditions. . . . How can there be traditions in a city like Minneapolis, where not one adult in twenty was born in the place or perhaps in the State? The North and Northwest are now undergoing a tremendous social change through the renting of great farms to new-comers, while the owners live in villages or towns. This means that the children will not know "the old place," and the grandchildren will have not so much as a myth of the old oaken bucket. Even in old cities like Albany and Baltimore it is hard to build up a civic sentiment — a sense of gratitude to ancestors and responsibility to posterity. Perhaps as population becomes more stable this feeling will grow up in the West, but it is hard to realize the effect upon a community of such rapid changes of life that not one child in twenty will live in the house of his grandfather.
Of the continued material wealth of the Mississippi Valley there is no reason to doubt, and a political structure designed for small agricultural communities has somehow proved at least moderately successful for
large States containing great cities. But for ages to come the principal output and wealth of the Mississippi Valley must be agricultural; and the greatest danger is a separation of interest between the tiller of the soil (allied, perhaps, with the workman at the forge) on the one side, and the capitalist and the professional and business man on the other side. At present the social forces are well balanced, and immigration has not brought the great dangers usually ascribed to it; but if the farms are to fall into the hands of a rent-paying peasantry, and the owners are not to live in the midst of that peasantry and to share their interests, as do the land-owners in European countries, then the Mississippi Valley may yet see social contests which will make the French Revolution seem mild. The two bases of the present happiness and prosperity of that great region are first, the intelligence, honesty, and orderliness of the average man, and secondly, the belief that the farmer and the wage-earner get a fair share of the output.
Albert Bushnell Hart, The Future of the Mississippi Valley, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, February, 1900 (New York, etc.), C, 418-424 passim.
[The names of the authors of extracts are in Boldface. The titles of the pieces are in
TO THE FOUR VOLUMES
ABERDEEN, LORD, on slavery in Texas,
Abolitionists, arguments of a New Eng-
Adams, Abigail, Letters, ii, 20, 554, iii, 333;
Adams, Charles Francis, Familiar Letters
A SELECTMAN, 220-223; THE FIRST
Adams, Samuel, WHAT IS POPULAR
Adams, William, British envoy, iii, 426-429.