Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/117

This page has been validated.

merchant to a trifle, and ending in bankruptcy and strikes.

If all our cotton-mills and their dependencies, all our iron industries, and some others, were to suspend, we should not exhaust the supply on hand of their fabrics for quite a number of years.

To sum up—

1. There is do over-production of grain and meat.

2. There is a great surplus of textile, iron, and similar fabrics.

Hence, there is a one-sided over-production, a one-sided depression of prices for labor and for fabrics; and, on the other side, a normal prosperity and attending accumulation of savings.

The problem for relief at once presents itself in the question whether a change of occupation of a considerable number of factory-operatives, mechanics, and forwarders, from the trades to agriculture, would afford the remedy and reëstablish the equilibrium.

The farmer, even at the most Western frontier, has always a sufficiency of food raised by himself, and generally a surplus, adequate for furnishing his family some comforts, and always independence.

If a large majority of the weavers and machine-workers of to-day were to become agriculturists, they would become consumers instead of producers of the very articles which are now made in excess; and, while the price of the articles might not be advanced, those that made them would have full and steady, instead of interrupted and uncertain, employment—a double gain on the present disturbed state.

No legislative or government interference is needed or desirable. The adjustment of the disturbed equilibrium in the productions will work itself out as soon as the true causes of the "stagnation in trade" are clearly understood.

A case in point will illustrate. In a small county town, the trade-centre of a good farming district, the retail stores had done a very profitable business up to about 1874. As a natural consequence, many persons with a small capital had engaged in this line; finally their sales diminished, profits declined, because their number had increased beyond the former ratio between stores and customers. A few of them looked about for other occupations. One engaged in tanning, which was a good field; another started a custom grist-mill, for which there was a demand; another opened a pork-packing establishment; another went into farming on a large scale. Here, the overcrowding with its attendant evils was understood as the cause of the decline in trade; the enterprising members of the profession left it for occupations that pay better, and the equilibrium has been reëstablished.

All efforts at relief from the dull times must lie in the same direction. A large number of our mill-hands and factory-operatives must take to farming, must, raise themselves the food for their families, and some to exchange for comforts which their fields and herds cannot directly give.

The old mill-hands ought not to attempt the change; but the young and middle-aged ought, and escape from their "bondage" in the East to the free fields of our wide Western country.F. A. Nitchy.

Jefferson City, Missouri.



To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

The loss from peculation in the management of railways has probably been exaggerated; these important institutions have, in the main, been conducted on business principles, with an eye to dividends. Those in control have aimed—with success, until recently—to secure competent and willing aid, and the esprit de corps so essential in great enterprises. But managers and men are alike the victims of a train of circumstances foreseen only by a few political economists. The plain fact is, that the railroad system finds itself in the brunt of a movement that has been long approaching culmination. Multitudes of our native youth, seduced by the supposed attractions and opportunities of the city, and swarms of the poorer immigrants, have precipitated the catastrophe, by swelling the already overcrowded centres of population—have added to the number to be fed, by decimating the army of producers—have lowered the price of labor, by increasing the number of applicants. Reduction of extravagant salaries and other "leaks" is to be commended, but will not, it is to be feared, effect any material increase of wages for a long time to come, and that from no indisposition on the part of managers, but from causes beyond their control.

Populations have been passing through the throes of greater social transitions than were ever before crowded into a century, and a vast amount of inconvenience was and is inevitable. The immense industries created by labor-saving machinery have, in not a few instances, outrun the present demand, and hence—too often—an advancing throng of aspirants has found itself confronted with another throng in disorderly retreat: the result is a fierce struggle for existence, in which reason exercises but a feeble sway.

Nature and Providence are inexorable, and take no thought for the individual intruder in their track. These forces are now apparently engaged in starving the surplus humanity back into the cornfields.