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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/480

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

limited the supply of food, and made it confessedly inadequate to meet the demands of a population increasing in a greatly disproportionate ratio, also limited the opportunities for employment to such increasing numbers apart from agriculture. Nearly and probably full one half of all those who now earn their living in industrial pursuits, do so in occupations that not only had no existence, but which had not even been conceived of a hundred years ago. The business of railroad construction, equipment, and operation, which now furnishes employment, directly or indirectly, to about one tenth of all the population of the United States engaged in gainful occupations, was wholly unknown in 1830. Apart from domestic or farm service little opportunity existed for women to earn a livelihood by labor at the commencement of the present century.

The existence of the present populations of Europe and the United States—nay, more, the continuance and progress of civilization itself—has therefore been made possible solely through the invention and use of the same labor-saving machinery, which not a few are inclined to regard as likely to work permanent injury to the masses in the future. It is still easy to avoid all trouble arising out of the use of labor-saving machinery by going to the numerous countries—many of which are rich in the bounties of Nature—which do not possess it. But these are the very countries to which no person of average intelligence desires to go.

Restless and progressive humanity generally believes also, that the continued betterment of the race is largely conditioned on the extension of free government based on popular representation and constitutional safeguards; and also on the successful continuation of the experiment under such conditions which was entered upon by the people of the United States just a hundred years ago. But the Government of the United States, under its existing Constitution, has been made possible only through the progress which man has made in recent years in his knowledge and control of the forces of Nature. Without the perfected railroad and telegraph systems the war for the maintenance of the Federal Union under the existing Constitution could not probably have been prosecuted to a successful conclusion; and even if no domestic strife had intervened, it is more than doubtful whether a federation of numerous States, sovereign in many particulars floating down the stream of time like an elongated series of separate rafts, linked together—could have been indefinitely perpetuated, when the time necessary to overcome the distance between its extremities for the mere transmission of intelligence amounted to from twenty to thirty days.[1]

In every highly-civilized country, where accurate investigations have been instituted, the consumption of all the substantial articles of

  1. When the battle of New Orleans-n-as fought in 1815, more than twenty-two days elapsed before the Government at Washington received any information of its occurrence.