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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/256

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244
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

HAS IMMIGRATION INCREASED POPULATION?
By SYDNEY G. FISHER.

THE immigration which formed the basis of our colonial population was very slight. The men who fought the Revolution and created the United States were almost exclusively native. The population of New England, as is well known, was produced out of an immigration of not much over 20,000, all of whom arrived before the year 1640. From 1640 until about 1820, a period of nearly two hundred years, the growth of New England was by the childbearing of the original and native stock. There was no immigration worth mentioning; but, on the contrary, an overflow into neighboring colonies. New York and the West. Franklin, writing in 1751, when the population of all the colonies was about a million, said that the immigration which had produced this number was generally believed to have been less than 80,000.[1]

Modern immigration set in some time in the beginning of the present century, and had grown to noticeable proportions about 1820, when the national Government decided to take statistics of it. By 1830 all observers agree that the foreigners had begun to have a decided influence and effect, and that a change could be distinctly seen. By 1840 the Native American or Know-Nothing movement had begun; in 1850 it had become a distinct political party; and in 1856 had a candidate for the presidency.

One of the strongest arguments used against the Know-Nothings was that immigration would greatly increase the population, and in that way the wealth and strength of the country. The rate of increase by births among the colonists had been remarkably rapid and had astonished the people of Europe. Franklin was among the first to call the attention of learned men to this phenomenon. In some parts of the country the people, without the aid of immigration, doubled themselves in twenty-five or twenty-seven years; and there were traditions of particular localities in which the doubling had taken place within less than twenty years. No record of a like increase over such an extended territory could be found in the history of the civilized world.

For the fifty years that followed the Revolution, when immigration was at a minimum, this natural increase was greater than ever. The whole population in that time doubled itself about every twenty-three years. It was therefore very natural for the people who believed in the immigration experiment to suppose that if to this increase in every decade were added a couple of million immigrants, who would presumably have children in the same


  1. Franklin's Works (Sparks's edition), vol. ii, p. 319.