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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/761

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ORGANIZED HOMESTEADS AND HOUSEHOLDS.

ORGANIZED HOMESTEADS AND HOUSEHOLDS.[1]
By WILLIAM F. CHANNING, M. D.

THE problem of homes for the people is not a simple one. The question is not merely how to house single families at the least cost. No solution of the problem can be worse than the solitary farm-house in a thinly-settled country. The real question is, how to reconcile the autonomy of the individual and family with the economies and productive forces of modern society. The solitary farm-house is a pioneer in the wilderness, and good for that. But the first generation born in it, or as soon as civilization has spread far enough to take it in, fly from it as if it were a pest-house. In the older States our population is rushing into the towns, not because the earth has grown barren, or because our town-life is natural or beautiful, but because modern civilization attracts and marshals mankind to coöperative work, and the universal instinct revolts against anti-social methods and solutions. More farmers and farmers' wives, in proportion to the population, are insane, than any other industrial or professional class in America; and this, notwithstanding all the healthful influences of Nature in the country, and the miasm, filth, and imprisonment, of the towns.

The first step toward social order is to secure the independent existence of the individual or family in a home which, like the traditional English house, shall be a castle inviolable and safe from all intrusion. One of the chief conditions of such independence is that the home shall be owned by the individual or family, not rented. On this account it introduces the wildest confusion into the present discussion to compare the working-men's houses in Philadelphia, owned by themselves, with hired tenements. We are brought, however, at once to a legitimate though limited ground of preference for the Philadelphia plan of purchasing a homestead, over the common method of living in rented houses, or in hired rooms in a tenement-house.

But this is only half of the question. The wastefulness of building a separate house for each family, even with the cheapest appliances, and of carrying on the household afterward, will be, always sufficient to make the difference between comfort and pauperism for the masses. In other words, which will bear repetition, the separate house does not, cannot avail itself of the social economies and productive forces which are the means of modern civilization. Two great departments of human industry, Agriculture, already alluded to, and the Household, remain in the hand-loom state of development.

What is needed in agriculture to charm the population back to

  1. A paper read before the American Social Science Association at Philadelphia, June 1, 1876.