Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/January 1896/Correspondence


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: My article entitled Has Immigration increased Population? having been sent to you two years ago, contains some observations the force of which has been greatly modified by time, and would have been omitted or expressed very differently if I bad been writing now. I had corrected them on the proofs, but the corrections unfortunately failed to reach you before you were obliged to go to press. Waiving consideration of the lesser errors which have thus arisen, I write you this letter as my only means of correcting the one of greatest importance. In speaking of France, I said that it could not be used as an example to show that advanced civilization lessens the rate of increase of population, because, although "the French annual rate of increase sank very low during the four or five years previous to the Prussian War, being only seven per thousand inhabitants in 1870, it has since then steadily risen and in 1890 was thirty-seven per thousand."

At the time I was writing, the statistics obtainable in this country seemed to bear me out in the above assertion. But since then we have the French statistics down through 1893, which show that the population has again declined. It is rather strange, by the way, that some of these statistics should be so uncertain. For example, some authorities tell us that in 1890 the French population increased 38,446, and others tell us that in that year it diminished by that same figure. But, nevertheless, the statistics taken as a whole seem to show a decided falling off

since 1890. This, however, does not alter my main argument, and if my corrections had been in time the passage above quoted, and the paragraph in which it occurs, would have been replaced by the following:

"But civilization is a broad term and has different meanings in different countries. While it may be true that the form of civilization which prevails in France, or certain ideas and habits of the French people, may cause a decrease in population, it does not necessarily follow that civilization in other countries has that effect; and as a matter of fact it does not."

I should also have inserted this: "More than one hundred years ago Franklin noticed that countries many of whose people migrate are not thereby depopulated, but on the contrary often increase their population much more rapidly than would be expected. His observation has been confirmed by later experience (Mayo Smith's Statistics and Sociology, pp. 319, 336). The emigration merely makes room for a greater number of births, so that population increases as fast as it otherwise would, if not faster. It is the country to which the emigrant goes that is more likely to suffer. Immigrants take the place which would otherwise be filled by the natural increase of the natives. The pressure of the immigration decreases the size of the native families; and in the case of the United States, although the foreigner may, under many circumstances, have a higher birth-rate, yet the mortality among his children is so much greater than among the children of the natives that there is no gain in population."

Yours truly,Sydney G. Fisher.

December 1, 1895.