Population and Emigration
National Gazette, November 21, 1791
Both in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, every species derives from
nature, a reproductive faculty beyond the demand for merely keeping up its
stock: the seed of a single plant is sufficient to multiply it one hundred or a
thousand fold. The animal offspring is never limited to the number of its
This ordinance of nature is calculated, in both instances, for a double
purpose. In both, it ensures the life of the species, which, if the generative
principle had not a multiplying energy, would be reduced in number by every
premature destruction of individuals, and by degrees would be extinguished
altogether. In the vegetable species, the surplus answers, moreover, the
essential purpose of sustaining the herbivorous tribes of animals; as in the
animal, the surplus serves the like purpose of sustenance to the carnivorous
tribes. A crop of wheat may be reproduced by one tenth of itself. The remaining
nine tenths can be spared for the animals which feed on it. A flock of sheep
may be continued by a certain proportion of its annual increase. The residue is
the bounty of nature to the animals which prey on that species.
Man who preys both on the vegetable and animal species, is himself a
prey to neither. He too possesses the reproductive principle far beyond the
degree requisite for the bare continuance of his species. What becomes of the
surplus of human life to which this principle is competent?
It is either, 1st. destroyed by infanticide, as among the Chinese and
Lacedemonians; or 2d. it is stifled or starved, as among other nations whose
population is commensurate to its food; or 3d. it is consumed by wars and
endemic diseases; or 4th. it overflows, by emigration, to places where a
surplus of food is attainable.
What may be the greatest ratio of increase of which the human species is
susceptible, is a problem difficult to be solved; as well because precise
experiments have never been made, as because the result would vary with the
circumstances distinguishing different situations. It has been computed that
under the most favorable circumstances possible, a given number would double
itself in ten years. What has actually happened in this country is a proof,
that nature would require for the purpose, a less period than twenty years. We
shall be safe in averaging the surplus at five per cent.
According to this computation, Great Britain and Ireland, which contain
about ten millions of people, are capable of producing annually for emigration,
no less than five hundred thousand; France, whose population amounts to twenty
five millions, no less than one million two hundred and fifty thousand; and all
Europe, stating its numbers at one hundred and fifty millions, no less than
seven and a half millions.
It is not meant that such a surplus could, under any revolution of
circumstances, suddenly take place: yet no reason occurs why an annual supply
of human, as well as other animal life, to any amount not exceeding the
multiplying faculty, would not be produced in one country, by a regular and
commensurate demand of another. Nor is it meant that if such a redundancy of
population were to happen in any particular country, an influx of it beyond a
certain degree ought to be desired by any other, though within that degree, it
ought to be invited by a country greatly deficient in its population. The
calculation may serve, nevertheless, by placing an important principle in a
striking view, to prepare the way for the following positions and remarks.
First. Every country, whose population is full, may annually
spare a portion of its inhabitants, like a hive of bees its swarm, without any
diminution of its number: nay, a certain portion must, necessarily, be either
spared, or destroyed, or kept out of existence.
Secondly. It follows, moreover, from this multiplying faculty of
human nature, that in a nation, sparing or losing more than its proper surplus,
the level must soon be restored by the internal resources of life.
Thirdly. Emigrations may even augment the population of the
country permitting them. The commercial nations of Europe, parting with
emigrants, to America, are examples. The articles of consumption demanded from
the former, have created employment for an additional number of manufacturers.
The produce remitted from the latter, in the form of raw materials, has had the
same effect — whilst the imports and exports of every kind, have
multiplied European merchants and mariners. Where the settlers have doubled
every twenty or twenty-five years, as in the United States, the encrease of
products and consumption in the new country, and consequently of employment and
people in the old, has had a corresponding rapidity.
Of the people of the United States, nearly three millions are of British
descent, The British population has
notwithstanding increased within the period of our establishment. It was the
opinion of the famous Sir Josiah Child, that every man in the British colonies
found employment, and of course, subsistence, for four persons at home.
According to this estimate, as more than half a million of the adult males in
the United States equally contribute employment at this time to British
subjects, there must at this time be more than two millions of British subjects
subsisting on the fruits of British emigrations. This result, however, seems to
be beyond the real proportion. Let us attempt a less vague calculation.
The value of British imports into the United States including British
freight, may be stated at about fifteen millions of dollars, Deduct two
millions for foreign articles coming through British hands; there remain
thirteen millions. About half our exports, valued at ten millions of dollars,
are remitted to that nation. From the nature of the articles, the freight
cannot be less than three millions of dollars; of which about one fifth being the share of the United States, there is to be
added to the former remainder; two millions four hundred thousand. The profit
accruing from the articles as materials or auxiliaries for manufactures, is
probably at least fifty per cent, or five millions of dollars. The three sums make twenty millions four hundred
thousand dollars; call them in round numbers twenty millions. The expence of
supporting a labouring family in Great-Britain, as computed by Sir John
Sinclair, on six families containing thirty-four persons, averages
£:4:12:10½ sterling, or about twenty dollars a head. As his
families were of the poorer class, and the subsistence a bare competency, let
twenty-five per cent, be added, making the expence about twenty five dollars a
head, dividing twenty millions by this sum, we have eight hundred thousand for
the number of British persons whose subsistence may be traced to emigration for
its source: or allowing eight shillings sterling a week, for the support of a
working man, we have two hundred sixteen thousand three hundred forty-five of
that class, for the number derived from the same source.
This lesson of fact, which merits the notice, of every commercial
nation, may be enforced by a more general view of the subject.
The present imports of the United States, adding to the first cost,
&c one half the freight as the reasonable share of foreign nations, may be
stated at twenty five millions of dollars Deducting five millions on account of
East India articles, there remain in favour of Europe, twenty millions of
dollars The foreign labour incorporated with such part of our exports as are
subjects or ingredients for manufactures, together with half the export
freight, is probably not of less value than fifteen millions of dollars The two
sums together make thirty five millions of dollars, capable of supporting two
hundred thirty-three thousand three hundred thirty-three families of six
persons in each or three hundred seventy eight thousand six hundred and five
men, living on eight shillings sterling a week.
The share of this benefit, which each nation is to enjoy, will be
determined by many circumstances One that must have a certain and material
influence, will be, the taste excited here for their respective products and
fabrics This influence has been felt in all its force by the commerce of
Great-Britain, as the advantage ongmated in the emigrations from that country
to this, among the means of retaining it, will not be num bered a restraint on
emigrations Other nations, who have to acquire their share in our commerce, are
still more interested in aiding their other efforts, by permitting, and even
promoting emigrations to this country, as fast as it may be disposed to welcome
them The space left by every ten or twenty thou sand emigrants will be speedily
filled by a surplus of life that would otherwise be lost The twenty thousand in
their new country, calling for the manufactures and productions re quired by
their habits, will employ and sustain ten thousand persons in their former
country, as a clear addition to its stock In twenty or twenty five years, the
number, so employed and added, will be twenty thousand And in the mean time,
example and information will be diffusing the same taste among other
inhabitants here, and proportionally extending employment and population
Fourthly Freedom of emigration is due to the general interests of
humanity The course of emigrations being always, from places where living is
more difficult, to places where it is less difficult, the happiness of the
emigrant is promoted bv the change and as a more numerous progeny is another
effect of the same cause, human life is at once made a greater blessing, and
more individuals are created to partake of it.
The annual expence of supporting the poor in England amounts to more
than one million and a half sterling. The
number of persons, subsisting themselves not more than six months in the year,
is computed at one million two hundred sixty eight thousand, and the number of
beggars at forty eight thousand. In France, it has been computed that seven
millions of men women and children live one with another, on twenty five
livres, which is less than five dollars a year. Every benevolent reader will
make his own reflections.
Fifthly It may not be superfluous to add, that freedom of
emigration is favorable to morals. A great proportion of the vices which
distinguish crouded from thin settlements, are known to have their rise in the
facility of illicit intercourse between the sexes, on one hand, and the
difficulty of maintaining a family, on the other. Provide an outlet for the
surplus of population, and marriages will be increased in proportion. Every
four or five emigrants will be the fruit of a legitimate union which would not
otherwise have taken place.
Sixthly The remarks which have been made, though in many respects
little applicable to the internal situation of the United States, may be of use
as far as they tend to prevent mistaken and narrow ideas on an important
subject Our country being populated in different degrees in different parts of
it, removals from the more compact to the more spare or vacant districts are
continually going forward — The object of these removals is evidently to
exchange a less easy for a more easy subsistence. The effect of them must
therefore be to quicken the aggregate population of our country considering the
progress made in some situations towards their natural complement of
inhabitants, and the fertility of others, which have made little or no
progress, the probable difference in their respective rates of increase is not
less than as three in the former to five in the latter. Instead of lamenting
then a loss of three human beings to Connecticut, Rhode-Island, or
New-Jersey, the Philanthropist, will rejoice that five will be
gained to New-York, Vermont or Kentucky; and the patriot will be not
less pleased that two will be added to the citizens of the United
 The multiplying power in some instances, animal as
well as vegetable, is astonishing. An annual plant of two seeds produces in 20
years, 1,048,576, and there are plants which bear more than 40,000 seeds. The
roe of a Codfish is said to contain a million of eggs, mites will multiply to a
thousand in a day, and there are viviparous flies which produce 2000 at once.
See Stillmgfleet and Bradley's philosophical account of nature.
 Emigrants from Europe, enjoying freedom in a
climate similar to their own, increase at the rate of five per cent a year.
Among Africans suffering or (in the language of some) enjoying
slavery in a climate similar to their own, human life has been
consumed in an equal ratio. Under all the mitigations latterly applied
in the British West-Indies, it is admitted that an annual decrease of
one per cent has taken place. What a comment on the African trade!
 The most remarkable instances of the swarms of
people that have been spared without diminishing the parent stock, are the
colonies and colonies of colonies among the antient Greeks Miletum, which was
itself a colony, is reported by Pliny, to have established no less than
eighty colonies, on the Hellespont, the Propontis, and the Euxme. Other
facts of a like kind are to be found in the Greek historians.
 Irish is meant to be included.
 This is stated as the fact is, not as it ought to
be. The United States are reasonably entitled to half the freight, if, under
regulations perfectly reciprocal in every channel of navigation, they
could acquire that share. According to Lord Sheffield, indeed, the United
States are well off, compared with other nations, the tonnage employed in the
trade with the whole of them, previous to the American Revolution, having
belonged to British subjects, in the proportion of more than eleven twelfths In
the year 1660, other nations owned about 1/4, in 1700 less than 1/6, in 1725
1/19, in 1750 1/12, in 1774, less than that proportion. What the proportion is
now, is not known. If such has been the operation of the British navigation law
on other nations, it is our duty, with enquiring into their acquiescence in its
monopolizing tendency, to defend ourselves against it, by all the fair and
prudent means in our power.
 This is admitted to be a very vague estimate. The
proportion of our exports which are either necessaries of life, or have some
profitable connection with manufactures, might be pretty easily computed. The
actual profit drawn from that proportion is a more difficult task, but if
tolerably ascertained and compared with the proportion of such of our imports
as are not for mere consumption, would present one very interesting view of the
commerce of the United States.
 From Easter 1775 to Easter 1776, was expended the
sum of £ 1,556,804 6-3 sterling See Anderson vol 5 p 275. This well
informed writer conjectures the annual expence to be near £ 2,000,000
sterling. It is to be regretted that the number and expence of the poor in the
United States cannot be contrasted with such statements. The subject well
merits research, and would produce the truest eulogmm on our country.