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Brave New (crowded) World

May 2024
2min read

In 1776 the Lottery Magazine of London looked toward the troublesome American colonies and—drawing on American writers including the celebrated Dr. Franklin—got off this remarkable census forecast. The tabulated figures in the second column run surprisingly close to actual U.S. census figures; for example, in 1790 the real number was 3,929,000; in 1820, 9,638,000; in 1840, 17,069,000; in 1870, 39,818,000; in 1890, 62,948,000. This accuracy fails after 1890, when the figures projected by the Lottery pundits are too large; but they do hedge their bet by suggesting, in their last paragraph, that “vast luxury and debauchery” in the twentieth century might cut back considerably on population increase. They knew nothing, of course, about the Pill or other recent sophistications of contraceptive science; but quite possibly they would have included them under “debauchery” if they had known. Merritt Ierley, Jr., who sent us this prescient snippet, has prepared a book on the year 1776 that will soon be forthcoming from A S. Barnes & Co., Inc.

On the Comparative P OPULATION of A MERICA , with G REAT B RITAIN

(Extracted from different Writirs.)

THE number of people in America are fappofed to a mount to 2,200,000.∗ We (hall not be far from the truth, if we fuppofe the total on the continent and itlands to be about two millions and a half.

∗ This was written several years ago, by Dr. Franklin of America.

Land being plenty in America and fo cheap as that a labouring man, who understands husbandry, can in a short time fave money enough to purchace a piece of new land sufficient for a plantation, whereon he may fubfift a family. Such men are not afraid to marry; for if they even look far enough forward, to confider how their children, when grown up, are to be provided for, they fee that more land is to be had at rate equally eafy, all their circumstances considered.

Hence marriages in America are more general, and more generally early than in Europe. And if it is reckoned there, that there is but one marriage per annum among an hundred persons, perhaps we may here reckon two; and if in Europe they have but four births to a marriage (many of their marriages being late) we may here reckon eight; of which, if one half grow up, and our marriages are made, reckoning one with another, at twenty years of age, our people must at least be doubled every twenty years.

There are fuppofed to be now upwards of 1,000,000 English souls in North America, though it is thought scarcely eighty thousand have been brought over fea, and yet perhaps there is not one the fewer in Britain; but rather many more, on account of the employment the colonies afford tq manufactures at home. This million doubling, fuppofc, but once in twenty-five years, tvill in another century be more than the people of England, and the greateft number of Kngtiftimen will be on this fide the water.

Another Writer says,” It appears that the land on the continent, that will admit of population, is above 1,122,800 square miles; and as there are 640 acres in a fquare mile, in North America we have 718,592,000 acres. England is peopled nearly in proportion of one person to five acres:—our colonies, fo populous, would contain 143,718,400 people. And if they contain at present 2,000,000, and double their numbers every twemy-five years, the period or their number will be as follows :
In 1792, they will be - 4,000,000
1817 - - - - 8,000,000
1842 _ _ _ 16,000,000
1867 - - - 32,000,000
1892 - - - 64,000,000
1917 - - 128,000,000
1942 _ _ _ 256,000,000

There are feveral obstacles, however, to their encreasing in future periods at the rate they do at prelent A large proportion of them will be fixed at so great distance from the fieib land, (the only cause of their quick increase) that the difficulty of getting at it will prove an obstruction to population Great cities will be railed among them; vast luxury ami debauchery will reign in these, the influence of which will extend to the extremities of the empire: and thefe causes, which certainly will operate, must render their increase flower in a diftant period than it is at present.”

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