number of its inhabitants?
The following table shews the number of persons imported for the establishment
of our colony in its infant state, and the census of inhabitants at different
periods, extracted from our historians and public records, as particularly
as I have had opportunities and leisure to examine them. Successive
lines in the same year shew successive periods of time in that year.
I have stated the census in two different columns, the whole inhabitants
having been sometimes numbered, and sometimes the _tythes_ only.
This term, with us, includes the free males above 16 years of age, and
slaves above that age of both sexes. A further examination of our
records would render this history of our population much more satisfactory
and perfect, by furnishing a greater number of intermediate terms.
Those however which are here stated will enable us to calculate, with a
considerable degree of precision, the rate at which we have increased.
During the infancy of the colony, while numbers were small, wars, importations,
and other accidental circumstances render the progression fluctuating and
irregular. By the year 1654, however, it becomes tolerably uniform,
importations having in a great measure ceased from the dissolution of the
company, and the inhabitants become too numerous to be sensibly affected
by Indian wars. Beginning at that period, therefore, we find that
from thence to the year 1772, our tythes had increased from 7209 to 153,000.
The whole term being of 118 years, yields a duplication once in every 27
1/4 years. The intermediate enumerations taken in 1700, 1748, and
1759, furnish proofs of the uniformity of this progression. Should
this rate of increase continue, we shall have between six and seven millions
of inhabitants within 95 years. If we suppose our country to be bounded,
at some future day, by the meridian of the mouth of the Great Kanhaway,
(within which it has been before conjectured, are 64,491 square miles)
there will then be 100 inhabitants for every square mile, which is nearly
the state of population in the British islands. Here I will beg leave
to propose a doubt. The present desire of America is to produce rapid
population by as great importations of foreigners as possible. But
is this founded in good policy? The advantage proposed is the multiplication
of numbers. Now let us suppose (for example only) that, in this state,
we could double our numbers in one year by the importation of foreigners;
and this is a greater accession than the most sanguine advocate for emigration
has a right to expect. Then I say, beginning with a double stock,
we shall attain any given degree of population only 27 years and 3 months
sooner than if we proceed on our single stock. If we propose four
millions and a half as a competent population for this state, we should
be 54 1/2 years attaining it, could we at once double our numbers; and
81 3/4 years, if we rely on natural propagation, as may be seen by the
In the first column are stated periods of 27 1/4 years; in the second are
our numbers, at each period, as they will be if we proceed on our actual
stock; and in the third are what they would be, at the same periods, were
we to set out from the double of our present stock.
I have taken the
term of four millions and a half of inhabitants for example's sake only.
Yet I am persuaded it is a greater number than the country spoken of, considering
how much inarrable land it contains, can clothe and feed, without a material
change in the quality of their diet. But are there no inconveniences
to be thrown into the scale against the advantage expected from a multiplication
of numbers by the importation of foreigners? It is for the happiness
of those united in society to harmonize as much as possible in matters
which they must of necessity transact together. Civil government being
the sole object of forming societies, its administration must be conducted
by common consent. Every species of government has its specific principles.
Ours perhaps are more peculiar than those of any other in the universe.
It is a composition of the freest principles of the English constitution,
with others derived from natural right and natural reason. To these
nothing can be more opposed than the maxims of absolute monarchies. Yet,
from such, we are to expect the greatest number of emigrants. They will
bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in
their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange
for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme
to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at
the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language,
they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers,
they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it
their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous,
incoherent, distracted mass. I may appeal to experience, during the
present contest, for a verification of these conjectures. But, if
they be not certain in event, are they not possible, are they not probable?
Is it not safer to wait with patience 27 years and three months longer,
for the attainment of any degree of population desired, or expected?
May not our government be more homogeneous, more peaceable, more durable?
Suppose 20 millions of republican Americans thrown all of a sudden into
France, what would be the condition of that kingdom? If it would
be more turbulent, less happy, less strong, we may believe that the addition
of half a million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce a
similar effect here. If they come of themselves, they are entitled
to all the rights of citizenship: but I doubt the expediency of inviting
them by extraordinary encouragements. I mean not that these doubts
should be extended to the importation of useful artificers. The policy
of that measure depends on very different considerations. Spare no
expence in obtaining them. They will after a while go to the plough
and the hoe; but, in the mean time, they will teach us something we do
not know. It is not so in agriculture. The indifferent state
of that among us does not proceed from a want of knowledge merely; it is
from our having such quantities of land to waste as we please. In
Europe the object is to make the most of their land, labour being abundant:
here it is to make the most of our labour, land being abundant.
BACK | FORWARD
It will be proper to explain how the numbers for the year 1782 have been
obtained; as it was not from a perfect census of the inhabitants.
It will at the same time develope the proportion between the free inhabitants
and slaves. The following return of taxable articles for that year
was given in.
of all ages and sexes.
not distinguished in the returns, but said to be titheable slaves.
5,126 wheels of riding-carriages.
There were no returns from the 8 counties of Lincoln, Jefferson, Fayette,
Monongalia, Yohogania, Ohio, Northampton, and York. To find the number
of slaves which should have been returned instead of the 23,766 titheables,
we must mention that some observations on a former census had given reason
to believe that the numbers above and below 16 years of age were equal.
The double of this number, therefore, to wit, 47,532 must be added to 211,698,
which will give us 259,230 slaves of all ages and sexes. To find
the number of free inhabitants, we must repeat the observation, that those
above and below 16 are nearly equal. But as the number 53,289 omits
the males between 16 and 21, we must supply them from conjecture.
On a former experiment it had appeared that about one-third of our militia,
that is, of the males between 16 and 50, were unmarried. Knowing
how early marriage takes place here, we shall not be far wrong in supposing
that the unmarried part of our militia are those between 16 and 21.
If there be young men who do not marry till after 21, there are as many
who marry before that age. But as the men above 50 were not included in
the militia, we will suppose the unmarried, or those between 16 and 21,
to be one-fourth of the whole number above 16, then we have the following
53,289 free males above 21 years of age.
17,763 free males between sixteen and twenty-one.
17,052 free males under sixteen.
142,104 free males of all ages.
284,208 free inhabitants of all ages.
259,230 slaves of all ages.
543,438 inhabitants, exclusive of the eight counties from which there were
no returns. In these 8 counties in the years 1779 and 1780 were 3,161 militia.
males above the age of 16.
12,644 free inhabitants
in these 8 counties. To find the number of slaves, say, as 284,208
to 259,230, so is 12,644 to 11,532. Adding the third of these numbers
to the first, and the fourth to the second, we have,
296,852 free inhabitants.
567,614 inhabitants of
every age, sex, and condition. But 296,852, the number of free inhabitants,
are to 270,762, the number of slaves, nearly as 11 to 10. Under the
mild treatment our slaves experience, and their wholesome, though coarse,
food, this blot in our country increases as fast, or faster, than the whites.
During the regal government, we had at one time obtained a law, which imposed
such a duty on the importation of slaves, as amounted nearly to a prohibition,
when one inconsiderate assembly, placed under a peculiarity of circumstance,
repealed the law. This repeal met a joyful sanction from the then
sovereign, and no devices, no expedients, which could ever after be attempted
by subsequent assemblies, and they seldom met without attempting them,
could succeed in getting the royal assent to a renewal of the duty.
In the very first session held under the republican government, the assembly
passed a law for the perpetual prohibition of the importation of slaves.
This will in some measure stop the increase of this great political and
moral evil, while the minds of our citizens may be ripening for a complete
emancipation of human nature.