_The 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 following table.
Settlers Census of Census of
Years imported. Inhabitants. Tythes.
1611 3 ship loads
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
Proceeding on Proceeding on
our present stock. a double stock.
1781 567,614 1,135,228
1808 1/4 1,135,228 2,270,456
1835 1/2 2,270,456 4,540,912
1862 3/4 4,540,912
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.
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.
53,289 free males above 21 years of age.
211,698 slaves of all ages and sexes.
23,766 not distinguished in the returns, but said to be
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 calculation:
53,289 free males above 21 years of age.
17,763 free males between 16 and 21.
71,052 free males under 16.
142,104 free females of all ages.
284,208 free inhabitants of all ages.
259,230 slaves of all ages.
543,438 inhabitants, exclusive of the 8 counties from which e
no returns. In these 8 counties in the years 1779 and 1780 were
3,161 militia. Say then,
3,161 free males above the age of 16.
3,161 ditto under 16.
6,322 free females.
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.