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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3599

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

[Sidenote: Population.]

A census taken in 1790 gives us the number of inhabitants as a little under 4,000,000. Of these, 750,000-nearly one-fifth of the whole population-were negroes. Of the 3,170,000 whites, the ancestors of eight- tenths were probably English, and most of the others spoke English and were a homogeneous part of the community. Counting by sections, the States north of Maryland had a population of 1,968,000, and those south of Pennsylvania had 1,925,000; the States which were to be permanently slave- holding contained, therefore, a population about equal to that of New England and the Middle States. Only a small part of this population was to be found west of the mountains. Settlement was working into central New York, southwest Pennsylvania, the neighboring parts of Virginia, and the upper waters of the Tennessee; but the only considerable western community was in Kentucky. These distant settlers had an important influence on the Union, since they lay within easy reach of the Spanish settlements, and occasionally threatened to withdraw.

[Sidenote: Intellectual life.]

The intellectual life of the people was little developed. Schools had not sensibly improved since colonial times. The graduating classes of all the colleges in 1789 count up to about 170. There were but two schools of medicine in the country, and no regular school of law. In one department of literature alone were the Americans eminent: the state papers of public men such as Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson are written with the force and directness of the best school of English. Poetry there was; its character may be judged by a single quotation from Barlow's "Vision of Columbus," a favorite epic, published in 1787:-

"There stood stern Putnam, seamed with many a scar,


veteran honours of an earlier war;

Undaunted Stirling, dreadful to his foes,

And Gates and Sullivan to vengeance rose;

While brave McDougall, steady and sedate,

Stretched the nerved arm to ope the scene of fate."

[Sidenote: Economic conditions.]

In economic conditions the United States were little more advanced than had been the colonies. The country abounded in natural resources: timber clad the whole Appalachian range, and spread far into the Mississippi valley; the virgin soil, and particularly the rich and untouched prairies of the West, were an accumulation of unmeasured wealth. Yet it was little easier to get from the sea to Lake Erie or to the Ohio than it had been forty years before. It seemed impossible that a country could be held together when it was so large that a courier might be two months on his way from the seat of government to the most distant frontier; and Jefferson predicted that it would be a thousand years before the country would be thickly settled as far west as the Mississippi. The chief resource of the country was agriculture; almost every State raised its own food, and there were considerable exports, particularly of wheat and flour. Manufactures were chiefly imported from England, the only widely known American industry being the distilling of New England rum. The chief source of wealth was still commerce; in 1790 the exports and imports were about twenty million dollars each, or five dollars per head of the population. The movement of vessels to foreign ports was tolerably free, but the vexatious restrictions and taxes imposed by England tended to throw an undue part of the profit into the hands of the English merchants. Business of every kind was much hampered by the want of bank capital and by the state of the currency.

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