Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/641

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621
THE DECREASE OF RURAL POPULATION.

THE DECREASE OF RURAL POPULATION.
By JOHN C. ROSE.

WHEN the Constitution of the United States was adopted, only one in every thirty of the people who ordained and established it were residents of cities or towns having eight thousand inhabitants or upward. There were but six such places in the entire country. San Francisco, situated sixteen hundred miles west of our then western boundary, and not founded until nearly sixty years after Washington was inaugurated, has now more than twice as many inhabitants as had all the cities of the United States together when the first census was taken. To-day we think and speak of such States as Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Arkansas as almost purely agricultural States. On such political questions as the tariff and the currency we expect to see their representatives take such positions as the farmers, whether rightly or wrongly, suppose will best promote their interests. Yet every one of the States just named, and indeed every State east of the Missouri River, with the single exception of Mississippi, has a larger proportionate urban population than had the country as a whole when Hamilton carried through Congress his measures to levy duties on imports for the "support of government, for the discharge of the debts of the United States, and the encouragement and protection of manufactures"; to make "provision for the debt of the United States," and "to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States." So great and far-reaching are the differences between the social, economic, and political conditions of city and country communities that there are few features of the eleventh census which are more deserving of close study than those which show how rapidly the United States is changing from an almost purely rural to what promises ere long to be a predominantly urban country.

In making such a study the first thing to do is to determine where the necessarily arbitrary line between urban and rural shall be drawn. For the purpose of this article, all cities, towns, and villages which were separately returned by the census as having on June 1, 1890, 1,000 inhabitants or upward, are considered as urban communities. There were 3,715 such cities, towns, and villages; and when hereafter in this article mention is made of "urban population," the population of these places is intended, while the term "rural population" will be used to designate all the inhabitants residing outside of such cities, towns, and villages. Of course, this division is not only arbitrary, but to a certain extent, particularly in New England, it may be misleading as well. There are in the New England States 411 towns of between 1,000