Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 63.djvu/136

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By Professor EDWIN O. JORDAN,


THE modern disposition to revel in the general situation is met by those persons who are disinclined to take a consistently optimistic view of life with several sobering reflections. In regard to that conspicuous phenomenon of modern life, for example, the growth of large cities, attention has frequently been directed to the evil possibilities for the future of the race that are enwombed in city growth. Steady deterioration of mind and body, a tendency to movements of social unrest and disorder, increasingly unsanitary conditions of life are some of the elements in a widely-held belief that the massing or 'herding' of human beings in centers of population is a deplorable and distressing accompaniment of civilization.

It is often forgotten, however, both by those who lament the existence of great cities and by those who count with pride their tale of corn and oil and wine that in the last analysis not only the hope and salvation of the large city, but its growth and very existence depend upon the proper application of methods of municipal hygiene. We need hardly be reminded that many of the factors that make for a concentration of population have been operative in the past with quite as much force as they are to-day. The steady drift from the farm to the town is by no means a modern movement. In the course of the last three hundred years social philosophers have often had occasion to deplore the existence of a migration cityward and the so-called depopulation of the rural districts. In some countries, as in France in the eighteenth century, the chief danger in this movement was thought to lie in its evil effect upon the rural districts, and restrictive measures were advocated for the purpose of keeping a sufficient supply of labor upon the farms. In England the same current toward the cities was noticed, but different forebodings were aroused; the apprehension was expressed that the cities themselves might become unwieldy. Both Elizabeth and James I. issued proclamations forbidding migration into London because of the portentous dimensions that metropolis was thought to be assuming. In spite of the influx of immigrants, however, the actual growth of the large cities was slow if judged by modern standards. In the case of London there is reason to believe that the natural migration into the city was relatively greater two hundred and fifty years ago than it is to-day, and yet at that time its rate of increase was sluggish compared with the swift expansion of its population in the nineteenth century.