Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/44

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By Professor HOMER C. PRICE


THE per cent. of American farms operated by owners is constantly decreasing. The census for 1900 shows that over one third of the farms are operated by tenants and that in the last twenty years the per cent, has risen from 25.5 in 1880 to 35.3 in 1900.

This tendency toward tenancy has been and is viewed with alarm by the thoughtful American farmer. One of the boasts of American life has been the independence of ownership of its people. American agriculture in particular has been made up of a class owning their own farms. Land has been in greater abundance than labor or capital and has been dealt out with a lavish hand by the government. Since 1863, 233,043,939 acres of land have been given away in homesteads of 160 acres each, under the "Homestead Act" of 1862. For the man who wanted a farm there has been an opportunity to get one for taking it up and establishing a home. And the distribution of this land has not been confined to any one year, but quite uniformly distributed throughout the last forty years, and since 1900 more land has been given away by the homestead entries than ever before, as shown by the following statistics:

Public Lands of the United States taken up in Homestead Grants since 1900

Year Acres
1900 8,478,400
1901 9,479,275
1902 14,033,246
1903 11,193,120
1904 10,171,266

With these large areas of public lands being given away each year, and with a farming population that is constantly decreasing as compared with the population engaged in other occupations, why should the farmers of our country be losing the titles to their farms? Is it a harbinger of an American peasantry, and are we drifting toward landlordism? When compared with European countries, the United States is neither first nor last in the matter of tenancy of her farm lands. In Germany 12.38 of the farm lands are cultivated by tenants, in England 86 per cent., in France 47.2 per cent, and in the United States 23.3 per cent, of the total farm lands.

The distribution of this tenancy in the United States varies greatly, depending upon geographical location.