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PIECES FOR READING AND DECLAMATION.
Future Prospects of the American Continent.-ENCYCLOPADIA BRITANNICA.
It was the astonishing progress of the United States that first clearly unfolded the principles on which the multiplication of human beings depends. We know with certainty that a prosperous community, possessing abundance of unoccupied land, will double its numbers in twenty-five years, without aid from emigration; and, as the scale ascends in a geometrical ratio, a short time necessarily produces a wonderful change. In the United States the whites increase at the rate of three or three and a half per cent. per annum; and when the Spanish American republics have settled down in a tranquil state, there is no doubt that their white inhabitants will multiply at the same rate.
In 1830, the entire white population being estimated at twenty-one millions, this number, in 1855, will be increased to forty-two millions; in 1880, to eighty-four millions; in 1905, to one hundred and sixty-eight millions; and in 1930, to three hundred and thirty millions. As the difficulty of providing for the growing animal increment of inhabitants must increase with the magnitude of the population, let us assume, that at the end of a century, the rate of increase falls to two per cent. The period of doubling will then be thirty-six years; consequently, the white population in
1966, will be six hundred and seventy-two millions; in 2002, it will be one billion three hundred and forty-four millions; and in 2030, it will be two billions six hundred and eighty-eight millions.
Thus, in two centuries, the whites now in America would multiply to a mass of people three times as great as are at present on the whole surface of the globe. Of the thirty-one millions of square miles which compose Europe, Asia and Africa, we cannot find that the productive soil constitutes so much as one-third, and of that third a part is poor. The whole surface of the American continent contains thirteen millions nine hundred thousand square miles, and deducting three millions nine hundred thousand as arid soil, there are left ten millions as soil of a productive quality.
The degree of productiveness depends on climate; it follows, that if the natural resources of America were fully developed, it would afford sustenance to three billions six hundred millions of inhabitants-a number five times as great as the entire mass of human beings existing at present upon the globe. And what is more surprising, there is every probability that this prodigious population will be in existence within three, or, at most, four centuries. The imagination is lost in contemplating a state of things which will make so great and rapid a change in the condition of the world.
We almost fancy that it is a dream; and yet the result is based on principles quite as certain as those which govern the conduct of men in their ordinary pursuits. There are many elements of disorder now operating in Spanish America, but these are merely the dregs left by the old Spanish despotisms; and the Anglo-American republic is a pole-star to guide the people in their course towards freedom and prosperity.
Nearly all social improvements spring from the reciprocal influence of condensed numbers and diffused intelligence. What, then, will be the state of society in America two centuries hence, when a thousand millions of civilized men are crowded into a space comparatively so narrow, and when this immense mass of human beings speak only two languages, or what is as likely, only one language, the English? History shows that wealth, power, science,
literature, all follow in the train of numbers, general intelligence and freedom.
The same causes which transferred the sceptre of civilization from the banks of the Euphrates and the Nile to western Europe, must in the course of no long period, carry it from the latter to the plains of the Mississippi and the Amazon.-Society, after all, is in its infancy; the habitable world, when its productive powers are regarded, may be said hitherto to have been an untenanted waste.
If any one suspects us of drawing on our fancy, we would request him to examine thoroughly the condition and past progress of the North American Republic. Let him look at its amazing strides in wealth, intelligence, and social improvement; at its indestructible liberty; and above all, at the prodigious growth of its population-and let him answer the question to himself, what power can stop the tide of civilization which is pouring from its single source over an unoccupied world?
Let us clearly understand what is meant by Human Progress. It must be distinctly separated from the doctrine of Human Perfectibility. That men in this world will ever be, in all respects, perfect, is one doctrine-and that men will pass from lower degrees of excellence up to higher, and maintain their advantage, is another doctrine. This last is the doctrine of Human Progress. That our age holds an amount of refinement and civilization that preceding ages did not have, seems evident. We may not see minutely how this operation of human progress goes onwe may not be able to trace the transfusion of the good and the true through every particle and member. But we see the grand result.
So the great ocean comes on imperceptibly. Men build their huts at the foot of some huge mountain, and till the green fields that spread out before them-thinking nothing so permanent. But, by and by, other men come that
way, and the green fields are all gone. The summer fruit
has long since been gathered. Where the husbandman found his wealth, the fisher draws his support-where the sickles whispered to the bending corn, the ships of war go sheeting by-and the old mountain has become a grey and wave-beaten crag, a landmark to the distant mariner, and a turret where the sea-bird screams.
But this was accomplished imperceptibly. One generation may not have witnessed the advancement of the waters—another may have passed away without noting it; but slowly they kept advancing. And by and by, all men saw it-saw the grand result, though they did not mark each successive operation. So with human progress. One age may scarcely observe it, and another may die without faith in it; but we must take some distant period that is not too closely blended with our time, and compare that with the present, and in the grand result we shall discover that there has been human progress.
Still, some may say, "Yes, there has been progress, but not over the whole world-there have been salient points, but also retreating angles, and when you speak of human progress you must appeal to the world at large-say, has that advanced?" I answer, that in the world, somewhere, there has been a constant tendency to advancement. Even the dark times have been seasons of fruition-the middle ages nourished and prepared glorious elements of human reformation. If one nation has lost the thread of human advancement, another has taken it up-and so the work has gone forward; if not in the race, as a whole, at any one time, yet in the race somewhere.
But the race is fundamentally the same, and what may be predicated of a portion of mankind as belonging essentially to humanity, may be predicated of the whole, and so in the advancement of a portion of the race, the whole becomes hopeful. The capacity of the race for progress has been demonstrated. Is that capacity never to be gratified? Though the period never has been that all the race were at the same time on the same level—who shall say that the time never will come? That it never can come ? Who shall say, so long as the capacity exists, how quick the transfusion of what is excellent in one portion may be made through the whole?
A victory over the formal Asiatic, grim and bloody as it is, may be one agent of such transfusion. A triumph of machinery may help to accomplish it. The steam-car may carry truth and light over drifted deserts and frozen mountains. The march of opinion, aided by circumstances, may penetrate to lands that never knew the commerce of Phoenicia, or the wisdom of Athens-where Alexander never ventured with his hosts, and where Cæsar turned back his eagles.
This is the main point-not universal progress, but human progress not progress everywhere, but progress somewhere. Grant but that, and all humanity becomes hopeful -grant but the capacity, and the doctrine is practicablelet the law be in operation only at one point, still it is a law, and as such is to be heeded and acted upon. Old notions may die, but new notions shall spring up. Let the principle be at work, and no one can limit the result.
It may take a longer sweep of ages than have yet passed over mankind, to bring all nations to the same point of advancement; some nations, now here and now there, may always be in advance of others, yet if the others advance also, the great law will be in operation. And no people shall have lived or died in vain. Into the deepest sepulchres of the Old and the Past a new life shall be kindled, showing that they have not waited so long for nothing. Dim Meroé will shout freedom from beyond the fountains of the Nile, and the stony lips of the Sphynx shall preach the Gospel!
Damon and Pythias.-BROOKE.
When Damon was sentenced by Dionysius of Syracuse to die on a certain day, he begged permission, in the interim, to retire to his own country, to set the affairs of his disconsolate family in order. This the king intended peremptorily to refuse, by granting it, as he conceived, on the impossible condition of his procuring some one to remain as hostage for his return, under equal forfeiture of life.