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History of the National progress during the last twenty years page 2


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" The ultimate future of any one section of our race, however, is of little moment by the side of its triumph as a whole, but the power of English laws and English principles of government is not merely an English question - its continuance is essential to the freedom of mankind."

The population and extent of the British Empire were ascertained more completely at the great imperial census of 1871 than at any previous period. The various details of the elaborate arrangement under which this census was carried out were probably as perfect, humanly speaking, as they could be made; and the benefits resulting from the information - which was alike novel and interesting - then obtained were correspondingly important. With few exceptions, the area and number of inhabitants of every province in the empire were enumerated simultaneously in that year. The final and revised results of this census, together with the populations, as estimated or enumerated in 1851, are stated in detail in the annexed table: -

Population and Extent of the British Empire in 1871 and 1851

Province.Population.Area in Square Miles
18711851
Europe:
England and Wales22.712.26617.927.60958.311
Scotland3.360.0182.888.74230.463
Ireland5.412.3776.574.27832.531
Isles144.638143.126303
Army-212.194-
Total United Kingdom31.629.29927.745.949121.608
Grand Total of British Empire234.762.593158.496.7277.769.449

The large additions which we have remarked as having been made to the inhabitants of England and Wales in recent years, have been accompanied by a significant change or movement in their relative distribution and grouping. The additional population has not spread itself equally over the surface of the country, but has tended more and more to congregate together in masses. There has, in other words, been a decided movement towards the towns. Though the rural population has not remained stationary, it has increased at a far less rapid rate than the population of urban districts. In 1851 the inhabitants of the town districts of England and Wales differed from those of the rural districts by less than half a million in number. In the year 1871 the former numbered nearly thirteen millions (12,900,297), while the latter had increased to but little more than nine and three-quarter millions (9,803,811). Thus, while the town populations had, in the course of the twenty years, increased by more than 40 per cent., those of the country districts had added but 8J per cent, to their numbers.

Speaking of the growth of the population between the years 1851 and 1861, the Census Commissioners observed that "three-fourths of the total increase of population had taken place in the towns." The seventy-two largest towns in the country, which had an aggregate population of 2,221,753 in 1801, and 7,677,622 in 1861, had, in the ten years preceding 1861, added to their numbers at " double the rate at which the rest of the population increased." " The county and assize towns increased in the ten years since 1851 at the rate of 1'39 annually; the manufacturing towns where silk and woollen goods and gloves were made increasing most slowly, the towns famous for cotton, stockings, shoes, and straw plait increasing most rapidly. The increase of population was most rapid in the seaport towns, and in the towns amidst the mining districts where hardware is made."

" England is in this age still a great agricultural country; but its cities are extending beyond their ancient borders. Villages and small places are rising up to the importance of large towns." Thus Barrow-in-Furness, in Lancashire, was a village, not important enough even to be mentioned by name in the census of 1861; but in 1871 it had risen to the dignity of a town, with nearly 20,000 inhabitants, and had, within the brief space of ten years, attained the status of a municipal borough, governed by a mayor and corporation. Another instance is that of Middlesborough, in Yorkshire, which, in the year 1831, had a population of 383 persons. In 1871 its inhabitants numbered close upon forty thousand (39,563).

In 1871 there were 103 towns in England and Wales with upwards of 20,000 inhabitants. Their aggregate population at that date was 9,543,968, an increase of nearly seven and a quarter millions since 1801. These 103 towns in 1871 contained a larger population than all England and Wales at the beginning of the century. Within seventy years from that time these 103 towns had quadrupled their population, while the population of the rest of the country had barely doubled its numbers. England and Wales at the same date contained, besides the 103 towns just mentioned, 118 towns with a population of between 10,000 and 20,000; 220 towns of from 5,000 to 10,000 inhabitants; 358 towns of from 2,000 to 5,000 inhabitants; and 100 of from 1,000 to 2,000 inhabitants, besides thirty-eight other places which, though having less than 1,000 inhabitants, are classified with the towns on account of their possessing local boards, or other forms of local self-government. These 937 towns possessed in 1871 an aggregate population of 14,041,401. In 1861 their inhabitants numbered 12,026,546, so that they had added 2,014,858 persons to their population in the ten years. The population of the rest of the country was 8,039,678 in 1861, and only added 631,184 thereto in the ten succeeding years. The town populations, according to this mode of division, had therefore increased by 17 per cent., while the remaining population had only increased 8 per cent.; and, according to this principle of division, of the population of England and Wales, nearly two-thirds (62 per cent.) belonged to the towns, and rather more than one-third (38 per cent.) to the rural districts.

While the prevailing tendency of the population has thus, beyond doubt, been to gravitate to the towns, there are not wanting symptoms of an incipient movement in the very opposite direction, more particularly in the most recent years. Numbers of merchants and tradesmen, more particularly those of the wealthier class, who were formerly compelled by the exigencies of their business to dwell in the larger towns, have recently been enabled, by the rapid development of railway communication, to remove to private residences in the country. The resident population of the City of London, which in 1861 numbered 112,063, had sunk in 1871 to 74,897. For centuries this portion of the metropolis had never had a population of less than 110,000. In the year 1631 its inhabitants are estimated to have numbered 111,608, and in 1801 they were as many as 128,269. The sudden and unprecedented decrease of 37,166 persons, or 33 per cent., which took place in the ten years from 1861 to 1871, is no doubt partly due to street improvements, but it is also in great measure to be attributed to the increasing habit in certain ranks of society of seeking their places of residence as far away from the centres of business as circumstances allow. Thus the central portions, not only of the metropolis, but also of almost all the largest towns in England, have of late years been increasingly abandoned to commerce and industry. Soon after the middle of the nineteenth century, the phenomenon was for the first time seen of merchants in the City of London who travelled a hundred miles a day simply between their places of residence and their offices of business - a phenomenon probably still without a parallel in any other nation in the world. The fact of a returning tide from the towns towards the country is quite consistent with, if not confirmed by, the relative progress of the urban and rural populations at the last two censuses. Thus the rate of progress of the rural population (reckoning under this head the utmost which can possibly be conceded) was only 4 per cent, in the ten years, 1851 to 1861. It was 7 per cent, in the following ten years. The urban population in the earlier decennium added 19 per cent., but in the latter period only 18 per cent., to its numbers. This reverse current, however, has, as appears from the numbers just quoted, hitherto been on too small a scale to affect materially the truth of the assertion that the urban population lias in recent times been progressing at a far more rapid rate than that of the rural districts.

As the pursuits of town populations are chiefly of a manufacturing and commercial character, so those of the country are mainly agricultural, and the more rapid growth of the former is a clear indication of the fact - which is abundantly confirmed from other sources, hereafter to be mentioned - that England was every day becoming more and more a manufacturing and commercial nation, and relatively less and less agricultural in its pursuits. A comparison of the number of persons engaged in the various classes of occupations at each of the last three censuses likewise bears witness to the same fact. Thus the actual number of persons occupied in agriculture in England fell from 2,011,447 in the year 1851, to 1,924,110 in 1861, and to 1,559,037 in 1871. The classes of persons not strictly engaged in agriculture rose from 15,916,162 in 1851, to 18,142,114 in 1861, and to 21,153,229 in 1871. In the occupations classed as commercial there were 815,424 persons engaged in 1871, as against 623,710 in 1861, an increase of 30 per cent. Again, in industrial or manufacturing employments the number of persons occupied in 1861 was 4,828,399, while in 1871 it was 5,137,725, an increase of nearly 6J per cent, in the ten years. Within the same period, the population engaged in farming and the cultivation of the earth had decreased as much as 19 per cent.; and was, therefore, receding three times as fast as the manufacturing classes were advancing. It must be remembered that these statements refer simply to the mere numbers of the persons engaged in the various classes of occupations mentioned. The effect which has been produced upon the general welfare of the respective classes of persons in question is not capable of being determined by a mere knowledge of the changes which have taken place in their numbers alone. To enable us to form a judgment upon that point, additional data of a different kind, which will be adduced in a subsequent chapter, are requisite. Of the population not included in any of the three classes mentioned, the occupations described as professional were followed in 1861 by 481,957 persons, and in 1871 by 684,102, showing an increase of more than 200,000, or nearly 40 per cent., in that brief period. The domestic class, which includes, among others, married women and widows engaged in the management of households, as well as domestic servants, housekeepers, innkeepers, &c., rose from 4,287,020 in 1861, to 5,905,171 in 1871. The rest of the population - the indefinite and non-productive class, which, besides including all the children and scholars under twenty years of age, comprises all persons of rank and property, as well as those whose occupation could not be determined with precision - numbered 7,683,794 in 1861, and 8,512,706 in 1871. In the three last-mentioned classes there has thus been an aggregate increase of 2,648,914 persons during the ten years in question - a fact which, as the persons in question are mainly dependent for their subsistence upon the agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing portion of the community, tends to show that the labour of these latter classes has been more productive than formerly, and that the nation at large is to the same extent more wealthy.

The smaller relative importance of agriculture as compared with other occupations, which we have observed in the case of England and Wales, is also found to obtain in the case of Ireland and Scotland, though not in the same degree. In regard to Ireland, the case may be illustrated by saying that, out of every 1,000 families in the country, 662 were dependent for their subsistence on agriculture in the year 1841. In 1851 the proportion had been reduced to 526, and in 1861 to 426 per 1,000. What change has taken place since 1861 has not yet been ascertained. The non-agricultural portion of the Irish population, therefore, increased from 338 in the 1,000 in 1841, to 574 in the 1,000 in 1861. The figures here stated show that agriculture is still, as it has always been, beyond comparison the most important single occupation of Irishmen; but they also show at the same time that, within the period under consideration, the number of families dependent upon it decreased to the extent of 23J per cent.

In Scotland, too, the agricultural was far outstripped by the non-agricultural portion of the population in its rate of increase. During the ten years from 1861 to 1871 the town populations, numbering about 1,100,000, added 240,000 to their numbers; while the inhabitants of the rural districts, numbering 1,900,000 in 1861, had only increased by 56,000 in 1871. The non-agricultural districts had therefore increased by nearly 22 per cent, in the interval, while the agricultural districts had increased scarcely four per cent.

Of the single or special occupations, which gave employment to the largest numbers of persons, that which stood first in England and Wales in 1871 was domestic service. In that year no fewer than 1,237,149 persons were so occupied; in 1861 their number was only 1,106,974. The increase in this occupation was therefore 130,175. The farm labourers and farm servants in 1861 numbered 1,188,789; in 1871 their numbers had been reduced to 980,178. This decrease of 208,611 is to be attributed to the extension of the use of machinery in agriculture, combined with the increasing fashion of uniting a number of small farms together into a single large one. Altogether, there were in England and Wales nineteen separate special occupations in 1871, in each of which more than 100,000 persons were engaged. Besides the two already mentioned, there were the general labourers, who in 1871 numbered 516,605, and 309,883 in 1861; the workers in cotton, 468,142 in 1871, and 456,646 in 1861; the milliners and dressmakers, 301,109 in 1871, and 287,101 in 1861; the coal miners, 268,091 in 1871, and 246,613 in 1861; the farmers and graziers, 249,907 in 1871, and 249,745 in 1861. Of the remaining trades, occupying more than 100,000 persons between 1861 and 1871, the carpenters and joiners increased from 177,969 to 205,833; the workers in the iron manufacture, from 125,771 to 180,207; the washerwomen and laundry- keepers, from 167,607 to 170,598; the merchant seamen, from 159,469 to 169,933; the tailors, from 136,390 to 149,864; the blacksmiths, from 108,165 to 112,471; the grocers and tea-dealers, from 93,483 to 111,094; the engine and machine makers, from 60,862 to 106,680; and the house-painters, plumbers, and glaziers, from 74,619 to 103,912. The shoemakers, on the other hand, declined from 249,745 to 223,365; the woollen-cloth makers, from 130,034 to 128,464; and the English in the army and navy, from 199,905 to 175,217.

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