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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39


page 28


In order to ensure all possible accuracy in the estimate of the yearly expenditure of the American farmers and their families, the writer printed and distributed among those persons whom he deemed most competent to judge, fifty copies of the following memorandum:—

"Estimate of Expenditure in America.

"It would greatly assist the undersigned in the completion of a little work on which he is engaged if you would kindly give him the best estimate in your power in relation to the following subject.

"By the census of 1870 there were in the United States of America, out of a population of 38,600,000, a total of 12,506,000 persons engaged in various occupations. Of these 5,922,000 were engaged in agriculture, which number has by this time (1880) increased to at least 7,000,000.

"An estimate is wanted of the average annual expenditure of each of these 7,000,000 persons (most of whom have families) on all articles of consumption, except eatables and drinkables. Those articles would comprise every description of clothing, household ware, tools, agricultural implements, railway conveyance, &c. &c.

"Of course, strict accuracy is unattainable, and all calculations must necessarily be conjectural and approximative.

"It may be noted—
"1.That by 'agriculturists' are meant, not only the cereal farmers, but the producers of all articles page 29 derived from the soil, whether grain or cotton, meat or tobacco, &c. &c.
"2.That there are in the United States 2,600,000 farmers, who, most of them, own the soil which they till, and whose annual expenditure must be considerable.
"3.That the wages of farm labourers in the North and West range, (see an article in the Times of 26th August, 1879) from $19 69c. monthly ($236 per annum) to $38 22c. monthly ($458 per annum). In the South, under the competition of negro labour, wages are only $15 monthly ($180 per annum).
"4.That, as food and lodging cost the farmers and labourers but little, most of their expenditure falls on the articles of consumption comprised in this inquiry. The question therefore is, 'What is the average yearly expenditure, on such articles, of each of those 7,000,000 persons in the United States of America, who are engaged in agricultural pursuits, some of whom are single, but most of whom have families?' It will be esteemed a favour if you will address a communication at your earliest convenience to

"A. Mongredien,

"Author of 'Free Trade and English Commerce.' Forest Hill, near London.

The answers received (and they were not many) ranged from $150 per annum up to $5 per week ($260 per annum). In the work we have taken $200 as a fair mean. But, even upon the lowest estimate the sum is so vast, that it really matters very little which valuation is adopted. If any reader thinks that $200 per annum is too high an estimate let him boldly strike off 25 per cent., and page 30 the balance will still be found amply large enough to justify all our conclusions.

For our American statistics we are chiefly indebted to that valuable compilation, "The American Almanack for 1879," by Mr. A. R. Spofford, to which we beg to refer those who may doubt the accuracy of our figures.

Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.. Belle Sauvage Works, London, E.C.