The most interesting change of which the Census gives account is the increase in the number of farms. The number has virtually doubled within twenty years. The population of the country has not increased in like proportion. A large part of the increase in number of farms has been due to the division of great estates. Nor has this occurred, as some may imagine, exclusively in the Southern States and the States to which immigration and migration have recently been directed. It is an important fact that the multiplication of farms has continued even in the older Northern States, though the change has not been as great in these as in States of the far West or the South. In New York there has been an increase of 25,000, or 11.5 per cent, in the number of farms since 1870; in New Jersey the increase has been 12.2 per cent., and in Pennsylvania 22.7 per cent., though the increase in population, and doubtless in the number of persons engaged in farming, has been much smaller. Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois also, have been considered fully settled States for years, at least in an agricultural point of view, and yet the number of farms has increased 26.1 per cent, in ten years in Ohio, 20.3 percent, in Indiana, and 26.1 per cent, in Illinois. The obvious explanation is that the growth of many cities and towns has created a market for a far greater supply of those products which may be most advantageously grown upon farms of moderate size; but even if this fully accounts for the phenomenon, the change must be recognized as one of the highest importance industrially, socially, and politically.
The man who owns or rents and cultivates a farm stands on a very different footing from the laborer who works for wages. It is not a small matter that, in these six States alone, there are 205,000 more owners or managers of farms than there were only a decade ago.
As we go further toward the border, west or north, the influence of the settlement of new land is more distinctly felt. Even in Michigan, where new railroads have opened new regions to settlement, the increase in number of farms has been over 55 per cent. In Wisconsin, though the increase in railroad mileage has been about the same as in Michigan, the reported increase in number of farms has been only 28 per cent., but in Iowa it rises to 60 per cent., and in Minnesota to nearly 100 per cent. In Kansas the number of farms is 138,561, against 38,202 in 1870; in Nebraska 63,387, against 12,301; and in Dakota 17,435, against 1,720. In these regions the process is one of creation of new States rather than a change in the social and industrial condition of the population.
Some Southern States have gained largely, but the increase in these, though very great, is less surprising than the new States of the Northwest. The prevailing tendency of Southern agriculture to large farms and the employment of many hands is especially felt in States where land is still abundant. The greatest increase is in Texas, where 174,184 farms are reported, against 61,125 in 1870; in Florida, with 23,438 farms, against 10,241 in 1870; and in Arkansas, with 94,433 farms, against 49,424 in 1870. In Missouri 215,575 farms are reported, against 148,228 in 1870. In these States, though social changes have been great, the increase in number of farms has been largely due to new settlements, as in the States of the far Northwest. But the change in the older Southern States is of a different character.
Virginia, for example, has long been settled, and had 77,000 farms thirty years ago. But the increase in number within the past ten years has been 44,668, or 60.5 per cent. Contrasting this with the increase in New York, a remarkable difference appears. West Virginia had few more farms ten years ago than New Jersey; now it has nearly twice as many, and has gained in number nearly 60 per cent. North Carolina, too, has increased 78 per cent. in number of farms since 1870, and South Carolina 80 per cent. In Georgia the increase has been still greater--from 69,956 to 138,626, or nearly 100 per cent. In Alabama there are 135,864 farms, against 67,382 in 1870, an increase of over 100 per cent. These proportions, contrasted with those for the older Northern States, reveal a change that is nothing less than an industrial revolution. But the force of this tendency to division of estates has been greatest in the States named. Whereas the ratio of increase in number of farms becomes greater in Northern States as we go from the East toward the Mississippi River, at the South it is much smaller in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana than in the older States on the Atlantic coast.
Thus in Louisiana the increase has been from 28,481 to 48,292 farms, or 70 per cent., and in Mississippi from 68,023 to 101,772 farms, or less than 50 per cent., against 100 in Alabama and Georgia. In Kentucky the increase has been from 118,422 to 166,453 farms, or 40 per cent., and in Tennessee from 118,141 to 165,650 farms, or 40 per cent., against 60 in Virginia and West Virginia, and 78 in North Carolina. Thus, while the tendency to division is far greater than in the Northern States of corresponding age, it is found in full force only in six of the older Southern States, Alabama, West Virginia, and four on the Atlantic coast. In these, the revolution already effected foreshadows and will almost certainly bring about important political changes within a few years. In these six States there 310,795 more farm owners or occupants than there were ten years ago.--N.Y. Tribune.