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COLONIAL LIFE FOR THE COMMON PEOPLE
By OLIVER N. GOLDSMITH
THE IRRIGATION AGE
Volume 08, Number 8, December 1895, Page 237
IN times past, it has been thought that people of moderate means occupied the social plane the conditions of which were most conducive to contentment and happiness, "Give me neither poverty no riches," was the exclamation of Solomon, who was noted for his wisdom. To have enough to supply all needed comforts and to ward off the fear of possible want, and at the same time to be free from the responsibilities, temptations and care of great riches, should, independent of other mental, moral or physical conditions, be the estate of a happy man.
But the time seems to have come when, in our large cities, men with small capital are put to a disadvantage in their attempts to compete with the power of great concerns having unlimited resources. The small merchant who once was prosperous, enjoying his share of the general trade, finds it impossible to compete with the great department stores that can underbuy and undersell him in every line of goods handled; and the plants of the small manufacturers have been absorbed by the great corporations that command minions. Some of the men who were formerly in business for themselves are now floor-walkers, managers or employes in some capacity of their great competitors; while with others the great problem of getting employment of any kind has-been and is now causing them great concern. Never were there such struggles for political office as have been made during the last few years by men whose accumulations were melting away, while they have seen no encouragement to engage in business. The uncertainty of continued employment felt by those fortunate enough to find salaried positions makes their life but link to he envied by the less fortunate seekers for employment.
A bill was proposed in the Illinois Legislature last winter designed to check the growth of department stores, and make it possible for a great number to prosper in trade. But the success of such legislation, if attempted, is doubtful. The problem is not to be solved in that way. The great currents of trade hew out channels for themselves, and it seems impossible for legislative bodies to pass laws to effectively check or control them. The great structure of trade is becoming topheavy, the professions overcrowded, debts repudiated and credit destroyed. These conditions exist in the greatest degree in our large cities, because they are the great marts of trade and the evils of abnormal and unhealthy tendencies are there felt most acutely. And no relief can he expected so long as the abnormal growth continues. What is the remedy? The answer suggests itself - the people must. scatter.
"And Abram said unto Lot, let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee and between my herdmen and thy herdmen. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right: or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left!"
Abram never lived in a large city like Chicago or New York, but be enunciated a great principle in political economy equally applicable to the people of those overcrowded cities. "Is not the whole land before thee?" It has been stated that the western half of the United States is capable of supporting a larger population than the eastern half. Millions of acres of rich soil need only to be irrigated to be made wonder fully productive. Why should not many of us secure homes upon these irrigated lands? By raising first a variety of food supplies necessary for the consumption of the family, we secure our industrial and individual independence, and the living which is here uncertain and precarious is assured.
But some will say, "There is now overproduction in agricultural products, and there are no markets at paying prices." The relief for this condition has been pointed out vain and again. Let the farmer diversify his crops. He should so manage his farm as to obtain from it a supply of what his family needs for its support - vegetables, fruit, chic kens, eggs, milk, butter and meats. To that extent he will always have a home market, with no profits to middle men. Then if a surplus of dairy products be raised, it is difficult to conceive of a locality where there is not a market for them at paying prices.
Lands cultivated in fruit are highly profitable, and the consumption of fruit can be greatly increased and the market for it extended by such sorts as are being made, and will be made within the coming years, to reach hundreds of small cities with carload lots, that have heretofore been considered impossible markets. It is now known that they are better and more profitable markets than the large cities. As the amount of land adapted to fruit culture is limited, there is not likely ever to be overproduction of fruit in this country.
To make it possible and easy for many people to leave the crowded cities and occupy the land which Is waiting for them, the formation of colonies should be recommended and encouraged. A large company of colonists locating together upon new land have, almost at the outset, all the social and other advantages of old settled communities. There is the encouragement and enthusiasm of a common purpose and its execution, and the home built and the farm brought under cultivation by each and every colonist benefit not only himself but all the rest. Besides, valuable and attractive features may be thought out and adopted for the general be of the colony scheme. For example, Plymouth colony in the Payette valley, Idaho, has a central village beautifully laid out with parks and boulevards, and in addition to his twenty-acre farm, each colonist has an acre lot in the village on which be can build his home and live with all the surroundings of village social life. This colony invites people from the overcrowded cities to take up farms and build homes in the " New Plymouth." Fruit culture, diversified farming and dairying can all be made highly profitable. The water for irrigation is from the Payette river, a never-failing supply, and a large canal is built and fully equipped to irrigate the land.
This colony has been referred to because it has been happily planned to meet and overcome the objections to ordinary farm life, and to demonstrate the possibility of successful change of home from city to rural surroundings without incurring the hardships commonly thought to be incident to such change. Other colonies should be formed. The arid lands of the great West should be made, by irrigation, to contribute to the support of America's population, and as progress is made in this direction, the sagebrush plains will blossom into orchards and farms, surrounding happy and prosperous homes.
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