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Record number: WCP2666

Sent by:
Edward Atkinson
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
28 January 1886

Sent by Edward Atkinson, Boston, Massachusetts, USA to Alfred Russel Wallace [none given] on 28 January 1886.

Record created:
30 November 2011 by Mayer, Anna


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LETTER (WCP2666.2556)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
British Library, The
Finding number:
BL Add. 46440 ff. 99-102
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Edward Atkinson Literary Estate.

Physical description

Transcription information




Boston. Mass.

January 28. 1886

Alfred R. Wallace Esq.

Dear Sir: --

I have you letter of the 12th and I find that you have been misled as many others have been, by the enormous statement of the very large alleged number of people out of employment in the country, and also as to other matters connected with the alleged depression.

The chief part of the force which was thrown out of employment about 1882 consisted of about five hundred thousand men discharged from work in building railroads, mainly common labourers. Of course they made a great show when the congregated in the cities.

There have been some stoppage of the factories, but the factory population constitutes less than 10% of the working population.

[[2]] It has been a period of adjustment to new conditions and by far the great majority of our people, I mean our working people, are better off today than ever before, and have been so during the last three years.

In respect to land not being easily obtained by the labourers in the vicinity of cities, you are quite mistaken. It is not free land. Free land has practically no value. It is land which has had a great deal of capital suspended upon it.

The whole system of land tenure, and our whole system of savings banks, in New England especially, tends to the distribution of land under the most equitable conditions.

It is one the adverse conditions of New England, that the farms which had been left by the native when the West opened its greater opportunities, is being gathered in and put under a different kind of cultivation by [[3]] Irish immigrants and their children, and by French Canadians and the like. The tide may turn back again however, as science is applied to agriculture.

I send you an address herewith on the production of beef on these deserted farms of New England.

We have in Massachusetts 30% of our population foreign born, largely Irish.

If you could walk with me from my country house to church-meeting the Irish catholic children who have been bred in common school on their way home from the Sunday School, I think you would read a lesson such as you have never had placed before you in any other country.

The savings bank opposite of Massachusetts now amount to $148 -- for each man woman and child, and nearly every other man, woman or child is represented by name [[4]] upon the books of a savings bank; but the principal benefit which accrues from the savings of the people being concentrated in this way, is that the money is loaned on small mortgages in order to enable common people to own their own bits of land and their own dwelling places in very large proportion.

I again beg leave to suggest that one who has not personally observed and studied the evolution of the American citizen from the adult foreign germ, has yet much study to give to social science.

Most truly yours | Edward Atkinson [signature]

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