Increase of the Population

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FROM the Registers of BAPTISMS, BURIALS, and MARRIAGES, as collected in 1801, an Estimate of the Increase of the population of Great Britain throughout the last Century was then to be attempted; and so far as the Marriage Register of England and Wales extends, there was no danger in depending on it for that purpose: but from the many alleged causes of deficiency in the Registry of Burials and Baptisms, it may be urged, that no safe deduction can be made there from.

It cannot be denied that the Mortality, and consequently the Number of Burials, in any insulated year is an irregular criterion of Population. The Registered Burials from the Tear 1780 prove this abundantly. And as the Number of Baptisms is much more steady, and in a great degree dependent on the Number of Marriages, recourse has been had to "the Baptismal Register in calculating the Population for the early part of the last Century, of which only every Tenth year appears in the Abstract of 1801.

The Objection that has been urged against the authority of any Collection of the Parish Registers of Baptisms, is, that Registers were in former periods more defective from negligence, than they have been in the Years nearer the present time.

As no particular Date can be-assigned when the improvement happened, it must be supposed to be progressive quite to the present time: and as the manner of registering Marriages according to the Act which took place in 1754, admits of no suspicion of deficiency in that Register, it would thence follow, that the Registered Baptisms must exhibit an 'increasing proportion to the Marriages quite to the present time. If this be not the case, the objection drawn from the supposed progressive improvement in the Registry cannot be applicable since the date of the Marriage Act (1754). It is proper therefore to find this proportion at as many periods as the collection of Registers affords an opportunity of so doing: and herein it is reasonable to assume, that the Marriages of any current year, and of the Four preceding years, must chiefly influence the Number of Baptisms in it.

The medium Average of Marriages in 1760 and the Four years preceding it (as collected in 1801, and now corrected) may be taken at 52,666; the Registered Baptisms of the same year 1760 appear to have been 102,900; therefore the Registered Baptisms were at that. time as 366 to 100 Marriages.

In this Manner the following TABLE of PROPORTION'S has been formed:

  Baptisms   Marriages
1760 366 to 100
1770 361 to 100
1780 356 to 100
1785 366 to 100
1790 359 to 100
1795 353 to 100
1800 340 to 100
1805 350 to 100
1810 360 to 100

It appears hence that the Proportion of Registered Baptisms to Marriages has continued much the same; the extremes of the fluctuation differing only a Fourteenth part, and that difference tending to prove not that the Registers are more accurate, but rather less accurate now than formerly. So that since the year 1755, the Register of Baptisms does not appear to have been more or less accurately kept: and therefore the amount of Registered Baptisms will give the same results as that of Marriages, in any calculation of the Increase of Population in the last Half of the Eighteenth Century.

Of the earlier. part of that Century, the want of an accurate Marriage Registry renders it impossible to speak so confidently; as far as analogy is of weight, a similarity with the later period may be supposed; and in the Abstract of 1801, appears a further reason for believing that the correctness of the Registers has not been unequal throughout the last Century: for in the first years which-appear in the Abstract of 1801, the amount of Registered Baptisms stands thus: In 1700, 152,000; in. 1710, 139,000; in 1720, 155,000; and this fluctuation is different from what must have happened if the deficiencies of Registers were greater the further we go back in the examination.

It is true indeed, that in, the years 1709 and 1710, England was afflicted by a dearth, which must have lowered the proportion of Births in 1710 as happened in 1795 and 1800; the scarcity which prevailed in 1710, causing the average price of Wheat to rise to 62 shillings per quarter; whereas the average price of the Ten preceding years was only 30 shillings per quarter. The scarcity of 1800 caused the average price of Wheat to rise to no shillings per quarter; whereas the average price of the Ten preceding years was no more than 54 shillings per quarter. Therefore the severity of the deaths of 1710 and of 1800 may be assumed to have been equal, and the effect of both in diminishing the Births and Baptisms to have been also equal. In the year 1800, the Baptisms were 255,000, though the Five years average is 264,000. By applying a proportional Increase to the Baptisms of 1710, the Number from whence the Population of 1710 is to be deduced, becomes 146,000 instead of 139,000. If the latter Number were used, the Population of 3710 would appear to have been no more than 5,003,000 in the ensuing TABLE.

Having premised these Remarks in order to establish the authority of the Register of Baptisms for forming an Estimate of the Increase or Diminution of the Population during the last Century, it is necessary in the next place to determine at what Number to take the existing Population of 1801. The Enumeration of that Year amounts to 8,872,980 Persons for England and Wales; and to this Number an appropriate share of the Soldiers and Mariners is to be added. These appear to have been 470,598; and supposing Two-thirds of them in 1801 to have been Natives of England and Wales, about a Thirtieth part may be added to the then Resident Population.

Therefore the existing Population of England and Wales in 1801, is taken at 9,168,000 in the following Table; and the Population therein attributed to the other years is obtained by the Rule of Proportion.

Thus: If 263,409 Baptisms (the average Medium of the Five Years 1797-1800) were produced from a Population of 9,168,000; from what Population were 157,307 (the Baptisms of 1700) produced?

Table of Population throughout the last century

England and Wales
In the year Population
1700 5,475,000
1710 5,240,000
1720 5,565,000
1730 5,796,000
1740 6,064,000
1750 6,467,000
1760 6,736,000
1770 7,428,000
1780 7,953,000
1785 8,016,000
1790 8,675,000
1795 9,055,000
1801 9,168,000
1805-6 9,828,000
1811 * 10,488,000

* The Population of England and Wales in the year 1811 is taken at 10,488,000, for a similar reason as that of 1801 at 9,168,000.

Hereby it may be seen, that although the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century exhibits a decreasing Population, the lost Number had been regained in 1720; since which time a continual though irregular Increase appears. For the years 1785, 1790 and 1795, the average Medium of the Baptisms of each year with the four preceding years is taken. The Baptisms of every year previous to 1780 were not called for by the Act of 1801.

Allowing something for the Increasing Population, the Baptisms from 1801 to 1805, and from thence to 1810 inclusive, have been so equal (excepting those of 1801) that the Population of 1805-6, may safely he taken at midway between the Enumerations of 1801 and 1811 (adding a Thirtieth as above explained); but how far these Enumerations may be deemed correct, is a question which requires consideration.

It was supposed, that whence Enumeration Returns of 1811 were collected and arranged, a considerable Deficiency in those of 1801 would become manifest; but this did not happen, the seeming Deficiencies of 1801 so constantly disappearing upon enquiry and explanation, as to leave scarcely Twenty places additional in 1811, and those among the smallest of the 15,741 which made separate Returns.

The Deficiency therefore, if any, must be attributed to a less careful Enumeration in 1801 than in 1811.

It has already been stated that the apparent Increase of the Population of Great Britain from 1801 to 1811 is 1,654,000, and of this Increase 1,277,000 in England and Wales; or, allowing a clue share of the Increase of the Army and Navy, 1,377,000 may be assumed, and to this number the result of Registered Baptisms and Burials is to be compared. The Registered Baptisms are 2,878,906; the Registered Burials 1,950,189; showing-an Increase of 928,717: so that even allowing the Deficiency of the Baptismal Register not to be greater than of the Burial Register, more than Two-thirds of the Increase is established upon incontrovertible grounds. But that the Register of Baptisms is much more deficient than that of Burials has already been shown, although it does not seem possible to ascertain (by direct evidence) in what degree one Deficiency exceeds the other: so that recourse must be had to probabilities founded on analogy and general principles.

Whatever opinion may be formed of the foregoing Table of Population for the earlier part of the last Century, a greater degree of authority cannot well be denied to the latter part of it, and more and more as it approaches the present time. By this Table it appears that from the year 1785 to 1795 the Population increased 1,039,000 (Thirteen per Cent.) upon that of 1785; or nearly in the same proportion as in the Ten Years which intervened between the Enumerations of 1801 and 1811: and from 1785 to 1705 the Baptisms appear to have exceeded the Burials by 634,245, falling short of the real Increase by about One-third, as has again happened.

Moreover it will be found in Sixteen of the Counties of England and Wales (omitting. those where the Inhabitants are supposed frequently to resort elsewhere for Marriage) that the Baptisms brought to account in the Parish-Register Abstract are Four to each Marriage; Unentered Baptisms and Marriages both included. If this proportion holds good over the whole Kingdom (and the Law of Nature can scarcely differ in any part of it) the Births would appear to have exceeded the Burials by 1,378,000; or about 28,000 persons more than is shown by comparison of the Two actual Enumerations. If it be argued that more than 28,000 must have died abroad, and that the Burial Register is also deficient, on the other hand it may be said that Four Births to a Marriage is a less proportion than would have been assumed, had there been no intention of regarding those considerations; the Baptisms being in reality as 42 to 30 Marriages in the Counties referred to, and therefore affording an ample Surplusage without danger of an over-statement.

Further arguments of the same kind might be used to prove that the Enumerations of 1801 and 1811 may be equally relied on; but those who desire to satisfy themselves fully upon this point, will no doubt have recourse to a Comparison of the actual Numbers, as returned in places within their own knowledge; in general it may be truly affirmed that in the formation of the present Enumeration Abstract, very few instances occurred of unaccountable and incredible Increase.

From the Collection of Parish Registers it is not difficult to compute the Increase or Diminution of the Population of the several Counties, in the same manner as of that of the whole Kingdom; but for this it is sufficient to state the Population in 1700, 1750,1801, and 1811. To the resident Population of each County for the years 1801 and 1811, a Thirtieth part is added for Soldiers arid Manners: for though "it must be admitted, that a higher proportion of these is drawn from the Maritime and Manufacturing Counties, and a, less proportion from the Midland Agricultural Counties, yet the Difference is not sufficient to affect the approximation to the true Numbers, in any important degree.

The circumstances which have variously affected the different Counties throughout the last Century, may prevent the following TABLE from being perfectly accurate. The mode of constructing it, supposes that the Births throughout the last Century have borne the same proportion to the existing Population, as in the Five Years preceding 1801; and therefore the Population of 1700 in this Table, is perhaps somewhat too low in the Counties which have most rapidly increased in the last Half of the Century; and, possibly, somewhat too high in the opposite case.

The Population of Scotland, in so far as any Inference can be drawn from the Ninety-nine Registers returned from thence in 1801, and including the usual proportion of the Army and Navy, appears to have been about One Million in 1700, Fourteen Hundred Thousand in 1750, Sixteen Hundred Mid Fifty Thousand in 1801, and at present Eighteen Hundred and Sixty Thousand, as more particularly appears in the subjoined, TABLE of POPULATION (p.xxviii.) which in conjunction with another TABLE: (p. xxix.) embracing the several other points referred to in these Preliminary Observations, may perhaps be found useful beyond its immediate purpose.

June, 1812.

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