Increase of the Population

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III. - Increase of the Population.

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 therefrom.

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 year 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 usually 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 to 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 therefore fit to ascertain 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 col lected in 1801, and now corrected) may be taken at 52,666; the Registered Baptisms of the same year 1760 appear to have been 192,900; therefore the Registered Baptisms were at the time as 366 to 100 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
1820 369 TO 100

It appears hence that the Proportion of Registered Baptisms to Marriages continued much the same to the year 1810;15 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 from the year 1755, the amount of Registered Baptisms will give very nearly 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 Registry 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 dearths 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 1710 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-


1700 5475000 1760 6736000
1710 5240000 1770 7428000
1720 5565000 1780 7953000
1730 5796000 1790 8675000
1740 6064000 1801 9168000
1750 6467000 - -

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 year 1790, 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.

It was supposed, that when the 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 variation from this number in the present Abstract, (which contains 15,773 Enumeration Returns) entirely arises from the conjunction or division of parts of the same Parish, at the option of the Overseer, or of the other persons employed in the Enumeration, and of course does not indicate any real defect or redundancy, nor affect the Total Return of any Parish, nor of the Abstract generally.

It has been reasonably supposed, that the first Enumeration of the People in Great Britain, especially as it took place in time of War, was rendered somewhat defective from backwardness or evasion in making the Answers required, inasmuch as direct taxation, and more obviously the levy of men in every place, might possibly be founded on the results of such an investigation. But as no such effect was perceived to take place, the Returns of the year 1811 were in all probability more full and accurate than those of 1801; and the War having now ceased, there remains no reason to suspect the least deficiency in the Return of 1821. Indeed, the voluntary Return of the Ages of Persons, an enquiry of far more labour than that of the enumeration of Houses, Families and Persons, proves, by the extent of the Answers, that the Population Act has been carried into effect in the year 1821, not merely with willingness, but even with zeal, throughout the greatest part of the Kingdom.

How far the Increase of 14 per Cent, in the period between the Enumerations of 1801 and 1811, and of nearly 16 per Cent, in the period from 1811 to 1821, (as computed on the Female Population only) may have been produced from such causes, cannot be discovered; but that the effect was not very different in the two respective periods, may be reasonably inferred by shortly adverting to the Parish Register Abstract.

It may be stated, that the Increase of the Population of Great Britain from 1801 to 1811, was 1,654,000, according to the respective Enumeration Returns; and of this Increase, 1,277,000 in England and Wales:-the Registered Baptisms are 12,878,906; 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, Again, in the period between the Enumerations of 1811 and 1821, the Increase of Population in England and Wales appears to have been 1,828,000; while a comparison of Registered Baptisms and Burials gives an apparent Increase of 1,245,000, or rather more than Two-thirds of the actual Increase. This similarity of result seems to prove, that the Enumeration of 1801 was no more defective, as compared with that of 1811, than the Enumeration of 1811 is to that of 1821. The annual excess of Unentered Baptisms over Unentered Burials is estimated at 13,561, in answer to the third question put to every officiating minister; but three times this number, after making every allowance, would scarcely reconcile the Parish Register Abstract with the actual Increase, as resulting from the three successive Enumeration Abstracts. 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.

The proximate causes of the Increase of Population in Great Britain, are obviously the diminished Rate of Mortality, and the increasing Number of Children born; the first of these causes has been already adverted to, and the Remarks on the Schedules, in answer to the 6th Question, assign many local causes of Increased Population, and are briefly inserted in the Notes whenever any remarkable Increase appears really to have taken place. The instances of Diminished Population are very few, and almost always noticed.

The Remarks which state the Increase of Population to have resulted from the operation of the Poor Laws, are too frequent for distinct insertion; they suppose persons to marry with a direct view of thereby obtaining a weekly allowance, or at least in reliance on that kind of resource in time of need; nor can it be denied, but that such an effect seems very naturally to follow from the compulsory nature of the Relief afforded to the Poor in England; and it is quite certain, that whenever employment is scarce, the married man will have a preference, lest he should be constrained to apply to the Overseer for gratuitous aid.

But there is reason to suspect that the Poor Laws are much less conducive to an Increase of Population than they are usually stated to be in argument, and in the Remarks on the Population Schedules; because it must be recollected, that although in Scotland there is no Poor's Rate, the ratio of Increase since 1811 is nearly 16 per cent, upon the Resident Population; while in England it is no more than 18 per cent, (as computed upon the Resident Population of both Countries;) a small difference, and such as probably would be expected, had Poor Rates equally, or not at all, existed in both Countries.

A class of Remarks more frequent in Scotland than in England, goes some length in accounting for the Increase of the Agricultural Population; not immediately from the prosperity of Agriculture during the first Twelve or Thirteen years of the present Century, but consequentially, from the disuse of Farm-house Servants (Male Servants especially) when the Master began to live in a very superior manner to his domestics, and the Mistress to dislike the trouble of providing for them. The dismissed Labourer in such cases could not but become a Cottager, and in his new situation could scarcely fail to become a Married Man.

The Manufacturing Population is naturally on the Increase; not only as every short period of prosperity and increased wages produces imprudent Marriages, but also because in many Manufactures, Children are able to maintain themselves at an early age, and so to entail little expense on their Parents, to the obvious encouragement of marriage.

But this is not a proper place for going deeply into the causes of increasing Population; which may be deemed a solid good, or a dreadful evil, according to the circumstances of the country in which it occurs. If a commensurate increase of Food and of Raiment can be produced by Agriculture and by Manufacture, an accession of Consumers in the home market cannot but be beneficial to all parties; and the Increase of Population in such case may be deemed equally desirable in itself, and conducive to National strength and National prosperity.

From the Collection of Parish Registers it is not difficult to compute the Increase or, Diminution of the Population of the several Counties of England and Wales during the last Century; from the Year 1801, the Enumerations furnish a much more authentic comparison, which also includes Scotland.

To the Columns in the succeeding pages which exhibit these Comparative Statements, Seven other Columns have been annexed, partly founded on a combination of the Abstracts of ENUMERATION and of PARISH REGISTERS contained in this Volume; partly exhibiting other particulars, deemed to be not irrelevant or useless in furtherance of such investigations as usually cause reference to be made to the POPULATION ABSTRACT, and to these PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS arising from it.

Jno Rickman,
June, 1822.


15 . The increased proportion of Baptisms in 1820 arises from the Parish Register Act of l812, under which Private Baptisms are more frequently registered than heretofore.

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