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ten years before; and others so ill informed as not to know that, from classic times down to modern days-from imperial Rome to republican America-such enquiries have obtained in almost every civilized nation; enforced, indeed, in many instances by more stringent provisions, returning at shorter intervals, and involving more minute enquiries, but still exhibiting a general similarity in their nature and objects.
We may, however, console all grumblers, by assuring them that they have contributed their share towards furnishing a body of information upon which every question in social economy must, in some degree, depend for its solution; and without which, all speculations upon the effects of what has already been done, or the consequences of what is projected, must prove abortive.
True it is, that the a-y of the Algebraist, or the angles and straight lines of the Mathematician, are not regarded with a greater mixture of wonder and contempt by the ignorant, than are the columns of figures, and the minute per centages of the Statician. And yet, without the former, many mathematical problems, and without the latter, almost all political questions, would be solved only by doubtful guesses, or tedious and often unsuccessful experiments. If we are asked how a mere statement of the increase of the population from time to time can be of such great importance, (and, strange or absurd as such a question may appear to him who has made statistics his study, we can vouch for having heard it again and again propounded in society,) we would instance many apparently very simple questions of general interest, which, without this, could receive no satisfactory solution.
The gradual abolition of capital punishment is a question of great importance to the philanthropist; and for that purpose tables have been published, showing the numbers convicted of such offences as cattle-stealing, forgery, and other criminal acts, at separate periods before and after the change of the law. It is evident that these returns must be fallacious, unless a very important element in the calculation, viz. the number of the population at the different periods, can also be added with accuracy; as the actual numbers convicted might be the same at the two periods, but the relative proportion to the whole population lowered. The increased or diminished amount of comfort enjoyed by the people, as shown by the constantly varying consumption of such articles as tea, coffee, sugar, and beer, may be either over or under stated; but can never be correctly estimated, without an accurate knowledge of the amount of the total population at the different periods compared, and a proportionate allowance for its increase; while the comparative pressure of taxation, if reckoned only by the number of millions raised in 1840 against a like return in
1820, would be deceptive, unless corrected by a reference to the ascertained number of millions who paid in each year.
We shall afterwards see how some of these questions are affected by the results of the late Census; but our present purpose has been only to bespeak the attention of readers not accustomed to such subjects, to a short sketch of the progress and result of an enquiry to which they have each contributed their assistance; for there is not one of them (if resident in this country in June 1841) whose name, sex, age, occupation, and birth-place was not inserted in the voluminous records from which the present abstracts have been made. Bulky, indeed, as these volumes are, and formidable as the columns of figures may appear, they are but the comparative results of a number of isolated facts-the products of a series of separate returns-the representatives of a mass of papers with which, as originally furnished, many rooms were completely filled, and a whole staff of clerks employed day and night for many months. Those who seek minute local details will here find them under their proper heads, in one or other of these large volumes; while the attention of the general reader will be more attracted by the prefatory observations of the commissioners at their commencement, and the very interesting comparative tables which they have therein prepared and embodied.
The nature and object of these observations is thus described by the Commissioners themselves, towards the conclusion of their preface: We have confined ourselves to thus shortly explaining the machinery by which these returns have been produced, ' and calling attention to the principal facts and general results ' of the information furnished in each column. We have studiously avoided entering into any speculative discussion as to 'causes or consequences, deeming it better to rest contented with laying a foundation of facts, and leaving it to others to build 'theories thereon.'
It is with these prefatory observations that we now purpose to deal. We know too well the antipathy with which are regarded the blue covers, the close type, and the bulky proportions of the volumes which her Majesty is graciously pleased to order to be 'printed for the use of both Houses of Parliament,' to feel any doubt that some extracts from the volumes before us will have all the interest of novelty to many of our readers. We shall also be exempt from the scruples which appear to have prevented the Commissioners from entering into any speculative discussion upon the facts they had collected-scruples which will, no doubt, add to the good faith with which their facts will be received, but which necessarily detract from the interest in which they might have involved them.
So long ago as 1829, or immediately before the Census. which preceded the present one, we ventured to make some suggestions, the adoption of which would, we contended, add to the correctness and interest of the returns which were then about to be collected. The system of that day, however, was not one of change; and the Census of 1831 was taken by the same machinery as on the three preceding occasions, and involved the same enquiries-except that it omitted the return of ages, which had been attempted in 1821-thus rendering that attempt of little or no value, by excluding the possibility of comparison between the two periods. On the other hand it embraced, by a sort of after-thought, an account of Trades and Occupations-an addition which, if carried into effect, might have been then highly interesting, and, upon the present occasion, most important, as a test of the progress made in the interim by particular branches of industry, but which was so defective in its results as to be of no real value.
In 1835 we again returned to the subject, pointed out the defects that had attended upon each preceding Census, suggested the importance of not leaving so much to the discretion of overseers, and enlarged upon the interest that would attach to any account that might be relied on of the numbers engaged in the different staple manufactures of this country. We also gave the rough sketch of just such a system of registration of births, deaths, and marriages, as has since been adopted; though with some peculiarities of local division which, as we shall presently point out, greatly detract from its value.
On all former occasions of taking a Census, the overseers of the poor for each place, whether they happened to be active or superannuated, intelligent or illiterate, were the persons, and the only persons, by whom the information required was to be procured and returned. To this we objected; and any one who has ever seen the lists of voters which some of these gentry furnish to the revising Barrister under the Reform bill, (an occasion in which they incur a sort of personal responsibility, and come directly in contact with the authority under which they act,) will be able to judge what sort of returns some of them would be likely to furnish to a set of questions on matters not within their ordinary cognizance, and of the importance of which they could have no conception. That many overseers, especially in the large towns, discharged their duties intelligently and conscientiously, we have no doubt; that they were readily assisted by others who were more aware of the importance of the task, and more competent to its due execution, we know; but we cannot help fearing that in many other instances gross errors crept in, eitherfrom ignorance, carelessness, or misrepresentation; and these
errors, from the mode in which the returns were sent in, it was impossible for even the intelligence and industry of Mr Rickman to detect or set right. If we add to all this the risk of counting some persons twice, and of omitting others in consequence of the work being directed to be continued from day to day,' till answers to all the questions were obtained, (in case one day should be found insufficient,) it will be seen, that not without reason did we suggest the necessity of alteration and improvement in the old system.
Previous to the Census of 1841, however, the attention of the late Government was, with their usual intelligence in this class of enquiries, given to this important subject; new topics of great interest were comprehended in the enquiry; and the whole of the machinery was changed. In what way and to what extent, we will let the Commissioners explain.
Upon the present occasion, the information required, embraced not only the particulars furnished in 1831, but also the exact age, occupation, and place of birth of each person. The Act moreover directed that the business of numbering the people should be completed "in one day," in order to obviate the chance of inaccuracy from omissions or double entries, to which the extension of the enquiry over a greater period might have have given rise.
The Census act, 3 and 4 Vict. cap. 99, directed that the officers of the Registrar-General of births, deaths, and marriages, throughout England and Wales, should be employed under our orders in carrying out the arrangements required under this new system.
By means of the superintendent-registrars and registrars, the whole of England and Wales was, in accordance with directions furnished by us, divided into enumeration districts, the boundaries of which were strictly defined, each being regulated as to its extent by the varying circumstances of facility of communication or density of population, but so that it should contain not more than two hundred, and not less than twenty-five inhabited houses; while in no case should it include a larger extent of country (where houses were scattered over a thinly populated district) than an active man could travel over between morning and sunset on a summer's day, and obtain from each person dwelling therein all the particulars required by the act.
To the office of enumerator, was appointed by the registrars, subject to our approval, one individual for each of these subdivisions, selected from the neighbourhood, with reference to his particular fitness for the office. In consequence of the small size to which these districts were necessarily limited, no less than 35,000 such persons were required for England and Wales; and a careful inspection of the schedules returned by them has enabled us to announce, that notwithstanding the large number of persons thus to be selected, their duties were carefully and intelligently discharged.
All public institutions, barracks, jails, and workhouses, were, in accordance with the provisions of the act, directed to be enumerated by the several officers residing therein.
Schedules were furnished to the enumerators, and to the heads of each public institution, in which they were to enter-not the answers to a set of questions applicable to their particular division, as in 1831-but the actual description of each person who had slept within it on the night preceding the 7th of June 1841, with reference to each head of enquiry.
The whole of these schedules were ordered to be returned to us, after having been examined by the several registrars, and submitted to, and countersigned by the superintendent registrars.
The name, age, sex, and occupation, as given by each individual, were entered in the enumerator's schedule, to be returned to us in that form, in order to be afterwards arranged in such classification as might be considered most useful for public information.
In addition to these enumeration schedules, we suggested the issuing, under the authority of a subsequent Act of Parliament, household schedules, which were placed in the hands of each householder a few days before that appointed for taking the census-thus informing him, before the arrival of the enumerator, as to the nature of the particulars required, all of which he was directed to enter at full length beforehand in the same form in which they were to be afterwards transferred by the enumerator to his own schedule.
The household schedules contributed in no small degree to the accuracy of the returns, particularly from large establishments, while they greatly lightened the labours of the enumerators on the day on which the Census was taken.'*
Such was the machinery of the Census of 1841, by means of which information is furnished, in separate columns, with respect to 25,471 distinct parishes or places throughout Great Britain, upon the five separate heads of area, number of houses, (whether building, uninhabited, or inhabited,) number of persons, distinguishing sexes, place of birth, and ages, while the same facts are afterwards arranged in comparative tables for the larger towns and more important divisions.
We have called these heads of information separate;' but it must be remembered that they are each and all necessary to the formation of a correct judgment of the nature, causes, and extent of the mouvement of the population. Though, in the general case, greatly averse from neologisms, we have here made use of a word generally employed in French statistical works; because it is a very useful one, as comprehending not only the increase or decrease, but the emigration or immigration, the expansion or contraction as to space, and all variations in the proportions of sexes, ages, and occupations-each of which requires to be carefully ascertained and considered, before a mere return of numhers, at given periods, can be of any service.
The first branch of information is furnished by the column