a silk worm spin its thread, or a plant thrive, better, where knowledge and care are
bestowed, than where they are not Let the facts which the Registry System
proposes to collect concerning Births, Deaths and Marriages, and the circumstan-
ces which attend them, be collected, digested, arranged, published and diffused
annually, and their effects on the living energies of the people would be incalcula-
They would be an annual lesson on the laws of human life in their operation
among ourselves — a kind of Practical Physiology taught in all our towns and at our
Digitized by VjOOQIC
LETTER TO THE SECRETARY. 99
firesides — and hence, far more instructive and impressive than any derived firom
books. They would teach our people how to understand human life, and how to
improve, prolong and make it happy. They would also teach a highly important
moral lesson. Registration would sometimes operate as a check upon vice, and it
would lead our people so '* to nianber our days as to apply our hearts unto wis-
dom." It behooves the State to develop and preserve its productive power — the
lives and health of the people — as much as possible, and search out those causes
which tend to blast it in its bud, or wither it in its ripeness.
These are not the speculations of a visionary theorist, but the legitimate de-
ductions from serious, sober facts. We are not a theorist — an experimentalist
We have no sjrmpathy with the opinions of some modem reformers, who seem to be
governed by theories founded on uncertain, partial data, or vague conjecture. We
are a statist — a dealer in facts. We wish to ascertain the laws of human life, de-
veloped by the natural constitution of our bodies, as they actually exist under the
influences that surround them, and to learn how far they may be favorably modi-
fied and improved. This can only be done by an accurate knowledge of the
facts that are daily occurring among us. These matters are important to the
physician to aid him in curing the sick, but far more important to the people to
aid them in learning how to live unihout being sick ; and they deserve the serious
consideration of all persons in this Commonwealth.
To show that these matters are practicable, we cite the example of other gov-
emmentB. In most European states, facts of this kind are registered and collect-
ed in a careful, systematic manner, not for the purpose of aiding any police regu-
lations, as some have erroneously supposed, but for the physical benefit of the
people. And, whatever we Americans may say to the contrary, the average lon-
gevity in many places where these measures have been in operation, appears
greater than with us.
Greneva was one of the earliest cities to establish a system of Registration of
Births, Marriages and Deaths. The Registers were begun as early as 1549, and
have since been continued with great care. They are viewed as preappointed
evidences of civil rights. The registration includes the name of the disease
which caused the death, entered by a district physician, who is charged by the
State with the inspection of every person who dies within his district. A second
table is made up from certificates setting forth the nature of the disease, with a
specification of the symptoms, and observations required to be made by the pri-
vate physician who may have had the care of the diseased. These registers
have been frequently examined. I have before me the results of an examination
made by Edward Mallet, a very able work, published in the " Annales IVHy-
gienne." Prom this work it appears that human life has wonderfully improved
since these registers were kept The number of years which it was probable
that every individual bom would live, appears in the different periods as follows :
Rate of Increate.
1650 to 1600
1600 to 1700
1701 to 1760
1761 to 1300
1801 to 1813
1814 to 1833
Digitized by VjOOQIC
100 BIRTHS, MARRIAGES AND DEATHS.
Showing that the mean doiation of life has increased more than fire timet dur-
ing these periods !
The progression of the population and increased duration of life has been at-
tended by a progression in happiness. As prosperity advanced marriages became
fewer and later. The proportion of births were reduced, but a greater number
of the infants bom were preserved, and the proportion of the population in man-
hood became greater. In the early ages, the excessive mortality was accompa-
nied by an excessive fecundity. In the last ten years of the 17th century a mar-
riage still produced more than &we children; the probable duration of life attained
was not 20 years. Towards the end of the I8th century, there was scarcely three
children to a marriage, and the probabilities exceeded 32 years. At the present
time, a marriage only produces 2} children, and the probabUity of life is 45 years.
Geneva has arrived at a high state of civilization. The real productive power
of the population has increased in a much greater proportion than the increase in
its actual number. The absolute number of the population has only doubled
during three centuries ; but the value of the population — the productive power,
has more than doubled upon the mere numerical increase. In other words, a pop-
ulation of 27,000 in which the probability of life is 40 years for each individual,
is more than twice as strong for the purposes of production, as a population of
27,000, in which the probability or value of life was only 20 years for each indi-
This wonderful improvement is attributed, among other things, by M. Mal-
let, to the information obtained, rendering the science of public health better
known and understood ; to larger, better and cleaner dwellings ; to more abun-
dant and more healthy food ; and to a better regulated public and private life. He
cites an instance of the effects of regimen in the preservation of life, where 86
orphans had been reared in one establishment in 24 years, and one only of whom
had died. They were taken from the poor, among whom the average mortality
was six times as great
We have been accustomed to cite the example of Prussia as worthy of
imitation in the measures she has taken to promote the intellectual advancement
of her people ; but her measures to advance their physical energy and power
deserve equal if not greater praise. Every fact there is gathered with great care
under the direction of a central officer at Berlin, and arranged and published for
the benefit of the people. Not long since I received from M. Hoffman, the di-
rector of the Statistical Bureau at Berlin, a paper on the Average Length of Life
in the Prussian States, two extracts from which, translated from the German, I
propose to present to show how these things are managed under that government
I have also other similar papers detailing the births, marriages and deaths.
The first extract is designed to illustrate the principle of the average length
of life, and to show its operation under different circumstances, and the manner in
which it was obtained in Prussia.
^ The average length of life from birth up, wUl be found expressed in years
and fractions of years, if we divide the number of the living by the mean
proportion of annual deaths. For example, if among 1,000 there annually die,
upon an average, 25, then the average length of life will be 40 years : that
is, these 1,000 persons, taken together, live 40,000 years, and to each one of them,
in the average, falls a life of 40 years, different as the length of life among indi-
Digitized by VjOOQIC
LETTER TO THE SECRETARY. 101
yiduak may actually be. The same result may arise in very different ways. A
great many may die early, and yet the few survivors live so long, that still the
average for each amoDg the thousand will be 40 years ; or the great majority
may attain to but a little above or below forty years, and very few die early or
live to a great age. If, for example, 600 were to die so early as to average only
12 years apiece, or altogether 7,200 years, still an average of 40 years might
result for the whole 1,000, if the other 400, taken together, were to live 92,800
years, or on an average 82 years each. But the same average length of life for
the 1,000 would occur, if the first mentioned 600 should reach, on the average,
96 years each, or, all together, 21,600 years ; then the other 400, taken together,
would live only 18,400 years, giving an average of only 46 years to each indi-
vidual. It is clear that the condition of human society would be a very different
thing, according as one or the other of the above hypotheses should be realized.
Consequently, observations of this sort are particularly instructive, when the mean
duration of life is reckoned, not merely from birth up, but also from certain other
remarkable points in the course of human life. The age of those who die is
commonly given, and hence it is easily possible to determine the number of
those who died after the completion of a certain age. Thus, by comparing the
annual entries upon the records in the Prussian States, we see how many died
after the completion of their 1st, 2d, 5th, 7th, 10th, 14th, 20th, 25th year, and
then again, from 5 to 5 years until the completion of the 90th year. With these
aids it has become possible to ascertain the mean duration of human life, for the
last named and peculiarly important divisions of life. This must be done separ-
ately for each of the sexes, since remarkable differences appear between them.
It is known that for 100 girls, 105 or 106 boys are bom, but this excess gener-
ally dies away during the first year of life; hence from birth up the mean
duration of the male sex appears smaller than that of the female ; but this differ-
ence, for the most part, vanishes in the mean duration for those over one year,
which is found to be considerably greater, than that for the newly born, because
they have already happily survived the first and most dangerous year of life. The
mean duration for those over 14 is for the most part not very different from the
mean duration for those over one year old ; the diseases of childhood are past at
the close of the 14th year, and this increases the hope of life ; but then the 14th
year completes a fiflh part of the natural term of life, if we reckon it at seventy,
and this again diminbhes the hope of living. For those over 60, the mean duration
of life in most of the provinces is not much under ten years, sometimes a little more.
''The difference of the mean duration of life in the different divisions of the
Prussian States is very considerable ; and it is by no means sufficient to estimate
the same for each governmental district separately, for many districts consist of
very unequal parts, which were only put together because singly they were too
small to bear the expense of separate local governments. Accordingly, by com-
paring neighboring circles of similar soil and population, seventy divisions have
been formed, for which the average length of life of the inhabitants is estimated
below. We adopt that division of the State-domain into provincial (landsnithliche)
circles, which existed at the reception of the statistical tables at the end of the
year 1834 ; later changes in the territorial boundaries could not here be regarded.
The averages have been drawn, from the 15 years, from the beginning of the
year 1820 to the end of 1834 : that is, from the same years with the comparative
statement of births and deaths."
Digitized by VjOOQIC
102 BIRTHS, MARRIAGES AND DEATHS.
The Proflsian Statei are divided iMo three principal diriBions, nine eeetioiiB, and
ae? enty subdivisions, in which are classed the towns, or ^ circles," as thej are
there called, and the average duration of life in each sobdivision is calculated.
The extract given below is the entire account of one section, containing eight
^ C. Third section, comprising the sontitom part of Upper Laoaiti, all Middle
Silesia, and Upper Silesia, west of the Oder.
Div. 1 . Cire, Gorlitz and Bunzlaa,
** 2. " Kainaa-Goldberg, Liegnitz, Jaoer and Slriegan.
*' 3. " Neomarkt, Wohlaa, Militsch, TrebniU, Oels, Bieslaii, Ohlaa and Bricg.
" 4. " Strehlen, Nimptseh and Mansterberg.
" 5. " Reichenbach, Schweidniu, Waldenburg, Bolkenhain, Landshot, Kinch-
berg, Schflnaa, Lowenberg and Lanban.
" 6. " FrankensteiD, GlaU, and Kabelschwerdt.
" 7. " Neostadt, Falkenberg, Neisse and Grottkau.
" 8. " Ratibor and Leobschatz.
The whole embraces 397.75 geographical square miles, and the population
amounted, at the
Beginning of 1820 to 1,422,694
End of 1834 to l,68i;260
Making an average, to the square mile, at the
Beginning of 1820, of 3577
End of 1834, of 4227
So that the population increased about 18 1-6 per cent in the 15 years.
" This section contains, in the first place, the fertile and highly cultivated plain,
which stretches away between lower Silesia and the mountains, and continues
east of the Oder beyond the Trebnitz mountain and to the Partsch, where it is
considerably poorer. Moreover, to it belongs the whole front, middle and highest
part of the mountains as far as to the Austrian boundary, and to the southernmost
point of Upper Silesia. By far the greatest part of the soil is here very fruitful,
with the exception of the high mountainous parts, where the rougher climate and
partly also the rocky soil is unfavorable to cultivation. The whole tract is occu-
pied by Germans, except a few countries, in which the Polish speech and
manners have passed over into the neighboring circles; but in the circles of
Leobscbiitz and Ratibor there is a numerous colony of Moravians, who have
preserved their provincial language and manners. The religion of the inhabi-
tants in divisions 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 is mainly evangelical, although a considerable
number belong to the Catholic church ; in division 6, 7, 8, on the contrary, the
Catholic confession of faith prevails almost exclusively, and the few protestanti
for the most came in when the Prussians took possession in the year 1742. The
mean duration of life here was :
(a) From birth up :
Fhr Males. For Femalet.
Dir. 1 37 years, 260 days. 41 years, 246 days.
•* 2 32 " 26 " 36 " 10 "
"3 32 " 180 " 36 " 348 "
"4 36 " 198 " 39 " 166 "
"6 29 " 172 " 32 " 27 "
" « 31 « 176 " 34 " 234 "
"7 30 « 304 " 32 " 331 "
"8 26 " 140 " 27 " 99 "
Digitized by VjOOQIC
LETTER TO THE SECRETARY. 103
(6) From the be^izming of the 2d year, up :
For Mala. J^ f^emdUi.
Xhr. 1. . . . . .69 yean, 27 days. 69 years, 112 days.
"2. 62 " 63 " 61 " 2S0 "
"3 46 " 156 " 48 " 139 "
•* 4 63 " 228 " 63 " 69 "
"6 49 " 61 " 43 " 2 "
"6 47 " 170 " 47 ' " 65 "
"7 46 " 12 " 44 " 309 "
"8 37 " 189 " 35 " 209 "
(c) From the begixmiog of the 15th year, up :
Dir. 1 62 years, 124 days. 61 years, 265 days.
"2 49 '* 214 " 48 " 278 "
"3 46 " 64 " 47 " 276 "
"4 60 " 27 " 49 " 167 "
"6 46 " 203 " 44 " 254 *
"6 44 " 162 " 42 " 129 "
"7 46 " 199 " 43 " 136 "
"8 40 " 47 " 36 " 61 "
(d) From the begimiing of the Gist year, up :
Div* 1 10 years, 67 days. 9 years, 161 days.
"2 9 " 167 " 8 " 227 "
"3 9 " 69 " 9 " 208 "
"4. 10 " 92 " 9 '• 201 "
"6 9 " 108 " 8 " 245 "
"6 9 " 284 " 7 " 358 "
"7 8 " 346 " 8 " 66 •*
"8 7 " 260 " 7 " 12 " "
Can any one doubt the great value of such calculations, if applied to the differ^
ent sections of Massachusetts, and made from the correct data which a Registry
system would give ?
England has had a Registry system in operation since 1838, as we have
before stated, and it has already developed facts of the utmost importance to
that nation and the world. Among other results, it has led to the adoption of
measures for the relief of unhealthy districts. It has also afforded the means of
forming a Life Table, showing the mean duration or expectation of life in Eng-
land, which is of very great value. I extract the following interesting account of
that table from the FiHh Registration Report
" In the years 1840-1, a million children (1,014,461) were bom in England, and
their births were registered ; if the mortality should remain the same, the Life
Table will enable us to follow this million, and to determine how many will be
alive, and how many will die, through the several years of the next century, until
they have all * returned to the earth from which they came,' and been replaced
by other generations destined to pursue the same rounds of life. To bring the
observation within narrower limits, let us take 100,000 as the basis of the obser-
vation ; and from the proportions of the two sexes registered, it will be found
that 51,*^74 of them were boys, 48,726 girls. And here it will be recollected that
they are not government annuitants — nor persons who have assured their lives —
nor selected lives — nor the inhabitants of any particular town — but the children
of all ranks and classes of Englishmen; some of them bom in halls and palaces.
Digitized by VjOOQIC
104 BIRTHS, MARRIAGES AND DEATH&
and sarroanded by all the lazaries and convenieiices of life ; oTfaeia bom in hots
on the mountain aide, in the cellan of ill-cooatmcted citiea, in lodging-hooaea, in
cottages, farm-hooaes, or such dwellings as onr towns afford. Let it be aasomed
that the 100,090 were all bom on the same day — the Ist of January, 1841 ; and
that the sarvivors, counted on the first day of 1842, 1843, and of every year for
the next 100 years, will exist in the numbers against the respectiTe ages of the
table, which I shall call the English Life Table.
Of the 100,000 children bom, according to the supposition, on January 1st,
1841, 85,^ were alive on January 1, 1842. They were exactly a year old, and
are placed against the age *< 1 ** of the table. 14,631 perished in the first year,
the fourth part of them in the first month of- life. Tins is a smaller propottion of
deaths than people have been led to suppose occur in the first year; but the &cts
leave it undoubted that at least this number of children survived in 1841 out of
100,000 bom. On January 1, 1843, the survivors were two years old, and in
number 80,102 ; 5,267 died in the second year. On January 1, 1846, the 5th
birthday will be attained, and there will be 74,201 living. In the first five years,
therefore, 25,799 of the 100,000 children bom, die ; during this period, when they
are at home and under the care of the mother, and encounter the contagious dis-
eases which beset the beginning of life, their safety depends very much upon the
power of the parents to supply them with food and raiment — upon the mother's
watchfulness and cleanliness — upon the air they are doomed to respire in impris-
oned courts and alleys, or in the fresh open atmosphere of healthy countiy dis-
tricts. During the next 5 years, when they leave home more, and when great
numbers pass part of the day at school, the mortality becomes less considerable;
70,612 are alive at tho age of 10; and from 10 to 15, when those '*who labor
with their hands" begin to follow the plough — enter the factory— or descend the
mine — the loss of life remains small ; 68,627 will live to the age of 15. At this
age the loss of life among girls is rather greater than the loss of life among boys,
and it continues so for the next five years, when both sexes are more detached
from the care of their parents, and the majority pursue the professions or trades
by which they afterwards gain a livelihood. The mortality appears to increase
rather rapidly from 12 to 15 ; and then at a slow regular rate from 15 to 55 years ;
66,059 attain the age of 20. It was observed that 51,274 boys were bom alive
to 48,726 girls; but the mortality in infancy is greater among boys than girls ; so
that 31,958 males attain the age of twenty-five and 31,623 females attain the age
of twenty-four. This is about the average age of marriage in England ; and the
number of the two sexes is then nearly equal. About four-fifths of the males
who attain the age of manhood marry ; the proportion of women who marry be-
ing the same. It might have been supposed that the peculiar danger which wo-
men encounter at this age enhances their mortality ; it does so, but less than the
mortality of males is increased: 50,301 of the 100,000 persons bom attain the
age of forty-five ; namely, 25,311 men, and 24,990 women. The chance of living
from 25 to 45 is rather in favor of English women. The violent deaths of men
on the rivers, and the sea-coast, in mines, in the streets, in travelling, in their
dangerous occupations ; the mental agitations and anxieties, terminating unhap-
pily sometimes in suicide^-the accumulation of workmen in ill-ventilated shops,
or the hard exhausting work of the agricultural laborer, independently of war,
and service in unhealthy climates, counterbalance the dangers and sorrows of
Digitized by VjOOQIC
LETTER TO THE SECRETARY. 106
child-beariDg. At the age of 55, this generation will have given birth to, and
brought up the generation by which it is to be succeeded ; a more rapid rate of
mortality will then set in, and more than a thousand die every year ; yet 37,996
will be alive at the age of 60, and 24,531 attain the age of 70—11,823 men, and
12,708 women — the mortality of women being less than that of men after 55.
The mental faculties, ripened and developed by experience, will not protect the
frame from the accelerated and insidious progress of decay ; the toil of the labor-
er the wear and tear of the artisan, the exhausting passions, the struggles and
strains of intellect, and, more than all these, the natural falling off of vitality, will
reduce the numbers to 9,398 by the age of 80. After the age of 80 the observa-
tions grow uncertain ; but if we admit their accuracy, 1,140 will attain the age of
90 ; 16 will be centenarians ; and of the 100,000, one man and one woman — ^like
the lingering barks of an innumerable convoy — will reach their distant haven in
105 years, and die in 1945.
' GrebrescQDt oplatse aarse, portasqae patescit
I have thus far considered those advantages only which would result to th^
physical welfare of the people from a system of Registration. There are very
many personal advantages which might be mentioned and illustrated. It has
been well said, that "t7 is fully as necessary for the preservation of the rights of
individuals to preserve a register of hirthSf marriages, and deaths, as it is to preserve
a register of deeds,** But I have extended my communication already too far, and
must restrain an inclination to go into this part of the subject
The effort of Massachusetts to establish a Registry System is highly com-
mended in various places. The AmericanUoumal of Medical Sciences, of July,
1844, already referred to, in noticing the Second Annual Report, after speaking
of the general defects of Registration, says : ** So far as we know, Massachusetts
18 the first of the States to set about correcting this deficiency. In doing so, she
deserves all praise, as well as for the intelligence displayed by her Legislature in
effecting numerous other important objects." " When the States generally shall
have followed the enlightened example of Massachusetts, an amount of data
will be amassed, from which the most important results must be deduced."
Again, in noticing last April the Third Report, that journal speaks of the mea-
sure as ** reflecting such high credit upon the State of MassachusettB— a mea-
sure which places her far above the other States of the Union." " There are
some obstacles in the way of obtaining correct information, which the enlight-
ened gentlemen who regulate the afikirs of Massachusetts will doubtless over-
come in due time. The present age owes them much for what they have accom-
plished, and the promising commencement will lead to the most valuable result
May other States soon follow the example of Massachusetts by making provisions
for similar reports ! "
The American Almanac, for 1846, contains a favorable notice of the last
Annual Report, and highly commends the example of Massachusetts. 1 close
this communication with an extract from the Fifth Report of the Registrar Gen-
eral of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, in England : —
'* The census has been taken with regularity in the United States of America,
but abstracts of the Register of deaths have only been published by the cities of
Digitized by VjOOQIC