Edwin Chadwick.

Report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department online

. (page 11 of 27)
Online LibraryEdwin ChadwickReport on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department → online text (page 11 of 27)
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which was her grandchild? She took a very fine child in her arms and
said that was it, and asked me would it do?—to which I answered,
yes. The other was a very thin ghastly-looking child. I asked what
was the matter with it? She said they could not tell; it had been so
from the time it was born. I assure you, sir, it was an awful sight
to look at. A thought struck me when I came out, that if that child
died they might say it was the child I entered, so I determined to
keep my eye on it every time I called, which was once a fortnight.
In four months afterwards this thin child died, and according to my
anticipations they brought a notice of death for the child I had not
entered. I went down to visit, and on looking at it, and examining
it, I pronounced it not the child I had entered. She said it was,
and a great contest arose for about an hour, during which time I
asked her were there not two children about the same age when first
I came into her house? which she denied at first, but afterwards
admitted it. I then asked her was not one of them a very fine and
the other a very thin child? to which she answered, yes. I then
asked her whether it was the finest or the thin one I entered? She
answered, the finest one. I then asked her was that the fine one?
She said, yes. I then asked her where was the thin child? She
pointed to one that was sleeping in a bed, and said that was it. I
looked at it, and said this was the child I entered. I then asked
her how it was that this child which was sleeping had become so fat
and the other so thin? to which she said she could not tell. Now I
said to her, it is clear enough how you have done this; you showed
me that living child, and gave me the name of the one that is dead,
which she denied having done; and so we were compelled to give her
the money because we had no means of finding it out but by some one
in the house telling of her. But since, a little light has been
thrown on it by her husband uttering a saying when he was drunk one
day when I was there. This was the saying:—“A bright set of boys you
are, burying the living for the dead!”—meaning that we gave burial
money for a living child; but he was immediately stopped by his

Another case, a woman in Salford, entered herself and two sons, and
one of them was far gone in consumption; this we discovered and on
asking, why she did it, she said she thought she could get a few
pounds to bury him. Another, a man entered his wife, and she lay
dying at the same time. When we asked him where his wife was, he
pointed to a woman that was sitting by the fireside, and said that
was her; but his wife died before she became a member. Another
person, in order to obtain the funeral money, kept his child three
weeks, until it was in a state of decomposition. The last case, out
of many more that might be named, is rather ludicrous.

A man and his wife, residing in Cotton-street, agreed that one of
them, namely, the husband, should pretend to be dead, in order that
the wife might receive his funeral money; accordingly the wife
proceeds in due form to give notice of his death; the visiting
officer on behalf of the society, whose duty it was to see the
corpse, repairs to the house, enters the chamber, and inquires for
the deceased; the should-be disconsolate widow points him to the
body of her late husband, whose chin was tied up with a handkerchief
in the attitude of death; he surveys the corpse—the eyelids seem to
move; he feels the pulse, the certain signs of life are there: the
officer pronounceth him not dead; she in return says, _he is dead_,
for there has not been a _breath_ in _him_ since 12 o’clock last
night. The neighbours are called in; a discussion ensues between the
wife and the officer: some declare they saw the husband at the door
that morning giving a light. He (the officer) requires her to bring
a doctor; she goes, and says she can’t get one to come; the officer
goes and brings one, who ordered him to be raised up in the bed, and
having obtained some water, the doctor, while the man was sitting
up, dashed it in his face.

The man was apprehended and taken before the magistrates for the fraud.
Sir Charles Shaw, the Commissioner of Police, directed that he should be
produced in court in the same dress in which he had been laid out and
was apprehended, which produced a very salutary effect.

§ 64. The evidence in respect to the crimes committed under such
circumstances may be carried into wider ramifications. Some of the
better constituted societies have perceived the evil of insurances,
carried to the extent of entirely removing responsibilities, or creating
bounties, to the promotion of the event insured against, and have
endeavoured to abate the evil, as far as they could, by the adoption of
a condition, that no payment should be made where a party was found to
have been a member or to have insured in another club.

§ 65. The collector of the society, whose exemplification of one class
of frauds is above cited, stated, that they were about to adopt the
common rule of the insurance societies, that all claims should be
forfeited for an act of suicide; for they had even instances which
showed that men held their own lives on so loose a tenure as to throw
them away on apparently slight motives. In one instance a man went to
the secretary, and asked whether, if he were to commit suicide, his
widow would be entitled to the burial money? The secretary stated that,
there being no rule against it, he thought, the survivor would be
entitled. The man, having fully satisfied himself on this point, went
away and took poison. The amount of burial money gained was supposed to
be 50_l._ In another case, the letter announcing to the widow the
benefit he had secured, grew indistinct from the working of the poison
and the sinking of life whilst the man was writing it, until it was
nearly illegible. But the occurrence of such facts, showing a
recklessness of life, with a degree of strength of domestic affections
which induces them to encounter violent deaths for the sake of the
survivors, is not confined to one class of society. Soon after the
practice of insuring from insurance companies, the payment of large sums
on the deaths of parties began to extend as a mode of providing for
families, instances occurred where tradesmen and persons of the higher
and middle classes, having effected insurances on their own lives,
committed suicide with the view apparently of securing to their families
the benefit of the sums insured. It is understood that the experience of
such cases, and the obvious inducement which persons having in view to
commit suicide to effect insurances on their lives, and thus defraud the
offices, led to the precaution, now almost universal, of inserting the
condition, which, however, is confined to insurance by persons on their
own lives; that “if the assured shall die by his own act, whether sane
or insane,” the policy shall be void. Yet frauds are occasionally
committed by persons who must know that they have not long to live.

§ 66. Multiplied payments on one death are contrary to the spirit, at
the least, of the law. A payment of a sum certain to parish officers, to
be relieved from any future payments in respect to an illegitimate
child, has been declared to be illegal. “One of the principles on which
that decision is founded is, that the payment of a large sum for the
support of a child gives the parish a degree of interest in the child’s
death, and might have a tendency to induce the officers to relax in
their duty towards it.”[13]

§ 67. In the higher order of life insurances, the legislature has
endeavoured to arrest the dangerous tendency of insuring beyond the
interest, by providing, by statute 14 Geo. III., c. 48, that persons
insuring the lives of others shall have an interest in such lives; and
it is a principle of insurance law that where a risk paid for has not
been run, the premiums shall be returned; and it would seem to be a
principle of common law that insurances beyond the actual interest are
void. In the case of Fauntleroy, the banker, who insured his life in the
Amicable Office for 6000_l._, the claim was resisted on the fact that he
had been attainted, convicted, and executed for forgeries committed
since the insurance, and the House of Lords held the insurance to be
void on the plainest principles of public policy. The Lord Chancellor,
in delivering the judgment of the house, said—“Is it possible that such
a contract could be sustained? Is it not void upon the plainest
principles of public policy? Would not such a contract (if available)
take away one of those restraints operating on the minds of men against
the commission of crimes,—namely, the interest we have in the welfare
and prosperity of our connexions? Now, if a policy of that description,
with such a form of condition inserted in it in express terms, cannot,
on grounds of public policy, be sustained, how is it to be contended
that in a policy expressed in such terms as the present, and after the
events which have happened, that we can sustain such a claim?”[14]

§ 68. The Benefit clubs in large towns cannot easily take effectual
measures against the multiplication of insurances, which indeed their
own instability to some extent justifies, and they may find their
account, in paying sums beyond the legal authority, as the higher
insurance offices avowedly do, in paying on policies to parties who have
had no legal interest in the life insured. An officer of one of these
large insurance establishments declared, that if they had acted upon the
decision of the courts in the case of Godson _v._ Boldero, “they might
as well have shut their doors.”

§ 69. Although the practice referred to, of multiplied insurances of
sums payable on the death of children, appears happily to have broken
out into infanticides only in the districts mentioned, yet as the means
and the temptation are left equally open in all, the necessity of
preventing them, as far as a direct legislative act may, is submitted,
by a short provision prohibiting payments beyond the actual cost of
interment, and directing the return of the premiums or subscriptions
where they have been given to more than one club.

§ 70. The means for the most direct protection of infantile life, and
for giving additional security for life in general, will be subsequently
submitted for consideration, with the evidence as to the means and the
necessity of the appointment of medical officers for the protection of
the public health.

§ 71. A collateral means of security, and of the abatement of other
evils incidental to the practice of interments, will be found in the
practicable administrative measures for reducing the unnecessary expense
of interments, and, by consequence, of the temptations to crime
constituted by the apparent expediency of the insurance of the payment
of large sums to meet that expense.

It will, moreover, on further examination, become apparent, in this as
in some other branches of public expenditure, that a course which
attains increased efficiency with the popular desiderata in respect to
interments is a course of economy.

_Total Expenses of Funerals to different Classes of Society._

§ 72. In the following table is given a proximate estimate of the total
expenses of funerals of the persons of each class in the metropolis:—

│ │ │ │ │ Annual
│ │ │ │ │Expenses of
│ Total │ │ │ │Funerals in
│ Number │ │ │ │England and
│ of │ │ │ Total │ Wales:
│Funerals│ │ │Expenses │estimating
│of each │ │ │ of the │ the
│ Class │ Number │ │Funerals │proportions
│ that │ of │ Expenses of Each │ of all │ of Deaths
Class. │ have │Children│ Funeral of Each │ the │ of each
│ taken │under 10│ Class, Inclusive │ Persons │Class to be
│place in│Years of│ of Burial Dues. │ of each │the same as
│ the │ Age. │ │ Class, │ in the
│Metrop- │ │ │inclusive│Metropolis,
│olis in │ │ │ of │ and the
│the Year│ │ │Children.│ Average
│ 1839. │ │ │ │Expenses of
│ │ │ │ │each Class
│ │ │ │ │ to be the
│ │ │ │ │ same.
│ │ │Adults. │Children.│ │
│ │ │£. _s._│ £. _s._│ £. │ £.
Gentry, &c. │ 2,253│ 529│100 0│ 30 0│ 188,270│ 1,735,040
Tradesmen, │ 5,757│ 2,761│ 50 0│ 14 0│ 250,792│ 2,370,379
1st cls. │ │ │ │ │ │
Tradesmen, │ │ │ │ │ │
2nd cls. │ 7,682│ 3,703│ 27 10│ 7 15│ 103,728│
and unde- │ │ │ │ │ │
scribed │ │ │ │ │ │
Artisans, │ 25,930│ 13,885│ 5 0│ 1 10│ 81,053│ 766,074
&c. │ │ │ │ │ │
│ │ │ │ │ │
Paupers │ 3,655│ 593│ 13_s._ │ 2,761│
│ │ │ ———————│
│ │ Total expense for the │ 626,604│
│ │ Metropolis │ │
│ │ │ —————————
│ │Proximate Estimate of the Expense for│
│ │ the Total Number of Funerals in one│ 4,871,493
│ │ Year, England and Wales │

The above, which can only be submitted as a proximate estimate,
certainly shows an amount of money annually thrown into the grave, at
the expense of the living, which exceeded all previous anticipations;
and yet, from the information derived from the inspection of collections
of undertakers’ bills for funerals, I cannot but consider it an under
rather than an over estimate, and that the actual expenses of interment
in the metropolis would be found, on a closer inquiry, to be nearly a
million per annum. Hypothetical estimates of the amount of money which
must be expended to maintain so large a body of men as that engaged in
the business and service of the undertaker are confirmatory of this
view. Even in Scotland the expense of the decent burial of a labouring
man is not less than 5_l._, exclusive of the expense of mourning. I have
been shown the payments on account of burials of an affiliated
association of a convivial and benevolent character called the “Odd
Fellows,” which has upwards of 150,000 affiliated members, chiefly of
the better class of artisans, in different parts of the country. With
them, the payments usually amount to 10_l._ per funeral. The expenses of
burial of some of the smaller descriptions of shopkeepers may not much
exceed the expense of the undescribed class, which is taken us an
average between the sum set down for labourers and that for tradesmen;
but the latter is certainly a low average for the metropolis. All the
information tends to show that the expenses of the funerals of persons
in the condition of gentry are, on the average (inclusive of burial
dues), much higher than the sum stated. From inquiries I have made as to
the practice in the offices of the Masters in Chancery, where executors’
accounts are examined, I learn that if an undertaker’s bill is 60_l._ or
70_l._ (exclusive of burial dues), for a person whose rank in life was
that of the clergy, officers of the army or navy, or members of the
legal or medical professions, “it would, according to all usage, be
allowed as of course, and notwithstanding it should turn out that the
estate was insolvent.”[15] The cost of the funerals of persons of rank
and title, it will have been seen, varies from 1500_l._ to 1000_l._, or
800_l._, or less, as it is a town or country funeral. The expenses of
the funerals of gentry of the better condition, it will have been seen,
vary from 200_l._ to 400_l._, and are stated to be seldom so low as
150_l._ § 45.

§ 73. The average cost of funerals of persons of every rank above
paupers in the metropolis may, therefore, be taken as 14_l._ 19_s._
9_d._ per head. In some of the rural districts, and in the smaller
provincial towns, where the distinct business of an undertaker has not
arisen, coffins are made by carpenters, and services are supplied at a
very moderate cost; but the allowances from the benefit and burial clubs
throughout the country, of which instances have been given, may be
stated as instances of the general expense to the labouring classes. To
persons of the middle or higher classes, who give orders to undertakers
in the metropolis, for funerals to be performed in the country, the
expense is further enhanced by the extra expense of carriage; so that
there is ground for believing that the same average prevails throughout
Great Britain, and that the total annual expense of funerals cannot be
much less than between four and five millions per annum.

§ 74. Out of 5_l._ expended for the common funeral of an adult artisan
in the metropolis, about 15_s._ will be the burial dues. Of this 15_s._
about 3_s._ may be stated as the amount the clergyman will receive. The
surplice fees vary in different places from 2_s._ for the lowest class,
rising with the condition to 5_l._ 5_s._, or more; but taking the
average of all cases which occur in the metropolis, and on the
experience of the ministers of several parishes, the burial fees, which
form their chief emolument, that which was anciently denominated “Soul
Scot,” might perhaps be fairly taken as at 7_s._ 2_d._ per case, which
is the average of the burial fees in some of the principal parishes in

_Different proportions of the Expenses of Burials to the Community in
healthy and unhealthy Districts._

§ 75. It is a prevalent popular error, not unsanctioned by doctrines
held by several eminent public writers, that “as one disease disappears
so another springs up,” that the positive “amount of mortality, the
common lot,” is the same to all classes. But death, besides differing in
the period to different individuals, differs widely in the numbers of
burials, and in the consequent expenses to different families, classes,
and districts. It is the _number_ as well as the separate expense of
each of the funerals which occur during the year to each _class_ of
persons, or to different districts, which determines the total expense
of burial to the class or district. Thus, to the poorer classes, living
in wretched habitations, as those comprised in Bethnal Green and
Whitechapel, there is one burial to every 31 of the inhabitants, whilst
in the contiguous district of Hackney there is only one burial to every
56 of the inhabitants yearly. In Liverpool there is one burial per annum
to every 30 of the inhabitants, whilst in the county of Hereford there
is one burial only to every 55 of the inhabitants. If the existing
charge of burial, at the above rates of expense to each class of
individuals, were commuted for an annual payment, commencing at birth,
as a premium for the payment of 100_l._, 50_l._, and 5_l._, payable at
the undermentioned periods respectively, it would in the metropolis and
the county of Hereford be nearly as follows:—

│ │ Annual │ │ Annual
│ Average │Payment for │ Average │Payment for
│ Age at │ Burial to │ Age at │ Burial to
│ Death. │ every │ Death. │ every
│ │Individual. │ │Individual.
│ Years. │£. _s._ _d._│ Years. │£. _s._ _d._
Gentry │ 44 │1 1 10 │ 45 │1 1 0
Tradesmen or Farmers │ 25 │1 6 8 │ 47 │0 9 9
Labourers │ 22 │0 3 2 │ 39 │0 2 9
│ —— │ │ —— │
Average of all Classes │ 27 │ │ 39 │

Supposing each member of the family to have been assured at birth, a
labourer’s family in Herefordshire consisting of five persons would have
to pay yearly 13_s._ 9_d._, and there a farmer’s family of the same
number would have to pay 2_l._ 8_s._ 9_d._ yearly; whilst in London for
an artisan’s family of five, the yearly payment would be 15_s._ 10_d._
and for a tradesman’s family it would be 6_l._ 13_s._ 4_d._ per annum.
To insure the payment of the average cost of funerals, 14_l._ 7_s._
5_d._ at the end of 27 years, on the metropolitan chances of life, the
annual payment would be 7_s._, whilst on the Herefordshire chances of
life of 39 years to all born high or low the sum would be only 4_s._ Or
to take another form of displaying the comparative burthen; the general
average cost of each burial being 14_l._ 7_s._ 5_d._, and the annual
_proportions_ of deaths being different from the average duration of
life—being 1 of every 40 in the metropolis, a poll-tax to defray the
burial expenses must there be 7_s._ 2¼_d._; whilst in Hereford the
proportions of deaths being one in every 55, the poll-tax on all of the
inhabitants to meet the charge would be 5_s._ 3_d._ per head.

§ 76. It appears, therefore, that in considering the means of relief
from the evils connected with the number and expenses of burial, it
should at the same time be borne in mind that the primary means of
abatement and relief of the misery of frequent funerals will be found in
the means of the removal of the developed and removable causes of

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Online LibraryEdwin ChadwickReport on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department → online text (page 11 of 27)