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are the number and kind of births, and in what months of the year they took
place ; what is the number of marriages, and of what classes of individuals ;
and what is the number of deaths, and what are the circumstances internal and
external connected with them. These questions are all of great ' importance,
and we are all more or leas directly or indirecUy interested in them, whether
statesmen, professional men, or private individuals in society. Registration
would afibrd the means of determining them, and would lead to the adoption of
such regulations as would aid in the diminution of sickness, in the security of
life, in the improvement of the general physical condition of the people, and in
promoting their greatest good, and their greatest, happiness.

There are other considerations connected vnth this subject. By the investi-
gations of learned men in Europe, it has been ascertained that the reproduction,
the life, the sickness, and the death of man, is regulated by certain fixed and

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natiml laws. These laws yaiy of oonxse aooording to the mdiTidaal and the
eiicumstanoes in whioh he is placed. They have not yet been satisfiustorily
mvestigated in their application to man in the dreumstances in which he is
placed in this country. Nor is it possible for any one to do it fiilly with the
means we now possess. It is belicTed, however, that many facts exist which
lender the operation of these laws somewhat peculiar to ourseWes ; and. it is
highly desirable that a system of registration of human life should be adopted
by which they might be obtained.

The yahie of life, by which I mean the number of years man may live, can-
not be ascertained without a knowledge of these laws. Life insurance has
become as common in England as the insurance of real or personal property ;
and its advantages are* becoming more known and appreciated by intelligent
men in this country. It is impossible, however, to establish equitable rates
without ve understand the laws of life and mortality. This knowledge is ne-
cessary to determine all questions relating to life annuities, rights of dower,
reversionary estates, &c. All these questions are determined by calculating
the expectation of life under various circumstances. Such calculations we
should be enabled to make wejfe the records kept according to the plan pro-
posed in .this paper, but not from any existing data.

Such records would enable us to construct tables of mortality containing an
invaluable fund of statistical information, showing the. various influences in op-
eratbn among us, which tend to increase or diminish our population, the com-
parative value of life among males and females, and of persons existing under
different circumstances and conditions; and the comparative prevalence of
health and disease, and of death, in the different seasons of the year, in differ-
ent localities, at the different ages, and under different circumstances of life.
Until we have such a class of facts we cannot know the wants of our popula-
tion, we cannot tell when to apply remedies in order to ameliorate their condi-
tion, to improve the general health of the community, promote the security of
Ufe, and add to the number of years of existence. At present our exertions
must be influenced by, and be made upon, comparatively uncertain theory and
conjecture ; and of course may produce erroneous results.

These are some of the considerations that suggest themselves in view of this
subject. The next enquiry is : — ^How shall the elementary facts be obtained 1
and what System of Registratiott shall be adopted ?

The experience of every government, where systems 6f registration ' have
been adopted, shows that it must be made the special duty of some individuals
to collect the facts, and furnish them to the proper officer. To leave this to
the voluntary action of any one in the community fkils of producing those full
and accurate returns which are essential to render the record valuable^ It is
also bad policy to exact a fee of the connexions or fiiends of one whose birth
or death is recorded, as was once the provision of our statute^. • So far as they
are concerned the record should be free. But to the proper persons concerned
rewards should be offered for the performance of doty, and penalties imposed

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for ihe neglect of it. In this way it will be made their interest, as well as
their duty, to perform what the law may require. As regards both births and
deaths, no class of persons in the community are so well qualified to furnish
the information in the first instance, or can so easily do it, as physicians ; and
none are, or should be, more deeply interested in the subject. The medical
profession in England have voluntarily engaged in endeavors to carry the Reg-
istration Act into force, with a spirit which reflects the highest honor on their
desire for the promotion of the public good and the advancement of scienoe.
With these views the following outline of a, plan is proposed : —

I. As regards Births,

1. Every physician, or other person who practices midwifery, should pro-
cure his name and place of residence, to be recorded in the office of the town
clerk where he resides, and also in that of any other town where he may prac-
tice in his profession ; and the town clerk should enter all such names in alphsr
betical order in the Register of Births, in all such towns, specifying the date
when the same was recorded. Such a regulation as this is required by law,
and has been in operation several years in Philadelphia.

2. Every such physician and other person should, on the first day of each
month, or oftener, be required to make a return, signed by himself, of every
birth at which he has been present during the preceding month, according to
an approved and prescribed form of return. One is furnished in the accom-
panying system of Registration.

3. If any birth happen when no such physician or other person be present,
the parents, heads of families, occupier of the house, master of jails, houses of
industry, or vessels, where it occurred, should in like manner inform the town
clerk of the same within ten days after a birth may take place. And it should
be the duty of every person, whether a midwife be present or not, to see that
a return of every birth is duly made under suitable penalties for neglect. In
case any physician or other person neglect to make returns, the clerk should
notify him of such delinquency.

4. The town clerk should enter all such returns in the Register of Births
for said town, according to an approved and prescribed form. One is prepared
in the accompanying system. Whenever any returns are made without the
name of the child, the clerk should enter the other particulars, leaving that
blank ; and afterwards he should obtain and insert the name.

11. As regards Marriages.

1. Whenever any person proposes to enter into a contract of marriage, he
should give to the town clerk a description of the parties to the contract, in
regard to the particulars to be set forth, in an approved and prescribed form of
a marriage contract. One is provided in the accompanying system.

2. Provision should be made by law for the appointment of a suitable num-
ber of persons in every town, who alone should have authority to solemnize

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tmmiagfe in said towns. And eirery person who is m anthoiised ahonld Tetm
his name, place of residence, and official station, to the clerk, who should faith-
fully enter all such names ift alphabetical order in the Register of Marriages
for said town. And every person, performing such ceremony, should make a
return on the first day of erery month, of each of the marriages solemnised
by him ^luring the preceding month. In case of neglecting to make returns,
the clerk should give him notice of such negligence.

3. The clerk should faithfully enter all intentions, or licenses of marriages,
in the Register of Marriages, according to the form prescribed ; and should
furnish to the parties a copy of the proposed contract, which should be shown
to the person by whom the marriage ceremony is performed, and who, with
the parties and two witnesses, should affix their signatures to it, as CTidence
that it has been duly executed and attested ; and no marriage should be per-
fonned by any one, under penalties, without first having such certificate.

4. All the particulars of such marriage should be faithfully entered in the
Register of Marriages, by the town clerk, and he should attest the same on
the marriage contract. And no record of marriage should be legal unless so
recorded and attested by the clerk. His certificate, and no other, should be con-
sidered as legal evidence of marriage.

m. As regards Deaths.

1. Provision should be made by law for the appointment in every town of
sextons, or superintendents of burying grounds. And every such officer should
make a return of his name and residence to the clerk of the town in which he
resides, who should faithfully enter the same, with the date of his appointment,
in the Register of Deaths. And no other person except such as are thus au-
thorised, should be allowed to inter any dead body, under penalty, nor should
any one be allowed to inter in any town, except the one where he resides, un-
less by authority of the sexton of said town.

9. No person duly authorized as above should be allowed to inter any dead
body until he shall first obtain from the attending physician, or some other per-
son, a description of the body to be interred, in regard to the particulars set
forth, in an approved and prescribed form of return, and deliver the same to
the town clerk. One is provided in the accompanying system.

3. Every physician, who was last in attendance on the deceased, or in case
a death occurred when no physician had been in attendance, every parent, head
of ftmily. Occupier of the house, coroners, master of jails, houses of indus-
try, or vessels, where it happened, should be required to inform the siexton in
n^gard to all the prescribed particulars, according to the best of his ability.

4. The town clerk should faithfully enter all the particulars specified in said
letum in the Register of Deaths for the town.

The town clerks might be required to make complete indexes to each Regis-
ter book, of births, marriages and deatha, according to the form prescribed in the
accompanying system, for the benefit of the towns ; and also to preserve, in

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some way of easy- referenee, the original retdrna of births, marriages and
deaths, affixing to each the number eonesponding to the number on the reg-

Blank register books oontaining printed blank forms in uniform style for the
entries of births, marriages and deaths, should be fum]ahe4 by the Secrcftary
of the Commonwealth to the several towns, and the clerks of said towns
should be required to preserve said registers with great caire. Blank forms,
printed in like uniform style, should in like manner be funushed to the several
towns. And the clerk of every town should, during the month of July, or
January annually, be required to make two copies of the records of births,
marriages and deaths, that have been entered during the preceding year, end-
ing the 30th day of June or the 3lBt day of December, and should transmit
one of said copies to the Register of Probate for the connty where he resides,
and the other to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, or other person author-
ized by the Grovemor to receive the same.

The Registers of Probate, and the Secretary of State, should carefully ex-
amine and arrange the several returns, and cause them to be bound in annual
volumes, or others of convenient size, and should make full indexes of all the
names, both male and female, according to. &e forms proposed in the aooom^
panying system.

Tables exhibiting a full view of the irtatistics of human life in the several
counties, and in the whole State, should be prepared under the directi<Mi of the
Governor or Secretary, and published annually. The following described ta-
bles might be embraced in such statistics : —

1. Births, A table specifying the number of births each month in the
year, distinguishing the number of stillborn from the living children, males and
females, twins, thrins and colored.

3. Marriages. A table specifjring the number of intentions of marriage
entered, and also the number of marriages solemnized, each month in the year,
distinguishing the number of marriages between bachelors and maids, bache-
lors and widows, widowers and maids, and widowers and widows. Also the
average age of the males and females at marriage, and whether they were in-
habitants or strangers in the place where the ceremony was performed.

3. Deaths. Tables of mortality exhibiting — Ist. The number who died
the first 3, 6, 9 and 12 months of the year from birth, and in every subsequent
year, distinguishing the males from the females. Sd. The number who
died each month of the year, distinguishing the males from the females,
and the ages under 1 year, I to 2, 3 to 5, 5 to 10; 10 to 15, and every subse-
quent quinquenial period of life. 3d. The influence of social condition on the
mortality of different ages, and sexes, specifying the number who died bache-
lors, husbands or widowers, and maids, wives or widows, in each quinquenial
period of life.' 4th. The number who died of each disease in each month of
the year, and in ea6h quinquenial period of life, distinguishing the males from
the females, the places of nativity, and the colored from the white. 5th. A

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table afaetracted from the above, exhibiting the diseaaes in claaaes. 6th. The
namber who died of each occupation, and the average age. 7th. And such
other tables as experience may deem expedient to illustrate the subject.

4. General tables exhibiting deductions from the preceding series, contain-
ing comparative views of the condition and movement of the population, and
the laws of human life and mortality.

The expense of such registration might be borne in the following manner : —

1. Every individual should be entitled to have a birth or death recorded
without fees.

2. For recording marriages, the party procuring the record to be made
shall pay one dollar for entering the intentions of marriage, for the certificate/
and for recording the marriage after it has been solemnized. And a like sum
for recording a contract of marriage, when the intentions were entered in an-
other town.

3. The clerk shall be entitled to compensation, to be paid by the towns, as
follows : — Ist. For recording a birth or death, twenty cents each for the first
hundred in a given year, and ten cents for all over one hundred. 2d. For
making transcripts of the records for the county and State, five cents for each
birth, marriage or death, copied and transmitted. 3d. The clerks of the sev«
eral towns, the registers of probate, and the Secretary of State, should be en-^
titled to receive ten cents for an examination for a single entry, twenty cents
for a general examination, twenty-five cents for a certificate containing a trans-
cript of a single entry, and for more than one, according to the amount of labor,
to be paid by the person requesting the examination, unless a town shall other-
wise direct.

It is supposed that sufficient revenue would arise in this way in a few years
to repay all the expenses of registration.

Such is a brief outline of a System of Registration, which it has occurred
to me might be easily matured and adopted by the liCgislature, and introduced
in the several towns in this State. It is comprehensive, but at the same time
simple. By using the tabular forms of entries proposed, it will be perceived
that much of the apparent labor will be obviated. When once introduced I
have no doubt that the people would readily contribute their exertions to carry
it into successful operation, and that it would soon become a measure of great
popularity. It would at the same time provide an invaluable record for our
own existing population and for posterity, and exhibit the most important facts
of Imoxy and science.


Your obedient servant^


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Letter from Hon, Leivis Cass^ referred to in Mr, Shattuck's


Legation of the United States, \
Paris, September 27M, 1838. )

SiK,^-*I have already stated to you, infonnally, that I had requested Mr.
Vail, a very intelligent citizen of the United States, now here, to procure the
information de«ired in your letter of June 25. 'Mr. Vail's perfect acquaintance
with France, as well as his general intelligence, admirahly qualify him for the
task. He has executed it much better than I could, and I think you will agree
with me, that his letter presents very just views on the subject, and is credit-
able to his talents and industry.

I forward the packet to Mr. Ledyard, as I told you I should, who will trans-
mit it to you.

I am, sir, very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

Lemuel Shattuck, Esgi, Boston, Mass.

Letter from Mr. Vail, referred to in Mr. Shattuck^s Letter.

Paris, September 2l2nd, 1838.

Lewis Cass, Esquire Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of
the United States at the Court of France.

Dear Sir, — The subject of Mr. Shattuck's letter to you, is of such vast im-
portance to every well regulated society, that it affords me pleasure, in the
absence of that attention on your part, rendered impossible by your other high
avocations, to be enabled, although in a feeble manner, to assist in procuring
the information and documents necessary to elucidate the object in view.

The vagueness of our system, or rather the ahnost total absence of any, with
regard to popular mutations and the statistics of human life, is apparent to
every one in the United States ; and so it must continue to be, as long as the
registry of births, marriages, and deaths, is left to the simple will of the par-
ties ; and the mode of it, to the clergy, the only apparent constituted authority
taking any oognixance of these actSu

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It 18 true that we, in the United States, do stand in a point of view widely
difierent from Europe. Compared to oora, the population of the old world is
like the quiet waters of a lake rarely quitting its bed ; whilst with us, the gi-
gantic strides we make onward, and our natural migrating propensities, give
the country the aspect of a yast agitated sea, which defies all efforts to confine
it within any limits. But, however great the task, it is not beyond the reach
of the moralist, and the result to be obtained is well worthy of his attention
and of that of the lawgiver.

The perpetual shiitings of the people at the extremities of the republic, will
not, it is probable, for years to come, allow any thing like regularity being
established there. If it be done at all, it should commence in the older and
more thickly settled states, where, by acquired experience, social restraints are
borne with less impatience, and whbnce, by the infiuence of good example, it
may infuse itself fie^er, and ultimately be adopted every where. Honor,
therefore, be rendered to the state that thus takes the lead in the good work.

The French system is believed to be as near to perfection as any extant. It
is minute and precise, as will be seen by a reference to the Code Civil, which
establishes it, a copy of which, as very clearly explained and illustrated by
Rogron, a distinguished legist, accompanies this letter.

In Chapter I., articles from 34 to 54, will be seen the manner in which regis-
ters are kept, by duplicates, in the mayor's office. When filled up, or at the
end of each year, one set remains there ; the other, for greater security, is
lodged at the Tribunal of the Department.

Chapter II., articles from 55 to 62 specifies the mode and time of register-
ing births.

Chapter m., -articles from 63 to 75 relates to marriage ; and Chapter lY.,
articles from 76 to 87 designates the records of deaths.

The explanation and arguments adduced in support of each clause, by Mr.
Rogron, are perfectly clear, and show with what care as a whole, a protective
law follows the progress of man, from his cradle to maturity, and thence,
downwards, to even beyond his grave. In looking at the details of the law, it
will be observed, as contrasted with our own custom, where such a trail en-
tirely fails, that great care has been taken by the framers of the code to pre-
serve throughout families, the native appellation of the nidther as well as that
of the father, of the child. With us, the wife's maiden name disappears
entirely, and is never, or seldom, seen in public deeds ; in France, on the con-
trary, not only that, but even her subsequent name or names, if she has been
widowed more than once, are handed down, together with that of her hus-
band, and by this means, family identity is, beyond equivocation, perpetuated.

The record is kept by an (^Bcer or officers, at the mayor's office, under his
responsibility and direction. The registxax is in constant attendance. He per-
forms the duties assigned to him by law, among which, he furnishes any party
requiring it, a legalized copy of any act recorded. The recording is done gra-
tis, but, for each copy, two francs are paid,— this being for the stamp and the
paper used.

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A condensed report 'is made annually by each mayor to the Prefect, the
highest civil and executive authority of the department ; and these documents,
together with periodical domiciliary visits, are the basis of the census of the
whole population made every five years by government. From these, also, it
is, that the sutistical statement of the '' mouvement do la population " in the
" Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes," (a most useful work, of which those
for 1837 and 1838 accompany this), is made.

In the latter will be found a most interesting article, published annually by
Mr. Mathieu, a man distinguished in statistical annals, and as a moralist.

The parcel marked A, contains manuscript copies of record, taken at the
mayoralty of the 2d arrondissement (of which there are 12 in Paris), in ordinary
cases of births, marriages and deaths.

Under the letter B will be found printed models of the above, such as are
used throughout France ; varying with each case, together with the form of
the register to be kept, as also the form used in the church registry. But in
order that nothing be wanting that may throw light upon the subject, I have
also procured a highly prized work, entitled " Mairie Pratique," or Dictionary
of Forms. Commencing at page 478, the whole series of civil acts will be

Upon examination it will be seen that no penalty is inflicted upon the parent
for neglect or omission in registering the birth of his child, although it visits
the surgeon or midwife who does not do so, in the necessary absence of the
father or of any one doing it in his name ; because it supposes that, had the
father been present, or the mother capable, the requisite declaration and regis-
try would have been made by them as a matter of course.

Acting upon the ground that birth, legally proved and identified, ensures to
man his property and his social rights, the French law, setting aside the usual
way of enforcement by the infliction of penalty, has placed its fulfilment upon
the surest of all possible human basis, — self interest. Thus, in claims by
inheritance or otherwise, the evidence called for by law, is that which the birth
register can adduce.

Progressing in life, when he contracts marriage, man must present himself
with that same jtroof in hand. Without the production of this, the law has
interposed such great difficulties to contracting marriage, as to amount to an
almost prohibition. Parents, therefore, having at heart the future welfare of
their offspring, cannot, without exposing themselves to great reproach, omit
taking for them, their first legal step in life. As to marrying, heedless of the
mandate of the law, it is altogether out of the question, the civil act being, in
France, the only deed constituting it. The alliance before the church, although
sanctioned by morality and imperatively required by religion, is lefl wholly to

Online LibraryMassachusetts. Secretary of the commonwealth.oAnnual report on the vital statistics of Massachusetts, births, marriages, divorces and deaths .. → online text (page 15 of 58)