“Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland”

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Currie
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“Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland”

Post by Currie » Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:36 am

“Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland”

Here’s an interesting book that has been digitised by Google but which doesn’t appear elsewhere. It may be of interest to anyone studying Scottish history and social life and the like. There’s much there about health, the village system, classes of employment, education, the poor etc. It is an analysis of the ‘Old’ Statistical Account of the 1790’s.

“Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland” by Sir John Sinclair, 1831. It can be downloaded as a PDF file. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=DwN ... &q&f=false

“In Part I. the following subjects are discussed: — 1. The advantages of statistical inquiries. 2. An account of the progress of such inquiries in various countries, prior to the commencement of the Statistical Account of Scotland. 3. The geographical circumstances, natural advantages and disadvantages, of Scotland. 4. Its general divisions. 5. Its climate. 6. The healthiness and longevity of its inhabitants. 7. Its population. 8. The classes of its inhabitants. 9. Its agriculture. 10. Its manufactures; and, 11. Its commerce.— Prefixed to this Part there is an introduction, containing a general view of the history of Scotland.
Part II. is restricted to three points :—1. The ecclesiastical establishment of Scotland. 2. The Systems of education pursued in that country; and, 3. The management of the poor.”


As an example here’s the chapter on Parochial Registers.

IV.—ON PAROCHIAL REGISTERS, OR BILLS OF MORTALITY; AND THEIR ESTABLISHMENT IN SCOTLAND.

The establishment of a plan for keeping exact registers of births, marriages, and burials, more especially if the ages of the persons at their death, and the distempers of which they died, were specified, would be of the greatest importance, both to individuals and the public.

1.—Advantages of Bills of Mortality.

In a private point of view, these registers would obviate the difficulties, great expense, and the grievous disappointment of proving marriages, births, baptisms, and burials, to which persons, desirous of establishing legal proof of their identity, descent, or consanguinity, are so much exposed.
To the lower orders of society, it is also of great moment to have a public record, to which they can apply for evidence of the periods when they can claim exemption from statute labour, and serving in the militia; or from which the date of their birth, and their parentage, (in the event of their quitting the country), can be proved.
In a political point of view, any alterations in the comparative strength and resources of the nation, so far as depended upon its population, might be accurately known, by ascertaining and comparing its progressive state, not only in the whole kingdom, but in each district.
It is of great public importance, also, that the present extensive and beneficial system of life insurances,—reversionary payments,—annuities,—friendly societies, &c. should be founded on accurate and numerous bills of mortality, to determine the law, that governs the waste of life, and the favourableness and unfavourableness of different situations for its duration.
In a medical view, such inquiries would suggest the cause of many diseases, their affinities to others, and would elucidate many important, though still dubious points, essential to the improvement and perfection of the medical art.
With a view to morality, the information furnished by bills of mortality, would point out the effects of moral and licentious habits,—the situations in which they are most frequent, —the circumstances which occasion suicides,—and perhaps the means of rendering such disgraceful events more rare.
In various respects, therefore, great advantages may be derived from such registers, which, when they are sufficiently comprehensive and exact, form a most useful part of national police; and, in various ways, they contribute to the benefit of all classes in the community. Even the poorest individual must thence be convinced, that the government takes a species of parental interest in his welfare, being anxious to ascertain the period of his birth, marriage, and death, and the causes of it.

2.—On the Commencement of Registers in Scotland, and cause of their failure.

Before 1640, the registration of marriages and births was, to a greater or lesser extent, kept in some parishes of Scotland; but, from decay and other accidents, those registers can hardly now be read. In one parish, they have been regularly kept since 1655. In another, the registers both of births and marriages, from 1674 to 1710, are still pretty entire, and appear to have been very exactly kept. Indeed, all over Scotland, parochial registers were general, until an injurious tax was imposed, in 1783, on registration,— which, however trifling, was fatal to the system. So odious was this duty, that though it amounted only to threepence for each article entered, yet the common people, not being compelled to pay it, rather chose to save that trifle, than to have either a baptism, burial, or marriage, inserted in the register; and as the only penalty annexed to the nonpayment of the tax, was the omission of the article, the Legislature virtually conferred a premium on every act of negligence or obstinacy. From a calculation of the annual number of births, marriages, and deaths in Scotland, it appears, that its gross produce, though it were exacted with the utmost rigour, could never have exceeded L.1500 Sterling per annum. It may be questioned, indeed, if the money actually received by Government, amounted to one half of that sum. Yet, for that pittance, confusion was most injudiciously allowed to be introduced into one of the most important records of the kingdom.

3.—On the Objections to the Tax on Registers.

These objections were numerous; and though the payment might not be felt, even by the common people, where money abounded, and wages were high, it was, doubtless, a serious grievance to persons struggling with poverty, and where circulation was scarce.
The lower classes thought themselves entitled to have their children's birth recorded without expense, as they reared, on scanty earnings, the most numerous, at least the most uncorrupted and hardiest offspring belonging to the community, and thereby counteracted the baneful effects of idleness, dissipation, and immorality, among the more opulent and licentious classes. The money required from their scanty funds, they thought, would be better employed in providing against present wants, than in securing a very distant, and perhaps useless benefit to their posterity.
It was objected to the tax on marriages, that some kind of a reward, instead of a tax, ought to have been offered by the Legislature, to those who entered regularly into wedlock; and in regard to burials, it was reckoned hard to pay a penalty, on the loss of a relation, and thus to be liable to a tax on their misfortunes.
As to the duty on baptisms, some objected to it on religious grounds, in particular the Seceders, who considered that tax as a profanation; and often neglected paying it on that account, however prejudicial it might afterwards prove to the interest of their children.

4.—On the Register of Births.

This register was very imperfectly kept in Scotland. In fact, as kept, it was not so much a record of births, as of baptisms. Hence, when children were not baptized by the minister of the parish, owing to his being occasionally absent, or when they were baptized in private, in consequence of the parents residing at a distance from the place of worship, no registration took place. In the cases of children still-born, or who died before being christened, and, in some parishes, natural children, their names were not inserted. Seceders also had a strong aversion to registration, which they considered an appendage to the established church, rather than an institution calculated to promote the civil interests of their posterity.

5. — On the Register of Marriages.

The register of marriages, is rather a register of the contract and publication of banns, than of the solemnization of the marriage itself; and as those females who are contracted to men in other parishes, though their contract be recorded in their own, do not add to the number of married couples there, for they frequently change their place of residence; as clandestine marriages are not registered; and as a return is made from both parishes, when the bridegroom resides in one parish, and the bride in another, consequently a double return of the same marriage ; it follows that any calculations founded on such returns, must lead to erroneous conclusions.
As an example of the uncertainty of the marriage register, as it is now kept, it may be stated, that in a parish (Stonehouse) there were 286 proclamations of banns registered, from the beginning of the year 1761, to the end of the year 1790; of this number, in 7 instances no marriage took place; in 133 instances, both parties resided in the parish; but in 76, the man resided, but not the woman; and in 71, the woman resided, but not the man.

6.—On the Register of Burials.

Many circumstances occasion great uncertainty in the register of burials, as now kept. Among these are:—
1. The great extent of some parishes, which renders it necessary to have a number of burying places, sometimes to the amount of ten in one parish, which increased the facility of evading the tax.
2. On the coast, many are lost at sea, and their deaths are never entered in the register; and in remote districts, the poor are often obliged to bury the dead without the assistance of a sexton.
3. From a prejudice of very ancient date, the common people wish to be buried with their ancestors, however distant the place may be; and from change of residence, and the fluctuating state of human affairs, few farmers are buried in the parish in which they died. Indeed, many have an idea of property in their family cemeteries, and if they neglected to carry their dead there, would feel themselves guilty, not only of violating a natural propensity to sleep with their fathers, but also of infringing a sacred obligation, sanctioned, as they contend, by patriarchal example.
4. All who die are not put upon the register, but only those for whom the pall or mortcloth is required. This happens only, when the funeral takes place in the parish burying ground.
5. The register kept is taken from the fees paid for the mortcloth or pall, and these go to the poor. It has also been an immemorial custom, to use the mortcloth solely for persons above ten years of age. Those burials alone, therefore, are, in general, recorded. Paupers, being exempted from this tax, are not enrolled in the register.
6. As soon as it was known, that the act imposing a tax on registers, did not oblige any person to record the death, and that the only penalty for neglect was the non-entry of the name, the register of deaths, in many parishes, was totally given up.
All these circumstances combined, prove the absolute necessity of energetic steps being taken without delay, for putting the parochial registers of Scotland on a proper footing. Those now existing are so defective, that in the last Parliamentary report on the population of the kingdom, in 1821, it was found impossible to form a correct abstract of the baptisms, burials, and marriages in Scotland, for a period corresponding with the abstract for England and Wales; as no more than 99 out of 850 parishes in Scotland, which had made returns, were in possession of regular registers, the rest having either made only occasional entries, or kept no register whatever. It is the more necessary, therefore, to bring the subject under the immediate consideration of Parliament.

7.—Plan for establishing Parochial Registers in Scotland.

As this is a subject of paramount importance, it is hoped that some public-spirited member will resolve to bring it forward, to whose attention the following hints are submitted.
1. A proper system can alone be established by a law passed for that express purpose; and it ought to be carried into effect by some branch of Government. In Scotland, the proper department seems to be the Court of Exchequer, which is a species of Scottish Board of Treasury. Under its superintendence, the whole plan might be conducted.
2. As soon as an act is obtained, books for registration should be transmitted to the ministers of the several parishes, to whose superintendence the execution of the law, in their respective districts, should be intrusted. The books should be of parchment, for greater durability.
3. The execution of the act should be committed to the session-clerks, or parochial schoolmasters; these should receive annual salaries of L.5 from the public, and from L.5 to L.10 from the heritors, in proportion to the population and extent of the parish.
4. No tax or fee should be paid for the registration, but a penalty of L.5 should be imposed on those who neglect to register, which, if not paid when demanded, should be exacted by the Court of Exchequer by legal process; for no favour or indulgence should be shown to those, who neglect a duty so necessary, both to their children and to society.
5. A copy of the registers, with a state of the population of each parish, should be annually transmitted by the clergyman, (in case of vacancy, to be subscribed by two elders), to the Court of Exchequer, to be there preserved; but copies, or abstracts, of the whole returns should be sent by that court, to the Secretary of State for the home department, to be laid before Parliament.
6. That the minister should annually explain to the parishioners from the pulpit the nature and advantages of the plan.

There is an excellent model of bills of mortality for country parishes, annexed to the Statistical Account of Torthorwald, in Dumfriesshire, exemplified by an actual register kept for 27 years, in which the deaths of 280 persons, their ages, and the diseases of which they died, are inserted. There would be no material difficulty in carrying such a plan into effect, in every parish in the kingdom. To complete the system, it would be desirable to distinguish, in the register of deaths, the numbers of boys,—married men,—widowers,— bachelors;—and the number of girls,—married women,— widows,—and unmarried women, also the numbers of each sex, their ages, the distempers of which they died, and the month in which their deaths respectively took place.
It is likewise proposed to insert in the Appendix, an important document, drawn up by that indefatigable statist, James Cleland, Esq. of Glasgow, applicable to large towns, to which the reader's attention is particularly requested.

Hope that’s interesting,
Alan

Hugo
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Location: Ayrshire, Scotland

Re: “Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland”

Post by Hugo » Sun May 02, 2010 5:55 pm

Alan,
Many thanks for this. It makes interesting reading, especially about the 1783 tax. It helps to explain the lack of recorded information at that time.

Hugo
Hugo

The more you know, the more you know how little you know. (My science teacher)

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Currie
Posts: 3691
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:20 am
Location: Australia

Re: “Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland”

Post by Currie » Mon May 03, 2010 4:22 am

Hello Hugo,

Yes, there’s some good stuff in there. And that reminds me that I forgot to put in a link to the Edina site where you can browse the volumes of the “Old” and “New” Statistical Accounts. http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk//sas/s ... 7ce14#atoz

All the best,
Alan

Hugo
Posts: 135
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 3:36 pm
Location: Ayrshire, Scotland

Re: “Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland”

Post by Hugo » Mon May 03, 2010 8:14 am

Greetings Alan,

Another useful reference to be noted for a rainy day. My lot came to Scotland from Ireland about 1840. The family tale is we went from Scotland to Ireland (I have no dates or places) and later came back to Scotland.

Regards,

Hugo
Hugo

The more you know, the more you know how little you know. (My science teacher)

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Alan SHARP
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Location: Waikato, New Zealand

Re: 3 pence tax

Post by Alan SHARP » Mon May 03, 2010 9:08 pm

Greetings from NZ

Me thinks the 3 pence tax plus the break-away churches have created quite a hurdle for may of us researchers.

The B. D & M registration tax is referred to above as a "trifle" but are there any historians of that period (1780's), who would care to put a contemporary value on 3 pence. What quantity of the staple items would it buy, flour, bread, oats, meat, beer etc ?

In relation to wages I have seen, and not everyone had work, it was more than a trifle for the labouring classes.

Alan SHARP.

Currie
Posts: 3691
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:20 am
Location: Australia

Re: “Analysis of the Statistical Account of Scotland”

Post by Currie » Tue May 04, 2010 2:56 am

Hello Alan,

We’ve had the occasional foray into what money then is worth now. I think that measurement in terms of staples is a valid one, the difficulty can be finding the prices of items in a particular region at a particular time. viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10783&hilit=converter

Here’s a letter from a Minister who wrote to the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1783, about the time the tax was introduced. He obviously didn’t think it was a trifle to the not-so-well-off and considered it an inconvenience, and perhaps a bit of an embarrassment, to himself. (page 856)
http://www.google.com.au/books?id=VEgDA ... 22&f=false

“Hardship of the Registry Act”

Mr Urban,
By inserting the following representation in your Magazine, I have reason to think, you will oblige several of your readers, and particularly your occasional correspondent, W.S.

SINCE the last act about stamped registry, a child was brought into my church, during divine service, to be christened. I did not think it decent, that a religious ceremony should be delayed, or a holy place desecrated, by altercation about money matters; but soon after service, I sent to demand the stamp-duty, and, instead of it, I received from the parent this answer, “That he would pay it when it was convenient."
Now, as other ministers may be in like circumstance, it is, to be wished, that some of your readers would be so kind to instruct us, how we are to act in such a case.
Whether the Minister should decline the registry of the christening, till the parent shall find it convenient to pay? Or,
Whether he should register it, forthwith, together with his neglect of paying? But chiefly,
Whether the burden and odium of prosecution is incumbent on the Minister, if the parent does not pay at all, there being no other prosecutor mentioned in the act?

If the Minister is to prosecute, I shall be bold to observe, that any clergyman, and especially one of near 80 years, will find stronger and better calls on him for the employment of his time, than prosecuting his poor parishioners; poor I say, because none but such will incur the penalty*; and such have already said, they think it hard, upon gaining or losing a child, to pay equally with richer folk. And I cannot help saying too, that it is hard upon a clergyman to be obliged frequently to bestow as much of his time and pains to get these three-pences, as a lawyer would, and reasonably might, charge three shillings and four-pence for; and not only so, but be degraded to a tax-gatherer, and that of a tax so grievous and so unequal. What is still worse, this last odious office of prosecutor robs him of that esteem and goodwill, which he ought to be possessed of, in order to benefit his flock; for if they once come to dislike him, they will not much regard his advice, either public, or private. There are other material objections against this tax, which the patriotic planner of will hear, I believe, from another quarter.

I have aimed at nothing in this representation but to relate plain truth, and to receive right direction; but an orator might introduce a poor fellow, on the birth of a sixth child, addressing his pastor thus: "I hope, Sir, you won't demand of me three pence for birth, and three pence for christening?'' 'I am obliged, neighbour, to demand it. You mean, I suppose, you would have me pay it for you." "Oh! God bless you, Sir, I wish you would, I should pray for you as long as I live, for I can hardly get bread for the other five."
A man must be quite void of the milk of human kindness, to be unmoved at such an address; to think of prosecuting such a poor creature, or lending a hand to bring a penalty upon him. And yet this is not a groundless fancy; not a mere oratorical flourish; for I have an honest day-labourer living near me, with six children, the youngest about a year old, if he should send a seventh to church a few months hence (no unlikely event, the parents being both young) I could not get, perhaps, without difficulty, nor take, I'm sure, without pain, the present tax; much less could I prevail upon myself to be instrumental in subjecting him to a penalty, that might ruin both him and his.

*Those who receive alms from the parish are exempted from the duty. EDIT.

Hope that’s interesting,
Alan

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