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THE

EDINBURGH REVIEW,

MARCH, 1829.

No. XCVII.

Art. I.-- Proposals for an Improved Census of the Population,

- ... Pp. 37. London, 1829.

Á LTHOUGH the happiness of a country does not depend on the A circumstance of the inhabitants being few or many, but on the proportion which they bear to the supply of necessaries, conveniences, and enjoyments at their disposal, still it is on many accounts extremely desirable to know their exact number. A nation having only ten millions of people, might be decidedly more powerful than a nation with twenty millions, if they were less instructed, less industrious, or less rich. But other things being the same, there can be no doubt that the political power and importance of a nation will be in a very great degree dependent on the amount of its population. Although, however, the magnitude of the population of a country had no influence in determining the place which it must occupy in the scale of nations, still there are many most interesting subjects of enquiry which cannot be successfully prosecuted till this magnitude be known. It is impossible, for example, to determine the extent to which levies of individuals, either for the military service, or for any other object, may be safely carried, unless the population has been enumerated and classed. It is clearly, too, for the interest of a very large class of persons, or rather, we should sayof the public, that those questions which depend upon the ex, pectation or probable duration of human life, such as those

VOL. XLIX. No. 97.

relating to life insurances, the constitution of friendly societies, and the value of life annuities, should be accurately solved. But this cannot be done without the aid of tables truly representing the law of mortality; and these cannot be prepared without the aid of censuses, enumerating not only the total number of persons in a country or district, but the numbers at every different age, from infancy upwards. The solution of such questions is not, however, the only, nor, perhaps, the greatest service, that may be derived from enumerations of the population. By comparing together censuses made with the requisite care, and embracing a sufficiency of details, we obtain authentic information, not otherwise attainable, with respect to the proportion which the sexes bear to each other; the changes in the channels of industry; the increase and decrease of different diseases; the effect of epidemics ; and an immense variety of other subjects which are not merely matters of rational and liberal curiosity, but come home to our business and bosoms, and exercise a powerful influence over human happiness.

It is hardly necessary to say that an actual enumeration, or census of the people, is the most efficient, or rather the only means, that can be safely depended upon for ascertaining their numbers. But as the formation of a census is a measure that can only be carried into effect through the interposition of governments, which have not always been inclined to lend it their sanction, other, though less perfect methods, have been resorted to by individuals or societies wishing to estimate the population. And as these methods were for a long time the only ones made use of in this country, we shall now very briefly notice some of the most prominent amongst them.

The first, and perhaps most obvious of these methods, was to enumerate the Houses in a kingdom, and to multiply the houses by what was supposed to be the number of persons occupying them. This method has frequently been resorted to in Great Britain and Ireland. Previously to the Revolution, a hearth duty, or tax proportioned to the number of fire-places in a house, was payable by all houses in the kingdom; and since the Revolution, the number of houses has been inferred from the returns made by the collectors of the house and window duties. It is easy, however, to see, that neither of these methods, but more particularly the latter, can be at all depended upon. The books containing the accounts of hearth-money have been lost; and it is not quite certain whether Dr Davenant, in stating the number of houses in England and Wales in 1690, as given in the hearth-books, really meant the buildings in which families lived, or the families themselves. The former opinion was maintain

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