Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality (Graunt 1676)/Chapter 2

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[CHAP. II.][1]


General Observations upon the Casualties.


IN my Discourses upon these Bills, I shall first speak of the Casualties, then give my Observations with reference to the Places and Parishes comprehended in the Bills; and next of the Years and Seasons.

1. There seems to be good reason, why the Magistrate should himself take notice of the |18| numbers of Burials and Christnings, viz. to see whether the City increase or decrease in People; whether it increase proportionably with the rest of the Nation; whether it be grown big enough, or too big, &c. But why the same should be made known to the People, otherwise than to please them, as with a curiosity, I see not.

2. Nor could I ever yet learn (from the many I have asked, and those not of the least Sagacity) to what purpose the distinction between Males and Females is inserted, or at all taken notice of? or why that of Marriages was not equally given in? Nor is it obvious to every body, why the Accompt of Casualties (whereof we are now speaking) is made? The reason, which seems most obvious for this later, is, That the state of health in the City may at all times appear.

3. Now it may be Objected, That the same depends most upon the Accompts of Epidemical Diseases, and upon the chief of them all, the Plague; wherefore the mention of the rest seems only matter of curiosity.

4. But to this we Answer, That the knowledge even of the numbers which dye of the Plague, is not sufficiently deduced from the meer Report of the Searchers, which only the Bills afford; but from other Ratiocinations, |19| and comparings of the Plague with some other Casualties.

5. For we shall make it probable[2], that in the Years of Plague, a quarter part more dies of that Disease than are set down; the same we shall also prove by other Casualties. Wherefore, if it be necessary to impart to the world a good Accompt of some few Casualties, which since it cannot well be done without giving an Accompt of them all, then is our common practice of so doing very apt and rational.

6. Now, to make these Corrections upon the, perhaps, ignorant and careless Searchers Reports, I considered first of what Authority they were of themselves, that is, whether any credit at all were to be given to their Distinguishments: and finding that many of the Casualties were but matter of sense, as whether a Child were Abortive or Stilborn; whether men were Aged, that is to say, above sixty years old, or thereabouts when they died, without any curious determination; whether such Aged persons died purely of Age, as for that the Innate heat was quite extinct, or the Radical moisture quite dried up (for I have heard some Candid Physicians complain of the darkness which themselves were in hereupon[3] I say, that these Distin-|20|guishments being but matter of sense, I concluded the Searchers Report might be sufficient in the Case.

7. As for Consumptions, if the Searchers do but truly Report (as they may) whether the dead Corps were very lean and worn away, it matters not to many of our purposes, whether the Disease were exactly the same, as Physicians define it in their Books. Moreover, In case a man of seventy five years old died of a Cough (of which had he been free, he might have possibly lived to ninety) I esteem it little errour (as to many of our purposes) if this Person be in the Table of Casualties, reckoned among the Aged, and not placed under the Title of Coughs.

8. In the matters of Infants I would desire but to know clearly, what the Searchers mean by Infants, as whether Children that cannot speak, as the word Infant seems to signifie, or Children under two or three years old, although I should not be satisfied, whether the Infant died of Wind, or of Teeth, or of the Convulsion, &c. or were choaked with Phlegm, or else of Teeth, Convulsion and Scowring, apart, or together, which, they say, do often cause one another; for, I say, it is somewhat to know how many die usually before they can speak, or how many live past any assigned number of years |21|.

9. I say, it is enough, if we know from the Searchers but the most predominant Symptoms; as that one died of the Headach, who was sorely tormented with it, though the Physicians were of Opinion, that the Disease was in the Stomach. Again, if one died suddenly, the matter is not great, whether it be reported in the Bills, Suddenly, Apoplexy, or Planet-strucken, &c.

10. To conclude, In many of these Cases the Searchers are able to report the Opinion of the Physician, who was with the Patient, as they receive the same from the Friends of the Defunct: and in very many Cases, such as Drowning, Scalding, Bleeding, Vomiting, making away themselves, Lunaticks, Sores, Small-pox, &c. their own senses are sufficient, and the generality of the World are able pretty well to distinguish the Gout, Stone, Dropsie, Falling sickness, Palsie, Agues, Pleuresie, Rickets, one from another.

11. But now as for those Casualties, which are aptest to be confounded and mistaken, I shall in the ensuing Discourse presume to touch upon them so far, as the Learning of these Bills hath enabled me.

12. Having premised these general Advertisements, our first Observation upon the Casualties shall be, That in Twenty Years[4] |22| there dying of all Diseases and Casualties 229250, that 71124[5] died of the Thrush, Convulsion, Rickets, Teeth and Worms; and as Abortives, Chrysomes, Infants, Liver grown, and Overlaid; that is to say, that about 13 of the whole died of those Diseases, which we guess did all light upon Children under four or five years old.

13. There died also of the Small Pox, Swine Pox, and Measles, and of Worms without Convulsions, 12210[6], of which number we suppose likewise, that about 12 might be Children under six years old. Now, if we consider that sixteen[7] of the said 229250 died of that extraordinary and grand Casualty, the Plague, we shall find that about thirty six per Centum of all quick conceptions died before six years old.

14. The second Observation is, That of the said 229250 dying of all Diseases, there died of acute Diseases, (the Plague excepted) but about 50000, or 29 parts. The which proportion doth give a measure of the State, and disposition of this Climate and Air as to health; these acute and Epidemical Diseases happenning suddenly and vehemently, upon the like corruptions and alterations in the Air. |23|

15. The third Observation is, That of the said 229250, about seventy[8] died of Chronical Diseases, which shews (as I conceive) the State and Disposition of the Country (including as well its Food as Air) in reference to health, or rather to longevity: for as the proportion of acute and Epidemical Diseases shews the aptness of the Air to sudden and vehement Impressions; so the Chronical Diseases shew the ordinary temper of the place: so that upon the proportion of Chronical Diseases seems to hang the judgment of the fitness of the Country for long life. For, I conceive, that in Countries subject to great Epidemical sweeps, men may live very long, but, where the proportion of the Chronical distempers is great, it is not likely to be so; because men being long sick, and alwaies sickly, cannot live to any great Age, as we see in several sorts of Metal-men, who, although they are less subject to acute Diseases than others, yet seldom live to be old, that is, not to reach unto those years, which David says is the Age of Man.

16. The fourth Observation is, That of the said 229250, not 4000 died of outward Griefs, as of Cancers, Fistula's, Sores, Ulcers, broken and bruised Limbs, Imposthumes, Itch, King's Evil, Leprosie, Scald-head, |24| Swine Pox, Wens, &c. viz. not one in sixty.

17. In the next place, whereas many persons live in great fear and apprehension of some of the more formidable and notorious Diseases following; I shall only set down how many died of each: that the respective numbers, being compared with the total 229250, those persons may the better understand the hazard they are in.

Table of notorious Diseases.

Apoplex 1306
Cut of the Stone 38
Falling Sickness 74
Dead in the Streets 243
Gout 134
Head-ach 51
Jaundice 998
Lethargy 67
Leprosie 6
Lunatick 158
Overlaid and Starved 529
Palsie 423
Rupture 201
Stone and Strangury 863
Sciatica 5
Suddenly 454 |25|

Table of Casualties.

Bleeding 69
Burnt and Scalded 125
Drowned 829
Excessive drinking 2
Frighted 22
Grief 279
Hanged themselves 222
Kill'd by several accidents 1021
Murdered 86
Poysoned 14
Smothered 26
Shot 7
Starved 51
Vomiting 136

18. In the foregoing Observations we ventured to make a Standard of the healthfulness of the Air from the proportion of acute and Epidemical Diseases, and of the wholsomness of the food, from that of the Chronical. Yet, for as much as neither of them alone do shew the longevity of the Inhabitants, we shall in the next place come to the more absolute Standard and Correction of both, which is the proportion of the Aged, viz. 15757 to the Total 229250. That |26| is, of about 1 to 15, or 7 per Cent. Only the question is, What number of years the Searchers call Aged, which I conceive must be the same that David calls so, viz. 70. For no man can be said to die properly of Age, who is much less. It follows from hence, That if in any other Country more than seven of the 100 live beyond 70, such Country is to be esteemed more healthful than this of our City.

19. Before we speak of particular Casualties, we shall observe, That among the several Casualties some bear a constant proportion unto the whole number of Burials; such are Chronical Diseases, and the Diseases whereunto the City is most subject; as for Example, Consumptions, Dropsies, Jaundice, Gout, Stone, Palsie, Scurvy, Rising of the Lights or Mother, Rickets, Aged, Agues, Fevers, Bloody Flux and Scowring: nay, some Accidents, as Grief, Drowning, Men's making away themselves, and being Kill'd by several Accidents, &c. do the like; whereas Epidemical and Malignant Diseases, as the Plague, Purples, Spotted Fever, Small Pox and Measles do not keep that equality: so as in some Years, or Months, there died ten times as many as in others. |27|


  1. This line, omitted from the fifth edition, occurs in the first four.
  2. See p. 365.
  3. "For both the common phrases of physicians concerning Radical Heat and Natural Moisture are deceptive." Bacon, x. 11.
  4. The years are 1629-1636, and 1647-1658, see the Table of Casualties, p.406.
  5. These figures do not correspond to Graunt's table (p. 406) which gives thrush 211, convulsion 9,073, rickets 3,681, teeth and worms 14,236, abortive and stillborn 8,559, chrisoms and infants 32,106, liver-grown, spleen, and rickets 1,421, overlaid and starved at nurse 529, or in all but 69,816.
  6. According to the table (p. 406) there died of swine-pox 57, of flox and small-pox 10,576, of measles 757, of worms (without convulsions) 830, or in all 12,220.
  7. That is, sixteen thousand; according to the table (p. 406), 16,384.
  8. That is, seventy thousand. The German translator of the Observations writes "70 vom hundert."