Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality (Graunt 1676)/Chapter 3

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Of Particular Casualties.


1.  MY first Observation is, that few are starved. This appears, for that of the 229250, which have died, we find not above fifty one to have been starved, excepting helpless Infants at Nurse, which being caused rather by carelessness, ignorance, and infirmity of the Milch-women, is not properly an effect or sign of want of food in the Country, or of means to get it.

2. The Observation which I shall add hereunto, is, That the vast number of Beggars, swarming up and down this City, do all live, and seem to be most of them healthy and strong; whereupon I make this question, Whether, since they do all live by begging, that is, without any kind of labour; it were not better for the State to keep them, even although they earned nothing? that so they might live regularly, and not in that Debauchery, as many Beggars do; and that they might be cured of their bodily Impotencies, |28| or taught to work, &c. each according to his condition and capacity; or by being imployed in some work (not better undone) might be accustomed and fitted for labour?

3. To this some may Object, That Beggars are now maintained by voluntary Contributions, whereas in the other way the same must be done by general Tax; and consequently, the Objects of Charity would be removed and taken away.

4. To which we Answer, That in Holland, although no where fewer Beggars appear to charm up commiseration in the credulous, yet no where is there greater or more frequent Charity: only indeed the Magistrate is both the Beggar, and the Disposer of what is got by begging; so as all Givers have a Moral certainty that their Charity shall be well applyed.

5. Moreover, I question, Whether what we give to a Wretch that shews us lamentable sores and mutilations, be alwaies out of the purest Charity? that is, purely for God's sake; for as much as when we see such Objects, we then feel in our selves a kind of pain and passion by consent, of which we ease our selves, when we think we ease them, with whom we sympathised; or else we bespeak aforehand the like commiseration in |29| others towards our selves, when we shall (as we fear we may) fall into the like distress.

6. We have said, 'Twere better the Publick should keep the Beggars, though they earned nothing, &c. But most men will laugh to hear us suppose, That any able to work (as indeed most Beggars are, in one kind of measure or another) should be kept without earning any thing. But we Answer, That if there be but a certain proportion of work to be done, and that the same be already done by the non-Beggars, then to imploy the Beggars about it, will but transfer the want from one hand to another; nor can a Learner work so cheap as a skilful practised Artist can. As for example, a practised Spinner shall spin a pound of Wool, worth two shillings, for six pence; but a Learner, undertaking it for three pence, shall make the wool indeed into yarn, but not worth twelve pence.

7. This little hint is the model of the greatest work in the World, which is the making of England as considerable for Trade as Holland; for there is but a certain proportion of Trade in the World, and Holland is prepossessed of the greatest part of it, and is thought to have more skill and experience to manage it; wherefore, to bring England into Holland's condition, as to this particular, |30| is the same, as to send all the Beggars about London into the West Country to Spin, where they shall only spoil the Clothiers Wool, and beggar the present Spinners at best; but, at worst, put the whole Trade of the Country to a stand, until the Hollander, being more ready for it, have snapt that with the rest.

8. My next Observation is, That but few are Murthered, viz. not above 86 of the 229250, which have died of other Diseases and Casualties; whereas in Paris few nights scape without their Tragedy.

9. The Reasons of this we conceive to be Two: One is the Government and Guard of the City by Citizens themselves, and that alternately. No man setling into a Trade for that employment. And the other is, The natural and customary abhorrence of that inhuman Crime, and all Bloodshed, by most English men: for of all that are Executed, few are for Murther. Besides the great and frequent Revolutions and Changes in Government since the Year 1650, have been with little bloodshed; the Usurpers themselves having Executed few in comparison, upon the Accompt of disturbing their Innovations.

10. In brief, when any dead Body is found in England, no Algebraist, or Uncypherer of |31| Letters, can use more subtile suppositions and variety of conjectures to find out the Demonstration or Cipher, than every common unconcerned person doth to find out the Murtherers, and that for ever, until it be done.

11. The Lunaticks are also but few, viz. 158 in 229250, though I fear many more than are set down in our Bills, few being entred for such, but those who die at Bedlam; and there all seem to dye of their Lunacy, who died Lunaticks; for there is much difference in computing the number of Lunaticks, that die (though of Fevers and all other Diseases, unto which Lunacy is no Supersedeas) and those that dye by reason of their Madness.

12. So that, this Casualty being so uncertain, I shall not force my self to make any inference from the numbers and proportions we find in our Bills concerning it: only I dare ensure any man at this present, well in his Wits, for one in a thousand, that he shall not dye a Lunatick in Bedlam within these seven years, because I find not above one in about one thousand five hundred have done so.

13. The like use may be made of the Accompts of men that made away themselves, |32| who are another sort of Mad men, that think to ease themselves of pain by leaping into Hell; or else are yet more Mad, so as to think there is no such place; or that men may go to rest by death, though they dye in Self-murther, the greatest Sin.

14. We shall say nothing of the numbers of those that have been Drowned, Killed by falls from Scaffolds, or by Carts running over them, &c. because the same depends upon the casual Trade and Employment of men, and upon matters which are but circumstantial to the Seasons and Regions we live in, and affords little of that Science and Certainty we aim at.

15. We find one Casualty in our Bills, of which, though there be daily talk, there is little effect, much like our abhorrence of Toads and Snakes as most poisonous Creatures, whereas few men dare say upon their own knowledge they ever found harm by either; and this Casualty is the French Pox, gotten, for the most part, not so much by the intemperate use of Venery (which rather causeth the Gout) as of many common Women.

16. I say, the Bills of Mortality would take off these Bars, which keep some men within bounds, as to these extravagancies: for in |33| the aforementioned 229250, we find not above 392 to have died of the Pox. Now, forasmuch as it is not good to let the World be lulled into a security and belief of Impunity by our Bills, which we intend shall not be only as Deaths heads to put men in mind of their Mortality, but also as Mercurial Statues to point out the most dangerous waies that lead us into it and misery; We shall therefore shew, that the Pox is not as the Toads and Snakes aforementioned, but of a quite contrary nature, together with the reason why it appears otherwise.

17. Forasmuch as by the ordinary discourse of the World it seems a great part of men have, at one time or other, had some species of this Disease, I wondering why so few died of it, especially because I could not take that to be so harmless, whereof so many complained very fiercely; upon enquiry, I found that those who died of it out of the Hospitals (especially that of Kingsland, and the Lock in Southwark) were returned of Ulcers and Sores. And in brief, I found, that all mentioned to dye of the French Pox were returned by the Clerks of Saint Giles's and Saint Martin's in the Fields only, in which place I understood that most of the vilest and most miserable Houses of Un-|34|cleanness were: from whence I concluded, that only hated persons, and such, whose very Noses were eaten off, were reported by the Searchers to have died of this too frequent Malady.

18. In the next place, it shall be examined, under what Name or Casualty such as die of these Diseases are brought in: I say, under the Consumption; forasmuch as all dying thereof dye so emaciated and lean (their Ulcers disappearing upon Death) that the Old-women Searchers, after the mist of a Cup of Ale, and the bribe of a Two-groat fee, in stead of one given them[1], cannot tell whether this emaciation or leanness were from a Phthisis, or from an Hectick Fever, Atrophy, &c. or from an Infection of the Spermatick parts, which in length of time, and in various disguises hath at last vitiated the habit of the Body, and by disabling the parts to digest their nourishment, brought them to the condition of leanness abovementioned.

19. My next Observation is, That of the Rickets we find no mention among the Casualties, until the Year 1634, and then but of 14 for that whole Year.

20. Now the Question is, Whether that Disease did first appear about that time; or whether a Disease, which had been long be-|35|fore, did then first receive its Name?

21. To clear this Difficulty out of the Bills (for I dare venture on no deeper Arguments) I enquired what other Casualtie before the Year 1634, named in the Bills, was most like the Rickets; and found, not only by Pretenders to know it, but also from other Bills, that Livergrown was the nearest. For in some years I find Livergrown, Spleen, and Rickets, put all together, by reason (as I conceive) of their likeness to each other. Hereupon I added the Livergrowns of the Year 1634, viz. 77, to the Rickets of the same Year, viz. 14, making in all 91; which Total, as also the Number 77 it self, I compared with the Livergrown of the precedent Year 1633, viz. 82: All which shewed me, that the Rickets was a new Disease over and above.

22. Now, this being but a faint Argument, I looked both forwards and backwards, and found, that in the Year 1629, when no Rickets appeared, there were but 94 Livergrowns; and in the Year 1636 there were 99 Livergrown, although there were also 50 of the Rickets: only this is not to be denied, that when the Rickets grew very numerous (as in the Year 1660, viz. 521) then there appeared not above 15 of Livergrown. |36|

23. In the Year 1659 were 441 Rickets, and 8 Livergrown. In the Year 1658 were 476 Rickets, and 51 Livergrown. Now, though it be granted that these Diseases were confounded in the Judgment of the Nurses, yet it is most certain, that the Livergrown did never but once, viz. Anno 1630 exceed 100; whereas Anno 1660, Livergrown and Rickets were 536.

24. It is also to be observed, That the Rickets were never more numerous than now, and that they are still increasing; for Anno 1649, there were but 190, next year 260, next after that 329, and so forwards, with some little starting backwards in some years, until the Year 1660, which produced the greatest of all.

25. Now, such back-startings seem to be universal in all things; for we do not only see in the progressive motion of the wheels of Watches, and in the rowing of Boats, that there is a little starting or jerking backwards between every step forwards, but also (if I am not much deceived) there appeared the like in the motion of the Moon, which in the long Telescopes at Gresham Colledge one may sensibly discern[2]. |37|

26. There seems also to be another new Disease, called by our Bills The stopping of the Stomach, first mentioned in the Year 1636, the which Malady, from that Year to 1647, increased but from 6 to 29; Anno 1655 it came to 145. In 57, to 277. In 60 to 314. Now these proportions far exceeding the difference of proportion generally arising from the increase of Inhabitants, and from the resort of Advenæ to the City, shews there is some new Disease, which appeareth to the Vulgar, as A stopping of the Stomach.

27. Hereupon I apprehended that this Stopping might be the Green sickness, forasmuch as I find few or none to have been returned upon that Account, although many be visibly stained with it. Now, whether the same be forborn out of shame, I know not: For since the World believes that Marriage cures it, it may seem indeed a shame, that any Maid should dye uncured, when there are more Males than Females, that is, an overplus of Husbands to all that can be Wives.

28. In the next place, I conjectured that this stopping of the Stomach might be the Mother, forasmuch as I have heard of many troubled with Mother fits (as they call them) |38| although few returned to have died of them; which conjecture, if it be true, we may then safely say, That the Mother-fits have also increased.

29. I was somewhat taken off from thinking this stopping of the Stomach to be the Mother, because I ghessed rather the Rising of the Lights might be it. For I remembred that some Women, troubled with the Mother-fits, did complain of a choaking in their Throats. Now, as I understand, it is more conceivable, that the Lights or Lungs (which I have heard called The Bellows of the Body) not blowing, that is, neither venting out, nor taking in breath, might rather cause such a Choking, than that the Mother should rise up thither, and do it. For methinks, when a Woman is with Child, there is a greater rising, and yet no such Fits at all.

30. But what I have said of the Rickets and stopping of the Stomach, I do in some measure say of the Rising of the Lights also, viz. that these Risings (be they what they will) have increased much above the general proportion; for in 1629 there were but 44, and in 1660, 249, viz. almost six times as many. |39|

31. Now forasmuch as Rickets appear much in the Overgrowing of Childrens Livers and Spleens (as by the Bills may appear) which surely may cause stopping of the Stomach by squeezing and crowding upon that part. And forasmuch as these Chokings or Risings of the Lights may proceed from the same stuffings, as make the Liver and Spleen to overgrow their due proportion. And lastly, forasmuch as the Rickets, stopping of the Stomach, and rising of the Lights, have all increased together, and in some kind of correspondent proportions; it seems to me that they depend one upon another, And that what is the Rickets in Children, may be the other in more grown Bodies; for surely Children, which recover of the Rickets, may retain somewhat to cause what I have imagined: but of this let the Learned Physicians consider, as I presume they have.

32. I had not medled thus far, but that I have heard, the first hints of the circulation of the Blood were taken from a common Person's wondering what became of all the blood which issued out of the heart, since the heart beats above three thousand times an hour, although but one drop should be pump'd out of it at every stroke. |40|

33. The Stone seemed to decrease: for in 1632, 33, 34, 35, and 36, there died of the Stone and Strangury 254. And in the Years 1655, 56, 57, 58, 59, and 1660, but 250, which numbers, although indeed they be almost equal, yet considering the Burials of the first named five Years were but half those of the later, it seems to be decreased by about one half.

34. Now the Stone and Strangury are Diseases which most men know that feel them, unless it be in some few cases, where (as I have heard Physicians say) a Stone is held up by the Films of the Bladder, and so kept from grating or offending it.

35. The Gout stands much at a stay, that is, it answers the general proportion of Burials; there dies not above one of 1000 of the Gout, although I believe that more dye Gouty. The reason is, because those that have the Gout, are said to be long livers; and therefore, when such dye, they are returned as Aged.

36. The Scurvy hath likewise increased, and that gradually from 12, Anno 1629, to 95, Anno 1660.

37. The Tyssick seems to be quite worn away, but that it is probable the same is entred as Cough or Consumption. |41|

[38]. Agues and Fevers are entred promiscuously, yet in the few Bills wherein they have been distinguished, it appears that not above 1 in 40 of the whole are Agues.

39. The Abortives and Stilborn are about the twentieth part of those that are Christned, and the numbers seemed the same thirty Years ago as now, which shews there were more in proportion in those years than now: or else that in these later years due Accompts have not been kept of the Abortives, as having been buried without notice, and perhaps not in Church-yards.

40. For that there hath been a neglect in the Accompts of the Christnings, is most certain, because until the Year 1642, we find the Burials but equal with the Christnings, or near thereabouts, but in 1648, when the differences in Religion had changed the Government, the Christnings were but two thirds of the Burials. And in the Year 1659, not half, viz. the Burials were 14720 (of the Plague but 36) and the Christnings were but 5670; which great disproportion could be from no other Cause than that abovementioned, forasmuch as the same grew as the Confusions and Changes grew. |42|

41. Moreover, although the Bills give us in Anno 1659, but 5670 Christnings, yet they give us 421 Abortives, and 226 dying in Child-bed; whereas in the Year 1631, when the Abortives were 410, that is, near the number of the Year 1659, the Christnings were 8288. Wherefore by the proportion of Abortives, Anno 1659, the Christnings should have been about 8500: but if we shall reckon by the Women dying in Childbed, of whom a better Accompt is kept than of Stilborns and Abortives, we shall find Anno 1659, there were 226 Childbeds; and Anno 1631, 112, viz. not ½: Wherefore I conceive that the true number of the Christnings, Anno 1659, above double to the 5690 set down in our Bills; that is, about 11500, and then the Christnings will come near the same proportion to the Burials, as hath been observed in former times.

42. In regular Times, when Accompts were well kept, we find that not above three in 200 died in Childbed, and that the number of Abortives was about treble to that of the Women dying in Childbed: from whence we may probably collect, that not one Woman of an hundred (I may say of two hundred) dies in her Labour; forasmuch as there be other Causes of a Womans dying with-|43|in the Month, than the hardness of her Labour.

43. If this be true in these Countries, where Women hinder the facility of their Child-bearing by affected straitening of their Bodies; then certainly in America, where the same is not practised, Nature is little more to be taxed as to Woman, than in Brutes, among whom not one in some thousands do dye of their Deliveries: what I have heard of the Irish women confirms me herein.

44. Before we quite leave this matter, we shall insert the Causes, why the Accompt of Christnings hath been neglected more than that of Burials: one, and the chief whereof, was a Religious Opinion against Baptizing of Infants, either as unlawful, or unnecessary. If this were the only reason, we might by our defects of this kind conclude the growth of this Opinion, and pronounce, that not half the People of England, between the years 1650 and 1660, were convinced of the need of Baptizing.

45. A second Reason was, The scruples which many publick Ministers would make of the worthiness of Parents to have their Children Baptized, which forced such questioned Parents, who did also not believe the necessity of having their Children baptized |44| by such Scruplers, to carry their Children unto such other Ministers, as having performed the thing, had not the Authority or Command of the Register to enter the Names of the baptized.

46. A third Reason was, That a little Fee was to be paid for the Registry[3].

47. Upon the whole matter it is most certain, That the number of Heterodox Believers was very great between the said year 1650 and 1660; and so peevish were they, as not to have the Births of their Children Registred, although thereby the time of their coming of Age might be known, in respect of such Inheritances as might belong unto them; and withal, by such Registring it would have appeared unto what Parish each Child had belonged, in case any of them should happen to want its relief.

48. Of Convulsions there appeared very few, viz. but 52 in the year 1629, which in 1636 grew to 709, keeping about that stay till 1659, though sometimes rising to about 1000.

49. It is to be noted, That from 1629 to 1636, when the Convulsions were but few, the number of Chrysoms and Infants was greater: for in 1629, there were of Chrysoms and Infants 2596, and of the Convulsion 52, |45| viz. of both 2648. And in 1636 there were of Infants 1895, and of the Convulsions 709; in both 2604, by which it appears, that this difference is likely to be only a confusion in the Accounts.

50. Moreover, we find that for these later years, since 1636, the total of Convulsions and Chrysoms added together are much less, viz. by about 400 or 500 per Annum, than the like Totals from 1629 to 36, which makes me think, that Teeth also were thrust in under the Title of Chrysoms and Infants, inasmuch as in the said years, from 1629 to 1636, the number of Worms and Teeth wants by above 400 per Annum of what we find in following years. |46|


  1. Cromwell's act of 24 August, 1653, provided for the election by each parish of a parish registrar, who might take "for every Birth of Childe, Four pence and no more; and for every Death, Four pence and no more: And for Publications, Marriages, Births or Burials of poor people who live upon Alms, nothing shall be taken," Scobell, ii. 236. In most cases the old parish clerk was elected registrar (Christie, 140), and in London the parish clerks may have collected their fees through the searchers.
  2. "The author, going ultra crepidam, has attributed to the motion of the moon in her orbit all the tremors which she gets from a shaky telescope." De Morgan, Budget of Paradoxes, 68.
  3. See p. 356 note.