Page:EB1911 - Volume 03.djvu/1013

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but pointed humour gradually led to the coining of a new word, “barrelling,” and his literary and oratorical reputation grew apace. Whether he was writing miscellaneous essays or law-books, his characteristic style prevailed, and his books on copyright and on trusts were novelties indeed among legal textbooks, no less sparkling than his literary Obiter Dicta. A second series of the latter appeared in 1887. Res Judicatae in 1892 and various other volumes followed, for he was in request among publishers and editors, and his easy charm of style and acute grasp of interesting detail gave him a front place among contemporary men of letters. Mr Birrell was first married in 1878, but his wife died next year, and in 1888 he married Mrs Lionel Tennyson, daughter of the poet Frederick Locker (Locker-Lampson). At the general election of 1900 he preferred to contest the N.E. division of Manchester rather than retain his seat in Fifeshire, but was defeated. He did valuable service, however, to his party by presiding over the Liberal Publication Department, and at the general election of 1906 he was returned for a division of Bristol. He had been included in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s cabinet, and as minister for education he was responsible for the education bill which was the chief government measure in their first session. But the prolonged controversy over the bill, and its withdrawal in the autumn owing to the refusal of the government to accept modifications made by the House of Lords in the denominational interest, made his retention of that office impossible, and he was transferred (January 1907) to the post of chief secretary for Ireland, which he subsequently retained when Mr Asquith became prime minister in 1908. In the session of 1907 he introduced an Irish Councils bill, a sort of half-way house to Home Rule; but it was unexpectedly repudiated by a Nationalist convention in Dublin and the bill was promptly withdrawn. His prestige as a minister, already injured by these two blows, suffered further during the autumn and winter from the cattle-driving agitation in Ireland, which he at first feebly criticized and finally strongly denounced, but which his refusal to utilize the Crimes Act made him powerless to stop by the processes of the “ordinary law”; and the scandal arising out of the theft of the Dublin crown jewels in the autumn of 1907 was a further blot on the Irish administration. On the other hand his scheme for a reconstituted Irish Roman Catholic university was very favourably received, and its acceptance in 1908 did much to restore his reputation for statesmanship.

BIRTH (a word common in various forms to Teutonic languages from the root of the verb “to bear”), the act of bringing forth a child, or the fact of its being born; so also a synonym for descent or lineage. In law, a child not actually born, but en ventre sa mère, is supposed for many purposes to be actually born, and may take any benefit to which it would have been entitled if actually born, i.e. it may take as legatee or devisee, or even as next-of-kin or heir, but none of these conditions will take effect, unless the child is born alive (see Medical Jurisprudence). The given year of age of a child is gained at the first instant of the day preceding the birthday, and no account is taken of parts of a day, e.g. a child born at 11.59 on the night of the 2nd-3rd of May 1900, would be of age the first moment after midnight of the 1st-2nd of May 1921. In English law, by the Offences against the Person Act of 1861, it is a misdemeanour punishable by a maximum of two years’ imprisonment with hard labour, to endeavour to conceal the birth of a child by any secret disposition of its dead body, whether the child died before, after or at its birth.

Registration of Births.—The registration of baptisms is said to have been first introduced by Thomas Cromwell when vicar-general in 1538, but it is only in comparatively modern times that registration has been fully carried out. The law relating to the registration of births was consolidated for England by the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1874, and for Ireland by the Births and Deaths Registration Act (Ireland) 1880. In Scotland it depends upon the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1854, as amended by later acts. Previously to the passing of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1836, the records of the births were compiled from parish registers, which were formerly a part of the ecclesiastical organization, and continued to be attached, more or less, to the church till the passing of the act of 1836. That act provided a far more complete machinery than that before existing for the exact record of all births. The new system relieved the clergy from all functions previously thrown upon them, and finally, after improvement by subsequent acts, was made compulsory in 1874. The act of 1836 established a general register office in London, presided over by an officer called the registrar-general, with general superintendence over everything relating to registration. The registrar-general is appointed under the Great Seal. Every poor-law union or parish is divided into districts, each of which is called by a distinct name, and is in charge of a registrar, who is a local officer appointed by the guardians of the union. Over each union is a superintendent registrar, who has supervision over the registrars within his district. The office of superintendent registrar is usually filled by the clerk to the guardians of the union. He receives quarterly from every registrar within his district certified copies of the births registered by him and having verified their correctness, transmits them to the registrar-general. He takes charge of the register-books within the district, when filled. Every registrar is required to inform himself carefully of every birth which happens within his sub-district and register the same, with the various particulars required, according to the forms laid down for the purpose. It is the duty of the father or mother of any child born alive, or in their default, then of the occupier of the house (if he knows of the birth) or of any person present at the birth or having charge of the child, to give to the registrars, within forty-two days after the day of the birth, information of the particulars required to be registered concerning the birth, and in the presence of the registrar to sign the register. Every person required to give information concerning any birth who wilfully refuses to answer questions put to him by the registrar concerning the particulars required to be registered, or who refuses or fails without reasonable excuse to give information of any birth, becomes liable to a penalty of forty shillings. After three months a birth can only be registered in the presence of the superintendent registrar, and after the expiration of twelve months a birth can only be registered with the written authority of the registrar-general. In the case of an illegitimate child, no person as the father of such child is required to give information, nor is the name of any one entered in the register as the father of such a child, unless at the joint request of the mother and the person who acknowledges himself to be the father. An additional duty is placed upon the father by the Notification of Births Act 1907. By that act it is the duty of the father of a child if he is actually residing in the house where the birth takes place at the time of its occurrence to give notice in writing of the birth to the medical officer of health of the district in which the child is born within thirty-six hours of the birth. The same duty is also imposed upon any person in attendance (i.e. medical practitioner or midwife) upon the mother at the time of or within six hours after the birth. The medical officer of health is then in a position to take such steps, by advice or otherwise, as may, in his opinion lead to the prevention of infant mortality. Notice under the act is given by posting a prepaid letter or postcard to the medical officer of health giving the necessary information. Failure to give notice entails on summary conviction a penalty not exceeding twenty shillings. The act is optional to local authorities, but may be enforced within any area by the Local Government Board. By the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1874 and the Merchant Shipping Act 1894, commanding officers of ships trading to or from British ports must, under a penalty, transmit returns of all births occurring on board their ships to the registrar-general of shipping, who furnishes certified copies of such returns to the registrars-general for England, Scotland and Ireland. These returns of births (and deaths) constitute the “Marine Register Book.”

Registration is very efficiently carried out in practically every European country, with the exceptions of Turkey and Russia. In the United States laws requiring registration vary in the different states.