MAIDSTONE is ſituated upon the banks of the river Medway, nearly in the center of the county of Kent. The country around it is remarkably fine, highly cultivated, and exceedingly rich and fertile; and, from its continual diverſity of ſurface, affords as great a variety of pleaſing views and beautiful landſcapes as can well be conceived. The ſoil is dry, firm, and rocky, abounds with excellent water, nor are there any putrid marſhes or ſtagnant pools within or without to corrupt its atmoſphere. The air is therefore pure and ſalubrious; and a lofty ridge of hills ſerves as a ſcreen againſt the unwholſome vapours and pernicious blaſts of the north and north eaſt.
The population, and of courſe the trade and proſperity, of the town ſeem to have been greatly advanced, during the preſent century. The inhabitants were numbered in the year 1695, by the Reverend Mr. Innys, with a minuteneſs and particularity which deſcended to the prefeſſion, ſex, and age of each individual; and there were at that time, in the town and pariſh, 3676 perſons; in March 1781 a very careful, and, there is reaſon to believe, not inaccurate ſurvey again was taken, when the number was 5739, conſequently an increaſe of 2063 inhabitants in the courſe of about 86 years; from a ſtrict and fair examination of the [Page 4] pariſh regiſter, it appears, at leaſt with a ſtrong degree of probability, that the greater part of this addition of more than half the original number has been made during the laſt go years; the very period when ingenious and ſpeculative men have believed and aſſerted that the depopulation of Great Britain has been uncommonly rapid, and that we have as it were been ſinking faſt into abſolute annihilation.
Before we proceed to our intended obſervations, it may not be amiſs to illuſtrate the advantages to be derived from accurate regiſters of mortality in the words of Dr. Percival. "The eſtabliſhment of a judicious and accurate regiſter of births and burials, in every town and pariſh, would be attended with the moſt important advantages, medical, political, and moral. By ſuch an inſtitution, the increaſe or decreaſe of certain diſeaſes; the comparative healthineſs of different ſituations, climates and ſeaſons; the influence of particular trades and manufactures on longevity; with many other curious circumſtances, not more intereſting to phyſicians, than beneficial to mankind, would be aſcertained with tolerable preciſion. In a political view, exact regiſters of human mortality are of ſtill greater conſequence, as the number of people, and progreſs of population in the kingdom, may in the moſt eaſy and unexceptionable manner be deduced from them. They are the foundation likewiſe of all calculations concerning the values of aſſurances on lives, reverſionary payments, and of every ſcheme for providing annuities for widows and perſons in old age; in a moral light alſo ſuch Tables are of evident utility, as the increaſe of vice or virtue may be determined, by obſerving the proportion which the diſeaſes ariſing from luxury, intemperance, and other ſimilar cauſes bear to the reſt; and in what particular places diſtempers [Page 5] of this claſs are found to be moſt fatal." Percival's eſſays, vol. 2d.
The pariſh regiſters of this kingdom, indeed, have not generally been kept with that degree of minute and accurate diſcrimination neceſſary for all the uſeful and curious deductions here ſuggeſted, nor can it be pretended that that of Maidſtone in particular has. It appears, however, that the inſertion of baptiſms, marriages, and burials in it, after the common and ordinary way, has been always ſo extremely regular as to afford, in conjunction with actual ſurveys at different periods, much pleaſing and ſatisfactory information. Nay it may be truly added, that during the laſt 20 or 30 years, it has ſome peculiar recommendation, which will be apparent from the tables ſubjoined. Should the matter engage the attention of the medical gentlemen of the town (who are certainly beſt able to aſſiſt and direct in an undertaking of this kind) it will probably for the future have every requiſite diſtinction, and be annually publiſhed as regular bills of mortality. The cities of Norwich and Carliſle, the towns of Northampton, Eccles, and ſome others have ſet the example. Maidſtone need not be aſhamed to follow; as it will appear, that, in ſome reſpects, ſhe is little inferior to any, and greatly ſuperior to moſt of them. In the mean time, and till the regiſter acquires this deſirable perfection, we will make the beſt uſe we can of it, in its preſent ſtate.[Page 6]
The ſlighteſt inſpection of this table ſuggeſts many curious concluſions. The firſt 30 years, that is, during the reigns of James the 2d, of William the 3d, and of queen Ann, we obſerve that both the baptiſms and burials, and of courſe the number of people were conſiderably diminiſhed; notwithſtanding that the thread manufacture, which is now dwindled to almoſt nothing, was then in its moſt flouriſhing ſtate.
From this aera quite through the reign of George the 1ſt, and to the latter end of George the 2d, the baptiſms were continually increaſing. The burials however advanced in a much greater proportion, and at intervals with ſingular inequality, inſomuch that in the 10 years, beginning with 1732 they were the more numerous by above 200, or almoſt one 6th of the whole. We cannot therefore certainly conclude that the inhabitants were much augmented, but only that the mortality of the town, from whatever cauſe, was greatly increaſed. From that time to the preſent, the baptiſms have been almoſt continually gaining on the burials, till in the 10 years, now immediately paſt, they have got nearly 200 before them, which probably indicates the double advantage of multiplied numbers and diminiſhed unhealthineſs. Upon caſting an eye over the annual liſts of burials we ſee, that, before the modern improved practice of inoculation was introduced every 5 or 6 years the average number was almoſt conſtantly doubled; and it is found upon enquiry, that at ſuch intervals nearly the ſmall pox uſed to repeat its dreadful periodical viſits. The numbers which died of this diſtemper were not particularly noticed in the regiſter till the year 1753; when they amounted to 70 perſons out of the 209 that died in that year, and 102 out of 223 in 1760, and 54 out of 181 in 1766.[Page 8]
Prior to theſe inſtances it broke out in the year 1734, and twice more in the courſe of about 11 years immediately ſubſequent to that; at each of which times it raged with greater violence and made much more terrible havock than in either of the periods above-mentioned; we may therefore very fairly conclude that in the ſhort ſpace of 30 years it deprived the town of between 5 and 600 of its inhabitants; whereas in the 15 or 16 years that have elapſed ſince the general inoculation it has occaſioned the death of only about 60. Ample and ſatisfactory evidence of the vaſt benefit the town has received from this ſalutary invention! And it appears, with a high degree of probability, upon proofs ſimilar to the above, that, from the ſame cauſes, in the kingdom at large not leſs than 4 or 500,000 lives were loſt in the former of the periods now ſtated, and that nearly half that number has been ſaved in the latter.
In the year 1695 the inhabitants were only, as before obſerved, 3676; the annual burials on an average of 10 years immediately preceding were 147; and the annual mortality 1 in 25 of the whole population. In 1781 the people were 5739; the annual burials, upon an average of the ſame number of years, taken in the ſame relation, only 152, and the proportionate mortality about 1 in 37⅖; of courſe a diminution thereof has happened of more than a 4th ſince the former aera. This may perhaps in ſome ſmall degree be aſcribed to the greater care and cleanlineſs obſerved in our priſons; the bettered condition of many of our inhabitants as well as houſes; the improvements in phyſic and ſurgery, and the generally more ſkilful treatment of various diſorders; but principally and chiefly to that diſtinguiſhed bleſſing of providence inoculation.[Page 9]
This table exhibits the degrees of mortality in a variety of large towns in different parts of the world, and it preſents an advantageous idea of the healthineſs of Maidſtone compared with moſt of them. Of the whole number indeed there is only the city of Cheſter, which ſurpaſſes it in this reſpect; while moſt of the others are left far behind. Thoſe mark'd thus * are deduced from very late ſurveys, and reſt on the authority of the clergymen of thoſe places reſpectively.[Page 10]
From this table we may conjecture the progreſs of population during the laſt 20 years, in the prodigious increaſe both of marriages and baptiſms. The annual average of baptiſms for the 5 years beginning with 1762 was only, 143; but for the 5 years now immediately paſt it has been 188⅕; the marriages in the former period were annualy 44⅘; in the latter 55⅗. Making the one or the other the ſtandard of computation, or both united, the town ſeems to have acquired almoſt ⅕ of its preſent inhabitants ſince the year 1761; and after every fair deduction it can ſcarcely be leſs than 6 or 800 perſons. And it may here be obſerved that the marriage regiſter, while ſupported by correſpondent baptiſms, [Page 11] is at once a preſumptive evidence of the paſt and the preſent, and a faithful promiſe with regard to the future.
The marriage regiſter conſidered in another point of view bears very honourable teſtimony in favour of the inhabitants. One of the beſt and moſt accurate of the French writers on the ſubject of population eſtimates the average proportion of marriages to the whole number of people in France at about 1 to 120; and in the city of Paris at 1 to almoſt 160. When it is conſidered what multitudes their eccleſiaſtical inſtitutions abſurdly condemn to celibacy, we may naturally ſuppoſe that the proportion with us is much higher. By the following table we ſee that in Maidſtone, it is as 1 to 103; which is not only higher than the French average, with all the prodigious advantage derived from [...]he country pariſhes, but ſuperior to moſt other towns of ſimilar deſcription, though inferior ſize, even in England.[Page 12]
From a view of table I. we ſee that the number of marriages for the 10 years beginning with 1752 were conſiderably leſs than the 10 years immediately preceding. Now this was the very period in which the marriage act took place, and this decreaſe of weddings may at firſt ſight ſuggeſt a concluſion greatly to its diſadvantage; and induce one to ſuppoſe that it has operated as a powerful reſtraint upon matrimony; but nothing can be more fallacious than ſuch a ſuppoſition. The marriage act has doubtleſs promoted regularity and order, has ſometimes reſtrained folly and prevented miſery; but ſcarcely a ſhadow of evidence has yet been produced, that it has at all obſtructed judicious connections, [Page 13] encouraged illicit intercourſe, or diminiſhed legal population. The diminution of marriages in the inſtance before us, evidently aroſe from hence. A ſurrogate conſtantly reſided in the town. Before the marriage act he had often no doubt influence ſufficient to engage the parties to whom he granted a licence, to grant him in return the privilege of marrying them. But this was afterwards effectually prevented by their being obliged to have the ſolemnity performed in the pariſh to which one of them belonged; hence the ſurrogate miſſed the additional advantage of the marriage ſee, and the weddings in the town were immediately diminiſhed but unqueſtionably they are to be found in the regiſters of the neighbouring pariſhes. For taking a vaſt number and variety of pariſhes of every ſize, ſituation, and deſcription, it appears that the aggregate proportion of marriages and burials has been conſiderably greater ſince the marriage act took place than before; which if it be not abſolute demonſtration, is at leaſt ſtrong preſumptive evidence, that inſtead of diſcouraging matrimony, it has greatly promoted it, and been a powerful check to licentiouſneſs.[Page 14]
We here ſee that the ratio of marriages to baptiſms and burials jointly, in the former period, was about as 1 to 6 ¼; in the latter nearly as 1 to 5 ⅘; of marriages to baptiſms alone, in the former period, as 1 to 3 20/105; in the latter, as 1 to 3 10/100; of marriages to burials alone, in the former period, as 1 to 3 [...]7/100; in the latter, as 1 to 2 7 [...]/100. The faireſt concluſion from this, is, that the wiſe and judicious regulations of the above-mentioned act have greatly increaſed the number and proportion of marriages by rendering it more difficult for any perſons to enjoy the reputation of matrimony without being really and actually married.
A very ſtriking circumſtance offers itſelf in the regiſter of burials. By the ſurvey of 1781 it appears that the number of maies was 417 fewer than the females, and yet on an average of the laſt 10 years, the male burials were annually about 8 more than the female; and it will be found upon making the requiſite computations that only 1 in more than 40 have annually died of the females, and almoſt 1 in 32 of the males; and the ſame proportion has probably held throughout the 100 years, as the total of male deaths are to the female nearly as 14 to 13. What can this prodigious difference be owing to? Some allowance is doubtleſs to be made for the great number of female ſervants who come principally from the country, at perhaps the moſt healthy period of human life, and who by the late ſurvey alone amounted to 375 of the 417 by which the females exceed the males. But this circumſtance will not account for the 5th part of the diſproportion before us.
Both French and Engliſh philoſophers ſeem to concur in opinion that women are naturally longer lived than men. But it may perhaps be doubted whether this be founded upon evidence ſufficiently various and extenſive. From [Page 16] mere analogical reaſoning juſt the contrary might be concluded. Men are a greater number of years in coming to their full perfection, both in body and mind; and it is a general law of nature, that by how much longer any animal or vegetable is in growing, by ſo much the longer it is in decaying. Men are alſo of a conſtitution more firm and robuſt; nor are they liable to an equal number and variety of diſeaſes: On every account therefore they appear fitted for a more extended duration; and agreeable to this obvious inference, it is a wellknown and generally acknowledged fact, that ſome men have lived to a greater age than even any women have done.
The very ingenious Dr. Heyſham of Carliſle has remark'd "that the conſtitutions of males are fitted for laborious exertions, and that their muſcular and nervous fibres may therefore be ſuppoſed to become ſtiff, rigid, and incapable of performing the functions neceſſary to health and life ſooner than thoſe of females, both on account of their original texture and the friction which muſt neceſſarily occur from laborious exerciſe." But this reaſoning, however plauſible, cannot perhaps be admitted; becauſe in country pariſhes, where the laborious exertions of the men are beyond compariſon the greateſt, the difference reſpecting the mortality we are ſpeaking of is vaſtly the leaſt; and ſome times likewiſe much in ſavour of the male inhabitants; as is eminently the caſe in the pariſh of Brightling, in Suſſex; and many other inſtances ſimilar to it might eaſily be produced.
Men, it is true, are ſometimes expoſed to greater dangers and more numerous hardſhips than women; yet excepting ſoldiers, failors, fiſhermen, colliers, and miners, and probably a few manufacturers, this circumſtance has a very confined and trivial operation.[Page 17]
There is one cauſe ſtill behind univerſally allowed to operate, and which alone perhaps is funy adequate to the effect. Men are in general eſpecially in large and populous towns, more intemperate than women, both in eating and drinking, and are likewiſe more commonly chargeable with every other irregularly and licentiouſneſs of conduct. To theſe therefore may their greater mortality be moſt frequently imputed; and thus this ſingular circumſtance of regiſter evidence becomes a ſerious topic of moral admonition.
This table ſhews the number of deaths, in each month and ſeaſon for two periods of 20 years each, the firſt beginning with year 1682, the ſecond with 1761; and it is wonderful to obſerve the perfect correſpondence, not only between the mortality of the reſpective ſeaſons in the two periods, but almoſt of the reſpective months. That ſeaſon which is moſt fatal to human life in one period is exactly ſo in the other. In this melancholy pre-eminence winter takes the lead, autumn follows next, then comes ſpring and ſummer laſt of all. The ſkilful phyſician perhaps might deduce from hence many curious, uſeſeful, and important concluſions; but the moſt ſuperficial inſpector cannot but remark that the great diſadvantage of our ſituation ſeems a deficiency of heat. For beſides the diſtinctions juſt now made reſpecting the ſeaſons, it is apparent that of any two months immediately contiguous to each other, the months of December and January in each period have the moſt numerous deaths; July and Auguſt the feweſt; the former couple, in the uſual courſe of things, have the greateſt degree of cold, the latter, of heat.
With regard to the great increaſe of population above demonſtrated, we need not indulge the gloomy idea that it has ariſen from the depopulation of the country around. On the contrary, very few pariſhes excepted, it has multiplied its people in full proportion. The increaſe of the one has perhaps been at once the cauſe and the conſequence of the increaſe of the other. Allowing for extraordinary caſes, where ever you have a large and flouriſhing town, you will ſoon have a well cultivated and populous country, and where you have a well cultivated and populous country, you will ſoon have a large and flouriſhing town; and it is amazing how the oppoſite apprehenſion could ever have become [Page 19] ſo generally prevalent as it has. Their mutual riches encourage their mutual induſtry; their mutual induſtry ſupply their mutual wants; the wealth of the town flows into the country, and the products of the country return into the town; their communication is eagerly rendered more and more eaſy by every poſſible means; new roads are made, or old ones improved; fens and marſhes are drained waſte grounds and commons are incloſed, manured and cultivated; bridges are built, rivers are navigated canals are cut more hands are employed, and every quarter becomes at once more populous, more healthy and animated. This in ſome meaſure and with the exception of a few particulars has been the caſe with Maidſtone and its vicinity for the laſt 20 or 30 years; but it has been ſo in the fulleſt and ampleſt degree with reſpect to more than half the kingdom; and it may be ſafely affirmed upon ſatisfactory evidence, that notwithſtanding the temporary and local checks we have received from the burdens of the preſent war. England has multiplied her numbers almoſt twice as much in the ſhort period now mentioned, as France has do [...]e ſince the beginning of this century; and if we have but ſpirit and reſolution to carry us through the difficulties into which we are plunged, ſo as to ſecure us a ſafe and honorable peace, it is not to be doubted but that our population, and its natural concomitants trade, wealth, and proſperity, will again advance with as great or greater rapidity than ever.[Page 20]
It muſt here be obſerved, that in the ſurvey of 1781, were comprehended the women and children belonging to 4 or 500 ſoldiers then quartered in the town, together with all other tranſient and temporary lodgers. Of the former of theſe denominations we have now not any, and the latter are entirely unnoticed. It may alſo be remarked, that the time of the year at which this latter enumeration has been performed, is rather unfavourable for our numbers appearing to advantage; as ſome of our people are doubtleſs abſent in different parts of the circumjacent country, upon harveſt-work and other labours of the ſeaſon; a few we have unqueſtionably furniſhed to the public ſervice of the kingdom, both in the army and navy; and the [Page 22] peculiar unhealthineſs of the laſt winter and ſpring, as well as the general hardſhip and preſſure of the times muſt each have ſomewhat checked our growth. Yet, notwithſtanding all theſe diſadvantages, our inhabitants now amount to 5755, which is 16 more than they were in March 1781; and after due attention to the ſeveral conſiderations now ſuggeſted, our actual permanent population can ſcarcely have been leſs augmented during the laſt 18 months, than 100 perſons.
To the evidence already adduced, in proof of the extraordinary healthineſs of the town, may be added, from the preſent ſurvey, the high proportion of children under 15 and of men and women above 70 years of age, as no unequivocal teſtimony of the ſame pleaſing fact. In the city of Cheſter, the ſalubrity of which has with juſtice been conſidered as very highly diſtinguiſhed, the number of perſons in the year 1774 above 70, was about 1 in 23½ of the total population; in Carliſle in the year 1779, in 29⅓; whereas in Maidſtone it is ſo high as nearly 1 in 20⅚. Again, the ratio of children under 15 in the city of Cheſter at the above-mentioned period, to the total number of inhabitants, was about 1 to 3 [...]; in Maidſtone it is more than 1 to 3 [...]; a ſuperiority, it may fairly be preſumed, which the diminution of the number between 15 and 70, from the peculiar circumſtances of the times, can by no means deprive us of.
The number of reputed diſſenters from the church of England, of every denomination in the town and pariſh, if not exactly are very nearly as follows: thoſe uſually ſtiled Preſbyterians 209—Baptiſts 41—Independents 42—Methodiſts 138—Quakers 2—In all 437.