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National Progress from 1820 to 1837


National Progress from 1820 to 1837 - Population - Enumerations of the People; their Utility - The Irish Census of 1831 - Emigration - Rates of Increase - Advance in the well-being of Society - Employments of the People - Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce - Number of Males twenty years old and upwards - Relative Numbers employed in Agriculture and Manufactures, &c. - How the People lived: Food, Clothing, Dwellings - Enormous Increase of Consumption: Timber, Cotton, Wool - Home Production of Food: Difference between England and Ireland - Extent of the National Resources - Exports - Property Tax: Amount of Insurances - Improved House Accommodation - Cotton: its Production and Supply - The Spinning Jenny and the Mule - Power Looms - The Lace Manufacture - Progress of the Cotton Trade: its Social Effects - Increased Demand for Labour - Elevation of the Working Classes: General Prosperity - Indebtedness of England to Inventors - Foreign Competition - The Hosiery Manufacture - The Bobinet Manufacture - The Silk Trade - Evil of Protection - Smuggling - The Woollen Manufacture: its History - Foreign Competition - Progress of the Trade - British Wool - The Woollen Manufacture in Ireland - The Linen Manufacture in Ireland, Scotland, and England: its extraordinary Improvement and Progress - Employment of Children in Factories.
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The most natural order in which to describe the progress of the nation appears to be, first, to exhibit the growth and increase of society in point of population; secondly, the material resources by which its development has been effected and its strength sustained; thirdly, the agencies by which those material resources have been produced and made available; fourthly, the means by which the intellectual, moral, and religious life of, society have been maintained, the civilising influences by which it has been elevated and refined, the spiritual influences by which its virtues have been fostered and invigorated, and by which it has been guided and supported in the path of duty, and the manners and customs by which the age has been characterised. In pursuance of this method, therefore, we shall now proceed to trace the social progress of the United Kingdom from the accession of George IV. in 1820 to the accession of queen Victoria in 1837. As to the two reigns that we have passed over, they will be more conveniently united for our present purpose, inasmuch as the great movements by which society has been mainly affected were in a great measure common to both reigns, and could not be treated separately without in some respects marring the general effect.

It is a singular fact, and by no means creditable to the " collective wisdom of the nation," that we have had no authentic enumeration of the people till the beginning of the present century. Prior to that time the amount of our population was a matter of conjecture. Estimates were formed, it is true; but they were based upon defective data, and could not be relied upon as even an approximation to the truth. Accordingly, different writers came to different conclusions. Dr. Price, for example, endeavoured to make it appear that there had been a gradual decline in the population of England since the revolution of 1688 till 1780, when he wrote upon the subject. His opinions were combated by Arthur Young, who inferred, from the progress of improvements in agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, that there must have been an increase in population. Other writers replied to the arguments of Dr. Price, contending that the returns on which he relied were fallacious, and that his conclusions were illogical. The result, however, of the census of 1800 showed that the population of England had made progress through the whole of the last century, with the exception of the first ten years, when it seemed to have declined. Mr. Finlayson, the celebrated actuary, drew up a statement founded on the returns of births, marriages, and deaths, giving an estimate of the population of England at decennial periods, from which it appears that in the year 1700 it was 5,134,516, and in 1800 it was 9,187,176. The census has been regularly taken ever since at decennial periods, namely in 1811, 1821 (when Ireland was included for the first time), 1831, 1841, 1851, and so on. These enumerations have been of the greatest importance in throwing light upon social progress. As a general result it was found that during the present century the population of the United Kingdom increased with unprecedented rapidity, specially in the cities and towns; that the duration of human life has been very much extended; and that the industrial character of the community has changed. Manufacturing pursuits having obtained an ascendancy over those connected with agriculture, population increased more rapidly in Ireland than in Scotland, but not so fast as in England. The less rapid augmentation of the population in Scotland has been ascribed to the consolidation of farms, the emigration of the people, and the crowded state of the dwellings.

The diminished rate of mortality is one of the most gratifying facts deduced from vital statistics. In 1780 the annual rate of mortality in England and Wales was 1 in 40. In 1801 it was 1 in 48, and in 1830 it was 1 in 58. There were fewer births in a family, but, owing to better care and nurture, and better sanitary conditions, a greater number arrived at maturity. At the beginning of the century one-third more children died of convulsions than in the reign of William IV. Several diseases that had been most destructive, such as small-pox, leprosy, scurvy, colic, and rickets, had been greatly mitigated, or wholly disappeared. Malignant fevers were less fatal in their influence, and from the visitation of plagues which once swept off populations by wholesale, the nation had been happily for a long time exempt.

The population of the United Kingdom, as found at the enumerations of 1821, 1831, and 1841, was as follows: -

Population - 1821 - 1831 - 1841
England - 11.261.437 - 13.091.005 - 15.000.154
Wales - 717.438 - 806.182 - 911.603
Scotland - 2.093.456 - 2.365.114 - 2.620.184
Army, Navy, &c - 319,300 - 277,017 - 188,453
Great Britain - 14,391,631 - 16,539,318 - 18,720,394
Ireland - 6,801,827 - 7,767,401 - 7,767,401
Army, Navy, &c., Ireland - - - - - 21,473
Islands in the British Seas. - 89,508 - 103,710 - 124,040
United Kingdom - 21,282,966 - 24,410,429 - 27,041,031

The increase in Ireland between 1831 and 1841 is at the rate of only 5 1/4 per cent., while in the preceding period of ten years, it was very nearly 14 1/5 per cent. This great difference between the two periods was referred by the census commissioners to emigration and other causes. The records of the custom house showed that the number of emigrants from the ports of Ireland in the ten years preceding 1841 were 214,047; they add 152,738 emigrating from Liverpool, and 10 per cent, more on account of imperfect returns. This makes the whole number 403,459. The population of Ireland was further kept down by the numbers who continually sought a living in England and Scotland. The number of Irish born persons living in other parts of the United Kingdom at the enumeration of 1841 was 419,256; while the residents in Ireland not native born were only 340,608, causing a difference in the population of 384,648 persons, besides the natural increase there from during ten years. A further allowance of 210,473 was claimed for the army and the families of soldiers, as well as for the recruits furnished to the army of the state and the East India Company, said to have amounted to 390,179. If all these persons were added to the number of people found living in Ireland in 1841, they would make up a population of 8,774,049, and would exhibit an increase of 12 per cent. Still, with all these additions and allowances, the rate of increase falls short of the returns for the previous ten years, for which no sufficient natural causes have been assigned. But the difference has been satisfactorily accounted for by the circumstances connected with the enumeration of the people in 1831. It was a time of great political excitement, and there was a strong desire in connection with the agitation for parliamentary reform, to make the population appear as large as possible, in order that the element of numbers might have its full effect in increasing the number of Irish representatives. To this motive for exaggeration was added another not less powerful, in the unwise arrangement made for paying the enumerators employed in proportion to the numbers returned. Making a reasonable deduction on these grounds, it will be found that the rate of increase from 1821 to 1831 was not really greater than in the following decennial period.

However that may be, the result of the foregoing table shows that the population of Great Britain and Ireland, which in 1821 amounted to 21,193,458, was at the enumeration in 1831, 24,306,719, showing an actual increase in the numbers of 3,113,261 souls in ten years; the per-centage rate of increase during that interval being 14.68, or very nearly 1½ per cent, per annum; and that at the last enumeration in 1841 the numbers were 26,916,991, being an increase since 1831 of 2,610,272, or 10.74 per cent., which is very little beyond 1 per cent, per annum. Comparing 1841 with 1821, it appears that the increase in the twenty years was in England 33.20, or 1.66 per cent, per annum; Wales, 27.06, or 1.35; Scotland, 25.16, or 1.25; Ireland, 20.50, or 1.02; the United Kingdom, 27.06, or 1.35 per cent, per annum. For the purpose of comparison with the corresponding number of years in the present century, it may be stated that the increase during thirty years, from 1700 to 1800, is computed to have amounted to 1,959,590, or 27.1 per cent., while the actual increase in England and Wales, in the same space of time between 1801 and 1831, as found by numeration, reached to 5,024,207 souls, or 56.6 per cent.

Another instructive fact, indicative of social progress, deserves to be mentioned. It appears that in each division of the kingdom there was a larger proportion of the population between the ages of fifteen and fifty in 1841 than in 1821. In each 10,000 persons living there were between those ages -

Place - In 1821. - In 1841, - Increase.
England - 4.690 - 5.041 - 351
Wales - 4.536 - 4.785 - 249
Scotland - 4.749 - 4.982 - 233
Ireland - 4.901 - 4.921 - 20
This index of social improvement pointed to a less favourable result in Ireland than in England.

Category - England - Ireland
Children under 15 years - 3.605 - 4.041
Adults between fifteen and fifty - 5.041 - 4.921
Elderly people between fifty and sixty - 642 - 606
Total - 10.000 - 10.000

Having thus ascertained the number of the people, and the rate of increase at different periods, and arrived at the conclusion that there has been a steady advance in the well-being of society during the present century, it is natural to inquire in the next place how the people were occupied, by what employment they supported themselves, and augmented their comfort and enjoyment. In pursuing this inquiry, we shall find that had the people been dependent upon land for their support, they could not have increased in the same proportion, nor have been nearly so happy, and that the secret of our superior national wealth lies in our manufactures and commerce. We shall see this very clearly by comparing the purely agricultural counties of England with the manufacturing districts. Thus, the increase during the ten years ending 1841 was in Buckingham only 6.4 per cent; in Cumberland, 4.9; in Devon, 7.8; in Dorset, 9.9; in Essex, 8.6; in Hereford, 2.4; in Norfolk, 5.7; in Oxford, 6.2; in Suffolk, 6.3; in Westmoreland, 2.5; and in the North Riding of York, 7 per cent. To this almost stationary condition of the purely agricultural districts the manufacturing counties present a striking contrast. In Chester, the increase was 18 3 per cent.; in Durham, 27.7; in Lancaster, 24.7; in Middlesex, 16; in Monmouth, 36.9; in Stafford, 24.3; in Warwick, 19*3; and in the West Riding of York, 18.2.

A very instructive point of comparison is the relative increase of different classes of occupations in the decennial period from 1831 to 1841. In arranging and analysing the census returns of different periods, Mr. Rickman rendered valuable service to the country; but it is to be regretted that he did not attach due importance to the matter of age, and that having obtained the ages of persons living in 1821, he was contented at the next enumeration with ascertaining the number of males twenty years of age and upwards, assuming that the proportionate ages in any country must be considered invariable, and that when once ascertained as they had been in 1821, it must be a needless labour to collect them in future. " How ill- founded in fact this assumption was, has been proved by the returns of 1841, and indeed it is surprising how a mind so acute as was that of Mr. Rickman could have formed the belief that amid constantly varying circumstances of health and disease, abundance and scarcity, war and peace, to say nothing of emigration and other minor disturbing causes, this most significant indication of the condition of the people should alone remain unchanged. At the enumeration of 1821, which, according to Mr. Rickman, should exhibit the proportions at all times of the ages of the population, it appeared that the number of males twenty years of age and upwards living in England was 2,424 in each 10,000 of the population. This proportion was increased in 1831 to 2,444 in 10,000, and in 1841 to 2,597 in that number. Whether the maximum proportion has yet been reached, it is not possible to say, neither is it possible to determine what is the proportion which, under the ordinary conditions of society, would be maintained. A state of war which selects its victims for the most part from among the adult male population would inevitably change the proportion; and it is no doubt one result of the peace so long maintained in Europe that the number of adult males now bears so much larger a proportion to the aggregate population than it bore in 1821, a few years after the termination of one of the most bloody wars that ever stained the annals of history."

A comparative return of the commissioners includes males only, ages twenty years and upwards, and exhibits the following results. The number of occupiers and labourers in agriculture had decreased in that period from 1,251,751 to 1,215,264; but the commissioners explained this result by supposing that numerous farm servants had been returned in 1841 as domestic servants instead of as agricultural labourers. Persons engaged in commerce, trade, and manufactures had increased from 1,572,292 to 2,039,409 (or 29.7 percent.); capitalists, bankers, professional, and other educated men, from 216,263 to 286,175 (or 32.3 per cent.); labourers employed in labour not agricultural had decreased from 611,744 to 610,157; other males, twenty years of age, except servants, had increased from 237,337 to 392,211; male servants, twenty years of age and upwards, had increased from 79,737 to 164,384; including, however, as already noticed, many farm servants. For the purpose of instituting a just comparison of the relative increase of particular employments, it must be understood that the total number of male persons, twenty years of age and upwards (exclusive of army, navy, and merchant seamen), had increased in this period of ten years from 3,969,124 to 4,707,600 (or 18.6 per cent.). Making due allowance for the probable error in the return of agricultural labourers, we are forced to conclude that that class had either not increased at all, or had increased in a very small degree; and that the class of labourers not agricultural had positively diminished; while capitalists, bankers, professional, and other educated men had increased 32.3 per cent.; persons engaged in trade and in manufactures, 29.7 per cent.; and domestic servants, 100 per cent.; or, allowing for farm servants, say 90 per cent. Thus the two classes who earn the lowest wages were alone stationary or retrograde, the highest class in wealth and intelligence had increased 32.3 per cent.; and the domestic servants, whose numbers are a certain indication of the means of their employers, had increased 90 per cent. Nor must another important fact be omitted in connection with the decrease in the class of labourers, namely, the immense numbers of Irish, who notoriously perform the most laborious parts of industry. In Lancashire, the persons born in Ireland formed in 1841 6.3 per cent, upon the whole population; in Cheshire, 3.6 per cent.; in Ayrshire, 7.3; in Dumbartonshire, 11; and in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, upwards of 13 per cent. It would seem, therefore, that the classes of British labourers are gradually raising themselves into a higher condition and more lucrative employments; and the demand for the lowest description of labour caused by their withdrawal from it is supplied by their Irish brethren. The number of female domestic servants increased in Great Britain from 670,491, in 1831, to 908,825 in 1841, or 35 per cent. In concluding this statement of the industrial occupations of the people of Great Britain, it is gratifying to learn that the whole " of alms-people, pensioners, paupers, lunatics, and prisoners," amounted, in 1841, to 1.1 per cent only upon the population.

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Pictures for National Progress from 1820 to 1837

View of Nottingham
View of Nottingham >>>>
Cotton Plant
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Gathering cotton
Gathering cotton >>>>

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