in the world, affords matter of very curious contemplation, and an interesting collection of facts has been made by various authors upon the subject. The learned Dr. Derham, (Physico-Theology, p. 175,) thought that he had grounds for computing the proportion of male to female births generally to be as 14 to 13, or that a 14th more of males were born than of females; and actual observation gives reason to believe, notwithstanding a doubt cast upon the fact by Dean Tucker, that the excess is generally about a 14th. (Dr. Perceval's Essay on Population, p. 74.) Dr. Price, however, says a 19th or 20th. This arrangement obviously appears calculated with a view to provide for the superior waste of male life in hazardous exertion, &c. which exists in every stage of society; and there would be nothing surprising in the discovery, that the proportion of females advanced in life actually existing in any state of society should, notwithstanding this excess of births, be equal, or even larger than that of males, in consequence of the increased mortality of the latter from those causes. But it does certainly appear at first a little singular that it should have been found (Dr. Price, edit. 1803, vol. ii. p. 106 and p. 132) by a great variety of returns, that the mortality of males in the earliest stages of life, and even the proportion of still-born males, bears a very high proportion to that of females. (Price, p. 230.) It should seem therefore that the Author of nature established this proportion between the births, rather with a view to a particular weakness or delicacy in the constitution of males in very early life which makes them more subject to mortality at that particular period, and renders it necessary that:more should be produced in order to preserve the-due, proportion between the adults of the two sexes. It appears that, taking an average from all the accounts which have been given of the existing number of males and females at a marriageable age, the superior mortality among the former has about reduced the sexes to an equality; though it must be admitted that the proportion of this superior mortality of males seems to increase with the progress of civilization and wealth; to be doubtful in the purely agricultural state of society, where children are riches, and the prolific powers are exerted to the utmost by second and third marriages; to be but small in country parishes and villages, larger in small towns, and greatest of all in cities. (Price, vol. ii. p. 133, ed. 1803.) But it is in none of those situations high enough to prevent the generality of women from marrying once, unless she should prefer the advantages of her state of celibacy to the prospects which the offer of marriage may eventually hold out. The motives of her determination are probably merely personal. If she choose a single life, she has no more view of adding to the happiness of the rest of society “by making room for other marriages without additional distress,” (see Malthus's Essay, book iv. chap. 8. p. 550, 4to edit.) “than she has, in her preference of connubial happiness, of strengthening the power and population of her country, by producing sons to fight its battles,” &c. As far as the motives of an action constitute a ground of respect, they stand precisely on equal terms: if they are appreciated according to their absolute utility in their generation, the difference will not be greater, supposing both to fulfil the duties of their station with equal integrity and zeal; and if superior respect be due to her who has exercised most self

denial, and whose lot has been least enlivened by social comforts, it might be equally difficult to say, whether the “cares of the married state, and the labour, self-denial, and attention necessary in rearing a family, do not counterbalance all that part of its advantages which is denied to the single woman in civilized society. The difference therefore between the agricultural state of society and those more advanced in civilization, with respect to the female sex, as far as it is connected with marriage, will be two-fold: 1st—The superior delicacy and refinement of the latter state of society will induce many more to decline marriage, because by accepting it they would lose some of the artificial comforts they enjoy in their state of celibacy, which women in a less advanced state of society neither know nor feel the want of: 2dly, The widow's chance of a second and third marriage is smaller, because where the number of men just of a marriageable age exceeds that of the women, and children are riches, as in the agricultural state, when by any accident a woman becomes a widow before her time for child-bearing is past, there will of course be a competition for her among men younger than herself; whereas, where the number of men of a marriageable age is only equal to, or smaller than that of the women, as in the more advanced stages of society, it is probable that the elderly ladies and widows will be neglected in favour of the younger: at least we have the opinion of a great philosopher and moralist, that a man who acts on the contrary principle “does a foolish thing.” (Dr. Johnson— Boswell's Life.) For the reasons given in a former chapter upon the option of marriage, it is clear that the first of these conditions does not necessarily add to the misery of the single woman, because she has her comforts, (and comforts which her conduct shows she esteems the most valuable,) in exchange for those which she refuses. With respect to the diminished chance of second or third marriages, the question is a very delicate one, and such as a male author cannot presume to determine. He may, however, venture to suppose that it really is a small subtraction from female happiness incident to the progress of civilization; for, as it has been said that a woman who takes a second husband, pays the highest compliment to her first, by showing that he made her so happy as a wife that she is willing to partake of the same happiness a second time; it cannot but add something to the distress of the widowed state that an alteration in the condition of society should preclude her from an equal chance of paying this mark of regard to the memory of her deceased lord. But there is yet another condition of civilized society, which renders this case still harder, and seems to prove that, with the diminished chance of supplying the loss, the chance of enduring it is increased: for it appears (Price p. 132) not only that married women live longer than single women, but that, independently of the waste of adult males naturally to be expected in war, and other occupations of risk, the proportion of male to female deaths is evidently greater in the more advanced than in the middle periods of human existence, (Price, p. 230,) and that this proportion corresponds, in some degree to the progress of civilization. (Price, p. 134.) In New Jersey, a country at the time the account was taken in a purely agricultural state, the number of adult males was said to exceed that of the females; (Price, p. 133) but in the villages of Brandenburgh, in a great variety of English towns and villages, as well as in Sweden, the result was precisely the reverse. According to calculations accurately made from the data, it appears that, in the state of society of the greater part of Europe, though the proportion of male to female deaths approach more nearly to an equality at the ages of 30 to 35, (at which the number of married and child-bearing women (Price, p. 408) is greatest,) and between 40 and 45 when the female constitution is well known to be subject to particular risk; yet there are no ages at which a smaller proportion of females does not die than of males, except the ages in which the number of deliveries of children is greatest: and even then the probabilities of living among the females are nearly equal to those of the males. The decrements of life however among males increase in proportion to those of the females, after 45 or 50; and of a married couple after that period an annuity upon the life of the wife would be worth on an average three or four years' purchase more than on that of the husband, in a state of society such as exists in the greater part of Europe. Now if the preceding facts be correct, the progress of civilization, and the congregating of people into towns, not only diminish the widow's chance of a second marriage, but increase her chance of becoming a widow; not considerably however at any time, nor at all (as it should seem) before she arrives at that period of life at which her being a wife or a widow can no longer affect the population of her country. Nor does she incur this risk before the children have completed their education, and are able to do without a father's care, supposing the

« ForrigeFortsett »