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In addition to these classes of evidence, we have experiments and observations on individuals which are of little value. Were sure post-mortem signs of yearage—not of wearage only—traceable, we might have a class of evidence from examination of dead bodies. But there are no sufficiently definite signs known, though Professor Rolleston's investigation of the Anglo-Saxon interments at Frilford shews how such evidence may be of use in regard to average longevity or mortality. Cases of individual longevity in any race or condition of men carry little scientific value, and none that are recorded appear to assist in the discussion of the general question as to causes, but belong to the subject of abnormal longevity, of which a few words will be said before concluding. The incompetence of travellers to bring home facts as to longevity is obvious. They cannot make direct observations, or take a census of the peoples they see; hence Messrs. Wallace, Bates, Darwin, Livingstone, and others, able observers as they are, give no information of use.
Even in our own colonies, where civilized men are in close contact
1 Were there any laws known, such as Buffon and Flourens have tried to lay down, of an exact ratio of age to growth, much might be expected in this way, and the whole enquiry facilitated.
2 Mr. H. W. Bates informed the writer that he saw many great-grandfathers on the Amazons, but that is all the information he could afford. This kind of evidence is clearly of no use at all when we want to know to a nicety of a year what is the expectation of life of men at 50, 60 years of age, and upwards.
with the barbarians of whom we desire the knowledge, no records have been obtained. Thus, in an elaborate Report by Mr. Fenton to the Government on the natives of New Zealand, published in the · Statistical Society's Journal,'1 the whole statement is quite barren of any facts relating to the longevity of the Maoris. A kind of census is given, in which all above puberty are distinguished from all below puberty, but no greater detail than this. Even less is known of the North American Indians, the writer having consulted many authorities and made many enquiries as to these and other native races. Even in China, so highly organized and civilized, nothing definite can be ascertained statistically. That acute and accomplished man, Sir John Bowring, says, “I have no means of obtaining any satisfactory tables to shew the proportion which different ages bear to one another in China, or the average mortality at different periods of human life.'2 The only datum which he does adduce is appended hereto with the life-tables (p. 105). Of the native population of British India, thoroughly permeated as it is by European administration, nothing is known relating to longevity. Englishmen who have been residents are of opinion that the natives of all classes have a much less potential longevity than Europeans, being very old at 60.1 Mr. Hendriks states that the assurance companies will not take native lives at all, there being a general impression that they are bad, and a certainty that the natives lie so determinedly that no proper tables can possibly be framed. From many places we have such loose and valueless statements as the following, which relates to Nova Scotia, and is the only one that need be quoted, 'its inhabitants often live to extreme age, many attaining go and even 100 years; a statement that could be made with equal truth and equal futility of any area within the limits of civilization.
1 Dr. Farr, Prof. Busk, Dr. Barnard Davis, Prof. E. A. Parkes, Dr. Lawson (of the Army Medical Department, Inspector), Prof. Huxley, Dr. Guy, Dr. Leared, Dr. Allbutt, and others, personally; besides the works of Quetelet, Wynn, Neison, Gairdner, Farr, Hendriks, many travellers, and the volumes of the Journal of the Statistical Society.
2 Stat. Soc. Journal, vol. xx. p. 42.
There are some definite statements in poetic and other authors, which are of more value as reflecting the common judgment of a place, people, or time, on this question. Thus the Psalmist and the writer in Genesis give authoritative statements so far as their day and nationality ; whilst Shakespeare's,
1 It appears from the writer's special enquiries that medical army officers are of this opinion. Dr. Lawson has prepared a report for the Government on the mortality of natives and whites of the West African coast, but he can give no information as to longevity, except from general impression.
? A writer in the 'Statistical Society's Journal' states that women as a rule have an advantage in their dealings with assurance societies, which he attributes to their deceit, since they conceal diseases from the physicians, and are guided by the anticipation of coming disease to insure !
3 Stat. Soc. Journal, vol. xvii. p. 74.
Flourens', Cabanis', the Chinese, and other divisions of the term of life indicate the writer's estimation of that period for man as he knew him.
Returning to the matter of statistics, we find that there are few countries which have kept returns, or in which the shifting nature of the population has allowed the necessary facts to be readily acquired, even amongst the most civilized ; and what we notice very conspicuously is that statistics have been utterly misinterpreted, and made to furnish conclusions by faulty logic. The Northampton life-table of Price is a remarkable instance of this. And we may point to the discrepancies in some of the life-tables appended, when treating of the same classes, as further examples. It is indeed only within the last twenty years that really sound conclusions as regards longevity have been deduced from the statistics of population. In Sweden, England, Belgium, Holland, and Bavaria alone are there statistics which are of sufficient value to quote. France has no sufficient returns (though the old tables, now considered untrustworthy by authorities, are given herewith), nor America,
1 There are no facts as to Ireland at all. Mr. Hendriks, in a letter to the writer, states that he believes they are not such good lives, prima facie, as English lives. A life-table for Scotland is given by Mr. Neison (see Tables, p. 114). Bacon, on the other hand, relates wonderful things of the • Hiberni sylvestres,' who are, he says, very long-lived ; and he mentions, amongst other customs, their frequent use of saffron as a draught. Irishmen have abandoned this potion and taken to others – and are not now so celebrated for long life.
nor other European states. Statistics are liable to error when relating, above all things, to old age; since, as men get old they lose their memory, or gain a superstitious reverence from others which induces them to lengthen their reputed age, or to allow others to do so for them. The Russian census, in which so many persons are returned as over 150 years of age, is worthless, in this regard, on account of the ignorance and superstition of the lower classes ; whilst the interesting comparisons which might fairly be anticipated from facts as to the negroes and whites in the United States are similarly rendered quite useless and untrustworthy. Thus the average age of those dying above 20 at Charleston appears as 47*74 for whites, and 52.56 for blacks. (Wynn, loc. cit.). Leaving out of the question all other interfering causes as to shifting of population, the greater age of the blacks is quite probably due to their inventive and imaginative talents. Americans tell us that the number of negroes reputed to have been 'servant to George Washington' is something extraordinary. It is clear that numerous advantages in the shape of diminished labour are to be obtained by pleading old age, or greater price than he would otherwise realize may have been gained by the slave-dealer by passing off a youth as a mature man.
According to the Russian census, the age of 100 is reached by 9 persons out of every 10,000 that are born—that is, by nearly 1 in 1000. This is known to be absurd.