صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

thick. We will give the argument on which he seems to lay most stress in his own words :

"But I shall first notice a far more obvious and important blun der into which the Reviewer has fallen; or into which, I rather fear, he knowingly wishes to precipitate his readers, since I have distinctly pointed out what ought to have preserved him from it in the very chapter he is criticising and contradicting. It is this: -he has entirely omitted "counting" the sterile marriages of all those peerages which have become extinct during the very period his counting embraces. He counts, for instance, Earl Fitzwilliam, his marriages, and heir; but has he not omitted to enumerate the marriages of those branches of the same noble house, which have become extinct since that venerable individual possessed his title? He talks of my having appealed merely to the extinction of peerages in my argument; but, on his plan of computation, extinctions are perpetually and wholly lost sight of. In computing the average prolificness of the marriages of the nobles, he positively counts from a select class of them only, one from which the unprolific are constantly weeded, and regularly disappear; and he thus comes to the conclusion, that the peers are an eminently prolific class!' Just as though a farmer should compute the rate of increase, not from the quantity of seed sown, but from that part of it only which comes to perfection, entirely omitting all which had failed to spring up or come to maturity. Upon this principle the most scanty crop ever obtained, in which the husbandman should fail to receive 'seed again,' as the phrase is, might be so 'counted' as to appear 'eminently prolific' indeed.”

If we understand this passage rightly, it decisively proves that Mr. Sadler is incompetent to perform even the lowest offices of statistical research. What shadow of reason is there to believe that the peers who were alive in the year 1828 differed as to their prolificness from any other equally numerous set of peers taken at random? In what sense were the peers who were alive in 1828 analogous to that part of the seed which comes to perfection? Did we entirely omit all that failed? On the contrary, we counted the sterile as

well as the fruitful marriages of all the peers of the United Kingdom living at one time. In what way were the peers who were alive in 1828 a select class? In what way were the sterile weeded from among them? Did every peer who had been married without having issue die in 1827? What shadow of reason is there to suppose that there was not the ordinary proportion of barren marriages among the marriages contracted by the noblemen whose names are in Debrett's last edition? But we ought, says Mr. Sadler, to have counted all the sterile marriages of all the peers. "whose titles had become extinct during the period which our counting embraced;" that is to say, since the earliest marriage contracted by any peer living in 1828. Was such a proposition ever heard of before? Surely we were bound to do no such thing, unless at the same time we had counted also the children born from all the fruitful marriages contracted by peers during the same period. Mr. Sadler would have us divide the number of children born to peers living in 1828, not by the number of marriages which those peers contracted, but by the number of marriages which those peers contracted added to a crowd of marriages selected, on account of their sterility, from among the noble marriages which have taken place during the last fifty years. Is this the way to obtain fair averages? We might as well require that all the noble marriages which during the last fifty years have produced ten children apiece should be added to those of the peers living in 1828. The proper way to ascertain whether a set of people be prolific or sterile is, not to take marriages selected from the mass either on account of their fruitfulness or on account of their sterility, but to take a collection of marriages which

there is no reason to think either more or less fruitful than others. What reason is there to think that the marriages contracted by the peers who were alive in 1828 were more fruitful than those contracted by the peers who were alive in 1800 or in 1750?

We will add another passage from Mr. Sadler's pamphlet on this subject. We attributed the extinction of peerages partly to the fact that those honours are for the most part limited to heirs male.

"This is a discovery indeed! Peeresses, eminently prolific, do not, as Macbeth conjured his spouse, 'bring forth men-children only; they actually produce daughters as well as sons!! Why, does not the Reviewer see, that so long as the rule of nature, which proportions the sexes so accurately to each other, continues to exist, a tendency to a diminution in one sex proves, as certainly as the demonstration of any mathematical problem, a tendency to a diminution in both; but to talk of 'eminently prolific' peeresses, and still maintain that the rapid extinction in peerages is owing to their not bearing male children exclusively, is arrant non


Now, if there be any proposition on the face of the earth which we should not have expected to hear characterised as arrant nonsense, it is this, that an honour limited to males alone is more likely to become extinct than an honour which, like the crown of England, descends indifferently to sons and daughters. We have heard, nay, we actually know families, in which, much as Mr. Sadler may marvel at it, there are daugliters and no sons. Nay, we know many such families. We are as much inclined as Mr. Sadler to trace the benevolent and wise arrangements of Providence in the physical world, when once we are satisfied as to the facts on which we proceed. And we have always considered it as an arrangement deserving of the highest

admiration, that, though in families the number of males and females differs widely, yet in great collections of human beings the disparity almost disappears. The chance undoubtedly is, that in a thousand marriages the number of daughters will not very much exceed the number of sons. But the chance also is, that several of those marriages will produce daughters, and daughters only. In every generation of the peerage there are several such cases. When a peer whose title is limited to male heirs dies, leaving only daughters, his peerage must expire, unless he have, not only a collateral heir, but a collateral heir descended through an uninterrupted line of males from the first possessor of the honour. If the deceased peer was the first nobleman of his family, then, by the supposition, his peerage will become extinct. If he was the second, it will become extinct, unless he leaves a brother or a brother's son. If the second peer had a brother, the first peer must have had at least two sons; and this is more than the average number of sons to a marriage in England. When, therefore, it is considered how many peerages are in the first and second generation, it will not appear strange that extinctions should frequently take place. There are peerages which descend to females as well as males. But, in such cases, if a peer dies, leaving only daughters, the very fecundity of the marriage is a cause of the extinction of the peerage. If there were only one daughter, the honour would descend. If there are several, it falls into abey


But it is needless to multiply words in a case so clear; and indeed it is needless to say anything more about Mr. Sadler's book. We have, if we do not deceive ourselves, completely exposed the calculations on

which his theory rests; and we do not think that we should either amuse our readers or serve the cause of science if we were to rebut in succession a series of futile charges brought in the most angry spirit against ourselves; ignorant imputations of ignorance, and unfair complaints of unfairness, — conveyed in long, dreary, declamations, so prolix that we cannot find space to quote them, and so confused that we cannot venture to abridge them.

There is much indeed in this foolish pamphlet to laugh at, from the motto in the first page down to some wisdom about cows in the last. One part of it indeed is solemn enough, we mean a certain jeu d'esprit of Mr. Sadler's touching a tract of Dr. Arbuthnot's. This is indeed "very tragical mirth," as Peter Quince's playbill has it; and we would not advise any person who reads for amusement to venture on it as long as he can procure a volume of the Statutes at Large. This, however, to do Mr. Sadler justice, is an exception. His witticisms, and his tables of figures, constitute the only parts of his work which can be perused with perfect gravity. His blunders are diverting, his excuses exquisitely comic. But his anger is the most grotesque exhibition that we ever saw. He foams at the mouth with the love of truth, and vindicates the Divine benevolence with a most edifying heartiness of hatred. On this subject we will give him one word of parting advice. If he raves in this way to ease his mind, or because he thinks that he does himself credit by it, or from a sense of religious duty, far be it from us to interfere. His peace, his reputation, and his religion are his own concern; and he, like the nobleman to whom his treatise is dedicated, has a right to do what he will with his own. But, if he has adopted his



[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »