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Art . I . —Manuel des Officiers de V Etat Civil , pour la Tenue des Registres , Par A . E . Le Mott . 2 e Edit . Paris , 1827 . We have read this little volume with some curiosity , and a great deal of regret at the unfavourable comparison which must be drawn between the French institutions , to which it relates , and those of our own country . Our system of parochial registration ( if we can properly call it a system ) is fraught with absurdities , imperfections , and inconveniences ; it belongs to
a very rude age , and to one in which , if diversity of religious opinion existed at all , all toleration for its exercise must have been set at nought . To those to whom it at first occurred that it might be useful that some record should be kept of births , marriages , and deaths , an obvious step towards such a record would occur in the list which might be kept of the baptisms , of the religious celebrations or acknowledgments of marriage in the face of the church , and of the burials which should take place . The imperfections of
such documents , as applied to a whole population , were to be sure obvious . It was not certain that all children would be baptized ; and , if they were , the time of birth was no way shewn by the registration of the baptism . Marriages ( in many countries at least ) might not all be acknowledged in church , and burials might , in many cases , also escape clerical superintendence ; but the plan might work tolerably well as far as it went , and , in the absence of a better , might pass muster among the institutions of a
country not much advanced in civilization , and where diversity of religious worship was little known , and never recognized . But when the church ceased to comprise any thing like the whole of the community , and when sects were allowed to establish themselves in their separate congregations all over the country , one can hardly imagine how the same country could go on persisting in depriving itself of all legal means of registering the heterodox portion of its population , —could persist in shutting its eyes to the notorious
fact , that the church services , and , consequently , the church registers , did not , and could not , comprise any thing like an accurate record of the population—that they could only be made to do so by enforcing conformity when the law pretended to waive it—that for all legal purposes such a record became grossly defective—and that , in a statistic point of view , the delusion which any reliance on such documents would produce must be ridiculous and humiliating :.
We shall consider in detail some of the leading features of our system when we have stated the outlines of the French plan , as developed in the little Manual before us .
The Code having detailed the general formalities to be observed for recording births , marriages , and deaths , constant attention has been given to the regular developement of the details in practice , and an efficient class of municipal officers has the whole under constant superintendence . With a view to remove all the irregularities and clashings of interests which must arise from intrusting such duties to the clergy ( in any country at least where men were not or did not mean to continue for ever all of one mind in religious matters ) , the official superintendence of the register and of the docu-
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Aug. 2, 1828, page 536, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2563/page/24/