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ILLEGITIMACY

Redon, Vitré, Dol, Dinard and Cancale are the towns of chief importance and are separately noticed. At Combourg there is a picturesque château of the 14th and 15th centuries where Chateaubriand passed a portion of his early life. St Aubin-du-Cormier has the ruins of an important feudal fortress of the 13th century built by the dukes of Brittany for the protection of their eastern frontier. Montfort-sur-Meu has a cylindrical keep of the 15th century which is a survival of its old ramparts.


ILLEGITIMACY (from “illegitimate,” Lat. illegitimus, not in accordance with law, hence born out of lawful wedlock), the state of being of illegitimate birth. The law dealing with

Table I.—Illegitimate Births per 1000 Births (excluding still-born).

the legitimation of children born out of wedlock will be found under Legitimacy and Legitimation. How far the prevalence of illegitimacy in any community can be taken as a guide to the morality of that community is a much disputed question. The phenomenon itself varies so much in different localities, even in localities where the same factors seem to prevail, that affirmative conclusions are for the most part impossible to draw. In the United Kingdom, where the figures differ considerably for the three countries—England, Scotland, Ireland—the reasons that might be assigned for the differences are negatived if applied on the same lines, as they might well be, to certain other countries. Then again, racial, climatic and social differences must be allowed for, and the influence of legislation is to be taken into account. The fact that in some countries marriage is forbidden until a man has completed his military service, in another, that consent of parents is requisite, in another, that “once a bastard always a bastard” is the rule, while in yet another that the merest of subsequent formalities will legitimize the offspring, must account in some degree for variations in figures.

Table I. gives the number of illegitimate births per 1000 births in various countries of the world for quinquennial periods. It is to he noted that still-born births are excluded, as in the United Kingdom (contrary to the practice prevailing in most European countries) registration of such births is not compulsory. The United States is omitted, as there is no national system of registration of births.

This method of measuring illegitimacy by ascertaining the proportion of illegitimate births in every thousand births is a fairly accurate one, but there is another valuable one which is often applied. that of comparing the number of illegitimate births with each thousand unmarried females at the childbearing agc the “corrected” rate as opposed to the “crude,”

Table II.—Illegitimate Births to 1000 Unmarried and Widowed Females, aged 15–49 years.

as it is usually termed. This is given for certain countries in Table II.

The generally accepted idea that the inhabitants of the warmer countries of the south of Europe are more ardent in temperament has at least no support as shown in the figures in Table I., where we find a higher rate of illegitimacy in Sweden and Denmark than in Spain or Italy. Religion, however, must be taken into account as having a strong influence in preventing unchastity, though it cannot be concluded that any particular creed is more powerful in this direction than another; for example, the figures for Austria and Ireland are very different. It cannot be said, either, that figures bear out the statement that where there is a high rate of illegitnnacy there is little prostitution. It is more probable that in a country where the standard of living is low, and early marriages are the rule, the illegitimate birth-rate will be low. As regards England and Wales, the illegitimate birth-rate has been steadily declining for many years, not only in actual numbers, but also in proportion to the population.

Table III.—England and Wales.

The corrected rate bears out the result shown in Table III. as follows:

Table IV.—England and Wales. Illlegitimate Birth-rate calculated on the Unmarried and Widowed Female Population, aged 15–45 years.

Table V. gives the illegitimate births to 1000 births in England and Wales for the ten years 1807–1906 and for