Napoleon's difficulties in the later years of the wars of the Empire were the parallel of the earlier Roman conditions. In order to make his conscription net gather its necessary load of doomed men he first had to reduce, in 1799, the minimum height of conscripts fit for service, which had been established by Louis XIV in 1701 at 1624mm, and had remained unchanged for a century, to 1598mm (an inch lower). In 1804 he lowered it two inches further, namely, to 1544mm, a total of three inches below the original standard. It remained at this figure till the Restoration, when (1818) it was raised by one inch and a quarter, that is, to 1570mm. Napoleon had also to reduce the figure of minimum military age.
Guerrini has shown that the mortality of German children between three and five years of age, born in 1870 and 1871, was higher than the corresponding mortality of children born in 1869 and 1872. For Prussia, for example, the numbers per one hundred are: 1869, 31.51; 1870, 33.83; 1871, 35.12; 1872, 32.76.
The mortality tables of France show that there has been a steady decrease since 1800 in the death-rate of children under five years with the exception of one period. In the decade 1815-1824, immediately following the terrible man-draining wars of the Revolution and the Empire the annual death-rate of children under five was higher by one and one half per cent than in the highest other period.
But the most conspicuous and definite example, so far determined, of race-deterioration through rigorous military selection and race-reparation by reason of an amelioration of its rigor, is that of the fluctuation in the height of Frenchmen during the past century.
Not a few unconsidered and exaggerated statements, as well as a good many hasty or overdriven criticisms, have been made concerning this matter. But if my own statements regarding it seem too swiftly or positively formulated, because offered here without any accompanying critical examination of the data on which the statements are founded, they are, let me say, really based on a rather exhaustive and, I hope, impartial consideration of both data and criticisms. In some future fuller paper, perhaps, I can so expose the matter that each may come to his own conclusions.
The French government has kept, since the beginning of the last century, detailed figures of height and freedom from or presence of infirmities, in the case of all the conscripts examined by its army boards. From these figures (not all published but all available) can be determined the number of men accepted for service and the number of men rejected because of undersize or bodily infirmity, and therefore the varying proportion of physically unfit to physically fit men arriving at the age of twenty in the successive years of the century.
From these figures it may be stated with confidence that the average height of the men of France began notably to decrease with the coming of age, in 1818 and after, of the young men born in the years of the Revolutionary wars (179-18O), and that it continued to decrease in the following years with the coming of age of the youths born during the wars of the Empire. Soon after the cessation of these terrible man-draining wars, for the maintenance of which a great part of the able-bodied male population of France had been withdrawn from their families and the duties of reproduction, and much of this part actually sacrificed, a new type of boys began to be born. These boys indeed had in them an inheritance of stature that carried them, by the time of their coming of age in the 1830's and 1840's,to a height one inch greater than that of the earlier generations born in war time. The average height of the annual conscription contingents born during the Napoleonic wars was about 1625mm; of those born after the wars it was about l655mm.