« AnteriorContinua »
paid no premium, he had sent no certificate-but he had been accepted; and as his surgeon declared him to be in sound health up to his visit to London, and as his friends vouched for his sobriety, the money was unhesitatingly paid to his widow, whose chief support it was for herself and five children."
We should be rather dubious as to the stability of an office which conducted business in such a manner. The fact just seems to be that the money was paid without any insurance having been effected, and paid, moreover, on account of a man who had all the symptoms of incipient apoplexy upon him when he presented himself at the office. The Irishman who is the subject of the other legend, appeared at breakfast, gay, fresh, debonnair, not a hair the worse for his customary brace of tumblers, and, we doubt not, astonished the managing director by the rapidity with which broiled salmon, kidneys, and chops disappeared before his bickering blade. In fact he gave decisive proof, by ocular demonstration, of the unimpaired powers of an originally beautiful appetite. The Sheffield leaguer, on the contrary, was evidently shaky. Something was muttered about the effects of a prize; but it would require an extraordinary degree of faith to accept such an excuse for delirium. It is not usual for the joints of hardware-men to quiver because a trumpery premium has been awarded them for a gross of tolerable thimbles. No consideration or entry-money was paid; but down went the uninsured one to Sheffield, fell voraciously upon pork-pie, tripe, and other such condiments, and never saw the morning light again. It must be obvious to the meanest capacity that, of the two, the Irishman's was the preferable existence.
Passing from the "legends," which, as we have said, are singularly dull, we arrive at Mr Francis' own suggestions with regard to the management of Assurance Companies. So far as we can gather, he is favourable to a certain degree of Government interference. Now, upon this point of Government interference with commercial affairs, there is a very wide difference of opinion. It may be the duty of the State in all cases to inter
pose stringent checks upon fraud; but it certainly is not its duty to lay down arbitrary rules for the conduct of any kind of business. We are, moreover, humbly of opinion that the State is not always infallible; and we consider it as more than probable that in matters of this sort the wisdom of a board of directors, experienced and trained to business, is at all events equal to what is called the wisdom of Parliament. That fraudulent companies like the Independent and West Middlesex have sprung into mushroom-like existence, and occasioned serious damage to their dupes, is no sound argument for the establishment of general boards of supervision. It cannot be hoped that the country will ever be purged of scoundrels, whose occupation, whether singly or in gangs, is to prey on the credulity of the unwary; nor is it possible, by any exertion of ingenuity, to prevent the occurrence of occasional disastrous fraud. In spite of every kind of warning, there are people so blind as to rush on precipitately to their ruin. Whenever money becomes plentiful, the market teems with bubble projects, which no legislative interference can prevent. Sharpers angle for the covetous with a golden bait, and to many the lure is irresistible. even according to Mr Francis there does not seem to be any reason for interference with existing companies. In the chapter which is more especially devoted to the progress of the system in Scotland, he says: "It is one advantage of all new life-companies that they assist in forwarding a principle; and there is another feature in them. In most other speculative societies, their failure produces very painful results. A railway sees its capital spent, and is obliged to make farther calls upon its proprietors. An unsuccessful canal company has only the certainty of having fed and demoralised some thousands of stalwart navigators in exchange for the ruin of its shareholders; while the failure of a mine is the melancholy close of many a bright hope. But it is not so bad with a life assurance company. The insured-except in offices originated with a fraudulent design, such as the West Middlesexhave never yet been deceived by the
failure of a policy. To take Scotland as an instance, many of the companies have not been able to maintain their ground; but in no one case has the policy-holder risked his premium or lost his assurance. The public has never been scandalised with tales and traditions of wrong and ruin; nor has the improvident man been strengthened in his improvidence by being able to plead losses which others have sustained. The progress of the science in Scotland has been calm and equable. Throughout all her districts its agents are spreading a knowledge of its benefits. There are enough and to spare of companies; and while giving the following list, it may be remarked, that all the offices which are noticed below as having transferred their business, were fairly and soundly originated. It is highly creditable to Scotland, that, directly they found they were not successful, their business was at once handed over to other companies."
We have not space to enter into the discussion as to the relative merits of proprietary and mutual companies, nor have we received much enlightenment on the subject from the disquisitions of Mr Francis. That he has been unhappy this time in the selection of a topic, every one who takes up his book must admit; for, in reality, there was very little to be said, no new views to be propounded, and an utter lack of illustrations to make it popular. We question whether any one will rise from the perusal of it with a clearer idea than he entertained before of the nature of the system, and its admirable adaptation to the wants and requirements of society. No doubt it is difficult to appear enthusiastic on such a theme; but we could have pardoned him had he even waxed grandiloquent in his praise. As, however, the subject deserves to be deeply studied, we accept this as a contribution; and, in conclusion, we would add our most cordial testimony and recommendation in favour of Life Assurance.
To the young man, especially, the subject is of the deepest interest. Very probably, in the hey-day of life and enjoyment, he gives but a cursory
thought to the future, as all of us are too apt to do, opining that his business is with the present, and that the future will take care of itself. A more fatal doctrine than that cannot be imagined. The future never does take care of itself. It is moulded and made entirely by our present actions. And amongst all the means for promoting the future happiness of existence, we are serious in saying that we know of none at all comparable to early insurance. Every year that a man is insured, he is actually adding to his capital, just as the tree imperceptibly grows during the hours when the planter is asleep. To delay insuring, whilst health is sound, and the means within his power, is not only a cruel action if he has any existing or prospective obligations to fulfil, but a very foolish one, inasmuch as with each year the rates increase, and the ultimate participation is diminished. We have spoken, strongly we admit, against covetousness and inordinate hoarding, for a miserly spirit, whether it be exhibited in the young or the old, is in every way to be condemned. But there are prudential considerations which no man is entitled to neglect, unless he wilfully courts disappointment for himself, or is culpably indifferent to the welfare of others who should be dear to him. There are, we firmly believe, no institutions in this country more strictly beneficial to the best interests of society, or more benevolent in their motive, than these insurance companies; and however much it may have startled the commercial notions of Mr Francis to know that the oldest and one of the very best in Scotland, "The Widows' Fund and Equitable Assurance Company," was consecrated at its opening by solemn prayer, we hope that not many will join with him in the opinion that such an act was unsuitable at the foundation of a society, whose object it was, by human means, to banish care from the dying pillow, and to provide for the widow and the orphan. That it and other similar societies have already done so is known to thousands; and as they hitherto have been prosperous and prudent, so may they long remain.
GOLD AND EMIGRATION: IN THEIR EFFECTS, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL.
THE change in the social, national, and political relations of mankind which is going forward at this time, from the unparalleled influx of gold and efflux of labour from this country, is such that not one essay, but ten volumes, would hardly be able to exhaust the topic. We treated, in our last number, of one of the many effects of these all-important changes, in the necessary effect it would have in raising the comparative cost at which the same articles, whether agricultural or commercial, could be raised in this country and on the continent of Europe, and the results to the Manchester school of politicians of the entire adoption of all their policy, when coupled by Providence with the discovering of a few grains of gold dust in a mill-race in California, and of an ingot of the same metal in the bed of a river in Australia. It is thus-so far as it is permitted to human ken to see-that Providence often deals with the designs of men. It allows them to go on undisturbed for a certain period; it permits the objects of selfish ambition, of grasping cupidity, to be to appearance entirely gained, and then it suddenly lets in some new and unforeseen element into the affairs of men which entirely alters the results, and renders the magnitude of the edifice previously reared only the measure of the height of the fall from its summit. Moscow had been taken, the world apparently subdued, before the winds of winter set in, and the fabric of conquest was at once destroyed; and if Moscow had not been reached, the desolating blast would have been powerless.
Great as must be the effects of this wonderful change upon human affairs, and all nations, its consequences to this country far outstrip those to all others. Not only our commercial wealth, vast undertakings, and unparalleled trade, render it certain that this must ensue, but it is produced also in a not less important degree by the unexampled amount of the exodus of our population, which is at the same time going forward. When from 350,000 to 400,000 persons, most of them in the prime of
life, emigrate from a single country, of
It is a mere delusion to suppose, that because it has been at first occasioned by the impossibility of our cultivators finding a vent, at remunerating prices, in the foreign-grain-loaded markets of England for their grain crops, that therefore this astonishing and unparalleled drain upon the labour market is either likely to cease, or that it is a matter concerning agricultural labourers and produce only. It is in the most emphatic sense a catholic
relatives, his customs, and his recollections.
question; it affects not one, but all classes; it threatens the price of labour, not in the fields only, but in a still greater degree perhaps in the cities. It is true, it was at first occasioned by the loss of the home market produced by Free Trade; the sudden and portentous increase of the emigration from the islands the moment that great change had taken place, sufficiently demonstrates this. But although the Free-Traders have themselves, and themselves alone, to thank for the commencement of this prodigious drain upon the labour market of the country, which had become very great before the gold fields were ever heard of, yet nothing can be clearer than that it continues to flow from its own impulse alone. Like a stone loosened from the summit of a hill, and sent rolling down, a great exertion of strength was requisite to detach it from its fastenings in the outset, but when once set fully in motion, its own momentum impels it onwards, and urges it with accelerated speed as it approaches the bottom. Nothing short of the powerful capital, persevering energy, and ceaseless efforts of the Free-Traders to deprive the Celt of his market, and render valueless the labour of his hands, the only property he had in the world, could have loosened him from the land of his fathers; but when the severance was once effected, he became the child of a new hemisphere. Like other strong passions, his affection to the land of his birth, when once surmounted by a still stronger feeling, turned into hatred, and he fled across the Atlantic, bearing in his bosom the inextinguishable animosity at the Saxon, which from the earliest times has characterised his race. He is now attracted to the Transatlantic shore by the very feelings which, in former days, chained him to his own-love of kindred, family affection, gratitude for the boundless kindness which has given him the means of passage-the prospect of a happy home in the Far West, surrounded by his family, his
Beyond all question, it was the monetary policy of England, intended to lower prices and raise the value of money, which was the remote but certain cause of the discovery of the gold regions of California, and, by setting men everywhere seeking for that precious metal, of those of Australia also. Everybody knows that it was the conquest of California by the Americans which brought its hidden treasures to light-the Spaniards had had them for three hundred years under their feet, but their lazy priest-ridden people never discovered them. Within three months of the Anglo-Saxon getting his foot on the soil they were found out. But what impelled the Americans into the goldladen regions? What caused them to cross the vast barrier of the Rocky Mountains, and carry an army of adventurers to the shores of the Pacific? It was domestic insolvency-the financial embarrassments which drove them into repudiation of their state debts; the thirst for foreign conquest and all its gainful fruits, in a country where no statesman has ever yet so much as hinted at a direct tax for any purpose, far less to pay old debts-the desire in a penniless legislature of getting possession of the treasures of Mexico, and finding the means of discharging its engagements from the sale of the conquered lands. Then what induced this domestic insolvency, which called into such active operation, necessity, the mother of invention, and sent a cloud of hardy, needy adventurers across the Mexican wilds, to win wealth for themselves and their country at the sword's point? It was the monetary policy of England, which caused the credit of the world to depend on the retention of gold in its coffers a thing utterly impossible in a bad season, with a currency in Great Britain entirely dependent on the keeping of the precious metalswhich did the whole.
The cashier of the United States
Bank, Mr Biddle, in his report on the causes which destroyed credit in America in the autumn of 1839 and winter of 1840, ascribes it all to the heavy rains which fell in Great Britain in August and September in the first of these years. The vacillations in the amount of the imports in America from this country from 1835 to 1850 almost exceed belief, and afford the most striking proof of the prodigious effects of the monetary changes in Great Britain upon credit and industry, not only in this country, but over the whole civilised world. The army of insolvents which crossed the Rocky Mountains and conquered California, were, literally speaking, driven forward by the monetary laws of England, which induced a general shock and contraction of credit over the world the moment a bad season, by draining away the precious metals from the British shores, occasioned the putting on the screw by the Bank of England. America, as the youngest civilised and industrial country, and the most dependent on the credit, of which England was the heart and soul, felt the shock more than any other country. Five-sixths of the mercantile wealth of the United States was swept away by the dreadful monetary storms of 1839, 1840, and 1848. The date of the conquest of California by the Americans, 1819, coming immediately after the terrible monetary crisis of 1847-8 in Great Britain, sufficiently demonstrates the connection of the two things. And it is thus one of the most curious and instructive facts recorded in history, that the monetary and Free-Trade policy of England, intended to force down prices, and enrich the holders of realised capital by augmenting the value of money, and the manufacturers by beating down the wages of labour, and which for thirty years produced these results to a most distressing degree, has ended by bringing to light the hidden treasures of nature, and forcing the Celt, the man of labour, from his native land, and occasioning a vast enhancement of the remuneration of industry, and diminution of the value of realised capital and profits of stock. Of a truth, Providence has in its own time vindicated its attribute as the poor man's friend; and whatever may be the case with
The great revolution in our social and industrial prospects, which, without intending it, the Free-Traders have helped to bring about, whatever it may prove to themselves, and the ultimate interest of realised capital and monied influence, will undoubtedly, even in the first instance, be attended with great and obvious advantages to society. No one can doubt this, for every one sees it going on around him. The general prosperity which now pervades all classes, and which the Free-Traders are fain to adopt, as the consequence of their principle having been carried into effect, is, in reality, owing to the very reverse!-it is owing to their monetary system having been reversed by Providence. It is not the cheapening system, it is the enhancing system which has done it all; and that enhancing system is not only no part of their policy, but it is the direct opposite to it-it is the very thing which Sir R. Peel strove all his life to prevent. In the mean time, however, it is attended with a very great impulse to industry and extension of credit to all classes; and as it tends directly to raise the price of produce of all sorts, it ameliorates the condition of all who live by the production and sale of such produce-that is, of by far the largest portion of mankind. In a word, it has directly undone all in relation to prices which Sir R. Peel did, and that has proved quite sufficient to put the nation on its feet. It is amusing to hear the Free-Trader boasting of the effects of the reversal of his decision as affording evidence of its soundness.
It is not a mere temporary advantage which has arisen from this general advance of prices over the world, and especially in the heart of its commercial industry and enterprise, Great Britain. It is a still greater gain that this advantage promises to be durable, at least in some degree. Without doubt there are many causes likely to produce mercantile embarrassment and distress in this country, which not only have not been removed by the Californian and Australian mines, but which may in a certain degree be aggravated by