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ciliate our modern Ephori, are lauded to the skies. We are told, in a long culogy, that it " has already earned not only our respect and admiration, but also the thanks of all of us, for keeping from our hearthstones the footstep of death. While pestilence stalked through other cities less blessed with proper health regulations, and gathered a rich harvest of victims, he was there boldly met by our Health Board, fought at our threshold, followed step by step, night and day, by ceaseless vigilance, and finally, instead of becoming a.conqueror, was conquered.” (!)
Ah! how admirable! Let no one grumble after this at what we have to pay for “vital statistics." Why, they would be cheap at any price. The pay of “the rank and file of our Fire Department," on the other hand, should be carefully watched, for the corrupt ones want to raise it! (See pp. 8, 9.)
Those willing to believe that a self-elected government is the best, are requested, in various forms, to send in their subscriptions without delay. We give a small specimen of these modest invitations :
“ If our capitalists and property-owners would subscribe more liberally to the funds of the Association, its efforts could be made more effective.”
At page 48 it is further intimated that if our capitalists and merchants would.“ see it to be to their advantage” to “place at the disposal of the Association the requisite funds," etc. That is the point. “Pay here and not there,” is the motto!
But we must close our hurried notice. We cannot do so, however, without asking, Would it not be cheaper, and better every way, to suppress all our existing machinery of government and put the supreme power into the hands of the Citizens' Association ? Nero Book of Two Hundred Pictures. 16mo, pp. 208. Philadelphia: Ame
rican Sunday-School Union.
Of all the books designed for the young, and combining amusement with instruction, which have fallen into our hands during the present season, this is the one which we would most confidently recommend. Not one of the two hundred pictures is given without an object; exch is fully though briefly explained, and made the medium of teaching a useful, moral, or religious lesson. The alphabetical index of subjects will render the volume all the more acceptable to our juvenile friends as a holiday present.
Insurance Reports, Journals, and other Documents, for the quarter ending
December 15th, 1868.
No witness is more reliable than time. . If the old father is intelligently interrogated as he proceeds on his tour, he will rarely conceal the truth. of this fact we will give some curious illustrations before we close. It is now seven years since we made some statements in these pages relative to a certain class of insurance companies ; we ventured to allege that they were not pursuing an honest or honorable course ; and although we mentioned no names at this time, but merely advised our readers to be watchful and wary, the lowest abuse of the fish market was deemed too mild and gentle for us. It may be remembered that it was not deemed sufficient to make an onslaught on us in the insurance journals, and in placards distributed in thousands in the railway cars; as many of the daily papers as
would publish-such things as advertisements were also brought into requisition against us.
Had we found fault with the principle of insurance, perhaps we should have deserved all; but we have never done so. On the contrary, we have always adınitted that its influence is beneficent and salutary. In the first criticism we ever made on the subject, we did not deny that there were companies that were proving a veritable blessing to thousands of widows and orphans. Before presenting the dark side of the picture, let us remark, parenthetically, that far from opposing these, it was our hearty wish that they should prosper; nor have we any different feeling now. Need we say that it never injures honest underwriters to put the public on its guard against the dishonest? And those who take any interest in the subject may see for themselves that we have not been much mistaken in our estimates of particular companies, whether Lise, Fire, or Marine ; that, with not more than one or two exceptions, those whom we regarded, six or seven years ago, as worthy of public confidence; have since fully proved their claim to that distinction. If our opinion has undergone any change, in the meane time, in regard to this class, it is by gaining strength from year to year; so that it can hardly be called a mere opinion now, but a positive certainty. The change, in other words, is simply this: formerly we believed, from various evidences, that the companies to which we allude were honest and reliable; now we are sure, from evidences still more various and satisfactory, that they were, and are.
In order to enable our readers to agree with us in this by refreshing their memory, we will here sét down as they occur to us, the names of companies, Life, Fire, and Marine, which we regarded as honest and honorable seven years ago; although at this time some of them had but recently commenced business, and had to struggle with difficulties that would have overwhelmed men less energetic, enthusiastic, and sanguine. The Life companies were the New-England Mutual, the Manhattan, the Knickerbocker, the Ætna, the Equitable, the Phønix, the Mutual Benefit, and the Charter Oak.
Not one of these has sustained any injury in its character in the lapse of years; on the contrary, all have improved in that respect in proportion as their prosperity and success have increased. The two youngest companies at this time were the Knickerbocker and the Equitable; at the present day, probably no two rival each other more vigorously. But what of that? Two potentates may go to war, and carry on hostilities with each other for years without any serious detriment to the character of either. Louis XIV. and William III. did not the less enjoy the confidence and esteem of the world as sovereigns because they fought with each other so long. As long as hostilities are carried on, according to the laws of civilized warfare, no third party has a right to complain.
Among the Life Companies which were not in existence seven years ago, but are now established on a solid basis, and vying with their older brethren in affording real, substantial protection to the widow, are the Continental, the National, (New-York) Security, and the Globe. The youngest of these is now approaching the close of its third year; it has had time enough to develop its character; and like its older brethren, it continues unreproached and irreproachable, rapidly vindicating the appropriateness of its continental appellation.
The number of Fire and Marine Companies in which we had ever much confidence is very limited ; and perhaps we can show, if proof be necessary at the present day, that in this also we were pretty nearly right; but let the reader have a little patience, bearing in mind that no exhibition, however curious, can be witnessed until time and room have been allowed to open the doors thereof. When we used to say that not more than one fire company out of twenty afforded the insured real honest protection, many thought, and not a few said, that at best we were grossly mistaken; but now the fact is but too well known; the farorite organs of the very class who cheat most are forced to admit it, as we shall take occasion to show before we close. With one exception, the Fire and Marine companies that we represented fivc, six, or seven years ago, as faithful to their trust, are universally recognized as so to-day. The one exception was the Columbian Marine ; and the failure of that was the result of a series of misfortunes rather than of any evil intentions or malfeasance on the part of the original officers. We need only mention the remainder to secure the concurrence of all who know them as to their fidelity and trustworthiness. The Mercantile Mutual, (Marine,) of Wall street, we have invariably placed in the first rank. At no time were we ignorant of the fact that there were one or two other marine companies that had more money, or that at least made a larger display of "assets ;" but we always knew that it is not those who boast most that do most; and that it is not those who have most money, real or imaginary, that are most willing to pay even those claims the justness of which they cannot deny. Nor need we ask any better proof of the correctness of this than the history of the Mercantile Mutual for the last seven years, * taken in connection with that of one or two other marine companies, that once assumed to dictate to all others, but are now we know not in how precarious and degraded a plight. Upon the other hand, we can give an instance of one of the wealthiest fire companies in the world, being at the same time one of the most scrupulously exact and courteous in its dealings; which shows that it is not the money that makes certain underwriters pompous and arrogant, but the coarseness and vulgarity of their nature.
The model fire company to which we allude is certainly not the Home, nor the Continental, but a very different institution, namely, the Ætna Fire, of Hartford; and next to this we rank the Security Fire and Inland, with whose high character our readers are familiar; then come the Washington Fire, the Hope, etc. The two last-mentioned do not pretend to do business on a very large scale; but what they do pretend they faithfully and promptly perform. Now, need we say there is not one of these companies which does not deserve better to-day than the estimate we gave of it seven years ago? Still more correct, if possible, would the other side of the insurance picture, as given years ago, prove to our readers as improved by the hand of time; but we are rather averse to gloomy, unamiable portraitures at Christmas time. We prefer to give the delinquents time to improve their morals during the holidays, and wait until we see whether their annual reports afford any evidence of such improvement. But to return to the state of affairs in the past, so that we may be able to comprehend certain “new features ” of the present.
* Owing to the usual defect in our memory, in regard to proper names, we have omitted for months to note a change which has taken place
in the management of the Mercantile Mutual. At the beginning of the year Mr.
Charles Newcomb retired from the vice-presidency of the company-a position which he had filled most efficiently and satisfactorily for
There was no chasm, however. Mr. Newcomb's place was taken by Mr. Archibald G. Montgomery, Jr., a gentleman young in years but old in experience in the marine branch of insurance, having been connected with the Mercantile Mutual since It was first established, and been in turn the favorite pupil of its two successive, honored presidents. Our readers are aware that better tuition no underwriter could
It is true that the best teachers can only do their part; the general result must depend mainly
been expected from the natural disposition of the present vice-president, all we have learned is, that he is a descendant of General Richard Montgomery, who fell at Quebec, fighting for American independence, and in regard to whom the revolutionary Congress testiñed
** their grateful remembrance, profound rem spect, and high veneration."
Seven years since, insurance had become an object of speculation merely as a means of making money ; numbers who had failed in various kinds of business turned their attention to the new project. Those who could not insure themselves from bankruptcy, or from being turned out of their boarding-house for non-payment of board, could raise hundreds of thousands of capital, in a few days, to see that the widows and orphans of all endowed with the proper faith should be comfortably provided for.
This was the class that we undertook to put the public on its guard against; thousands have since learned, when too late, that insurance companies may make a large display of figures as capital, assets, etc., and yet be downright, habitual swindlers. No year has since passed without an increase of this class; within the last two years they have multiplied. At this moment there are not fewer than a score of new companies in process of " organization.” Scarcely a session of the courts passes without suits against insurance companies that refuse to pay under one pretext or another, when lives they have insured drop.* Those whose chief business it is to cheat know how to be prepared for these suits ; even when judgment is given in favor of the plaintiff he is by no means sure of his money.
Again, there are hundreds who bring no suits; if they have even the means, which is seldom the case, judging by the experience of their neighbors, they think that instead of gaining they would, in all probability, only increase the loss they have already sustained. Yet, nobody seems to profit by their example; nay, those swindled seldom profit even from their men may have much money—no matter how they got it—and very little honesty or principle. It was the opinion of Franklin, that rich swindlers did far more mischief than poor swindlers. But it may be said, even by those most willing to believe the truth, that we exaggerate the present condition of the insurance world. The dupes will think it impossible we could be correct! This very numerous, if not sensible or respectable class, will insist that the insurance organs were right in abusing us—that we deserved to be abused for making such monstrous statements. But let them not be too confident. What will they say if those organs are obliged to admit themselves, at the present day, much worse, in regard to their patrons, than what they abused us for? First let us see which organ is recognized as having the best right to speak ex cathedra of “the profession." If we are not mistaken, it is the Insurance Times that enjoys this distinction at the present moment. In the absence of any other evidence, we should inser the fact from its being the most scurrilous of the whole tribe. Then, let us hear a specimen or two of the sort of information it gives its readers. Take this to begin with:
An agent comes to them and tells them they deserved their fate; they should not have insured in any such company; had they or their friends insured in his company they would have had their money now, etc. If the trick does not succeed with one agent it will with another-probably with his accomplice; the second company, as might be expected proves, if possible, still more dishonest than the first; yet, the credulity of our people rather increases than diminishes, and hence it is that the chief difficulty is now to find new names for the new insurance companies as fast as they are “organized !"
As for "capital,” that is as easily manufactured as the cheapest drug in the market; a few hundred thousands, more or less, have only to be mentioned, and anon there are the figures! Even when these figures only exaggerate; when really wealthy men become underwriters, it is by no means certain that the insured may calculate on the amount of their policies, sinco
* The latest instance we have observed is one against the Traveller's, of Hartford; ono of Batterson's concerns. The suit was brought in the Kings County (N. Y.) Supreme Court Circuit, before Judge Tappan, by Eliza C. Mallory, to recover $2000, being the amount of a life insurance policy issued by defendants to plaintif's brother. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff for the whole amount; but whether the lady has got it, or will get it, until she loses nearly as much as the original sum by law, if even then, is the question!
“Now, life-insurance is no cheat; but there is more misrepresentation, more deception, more finessing associated with it than with any other respectable business in existence
. Every new plan for insuring lives is but another form of plausible decenn tion, intended first to please, and then destroy. · Who does not know that officers of companies always have some condition in the contract exceedingly obscure when the policy is taken, but exceedingly prominent when the policy is settled ?"- Insurani e Times for November, p. 463.
Now, let any one compare this and one or two other passages of the same kind, which we will also make room for, with the remarks we made in the articles on the "Quackery of Insurance Companies,” in Nos. X. and XII. of this journal, written six years ago, and judge from all how long it takes an insurance organ to make a discovery. But let us hear a little more of the confession:
“We have been many years in the life-insurance business, and we know most of the larger and more popular companies. But we have never known a company that was thoroughly honest—never one that was free from overreaching devices de signed to gain advantage over those unfortunate policy-holders who were compelled to leave the company. There always has been, and is to-day, a disposition to skin alire all who enter the ranks and leave them again. Gain by lapses is a piece of iniquity as dark in every moral aspect as stealing.”—Ib.
This, it will be seen, goes farther than we have ever gone. We have never said that no company is thoroughly honest; nor do we now. We know more than a dozen that are, most emphatically, thoroughly honest, and we have mentioned them above. But the writer we have quoted has an advantage over us; he has been in the business many years—we have never been in it one year or one day. If, having belonged to swindling companies, and been in the habit of associating only with cheats, he thought all were swindlers and cheats, like his accomplices, perhaps we ought rather pity than blame him for placing all in the same category.
In the December number of that organ, we have another article on the same topic, but this is marked “communicated.” The editor seems to think that this acquits him of being a party to the charges made. But let us hear a little more:
" Moreover, it is generally believed that managers of life companies are fair, ho nest men, with no disposition to take advantage or overreach. This is also a mistake. In many companies the reverse is true, and it is a constant study, not how the