« VorigeDoorgaan »
the timid and weak-minded, but judicious, thoughtful men would congratulate the public that only the tares were lost; that we still possessed the pure wheat, and that it was in less danger of adulteration by spurious mixtures than ever.
Thus, for example, we may be entirely mistaken, but we cannot help believing that there are at least a dozen companies whose early demise would be much more a blessing than a misfortune to the public; and in order to give our readers an opportunity of contradictir us, if we are wrong, we beg leave to mention such as the Batterson Cross and Crooked Road Mutual, the Morgan and Barnes Registry and Chamber Mutual, the Banta and Beers New Yahoo Life, the Marshall Infinitesimal Bolus Mutual, the Bage and Shader Great Paste Diamond Mutual, the Bucklin Providential Mu. tual, the Eadie and Leeds United Stockbroker's Life, the Scribner and Smith Vampire State Mutual, the Cooke and Butler Nondescript Life of the United Stockjobbers, the Widow and Orphan's Balderdash Mutual, etc.
Perhaps some of our readers will think that our English cousins ought to be very much frightened if all these companies would die in more or less rapid succession, notwithstanding the ostentatious display of wealth and consequence made by some of them, and the display of impudence and efirontery made by all. But if they were so easily frightened, would they not render themselves rather ridiculous? Might we not well laugh at them, and tell them that life insurance was not born with the Battersons, the Morgans, the Bantas, the Bages, the Bucklins, &c., and neither would it die with them; that these worthy persons are as much things apart arom insurance as the tares are from the wheat.
A leading London journal has mentioned about a dozen of English companies, and said that as long as these are as solvent and strong as they are there need be no alarm, and that there is not the least danger of their being otherwise during the lifetime even of their youngest officers. We can mention about an equal number, and speak with at least equal confidence of their permanency and solidity. For the reasons already mentioned, we should be fully justified in having more confidence in the vitality of our leading companies than the English can logically bave in theirs. But this is not necessary, for there are English companies of whose tailure we should be as little afraid as that of the Bank of England. More than this it were superfluous to say of our own standard corporations—that is, of about one out of every fifteen of all that call themselves insurance companies.
These few select life companies we will mention just as their names occur to us, altogether independently of the state, city, or town to which they belong, viz.: The Knickerbocker, the Phænix Mutual, the Security, the New England Mutual, the Equitable, the Ætna, the Manhattan, the New York Continental, the Mutual Benefit, the New York National, the Charter Oak, and the Globe Mutual. We could mention two or three
more, but further we could not proceed without taxing our conscience; although there are very nearly, if not quite, two hundred life companies doing business, or fretending to do business, in this country at the present moment; and there is not one of the worst class of these which is not louder and more arrogant in its pretensions than the best and most honorable of those we have mentioned as worthy of comparison with the model companies of Europe. Even at the close of the year—as the holidays approach-when the insurance business is always more or less dull, we are in possession of sufficient facts and figures to show that no failures-no sensations, however startling-can throw any serious obstacles in the way of those who, let the lighter waves of public opinion foam and fluctuate as they may, are always determined to do right; but before we give any particulars, we will tuke a hasty glance at another circumstance.
An event of much graver importance to the American public, than the failure of the Albert Life has taken place in the insurance world since our last issue, viz., the resignation of Hon. John E. Sanford, of the office of Insurance Commissioner of Massachusetts. With Mr. Sanford personally we had but a slight acquaintance; but of his official acts and career we have kept advised since it was the good fortune of the “Old Bay State" to secure his services. We have often wondered why it was that Massachusetts oblained such good men in her various governmental departments; for no one but a good and true man could have performed arduous labors 80 well as Mr. Sanford has, in bis particular bureau. The wonder still exists, that although we find offices annually filled by good and true men, whereas a month previous it was hardly supposable a successor could be found.
But little is known of the first insurance commissioners of Massachusetts. We are led to believe they were appointed solely because they were political friends of the then administration (as in the recent instance of Mr. Boutwell, though we suspect that the latter would have got no treasury in Massachusetts to manage without knowing much more about political economy than be does.) They are now forgotten. About fifteen years ago Elizur Wright began to battlc, in his trenchant way, for an insurance law which should compel life companies to make returns of all their assets and liabilities, by means of which the state should, for the protection of the insured, set a price upon all life obligations, or, in other words, establish a standard of valuation. Ile succeeded. The office of insurance commissioner was taken from the arena of politics, and given to him. In it he perfected existing laws, and did yeoman's service in the cause of the widow and orphan. His great mathematical ability in bis speciality-unequalled by that of any other person in this country, and if equalled in Europe, certainly not surpassed-was exerted to dispel ignorance and extend knowledge; so that at this late day, even when so much has been written about life insurance, bis series of annual reports are acknowledged as text-books upon the subject.
When Mr. Wright retired from the office, to accept the position of consulting actuary to many of our best companies, as well as to obtain a respite from arduous duties, it was thought a successor could not be found. Who John E. Sanford was no insurance man knew! When it was whispered that he was a lawyer in good practice, of liberal education, and of great literary taste, the croakers heralded their fears that the office could never be filed as it had been. Mr. Sanford's first report was looked for with considerable anxiety; and when it came, what a disappointmentagreeable to be seen-fell upon the community! The new man had made his mark; and he went on increasing in knowledge and giving it to the public in good sound Saxon, until it was felt that in Mr. Sanford there was a veritable jewel. And his reports stand to day, on both sides of the Atlantic, models in insurance literature. He was no controversialist, as Mr. Wright was in a certain degree, else had the insurance superinlendent of New York been annibilated when, in his last report, he charged Mr. Sanford with unfair dealing in the matter of the attempt to procure a common standard of valuation in the two states. He is proved to have been a sound, practical man, who, during his term of office, exerted bimself solely for the public good, and when Mr. Sanford retired with the good wishes of all, the public lost a faithful servant.
It is by the united efforts of such men as Messrs. Wright and Sanford that the insurance laws of Massachusetts stand to-day, as every candid person must admit, above and beyond those of any other state in the Union. They are simple and effective, easily answered, and exhibit the condition of companies in a manner that can be well understood by the public.
Mr. Sanford carries into his retirement the good wishes of the representatives of all the honest life companies of this country, for it is with them he has been most in contact, and he has the proud consciousness of know. ing that there lives not a being who can lisp against his reputation a breath of suspicion. His rectitude of conduct, bis courteous bearing, and his untiring energy of purpose, were thoroughly exemplified in a most extraordinarily successful official career. May Massachusetts have it always in her power to fill her offices with such men ! although there is not one of the higher qualities, either intellectual or moral, for which we bave thus most cheerfully given Mr. Sanford credit, in which he does not contrast with the political Massachusetts man who now manages (?) the treasury of the United States. And let any intelligent person compare the official reports of the two men with each other, and what a contrast in every characteristic on which culture, intellectual ability, or knowledge of political economy, or of any other science, may be supposed to exercise any influence!
In no position is an honest man—a man of education and talent, who is not a party hack—more needed than at the head of the insurance department. Had Mr. Sanford done nothing more than to furnish data, as
be did, by which the good, bad, and indifferent companies could be distinguished from each other, he would have been entitled to the gratitude of every honest policy-holder. But none appreciate his services more than ourselves, nor are we actuated in entertaining this feeling by vanity or egotism on account of his having fully corroborated-as our readers may see for themselves—the most serious charges we have ever made against the insurance quacks, and for which we have been subjected to the grossest abuse. There is no harm in this, however; far from doiug us the slightest injury, abuse from such sources, and for such reasons, always renders us service by gaining us the sympathy of the upright and honorable.
Our readers will remember that there is nothing against which we have more frequently cautioned all whom it might concern than “ cheap insurance" and miraculous “new features ; our reason being; that nothing does more mischief among the thoughtless class. We see evidence of this, in various forms, almost daily ; and we perceive that some of the insurance journals begin to admit, at last, that parties may have charters as insurance companies and large capitals—at least on paper—and yet be nothing better than swindlers—than those who, seeing an honest farmer going to the bank to deposit bis money, would induce him to give it to them for a worthless lottery ticket. The most interesting recent illustralion is the following:
• A lady called at the office of the Phønix Life, at Hartford, and told the president of the company, Mr. Fessenden, that she wished to insure the life of her husband for the sum of five thousand dollars. After making out the application carefully, she inquired what it would cost. Mr. Fessenden, looking at the rate-book before him, said that the premium would be one huudred and fifty dollars. The lady looked up in supprise, and said there was some mistake, and that she wanted to go into a company where she could get a policy of five thousand dollars for sit dollars. Without a word of explanation, Mr. F. courteously escorted her across the hall into an office of one of those co-operative mutual benefit hum. bugs, which flourish so strangely in Hartford, and, bidding her good morning, left her to be persuaded that she could get a great deal of 'cheap insurance' for a very cheap price."'*
If the “cheap insurance" were confined to Hartford it were less matter. It is not difficult, however, to explain how it is that the spurious may flourish for a time, even in so small a city, comparatively, as Hartford. The standard companies there have done so much good that the very name of the city has a prestige which inspires confidence throughout the country; and whatever hallucination the lady referred to labored under, in regard to cheapness, if she wanted a true policy at a fair price, she could not have called on a more reliable underwriter for that purpose than either the president or the secretary of the Phænix Mutual. This company, like every other of its class that is old enough to be sufficiently known, can afford to maintain its dignity, for it receives applications enough from those willing to pay a fair price for a genuine article.
Had the lady gone to the Connecticut Mutual, the Connecticut General, or to either of Batterson's concerns, her six dollars might have procured
* N. E. Ins. Garette for Oct., p. 929.
her a paper nearly large enough to make a cloak or a blanket for her ; but. whether it would ever have rendered herself or her posterity any other service would depend on more conditions and circumstances than we have time or space at present to enumerate.
But had she gone to the Ætna Life, or the Charter Oak Life, we think the reply given her would not have been very different from that of the Phønix. Both Mr. Enders and Mr. Walkley are also fond of a joke. What the latter has been doing lately, we are not aware, but the former could have informed the lady that the number of policies issued at legitimate prices by the Ætna, during 1869, will reach about 11,000; that its receipts during the same period will have been over $6.000,000 ; and that its assets on the first of January, 1870, will be about thirteen millions and a half ($13,500,000).
Glancing at Boston before returging to New York, we find the New England Mutual as dignified, progressive and prosperous as ever. It has recently issued three characteristic circulars; one to its medical examiners and two to its policy holders. One of the latter announces important alterations in policies, and the other gives notice of the abandonment, on the part of the company, of the premium note system, from and after February 1, 1870. Several reasons are assigned for the abandonment, one of which we extract, only premising that, while those reasons are substantial and satisfactory, other companies may do good and honorable business under the note system as the New England itself has done hitherto:
"1. The payment of cash is the most economical mode of settling small premiums, so far as time, trouble, and actual expense are concerned, by keeping life insurance within appropriate limits, and compelling a person to take a policy only for that amount for which he can absolutely pay at the time. Thus the transaction becomes a fair and square investment from year to year. There be ng no interest to pay, and no accumulated notes to be talked over and explained, everything is easily undirstood. The assured pays bis aunual premium, and receives the second year whatever the company, by its good fortune, can return him. No more extended st ement of the true relation between members of the company and its executive is needed."
None can oluject to ibis, and we do not apprehend that any will. We only wish that the “cheap "insurers would art so honestly and frankly as the New England Mutual does in all cases. If they did, there would b3 no danger that insurance would fall into disrepute.
But it is often the companies that act most generously which are most calumniated, for there are a class of underwriters who cannot bear to see themselves cast into the shade by those who are more energetic as well as more honorable. This feeling has recently subjected the Knickerbocker Life to many attacks; but it seems rather to thrive upon them. Not more than two or three companies in the United States-if so many—have done more business than the Knickerbocker during the past year, for we learn from a reliable source that from December 1, 1868, to December 1, 1869, it issued 9,300 policies, insuring $6,000,000. This is the sort of work which certain ambitious companies, fond of displny, es