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If the heathen, black or white, could only read and understand these figures, they might well tell us to look at home, and relieve our suffering fellow Christians, before we busy ourselves with their spiritual affairs. Personally we know nothing whatever of the police commissioners; they are as much strangers to us as if they lived in China. But whoever speaks the truth boldly and honestly in order to discourage vice, repress crime, and relieve human misery, will always receive from us all the aid which it is in our power to give. The Veto of Governor Fenton against the Bill in favor of the Manhattan
In commenting, in our last number, on the spirited protest of the Comptroller of New York against the new privileges sought to be bestowed on the Manhattan Gas Company, it will be remembered that we had little doubt that the latter would succeed, in their usual way, in inducing the legislature to give them all they wanted. Those having millions of money at their command, and disposed, like the monopolists alluded to, to spend a portion of it to gain their ends, are not likely to fail in securing a goodly number of votes. In alluding to certain operations of the monopolists, which we thought ought to be prevented by legislation, as similar operations are in European countries, we remarked that, “let a bill, bearing directly or indirectly on the subject of gas, be introduced either into the State Legislature or into Congress, and straightway the president of the Manhattan Company is off to the capital to act as lobby-member.” We also observed :“That the Legislature would bestow a moment's attention on any bill having a tendency to conflict with the interests of the Manhattan Gas Company, would be prima facie evidence that it was a nuisance. Our journal containing these observations had scarcely been issued when our predictions in regard to the legislature were fulfilled. That is, the legislators at Albany imitated the example of the retiring New York Common Council of 1864; but Governor Fenton has restrained the former, as Comptroller Brennan had the latter. The following are the reasons assigned by the Governor for his veto ; and it will be seen that they are sufficiently cogent and satisfactory:
"I am also constrained to withhold my approval of an act to amend section two of chapter 543 of the Laws of 1855, entitled, 'An Act to increase the capital stock of the Manhattan Gas Company of the city of New York.' This bill proposes to repeal, 'for a period of two years,' the clause of the act of 1855, which limits the charge the Manhattan Gas Company can make against the consumers of gas to a price not exceeding $2.50 per 1,000 cubic feet. I do not find that any person solicited this act except the stockholders of the Manhattan Gas Como pany, and the argument used in favor of this legislation is the alleged inadequateness of the compensation consequent upon the enhanced values of material and labor. If this declaration was justified by the facts, I should be as reluctant to admit its validity as in the parallel case presented by the plank-road companies of the State, the horse-railroad companies of the counties of Albany, Rensselaer and Erie, and by the New York Central Railroad Company. The general reasons, having reference to time and circumstances, which led me to VOL. XI.-NO. XXI.
withhold my signature from the bills providing for the relief of these several corporations, are mainly applicable to this measure, and prevent my approval thereof. It is possible, even applied to this case, they would have still greater force, for the additional burden which would be authorized by this act would fall upon many thousands, all of whom have been subjected to the same enhanced costs, many: of whom have made the same sacrifices to the necessities of the day, and cannot well afford to pay the price now charged, and must labor many weary hours by artifi, c'al light to gain even a subsistence. This latter class of persons constitutes, I' suppose, a considerable portion of the consumers of the Manhattan Gas Com pany, and if that corporation was obliged, through causes which have alike affected almost every interest during the past four years, to supply light to them at the cost of production for a short period, it would not be a greater hard ship than many of the pursuits of industry and the investments of capital have endured, and which have not obtained legislative relief. Is not this plea of nonremuneration applicable to its condition for a short period only? While this bill has been before me for consideration, the price of one hundred and eighty dollars per share has been offered for the stock of this Company, according to the report at the Stock Exchange in the city of New York. A company which can obtain a premium of eighty per cent. on the par value of their stock must have had a gratifying past finunciul history, or a prospective prosperity, even under the restrictions imposed by the Legislature of 1855. I cannot, therefore, consent to give my sancti on to an act to in-, crease the pecuniary welfare of an organization whose prosperity is thus substantially affirmed, and which so largely affects the mass of population in one of the ne.' cessaries as well as comforts of life.”
This is creditable alike to the good sense and integrity of the governor. It is pleasant to have even two public officers who are proof against the temptations offered by unscrupulons wealth to betray public confidence and sacrifice the public interests. Let us hope that these two stern rebukes will prove a useful lesson to those unprincipled and heartless monopolists. Cape Cod. By Henry D. THOREAU, author of " A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,"
"*“The Maine Words," &c., &c. 12mo. pp. 252. Boston : Ticknor & Fields, 1865. We have seldom read a book of sketches with more pleasure than this. It is fresh, graphic, and attractive ; nor is the reader merely pleased in its perusal; he is also instructed; for the author intersperses even those of his sketches thrown off in most haste with interesting scraps culled from quaint works on biography, travels, natural history, &c. Thus, for ex. ample, in speaking of oysters, he gives brief extracts from different writers in support of the theory that they have no power of locomotion. Ho scarcely alludes to any place through which he passes, that has ever attracted the attention of any other writer, to which he does not apply an apt quotation. He does not merely tell us, in an off-bánd, easy way, that a town or village was settled at a particular time; he also tells us who and what they were that settled it; and if there be anything remarkable their history, we are let into the secret in the same quiet, unostentatious way. Thoughtless persons seek to depreciate this kind of writing, because, as they say, it is not all original ; forgetting that it often costs more time to find one of those extracts, brief as they are, than would be sufficient to write a dozen pages of the kind said to be " original," simply because it has nothing in it but the twaddle of the writer.
The great rcistake is to be ignorant of the fact that they are really the most original writers who pay most deference to the opinions of others worthy of that distinction. ' Addison, Swift, Voltaire, Bayle, and Macaulay are never so eloquent as when they are commenting on some sentiment or opinion taken from another writer, and even when that writer is far inferior to themselves. We are glad to see so' lively and successful a writer as Mr. Thoreau attempt to show that a book may be very pleasan and at the same time contain a good deal of information, vastly more pleasant than those inanities which pretend to do nothing more than amuse.
1. Tenth Annual Report
of the Insurance Commissioners of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Part II. Life Insurance. Boston: 1865. 2. Sixth Annual Report of the Superintendent of the Insurance Department,
State of New York. Albany : 1865.
There is a good deal that is interesting in these reports; and not to a few, or to any one class, but to the public at large; since there are now scarcely any who have not to do with insurance in one form or other. Those who have not ships or cargoes to insure, have houses; those who have not houses, have furniture; those who have not furniture, have clothing, books, or paintings; and those who havo not sufficient of any worldly goods to render it worth their while to insure them, have wives, children, or mothers, for whose benefit they want to insure their lives, if only for five hundred dollars.
Thus it is no longer only business men or wealthy men who are interested in insurance. Those who dislike business of all kinds, and even consider it degrading, are as ready to avail themselves of the benefits of insurance as the most experienced merchants. But precisely because this is the fact, the utmost caution is necessary in order to avoid imposition and fraud; for the simple reason that much as the numbers who secure policies in one department or another are increasing, those who want to issue such policies and get the premiums, are increasing in a still larger ratio. In other words, however great is the demand for insurance, the supply is still greater; and whenever this is the case in any business, some party must suffer.
If the supply of garments in the clothing market is larger than the demand, unprincipled tailors will be apt to ase "shoddy," so that they may attract customers by selling cheaper than their rivals; and the probability is that they will succeed for a time, because, unfortunately, there are so large a portion of the public who have not sufficient understanding to see until imposed upon, even more than once, that a spurious article is not cheap at any price. But to be defrauded of the price of a coat, a pair of boots, or å hat, even for the twentieth time, is a small
inatter compared to the loss sustained by being defrauded of the amount paid regularly for years-perhaps for the length of a whole life-to an insurance company. If, then, it would be better to pay thirty dollars for a coat to an honest tailor, than to pay only five dollars to the dishonest one, still better would it be to pay an honest and responsible insurance company one thousand dollars for a policy, than to pay one of the opposite character twenty dollars.
It was not until we had carefully weighed these facts that we undertook to discuss the subject of insurance in the National Revier. Shurt as the time is since we commenced to do so, insurance was comparatively new in this country to the general public. What was known about it was, in general, favorable, because most of our companies were honest and reliable; and those of the opposite character were only beginning to be found out. Having studied the working of the system in the principal countries of Europe, become aware of the fraudulent practices of persons calling themselves underwriters, and witnessed some of the deplorable consequences of those practices, we thought we should do some good by putting the American public on its guard in time. Americans had, indeed, already suffered at the hands of fraudulent underwriters; but the instances of this kind were so few that the general public had full confidence in all our insurance companies. The organs and defenders of the speculators were, therefore, able to make a very plausible show of injured. innocence on the part of their clients when we published our first articles on Insurance Quackery; and, of course, in proportion as they could make the speculators seem honest and honorable, they could make us seem either very ignorant or very malicious. They tried both in turn, and no doubt succeeded in the minds of a certain class.
But every succeeding Report of the insurance commissioners and superintendents of those States of the Union in which most business is done in insurance, adduces new evidence of the tra and accuracy of our statemerts; we have such in each of the reports now before us; evidence the legitimacy and force of which none can pretend to question. The commissioners of Massachusetts have labored under a difficulty somewhat similar to our own. They know that the grossest frauds are perpetrated under the name of insurance; they know also that it is difficult to make the public understand the fact, and accordingly they show from the best authorities what is the experience of England, on whose systems of insurance ours are modelled. “We have heretofore alluded,” say the commissioners, " to the abuse of life insurance in the country where it originated, and in which alone it has approached anything like maturity. But never till now has it been possible to characterize that abuse as it deserves, without seeming to contradict the best authority in regard to the facts, and consequently without running the risk of being discredited. The examples, however astounding or atrocious, woull be regarded as exceptional facts, &c."* The commissioners proceed to show that so extensive was the system of fraud practised in England that the Government found it necessary, as a protective measure, “ to try a system of government life insurance, limited to policies of £100, for the benefit of the classes who have been most victimized by unfortunate or fraudulent institutions.”+
On this attempt the commissioners make the following just comment: “In a country so jealous of government interference with private affairs as England, and with a government so‘little prone to occupy itself with the particular interests of its humbler classes, it must be a popular evil of alarming dimensions that could call forth such interference.” After some further observations to the same purport, the commissioners give extracts from the speech of Mr. Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in favor of the Government Insurance Act, with the remark that “its passages are more germain to the subjeet in hand than anything we (they) could say.', The first extract given from the Chancellor's speech is that in which be illustrates a fact which we stated nearly three years ago; namely, that it is much easier than is generally supposed to issue a large number of policies, and get money for them, without either capital or character on the part of those who do so. We can only make room for the following part of the passage given by the commissioners:
“ If so, then fears of government competition are fears that need not be entertained in quarters where prudence and honesty prevail. But prudence and honesty do not prevail in all quarters ; and to those who tell me that this is to be considered as standing in the category of common commercial business I would reply, Consider for a moment the peculiar nature of Life Assurance.'. This is a business that presents the direct converse, of ordinary commercial business. Ordinary commercial business, if legitimate, begins with a considerable investment of capital, and the profits follow, perhaps at a considerable distance. But here, on the contrary, you begin with receiving largely and your liabilities are postponed to a distant date. Now I dare say there are not many members of This House who know to what an extraordinary extent this is true, and, therefore, to what an extraordinary extent the public are dependent on the prudence, the high honor, and the character of those concerned in the management of these institutions. When an institution of this kind is founded, so far from having difficulties at the outset, that is the time of its glory. and enjoyment. The money comes rolling in, and the claims are at a distance, almost beyond the horizon. In the first year of the society the premiums far exceed the death claims. This is also the case in the subsequent years. For how long a period does the House think that the premiums to be received are in excess of the death claims ? For thirty-seven years. That is to say, you found an institu. tion which ought to be a very gospel of prudence, and the balance of its liabilities is postponed for one full generation of men.".
Further on, the Chancellor remarks ;
“The House will probably like to know the fugitive character of these institutions. I will quote, as my authority, a little publication issued by the
Guardian,' one of the first-class offices. * * Number of companies protected, 695; founded, 274 ; ceased to exist, 259; amalgamations, 12. Iwish I. could read to the House a chapter on amalgamations ; these are subjects of almost romantic interest. (Hear.) Transfers of business, 161. I think I bear a cheer from the honorable and learned member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins).
• Tenth Am. Rep. of the Mass. Commrs. Part II., L. Ins., p. xlix. ^ Ib.