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I RESPECTFULLY DEDICATE THIS WORK
IN THE HOPE AND BELIEF
THAT ITS CONTENTS WILL BE FOUND OF SUCH INTEREST AND VALUE
AS TO ENTITLE IT
[All Rights of Translation and Reproduction are reserved to the Author.]
[Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by J. H. & C. M. GOODSELL, in the Clerk's Office in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.]
SOME five years since I announced the present work as "in course of preparation." If I could have foreseen that every leisure moment from that hour to the present would have been required in its completion, I should never have ventured upon that first announcement.
In the course of my investigations for a former work, which has found most extended favour,* I discovered that there remained unwritten the Great History of the Origin and Development of the various phases and branches of Insurance in this country. It became my ambition to grapple with the work. I present herewith the first instalment of my labours. It (the entire work) has cost me many sacrifices-pecuniary, social, personal health. I shall find content in any small rewards that flow from it.
I cannot tell how far the work may even be welcomed in a popular sense here the depressed state of our Insurance interests I confess causes me some misgivings. But I have one abiding consolation; and that is, that every page of it will receive a hearty welcome on the other side of the Atlantic. There, it is an axiom of the business, that Knowledge is power;—and in that spirit every word written, either upon the former history or present practice of INSURANCE, finds in the great body of Insurance officials, agents, and canvassers, countless thousands of readers. I must own (and without intending the smallest disrespect to Insurance interests here) that the recognition of this fact has had a sustaining influence upon me: it has often flashed across me during the dreary hours of the night, imparting a ray of hope to the heart, and renewed power to the pen.
Regarding the work itself-it must speak for itself. Faults will be found. in it, and they will be proclaimed. I need not anticipate them. I shall endeavour to avail myself of all rational criticism in the final preparation of the future numbers.
It is, perhaps, desirable that I should state that the design of the book has undergone some change. It was my first intention to write a series of essays explanatory of the different branches of Insurance, including an account of their origin. In such a plan much must of necessity have been omitted; and my individual views must have influenced the relation of that which was presented. I therefore changed my plan, and resolved to present to my readers the blocks of solid material, even in their crude authenticity,
The Insurance Guide and Hand-book, which has passed through three considerable editions; and which may be regarded in the light of an introduction to the present work.
just as by hard and constant digging they were brought to light. Am I right? I await with anxiety, and yet with hope, the award.
The usefulness of the publication I venture to think will consist quite as much in the details of what has passed away as of what still exists.
Some few explanations seem necessary. They can all be aptly made in the language of writers who have travelled over portions of the same road.
The late PROFESSOR DE MORGAN-who was pleased to take a most lively interest in the progress of these pages, and I most sincerely wish he had survived their advent-says in the introduction to Arithmetical Books (1847):
The most worthless book of a bygone day is a record worthy of preservation. Like a telescopic star, its obscurity may render it unavailable for most purposes; but it serves, in hands which know how to use it, to determine the places of more important bodies.
The late venerable CHARLES BABBAGE-one of the earliest writers on Life Insurance in a popular form-said in his Comparative View (1826):—
If the reader should think that I have been too sparing of praise, too ready to criticize, let him consider that my object has been to collect and arrange information for his use; and that my criticisms may not be without value even to the Institutions that gave rise to them.
MR. WM. THOMAS THOMSON, of Edinburgh, whom I have to thank for the warm interest he has shown in this undertaking, says in the learned article on Life Insurance in the last edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica :—
In the historical part of the subject, generally a certain amount of plagiarism must be conceded, and of that kind too which does not admit of direct acknowledgment.
The late JOHN HOOPER HARTNOLL, than whom a more sagacious and conscientious journalist never lived-and who, I may add, also took the deepest interest in the progress of these pages-said, some years since, in answer to a correspondent who asked for information concerning some six or eight Insurance offices::
Will our correspondent be so good as to reflect upon the time it would take to furnish such an account even of one office as would serve to guide a stranger in determining upon the propriety of becoming agent for it—and then further reflect upon the labour of giving the like information respecting eight different companies, all possessing different points of merit or demerit and he will be able to form a notion of the task he is desirous of imposing upon us. Mr. J. A. FoWLER, author of the Pennsylvania Insurance Handbook (1860) a work well worthy of finding readers on this side-says therein :
To indite the history of a great financial agency, which, as it permeates through the social system, touches a hundred points at once, like the many-armed son of Coelus, while no annalist has heretofore kept legible the course of the record, is a task whose difficulty can be appreciated only by those who have assayed such a labour.
I shall have thanks to offer to several friends for assistance rendered in the past, and to come. This pleasant task must be deferred till the completion of the work.
ENFIELD HOUSE, BELSIZE PARK GARDENS,
London, N. W., Oct. 1871.