Some Prejudices About Life Assurance

IN writing on the subject of life assurance, it is hardly profitable to repeat those facts that are familiar to all the world, but rather to point out certain fallacies which threaten to harm a beneficent institution, and which have taken possession in some cases of the minds of the general public, and in others of the minds of those who direct the business.

It is astonishing to observe how prejudices will take hold of public belief, and how next to impossible it is to root them out. Bishop Berkeley, whose common sense was no less notable than his learning, says : “ It may not be amiss to inculcate that the difference between prejudices and other opinions doth not consist in this, that the former are false and the latter true ; but in this, that the former are taken upon trust, and the latter acquired by reasoning.” And an old poet of the eighteenth century says: “ Remember, when the judgment’s weak the prejudice is strong.” It is most important, then, to encourage clear thinking on a subject like the management of life assurance, — an institution which today commands such enormous contributions from the public, and which is a tremendous agency for good, if properly conducted.

The first fallacy to be noticed is, that a large “new business” transacted annually by a life assurance company, taken by itself, and without regard to other considerations, is necessarily a criterion of prosperity. There was a time, before competition had become so disturbing a factor, when a large new business furnished in some respects such a criterion ; for it cannot be disputed that—given a company regulating its affairs on the basis of reasonable expense, profitable returns on investments judiciously made, low mortality secured by caution in selecting risks, the accumulation of a large surplus for absolute safety and ultimate profit, abstention from offering “ privileges ” that cost money and eat into security, the maintenance of adequate premium rates, the avoidance of excessive dividends, and other essential ingredients of permanence and thrift — the larger the new business the greater is the substantial success ; for if the big business is not secured by throwing safety and profit overboard, there is a wider subdivision of expenses and a greater certainty of fair averages in death losses, and interest rates, and protection against spasmodic damage. Properly transacted, such large new business enhances prestige, and shows uninstructed people where to go. But times have changed, and companies in some instances have begun to compete by offering “inducements ” to assure, by making the annual premiums too low, by calculating on obtaining higher interest on investments than will probably be earned, by dividing surplus too closely and too soon, by offering too much to those who retire from the company, by making it too easy for the policy holder to mortgage his policy, — thus handicapping the indemnity to his family ; and in many other ways they are knocking out the props of safety and permanence.

The ambition to do the largest instead of the best business seems to be at the bottom of this tendency. The ambition to excel is not reprehensible. It is a strange sort of mind that does not make a man eager to be at the top. The viciousness of the trend is introduced, when, to attain that end, sacrifice of some good principle in what should be a scientifically conducted business is made. It is done, as Sir Richard Steele, of The Tatler and The Spectator, said, because “ the business is to keep up the amazement.” And it is worth noticing that when he said this, he was writing on Quack Advertisements. Bishop Berkeley says in the same treatise from which I have already quoted : —

“For a man to do as he would be done by, to love his neighbor as himself, to honor his superiors, to believe that God scans all his actions, and will reward or punish them, and to think that he who is guilty of falsehood or injustice hurts himself more than any one else ; are not these such notions and principles as every wise governor or legislator would covet above all things to have firmly rooted in the mind of every individual under his care ? ” If we could only square our management to such opinions, how greatly for the interest of our policy holders it would be ! And it is not a hopeless case, either. There are those engaged in the business who are making the attempt, and there is great force in a good example, especially as adherence to the principles referred to is by no means incompatible with a large new business, as is being demonstrated today. But I have heard a prominent and enlightened officer of a life assurance company give as a reason for not making the minimum interest rate of three per cent the assumption in his company’s calculations, that the competition of companies assuming a higher rate of interest was too strong, because where a higher rate of interest is assumed, a lower rate of premium may be charged.

Instead of selecting a company on account of its low charges and its profitdraining “ privileges,” it would be far more sensible (if choice is to depend on one or two disconnected facts) for a man to select the company charging the highest premiums and granting the least privileges outside of the death indemnity, other things being equal. It is better for a mutual company, and therefore for its members who constitute the company, that they should pay too high rather than too low premiums. Too low premiums will certainly cramp the management, lessen the profit, and may even result in failure; while too high premiums facilitate business and increase profit, and the excess ultimately returns with interest to the policy holders. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that life assurance is a long contract, and what might be harmless for the period of a year or two might become of moment in a lifetime. Take, for example, the difference of rates in compound interest:

$1000 at 3½ per cent amounts in five years to $1187.69

$1000 at 3 per cent amounts in five years to $1159.27

Difference $28,42

The difference, $28.42, is not a very important matter. But

$1000 at 3½ per cent amounts in a lifetime of sixty-five years to . . $9356.70

$1000 at 3 per cent amounts in a lifetime of sixty-five years to . . $6829.98

Difference ..$2526.72

And the difference, $2526.72, caused by a change of one half of one per cent in the annual rate, becomes serious.

The shores of time are strewn with the wrecks of life companies which have disregarded the basic principles referred to. The multitude of defunct coöperative companies, dependent on assessments for their existence, are among them. These had their day, and thousands of people were persuaded that it was just as well to ignore mathematical axioms, laws of mortality, and the experience of a century, and put their trust in novices who appealed to a penny-wise instinct. They failed, when honestly managed, because their premiums were too low or too uncertain. There were others, too, who attempted to prove that very low premiums in regular companies were just as safe as standard rates. Those who placed their confidence in these generally met with bitter disappointment. The Spectator Year Book gives a list of more than one hundred and eighty American life assurance companies which have failed, or retired from business, since 1812; and lists of defunct American assessment companies have been published containing several thousand names.

But let it not be supposed that similar, if less excessive, evils do not lurk in the business as conducted by many a large and prosperous company. On the other hand, it is none the less true that the variations from a severe standard of management have not reached the danger point. The burning question for managers to decide is, whether it is compatible with high principle — either commercial or moral—to relax wholesome restrictions for the purpose of popularity, and thus to venture as near as possible to the limit of prudence. Take the question of assumption of interest rate for example. Other things being equal, the premiums charged by the various companies will be lower if it is assumed that the average rate of interest to be realized throughout the future, on the aggregate of funds employed and unemployed, will be three and one half per cent (or four per cent) than if a three per cent rate should be assumed. Nearly all the principal States now require a standard based on the assumption of an average of four per cent interest, while five of the companies have already adopted, in whole or in part, a three per cent standard on new business. This enables these companies to make a gradual change, without shock, from the higher to the lower rate of interest (which means a change from a lower standard to a higher standard, inasmuch as more reserve must be held to make up for the lessening of the annual increase by interest). The effect of this will be seen from the fact that about $833,000,000 of business went off the books of American companies in 1899, by reason of death, maturity, purchase, and lapse, and the amount increases from year to year. Thus the continual process of four per cent business dropping out, and of three per cent business coming in, works an easy and gradual change from the lower to the higher standard without shock or inconvenience.

What is called the “ reserve fund,” which is the ever growing accumulation of invested assets mathematically required to secure the ultimate payment of policies, is larger or smaller according as a lower or a higher rate of future interest is assumed. But there are companies which are unwilling as yet to adopt the three per cent basis, because that would involve higher premiums, and would not appeal, therefore, to an unthinking public. The history of the productiveness of money invested in the most careful way, the present condition of the investment market, and the outlook for the future, would seem to warn prudent managers to be on the safe side in a matter of such radical importance. A pamphlet recently published, entitled Letters from Prominent Financiers on Interest Rates, gave the views of one hundred and fifteen bankers and experts in investment as to what rate of interest could be counted on without peradventure during the next twenty years. Out of these one hundred and fifteen financiers a majority thought that three per cent was the highest safe rate, and some even recommended two and a half per cent. A company, therefore, which does a large business with premiums based on the assumption that a higher rate of interest than three per cent will be earned may not be building the foundations of future prosperity as solidly as a company doing a smaller business with premiums based on the assumption that three per cent only will be earned. And it is always to be remembered that if the company is successful in earning more than the three per cent assumed, the excess goes back to the policy holders in the shape of dividends, if the company is conducted on the mutual plan.

Another consideration bearing on prosperity is the amount which the company pays back to the policy holder if his policy is prematurely surrendered. There has been great competition in this particular. Some have advocated the payment of the entire legal reserve held against each policy. Some have approximated to this. Some have even promised more. Rivalry in offering “ inducements ” has undoubtedly had an influence in raising such offers above what is wise or prudent. Every policy holder retiring undermines just to that extent the stability of the business, especially as it is believed that the bad lives stick while the good retire. The calculations of a life assurance company are based on the general assumption that the entrants will persist. To spend great energy in getting them in, and at the same time to offer undue inducements for them to get out, seems an irrational proceeding. The management of companies has been too much swayed by what is “ popular.” Many a time it is the unpopular measure which is the best.

There is a great deal of compassion wasted on the improvident people who give up their policies, and one would almost imagine, when reading what some have written, and what has in certain instances been enacted into law under a misguided popular influence, that the chief object of life assurance was to take care of those who abandon their policies at the expense of those who keep them. The truth is, that it is the prospective widows and orphans of the deserters who are entitled to our sympathy, and it ought to be made hard for those who, yielding to slight monetary pressure or to the selfish desire to use the money for this, that, or the other gratification, forget their duty to their wives and children. The cases of real hardship to the living policy holders are as nothing to the many cases of cruel hardship among widows and orphans who have been hastily and thoughtlessly abandoned by those for whom this desertion has been made easy by modern assurance methods, born of competition. The ideal system would be absolute prohibition of surrender values in cash, and the limitation of the same to fully paid assurance in proportion to the reserves held against each policy.

These illustrations might be amplified, as, for example, in respect to loans on policies. If properly made, they are undoubtedly secure, and most of the companies have yielded to the popular demand, and are now lending on the policies they issue. But after moving men to provide for their families by life assurance, is it wise to tempt them to mortgage that assurance, and so to impair the indemnity ? There is also a tendency to disregard the teachings of experience in respect to making proper charges and restrictions for extra hazardous risks, such as engagement in dangerous pursuits, in war, and residence in unhealthy regions. To the mass of people a policy is more attractive which concedes everything, no matter how unsound those concessions may be, but the time is coming when thinking people will discriminate.

There is nothing invidious in the foregoing remarks. They apply in greater or lesser degree to many companies whose directors wish in good faith to guard the interests of the policy holders. The vital point is, that the companies which have the courage to forego the ephemeral advantage of excess in “ liberality ” are not to be regarded as outstripped by companies ignoring rigid principles, and, through appeals to the uninstructed, doing a large new business. If a company has enough skill and vigor of management to transact a large business without abandoning the line of greatest security, so much the better; for a large business properly done means large benefits to large numbers of people, and minor errors sink into insignificance when there is great volume of business. The company that does the biggest business, therefore, is not necessarily the best. Volume is only an incident, and the best company is the one that is strongest, most skillfully managed, and that is husbanding resources for future profits and security.

Another prejudice which prevails is, that the “ company ” is interested against the policy holder. This cannot be true in a company governed by the mutual principle. All the larger companies are so governed and many of the smaller. By their charters, all the profits of the business inure to the benefit of the policy holders exclusively. Every policy holder is therefore interested like a partner in the protection of his company. Some might at first blush be disposed to deny that a prejudice against the companies exists, but examine the facts. The Insurance Report of the State of Connecticut,1 a State in which all the prominent companies do business, gives 11,972,373 as the total number of policies held in the regular companies reporting to that State. Is it credible that if the multitudes of intelligent men who hold these policies were alive to their own interests they would permit the operations of their companies to be handicapped and their prosperity threatened by onerous taxation, and by hostile legislation ? The influence of such a body of citizens would, if actively used, control the situation. Taxation of a life assurance company means inroad upon the profits and therefore increase of the price paid by the policy holder for his assurance. Yet the war tax imposed during the Spanish war, in the shape of stamps, is estimated to have cost the companies reporting to Connecticut more than $700,000 in 1899 (excluding industrial companies). It has been estimated that there are several companies whose individual tax is not less than $100,000.

Another evil is that taxation is so unequal and so unscientific. One State exempts : another taxes gross premiums two per cent. One State collects $500,000 per annum from life assurance companies alone in taxes: another State taxes on “ reserves; ” and the general government comes in and blankets the whole with a tremendous tax. Meanwhile the companies suffer indirect taxation on their investments, and pay heavily on real estate. Only a few weeks ago a bill was introduced into the New York Legislature, which proposed to tax mortgages one half of one per cent. Although this bill has not passed, there is no evidence that the multitude of policy holders, whose dividends would have been diminished by such a law, have manifested any interest in the success or defeat of the proposed bill. More than $6,000,000 was taken by taxation, in the year 1899, from the “ level premium ” life companies of the United States reporting to the State of Connecticut. Is it politic thus to mulct the savings of the provident, and to handicap thrift?

All the time that these measures are being carried out by those municipal authorities who seek to raise revenue in the easiest way, regardless of the important principles subverted, the four and a half millions of policy holders, in legislatures, in newspapers, in the councils of state, among the constituents, stand by in apathy, not only forgetting that it is really their money that is being taken, but with a certain bias against the very companies which they themselves compose. The same argument applies to hampering legislation and unwise official supervision, and it is no wonder that many who have the interests of widows and orphans at heart look longingly to the National Congress to centralize the supervision and control of life assurance companies by the constitution of a National Department at Washington. It is difficult to measure the benefit to the policy holder himself, if he would cease to regard the company as a stranger interested against him, and recognize that he is a part of it himself, and that whatever advantage the company gets is his advantage also.

Another prevailing prejudice is that life assurance companies are tying up money, and are in some cases growing so large that there is no telling what will come of them in the end. As a matter of fact, these companies are great distributing agencies, of immense convenience to the people, bringing money within the reach of all who have proper security. Their assets consist, for the most part, in loans made to those who are using the money to develop and advance industry, commerce, and the other complex movements which are involved in a progressive civilization. The very law of their existence requires that their assets should be as constantly as possible in active use. Moreover, instead of being ever growing octopi,” their growth is limited by the very conditions of the business ; because, by reason of lapses, surrenders, deaths, and maturities, so much assurance is annually terminated, that a very large business is required to keep up the total amount outstanding, and the latter amount is likely to increase less and less rapidly, even under the present order of things.

This is the day of concentration in business. The advantage accruing to profitable management (and here it is well to remind the reader once more that the profit in companies on the mutual plan is realized by the policy holders and by nobody else) from the transaction of business on a large scale is so great and so obvious that it must be recognized and approved by thoughtful minds. The large company has an advantage in the possibilities for economy in results. In life assurance, as in other domains, there is what might be called a market price for agency service, and the struggle of a wise manager is to reduce this to a minimum, without destroying the machinery which produces the income. There is an extravagant method, and there is a cheese-paring method, and the path of prudence lies between. “ There is that seattereth and yet increaseth ; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” After all, the test of management is “ surplus,” which term is employed for want of a better, and because it has the sanction of usage. It means, in assurance, the money accumulated over and above the mathematical requirement for safety. It serves both for extra reserve, that is, security, and for a reservoir of profits, or dividends to policy holders. This surplus is derived from (1) savings on expenses, (2) savings on mortality, (3) savings on interest, (4) lapses of reserves over and above what is returned to policy holders, and (5) fortunate investments enhancing in value ; and money may profitably be “ expended,” thus diminishing the contribution to surplus from category No. 1 when such expenditure produces surplus from the other sources, Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5. A company may be so managed as to show most superbly on No. 1 and to make a wretched exhibit on Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5. The surplus actually earned is therefore a better criterion. An illustration may make this clearer : Suppose a company finds that by spending some thousands of dollars on physicians and inspectors it can so much more carefully select the subjects for assurance that great improvement is made on the mortality rate, and that millions are saved in death losses. That company’s ratio of expenses may show less favorably than a company refraining from such expenditure, but it needs no expert financier or statistician to demonstrate that there is real economy in the practice. In 1899 one of the large American companies declined $34,000,000 of business out of $237,000,000 applied for. This was accomplished by means of measures such as that just referred to. The benefit of such sifting does not need to be argued. In the same way money spent for skillful officers, for adepts in investing funds, for scrutiny of accounts, for watchfulness over all those transactions involved in an extensive business, might in a great measure be spared and the expense account pure and simple be immensely improved ; but it would, be at an enormous sacrifice of real profit. " Penny wise and pound foolish ” is a proverb which applies to life assurance as well as to other departments of activity. The danger lies in excess, ignorance, prejudice, and lack of care and industry.

The large company, further, has better opportunities for improving money at the best advantage, and of securing steady averages in the mortality rate. Without dwelling unduly on propositions like these which need slight illustration, it may be put down as a fact that the advantage for the policy holders is with companies doing business on a considerable scale in a judicious manner. Now these large accumulations of money in the hands of companies, instead of being locked up, are immediately put out into the hands of the people, and enter into the productive channels of the country. The money lent on bond and mortgage by the life assurance companies reporting to the State of Connecticut exceeded on January 1, 1900, the sum of $455,000,000. The money invested in railroad and other securities representing the commercial prosperity of the land exceeded $729,000,000. Every one who has proper security to offer can come to these companies and, without expense in the way of fees or commission of the middleman, can borrow money at the lowest prevailing rates of interest, and the very nature of the business which requires permanency of investment is a guarantee to the borrower that he will not be disturbed except for essential cause. The creation of these great central monetary agencies, therefore, is an absolute benefit to the mass of the people, and, instead of removing money from its legitimate channels, is a means of directing it into those channels in the simplest, most economical, and least objectionable way.

Another prejudice which has fastened itself on some minds is directed against that very surplus which has already been mentioned as the evidence of prosperity. Is it possible that the fallacy has been invented by those not successful in amassing a large surplus, and therefore envious of those who have been more skillful and more provident ? No critic has ever succeeded in showing why the same argument does not apply to an assurance company as to a bank or to an individual. The bank with the largest surplus is always regarded as the strongest and the one most likely to divide large profits. An individual’s wealth is measured by the excess of his possessions over what he owes, in other words, his surplus. It is the same with a life assurance company. Surplus represents the wealth of a company, and therefore the wealth of its policy holders. If surplus is attacked, the policy holders suffer. If surplus is dissipated, the policy holder is in danger. The surplus is held for the policy holders collectively, just as, in a partnership, for the members. It is not necessarily at the immediate disposal of an individual member of the firm, but for the partners collectively ; and, as in the case of the firm, the policy holder does not participate in cash until he gets a dividend ; but he does profit in a comprehensive way all the time, through the security and prosperity of the business resulting from the surplus earned and accumulated, and he does profit in cash when the time comes, through rational management, for a distribution. Many banks accumulate large surplus, paying smaller dividends than they could, because the advantages obtained by holding a large surplus in facilitating business and increasing earnings are more important to the owners than the increase of dividends that would result from an earlier distribution.

Then again, it is quite as true in the conduct of life assurance as in any other business, that it is for the benefit of the individual policy holder that money breeds money, and the bigger the surplus the bigger the profits earned for the individual ; and any one who looks into the facts intelligently will see that every policy holder who is now a member of a company will get more in dividends, other things being equal, because the company has a large surplus, than he would get if from the beginning the surplus of the company had been divided closely from year to year among the policy holders, because what the individual policy holder loses in a small reservation of surplus not paid him at the end of the year, he more than gains in the larger profit resulting from the surplus brought over at the beginning of the year from the earnings of the past.

The truth is that the ordinary public The truth is that the ordinary public mind is swayed easily by the unconsidered, but oftentimes plausible, arguments of those who, as Dry den said, “ think too little and talk too much.” Intelligent people who wish to get the best for their money in the shape of life assurance would do well to visit the parent offices of the companies, and investigate such animadversions as are often made by those either not competent or having a distinct interest in creating a false impression. There are numbers of men making a livelihood by stirring up policy holders against their companies, and it is fair to say that the majority of the lawsuits against such companies are instigated by such designing persons. The writer has in mind several men, socalled “ actuaries” and “lawyers,” who have fomented vexatious legal proceedings against a certain company, and the result of every one of such proceedings has been favorable to the company after lamentable expense both to the misled attacking policy holder and to the mass of policy holders attacked. The only person who has profited has been the intriguer who has led the claimant astray. Every well-managed company has capable officials in its employ, always ready to take pains to furnish information and explanation to every policy holder, and the competition between the companies is the very best protection possible against injustice and wrongdoing. An electric searchlight is ever directed on all the transactions of American life assurance companies. There is no other enterprise which is subjected to such public scrutiny. Secrecy and mystery are, by the existing machinery of publicity, almost impossible. And yet the unsophisticated citizen is often so willing to be deceived, that he will take the unsupported word of the venal adviser who charges him a fee, and refuse to go to headquarters and learn the truth from honorable men, or make the investigation that is freely offered.

Then there is the great prejudice that one can handle his own money better than the company, and therefore he will not assure his life, and this goes hand in hand with the conviction of the non-capitalist that he cannot afford it. It is a happy thing that these prejudices are gradually breaking down, but the people still treat life assurance as a luxury. They pay in their premiums in good times, and drop them, or refrain from taking the first step, in bad times. The reverse of this would be rational. Instances of bitter disappointment to families are occurring all the time, upon the death of the bread-winner leaving nothing but debts. In former times, life assurance was sparingly resorted to; and almost exclusively by salaried men, and by men of small affairs. Later, the prosperous and the capitalistic class learned that “ an anchor to windward,” in the shape of life assurance, is an advantage. Many are the successful merchants who have left one or more hundreds of thousands of assurance which has saved the integrity of their business, or bridged over gaps while the estates were being disentangled. Partnerships have been saved from wreck by the interassurance of the members. Families enjoying luxury have, through the medium of large life assurance, escaped being suddenly plunged into the misery of dependency. The man who is confident that he can handle his own money best, without committing it to a company, ignores the uncertainty of life. Even if he has the requisite knowledge, skill, and steadfastness to do as well as the company throughout a lifetime of sixty years, how can he be sure he will not die ? Premature death wrecks all his plans. The assured man establishes a capital for those he is to leave behind the moment he assures.

It is calculated from the statistics that more than $31,000,000 have been paid by American companies alone in the ten years ending December 31, 1898, to the beneficiaries of policies which have had but one annual payment made on them ! Taking a broad view of these transactions, the beneficiaries have received twenty-five times the amount paid in by the policy holders. A similar calculation could be made as to policies on which only two annual payments had been made, which would develop the fact that as to these the beneficiaries had received more than $35,000,000, which was about twelve and one half times the amount paid in. And the computation might be carried on to those having made three annual payments, four, five, etc. It would be found that by far the greater part of the $663,000,000 which have been paid within a period of ten years by the American life assurance companies on the death of the assured has proved to be more money in each case than has been paid in. Who can contend that in these instances the investment could have been better handled by the man himself ? Of course there must be some who will offset these by living to mature old age, and paying in as much, or more, than their beneficiaries draw out at their death. But these will have had the comfort of the indemnity throughout the many years when it was most needed, and the skill of the company managers will oftentimes prove to have been sufficient to wipe out by successful investment and shrewd management the excess of payments into the company over the amount which would otherwise have fallen due on the policy at death. The class who “ cannot afford” to assure are generally the improvident and the reckless. There are few persons who cannot save something out of their earnings, and experience has shown that such savings cannot be better improved than by putting them into a life assurance policy. The mere habit of saving enforced by the annually recurring premium payments on the policy is an advantage in itself. The population of the United States and Canada is about 82,000,000. The assurance in force in all American regular companies is held by about four and a half millions of people. There is always a vast multitude of unassured, and these are being annually enlarged by the growth of youth to manhood. There is no institution which has so effectually distributed wealth to benefit the largest number of people in the most judicious way as life assurance.

Among the various other fallacies to which the limitations of a magazine article forbid extended reference there is one which is so vulgar and so vile that it ought not to require notice. It is one which seems unfortunately to have fastened itself on the management of some companies, and which is a disgrace to a noble institution. It is the apparent belief that it is compatible with honor and dignity to build up a company by doing injury to its neighbors. It is difficult to make this plain without being invidious, and therefore the application of the general principle here stated must be left to the reader.

Assuredly, an institution which exists for the benefit of widows and orphans, and which has under its control more than one thousand five hundred millions of money, and assurance to the amount of seven thousand three hundred millions, is one which ought not to be conducted on a low plane of competition. And yet in certain quarters a spirit prevails which shows itself in public assaults by the officers of one company on the personal motives of the officers of other companies ; in flippant references by circular or through subsidized editors of public journals ; in raids upon the servants of competitors made more to cripple the adversary than to benefit the raider; and in a variety of practices tending to degrade the business. Fortunately, those who indulge in these devices are few, but in some cases they seem to be vain of the very things which ought to bring a blush to the face. One can scarcely imagine the officers of a bank or trust company descending to such petty practices. Then why should decent people tolerate the discrediting of such a sacred calling as that of life assurance by such tactics ?

Prejudices will inevitably prevail in every department of human activity. It is too much to hope that any enterprise can be absolutely purged of them. But the institution of life assurance is one of such dignity and usefulness; it deals with such sacred interests ; it is so vast, so serious, so important, that in the opinion of some, among whom the writer desires to be included, it is worthy of the best endeavors of the best people in the community to keep it decent, pure, and dignified.

James W. Alexander.

  1. The official reports of the States of Massachusetts and New York for the year 1899 had not been published at the time this article was written.