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ART. I.-1. A Comparative View of the Various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives. By Charles Babbage, Esq., M.A., F.R.S., &c. &c. London.
2. Deed of Settlement and Bye-laws of the Society for Equitable Assurances, together with the Addresses of Mr. Morgan, Actuary, from the year 1765 to 1825.
AMONG the various Institutions in which Great Britain may justly pride herself, as being instrumental to public as well as private benefit, there are none of more importance, or of more general utility, than those Associations that have been formed with the view of securing a competency to the widows and children of such persons, chiefly in the middle ranks of society, as have only a life-interest in their incomes; and who, from the smallness of those incomes, and the uncertain duration of human life, are, in very many cases, utterly unable to lay by any provision for their surviving families. In this description are comprehended a great part of the clerical profession, civil officers and clerks holding situations under government, annuitants in general, and that very numerous class of naval and military officers, of whom a large proportion can barely subsist on their pay, and who must continually and painfully be reminded, that the pension to which their widows are entitled, liberal as it must be considered on the part of the public that bestows it, is far from being adequate to the decent maintenance of a family. To these may be added, the greater number of professional men, as lawyers, physicians, surgeons, &c., who may happen to marry and have families, while only in moderate practice; as also, merchants, bankers, shopkeepers, and various tradesmen under the same circumstances, who may not have the means of leaving a provision for their families or near connexions, in the event of premature death. To all these the various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives hold out relief, available for the most part by all such as are able and willing to resort to them; and the truth is, that even the very highest ranks of society have now frequent recourse to them, in order to make a provision for the younger children where the family estate is entailed.
Such Institutions are almost exclusively confined to Great Britain; indeed they could only exist in a country where public credit
VOL. XXXV. NO. LXIX.
has been long established on the basis of good faith, and property of all kinds secured by just and equal laws. They are even of modern invention in England; and yet, young as they are (the oldest, except two of somewhat different nature, being established little more than sixty years), their importance and extent may in part be appreciated by the single fact of that oldest (the Equitable) having at this moment an accumulated capital of not less than ELEVEN MILLIONS! So little indeed were the benefits to be derived from Societies of this nature at first understood, that a period of thirty years was suffered to elapse before another, the Westminster, was established. They now, however, amount to between thirty and forty.
That among such a number, and in such an age, when speculation is the prevailing mania, some of them should be conducted on unsound or unsafe, and others on dishonest, principles, is not much to be wondered at. Mr. Babbage says,
In the "Doctrine of Life Annuities and Assurances," Mr. Baily has anticipated me in giving a sketch of the offices then existing: so many new ones have arisen since the period at which he wrote, that they require a volume rather than a chapter for their analysis. In exposing the disgraceful practices which prevail at some of them, I am merely repeating sentiments which he has more forcibly expressed; and, although his remarks have not yet had the effect of removing the evil, I feel confident that little more is requisite, than by rendering those practices generally known, to make them universally condemned.-Pref. ix.
It is, indeed, of high importance, where so many thousand families are so deeply concerned, that the public should be satisfied as to the honour and integrity of those, under whose management these Institutions are placed; for of all frauds that can be committed, none are more scandalous and more detestably wicked than those practised against the interests of charity and humanity—more especially still, where the objects are the widow and the orphan.
Mr. Babbage, we need scarcely say, ranks among the first mathematicians of our age; and he is not merely an abstract calculator, spending his time in solving problems of transcendental geometry, constructing algebraic formulæ, or raising infinite series to the n'h power, but a man of general science, of varied talent;-and one who to his other acquirements adds that of being a good practical mechanist. We need no further proof of this last point, than the machine which he has actually constructed for the computation of logarithmic and other tables, and which alone would entitle him to rank with such men as Herschel and Brunel.* We had some right,
In a letter to Sir Humphrey Davy, Mr. Babbage says of this extraordinary engine, which we have seen at work, that it will "calculate tables governed by laws which have not been hitherto shown to be explicitly determinable, or solve equations for which analyti cal methods of solution have not yet been contrived." The invention includes also another