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AN INSURANCE RETROSPECT. It is encouraging to step aside from the broken track of political and official discussion to observe the progress of those financial institutions which stand like faithful sentinels over the world of industry. Every year adds to the importance of our great insurance associations, and if we may judge from the annual report just issued of the largest and most prosperous—the "Royal"- there is ample evidence that they are equal to their increasing responsibilities. The commercial vitality of this country has not yet perfectly recovered from the paralysing effects of the memorable Black Friday. The atmosphere of trade has remained dull and heavy throughout the length and breadth of the king- dom, and, in full contrast to the general depression, it is extremely gratifying to note the advancement of a great institution like the Royal Insurance Company. As if to test the sturdy foundation of the company to the very utmost, an extraordinary increase has occurred in the amount of the losses by disastrous fires. Yet, notwithstanding every other adverse circumstance, the Royal" again pays its usual dividend without touching either its subscribed capital or large reserve fund. The executive of the company, conscious of a stability which defies the most unusual combinations of unfortunate eventualities, has boldly taken the lead in promoting a more cautions acceptance of fire proposals. Such a step would naturally lead to a large reduction of questionable business, but the con- tinued multiplicity of more sterling transactions has rendered the loss by rejected proposals imperceptible. In 1862 the fire premiums amounted to £ 300,6^0 in 1864 they were £ 406,403; and in 1866 they were £ ii7,271. The report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on' Fire Protection, of which the distinguished chairman of the Royal" was a mem- ber, has only very recently made its appearance; but its recommendations are of such urgent importance that legislation cannot too promptly follow, and if the sug- gestions of the Committee receive the sanction of Parlia- ment, we may soon hope for a large reduction in the number of calamitous fires, and a consequent reduction of rates of premium. By no means the least urgent re- commendation is that which advises a judicial inquiry into the cause of conflagrations, with the power of examining witnesses on oath. In the face of the reck- less carelessness and fraud which contribute so largely to the lift of destructive fires, it would be strange if so simple and necessary a precaution were long deferred. Turning to that portion of the report of the Royal Insurance Company which refers to the life business, we find a chronicle of success without drawback. Here, as in the fire department, proposals are accepted with the utmost caution, and yet the assurances effected increase in number and amount with the same wondrous steadi- ness. A remarkable proof of this flourishing tendency of affairs is the fact that during the last two years the amount assured is equal to that for the whole of the third quinquennial period ending in 1859; and this result is obtained notwithstanding a rejection during the same two years of 774 lives, amounting to 2418, 97 5. Such unwavering vigilance and strict adhesion to the most legitimate business seems to find its own reward in the unbounded extent of public confidence. From the earliest period of its history, the Royal Insurance Company has been conducted with a remarkable provision for future stability. The directors seem bent on working out a great problem of prudence. Avoiding eveiy temptation, they kept faithfully to their programme, and that pro- gramme meant future prosperity in preference to pre- sent extravagance. They never advised the payment of a dividend which could not be always easily, maintained, and they have fostered from first to last the accumu- lating reserve fund with a most profound sense of its value as a great pillar of strength and security. The effect of this wise adminis- tration is becoming more and more evident by the rapid growth of an already gigantic business. By some mysterious powers of perception the public has probed the administrative ability with which the com- pany has been conducted, and a bond of confidence has been established which strengthens every year. It is only by such careful and prudent management that we see the full benefits of provident co-operation. Firm as a rock in the troubled sea of enterprise, the Royal Insur- ance Company stands proudly erect amid the debris of countless wrecks.

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