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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54

President's Inaugural Address

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President's Inaugural Address.

At the opening meeting of the present session on Monday, the 30th of November, Mr. Sprague read his inaugural address. He said:

Gentlemen,—On the present occasion I propose to submit to you a few remarks upon the business aspects of our work, and some of the circumstances upon which the prosperity of a life insurance office depends. In the first instance, it may be useful to examine what is the real importance of life insurance to the country; and for this purpose I will take some of the figures which are now available by means of the Board of Trade returns, and compare them with other figures relating to the position and progress of the country. It appears from the Board of Trade returns that the income and assets of the life offices are steadily, not to say rapidly, increasing, the total income of the British life offices having increased from nearly 14½ millions sterling in 1871 to over 22 millions in 1884. The total life funds of the same companies now amount to about 140 millions, the increase of the funds since 1871 having been over 52 millions. These are very large figures, and they prove that the business in which we are engaged is a very important one. If, however, we confine our attention to them, we shall, perhaps, conceive an exaggerated idea of the importance of our business, and I will, therefore, compare them with the figures relating to some other industries. Thus I find it stated in the Statesman's Year Book that the value of the total imports into the United Kingdom in the year 1883 was nearly 427 millions sterling, and the value of the exports of British produce about 240 millions, the largest articles of import being corn and flour of the value of about 67½ millions, and the largest item of export being cotton manufactures of the value of about 76½. millions. The value of coal raised in the year 1883 was 46 millions. The total paid-up capital of the railways of the United Kingdom was 785 millions, and the total annual receipts of the railways 71 millions, The amount of the National Debt page 2 in March, 1884, was 746 millions, the annual charge in respect of it being about 29½ millions. In Professor Leone Levi's work on the Wages and Earnings of the Working Classes, it is stated that in 1842 Mr. Porter estimated the amount of personal property of the country at £2,200,000,000, and of real property £3,282,000,000; total, £5,482,000,000. And in 1878 Mr. Giffen estimated the total at £8,500,000,000. In comparison with these larger figures, the funds and the business of the life offices seem small. The population of the country is estimated to have been about 36 millions in 1884; and it would be useful if we could determine what proportion of the population have their lives insured, and whether the proportion is increasing or not. Unfortunately, the returns required to be made to the Board of Trade give very little information bearing upon these points.