Essays upon several projects: or, effectual ways for advancing the interest of the nation.:
Defoe, Daniel, 1661?-1731.

Of ASSURANCES.

ASSURANCES among Mer|chants I believe may plead Pre|scription, and has been of use time out of mind in Trade; tho perhaps never so much a Trade as now.

'Tis a Compact among Merchants. Its beginning being an Accident to Page  113 Trade, and arose from the Disease of Mens Tempers, who having run lar|ger Adventures in a single Bottom than afterwards they found convenient, grew fearful and uneasy; and disco|vering their uneasiness to others, who, perhaps, had no Effects in the same Vessel, they offer to bear part of the Hazard for part of the Profit; Con|venience made this a Custom, and Custom brought it into a Method, till at last it becomes a Trade.

I cannot question the Lawfulness of it, since all Risque in Trade is for Gain; and when I am necessitated to have a greater Cargo of Goods in such or such a Bottom, than my Stock can afford to lose, another may surely offer to go a Part with me; and as 'tis just if I give another part of the Gain, he shou'd run part of the Risque, so it is as just, that if he runs part of my Risque, he shou'd have part Page  114 of the Gain. Some Object the dis|parity of the Premio to the Hazard, when the Ensurer runs the Risque of 100 l. on the Seas from Jamaica to Lon|don for 40 s. which, say they, is pre|posterous and unequal. Though this Objection is hardly worth Answering to Men of Business, yet it looks some|thing fair to them that know no bet|ter; and for the Information of such, I trouble the Reader with a few Heads.

First, They must consider the Ensu|rer is out no Stock.

Secondly, It is but one Risque the Ensurer runs, whereas the Assured has had a Risque out, a Risque of Debts abroad, a Risque of a Market, and a Risque of his Factor, and has a Risque of a Market to come, and therefore ought to have an answerable Profit.

Thirdly, If it has been a Trading Voyage, perhaps, the Adventurer has Paid Three or Four such Premio's, Page  115 which sometimes make the Ensurer clear more by a Voyage, than the Merchant; I my self have Paid 100 l. Ensurances in those small Premio's on a Voyage I have not gotten 50 l. by; and I suppose I am not the first that has done so neither.

This way of Assuring has also, as other Arts of Trade have, suffer'd some Improvement (if I may be al|low'd that Term) in our Age; and the first step upon it, was an Ensurance-Office for Houses to Ensure them from Fire; Common Fame gives the Pro|ject to Dr. Barebone; a Man, I sup|pose, better known as a Builder than a Physician. Whether it were his, or whose it was, I do not enquire; it was settled on a Fund of Ground-Rents, to Answer in case of Loss, and met with very good Acceptance.

But it was soon follow'd by another, by way of Friendly Society; where every Page  116 one who Subscribe, pay their Quota to Build up any Man's House who is a Contributor, if it shall happen to be Burnt. I won't decide which is the Best, or which Succeeded best, but I believe the latter brings in most Money to the Contriver.

Only one Benefit I cannot omit which they reap from these Two Socie|ties who are not concern'd in either, That if any Fire happen, whether in Houses Ensur'd or not Ensur'd, they have each of them a set of Lusty Fel|lows, generally Water-men, who be|ing immediately call'd up, where-ever they live, by Watchmen Appointed, are, it must be confess'd, very Active and Diligent in helping to put out the Fire.

As to any further Improvement to be made upon Assurances in Trade, no question there may, and I doubt Page  117 not but on Payment of a small Duty to the Government, the King might be made the General Ensurer of all Foreign Trade: Of which more un|der another Head.

I am of the opinion also, that an Office of Ensurance Erected to Ensure the Titles of Lands, in an Age where they are so precarious as now, might be a Project not unlikely to succeed, if Establish'd on a good Fund. But I shall say no more to that, because it seems to be a Design in hand by some Persons in Town, and is indeed no Thought of my own.

Ensuring of Life I cannot admire; I shall say nothing to it; but that in Italy where Stabbing and Poysoning is so much in Vogue, something may be said for it, and on contingent An|nuities; and yet I never knew the thing much approv'd of on any ac|count.