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“ The party just loses so much over and above the premium he received, paid back for every £100 of risk he took upon it."
« And if it did return?”
“ He just pockets so much of premium, as he took of £100 risks upon it.”
« Does either party know where the vessel is all this time?” “ No. If they do, it is fraud.”
“ Then, is this not a hazard upon an uncertain event, of which neither party knows what will be the issue ?”
“It is precisely so.”
“ Could vessels be built stronger and safer, and such melancholy ac. cidents as the loss of the Shannon prevented in future?”
« With the greatest ease.”
" Because it would be against the interests of all the parties I have already mentioned.”
" Is there any proof that vessels might be built stronger and safer ?" “ Yes.” « Where is it?"
“ In men of war, or ships fitted by Government, as was the case with the Isabella and Dorothea, where (but we must keep this to ourselves) ships are not insured.”
« Then do you consider insurance to be the sole cause of so many merchant vessels being built unsafe, and lost ?"
“ I consider insurance to be the sole cause of it.”
“ Would it not be to the advantage of the crews, that vessels should be built stronger and safer ?"
“Unquestionably. It would preserve them from being drowned, or losing their property.”
“ And of passengers ?”
“ And is this known to all these parties, ship-builders, ship-owners, and underwriters ?”
“ To many of them, it is as well known as it is to me.”
“ Why this is very like a combination by all of these parties against the interests of the public?"
“ And so it is.”
“ The whole principle of trade, is buying cheap and selling dear; and of the carrying trade, in keeping up the value of the stock, and making a profit above the expenses."
“ This, then, does not seem to conform to those principles ?"
“ It has no more similarity to them, than throwing the dice at Crockford's has with fair dealing. They are both speculations on a hazard, and the only earthly difference between them is, that insurance is car. ried on, under the sanction of law, and is considered a legal risk for the benefit of trade; the other is unprotected by law, and is considered illegal, but in principle they are both hazards of precisely the same kind."
“ Are there any other instances than men-of-war, of vessels being strongly built ?”
" What are they?"
“ To what extent do you suppose that lives are sacrificed every year, which might, if vessels were made stronger and safer, be preserved ?"
“ To at least two THOUSAND LIVES EVERY YEAR.”
“ It is precisely so, and the only difference between them is, that in the one case, Burking was detected, and in the other case, it is not known to the public."
“ And to what extent is property sacrificed every year, which might be preserved ?"
" To at least a million sterling a-year."
“Do you mean British subjects and British property only, or the lives and property of all nations ?”
“ I mean British subjects, and British property only. If we include all nations, the amounts will at least require to be doubled.”
“ Upon what grounds do you make the calculation?"
“ Upon statements and calculations which have lately appeared in the newspapers.”
“ Then why do not the public insist on vessels being made stronger and safer, and this suffering and loss prevented ?”.
“ The public are always slow to move, even where their own safety and interests are concerned, and to the vast majority of them, these things are not known; and when a vessel is lost, they attribute it to a dispensation of Divine Providence, shrug up their shoulders, bless God it was not themselves, consider it was a fair sea risk, and that it could not have been prevented.”
“ Have no attempts been made to inform the public, that vessels might be built stronger and safer?"
“ Yes. Many."
“ The public would not look at any publication, or receive any information on the subject. In fact, the public would as soon think of looking at a book in Hebrew or Chaldee, as they would at a book on strengthening ships.”
“ But will ship-builders, ship-owners, underwriters, and surveyors of shipping, not look at them?"
“ No. They all know well that it would be against their interests if
* A charge was here made by the clerk against a party in the India House, of so strong a nature that we cannot allow it to be reported to the public without proof of its truth. Our clerk's facts and inferences well deserve attention; but we think him rather severe in his imputation of motives. Yet men, noways remarkable for inhu. manity as individuals, often do strange things collectively. We have little faith in the justice or humanity of Trustees, Directors, Commissioners, Justices of Peace, or the Members of Close Corporations, when several act together.
ships were made stronger and safer, and therefore they are to a man interestedly prejudiced against them.”
“ On what pretence do they object to vessels being made stronger and safer?”
« On pretence of the additional expense of building; but which is just a pretence to gull the public, and to make it pay for all vessels that are wrecked and damaged, and to fill their own pockets."
« Then, if the public were made aware that their lives and property were sacrificed in the sea to fill the pockets of ship-builders, shipowners, underwriters, and surveyors of shipping, would they not take steps for their own safety ?”
" I doubt it very much. There is such an apathy amongst the public, and such a general feeling, that what is every body's business is nobody's business; that, unless the whole nation could be aroused, it is most pro. bable that nothing would be done, although the public were made fully aware of all these facts.”
“ Have not many passengers been drowned in steamers, since the introduction of steam navigation ?"
“ Yes. Many."
« The Legislature is tender of interfering with the property of private parties; and it considers that if one-half of the public are fleeced of their property and drowned, to fill the pockets of the other half, that this is all for the benefit of trade, (like the glazier's boy breaking the windows, and the doctor breaking the glazier's boy's head, both for the benefit of trade,) and that it is not their province to interfere between the parties. Besides, these drownings keep down the population, which Malthus says, should be kept down to the subsistence fund ; and they are attended with this peculiar good consequence, that the parties never make any complaints to disturb the repose of the Legislature afterwards, as clamorous and dissatisfied emigrants sometimes do. For all these good reasons, the Legislature declines to interfere."
“ But suppose a transport vessel, full of troops, to be lost, and all the troops drowned.”
“ Then Government just sends another, to run the same risk.”
“ No. What is the cost of a few hundreds or a few thousands of troops, drowned, (the lives are considered of no value whatever,) to the revenue which Government derives from the loss of vessels ?"
~ How does Government derive a revenue from the loss of vessels ?”.
“ It increases the sale of timber, hemp, flax, iron, copper, pitch, tar, and all materials of which vessels and their equipments are composed, and on which there are duties. It also increases the sale of all documents connected with shipping, on which there are stamp duties, such as charters of affreightment, bills of lading, policies of insurance, arbitra. tion bonds, protests, seamen's articles of agreement, apprentices' indentures, &c., and even increases the consumpt of paper, on which there are heavy duties, and materially increases the revenue of the Postoffice."
“ Any thing else ?”
- If a vessel be lost with an export cargo, another cargo will be required to supply the country, or place it was going to.”
“ But, then, does not Government lose the duty on imports? Suppose, for instance, an East Indiaman coming home from China with a cargo of teas and silks, to be lost on the passage home, does not Government lose the duties on these articles ?"
“ No. The sovereigns of Leadenhall Street, who supply the public with these articles, exactly as the Dutch supplied spices from Amboyana, order home another vessel, belonging to their High Mightinesses, with a cargo, which pays the duty in lieu of the one which was lost, and they charge the whole expense to the public.”
But suppose a West Indiaman, laden with sugar, rum, and coffee, to be lost, and which was not under the control of sovereign purveyors and sovereign carriers ?"
“ In that case, the supply of these articles is regulated by the demand for them; and if one vessel and cargo be lost, another will be sent to supply the demand, and Government does not lose the duties."
“ But suppose a Portuguese vessel, laden with wine, or an American vessel, laden with tobacco, to be lost, does not Government lose the duties?”
“ Another vessel is just sent in the place of the one which was lost ; and the only effect is, to heighten the prime cost of the article to the public, to pay the expense of the vessel and cargo which were lost, before the duties are laid on by Government."
- Does this hold throughout all commerce?”.
“ Throughout the whole property in shipping, and exports and imports of the kingdom.”
“ Then, it appears Government are as much gainers by the loss of vessels as ship-builders are.”
“ They are more so, since the property of Government is only nominal, and consists only of duties, for which no real value is given ; but the property of ship-builders is real material and workmanship."
“ Does this account, then, for the repugnance which Government have to encourage the building of vessels stronger and safer, which do not belong to the Royal Navy?”.
“In my opinion it does so.”
“ Was not there a committee of the House of Commons appointed to inquire into the loss of steam-vessels, sometime ago ?”
“A report of the House of Commons, recommending that steamers should be built stronger; which in all probability will be carried into effect in the year 1932, and, Finis."
“ Since you are so well informed on the subject, why do you not let the public know how easy it would be to prevent many shipwrecks and drownings ?"
“ Do you think I am a fool ?” “ No.
« Then, how can you expect that I, having the fear of God, and of losing my situation, before my eyes, would furnish the public with information which might have the effect of taking my bread from me ?"
“ How could giving the information be the means of taking your bread from you?"
“ If vessels were built stronger and safer, there would be fewer losses, and consequently fewer insurance-brokers, agents, and under. writers; and it then might happen that my employer might have no employment for himself, and consequently would have none for me. In fact, with all this immense establishment of Lloyd's, which is supported by the losses of vessels and merchandize, and which are paid for by a tax levied from the public, the business would almost entirely be taken away from it.”
“But could you not give the information to the public, without its being known where it came from?"
« Would the loss of my situation not be punishment sufficient, without losing my money, and getting the ill will of all parties in addition?"
« You would not get the ill will of the public."
« No. But did you ever know the public to reward its benefactor yet? Look to James Watt ; look to Henry Bell ; look even to the great Sir Isaac Newton. No, no. A grateful and discerning public takes special care that its benefactors shall be first duly starved to death, and then it raises monuments to perpetuate their memories. The public gratitude is very much like Falstaff's description of honour; therefore, • I'm for none on't.'”
“I never thought our business had any connection with Burking by wholesale before.'
“ It is rather a harsh expression, but it all tends to the same end, that of getting money from others.”
“ Do you consider that any vessels are lost accidentally on purpose?" . “ Yes. Many." « From what reason do you suppose so ?” “ From the cupidity of human nature.” « Please to explain yourself.”
" Where you see trials in the newspapers every year, and almost every month, of people insuring their properties, and then setting fire to the premises, to defraud insurance companies, depend upon it the same thing is done, to a much greater extent, with shipping, with a different element, being water instead of fire ; and where a vessel is lost, accidentally on purpose, in 99 cases out of 100, detection becomes impracticable, and is never attempted, and the loss is effected therefore without risk. But it all comes off the shoulders of the public, who are. well able to bear it.”
“ But should not means be taken to inform the public of this?"
“ I question much whether the public would thank any person to inform them ; since, when they are robbed, and a portion of them drowned, without the survivors suspecting that they might both be prevented, where ignorance is bliss, 'twou'd be folly to be wise.'”
“ But why do not shipowners and underwriters look to prevent these losses?"
" For the reasons I gave you before-that it is frequently the interest of a shipowner that his vessel should be lost; and in no case where his vessel is fully insured does he need to care about it being lost ; and that, if there were no losses at sea, there would be no sea insurances. And hark !-a word in your ear; but we must keep this to ourselves instead of a vessel and a half being lost every day, some underwriters, shipowners, and ship-builders, do not care a fig if there were a vessel and a half lost every hour, and the crew and passengers drowned, so long as it fills their pockets.”
“ Then, how is this crying evil to be remedied ?”