Gentlemen,—I thank you for again electing me your President, —it is an honour which I highly esteem. You may rest assured that I will, to the utmost of my power, endeavour to perform the duties of the chair, I trust, to your satisfaction.
It is customary on the opening of a session for your President to say a few words by way of “Address” on some subject, of his own selection, which has more or less relation to the general business of the Society. As I had last winter the pleasure of reading a paper which occupied a good deal of my time, I have chosen a subject for which the materials are almost all at hand, but which when strung together may, in their continuity, possess an interest which will not be unwelcome to the members of an Actuarial Society. I propose to consider one or two incidents in the History and Statistics of Life Assurance.
The History of Life Assurance is exceedingly interesting. Bestowing all our attention upon the engagements of the passing hour, we are very apt to forget the arduous up-hill struggles of the many schemes of the past two centuries. If an account should ever be written, as I believe it will, of the career of those futile efforts, it should teach us to be very careful, and watchful of our position. There is in our time, it sometimes appears to me, rather an excess of that spirit of competition which I fear tends to weaken, and not to strengthen. Life Assurance is not entirely one of the exact sciences. The ordinary trader may easily, by applying one or two principles of accounting, exhibit the solvency or insolvency of his business; but it is almost impossible, except in the mass, to fathom the Liabilities of the business of Life Assurance. An ordinary debt is owing now, or a bill will certainly mature on a given date, but our debts accrue in the future, and are not individually dated. In the maturing of a multitude of them we have the utmost confidence.