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officials of one of them. The whole thing was grotesquely overexaggerated, and legislation was passed in a panic which, while doing little or nothing to make things better for the policyholders, has for the time being (since it is now admitted on all hands that much of the legislation must be repealed) made things worse for the policyholders. The principal American life offices were always absolutely sound and secure, and their chief fault was extravagance in management. State interference practically prevented control by public opinion, but did not prevent the gradual introduction of serious evils. Accident called public opinion into play, and reforms of great value and of farreaching importance have been introduced by the voluntary action of the companies, in response to public opinion, in spite of—not because of-legislation.
So far as legislation in the United Kingdom has abstained from interference with insurance great benefits to the public have resulted. The English and Scottish insurance offices are the best in the world, largely because they have not been interfered with by law. So far as legislation either in this country or abroad has interfered with insurance, bad results have been the consequence. When the State has embarked upon insurance trading it has proved inferior in its operations to the work of commercial companies. The State has in various ways treated its own insurance departments in exceptional ways which, while doubtless intended for the good of the community, have not produced benefits to the community. The essentially good feature of the Life Assurance Companies Act was the publication of the accounts of life offices, but every Government Insurance Department is exempt from compliance with this wholesome regulation. The figures of neither the National Debt Office nor of the Post Office Insurance Departments are to be found in the Life Assurance Returns issued by the Board of Trade, and no adequate information in regard to the accounts of these Government Departments can be obtained from other sources. The publicity afforded by the Life Assurance Blue-books tends not merely to win public support for the best companies and to prevent business going to the inferior offices, but conduces also to bring about improvement of the less good companies
. The official consciousness of the inferiority of State Departments to commercial organisations leads to the concealment of facts which, if known, would either make more apparent the unattractiveness of State trading, or involve the still more awkward consequences to Government officials of trying to bring their departments at least up to the level of the worst commercial companies. Publicity for State trading departments is greatly to be desired and is carefully avoided
. Experience shows that the great majority of testators prefer the old method of private trustees and family solicitors, and in recognition of this fact the Public Trustee officials go out of their way to try to conciliate the legal profession, and to explain how greatly solicitors
will gain by working under the Public Trustee. Had Government introduced some effective measures for preventing frauds among solicitors, the demand for corporate trustees would not have been 80 apparent as it is. The most influential members of the legal profession seem to regard it as more dignified to solicitors as a whole to allow numerous prosecutions of defaulting solicitors than to insist upon conditions applicable to all solicitors which would reduce these scandals to a minimum and probably make them non-existent. Legislation tending to prevent frauds by solicitors would probably have been more in accordance with the wishes of testators, and have conferred greater benefits upon the beneficiaries under trusts, than the creation of a Public Trustee.
As things are, however, insurance companies and the Public Trustee exhibit certain advantages as compared with the appointment of friends or relations to act in this capacity; but it will be noticed that the advantages are greater in the case of insurance companies than in that of the Public Trustee in regard to most points, and are inferior in no respect.
Both insurance companies and the Government Department present the advantage of continued existence, and so avoid the necessity of fresh appointments, which are frequently a source of trouble in many ways in connexion with private trustees.
The trustee departments of insurance companies and of the State devote their whole time to the work and employ officials qualified for the task.
Insurance officials and public officials are paid for their work, and attention to it can be demanded from them, though whether complaints of inattention in a Government Department would have any effect is open to question.
Insurance offices and the Public Trustee Department may be regarded as more independent than private individuals, and therefore to be relied upon to carry out the conditions of the trust. In the exercise of a wise independence an insurance company would, for its own sake, seek to gain the goodwill of its clients, while the chief concern of an official of the State would be adherence to precedent and routine, and the avoidance of any concession to the beneficiaries which by the remotest possibility could involve the Department in responsibility or bring a reprimand to the official.
Much has been said about the small charges of the Public Trustee, since he has only to charge fees sufficient to pay the expenses of his Department, while insurance companies would expect to earn dividends for shareholders. Commercial companies subject to competition cannot charge higher fees than prevail elsewhere, while, in comparison with other insurance departments of the State, the commercial companies have shown that their terms to the public are greatly superior to those of Government.
Yet, again, we are told that the Public Trustee is to be readily accessible to any one and every one who wishes to consult him. Mr. Allen quotes the qualifications for a trustee as being of a Utopian character ; he is to be easily and promptly accessible, not separated either by official red-tape or by judicial etiquette from those with whose interests he has to deal, and generally must be a State official of a kind never hitherto realised in fact. People familiar with Government Departments will believe in the realisation of this ideal when they see it, and not before. The best-intentioned individual would find his aspirations in this direction rendered impossible of accomplishment by the inevitable routine and red tape of a Government Department. The ready accessibility of businesslike insurance officials is, on the contrary, a matter of everyday experience.
As further advantages of the Public Trustee, we are told that he is under the control of the Courts and the Lord Chancellor ; so are the insurance companies, with the difference that the Public Trustee can more or less control the Courts by making ex parte applications, while insurance companies must give notice to every one concerned of any applications to the Courts. Moreover, insurance companies are under the powerful control of public opinion, an influence which Government Departments almost wholly ignore.
The legal honesty of the Public Trustee is guaranteed by the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom : it is permissible to think that obtaining from the Treasury compensation for legal dishonesty on the part of the Public Trustee is a task that no claimant would ever accomplish. Insurance companies, giving a guarantee of honesty equally secure with that of the State, would, in their own interests, compensate beneficiaries not merely for dishonest action on the part of their officials, but for any careless or culpable mistake.
In spite of special powers having been conferred upon the Public Trustee, the tendency of which is rather to protect the Department than to benefit the public, it does not appear that he is endowed with the ability to confer a boon upon his clients such as is readily forthcoming from insurance companies. In the administration of estates, ready money may be required for probate and other purposes, advances may be desired by beneficiaries, and, in order to realise securities to the best advantage, it may be advisable to hold them for a time, meanwhile providing money for various objects. Insurance companies would readily accommodate their clients in such ways as these, while, if experience counts for anything, estates could suffer loss and beneficiaries go without income before a State Department would deviate from precedent by a hair's breadth in order to help, even if it had the power to do so, which is doubtful.
On every ground, therefore, testators gain by appointing firstclass insurance companies to act as their trustees and executors: there is no advantage claimed for the Public Trustee but an equal
or a greater advantage is afforded by an insurance company. There is no precedent for a State Department being so beneficial to the public as the best commercial companies undertaking insurance business. In Government Departments there is of necessity an enormous amount of red tape in administration which is entirely absent from the work of insurance companies, because it is fatal to commercial success.
From experience of other Government Departments there is abundant reason for thinking that the new Government Department will be no more successful than others; while what little experience of the work of the Public Trustee is at present available for comment suggests that it is open to adverse criticism of a kind from which even other Government Departments are exempt.
'PRO DEO ET PATRIA'
In ancient times, when the land occupied by a tribe or nation became too small for its increasing numbers, and did not produce sufficient food for their sustenance, then the tribe or nation was by the mere requirements of hunger obliged to expand into the territory of some weaker neighbour, the inhabitants of which were either slain or made slaves. In after ages that same land hunger under a different form, as Seeley so clearly puts it in his Expansion of England, has really been the cause of most of the great wars recorded in history, in the participation of some of which this country has ultimately benefited and become such a great and powerful nation.
The amount of food-producing land available for surplus populations is still a matter of vital importance for some of the world's inhabitants, but land hunger with the highly civilised commercial nations is now replaced by the necessity for markets for the increasing trade and commerce which an expanding nation must have for its existence. Fortunately for this country, as soon as its naval supremacy became manifest, as it did long ago in Queen Elizabeth's reign, England gradually became a world-owning power, and from a small self-contained island in the North Atlantic now possesses a quarter of the earth's surface with one fifth of its inhabitants as British subjects.
There was a good deal of truth in Napoleon's sarcasm that England was a nation of shopkeepers ; but it was the wealth and its power which our sea-guarded trade gave us which enabled us to fight and finally overthrow the greatest soldier known in modern history; and when the rest of the world lay exhausted after twenty years
of war, England was more powerful than ever, and with the rapid development of the industries arising from the latent wealth of kier coal and iron, the prosperity of Britain progressed, as has been 50 tersely expressed, by leaps and bounds. That such prosperity has excited the envy of less favoured nations is not to be wondered at, but it is only during the present generation that one of them has clearly recognised that the real foundation of England's power was naval supremacy. As the political leaders of that country, viz. Germany, now make no secret whatever of their ultimate intentions of wresting the supremacy of the ocean from us and becoming the