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Life Assurance and Savings Banks

Life Assurance and Savings Banks

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Excerpt from Life Assurance and Savings Banks: A Lecture Delivered by Request of the Trustees of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, in the Cooper Institute, February 17th, 1872

I appreciate highly the privilege of addressing you upon two interests so intimately connected with the public welfare as Life Assurance and Savings Banks. Fortunately for the good of the community, the object of the latter is reasonably well understood; unfortunately, that of the Life Company is not so well known. As to their relation, there is some misapprehension, many regarding one as a rival of the other. There is no legitimate rivalry between them. With respect to both, there has been, I fear, particularly of late, more attention paid to certain incidental advantages arising from them, than to the real idea which they were, each, intended to express. It seems to be a fitting time now, when so much anxiety is manifested as to the stability of the Banks and the distribution of profit (so called) by Life Companies, to revert to first principles.

First, then, as to Savings Banks. A clear distinction must be drawn between Banks of issue and discount, and Savings Banks. They have one common feature and but one - both receive deposits. Beyond this they are, or ought to be, totally dissimilar. The former exist chiefly for the convenience and protection of the rich - the latter, for the benefit of the poor. By "the poor," are not necessarily meant objects of charity or those who are trembling on the brink of beggary. These are poor certainly, but the term has a wider signification, and comprehends all those who earn their daily bread by their daily labor, whether manual or mental, and have no invested capital to rely upon in case of need. The Savings Bank is to assist such "poor" to lay by enough, out of the earnings of prosperous seasons, to keep themselves and families from want in times of adversity.

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