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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The writer of this volume is frequently asked to recommend a good elementary book upon Average : and he is invariably at a loss when he endeavours to do so. Mr. Stevens' excellent Essay has been so many years out of print that it is impossible to procure a copy. The valuable work on Insurance by Park, and the still fuller and more modern compendium of the same text by Arnould, are books too elaborate, too technical, and too expensive for the purpose. Moreover, they embrace too many subjects besides Average in their design, to render them useful to the persons who desire information on that particular head. For those who are seeking light belong usually to a class having neither the time nor the inclination to obtain it by the laborious study of learned writings. They are, for the most part, merchants residing in foreign countries, agents at outports, intelligent shipmasters, and young men entering offices where Insurance forms a branch of the business,--all of whom desire a short and royal road to such a general acquaintance with the subject of Average as may be useful to them in their several capacities. The only books I know of the kind required, are Lee's Laws of Shipping and Insurance, and a volume published a few years ago in Liverpool by Mr. Baily, on General Average. The
former of these only takes in Average amongst many other matters. The latter is a useful book as regards the section of the subject to which it relates : it does not, however, emanate from a London source ; and there are, from some cause or other, greater discord
, ances between the practice of Liverpool and London than the difference of longitude betwixt those two great shipping ports will account for.
To be useful, is the design of the present volume, and the desire of its writer. He proposes to himself no higher aim than this. He attempts to be of service in two ways : First, by giving a clear and practical view of the subject, so that persons consulting the book need not err greatly in their proceedings : and with this intention the matter is divided in a manner easy for reference ;-secondly, by discussing some doubtful or anomalous practices, in the hope that by calling attention to such discrepancies, a more exact and consistent rule may some day be attained. He does not anticipate that he shall at all curtail the practice of professional Average Adjusters by such a Handbook, any more than the numerous text-writers on law supersede the employment of barristers and solicitors. Even when the general bearing of laws is known, there remains the practical difficulty of applying them to the particular instances ; and this can only be done by those persons who devote themselves to the study and practice of their profession.
Laws form, in general, the substructure of all our commercial systems, although the outline is often modified and lost by an external covering of customs, ancient and modern. In this they resemble the human skeleton, hidden by its envelope of muscle, but which, nevertheless, gives form and stability to the figure. The writer's endeavour has been to free this work as much as possible from legal technicalities, so that it may prove, what it professes to be, a handbook or vade mecum. At the same time, such a treatise would be of small value did it not found itself on the laws by which mercantile transactions are guided. To give it real worth, he has carried the law of the subject down, as nearly as possible, to the time of going to press. The latest decisions of our Courts and Judges are mentioned in passing ; and a few very important judgments, recently delivered, are given in full in an Appendix.
The Author is fully sensible how difficult it is, with such an object as he has in view, to attain the juste milieu between a style too popular to be instructive, and too scholastic to be readable. The highest praise which can be given to a book of this nature is that which an old poet claims for the river Thames, of being
“ Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong, without rage; without o'erflowing, full.” But he has been led to hope that in endeavouring to give useful information on a subject in which the commercial world is much concerned, he is making a proper application of twenty-three years spent in the study and exercise of his profession. 4, Royal Exchange Buildings, London,
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
Of proximate and remote causes of Sacrifice and Expense.
Of Profits and Commissions.