ASSURANCE, or INSURANCE, an en gagement by which a person is indemni fied from the loss he would sustain by the happening of a particular event ; as by the capture or wreck of a ship at sea, or the destiuction of goods by fire. Projects have at different times been formed for assuring against frauds and robbery, against losses by servants, the death of cattle, and almost every event, by which unforeseen loss may arise ; but such schemes have always failed, and the busi ness of assurance is now generally con fined to the risks of the sea, assurance against fire, and the assurance of lives. This mode of securing merchants against the dangers of navigation is said to have originated in the time of the Em peror Claudius, but during the subse quent decline of commerce it probably fell into disuse. The sea laws of Oleron, as far back as the year 1194, treat of it, and it was soon after practised in Great Britain. The statute of 43 of Queen Eli zabeth, cap. 12, states, that it has been time out of mind a usage among mer chants, both of this country and of foreign nations, to make assurances on their goods, merchandise, and ships, going to foreign parts ; for the better regulation of which, with respect to disputes which arose on policies of assurance, commis sioners were appointed, who were to meet weekly at the Office of Insurance on the west side of the Royal Exchange, to determine all causes concerning poli cies of assurance in a summary way, but reserving a right of appeal to the Court of Chancery. This shows that such assur ances were in common practice, and had become of considerable importance.
Assurance against the dangers of the sea appears to have been in use in Eng land somewhat earlier than in many com mercial cities on the continent, as the policies of assurance of Antwerp, and also of other places in the Low Countries, contained a clause, that they should be construed in all things according to the custom of Lombard-street in London. In the year 1627, Charles I. granted a mo nopoly for 31 years of the right of making all assurances on ships or goods in the City of London.
In 1712, several attempts were made to establish offices for assurance on mar riages, births, &c. which all failed. In 1719, the Royal Exchange Assurance and London Assurance companies were form ed,and in the following year obtained char ters of incorporation, by which they were distinguished from a variety of schemes for every species of assurance then pro jected, most of which were of very short duration. The two companies just men tioned are the only corporate bodies au thorized to make sea assurances, the prin cipal part of this business, in London, be ing transacted by four or five hundred in dividual assurers, or under-writers, who assemble daily for this purpose at Lloyd's care e-h ouse, formerly in Lombard-street, hut now kept over the Royal Exchange. The premiums which they require are re gulated by the length or danger of the voyage, the condition of the vessel, the time of the year, and the country being at peace or war ; of course they vary con siderably at different periods. Thus, in time of peace, an assurance may be made from London to the East Indies, on the Company's regular ships, at 6 or 7 guineas per cent. out and home, which in time of war is advanced to 12 guineas per cent.
At Hamburgh there are about thirty companies for making sea assurances, two or three in Bremen, some in Lubeck and Trieste, and one even in Berlin and Breslaw ; there is also a chartered marine assurance company at Stockholm, and one at Copenhagen; their capitals, how ever, are not very considerable, and they never venture large sums on one risk. There are private underwriters at Stock holm, Gottenberg, and Copenhagen, who assure moderate risks. At New York, Philadelphia, and many other principal towns in the American states, assurance companies have been established ; and in the East Indies, there are no less than five assurance offices at Calcutta, four or five at Madras, and one at Bombay ; but their business is not very extensive, being principally confined to the assurance of the coasting trade in India, and the trade from India to China.