Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/353

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Many thousands—perhaps millions—of years before man was on the earth, the Laurentian Hills were raised above the dark waters, their origin dating back to the very dawn of life on the planet. Both the primordial continent and the primordial life were the prophets—this of the higher orders of organism, and that of the continents and islands yet to be. This original continent has held its own. It took the initial in the building up of North America. Its two lines of direction had the form of a right angle, one projecting northeastward and the other northwestward.

This is the normal plan. It is the structural arrangement, not of this continent only, but of all continents; and the lake-depressions, conforming to the general system, are an additional witness to the common underlying laws and forces of which the earth itself is a grand phenomenon.



WITHIN the past twenty years the business of life-insurance has grown with such wonderful rapidity, and changed so radically in its methods and contracts, that it is to-day as unlike its old self as the railway-car is unlike the stage-coach.

The old life-insurance contract undertook to define burglary, riot, and rebellion, and the companies held themselves free from obligations deliberately assumed, if the other party to the contract did not conform to the rules of conduct laid down under their definition and requirements. Nowhere else in the history of large business organizations has the debtor regulated his obligation by the morals of his creditor and liquidated his debt by acknowledging its existence, and then simply charging moral obliquity on the part of said creditor as the reason for not paying it.

If A owes B fifty dollars, and B is known to be a thief or a murderer, it does not liquidate A's debt to simply show that fact. But life-insurance companies have held, and some of them still claim, the right to so indemnify creditors, and, strange to say, they have been able to conduct business on that basis. They have even gone further, and said that a debt to B's heirs is forfeited in like manner—thus making the destruction of a man's reputation after his death of pecuniary advantage to the company. They have been enabled to do this because many men do not read the insurance contract which they sign, and hence have no idea of its complicated and, in many cases, unfair nature. If men insisted upon understanding the contract before they sign it, as they do in other business, the more unfair features would necessarily disappear from all insurance contracts.

If I deposit a thousand dollars in a bank, it is my money—I can