Appeal to the People of Great Britain... Public Finances

AMERICAN REVOLUTION   |   William MORGAN

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“THE INTELLECTUAL MASTER OF POLITICAL ARITHMETIC AND THE ÉMINENCE GRISE OF INSURANCE”: SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF FAMED BRITISH MATHEMATICIAN MORGAN’S APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE OF GREAT BRITAIN, 1797, HIS BOLD WARNING ABOUT THE DIRE COST AND IMPACT OF BRITISH AGGRESSION IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION AND OTHER WARS

MORGAN, William. An Appeal to the People of Great Britain, On the Present Alarming State of the Public Finances, and of the Public Credit. London: J. Debrett, 1797. Slim octavo, period-style full green straight-grain morocco gilt; pp. 87. $3200.

First edition of William Morgan’s fearless attack on the political and economic cost of British policies in “that detestable war” against America, a major work by the first modern actuary, one of “the pioneers of scientific life assurance in England (ODNB) and nephew of British radical Richard Price, “the most influential advocate of American independence” (Howes). Jefferson, who became Vice President the year this work was published, had a first edition in his library.

William Morgan “ranks high among the pioneers of scientific life assurance in England” (ODNB). He was the nephew of famed radical Richard Price, “the most influential British advocate of American independence” (Howes P586), and it was Price who encouraged Morgan’s appointment as assistant actuary to the Equitable Assurance Society in 1774. On Morgan’s swift rise to chief actuary in February 1775, he quickly “became well known as ‘Actuary Morgan,’ the man who made the reputation of the Equitable… the intellectual master of political arithmetic and the éminence grise of insurance, the true father of old age pensions” (Harte, in Crabtree Orations, 231). Morgan “was the first to show how to work out complicated benefits, involving several lives, from any mortality table; the first to value the liabilities of a life assurance company and appreciate the meaning of the result; the first to see that, with the valuations in use, a margin of surplus had to be carried forward… the first to set down the available sources of profit and obtain measures for them; the first to keep record of the mortality of a life assurance office, and to notice that there was such a thing as ‘select’ mortality. Further than this, he was the first practical administrator of life assurance and a successful man of business” (Elderton, “William Morgan, F.R.S.,” 15).

This scarce first edition of Morgan’s Appeal speaks not only to his mathematical brilliance, but also his fearlessness in attacking Britain for its aggression in the American Revolution, arguing: “the growing extravagance and folly of fourscore years had loaded the nation at the commencement of the American war with a debt of more than 135 million; and at the conclusion of that detestable war, the public burdens had been aggravated with an additional load of 120 million… The bubble has swollen till it has burst, and we are now brought to the edge of a tremendous gulf” (emphasis added; 28, 81). Morgan’s home was a popular meeting place for “other radicals associated with Richard Price; John Horne Tooke, Sir Francis Burdett and Thomas Paine were among those who joined the lively gatherings at Stamford Hill… In 1794 when Horne Tooke and others were indicted for treason, Morgan escaped with a warning from the authorities” (ODNB). Three years later Morgan nevertheless issued this warning about the dire economic and political costs of British aggression. Thomas Jefferson, who became America’s Vice President the year Morgan’s Appeal was published, had a first edition of it in his library. Morgan, who also shared with Joseph Priestley a strong interest in science, is additionally credited as “the first experimenter with X-rays, 110 years before they were brought in 1895 into prominence by Röntgen” (Anderson, “William Morgan and X-Rays,” 219). With several full-page tables; Morgan’s preface dated in print, “April 8, 1797.” Page of publisher’s advertisements at rear and on title page verso. Goldsmiths’17046. Kress B3469. Sowerby 2832. ESTC T528. See Sowerby 2807. ESTC shows 31 copies in institutions, including the Library of Congress, Cambridge, the British Library, Oxford and Harvard.

Text quite fresh, beautifully bound.

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