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Title: Cheap Postage
Author: Leavitt, Joshua, 1794-1873
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              CHEAP POSTAGE

                          REMARKS AND STATISTICS

                            ON THE SUBJECT OF




                            BY JOSHUA LEAVITT,


 “The well-ordering of the Postes is a Matter of General Concernment, and
of Great Advantage, as well for the preservation of Trade and Commerce as
                    otherwise.”—Statute of Charles II.


               Published for the Cheap Postage Association;

                        By Otis Claps, Treasurer,

                          No. 12, School Street.





Subjoined are the proceedings under which the following sheets were
prepared and are now published:

“At a meeting of the _Board of Directors_ of the CHEAP POSTAGE
ASSOCIATION, on the 31st of March, 1848, Dr. Howe, Dr. Webb, and Mr.
Leavitt were appointed a Committee of Publication. And on motion of Dr.
Samuel G. Howe, it was

“_Voted_, That the Publishing Committee be authorized to procure the
compilation of a pamphlet on the subject of Cheap Postage and Postal

“At a meeting of the Board, on the 25th of April, 1848, Mr. Leavitt, the
Corresponding Secretary, on behalf of the Publishing Committee, reported
the copy of a pamphlet on the subject prescribed. And on motion of Mr.
Moses Kimball, it was

“_Voted_, That the pamphlet be printed for general circulation, under the
direction of the Publishing Committee.”

_Chairman of the Board_.

CHARLES B. FAIRBANKS, _Recording Secretary_.

BOSTON, April 26, 1848.



For more than eight years, the people of Great Britain have enjoyed the
blessing of Cheap Postage. A literary gentleman of England, in a letter to
his friend in Boston, dated London, March 23, 1848, says—“Our Post Office
Reform is our greatest measure for fifty years, not only political, but
educational for the English mind and affections. If you had any experience
of the exquisite convenience of the thing, your speech would wax eloquent
to advocate it. With your increasing population, a similar measure must
soon pay; and it will undoubtedly increase the welfare and _solidarité_ of
the United States.”

Mr. Laing, a writer of eminence, said four years ago, “This measure will
be the great historical distinction of the reign of Victoria I. Every
mother in the kingdom, who has children earning their bread at a distance,
lays her head upon her pillow at night with a feeling of gratitude for
this blessing.”

An American gentleman, writing from London, in 1844, says, “It is hardly
possible to overrate the value of this [cheap postage] in regard to the
exertion of moral power. At a trifling expense one can carry on a
correspondence with all parts of the kingdom. It saves time, facilitates
business, and brings kindred minds in contact. How long will our
enlightened government adhere to its absurd system?”

The London Committee, who got up a national testimonial for Mr. Rowland
Hill, speak of cheap postage as “a measure which has opened the blessings
of free correspondence to the teacher of religion, the man of science and
literature, the merchant and trader, and the whole British nation,
especially to the poorest and most defenceless portion of it—a measure
which is _the greatest boon conferred in modern times on all the social
interests of the civilized world_.”

The unspeakable benefits conferred by cheap postage upon the people, are
equalled by its complete success as a governmental measure. The gross
receipts of the British Post-office had remained about stationary for
thirty years, ranging always in the neighborhood of two millions and a
quarter sterling. In the year 1839, the last year of the old system, the
gross income was £2,390,763. In the year 1847, under the new system, it
was £1,978,293, that is, only £413,470 short of the receipts under the old
system. A letter from Mr. Joseph Hume, M. P., to Dr. Thomas H. Webb, of
Boston, dated London, March 3, 1848, says, “I am informed by the General
Post-office, that the gross revenue this year will equal, it is expected,
the gross amount of the postage in the year before the postage was
reduced.” Mr. Hume also encloses a tabular statement of the increase of
letters, together with a copy of the Parliamentary return, made the
present year, showing the fiscal condition and continued success of the
Post-office. He sends also, a copy of a note which he had just written to
Mr. Bancroft, our Minister at the Court of St. James, as follows:


Bry. Square, 2d March, 1848.

_My Dear Sir_,

I have the pleasure to send you the copy of a paper I have prepared, at
the request of Mr. Webb, of Boston, to show the progress of increase of
the number of letters by the post-office here, since the reduction of the
postage, and I hope it may induce your government to adopt the same

I am not aware of any reform, amongst the many reforms that I have
promoted during the last forty years, that has had, and will have better
results towards the improvement of this country, morally, socially and

I wish as much as possible that the communication by letters, newspapers
and pamphlets, should pass between the United States and Great Britain as
between Great Britain and Ireland, as the intercommunication of knowledge
and kindly feelings must be the result, tending to the promotion of
friendly intercourse, and to maintain peace, so desirable to all

Any further information on this subject shall be freely and with pleasure
supplied by, yours, sincerely,


His Excellency George Bancroft.


_Estimate of the number of chargeable Letters delivered in the United
Kingdom in each year, from_ 1839 _to_ 1847.(1)

Year.   Number of Letters.   Annual Increase.   Increase per cent.
        Millions.            Millions.          on the No. for 1839.
1839.   76(2)
1840.   169                  93                 123
1841.   196-½                27-½               36
1842.   208-½                12                 16
1843.   220-½                12                 16
1844.   242                  21-½               28
1845.   271-½                29-½               39
1846.   299-½                28                 37
1847.   322                  22-½               30

The most important of the tables contained in the parliamentary return
will be given in the appendix, either entire, or so as to present the
material results in their official form. The contents of that document
have not, to my knowledge, been in any manner brought before the people of
the United States.

It is humiliating to think, that while a system fraught with so many
blessings has been so long in operation, and with such signal success as a
financial measure, in a country with which our relations are so intimate,
I should now begin to prepare the first pamphlet for publication, designed
to give the American people full information on the subject; this
publication being the first effort of the first regularly organized
society, now just formed, for the purpose of securing the same blessings
to the citizens of this republic, which the British Parliament enacted,
after full investigation, nine years ago. If we look at the various
political questions which have already in those eight years grown
“obsolete,” after occupying the public mind and engrossed the cares of our
statesmen, to the exclusion of the great subject of cheap postage, and
consider their comparative importance, we shall be satisfied that it is
now high time for a determined effort to satisfy the people of the United
States with regard to the utility and practicability of cheap postage.

Prior to the year 1840 the postal systems of Great Britain and the United
States were constructed on similar principles, and the rates of postage
were nearly alike. Both were administered with a special view to the
amount of money that could be realized from postage. In Great Britain, the
surplus of receipts above the cost of administration was carried to the
general treasury. In the United States, the surplus received in the North
was employed in extending mail facilities to the scattered inhabitants of
the South and West. In Great Britain, private mails and other facilities
had kept the receipts stationary for twenty years, while the population of
the country had increased thirty per cent., and the business and
intelligence and wealth of the country in a much greater ratio. In the
United States, there was a constant increase of postage, although by a
less ratio than the increase of population, until the year 1843, when,
through the establishment of private mails, the gross receipts actually
fell off, and it became apparent that the old system had failed, and could
never be reinvigorated so as to make the post-office support itself,
without a change of system.

In Great Britain, the government, after full investigation, became
satisfied that it was impossible to suppress the private mails except by
under-bidding them, which they also ascertained that the government, by
its facilities, could afford to do. They also became satisfied that no
plan of partial reduction of postage could restore the energy of the
system, but the only hope of ultimate success was in the immediate
adoption of the lowest rate. And although the public debt presses so
heavily as to put every administration to its utmost resources for
revenue, they resolved to risk the whole net revenue then realized, equal
to above a million and a half sterling, as the best thing that could be
done. In the United States, the government, without extensive examination,
resolved to do what the British government dared not attempt, that is, to
put down the private mails by penal enactments. It also resolved to adopt
a partial reduction of the rates of postage; and without regarding the
mathematical demonstration of its futility, persevered in regarding
distance as the basis of the rates of charge.

A few extracts from the Debates in Parliament, will show several of these
points in a striking light:

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Francis Baring, on first
    introducing the bill, July 5, 1839, declared his conviction that
    the loss of revenue at the outset would be “very considerable
    indeed.” He said the committee had considered that “two pence
    postage could be introduced without any loss to the revenue,” but
    he differed from them, and found “the whole of the authorities
    conclusively bearing in favor of a penny postage.” And he
    “conscientiously believed that the public ran less risk of loss in
    adopting it.” Referring to the petitions of the people, he said,
    “The mass of them present the most extraordinary combination I
    ever saw, of representations to one purpose, from all classes,
    unswayed by any political motive whatever, from persons of all
    shades of opinion, political and religious, and from the
    commercial and trading communities in all parts of the kingdom.”

    Mr. GOULBURN, then one of the leaders of the opposition, opposed
    so great a sacrifice of revenue, in the existing state of the
    country, but admitted that it would “ultimately increase the
    wealth and prosperity of the country.” And if the experiment was
    to be tried at all, “it would be best to make it to the extent
    proposed,” for “the whole evidence went to show that a postage of
    two pence would fail, but a penny might succeed.”

    Mr. WALLACE declared it “one of the greatest boons that could be
    conferred on the human race,” and he begged that, as “England had
    the honor of the invention,” they might not “lose the honor of
    being the first to execute” a plan, which he pronounced
    “essentially necessary to the comforts of the human race.”

    Sir ROBERT PEEL, then at the head of the opposition, found much
    fault with the financial plans of Mr. Baring, but he “would not
    say one word in disparagement of the plans of Mr. Hill;” and if he
    wanted popularity, “he would at once give way to the public
    feeling in favor of the great moral and social advantages” of the
    plan, “the great stimulus it would afford to industry and
    commercial enterprise,” and “the boon it presented to the lower

    Mr. O’CONNELL thought it would be “one of the most valuable
    legislative reliefs that had ever been given to the people.” It
    was “impossible to exaggerate its benefits.” And even if it would
    not pay the expense of the post-office, he held that “_government
    ought to make a sacrifice for the purpose of facilitating

    _July_ 12, the debate was resumed.

    Mr. POULETTE THOMPSON showed the impossibility of making a correct
    estimate of the loss of revenue that would accrue. One witness
    before the committee stated that there would be no deficiency;
    another said it would be small; while Lord Ashburton declared that
    it would amount to a sacrifice of the whole revenue of the

    Mr. WARBURTON denied that the post-office had ever been regarded
    as a mere matter of revenue; the primary object of its institution
    was to contribute to the convenience of the people; its advantages
    ought to be accessible to the whole community, and not be made a
    matter of taxation at all.

    VISCOUNT SANDON, of the opposition, said he had long been of the
    opinion that the post-office was not a proper source of revenue,
    but it “ought to be employed in stimulating other sources of

    _July_ 22, another discussion came on.

    Sir ROBERT PEEL admitted that “great social and commercial
    advantages will arise from the change, independent of financial

    _August_ 5, the bill was taken up by the peers.

    VISCOUNT MELBOURN, in opening the debate, dwelt upon the
    extraordinary extent of the contraband conveyance of letters, as
    the effect of high postage, and said this made it necessary to
    protect both the revenue and the morals of the people by so great
    a reduction. The means of evasion were so organized, and resort to
    them was so easy, and had even become a habit, that persons would,
    for a very small profit, follow the contraband trade of conveying
    letters. It was therefore clearly necessary to make the reduction
    to such an extent as would ensure the stopping of the contraband

    The DUKE OF WELLINGTON admitted “the expediency, and indeed the
    necessity” of the proposed change. He thought Mr. Hill’s plan “the
    one most likely to succeed.” He found fault with the financial
    plans of the administration, but for the sake of the reform of the
    post-office, he said, “I shall, although with great reluctance,
    vote for the bill, and I earnestly recommend your lordships to do
    the same.” His customary mode of expressing his opinions.

    LORD ASHBURTON expected the cost of the department, under the new
    system, would amount to a million sterling, which must be made up
    out of several pence before you could touch one farthing of the
    present income of a million and six hundred pounds. There could be
    no doubt that the country at large would derive an immense
    benefit, the consumption of paper would be increased considerably,
    and it was most probable the number of letters would be at least
    doubled. It appeared to him a tax upon communication between
    distant parties was, _of all taxes, the __ most objectionable_. At
    one time he had been of the opinion that the uniform charge of
    postage should be two pence, but _he found the mass of evidence so
    strongly in favor of one penny_, that he concluded the ministers
    were right in coming down to that rate.

    The EARL OF LICHFIELD, Postmaster-General, said the leading idea
    of Mr. Rowland Hill’s book seemed to be “the fancy that he had hit
    upon a scheme for recovering the two millions of revenue which he
    thought had been lost by the high rates of postage.” His own
    opinion was, that the recovery of the revenue was totally
    impossible. He therefore supported the measure on entirely
    different grounds from those on which Mr. Hill placed it. In
    neither house had it been brought forward on the ground that the
    revenue would be the gainer. He assented to it on the simple
    ground that THE DEMAND FOR IT WAS UNIVERSAL. So obnoxious was the
    tax upon letters, that he was entitled to say that “the people had
    declared their _readiness to submit to any impost_ that might be
    substituted in its stead.”

The proof is thus complete, that the British system was actually adopted
with sole reference to its general benefits, and the will of the people,
and not at all in the expectation of realizing, in any moderate time, as
much revenue as was derived from the old postage. The revenue question was
discarded, from a paramount regard to the public good, which demanded the
cheap postage, even if it should be necessary to impose a new tax for its
support. The extravagant expectations of some of the over-sanguine friends
of the new system, were expressly disclaimed, and the government justified
themselves on these other considerations entirely—considerations which
have been most abundantly realized. It will be easy to show that the
benefits and blessings anticipated from the actual enjoyment of cheap
postage, have fully equalled the most sanguine expectations of the friends
of the measure, and have far exceeded in public utility, the pittance of
income to the treasury, which used to be wrung out by the tax upon
letters. The same examination will also show, that there is no substantial
reason, either in the system itself, or in any peculiarity of our
circumstances, why the same system is not equally practicable and equally
applicable here, nor why we should not realize at least as great benefits
as the people of Great Britain, from cheap postage.

Mr. Rowland Hill published his scheme in a pamphlet, in 1837. In 1838, it
had attracted so much notice, that between three and four hundred
petitions in its favor were presented to Parliament, and the government
consented to a select committee to collect and report information on the
subject. This committee sat sixty-three days, examined the
Postmaster-General and his secretaries and solicitors, elicited many
important tabular returns, and took the testimony of about ninety other
individuals, of a great variety of stations and occupations. They also
entered into many minute and elaborate calculations, which give to their
results the value of mathematical demonstration. Their report, with the
accompanying documents, fills three folio volumes of the Parliamentary
Papers for 1838. Its investigations were so thorough, its deductions so
cautious and candid, and its accumulations of evidence so overwhelming
that they left nothing to be done, but to adopt the new system entire.

In this country, no such pains were taken to collect facts, no means were
used to spread before the people the facts and mathematical calculations
and irrefragable arguments of the parliamentary committee; little study
was bestowed on the subject even by our legislators but with a prejudged
conclusion that the reasonings and facts applicable to Great Britain could
not apply here, on account of the length of our routes and the sparseness
of our population, a partial reduction was resolved upon, which retained
the complication and the cumbersome machinery of the old system, while
affording only a small portion of the benefits of the new.

The effect has been, that while the British system has gone on gathering
favor and strength, the American system, after less than three years’
trial, has already grown old, the private mails are reviving, the
ingenuity of men of business is taxed to evade postage, and a growing
conviction already shows itself, that the half-way reduction is a failure,
and it is time to make another change. That is to say, the partial
reduction has failed to meet the wishes of the people, or the wants of the
public interest, or the duty of the government in discharging the trust
imposed by the constitution. Indeed, there ought not to be a great deal of
labor required to prove that there is only one right way, and that the
right way is the best way, and that it is better to adopt a scientifically
constructed machine, which has been proved to be perfect in all its parts,
than a clumsy contrivance, the working principle of which is contradicted
by mathematical demonstration. I propose to present several of the main
principles involved in the reduction of postage, illustrated by facts
drawn from the parliamentary papers, and from other authentic sources.

I. _Reduction of Price tends to increase of Consumption._

Our own partial reform in postage proves this. In a report of the
committee on post-offices and post-roads, made to the House of
Representatives, May 15, 1844, it is said,

“Events are in progress of fatal tendency to the Post-office Department,
and its decay has commenced. Unless arrested by vigorous legislation, it
must soon cease to be a self-sustaining institution, and either be cast on
the treasury for support, or suffered to decline from year to year, till
the system has become incompetent and useless. The last annual report of
the Postmaster-General shows that, notwithstanding the heavy retrenchments
he had made, the expenditures of the department, for the year ending June
30th, 1843, exceeded its income by the sum of $78,788. The decline of its
revenue during that year was $250,321; and the investigations made into
the operations of the current year, indicate a further and an increasing
decline, at the rate of about $300,000 a year. Why this loss of revenue,
when the general business and prosperity of the country is reviving, and
its correspondence is on the increase?”

The report of the Senate Committee at the same session, made Feb. 22,
1844, says that “the cause of this great falling off, in a season of
reviving prosperity in the trade, business and general prosperity of the
country, cannot be regarded as transient, but, on the contrary, is shown
to be deep and corroding. The cause is the dissatisfaction felt generally
through the country, but most strongly in the densely peopled regions to
with the rates of postage now established by law, and the frequent resort
to various means of evading its payment.”

The result was the passage of the act, now in force, by which the postage
was reduced one half, to begin on the first day of July, 1845. The last
annual report of the Postmaster-General gives the result. He says:

“It is gratifying to find that, within so short a period after the great
reduction of the rates of postage, the revenues of the department have
increased much beyond the expectation of the friends of the cheap postage
system, while the expenditures, for the same time, have diminished more
than half a million of dollars annually, and that the department is in a
condition to support itself, without further aid from the treasury.”

The number of chargeable letters passed through the mails in 1843, was
stated in the Report at 24,267,552, yielding the sum of $3,525,268. The
number for the year ending June 30, 1847, was 52,173,480, yielding
$3,188,957. Thus the reduction of price one half, has in two years more
than doubled the consumption, and already yields nearly an equal product.

The experiment in Great Britain shows that a still greater reduction may
be perfectly relied upon to give a rate of increase fully proportionable.
The “Companion to the British Almanac,” for 1842, says, “The rate of
postage in the London district, (which includes the limits of the old two
penny post,) averaged 2-⅓_d._ per letter, before the late changes; at
present it averages about 1-¼_d._, and the gross revenue already equals
that of 1835. The gross receipts in 1838, the last complete year under the
old system, were £118,000; the gross revenue for 1840, the first complete
year under the new system, was $104,000.”

The parliamentary committee, in their report in 1838, state, as the result
of all their inquiries, that the total number of chargeable letters
passing through the post-office annually, was about 77,500,000; franks,
7,000,000; total of letters, 84,500,000. The average postage per letter
was 7_d._ The gross receipts annually, for six years, ending with 1820,
were £2,190,597. For six years, ending with 1837, they averaged
£2,251,424. For the year 1847, the number of letters was 320,000,000, and
the gross receipts nearly equal to the old system. Here a reduction of the
price three-fourths, has increased the consumption fourfold. Some other
cases of similar bearing, may be worth stating, taken chiefly from the
parliamentary documents.

Before the reduction of the duty on newspapers in England, the price was
7_d._, and the number sold in a year was 35,576,056, costing the public
£1,037,634. On the reduction of the duty, the price was reduced to
4-¾_d._, and the public immediately paid £1,058,779, for 53,496,207

Under the high duty on advertisements, when the price was 6_s._ each, the
number was 1,010,000, costing £303,000. By the reduction of the duty, the
price fell to 4_s._, and the number rose to 1,670,000, costing £334,000.

Formerly the fee of admission to the Armory of the Tower of London was
3_s._, at which rate there were in 1838, 9,508 visitors, who paid £1,426.
In 1839, the fee was reduced to 1_s._, and there were 37,431 visitors, who
paid £1,891. In 1840, the fee was reduced to 6_d._, and the number of
visitors in nine months was 66,025, who paid £1,650. During the entire
year ending January 31, 1841, there were 91,897 visitors, who paid £2,297.

The falling of the price of soap one-eighth, increased the consumption
one-third; the falling of tea one-sixth, increased consumption one-half;
the falling of silks one-fifth, doubled the consumption; of coffee
one-fourth, trebled it, and of cotton goods one-half quadrupled it.

A multitude of similar facts could be collected in our own country,
showing the uniform and powerful tendency of diminished cost to increased
consumption. A gentleman who is interested in a certain panorama said
that, in a certain case, the exhibiter wrote to him that the avails, at a
quarter of a dollar per ticket, were not sufficient to pay expenses. “Put
it down to twelve and a half cents,” was the reply. It was done, and
immediately the receipts rose so as to give a net profit of one hundred
dollars a week.

These facts prove that there is a settled law in economics, that in the
case of any article of general use and necessity, a reduction in the price
may be expected to produce at least a corresponding increase of
consumption, and in many cases a very largely increased expenditure. So
that the amount expended by the people at low prices will be fully equal
to the amount expended for the same at high prices. The people of England
expend now as much money for postage, as they did under the old system,
but the advantage is, that they get a great deal more service for their
money, and it gives a spring to business, trade, science, literature,
philanthropy, social affection, and all plans of public utility.

II. _Nothing but Cheap Postage will suppress Private Mails._

It is true that, in this country, private mails are not of so long
standing, nor so thoroughly systematized as they were in Great Britain
before the adoption of cheap postage. But on the other hand, the state of
things in this country affords much greater facilities for that business,
and renders their suppression by force of law much more difficult and more
odious than in Great Britain.

On this head, the report of the Parliamentary Committee contains a vast
mass of information, which made a deep and conclusive impression, upon the
statesmen of that country. They found and declared that, “with regard to
large classes of the community, those classes principally to whom it is a
matter of necessity to correspond on matters of business, and to whom also
it is a matter of importance to save, or at least to reduce the expense of
postage, the post-office, instead of being viewed as it ought to be, and
as it would be under a wise administration of it, as an institution of
ready and universal access, distributing equally to all, and with an open
hand, the blessings of commerce upon civilization, is regarded by them as
an establishment too expensive not to be made use of, and as one with the
employment of which any endeavor to dispense by every means in their
power.” And among “the commercial and trading classes, by dint of the
superior activity, had in a considerable degree relieved themselves from
the pressure of this tax, without the interference of the legislature, by
devising other means for the cheap, safe and expeditious conveyance of
letters.” Some specimens of these expedients, as developed by the evidence
before the Parliamentary Committee, will be at once curious and

    M. B. Peacock, Esq., solicitor to the post-office, detailed the
    methods which the department had used to suppress the illicit
    sending of letters. By law, one half of the penalty, in cases of
    prosecution, went to the informer, but of late, informations were
    given much less frequently, and he thought the diminution of
    informations was owing to the fact that, about five years before,
    there had been a call in parliament for a return of the names of
    informers. He said the post-office had done all in its power to
    put a stop to the illegal sending, _but without success_. And he
    was decidedly of opinion, that the prevention is beyond the power
    of the post-office, and could only be done by reducing the rates
    of postage.

    Mr. G. R. Huddlestone, superintendent of the ship-letter office,
    gave an account of the illicit sending of letters from London to
    the outports to go by sea. He said they were customarily sent in
    bags from the coffee houses, and by the owners of vessels, in the
    same way as from the ship letter office, and no means had been
    devised which could put a stop to it. Of 122,000 letters sent from
    the port of Liverpool in a year, by the American packets, only
    69,000 passed through the post-office. The number of letters
    received inwards, from all parts of the world, by private ships,
    was 960,000 yearly; the number sent outwards through the
    post-office, was but 265,000. In the year ending October 5, 1837,
    there were forty-nine arrivals of these packets, bringing 282,000
    letters. The number of letters forwarded from London by post to
    Liverpool for these lines, was 11,000; the number received in
    London from these lines, was 51,000 a year.

    Mr. Banning, postmaster at Liverpool, stated that, in return for
    370,000 ship letters received at his office in a year, addressed
    to persons elsewhere than at Liverpool, only 78,000 letters passed
    through that office to be sent outwards. And yet the masters of
    vessels assured him that the number of letters they conveyed
    outwards was quite equal to the number brought inwards.

    Mr. Maury, of Liverpool, said that on the first voyage of the
    Sirius steamship to America, only five letters were received at
    the post-office to go by her, while at least 10,000 were sent in a
    bag from the consignee of the ship.

    Mr. Bates stated that the house of Baring & Co. commonly sent two
    hundred letters a week, in boxes, from London to Liverpool, to go
    to America—equal to 10,000 a year.

These things were done under the very eye of the authorities, and yet no
means had been found to prevent it. What police can our government
establish, strict enough to do what the British government publicly
declared itself unable to do?

The correspondence, of the manufacturing towns, it appeared, was carried
on almost entirely in private and illicit channels. In Walsall, it was
testified that, of the letters to the neighboring towns, not one-fiftieth
were sent by mail. Mr. Cobden said that not one-sixth of the letters
between Manchester and London went through the post-office. Mr. Thomas
Davidson, of Glasgow, stated the case of five commercial houses in that
city, whose correspondence sent illegally was to that sent by post in the
ratio of more than twenty to one; one house said sixty-seven to one.

In Birmingham, a system of illicit distribution of letters had been
established through the common-carriers to all the neighboring towns, in a
circuit of fifteen miles, and embracing a population of half a million.
The price of delivering a letter in any of these places was 1_d._, and for
this the letters were both collected and delivered. Women were employed to
go round at certain hours and collect letters. They would collect them for
2_d_. per hundred, and make a living by it. The regular postage to those
towns was 4_d_., besides the trouble of taking letters to the post-office.
Hence there was both economy and convenience in the illicit arrangement.
The practice had existed for thirty years, and when it was brought in all
its details to the notice of parliament, no man seems to have dreamed that
it was in the power of the government to suppress it by penal enactments.

    An individual, whose name and residence are, for obvious reasons,
    suppressed, gave the committee a full description of these private
    posts. He said that, in the year 1836, he kept an account of his
    letters; that the number sent by the post-office was 2068, and
    those sent by other means were 5861. Of these, about 5000 were to
    places within twenty miles, all of which were sent for 1_d_. each.
    Some carriers made it their sole business to carry letters. Some
    of them travelled on foot; others went by the stage coach to the
    place, and then distributed their letters. He found the practice
    prevailing when he began his apprenticeship in 1807. The
    population of the district thus accommodated was from 300,000 to
    500,000. The practice was notorious, and used by all persons
    engaged in business. The object of a great deal of the
    correspondence was to convey orders, notes of inquiry, and other
    information to and from the small manufacturers, to whom it would
    be a tax of twenty-five per cent. on their earnings, if the
    letters were sent through the post-office at 4_d_. The letters
    were commonly wrapped up in brown paper, or tied with a string,
    some directed and some not. Very few persons thought about the
    practice being illegal. He had never heard of an attempt by the
    post-office to institute legal proceedings. It would absorb the
    whole revenue of the post-office to carry on the prosecutions that
    would be required to stop it, and without any effect, as most of
    the carriers were worth nothing. To suppress it by law, would be
    very injurious to the trade of the place. The only way to
    supersede it is to reduce the postage to 1_d_. Were this done, the
    post-office would be preferred, for its greater certainty, even
    though the carriers would go for a halfpenny. The post-office
    would unquestionably receive more money by the change.

    “E. F.”, a manufacturer, described what he called the
    _free-packet_ system. Those manufacturers who did much business
    with London, in forwarding parcels through the stage coaches, were
    allowed by the coach proprietors to send a “free-packet,” without
    any charge, except 4_d_. for booking; and this package contained
    not only the letters and patterns of the house itself, but of
    others, who thus evade the postage.

    “G. H.” had been a carrier, from a town in Scotland to other
    towns. There were six carriers, and they all carried letters,
    generally averaging fifty a day, and realizing from 6_s_. to 7_s_.
    per day, although there were four mails a-day running from the
    town. The business was kept in a manner secret. Reducing the
    postage to 2_d_. would not stop the practice, because the carriers
    would still take the letters for 1_d_.; but a penny postage would
    bring all the letters into the post-office, and then the
    post-office would beat the smuggler.

    Mr. John Reid, of London, formerly an extensive bookseller in
    Glasgow said his house used to send out twenty to twenty-five
    letters a day, and scarcely ever through the post. Of 20,000 times
    of infringing the post-office laws, he was never caught but once,
    and then the government failed in proof, and he had the matter
    exposed as a grievance in the house of commons. He had seen a
    carrier in Glasgow have more than 300 letters at a time, which he
    delivered for 1_d_. Nearly all the correspondence between Glasgow
    and Paisley, was by carriers. There were 200 carriers came to
    Glasgow daily. There was as regular a system of exchanging bags,
    as in the post-office. There was not much attempt at concealment;
    sometimes we got frightened, and sometimes we laughed at the
    postmasters. Of his own letters, about one in twenty of those
    sent, and one in twelve of those received, passed through the
    post-office. The only way to put an end to the smuggling of
    letters was to remove the inducement. He said he could send
    letters to every town in Scotland. He could do it in more ways
    than one. He declined to state in what ways he would do it,
    because the disclosure would knock up some convenient modes he had
    of ending his own letters, and those of others. He said he would
    never use the post-office in an illegal manner, as by writing on
    newspapers and the like, because that would be dishonestly
    availing himself of the post-office, without paying for it. But he
    considered _he had a right to send his letters as he pleased_. He
    did not feel it his duty to acquiesce in a bad law, but thought
    every good man should set himself against a bad law, in order to
    get it repealed. Some of the methods of evading postage, practised
    in Scotland, are amusing. One was through what he called “family
    boxes.” When a student from the country comes to Glasgow to attend
    the college, he usually receives a box, once or twice a week, from
    his family, who send him cheese, meal, butter, cakes, &c., which
    come cheaper from the farm-house than he can purchase them in
    town. Probably, also, his clean linen comes in this way. The
    moment it was known that any family had a son at the university,
    the neighbors made a post-office of that farm-house.

The committee, in their report, concur in the opinion expressed by almost
all the officers of the department, that it was not by stronger powers to
be conferred by the legislature, nor by rigor in the exercise of those
powers, that illicit conveyance could be suppressed. The post-office must
be enabled _to recommend itself to the public mind_. It must secure to
itself a virtual monopoly, by the greater security, expedition,
punctuality, _and cheapness_, with which it does its work, than can be
reached by any private enterprise.

With this nearly all the witnesses also agree, although some of them
thought it possible that a less extreme reduction of the rate of postage
might have kept out the private mails, if it had taken place earlier,
before these illicit enterprises had obtained so firm a footing.

    Lord Ashburton, who was examined before the committee, said that
    had a uniform rate of 2_d_., or even 3_d_. been adopted
    heretofore, most persons would sooner pay it than look out for the
    means of evading it.

    Mr. Cobden, of Manchester, said a 6_d_. rate between Manchester
    and London would increase but slightly the number of letters,
    since the sending of letters clandestinely has become a trade,
    which would not be easily broken down. The railroads which are now
    opening to all parts of the country will so increase the
    facilities for smuggling, as _to counteract any reduction_ of from
    twenty to fifty per cent. on the postage. No small reduction will
    induce the people to write more. A reduction to one half of the
    present rates would certainly be a relief to his trade, as far as
    it went, that is, to all such as now pay the full rate; but he
    thinks it would not induce the poorer classes to use the
    post-office. It would occasion a loss to the revenue of fifty per

    Mr. W. Brown, merchant of Liverpool, was sure a reduction to half
    the present rates would give satisfaction to the public, but would
    not meet the question, and would not prevent smuggling.

    I. J. Brewin, of Cirencester, one of the Society of Friends,
    considered the effect of a two penny rate would be, that the
    post-office would get the long jobs, but not the short ones.

    Lieutenant F. W. Ellis, auditor of district unions in Suffolk,
    under the poor law commissioners, said that 2_d_. would not have
    the effect of 1_d_. in bringing correspondence to the post-office,
    because by carriers, and in other ways, letters are now conveyed
    for 1_d_.

The evidence seems to have produced a universal and settled conviction,
that as far as the contraband conveyance of letters was an evil, either
financial or social, there was no remedy for it but an absolute reduction
of the postage to 1_d_. There were large portions of the country in which
the government could control the postage at a higher rate, 2_d_. or even
3_d_.; but in the densely populated districts, where the greatest amount
of correspondence arises, and where are also the greatest facilities for
evading postage, no rate higher than 1_d_. would secure the whole
correspondence to the mails. They therefore left the penal enactments just
as they were, because they might be of some convenience in some cases. Mr.
Hill declared his opinion that it would be perfectly safe to throw the
business open to competition, for that the command of capital, and other
advantages enjoyed by the post-office, would enable it to carry letters
more cheaply and punctually _than can be done_ by private individuals. And
the result shows that he was right; for the contraband carriage of letters
is put down. The Companion to the British Almanac, for 1842, says, “The
illicit transmission of letters, and the evasions practised under the old
system to avoid postage, _have entirely ceased_.”

All this experience, and all these sound conclusions, are doubtless
applicable in the United States, with the additional considerations, of
the great extent of country, the limited powers of the government, the
entire absence of an organized police, and the fact that the federal
government is to so great a degree regarded as a stranger in the States.
Shall a surveillance, which the British government has abandoned as
impracticable, be seriously undertaken at this day by the congress of the
United States?

III. _The Postage Law of 1845._

The Postage Act, passed March 3, 1845, which went into operation on the
1st of July of that year, was called forth by a determination to destroy
the private mails; and this object gave character to the act as a whole.
The reports of the postmaster-general, and of the post-office committees
in both houses of congress, show that the end which was specially aimed at
was to overthrow these mails. The Report of the House Committee, presented
May 15, 1844, says:

    “Events are in progress of fatal tendency to the post-office
    department, and its decay has commenced. Unless arrested by
    vigorous legislation, it must soon cease to exist as a
    self-sustaining institution, and either be cast on the treasury
    for support, or suffered to decline from year to year, till the
    system has become impotent and useless. The last annual report of
    the postmaster-general shows that, notwithstanding the heavy
    retrenchments he had made, the expenditures of the department for
    the year ending June 30, 1843, exceeded its income by the sum of
    $78,788. The decline of its revenue during that year was $250,321;
    and the investigations made into the operations of the current
    year, indicate a further and an increasing decline, at the rate of
    about $300,000 a year.”

    “This illicit business has been some time struggling through its
    incipient stages; for it was not until the year commencing the 1st
    July, 1840, that it appears to have made a serious impression upon
    the revenues of the department. It has now assumed a bold and
    determined front, and dropped its disguises; opened offices for
    the reception of letters, and advertised the terms on which they
    will be despatched out of the mail.”

    “The revenue for the year ending June 30, 1840, was $4,539,265;
    for the last year it was $4,295,925; and indications show that for
    the present year it will not be more than $3,995,925.”

    “The number of chargeable letters in circulation, exclusive of
    dead letters, during the year ending June 30, 1840, may be assumed
    at 27,535,554. The annual number now reported to be in
    circulation, is 24,267,552. Thus, 3,268,000 letters a year and
    $543,340 of annual revenue, are the spoils taken from the mails by

The Report of the Senate Committee has this remark:

    “We have seen in the outset that something _must_ be done; that
    the revenues of the department are rapidly falling off, and a
    remedy must in some way be found for this alarming evil, or the
    very consequences so much dreaded by some from the reduction
    proposed, will inevitably ensue; namely, a great curtailment of
    the service, or a heavy charge upon the national treasury for its
    necessary expenses. It is believed that in consequence of the
    disfavor with which the present rates and other regulations of
    this department are viewed, and the open violations of the laws
    before adverted to, that not more than, if as much as one half the
    correspondence of the country passes through the mails; the
    greater part being carried by private hands, or forwarded by means
    of the recently established private expresses, who perform the
    same service, at much less cost to the writers and recipients of
    letters than the national post-office. It seems to the committee
    to be impossible to believe that there are but twenty-four or
    twenty-seven millions of letters per year, forwarded to distant
    friends and correspondents in the United States, by a population
    of twenty millions of souls; whilst, at the same time, there are
    _two hundred and four millions_ and upwards of letters passing
    annually through the mails of Great Britain and Ireland, with a
    population of only about twenty-seven millions.”

The Senate Report recommended the reduction of the rates of postage to
five and ten cents, an average of seven and a half cents, with a very
great restriction of the franking privilege, on which it was confidently
estimated that the revenues of the department, for the first year of the
new system, would be $4,890,500; and that the number of chargeable letters
would be sixty millions. The House Report recommended stringent measures
to suppress the private mails, with the abolition of franking, without any
reduction of postage, except to substitute federal coin for Spanish. It
estimated the increase of letters to be produced by reducing the rates to
five and ten cents, at only thirty per cent. in number, thus reducing the
postage receipts at once to two and a half millions of dollars. It will be
seen that each of these calculations has been proved to be erroneous.

The great postage meeting in New York, held in December, 1843, had asked
for a uniform rate of five cents. After stating the advantages of the
English system, their committee still hung upon the length of the routes
in this country as a reason against the adoption of the low rate of
postage. They said,

    “It is plain that a similar system may be introduced with equally
    satisfactory results in the United States. On account, however, of
    the vast distances to be traversed by the mail-carriers, and the
    great difficulties of travel in the unsettled portions of our
    country, our petition asks that the rate be reduced to five cents
    for each letter not more than half an ounce in weight—which is
    more than double the uniform postage in Great Britain. It is a
    rate which would not only secure to the post-office the transport
    of nearly all the letters which are now forwarded through private
    channels, but it would largely increase correspondence, both of
    business and affection.

    “Above all, the _franking privilege_ should be abolished. Unless
    this is done, nothing can be done. It will be impossible, without
    drawing largely upon the legitimate sources of the national
    revenue, to sustain the post-office by any rates whatsoever, if
    this franking privilege shall continue to load the mails with
    private letters which everybody writes, and public documents which
    nobody reads.”

The bill was passed, but the franking privilege was continued, and yet the
Postmaster-General has told us that the current income of the department
is equal to its expenses. The predictions to the contrary were very
confident. Some of the gloomy forebodings then uttered, are worthy of
being recalled at this time.

    “The post-office department estimates that the deficiency in the
    revenue of the department, under the new law, will be about
    $1,500,000, this year.”—_Boston Post._

    “An additional tax of $1,500,000, to be raised to meet the
    deficiencies of the department, in a single year, must principally
    come from the pockets of farmers, (who write few letters, and are
    consequently less benefited by the reduction of postage,) in the
    shape of additional tariff duties upon articles which they
    consume.”—_New Hampshire Patriot._

    “A CAUTION.—Some people may be deceived on the subject of cheap
    postage, unless they take a ‘sober second thought.’ A part of
    those who are so strenuous for cheap postage are not quite so
    disinterested as would at first appear. They are seeking to pay
    their postage bills out of other people’s pockets. Look at this
    matter. I am an industrious mechanic, for example, and I have
    little time to write letters. My neighbor publishes school-books,
    and he wishes to be sending off letters, recommendations, puffs,
    &c., by the hundred and by the thousand. This is his way of making
    money. Now, he wishes the expenses of the post-office department
    to be paid out of the treasury, and then I shall have to help him
    pay his postage, while he will only pay his national tax,
    according to his means, as I do mine. If he is making his money by
    sending letters, he should pay the whole cost of carrying those
    letters. I ought not to pay any part of it, in the way of duties
    on sugar, &c. Let every man pay his own postage. Is not this fair?
    But this will not be the case if the post-office department does
    not support itself. The cheap postage system may injure the poor
    man, instead of helping him.”—_Philad. North American._

    “As for the matter of post-office reform, and reduction of the
    rates of postage, there are not _one thousand_ considerate and
    reflecting people, in the Union, who desire or demand anything of
    the kind.

    “The commercial and mercantile classes have not desired ‘reform;’
    and the rural and agricultural classes, the planters of the South,
    and the corn and wheat growers of the West, the mechanics and
    laboring classes, are not disposed to be _taxed_ enormously to
    support a post-office department to gratify the avarice and
    cupidity of a body of sharpers and speculators.”—_Madisonian._

    “THE NEW POSTAGE LAW.—The following statement has been furnished
    us of the amount of postage chargeable on letters forwarded by the
    New York and Albany steamboats:

    The last thirteen days of June, $99.66
    First thirteen days of July, (same route,)  53.90
    Decrease, $45.76.

    _Albany Argus._

    “I inquired at the post-office to-day for information. One of the
    gentlemanly clerks of that establishment said to me, ‘Well, Mr.
    Smith, I can’t give you all the information you desire, but I can
    say thus much. I this morning made up a mail for Hudson; it
    amounted to _seventy cents_; the same letters under the old law,
    and in the same mail, would have paid _seven dollars_. Now you can
    make your own deductions.’ I then inquired of the same gentleman,
    if the increase of letters had been kept up since the 1st of July.
    He replied ‘_no_,’ but added, ‘the increase of numbers is somewhat
    encouraging, but not sufficiently so to justify the belief that
    the new law will realize the hopes of its advocates.’ ”—_N. Y.
    Correspondent of Boston Post._

    “From the city post-office we learn that the number of letters,
    papers, and packages, passing through their hands, unconnected
    with the business of the government, has increased about 33 per
    cent., when compared with the business of the month of June. The
    gross amount of proceeds from postage on these has fallen off
    nearly 66 per cent., while the postage charged to the government
    for its letters, &c., received and sent, is enormous. For the
    post-office department alone, it is said to reach near $40,000 for
    the month just past.”—_Washington Union, Aug. 2._

    “We observe in the Eastern papers some paragraphs about the
    working of the new law, in which they suppose it will work well.
    Unquestionably it will work well for those who have to pay the
    postage; but as to the _revenue_, it will not yield even as much
    as the opponents of the system supposed. We do not believe the
    receipts will equal one half received under the old system. We are
    told that the experience of the first week in Cincinnati does not
    show more than _one quarter_ the receipts.

    “Private correspondence is increased a little; but the falling off
    in the mercantile increase is immense. It cannot be otherwise; for
    many letters now pay 10 cents which formerly paid a dollar. Double
    and treble letters pay no more than single letters. In large
    cities three-fourths of the postage is paid by _business letters_.
    These letters are nearly all double and treble. A double letter
    from Cincinnati to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, or
    New Orleans, before, paid 50 cents; now it pays 10 cents. The
    largest portion of postage is reduced to _one-fifth_ part of the
    former postage.

    “We are well pleased, however, that it will turn out as it will.
    The law will be too popular with the people to be repealed; and it
    will oblige Mr. James K. Polk’s administration to provide ways and
    means out of the tariff to meet a deficiency of two millions in
    the postage. This will work favorably to the tariff.

    “All things will come right in the end. The lower the postage the
    more economical the post-office department must be, and the more
    money the government must raise from the tariff.”—_Cleveland

    “Mr. McDuffie is reported to have made the following correct and
    just remarks, showing he understands well the operations of that
    Department. If the bill shall become a law, our word for it, that
    in less than six months one-fourth the offices in the Union will
    be discontinued, because nobody will be found who will keep them.
    But let the bill go into operation, and in less than twelve months
    the very clamorers for low rates of postage will become so sick of
    it, that they will be the first to unite in demanding its repeal.
    If we supposed our advice would have any influence, we would
    recommend to the Department and all Postmasters to hold on to the
    old books, arrangements and fixtures, even if the bill does pass,
    because in two weeks after Congress shall meet next year, it will
    be repealed and the old order restored.”—_Kentucky Yeoman._

    “ ‘Mr. McDuffie rose, evidently much excited, and after expressing
    his regret that bodily infirmity disabled him to give the strength
    of his convictions in regard to the evils which would flow from
    the bill, he protested against its passage, as a measure more
    radical and revolutionary than anything that had ever been done by
    Congress. He denounced it as most unjust. It removes the burden
    from those who ought to have it, the manufacturers and merchants
    of the North, and throws it upon the farmers of the South and
    West, who are already oppressed by the tariff, and who will have
    to pay the expense by a tax on their necessaries.

    “ ‘You will sacrifice the intelligence of the people to the
    rapacity of the manufacturers. He could not imagine that the
    agriculturist anywhere could feel postage as a burden; it is but a
    moderate compensation for services rendered by the government. A
    poor man pays $10 duty on his sugar, salt and iron, and now you
    make him pay the postage. You will break up one half of the
    smaller offices, you will in ten years make the post-office the
    greatest organ of corruption the country has ever seen, and the
    man who wields its patronage can command the sceptre. By throwing
    it on the treasury, you destroy the responsibility of the head of
    the department, and in ten years you will have it cost you ten
    millions of dollars.’ ”

    Instead of a revenue of nearly four millions, it is therefore
    probable that the revenue of the first year of the experiment will
    not much exceed a million and a half. It will be remembered that
    Congress appropriated $750,000 to make up the expected deficiency;
    but this will fall far below the necessities of the service; and
    it is very probable that this sum will be consumed in the payments
    of the contracts for the two first quarters. They are very busy at
    the Department sending off letter balances, the postage of which
    will of course constitute a charge on the Treasury; and as the
    postage on each of these packets will amount to about three times
    as much as the first cost of the balances, the Department will
    make money out of this transaction.—_Charleston Mercury._

    “I voted against this act. It is probable that a reduction might
    have been made in the rates of postage which would not have
    diminished the amount of revenue; but the reduction made by this
    act is too great, and will have the effect of throwing the
    Post-Office Department as a heavy charge on the general treasury,
    which has not been the case heretofore. The post-office tax was
    the only one in which the North and the East bore their share
    equally with the South and the West. We would all like to have
    cheap postage; and if that were the only consideration involved, I
    would have voted for the act; but there were others which
    influenced me to oppose it. The reduction of postage will cause a
    diminution in the post-office revenue, which must be supplied by
    the _general treasury_. The treasury collects the revenue which
    must supply this deficiency, by a duty levied on imports; so that
    the tax taken off of the _mail correspondence_ will have to be
    collected on _salt_, _iron_, _sugar_, _blankets_, and other
    articles which we buy from the stores. The manufacturing States
    profit by this, because it aids the _protective_ policy. I might
    add other objections, but deem it unnecessary at present.”—_Letter
    of Hon. D. S. Reid, of ——, to his constituents._

The Postmaster-General, in his report made Dec. 1, 1845, says:

    “So far as calculations can be relied on, from the returns to the
    department, of the operation of the new postage law, for the
    quarter ending 30th September last, the deficiency for the current
    year will exceed a million and a quarter of dollars; and there is
    no reasonable ground to believe that, without some amendment of
    that law, it will fall short of a million of dollars for the next

The actual deficiency for the year ending June 30, 1846, was only
$589,837; and for the second year above alluded to, ending June 30, 1847,
it was but $33,677. And the Postmaster-General’s report for December,
1847, estimates the resources of the department for the year ending June
30, 1848, at $4,313,157, and the expenditures at $4,099,206, giving an
actual surplus of $213,951. If this expectation should be realized, (and
there is hardly a possibility but that it should be exceeded), the income
will exceed the annual average receipts for the nine years before the
reduction of postage, $51,467. The Postmaster-General ascribes the
increase solely to “the reduction in the rates of postage,” while nearly a
million of dollars are saved in the expenditures by the provision of the
law of 1845, directing the contracts to be let to the lowest bidder,
without reference to the transportation in coaches. So far, therefore, the
triumph of the law of 1845 has been complete. It has proved that the same
economic law exists here as in England, by which reduction of price leads
to increase of consumption.

On the other point, however, of meeting the wants of the people, so as to
bring all the correspondence of the country into the mails, its success is
very far from being equally satisfactory. The five and ten cents’ postage
does not have the effect of suppressing the private mails and illicit
transportation of letters.

The report of the House Committee in 1844, showed beforehand that such a
reduction could not have the effect here, just as the parliamentary report
had shown in 1838, that nothing but an absolute reduction to 1_d._ could
suppress the private mails in England. “Individuals can prosecute on all
the large railroad and steamboat routes between the great towns, as now, a
profitable business in conveying letters at three and five cents, where
the government would ask the five and ten cents postages.” Hill’s New
Hampshire Patriot said, shortly after the act went into operation:

    “Private expresses _have not_ been discontinued in this quarter.
    Far from it. They are now doing as large a business as ever,
    carrying letters at half the government rates. And, strange as it
    may appear, they appear to be sustained by public opinion. The new
    postage act did not abate what is called ‘private enterprise,’ and
    the act itself, it is thought, will soon be found to be

The report of the Postmaster-General in 1845, speaks of a practice of
enveloping many letters, written on very thin paper, in one enclosure,
paying postage by the half-ounce, and thus reducing the postage on each to
a trifle.

    “An incident recently occurred which will forcibly illustrate the
    injurious effects of such a practice upon the revenues of the
    department. A large bundle of letters was enveloped and sealed,
    marked ‘postage paid, $1.60.’ By some accident in the
    transportation, the envelope was so much injured as to enable the
    postmaster to see that it contained one hundred letters to
    different individuals, evidently designed for distribution by the
    person to whom directed, and should have been charged ten dollars.
    The continuance of this practice would, in a short time, deprive
    the department of a large proportion of its legitimate income. The
    department has no power to suppress it, further than to direct the
    postages to be properly charged, whenever such practices are
    detected. This has also introduced a species of thin, light paper,
    by which five or six letters may be placed under one cover, and
    still be under the half-ounce.”

He adds:

    “The practice of sending packages of letters through the mails to
    agents, for distribution, has not entirely superseded the
    transmission of letters, over post roads, out of the mails, by the
    expresses. The character of this offence is such as to render
    detection very uncertain, full proof almost impossible, conviction
    rare. The penalties are seldom recovered after conviction, and the
    department rarely secures enough to meet the expenses of
    prosecution. If the officers of the department were authorized in
    proper cases to have the persons engaged in these violations of
    the law arrested, their packages, trunks, or boxes, seized and
    examined before a proper judicial officer, and, when detected in
    violating the law, retained for the examination of the court and
    jury, it is believed that the practice could be at once

In his last report, December, 1847, he also says that, “Private expresses
still continue to be run between the principal cities, and seriously
affect the revenues of the department, from the want of adequate powers
for their suppression.” The complaint is continually, of a want of
adequate powers to suppress the practice. The law of 1845 has gone as far
as could be desired in the severity of penalties and the extent of their
application, involving in heavy fines every person who shall send or
receive letters; and every stage-coach, railroad car, steamboat, or other
vehicle or vessel—its owners, conductors and agents, which may knowingly
be employed in the conveyance of letters, or in the conveyance of any
person employed in such conveyance, under penalty of $50 for each letter
transported. What the post-office department would deem “adequate powers”
for the suppression of illicit letter-carrying, may be seen in the
following extract of a bill, which was actually reported by the
post-office committee of the House of Representatives, and “printed by
order of the House:”

    “And it shall be lawful for the agents of the post-office, or
    other officers of the United States government, upon reasonable
    cause shown, to arrest such person or persons, and seize his or
    their boxes, bags, or trunks, supposed to contain such mailable
    matter, and cause the same to be opened and examined before any
    officer of the United States; and if found to contain such
    mailable matter, transported in violation of the laws of the
    United States, shall be held to bail in the sum of five thousand
    dollars, to appear and answer said charge before the next United
    States Court to be held in said State, or district of said State;
    and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined as aforesaid, one
    hundred dollars for each letter, newspaper, or printed sheet so
    transported as aforesaid, and shall be held in the custody of the
    marshal until the fine and costs are paid, or until otherwise
    discharged by due course of law.”

The report of 1845 thinks there is “no just reason why individuals engaged
in smuggling letters and robbing the department of its legitimate revenues
should not be punished, in the same way and to the same extent, as persons
guilty of smuggling goods; nor why the same means of detection should not
be given to the Post-office Department which are now given to the
Treasury.” That is, the power of detention and search in all cases of
suspicion by the agent, that a person is carrying letters. What would be
the effect of carrying out this system, in breaking up the practice
complained of, or what would be the amount of inconvenience to travellers
and to business, of a thorough determination in the department to execute
such a law in the spirit of it, all can judge for themselves. The British
government, as we have seen, dared not entertain such a proposition. I
have no hesitation in saying, that such a system of coercion can never be
successfully executed here. It is better to meet the difficulty, as the
British government did, in a way to make the post-office at once the most
popular vehicle of transmission, and the greatest blessing which the
government can bestow upon the people. The New York Evening Post said,
years ago:

    “Congress yields, and passes such a law. What then? Is Hydra dead?
    By no means, its ninety-nine other heads still rear their crests,
    and bid defiance to the secretary and his law. In Pearl street,
    there will yet hang a bag for the deposit of the whole
    neighborhood’s letters,—at Astor House, and at Howard’s, at the
    American, and at the City Hotels, still every day will see the
    usual accumulation of letters,—all to be taken by some ‘private,’
    trustworthy, obliging wayfarer, and by him be deposited in some
    office at Boston, Philadelphia, Albany, Baltimore.”

I have no doubt that the cheap transmission of letters, out of the mails,
is now becoming systematized and extended between our large cities, and an
immense amount of correspondence is also carried on between the large
cities and the towns around. The Boston Path-Finder contains a list of 240
“Expresses,” as they are called, that is, of common carriers, who go
regularly from Boston to other towns, distant from three miles to three
hundred. Most of these men carry “mailable matter” to a great extent, in
their pockets or hats, in the shape of orders, memorandums, receipts, or
notes, sometimes on slips of paper, sometimes in letters folded in brown
paper and tied with a string, and not unfrequently in the form of
regularly sealed letters. If we suppose each one to carry, on an average,
ten in a day, a very low estimate, there are 750,000 letters brought to
Boston in a year by this channel alone. Everything which calls public
attention to the subject of postage, every increase of business causing an
increase of correspondence between any two places, every newspaper
paragraph describing the wonderful increase of letters in England, will
awaken new desires for cheap postage; and these desires will gratify
themselves irregularly, unless the only sure remedy is seasonably applied.
In the division of labor and the multiplication of competitions, there are
many lines of business of which the whole profits are made up of extremely
minute savings. In these the cost of postage becomes material; and such
concerns will not pay five cents on their letters, when they can get them
taken, carried and delivered for two cents. The causes which created
illicit penny posts in England are largely at work here, with the growth
and systematization of manufactures and trade; and they are producing, and
will produce the same results, until, on the best routes, not one-sixth of
the letters will be carried in the mail, unless the true system shall be
seasonably established. The evils of such a state of things need not be
here set forth. One of the greatest, which would not strike every mind, is
the demoralization of the public mind, in abating the reverence for law,
and the sense of gratitude and honor to the government.

In this respect, of bringing all the correspondence into the mails, in
furnishing all the facilities and encouragements to correspondence which
the duty of the government requires, in superseding the use of unlawful
conveyances, and in winning the patriotic regards of the people to the
post-office, as to every man’s friend, the act of 1845 has entirely
failed. It has not only falsified the predictions of us all in regard to
its productiveness, on the one hand, but it has even convinced the highest
official authority that it has failed to prove itself to be _the_ CHEAP
POSTAGE, which the country needs and will support. In his last annual
report, the Postmaster-General says:

    “The favorable operation of the act of 1845, upon the finances of
    this department, leads to the conclusion that, by the adoption of
    such modifications as have been suggested by this department for
    the improvement of its revenues, and the suppression of abuses
    practised under it, the present low rates of postage will not only
    produce revenue enough to meet the expenditures, but will leave a
    considerable surplus annually to be applied to the extension of
    the mail service to the new and rapidly increasing sections of our
    country, or would justify a still further reduction of the rates
    of postage. In the opinion of the undersigned, with such
    modifications of the act of 1845 as have been suggested, an
    uniform less rate might, in a few years, be made to cover the
    expenses of the department; but by its adoption the department
    would be compelled to rely upon the treasury for a few years. At
    this time, during the existence of a foreign war, imposing such
    heavy burdens upon the treasury, it might not be wise or prudent
    to increase them, or to do anything which would tend to impair the
    public credit; and, ON THIS ACCOUNT alone, recommendation for such
    a reduction is not made.

    “Postage is a tax, not only on the business of the country, but
    upon the intelligence, knowledge, and the exercise of the friendly
    and social feelings; and in the opinion of the undersigned, should
    be reduced to the lowest point which would enable the department
    to sustain itself. That principle has been uniformly acted on in
    the United States, as the true standard for the regulation of
    postage, and the cheaper it can be made, consistently with that
    rule, the better.

    “As our country expands, and its circle of business and
    correspondence enlarges, as civilization progresses, it becomes
    more important to maintain between the different sections of our
    country a speedy, safe, and cheap intercourse. By so doing, energy
    is infused into the trade of the country, the business of the
    people enlarged, and made more active, and an irresistible impulse
    given to industry of every kind; by it wealth is created and
    diffused in numberless ways throughout the community, and the most
    noble and generous feelings of our nature between distant friends
    are cherished and preserved, and the Union itself more closely
    bound together.”

Nothing can be more true than the position, that “postage is a tax,” and
that it is the duty of the government to make this “tax” as light as
possible, consistent with its other and equally binding duties. Nothing
more sound than the doctrine that it is utterly wrong to charge postage
with _anything more_ than its own proper expenses. Nothing more just than
the estimate here given of the benefits of cheap postage. The blessings he
describes are so great, so real, so accordant with the tone and beneficent
design of civil government itself, and especially to the functions and
duties of a republican government, that I do not think even the existence
and embarrassments of a state of war, such as now exists, are any reason
at all for postponing the commencement of so glorious a measure. If it
could be brought about under the administration of an officer who has
expressed himself so cordially and intelligently in favor of cheap
postage, and whose ability and fidelity in the economical administration
of affairs are so well known, it would be but a fitting response to the
statesmanlike sentiments quoted above.

I am now to show that, on the strictest principles of justice, on the
closest mathematical calculation, on the most enlarged and yet rigid
construction of the duty imposed on the federal government by our
constitution, two cents per half ounce is the most just and equal rate of

IV. _What is the just Rule to be observed in settling the Rates of

The posting of letters may be looked at, either as a contract between the
government and the individuals who send and receive letters, or as a
simple exercise of governmental functions in discharging a governmental
duty. The proper measure of the charge to be imposed should be considered
in each of these aspects, for the government is bound to do that which is
right in both these relations.

Viewed simply as a contract, or a service rendered for an equivalent, what
would be the rate to be charged? Not, surely, the amount it would cost the
individual to send his own particular letter. The saving effected by the
division and combination of labor is a public benefit, and not to be
appropriated as an exclusive right by one. In this view, the government
stands only in the relation of a party to the contract, just as a state or
a town would do, or an individual. No right or power of monopoly can enter
into the calculation. We can illustrate the question by supposing a case,
of a town some thirty miles from Boston, to which there has hitherto been
no common-carrier. The inhabitants resolve to establish an express, and
for this purpose enter into negotiations with one of their neighbors, in
which they agree to give him their business on his agreeing to establish a
reasonable tariff of prices for his service. If the number of patrons is
very small, they cannot make it an object for the man to run his wagon,
unless they will agree to pay a good price for parcels. And the more
numerous the parcels are, the lower will be the rate, within certain
limits, that is, until the man’s wagon is fairly loaded, or he has as much
business as he can reasonably attend to. This is on the supposition that
all the business is to come from one place. But if there are intermediate
or contiguous places whose patronage can be obtained to swell the amount
of business, there should be an equitable apportionment of this advantage,
a part to go to the carrier for his additional trouble and fair profits,
and a part to go towards reducing the general rate of charge. If, however,
the carrier has an interest in a place five miles beyond, which he thinks
may be built up by having an express running into it from Boston, although
the present amount of business is too small to pay the cost, and if, for
considerations of his own advantage, he resolves to run his wagon to that
place at a constant loss for the present, looking to the rise of his
property for ultimate remuneration, it would not be just for him to
insist, that the people who intend to establish an express and support it
for themselves, shall yet pay an increased or exorbitant price for their
own parcels, in order to pay him for an appendage to the enterprise, for
which they have no occasion, and as such he himself undertakes for
personal considerations of is own.

And if he should be obstinate on this point, they would just let him take
his own way, and charge prices to suit himself, while they proceeded to
make a new bargain with another carrier, who would agree to accommodate
them at reasonable prices adjusted on the basis of their patronage. And if
an appeal should be made to their sympathy or charity, to help the growing
hamlet, they would say, that it was better to give charity out of their
pockets than by paying a high price on their parcels; for then those would
give who were able and willing, and would know how much they gave. This
covers the whole case of arranging postage as a matter of equal contract.
The just measure of charge is, the lowest rate at which the work can be
afforded by individual enterprise on the best self-supporting routes.
Plainly, no other rate can be kept up by open competition on these routes.
And if these routes are lost by competition, you must charge
proportionably higher on the rest, which will throw the next class of
routes into other hands, and so on, until nothing is left for you but the
most costly and impracticable portions of the work.

The only material exception to this rule would be, where there is an
extensive and complicated combination of interests, among which the
general convenience and even economy will be promoted by establishing a
uniformity of prices, without reference to an exact apportionment of
minute differences.

It can be easily shown, that all these considerations would be harmonized
by no rate of postage on letters, higher than the English 1_d._, or with
us two cents for each half ounce. Considered as a business question,
unaffected by the assumed power of monopoly by the government, the
reasonings of the parliamentary reports and the results of the British
experiment abundantly establish this rate to be the fair average price for
the service rendered. A moderate business can live by it, if economically
conducted, and a large business will make it vastly profitable, as is seen
in the payment of four or five millions of dollars a year into the public
treasury of Great Britain, as the net profits of penny postage.

If we look at the post-office in the more philosophical and elevated
aspect of a grand governmental measure, enjoined by the people for the
good of the people, we shall be brought to a similar conclusion. The
constitutional rule for the establishment of the post-office, is as

    “Congress shall have power to—

    “Establish post-offices and post-roads.”

This clause declares plainly the will of the people of the United States,
that the federal government should be charged with the responsibility of
furnishing the whole Union with convenient and proper mail
privileges—according to their reasonable wants, and the reasonable ability
of the government. This is one point of the “general welfare,” for which
we are to look to congress, just as we look to congress to provide for the
general defence by means of the army and navy. It imposes no other
restrictions in the one case than the other, as to the extent to which
provision shall be made—the reasonable wants of the people, and the
reasonable ability of the government. It limits the resources for this
object to no particular branch of the revenue. It gives no sort of
sanction to the so oft-repeated rule, which many suppose to be a part of
the constitution, that the post-office must support itself. Still less,
does it authorize congress to throw all manner of burdens upon the mail,
and then refuse to increase its usefulness as a public convenience,
because it cannot carry all those loads. The people must have mails, and
congress must furnish them. To reason for or against any proposed change,
on the ground that the alternative may be the discontinuance of public
mails, the privation of this privilege to the people, and the winding up
of the post-office system, is clearly inadmissible. When the government
ceases to give the people the privileges of the mail, the government
itself will soon wind up, or rather, will be taken in hand and wound up by
the people, and set a-going again on better principles. The sole inquiry
for congress is, what is the best way to meet the reasonable wants of the
people, by means within the reasonable ability of the government?

The objects of the post-office system, which regulate its administration,
are well set forth in the Report of the House Committee in 1844: “To
content the man, dwelling more remote from town, with his homely lot, by
giving him regular and frequent means of intercommunication; to assure the
emigrant, who plants his new home on the skirts of the distant wilderness
or prairie, that he is not forever severed from the kindred and society
that still share his interest and love; to prevent those whom the swelling
tide of population is constantly, pressing to the outer verge of
civilization from being surrendered to surrounding influences, and sinking
into the hunter or savage state; to render the citizen, how far soever
from the seat of his government, worthy, by proper knowledge and
intelligence, of his important privileges as a sovereign constituent of
the government; to diffuse, throughout all parts of the land,
enlightenment, social improvement, and national affinities, elevating our
people in the scale of civilization, and binding them together in
patriotic affection.”

These are the objects for which congress is bound to maintain the
post-office, and it is impossible that congress should ever seriously
consider whether they will not abandon them. The maintenance of convenient
mails for these objects is therefore to be regarded as a necessary
function of the government of the United States. In the infancy of that
government, while the government itself was an experiment, when the
country was deeply in debt for the cost of our independence, and when its
resources for public expenditure were untried and unknown, there was
doubtless a propriety in the adoption of the principle, that the
post-office department should support itself. But that state of things has
long gone by, and our government now has ample ability to execute any
plans of improvement whatever, for the advancement of knowledge, and for
binding the Union together, provided such plans come within the
acknowledged powers conferred by the constitution.

The post-office being, then, like the army and navy, a necessary branch of
the government, it follows that the charge of postage for the conveyance
of letters and papers is of the nature of a tax, as has been well
expressed by the present Postmaster-General, in his last annual report,
quoted above. “_Postage is a tax_, not only on the business of the
country, but upon intelligence and knowledge, and the exercise of the
friendly and social affections.” The question before us is, How heavy a
“tax” ought the government of a federal republic to impose on these
interests? Every friend of freedom and of human improvement answers
spontaneously, that nothing but a clear necessity can justify any tax at
all upon such subjects, and that the tax should be reduced, in all cases,
to the very lowest practicable rate. The experience of the British
government, the prodigious increase of correspondence produced by cheap
postage, and the immense revenue accruing therefrom, demonstrate that TWO
CENTS is not below the rate which the government can afford to receive.
Let the people understand that all beyond this is a mere “tax,” not
required by any necessity, and they will soon demand that the government
look for its resources to some more suitable subjects of taxation than

Another rule of right in regard to this “tax” is well laid down in the
Report of the House Committee, for 1844: “As the post-office is made to
sustain itself solely by a tax on correspondence, it should derive aid and
support from everything which it conveys. No man’s private correspondence
should go free, since the expense of so conveying it becomes a charge upon
the correspondence of others; and the special favor thus given, and which
is much abused by being extended to others not contemplated by law, is
unjust and odious. Neither should the public correspondence be carried
free of charge where such immunity operates as a burden upon the
correspondence of the citizen. There is no reason why the public should
not pay its postages as well as citizens—no sufficient reason why this
item of public expenses should not be borne, like all others, by the
general tax paid into the treasury.” These remarks are made, indeed, with
reference to the franking privilege, which the committee properly proposed
to abolish on the grounds here set forth. But it is plain that the
principle is equally pertinent to the question of taxing the
correspondence of the thickly settled parts of the country for the purpose
of raising means to defray the expense of sending mails to the new and
distant parts of the country. There is no justice in it. The extension of
these mails is a duty of the government; and let the government, by the
same rule, pay the cost out of its own treasury. “Postage,” says the same
report, “in the large towns and contiguous places, is, in part, a
_contribution_.” It is a forced contribution, levied not upon the property
of the people, but upon their intelligence and affections.

Our letters are taxed to pay the following expenses:

1. For the franking of seven millions of free letters.

2. For the distribution of an immense mass of congressional documents,
which few people read at all, and most of which might as well be sent in
some other way—would be seen the moment they should be actually subjected
to the payment of postage by those who send or receive them.

3. For the extension of mails over numerous and long routes, in the new or
thinly settled parts of the country, which do not pay their own expenses.
I do not believe these routes are more extensive or numerous than the
government ought to establish; but then the government ought to support
them out of the general treasury. Many of them are necessary for the
convenience of the government itself. For many of them the treasury is
amply remunerated, and more, by the increased sale of the public lands,
the increase of population, and the consequent increase of the revenue
from the custom-house. And the rest are required by the great duty of
self-preservation and self-advancement, which is inherent in our

4. For the cost of about two millions of dead letters, and an equal number
of dead newspapers and pamphlets, the postage on which, at existing rates,
would amount to at least $175,000 a year, and the greater part of which
would be saved under the new postal system.

Why should these burdens be thrown as a “tax upon correspondence,” or made
an apology for the continuance of such a tax? It is unreasonable. All
these expenses should be borne, “like all others, by the general tax paid
into the treasury.” This would leave letters chargeable only with such a
rate of postage as is needed for the prevention of abuses, and to secure
the orderly performance of the public duty. And a postage of two cents
would amply suffice for this. Some have suggested that _one cent_ is all
that ought to be required.

There is another view of the matter, which shows still more strongly the
injustice of the present tax upon letters. “It is not matter of
inference,” says Mr. Rowland Hill, “but matter of fact, that the expense
of the post-office is practically the same, whether a letter is going from
London to Burnet (11 miles), or from London to Edinburgh (397 miles); the
difference is not expressible in the smallest coin we have.” The cost of
transit from London to Edinburgh he explained to be only one thirty-sixth
of a penny. And the average cost, per letter, of transportation in all the
mails of the kingdom, did not differ materially from this. Of course, it
was impossible to vary the rates of postage according to distance, when
the longest distance was but a little over one-tenth of a farthing. The
same reasoning is obviously applicable to all the _productive_ routes in
the United States. And we have seen the injustice of taxing the letters on
routes that are productive or self-supporting, to defray the expense of
the unproductive routes which the government is bound to create and pay

Another view of the case shows the futility of the attempt to make
distance the basis of charge. The actual cost of transit, to each letter,
does not vary with the distance, but is inversely as the number of
letters, irrespective of distance. The weight of letters hardly enters
into the account as a practical consideration. Ten thousand letters, each
composed of an ordinary sheet of letter paper, would weigh but one hundred
and fifty-six pounds, about the weight of a common sized man, who would be
carried from Boston to Albany or New York for five dollars. The average
cost of transportation of the mails in this country, is a little over six
cents per mile. For convenience of calculation, take a route of ten miles
long, which costs ten cents per mile, and another of one hundred miles
long at the same rate. There are many routes which do not carry more than
one letter on the average. The letter would cost the department one dollar
for carrying it ten miles. On the route of one hundred miles we will
suppose there are one thousand letters to be carried, which will cost the
government for transportation just one mill per letter. How then can we
make distance the basis of postage?

The matter may be presented in still another view. The government
establishes a mail between two cities, say Boston and New York, which is
supported by the avails of postage on letters. Then it proceeds to
establish a mail between New York and Philadelphia, which is supported by
the postage between those places. Now, how much will it cost the
government to carry in addition, all the letters that go from Boston to
Philadelphia, and from Philadelphia to Boston? Nothing. The contracts will
not vary a dollar. In this manner, you may extend your mails from any
point, wherever you find a route which will support itself, until you
reach New Orleans or Little Rock, and it is as plain as the multiplication
table, that it will cost the government no more to take an individual
letter from Boston to Little Rock than it would to take the same letter
from Boston to New York. The government is quite indifferent to what place
you mail your letter, provided it be to a place which has a mail regularly
running to it.

This brings us to the unproductive routes. An act was passed by the last
Congress to establish mail routes in Oregon territory. An agent is
appointed to superintend the business, at a salary of $1000 a year and his
travelling expenses; contracts are made or to be made, mails carried,
postmasters appointed and paid. This is doubtless a very proper and
necessary thing, one which the government could not have omitted without a
plain dereliction of duty. The honor and interest of the nation required
that as soon as the title to the country was settled, our citizens who
were resident there, and those who shall go to settle there, should enjoy
the benefits of the mail. And as it was the nation’s business to establish
the mail, it was equally the nation’s business to pay the expense. No man
can show how it is just or reasonable, that the letters passing between
Boston and New York should be taxed 150 per cent. to pay the expense of a
mail to Oregon, on the pretext that the post-office must support itself.

A mail is run at regular periods to Eagle River, Wisconsin, for the
accommodation of the persons employed about the copper mines on Lake
Superior. Without questioning the certainty of the great things that are
to be done there hereafter, it is no presumption to express the belief
that the expenses of that mail are hardly paid by the postage on the
letters now carried to and from Lake Superior. Nor, after making all due
allowances for the liberal distribution of copper stock at the East, is it
rational to believe that all the people who write letters here, are so
directly interested as to make a tax upon letters the most equitable mode
of assessing the expense.

During the debates in Congress on the act of 1844, an incident was related
by Senator Crittenden, of Kentucky, to this effect. He said he was
travelling in the mail stage somewhere in the State of Tennessee. At a
time of day when he was tired and hungry, the stage turned off from the
road a number of miles, to carry the mail to a certain post-office; it was
night when they reached the office, the postmaster was roused with
difficulty, who went through the formality of taking the mail pouch into
his hand, and returned it to the driver, saying there was not a letter in
it, and had not been for a month. I will not inquire whose letters ought
to be taxed to sustain that mail route, but only remark, that whatever
consideration caused its establishment, ought to carry the cost to the
public treasury, and not throw it as a burden upon our letters.

The Postmaster-General, in his late report, says that “the weight and bulk
of the mails, which add so greatly to the cost of transportation, and
impede the progress of the mail, are attributable to the mass of printed
matter daily forwarded from the principal cities in the Union to every
part of the country;” and “justice requires that the expense of their
transportation should be paid by the postage.” I would add to this the
qualifying phrase, “or by the government, out of the public treasury,” and
then ask why the same principle of justice is not as applicable to long
mail routes as to heavy mail bags. There is and can be no ground of
apprehension, that mails will ever be overloaded or retarded by the weight
of paid letters they contain. It was found by the parliamentary committee,
that the number of letters, which was then nearly fifty per cent. greater
than in all our mails, might be increased twenty-four fold, without
overloading the mails, and without any material addition to the contracts
for carrying the mails. They also found that the whole cost of receiving,
transporting and delivering a letter was 76-100ths of a penny, of which
the transit cost but 19-100ths, and the receipt and delivery 57-100ths.
The cost of transit, per letter, is of course reduced by the increase of

I have dwelt so long on this part of the subject, because I find that here
is the great difficulty in the application of the principles and results
of the British system to our own country—ours is such a “great country,”
and we have so many “magnificent distances.” But disposing as I have of
the unproductive mail routes, and showing as I have, the injustice of
taxing letters with the expense of any public burthens, this whole
difficulty is removed, and it is made to appear that two cents is the
highest proper rate of postage which the government can justly exact for
letters, on the score either of a just equivalent for the service
rendered, or of a tax imposed for the purposes of the government itself.

This is the conclusion to which the parliamentary committee were most
intelligently and satisfactorily drawn—that “the principle of a uniform
postage is founded on the facts, that the cost of distributing letters in
the United Kingdom consists chiefly in the expenses incurred with
reference to their receipt at and delivery from the office, and that the
cost of transit along the mail roads is comparatively unimportant, and
determined rather by the number of letters carried than the distance;”
that “as the cost of conveyance per letter depends more on the number of
letters carried than on the distance which they are conveyed, (the cost
being frequently greater for distances of a few miles, than for distances
of hundreds of miles,) the charge, if varied in proportion to the cost,
ought to increase in the inverse ratio of the number of letters conveyed,”
but it would be impossible to carry such a rule into practice, and
therefore the committee were of opinion, that “the easiest practicable
approach to a fair system, would be to charge a medium rate of postage
between one post-office and another, whatever may be their distance.” And
the committee were further of opinion, “that such an arrangement is highly
desirable, not only on account of its abstract fairness, but because it
would tend in a great degree to simplify and economize the business of the

Waterston’s Cyclopedia of Commerce says, “the fixing of _a low rate_
flowed almost necessarily from the adoption of a _uniform_ rate. It was
besides essential to the stoppage of the private conveyance of letters.
The post-office was thus to be restored to its ancient footing of an
institution, whose primary object was public accommodation, not revenue.”

The adoption of this simple principle, of Uniform Cheap Postage, was a
revolution in postal affairs. It may almost be called a revolution in the
government, for it identified the policy of the government with the
happiness of the people, more perfectly than any one measure that was ever
adopted. It prepared the way for all other postal reforms, which are
chiefly impracticable until this one is carried. We also can have franking
abolished, as soon as cheap postage shall have given the franking
privilege alike to all. We can have label stamps, and free delivery, and
registry of letters, and reduced postage on newspapers, and whatever other
improvement our national ingenuity may contrive, to the fullest extent of
the people’s wants, and the government’s ability, just as soon as we can
prevail upon the people to ask, and congress to grant, this one boon of
Uniform Cheap Postage.

V. _Franking._

The unanimity and readiness with which the franking privilege was
surrendered by the members of parliament—men of privilege in a land of
privilege—is proof of the strong pressure of necessity under which the
measure was carried. It is true, a few members seemed disposed to struggle
for the preservation of this much-cherished prerogative. One member
complained that the bill would be taxing him as much as £15 per annum.
Another defended the franking privilege on account of its benefits to the
poor. But the opposition melted away, like an unseasonable frost, as soon
as its arguments were placed in the light of cheap postage. And the whole
system of franking was swept away, and each department of the government
was required to pay its own postage, and report the same among its
expenditures. The debates in parliament show something of the reasons
which prevailed.

    _July 22, 1848._ The postage bill came up on the second reading:

    Sir Robert H. Inglis, among other things, objected to the
    abolition of the franking privilege. He could not see why, because
    a tax was to be taken off others, a tax was to be imposed on
    members. It would be, to those who had much correspondence, at
    least £15 a year, at the reduced rate of a penny a letter. To the
    revenue the saving would be small, and he hoped the house would
    not consent to rescind that privilege.

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the sacrifice of the franking
    privilege would be small in amount. But at the same time, be it
    small or great, he thought there would be not one feature of the
    new system which would be more palatable to the public, than this
    practical evidence of the willingness of members of this house, to
    sacrifice everything personal to themselves, for the advantage of
    the public revenue.

    Sir Robert Peel did not think it desirable that members of this
    house should retain the franking privilege. He thought if this
    were continued after this bill came into operation, there _would
    be a degree of odium_ attached to it which would greatly diminish
    its value. He agreed that it would be well to restrict in some way
    the _right of sending by mail the heavy volumes of reports_. He
    said there were many members who would shrink from the exercise of
    such a privilege, to load the mail with books. He would also
    require that each department should specially pay the postage
    incurred for the public service in that department. If every
    office be called upon to pay its own postage, we shall introduce a
    useful principle into the public service. There is no habit
    connected with a public service so inveterate, as the privilege of
    official franking.

On a former day, July 5, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said
concerning the abolition of the franking privilege:

    Undoubtedly, we may lose the opportunity now and then, of obliging
    a friend; but on other grounds, I believe there is no member of
    the house who will not be ready to abandon the privilege. As to
    any notion that honorable gentlemen should retain their privilege
    under a penny postage, they must have a more intense appreciation
    of the value of money, and a greater disregard for the value of
    time, than I can conceive, if they insist on it.

All the peculiarities which distinguish British institutions from our own,
might naturally be expected to make public men in that country more
tenacious of privilege than our own statesmen. In a land of privilege, we
should expect mere privilege to be coveted, because it is privilege. This
practical and harmonious decision of British statesmen, of all parties, in
favor of abolishing the franking privilege, in order to give strength and
consistency to the system of cheap postage, shows in a striking light the
sense which they entertained of the greatness of the object of cheap
postage. The arguments which convinced them, we should naturally suppose
would have tenfold greater force here than there; while the arguments in
favor of the privilege would have tenfold greater influence there than
here. Can there be a doubt that, when the subject is fairly understood,
there will be found as much magnanimity among American as among British

The moral evils of the franking system are far more serious than the
pecuniary expense, although that is by no means undeserving of regard. It
is not only an ensnaring prerogative to those who enjoy it, and an anomaly
and incongruity in our republican institutions, but it is an oppressive
burden upon the post-office, which ought to be removed.

The parliamentary committee ascertained, by three distinct calculations,
(of which all the results so nearly agreed as to strengthen each other,)
that, reckoning by numbers, one-ninth of the letters passing through the
post-office in a year, were franked. And, reckoning by weight, the
proportion was 30 per cent. of the whole. Of seven millions of franked
letters and documents, nearly five millions were by members of parliament.
If all the franks had been subject to postage, they would have yielded
upwards of a million sterling yearly. This was after the parliamentary
franks had been restricted to a certain number (ten) daily for each
member, and limited in weight to two ounces. The amount of postage on
parliamentary franks would be yearly £350,000, averaging about £310 to
each member. But there were a number of official persons, whose franks
were not limited, either in number or weight. These franks were obtained
and used, by those who could get them, without stint or scruple.

    The celebrated Dr. Dionysius Lardner, who then occupied a
    prominent place among men of letters in Great Britain, testified
    before the parliamentary committee in 1838, that he was in the
    practice of sending and receiving about five thousand letters a
    year, of which he got four-fifths without postage—chiefly by
    franks. While he lived in Ireland, his correspondence was so
    heavy, not only as to the number of letters, but their bulk and
    weight, that he was obliged to apply to the Postmaster-General of
    Ireland, Lord Rosse, who allowed them to go under his franks. From
    the year 1823, or soon after he quitted the university, until the
    year 1828, his letters went and came under the frank of Lord
    Rosse, who had the power of franking to any weight. Since he came
    to England, his facilities of getting franks were very great.
    Without such means, he would have found it very difficult indeed
    to send his letters by post. His heavy correspondence was chiefly
    sent through official persons, who had the power of franking to
    any weight; and his correspondents knew that they could send their
    letters under care to these friends; so that he received
    communications from them in the same way. He endeavored to save as
    much trouble as he could, by dividing the annoyance among them,
    and by enclosing a bundle of letters for the same neighborhood
    under one cover. He said that, to obtain these privileges a man
    must be connected or known to the aristocratic classes, and that
    it was certainly unfair, as it gave unfair advantages to those who
    happened to have friends or connections having that power. His
    foreign correspondence was carried on through the embassies; and
    in this way the letters came free. He got his letters from the
    United States free in that way. Any man who was a Fellow of the
    Royal Society, or who lived among that class, could avail himself
    of these means of obtaining scientific communications.

The number of franked letters posted, throughout the kingdom, in two weeks
in January, 1838, is stated in the following table.

Week ending   Country to   London to   Country to   Total
              London.      country.    country.
15 January,   41,196       43,345      36,361       122,902
29 January,   46,371       51,046      37,894       135,311
              ———          ———         ———          ———
Total,        87,567       96,391      74,255       258,213
Proportion,   .339         .373        .287         1.

It was stated in the debates, that before the franking privilege was
limited, it had been worth, to some great commercial houses, who had a
seat in parliament, from £300 to £800 a year; and that after the
limitation it was worth to some houses as much as £300 a year. The
committee spoke of the use of franks for scientific and business
correspondence, as “an exemplification of the irregular means by which a
scale of postage, too high for the interests and proper management of the
affairs of the country, is forced to give way in particular instances. And
like all irregular means, it is of most unfair and partial application;
the relief depends, not on any general regulation, known to the public,
and according to which relief can be obtained, but upon favor and
opportunity; and the consequence is, that while the more pressing suitor
obtains the benefit he asks, those of a more forbearing disposition pay
the penalty of high postage.” It also keeps out of view of the public,
“how much the cost of distribution is exceeded by the charge, and to what
extent therefore the postage of letters is taxed” to sustain this official
privilege. The committee therefore concluded in their report, that “taking
into the account the serious loss to the public revenue, which is caused
by the privilege of franking, and the inevitable abuse of that privilege
in numerous cases where no public business is concerned, it would be
politic in a financial point of view, and agreeable to the public sense of
justice, if, on effecting the proposed reduction of the postage rates, the
privilege of franking were to be abolished.” Only the post-office
department now franks its own official correspondence; petitions to
parliament are sent free; and parliamentary documents are charged at
one-eighth the rate of letters. Letters _to_ the Queen also go free.

In our own country, the congressional franking privilege has long been a
subject of complaint, both by the post-office authorities and the public
press. There are many discrepancies in the several returns from which the
extent of franking is to be gathered.

From a return made by the Postmaster General to the Senate, Jan. 16, 1844,
the whole number of letters passing through the mails in a year is set at
27,073,144, of which the number franked is 2,815,692, which is a small
fraction over 10 per cent.

The annual report of the Postmaster-General in 1837, estimates the whole
number of letters at 32,360,992, of which 2,100,000, or a little over 6
per cent, were franked.

In February, 1844, the Postmaster-General communicated to Congress a
statement of an account kept of the free letters and documents mailed at
Washington, during three weeks of the sitting of Congress in 1840, of
which the results appear in the following table.

Week ending   Letters.   Public Doc.   Weight of Doc.
May 2,        13,674     96,588        8,042 lbs.
June 2,       13,955     108,912       9,076
July 7,       14,766     186,768       15,564
              ———        ———           ———
Total,        42,395     392,268       32,689
Average,      14,132     140,756       10,896
Session 33    466,345    4,314,948     359,579

Whole number of Letters and Documents in a session of thirty-three weeks,

Average weight of Public Documents, 1-⅓ oz.

Of the 42,375 free letters, 20,362 were congressional, and 22,032, or 52
per cent. were from the Departments.

In the month of October, 1843, an account was kept at all the offices in
the United States, of the number of letters franked and received in that
month by members of Congress. The number was 18,558, which would give
81,370 for 19 weeks of vacation. To these add 223,992 mailed in 33 weeks
of session, and four-fifths as many, 179,193, for letters received, and it
gives a total of 484,555 letters received and sent free of postage by
members of Congress in a year, besides the Public Documents. The postage
on the letters, at the old rates, would have been $100,000.

From the same return of October, 1843, it appears that the number of
letters franked and received by national and state officers, was
1,024,068; and by postmasters, 1,568,928; total, 2,592,998, the postage on
which, at 14-½ cents, would amount to $376,073.

These calculations would give the loss on free letters, at that time,
$476,073. This is besides the postage on the public documents, 359,578
pounds, the postage on which, at 2-½ cents per ounce, would come to

Total postage lost by franking, $623,654.

Document No. 118, printed by the House of Representatives of
Massachusetts, 1848, gives $312,500 as the amount of postage on franked
letters, and $200,000 for franked documents, making a total of $512,500.

The report of the Post-office Committee of the House of Representatives,
May 15, 1844, contains a return of the number of free letters mailed and
received at the Washington post-office, during the week ending February
20, 1844, with the corresponding annual number, and the amount of postage,
at the old rates—allowing the average length of a session of Congress to
be six months. From this I have constructed the following table.

Departments        Letters    Letters   Total No.   Postage.
                   received   sent      Annually.
House of           1,882      1,505
Senate             7,510      10,271
                   ——         ——
Total of           9,392      11,776    550,368     $114,697
President U. S.    304        174       24,856      4,895
Post Office        6,041      3,615     502,112     102,474
State              1,989      2,253     220,584     41,600
Treasury           6,800      2,405     478,660     100,949
War Department     2,592      2,626     271,336     61,475
Navy Department    1,709      2,082     197,132     39,809
Attorney-General   52         816       45,136      10,678
                   ——         ——        ——          ——
Total                                   2,290,184   $476,577

Whole number of letters franked at Washington: 2,290,184
Add, franked by members at home: 111,348
Franked by postmasters: 1,568,928
Total of free letters: 3,970,450
Add, franked documents: 4,314,948
General total number: 8,285,398
The postage on all which, at the old rates, would be at least: $1,000,000

The annual report of the Postmaster-General, December, 1847, estimates the
number of free letters at five millions, the postage on which, at present
rates, would be at least $375,000, to which the postage on the documents
should be added.

The conclusion of the whole matter is, that the postage due on the free
letters and documents, if reckoned according to the old rates, would be at
least one million, and under the present rates above half a million of
dollars annually; equal to 12 per cent of the whole gross income of the

When our present postage law was under consideration, the committees of
both Houses recommended the abolition of the franking privilege, for
reasons of justice, as well as to satisfy the public mind. The report of
the House Committee has this passage:

    “As the post-office is made to sustain itself solely by a tax on
    correspondence, it should derive aid and support from everything
    it conveys. No man’s private correspondence should go free, since
    the expense of so conveying it becomes a charge upon others; and
    the special favor thus given, and which is much abused by being
    extended to others not contemplated by law, is unjust and odious.
    Neither should the _public_ correspondence be carried free of
    charge, where such immunity operates as a burden upon the
    correspondence of the citizen. There is no just reason why the
    public should not pay its postages as well as citizens—no
    sufficient reason why this item of public expenses should not be
    borne, like all others, by the general tax paid into the public

The report of the Senate Committee goes still more fully into the
argument, leading to the same conclusion. In explaining the reasons for
the dissatisfaction with the post-office, then so widely felt by the
people, and the consequent diminution of its revenues, it argues thus:

    “The _immediate_ benefits of the post-office establishment
    accruing to that portion of the people only who carry on
    correspondence through it, and these enjoying those benefits in
    very unequal degrees, according to their various pursuits, habits,
    or inclinations, it has seemed to be required by the principles of
    equal justice that the expenses of the establishment should be
    defrayed by contributions collected equally from each person
    served by it, in proportion to the amount of service rendered. The
    obvious justice of this rule, admitting as it does of so near an
    approximation to exact justice in its practical application to the
    business of this department, has commended it to all: and,
    accordingly, the department has always been _professedly_ governed
    by it: but, unfortunately, so wide has been the departure from
    this just and equitable rule in the actual practice, that it has
    become a word of promise, kept only to the ear, and broken to the
    sense. Far from exacting of all equal contributions towards
    meeting the necessary expenses of this department in proportion to
    the amount of service rendered to each, about one-eighth part
    numerically, and probably not less than one sixth part in weight
    and bulk of the whole correspondence, has been privileged to pass
    free of all charge—to say nothing of the immense amount of public
    documents conveyed under similar privilege, while the expense of
    the whole has been borne by high charges upon the non-privileged
    part of the correspondence. It may be said this privilege was
    granted, and has been extended, from time to time, for the public
    service, and in furtherance of the public interest. Admitted; but
    is it not perceived that it still involves a palpable violation of
    the principle of equal justice, before shown to be at the
    foundation of all our institutions, and an adherence to which is
    indispensable in the conduct of all our affairs? How can it be
    made to comport with any just conceptions of right, for the
    Government to levy so large a tax, for the common purposes of all,
    upon a portion only of its citizens? As well might the post-office
    be used as a source of general revenue, as to be taxed specially
    with the expenses of this branch of the public service—a mode of
    raising revenue for general purposes universally admitted to be so
    unequal and unjust that it has never been resorted to in this
    country but in a single instance of extreme necessity, and then
    only for a very short time. It is true, the post-office may be,
    and is in other countries, successfully resorted to as a means of
    extorting money from the people; but this must be where the
    principles of government are widely different from ours, and the
    leading policy being not the promotion of the happiness and
    welfare of the many, but the advancement of the few, justifies the
    use of any means which may subserve that end. There force and
    fear, not justice and mutual good will, are the controlling
    influences. According to the nature of our government, it might
    with much more propriety be asked, by those who use the
    post-office establishment, that its whole expense be borne by the
    general treasury, than that they should be required to defray the
    expense of the public service performed in this or any other
    department; because it may with truth be urged, that although the
    advantages of this department accrue _immediately_ to them, yet
    mediately at least they inure to the great benefit of the whole

These objections are of great weight, even under the old or the present
postage. With cheap postage, they ought to be conclusive. In the language
of the English Chancellor of the Exchequer, men who would then wish to
retain the franking privilege “must have a more intense appreciation of
the value of money, and a greater disregard for the value of time, than I
can conceive, if they insist on it.” The only other reason for retaining
the privilege would be, that honorable gentlemen, in the receipt of eight
dollars per day for attending to the business of the nation, would be
willing to spend their time in writing franks at two cents a-piece, for
the sake of having their names circulate through the post-office with the
letters M. C. attached to them.

A serious objection to the franking system is, that it unavoidably tends
to constant strife and altercation between members of congress and the
department. The head of the department, naturally and properly careful of
the income of the post-office, sees with pain the vast encroachment upon
the revenue made by the franking system. He becomes rigid in the
construction of the law; he deems every frank that does not come within
its letter an abuse; he adopts the assumption that franks were only
designed for the personal accommodation of the individual, and not for his
family or friends. He watches to detect some unwarranted stretch, he finds
a plenty; he examines a franked letter, he stops it; complaint is made to
the member whose signature has been treated with disrespect, an explosion
follows, the public service is hindered, and the honor of law is lowered.
At this moment there is a bill pending in congress, to protect the franks
of members, in consequence of a franked letter having been stopped, on the
ground that the direction was not in the handwriting of him who gave the
frank. Any espionage upon men’s letters, is plainly an intolerable
grievance in a republican government. The British government were
compelled to allow franks of members to cover all that was under them, and
they therefore restricted them in weight and number. The only available
method for us is to abolish the privilege itself. The experience under the
present postage law proves that it is impossible to abolish the privilege,
except by establishing cheap postage. The act of 1844 attempted greatly to
restrict the franking privilege, but in three years every material
restriction has been practically done away. There is no middle ground
between boundless franking and no franking. The bill above referred to has
passed the senate, in spite of the most earnest remonstrances of the
Postmaster-General, so that now the frank of a member of congress covers
all that is under it, within the prescribed limit of two ounces weight.
Those members who are so disposed can frank envelopes for their friends,
in any number, and send them in parcels of two ounces, to be used
anywhere, without any more meddling of the post-office clerks. The remedy
will be, to reduce the rate of postage so low, that it will be worth no
person’s while to use the franking privilege, or to seek its benefits from
those who hold it; or so that, if it is retained, those who use it will at
least show that they “have a more intense appreciation of money, and a
greater disregard for the value of time,” than ordinary persons can

It has been said that it will be impossible to secure the services of
postmasters, without giving them the franking privilege. But it will be
found that the cheap and uniform postage, always prepaid, will so greatly
diminish the labor of keeping the post-office, as to remove the objection
in most cases to taking the trouble. And for the rest, it is only for the
department to demand that, if the people of any neighborhood wish a
post-office they must furnish a postmaster, and this difficulty is

With regard to the transmission of public documents, printed by order of
the two houses of congress, it is undeniable that very much of the
printing itself, and the circulation of them through the mail, is a sheer
abuse and wanton waste. And it is probable that a great check would be
given to these abuses, if there were an account required and a charge made
on the public treasury of all this circulation, at the same rate with
other pamphlet postage. The circulation, even if kept up at its present
rate, would in fact cost no more than it does now; but the burden would be
taken from the letter correspondence of the country, and placed where it
ought to be, on the general treasury. The statement of 1844, that four
millions of public documents are circulated in a single session, attracted
much attention of the public press at the time. One influential paper, the
New York Journal of Commerce, has the following remarks under the head of
“National Bribery:”

    “It has just been stated in congress, that the two houses had
    ordered _fifty-five thousand copies_ to be printed, of the Report
    of the Commissioner of Patents: and that the cost to the country
    would be $114,000. This Report is a huge document, printed in
    large type, with a large margin, containing very little matter of
    the least importance, and that little so buried in the rubbish, as
    to be worth about as much as so many ‘needles in a hay-mow.’ Then,
    this huge quantity of trash, created at this large expense, is to
    be _franked_ for all parts of the country, by way of _currying
    favor and getting votes next time_, lumbering the mails, and
    creating another large expense. We have taken the trouble to weigh
    the copy of this document, which was forwarded to us, and find its
    ponderosity to be 2 lbs., 14 ozs., or, with the wrapper, about
    _three pounds_! The aggregate weight of the 55,000 copies, is
    therefore EIGHTY-TWO AND A HALF TONS! Eighty-two and a half tons
    of paper spoiled; and the nation taxed $114,000 for spoiling it;
    and then compelled to lug it to all parts of the Union through the
    monopoly post-office and the _franking_ privilege! Poor patient

    “Such taxes, to be defrayed by high postage on letters and
    newspapers, grow out of this _franking_ privilege; and the power
    which congress reserve to themselves, of distributing free, as
    many documents as they choose to print at the public expense!
    These documents, it seems, are the grand means resorted to by many
    members, of ‘_currying favor_’ with the influential, and thus
    ‘_getting votes next time!_’ ”

A late number of the Boston Courier contains the following humorous but
not untruthful description of this franking business, written by a
correspondent at Washington:

    “The object of assembling the representatives of the people is
    _discussion_, not business; or at least, no other business to
    speak of. And this is labor enough for any man. Why, one gentleman
    of the house informed me that he had 2700 names on his list of
    persons to whom he must send documents, and he is _not_ a
    candidate for re-election.

    “Now, let us suppose that the average number of each member’s
    _document_ constituency is but 2500, and that each gets _four_
    favors only from his servant in congress. This would throw upon
    the shoulders of each member the labor of procuring, and franking,
    and directing _ten thousand_ speeches in the course of a session.
    What more business than this should be expected of a man?
    especially, when we consider that the representative must receive
    and answer, at length, all sorts of letters, from all sorts of
    people, upon all sorts of topics, from Aunt Peg’s pension to Amy
    Dardin’s horse. If each member requires 10,000 speeches to his
    constituents, somebody has got to make them. And as there are
    something over 280 members of both branches there must be a supply
    of about _three millions_ of this kind of ‘fodder.’ How can it be
    otherwise than that the congressional talking-mill must be kept
    constantly going? And what a famine would there be should it stop
    grinding? Going into a Western member’s room the other day, and
    seeing him with his coat off in the middle of the apartment, up to
    his middle in documents, and speeches, and letters, laboring
    lustily with his pen, I alluded to his press of private business.

    “ ‘Stranger,’ said he, ‘I never came to congress before, and I
    never want to come again. I tell _you_ that this office of member
    of congress is not what it is cracked up to be. I calculated to
    have a good time here this winter, after racing all over my
    district, and making more than five hundred stump speeches in
    order to get elected. But the fact is you can see the way I enjoy
    myself. It is what I call the enjoyments horribly. Why, sir, I
    never began to work in this way before in all my life.’ I asked,
    ‘How comes on the loan bill in your branch?’ ‘O, they are spouting
    away, sir, and here I am franking the speeches. The Lord only
    knows what is in them.’ ‘And the Ten Regiment Bill?’ ‘I know
    nothing about it, and don’t want to. Look at them thar letters,’
    pointing to a two bushel basket of private correspondence—‘not one
    half of them answered; look at these speeches, not a quarter of
    them franked. What attention can I give to loan bills and regiment
    bills? Sir, I must attend to my _constituents_.’ And we left him
    to his labors. Our impression is, that it takes all day Saturday,
    and Sunday too, to bring up the franking and letter writing
    business of the week, for the members seldom get out to church.”

VI. _Letter Postage Stamps, for Prepayment._

In England, as a part of the system devised by Mr. Rowland Hill, the
prepayment of letter-postage is greatly facilitated, and, of course, the
tendency to prepayment is increased, while the management of the
post-office itself, in all its departments, is simplified to the highest
degree, by the use of adhesive postage-stamps. The stamp is a small oblong
piece of paper, with a device upon it, (Queen’s head) so skilfully
engraved and printed as almost to defy counterfeiting, against which
indeed the small value of each one, the danger of speedy detection, and
the high penalty for counterfeiting a royal signet, are equally effective
safeguards. The stamp is coated on the back with an adhesive gum, which
securely fastens the stamp to the letter, by being slightly wet and
pressed down with the finger. These are printed in sheets, and are sold at
all post-offices, at precisely their postal value; 1_d_., 2_d_., or 1_s_.,
as the case may be. The postmasters purchase them for cash, of the general
post-office, and are allowed a deduction of one per cent for their
trouble. The small shop-keepers of all descriptions, who buy from the
post-offices without discount, generally keep postage-stamps to sell for
the accommodation of their customers and neighbors, just as they would
give small change for a larger piece of money with the same view. Such a
shop would lose favor by refusing to keep stamps to sell.

Each individual buys stamps for his own use, in as great or small numbers
as he pleases, always at the same rate. You keep them on your
writing-desk, along with wafers and wax. You carry a few in your wallet,
ready for use at any place. You seal your letter, and direct it, and then
attach one of these stamps, drop it into the letter-box, or send it to the
post-office, and that wonderful machinery takes it up, passes it about,
finds the owner, and delivers it into his hand, without any additional
charge. Nothing can exceed the simplicity of the process but the
perfection of its working.

As the current value of these stamps is the same in every part of the
country, and is precisely identical with that of the coin they represent,
they serve as a currency to be used in payment of small sums at a
distance. This is more useful in England than in the United States,
because there they have no bank notes of small denominations. But even in
this country, as soon as they are in general use, they will be found
vastly convenient in making small payments at a distance.

Besides the label stamps, the English post-office manufactures and sells
stamped envelopes, which will at once enclose the letter and pay the
postage. The price of the envelope is half a farthing, in addition to the
1_d._ for postage; that is, eight stamped envelopes are sold for 9_d._, or
24 for 2_s._ 3_d._

Stamped half sheets of paper are also furnished by the post-office, a
farthing being charged for the paper, besides the 1_d._ for postage. These
are much used for printing circulars, for which they are very convenient.
They are also bought by the poor to write brief letters on.

It is a common practice, in writing to another person on your own
business, to enclose a postage stamp to prepay the letter in reply. Some
persons, who have much correspondence, procure their own address printed
in script on the back of stamped envelopes, and then send these enclosed
to bring back the expected return. Persons doing a great deal of business
with each other, through the post-office, keep each other’s envelopes on
hand. The child at school or the son in college, is furnished with his
father’s envelopes, stamped and directed.

The postage stamps are cancelled, by an obliterating stamp in the office
where they are received, so that no postage stamp can ever be used a
second time. Each post-office is furnished with a cancel stamp, and an
ineffaceable ink for this purpose. There are five different forms of
cancel stamps, one used for London letters, deliverable within the London
District, one for letters mailed in London for places elsewhere, one for
all other places in England and Wales, one for Scotland, and one for
Ireland. Thus it is seen at a glance, from what section a letter comes.
Sometimes the stamp denoting the place at which a letter is mailed, is not
sufficiently plain. To meet this, and to serve some other conveniences,
the cancel stamps have a blank in the centre, in which is inserted the
number belonging to that office. Thus the shape tells the district, and
the number the office from which each letter comes. The London stamp has a
circular blank for letters that are mailed within the London circle, and
deliverable also within it, and a diamond-shaped blank for letters going
out of London.

The post-offices in each section are all numbered consecutively, and each
office is permanently known in all other offices by its number as well as
its name. Each office has its number engraved in the blank space of its
cancel stamp, as in the first and last above, so that the place from which
the letter comes is known at a glance.

The total number of Label Stamps issued in the year ending

                     1_d_. Stamps.   2_d_. Stamps.
5th January, 1841,   74,856,960      7,587,960
5th January, 1842,   110,878,344     3,391,800
5th January, 1843,   121,648,080     2,866,080
                     ———             ———
First three years,   307,383,384     13,845,840

321,229,224 stamps, nominal value,         £1,396,146
Expense of manufacture and distribution,       42,763
———                                               ———
Net proceeds,                              £1,353,382
Average yearly,                               451,127

The present cost of Label Stamps is reported, July 16, 1846, thus:

Paper for a million labels,    £5 11_s_.
Printing and gumming,          25 --
Salaries, proportion of,       46 10_s_.
Contingencies, poundage, &c.   46 10_s_.
—————                          ———
Cost per million,              £79 --

The entire cost of the Stamped Envelopes is thus stated:

Year Ending.           Cost.   Sold for.   Profit.
5th January, 1841,    £4,268      £4,292
5th January, 1842,     5,530       5,470
5th January, 1843,     5,290       5,415
5th January, 1844,     6,190       6,540
5th January, 1845,     6,948       7,261
Total, five years,   £28,229     £28,978      £749

The original cost of the machinery, £435, is divided and apportioned on
six years.
The whole number of envelopes issued is 83,694,240.
The present cost per million is £359; proceeds, £371; profits, £12.

Whether it would be advisable for our own post-office to go into the
manufacture of envelopes, may be doubtful. Probably it will be judged that
the Label Stamps would afford all needed convenience, so far as the
government is concerned, and the rest would be left to private enterprise.
From the returns of the actual expense of manufacturing envelopes, £359
per million—about a mill and three quarters apiece, it will be seen that
there is yet room for individual competition among us, to bring down the
current price to the rate of only a reasonable profit.

The third assistant Postmaster-General remarks, in his late report, that
the demand for Label Stamps has not been as great as was anticipated, the
amount sold being but $28,330, which would only pay for about 500,000
stamps. This is indeed a very great falling off from the number purchased
in England, which must be not less than two hundred millions of stamps in
the year. He says that “many important commercial towns have not applied
for them, and in others they are only used in trifling amounts. But it
should be borne in mind, that people are more likely to invest a dollar in
stamps, when they get fifty for their money, than when they only get ten
or twenty. And when purchased, they are likely to use them up a great deal
more freely, when they look at each one as only two cents. With so great a
convenience afforded at so cheap a rate, it is not possible but that the
demand must be immense, and the use abundantly satisfactory to the people
and to the department.”

These stamps would obviate the practical difficulty apprehended in the
administration of the cheap postage system, in those parts of the country
where the use of copper coin is not common; as it will always be easy to
purchase stamps with dimes. I do not believe any persons in this country
would be so fastidious on this point, as to be unwilling to send five
letters for the same money that it now costs to send one.

VII. _New Arrangement of Newspaper Postage._

The principles of cheap postage have been recognized from the beginning of
our government, in reference to the postage on newspapers—the charge being
regulated, neither by weight nor distance, but, with a single exception,
by the rule of simple uniformity. The postage on newspapers is one cent
for each paper, within 100 miles, or within the state where printed, and a
cent and a half for greater distances. The act of 1844 allowed all
newspapers within 30 miles of the place where issued, to go free, but this
militated so directly against every principle of equity, that it has been
repealed. But cheap postage on newspapers, for the sake of the general
diffusion of knowledge of public affairs, has always been the policy of
our government. Even during the war of 1812, when it was attempted to
raise a revenue by letter postage, the postage on newspapers was not
raised. No proposition whatever, to increase the cost, or lessen the
facility of the circulation of newspapers by mail, would be sanctioned by
the people, under any conceivable exigency of the government.

Yet it has never been stated, to my knowledge, by any administration, that
the postage of newspapers was any help to the department, or even that it
paid for itself. Many of the unproductive routes, which add so much to the
expense, and so little to the income of the department, are demanded
chiefly for the facility of getting the newspapers, rather than for
letters. We are a nation, of newspaper readers. It is possible, indeed,
that the prodigious increase in the number of newspapers circulated by
mail, which has taken place within twenty years, and especially within ten
years, may have reduced the average cost of each, so that now the
newspapers may be productive, or at least remunerative. The
Postmaster-General states the postage on newspapers and pamphlets, for the
year ending June 30, 1847, at $643,160, which is an increase of $81,018,
or 14-½ per cent. over the preceding year, and an increase over the annual
average of the nine preceding years, of $114,181, or 21 per cent.

The newspapers passing through the mails annually, are estimated at
55,000,000. In 1843, they were estimated at 43,500,000, of which 7,000,000
were free. If the calculation is made on the whole number, the increase is
20 per cent. in four years. But if, as is probable, the 55,000,000 in 1847
are chargeable papers, the increase is 33-½ per cent. If anything can make
the newspaper postage pay for itself, it will be the multiplication of
newspapers, as it is well known that a great reduction of cost of
individual articles is produced by the great number required. What
fortunes are made by manufacturing cotton cloth, to be sold at six or
eight cents per yard; and by making pins and needles, which pass through
so many processes, and yet are sold at such a low rate. Each yard of
cloth, each needle, each pin, is subjected to all those several steps, and
yet the greatness of the demand creates a vast revenue from profits which
are so small upon each individual article as to be incapable of being
stated in money; the cheapness of production extending the sale, and the
extent of sale favoring the cheapness of production. An establishment like
the post-office requires a certain amount of expenditure and labor, to
keep the machinery in operation, though the work be but little, not half
equal to its capacity, and it can often enlarge its labors and its
productiveness, without requiring, by any means, a corresponding increase
of expense; and enlarged to a considerable extent, perhaps, without any
increase at all. Thus the cost of the British post-office, which was
£686,768 in 1839, when the number of letters was only 86,000,000, was
increased only to £702,310, but little more than 10 per cent. in the
following year, when the number of letters was increased to 170,000,000.
That is, the quantity of business was doubled, while the expense was only
increased one-tenth. And in 1846, when the letters were 322,000,000, or
nearly fourfold the former number, the expense was only £1,138,745, an
increase of but 65 per cent., and the greater part of this—almost the
whole—was for increased facilities given, and not owing to the increased
number of letters. Had the cost kept pace with the increase of business,
it would have been, in 1847, nearly £3,000,000 sterling.

There is one difficulty, however, in the case of newspapers, arising from
their weight. The Postmaster-General says, in his last report: “The weight
and bulk of the mails, which add so greatly to the cost of transportation,
and impede the progress of the mail, are attributable to the mass of
printed matter daily forwarded from the principal cities of the Union to
every part of the country.” Some of these newspapers, he says, weigh over
two and a half ounces each. For more than twenty years, the weight of
newspapers has been a cause of complaint in the department, for which no
remedy has yet been devised, neither has any man been bold enough to
propose to exclude them from the mails. At one time, rules were made,
allowing mail carriers to leave the newspaper bags, to be carried along at
another time. But this produced too serious a dissatisfaction to be
continued. The newspapers must go, and they must go with the letters, for
people are quite as sensitive at the delay of their newspapers as at the
delay of their letters. Seven or eight years ago, there was a clamor at
the weight of certain mammoth sheets, as the New World and the Brother
Jonathan, weighing each from a quarter to half a pound. But this
extravagant folly of publishers has in a great measure cured itself, and
the grievance has ceased. The law of 1845 undertook to make a
discrimination against papers of exorbitant size, by charging extra
postage on all that were larger than 1900 square inches. I cannot learn
that any papers are taxed at this extra rate, and I venture to predict
that, whenever the public convenience shall be found to require newspapers
of a larger size than 1900 inches, the postage rule will have to be
altered to meet the public demand. The people have so learned the benefits
of uniformity and cheapness of postage on newspapers, that they will never
relinquish it.

In Great Britain no difference is made among papers on account of their
weight, although their paper is almost twice as heavy as ours. And even
when a supplementary sheet is issued, the whole goes as one newspaper,
covered by one stamp. I have a copy of the London Herald, with three
supplements, the whole weighing half a pound, which passed free in the
mail, with only the principal sheet stamped. And the whole comes by the
steamer’s mail, the postage prepaid by a single 2_d_. stamp. In that
country, however, it is not compulsory to send newspapers or supplements
by mail, and a very large proportion are not sent in that way, but for
convenience by carriers. Their method of circulating newspapers, by sale
instead of yearly subscription, has led to a difference in this respect. I
believe there is no restriction upon the carriage of newspaper packages
out of the mail, by the same contractors, and the same carriages that
convey the mails. It is probable that the interests of the department
would be promoted, rather than injured, by such a rule, liberally
interpreted, in this country.

Twenty years ago, when our mails were all carried in coaches drawn by
horses, there were some routes on which the weight of the newspaper mails
was a serious incumbrance. But at present, so great has been the extension
of steam power, that I question if there is a single route to which the
number of newspapers sent would be a burden, unless, perhaps, it may be
the route by the National Road, from Cumberland to Columbus.

So great are the advantages of uniformity of rate, in facilitating the
administration of the post-office, that there would be a greater loss than
gain in attempting to introduce any rule of graduation in the postage of
newspapers. It is easily seen that the difference of distance is no ground
for such graduation, for the same reasons which are conclusive in regard
to letters. And as to the difference of weight, if you deduct from the one
cent postage what it costs to receive and mail and deliver each paper, and
to keep the accounts and make the returns, the difference in the actual
expense is too small to be made of any practical account, between a
newspaper weighing two ounces and one weighing half an ounce. The Journal
of Commerce and papers of that size weigh less than two ounces. And the
number of newspapers printed on a sheet weighing over two ounces, is too
small to be of any account.

The only point respecting the postage on newspapers, on which the Cheap
Postage Association are inflexibly fixed, is that the postage shall be
uniform, irrespective of distance, and not exceed one cent per paper,
prepaid. If not prepaid, the postage is to be doubled.

It is supposed that a practical rule will obtain, like that which now
prevails, of allowing regular subscribers to pay their postage quarterly
in advance, at the office where they receive their papers. Only, the rule
of prepayment will be enforced, because double postage is to be exacted in
all cases where there is not actual prepayment.

It will follow that all occasional papers will pay two cents postage, that
is the same as a letter, unless the postage is prepaid by the sender, at
the office where the paper is mailed.

In Great Britain, newspapers are required to be stamped at the Stamp
Office, for which they pay 1_d_. each sheet. And all such stamped papers
are carried in the mails postage free. Whatever be their date, or how many
times soever they may have been mailed, they always go free by virtue of
the stamp. Some attempts have been made by the post-office to limit the
time after date, in which stamped papers are transmissible free of
postage. But the restrictions have all been borne away by the public
convenience and the public will. The amount received for newspaper stamps,
in the year ending January 5, 1844, was £271,180. This goes to the
treasury, and not to the post-office, although the 1_d_. stamp duty was
retained solely with a view to the postage. This sum ought, therefore, in
strictness, to be added to the gross annual receipts of the post-office;
and indeed, to the net income of the post-office, for the whole expense of
mailing, transporting and delivering is included in the yearly
expenditures of the post-office, so that the amount of stamp duty is all
gain to the treasury, saving the trifling cost of stamping.

The cost of stamping paper for the newspapers was stated before the
Parliamentary Committee, by John Wood, Esq., Chairman of the Board of
Stamps and Taxes. He says, “A great deal of time is employed in attaching
the stamp to each sheet of paper, because each has to be separated from
the quire or bundle, and the stamp separately applied to it. I calculate
that sheets of paper might be stamped and delivered in London, at an
expense not exceeding 1_s_. per thousand. In that I include what is called
the telling out and telling in, the counting the paper before it is
stamped, the stamping it, the counting it after it is stamped, and the
packing and delivery of it in London.” As to the question of the liability
to forgery, he said that “the newspaper proprietors are all registered at
Somerset House, they are all under bond, and the use of the stamps is
confined to comparatively a small number of persons, so that they are very
much under our eye.” This stamp duty is paid by the publisher, who of
course charges a price accordingly to his subscribers. There is no law
against sending newspapers through any other channel, and no rule
requiring them to be sent only by mail.

It is thought that a practice something like this might be introduced in
this country. The plan proposed, is to allow any publisher of a newspaper
to have the paper stamped before printing, for his whole issue, by paying
therefor at the rate of half a cent per sheet. This would be but half the
rate paid by subscribers, at the office of delivery. But as an offset to
this, many sheets would be stamped which would never be carried by mail.
In Boston there are above thirty millions of newspapers printed yearly.
The stamps on all these, if paid in advance by the publisher, would come
to $150,000. I do not suppose the Post-office Department realizes from all
the Boston papers one hundred thousand dollars. The cost of stamping, even
in the British mode, would be less than a quarter of a mill per sheet. And
Yankee ingenuity would soon devise some labor-saving plan, to reduce the
cost of stamping to ten cents per thousand, or one-tenth of a mill per

This plan would secure the department against losses. It would greatly
increase the business of the post-office, and its income from newspapers.
It would lessen the number of dead newspapers with which our offices are
now lumbered. It would aid in inducing and helping the publishers of
newspapers to get into the cash system of publication; and thus assist in
training the whole community to the habit of prompt payment. All
newspapers, weekly or daily, that have or expect any thing like a wide
circulation by mail, would soon find it for their interest to fall in with
this plan. A weekly paper would pay 26 cents for each yearly subscriber.
In what way could he do so much with the same money to extend and
consolidate his subscription list? A daily paper would cost $1.55 a year
for postage. Most daily papers would find their advantage in paying this,
to have their papers go free, even though they might economize or retrench
in something else. It would greatly facilitate the circulation of
intelligence, the diffusion of knowledge, the settlement and harmonizing
of public opinion, and all in a manner to produce no burden in any quarter
which would be felt.

It is demonstrable that the post-office, under its present regulations,
receives but a small part of the papers which are printed. The
Postmaster-general, in his last report, estimates the whole number of
newspapers mailed yearly at 55,000,000, and of pamphlets 2,000,000, total
57,000,000, yielding to the department only the sum of $653,160. I have
never seen any calculation of the cost of circulating newspapers, to
determine whether the business is profitable to the department or not. If
it pays to circulate newspapers at a cent apiece, surely two cents apiece
is enough to pay on letters, which do not weigh on the average a quarter
as much as newspapers. If it does not pay the cost to carry newspapers in
the mail, then the loss on newspapers ought to be a tax upon the treasury,
and not a tax upon correspondence.

The following table of newspapers and periodicals issued annually from the
Boston press, is given in Shattuck’s “Census of Boston,” published by the
city in the year 1846.

Class of Publications.        Number.   Square inches.     Value.
Daily subscription          5,075,320    4,786,029,240   $106,076
Daily penny                11,408,000    7,018,617,000    110,400
Semi-weekly                 1,460,448    1,442,010,336     58,748
Weekly                     11,610,040    8,738,546,856    334,895
Semi-monthly                  458,400      216,314,000     31,700
Monthly                     2,583,600    1,522,477,200    127,100
Two months and quarterly       37,200      143,076,800     24,500
Annual                        255,500      265,045,300     31,565
                                 ————             ————       ————
Total                      32,890,508   24,132,117,132   $825,074

Here are 32,890,508 publications issued annually, averaging 109,098 daily,
and containing 3847 acres of printed sheets, or about twelve acres per
day. The newspapers alone, daily, semi-weekly and weekly, are 29,555,808,
producing $610,119 per annum. Add the semi-monthly issues, which are
mostly newspapers, and you have thirty millions of newspapers issued in
Boston alone, being nearly fifty-five per cent. of the whole number mailed
throughout the union.

A newspaper of the common size, say 38 by 24 inches, or 912 square inches,
will weigh from 1-¼ to 1-⅓ oz. with the wrapper, in the damp state in
which it is usually mailed. The New York Journal of Commerce, 28 by 46
inches, that is, 1288 square inches, weighs a little short of 2 oz. as
mailed. A lot of 100 papers received in exchange by a publisher, weighed
1.2 oz., that is less than an ounce and a quarter. The average weight of
all the newspapers published in the country is believed to be one ounce
and a half; which would give 1066 newspapers to every 100 lbs. weight.

The number of newspapers sent by mail was estimated in 1837, by Postmaster
Kendall, as follows:

Newspapers paying postage   25,000,000
Free and dead papers         4,000,000
————                              ————
Total                       29,000,000

The report in 1847, by Postmaster Johnson, estimates the paying newspapers
at fifty-five millions, dead papers two millions, and the pamphlets two
millions, being fifty-nine millions in all; paying postage to the amount
of $643,160, being an increase over the preceding year, of $81,018. The
increase of newspapers in seven years, from 1837 to 1844, by these
estimates, was eighty-nine per cent., or at the rate of about eight and
one half per cent. a year. The increase from 1844 to 1847 was about
twenty-four per cent. in three years, or eight per cent. a year. This may
be considered the natural rate of increase of newspapers, without any
increase of facilities. It may be reasonably calculated that the increased
facilities offered by this plan will make the increase of numbers much
more rapid.

And this increase of numbers will by no means be attended with a
corresponding increase of expense to the department. In 1837, when the
number of papers was twenty-nine millions, there were 11,767 post-offices,
and mails were carried 36,228,962 miles. In 1844, the post-offices were
15,146, an increase of twenty-nine per cent., and the mail transportation
was 38,887,899 miles, an increase of seven per cent., while the increase
of newspapers was eighty-nine per cent.; and yet the expenditure was
$3,380,847 in 1837, and $3,979,570 in 1847; an increase of less than
eighteen per cent. Deducting the necessary additional expense of adding
twenty-nine per cent. to the number of post-offices, and seven per cent.
to the distance of transportation, and it will be fair to conclude that
doubling the number of newspapers would not add above ten per cent. to the
cost of transportation. Make any reasonable allowance, even fifty per
cent. for the labor in the post-offices, and you have still a net profit
of forty per cent. on all the newspaper postage that shall be added. And
this in addition to the benefits of the diffusion of knowledge, increasing
the mutual acquaintance of the people of this wide republic, and thus
increasing the stability of our government, the permanence of our union,
the happiness of the people, and the perfection of our free institutions.

VIII. _Pamphlet and Magazine Postage_.

The postage on pamphlets was regulated on the principles of cheap postage,
with a special discrimination in favor of those pamphlets which were
published periodically. This latter distinction was construed so
liberally, that it was allowed to include among periodicals all pamphlets
published annually, such as almanacs, college catalogues, reports of
societies, and the like. The law of 1845 abolishes the distinction between
periodical and occasional pamphlets, but makes a difference in favor of
large pamphlets, by charging two and a half cents on all pamphlets
weighing less than one ounce, and one cent for each additional ounce.

I have a letter from the proprietor of a quarterly review, stating the
effect which this change in the mode of rating pamphlet postage had upon
its own circulation. Before the act of 1845, the post-office charged 14
cents per number, or 56 cents a year. Now it is 10 cents per number, or 36
cents a year. The consequence is, that where he formerly sent 100 copies
by mail, yielding $56 postage, he now sends 500 copies, paying $180,
increasing the income of the department $124. As there has been a material
reduction in the expenditure of the department, notwithstanding a great
extension of the mail routes, it is plain that the expense to the
department is not at all enhanced by this additional service. As the labor
of management is much diminished in the case of such large pamphlets, it
is possible that future experience may show the practicability of a still
greater reduction in the case of such periodicals—perhaps allowing
publishers’ to _prepay_ at four cents for each half-pound.

In Great Britain, there has hitherto been no separate rate of postage for
pamphlets, but they have been charged at the rate of letter postage, 1_d._
per half-ounce. This is about double the present rate of pamphlet postage
in the United States. The delivery of parcels by stage-coaches, railroads,
and common carriers, is much more thoroughly systematized in that old
country, with its dense population and limited extent, than it can be with
us, on our vast territory, so new and so unfinished. Consequently, there
is less necessity there for sending pamphlets by mail, and the thing is
rarely done except in the case of small pamphlets, of an ounce or two
weight, or in cases where despatch in transmission is important. Within
the present year, however, a new rule has been introduced into the British
post-office, by which “any book or pamphlet, exceeding one sheet, and not
exceeding two feet in its longest dimensions, may be transmitted by post
between any two places in the United Kingdom, at the uniform rate of
sixpence, prepaid in stamps affixed, for each pound weight and fraction of
a pound. Except in the extreme length of two feet, and that, of course, no
envelope shall contain more than one copy, there is no restriction
whatsoever. Families residing in the remote parts of Scotland, Wales, and
Ireland, where perhaps there is no good bookseller within forty or fifty
miles, may henceforward procure for themselves, direct from London,
Edinburgh, or Dublin, within four or five days at furthest, any work they
may happen to require, from the largest sized Bible or Atlas, to the most
trifling pamphlet or school-book. A delay of twenty-four hours in the
despatch, after posting, is rendered indispensable by the possibility
there is of an overplus of such bulky packages on particular occasions.”

A rate of 6_d._ per pound, is at the rate of .75, or ¾ of a cent per
ounce, being prepaid in all cases. The rate I have proposed for large
periodicals, prepaid, is one-fourth of a cent below this, or less by
one-third of the English rate. It is doubtful whether a lower rate would
be consistent with a due regard to the necessary speed of the mails, until
railroad conveyance shall be more generally extended than it now is.

There is one class of pamphlets of extensive circulation, which come
within a liberal construction of a newspaper. But the Postmaster-General,
always vigilant to take care of the pecuniary interests of the department,
has ruled out most of them, to the inconvenience of the publishers, and
the lessening of the income of the post-office. At the time when there was
an attempt to compel the sending of all publications through the mail, a
statement was made in regard to one of these periodicals, the Missionary
Herald, that the postage on 2500 copies which are regularly sent to New
York, would be $1050 a year; while they are carried by Express for one
dollar a month. At this rate the difference on all the routes would be
more than $3000 a year. The rule was soon altered, and these periodicals
were allowed to be carried through private channels. I think, considering
the great numbers of these publications, and the many important interests
connected with them, there ought to be a rule allowing all periodical
pamphlets, published as often as once a month, and weighing not over three
ounces, to be mailed, if prepaid by the publisher, for one cent each. This
will include, I believe, that highly valuable publication, Littell’s
Living Age, and I hope give it a circulation as wide as it deserves.
Almost all the religious denominations in the country have one or more
magazines, cherished by them with much interest, which will obtain greatly
increased circulation and influence in this way. I need not speak of the
desire which every patriot must feel, to secure for our federal
government, by whomsoever administered, the respect and affection of the
religious portion of the people.

I do not know that any complaint is made against this rate of postage, as
regards pamphlets in general. But the fraction of a cent is an absurdity,
on account of the great additional labor it occasions in keeping accounts
and making returns, and settling balances. Few persons can realize the
labor and perplexity occasioned to clerks in the General Post-Office, by
having a column of fractions in every man’s quarterly return which they
examine. The simplification of business would probably save to the
department all they would lose by striking out this paltry fraction, so
that the general pamphlet postage will stand at two cents for the first
ounce, and one cent for each additional ounce. At this rate, the
president’s annual message, with the accompanying documents, weighing as
sent out about four pounds, would be 65 cents, and the 10,000 copies
circulated by congress would bring the department, if the postage was paid
as it ought to be, the pretty sum of $6500, for only one of the hundreds
of documents now sent from Washington by mail, as a tax upon the letter
correspondence of the country. The postage on the report of the
patent-office, in 1845, mentioned on page 36, would have yielded $27,500
if the postage had been paid. This is to be added to the $114,000 which it
cost to print the document.

IX. _Ocean Penny Postage._

For the word and the idea here set down, the world is indebted to Elihu
Burritt, the “LEARNED BLACKSMITH,” and will be indebted to him for the
inexpressible benefits of the thing itself, whenever so great a boon shall
be obtained. Having visited our mother country, on an errand of peace, he
soon saw the value of the blessing of cheap postage, as it is enjoyed
there; and by contrast, through the object of his mission he say how great
is the influence of dear postage, in keeping cousins estranged from each
other, and in perpetuating their blind hatred, and thus hindering the
advent of the days of “Universal Brotherhood.” By putting all these things
together, he wrought out the plan of “Ocean Penny Postage,” by which all
ship letters are to pay 1_d._ sterling, instead of paying, as they now do
in England, 8_d._ when sent by a sailing vessel, and 1_s._ when sent by a
steam packet.

He proposes that each letter shall pay its postage penny in advance for
the service it may receive inland, and a like sum, also in advance, for
its transmission by sea, until it shall arrive at its port of destination.
To this should be added, as fast as penny postage shall be propagated in
other countries, an international arrangement for prepaying the inland
postage of the country to which the letter is sent. Nothing can be more
simple in theory than such an arrangement, nothing easier or more
unerringly just in execution. It would make the postage stamps of the
cheap postage nations an international currency, better than gold and
silver, because convertible into that which gold and silver cannot buy,
the interchange of thought and affection among friends.

In pressing his project first on the British nation, both because he
happened to be then commorant in England, and because that government and
not ours had already adopted cheap postage as the rule for its home
correspondence, he is not chargeable with any lack of a becoming respect
for his own country. I confess, however, that I feel strongly, what he has
not expressed, the desire that my own country should have both the honor
and the advantage of being the first to carry out this glorious idea.

Mr. Burritt states the number of letters to and from places beyond sea in
1846, through six of the principal seaports of England, at

Number of newspapers             2,698,376
Gross revenue from letters and    £301,640
Letters sent to and from the       744,108
United States,
Newspapers                         317,468
Postage on letters and papers,     £46,548
Whole expense of packet           £761,900

In addition, he has been so fortunate as to enlist the cöoperation of a
distinguished member of parliament, of whom he says:

    “At my solicitation he readily moved for a return of all the
    letters, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, &c., transmitted from
    the United States in 1846, and which have been refused on account
    of the rates of postage, and are consequently lying dead in the
    English post-office; also for a return of the amount of postage
    charged upon this dead mail matter. I am pretty confident that
    this return will startle the people and government with some
    remarkable disclosures with regard to the amount of mail matter
    conveyed across the ocean, for which John Bull does not get a
    farthing, because he asks too much for the job.”

By the arrangement of the British Post-office, the postage on letters by
the mail steamers to the United States is now 1_s._ per half ounce; and on
newspapers 2_d._ each paper. On all letters and papers sent from Great
Britain the postage must be prepaid. If not prepaid, they are not sent;
but in the case of letters, it is the practice of the post-office to
notify persons in this country to whom letters are addressed, that cannot
be forwarded for the want of prepayment, that they can have their letters
on procuring the prepayment of the required shilling. I have more than
once received a printed notice of this kind, designating the number by
which my letter could be called for. No additional charge is made for this
piece of attention. This fact is significant of the spirit of the cheap
postage system. No provision is made by which postage can be prepaid in
this country, and consequently, the whole expense of correspondence falls
upon the parties in England.

Mr. Burritt enumerates some of the inconveniences of the present system,
in addition to the positive evil of a burdensome tax upon the letter
correspondence between the two countries—a tax which amounts to a
suppression of intercourse by letter, to a sad extent.

    1. The present shilling rate of postage, being exacted on the
    English side, too, in all cases, and thus throwing the whole cost
    of correspondence upon the English or European correspondents,
    greatly diminishes the number of letters which would otherwise be
    transmitted to and from America, through the English mail.

    2. In consequence of the present high rate of postage on letters,
    newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, &c., a large amount of mail
    matter conveyed across the ocean, lies _dead_ in the English
    post-office—a dead loss to the department—the persons to whom it
    is addressed, refusing to take it out on account of the postal
    charges upon it.

    3. Under the present shilling rate, it is both legal and common
    for passengers to carry a large number of _unsealed_ letters,
    which are allowed as letters of introduction, and which, at the
    end of the voyage, are sealed and mailed in England or America, to
    persons who thus evade the ocean postage entirely.

    4. In consequence of the present shilling rate, it is common, as
    it is legal, for persons to enclose several communications,
    addressed to different parties, under one envelope, which, on
    reaching America or England, are remailed to the persons
    addressed, thus saving to them the whole charge of Ocean Postage.
    Paper is manufactured purposely to _save postage_, and, for this
    quality, is called “Foreign Post.”

He also tells the people of England very plainly what will be the effect
if _they_ first adopt the Ocean Penny Postage. _Some_ of the same
considerations ought to have weight with American citizens and American
philanthropists, and especially with American statesmen, in producing the
conviction, that it is better for the United States to lose no time in
adopting this system.

    1. It would put it into the power of every person in America or
    England to write to his or her relatives, friends, or other
    correspondents, across the Atlantic, as often as business or
    friendship would dictate, or leisure permit.

    2. It would probably secure to England the whole carrying-trade of
    the Mail matter, not only between America and Great Britain, but
    also between the New World and the Old, forever.

    3. It would break up entirely all clandestine or private
    conveyance of Mail matter across the ocean, and virtually empty
    into the English mail bags all the mailable communications, even
    to invoices, bills of lading, &c.; which, under the old system,
    have been carried in the pockets of passengers, the packs of
    emigrants, and in the bales of merchants.

    4. It would prevent any letters, newspapers, magazines, or
    pamphlets, from lying dead in the English post-office, on account
    of the rates of postage charged upon them, and thus relieve the
    department of the heavy loss which it must sustain, from that
    cause, under the present system.

    5. It would enable American correspondents to prepay the postage
    on their own letters, not only across the ocean, but also from
    Liverpool or Southampton to any post town or village in the United
    Kingdom; to prepay it also, to _England_, by putting two English
    penny stamps upon every letter weighing under half an ounce.

    6. It would bring into the English mail all letters from America
    directed to France, Germany, and the rest of the continent, and
    _vice versa_.

    7. It would not only open the cheapest possible medium of
    correspondence between the Old World and the New, but also one for
    the transmission of specimens of cotton, woollen, and other
    manufactures; of seeds, plants, flowers, grasses, woods; of
    specimens illustrating even geology, entomology, and other
    departments of useful science; thus creating a new branch of
    commerce as well as correspondence, which might bring into the
    English mail bags tons of matter, paying at the rate of 2_s._
    8_d._ per lb. for carriage.

    8. It would make English penny postage stamps a kind of
    international currency, at par on both sides of the Atlantic, and
    which might be procured without the loss of a farthing by way of
    exchange, and be transmitted from one country to the other, at
    less cost for conveyance than the charge upon money orders in
    England from one post-office to another, for equal sums.

One of the strongest recommendations of this measure, and a weighty reason
also in favor of the immediate adoption of the whole system of cheap
postage, is found in the present derangement of postal intercourse between
Great Britain and the United States. These two great nations, the
Anglo-Saxon Brotherhood, are at this moment “trying to see which can do
the other most harm,” by a course of mutual retaliation, which may be
known in future history as the _war of posts_. It is the opinion of some
philosophers, that in wars in general, the party most to blame is the one
which gives the heaviest blows; but in this case there arises a new
problem, whether each particular blow does the most damage to the party
which receives or to the one that gives it. The principal points in the
contest I suppose to be these. The American government charges Great
Britain five cents postage on all letters in the British packet mails,
borne across our country at the expense of Great Britain, to and from the
province of Canada. Great Britain in return, charges the United States the
full rate of ship postage on all letters in the American packet mails,
which touch at a British port on their way to and from the continent of
Europe. Then the Postmaster-General of the United States suspends the
agreement by which a mutual postage account is kept between his department
and the post-office in Canada. And now a bill is before Congress, having
actually passed the House of Representatives in one day, by which our own
citizens are to pay 24 cents postage on every letter, and 4 cents on every
newspaper, brought by the British mail steamers, as a tax to our own
post-office, although the same postage has already been prepaid by the
sender in England. The tax thus imposed on our own people, in the
prosecution of this postal war, will amount to $178,586 a year, no small
burden upon a subject of taxation so sensitive as postage, and no trifling
obstruction to the intercourse between the two countries, and between the
emigrants who find a refuge on our shores and the friends they have left
behind. Such a stoppage is peculiarly to be regretted at this juncture,
when the number of emigrants is so rapidly increasing, and all the
interests of humanity seem to require the utmost freedom and facility of
intercourse between the United States and the European world.

The proposed bill is intended as a retaliatory measure, and perhaps
nothing can be devised more severe in the way of retaliation. It is worthy
of inquiry, however, whether there may not be found “a more excellent
way,” by means of cheap postage on the ocean as well as on the land. It
does not appear but that Great Britain can stand the impost of double
postage as easily and as long as we can. But let our government open its
mails to carry letters by steam packet between Europe and America for TWO
CENTS, and I do not see how Great Britain can stand that. She must
succumb. A man who thought he had been injured and was meditating plans of
revenge, happened to open his Bible and read the counsel of the wisest of
human rulers,—“If thine enemy hunger, feed him, and if he thirst, give him
drink, for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” The man
mused a few minutes, and then rose and clapped his hands, and said, “I’ll
burn him.” Without touching the merits of the controversy as to which did
the first wrong, I must say that the course of the British government, in
exacting 1_s._ per letter on the mails of the American steamers bound to
Germany, for barely touching at the port of Southampton, is the most
_gouging_ affair of any governmental proceeding within my knowledge. It
seems to me that our own government would do itself honor by adopting
almost any expedient, rather than imitate so bad an example, in this age
of the world, as to lay a tax amounting to a prohibition, upon the
interchange of knowledge and the flow of the social affections among
mankind. It is submitted that the establishment of Ocean Penny Postage by
our mail steamers, with an offer of perfect reciprocity to all other
countries adopting the same policy, will be quite consistent with our
national honor. With the interest which this subject has already acquired
in the British nation, and the apparent disposition of that government to
yield to the well-expressed wishes of the people, there can be no doubt
that this would lead to an immediate adjustment of the pending

The only remaining question respecting Ocean Penny Postage is the
statesmanlike and proper one, _How is the expense to be paid?_ In the
first place, the government would not be required to pay any more money
for the transportation of its mails than they pay now. This great boon can
be given to the people without a dollar’s additional cost. Our own
experience under the postage act of 1845, proves this. While the number of
letters is doubled, the whole expense of the post-office is
diminished—especially that part which might most naturally be expected to
increase, that is, the transportation of the mails. The freight of a
barrel of flour, weighing 200 pounds, is about fifty cents. Of course, the
equitable price of ten thousand letters added to any given mail, which
would not weigh so much as a barrel of flour, would make no assignable
difference in the cost upon a single letter. As both sailing ships and
steam packets are becoming multiplied, individual competition may now be
relied on to keep the price of transportation of mails from ever rising
above its present standard. The increase of the number of letters makes
but very little addition to the aggregate expense of the post-office. In
the first year of the penny postage in England, there were ninety-three
millions of letters added to the mails, and only £70,231 to the whole
expenditure of the department, including the cost of introducing the new
system, with all its apparatus. This amounts to 0.181_d._; less than
two-tenths of a penny each for the added letters. In 1844, there were
21,000,000 letters added to the circulation, and not a farthing added to
the cost. These letters yielded about £90,000 in postage, every penny of
which went as net gain into the treasury. I have no means of stating how
much of the £450,000 added to the yearly expenditure of the British
Post-office, is chargeable to the great increase of facilities and
accommodations, both of the public and of the department; but have
understood that by far the greater part of it arises from this, and not
properly from the mere increase of letters. It may be safely assumed that,
for any number of letters now added to the mails in Great Britain, the
additional expense will not exceed half a farthing each letter, and the
rest will be clear profit to the post-office. As the plan of Ocean Penny
Postage includes also the inland postage prepaid in each country, it
follows that each country would realize from three-quarters to
seven-eighths of a penny advantage on every letter added to the present
ocean mails.

In addition to all this, there is just as much reason to expect Ocean
Postage to increase, as to expect land postage to increase. And as it is
proved that, on land, the reduction of price will increase the
consumption, so as to produce an equal income, there can be no doubt that,
in a little while, if the sea postage is reduced to the cheap standard,
the letters and papers sent will increase sufficiently to yield an equal
income. And if so, the consequent increase of inland postage and the
profits on the same will be clear gain.

Add to the immense number of Europe-born people now living in the United
States, the children of such, who will retain for two or three
generations, their relationship to kindred remaining in the Old World: Add
to the half million of European emigrants, who by ordinary calculation
would be expected every year, the numbers whom passing events will drive
to seek an asylum from European revolutions under the peaceful and
permanent government of the American Union: Add to the increase of
transatlantic intercourse arising from the increase of commerce, the
growth also of advancing civilization and intelligence: Add to the
interest which emigration of neighbors and the growth of the country gives
to European residents in a correspondence with America, the eager desire
which the new times now begun must create to become more familiarly
conversant with the new world, whose path of freedom and equality the old
countries are all striving to follow: How long will any man say it would
take, with a rate of postage across the Atlantic not exceeding two cents
per half ounce, before there would be ten millions of letters yearly,
instead of three-quarters of a million, the number now carried by the
British packet mails? And these would yield more postage than can now be
collected at a shilling a letter, besides the profit they would yield on
the inland postage. With our own experience under the act, of 1844, and
the experience of Great Britain under the act of 1839, it would be
unphilosophical to set a longer time than five years as the period that
would be required to bring up the product of Ocean Postage to its present
amount. And the healthy spring which such a reform would give to commerce,
and to every source of national prosperity, and its consequent indirect
aid to the public revenues, would justify any government, on mere
pecuniary considerations alone, in assuming a heavy expenditure, not only
for five years, but permanently, to secure so great an object. I address
to my own country, as the nation whom it more appropriately belongs to
take so great a step towards universal brotherhood, the fervid appeal
which my friend Burritt has made to England:

    “The irresistible genius and propagation of the English race are
    fast _Anglicizing_ the world, and thus centering it around the
    heart of civilization and commerce. Under the sceptre of England
    alone, there live, it is said, one hundred and forty million of
    human beings, embracing all races of men, dwelling between every
    two degrees of latitude and longitude around the globe. And there
    is the Anglo-American hemisphere of the English race, doubling its
    population every twenty-five years, and propelling its propagation
    through the Western World. And there is the English language,
    colonized, not only by Christian missions, but by commerce, in
    every port, on every shore, accessible to an English keel. The
    heathen of China or Eastern Inde, whilst buying sandal wood for
    incense to their deities from English or American merchantmen, or
    trafficing for poisonous drugs; the sable savages that come out of
    the depth of Africa, to barter on the seaboard their glittering
    sand, their ivory, ostrich feathers or apes, for articles of
    English manufacture; the Red Indians of North and South America,
    as they come from their hunting grounds in the deep wilderness, to
    sell their spoils to English or American fur companies; the
    swarthy inhabitants of the ocean islands, as they run to the beach
    to greet the American whale ship or the English East Indiaman,
    bringing yams and curious ware to sell to the pale-faced
    foreigners; all these carry back to their kind and kindred rude
    lessons in the English language—the meaning of home and household
    words of the strong, old Saxon tongue, each of which links its
    possessor to the magnetic chain of English civilization.

    “What then, should England do, to bring all nations of men within
    the range of the vital functions of that heart-relation which she
    sustains to the world?

    “Answer—let her establish an _Ocean Penny Postage_.”

X. _The Free Delivery of Letters and Papers in Large Towns_.

The simple adoption of Uniform Cheap Postage would hardly fail of
securing, in the end, all other desirable postal reforms. An act of
congress, in five lines, enacting that “hereafter the postage on all
letters prepaid, not exceeding half an ounce in weight, shall be two
cents; and for each additional half ounce, two cents; and if not prepaid
the postage shall be doubled,” would at no distant period, bring in all
the other desired improvements. The adoption of cheap postage in Great
Britain, greatly improved the system of local delivery of letters and
newspapers in the large towns. Formerly, an additional charge of 1_d._ was
made for the delivery of letters by carriers, in the case of letters that
had been mailed; and for “drop letters,” or letters delivered in the same
town where they are posted, the price was 2_d._ Now all drop letters are
charged at the uniform rate of 1_d._ the same as mail letters; and the
mail letters are delivered by carriers without additional charge—the penny
postage paying all. The Postmaster-General prescribes what places shall
have the free delivery, and how far it shall extend around each

Beyond those limits, and in places where the free delivery is not judged
practicable, the local postmasters are at liberty, on their own
discretion, to employ penny-post carriers to deliver letters at the houses
of the people, charging 1_d._ each for delivery, which is a private
perquisite—the department taking neither profit nor responsibility in the
case. Persons who do not choose to pay the penny-post can refuse to
receive letters in that way, and obtain them by calling at the

To facilitate this local free-delivery, there are “receiving houses”
established at convenient distances in the town, where letters are
deposited for the mails, without a fee, and thence are taken to the
post-office in season for the daily mails, or for distribution through the
local delivery. These receiving houses are generally established in a drug
or stationery store, grocery, or some retail shop, where the nature of the
business requires some one to be always in attendance, and where the
increase of custom likely to arise from the resort of people with letters
is a sufficient consideration for the slight trouble of keeping the
office. The letters are taken to the post-office at stated hours, by
persons employed for that purpose; those which are to be mailed are
separated, and those which are for local delivery sorted and delivered to
the carriers to go out by the next delivery. I have not a list of the
number or size of the cities and towns within which the free delivery is
enjoyed. Its necessary effect in increasing the number of letters sent by
mail, and benefiting the country and the government by the aid it
furnishes to trade and general prosperity, would seem to be a guaranty
that the department would be likely to extend the free delivery as far as
it could possibly answer, within the reasonable ability of the government,
to meet the reasonable wants of the people.

The London District Post was originally a penny post, and was created by
private enterprise. One William Dockwra, in the reign of Charles II., set
up a private post for the delivery of letters in the city of London, for
which the charge was 1_d_., payable invariably in advance. It was soon
taken possession of by the government, and the same rate of postage
retained until 1801, when, for the sake of revenue, the postage was
doubled, and so remained until the establishment of the general penny
postage. Its limits were gradually extended to include the city of
Westminster and the borough of Southwark, then all places within a circle
of three miles, and finally to twelve miles from the General Post-Office.

Within the three miles circle there are 220 receiving houses, of which 180
are within the town portions of the district. At these offices, letters
are despatched to the post-office, ten times daily, viz. at 8, 10, and 12,
in the morning, and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8, in the afternoon. Letters are
required to be left at the receiving house a quarter of an hour previous
to the hour. The letters so left may be expected to be delivered within
the three miles circle in about two hours from the hour at which they are
sent to the post-office; that is, the 8 o’clock letters are delivered by
10, and so on.

There are now ten deliveries daily, within a circle of three miles from
the post-office; five deliveries in a circle of six miles, and three
deliveries to the circle of twelve miles distance. In the three miles
circle, the delivery is completed in one hour and a quarter from the time
the carrier leaves the office; in the six miles circle, in two hours, and
in the twelve miles circle, in three hours.

In 1839, the estimated average of letters passing through the London
district post was about one million every four weeks, of which 800,000 or
four-fifths were unpaid. In 1842, the average was two millions in four
weeks, of which only 100,000, or one-twentieth, were unpaid—ninety-five
per cent. being prepaid. In 1847, the number was nearly three millions.
These do not include the “General Post;” that is the country and foreign
letters to London, but only those that originate as well as end within the
twelve miles circle.

The General Post letters, however, are distributed on the same principle
of free delivery, without extra charge, and the utmost diligence is used
by the letter-carriers to find out the persons to whom letters are
directed. I was witness to this, in the case of a gentleman from Ohio, who
went to England in a merchant ship, without having taken the precaution to
give his family any instructions as to the direction of letters. His
voyage was somewhat long, and before he had been three days in London, the
carrier brought to his lodgings a letter from his wife, which had come in
the mail steamer, and the people at the post-office had sought him out, an
entire stranger among two millions of people! The General Post letters
passing through the London office, were estimated in 1839 at 1,622,147,
each four weeks, of which only one-sixth were prepaid. In 1847, they were
8,500,000, of which above ninety-four per cent. were prepaid. This makes
the whole number of letters mailed and delivered in London, equal to above
146,000,000 a year; of which it is reasonable to calculate that about
75,000,000 are distributed by the letter-carriers by Free Delivery.

As nineteen-twentieths of the letters are prepaid, the delivery is
accomplished with great despatch. The greater proportion of them, of
course, go to those who are in the habit of receiving numbers of letters
daily, and with whom the carriers are well acquainted. A large proportion
are delivered at counting-rooms and shops, which are open. Most houses
where letters are received daily, have letter-boxes by the door, fitted
with an ingenious contrivance to guard against robbery, into which prepaid
letters can be dropped from the street, to be taken out by a door that is
locked on the inside. Thus the great bulk of the letters are delivered
with little more trouble or loss of time to the carrier, than it takes to
serve the daily newspaper. The cases are also much more numerous than with
newspapers, where many letters are deliverable at one place, which of
course lessens the amount of labor chargeable to each one.

There are ninety-five bell-men, who call at every door in their several
districts once a day, and take letters to the post-office in time for the
evening mails. Each one carries a locked bag, with an aperture large
enough to drop in a letter, which can only be opened at the post-office.
Any person having letters to go by mail, may drop them into this bag, pay
the bell-man his fee of 1_d_., and be quite sure they will be despatched
the same evening.

All these carriers are required to assist, at stated times, in the sorting
of letters, both for the free delivery and for the mails. They are paid by
a stipulated salary, and have a permanent business, with chances for
advancement in business and wages, according to length of service and

A letter was addressed through the newspapers to the Postmaster-General of
the United States, by Barnabas Bates, Esq., of New York, one of the most
able and efficient advocates of postal reform, bearing date February 7,
1847, urging the adoption of a similar system for the city of New York,
and other cities—the postage to be in all cases prepaid. The advantages to
be anticipated are thus set forth by Mr. Bates:

    “The adoption of this plan will ultimately be a source of revenue
    to the post-office department.

    “1. It will be the means of diminishing the number of dead letters
    and newspapers, which is increasing every day to an incredible
    amount. The carriers will not carry out letters or papers where
    there is any doubt of getting their pay, consequently the number
    of advertised letters is daily increasing, and as for dead
    newspapers, they are sold by cart loads. Half a cent is not a
    sufficient inducement to carry out newspapers, especially if there
    be any doubt of getting the postage; hence the many complaints of
    editors that their subscribers do not get their papers.

    “2. It will reduce the list of advertised letters which has
    increased within a few years more than three hundred per cent. The
    Sun and Tribune of last Saturday, advertised 1700 letters, which
    cost sixty-eight dollars; if this be the average weekly number,
    the post-office department or the people must pay for advertising,
    the sum of three thousand five hundred and thirty-six dollars per
    annum! The list of advertised letters of the Boston post-office,
    which is semi-monthly, averages from fourteen to sixteen columns
    of the Boston Times. If efficient carriers were appointed to
    deliver these letters to their address free of expense, this list
    would be reduced more than one half; thus a saving would be made
    in advertising, besides the collection of a large amount of
    postage. I would further remark, that requiring _four cents_ to be
    paid for advertising, in addition to the postage, frequently
    deters poor people from taking out their letters, and thus the
    cost of advertising, as well as the postage, are lost to the
    General Post-office. An efficient free delivery would save the
    department thousands of dollars every year.

    “3. A free delivery of letters would increase the revenue by
    causing the greater portion of the drop letters to be sent through
    the post-office, instead of the private offices now established in
    different parts of the city. The only reason why the City Despatch
    Post failed was, that they charged more than the private penny
    post offices. But if these letters were delivered free, charging
    only two cents as drop letters, nearly all the city correspondence
    would be conveyed through this medium. The increased income from
    this source alone would in a short time be amply sufficient to pay
    the salaries of all the carriers.

    “4. The post-office would not only command all the drop letters,
    but afford such easy, safe, and cheap facilities for the
    conveyance of letters, that it would be the means of increasing
    the city and country correspondence to an extent which can hardly
    be estimated. Thousands and tens of thousands of letters which are
    now sent by private hands, or through the private penny post,
    would then be deposited in the United States sub post-offices,
    both for city delivery and to be forwarded by the mails.”

The extent to which such a system of Free Delivery could properly be
introduced in this country, can only be determined by experiment. That is,
to decide in how many and what towns there shall be a Free Delivery, and
how far from the post-office the Free Delivery shall be carried,
experience must be the guide. A city and its suburbs might all be included
in one arrangement, as New York with Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Jersey
City; Boston with Charlestown, Cambridge, Chelsea and Roxbury; and as
population increases and intercourse extends, other places might be

Such a system would make a vast amount of business for itself, as people
learned the advantages of so easy a correspondence—especially in those
places which may admit of two or more deliveries a day. It would also tend
to facilitate and stimulate and increase the general business of the
place, and this would in turn increase the business of the post-office.
The establishment of Free Delivery in any city or large town, would tend
to increase the correspondence of the country with such town. Every
addition to the number of letters delivered, would lessen the average cost
of delivery of each letter, and thus increase the net profits of the
institution. In these ways the department would feel its way along, in the
extension of Free Delivery from one class of towns to another, until, at
no distant day, it would be found that its benefits were far more widely
diffusible than the most sanguine could now anticipate.

On the subject of the cost of delivery, the parliamentary committee
obtained many valuable items of information. Mr. Reid, of London, said he
got a thousand circulars delivered lately, for a foreigner. The gentleman
had intended to send them through the post-office, paying the postage. Mr.
Reid told him he would get them delivered a great deal cheaper. He gave
them to a very trusty person, who delivered them all in the course of a
week, at the expense of £1 2_s_. 3_d_. They were certain he delivered
them; for nearly every time they sent him out, they took care to misdirect
two or three, taking an account of the false direction, and he invariably
brought back these letters, because he could not find the persons to whom
they were directed. The postage of these circulars, at 1_d_. would have
been £4 3_s_. 4_d_. Here was a saving of £3 1_s_. 1_d_. in one job. The
expense of delivery was 1-1/14 farthing per letter. Of course, regular
carriers, in their accustomed routes, could deliver prepaid letters at a
much cheaper rate than this.

During the parliamentary investigations on the subject of cheap postage, a
plan was suggested, of establishing what were called secondary mails, to
reach every village and hamlet in the country. These secondary mails were
to run from each post-town to the surrounding places, and deliver letters
for an additional charge of 1_d_. But on consideration it was found
impracticable to clog the general system with this addition. Uniformity
was everything, to the system. And they could not establish any uniform
rate which would answer both for the post-towns and for the hamlets. The
rate which would pay for the towns, would not pay for mails to the
hamlets. And the rate which was necessary for the hamlets, was too high
for the towns, and _the contraband conveyance would still continue_.
Consequently, the post-office would have to distribute the letters to the
smaller places, where the distribution is attended with the greatest cost
and the smallest profits. In the end, the rule of uniformity was left
unbroken, and it was left to future experience or local arrangement to
meet the wants of the smaller places, not now reached by the mails. The
local postmasters are to make such arrangements as they deem proper in
their respective neighborhoods, as to the employment of penny-post
carriers to distribute the letters at the houses of the people.

To show the working of multiplication and division in the increase of
profits, and the very low rate at which a service similar to that of free
delivery can be performed, let us look at the newspapers. The principal
daily papers in Boston are served to subscribers by carriers, at the
expense of the publishers. Deducting Sundays and holidays, there are 310
papers in a year. These are served at the cost of 25 to 50 cents for each
subscriber. Taking the highest cost, and you pay 1.6 _mills_ for each
paper delivered—less than one-sixth of a cent.

The penny papers are served to subscribers by carriers, who have regular
beats or districts; and who furnish their patrons for six cents per week.
These carriers purchase the papers of the publisher, at 62 to 75 cents per
100; so that their profits on each paper are from one-quarter to
three-eighths of a cent. For this they deliver the paper promptly every
morning, and collect the money on Saturday, running, of course, some risk
of losses by bad debts, &c. And yet this business is found to be so
profitable that some routes in New York have been sold, that is, the good
will transferred, for at least $500, just for the privilege of serving
that district.

The two-cent papers from New York are regularly served to customers in
Boston. A person engaged in this business used to buy the New York
Express, Tribune, and Herald, for 1¼ to 1½ cents each. He paid the cost of
bringing them by express from New York. To guard against failures, he
divided his bundles, and had a part sent by way of Norwich, and a part by
Stonington. He then served them to subscribers all over Boston for 12
cents per week, making his collections on Saturday. This man made money,
so that in a few years he sold out his route and business in the New York
papers, and purchased an interest in a flourishing penny paper in Boston,
of which he is now one of the publishers.

XI. _The Expense of Cheap Postage, and how it is to be paid._

It is quite important to have it understood, in all parts of the country,
that the friends of postal reform have no desire to curtail the public
accommodations now enjoyed, in the slightest degree—unless in cases of
manifest abuse. Neither do they consider that too much money is paid by
our government to furnish the people with the privileges of the mail. We
desire rather to see the benefits and conveniences of the post-office
greatly increased, as well as brought more within the reach of all the
population. The bill for establishing cheap postage should therefore
contain a distinct declaration that the mail facilities of the country
shall not be curtailed, but shall be liberally extended, with the spread
and increase of population, so as to give, as far as the ability of the
government will admit, the best practicable accommodations to every
citizen of the republic.

It ought also to be provided that the Postmaster-General shall have it in
his power, according to his discretion, whenever justice may require, to
continue the compensation of all postmasters equal to their present rates,
in proportion to the amount of services rendered, or labor performed. It
is not easy, at present, to decide how much the labor of keeping the
post-office will be lessened, by the adoption of uniform rates, and
prepayment. Certainly, the reduction will be very considerable. And
experience will hereafter suggest a new scale of compensations adapted to
the new methods of doing the business.

The falling off in the gross receipts of the British post-office, on the
first adoption of the new system, was upwards of a million sterling, being
nearly 43 per cent. on the whole amount. A corresponding reduction from
the income of our own post-office would amount to $1,696,734. But the
falling off would not be so great. The reduction of postage in that case
was from 7-½_d_. on an average, to 1_d_., while in ours it would barely
prove an average of 6-½ cents to 2 cents. On the other hand, it is
reasonable to expect a very rapid increase of letters, because the partial
reduction in 1845 has already given the people a taste of the advantages
of reduced rates of postage. The whole number of letters now sent by mail
is 52,000,000. The number would, without doubt, be doubled in one year,
which would give a revenue of above $2,000,000; $2,080,000 from letters.
There would also be a very considerable increase of income from papers and
pamphlets, and a great saving in the article of dead letters and
newspapers. It is safe to estimate the revenue of the post-office, under
the new system, at $3,000,000 for the first year, $3,500,000 for the
second, $4,000,000 for the third, and $4,500,000 for the fourth, which
will bring it up to what will then be the wants of the service, making the
most liberal allowance for improved facilities.

As an illustration of the capability of retrenchment in expense, let it be
remembered that the present Postmaster-General has effected a reduction of
nearly _a million dollars per annum in the cost of transportation alone_.
He says in his Report:

    “The direction to the Postmaster-General to contract with the
    lowest bidder, without the allowance of any advantage to the
    former contractor, as had been the case before its passage, had
    the effect of enlarging the field of competition, and reducing the
    price of transportation, except on railroads and in steamboats, to
    the lowest amount for which the service can be performed; and will
    reduce the cost of transportation, when the other section is let
    to contract under it, but little less than a million of dollars
    per annum from the former prices.”

In other words, our letter postage is no longer taxed as it used to be, to
give the people of other sections of the country, stage coaches which they
do not support, as well as mails which they do not pay for. There will
doubtless be still further reductions in this branch, in proportion as the
knowledge becomes diffused among the people, of the profits of this
business and the freeness of the competition for it. As Mr. Dana suggested
in his valuable Report in 1844:

    “The difference must arise from want of competition, and a
    reluctance to engage in the business of transporting the mail.
    When the attention of the North shall be called to the subject,
    and the difference in price pointed out, we cannot doubt that
    contracts will be made nearly as cheap for transportation at the
    South as at the North. If southern men will not engage in the
    business, let it be generally known that such increased pay can be
    had, and an abundance of yankee enterprise will be ready to engage
    in the business.”

RAILROAD TRANSPORTATION. One of the most difficult points in the
administration of the post-office, has been the dealing with railroad
corporations. As these are bodies without souls, they can only be dealt
with on the footing of pecuniary interest. And as they are state
institutions, and local favorites, public opinion has been generally
predisposed to take sides with the railroad, and against the department.
And thus the railroads have been able to exact exorbitant allowances for
services which cost them next to nothing. Were the whole mails of the
country to be sent at once by a single railroad, what would be the amount?
The average number of letters mailed in a day is 142,857; which, at the
average weight of ⅓ ounce, would weigh 2976 pounds. The average number of
newspapers in a day is 150,685, which, at the average weight of 2 ounces,
would give 18,834 pounds. The whole together make 21,815 pounds, equal to
109 passengers, averaging, with their baggage, 200 pounds each. These
passengers would be carried by railroad 200 miles, from Boston to Albany
for $545. The daily cost of railroad service is $1637, which shows that it
is distance, not weight, that is chiefly regarded. Or, in other words,
that the weight of the mails is of very little account to railroads. It is
well known that the corporations regard the carriage of the mail as almost
clear profit. The whole daily mails of the United States could be carried
by the inland route from Boston to New Orleans, by the established
expresses, at their regular rates on parcels, for a little over $3000;
while the whole daily expense of mail transportation is $6,594. The
expresses will carry from Boston to New York, for $1.50, an amount of
parcels, which the post-office would charge $150 for carrying as letters,
or $18.40 as newspapers—and all go by the same train, of course involving
equal cost of transportation to the company. The inference is unavoidable,
that the government is charged exorbitantly by these companies, from the
entire absence of competition on almost every railroad route. While human
nature remains the same, it is to be expected that corporations will take
this advantage unless some counteracting interest can be brought to bear
upon them as a restraint against extortion.

Now, let the post-office present itself to the people as a system of pure
and unmingled beneficence, studying not how it can get a little more money
for a little less service, but how it can render the greatest amount of
accommodation with the least expense to the public treasury, and it will
at once become the object of the public gratitude and warm affection; men
will study how to facilitate all its transactions, will be conscientiously
careful not to impose any needless trouble upon its servants, and will
generally watch for its interests as their own. Such is the benign effect
upon all the considerate portions of society in England. Then the
government will be fully sustained in insisting that all railroads shall
carry the mail for a compensation which will be just a fair equivalent for
the service performed, in reasonable proportion to other services. And if
the corporations are perverse in throwing obstacles in the way, the people
will expect that such coercive measures should be employed, as wisdom may
prescribe, to make these creatures of their power subservient to the
public good, and not to mere private aggrandisement.

In January, 1845, a document was communicated to congress by the
Postmaster-General, containing replies by the British post-office to
certain queries which he had proposed to them. This document gives the
distance travelled daily by mail trains on railways at 1601 miles, at a
cost per mile of 1_s_. 1-18/32_d_. per mile. But this “distance” is the
number of miles between place and place. The total number of miles that
the mail travels by railroad daily is 5808, which would make the real cost
per mile of travel about 5-¼_d_. The number of miles travelled by railroad
in this country is 4,170,403, at the cost of $597,475, which is about 12
cents per mile. But the English trains are driven at much greater speed
than ours, the expense of running is much greater in all respects, the
cost of the roads is vastly higher, the weight of mails is much greater,
and therefore the price of transportation might be higher than with us.
But it is lower. The average weight of mails sent daily from London alone
is 27,384 pounds, which is 5569 pounds more than the whole daily mails of
the United States. By act of parliament, the Postmaster-General is
authorized and empowered “to require of every railway company that they
shall convey the mail at such times as he may deem proper; and the amount
paid for such services is settled by a subsequent arbitration.” Railroad
service is performed in New Hampshire for a fraction over 4 cents per
mile. The average in New England is 10-½ cents per mile. The average price
of passenger fares, for short distances or long, is but 3 cents per mile.
There can be no doubt that it is within the constitutional and proper
prerogative of congress to take the use of a railroad for the public
service, leaving the just compensation to be awarded by arbitration.
Neither can it be doubted that enlightened arbitration would greatly
reduce the price from what is now paid.

following table shows the cost of passage from Boston to the places named,
and the cost of transportation of parcels of usual weight by Express, with
the price per half ounce at the same rates.

The average weight of passengers with their baggage is set at 230 pounds.
This would be equal to the weight of 7360 letters, at half an ounce each,
the postage on which, at two cents, would be $147.20, irrespective of

From Boston           Passenger   Per half oz.       Express   Per half oz.
                          Fare.         Mills.      Freight.         Mills.
                                                 230 pounds.
To New York,              $4.00        5-10ths         $1.50        2-10ths
To Philadelphia,           7.00        9-10ths          3.50        5-10ths
To Baltimore,             10.00      1 3-10ths          5.50        7-10ths
To Cincinnati,            25.00      3 2-10ths         10.50      1 4-10ths
To St. Louis,             35.00      4 7-10ths         12.00      1 6-10ths
To New Orleans,           45.00       6 1-10th         14.00      1 9-10ths
To Liverpool,            120.00     16 3-10ths          7.20        9-10ths
per Cunard Steamers

Rowland Hill discovered that the cost of transporting a letter from London
to Edinburgh was 1-36th of a penny; and the Parliamentary Committee
ascertained by a different calculation, that this was the average cost per
letter of all the mails in England.

PENNY PAPERS. The establishment of penny papers in this country is a very
striking illustration of the principles here involved. It is now just
fifteen years since the New York Sun was commenced by a couple of
journeymen printers, one of whom had just been in my employ. They were
intelligent and enterprising, and began by writing their editorials and
police reports, which they then set up in type, and worked from an old
Ramage press, with their own hands. They printed seven hundred papers, of
a very small size, which they sold to boys at 62-½ cents per hundred, and
the boys sold them in the streets at one cent each. Soon their editions
increased, and they enlarged their sheet, and hired it printed on a Napier
press which I owned. Again their business increased, so much that it
became necessary for them to have a press of their own, driven by steam
power. One of the partners then sold out his interest for $10,000, went to
the West, studied law, and has been twice a candidate for Congress, with
strong prospects of success. The concern has since passed into other
hands, and has continued to prosper. For many years it has been printed on
a sheet larger than could be bought for a cent, making a constant loss on
the paper alone; besides which, it has cost $25 a week to the editor for
the leading articles alone; and I know not how much for other editorial
labor, market and commercial reports, ship news, foreign news, lightning
expresses, correspondence, &c. And yet the amount received for advertising
has covered all these expenditures, and enabled the present proprietor to
realize, as is supposed, a splendid fortune.

A man in Boston buys 200 copies of the New York Tribune and other papers
daily, for which he pays 1-¼ cents each. The Express brings him the parcel
for 50 cents, which is one quarter of a cent for each paper. The
post-office would charge $3.00 for postage alone. For the half cent
remaining to him after expenses paid, the carrier delivers his papers to
subscribers all over the city, collects his pay once a month, and runs all
the risk of loss of bundles and bad debts. Each paper weighs about an
ounce and a half—equal to three single letters of full weight, the postage
on which would be fifteen cents, making $30 in all. It is impossible to
doubt the practicability of cheap postage.

In Scotland, with but 2,628,957 inhabitants, and no great commercial
centre, no political metropolis, and but little foreign commerce, such is
the effect of cheap postage that 28,669,169 letters are sent in a year.
Even in _poor_ Ireland, where the people die of hunger by thousands, where
there are millions of people who never taste of bread, and where the
majority of the people are said to be unable to read or write, with a
population of 8,175,124, less than half the population of the United
States—there are 28,587,996 letters mailed under the influence of penny
postage. The population of Scotland and Ireland together is 10,804,081,
not half the present population of the United States; the number of
letters in a year is 57,257,165, being more than _all_ that are sent in
the United States, franks included.

CONCLUDING REMARKS. I am brought to the close of this essay, with only a
brief space left to be filled, and with many subjects of remark
untouched—the Exclusive Right of the Post-office—the History of Postage in
this country—the Sectional Bearings of Cheap Postage—the Postage Bill now
before Congress—the Moral and Social Benefits of Cheap Postage. This
pamphlet has been wholly written since the vote of the Publishing
Committee, which must be my apology for some repetitions. The main
arguments cannot be overthrown, until men disprove arithmetic.

Who can doubt that cheap postage would bring three times as many letters
as are now sent by mail in this country. And that would give a greater
revenue to the post-office than it now receives. It is impossible to doubt
the success of cheap postage, when once it is established.

Now is the favorable time for its adoption. The astonishing success of
cheap postage in Great Britain is opening people’s eyes. The rapid
progress which public opinion has made in the last six months in favor of
cheap postage, creates a confident expectation that congress will yield to
the first resolute motion that shall be made, and adopt a well-considered
system, of which two cents letter-postage shall be the basis, with a
general provision for prepayment. The details will be easily adjusted when
the principle is adopted. Let us have no evasions, no half-way measures,
to delude with false hopes, and to stand as obstacles in the way of the
only true system.

Why should I enlarge upon the benefits of cheap postage? The only question
to be asked is—What shall every man do to obtain it? The answer is, You
must understand its merits; you must talk with your neighbors, and get
them interested in its favor; you must write, if you can, for the papers;
you must unite, without delay, in signing and forwarding the following
petition to congress:

_To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in
Congress assembled_:

The undersigned, Citizens of:

respectfully petition Congress to pass a Law to establish A UNIFORM RATE
PRE-PAID LETTER of half an ounce, for all distances; and for other
corresponding reforms.



The parliamentary return, obligingly sent to Dr. Webb by Mr. Hume, M. P.,
bears date the 11th of June, 1847, and was made in pursuance of an order
of the House, passed April 22, 1847. The tabular statements contained in
this important paper will be examined with great interest by those who are
accustomed to statistical inquiries, and are here presented for their use.
Taken in connection with Mr. Hume’s table, on page 4, they will present
the most convincing evidence of the unparalleled success of cheap postage.

A comparative statement of the NUMBER OF LETTERS delivered in the United
Kingdom, in one week of the month of November, 1839, and of each
subsequent year, taking a week in the month of April, 1847. (Condensed
from the parliamentary document.)

Years.    England and   Ireland.   Scotland.    United
          Wales.                                Kingdom.
1839(3)     1,252,977    179,931     153,065   1,585,973
1840        2,685,181    385,672     385,262   3,456,115
1841        3,029,453    403,421     413,248   3,846,122
1842        3,282,021    474,031     446,494   4,202,546
1843        3,401,595    478,941     468,677   4,349,213
1844        3,744,011    527,630     511,663   4,783,304
1845        4,467,619    597,425     601,715   5,666,759
1846        4,629,324    649,324     621,850   5,890,704
1847(4)     4,823,854    698,313     626,709   6,148,876

II. An account, showing the GROSS and NET POST OFFICE REVENUE, and the
COST OF MANAGEMENT, for the United Kingdom, for the year ending the 5th
day of January, 1839, and for each subsequent year.

Year ending       Gross             Cost of          Net Revenue.
                  Revenue.(5)       Management.(6)
5 January, 1839   £2,346,278        £686,768 3_s_.   £1,659,509
                  —_s_. 9½_d_.      6¾_d_.           17_s_. 2¾_d_.
5 January,        2,390,763 10 1½   756,999 7 4      1,633,764 2 9½
5 January, 1841   1,359,466 9 2     858,677 —5¼      500,789 11 4¼
5 January, 1842   1,499,418 10      938,168 19 7½    561,249 11 4¼
5 January, 1843   1,578,145 16 7½   977,504 10 3     600,641 64½
5 January, 1844   1,620,867 11 10   980,650 7 5¾     640,217 4 4¼
5 January, 1845   1,705,067 16  4   985,110 13 10¾   719,957 2 5¼
5 January, 1846   1,901,580 10 2¾   1,125,594 5 —    775,986 5 2¾
5 January, 1847   1,978,293 11      1,138,745 2 4¼   839,548 9 6

III. Return of the PAYMENTS made by the POST OFFICE during each of the
years ending the 5th of January, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843, 1844, 1845,
1846, 1847, for the CONVEYANCE of the _Mails_ by _Railway_ in Great

5th January, 1839,   £12,380 5_s_. 7_d_.
5th January, 1840,   52,230 1 2
5th January, 1841,   51,301 6 8
5th January, 1842,   94,818 7 10
5th January, 1843,   77,570 5 7
5th January, 1844,   96,360 10 5
5th January, 1845,   89,809 4 6
5th January, 1846,   179,257 4 1
5th January, 1847,   107,890 14 2

IV. An account of the Number and Amount of MONEY ORDERS issued (and paid)
in England and Wales (London included), from the 5th April, 1839, to 5th
April, 1847, inclusive.

For the Quarters ended   Number.   Amount.
5 April, 1839             28,838   £49,496 5_s_.
5 July, 1839              34,612   59,099 9 5
5 October, 1839           38,510   64,056 7 8
5 January, 1840           40,763   67,411 2 7
5 April, 1840             76,145   119,932 12 1
5 July, 1840              94,215   151,734 15 8
5 October, 1840          122,420   196,507 14 3
5 January, 1841          189,984   334,652 14 8
5 April, 1841            275,870   567,518 12 3
5 July, 1841             289,884   608,774 11 2
5 October, 1841          334,071   661,099 9 —
5 January, 1842          390,290   820,576 11 10
5 April, 1842            419,530   890,575 17 1
5 July, 1842             422,452   885,803 4 5
5 October, 1842          432,205   901,549 5 5
5 January, 1843          493,439   1,031,850 5 3
5 April, 1843            512,798   1,080,249 2 2
5 July, 1843             495,723   1,032,643 5 11
5 October, 1843          515,458   1,060,023 8 7
5 January, 1844          562,030   1,196,428 8 2
5 April, 1844            582,056   1,212,094 4 9
5 July, 1844             555,561   1,166,161 12 3
5 October, 1844          574,250   1,184,178 — 5
5 January, 1845          621,826   1,296,451 17 4
5 April, 1845            656,452   1,372,405 18 8
5 July, 1845             613,539   1,279,050 2 4
5 October, 1845          637,369   1,316,164 12 1
5 January, 1846          719,813   1,495,832 17 6
5 April, 1846            716,618   1,490,626 12 5
5 July, 1846             679,236   1,399,789 17 2
5 October, 1846          706,055   1,447,507 17 2
5 January, 1847          779,790   1,588,549 7 2
5 April, 1847            810,603   1,654,278 7 —

The Commission on Money Orders was, on and from the 20th November, 1840,
reduced as follows:

For any sum not exceeding £2, from 6_d_. to 3_d_.
For any sum above £2, and not exceeding £5, from  1s. 6_d_. to _6_d.

V. Return of the Number of CHARGEABLE LETTERS, which is passed through the
London General Post, inwards and outwards, in the first four weeks of each
year, beginning with 1839, distinguishing the Unpaid, Paid with Coin,
Stamped, and Total.(8)

Years.       Unpaid.       Paid.    Stamped.      Total.
1839(9)    1,358,651     263,496               1,622,147
1840(10)     787,139   2,217,127               3,004,266
1841         370,080   2,204,419   2,108,074   4,683,073
1842         351,134   2,166,960   2,760,757   5,278,851
1843         312,839   2,431,231   2,972,828   5,716,898
1844         433,270   2,524,270   3,079,418   6,037,526
1845         504,519   2,613,648   3,681,026   6,800,293
1846         551,461   2,899,306   4,435,966   7,886,733
1847(11)     448,838   3,057,257   4,905,674   8,411,769

VI. Return of the Number of CHARGEABLE LETTERS which passed through the
London District Post, excluding all General Post Letters, in the first
four weeks of each year, beginning with 1839.

Years.   Unpaid.       Paid.    Stamped.      Total.
1839     800,573     220,813               1,021,286
1840     331,589   1,207,985               1,539,574
1841     157,242     926,264     752,134   1,835,640
1842     118,101     820,835     980,694   1,919,630
1843     113,293     837,624   1,020,091   1,971,008
1844      98,712     859,776   1,181,314   2,139,802
1845      99,005     947,660   1,337,132   2,383,697
1846     119,165   1,055,717   1,573,603   2,748,485
1847     108,158   1,079,378   1,685,105   2,872,641

The Penny Rate took effect on this route Dec. 5, 1839.

The increase of the total, since 1839, is 181 per cent.; showing that the
greatest increase is out of the London District.

VII. Table by Mr. Hill, showing the loss of Revenue by the Post Office,
compared with the Increase of Population.

Years.   Population.     Postage.   Postage due      Loss.   Pr. ct.
1815      19,552,000   £1,557,291    £1,557,291
1820      20,928,000    1,479,547     1,677,000   £194,553      11.6
1825      22,362,000    1,670,209     1,789,000    118,781       6.6
1830      23,961,000    1,517,952     1,917,000    399,048       20.
1835      25,605,000    1,540,300     2,048,000    507,700      24.8

VII. Table by Mr. Hill, showing the loss of Revenue by the Post Office,
compared with the Increase of the Stage-Coach Duty.

Years.   Stage Coach     Postage.   Post due by       Loss.   Pr. ct.
                Duty                Coach Duty.
1815        £217,671   £1,557,291    £1,557,291
1820         273,477    1,479,547     1,946,000    £466,453       24.
1825         362,631    1,670,209     2,585,000     914,781       35.
1830         418,598    1,517,952     2,990,000   1,472,048       49.
1835         498,497    1,540,300     3,550,000   2,009,700       57.

The revenue from the stage coach duty had increased 128 per cent. in
twenty years. There was no reason why the natural demand for the
conveyance of letters should not have increased at least as much as the
demand for the conveyance of persons. It was evident that the postage
revenue fell short by at least two millions which was lost by the high
rate of postage.


[From Porter’s Progress of the British Nation.]

Owing to the great craving of the people for information upon political
subjects during the agitation that accompanied the introduction and
passing of the bill “to amend the representation of the people,” commonly
known as “The Reform Bill,” a great temptation was offered for the illegal
publication of newspapers upon unstamped paper, many of which were sold in
large numbers in defiance of all the preventive efforts made by the
officers of government. The stamp duty of fourpence per sheet was
therefore taken off in 1836, leaving a stamp of 1_d_., as an equivalent
for free postage.

IX. Table showing the Number of Newspapers at different periods, and the
Revenue derived from the same.

Years.   Newspapers.   Revenue.
1801      16,085,085   £185,806
1811      24,421,713    298,547
1821      24,862,186    335,753
1826      27,004,802    451,676
1830      30,158,741    505,439
1831      35,198,160    483,153
1835      33,191,820    453,130
1836      35,576,056    359,826
1837      53,496,207    218,042
1838      53,347,231    221,164
1839      55,891,003    238,394
1840      60,922,151    244,416
1841      59,936,897
1842      61,495,503

X. Table showing the Increase of Expense in the British Post Office,
consequent upon the Increase of the Number of Letters under the new
System; the Rate per Letter of the Cost of additional Letters, and the
Profits realized from such Increase, expressed in decimals of a penny.

Years.   Increase of   Increase of   Additional   Additional
         Letters.      Cost.         Cost.        Profit.
1840      93,000,000       £70,231   _d_. 0.181   _d_. 0.819
1841      27,500,000       101,678        0.887        0.113
1842      12,000,000        72,256        1.445         (12)
1843      12,000,000        35,826        0.716        0.284
1844      21,500,000          (13)            —        1.004
1845      29,500,000         6,870        0.055        0.945
1846      28,000,000       140,576        1.205         (14)
1847      2,2500,000        23,879        0.257        0.746

N. B. The increase of letters since 1839 is 246 millions, and cost of the
increase is .347 of a penny; so that every letter now added to the
circulation yields a net profit to the government of .625_d_., or nearly
two thirds of the penny postage.


    1 “The estimate for 1839 is founded on the ascertained number of
      letters for one week in the month of November, and strictly
      speaking, it is for the year ending Dec. 5th, at which time 4_d_.
      was made the maximum rate. The estimate for each subsequent year is
      founded on the ascertained number of letters for one week in each
      calendar month.”

    2 “This is exclusive of about six and a half millions of franks.”

    3 The number of franks was ascertained for each of the weeks ending
      January 11, January 21, and February 4, 1838; and the mean of these
      three gives 126,212 as the estimated number for one week, which is 8
      per cent. of the whole, and leaves 1,459,761 as the number of
      chargeable letters.

    4 Week ending April 21, 1847. The whole number in the week ending
      February was 6,569,696. The number 6,148,876, for one week,
      multiplied by 52, gives 319,741,552, the total number for the year

    5 Namely, the gross receipts, after deducting the returns for refused
      letters, &c.

    6 Including all payments out of the revenue in its progress to the
      Exchequer, except advances to the Money Order Office; of these sums
      £10,307 10_s_. per annum is for pensions, and forms no part of the
      disbursements on account of the service of the Post Office.

    7 This year includes one month of the Fourpenny Rate.

    8 By multiplying any of these numbers by 13, you get the number for 62
      weeks, which is, for all practical purposes, the number for a year;
      as 20,087,971 in 1839, to 109,362,997 in 1847

    9 Estimated from an enumeration for four several weeks in that year.

   10 The Penny Rate commenced Jan. 10, 1840; Stamps, May 6, 1840.

   11 The increase of the total, since 1839, is 418 per cent.; of paid in
      coin, since 1840, 39 per cent.; of unpaid, since 1841, 21 per cent.;
      of stamps, since 1841, 183 per cent.

   12 Cost diminished by £364, equal to _d_. 0.004 per letter.

   13 Cost increased equal to _d_. 0.445 per letter.

   14 Cost increased equal to _d_. 0.205 per letter.

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