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Title: The Adhesive Postage Stamp
Author: Chalmers, Patrick
Language: English
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  _James Chalmers was the Inventor of the Adhesive Stamp--"Mr. Pearson
  Hill has not weakened the Evidence" to that effect._


  Papers on the Penny Postage Reform,





  _Fellow of the Royal Historical Society_.



  _Price Sixpence._


When a man of note dies, the journalist of the day can only reproduce in
an obituary notice the accepted position of his life and works--it is no
part of that writer's duty to examine, so as fully to certify, all the
statements at hand, or to ransack old volumes dealing with the times
when such reputation was established. That is the duty and the task of
the later historian, or of some one specially interested. Such has been
my duty, my task, as respects that public benefactor, the late Sir
Rowland Hill, with the result arrived at in this and former

Upon the death of Sir Rowland Hill in August, 1879, a series of letters
with comments thereon appeared in the Dundee press, recalling the name
and services of a townsman who, in his day, had taken an active interest
in post-office improvement, and had worked in that field to some
purpose. Mr. James Chalmers, bookseller, Dundee, who died in 1853, had
been an earnest postal reformer. Through his efforts, and after a long
correspondence with the Post Office in London, he brought about such an
acceleration of the mail as to lessen the time necessary for the reply
to a letter from Dundee to London, or betwixt the chief commercial towns
of the north and south, by two days--a day each way. Subsequently he
conceived the idea of an adhesive stamp for postage purposes; and it was
this invention, made known to such post-office reformers as Mr. Hume and
Mr. Wallace--with both of whom, as with others, he was in
communication--that formed the origin of the adoption of the adhesive
stamp in the reformed Penny Postage system of 1840, the plan proposed by
Mr. Rowland Hill in 1837 having been that of the impressed stamp.

These letters in the Dundee press from old townsmen and friends of Mr.
Chalmers, personally unknown to me as I was to them (I having left
Dundee while a youth, over fifty years ago, and passed much of the
interval abroad), with the consequent attention drawn to the subject,
naturally called upon me to make an endeavour to vindicate my father's
claim to the merit of such an important feature in the success of the
Penny Postage scheme as was, and is, the adhesive stamp. These letters,
moreover, acquainted me with what I was previously unaware of--that on
the 1st January, 1846, a public testimonial had been presented in the
Town Hall of Dundee to Mr. Chalmers, in recognition of his postal
services, and of his having been the originator of the adhesive postage
stamp; thus all the more calling upon me to investigate a subject of
which hitherto I had only a dim and partial idea. This investigation was
further facilitated by my withdrawal just before the same period of 1879
from active business, thus enabling me to examine at the library of the
British Museum the papers, documents, speeches, and motions in
Parliament, Reports of Parliamentary Committees, and all such evidence
and information tending to throw light upon, from the year 1832 onwards,
the history and events preceding the reformed system of postage
introduced to the public in the year 1837 by the then Mr. Rowland Hill.

My father long since dead (while I was abroad), and his establishment
long ago broken up, difficulty was at first experienced in obtaining the
specific evidence necessary to enable me to establish my claim on his
behalf, but the attention publicly drawn to the matter by former
publications of my own, and of Mr. Pearson Hill to which I was called
upon to reply, brought forward ever-increasing evidence of the most
conclusive nature, and to which I am now enabled to add material and
interesting confirmation from papers left by the late Sir Henry Cole,
whose connection with the Penny Postage Reform of 1837-40 is well


My business, of course, in the investigation just named, was to
ascertain what plan Sir Rowland Hill had proposed in his pamphlet of
1837 for the purpose of carrying out his Penny Postage Scheme, and to
trace therefrom the adoption on his part of my father's plan of the
adhesive stamp. But a discovery of much more historical importance
before long presented itself, namely, that neither the conception of
uniform penny postage itself, nor of any one of the valuable principles
and figures of the penny postage scheme, were original conceptions on
the part of Sir Rowland Hill.

The reformed system of postage was not the work of one year nor of one
man. For some years prior to 1837 the abuses and mismanagement of the
post office were a constant theme of complaint, both in and out of
Parliament--many able and earnest men combined to bring about some
reform demanded by men of business and public opinion. Commissions of
inquiry were held, evidence and suggestions taken, reports issued.
Early in 1835 Mr. Wallace, M.P. for Greenock, a prominent post-office
reformer, obtained a Commission of Inquiry on the subject, which
Commission issued in all ten Reports; while, in addition to
Parliamentary returns, a commission, termed the Commission of Revenue
Inquiry, had sat for many years prior to the Commission of merely Post
Office Inquiry, and had issued twenty-three Reports, in more than one of
which post-office affairs were dealt with.

In that large field of complaint, suggestion, information, and proposal
may be found the substance, origin, and foundation of the subsequent
writings and proposals of Sir Rowland Hill.

It will be remembered that the old system of postage, prior to 1840, was
that of a high and variable charge according to distance, of, say,
twopence to one shilling and sixpence a letter, charged by sheet; and
two sheets, however light in weight, were charged double. The same with
circulars. But in these Reports, including the evidence of the numerous
witnesses, are to be found embodied all the valuable principles and
figures of the reformed system. And that all these Reports had come
under Mr. Hill's review is left in no doubt, having been sent to him by
Mr. Wallace, after Mr. Hill, freed from other occupations, had, in 1835,
joined the circle of post-office reformers, when he "commenced that
systematic study, analysis, and comparison which the difficulty of my
self-imposed task rendered necessary."--("Life," page 246.)

But to be looked upon as the _inventor_ of that scheme which he had
introduced and (saved and rendered practicable by the adhesive stamp)
had successfully carried out--to have this scheme understood as having
been the unaided conception of his own mind--was with Sir Rowland Hill
simply a mania, and to that mania James Chalmers, the originator in
every sense of that adhesive stamp, was sacrificed.

The bearing of all this non-originality of conception on the part of Sir
Rowland Hill is obvious when the question of the stamp is under
consideration. In propounding the scheme itself, what were only acquired
ideas were assumed, or allowed to be assumed, as inventions or
conceptions. As with the scheme, so with the stamp--the stamp also was
an acquired idea, not Rowland Hill's invention.

Having now, however, obtained from a quarter of the highest standing,
after an impartial investigation, a full acknowledgment of my father's
services, and this in addition to an already large amount of recognition
from the press in general, further observations as to the
non-originality of the scheme may be here dispensed with, for the
present at least, and left to history. And if I have been compelled to
show that, so far from the adhesive stamp having been the invention of
Sir Rowland Hill, originality of conception formed no element whatever
in any one of the proposals of even the Penny Postage Scheme itself,
such course has been forced upon me by the unfortunate proceedings of
Mr. Pearson Hill in denying, against the clearest evidence, my just
claim in the matter of the stamp, without a pretence of proof that such
was at any period an invention on the part of Sir Rowland Hill.


The plan by which Mr. Rowland Hill, in his pamphlet of 1837, proposed to
carry out in practice his uniform penny postage scheme was, shortly
stated, first, simply to pay the penny or money with the letters; but
secondly, and more especially, by stamped sheets of letter paper, and
stamped wrappers or covers. "Let stamped covers and sheets of paper be
supplied to the public, from the Stamp Office or Post Office, or both,
and at such a price as to include the postage." ... "Economy and the
public convenience would require that sheets of letter paper of every
description should be stamped on the part used for the address; that
wrappers, such as are used for newspapers, as well as covers made of
cheap paper, should also be stamped," and kept on sale at the post
offices. "Stationers would also be induced to keep them."

What Mr. Hill overlooked in this proposal, was the broad fact that he
sets up the Stamp Office or Post Office to do the business in letter
paper of the stationers throughout the kingdom--some huge Government
establishment against which competition would be hopeless, as the Stamp
Office was to sell the writing paper at cost price, while the stationer
requires a profit to pay his rent and expenses, and to live upon. The
effect upon the stationers, consequently would have been
confiscation--and against this plan the united body of paper makers and
stationers subsequently protested.

The Select Committee of the House of Commons of 1837-38, again, took
exception to Mr. Hill's plan mainly on account of its liability to
forgery--a stamp of the nature proposed would be extensively forged.
After evidence on the part of the Stamp-Office authorities and paper
makers had been taken, it was decided to recommend--that the paper for
all stamped covers should be manufactured at the paper mills of a Mr.
Dickenson, or of another, solely, under strict excise supervision. This
paper of Mr. Dickenson's was of a peculiar make, having threads of
cotton or silk so interwoven in the paper that a post-office clerk could
readily know by the look or feel that a stamped cover was genuine. The
paper makers protested and petitioned against this, objecting to one of
the body having all the work. Besides, the proposal involved permanent
excise supervision over the manufacture of paper. This proposal,
however, extended only to covers or envelopes; how forgery was to be
prevented in respect to the stamps upon the sheets of letter paper the
Committee do not say. The whole position, in fact, remained in a state
of chaos, only relieved by the ultimate adoption of the adhesive stamp,
which plan Mr. Chalmers had laid before this Committee through Mr.
Wallace, the Chairman, and likewise through Mr. Chalmers, M.P., a member
of the Committee, and which plan had been publicly discussed, not
without finding adherents, including Mr. Cobden, one of the witnesses in
favour of the scheme.

To the solution proposed by the Committee that all stamped covers should
be made of Dickenson's peculiar paper the Government again highly
objected, further adding to the dilemma; and when the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, on the 5th of July, 1839, introduced and carried a resolution
sanctioning a Penny Postage Bill being brought forward, he distinctly
only "asked hon. members to commit themselves to the question of a
uniform rate of postage of one penny at and under a weight hereafter to
be fixed." Everything else was to be left open. "If it were to go forth
to the public to-morrow morning that the Government had proposed, and
the House had adopted, the plan of Mr. Rowland Hill, the necessary
result would be to spread a conviction abroad that, as a stamped cover
was absolutely to be used in all cases, which stamped covers were to be
made by one single manufacturer, alarm would be felt lest a monopoly
would thereby be created, to the serious detriment of other members of
a most useful and important trade. The sense of injustice excited by
this would necessarily be extreme. I therefore do not call upon the
House either to affirm or to negative any such proposition at the
present. I ask you simply to affirm the adoption of a uniform penny
postage, and the taxation of that postage by weight. Neither do I ask
you to pledge yourselves to the prepayment of letters, for I am of
opinion that, at all events, there should be an option of putting
letters into the post without a stamp."

"If the resolution be affirmed, and the Bill has to be proposed, it will
hereafter require very great care and complicated arrangements to carry
the plan into practical effect. It may involve considerable expense and
considerable responsibility on the part of the Government; it may
disturb existing trades, such as the paper trade." ... "The new postage
will be distinctly and simply a penny postage by weight." ... "I also
require for the Treasury a power of taking the postage by anticipation,
and a power of allowing such postage to be taken by means of stamped
covers, and I also require the authority of rating the postage according
to weight."[1]

In this dilemma, as to _how_ to carry out the scheme in practice, Mr.
Wallace favourably suggested the adhesive stamp, the adoption of which
plan, he had no hesitation in saying from the evidence adduced, would
secure the revenue from loss by forgery. Mr. Warburton, also a member of
the 1837-38 Committee, "viewing with considerable alarm the doubt which
had been expressed of adopting Mr. Hill's plan of prepayment and
collection by stamped covers," recommended that plans should be applied
for from the public.

Again, in the House of Lords on the 5th of August, Lord Melbourne, in
introducing the Bill, is as much embarrassed as was the Chancellor of
the Exchequer in the Commons. The opponents of the Bill use, as one of
their strongest arguments, the impossibility of carrying out the scheme
in practice. The Earl of Ripon says:--"Why were their lordships thus
called upon at this period of the session to pass a Bill, when no mortal
being at that moment had the remotest conception of how it was to be
carried into execution?" Here Lord Ashburton, like Mr. Wallace in the
Commons, favourably suggested the adhesive stamp, "which would answer
every purpose, and remove the objection of the stationers and paper
makers to the measure."

Let it, then, be clearly noted that, up to the period of the Bill in
July and August, 1839, not a word is said in any way connecting Mr.
Hill's name with other than the impressed stamp on the sheet of letter
paper, or, more especially, on the stamped covers. That, _and that
alone_, is taken on the one part as _his_ plan by all the speakers,
official or otherwise--for that alone does the Chancellor of the
Exchequer ask for "powers." The adhesive stamp is brought in, on the
other part, as a distinct proposal, in no way entering into the
proposals of Mr. Hill.

(The above is given in more detail in my former pamphlet, entitled "Sir
Rowland Hill and James Chalmers, the Inventor of the Adhesive Stamp,"


[1] See "Hansard," Vol. 48.


In my pamphlet entitled "Sir Rowland Hill and James Chalmers, the
Inventor of the Adhesive Stamp," I have already proved from overwhelming
evidence, both general and specific, the invention of the adhesive stamp
for postage purposes by the late James Chalmers, bookseller, Dundee, in
the month of August, 1834. In addition to friends and fellow-townsmen,
several of those in his employment at that period have, unknown to me,
come forward from various quarters to describe the process and to fix
the date. The setting up of the form with a number of stamps having a
printed device--the printing of the sheets--the melting of the gum--the
gumming the backs of the sheets--the drying and the pressing--are all
described, and the date already named is conclusively fixed.[2] That
this was the first instance of such invention is clear; earlier
instances of an _impressed_ stamp proposed for postage purposes are on
record, but not one of a proposed adhesive stamp--while Sir Rowland Hill
himself has left it on record, in his "Life," referring to the same
period and occasion when an impressed stamp was proposed in 1834 for
newspaper covers by Mr. Knight, "of course, adhesive stamps were yet
undreamt of." (See page 69 of my pamphlet above named).

I have further shown that Mr. Chalmers was one of the early postal
reformers prior to the period of Mr. Rowland Hill, that he had done
great service in the way of accelerating the mails betwixt London and
the north, and that he was in communication with several of those early
reformers, such as Mr. Hume, Mr. Wallace, and Mr. Knight--the publisher
subsequently of Mr. Rowland Hill's pamphlet of 1837--so that his
proposal of an adhesive stamp for postage purposes, a matter of
notoriety in his own locality, would further have become well known in
the general circle of postal reformers, amongst whom, and from whom, on
joining same in the year 1835, Mr. Rowland Hill obtained the information
which enabled him to draw up and publish his Penny Postage Scheme of
1837. (See page 5 of my pamphlet named.)

One of those pioneers of postal reform, the Rev. Samuel Roberts, M.A.,
of Conway, gives his personal testimony of the adhesive stamp having
been originated by James Chalmers. (Page 42.)[3]

My pamphlet goes on to show (page 44) that on the appointment of the
House of Commons Committee of 1837-38 on the proposed uniform Penny
Postage Scheme, Mr. Chalmers sent in his plan of an adhesive stamp to
Mr. Wallace, the Chairman, and to another Member of that Committee. Mr.
Wallace's reply, stating that he will lay the plan before the Committee,
is of date 9th December, 1837. In the dilemma in which the Government
found itself (upon introducing on the 5th July, 1839, the Resolution
preliminary to the Bill) as to _how_ to carry out the Penny Postage
Scheme in practice (page 21) Mr. Wallace favourably suggested the plan
of the adhesive stamp. The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer
upon this occasion, with the interposition of Mr. Wallace in the
Commons, and of Lord Ashburton in the Lords, in favour of the adhesive
stamp have already been given, conclusively showing that, up to this
period, Mr. Hill had not included the adhesive stamp in his proposals.

On the passing of the Bill in August, Mr. Hill was relegated to the
Treasury for the purpose of carrying out the scheme. The first step
taken was to invite plans, by Treasury Circular of 23rd August, from the
public; some time was taken up in receiving and considering these plans,
until, by Treasury Minute of December 26th, 1839, the adhesive stamp was
at length officially adopted, in conjunction with Mr. Hill's stamped
covers, or stamp impressed upon the sheet of letter paper itself. (See
page 46.) But the adhesive stamp, indeed, had been practically adopted
by Mr. Hill before the plans were received, considered, and nothing
better found, a concurrence of opinion having set in in favour of same.
It will be seen that Mr. Chalmers, in his published statement of date
February, 1838, now produced from Sir Henry Cole's papers, called for
petitions towards the adoption of the adhesive stamp. In August, 1839,
both the Associated Body of Paper-Makers and certain Merchants and
Bankers of the City of London pressed for the adoption of this stamp;
Mr. Rowland Hill himself, in a paper entitled "On the Collection of
Postage by means of Stamps," circulated by him about the period of the
Bill being before Parliament, included the adoption of the adhesive
stamp, in conjunction with his own impressed stamp. Mr. Cole also drew
up an able paper on the stamp question, including the advocacy of the
adhesive stamp. So general, indeed, had then become opinion in its
favour, that of the plans sent in no less than forty-nine others besides
Mr. Chalmers, who again sent in his plan, recommended the adoption of
the adhesive stamp, invented by Mr. Chalmers in 1834, laid by him before
the Committee of the House of Commons in December, 1837, and further, as
we shall now see, sent in to Mr. Cole as Secretary to the Mercantile
Committee of the City of London, in February, 1838, and acknowledged by
Mr. Rowland Hill in a letter to Mr. Chalmers of date 3rd March, 1838. In
this letter Mr. Hill makes no pretension to the merit or proposed
adoption of the adhesive stamp on his part, for, as will be seen, Mr.
Chalmers subsequently returned to Mr. Hill a copy of this very letter
for the purpose of pointing out this fact to Mr. Hill. It was not until
the propriety, and indeed necessity, of adopting Mr. Chalmers' plan--not
until its final official acceptance--that, in a letter dated 18th
January, 1840, Mr. Hill, then in despotic power, putting Mr. Chalmers
aside upon the pretext afterwards mentioned, assumed the whole merit to


[2] Since publishing my evidence specifically proving what is here
stated, I have been favoured with the following letter:--

                                    _9th October, 1883_

     "DEAR SIR,

     "When I penned my anonymous note to the _Dundee Advertiser_ in
     August, 1879, expressing the hope that there might be still
     living some who could corroborate my statement that the late
     Mr. Chalmers was the inventor of the 'Adhesive Stamp,' I hardly
     expected it would be followed by such an amount of

     "With regard to the _date_ of the invention, you appear to have
     received ample proof, and I am able to add thereto. It was in
     the autumn of 1834 that I left Dundee to reside here, and the
     Stamp was in existence in Mr. Chalmers' premises before I left.

     "I may add that when I wrote in 1879, I was not aware of the
     existence of a son of Mr. C. My sole object in writing was that
     _Dundee_ might claim and receive the honour of being the place
     of birth of the 'Adhesive Stamp.'

                                  "I am, &c.,
                          "(_Signed_) DAVID PRAIN.

      "P. CHALMERS, Esq.,

A Portrait of Mr. Prain, by the talented Scottish artist, Mr. Irvine,
subscribed for by Mr. Prain's fellow-townsmen and former pupils, has
just been presented in his honour to the Mechanic's Institute of
Brechin. The proceedings upon this occasion, including the able speeches
of Provost Lamb and of Mr. Prain, will be found in the _Brechin
Advertiser_ of 16th June, 1885. On a former occasion Mr. Prain was
presented with a Service of Plate and Testimonial to the value of
several hundred pounds, subscribed for by former pupils at home and
abroad. It is at the testimony of such men as this, including the late
Mr. William Thorns, of Dundee, that my opponents sneer as being "the
mere wandering fancies of a few old men!" The general testimony is that
of an entire locality.

[3] An interesting obituary of Mr. Roberts, lately deceased, will be
found in the "_Times_" of 30th September, 1885. Mr. Roberts is there
recognised as the pioneer of postal reform and originator of the
proposal of a low and uniform postage.




In his "Fifty Years of Public Life," lately published, Sir Henry Cole
gives much information with respect to the Penny Postage reform, a boon
with the obtaining and carrying out of which he was intimately
associated--first as secretary to the Mercantile Committee of the City
of London, and afterwards as coadjutor to Mr. Rowland Hill at the
Treasury. "A General Collection of Postage Papers," having reference to
this reform, elucidating the efforts made by this Committee of London
Merchants and Bankers during the year 1838-39, to obtain for the scheme
the sanction of the Legislature, has been bequeathed by Sir Henry Cole,
"to be given to the British Museum after my death."[4] "The Mercantile
Committee," he states, "was formed chiefly by the exertions of Mr.
George Moffat in the spring of 1838. Mr. Ashurst conducted the
Parliamentary Inquiry, and upon myself, as Secretary, devolved the
business of communicating with the public." This Committee formed the
source and focus of the agitation which brought about the ultimate
enactment of uniform Penny Postage. Money was freely subscribed,
meetings were held, public bodies in the provinces were urged to
petition, Members of Parliament and Ministers were waited upon, and a
special paper advocating the scheme, termed the "Post Circular," was
issued and circulated gratis. Of these proceedings Mr. Cole was the
guiding genius; and, amongst other successes, over two thousand
petitions to Parliament were obtained--labours which were ultimately
crowned with success.

To Mr. Cole, then, it now turns out that Mr. Chalmers, in February,
1838, sent a copy of his plan of the adhesive stamp. Mr. Wallace and the
House of Commons Committee had already got it, but it is only now that
the particulars of the plan have been brought to light--and in this
"Collection of Postage Papers," Sir Henry Cole has indeed left a
valuable legacy to me, and to all prepared to recognise the true
originator of the adhesive postage stamp. These papers include a printed
statement of Mr. Chalmers' plan, dated "4 Castle Street, Dundee, 8th
February, 1838." and which runs as follows:--

     "_Remarks on various modes proposed for franking letters, under
     Mr. Rowland Hill's Plan of Post Office Reform._

     "In suggesting any method of improvement, it is only reasonable
     to expect that what are supposed to be its advantages over any
     existing system, or in opposition to others that have been or
     may be proposed, will be explicitly stated.

     "Therefore, if Mr. Hill's plan of a uniform rate of postage,
     and that all postages are to be paid by those sending letters
     _before_ they are deposited in the respective post offices,
     become the law of the land, I conceive that the most simple and
     economical mode of carrying out such an arrangement would be by
     _slips_ (postage stamps) prepared somewhat similar to the
     specimens herewith shown.

     "With this view, and in the hope that Mr. Hill's plan may soon
     be carried into operation, I would suggest that sheets of
     stamped slips should be prepared at the Stamp Office (on a
     paper made expressly for the purpose) with a device on each for
     a die or cut resembling that on newspapers; that the _sheets_
     so printed or stamped should then be rubbed over with a strong
     solution of gum or other adhesive substance, and (when
     thoroughly dry) issued by the Stamp Office to town and country
     distributors, to stationers and others, for sale in sheets or
     singly, under the same laws and restrictions now applicable to
     those selling bill or receipt stamps, so as to prevent, as far
     as practicable, any fraud on the revenue.

     "Merchants and others whose correspondence is extensive, could
     purchase these slips in quantities, cut them singly, and affix
     one to a letter by means of wetting the back of the slip with a
     sponge or brush, just with as much facility as applying a
     wafer."--Adding that in some cases, such as for circulars, the
     stamp might answer both for stamp and wafer; a suggestion which
     those who may recollect the mode of folding universally
     practised before the days of envelopes, will appreciate. Mr.
     Chalmers goes on--"Others, requiring only one or two slips at a
     time, could purchase them along with sheets of paper at
     stationers' shops, the _weight_ only regulating the rate of
     postage in all cases, so as a stamp may be affixed according so
     the scale determined on.

     "Again, to prevent the possibility of these being used a
     _second time_, it should be made imperative on postmasters to
     put the post office town stamp (as represented in one of the
     specimens), across the slip or postage stamp."

Mr. Chalmers then goes on to point out the advantages to be derived from
this plan, and to state objections to Mr. Hill's plan of impressed
stamped covers or envelopes, or stamp impressed upon the sheet of letter
paper itself. At that period envelopes--being scarcely known, and never
used, as involving double postage--were a hand-made article, heavy and
expensive; objections which have disappeared with the abolition of the
Excise duty on paper, and the use of machinery. But how true were Mr.
Chalmers' objections _then_, may be gathered from the fact, as recorded
by Sir Rowland Hill in his "Life," that the large supply provided of the
first postage envelope, the Mulready, had actually _to be destroyed_ as
wholly unsuitable and unsaleable, while the supply of adhesive stamps
was with difficulty brought up to the demand. The force and value of Mr.
Chalmers' objections to the stamp impressed upon the sheet itself, are
best exemplified by the fact that, though ultimately sanctioned by the
Treasury at the instance of Mr. Hill, such plan never came into use.
People bought their own paper from the stationers, and not from the
Stamp Office, and applied the adhesive stamp as the weight required. Mr.
Chalmers concludes, "taking all these disadvantages into consideration,
the use of stamped slips is certainly the most preferable system; and,
should others who take an interest in the proposed reform view the
matter in the same light as I do, it remains for them to petition
Parliament to have such carried into operation."

This statement of Mr. Chalmers is printed on part of an elongated sheet
of paper. On the half not occupied by the type are several specimens of
a suggested stamp, about an inch square, and with the words printed,
"General Postage--not exceeding half-an-ounce--One Penny." And the
same--"Not exceeding one ounce--Twopence." (It is only of late years
that a penny has franked one ounce in weight.) A space divides each
stamp for cutting off singly,[5] and the back of the sheet is gummed
over. One of the specimens is stamped across with the post-mark,
"Dundee, 10th February, 1838," to exemplify what Mr. Chalmers states
should be done to prevent the stamp being used a second time.

Here is a complete description of the principle of the adhesive stamp as
ultimately adopted by Mr. Hill at the Treasury by Minute of 26th
December, 1839, when he sent Mr. Cole to Messrs. Bacon & Petch, the
eminent engravers, to provide a die and contract for the supply of
stamps (see Mr. Bacon's evidence, page 52 of my former Pamphlet), a plan
in use to the present day.

This description, as now brought to light under the signature of Mr.
Chalmers himself, fully confirms the evidence with respect to the
invention in August, 1834, as given by his then _employés_ yet living,
W. Whitelaw and others. (See pages 34-39 of my former pamphlet.)

Here, then, was the plan of the future adhesive stamp, already laid
before Mr. Wallace and the House of Commons Committee, also sent to the
Secretary of the City of London Mercantile Committee, in printed form,
as to one of many, long before leave was asked, on 5th July, 1839, even
to introduce the Bill into Parliament. That Mr. Hill saw Mr. Cole's
copy, or had a special copy sent also to himself, is clear, because Mr.
Hill at once writes to Mr. Chalmers, under date 3rd March, 1838. What
Mr. Hill states in that letter we know not altogether, as Mr. Pearson
Hill has not thought proper to publish that letter, and my request to
him for a copy has not been complied with. (See page 64 of my former
pamphlet.) We know thus much, however, that Mr. Rowland Hill makes no
pretension _then_ to ever having suggested or approved of an adhesive
stamp, as already pointed out. Not until writing to Mr. Chalmers on the
18th January, 1840 (see page 62 of former pamphlet), before which
period, in obedience to the general demand, the adhesive stamp had at
length been adopted, did Mr. Hill, in reply to Mr. Chalmers' claim as
the originator, set up any counter-claim on his own part to any share in
the merit of the adhesive stamp. But, as with the scheme itself, so now
with the stamp which saved it, no second party was to be allowed to
divide with Mr. Hill the sole merit of this great reform. So the
far-fetched excuse, the mere afterthought, bred of the success which
had attended Mr. Chalmers' proposal to the Committee and to Mr. Cole, is
hit upon (page 54) to put Mr. Chalmers aside and to attach to himself
the whole merit of the adhesive stamp. Mr. Hill had said something about
a bit of gummed paper before the Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry in
February, 1837 (subsequent to publishing the first edition of his
pamphlet, in which nothing was said of an adhesive stamp), an idea Mr.
Hill had acquired in the interval, just as he had acquired all the
principles of the scheme itself, at second hand (page 60). On this
occasion Mr. Hill had supposed a difficulty which might occur to a
person who had to re-address a letter at a Post Office, but was unable
to write, and at the same time precluded from paying the penny in cash,
while the stamped wrapper would obliterate the address. In such an
exceptional case, and in order to secure "the universal adoption" of the
impressed stamp, a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and
covered at the back with a glutinous wash, might be wetted and applied.
Better, however, he goes on to say, allow the penny to be received in
cash, so that you have only the impressed stamp or the penny in payment,
and which penny was accepted up to the year 1855.[6] Up to the year
1855, consequently, no such exceptional case could have arisen, the
penny in cash being sufficient acceptance. This allusion to an adhesive
stamp is repeated by Mr. Hill in the second edition of his pamphlet.
Here then, in February, 1837, was a passing allusion made by Mr. Hill to
an adhesive stamp, showing that, subsequent to the issue of the first
edition of his pamphlet, he had acquired from some quarter the idea of
Mr. Chalmers' invention. February, 1837, was two years and a half after
the proved invention of the adhesive stamp by Mr. Chalmers, one of the
early postal reformers, one who "held correspondence with the postal
reformers of his day, both in and out of Parliament" ("Encyclopædia
Britannica," see page 39 following), the correspondent, amongst others,
of Messrs. Knight & Co., who published for Mr. Hill. In a letter, then,
of 18th January, 1840, as we learn from Mr. Pearson Hill's account of
the matter, and from Mr. Chalmers' reply, Mr. Hill pointed out to Mr.
Chalmers that his claim could not be admitted, because he, Mr. Hill,
first proposed an adhesive stamp in February, 1837, the first official
proposal of his plan by Mr. Chalmers, his letter to Mr. Wallace and the
House of Commons Committee, having been only in December of the same
year. In answer to this extraordinary pretension on the part of Mr.
Hill, it is enough to point to Mr. Hill's letters to the
Postmaster-General, Lord Litchfield, in January, 1838, explaining and
enforcing his penny postage scheme then before the public--letters
published in the papers of the period, and in which not a word is said
of an adhesive stamp.[7] Or more than enough, to point to the speech of
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, already quoted (page 13), to prove
that, up to so late a date as the 5th July, 1839, Mr. Hill had _not_
proposed to adopt an adhesive stamp. The press, up to 30th August, 1839,
had heard of no such proposal on his part.[8]

This allusion to an adhesive stamp in February, 1837, was a mere passing
allusion as to what might be done in a supposed exceptional case which
could never have arisen so long as the penny in cash was accepted, and
was nothing more. For Mr. Hill to represent to Mr. Chalmers that he, Mr.
Hill, had proposed to adopt the adhesive stamp as a means of carrying
out his scheme in February, 1837, was to state what was _not the case_;
consequently any admission so gained from Mr. Chalmers was wholly
invalid. An extract from the reply of Mr. Chalmers, dated 18th May, 1840
(reproduced at page 62 of my former pamphlet), has been circulated by
Mr. Pearson Hill, in whose hands alone is the entire correspondence,
with the object of showing that Mr. Chalmers "honestly abandoned" his
claim. But Mr. Chalmers honestly abandoned nothing; while no impartial
person will, upon consideration, for a moment attach any importance to
just what "extract" from his correspondence Mr. Pearson Hill has thought
proper to produce. I again contend, as I have already maintained, that
this correspondence was public, not private, property--that such should
have remained at the Treasury, subject to the inspection of all
concerned, in place of having been appropriated by Sir Rowland Hill as
private, and thus so as to admit of only such portion being ultimately
made known as may have suited himself. In this extract of 18th May,
1840, Mr. Chalmers, after stating he had delayed to reply until seeing
the stamps in operation, writes with surprise at what Mr. Hill now
states. Had he known or supposed that any one else, especially Mr. Hill
himself, had proposed the adhesive stamp for the purpose of carrying out
the scheme, he would not have troubled him at all. But having sent his
plan to Mr. Wallace, M.P., and got his acknowledgment of 9th December,
1837, saying same would be laid before the Committee; also to Mr.
Chalmers, M.P., and got his reply of 7th October, 1839, saying such had
been laid before the Committee; also Mr. Hill's own letter of 3rd March,
1838, a copy of which he encloses--from _all_ these he was led to
believe he had been first in the field. _Now_, not doubting Mr. Hill's
assurance of 18th January, 1840, to the contrary (and in any case
indisposed to contest a decision against which there was practically no
appeal), he only regrets having through his ignorance put others as well
as himself to any trouble in the matter; "while the only satisfaction I
have had in this as well as in former suggestions--all original with
me--is that these have been adopted, and have been and are likely to
prove beneficial to the public."

Such is the letter or extract which, placed in the hands of every editor
in London, has led to my statements being here treated with comparative
neglect.[9] But let my statements equally with those of Mr. Pearson
Hill be read by any impartial writer, as in the case of the
"Encyclopædia Britannica," afterwards noticed, and the result, it will
be seen, is to lead to an entirely different conclusion. "James Chalmers
was the inventor of the adhesive postage stamp--Mr. Pearson Hill has not
weakened the evidence to that effect." Here was honesty
certainly--simplicity indeed--on the side of Mr. Chalmers; but what
about the representation on the part of Mr. Hill? Was it the case that
he had proposed the adoption of the adhesive stamp in February, 1837, as
represented to Mr. Chalmers? The proofs to the contrary are conclusive.
Mr. Hill had made a passing allusion to an adhesive stamp in February,
1837, but _only_ a passing allusion. Nothing can be more clear than that
the adoption of the adhesive stamp for the purpose of carrying out his
scheme formed no part of the original proposals and intentions of Mr.
Hill. His representation to Mr. Chalmers was therefore exaggerated,
delusive, and misleading.[10] "Why did not you tell me anything of this
before?" replies Mr. Chalmers in effect;--"_there_ is a copy of your
letter of 3rd March, 1838, when I sent you my plan, in which letter of
yours no such pretensions were put forward. It is only now that I learn
for the first time that you had ever proposed or been in favour of an
adhesive stamp. Further, how is it that neither of these members of the
Committee before whom I laid my plan had ever heard of any such prior
proposal on your part? However, I am now only sorry at having troubled
you--I have at least the satisfaction of knowing that the public have
got my plan somehow."

"Why did you not tell me anything of this before?" Why indeed! Because
Mr. Hill _then_ had not contemplated an adhesive stamp, as has been
abundantly proved. An impressed stamped cover "was absolutely to be used
in all cases," says the Chancellor of the Exchequer as late as in July,
1839--a "power" was asked for this, and for this alone. (See _ante_,
page 14.) But much had happened in the interval betwixt Mr. Hill's two
letters to Mr. Chalmers. The stamp not accepted by Mr. Hill in 1838 had
become in 1840 the favourite of all opinions concerned, the adopted of
the Treasury. It had saved his scheme. Mr. Chalmers must now be put
aside, a matter which the entire contrast betwixt the dispositions of
the two men rendered only too easy, and so this afterthought, this
far-fetched pretext already noticed, was hit upon for the purpose.

At the same time Mr. Chalmers appears to have been too apathetic in the
matter, indifferent to personal considerations so long as the public
got his stamp from some quarter; but the absence of any desire for
personal advantage is a not unfrequent characteristic in those who have
done some public service.

But it is this neglect, or mere indifference, on the part of my father,
in not having made a better stand in 1840 with respect to a matter the
national and universal value of which no one could then appreciate or
foresee, that all the more calls upon me now, under a better
acquaintance with the facts and circumstances, to claim for his memory
that recognition to which he is clearly entitled, as having been "The
Originator and Inventor of the Adhesive Postage Stamp."


[4] These papers are in the Art Library of the South Kensington Museum.

[5] The perforated sheets were not introduced until the year 1852. This
improvement was the invention of a Mr. Archer, for which he got the sum
of £4,000.

[6] In his "Life" lately published, written by himself, Sir Rowland Hill
_omits the clause_ in his original evidence which restores the payment
of the penny in cash and does away with any necessity for an adhesive
stamp, even in the exceptional case he had supposed. Not only does Sir
Rowland Hill omit this clause, but he even gives the reader to
understand that to the year 1837, the year of his pamphlet, is to be
ascribed his adoption of the adhesive stamp. How then, it will be asked,
does Sir Rowland Hill account for the speech of the Chancellor of the
Exchequer on the 5th July, 1839, and the interposition of Mr. Wallace in
favour of an adhesive stamp? This difficulty Sir Rowland Hill surmounts
by simply taking no notice of either.

[7] In his letter to Lord Litchfield of 9th January, 1838, Mr. Hill
states his plan to be:--"That the payment should always be in advance.
And to rid this mode of payment of the trouble and risk which it would
otherwise entail on the sending of letters, as well as for other
important considerations, I propose that the postage be collected by the
sale of stamped covers."

[8] The "Times" of this date has the following paragraph:--"The Penny
Postage will commence, we learn, on the 1st January next. It is intended
that stamped envelopes shall be sold at every Post Office, so that
stationers and other shopkeepers may, as well as the public, supply
themselves at a minute's notice." Not a word as to an Adhesive Stamp
being known as in contemplation. It will be evident from these two
instances alone, independent of the proceedings in Parliament and of Mr.
Hill's letter to Mr. Chalmers of 3rd March, 1838, that the Adhesive
Stamp formed no part of the original proposals or intentions of Sir
Rowland Hill.

[9] See "The World," "Daily Chronicle," &c., also "Proceedings of the
Commissioners of Sewers" for July, 1881, as reported in the "City

[10] The "Christian Leader" of Glasgow ably puts the matter thus:--"Sir
Rowland Hill seems to have been at pains to obscure the facts of the
case for the purpose of claiming to himself the credit of an invention
which really belonged to the Dundee bookseller."


The nineteenth volume of the above-named standard work, lately
published, contains an article headed "Postage Stamps," in which my late
father is fully recognised as having been the inventor of the adhesive
postage stamp. It is well known that the articles in this work are drawn
up by learned experts upon the respective subjects dealt with, having
access to and being in the habit of consulting official and historical
documents, and edited under a strong sense of responsibility to the high
standing of the work itself and to history; so that it is with
unspeakable satisfaction that I now find myself enabled to produce from
such a quarter an emphatic recognition of my father's services in
connection with the great boon of Penny Postage reform.

This article, so far as it deals with the origin of the adhesive stamp,
is as follows; but in considering same it should be borne in mind that
the article was drawn up _before_ the discovery of Mr. Chalmers' plan
amongst the papers of the late Sir Henry Cole, with the consequent
proofs given in the last chapter as to Mr. Chalmers having taken the
initiative in urging the adoption of this stamp, not only to Members of
the Select Committee of the House of Commons of 1837-38, but to Mr.
Rowland Hill himself, long before Mr. Hill, in his paper of 1839 (see
_ante_, page 21), gave in his adhesion to that plan in conjunction with
his own:--

"POSTAGE STAMPS.--For all practical purposes the history of postage
stamps begins in the United Kingdom, and with the great reform of its
postal system in 1839-40." After giving instances in which the
_impressed_ stamp had been in use, or had been suggested for postal
purposes in this country and elsewhere, the article proceeds:--"Finally,
and in its results most important of all, the 'adhesive stamp' was made,
experimentally, in his printing-office at Dundee, by Mr. James Chalmers,
in August, 1834.[11] These experimental stamps were printed from
ordinary type, and were made adhesive by a wash of gum. Their inventor
had already won local distinction in matters of postal reform by his
strenuous and successful efforts, made as early as in the year 1822, for
the acceleration of the Scottish mails from London. Those efforts
resulted in a saving of forty-eight hours on the double journey, and
were highly appreciated in Scotland. There is evidence that from 1822
onwards his attention was much directed towards postal questions, and
that he held correspondence with the postal reformers of his day both in
and out of Parliament. It is also plain that he was more intent upon
aiding public improvements than upon winning credit for them. He made
adhesive stamps in 1834, and showed them to his neighbours, but took no
step for publicly recommending their adoption by the Post Office until
long after such a recommendation had been published--although very
hesitatingly--by the author of the now famous pamphlet entitled 'Post
Office Reform.'[12] Mr. Hill brought the adhesive stamp under the notice
of the Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry on the 13th February, 1837.
Mr. Chalmers made no _public_ mention of his stamp of 1834 until
December, 1837."[13]

"Only a fortnight before his examination by the above-named
Commissioners Mr. Hill, in his letter to the late Lord Monteagle (then
Mr. Spring Rice, and Chancellor of the Exchequer), seems to have had no
thought of the _adhesive_ stamp. He recommends to the Treasury 'that
stamped covers and sheets of paper be supplied to the public from the
Stamp Office or Post Office ... and sold at such a price as to include
the postage.... Covers at various prices would be required for packets
of various weights. Each should have the weight it is entitled to carry
legibly printed with the stamp.... Should experience warrant the
Government in making the use of stamped covers universal,[14] most
important advantages would be secured. The Post Office would be relieved
altogether from the collection of the revenue.'[15]

"Then, upon suggestion, it would seem, of some possible difficulty that
might arise from the occasional bringing to a post-office by persons
unable to write, of unstamped letters, he added: 'Perhaps this
difficulty might be obviated by using a bit of paper just large enough
to bear the stamp, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash.' It is
a quite fair inference that this alternative had been suggested from
without.[16] In reviewing the subject, long afterwards, in his 'History
of Penny Postage,' Sir R. Hill says: 'The Post-Office opinions as to the
use of stamps for ... prepayment were on the whole favourable.'[17] In a
paper of 1839, entitled 'On the Collection of Postage by means of
Stamps,' the author continued to look upon 'stamped covers or envelopes
as the means which the public would most commonly employ; still
believing that the adhesive stamp would be reserved for exceptional

"Mulready's well-remembered allegorical cover came into use on 1st May,
1840, together with the first form of the stamped letter-paper, and the
adhesive labels. They all met at first, but only for a few days, with a
large sale. That of the first day yielded £2,500. Soon afterwards the
public rejection of the 'Mulready envelope,' writes Rowland Hill, 'was
so complete as to necessitate the destruction of nearly all the vast
number prepared for issue.' Whilst, on the other hand, the presses of
the Stamp Office were producing more than half a million of [adhesive]
labels, by working both night and day, they yet failed to meet the
demand.[19] It was only after many weeks, and after the introduction of
a series of mechanical improvements and new processes, due to the skill
and ingenuity in part of Mr. Edwin Hill of the Stamp Office, in part of
Mr. Perkins, an engraver, that the demand could be effectually

The above emphatic decision on the part of eminent men whom I have never
seen in favour of James Chalmers as having been the inventor of the
adhesive postage stamp, will give much satisfaction in those numerous
quarters from which I have already met with countenance and support.
After a full consideration of the respective statements put forward by
myself and by Mr. Pearson Hill on the subject, James Chalmers at length
obtains a recognition of which he has, as a rule, been only too long
deprived. And that the same man who invented this stamp also first
proposed its adoption has been already too clearly shown to require
repetition here. Surely Sir Rowland Hill's "paper of 1839," mentioned in
this article, was a trifle behindhand, when I have just proved from Sir
Henry Cole's papers that Mr. Chalmers had already laid his plan before
Mr. Hill himself in February, 1838. Did Mr. Hill tell us _that_ in his
paper of 1839? No. Did he tell us that he drew up this paper of 1839
under a pressing demand for the adhesive stamp from all quarters? No.
_Was it fair of Sir Rowland Hill to allow the readers of his "History of
Penny Postage," or of his paper of 1839, to conclude that this proposal
on his part of 1839 was put forward of his own initiation, and this with
Mr. Chalmers' plan and statement of February, 1838, already in his
possession?_ A plan which, in his reply to Mr. Chalmers of 3rd March
following, Mr. Hill had pooh-poohed! Moreover, in referring to this
"paper of 1839" in his "History of Penny Postage," vol. 1, page 346, Sir
Rowland Hill takes special credit to himself for having therein
recommended that the adhesive stamps "should be printed on sheets,"
putting same forward as a further idea of his own, and wholly ignoring
the fact of such having been a special feature, "for sale in sheets or
singly," in that plan of Mr. Chalmers _which lay before him_. (See
_ante_, page 24.) It is unfortunate that the writer of this article was
not at the time of writing in possession of the whole facts of the case,
when doubtless Mr. Hill's "paper of 1839" would have been characterised
as it deserved. Sir Rowland Hill's mode of obtaining credit for
"inventions" or proposals of other men will now be better understood.

If Mr. Hill alluded to this adhesive stamp (the admitted invention of
Mr. Chalmers in 1834) in February, 1837, while Mr. Chalmers urged its
adoption officially only in December, this, it will be seen, arose from
Mr. Hill having been privileged to give evidence on postal affairs
before the Commissioners of Inquiry. The proposal of 1834 with respect
to newspapers came to nothing; consequently there was no opening _then_
for Mr. Chalmers to send in his invention _officially_. In sending in
his plan to the Select Committee of the House of Commons in December,
1837, Mr. Chalmers was still a year and a half before the Penny Postage
Bill was even introduced into Parliament. Mr. Hill did not adopt same
until he issued his "paper of 1839." Mr. Hill's allusion to this stamp
in February, 1837, this "publishing" of the idea "very hesitatingly,"
had no practical effect whatever on the cause in hand; such only shows
that Mr. Hill had heard of the invention of 1834, without seeing its
value or proposing to adopt it. Moreover, Mr. Chalmers was publishing
his own invention, while Mr. Hill was only publishing an acquired idea,
"suggested from without." It is to the man who not only invented the
adhesive postage stamp, but who further first urged the adoption of same
in its entirety for the purpose of carrying out the Penny Postage
scheme, that the merit of this plan and of its results are due and will
be ascribed.

But if I was to stop here I should be told now, as I have been told
before on obtaining important recognitions, that the present decision
in my favour was again got upon mere _ex-parte_ statements--that had Mr.
Pearson Hill only been given the opportunity, a very different aspect
would have been put upon the matter. No choice, consequently, is left me
but to show that it is to Mr. Pearson Hill himself I am indebted for the
introduction which has led to my success, and without which
introduction, now reproduced, I should have remained in entire ignorance
as to any forthcoming article upon postal affairs, or have been most
courteously afforded an opportunity of stating my case:--


      "50, BELSIZE PARK,
      LONDON, N.W.,
      _15th March, 1883_.


     "As you are now issuing a new edition of your 'Encyclopædia
     Britannica,' and as for years past a Mr. Patrick Chalmers has
     persistently been making false and groundless charges against
     my father, the late Sir Rowland Hill, I think it well to send
     you the enclosed printed documents for your information, as it
     is by no means improbable that he may strive to get you to
     insert some untrue statement when you deal with the question of
     the Post Office and Postal Reform.

     "I need hardly say that I shall be happy at any time to submit
     to you the original documents which are in my possession, which
     disprove the claims put forward in behalf of Mr. James Chalmers
     of Dundee, if you would desire to see them.

     "Your statistical information about the Post Office, as given
     in my copy of the Encyclopædia (the eighth edition) is of
     course now much behindhand. I dare say you have already on your
     staff of contributors some gentleman well able to supply you
     with fresh information; but should you be in want of any such
     help, I feel sure that my cousin, Mr. Lewin Hill, head of the
     statistical branch of the Secretary's office, General Post
     Office, London, would gladly undertake the work if you desired

                            "I am, Gentlemen,

                               "Your obedient servant,
                                   "(Signed) PEARSON HILL.

     "MESSRS. A. & C. BLACK,

It is thus manifest that, in having obtained this conclusive
recognition, I have taken no undue advantage of Mr. Pearson Hill, while
it will also be manifest that Mr. Pearson Hill's statements have found
acceptance in other quarters only because I have not been afforded an
equally impartial hearing as in the present case. His printed
documents, his statements, with all the advantage of being sole
possessor of the correspondence betwixt his late father and mine, have
been put forward, and yet the decision is against him.

Again, as respects the penny postage scheme itself, the proofs are
conclusive that _originality of conception_ formed no element whatever
in any one of the proposals of Sir Rowland Hill, preceded and heralded
as the penny postage reform had been by the labours of a whole band of
pioneers. Special reference may be made to the statements of the Rev.
Samuel Roberts, whose biography as the pioneer of uniform penny postal
reform is given in the _Times_ of 30th September last. The "Rowland Hill
Memorial Fund" Committee have themselves admitted, after what has been
laid before them, their sense of this non-originality by the change made
in the inscription upon the City statue of Sir Rowland Hill, thereby
confirming the accuracy of my statements. Moreover, a Treasury Minute of
11th March, 1864, distinctly states that uniform penny postage had been
urged upon the Government prior to the proposals of Sir Rowland Hill.
Thus, independent and conclusive testimony, as distinguished from the
mere family tradition with which many writers have hitherto been
content, leaves the question of plagiarism beyond dispute. As with the
stamp, so with the scheme, the ideas were _acquired, not original_.
Here, then, is the justification of my statements. So far from having
been "persistently making false and groundless charges," I have been
stating facts and elucidating the truth, and the aspersions of Mr.
Pearson Hill are thus scattered to the winds.

For Mr. Pearson Hill, however, every allowance will be made, though his
style of controversy will not be admired. That gentleman forgets that my
motives and objects are just as legitimate as his own, and should be met
in a legitimate way. This leads me to mention that some time ago Mr.
Samuel Morley, M.P. (at one period chairman of the "Sir Rowland Hill
Memorial Fund" Committee) was good enough to suggest that this
controversy should be decided by arbitration, and to which I agreed in
principle, subject to due preliminaries, but met with no response. At a
later period, in a letter already published, after pointing to my own
evidence, I invited Mr. Morley's good offices, seeing that Mr. Pearson
Hill declined to reply to or even to open any letter from me, to
ascertain from Mr. Hill if he could produce any evidence, or anything
beyond mere assumption, to the effect that the adhesive postage stamp
was at any period an invention on the part of Sir Rowland Hill, but I
was equally unsuccessful in obtaining any reply, there being, in fact,
nothing beyond assumption in the matter. Nowhere does Sir Rowland Hill
directly profess that this stamp was his invention.

My friends, both in and out of the press, who have been puzzled at the
silence of many of the London papers on this subject, will now be in a
position to form some conclusion as to the cause of this silence. What
has been sent to the Messrs. Black and to the Commissioners of City
Sewers, may have been sent to the London papers; indeed, I have been
given to understand has been generally circulated in these quarters,
already compromised in their expressed opinions, and so in no way
disposed to entertain fresh views.[20] My opponents, some of them in
high position, others themselves connected with the press, are desirous,
and naturally so, that public attention should not be drawn to my
statements.[21] In this way, crushed beneath the weight of a hitherto
great name, statements have been disregarded which, when read and
investigated as in the case of the "Encyclopædia Britannica," have been
found substantiated.

I ask my supporters and others, therefore, to read and judge for
themselves. Whether the London papers, hitherto silent, seeing the
important recognition my claim has now met with, and the fresh and
conclusive evidence now disclosed from the papers of Sir Henry Cole,
will also now read and admit some discussion of this matter of public
interest in their columns, remains to be seen. In any case, an enduring
record of my father's share in the great postal reform of 1837-40 is
secured. A work of the highest standing, and a reference to which is the
first act of historical writers, has recorded James Chalmers as having
been the originator of that adhesive postage stamp which saved the
reformed scheme. Moreover, in lands beyond the sea, an interest is taken
in this subject wholly unknown here; individuals and learned societies
collect for their own information, and hand down for future perusal,
everything published on the great Penny Postage reform, and in some of
these quarters amazement is expressed at the single-hero-worship which
prevails in this country with respect to a subject which investigation
shows to have been the offspring of many minds, the result of the
labours of not a few zealous but unassuming men.

The services of Sir Rowland Hill, already cordially recognised in my
pamphlets, it would be superfluous again to dwell upon here. And if,
while cordially pointing out these great services, it has also fallen
to my lot to put a fresh and less favourable aspect upon their nature
and extent than hitherto understood, to bring to light his great failing
of assuming or allowing to be assumed as conceptions of his own what
were only acquired ideas, of omitting to notice what it was not
convenient to notice, let it be remembered that such has been forced
upon me as a necessity solely in the pursuit of what is now declared to
have been a just claim. At one period, indeed, I had withdrawn from the
whole matter, until recalled to it by Mr. Pearson Hill himself in a
published statement to which I was challenged to reply. My replies,
under ever-increasing and conclusive evidence, have now been put
forward. Should the result not have proved such as the best friends of
Sir Rowland Hill could have desired, upon his own son, and not upon me,
rests the responsibility. It is enough for me that my father's memory as
the originator and inventor of the adhesive postage stamp has been
successfully vindicated.


[11] "Patrick Chalmers, Sir Rowland Hill, and James Chalmers, Inventor
of the Adhesive Stamp (London, 1882), _passim_." See also the same
writer's pamphlet, entitled "The Position of Sir Rowland Hill made plain
(1882)," and his "The Adhesive Stamp; a Fresh Chapter in the History of
Post-Office Reform (1881)." Compare Mr. Pearson Hill's tract, "A Paper
on Postage Stamps," in reply to Mr. Chalmers, reprinted from the
"Philatelic Record," of November, 1881. Mr. Hill has therein shown
conclusively the priority of _publication_ by Sir Rowland Hill. He has
also given proof of Mr. James Chalmers' express acknowledgment of that
priority. But he has not weakened the evidence of the priority of
_invention_ by Mr. Chalmers.

[This admission on the part of Mr. Chalmers, obtained through an
obscuring and consequent misapprehension of the facts, was, of course,
wholly invalid. Even if valid, it will be seen at page 44 that such
priority of publication of an idea "suggested from without" was of no
practical consequence.--P.C.]

[12] "Ninth Report of Commissioners of Post-Office Inquiry, 1837," pp.
32, 33, reprinted in Sir R. Hill's "History of Penny Postage" ("Life,"
&c., ii. 270).

[13] [That Mr. Chalmers had not made an earlier offer of his stamp
_officially_ is accounted for by the proposals of 1834 with respect to a
penny postage on newspapers, in place of an impressed stamp of fourpence
on the sheet, having come to nothing.--P.C.]

[14] _I.e._, by prohibiting the prepayment of letters in money.

[15] "Ninth Report," as above.

[16] Moreover, what Sir Rowland Hill does _not_ tell in his "History,"
is that the compulsion to use a stamp in all cases was, in his _original
evidence_ in this Ninth Report, at once _withdrawn_, the permission to
pay the penny in cash being restored, so that the person "unable to
write" was at once relieved of all "difficulty," and no bit of gummed
paper required even in the exceptional case supposed. (See my former
pamphlet, page 56.) Keeping this fact in view, there is thus only a
passing "allusion" here in February, 1837, to the adhesive stamp, and
nothing more, not even a partial proposal to use it. This clause
restoring the permission to pay the penny in place of using any stamp,
is taken no notice of by Sir Rowland Hill "in reviewing the subject long

[17] "History of Penny Postage," as above.

[18] _Ibid._

[19] Hill, _et supra_, p. 398.

[20] In lately replying to Mr. Pearson Hill in the columns of the
_Whitehall Review_, I have put this query, which has not been denied,
"Will Mr. Pearson Hill undertake to say that he has not made a
communication, written or verbal, similar to the above letter to Messrs.
A. & C. Black to every editor in London, if not throughout a wider

[21] One mode of stifling the subject has been to circulate the
impression that I am a person under the hallucination that "his father
invented the _Penny Postage scheme_," thus rendering my claim too
ludicrous to obtain attention. See, amongst others, the _Times_ and
_Daily News_ of 13th July, 1881.


"Why should we be called upon to pass this Penny Postage Bill," said the
opponents of that measure in August, 1839, "when no mortal being had at
that moment the remotest conception of how it was to be carried into
execution?" Mr. Rowland Hill's plan of the impressed stamp had not
satisfied the Committee. This plan, as amended by the Committee, had not
satisfied the Government. (See _ante_, page 13.) The paper makers and
stationers were in a state of protest and alarm. "This part of the
business must stand over," said the Government of the day, "How to carry
out the scheme will require much consideration." It was here that James
Chalmers, through Mr. Wallace, Chairman of the Committee, stepped
in--the adhesive stamp saved the scheme. _That_ was the value and
importance of his invention and proposal. It satisfied the paper trade;
"Let the stationer, not the Stamp Office," said Mr. Chalmers, "sell the
paper, the Post Office the stamp." He saved the scheme of Mr. Hill to
the country by relieving and setting agoing the clogged wheels of penny
postage--he supplied the engines to the much admired but immovable craft
and sent her speeding smoothly and swiftly upon her beneficent mission.

No wonder Sir Rowland Hill determined that no name but his own should be
heard of in connection with the adhesive stamp, for of what use is a
scheme, however desirable, if you cannot carry it out in practice? This
is what he admits on the subject soon after the simultaneous
introduction of the Mulready envelope and the adhesive stamp--"The
public rejection of the former was so complete as to necessitate the
destruction of nearly all the vast number prepared for issue." On the
other hand--"Though the presses of the Stamp Office were producing more
than half a million of adhesive stamps by working both night and day,
they yet failed to meet the demand." Up to this day, after over forty
years of public service, and notwithstanding the improvements in the
production of impressed and embossed stamps, the adhesive stamp remains
indispensable to our postal, inland revenue, telegraphic, and
parcel-post systems--"Eighteen hundred millions are issued _yearly_ from
the office of the Controller of stamps. These range in value from a
halfpenny to twenty pounds, covering postage and inland revenue from a
halfpenny to two shillings and sixpence; postage proper from five
shillings to five pounds; inland revenue proper (such as foreign bills,
sea policy stamps, &c.) from one penny to ten pounds; and fees (such as
judicature, &c.), from one penny to twenty pounds. The penny stamp takes
the first place amongst the numbers issued. Of these, as many as
thirteen hundred millions and a half were despatched from Somerset House
in the course of a recent twelvemonth."[22] Twenty-five millions of
parcels are now annually conveyed by Parcel Post, a business only
practicable through prepayment by adhesive stamp.

Thus, ever increasing in utility, thus indispensable to the carrying out
of all or any of these great public services, the value of James
Chalmers' invention and proposal--the importance of this "powerful
mechanism of the stamp"--may be best felt by the consideration that its
suspension, even for a day, would paralyse the entire commercial and
social system of the nation, it may be said "of the world" for in all
other lands, one after another, has the adhesive stamp become an
institution for similar purposes as in our own, and in corresponding

In this sense an eminent writer has lately stated, "Whoever discovered
the adhesive stamp, the discovery has socially revolutionised the
world." "Should my plan be adopted," was the prophetic saying of Mr.
Chalmers when he sent his plan to London and to Mr. Hill himself, long
before the Penny Postage Bill was even introduced into Parliament,
"should my adhesive stamp be adopted, the demand for these will in time
become so vast, that I am only puzzled to think where premises can be
found to get them up." Surely the man who rescued the Legislature from
such a complication as has been described, surely the originator of this
indispensable and ubiquitous adhesive stamp has done the State some


[22] "Chambers' Journal," March, 1885.


Objections have been raised, both in and out of the press, to the effect
that my claim comes "too late in the day." Such objection will, I
believe, be found effectually met in my preface and former pamphlets, to
the satisfaction of any impartial mind favouring me with a perusal.

With those who decline to read my statements, amongst whom may be named
several writers of biography wrapt up in a blind worship of
pre-conceived ideas, nothing, of course, can be done.

Others say, "Get an official recognition of your claim from the Post
Office, then we will recognise you." This, again, is taking matters in
the reverse order; if the Post Office is ever to recognise me, the
pressure must come from outside, as the Post Office, under its late
chief, Mr. Shaw Lefevre, simply declines to read or cause to be read for
its information anything I may lay before it, as "not being deemed
necessary." As I have nothing to ask from that quarter, having now
gained a recognition promising to be sufficient for my purpose, I have
no present intention of again troubling the Post Office on the subject.
The feeling of _esprit de corps_, if nothing else, will probably render
the Post Office the very last body to admit that any mistake by the late
Sir Rowland Hill has been made.

But it may be said, "Did not the Post Office give Palmer, the organiser
of the mail-coach system, in addition to his pay of £3,000 a year,
£50,000?" And was not James Chalmers the successor in that line, sixty
years ago, of Palmer? Yes--but then Mr. Palmer was a man of business,
and had made his bargain with the Post Office _before_ he took the
mail-coach organisation in hand to be paid according to results; while,
after all, the £50,000 was only a compromise, obtained, moreover, only
after the repeated interference of Parliament. James Chalmers,
recognised by the leading Scottish press of the period, and by his
townsmen, never dreamt of asking a pecuniary reward. Again, was not the
Post Office in 1852 most liberal with Archer, the inventor of the
perforating machine--did they not give him £4,000 for the use of it?
Yes--but then Mr. Archer had taken out a patent for his invention, and
refused to sell the use of it for less, and it was not until after a
fruitless negotiation of five years, ending in a Parliamentary Committee
taking up the subject and insisting upon Mr. Archer being paid his
moderate demand, that the Post Office and the Treasury gave in, and but
for this Parliamentary pressure we might yet be cutting off our stamps
with a pair of scissors to this day. In the same way, then, it has been
asked, would not an infinitesimal royalty on the increasing millions of
adhesive stamps have long ago placed that originator, him and his,
amongst the wealthy of the land? Yes--but such was not the spirit in
which James Chalmers trafficked and trifled with the public interests.
What are his last words to Sir Rowland Hill on the subject? "The only
satisfaction I have had in this, as well as in former suggestions, all
original to me, is that these have been adopted, and have and are likely
to prove beneficial to the public." This was the spirit in which the
originator of the adhesive stamp ever tendered his services, public or
private--the satisfaction of finding them useful and accepted. In the
continued and ever-increasing utility of his stamp may be seen that
silent yet irresistible tribute of the nation to its originator which
James Chalmers would most have prized--only, let the hand which gave it
be rightly known and recognised. For a time powerful influences to
silence may prevail and popular delusion continue to hold its sway. But
at some future day, if not now--in other lands if not in this--will the
name of James Chalmers be yet recognised in connection with our constant
friend and companion, the adhesive stamp, and the great boon of Penny
Postage reform.



So satisfied were the Dundee merchants of a past age as to the
originality and value of Mr. Chalmers' invention and happy suggestion
that, on the 1st January, 1846, a public Testimonial was presented to
him in the Town Hall of Dundee in recognition of same and of other
postal services. This Testimonial consisted of a silver jug and salver
and a purse of 50 sovereigns. Just before this period, Mr. Rowland Hill
had been presented by the merchants of the City of London with a cheque
for over £13,000, in recognition of what now turns out to have been
merely a borrowed scheme, and which scheme was only saved from untimely
collapse by the adoption of Mr. Chalmers' plan of the adhesive stamp.

In the present generation, again, the Town Council of Dundee have
performed a graceful act to the memory of a deserving townsman, by
having passed at a meeting held on the 3rd March, 1883, the following

"That, having had under consideration the Pamphlet lately published on
the subject of the Adhesive Stamp, the Council are of opinion that it
has been conclusively shown that the late James Chalmers, bookseller,
Dundee, was the originator of this indispensable feature in the success
of the reformed Penny Postage Scheme, and that such be entered upon the

The above resolution of the Town Council is now, it will be seen, fully
confirmed by the able and learned writers of the "Encyclopædia
Britannica," after an impartial investigation of the subject--a
confirmation having all the greater weight as reversing, upon evidence
which could not be resisted, previously recorded impressions.

Dundee is now a large and wealthy community, returning two members to
Parliament; few centres of business have benefited more conspicuously
from the legislation of the past forty years, including as the
foundation of all mercantile intercourse that great postal reform which
James Chalmers saved from failure and made practicable. Two generations
have already recognised and given every credit to the services of their
townsman--what further notice Dundee may yet take of this matter of
national and historical interest originated in the locality, the "value
and importance" of which has elsewhere been inadequately described,
remains to be seen.


Having already published most of these in detail, to save space and
repetition it will be sufficient here to give a list or little more, of
the numerous Journals which have given me more or less support.

Those to which I am more particularly indebted are:--In Scotland--

The "Dundee Advertiser," a consistent support during a past lengthened
period, including powerful leading articles and notices.

The "Montrose Standard," several cordial and able articles of the
highest value, while the same is to be gratefully noticed of the other
Forfarshire papers.

The "Brechin Advertiser," the "Forfar Herald," the "Arbroath Guide," the
"Montrose Review."

The "North British Daily Mail," of Glasgow, in a leading article headed
"A Neglected Inventor," after stating the case, goes on to say: "It is
not creditable to the generosity of the Government of this country that
an important invention of this kind, which has conferred such a great
boon upon the public, should have remained so long unacknowledged and
unrewarded." This article has been extensively reproduced.

The "Glasgow News" and the "Christian Leader," of Glasgow, cordial

The "Paisley Herald," the same on several occasions.

The "Aberdeen Free Press," a warm and able support.

The "Blairgowrie Advertiser" has taken much interest and pains to
support me; also the "Perthshire Constitutional," the "Fifeshire
Journal," the "North British Advertiser," to all of which my best thanks
are due.

In the Metropolis and neighbourhood, considering how short a period has
elapsed since the opinion has been almost unanimously expressed that the
reformed Penny Postage scheme was the "sole and undisputed invention of
Sir Rowland Hill," to whom has also been erroneously attributed the
invention and proposal as well as the ultimate adoption of the adhesive
stamp, fair progress has already been made in obtaining a recognition of
Mr. Chalmers' services. That greater progress has not been made may be
attributed to the powerful influences which have been at work to stifle
the whole subject, including an attempt on the part of Mr. Pearson Hill
to stop the publication of pamphlets.

In the "Illustrated London News" Mr. G. A. Sala writes: "It seems
tolerably clear that Sir Rowland Hill was not the inventor, in the
strict sense of the term, either of the Penny Postage or of the Adhesive
Postage Stamp ... Anent the invention of the Adhesive Stamp, a pamphlet
has recently been published, but I have not yet had time to read it....
Whoever discovered the Adhesive Stamp, the discovery has socially
revolutionised the world." According to this high authority, the
Adhesive Stamp was thus at least _not_ the invention of Sir Rowland

The "Whitehall Review" has given me consistent and most valuable
support; also the "Metropolitan," the "People," the "Home and Colonial
Mail." The "Machinery Market," of London and Darlington, a practical
monthly journal of high position, while retaining all its former
admiration for Sir Rowland Hill's services, decides, in a long and able
article, in favour of James Chalmers as respects the stamp. The
"Inventors' Record," in an article on "Disputed Inventions," supports
the same view. The pretensions brought forward on the part of Sir
Rowland Hill are declared to be wholly groundless, and the invention
accorded to James Chalmers.

The "Croydon Review," a monthly, in a series of able articles, has
informed its readers candidly with respect to the untenable pretensions
of Sir Rowland Hill, both as respects the scheme and the stamp,
cordially ascribing the latter to James Chalmers.

The "Surrey Independent" has ably supported me in several leading
articles. As far as conception went, "Sir Rowland Hill displayed a
remarkable facility for picking other people's brains."

To the "Surrey Comet" and "Wimbledon Courier" my best thanks are due for
cordial notices and recognition; as also to the "West Middlesex
Advertiser," the "South Hampstead Advertiser," the "North Middlesex
Advertiser," the "Christian Union," the "Hornsey and Finsbury Park
Journal," the "American Bookseller," the "Acton and Chiswick Gazette,"
"Figaro," "Vanity Fair," the "Kensington News," "Life," and others.

From the Provincial Press, much valuable support has been given me:--

The "Oldham Chronicle" and "Rastrick Gazette" have written often and
ably on the subject, supported by such papers as the "Bradford
Observer," the "Western Daily Press," of Bristol, the "Bristol Gazette,"
the "Norwich Argus," the "Brighton Herald," the "Brighton Argus," the
"Dover and County Chronicle," the "Colchester Chronicle," the "Stratford
and South Essex Advertiser," the "Essex Standard," the "Bradford Times,"
the "Burnley Express," the "Barnsley Times," the "Wigan Observer," the
"Stockport Advertiser," the "Yorkshire Gazette," the "Westmoreland
Gazette," the "Wakefield and West Riding Herald," the "Frome Times," the
"Man of Ross," the "Totnes Times," the "Banner of Wales," the "West
Bromwich Free Press," the "Swinton and Pendlebury Times," the
"Accrington Gazette," the "Birkenhead News," the "Brighton Standard,"
the "Hastings Observer," the "Newcastle Courant," the "Preston
Chronicle," the "Monmouthshire Beacon," the "Lydney Observer," the "West
of England Observer," the "Cardiff Free Press," the "Monmouthshire
Chronicle," the "Eskdale and Liddlesdale Advertiser," the "Irvine
Express," the "Surrey Advertiser," the "Printers' Register," the
"Newcastle Examiner," the "Malvern News," and others, with articles
sympathetically copied into the "Brighton Guardian," the "Aberdeen
Journal," the "Dundee Courier," the "Edinburgh Courant," the "Liverpool
Albion," the "Building and Engineering Times" of London," &c.

The late Sir Thomas Nelson, Solicitor to the Corporation of the City of
London, writes:--

     _6th February, 1883_.


     "I have read the pamphlet you sent me. Your statements are very
     interesting. It is nothing uncommon for the man to whom the
     idea first occurs to have it developed by others, who get the
     credit of it.

                                "Yours truly,
                           "(Signed) T. J. NELSON.


If plagiarism is not uncommon it is none the less unfair to the original
inventor, nor the less to be deprecated, more especially where the
result has been to obtain unmerited "credit" heaped upon the wrong man
at the expense of the man to whom "the idea first occurred," and who
further, as is now more fully proved since Sir Thomas Nelson wrote, also
first urged its "development" to the very man who ultimately took all
the "credit" to himself. To plagiarism such as this a stronger term is

Sir Bartle Frere writes:--

                        "WRESSIL LODGE, WIMBLEDON,
                                    _21st April, 1883_.


     "I have received your letter of the 20th, and thank you for its
     enclosures on the subject of the invention of the adhesive
     postage stamp.

     "I have long believed that Mr. James Chalmers was the inventor
     of that important part of our present postal system, but I
     regret that I cannot suggest to you any means of giving further
     publicity to your father's claims to the merit of that most
     useful invention.

                              "I remain, SIR,

                                   "Yours truly,
                               (Signed) H. B. E. FRERE.

     "P. CHALMERS, Esq."

Sir Bartle Frere introduced the adhesive postage stamp into Scinde
during his administration of that province, having obtained his
knowledge and belief as to James Chalmers having been the originator of
same from independent sources thirty years before my own investigation
of the subject.

       *       *       *       *       *

In some quarters this matter is ignored on the ground that the subject
of this pamphlet is not of sufficient importance or too late to call for
notice. To such I reply--"Then let the issue of the adhesive stamp (see
page 52) be discontinued." Should it be found that such cannot be done
without serious detriment to the public service, then surely to continue
to use a man's indispensable invention and proposal without so much as a
word of recognition, will, if adhered to, prove a course of proceeding
hard indeed to justify, as well as something wholly foreign to the
antecedents of British journalism.

EFFINGHAM WILSON, Printer, Royal Exchange, E.C.

    |             Transcriber's Note:               |
    |                                               |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the  |
    | original document have been preserved.        |
    |                                               |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:   |
    |                                               |
    | Page 56  imformation changed to information   |

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