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Title: Her Majesty's Mails - An Historical and Descriptive Account of the British Post-Office
Author: Lewins, William
Language: English
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An Historical and Descriptive Account of the British Post-Office.
Together with an Appendix.



   OF CIVILIZATION."--_Lord Macaulay._

Sampson Low, Son, and Marston,
14, Ludgate Hill.

R. Clay, Son, and Taylor, Printers,
Bread Street Hill.


This volume is the first of a contemplated series designed to furnish
some account of the history and ordinary working of the revenue
departments of the country--to do for the great _Governmental_
industries what Mr. Smiles has so ably done (to compare his great things
with our small) for the profession of civil engineering and several
_national_ industries. Few attempts have ever been made to trace the
rise and progress of the invaluable institution of the Post-Office. We
have more than once seen the question asked in _Notes and Queries_--that
_sine quâ non_ of the curious and the learned--where a continuous
account might be found of English postal history. In each case, the
inquirer has been referred to a short summary of the history of the
Post-Office, prefixed to the Postmaster-General's _First Report_. Since
that, the Messrs. Black, in the eighth edition of the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_, have supplied an excellent and more extended notice. Still
more recently, however, in an admirable paper on the Post-Office in
_Fraser's Magazine_, Mr. Matthew D. Hill has expressed his astonishment
that so little study has been given to the subject--that it "has
attracted the attention of so small a number of students, and of each,
as it would appear, for so short a time." "I have not been able to
find," adds Mr. Hill, "that even Germany has produced a single work
which affects to furnish more than a sketch or outline of postal
history." The first part of the following pages is offered as a
_contribution_ to the study of the subject, in the hope that it will be
allowed to fill the vacant place, at any rate, until the work is done
more worthily. With regard to that most interesting episode in the
history of the Post-Office which resulted in the penny-post reform, the
materials for our work--scanty though they undoubtedly are in the
earlier periods--are here sufficiently abundant. The scope, however,
of the present undertaking would not allow of much more than a
proportionate amount of space being devoted to that epoch. Besides, the
history of that eventful struggle can be properly told but by one hand,
and that hand, if spared, intends, we believe, to tell his own story.
Mr. Torrens MacCullagh, in his _Life of Sir James Graham_, has thrown
much new light on the letter-opening transactions of 1844, and we have
been led, on inquiry, to concur in many of his views on the subject.

The greater portion of the second division of this volume, as well as a
portion of the first part, appeared originally in the pages of several
popular serial publications--principally _Chambers's Journal_ and Mr.
Chambers's _Book of Days_; the whole, however, has been thoroughly
revised, where it has not been re-written, and otherwise adapted to the
purposes of the present work. We are indebted to Mr. Robert Chambers,
LL.D., not only for permitting the republication of these papers in this
form, but also for kindly indicating to us sources of information from
the rich storehouse of his experience, which we have found very useful.
On collateral subjects, such as roads and conveyances, besides having,
in common with other readers, the benefit of Mr. Smiles's valuable
researches in his _Lives of the Engineers_, we are personally indebted
to him for kindly advice. We have only to add that, while in no sense an
authorized publication, personal acquaintance has been brought to bear
on the treatment of different parts of it, and that we have received, in
describing the various branches of the Post-Office, much valuable
information from Mr. J. Bowker and several gentlemen connected with the
London Establishment. It is hoped that the information, now for
the first time brought together, may prove interesting to many
letter-writers who are ignorant, though not willingly so, of the
channels through which their correspondence flows. If our readers think
that the Wise Man was right when he likened the receipt of pleasant
intelligence from a far country to cold water given to a thirsty soul,
surely they will also admit that the _agency_ employed to compass this
good service, which has made its influence felt in every social circle,
and which has brought manifold blessings in its train, deserves some
passing thought and attention.

The Appendix is designed to afford a source of general reference on many
important matters relating to the Post-Office, some parts of it having
been carefully collated from Parliamentary documents not easily
accessible to the public.

_April 16, 1864._


    PART I.


    INTRODUCTORY                                           1


    THE RISE OF THE GENERAL POST-OFFICE                   15


    ON OLD ROADS AND SLOW COACHES                         37


    THE SETTLEMENT OF THE POST-OFFICE                     47


    PALMER AND THE MAIL-COACH ERA                         73




    SIR ROWLAND HILL AND PENNY POSTAGE                   108




    THE POST-OFFICE AND LETTER-OPENING                   150


    THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE POST-OFFICE                   165

    PART II.


    PREFATORY                                            186


    THE ORGANIZATION OF THE POST-OFFICE                  187


    ON THE CIRCULATION OF LETTERS                        199


    THE MAIL-PACKET SERVICE                              245


    ON POSTAGE-STAMPS                                    255


    POST-OFFICE SAVINGS' BANKS                           268




    IS LIABLE                                            291


    CHIEF OFFICERS OF THE POST-OFFICE                    308




    THE POST-OFFICE SERVICE                              330



    DUBLIN AND EDINBURGH                                 336

    AND SCOTLAND                                         337

    POST-OFFICES                                         340


    SALE OF POSTAGE-STAMPS                               341


    CONVEYANCE OF MAILS BY RAILWAY                       342




    RESULTS OF POSTAL REFORM                             345






Circular letters, and a kind of post for conveying them, are frequently
mentioned both in sacred and profane history. Queen Jezebel is
remarkable as being the first letter-writer on record, though it is not
surprising to find that she used her pen for purposes of deception.
According to the sacred chronicler, she "wrote letters in Ahab's name,
and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and
to the nobles in the city." From the Book of Esther we learn that
Ahasuerus, king of Persia, being displeased at the disobedience of his
wife, Vashti, sent letters into every province of his vast empire,
informing his subjects that it was his imperial will that "every man
should bear rule in his own house." The first recorded _riding post_ was
established in the Persian empire by Cyrus, who, when engaged in his
Scythian expedition, in order to have news brought expeditiously,
"caused it to be tried how far a horse could go in a day without
baiting, and, at that distance, appointed stages and men whose business
it was to have horses always in readiness."[1] Another authority[2]
tells us that there were one hundred and eleven postal stages, a day's
journey distant from one another, between Susa and the Ægean Sea, and
that at each stage a large and beautiful structure was erected, with
every convenience for the purpose designed.

It is certainly remarkable that neither in this nor in any other
recorded instance have the posts in ancient times developed into one for
the conveyance of private correspondence. It is certain that the Greeks
and Romans, even when at the height of their civilization, had no
regular public post. There are some traces of _statores_ and _stationes_
under the Roman Republic; and Augustus, we find, instituted posts on the
principal trunk-roads, for the use of the Imperial Government. He also
established a class of mounted messengers, called _tabellarii_, who went
in charge of the despatches. That these messengers should have been
strictly forbidden to convey letters for private persons, or that no
provision was subsequently made for that purpose, is the more wonderful,
when we consider the high character of the nations themselves, and the
fact, often pointed out, that the progress of civilization has always
been intimately and essentially connected with, and dependent upon,
facilities for intercommunication--keeping pace, in fact, with the means
which nations possessed for the interchange of person and property, and
with them of thought and knowledge. That those nations to which we are
so greatly indebted for so much that exalts the intellect and adorns
life, should not have left us an example of such a useful and
(considering the vast extent of their respective territories), we should
have thought, indispensable institution as that of a public letter-post,
is marvellous.

Marco Polo, the famous Venetian, who travelled in China in the
fourteenth century,[3] describes the government post as similar to that
in use in Persia under Cyrus. The posts had existed in China from the
earliest times. Every twenty-five miles there were posts, called
_jambs_, where the imperial envoy was received. There were frequently
as many as three or four hundred horses in waiting at one of these
places. Polo further states that there were ten thousand stations of
this kind in China, some of them affording sumptuous accommodation to
travellers. Two hundred thousand horses are said to have been engaged in
the service. The fact affords a curious commentary on the progress of
civilization in the Celestial Empire, that, though this gigantic and
elaborate establishment has been in existence so long and up to the
present century, it is only within the last few years that provision has
been made in China for public letter-posts.

The earliest date in modern history at which any postal service is
mentioned, is the year 807, when an organization was planned by the
Emperor Charlemagne. The service, however, did not survive him. The
first regular European letter-post was established in the Hanse Towns in
the early part of the thirteenth century. This federation of republics
required constant communication with each other; for, being largely
engaged in similar commercial pursuits, it became indispensable to their
existence that some system of letter-conveyance should be originated.
The next establishment was a line of letter-posts connecting Austria
with Lombardy, in the reign of the Emperor Maximilian, said to have been
organized by the princes of the house of Thurn and Taxis. The
representatives of the same house established another line of posts from
Vienna to Brussels, thus further connecting the most distant parts of
the vast dominions of the Spanish Emperor, Charles V. It may be
mentioned here, that the Counts of Thurn and Taxis have, in virtue of
their original establishment, which they controlled from the first,
always held peculiar rights and privileges in relation to the postal
systems of Germany; and up to this day the posts of the house of Thurn
and Taxis are entirely distinct from the existing Crown establishments,
and, in fact, are maintained in rivalry to those of some of the German
states. In France, in the fifteenth century, Louis XI. revived the
system of Charlemagne, organizing a body of 230 couriers for purposes
of state.

We may gather from the existing materials, scanty though they be,
something like a continuous account of the early history of the English
post-office, tracing, very clearly, its progress from the fifteenth
century to its present position.

While the _general post_ dates from the Stuarts, the establishment of a
regular _riding post_ in England owes its origin to Edward IV. The
English post seems from the first to have been fully commensurate with
the demands for its service, its growth depending on the gradual advance
which the country made in other measures of social progress. Four or
five centuries ago, few private persons could either read or write. On
the other hand, the business of the State demanded correspondence. The
king had his barons to summon, or his sheriffs to instruct, and letters
of writ were issued accordingly, a few Government messengers supplying
all the wants of the time. Now and then the nobles would require to
address each other, and sometimes to correspond with their dependents,
but, as a general rule, neither the serf nor his master had the power,
even if they had the will, to engage much in writing. As time wore on,
and we come nearer the age of the Tudors, the desire for learning
spread, though still the few who engaged in literary or scientific
pursuits were either attached to the Court or to the monastic
establishments. Even when the Tudor dynasty came in, trade with foreign
countries, and remote districts in our own country, was almost equally
unknown. Each district dwelt alone, supplied its own wants, and evinced
very little desire for any closer communication.

In the earliest times in England, and prior to the first regular horse
posts, both public and private letters were sent by private messengers,
travelling when required. In the reign of Henry I. messengers were first
permanently employed by the king. So early as the reign of King John the
payments to _Nuncii_--as these messengers were now called--for the
conveyance of Government despatches, are to be found entered in the
_Close_ and _Misæ Rolls_, "and the entries of these payments may be
traced in an almost unbroken series through the records of many
subsequent reigns." Nuncii were also attached to the establishments of
the principal barons of the time, and communications passed between them
by means of those functionaries. In the reign of Henry III., the son and
successor of King John, these messengers began to wear the royal livery.
At first it was necessary for them to keep horses of their own, or use
those belonging to the royal or baronial mansion. In the reign of Edward
I. we find that fixed stations or _posts_ were established, at which
places horses were kept for hire, the _Nuncii_ ceasing to provide horses
of their own, or borrowing from private individuals. Several private
letters are in existence, dating as far back as the reign of Edward II.,
which bear the appearance of having been carried by the _Nuncii_ of that
period, with "Haste, post, haste!" written on the backs of them.

With the machinery thus ready to his hand, the improvements contrived by
Edward IV. were easily accomplished. In 1481 this monarch was engaged in
war with Scotland, when, in order to facilitate the transmission of news
from the English capital, he ordered a continuous system of posts,
consisting of _relays_ of horses and messengers every twenty miles. By
this arrangement, despatches were conveyed to him at the English camp
with marvellous expedition, his couriers riding at an average rate of
seventy miles a day. When peace was restored, the system of relays was
allowed to fall into disuse, only to be revived in cases of urgency.
Little improvement in communication could be expected under such a
course of procedure, and little was effected. Henry VIII. was the first
monarch who endeavoured to keep the posts in a state of efficiency, and
improve their organization, in peace as well as in war; though still it
is noticeable that the post stages are kept up purely and exclusively as
a convenience to the Government for the conveyance of its despatches.

Henry VIII. instituted the office of "Master of the Postes,"[4] with
entire control of the department. During the king's lifetime the office
was filled by one Brian Tuke, afterwards Sir Brian. We gain some insight
into the duties of the office, and also into the manner in which the
work is done, from the following letter (found in the voluminous
correspondence of Thomas Cromwell) from the "Master of the Postes," no
doubt in exculpation of himself and his arrangements, which seem to have
been in some way called in question by the Lord Privy Seal. "The Kinge's
Grace hath no moo ordinary postes, ne of many days hathe had, but
betwene London and Calais. For, sir, ye knowe well, that, except the
hackney horses betwene Gravesende and Dovour, there is no suche usual
conveyance in post for men in this realme as in the accustomed places of
France and other _parties_; _ne men can keepe horses in redynes without
som way to bere the charges_; but when placardes be sent for such cause,
(viz. to order the immediate forwarding of some state packet,) the
constables many tymes be fayne to take horses oute of plowes and cartes,
_wherein can be no extreme diligence_." The king's worthy secretary thus
charges the postmaster with remissness, and the mails with tardiness,
when the facts, as gathered from the above letter, show that the
Government had not gone to the trouble and expense of providing proper
auxiliaries, as in France; _ergo_, they could not expect the same
regularity and despatch. Master Tuke then defends the character of his
men. "As to the postes betwene London and the Courte, there be now but
2; whereof the _on_ is a good robust felowe, and wont to be diligent,
evil intreated meny times, he and other postes, by the herbigeours, for
lack of horse rome or horse mete, _withoute which diligence cannot be_.
The other hathe been a most payneful felowe in nyght and daye, that I
have knowen amongst the messengers. If he nowe _slak_ he shalbe changed
as reason is."

During the insurrection in the Northern Counties in the reign of Henry
VIII., the rebel leaders, in order to insure a rapid transmission of
orders, established regular posts from Hull to York, York to Durham, and
Durham to Newcastle.[5]

The council of Edward VI. finding that a great many irregularities
existed in the hire of post-horses, had an Act passed (2 & 3 Edward VI.
c. 3) fixing the charge at a penny per mile for all horses so impressed.

Up to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, no further improvements
seem to have been made, although her council took steps to make the
existing service as efficient as possible, by reforming some abuses
which had crept into it during Queen Mary's reign. Before Elizabeth's
death, the expenses of the post were reduced to rather less than
5,000_l._ per annum. Before the reduction, the sum charged for conveying
Her Majesty's despatches from stage to stage was enormous. Up to the
thirty-first year of her reign, a rate of 20_d._ a letter was levied by
the proprietors of the post-horses, for _every post travelled over_. The
council resolved to pay the proprietors 3_s._ a day for the service,
irrespective of the distance travelled. The payment was reduced to 2_s._
and ultimately to 18_d._ a day. Much information respecting the
service--the different stages, the routes taken at this early period,
&c. &c. has been found in old records of the "Master of the Postes,"
exhumed some twenty years ago from the vaults of Somerset House. This
functionary, it would appear, paid all current expenses appertaining to
his department, "the wages and entertainment of the ordinary posts," and
he was reimbursed in full under the grant "for conveyance of Her
Highness's letters and her Council's." The information respecting the
routes taken is especially interesting, because it serves to show
that even at this early period arrangements were made with great
circumspection, and that some of these early routes existed, with only
trifling modifications, down to the present century, and to the time of
railroads. The route from London to Berwick is shown by the lists of
posts (or stages) laid down between the two places in the fifteenth year
of Queen Elizabeth's reign. They run as follows:--1. London; 2. Waltham;
3. Ware; 4. Royston; 5. Caxton; 6. Huntingdon; 7. Stilton; 8. Stamford;
9. Grantham; 10. Newark; 11. Tookesford (Tuxford); 12. Foroby (Ferriby);
13. Doncaster; 14. Ferry Bridge; 15. Wetherby; 16. Bouroughbridge; 17.
Northallerton; 18. Derneton (Darlington); 19. Durham; 20. Newcastle; 21.
Morpeth; 22. Hexham; 23. Hawtwistle; 24. Carlisle; 25. Alnwick; 26.
Belford; 27. Berwick. For three centuries, therefore, the High North
Road took in all these posts with the exception of Tuxford. A
considerable diversion, it will be noticed, was made at Morpeth towards
the west, in order to take in the then important towns of Hexham and
Carlisle; but it is more probable that the direct post-road continued
north through Alnwick to Berwick, and that the west road was only a kind
of cross-post. There were no less than three post routes to Ireland in
this reign, and all of them were used more or less. The first and most
important, perhaps, left London and took the following towns in its way;
the distance between each town constituting a "stage;" viz. Dunstable,
Dayntry (Daventry), Collsill (Coleshill), Stone, Chester and Liverpool,
from which latter place a packet sailed. The remaining two mails took
slightly different routes to _Holyhead_, whence also a packet sailed for
Ireland. We find there were also _two_ posts between London and Bristol
and the west of England; the first going by way of Maidenhead, Newbury,
Marlborough and Chippenham; the other, by Hounslow, Maidenhead, Reading,
Marlborough, Maxfield to Bristol. To Dover there were also _two_ posts;
the one passing through Dartford, Gravesend, Rochester, Sittingbourne,
Canterbury, Margate and Sandwich; the other passing through Canterbury
direct, without calling at the two last-named places. The posts above
enumerated were called the "ordinary" posts, and may be supposed to have
been the permanent arrangements for the transmission of the Government
despatches. When these posts did not avail--and it must be understood
that they were never allowed to make a _détour_ into the cross-roads of
the country--"extraordinary posts" were established. Generally speaking,
these extra posts were put on for any service which required the
greatest possible haste. Here is an extract from the records of which we
have spoken, on this point. "Thomas Miller, gent. sent in haste by
special commandment of Sir Francis Walsingham, throughout all the postes
of Kent to warn and to order, both with the posts for an augmentation of
the ordinary number of horses for the packet, and with the countries
near them for a supply of twenty or thirty horses a-piece for the
'throughe posts,' during the service against the Spanish navy by sea,
and the continuance of the army by land." Again, in 31st Elizabeth,
special or "extraordinary" posts were laid between London and Rye, upon
unwelcome news arriving from France, "and for the more speedy
advertisement of the same." "Thomas Miller, gent. sent at Easter, 1597,
to lay the posts and _likest_ landing places either in Kent or Sussex,
upon intelligence given of some practices intended against the Queen's
person." Mr. Miller seems to have judged Rye to be the "likest landing
place" for the purpose, and, returning, "received seven pound for his
services." Other extraordinary posts were often laid down between
Hampton Court and Southampton and Portsmouth, for the "more speedy
advertisement" of occurrences from the ports of Normandy and Bretaigne.

In the early part of Queen Elizabeth's reign, disputes were frequent
with the foreign merchants resident in London with regard to the foreign
post, which, up to this reign they had been allowed to manage among
themselves. In 1558, the Queen's Council of State issued a proclamation
"for the redresse of disorders in postes which conveye and bring to and
out of the parts beyond the seas, pacquets of letters." It would seem
that soon after the arrival of the Flemings in this country, in the
previous century, they established a post-office of their own, between
London and the Continent, appointing one of themselves as postmaster, by
the sufferance and favour of the reigning sovereign. "Afterwards," says
Stowe,[6] "by long custom, they pretended a right to appoint a master of
the _Strangers' Post_, and that they were in possession of from the year
1514." This continued till 1558, in which year the foreign merchants
fell out among themselves over the question of appointing a postmaster.
The Flemings, aided by the Spanish ambassador, chose one Raphael Vanden
Putte; the Italians, by this time a considerable body of foreigners,
chose one of their number for the vacant place. Not being able to agree,
the disputants referred their case to the English Council, when, to the
surprise of the foreigners, their right to appoint at all was publicly
disputed. The English merchants took up the matter very warmly, and
addressed the Privy Council in two or three petitions. They took the
opportunity to complain that the authorities of the foreign post had
frequently acted unfairly to them, in keeping back their continental
letters, and so giving the foreigners the advantage of the markets. In
one of the petitions, they urged, "that it is one of the chief points of
the prerogative belonging to all princes, to place within their
dominions such officers as were most trusty of their own subjects; that
the postmaster's place was one of great trust and credit in every realm,
and therefore should be committed to the charge of the natural subjects
and not strangers, especially in such places as had daily passages into
foreign realms, and where was concourse of strangers." Further, "The
strangers were known to have been the occasion of many injuries in the
staying and keeping back of letters, and, in the meantime, an
extraordinary would be despatched to prevent the markets and _purpose_."
The English merchants urged that it would be doing the foreigners no
injustice to appoint an English postmaster; no new exactions need be
imposed upon them, "and such men might be placed in the office as could
talk with them in their own language, and that should make as good
promise, and as faithfully perform the same in all equity and upright
dealings, as any stranger had done." The result was, that it was finally
settled that the "Master of the Postes" should have the charge of both
the English and foreign offices, and that the title of this functionary
should be changed to "Chief Postmaster." Thomas Randolph was the first
"Chief Postmaster" of England.

Under the Tudor dynasty, marvellous strides were taken in the social
progress of the country. The habits of a great nation can, of course,
only change slowly; but, notwithstanding, the England of the
Plantagenets was a different country to the England which Elizabeth left
in 1603. The development of trade, which really commenced with the
Tudors, gave the first great impulse to a new social era. People began
to feel more interest in each other, and as this became manifest, the
demand for interchange of thought and news became more and more urgent.
In the reign of Henry VIII. the English people began a considerable
trade with Flanders in wool. A commercial treaty subsequently gave free
ingress and egress to the ships of both nations. The change that this
new trade wrought was immediate and striking. English rural districts
which had before been self-supporting--growing their own corn and
feeding their own cattle--now turned their corn-land into pasture-land,
and sought grain among their neighbours. The dissolution of the
monasteries under the same monarch had the effect, among other results,
of scattering broadcast over the country those who had previously lived
together and enjoyed almost a monopoly of learning. The Reformation
civilized as well as christianized the people. Other causes were at work
which operated in opening out the country, and encouraging habits of
locomotion and the spread of intelligence generally. Amongst many such,
were changes, for instance, in the routine of law procedure, introduced
by Henry. Up to his time, courts of arbitration had sat from time
immemorial within the different baronies of England, where disputes,
especially those between landlord and tenant, were cheaply and equitably
adjusted. Now, such cases were ordered to be taken to London, and
country people found themselves compelled to take journeys to London and
sue or be sued at the new courts of Westminster.[7]

We could not well exaggerate the difficulties which encompassed
_travellers_ at this early period. As yet there were but one or two main
roads. Even in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, and certainly in all
the remote parts of the country, the roads were not unlike broad
ditches, much waterworn and strewn with loose stones. Travellers had no
choice but to ride on horseback or walk. Everybody who could afford it
rode. The sovereign and all gentlefolk rode. Judges rode the circuit in
jackboots. Ladies rode on pillions fixed on the horse, and generally
behind some relative or serving-man. In this way Queen Elizabeth, when
she rode into the city, placed herself behind her Lord Chancellor. The
wagon was an invention of the period. It was a rude contrivance;
nothing, in fact, but a cart without springs, the body of it resting
solidly upon the axles. The first conveyance of this sort was
constructed for the Queen's own use, and in it she journeyed to open
Parliament.[8] Elizabeth rode in it but on this one occasion, and has
left behind her a curious and most graphic account of her sufferings
during the journey, in a letter, written in the old French of that
period, to the French ambassador at her court, who seems to have
suggested the improvement to her. The wagon, which had been originally
contrived for ladies, now that the Queen discarded it, was not brought
into great use during her reign. It seems to have found its way into the
provinces, however, the gentry of that time being delighted with it. "On
a certaine day in 1583," according to Mr. Smiles, "that valyant knyght,
Sir Harry Sydney, entered Shrewsbury in his wagon, with his trompeter
blowynge, verey joyfull to behold and see." Under such circumstances,
it cannot be wondered at that general intelligence travelled slowly.
Among the common people, few ever saw a letter. Pilgrims, as they
travelled between the monasteries of the period, or who, after their
dissolution, visited their shrines, dispensed news to the poor, and
would occasionally carry letters for the rich.[9] Public and private
couriers riding post were sometimes surrounded, at the villages or towns
on their _route_, by crowds of people desirous of obtaining some
information of the world's doings. At times, they were not suffered to
pass without furnishing some kind of information. The letters of the
period, many of which survive, show that great care was taken to protect
them from the curiosity of the bearer; and precautionary measures were
resorted to to prevent delay. They were usually most carefully folded,
and fastened at the end by a sort of paper strap, upon which the seal
was affixed, whilst under the seal a piece of string or silk thread, or
even a straw, was frequently placed, running round the letter. The
following letter, still extant, will serve to give an insight into the
way letters were dealt with at this period, and the speed at which they
were forwarded.--(Vide _Postmaster-General's 2nd Report_, p. 38.)



    According to the Queen's Majesty's pleasure, and your advertisement,
    you shall receive a form of prayer, which, after you have perused
    and judged of it, shall be put in print and published immediately,
    &c. &c.

    From my house at Croyden, this 22d July, 1566, at four of the clock,

                                                    Your honour's alway,

                                                           MATTHEW CANT.

This letter is thus endorsed by successive postmasters, according to the
existing custom.

 Received at Waltham Cross the 23d of July, at nine at night.
 Received at Ware the 23d of July at 12 at night.
 Received at Croxton the 24th of July, between 7 and 8 of the morning.

So that his Grace's letter, which would appear to have been so important
as that one or more messengers were required to travel night and day in
order to deliver it at the earliest possible moment, took 40 hours to
travel 63 miles.


[1] Xenophon.

[2] Herodotus.

[3] Travels of Marco Polo, pp. 139, 140.

[4] Camden's Annals.

[5] Froude's History, Vol. III. p. 185.

[6] Surveye of London, Vol. II.

[7] Froude's History, Vol. III. p. 94.

[8] Smiles's Lives of the Engineers, Vol. I.

[9] Historian of Craven, speaking of the close of the sixteenth century.



It was reserved for the Stuarts to organize for the first time in
England a regular system of post communication, the benefits of which
should be shared by all who could find the means. England was behind
other European nations in establishing a public letter-post. It was not
until the foreign post had been in existence a hundred years, and until
the foreigners had drawn particular attention to their postal
arrangements by their constant disputes, that the English government
established a general post for inland letters, similar to the one whose
benefits "the strangers" had enjoyed even prior to the reign of Henry
the Eighth. Little progress towards this end was made in the reign of
the first James, if we except a better organization for the conveyance
of official despatches. At the same time, it ought to be stated, that
the improved organization here referred to was the groundwork for the
subsequent public post.

One of the results attendant on the accession[10] of the Scotch king to
the English Crown necessitated important improvements in the system of
horse posts, for which it called loudly. Immediately on his accession,
the high road from Edinburgh to London was thronged night and day with
the king's countrymen. All ordinary communications fell far short of
the demand; so much so, that post messengers riding from the Council at
Edinburgh to the king in London, or _vice versâ_, were stopped whole
days on the road for want of horses, which had been taken by the
Scottish lords and gentlemen rushing forward to the English capital to
offer their congratulations to his majesty. As a remedy, the lords of
the English council issued a proclamation, calling upon all magistrates
to assist the postmasters "_in this time so full of business_," by
seeing to it that they were supplied with "fresh and able horses as
necessitie shall require." They were to be "able and sufficient horses,"
well furnished "of saddles, bridles, girts and stirropes, with good
guides to look to them; who for the said horses shall demand and receive
of such as shall ride on them the prices accustomed" (_Book of
Proclamation_, 1603-1609).

As the general intercourse between the two capitals now promised to be
permanent, and travelling along the North Road increased rather than
diminished, further general orders were published from time to time by
royal proclamation. Two kinds of post were established during the reign
of James the First, both being in operation together towards its close.
They were known as the "_thorough post_," and "_the post for the
packet_." The first, consisting of special messengers who rode "thorough
post," that is, through the whole distance "with horse and guide," was
established in 1603. The couriers were ordered to pay at the rate of
"twopence-halfpenny the mile" for the hire of each horse, and to pay in
advance. Further, they must not ride any horse more than one stage (or
seven miles in summer, and six in winter), except "with the consent of
the post of the stage at which they did not change." For the service of
the second post, or "_the post for the packet_," every postmaster was
bound to keep not less than two horses ready, "with furniture
convenient," when on the receipt of a "packet" or parcel containing
letters, from a previous stage, he was to send it on towards the next
within a quarter of an hour of its receipt, entering the transaction in
"a large and faire ledger paper book." As a further precaution, and in
order to prevent the courier loitering on the road with any important
despatch, each postmaster was required to endorse each single letter
with the exact time of the messenger's arrival, just as we have seen in
the case of the one found in the collection of Archbishop Parker's
correspondence. For the purposes of this packet-post, we find it
arranged that each postmaster should have ready "two bags of leather, at
the least, well lined with baize or cotton, so as not to injure the
letters." It also rested with the different postmasters to furnish the
couriers with "_hornes_ to sound and blowe as oft as the post meets
company, or at least four times in every mile."[11] Thus arose a custom
which, under slightly different circumstances, was strictly observed in
the days of mail-coaches.

It will be readily observed that in the arrangements of the packet-post
there was nothing to prevent its being extensively used, except the
important restrictions which the King put upon its use. During the reign
of James nothing but the despatches of ambassadors were allowed to
jostle the Government letters in the leather bags, "lined with baize or
cotton," of "the post for the packet." It was not until Charles the
First had succeeded his father, that this post came to be used, under
certain conditions, by merchants and private persons.

It was during the reign of James the First that the Government secured,
and kept for a hundred years, certain privileges with respect to the
hiring of post-horses. We have seen that the royal couriers, travelling
with despatches by either of the two posts, had priority of claim to
sufficient horses and proper accommodation on their journeys. They also
settled, by order in Council, that any person, whether travelling on the
business of the Government or not, should, if furnished with warrants
from the Council, have prior claim to private individuals, over
post-horses and proper entertainment, demanding them in the name of the
King. In a warrant of Council, for instance, dated Whitehall, May 12,
1630, we find the Privy Council ordering all postmasters to furnish Sir
Cornelius Vermuyden with horses and guides to enable him to ride post
from London to Boston, and thence to Hatfield, where he was engaged in
draining the royal chase for the King.[12]

Little as James the First did towards establishing an inland post,
though with materials so ready to his hand, in the posts of which we
have spoken, yet he deserves some credit for setting on foot a general
post for letters to foreign countries. It would seem that the abuses
complained of by English merchants, with regard to letters coming _from_
abroad, had been lessened by the appointment of an English Postmaster
for the Foreign Office, but not so with letters _sent_ abroad: hence the
independent foreign post projected by the King. In another of the very
numerous proclamations of his reign, it is stated that the King had
created the office of Postmaster-General for Foreign Parts, "being out
of our dominions, and hath appointed to this office Matthew de Quester
the elder, and Matthew de Quester the younger." The duties of this new
office are stated to consist in the "sole taking up, sending, and
conveying of all packets and letters concerning his service, or business
to be despatched into forraigne parts, with power to grant moderate
salaries." These appointments interfering in some way with his
department, gave great offence to Lord Stanhope, the English "Chief
Postmaster," and mutual unpleasantness sprung up between the officers of
the two establishments. A suit was instituted in the law courts, and
whilst it was pending, both offices got completely disarranged, some of
Lord Stanhope's staff going without salary for as long as eight years;
"divers of them," as we find it given in a petition to the Council, "lie
now in prison by reason of the great debt they are in for want of their
entertainment." The dispute was not settled until after Charles the
First had become king--namely, in 1632--when Lord Stanhope was induced
to retire from the service as "Chief Postmaster," the De Questers at the
same time assigning the office they had jointly held to William Frizell
and Thomas Witherings. A royal proclamation was thereupon issued, to the
effect that the King approved of the above assignment. "The King," it
went on to say, "affecting the welfare of his people, and taking into
his princely consideration how much it imports his state and this realm,
that the secrets thereof be not disclosed to forraigne nations, which
cannot be prevented if a promiscuous use of transmitting or taking up of
forraigne letters and packets should be suffered, forbids all others
from exercising that which to the office of such postmaster pertaineth,
at their utmost perils."

Witherings seems to have made good use of his time, for in 1635, or only
three years from the date of his appointment, he saw the great necessity
which existed for some improvement in the postal resources of the
country, and proposed to the King to "settle a pacquet post between
London and all parts of His Majesty's Dominions, for the carrying and
recarrying of his subjects' letters." In this memorial, which justly
entitles him to a front rank in the number of great postal reformers,
Witherings stated some curious facts relating to the service of those
days. "Private letters," it was said, "being now carried by carriers or
persons travelling on foot, it is sometimes full two months before any
answer can be received from Scotland or Ireland to London." "If any of
his Majesty's subjects shall write to Madrid in Spain, he shall receive
answer sooner and surer than he shall out of Scotland or Ireland."
Witherings proposed that the existing posts should be used; that the
journey between London and Edinburgh should be performed in three days,
when--"if the post could be punctually paid--the news will come _sooner
than thought_." Witherings' memorial had the desired effect on the
Council, who at once set about making the machinery already in use
applicable for a general post for inland letters. In 1635 they issued a
proclamation, in which they state that there had not been hitherto any
constant communication between the kingdoms of England and Scotland, and
therefore command "Thomas Witherings, Esquire, His Majesty's Postmaster
for forraigne parts, to settle a running post or two, to run night and
day between Edinburgh in Scotland and the City of London, to go thither
and back again in 6 days." Directions were also given for the management
of the correspondence between the principal towns on the line of road.
_Bye_ posts shall be connected with the main line of posts, by means of
which letters from such places as Lincoln, Hull, Chester, Bristol, or
Exeter, shall fall into it, and letters addressed to these and other
places shall be sent. Other bye posts are promised to different parts of
the country. All postmasters on the main line of posts, as well as those
of the bye posts, were commanded to have "always ready in their stables
one or two horses." The charges settled by James I. were ordered to be
the charges under the new system, "2½_d._ for a single horse, and
5_d._ for two horses per mile." In a subsequent proclamation two years
afterwards, a monopoly of letter-carrying was established, which has
been preserved ever since, in all the regulations of the Post-Office. No
other messengers or foot posts shall carry any letters, but those who
shall be employed by the King's "Chief Postmaster." Exceptions were
made, however, when the letters were addressed to places to which the
King's post did _not_ travel; also, in the case of common known
carriers; messengers particularly sent express; and to a friend carrying
a letter for a friend. These exceptions, trifling as they were, were
withdrawn from time to time, as the Post-Office became more and more one
of the settled institutions of the country. As it was, the prohibitory
clauses caused great dissatisfaction in the country. The middle of the
seventeenth century was certainly a bad time for introducing a measure
that should bear any appearance of a stretch of the royal prerogative.
That no one but the servants of the King's Postmaster should carry
private letters was regarded as an unwarrantable interference with the
liberty of the subject; so much so, that in 1642 a Committee of the
House of Commons was appointed to inquire into that part of the measure.
The subject was also frequently mentioned in Parliament; notwithstanding
which, the Government strictly adhered to the clause.[13]

The first rates of postage for the new service were fixed at _twopence_,
for a single letter, for any distance under 80 miles; 4_d._ up to 140
miles; 6_d._ for any longer distance in England; and 8_d._ to any place
in Scotland. Of course the distances were all reckoned from London.

The control of the English letter-office was entrusted to the Foreign
Postmaster-General, who had suggested the new undertaking. Witherings
held the joint offices for five years, when in 1640 he was charged with
abusing both his trusts, and superseded by Philip Burlamachy, a London
merchant. It was arranged, however, that Burlamachy should execute the
duties of his offices under the care and inspection of the principal
Secretary of State. And now began a quarrel which lasted incessantly
from 1641 to 1647. When the proclamation concerning the sequestration of
his office was published, Witherings assigned his patent to the Earl of
Warwick. Mindful of this opportunity, Lord Stanhope, the "Chief
Postmaster" under the King's father, who had surrendered his patent some
years before, now came forward and stated that the action had not been
voluntary, but, as we learn from his petition to the House of Lords, he
"was summoned to the Council table, and obliged, before he was suffered
to depart, to subscribe somewhat there penned upon your petitioner's
patent by the Lord Keeper Coventry." Lord Stanhope found a staunch
friend and adherent in Mr. Edmund Prideaux, a member of the House of
Commons, and subsequently Attorney-General to the Commonwealth. Two
rival offices were established in London, and continued strife was
maintained between the officers of the two claimants. On one occasion,
Prideaux himself helped to seize the Plymouth mail which had just
arrived in London, and was proceeding to the office of the Earl of
Warwick near the Royal Exchange. Burlamachy and the Government failed to
restore peace. In the Commission on the Post-Office, to which we have
already referred, the subject was taken up, but the resolution of the
Committee only rendered matters more complicated. The Committee, though
Prideaux contrived to be made Chairman of it, declared that the
sequestration of two years before "was a grievance and illegal, and
ought to be taken off," and Mr. Witherings restored to office. The
Commission decided against the Government, both as regards the
sequestration and the monopoly of letter-carrying, which the King
proclaimed in 1637. Both questions were left in abeyance for two years,
when, in 1644, the Parliamentary forces having begun to gain an
ascendancy over those of the King, the Lords and Commons by a joint
action appointed Edmund Prideaux, the Chairman of the Committee of 1642,
"and a barrister of seven years' standing," to the vacant office. It is
somewhat amusing to note how the monopolizing tendencies of the Crown,
denounced but two years ago by the Parliament, were now openly advocated
and confirmed by an almost unanimous vote of both Houses. The resolution
establishing Prideaux in the office states,[14] that the Lords and
Commons, "finding by experience that it is most necessary for keeping of
good intelligence between the Parliament and their forces, that
post-stages be erected in several parts of the kingdom, and the office
of Master of the Post and Couriers being at present void, ordain that
Edmund Prideaux shall be and hereby is constituted Master of the Posts,
Couriers, and Messengers." Prideaux must have been an energetic and
pains-taking manager. He was very zealous and greatly improved the
service, "establishing," says Blackstone, "a weekly conveyance of
letters to all parts of the country, thereby saving to the public the
charge of maintaining postmasters to the amount of 7,000_l._ per annum."
It seems to have been clearly seen in Parliament that the Post-Office
would eventually pay its own expenses, and even yield a revenue; for, in
deciding on Prideaux's proposal, their object is stated quite concisely
in one of the clauses sanctioning it:--"That for defraying the charges
of the several postmasters, _and easing the State of it_, there must be
a weekly conveyance of letters to all parts of the country." For twenty
years previously the establishment of the post had been a burden to the
extent of three or four thousand pounds a year on the public purse.
Prideaux at first was allowed to take the profits of his office, in
consideration of his bearing all the charges. In 1649, five years after
his appointment, the amount of revenue derived from the posts reached
5,000_l._ and a new arrangement was entered into. The practice of
farming the Post-Office revenue began from the year 1650, and lasted, as
far as regards some of the bye posts, down to the end of the last
century. In 1650 the revenue was farmed for the sum of 5,000_l._

In the year 1649 the Common Council of London deliberately established a
post-office for inland letters in direct rivalry to that of the
Parliament. But the Commons, although they had loudly denounced the
formation of a monopoly by the Crown, proceeded to put down this
infringement of the one which they had but lately secured to themselves.
The City authorities, backed, as they were in those days, by immense
power, stoutly denied that the Parliament had any exclusive privilege in
the matter. They could see no reason why there should not be "another
weekly conveyance of letters and for other uses" (this latter clause
most probably meaning conveyance of parcels and packets). Though pressed
to do so, "they refused to seek the sanction of Parliament, or to have
any direction from them in their measure."[15] "The Common Council," it
is further stated by way of complaint, "have sent agents to settle
postages by their authority on several roads, and have employed a
natural Scott, who has gone into Scotland, and hath there settled
postmasters (others than those for the state) on all that road."
Prideaux took care to learn something from the rival company. He lowered
his rates of postage, increased the number of despatches, and then
resolutely applied himself to get the City establishment suppressed.
Prideaux, who had now become Attorney-General, invoked the aid of the
Council of State. The Council reported that, "as affairs now stand, they
conceive that the office of Postmaster is, and ought to be, in the sole
power and disposal of Parliament." After this decision the City posts
were immediately and peremptorily suppressed, and from this date the
carrying of letters has been the exclusive privilege of the Crown.
Though the Government succeeded in establishing the monopoly, public
opinion was greatly against the measure. The authorities of the city of
London, as may well be imagined, were incessant in their exertions to
defeat it, not only at that time, but on many subsequent occasions.
Pamphlets were written on the subject, and one book, especially,
deserves mention, inasmuch as its author bore a name now memorable in
the annals of the British Post-Office. In 1659 was published a book,
entitled _John Hill's Penny Post; or a vindication of the liberty of
every Englishman in carrying merchants' or other men's letters against
any restraints of farmers of such employment_. 4_to._ 1659.

Under the Protectorate, the Post-Office underwent material changes.
Whilst extending the basis of the Post-Office, Cromwell and his Council
took advantage of the State monopoly to make it subservient to the
interests of the Commonwealth. One of the ordinances published during
the Protectorate sets forth that the Post-Office ought to be upheld, not
merely because it is the best means of conveying public and private
communications, but also because it may be made the agent in
"discovering and preventing many wicked designs, which have been and are
daily contrived against the peace and welfare of this Commonwealth, the
intelligence whereof cannot well be communicated except by letters of
escript." A system of espionage was thus settled which has always been
abhorrent to the nature and feelings of Englishmen. But perhaps we ought
not to judge the question in the light of the present day. And we would
do justice to the Council of the Commonwealth. The Post-Office now for
the first time became the subject of parliamentary enactments, and the
acts passed during the interregnum became the models for all subsequent
measures. In the year 1656 an Act was passed, "to settle the postage of
England, Scotland, and Ireland," and henceforth the Post-Office was
established on a new and broad basis.[16] It was ruled that there
"shall be one General Post-Office, and one officer _stiled_ the
Postmaster-Generall of England, and Comptroller of the Post-Office."
This officer was to have the horsing of all "through" posts and persons
"riding post." "Prices for the carriage of letters, English, Scottish,
and Irish," as well as foreign, and also for post-horses, were again
fixed. All other persons were forbidden "to set up or employ any
foot-posts, horse-posts, or packet-boats." Two exceptions, however, were
made under the latter head, in favour of the _two universities_, "who
may use their former liberties, rights, and privileges of having special
carriers to carry and recarry letters as formerly they did, and as if
this Act had not been made." The _Cinque Ports_ also must "not be
interfered with, and their ancient rights of sending their own post to
and from London shall remain intact."

At the Restoration this settlement of the Post-Office was confirmed in
almost all its particulars. The statute 12 Car. II. c. 35 re-enacts the
ordinance of the Commonwealth, and on account of its being the earliest
recognised statutory enactment, is commonly known as the "Post-Office
Charter." It remained in full force until 1710. The following is the
important preamble to the statute in question: "Whereas for the
maintainance of mutual correspondencies, and prevention of many
inconveniences happening by private posts, several public post-offices
have been heretofore erected for carrying and recarrying of letters by
post to and from all parts and places within England, Scotland, and
Ireland, and several posts beyond the seas, the well-ordering whereof is
a matter of general concernment, and of great advantage, as well for the
preservation of trade and commerce as otherwise."

It does not appear _why_ Prideaux's connexion with the Post-Office was
dissolved, nor yet exactly _when_. Probably his more onerous duties as
first law officer of the Government demanded all his time and energy.
However it was, we hear no more of him after his victory over the then
formidable City magnates. During the remaining years of Cromwell's life,
the revenues of the Post-Office, wonderfully augmented by Prideaux's
management, were farmed for the sum of 10,000_l._ a year to a Mr. John
Manley. During Manley's tenure of office, the proceeds must either have
increased with marvellous rapidity, or the contracts were under
estimated; for when, in 1659, Manley left the Post-Office, he calculated
that he had _cleared_ in that and some previous years the sum of
14,000_l._ annually. A Parliamentary Committee instituted a strict
scrutiny into the proceeds of the office in the first year of
the Restoration, at which period it became necessary that a new
Postmaster-General should be appointed. It was agreed by the members of
this Committee to recommend that a much higher sum be asked from the
next aspirant to the office, inasmuch as they found that Mr. Manley,
instead of over-estimating his receipts, had erred on the other side,
and that they could not have come far short of the annual sum of
20,000_l._ The result of the Committee's investigation was, that Mr.
Henry Bishop was only appointed to the vacant place on his entering into
a contract to pay to Government the annual sum of 21,500_l._ In
estimating the increase of Post-Office revenue from year to year, it
must be borne in mind that a considerable item in the account was
derived from the monopoly in post-horses for travelling, which monopoly
had been secured under Cromwell's ordinances, and re-secured under 12
Car. II. c. 35. By this Act, no traveller could hire horses for riding
post from any but authorized postmasters.[17] This statute remained in
force, under some limitations, till 1779.

Many matters of detail in the arrangements of the Post-Office were
discussed in Parliament during the first three years of the Restoration.
Long-promised bye-posts were now for the first time established; the
circulation of the letters, meaning by that the _routes_ the mails shall
take, and many such subjects, best settled of course by the authorities,
weary the reader of the Journals of the House of Commons about this
date. In December, 1660, for instance, we find the House deliberating on
a proviso tendered by Mr. Titus to the following effect:--"Provided also
and be it enacted, that a letter or packet-post shall once every week
come to Kendal by way of Lancaster, and to the town of Penrith in
Cumberland by way of Newcastle and Carlisle, and to the City of Lincoln
and the borough of Grimsby likewise;" and we are glad to find that this
reasonable proviso, to give these "_out-of-the-way places_" the benefit
of a weekly post, was agreed to without cavil. We notice one important
resolution of the session of this year, setting forth that, as the
Post-Office Bill has been carried through the Houses satisfactorily,
"such of the persons who have contributed their pains in improvement of
the Post-Office, be recommended to the King's Majesty for consideration,
to be had of the pains therein taken accordingly." Let us hope (for we
find no further mention of the matter) that all concerned got their
deserts. Tardy as the English people were, compared with their
continental neighbours, in rearing the institution of the post, the
foundation of an establishment was now laid which has, at the present
time, far distanced all competitors in its resources and in the matter
of liberal provisions for the people. Even before the days of penny
postage, the Duke of Wellington, than whom no man was supposed to know
better the postal regulations of the Continent, gave it as his
deliberate opinion, that "the English Post-Office is the only one in
Europe which can be said to do its work." In rewarding, therefore, those
who contributed so much to this success at this early period of the
history of the establishment, King Charles would simply pay an
instalment of the debt which future generations would owe to them.

Mr. Bishop was only left undisturbed for two short years. As it was
evident that the revenue of the office was increasing, the House of
Commons took advantage, at the close of his second year of office, to
desire his Majesty that "no further grant or contract of the Post-Office
be again entered into till a committee inspect the same and see what
improvements may be made on the Revenue, as well as in the better
management of the department." They pray that the office may be given to
the highest bidder. His Majesty replies that he has not been satisfied
with the hands in which it has been. Notwithstanding that a measure was
carried requiring the officers of the Post-Office in London and
the country to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and
notwithstanding that these oaths were properly subscribed, his
Majesty is not at all satisfied, "for the extraordinary number of
_nonconformists and disaffected persons_ in that office," and is
desirous of a change. The term being expired, his Majesty "will have a
care to see it raised to that profit it may fairly be, remembering
always that it being an office of much trust as well as a farm, it will
not be fit to give it to him that bids most, because a dishonest or
disaffected person is likeliest to exceed that way." There can be no
manner of doubt now, that the King's words on this occasion were meant
to prepare the minds of his faithful Commons for the successor which he
had by this time fully resolved upon. Two months subsequently to the
above message to the Commons, the entire revenue of the Post-Office is
settled by statute, 15 Car. II. c. 14, upon James, Duke of York, and his
heirs male in perpetuity. This arrangement existed only during the
lifetime of Charles, for when, at his death, the Duke of York ascended
the throne, the revenue of the Post-Office, which had by that time
reached to 65,000_l._ a-year, again reverted to the Crown. No means were
spared to make the Post-Office fruitful during the remainder of the
years of Charles II. Not only were direct measures sanctioned, but
others which had only a bearing on the interests of the Post-Office were
introduced, and easily carried through the Houses. Now, for the first
time, in 1663, the _Turnpike Act_ made its appearance on our
Statute-book, and we may gather from the preamble to this useful Act
some of the impediments which at that time existed to postal
communication. It sets forth that the great North Road--the main artery
for the post-roads and our national intercourse--was in many parts "very
vexatious," "almost impassable," and "very dangerous." The Act provided
for needful improvements, and was the beginning of legislation on that

Letter-franking also commenced in this year. A Committee of the House of
Commons which sat in the year 1735 reported, "that the privilege of
franking letters by the knights, &c. chosen to represent the Commons in
Parliament, began with the creating of a post-office in the kingdom by
Act of Parliament." The proviso which secured this privilege to members
cannot now be regarded otherwise than as a propitiatory clause to induce
a unanimous approval of the bill in general. The account[18] of the
discussion of the clause in question is somewhat amusing. Sir Walter
Earle proposed that "members' letters should come and go free during the
time of their sittings." Sir Heneage Finch (afterwards Lord Chancellor
Finch) said, indignantly, "It is a _poor mendicant_ proviso, and below
the honour of the House." Many members spoke in favour of the clause,
Sir George Downing, Mr. Boscowen, among the number, and Sergeant
Charlton also urged "that letters for counsel went free." The debate
was, in fact, nearly one-sided; but the Speaker, Sir Harbottle
Grimstone, on the question being called, refused for a considerable time
to put it, saying he "felt ashamed of it." The proviso was eventually
put and carried by a large majority. When the Post-Office Bill, with its
franking privilege, was sent up to the Lords, they threw out the clause,
_ostensibly_ for the same reasons which had actuated the minority in
the Commons in opposing it, but _really_, as it was confessed some years
afterwards, because there was no provision made in the Bill that the
"_Lords' own letters should pass free_." A few years later this
important omission was supplied, and both Houses had the privilege
guaranteed to them, neither Lords nor Commons now feeling the
arrangement below their dignity.

Complaint is made for the first time this year, that letters have been
opened in the General Post-Office. Members of Parliament were amongst
the complainants. The attention of the Privy Council having been called
to the subject, the King issued a proclamation "for _quieting_ the
Postmaster-General in the execution of his office." It ordained that "no
postmaster or other person, except under the immediate warrant of our
principal Secretary of State, shall presume to open letters or packets
_not_ directed unto themselves."

Two years before the death of Charles II. a penny post, the only
remaining post-office incident of any importance during his reign, was
set up in London for the conveyance of letters and parcels. This post
was originated by Robert Murray, an upholsterer, who, like many other
people living at the time, was dissatisfied that the Post-Office had
made no provision for correspondence between different parts of London.
By the then existing arrangements, communication was much more easy
between town and country than within the limits of the metropolis.
Murray's post, got up at a great cost, was assigned over to Mr. William
Docwray, a name which figures for many succeeding years in post-office
annals. The regulations of the new penny post were, that all letters and
parcels not exceeding a pound weight, or any sum of money not above
10_l._ in value, or parcel not worth more than 10_l._, might be conveyed
at a charge of _one penny_ in the city and suburbs, and for _twopence_
to any distance within a given ten-mile circuit. Six large offices were
opened at convenient places in London, and receiving-houses were
established in all the principal streets. Stowe says, that in the
windows of the latter offices, or hanging at the doors, were large
placards on which were printed, in great letters, "Penny post letters
taken in here." "Letter-carriers," adds the old chronicler, "gather them
each hour and take them to the grand office in their respective
circuits. After the said letters and parcels are duly entered in the
books, they are delivered at stated periods by other carriers." The
deliveries in the busy and crowded streets near the Exchange were as
frequent as six or eight times a day; even in the outskirts, as many as
four daily deliveries were made.

The penny post was found to be a great and decided success. No sooner,
however, was that success apparent, and it was known that the
speculation was becoming lucrative to its originator, than the Duke of
York, by virtue of the settlement made to him, complained of it as an
infraction of his monopoly. Nor were there wanting other reasons,
inducing the Government to believe that the penny post ought not to be
under separate management. The Protestants loudly denounced the whole
concern as a contrivance of the Popish party. The great Dr. Oates hinted
that the Jesuits were at the bottom of the scheme, and that if the bags
were examined, they would be found full of treason.[19] The city
porters, too, complained that their interests were attacked, and for
long they tore down the placards which announced the innovation to the
public. Undoubtedly, however, the authorities were most moved by the
_success_ of the undertaking, and thereupon appealed to the Court of
King's Bench, which decided that the new post-office, with all its
profits and advantages, should become part and parcel of the royal
establishment. Docwray was even cast in slight damages and costs. Thus
commenced the _London District Post_, which existed as a separate
establishment to the _General Post_ from this time until so late as
1854. It was at first thought that the amalgamation of the two offices
would be followed by a fusion of the two systems; but this fusion, so
much desired, and one we would have thought so indispensable, was not
accomplished (from a number of considerations to be adduced hereafter),
although the object was attempted more than once.

About a year after the new establishment had been wrested from him, Mr.
Docwray was appointed, under the Duke of York, to the office of
Controller of the District-Post. This was doubtless meant as some sort
of compensation for the losses he had sustained.[20]

In 1685, Charles II. died, and the Duke of York succeeding him, the
revenues of the Post-Office, of course, reverted to the Crown.
Throughout the reign of the second James, the receipts of the
Post-Office went on increasing, though (the King being too much engaged
in the internal commotions which disturbed the country) no improvements
of any moment were made. The only subject calling for mention is, that
James first commenced the practice of granting pensions out of the
Post-Office revenue. The year after he ascended the throne, the King,
acting doubtless under the wishes of the "merry monarch," that provision
should be made for her, granted a pension of 4,700_l._ a-year to Barbara
Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, one of the late King's mistresses, to be
paid out of the Post-Office receipts. This pension is still paid to the
Duke of Grafton, as her living representative. The Earl of Rochester was
allowed a pension of 4,000_l._ a-year from the same source during this
reign. In 1694, during the reign of William and Mary, the list of
pensions[21] paid by the Post-Office authorities stood thus:--

    Earl of Rochester           £4,000
    Duchess of Cleveland         4,700
    Duke of Leeds                3,500
    Duke of Schomberg            4,000
    Earl of Bath                 2,500
    Lord Keeper                  2,000
    William Docwray, till 1698     500

Docwray's pension began in 1694, and was regarded as a further
acknowledgment of his claims as founder of the "District-post," or the
"Penny-post," as it was then called. He only held his pension, however,
for four years, losing both his emoluments and his office in 1698, on
certain charges of gross mismanagement having been brought against him.
The officers and messengers under his control memorialized the
Commissioners of the Treasury, alleging that the "Controller doth what
in him lyes to lessen the revenue of the Penny Post-Office, that he may
farm it and get it into his own hands;" also, that "he had removed the
Post-Office to an inconvenient place to forward his ends." There appears
to have been no limit as to the weight or size of parcels transmitted
through the district-post during Docwray's time, but the memorial goes
on to say that "he forbids the taking in of any band-boxes (except very
small) and all parcels above a pound; which, when they were taken in,
did bring a considerable advantage to the Post-Office;" that these same
parcels are taken by porters and watermen at a far greater charge,
"which is a loss to the public," as the penny-post messengers did the
work "much cheaper and more satisfactory." Nor is this all. It is
further stated that "he stops, under spetious pretences, most parcells
that are taken in, which is great damage to tradesmen by loosing their
customers, or spoiling their goods, and many times hazard the life of
the patient when physick is sent by a doctor or an apothecary."[22] It
was hinted that the parcels were not only delayed, but misappropriated;
that letters were opened and otherwise tampered with: and these charges
being partially substantiated, Docwray, who deserved better treatment,
was removed from all connexion with the department.

It was only towards the close of the seventeenth century, that the
Scotch and Irish post establishments come at all into notice. The first
legislative enactments for the establishment of a Scotch post-office
were made in the reign of William and Mary. The Scotch Parliament passed
such an act in the year 1695. Of course the proclamations of King James
I. provided for the conveyance of letters between the capitals of the
two countries; and although posts had been heard of in one or two of the
principal roads leading out of Edinburgh, even before James VI. of
Scotland became the first English king of that name, it was only after
the Revolution that they became permanent and legalized. Judging by the
success which had followed the English establishment, it was expected
that a Scotch post would soon pay all its expenses. However, to begin,
the King decided upon making a grant of the whole revenue of the Scotch
office, as well as a salary of 300_l._ a year, to Sir Robert Sinclair,
of Stevenson, on condition that he would keep up the establishment.[23]
In a year from that date, Sir Robert Sinclair gave up the grant as
unprofitable and disadvantageous. It was long before the Scotch office
gave signs of emulating the successes of the English post, for, even
forty years afterwards, the whole yearly revenue of the former was only
a little over a thousand pounds. About 1700, the posts between London
and Edinburgh were so frequently robbed, especially in the neighbourhood
of the borders, that the two Parliaments of England and Scotland jointly
passed acts, making the robbery or seizure of the public post
"punishable with death and confiscation of moveables."

Little is known of the earlier postal arrangements of Ireland. Before
any legislative enactments were made in the reign, it is said, of
Charles I., the letters of the country were transmitted in much the same
way as we have seen they were forwarded in the sister country. The
Viceroy of Ireland usually adopted the course common in England when the
letters of the King and his Council had to be delivered abroad. The
subject is seldom mentioned in contemporary records, and we can only
picture in imagination the way in which correspondence was then
transmitted. In the sixteenth century, mounted messengers were employed
carrying official letters and despatches to different parts of Ireland.
Private noblemen also employed these "intelligencers," as they were then
and for some time afterwards called, to carry their letters to other
chiefs or their dependents. The Earl of Ormond was captured in 1600,
owing to the faithlessness of Tyrone's "intelligencer," who first took
his letters to the Earl of Desmond and let him privately read them, and
afterwards demurely delivered them according to their addresses.[24]

Charles I. ordered that packets should ply weekly between Dublin and
Chester, and also between Milford Haven and Waterford, as a means of
insuring quick transmission of news and orders between the English
Government and Dublin Castle. We have seen that packets sailed between
Holyhead and Dublin, and Liverpool and Dublin, as early as the reign of
Elizabeth. Cromwell kept up both lines of packets established by
Charles. At the Restoration, only one--namely, that between Chester and
Dublin--was retained, this being applied to the purposes of a general
letter-post. The postage between London and Dublin was 6_d._, fresh
rates being imposed for towns in the interior of Ireland. A new line of
packets was established to make up for that discontinued,[25] to sail
between Port Patrick and Donaghadee, forming an easy and short route
between Scotland and the north of Ireland. For many years this mail was
conveyed in an open boat, each trip across the narrow channel costing
the Post-Office a guinea. Subsequently, a grant of 200_l._ was made by
the Post-Office in order that a larger boat might be built for the
service. This small mail is still continued.


[10] The special messenger who informed James of Queen Elizabeth's death
accomplished a great feat in those days. Sir Robert Carey rode post,
with sealed lips, from Richmond in Surrey to Edinburgh in less than
three days.

[11] _Notes and Queries_, 1853.

[12] This instance, showing the usage, gives us an insight into the
amount of control under which these public servants were held. Sir
Cornelius was in the bad grace of the people of the district through
which he had to pass, on account of being a foreigner; so at Royston
Edward Whitehead refused to provide any horses, and on being told he
should answer for his neglect, replied, "Tush! Do your worst. You shall
have none of my horses, in spite of your teeth."--_Smiles._

[13] Blackstone, in speaking of the monopoly in letter traffic, states
that it is a "provision which is absolutely necessary, for nothing but
an exclusive right can support an office of this sort; many rival
independent offices would only serve to ruin one another."--_Com._ vol.
i. p. 324.

[14] Journals of the House of Commons, 1644.

[15] Journals of the House of Commons, 21st March, 1649.

[16] In Burton's _Diary_ of the Parliament of Cromwell, an account is
given of the third reading of the new Act, which is important and
interesting enough to be here partly quoted. "The bill being brought up
for the last reading--

SIR THOMAS WROTH said: 'This bill has bred much talk abroad since
yesterday. The design is very good and specious; but I would have some
few words added for general satisfaction: to know how the monies shall
be disposed of; and that our letters should pass free as well in this
Parliament as formerly.'

LORD STRICKLAND said: 'When the report was made, it was told you that it
(the Post-Office) would raise a revenue. It matters not what reports be
abroad, _nothing can more assist trade and commerce than this
intercourse_. Our letters pass better than in any part whatsoever. In
France and Holland, and other parts, letters are often laid open to
public view, as occasion is.'

SIR CHRISTOPHER PACK was also of opinion, 'That the design of the bill
is very good for trading and commerce; and it matters not what is said
abroad about it. As to letters passing free for members, _it is not
worth putting in any act_.'

COLONEL SYDENHAM said: 'I move that it may be committed to be made but
probationary; _it being never a law before_.'" The bill was referred to
a Committee, and subsequently passed nearly unanimously.

[17] Lord Macaulay states that there was an exceptional clause in this
act, to the effect, that "if a traveller had waited half an hour without
being supplied, he might hire a horse wherever he could."--_History of
England_, vol, i.

[18] Cobbett's Parliamentary History, vol. ix.

[19] Macaulay's History of England, vol. i. pp. 387-8.

[20] Under William and Mary, Docwray was allowed a pension, differently
stated by different authorities, of 500_l._ and 200_l._ a year.

[21] Amongst the Post-Office pensions granted in subsequent reigns,
Queen Anne gave one, in 1707, to the Duke of Marlborough and his heirs
of 5,000_l._ The heirs of the Duke of Schomberg were paid by the
Post-Office till 1856, when about 20,000_l._ were paid to redeem a
fourth part of the pension, the burden of the remaining part being then
transferred to the Consolidated Fund.

[22] Stowe's Survey of London.

[23] Stark's Picture of Edinburgh, p. 144.

[24] "Letters and Despatches relative to the taking of the Earl of
Ormond, by O'More. A.D. 1600."

[25] In 1784, the line of Milford Haven packets was re-established, the
rates of postage between London and Waterford to be the same as between
London and Dublin, _viâ_ Holyhead. The packets were, however, soon



If we seem in this chapter to make a divergence from the stream of
postal history, it is only to make passing reference to the tributaries
which helped to feed the main stream. The condition of the roads, and no
less the modes of travelling, bore a most intimate relationship, at all
the points in its history, to the development of the post-office system
and its communications throughout the kingdom. The seventeenth century,
as we have seen, was eventful in important postal improvements; the
period was, comparatively speaking, very fruitful also in great changes
and improvements in the internal character of the country. No question
that the progress of the former depended greatly on the state of the
latter. James the First, whatever might be his character in other
respects, was indefatigable in his exertions to open out the resources
of his kingdom. The fathers of civil engineering, such as Vermuyden and
Sir Hugh Myddleton, lived during his reign, and both these eminent men
were employed under his auspices, either in making roads, draining the
fen country, improving the metropolis, or in some other equally useful
scheme. The troubles of the succeeding reign had the effect of
frustrating the development of various schemes of public utility
proposed and eagerly sanctioned by James. Under the Commonwealth, and at
intervals during the two succeeding reigns, many useful improvements of
no ordinary moment were carried out.

In the provinces, though considerable advances had been made in this
respect during the century, travelling was still exceedingly difficult.
In 1640, perhaps the Dover Road, owing to the great extent of
continental traffic constantly kept up, was the best in England; yet
three or four days were usually taken to travel it. In that year, Queen
Henrietta and household were brought "with expedition" over that short
distance in four long days. Short journeys were accomplished in a
reasonable time, inasmuch as little entertainment was required. It was
different when a long journey was contemplated, seeing how generally
wretched were the hostelries of the period.[26] So bad, again, were some
of the roads, that it was not at all uncommon, when a family intended to
travel, for servants to be sent on beforehand to investigate the country
and report upon the most promising track. Fuller tells us that during
his time he frequently saw as many as six oxen employed in dragging
slowly a single person to church. Waylen says that 800 horses were taken
prisoners at one time during the civil wars by Cromwell's forces, "while
sticking in the mud."

Many improvements were made in modes of conveyance during the century. A
kind of stage-coach was first used in London about 1608; towards the
middle of the century they were gradually adopted in the metropolis, and
on the better highways around London. In no case, however, did they
attempt to travel at a greater speed than three miles an hour. Before
the century closed, stage-coaches were placed on three of the principal
roads in the kingdom, namely those between London and York, Chester, and
Exeter. This was only for the summer season; "during winter," in the
words of Mr. Smiles, "they did not run at all, but were laid up for the
season, like ships during Arctic frosts." Sometimes the roads were so
bad, even in summer, that it was all the horses could do to drag the
coach along, the passengers, _per force_, having to walk for miles
together. With the York coach especially the difficulties were really
formidable. Not only were the roads bad, but the low midland counties
were particularly liable to floods, when, during their prevalence, it
was nothing unusual for passengers to remain at some town _en route_ for
days together, until the roads were dry.

Public opinion was divided as to the merits of stage-coach travelling.
When the new threatened altogether to supersede the old mode of
travelling on horseback, great opposition was manifested to it, and the
organs of public opinion (the pamphlet) began to revile it. In 1673, for
instance, a pamphlet[27] was written which went so far as to denounce
the introduction of stage-coaches as the greatest evil "that had
happened of late years to these kingdoms." Curious to know how these sad
consequences had been brought about, we read on and find it stated that
"those who travel in these coaches contracted an idle habit of body;
became weary and listless when they had rode a few miles, and were then
unable to travel on horseback, and not able to endure frost, snow, or
rain, _or to lodge in the fields_." In the very same year another
writer, descanting on the improvements which had been introduced into
the Post-Office, goes on to say, that "besides the excellent arrangement
of conveying men and letters on horseback, there is of late such an
_admirable commodiousness_, both for men and women to travel from London
to the principal towns in the country, _that the like hath not been
known in the world_, and that is by _stage-coaches_, wherein any one may
be transported to any place, sheltered from foul weather and foul ways;
free from endamaging of one's health and one's body by hard jogging or
over violent motion; and this not only at a low price (about a shilling
for every five miles), but with such velocity and speed in one hour as
that the posts in some foreign countreys cannot make in a day."[28] M.
Soubrière, a Frenchman of letters who landed at Dover in the reign of
Charles II., alludes to stage-coaches, but seems to have thought less of
their charms than the author we have just quoted. "That I might not take
post," says he, "or again be obliged to use the stage-coach, I went from
Dover to London in a wagon. I was drawn by six horses placed one after
another, and driven by a wagoner who walked by the side of them. He was
clothed in black and appointed in all things like another St. George. He
had a brave monteror on his head, and was a merry fellow, fancied he
made a figure, and seemed mightily pleased with himself."

The stage-wagon here referred to was almost exclusively used for the
conveyance of merchandise. On the principal roads strings of
stage-wagons travelled together. A string of stage-wagons travelled
between London and Liverpool, starting from the Axe Inn, Aldermanbury,
every Monday and Thursday, and occupying _ten_ days on the road during
summer and generally about _twelve_ in the winter season. Beside these
conveyances, there were "strings of horses," travelling somewhat
quicker, for the carriage of light goods and passengers. The
stage-wagon, as may be supposed, travelled much slower on other roads
than they did between London and Liverpool. On most roads, in fact, the
carriers never changed horses, but employed the same cattle throughout,
however long the journey might be. It was, indeed, so proverbially slow
in the north of England, that the publicans of Furness, in Lancashire,
when they saw the conductors of the travelling merchandise trains appear
in sight on the summit of Wrynose Hill, on their journey between
Whitehaven and Kendal, were jocularly said to begin to brew their beer,
always having a stock of good drink manufactured by the time the
travellers reached the village![29]

Whilst communication between different large towns was comparatively
easy--passengers travelling from London to York in less than a week
before the close of the century--there were towns situated in the same
county, in the year 1700, more widely separated for all practical
purposes than London and Inverness are at the present day. If a stranger
penetrated into some remote districts about this period, his appearance
would call forth, as one writer remarks, as much excitement as would the
arrival of a white man in some unknown African village. So it was with
Camden in his famous seventeenth-century tour. Camden acknowledges that
he approached Lancashire from Yorkshire, "that part of the country lying
beyond the mountains towards the western ocean," with a "_kind of
dread_," but trusted to Divine Providence, which, he said, "had gone
with him hitherto," to help him in the attempt. Country people still
knew little except of their narrow district, all but a small circle of
territory being like a closed book to them. They still received but few
letters. Now and then, a necessity would be laid upon them to write, and
thereupon they would hurry off to secure the services of the country
parson, or some one attached to the great house of the neighbourhood,
who generally took the request kindly.[30] Almost the only intelligence
of general affairs was communicated by pedlars and packmen, who were
accustomed to retail news with their wares. The wandering beggar who
came to the farmer's house craving a supper and bed was the principal
intelligencer of the rural population of Scotland so late as 1780.[31]
The introduction of newspapers formed quite an era in this respect to
the gentlefolk of the country, and to some extent the poorer classes
shared in the benefit. The first English newspaper published bears the
date of 1622. Still earlier than this, the News Letter, copied by the
hand, often found its way into the country, and, when well read at the
great house of the district, would be sent amongst the principal
villagers till its contents became diffused throughout the entire
community. When any intelligence unusually interesting was received
either in the news letter or the more modern newspaper, the principal
proprietor would sometimes cause the villagers and his immediate
dependants to be summoned at once, and would read to them the principal
paragraphs from his porch. The reader of English history will have an
imperfect comprehension of the facts of our past national life if he
does not know, or remember, how very slowly and imperfectly intelligence
of public matters was conveyed during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, and what a bearing--very difficult to understand in these
days--such circumstances had upon the facts themselves. Thus, a
rebellion in one part of the country, which was popular throughout the
kingdom, might be quelled before the news of the rising reached another
part of the country. Remote districts waited for weeks and months to
learn the most important intelligence. Lord Macaulay relates that the
news of Queen Elizabeth's death, which was known to King James in three
days, was not heard of in some parts of Devonshire and Cornwall till the
court of her successor had ceased to wear mourning for her. The news of
Cromwell having been made Protector only reached Bridgewater nineteen
days after the event, when the church bells were set a-ringing. In some
parts of Wales the news of the death of King Charles I. was not known
for two months after its occurrence. The churches in the Orkneys
continued to put up the usual prayers for him for months after he was
beheaded; whilst their descendants did the same for King James long
after he had taken up his abode at St. Germains.

In Scotland, all the difficulties in travelling were felt to even a
greater degree than in England. There were no regular posts to the
extreme north of Scotland, letters going as best they could by
occasional travellers and different routes. Nothing could better show
the difficulties attendant on locomotion of any sort in Scotland, than
the fact that an agreement was entered into in 1678 to run a coach
between Edinburgh and Glasgow, to be drawn by six horses, the journey,
there and back, to be performed in six days. The distance was only
forty-four miles, and the coach travelled over the principal post-road
in the country!

The reader has thus some idea of the difficulties which stood in the way
of efficient postal communication during the seventeenth century.
However much the work of the Post-Office, and the slow and unequal
manner in which correspondence was distributed, may excite the scorn of
the present generation, living in the days of cheap and quick postage,
they must nevertheless agree with Lord Macaulay in considering that the
postal system of the Stuarts was such as might have moved the envy and
admiration of the polished nations of antiquity, or even of the
contemporaries of our own Shakespeare or Raleigh. In Cornwall,
Lincolnshire, some parts of Wales, and amongst the hills and dales of
Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Yorkshire, letters, it is true, were only
received once a week, if then; but in numbers of large towns they were
delivered two and three times a week. There was _daily_ communication
between London and the Downs, and the same privileges were extended to
Tunbridge Wells and Bath, at the season when those places were crowded
with pleasure-seekers.[32]

Accounts survive of the Post-Office as it existed towards the close of
the seventeenth century, an outline of which, contributed to the
_Gentleman's Magazine_ by a correspondent in the early part of the
present century, we must be excused for here presenting to the reader.
The Postmaster-General of the period, under the Duke of York, was at
that time the Earl of Arlington. The letters, it would seem, were
forwarded from London to different parts on different days. For
instance: Every Monday and Tuesday the Continental mails were
despatched, part on the former day, the remainder on the latter. Every
Saturday letters were sent to all parts of England, Scotland, and
Ireland. On other days posts were despatched to the Downs, also to one
or two important towns and other smaller places within short distances
of London. The London Post-Office was managed by the Postmaster-General
and a staff of twenty-seven clerks.[33] In the provinces of the three
countries, there were 182 deputy-postmasters. Two packet-boats sailed
between England and France; two were appointed for Flanders, three for
Holland, three for Ireland, and at Deal two were engaged for the Downs.
"As the masterpiece," so our authority winds up, "of all these grand
arrangements, established by the present Postmaster-General, he hath
annexed (_sic_) and appropriated the market-towns of England so well to
the respective postages, that there is no considerable one of them which
hath not an easy and certain conveyance for the letters thereof _once a
week_. Further, though the number of letters missive was not at all
considerable in our ancestors' day, yet it is now so prodigiously great
(_and the meanest of people are so beginning to write in consequence_)
that this office produces in money 60,000_l._ a year. Besides, letters
are forwarded with more expedition, and at less charges, than in any
other foreign country. A whole sheet of paper goes 80 miles for
twopence, two sheets for fourpence, and _an ounce of letter_ for but
eightpence, and that in so short a time, by night as well as day, that
every twenty-four hours the post goes one hundred and twenty miles, and
in _five_ days an answer to a letter may be had from a place distant 200
miles from the writer!"


[26] There were many exceptions, of course. Numbers of innkeepers were
also the postmasters of the period. Taylor, the water-poet, travelling
from London into Scotland in the early part of the century, has
described one of these men, in his _Penniless Pilgrimage_, as a model

[27] "The Grand Concern of England explained in several Proposals to
Parliament."--Harl. MSS. 1673.

[28] Chamberlayne's Present History of Great Britain. 1673.

[29] Private coaches were started in London at the time when the stage-
or hackney-coaches were introduced, and Mr. Pepys secured one of the
first. Mightily proud was he of it, as any reader of his _Diary_ will
have learnt to his great amusement.

[30] There are few traces in this country, at any time, of _public_
letter-writers. This is somewhat remarkable, inasmuch as then, and still
in some of the southern states of Europe, the profession of public
letter-writer has long been an institution. In England it has never
flourished. Some years ago there might have been seen at Wapping,
Shadwell, and other localities in London where sailors resorted,
announcements in small shop-windows to the effect that letters were
written there "to all parts of the world." In one shop a placard was
exhibited intimating that a "large assortment of letters _on all sorts
of subjects_" were kept on hand. There were never many, and now very
few, traces of the custom.

[31] Chambers' Domestic Annals.

[32] Lord Macaulay. Vol. i. p. 388.

[33] No less interesting are the particulars of one year's postal
revenue and expenditure, extracted from the old account-books of the
department, by the present Receiver and Accountant-General of the
Post-Office. The date given is within a year or two of that referred to
in the text, viz. 1686-7. The net produce of the year was a little over
76,000_l._, and the following is a few of the most important and most
suggestive items:--

                                                     £   _s._ _d._

 Product of foreign mails for the year            17,805   1    7
 The King's Majesty paid for his foreign letters     178  18    4
 Product of Harwich packet-boats                     950   5    4
 The Inland window money amounted to                 870   4    2
 The letter-receivers' money                         313  19    8
 The letter-carriers' money                       30,497  10    0
 The Postmaster's money                           37,819   8   11
 Officers were _fined_ to the extent of               13   0    0
 The profits of the Irish Office were              2,419  14    0
         Ditto      Penny-Post                       800   0    0

The Scotch Office appears not only not to have brought in any profits,
but we find an item of absolute loss on the exchange of money with
Edinburgh to the extent of 210_l._ 10_s._ 10_d._

Amongst the more interesting items of expenditure we notice that--

                                                              £ _s._ _d._

 The six clerks in the Foreign Office and about
 twenty clerks belonging to other departments
 received per annum                                          60   0   0

 The salary of the Postmaster-General was                 1,500   0   0

 Two officers had 200_l._ per annum, a third had
 150_l._, and a fourth had 100_l._--all four, doubtless,
 heads of departments                                       450   0   0

 There were eight letter-receivers in London, viz.
 at Gray's Inn, at Temple Bar, at King Street,
 at Westminster, in Holborn, in Covent Garden,
 in Pall Mall, and in the Strand two offices,
 whose yearly salaries amounted in all to                   110   6   8

 The yearly salaries of the whole body of letter-carriers 1,338  15   0

 The salaries of the deputy-postmasters                   5,639   6   0

The entire total expenditure was 13,509_l._ 6_s._ 8_d._ "Thus we find,"
adds Mr. Scudamore, "that while the 'whole net produce' of the
establishment for a year was not equal to the sum which we derive from
the commission on money-orders in a year (Mr. Scudamore is writing of
1854), or to the present 'net produce' of the single town of Liverpool,
so also, the whole expenditure of the whole establishment for a year was
but a little larger than the sum which we now pay _once a month_ for
salaries to the clerks of the London Office alone." If we subtract the
total expenditure from the "whole net produce," as it is called, we get
a sum exceeding 62,000_l._ as the entire net _receipts_ of the
Post-Office for the year 1686-7.



Ten years after the removal of Docwray from his office in connexion with
the "Penny Post," another rival to the Government department sprung up
in the shape of a "Halfpenny Post." The arrangements of the new were
nearly identical with those of Docwray's post, except that the
charges, instead of a penny and twopence, were a halfpenny and penny
respectively. The scheme, established at considerable expense by a Mr.
Povey, never had a fair trial, only existing a few months, when it was
nipped in the bud by a law-suit instituted by the Post-Office

In 1710, the Acts relating to the Post-Office were completely
remodelled, and the establishment was put on an entirely fresh basis.
The statutes passed in previous reigns were fully repealed, and the
statute of Anne, c. 10, was substituted in their place, the latter
remaining in force until 1837. The preamble of the Act just mentioned
sets forth, that a Post-Office for England was established in the reign
of Charles II. and a Post-Office for Scotland in the reign of King
William III.; but that it is now desirable, since the two countries are
united, that the two offices should be united under one head. Also, that
packet-boats have been for some time established between England and the
West Indies, the mainland of North America, and some parts of Europe,
and that more might be settled if only proper arrangements were made "at
the different places to which the packet-boats are assigned." It is
further deemed necessary that the existing rates of postage should be
altered; that "with little burthen to the subject some may be increased"
and other new rates granted, "which additional and new rates," it is
added, "may in some measure enable Her Majesty to carry on and furnish
the present war." Suitable powers are also needed for the better
collecting of such rates, as well as provision for preventing the
illegal trade carried on by "private posts, carriers, higlers, watermen,
drivers of stage-coaches, and other persons, and other frauds to which
the revenue is liable."

As these alterations and various improvements cannot be well and
properly made without a new Act for the Post-Office, the statutes
embodied in 12 Charles II. and the statutes referring to the Scotch
Post-Office passed in the reign of William and Mary, entitled "An Act
anent the Post-Office," and every article, clause, and thing therein,
are now declared repealed, and the statute of 9 Anne, c. 10, called "An
Act for establishing a General Post-Office in all Her Majesty's
dominions, and for settling a weekly sum out of the revenue thereof for
the service of the war, and other Her Majesty's occasions," is
substituted. This Act, which remained in force so long, and may be said
to have been the foundation for all subsequent legislation on the
subject, deserves special and detailed notice.

1. By its provisions a General Post and Letter-Office is established
within the City of London, "from whence all letters and packets
whatsoever may be with speed and expedition sent into any part of the
kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to North America and the West
Indies, or any other of Her Majesty's dominions, or any country or
kingdom beyond the seas," and "at which office all returns and answers
may be likewise received." For the better "managing, ordering,
collecting, and improving the revenue," and also for the better
"computing and settling the rates of letters according to distance, a
chief office is established in Edinburgh, one in Dublin, one at New
York, and other chief offices in convenient places in her Majesty's
colonies of America, and one in the islands of the West Indies, called
the Leeward Islands."

2. The whole of these chief offices shall be "under the control of an
officer who shall be appointed by the Queen's Majesty, her heirs and
successors, to be made and constituted by letters patent under the Great
Seal, by the name and stile of Her Majesty's _Postmaster-General_." "The
Postmaster-General shall appoint deputies for the chief offices in the
places named above, and he, they, and their servants and agents, and no
other person or persons whatsoever, shall from time to time, and at all
times, have the receiving, taking up, ordering, despatching, sending
post with all speed, carrying and delivering of all letters and packets
whatsoever." The only exceptions to this clause must be--[34]

    (_a_) When common known carriers bear letters concerning the goods
    which they are conveying, and which letters are delivered with the
    goods without any further hire or reward, or other profit or

    (_b_) When merchants or master-owners of ships send letters in ships
    concerning the cargoes of such ships, and delivered with them under
    the self-same circumstances.

    (_c_) Letters concerning commissions or the returns thereof,
    affidavits, writs, process or proceeding, or returns thereof,
    issuing out of any court of justice.

    (_d_) Any letter or letters sent by any private friend or friends in
    their way of journey or travel.

3. The Postmaster-General, and no other person or persons whatever,
shall prepare and provide horses or furniture to let out on hire to
persons riding post on any of Her Majesty's post-roads, under penalty of
100_l._ per week, or 5_l._ for each offence.[35] The rates of charge for
riding post are settled as follows:--The hire of a post-horse shall be
henceforth 3_d._ a mile, and 4_d._ a mile for a person riding as guide
for every stage. Luggage to the weight of 80 pounds allowed, the guide
to carry it with him on his horse.

4. The rates of postage under the present Act are settled.

                                                             _s._ _d._

    For any single letter or piece of paper to any place in
    England not exceeding 80 miles                             0    3

     " double letter                                           0    6

     " packet of writs, deeds, &c. per ounce                   1    0

     " single letter, &c. exceeding 80 miles, or as far
    north as the town of Berwick                               0    4

     " double letter                                           0    8

     " packet, per ounces                                      1    4

    From London to Edinburgh and all places in Scotland
    south of Edinburgh, per single letter                      0    6

     "          "           double letter                      1    0

     "          "           packets, per ounce                 2    0

The other Scotch posts were calculated from Edinburgh, and charged
according to the distance as in England.

                                               _s._  _d._

    From London to Dublin, single letter         0     6
      "         "          double letter         1     0
      "         "          packets, per ounce    2     0

From Dublin to any Irish town the charge was according to distance, at
the English rate.

Any letter from any part of Her Majesty's dominions for London would be
delivered free by the penny post, and if directed to places within a
circuit of ten miles from the General Post-Office, on payment of an
extra penny over and above the proper rate of postage.

                                                          _s._  _d._

    The postage of a single letter to France was            0    10
           "           "              Spain                 1     6
           "           "              Italy                 1     3
           "           "              Turkey                1     3
           "           "              Germany, Denmark      1     0
           "           "              Sweden                1     0
           "           "         from London to New York    1     0

Other rates were charged to other parts of the American continent,
according to the distance from New York, at something less than the
English rate.

5. The principal deputy postmasters are empowered to erect _cross-posts_
or stages, so that all parts of the country may have equal advantage as
far as practicable, but only in cases where the postmasters are assured
that such erections will be for "the better maintainance of trade and
commerce, and mutual correspondences."

6. A survey of all the post-roads shall be made, so that the distances
between any place and the chief office in each country "shall be settled
by the same measure and standard." These surveys must be made regularly,
"as necessity showeth;" and when finished, the distances must be fairly
shown by "_books of surveys_" one of which must be kept in each of the
head offices, and by each of the surveyors themselves. The surveyors who
shall be appointed and authorized to measure the distances must swear to
perform the same to the best of their skill and judgment.[36]

7. Letters may be brought from abroad by private ship, but must be
delivered at once into the hands of the deputy postmasters at the
respective ports, who will pay the master of such ship a penny for every
letter which he may thus deliver up to them. It is hoped that, by these
arrangements, merchants will not suffer as they had previously done, by
having their letters "_imbezilled_ or long detained, when they had been
given into the charge of ignorant and loose hands, that understandeth
not the ways and means of speedy conveyance and proper deliverance, to
the great prejudice of the affairs of merchants and others."

8. The Postmaster-General and the deputy postmasters must qualify
themselves, if they have not already done so, by receiving the
_sacrament_ according to the usage of the Church of England; taking,
making, and subscribing the test, and the oaths of allegiance,
supremacy, and adjuration. It is also decided that the Post-Office
officials must not meddle with elections for members of Parliament. The
officers of the Post-Office must also qualify themselves for the duties
of their office by observing and following such orders, rules,
directions, and instructions, concerning the settlements of the posts
and stages, and the management of post-horses, and the horsing of all
persons riding by royal warrant, as Her Majesty shall see fit from time
to time to make and ordain.

A short proviso follows concerning the time-honoured privileges of the
two English Universities, and guaranteeing the same; and then we come to
an arrangement for the attainment of which object, it would appear
(almost exclusively), the Post-Office was remodelled in the manner we
have shown.

9. "Towards the establishment of a good, sure, and lasting fund, in
order to raise a present supply of money for carrying on the war, be it
enacted that from the present time, and during the whole term of 32
years, the full, clear, and entire weekly sum of 700_l._ out of
the duties and revenues of the Post-Office shall be paid by the
Postmaster-General into the receipts of the Exchequer on the Tuesday of
every week."

Whatever else was arranged permanently, the increased rates of postage
were only meant to be temporary; for at the end of thirty-two years, it
was provided that the old rates shall be resorted to. The clause was
simply inserted as a war measure, for the purpose of raising revenue,
but we shall see that, so far from returning to the old postages, fresh
burdens were imposed at the end of that period and from time to

The improvements introduced by the bill of 1710 had the natural effect
of increasing the importance of the Post-Office institution, and of
adding to the available revenue of the country considerable sums each
year. For ten years no further steps were taken to develop the resources
of the service; but in 1720 Ralph Allen appears, another and perhaps the
most fortunate of all the improvers of the Post-Office. Up to this year,
the lines of post had branched off, from London and Edinburgh
respectively, on to the principal roads of the two kingdoms; but the
"cross-posts," even when established, had not been efficient, the towns
off the main line of road not being well served, whilst some districts
had no direct communication through them. The Post-Office Bill had given
facilities for the establishment of more "cross-posts;" but, till 1720,
the authorities did not avail themselves of its provisions to any great
extent. Mr. Allen, at that time the postmaster of Bath, and who must,
from his position, have been well aware of the defects of the existing
system, proposed to the Government to establish cross-posts between
Exeter and Chester, going by way of Bristol, Gloucester, and Worcester,
connecting in this way the west of England with the Lancashire districts
and the mail route to Ireland, and giving independent postal
intercommunication to all the important towns lying in the direction to
be taken. Previous to this proposal, letters passing between
neighbouring towns were conveyed by circuitous routes, often requiring
to go to the metropolis and to be sent back again by another post-road,
thus, in these days of slow locomotion, causing serious delay. Allen
proposed a complete reconstruction of the cross-post system, and
guaranteed a great improvement to the revenue as well as better
accommodation to the country. By his representations, he induced the
Lords of the Treasury to grant him a lease of the cross-posts for life.
His engagements were to bear all the cost of his new service, and pay a
fixed rental of 6,000_l._ a-year, on which terms he was to retain all
the surplus revenue. From time to time the contract was renewed, but of
course at the same rental; each time, however, the Government required
Allen to include other branches of road in his engagement, so that at
his death, in 1764, the cross-posts had extended to all parts of the
country. Towards the last, the private project had become so gigantic as
to be nearly unmanageable, and it was with something like satisfaction
that the Post-Office authorities saw it lapse to the Crown. At this time
it was considered one of the chief duties of the surveyors--whose
business it was to visit each deputy postmaster in the course of the
year--to see that the distinction between the bye-letters of the
cross-posts, the postage of which belonged to Mr. Allen, and the postage
of the general post letters, which belonged to the Government, was
properly kept up. The deputies were known to hold the loosest notions on
this subject, some of them preferring to appropriate the revenues of one
or the other post rather than make mistakes in the matter. The disputes
and difficulties lasted to the death of Allen.[38] Notwithstanding the
losses he must have suffered through the dishonesty or carelessness of
country postmasters, the farmer of the cross-posts, in an account which
he left at his death, estimated the net profits of his contract at the
sum of 10,000_l._ annually, a sum which, during his official life,
amounted in the total to nearly half a million sterling! Whilst, in
official quarters, his success was greatly envied, Mr. Allen commanded,
in his private capacity, universal respect. In the only short account we
have seen of this estimable man, a contemporary writer states[39] that
"he was not more remarkable for the ingenuity and industry with which he
made a very large fortune, than for the charity, generosity, and
kindness with which he spent it." It is certain that Allen bestowed a
considerable part of his income in works of charity, especially in
supporting needy men of letters. He was a great friend and benefactor of
Fielding; and in _Tom Jones_, the novelist has gratefully drawn Mr.
Allen's character in the person of _Allworthy_. He enjoyed the
friendship of Chatham and Pitt; and Pope, Warburton, and other men of
literary distinction, were his familiar companions. Pope has celebrated
one of his principal virtues, unassuming benevolence, in the well-known

    "Let humble _Allen_, with an awkward shame,
    Do good by stealth, and blush to find its fame."

On the death of Allen, the cross-posts were brought under the control of
the Postmaster-General. An officer, Mr. Ward, was appointed to take
charge of the _Bye-letter Office_, as the branch was now called, at the
salary of 300_l._ a-year. The success of the amalgamation scheme was so
complete, that at the end of the first year, profits to the amount of
20,000_l._ were handed over to the Crown. Afterwards, the proceeds
continued to increase even still more rapidly; so much so, that when, in
1799, the "Bye-letter Office" was abolished, and its management
transferred to the General Office, they had reached the enormous yearly
sum of 200,000_l._!

At the revision of the Post-Office in 1710, the bounds of the penny post
were extended, as we have seen, to a district within ten miles of the
General Post-Office. This extension was granted on a memorial from
several townships in the London district, who volunteered, if such
extension were made, that they would pay an extra penny for every letter
delivered beyond "the boundaries of the cities of London and
Westminster, and the borough of Southwark." Numerous disputes having
arisen owing to the _wording_ of the Act, and many inhabitants claiming
in consequence to have their letters delivered free within the ten-mile
circuit, a supplementary Act was passed in 1727, "_for the obviating and
taking away such doubts_," as to what was the proper charge, and
directing that the "penny postmen" must not deliver any letters out of
the original limits, but may detain or delay such letters or packets,
unless an extra penny were paid for each on delivery.

The statute of Queen Anne provided that a weekly payment of 700_l._
should be made to the Exchequer from the Post-Office for a period of
thirty-two years. This term having expired in 1743, an Act was passed in
that year making the payment _perpetual_, and all clauses, powers, &c.
in the Act of 1711 were also made perpetual. In order to keep up this
source of revenue, which was too good to relinquish, the rates of
postage, instead of being lowered again as stipulated, were kept up, and
several times during subsequent years, as we shall see, fresh additions
were made to the burdens of letter-writers. While on this subject, we
may simply state the clause of Queen Anne's Act relating to the disposal
of the _surplus_ revenue. All pensions were to be paid out of it, and
the remainder retained by the Queen "for the better support of Her
Majesty's household, and for the honour and dignity of the Crown of
Great Britain." On the accession of George I. a bill, granting the same
rights and privileges during the King's lifetime, was passed in the
first session of Parliament. In the first year of the reign of George
II. and his grandson George III. the same rights and privileges were
obtained under the self-same conditions. Though the conditions of the
following Act were, in reality, carried out several years previously,
when a salary of 700,000_l._ a-year was granted to the King for the
support of his household, section 48 of 27 George III. enacts that, for
the King's lifetime, "the entire _net_ revenue of the Post-Office shall
be carried to and made part of the fund, to be called 'the Consolidated
Fund.'" It is scarcely needful to say that this arrangement has existed
from 1787 to the present time.

From the date of Allen's improvement in 1720 to the year 1761, when the
postage of letters was again disturbed and many other alterations made,
little of special importance was done in the Post-Office, and we cannot
do better than take advantage of this quiet time to give some account of
the internal arrangements of the establishment, and to notice certain
minutiæ, which, though trifling in themselves, will serve to give the
reader an insight into the details, the way and means, of this early
period.[40] In the time of George I. the officers of the Post-Office in
London consisted of _two_ Postmasters-General, with a secretary and a
clerk. There were four chief officers in the Inland-office--viz. a
controller, a receiver, an accountant, and a solicitor. The staff of
clerks consisted of seven for the different roads--Chester, North West,
Bristol, Yarmouth, Kent, and Kent night-road. Thirteen clerks were
engaged in other duties, and three more clerks attended at the window to
answer inquiries and deliver letters. The foreign office, which was a
separate department, included a controller and an alphabet keeper, with
eight assistant clerks. The whole London establishment, which at the
present day numbers several thousand officers of different grades, was
then, without counting letter-carriers, worked with a staff of

"To show the method, diligence, and exactness of our General
Post-Office," says a writer of the period, "and the due despatch of the
post at each stage, take this specimen." And for our purpose we cannot
do better than take Stowe's advice, and insert here a copy of a
Post-Office proclamation to postmasters and time-bill, given in his
_History of London_:--

    "Whereas the management of the postage of the letters of Great
    Britain and Ireland is committed to our care and conduct: these are
    therefore in His Majesty's name to require you in your respective
    stages to use all diligence and expedition in the safe and speedy
    conveyance of this mail and letters: that you ride five miles an
    hour according to your articles from London to East Grinstead, and
    from thence to return accordingly. And hereof you are not to fail,
    as you will answer the contrary at your perils.

                                                     Signed, CORNWALLIS.
                                                      JAMES CRAGGS."[41]


Haste, Haste, Post Haste!

 |        | From the Letter-Office at _half an hour past two in the_  |
 |_Miles._|     _morning_, July 17, 1719.                             |
 |        |                                                           |
 |   16   | Received at Epsom half an hour past six, and sent away    |
 |        |     three-quarters past.            ALEXANDER FINDLATER.  |
 |        |                                                           |
 |    8   | Received at Dorking half an hour after eight, and sent    |
 |        |     away at nine.                   CHAS. CASTLEMAN.      |
 |        |                                                           |
 |    6   | Received at _Rygate_ half an hour past ten, and sent away |
 |        |     again at eleven.                JOHN BULLOCK.         |
 |        |                                                           |
 |   16   | Received at East Grinstead at half an hour after three    |
 |        |     in the afternoon.                                     |

The speed at which the East Grinstead mail travelled was greater than
usual: few post-boys, in the provinces at any rate, were required to go
at a greater rate than three or four miles an hour. Not only this, but
the boys as a rule were without discipline; difficult to control;
sauntered on the road at pleasure, and were quite an easy prey to any
robber or ill-disposed persons who might think it worth their while to
interfere with them. About this time, we find the Post-Office surveyor
complaining dolorously to headquarters, that the gentry "doe give much
money to the riders, whereby they be very subject to get in liquor,
_which stopes the males_." Expresses at that time travelled somewhat
quicker, but still not quick enough for some persons. On one occasion,
Mr. Harley (afterwards Lord Oxford) complained of delay in an express
which had been sent to him; but the Postmasters-General thought there
were no grounds for complaint, inasmuch "as it had travelled 136 miles
in 36 hours, which," added they, "is the usual rate of expresses."

In the year 1696, the Treasury sanctioned an arrangement for conveying
the mails between Bristol and Exeter, twice a week, under the
stipulation that the distance of sixty-five miles should be performed in
twenty-four hours!

In Scotland, about the same time, this work was done even slower, and
with greater hardships. The post-boy walked all distances under twenty
miles; longer distances required that the messenger should be mounted,
though no relays of horses were allowed, however long and tedious the
journey might be.[42]

At this time, it was only a secondary consideration, _when_ or _how_
letters should be delivered. For a number of years the authorities were
simply bent on raising revenue out of the Post-Office. Thus, about the
period of which we are speaking, a request was made to the authorities
from certain inhabitants of Warwick, that the London letters for that
place should be sent direct to Warwick and not through Coventry, by
which latter route a great many hours were lost. A decided negative was
returned to this very reasonable request, and for the following cogent
_official_ reason, which exhibits well the exacting tendencies of the
Government. "From London to Warwick, through Coventry, is more than
_eighty_ miles," say the Postmasters-General; "so that we can charge
6_d._ per letter going that way, whereas we could only charge 3_d._ if
they went direct." No doubt this reply is given to the Lords of the
Treasury, through whom all such applications as the foregoing had then,
and still have, to pass; for it cannot be imagined that they gave this
reply to the people of Warwick themselves. "Perhaps, however," add the
Post-Office officials, with some glimmering idea of the true business
principle, "we might get _more letters_ at the cheaper rate." Present
profits, nevertheless, could not be sacrificed, even though there should
be a prospect of increased future revenue. Another instance is on
record, proving that in this respect the Post-Office authorities of the
period were wiser than the executive that held them in check. The
Postmasters-General apply (fruitlessly however) to the Treasury to lower
the rates of postage in a particular district, and in urging their
request, state that "we have, indeed, found by experience, that where we
have made the correspondence more easie and cheape, the number of
letters has been thereby much increased, and therefore we do believe
such a settlement may be attended with a like effect in these parts."

The Treasury Lords are slow to sanction what appeared to them to be a
sacrifice of revenue, and from the frequent applications which were made
to them by deputy postmasters in the early part of last century to
settle accounts of long standing, or remit the arrears owing to the
Government, we may imagine that their hands were full and their temper
soured. Many postmasters in the West of England now petitioned the
Treasury to the effect that they had been nearly ruined in the times of
His Majesty King William, "through much spoiling of their horses by
officers riding-post in the late blessed Revolution." Others grumble at
the lowness of their salaries. It was all very well, they argued, that
the deputies, during the civil wars or at the Revolution, should be
contented with low salaries, because they were exempted from having
soldiers quartered upon them, but now that the time of peace had come,
they submitted that their salaries should be raised.

The Act of Queen Anne provided for one Postmaster-General. How it came
to be altered is not clear; but it is nevertheless certain that, for the
greater part of the eighteenth century, the office was jointly held by
two chiefs. All letters and mandates bore the signature of both of them;
though it seems probable that the work of the office was equitably
divided between the two gentlemen, the one taking charge principally of
the inland business, while the other managed the packets. The duties of
the latter department were much more onerous than might be supposed,
when viewed in the light of the history of that period. As we have not
yet directed attention to this department of the Post-Office, we may
here state that some curious accounts survive of the infancy of the
postal sea-service, during the former part of last century, when Sir
Robert Cotton and Sir Thomas Frankland shared its management. In those
sad times when war was raging, and French privateers covered every sea,
our Postmasters-General were anxious, though shrewd and active men. The
general orders to the captains of the vessels under their control were
such as, under the circumstances, they ought to be: "You must run while
you can, fight when you can no longer run, and throw the mails overboard
when fighting will no longer avail." Notwithstanding such an order, and
on account of so many mails travelling short of their destination, the
Postmasters-General resolve to build swift packet-boats that shall
escape the enemy; but in their inexperience, they get them built so low
in the water, that shortly afterwards, "we doe find that in blowing
weather they take in soe much water that the men are constantly wet
through, and can noe ways goe below, being obliged to keep the hatches
shut to save the vessel from sinking." It is clear that better and
stronger boats must be built, and stronger boats are built accordingly.
To make up for the expense, they order that the freight of passengers
shall be raised, though "recruits and indigent persons shall still have
their passage free." It is noteworthy here, that about this time no
political refugee seeking an asylum in England is ever hard pressed for
a fare on the continental packet-boats, but an entry is made in the
agent's letter-book that so and so "have not wherewithal to pay their
charges," and are sent on their path to liberty without further

Every provision is supplied by the authorities in London, and salaries
and pensions of all kinds are granted. Thus, in one place, a chaplain is
appointed for the crew of one of the packets, with a small stipend, "for
doing their offices of births, marriage, and burial." Pensions for
wounds received in the service are granted with nice discrimination of
the relative parts of the body. In a letter to their agent at Falmouth,
the Postmasters-General send a scale of pensions to be granted according
to the kind of wound--thus: "For every arm or leg amputated above the
elbow or knee, L.8 per annum; below the arm or knee, twenty nobles. Loss
of the sight of one eye must be L.4; of the pupil of the eye, L.5; of
the sight of both eyes, L.12; of the pupils of both eyes, L.14; and
according to these rules, we _consider also how much also the hurts
affect the body_, and make the allowances accordingly." The duties
devolving upon the chief Post-Office officials seem not only to have
been onerous and heavy--some of their instructions to their agents
bearing dates from the middle of the night and other extraordinary
hours--but curiously varied. Many of their letters are preserved among
the old records in the vaults under the General Post-Office, and some of
them are quite sad and plaintive in their tone. "We are concerned," they
say to one agent, "to find the letters brought by your boat [one from
the West Indies] _to be so consumed by the ratts_, that we cannot find
out to whom they belong." Another letter to their agent at Harwich is
evidently disciplinary, and runs as follows:--

    "MR. EDISBURY--The woman whose complaint we herewith send you,
    _having given us much trouble upon the same_, we desire you will
    inquire into the same, and see justice done her, believing she may
    have had her brandy stole from her by the sailors.--We are your
    affectionate friends[!],

                                                           R. C., T. F."

It would be difficult to fancy such a letter as the above proceeding
from officialdom in the year of grace eighteen hundred and sixty-four.
In another letter we find the authorities affectionately scolding an
agent because "he had not provided a sufficiency of pork and beef for
the prince" (who this pork-loving prince was does not appear); in
another, because "he had bought powder at Falmouth that would have been
so much cheaper in London." In other cases they act as public guardians
of morality and loyalty, suspending one because "he had stirred up a
mutiny between a captain and his men, _which was unhandsome conduct in
him_;" bringing one Captain Clies to trial, inasmuch as "he had spoken
words reflecting on the royal family, which the Postmasters-General
_took particular unkind of him_," and can by no means allow; and
reprimanding another captain for "breaking open the portmanteau of a
gentleman-passenger, and spoiling him of a parcel of snuff." What with
all these cares and duties, the Postmasters-General of those days could
scarcely have had an easy time of it.

This sole control over the resources of the packet-service explains much
in the history of the _franking system_, which would be quite
unintelligible without the information just given. The Treasury warrants
of that day franked the strangest commodities--articles which certainly
would not be dropped into any letter-box, and which would neither be
stamped nor sorted in the orthodox way. The following list of a few
franked commodities is culled from a still larger number of such in the
packet "agent's book," found amongst the old records to which reference
has already been made:--

    "_Imprimis._ Fifteen couple of hounds, going to the King of the
    Romans with a free pass.

    "_Item._ Two maid servants, going as laundresses to my Lord
    Ambassador Methuen.

    "_Item._ Doctor Crichton, carrying with him _a cow_ and divers

    "_Item._ Two bales of stockings, for the use of the Ambassador to
    the Crown of Portugal.[43]

    "_Item._ A deal case, with ffour flitches of bacon, for Mr.
    Pennington of Rotterdam."

Whilst referring to the subject of letter-franking, we may as well
notice here, that before the control of the packet-service passed out of
the hands of the Post-Office authorities, and when the right of franking
letters became the subject of legislative enactments, we hear no more of
these curious consignments of goods. The franking system was henceforth
confined to passing free through the post any letter which should be
indorsed on the cover with the signature of a member of either House of
Parliament. As it was not then made a rule absolute that Parliament
should be in session, or that the correspondence should necessarily be
on the affairs of the nation in order to insure immunity from postage,
this arrangement led to various forms of abuse. Members signed huge
packets of covers at once, and supplied them to friends and adherents in
large quantities. Sometimes they were sold. They have been known to have
been given to servants in lieu of wages, the servants selling them again
in the ordinary way of business. Nor was this all. So little precaution
seems to have been used, that thousands of letters passed through the
Post-Office with forged signatures of members.[44] To such an extent did
this and kindred abuses accumulate, that, in 1763, the worth of franked
correspondence passing through the post was estimated at 170,000_l._
During the next year--viz. in 1764--Parliament enacted that no letter
should pass free through the Post-Office unless the whole address was in
the member's own handwriting and his signature attached likewise. Even
these precautions, though lessening the frauds, were not sufficient to
meet the evil, for fresh regulations were thought necessary in 1784.
This time it was ordered that all franks should be dated, the month to
be given in full; and further, that all such letters should be put into
the post on the day they were dated. From 1784 to the date of penny
postage no further regulations were made concerning the franked
correspondence, the estimated value of which during these years was
80,000_l._ annually.

The rates of postage ordered by the Government of Queen Anne continued
in force for eighteen years after it was designed by the Act that they
should cease, and it was only in 1761, at the commencement of the reign
of George III., that any alteration was made. Even then the rates were
increased instead of diminished. 1 Geo. III. c. 25 provides, that the
improvement of correspondence is a matter of such great concernment and
so highly necessary for the extension of trade and commerce, that the
statutes of Queen Anne need repealing to some extent, and especially as,
through vast accessions of territory, no posts and post-rates are
arranged to all his Majesty's dominions. The improvements and
alterations made at this time may thus be summed up, viz.:--

1. Additions are made to the vessels on the American station. Other and
cheaper rates of postage are established between London and North
America and all his Majesty's territories in America.

2. Concerning letters brought by private ships from any foreign part, no
ship or vessel shall be permitted to make entry in any port of Great
Britain, or to unload any of its cargo, until all letters and packets
brought by such ship, or any passenger on board such ship, are
delivered into the hands of the deputy-postmaster of the port, and until
the captain shall receive the deputy's receipt for the same. In cases
where the vessel "is liable to the performance of quarantine," the first
step must be to deliver the letters into the hands of the superintendent
of the quarantine, to be by him despatched to the Post-Office. A penalty
of 20_l._ with full costs to be inflicted on any master not delivering a
letter or packet of letters according to this Act, one moiety to go to
the King and the other to the person informing.

3. The roads are to be re-surveyed, under the arrangements laid down in
Queen Anne's Act, for the purpose of settling the rates of postage

4. Letters to be charged according to the post-stages travelled, or
shorter distances to be paid for; thus:--

                                                             _s._ _d._
    For the conveyance of every single letter not exceeding
        15 miles                                               0    1
          "          "        double letter                    0    2
          "          "        ounce                            0    4
          "          "        single letter, 30 miles and
        under 40 miles                                         0    2
          "          "        double letter                    0    4
          "          "        ounce                            0    8
          "          "        single letter, 40 miles and
        under 80 miles                                         0    3
          "          "        double letter                    0    6
          "          "        ounce                            1    0

And so on.

These rates were again altered in the twenty-fourth year of the reign of
George III. for the raising of revenue to defray his Majesty's expenses,
the alteration, which took effect on the introduction of mail-coaches,
consisting of the addition of one penny to every existing charge.[45]

5. Permission is given to settle penny post-offices in other towns in
England, on the same basis as the London penny-post establishment. The
permission thus granted was soon applied, and long before the
establishment of uniform penny-postage, there were at least a thousand
penny-posts in existence in different towns. The principle which guided
the Department in establishing penny-posts was to select small towns and
populous neighbourhoods not situated in the direct line of general post
conveyances, which were desirous of obtaining extra facilities, and
granting such posts provided that they did not afford the means for
evading the general post. The only requisite was, that the authorities
should have a reasonable hope that the proposed post would yield
sufficient to pay for its maintenance--a thing considered settled if the
receipts on its first establishment would pay two-thirds of the entire

6. The weight of any packet or letter to be sent by the London
penny-post, or any of the new penny-posts to be established under this
improved Act, must not now exceed _four ounces_.

In 1749, the Act restraining any other but officers of the Post-Office
from letting out horses to hire for the purpose of riding post, is
stated not to refer to cases where chaises, "calashes," or any other
vehicles, are furnished. Vehicles to drive may be provided on either
post-roads or elsewhere by any person choosing to engage in the trade.
In 1779, all Acts giving exclusive privileges to the Postmaster-General
and his deputies as to the letting of post-_horses_ for hire are
henceforth repealed.

In the year 1766 the first penny-post was established in Edinburgh by
one Peter Williamson, a native of Aberdeen. He kept a coffee-shop in the
hall of the Parliament House, and as he was frequently employed by
gentlemen attending the courts in sending letters to different parts of
the city, and as he had doubtless heard something of the English
penny-posts, he began a regular post with hourly deliveries, and
established agents at different parts of the city to collect letters. He
employed four carriers, who appeared in uniform, to take the letters
from the different agents, and then to deliver them as addressed. For
both these purposes they were accustomed to ring a bell as they
proceeded, in order to give due notice of their approach. The
undertaking was so successful, that other speculators were induced to
set up rival establishments, which, of course, led to great confusion.
The authorities saw the success of the undertaking, and, aware of its
importance, they succeeded in inducing Williamson to take a pension for
the good-will of his concern, and then merged it in the general

We cannot attempt more than a short _résumé_ of the incidents in the
previous history of the Scotch Post-Office, although the annals of the
seventeenth century contain little of interest, and might, therefore,
soon be presented to the reader. The first regular letter-post was
established in the reign of James I. (of England). In 1642, owing to the
sending of forces from Scotland to put down the Irish Rebellion, it was
found that the post arrangements in the south-west of Scotland were
defective in the extreme. The Scotch Council proposed to establish a
line of posts between Edinburgh and Portpatrick, and Portpatrick and
Carlisle, and the English, being more immediately concerned in the
Rebellion, agreed to bear the whole expense.[46] In the Privy Council
records of the period, we find a list of persons recommended by the
Commissioners for appointment on the two lines of road as postmasters,
"such persons being the only ones fit for that employment, as being
innkeepers and of approved honesty." Seven years afterwards we find the
Post-Office at Edinburgh was under the care of John Mean, husband of the
woman who discharged her stool at the bishop's head when the
service-book was introduced into St. Giles's in 1637. He seems to have
himself borne the charges of attending to the office "without any
reasonable allowance therefor;" and petitioning the Committee of Estates
to that effect, they allowed him to retain the "eighth penny on all
letters sent from Edinburgh to London (no great number), and the fourth
penny upon all those coming from London to Edinburgh." At the
Restoration the office was bestowed on Robert Main, and considerable
improvements were made under his management, although only with existing
posts. Little was done for other parts of Scotland. A traveller in
Scotland so late as 1688, commenting on the absence of stage or other
coaches on most Scotch roads, says,[47] that "this carriage of persons
from place to place might be better spared, were there opportunities and
means for the speedier conveyance of business by letters. They have no
horse-posts besides those which ply between Berwick and Edinburgh, and
Edinburgh and Portpatrick for the Irish packets.... From Edinburgh to
Perth, and so on to other places, they use foot-posts and carriers,
which, _though a slow way of communicating our concerns to one another,
yet is such as they acquiesce in till they have a better_." Our
traveller is somewhat wrong in his date, for in 1667 a horse-post to
Aberdeen from Edinburgh, twice a week, was started, with the consent of
Patrick Graham, of Inchbrakie, his Majesty's Postmaster-General, "for
the _timous_ delivery of letters and receiving returns of the _samen_."
Two years afterwards Inverness got dissatisfied with the want of postal
communication, when Robert Main, the Edinburgh postmaster, was
commissioned to establish a constant foot-post between Edinburgh and
Inverness, going once a week, "wind and weather serving."[48] "Wind and
weather serving" is an amusing qualification, as pointed out by Mr.
Chambers, considering that there was only one ferry of six or seven
miles, and another of two miles, to cross. In 1661, we find the
Edinburgh postmaster useful in another capacity, for in that year the
Privy Council grant a warrant to him "to put to print and publish _ane
diurnal weekly_, for preventing false news which may be invented by evil
and disaffected persons."

We must now pass over many years, as not offering any incidents of any
moment. In the year 1730 we find that the Scotch establishment yielded
the sum of 1,194_l._ as the whole gross revenue. From about the year
1750, the mails began to be carried from stage to stage, as in England,
by relays of fresh horses and different post-boys, though not entirely
to the exclusion of the post-runners, of whom we have previously spoken.

In 1723, the Edinburgh Post-Office occupied the first-floor of a house
near the cross, above an alley which still bears the name of the
Post-Office Close. It was afterwards removed to a floor on the south
side of the Parliament Square, which was fitted up shop-fashion, and
where the letters were given out from behind an ordinary shop counter,
one letter-carrier doing all the out-door work. The Post-Office was
removed to its present situation in 1821. Towards the close of 1865, it
is expected, the handsome building now rising up near the old office
will be finished and opened for postal purposes.[49]

Even less interest attaches to the early annals of the Irish
Post-Office. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was
certainly more remunerative than the Scotch, though much less
remunerative than the English departments. Previous to the introduction
of mail-coaches, all mails were conveyed, or supposed to be conveyed, by
the postmasters, to whom certain special allowances were made for each
particular service. "There were no contracts, and no fixed rules as to
time. Three miles and a half (per hour) seems to have been the pace
acknowledged to have been sufficient. The bags were usually conveyed by
boys. In the immediate neighbourhood of the metropolis, some sort of
cart was used, but with this exception the bags were carried either on
ponies or mules, or on foot."[50] The same authority tells us further
that, "at this time, the bags were carried to Cork, Belfast, Limerick,
and Waterford, six days a week; and three days a week to Galway,
Wexford, and Enniskillen. There were three posts to Killarney; but for
this the Government refused to pay anything. The postmaster had a salary
of 3_l._ a-year, but the mail was carried by foot-messengers, who were
maintained at the cost of the inhabitants and of the news-printers in
Cork. Carrick-on-Shannon was the only town in county Leitrim receiving a
mail, and this it did twice a week. Now it has two every day. Except at
the county-town, there was no post-office in the whole county of Sligo;
and there were but sixteen in the province of Connaught, where there are
now one hundred and seventy-one."


[34] These exceptions were again made in the Act 1 Vic. c. 33. s. 2, and
still remain the law.

[35] This clause was repealed in the reign of George II.

[36] The office of Post-Office Surveyor, of which we here see the
origin, still exists (though the officers now so designated have very
different duties) among the most responsible and lucrative appointments
in the Department.

[37] "There cannot be devised," says Blackstone, "a more eligible method
than this of raising money upon the subject; for therein both the
Government and the people find a mutual benefit. The Government requires
a large revenue, and the people do their business with greater ease,
expedition, and cheapness than they would be able to do if no such tax
existed."--_Com._ vol. i. p. 324.

[38] At this time, and for some years subsequently, the mails were
carried on horseback in charge of post-boys. Some of these post-boys
were sad rogues, who, besides taking advantage of confusion in the two
posts, were accustomed to carry letters themselves concealed upon them
and for charges of course quite unorthodox. In old records of the
Post-Office, principally the Surveyor's Book, referring to country
post-offices from the year 1735, there are long complaints from the
surveyor on this head. The following, "exhibiting more malice than good
grammar," may be taken as a specimen, and will suffice to show the way
things were managed at that date:--"At this place (Salisbury) found the
post-boys to have carried on vile practices in taking the _bye-letters_,
delivering them in this cittye and taking back answers, especially the
_Andover_ riders. On the 15th found on Richard Kent, one of the Andover
riders, 5 bye-letters, all for this cittye. Upon examining the fellow,
he confessed he had made it a practice, _and persisted to continue in
it_, saying he had noe wages from his master. I took the fellow before
the Magistrate, proved the facts, and he was committed, but pleading to
have no money or friends, desired a punishment to be whipped, which
accordingly _he was to the purpose_. Wrote the case to Andover and
ordered the fellow to be dismissed, but no regard was had thereto, but
the next day the same rider came post, ran about the cittye for letters
_and was insolent_. Again he came post with two gentlemen, made it his
business to take up letters; the fellow, however, instead of returning
to Andover, gets two idle fellows and rides off with three horses, which
was a return for his master not obeying my instructions." Our shrewd
surveyor thus amply got his revenge, and the Post-Office and Mr. Allen
suffer no more from the delinquencies of Richard Kent.--_From Mr.
Scudamore's Notes._

[39] _Gentleman's Magazine_, August, 1760.

[40] Mr. Scudamore, of the General Post-Office, to whom we are indebted
for much of the _minutiæ_ in question, has been successful in his
efforts to preserve permanently some of the old records of the
Post-Office; and the result of his labours may be found in the Appendix
to the Postmaster-General's First Report.

[41] Son of the James Craggs who succeeded Addison as Secretary of
State, and who obtained such an unusual portion of the poetical praise
of Pope. The son came in for a share also, as, for example:--

    "Statesman, yet friend to truth! of soul sincere,
    In action faithful, and in honour clear."

[42] Campbell, in his _Tales of the Highlands_, relates two or three
incidents which show that little improvement had taken place in post
communications in some part of Scotland even a hundred years later. The
English order of posts and express posts seem there to have been
reversed, express work being done the worst. For instance: "Near
Inverary, we regained a spot of comparative civilization, and came up
with the post-boy, whose horse was quietly grazing at some distance,
whilst Red Jacket himself was immersed in play with other lads. 'You
rascal,' I said to him, 'are you the post-boy and thus spending your
time?' 'Nae, nae, sir,' he answered, 'I'm no the post, I'm only an

[43] What the Right Hon. John Methuen wanted with two bales of stockings
is, of course, a mystery, if he was not embarking in the haberdashery
line. It may be he was desirous of regaining the favour of the
Portuguese Court, by supplying the whole with English stockings. This
was the Methuen who gave his name to a well-known treaty, which, by the
way, was found so distasteful to the Portuguese that when, in 1701, he
carried it to Pedro II. for his signature, that monarch gave vent to his
displeasure by kicking it about the room.--_Marlborough Despatches_,
vol. v. p. 625.

[44] At the investigation in 1763 it was related that "one man had, in
the course of five months, counterfeited 1,200 dozens of franks of
different members of Parliament."

[45] As an example of the summary proceedings of those days, we may here
just note the remarks which Mr. Pitt made in his place in Parliament
when he proposed this increase, calculating that the change would
produce at least 120,000_l._ additional revenue out of the Post-Office.
The tax upon letters, said he, could be calculated with a great degree
of certainty, and the changes he had to propose would _by no means
reduce the number sent. It was idle to suppose that the public would
grumble in having to pay just one penny additional for valuable letters
safely and expeditiously conveyed._ He proposed "to charge all letters
that went one stage and which now paid one penny in future the sum of
2_d._, and this would bring in the sum of 6,230_l._ All that now pay
2_d._ paying an additional penny would yield 8,923_l._ Threepenny
letters paying another penny would produce 33,963_l._ The increase of
fourpenny letters would produce 34,248_l._" The cross-roads he could not
speak of with great certainty, but he thought they might calculate on at
least 20,000_l._ from that source, and so on, till the estimated sum was

[46] _Domestic Annals of Scotland._ By Mr. R. Chambers. Vol. ii. p. 142.

[47] _A Short Account of Scotland_, published in London in 1702.

[48] The wording of the qualifying clauses in the proclamations of
stage-coaches, &c. are very various, and sometimes exceedingly amusing.
In England the Divine Hand was generally recognised in the formula of
"God willing," or, "If God should permit." On the contrary, the human
element certainly preponderated--whether it was meant so or not--in the
announcement made by a carrying communication between Edinburgh and a
northern burgh, when it was given out that "a waggon would leave the
Grass market for Inverness every Tuesday, God willing, but on Wednesday
_whether or no_."

[49] It will be remembered that the late lamented Prince Consort laid
the foundation-stone of this structure in 1862, being the last occasion
on which he assisted at any public ceremony. For further information of
the Scotch Office, see Mr. Lang's _Historical Summary of the Post-Office
in Scotland_.

[50] Appendix to Postmaster-General's Third Report, supplied by Mr.
Anthony Trollope, then one of the Post-Office Surveyors for Ireland.



We have now arrived at a most important epoch in the history of the
English Post-Office. Fifteen years after the death of Mr. Allen, John
Palmer, one of the greatest of the early post-reformers rose into
notice. To give anything approaching to a proper account of the eminent
services that Palmer rendered towards the development of the resources
of the Post-Office, it is requisite that we notice the improvements
which had been made up to his time in the internal communications of the
country. Trade and commerce, more than ever active, were the means of
opening out the country in all directions. Civil engineering had now
acquired the importance and dignity of a profession. This was the age of
Brindley and Smeaton, Rennie and Telford, Watt and Boulton. Roads were
being made in even the comparatively remote districts of England;
bridges were built in all parts of the country; the Bridgewater and
other canals were opened for traffic, whilst many more were laid out.
And what is perhaps more germane to our special subject, many
improvements were apparent in the means of conveyance during the same
period.[51] While, on the one hand, the ordinary stage-coach had found
its way on to every considerable road, and was still equal to the usual
requirements, the speed at which it travelled did not at all satisfy the
enterprising merchants of Lancashire and Yorkshire. So early as 1754, a
company of merchants in Manchester started a new vehicle, called the
"Flying Coach," which seems to have owed its designation to the fact
that the proprietors contemplated an acceleration in the speed of the
new conveyance to four or five miles an hour. It started with the
following remarkable prospectus:--"However incredible it may appear,
this coach will actually (barring accidents) arrive in London in four
days and a half after leaving Manchester." In the same year a new coach
was brought out in Edinburgh, but the speed at which it travelled was no
improvement on the old rate. It was of better appearance, however; and
the announcement heralding its introduction to the Edinburgh public
sought for it general support on the ground of the extra comfort it
would offer to travellers. "The Edinburgh stage-coach," says the
prospectus, "for the better accommodation of passengers, will be altered
to a new genteel two-end glass machine, hung on steel springs,
exceedingly light and easy, to go (to London) in ten days in summer and
twelve in winter."[52] Three years afterwards, the Liverpool merchants
established another "flying machine on steel springs," which was
designed to, and which really did, eclipse the Manchester one in the
matter of speed.[53] Three days only were allowed for the journey
between Liverpool and London. Sheffield and Leeds followed with their
respective "fly-coaches," and by the year 1784 they had not only become
quite common, but most of them had acquired the respectable velocity of
eight miles an hour.

The post-boy on horseback travelling at the rate of three or four miles
an hour, had been an institution since the days of Charles II., and now,
towards the close of the eighteenth century, the Post-Office was still
clinging to the old system. It was destined, however, that Mr. Palmer
should bring about a grand change. Originally a brewer, Mr. Palmer was,
in 1784, the manager of the Bath and Bristol theatres. He seems to have
known Mr. Allen, and to have been fully acquainted with his fortunate
Post-Office speculations. In this way, to some extent, but much more,
doubtless, through his public capacity as manager of two large theatres,
he became acquainted with the crude postal arrangements of the period.
Having frequently to correspond with the theatrical stars of the
metropolis, and also to journey between London and the then centres of
trade and fashion, he noticed how superior the arrangements were for
travelling to those under which the Post-Office work was done, and he
conceived the idea of improvements.

Palmer found that letters, for instance, which left Bath on Monday night
were not delivered in London until Wednesday afternoon or night; but the
stage-coach which left through the day on Monday, arrived in London on
the following morning.[54] Not only did the existing system of mail
conveyance strike him as being exceedingly slow, but insecure and
otherwise defective. As he afterwards pointed out, he noticed that when
tradesmen were particularly anxious to have a valuable letter conveyed
with speed and safety, they never thought of giving it into the safe
keeping of the Post-Office, but were in the habit of enclosing it in a
brown paper parcel and sending it by the coach: nor were they deterred
from this practice by having to pay a rate of carriage for it far higher
than that charged for a post-letter. Robberies of the mails were so
frequent, that even to adopt the precaution recommended by the
Post-Office authorities, and send valuable remittances such as a bank
note, bills of exchange, &c. _at twice_, was a source of endless trouble
and annoyance, if it did not prove entirely ineffective. Who can wonder
at the Post-Office robberies when the carelessness and incompetency of
the servants of the Post-Office were taken into account? A curious
robbery of the Portsmouth mail in 1757 illustrates the careless manner
in which the duty was done. The boy who carried the mail had dismounted
at Hammersmith, about three miles from Hyde Park Corner, and called for
beer, when some thieves took the opportunity to cut the mail-bags from
off the horse's crupper, and got away undiscovered. The French mail on
its outward-bound passage _viâ_ Dover was more than once stopped and
rifled before it had got clear of London. A string stretched across a
street in the borough through which the mail would pass has been known
to throw the post-boy from his horse, who, without more ado, would
coolly retrace his steps, empty-handed, to the chief office, and report
the loss of his bags. What could be expected, however, in the case of
raw, unarmed post-boys, when carriages were stopped in broad daylight in
Hyde Park, and even in Piccadilly itself, and pistols pointed at the
breasts of the nobility and gentry _living close at hand_? Horace
Walpole relates that he himself was robbed in Hyde Park in broad
daylight, in a carriage with Lord Eglinton and Lady Albemarle.

Mr. Palmer, however, was ready with a remedy for robbery, as well as for
the other countless defects in the existing postal arrangements. He
began his work of reform in 1783, by submitting a full scheme in a
lengthy report to Mr. Pitt, who was at that time Prime Minister. He
commenced by describing the then existing system of mail transmission.
"The post," he says, "at present, instead of being the quickest, is
almost the slowest conveyance in the country; and although, from the
great improvements in our roads, other carriers have proportionately
mended their speed, the post is as slow as ever." The system is also
unsafe; robberies are frequent, and he saw not how it could be otherwise
if there were no changes. "The mails," continued Palmer, "are generally
intrusted to some idle boy without character, mounted on a worn-out
hack, and who, so far from being able to defend himself, or escape from
a robber, is more likely to be in league with him." If robberies were
not so frequent as the circumstances might lead people to suppose, it
was simply because thieves had found, by long practice, that the
mails were scarcely worth robbing--the booty to be obtained being
comparatively worthless, inasmuch as the public found other means of
sending letters of value. Mr. Palmer, as we have before stated, knew of
tradesmen who sent letters by stage-coach. Why, therefore, "should not
the stage-coach, well protected by armed guards, under certain
conditions to be specified, carry the mail-bags?" Though by no means the
only recommendation which Mr. Palmer made to the Prime Minister, this
substitution of a string of mail-coaches for the "worn-out hacks" was
the leading feature of his plans. Evincing a thorough knowledge of his
subject (however he may have attained that knowledge), and devised with
great skill, the measures he proposed promised to advance the postal
communication to as high a pitch of excellence as was possible. To lend
to the scheme the prospect of _financial_ success, he laboured to show
that his proposals, if adopted, would secure a larger revenue to the
Post-Office than it had ever yet yielded; whilst, as far as the public
were concerned, it was evident that they would gladly pay higher for a
service which was performed so much more efficiently. Mr. Pitt, who
always lent a ready ear to proposals which would have the effect of
increasing the revenue, saw and acknowledged the merits of the scheme
very early. But, first of all, the Post-Office officials must be
consulted; and from accounts[55] which survive, we learn how bitterly
they resented proposals not coming from themselves. They made many and
vehement objections to the sweeping changes which Palmer's plans would
necessitate. "The oldest and ablest officers in the service" represented
them "not only to be impracticable, but dangerous to commerce and the
revenue."[56] The accounts of the way in which they met some of his
proposals is most amusing and instructive. Thus, Palmer recommended Mr.
Pitt to take some commercial men into his councils, and they would not
fail to convince him of the great need there was for change. He also
submitted that the suggestions of commercial men should be listened to
more frequently, when postal arrangements for their respective districts
should be made. Mr. Hodgson, one of the prominent officers of the
Post-Office, indignantly answered that "it was not possible that any set
of gentlemen, merchants, or outriders (commercial travellers, we
suppose), could instruct officers brought up in the business of the
Post-Office. And it is particularly to be hoped," said this gentlemen,
with a spice of malice, "if not presumed, that the surveyors need no
such information." He "ventured to say, that the post as then managed
was admirably connected in all its parts, well-regulated, carefully
attended to, and not to be improved by any person unacquainted with the
whole. It is a pity," he sarcastically added, "that Mr. Palmer should
not first have been informed of the nature of the business in question,
to make him understand how very differently the post and post-offices
are conducted to what he apprehends."

Mr. Palmer might not be, and really was not, acquainted with all the
working arrangements of the office he was seeking to improve: yet it
was quite patent to all outside the Post-Office that the entire
establishment needed remodelling. Mr. Hodgson, however, and his
_confrères_ "were amazed," they said, "that any dissatisfaction, any
desire for change, should exist." The Post-Office was already perfect in
their eyes. It was, at least, "almost as perfect as it can be, without
exhausting the revenue arising therefrom." They could not help,
therefore, making a united stand against any such new-fangled scheme,
which they predict "will fling the commercial correspondence of the
country into the utmost confusion, and which will justly raise such a
clamour as the Postmaster-General will not be able to appease." Another
of the principal officers, a Mr. Allen, who seems to have been more
temperate in his abuse of the new proposals, gave it as his opinion,
"that the more Mr. Palmer's plan was considered, the greater number of
difficulties and objections started to its ever being carried completely
into execution."

From arguing on the general principles involved, they then descend to
combat the working arrangements of the theatre-manager with even less
success. Mr. Palmer complains that the post is slow, and states that it
ought to outstrip all other conveyances. Mr. Hodgson "could not see
_why_ the post should be the swiftest conveyance in England. Personal
conveyances, I apprehend, should be much more, and particularly with
people travelling on business." Then followed Mr. Draper, another
official, who objected to the coaches as travelling too fast. "The
post," he said, "cannot travel with the expedition of stage-coaches, on
account of the business necessary to be done in each town through which
it passes, and without which correspondence would be thrown into the
utmost confusion." Mr. Palmer had proposed that the coaches should
remain fifteen minutes in each town through which they passed, to give
time to transact the necessary business of sorting the letters. Mr.
Draper said that half an hour was not enough, as was well enough known
to persons at all conversant with Post-Office business. Living in this
age of railways and steam, we have just reason to smile at such
objections. Then, as to the appointment of mail-guards, Mr. Palmer
might, but Mr. Hodgson could, see no security, though he could see
endless trouble, expense, and annoyance in such a provision. "The man
would doubtless have to be waited for at every alehouse the coach
passed." He might have added that such had been the experience with the
post-boys under the _régime_ which he was endeavouring to perpetuate.
Mr. Palmer stipulated, that the mail-guards should in all cases be well
armed and accoutred, and such officers "as could be depended upon as
trustworthy." But the Post-Office gentlemen objected even to this
arrangement. "There were no means of preventing robbery with effect,[57]
as the strongest cart or coach that could be made, lined and bound with
iron, might easily be broken into by determined robbers," and the
employment of armed mail-guards would only make matters worse. Instead
of affording protection to the mails, the following precious doctrine
was inculcated, that the crime of murder would be added to that of
robbery; "for," said the wonderful Mr. Hodgson, "when once desperate
fellows had determined upon robbery, resistance would lead to murder"!
These were peace and non-resistance principles with a vengeance, but
principles which in England, during the later years of Pitt's
administration, would seldom be heard, except in furtherance of some
such selfish views as those which the Post-Office authorities held in
opposition to Mr. Palmer's so-called innovations.

Mr. Palmer's propositions also included the timing of the mails at each
successive stage, and their departure from the country properly
regulated; they would thus be enabled to arrive in London at regular
specified times, and not at any hour of the day or night, and might, to
some extent, be delivered simultaneously. Again: instead of _leaving_
London at all hours of the night, he suggested that all the coaches for
the different roads should leave the General Post-Office at the same
time; and thus it was that Palmer established what was, to the stranger
in London for many years, one of the first of City sights. Finally, Mr.
Palmer's plans were pronounced impossible. "It was an impossibility,"
his opponents declared, "that the Bath mail could be brought to London
in sixteen or eighteen hours."

Mr. Pitt was less conservative than the Post-Office authorities. He
clearly inherited, as an eloquent writer[58] has pointed out, his
father's contempt for impossibilities. He saw, with the clear vision for
which he was so remarkable, that Mr. Palmer's scheme would be as
profitable as it was practicable, and he resolved, in spite of the
short-sighted opposition of the authorities, that it should be adopted.
The Lords of the Treasury lost no more time in decreeing that the plan
should be tried, and a trial and complete success was the result. On the
24th of July, 1784, the Post-Office Secretary (Mr. Anthony Todd) issued
the following order:--"His Majesty's Postmasters-General, being inclined
to make an experiment for the more expeditious conveyance of mails of
letters by stage-coaches, machines, &c., have been pleased to order that
a trial shall be made upon the road between London and Bristol, to
commence at each place on Monday, the 2d of August next." Then follows a
list of places, letters for which can be sent by these mail-coaches, and
thus concludes: "All persons are therefore to take notice, that the
letters put into any receiving-house before six of the evening, or seven
at this chief office, will be forwarded by these new conveyances; all
others for the said post-towns and their districts put in afterwards, or
given to the bellmen, must remain until the following post at the same
hour of seven."

The mail-coaches commenced running according to the above advertisement,
not, however, on the 2d, but on the 8th of August. One coach left London
at eight in the morning, reaching Bristol about eleven the same night.
_The distance between London and Bath was accomplished in fourteen
hours._ The other coach was started from Bristol at four in the
afternoon on the same day, reaching London in sixteen hours.

Mr. Palmer was installed at the Post-Office on the day of the change,
under the title of Controller-General. It was arranged that his salary
should be 1,500_l._ a-year, together with a commission of two and a half
per cent. upon any excess of net revenue over 240,000_l._--the sum at
which the annual proceeds of the Post-Office stood at the date of his

The rates of postage, as we have before incidentally pointed out, were
slightly raised--an addition of a penny to each charge; but,
notwithstanding this, the number of letters began at once, and most
perceptibly, to increase. So great was the improvement in security and
speed, that, for once, the additions to the charges were borne
ungrudgingly. Coaches were applied for without loss of time by the
municipalities of many of our largest towns,[59] and when they were
granted--as they appear to have been in most of the instances--they were
started at the rate of six miles an hour. This official rate of speed
was subsequently increased to eight, then to nine, and at length to ten
miles an hour.[60]

The opposition to Mr. Palmer's scheme, manifested by the Post-Office
officials before it was adopted, does not seem to have given way before
the manifest success attending its introduction. Perhaps Mr. Palmer's
presence at the Council Board did not conduce to the desirable unanimity
of feeling. However it was, he appears for some time to have contended
single-handed with officials determinately opposed to him. When goaded
and tormented by them, he fell into their snares, and attempted to carry
his measures by indirect means. In 1792, when his plans had been in
operation about eight years, and were beginning to show every element of
success, it was deemed desirable that he should surrender his
appointment. A pension of 3,000_l._ was granted to him in consideration
of his valuable services. Subsequently he memorialized the Government,
setting forth that his pension fell far short of the emoluments which
had been promised to him, but he did not meet with success. Mr. Palmer
never ceased to protest against this treatment; and his son,
Major-General Palmer, frequently urged his claims before Parliament,
until, in 1813, after a struggle of twenty years, the House of Commons
voted him a grant of 50,000_l._ Mr. Palmer died in 1818.

Now that Mr. Palmer was gone from the Post-Office, his scheme was left
to incompetent and unwilling hands. All the smothered opposition broke
out afresh; and if it had been less obvious how trade and commerce, and
all the other interests promoted by safe and quick correspondence, were
benefited by the new measures; and if it had not been for the vigilant
supervision of the Prime Minister--who had let the reformer go, but had
no intention of letting his reforms go with him--all the improvements of
the past few years might have been quietly strangled in their infancy.
Though we know not what the country lost in losing the guiding-spirit,
it is matter of congratulation that the main elements of his scheme were
fully preserved. Though the Post-Office officials scrupled not to
recommend some return to the old system, Mr. Palmer's plans were fully
adhered to until the fact of their success became patent to both the
public and the official alike. In the first year of their introduction,
the net revenue of the Post-Office was about 250,000_l._ Thirty years
afterwards the proceeds had increased sixfold, to no less a sum than a
million and a half sterling! Though, of course, this great increase is
partly attributable to the increase of population, and the national
advancement generally, it was primarily due to the greater speed,
punctuality, and security which the new arrangements gave to the
service. Whilst, financially, the issue was successful, the result, in
other respects, was no less certain. In 1797, the greater part of the
mails were conveyed in one-half of the time previously occupied; in some
cases, in one-third of the time; and on the cross-roads, in a quarter of
the time, taken under the old system. Mails not only travelled quicker,
but Mr. Palmer augmented their number between the largest towns. Other
spirited reforms went on most vigorously. Three hundred and eighty
towns, which had had before but three deliveries of letters a-week, now
received one daily. The Edinburgh coach required less time by sixty
hours to travel from London, and there was a corresponding reduction
between towns at shorter distances. Ten years before the first Liverpool
coach was started, a single letter-carrier sufficed for the wants of
that place; before the century closed, _six_ were required. A single
letter-carrier sufficed for Edinburgh for a number of years;[61] now
_four_ were required.

No less certain was it that the mails, under the new system, travelled
more securely. For many years after their introduction, not a single
attempt was made, in England, to rob Palmer's mail-coaches. It is
noteworthy, however, that the changes, when applied to Ireland, did not
conduce to the greater security of the mails. The first coach was
introduced into Ireland in 1790, and placed on the Cork and Belfast
roads, a few more following on the other main lines of road. Though
occasionally accompanied by as many as _four_ armed guards, the
mail-coaches were robbed, according to a competent authority, "as
frequently as the less-aspiring riding-post."

Not many months after the establishment of mail-coaches, an Act
was passed through Parliament, declaring that all carriages and
stage-coaches employed to carry his Majesty's mails should henceforth be
exempt from the payment of _toll_, on both post- or cross-roads.
Previously, all post-horses employed in the same service travelled free
of toll. This Act told immediately in favour of the Post-Office to a
greater extent than was imagined by its framers. Innkeepers, who, in
England, were the principal owners of stage-coaches,[62] bargained for
the carriage of mails, very frequently at merely nominal prices. In
return, they enjoyed the advantages of the coach and its passengers,
travelling all roads free of toll.

Arrived at the end of the century, we find the mail-coach system is now
an institution in the country. Other interests had progressed at an
equal rate. Travelling, as a rule, had become easy and pleasant. Not
that the service was performed without any difficulty or hindrance. On
the contrary--and it enters within the scope of our present object to
advert to them--the obstacles to anything like a perfect system seemed
insurmountable. Though the difficulties consequent on travelling, at the
beginning of the present century, were comparatively trifling on the
_principal post-roads_, yet, when new routes were chosen, or new
localities were designed to share in the common benefits of the new and
better order of things in the Post-Office, these same difficulties had
frequently to be again got over. Cross-roads in England were greatly
neglected--so much so, in fact, that new mail-coaches which had been
applied for and granted, were often enough waiting idle till the roads
should be ready to receive them. The Highway Act of 1663, so far as the
roads in remote districts were concerned, was completely in abeyance.
Early in the century we find the subject frequently mentioned in
Parliament. As the result of one discussion, it was decided that every
inducement should be held out to the different trusts to make and repair
the roads in their respective localities; while, on the other hand, the
Postmaster-General was directed by the Government to indict all
townships who neglected the duty imposed upon them. Under the Acts of 7
& 8 George III. c. 43, and 4 George IV. c. 74, commissioners were
appointed to arrange for all necessary road improvements, having certain
privileges vested in them for the purpose. Thus, they recommended that
certain trusts should have loans granted to them, to be employed in
road-making and mending. Mr. Telford, at his death, was largely employed
by the Road Commissioners--the improvements on the Shrewsbury and
Holyhead road being under his entire superintendence. And it would seem
that the above-mentioned road needed improvement. When, in 1808, a new
mail-coach was put on to run between the two places, no fewer than
twenty-two townships had to be indicted by the Post-Office authorities
for having their roads in a dangerous and unfinished state.

In Scotland and Ireland, great improvements had also been made in this
respect, considering the previously wretched state of both countries,
Scotland especially. At a somewhat earlier period, four miles of the
best post-road in Scotland--namely, that between Edinburgh and
Berwick--were described in a contemporary record as being in so ruinous
a state, that passengers were afraid of their lives, "either by their
coaches overturning, their horses stumbling, their carts breaking, or
their loads casting, and the poor people with burdens on their backs
sorely grieved and discouraged;" moreover, "strangers do often exclaim
thereat," as well they might. Things were different at the close of the
last century; still, the difficulties encountered in travelling, say by
the Bar, may well serve to show the internal state of the country.
"Those who are born to modern travelling," says Lord Cockburn,[63] "can
scarcely be made to understand how the previous age got on. There was no
bridge over the Tay at Dunkeld, or over the Spey at Fochabers, or over
the Findhorn at Forres. Nothing but wretched peerless ferries, let to
poor cotters, who rowed, or hauled, or pushed a crazy boat across, or
more commonly got their wives to do it.... There was no mail-coach north
of Aberdeen till after the battle of Waterloo.... I understand from
Hope, that after 1784, when he came to the bar, he and Braxfield rode a
whole north circuit; and that, from the Findhorn being in a flood, they
were obliged to go up its bank for about _twenty-eight miles_, to the
Bridge of Dulsie, before they could cross. I myself rode circuits when I
was an Advocate Depute, between 1807 and 1810." A day and a half was
still, at the end of the last century, taken up between Edinburgh and
Glasgow. In 1788, a direct mail-coach was put on between London and
Glasgow, to go by what is known as the west coast route, _viâ_
Carlisle.[64] The Glasgow merchants had long wished for such a
communication, as much time was lost in going by way of Edinburgh. On
the day on which the first mail-coach was expected, a vast number of
them went along the road for several miles to welcome it, and then
headed the procession into the city. To announce its arrival on
subsequent occasions, a gun was fired. It was found a difficult task,
however, to drive the coach, especially in winter, over the bleak and
rugged hills of Dumfriesshire and Lanarkshire; the road, moreover, was
hurriedly and badly made, and at times quite impassable. Robert Owen,
travelling between his model village in Lanarkshire and England, tells
us[65] that it often took him two days and three nights, incessant
travelling, to get from Manchester to Glasgow in the coach, the greater
part of the time being spent north of Carlisle. On the eastern side of
the country, in the direct line between Edinburgh and London, a grand
new road had been spoken of for many years. The most difficult part,
viz. that between Edinburgh and Berwick, was begun at the beginning of
the present century, and in 1824, a good road was finished and opened
out as far south as Morpeth, in Northumberland. A continuation of the
road from Morpeth to London being greatly needed, the Post-Office
authorities engaged Mr. Telford, the eminent engineer, to make a survey
of the road over the remaining distance. The survey lasted many years. A
hundred miles of the new Great North Road, south of York, was laid out
in a perfectly straight line.[66] All the requisite arrangements were
made for beginning the work, when the talk of locomotive engines and
tramways, and especially the result of the locomotive contest at
Rainhill in the year 1829, had the effect of directing public and
official attention to a new and promising method of travelling, and of
preventing an outlay of what must have been a most enormous sum for the
purposes of this great work.[67] The scheme was in abeyance for a few
months, and this time sufficed to develop the railway project, and
demonstrate its usefulness to the postal system of the country. But we
are anticipating matters, and must, at any rate, speak for a moment of
the services of Mr. Macadam. The improvements which this gentleman
brought about in road-making had a very sensible effect on the
operations of the mail-coach service. Most of the post-roads were
_macadamized_ before the year 1820, and it was then that the service was
in its highest state of efficiency. Accelerations in the speed of the
coaches were made as soon as ever any road was finished on the new
principle. From this time, the average speed, _including stoppages_, was
nine miles, all but a furlong. The fastest coaches (known as the "crack
coaches" from this circumstance, and also for being on the best roads)
were those travelling, in 1836, between London and Shrewsbury
(accomplishing 154 miles in 15 hours), London and Exeter (171 miles in
17 hours), London and Manchester (187 miles in 19 hours), and London and
Holyhead (261 miles in 27 hours). On one occasion, the Devonport mail,
travelling with foreign and colonial letters, accomplished the journey
of 216 miles, including stoppages, in 21 hours and 14 minutes.

In 1836, there were fifty four-horse mails in England, thirty in
Ireland, and ten in Scotland. In England, besides, there were forty-nine
mails of two horses each. In the last year of mail-coaches, the number
which left London every night punctually at eight o'clock was
twenty-seven; travelling in the aggregate above 5,500 miles, before they
reached their several destinations. We have already stated how the
contracts for _horsing_ the mail-coaches were conducted; no material
change took place in this respect up to the advent of railways. Early in
the present century, it was deemed desirable that the mail-coaches
should all be built and furnished on one plan. For a great number of
years, the contract for building and repairing a sufficient number was
given (without competition) to Mr. John Vidler. Though the Post-Office
arranged for building the coaches, the mail contractors were required to
pay for them; the revenue only bearing the charges of cleaning, oiling,
and greasing them, an expense amounting to about 2,200_l._ a-year. In
1835, however, on a disagreement with Mr. Vidler, the contract was
thrown open to competition, from which competition Mr. Vidler, for a
substantial reason, was excluded. The official control of the
coaches, mail-guards, &c., it may here be stated, was vested in the
superintendent of mail-coaches, whose location was at the General

Had Hogarth's pencil transmitted to posterity the _tout ensemble_ of a
London procession of mail-coaches, or of one of them at the door of the
customary halting-place (what Herring has done for the old Brighton
coach the "_Age_," with its fine stud of blood-horses, and a real
baronet for driver), the subject could not but have occasioned marked
curiosity and pleasure. No doubt he would have given a distinguished
place to the guard of the mail. The mail-guard was no ordinary
character, being generally _d'accord_ with those who thought or
expressed this opinion. Regarded as quite a public character,
commissions of great importance were oftentimes intrusted to him. The
country banker, for example, would trust him with untold wealth. Though
he was paid only a nominal sum by the Post-Office authorities for his
official services, he was yet enabled to make his position and place a
lucrative one, by the help of the regular perquisites and other
accidental windfalls which we need not further specify. Gathering _en
route_ scraps of local gossip and district intelligence, he was often
"private," and sometimes "special," correspondent to scores of different
people. The _Muddleton Gazette_, perhaps the only newspaper on his line
of road, was submissively dependent upon him. More of him anon: here we
would only add that he had special duties on special occasions. The
mail-coach was looked for most anxiously in times of great excitement.
During the trial of Queen Caroline, says Miss Martineau, "all along the
line of mails, crowds stood waiting in the burning sunshine for news of
the trial, which was shouted out to them as the coach passed."[68]
Again, at the different stages in the history of the Reform Bill, the
mail-roads were sprinkled over for miles with people who were on the
_qui vive_ for any news from London, and the coachman and guards on the
top of the coaches shouted out the tidings.[69] When the Ministry
resigned, many of the guards distributed handbills which they had
brought from London, stating the facts.

In these days of cheap postage and newspapers in every household, it may
be difficult to comprehend the intense interest centring in the
appearance of the mail on its arrival at a small provincial town. The
leather bag of the Post-Office was almost the undisputed and peculiar
property of the upper ten thousand. When there was good reason to
suppose that any communication was on its way to some member of the
commonalty, speculation would be eager among the knot of persons met to
talk over the probable event. Thus we may understand with what eagerness
the mail would be looked for, and how the news, freely given out,
especially in times of war, would be eagerly devoured by men of all
ranks and parties.

It only remains to notice, in conclusion, the annual procession of
mail-coaches on the king's birthday, which contemporaries assure us was
a gay and lively sight. One writer in the early part of the century goes
so far as to say that the cavalcade of mail-coaches was "a far more
agreeable and interesting sight to the eye _and the mind_ than the gaud
and glitter of the Lord Mayor's show," because the former "made you
reflect on the advantages derived to trade and commerce and social
intercourse by this _magnificent establishment_" (the Post-Office).
Hone, in his _Every-day Book_, writing of 1822, tells us that George
IV., who was born on the 12th of August, changed the annual celebration
of his birthday to St. George's-day, April 23d. "According to custom,"
says he, "the mail-coaches went in procession from Millbank to Lombard
Street. About twelve o'clock, the horses belonging to the different
mails with entire new harness, and the postmen and postboys on horseback
arrayed in their new scarlet coats and jackets, proceed from Lombard
Street to Millbank and there dine; from thence, the procession being
re-arranged, begins to march about five o'clock in the afternoon, headed
by the general post letter-carriers on horseback. The coaches follow
them, filled with the wives and children, friends and relations, of the
guards or coachmen; while the postboys sounding their bugles and
cracking their whips bring up the rear. From the commencement of the
procession, the bells of the different churches ring out merrily and
continue their rejoicing peals till it arrives at the Post-Office again,
from whence the mails depart for different parts of the kingdom." Great
numbers assembled to witness the cavalcade as it passed through the
principal streets of the metropolis. The appearance of the coachmen and
guards, got up to every advantage, and each with a large bouquet of
flowers in his scarlet uniform, was of course greatly heightened by the
brilliancy of the newly-painted coach, emblazoned with the royal arms.


[51] No one who has read _Roderick Random_ can forget the novelist's
description of his hero's ride from Scotland to London. As it is
generally believed to be a veritable account of a journey which Smollett
himself made about the middle of the last century, the reader may be of
opinion that the improvement here spoken of was not so great as it might
have been. Roderick, however, travelled in the "_stage-waggon_" of the
period. He and his faithful friend Strap having observed one of these
waggons a quarter of a mile before them, speedily overtook it, and,
ascending by means of the usual ladder, "tumbled into the straw under
the darkness of the tilt," amidst four passengers, two gentlemen and two
ladies. When they arrived at the first inn Captain Weazel desired a room
for himself and his lady, "with a separate supper;" but the impartial
innkeeper replied he "had prepared victuals for the passengers in the
waggon, without respect of persons." Strap walked by the side of the
waggon, changing places with his master when Roderick was disposed to
walk. The mistakes, the quarrels, and the mirth of the passengers, are
told by the novelist with a vivacity and humour which would have been
admirable but for their coarseness. After five days' rumbling in the
straw, the passengers get quite reconciled to each other; "nothing
remarkable happened during the remaining part of our journey, _which
continued six or seven days longer_."

There were also a few bad roads. Arthur Young, in his famous _Tour in
the North of England_, has described a Lancashire turnpike-road of about
the same period in the following vigorous phraseology:--"I know not in
the whole range of language terms sufficiently expressive to describe
this infernal road. To look over a map and perceive that it is a
principal road, one would naturally conclude it to be at least decent;
but let me most seriously caution all travellers who may purpose to
travel this terrible country to avoid it as they would the devil, for a
thousand to one they will break their necks or their limbs by
over-throws or breakings-down. They will here meet with ruts which
actually measured four feet deep and floating with mud, and this only
from a wet summer; what, therefore, must it be after a winter? The only
mending which it in places receives is the tumbling in some loose
stones, which serve no other purpose but jolting a carriage in the most
intolerable manner. These are not merely opinions, but facts, for I
actually passed three carts broken down in these eighteen miles of
execrable memory." The road in question was that between Wigan and
Preston, then a regular post-road and now on the trunk line of mail
conveyance into Scotland.

[52] Chambers' _Traditions of Edinburgh_, vol. i. p. 168.

[53] Baines's _History of Lancashire_, p. 83.

[54] The Bath post was no exception. The letters which left London at
two o'clock on Monday morning did not reach Worcester, Norwich, or
Birmingham till the Wednesday, Exeter not till Thursday, and Glasgow and
Edinburgh for about a week.

[55] _Vide_ Report of the Committee of House of Commons in 1797, on "Mr.
Palmer's Agreement for the Reform and Improvement of the Post-Office and
its Revenue," p. 115.

[56] Report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the state of the
Public Offices in 1788.

[57] Post-Office robberies had been exceedingly numerous within a few
years of the change which Palmer succeeded in inaugurating. Though one
prosecution for a single robbery cost the authorities no less a sum than
4,000_l._, yet they regarded the occurrences as unavoidable and simply
matters of course.

[58] Mr. M. D. Hill, in _Fraser's Magazine_, November, 1862.

[59] The Liverpool merchants were the first to petition the Treasury for
the new mail-coach. "This petition being complied with in the course of
a few months, the letters from London reached Liverpool in thirty hours.
At first these coaches were small vehicles, drawn by two horses, which
were changed every six miles. They carried four passengers, besides the
coachman and guard, both dressed in livery, the latter being armed to
the teeth, as a security against highwaymen."--Baines's _History of
Liverpool_. In October, 1784, York applied for a mail-coach, to pass
through that place on its way to the North.

[60] This velocity was not attained without considerable misgivings and
distrust on the part of travellers. When the eight was increased to ten
miles an hour, the public mind was found to be in different stages of
alarm and revolt. Vested interests indulged in the gloomiest forebodings
on those who should thus knowingly spurn the way of Providence.
Lord-Chancellor Campbell relates that he was frequently warned against
travelling in the mail-coaches improved by Palmer, on account of the
fearful rate at which they flew, and instances were supplied to him of
passengers who had died suddenly of apoplexy from the rapidity of the

[61] Sir Walter Scott relates that a friend of his remembered the London
letter-bag arriving in Edinburgh, during the year 1745, with but one
letter for the British Linen Company. About the same time the Edinburgh
mail is said to have arrived in London, containing but one letter,
addressed to Sir William Pulteney, the banker.

[62] In Ireland, on the contrary, the trade was in the hands of two or
three large contractors, who charged heavily for work only imperfectly
performed. Until the introduction of railways, the mail service of
Ireland, owing to the absurd system adopted, was always worked at a
greater cost, comparatively, than in England. In 1829, the Irish
service, of considerably less extent, cost four times as much as the
entire mail establishment of England. Mr. Charles Bianconi has been the
Palmer of Ireland. In the early part of the present century he observed
the want of travelling accommodation and formed plans for serving the
country by a regular system of passenger-cars. He succeeded in inducing
the different postmasters (who, up to the year 1830, had the conveyance
of mails in their own hands, getting certain allowances for the service
from Government, and then arranging for carriage in the cheapest way
possible) to let him carry their mails. This he did at a cheap rate,
stipulating, however, that he should not be required to run his cars at
any inconvenient time for passenger traffic. On the amalgamation of the
English and Irish Offices in 1830, Mr. Bianconi, who had now established
a good reputation, entered into contracts with the general authorities
to continue the work, though on a larger scale than ever, the extent of
which may be judged by the fact that in 1848 he had 1,400 horses
employed. The growth and extent of railway communication necessarily
affected his establishment, but, with unabated activity, Mr. Bianconi
directed his labours into new districts when his old roads were invaded
by the steam-engine and the rail. He is described to have been "ready at
a moment's notice to move his horses, cars, and men to any district,
however remote, where any chance of business might show itself." A year
or two ago this indefatigable man was still busy, and held several
postal contracts; his establishment (1860) consisting of 1,000 horses,
and between sixty and seventy conveyances, daily travelling 3,000 or
4,000 miles and traversing twenty-two counties.

[63] _Memorials of his Time_, vol. i. p. 341.

[64] Dr. Cleland, in his _Statistical Account of Glasgow_, tells us that
before this time, viz. in 1787, the course of post from London to
Glasgow was by way of Edinburgh, _five_ days in the week. Only five
mails arrived in Glasgow from London on account of no business being
transacted at the Edinburgh Office on Sundays. It now occurred, however,
to some one of the astute managers of the Post-Office, that the _sixth_
mail, which the Sunday regulations of the Edinburgh Office prevented
being passed through that medium, might be sent by the mail-coach to
Carlisle, while a supplementary coach should travel every sixth night
between Carlisle and Glasgow. This was done, and the result was the
saving of an entire day between London and Glasgow. The other mails
continued, as usual, for twelve months longer, it having taken the
authorities the whole of that time to discover that the five mails,
which required _five_ days to reach Glasgow by way of Edinburgh, might,
like the sixth, be carried by way of Carlisle, in _four_ days. Dr.
Cleland, however, does not seem to have perceived that there might be
some other reason for adhering to the old route, such as increased
outlay, &c.

[65] _Life of Robert Owen._ _Written by himself._ London, 1857.

[66] Smiles' _Lives of the Engineers_.

[67] _Ibid._

[68] _History of England during the Thirty Years' Peace_, vol. i. p.

[69] _Ibid._ vol. ii. p. 62.



It must not be supposed that the improvements in mail-conveyance were
the only beneficial changes introduced into the Post-Office during the
fifty years which we have designated as the mail-coach era. It is true
that, compared with the progress of the country in many other respects,
the period might be termed uneventful. Still, there are incidental
changes to chronicle of some importance in themselves, and likewise
important in their bearing on the present position of the Post-Office.
If we retrace our steps to the year 1792, we shall find, for instance,
that in that year an entirely new branch of business was commenced at
the General Post-Office. We refer to the origin of the Money-Order
establishment. The beginnings of this system, which, as the reader must
be aware, has of late years assumed gigantic proportions, were simple
and unassuming in the extreme. The Government of the day had expressed a
desire for the establishment of a medium by which soldiers and sailors
might transmit to their homes such small sums as they could manage to
save for that purpose. Three officers of the Post-Office jointly
submitted a scheme to make a part of the Post-Office machinery available
in this direction, and a monopoly was readily conceded to them.
The undertaking was further favoured with the sanction of the
Postmasters-General. The designation of the firm was to be "Stow & Co.,"
each of the three partners agreeing to find a thousand pounds capital.
The stipulations made were, that the business should be carried on at
the cost and at the risk of the originators, and that they, in return,
should receive the profits. It was agreed, also, that they should enjoy
the privilege of sending all their correspondence free of postage--no
inconsiderable item saved to them. Contrary to anticipations, the
proceeds were considerable--not so much on account of the number of
transactions, as on the high commission that was charged for the
money-orders. Their terms were eightpence for every pound; but if the
sum exceeded two pounds, a stamp-duty of one shilling was levied by
Government in addition. No order could be issued for more than five
guineas; and the charge for that sum amounted to four shillings and
sixpence, or nearly five per cent. When it is considered that the
expense did not end here, but that a letter containing a money-order was
subjected to _double postage_, it cannot be wondered at that those who
dealt with the three monopolists were few in number, and only persons
under a positive necessity to remit money speedily. Such a system, it
will be admitted, could not of itself be expected to foster trade. When
the general public were admitted to the benefits of the Money-order
Office--as they were some few years after the establishment of the
office--it does not appear that the business was greatly increased.
Almost from the commencement, the managers drew yearly proceeds, which
varied but slightly from year to year, averaging about 200_l._ each.
While, on the one hand, this office was seen to be a most useful
institution, good in principle, and likely, if properly managed, to
contribute largely to the general revenue of the Post-Office; on the
other hand, it was clearly stationary, if not retrograde in its
movements. In 1834, the attention of practical men was more immediately
called to the question by a return which was asked for by the House of
Commons, for a detailed account of the poundage, &c. on money-orders of
each provincial post-office, and the purpose or purposes to which the
monies were applied. The Postmaster-General replied, that the
Money-order Office was a private establishment, worked by private
capital, under his sanction; but he could give no returns, because the
accounts were not under his control. In 1838, a new Postmaster-General,
Lord Lichfield, sought and obtained the consent of the Treasury to
convert the Office into a branch under his immediate direction. In that
year the chief Money-order Office commenced business in two small rooms
at the north end of St. Martin's-le-Grand, with a staff of three clerks.
Though the charges were reduced to a commission of sixpence for sums
under two pounds, and of one shilling and sixpence for sums up to five
pounds, the new branch was worked at a loss, owing to the high rates of
postage and the double payment to which letters containing enclosures
were subjected. After the introduction of penny postage, the change was
so marked, that the immense success of this branch establishment may be
considered as entirely owing to the reduction of postage-rates. Had the
penny-postage scheme done no more for the nation than assisted the
people in the exercise of a timely prudence and frugality, stimulating
them, as it can be proved, to self-denial and benevolence, it would have
done much. But we are anticipating an important era. Soon after the
passing of the Penny-postage Act, the commission on money-orders was
reduced to threepence instead of sixpence, and sixpence for any amount
above two pounds and under five pounds. In 1840, the number of
money-order transactions had increased to thousands, in the place of
hundreds under the old _régime_. The money passed through the office in
the advent year of cheap postage amounted to nearly half a million
sterling, the Post-Office commission on the sum exceeding 6,000_l._ The
rate of increase, subsequently, may best be shown by taking a month's
work ten years afterwards. Thus, during one month of 1850, twice as many
orders were taken out and paid as were issued and paid during 1840, the
particulars of which year were given above. The same rate of increase
has continued up to the present moment. During the year 1862, the number
of orders had, in round numbers, risen to more than seven and a half
millions, or a money-value exceeding sixteen millions sterling, the
commission on the whole amounting to more than one hundred and
thirty-six thousand pounds.[70]

By the statute of Queen Anne, letters might be brought from abroad by
_private ships_ under certain distinctly-specified regulations. On the
contrary, no law existed enabling the Postmaster-General to _send_ bags
of letters by the same medium until 1799, when an Act was passed with
this object. Masters of such ships refusing to take bags were subjected
to heavy penalties.[71] The postage of letters so sent (on account of
the slowness of transit in the majority of cases) was fixed at half the
usual rates. This Act is the foundation of the ship-letter system, by
means of which, besides the regular packet communication, letters are
forwarded to all parts of the world. At the same period the Government
rigorously adhered to the law as laid down with regard to letters
_brought_ by private vessels. A case was tried in 1806 in the Court of
King's Bench--"King _v._ Wilson"--in which the defendant--a merchant who
had had letters brought from the Continent in a ship of his own, and
pleaded that he had a right to do so--was cast in heavy damages, and
told that "all and every such letters, as well as others," must pass
through the Post-Office in the usual way.

In the year 1814, the business of the Post-Office had increased so
greatly, that an agitation was commenced with the object of securing
better accommodation for its despatch than was afforded by the office in
Lombard Street. The first General Post-Office was opened in Cloak Lane,
near Dowgate Hill, and removed from thence to the Black Swan in
Bishopsgate Street. After the Great Fire of 1666, a General Office was
opened in Covent Garden, but it was soon removed to Lombard Street, to a
house which had been the residence of Sir Robert Viner, once Lord Mayor
of London. It was now proposed that a large and commodious building
should be specially erected in some central part of the City, and the
business once more transferred. In the Session of 1814 we find a Mr.
Butterworth presenting a petition to the House of Commons from four
thousand London merchants, in favour of an early removal of the
Post-Office from Lombard Street. He was assured, he said, that the
present office "was so close and confined, as to be injurious to the
health of those concerned;" he further stated, that "two guineas were
expended weekly for vinegar to fumigate the rooms and prevent infectious
fevers." Another hon. member stated that the access to the office was so
narrow and difficult, that the mail-coaches were prevented from getting
up to it to take the letter-bags. It is curious to note that even this
change was contested. Counter-petitions were presented to Parliament,
stating that the Lombard Street office was convenient enough, and that
the movement was got up by interested parties. Many years passed before
the discussions ended and the preliminary arrangements were made.
Nothing could better serve to show the stationary character of the
Post-Office than the fact that, year by year, and in the opinion of the
authorities, the Lombard Street establishment sufficed for its wants and
requirements. In 1825, however, Government acquiesced in the views of
the great majority of London residents, and St. Martin's-le-Grand--the
site of an ancient convent and sanctuary--was chosen for a large new
building, to be erected from designs by Sir R. Smirke. It was five
years in course of erection, and opened for the transaction of business
on the 25th of September, 1829. The building is of the Grecian-Ionic
order, and is one of the handsomest public structures in London. The
basement is of granite, but the edifice itself, which is 400 feet in
length and 80 feet in width, is built of brick, faced all round with
Portland stone. In the centre is a grand portico with fluted columns,
leading to the great hall, which forms a public thoroughfare from St.
Martin's-le-Grand to Foster Lane.

From the date of the opening of the new General Post-Office,
improvements were proposed and carried out very earnestly. Under the
Duke of Richmond, reforms in the establishment set in with considerable
vigour.[72] He seems to have been the first Postmaster-General during
the present century who thought the accommodation which the Post-Office
gave to the public was really of a restrictive nature; that more
facility might easily be given to the public; and that the system of
management was an erroneous one. In 1834, the Duke of Richmond submitted
a list of improvements to the Treasury Lords, in which there were at
least thirty substantial measures of reform proposed. It is true that
many of these measures had been strongly recommended to him by the
Commissioners of Post-Office Inquiry, who had sat yearly on the
Post-Office and other revenue branches of the public service. The
previous policy, however, of the authorities was to put on a bold front
against any recommendations not originating with themselves. The Duke of
Richmond had considerably less of this feeling than some of his
predecessors. Thus, to take the principal measure of reform concluded in
his time--namely, the complete amalgamation of the Scotch and Irish
Offices with the English Post-Office--we find that the twenty-third
report of the Commissioners, signed by "Wallace," W. J. Lushington,
Henry Berens, and J. P. Dickenson, spoke strongly on the inadequacy "of
the present system of administration to reach the different parts of the
country," and urging the expediency "of providing against any more
conflict of opinion, and of securing a more extended co-operation, as
well as unity of design, in the management of the distinct Offices of
England, Scotland, and Ireland." Again, in 1831, on the recommendation
of the Commission, the Postmaster-General ordered that the boundaries of
the London district post--which, in 1801, became a "Twopenny Post," and
letters for which post, if delivered beyond the boundaries of the cities
of London and Westminster and the borough of Southwark, were charged
threepence--should now be extended to include all places within _three_
miles of the General Post-Office. Two years afterwards, on the
recommendation of another Commission, the limits of the "Twopenny Post"
were again extended to places not exceeding _twelve_ miles from St.
Martin's-le-Grand, and this arrangement continued till the time of
uniform penny postage. The Duke of Richmond likewise appointed a daily
post to France, established a number of new mail-coaches, and abolished,
in great part, the system of paying the clerks, &c. of the Post-Office
by fees, substituting fixed salaries in each case.[73]

In 1830, on the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway,
the mails of the district were consigned to the new company for
transmission. The railway system developed but slowly, exerting little
influence on Post-Office arrangements for the first few years. After
public attention had been attracted to railways, many proposals were
thrown out for the more quick transmission of mails, to the supercession
of the mail-coach. One writer suggested the employment of balloons.
Professor Babbage threw out suggestions, in his _Economy of Machinery
and Manufactures_, 1832, pp. 218-221, deserving more attention, because
in them we see shadowed forth two at least of the greatest enterprises
of our time. After proceeding to show, in a manner which must have been
interesting to the post-reformers of 1839-40, that if the cost of
letter-carrying could be reduced, the result might be (if the
Post-Office people chose) a cheaper rate of postage and a corresponding
increase in the number of letters, he proceeded to expound a scheme
which, though vague, was described in words extremely interesting,
seeing that he wrote long anterior to the time of the electric
telegraph. Imagine, says he, a series of high pillars erected at
frequent intervals, as nearly as possible in a straight line between two
post-towns. An iron or steel wire of some thickness must be stretched
over proper supports, fixed on these pillars, and terminating at the
end, say of four or five miles, in a very strong support, by which the
whole may be stretched. He proposed to call each of these places
station-houses, where a man should be in attendance. A narrow
cylindrical tin case, to contain bags or letters, might be suspended on
two wheels rolling upon the wire, whilst an endless wire of smaller size
might be made to pass over two drums, one at each end, by which means
the cylinder could be moved by the person at the station. Much more of
the details follow, and our author thus concludes:--"The difficulties
are obvious; but if these were overcome, it would present many
advantages besides velocity." _We might have two or three deliveries of
letters[74] every day_; we might send expresses at any moment; and "it
is not impossible that a stretched wire might itself be made available
for a _species of telegraphic communication yet more rapid_." After the
first few years of railways, all other speculators quietly withdrew into
the shade. In the Post-Office, towards 1838 and 1839, the influence of
railways promised soon to be paramount, and it was now that Acts were
passed in Parliament "to provide for the conveyance of mails by

In 1836, Sir Francis Freeling, the Secretary of the Post-Office, died,
when his place was filled by Lieutenant-Colonel Maberly. The latter
gentleman, who was an entire stranger to the department, was introduced
into the Post-Office by the Treasury for the purpose, as it was stated,
of zealously carrying out the reforms which another commission of
inquiry had just recommended.[75] On the premature fall of Sir Robert
Peel's first Cabinet, early in the previous year, the Earl of Lichfield
had succeeded to the office of Postmaster-General under Lord Melbourne.
The two new officers set to work in earnest, and succeeded in
inaugurating many important reforms. They got the Money-order Office
transferred, as we have already seen, from private hands to the General
Establishment; they began the system of registering valuable letters;
and, taking advantage of one of Mr. Hill's suggestions, they started a
number of day-mails to the provinces. Towards the close of 1836, the
stamp duty on newspapers was reduced from about threepence-farthing net
to one penny, a reduction which led to an enormous increase in the
number of newspapers passing through the Post-Office.

Though all these improvements were being carried out, and in many
respects the Post-Office was showing signs of progression, the
authorities still clung with a most unreasonable tenacity to the
accustomed rates of postage, and of necessity to all the evils which
followed in the train of an erroneous fiscal principle. Contrary to all
experience in any other department, the Government obstinately refused
to listen for a moment to any plan for the reduction of postage rates,
or, what is still more remarkable, even to the alleviation of burdens
caused directly by the official arrangements of the period. For example,
Colonel Maberly had no sooner learnt the business of his office, than he
saw very clearly an anomaly which pressed heavily in some cases, and was
felt in all. He at once made a proposition to the Treasury that letters
should be charged in all cases according to the exact distance between
the places where a letter was posted and where delivered, and not
according to the distance through which the Post-Office, _for purposes
of its own_, might choose to send such letters. It may serve to show the
extent to which this strange and anomalous practice was carried, if we
state that the estimated reduction in the postal revenue, had Colonel
Maberly's suggestion been acted upon, was given at no less than
80,000_l._ annually! The Lords of the Treasury promptly refused the

In 1837 the average general postage was estimated at 9½_d._ per
letter; exclusive of foreign letters, it was still as high as 8¾_d._
In the reign of Queen Anne the postage of a letter between London and
Edinburgh was less than half as much as the amount charged at the
accession of Queen Victoria, with macadamized roads, and even with
steam. Notwithstanding the heavy rates, or let us say, on account of
these rates, the net proceeds of the gigantic monopoly of the
Post-Office remained stationary for nearly twenty years. In 1815, the
revenue derivable from the Post-Office was estimated at one and a half
millions sterling. In 1836, the increase on this amount had only been
between three and four thousand pounds, though the population of the
country had increased immensely; knowledge was more diffused, and trade
and commerce had extended in every direction. Had the Post-Office
revenue increased, for instance, in the same ratio as population, we
should have found the proceeds to have been increased by half a million
sterling; or at the ratio of increase of stage-coach travelling, it must
have been two millions sterling.

The high rates, while they failed to increase the Post-Office revenue,
undoubtedly led to the evasion of the postage altogether. Illicit modes
of conveyance were got up and patronised by some of the principal
merchants in the kingdom. Penal laws were set at defiance, and the
number of contraband letters became enormous. Some carriers were doing
as large a business as the Post-Office itself. On one occasion the
agents of the Post-Office made a seizure, about this time, of eleven
hundred such letters, which were found in a single bag in the warehouse
of certain eminent London carriers. The head of the firm hastened to
seek an interview with the Postmaster-General, and proffered instant
payment of 500_l._ by way of composition for the penalties incurred, and
if proceedings against the firm might not be instituted. The money was
taken, and the letters were all passed through the Post-Office the same
night.[76] For one case which was detected, however, a hundred were
never made known. The evasion of the Post-Office charges extended so far
and so wide that the officials began to declare that any attempt to stop
the smuggling, or even to check it, was as good as hopeless.
Prosecutions for the illicit conveyance of letters had, in fact, ceased
long before the misdemeanours themselves.

The Post-Office was now ripe for a sweeping change. Mr. Wallace, the
member for Greenock, had frequently called the attention of the House of
Commons to the desirability of a thorough reform in the Post-Office
system. We find him moving at different times for Post-Office returns.
For instance, in August, 1833, Mr. Wallace[77] brought forward a subject
which, he said, "involved a charge of the most serious nature against
the Post-Office--viz. that the Postmaster-General, or some person acting
under his direction, with the view of discovering a fraud upon its
revenue, has been guilty of a felony in the opening of letters." He
moved on this occasion for a return of all and every instruction,
bye-law, or authority, under which postmasters are instructed and
authorized, or have assumed a right, to open, unfold, apply strong
lamp-light to, or use any of them, or any other means whatever, for
ascertaining or reading what may be contained in words or in figures in
any letter, of any size or description, being fastened with a wafer or
wax, or even if totally unfastened by either. At the same time he moved
for a return of all Post-Office prosecutions,[78] especially for the
expenses of a recent case at Stafford. In reply, the Post-Office
answered in a parliamentary paper that no such instruction had ever been
issued from the General Post-Office. Every person in the Post-Office was
required to take the oath prescribed by the Act of 9 Queen Anne, c. 10.
It was added, that "whenever it is noticed that a letter has been put
into the post unfastened, it is invariably sealed with the official seal
for security." In reply to the other return, the Post-Office were forced
to admit that the cost of prosecuting a woman and a female child at the
suit of the Post-Office at the late Stafford Assizes exceeded three
hundred and twenty pounds.

There can be no question that Mr. Wallace's frequent motions[79] for
Post-Office papers, returns, statistics, detailed accounts of receipt
and expenditure, &c., were the means of drawing special attention to the
Post-Office, and that they were of incalculable service to the progress
of reform and the coming reformer. Mr. Wallace seems to have been
exceedingly honest and straightforward, though he was somewhat blunt and
outspoken. He succeeded in gaining the attention of the mercantile
community, though the Government honoured him with just as much
consideration as he was entitled to from his position, and no more.[80]
In estimating properly the penny-post system, and the labours of those
who inaugurated the reform, the share Mr. Wallace had in it should by no
means be lost sight of.


[70] These items are exclusive of those relating to colonial

[71] The Government can grant a release to any ship fixed for this
service. It will be remembered by many readers that after the
_Peterhoff_ was taken by Admiral Wilkes of the United States' navy,
February, 1863, the proprietors of the vessel, who had other ships on
the same line (with all of which the Post-Office sent ship-letters),
asked the Government for the protection of a mail-officer. On the
principle of choosing the least of two evils, and rather than take such
a decisive step, which might lead to troubles with the United States'
Government, Earl Russell relieved the _Sea Queen_ from the obligation to
carry the usual mail-bag to Matamoras.

[72] The Duke of Richmond, though opposed to the Reform Bill, was a
member of Lord Grey's Cabinet. Indefatigable in the service of the
department over which he was placed from 1830 to 1834, he refused at
first to accept of any remuneration of the nature of salary. In
compliance, it is stated, with the strong representation of the Treasury
Lords, as to the objectionable nature of the principle of gratuitous
services by public officers, "which must involve in many cases the
sacrifice of private fortune to official station," His Grace consented
to draw his salary _from that time only_.

[73] The salary of the Secretary to the Post-Office in the last century
was 600_l._ a-year, and a commission of 2½ per cent. on the produce
of the mail-packets.--(Vide _Pitt's Speeches_, vol. i. p. 53-5, Debate
of June 17, 1783.) In 1830 the Secretary's salary was 300_l._ a-year,
but what with compensations, fees, and other emoluments, his annual
income is stated to have amounted to no less than 4,560_l._--(_Mirror of
Parliament_, 1835). The clerks, according to a Parliamentary return,
were paid small salaries, regulated on different scales, but their
income consisted principally of emoluments derived from other sources.
The _established_ allowances, charged on the public revenue, consisted
of sums for postage, stationery, payment in lieu of apartments, and for
continuing indexes to official books. The remaining emoluments, of
course not chargeable against the revenue, arose from _fees on
deputations_, commissions, expresses, profits on the publication of the
_Shipping_ and _Packet Lists_, payments for franking letters on the
business of the Land-Tax Redemption, and for the Tax-Office, &c. and
from Lloyd's Coffee House for shipping intelligence, &c. There were,
besides, other gratuities for special services.

[74] We give the following simply to show the vagaries of clever,
scientific men. Speaking of London, the Professor said:--"Perhaps if the
steeples of churches, properly selected, were made use of--as, for
instance, St. Paul's--and if a similar apparatus were placed at the top
of each steeple, and a man to work it during the day, it might be
possible to diminish the expense of the twopenny post, and make
deliveries every half-hour over the greater part of the metropolis." P.

[75] Evidence of Colonel Maberly before the _Select Committee on
Postage_, 1843, p. 170.

[76] Mr. Matthew Devonport Hill. 1862.

[77] _Mirror of Parliament._ Barrow. 1833.

[78] Now and then the House was enlivened and amused by even Post-Office
discussions. Thus, in the discussion on the above motion, Mr. Cobbett
complained that a letter of his, which "was not only meant to be read,
but to be printed," had never been received by him, nor could he get any
satisfaction out of the Post-Office authorities. He advised all
honourable members who had complaints to make against the Post-Office,
to make them at once to the House, without having any interview with
Ministers. For his own part, with regard to letters being opened, he
felt sure that the Post-Office read all the letters it cared to read; so
he took care to _write accordingly_. He didn't care about his letters
being read, provided they were allowed to go on, as he addressed them.

_Mr. Secretary Stanley_ (the present Lord Derby) thought it would be a
subject of deep regret that any negligence on the part of the
Post-Office had prevented the elaborate lucubrations of the hon. member
for Oldham from appearing in the _Register_ on the appointed Saturday.

_Mr. Cobbett._ It never appeared at all.

Mr. Secretary Stanley was grieved. He felt sure, however, that the hon.
member spends too much time over the midnight oil not to have kept a
copy of his precious essay. He protested against hon. members taking up
the time of the House with complaints against a department which managed
its work very well.

[79] Some of his motions must have been far from palatable to the powers
that were, and we confess to thinking some of them wanting in charity
and good taste. For example, September 7, 1835, we find him moving for a
return, to supplement another which had been sent in imperfectly drawn
up, which should show "what the special services are for which Sir
Francis Freeling receives 700_l._ a-year, the number of rooms allotted
to him at the General Post-Office, and how often he resides there. Also
the number allotted to the Under-Secretary; whether the whole or part,
and what parts are furnished at the public expense; also the annual sum
for coals and candles, for servants, &c.; also the probable expense of
expresses, messengers, and runners, passing between the Post-Office and
the Secretary at his private residence," and a number of other items
still more trifling.

[80] _The Quarterly Review_, for October, 1839, speaking of his motions
for different papers, says, "What _grounds_ he had for making them could
only be imagined. They were, in fact, the kind of random motions with
which a member _fishes for abuses, but is still more anxious to catch
notoriety_." The italics are not ours.



Miss Martineau, in her history of the _Thirty Years' Peace_, narrates a
somewhat romantic incident to account for Mr. Hill's original relation
to our subject, tracing the fiscal reform with which his name is
indissolubly connected to the "neighbourly shilling" well laid out of a
"pedestrian traveller in the Lake District." Unluckily for the
historian, the incident never happened to Mr. Hill. The repeated motions
of Mr. Wallace in the House of Commons are proved beyond dispute to have
brought home the subject to the consideration of many thoughtful minds,
and amongst those, to one who had scholarly leisure and philosophical
ingenuity to bring to its service.

Born in 1795, and for many years a tutor in his father's school near
Birmingham, Mr. Rowland Hill was, at this time, the secretary of the
Commissioners for conducting the Colonization of South Australia, upon
the plan of Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield. At this post, according to the
testimony of the commissioners themselves, Mr. Hill laboured
unweariedly, "evincing," as they said, "considerable powers of
organization." Mr. Hill, in one place,[81] gives a clear account of the
way he prepared himself for the work he took in hand, when once his
attention was arrested by the subject. "The first thing I did was to
read very carefully all the reports on post-office subjects. I then put
myself in communication with the hon. member for Greenock, who kindly
afforded me much assistance. I then applied to the Post-Office for
information, with which Lord Lichfield was so good as to supply me.
These were the means I took to make myself acquainted with the
subject." In January, 1837, Mr. Hill published[82] the results of his
investigations, and embodied his scheme in a pamphlet entitled _Post
Office Reform: its Importance and Practicability_. This, the first
edition, was circulated privately amongst members of the legislature and
official men; the second edition, published two months afterwards, being
the first given to the world. The pamphlet, of which we will here
attempt a _résumé_, immediately created a sensation; especially so in
the mercantile world. Mr. Hill may be said to have started with the
facts to which we have already adverted[83], namely, that the
Post-Office was not progressing like other great interests; that its
revenue, within the past twenty years, instead of increasing, had
actually diminished, though the increase of population had been six
millions, and the increase in trade and commerce had been proportionate.
The increase in the ratio of stage-coach travellers was still more
clear; but this fact need not be pressed, especially as one smart
quarterly reviewer answered, that, of course, the more men travelled,
the less need of writing.

From the data which Mr. Hill was enabled to gather--for accounts of any
sort were not kept as accurately at the Post-Office then as now, and
there were no accounts of the number of inland letters--he estimated the
number of letters passing through the post. He then took the expenses of
management and analysed the gross total amount. He proved pretty
clearly, and as nearly as necessary, that the _primary distribution_, as
he termed the cost of receiving and delivering the letters, and also
the cost of transit, took two-thirds of the total cost of the management
of the Post-Office. Of this sum, the amount which had to do with the
_distance_ letters were conveyed, Mr. Hill calculated at 144,000_l._ out
of the total postal expenditure of 700,000_l._ Applying to this smaller
sum the estimated number of letters--deducting franks and taking into
account the greater weight of newspapers--he gave the apparent _average_
cost of conveying each letter as less than one-tenth of a penny. The
conclusion to which he came from this calculation of the average cost of
transit was inevitable, and that was, that if the charge must be made
proportionate (except, forsooth, it could be shown how the postage of
one-tenth or one-thirty-sixth of a penny could be collected) it must
clearly be uniform, and for the sake of argument, and not considering
the charge as a tax, or as a tax whose end was drawing near, any packet
of an equal weight might be sent throughout the length and breadth of
the country at precisely the same rate.

The justice and propriety of a uniform rate was further shown, but in a
smaller degree, by the fact that the relative cost of transmission of
letters under the old system was not always dependent on the distance
the mails were carried. Thus, the Edinburgh mail, the longest and most
important of all, cost 5_l._ for each journey. Calculating the
proportionate weight of bags, letters, and newspapers, Mr. Hill[84]
arrived at the absolute cost of carrying a newspaper of an average
weight of 1½ oz. at one-sixth of a penny, and that of a letter of an
average weight of ¼ oz. at one-thirty-sixth of a penny. These sums
being the full cost for the whole distance, Mr. Hill assumed, fairly
enough, that the same rating would do for any place on the road. It was
admitted on all hands, that the chief labour was expended in making up,
opening, and delivering the mails; therefore the fact whether it was
carried one mile or a hundred made comparatively little difference in
the expenditure of the office. The expenses and trouble being much the
same, perhaps _even less_ at Edinburgh than at some intermediate point,
why should the charges be so different? But the case could be made still
stronger. The mail for Louth, containing as it did comparatively few
letters, cost the Post-Office authorities, as the simple expense of
transit, one penny-farthing per letter. Thus, an Edinburgh letter,
costing the Post-Office an infinitesimal fraction of a farthing, was
charged one shilling and three-halfpence to the public, while a letter
for Louth, costing the Post-Office fifty times as much, was charged to
the public at the rate of tenpence! Nothing was clearer, therefore, that
if Mr. Hill's propositions were opposed (and his opponents did not
advocate the payment according to the actual cost of transit), that
those who were adverse to them must fall into the absurdity of
recognising as just an arrangement which charged the highest price for
the cheapest business! At first sight it looked extravagant, that
persons residing at Penzance or near the Giant's Causeway, at Watford or
Wick, should pay equal postage for their letters. The intrinsic _value_
of the conveyance of a letter, it must be admitted, is a very different
thing from its _cost_, the value being exactly equal to the time,
trouble, and expense saved to the correspondents, of which, perhaps, the
only _measure_ appeared to be the actual distance. Looked at more
narrowly, however, in the clear light of Mr. Hill's investigations, it
became obvious that it was really "a nearer approximation to perfect
justice"[85] to allow distant places to feel the benefits of the
measure; passing over the little inequalities to which it might give
rise; while all might pay such a sum as would cover the expenses in each
and every case.[86]

Mr. Hill succeeded likewise in proving many of the facts adverted to in
the preceding chapter. He showed that the high rates were so excessive
(not only varied according to distance, but doubled if there was an
enclosure, with _fourfold_ postage if the letter exceeded an ounce in
weight) as greatly to diminish, where they did not absolutely prevent,
correspondence. Not only so, but the high rate created an illicit
traffic, involving all classes of the country in the meshes of a
systematically clandestine trade. These facts and their results on the
public revenue shine out of the pamphlet as clear as noonday.

But this was not all. The expenses of the department, or the _secondary
distribution_, might be much reduced by simplifications in the various
processes. The existing system resulted in a complicated system of
accounts, involving great waste of time as well as offering inducements
to fraud. The daily work of exposing letters to a strong light, in order
to ascertain their contents, also offered a constant temptation to the
violation of the first duty of the officers of the State, in respect to
the sanctity of correspondence. If, instead of charging letters
according to the number of sheets or scraps of paper, a weight should be
fixed, below which, whatever the contents of a letter, a certain rate be
charged, much trouble would be saved to the office, not to speak of any
higher reason. Again, he suggested that if anything could be done to
expedite the delivery of letters by doing away with the collection of
postage from door to door, a great object would be gained; that five or
six times the number of letters might be delivered with the existing
machinery, and this even in less time than under the old system. The
only requisite was, that some plan for the prepayment of letters should
be devised, so that the Post-Office might be relieved from the duty of
charging, debiting, &c. and the letter-carriers from collecting the
postage. The Post-Office authorities had had the question of prepayment,
by means of some kind of stamp or stamped covers, under consideration
prior to this time. The Commissioners of Post-Office Inquiry deliberated
on the measure in the early part of 1837 (after Mr. Charles Knight had
suggested a penny stamp, or stamped cover, for collecting the now
reduced postage on newspapers), considering it very favourably. Hence it
arose that that part of the proposals relating to prepayment by stamped
labels or covers, formed part of Mr. Hill's scheme, and was considered
with it.

Mr. Hill, in his able pamphlet, exhausted the subject. By a variety of
arguments, he urged upon the nation a trial of his plans--begged for an
unobstructed and cheap circulation of letters, expressing his most
deliberate conviction,[87] that the Post-Office, "rendered feeble and
inefficient by erroneous financial arrangements," was "capable of
performing a distinguished part in the great work of national
education," and of becoming a benefaction and blessing to mankind. He
left the following proposals to the judgment of the nation:--(1) A large
diminution in the rates of postage, say even to one penny per letter
weighing not more than half an ounce. (2) Increased speed in the
delivery of letters. (3) More frequent opportunities for the despatch of
letters. And (4) Simplification in the operations of the Post-Office,
with the object of economy in the management. The fundamental feature in
the new scheme was, of course, the proposal that the rate of postage
should be uniform, and charged according to weight.

No wonder that the scheme, of which, in our own order, we have just
attempted an outline, roused feelings of delight and approbation from
the people at large, throughout the length and breadth of the land.
Still less is it a matter of surprise that the Government and the
Post-Office authorities, in charge of the revenue, should stand aghast
at the prospect of being called upon to sanction what they considered so
suicidal a policy. Lord Lichfield, the Postmaster-General at the time,
speaking for the Post-Office authorities, as to its practicability,
described the proposal in the House of Lords,[88] "of all the wild and
visionary schemes which I have ever heard of, it is the most
extravagant." On a subsequent occasion, his opinion having been
subjected for six months to the mellowing influence of time, he is less
confident, but says that, if the plan succeeds (in the anticipated
increase of letters), "the walls of the Post-Office would burst--the
whole area on which the building stands would not be large enough to
receive the clerks and the letters."[89] On the one side, many
well-known names[90] were ranked in opposition, who believed that the
scheme, among other drawbacks, would not only absorb the existing
revenue, but would have to be supported by a ruinous subsidy from the
Exchequer. On the other side of the question, however, there were many
intelligent writers and great statesmen ready to advocate the sacrifice
of revenue altogether, if necessary, rather than not have the reform;
while an immense number believed (and Mr. Hill himself shared in this
belief) that the diminution would only be temporary, and should be
regarded as an _outlay_ which, in the course of years, would yield
enormous profits. "Suppose even an average yearly loss of a million for
ten years," says a celebrated economist of the period; "it is but half
what the country has paid for the abolition of slavery, without the
possibility of any money return. Treat the deficit as an outlay of
capital. Even if the hope of ultimate profit should altogether fail, let
us recur to some other tax ... any tax but this, certain that none can
operate so fatally on all the other sources of revenue. Letters are the
_primordia rerum_ of the commercial world. To tax them at all is
condemned by those who are best acquainted with the operations of
finance." Nor was Mr. Hill to be cried down. He admitted, as we have
said, that his plans, if carried out, would result in a diminution of
revenue for a few years to come. On the reliable _data_ which he had
collected, he calculated that, for the first year, this decrease might
extend to as much as 300,000_l._; but that the scheme would pay in the
long run, and pay handsomely, he had no manner of doubt whatever. His
case was strengthened by all previous experience. The number of letters
would increase in the ratio of reduction of postage. In 1827, the Irish
postage-rates were reduced, and an immediate increase of revenue to a
large extent was the result. The rate for ship-letters was reduced in
1834. In four years the number increased in Liverpool from fifteen to
sixty thousand; in Hull from fifteen to fifty thousand. The postage of
letters between Edinburgh and the adjacent towns and villages was
reduced in 1837 from twopence to a penny. In rather more than a year the
number of letters had more than doubled.

Mr. Hill's proposals were instantly hailed with intense satisfaction,
especially by the mercantile and manufacturing classes of the community.
Whatever might be said in Parliament, public opinion in the country was
decided on the question, that if the success of the new scheme was
sufficient to cover the charges of the Post-Office establishment, it
ought by all means to be carried out. Scarcely ever was public sympathy
so soon and so universally excited in any matter. The progress of the
question of post-reform was in this, and some other respects, very
remarkable, and shows in a strong light how long a kind of extortion may
be borne quietly, and then what may be accomplished by prompt and
conjoint action. Before Mr. Hill's pamphlet appeared no complaints
reached the Legislature of the high rates of postage. During the year in
which it did appear five petitions reached the House of Commons, praying
that its author's scheme might at least be considered. In the next year
320, and in the first half of the year 1839 no fewer than 830, petitions
were presented in favour of the measure. Within a few, the same number
were sent up to the House of Lords. During the agitation, it is
calculated that no less than 5,000 petitions reached St. Stephen's,
including 400 from town-councils and other public bodies--the Common
Council of London, and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge, among the number.

During the month of February, 1838, Mr. Wallace moved for a Select
Committee of the Commons to investigate and report upon Mr. Hill's
proposals; but the Government resisted the motion.[91] They intimated
that the matter was under their consideration, and they intended to deal
with it themselves. But the community were dissatisfied. They continued
to petition till Ministers were compelled to show a greater interest in
the subject, which they did "by proposing little schemes, and
alterations, and devices of their own, which only proved that they were
courageous in one direction, if not in another."[92] Meanwhile, the
"Merchandise Committee"--formed of a number of the most influential and
extensive merchants and bankers in London, with Mr. Bates, of the house
of Baring & Co. for chairman--was called into existence through the
manifested opposition to reasonable reform. Large sums were subscribed
by this committee for the purpose of distributing information on the
subject by means of pamphlets and papers, and for the general purposes
of the agitation. So great and irresistible, in fact, was the pressure
applied in this and other ways, that the Government found it impossible
any longer to refuse an inquiry. A month or two after Mr. Wallace's
motion, Mr. Baring, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, proposed a
Committee "to inquire into the present rates or modes of charging
postage, with a view to such reduction thereof as may be made _without
injury to the revenue_; and for this purpose, to examine especially into
the mode recommended, of charging and collecting postage, in a pamphlet
by Mr. Rowland Hill." It was noticed that most of the members nominated
by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were favourable to the Government,
all but two--Lord Lowther and Sir Thomas Fremantle--having voted for the
Ballot. The Conservatives did not grumble, however, as on this subject
the Government was conservative enough. The Committee sat sixty-three
days, concluding their deliberations in August, 1838. They examined all
the principal officers of the Post-Office and the Stamp Department, and
eighty-three independent witnesses of different pursuits and various
grades. The Post-Office authorities were specially invited to send any
witnesses they might choose; and as the Postmaster-General and the
Secretary of the Post-Office objected to the penny rate as likely to be
ruinous to the revenue, and to the principle of uniformity as unfair and
impossible, we may be certain that the witnesses sent were judiciously
chosen. The examination was by no means _ex parte_, but seems to have
been carried on with the greatest fairness. Those members of the
Committee who were particularly pledged to the protection of the
revenue, as well as Lord Lowther--who had a thorough knowledge of the
subject from having sat on a previous Commission--appear to have missed
no opportunity of sifting the opinions and the statements of each
witness. The members of the Committee did their work, altogether, with
zeal, great discrimination, and ability. The plan and the favourable
witnesses stood the scrutiny with wonderful success; and Mr. Hill
himself bore up, under what George Stephenson regarded as the greatest
crucial test to which mortal man can be subjected, with tact and
firmness, fully proving, in evidence, the soundness of the conclusions
on which judgment had to be passed.

We may say here, as we have not before referred to the circumstance,
that it was necessary to make it clear to the Committee, the amount of
increase in correspondence necessary to the success of the scheme. In
opposition to the views of official men,[93] Mr. Hill held that a
fivefold increase in the number of letters would suffice to preserve the
existing revenue, and he hazarded a prediction that that increase would
soon be reached. As regarded the means of conveyance, he showed that the
stage-coaches, &c. already in existence could carry twenty-seven times
the number of letters they had ever yet done; and this statement passed
without dispute. The evidence was clear and convincing as to the vast
amount of contraband letters daily conveyed; and no less certainly was
it shown that, if Mr. Hill's schemes were carried out, the temptation to
evasion of postage would be at once abolished, inasmuch as there would
then be no sufficient inducement to resort to illegal mediums. A Glasgow
merchant stated before the Committee, that he knew five manufacturers in
that city whose correspondence was transmitted illegally in the
following proportions, viz.--(1) three to one; (2) eighteen to one; (3)
sixteen to one; (4) eight to one; and (5) fifteen to one. Manchester
merchants--among whom was Mr. Cobden--stated that they had no doubt that
four-fifths of the letters written in that town did not pass through the
Post-Office. No member of the Committee had any idea of the extent to
which the illicit conveyance of letters was carried. A carrier in
Scotland was examined, and confessed to having carried sixty letters
daily, on the average, for a number of years--knew other carriers who
conveyed, on an average, five hundred daily. He assured the Committee
that the smuggling was alone done to save the postage. "There might be
cases when it was more convenient, or done to save time, but the great
object was cheapness." The labouring classes, especially, had no other
reason. "They avail themselves of every possible opportunity for getting
their letters conveyed cheaply or free." In his opinion, the practice
could not be put a stop to until the Post-Office authorities followed
the example that was set them in putting down illicit distillation in
Scotland. "I would reduce the duty, and that would put an end to it, by
bringing it down to the expense of conveyance by carriers and others."
Mr. John Reid--an extensive bookseller and publisher in Glasgow--sent
and received, illicitly, about fifty letters or circulars daily. "I was
not caught," he said, "till I had sent twenty thousand letters, &c.
otherwise than through the post." He constantly sent his letters by
carriers; he also sent and received letters for himself and friends,
inclosed in his booksellers' parcels. Any customer might have his
letters so sent, by simply asking the favour. It also came out in
evidence, that twelve walking-carriers were engaged exclusively in
conveying letters between Birmingham and Walsall and the district, a
penny being charged for each letter. The most curious modes of
procedure, and the oddest expedients[94] for escaping postage, were
exhibited during the sitting of the Committee. One, largely patronized
by mercantile houses, consisted in having a number of circulars printed
on one large sheet, when, on its arrival at a certain town, a mutual
friend or agent would cut it up, and either post or deliver the parts.
Nay, matters had been brought to such a state, that a leading journal,
commenting on the matter of illicit letter-conveyance just previous to
the sittings of the Committee, went the length of saying, that,
"_fortunately_ for trade and commerce, the operation of the Government
monopoly is counteracted by the clandestine conveyance of letters."...
"The means of evasion are so obvious and frequent, and the power of
prevention so ineffectual, that the post has become only the
_extraordinary_, instead of the usual, channel for the conveyance of
letters." Notwithstanding this testimony, the evidence of the
Post-Office officials on this and the other heads of inquiry betrayed
fully the usual degree of official jealousy of interference, and quite
an average amount of official partiality. Thus, Colonel Maberly argued,
that if the postage of letters were reduced to a penny it would not stop
smuggling: in which case they might as well have smuggling under the one
system as the other. But his zeal on this point overcame his discretion.
"For," he continued, "1,000 letters might still be sent as a
coach-parcel for seven shillings, whereas the Post-Office charge for
them would be four guineas." But the gallant colonel seems altogether to
have forgotten that the item of _delivery_ is, after all, the chief item
in all Post-Office charges. A few more examples of the statements of the
authorities may here be given. Thus, the Secretary said, relative to an
increase of letters, that "the poor were not disposed to write letters"
(10,851). He thought that, during the first year, the letters would not
double, even if franking were not abolished (2,949). "If the postage
be reduced to one penny, I think the revenue would not recover
itself for forty or fifty years." Lord Lichfield said that he had
ascertained that each letter then cost "within the smallest fraction of
twopence-halfpenny" (2,795). With regard to the principle of the uniform
rate, Colonel Maberly thought it might be "desirable, but impracticable"
(10,939). "Most excellent for foreign postage, but impracticable for
inland letters" (3,019). He also said that the public would object to
pay _in advance_ whatever the rate (10,932-3).

The Committee next had their attention called to still more important
facts, viz. that the number of letters conveyed illegally bore no
proportion to the number which were not written at all on account of the
high rates of postage. On the poor the Post-Office charges pressed
grievously, and there seemed no other course open to them than that, if
their letters could not be received without the payment of exorbitant
rates, they must lie in the hands of the authorities. It is only
necessary to compare the income of a labouring man with his pressing
wants to see that it was idle to suppose that he would apply his little
surplus to the enjoyment of post-letters other than in cases of life and
death. The Committee were absolutely flooded with instances in which
the Post-Office charges seriously interfered with the wants and
reasonable enjoyments of the poor. On the general question involved,
nearly all the witnesses, of whatever rank or grade, evidenced that the
public, to an enormous extent, were deterred from writing letters and
sending communications, which otherwise, under a cheaper tariff, they
would write and send. That this part of the case was proved may be
concluded from the language of the Committee themselves:--"The multitude
of transactions which, owing to the high rates of postage, are prevented
from being done, or which, if done, are not announced, is quite
astonishing. Bills for moderate amounts are not drawn; small orders for
goods are not given or received; remittances of money are not
acknowledged; the expediting of goods by sea and land, and the sailing
or arrival of ships not advised; printers do not send their proofs; the
country attorney delays writing to his London agent, the commercial
traveller to his principal, the town-banker to his agent in the country.
In all these, and many other cases, regularity and punctuality is
neglected in attempts to save the expenses of exorbitant rates of

On all the other parts of the scheme, and on the scheme itself as a
whole, the Committee spoke no less decisively. Generally and briefly,
they considered that Mr. Hill's strange and startling facts had been
brought out in evidence. They gave their opinion that the rates of
postage were so high as materially to interfere with and prejudice trade
and commerce; that the trading and commercial classes had sought, and
successfully, illicit means of evading the payment of these heavy
charges, and that all classes, for the self-same reason, corresponded
free of postage when possible; that the _rate_ of postage exceeded the
_cost_ of the business in a manifold proportion; and that, altogether,
the existing state of things acted most prejudicially to commerce and to
the social habits and moral condition of the people. They conclude,

    1. That the only remedy is a reduction of the rates, the more
    frequent despatch of letters, and additional deliveries.

    2. That the extension of railways makes these changes urgently

    3. That a _moderate_ reduction in the rates would occasion loss,
    without diminishing the peculiar evils of the present state of
    things, or giving rise to much increased correspondence, and,

    4. That the principle of a low, uniform rate, is _just in itself_,
    and when combined with prepayment and collection by stamp, would be
    exceedingly convenient and highly satisfactory to the public.

So far, their finding, point by point, was in favour of Mr. Hill's
scheme. They reported further that, in their _opinion_, the
establishment of a penny rate would not, after a temporary depression,
result in any ultimate loss to the revenue. As, however, the terms of
their appointment precluded them from recommending any plan which
involved an immediate loss, they restricted themselves to suggesting an
uniform _twopenny_ rate.

The Commissioners of Post-Office Inquiry,--consisting of Lord Seymour,
Lord Duncannon, and Mr. Labouchere,--who were charged with an "inquiry
into the management of the Post-Office," had already concluded their
sittings, and had decided upon recommending Mr. Hill's plan as far as it
concerned the "twopenny post" department; that being the only branch
then under consideration. "We propose," say they, and the words are
significant, "that the distinction in the rates and districts, which now
applies to letters delivered in the twopenny and threepenny post, shall
not in any way affect correspondence transmitted under stamped covers;
and that any letter not exceeding half an ounce shall be conveyed free
within the metropolis, and the district to which the town and country
deliveries extend, _if inclosed in an envelope bearing a penny stamp_."

With these important recommendations in its favour, the scheme was
submitted to Parliament. It had met with so much approval, and the
subject seemed so important, that the Government took charge of the
measure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had the project of a uniform
rate of postage embodied in a Bill, which passed in the session of 1839.
This Act, which was affirmed by a majority of 102 members, conferred
temporarily the necessary powers on the Lords of the Treasury. Many of
the Conservative party opposed the Government proposals. Sir Robert
Peel's chief argument against the change was, that it would necessitate
a resort to a direct tax on income. In order, however, to strengthen the
hands of the Government, now that the question was narrowed in all minds
to the single one of revenue, the majority in the House of Commons
pledged themselves to vote for some _substituted_ tax, if, upon
experiment, any substitute should be needed.--(_Hansard_, vol. xlix.)

No one out of Parliament, at any rate, who read Mr. Hill's pamphlet
attentively, but was convinced of the practicability of the measure, and
the careful perusal of the evidence collected by the Committee
appointed, determined any waverer as to the necessity of its being
adopted. Still there existed serious misgivings in the country as to the
steps which the Melbourne administration must soon announce. That there
were some few objections to Mr. Hill's plan, and some difficulties about
it, cannot be doubted; the nation at large had decided for it, however,
and some of the principal men in the country, not favourable to the
existing ministry, decided for it also. The Duke of Wellington was
"disposed to admit that that which was called Mr. R. Hill's plan, was,
if it was adopted as it was proposed, of all the plans, that which was
most likely to be successful."[95] The Duke of Richmond pressed upon the
ministers, that if they gave their sanction to any uniform plan, it
should be to Mr. Hill's, "for that alone, and not the twopenny postage,
seems to me to give hope of ultimate success."[96]

On the 12th of November, 1839, the Lords of the Treasury issued a
minute, under the authority of the Act before referred to, reducing the
postage of all inland letters to the uniform rate of _fourpence_.

The country, generally, was greatly dissatisfied. Mr. Hill's measure was
what was required, and the fourpenny rate was in no respect his plan,
nor did it even touch the question of the _practicability_ of the
uniform postage proposed by the reformer. This quarter measure of the
Government did not even suffice to exhibit the benefits of a low rate of
postage; was consequently a most improper test, and likely to be
prejudicial to the interest of the penny post. The increase of letters
was in no place more than fifty per cent., whilst the decrease in the
Post-Office revenue was at the rate of forty per cent. In London, for
instance, the diminution of receipts was at the lowest computation,
450_l._ a day, and the number of letters were only just doubled. The
plan did not abolish the franking system. It did not abolish smuggling,
inasmuch as a letter might be sent illicitly for a penny. How,
therefore, it was argued, can it be expected that in the interior of the
country, at any rate, and without Custom House officers, or any other
responsible officers, a duty of 300 per cent. can be levied on the
carriage of an article so easily transported as a letter? For a few
weeks all was dissatisfaction. More than that, business men trembled for
the success of the whole scheme, and lest the Government should return
to the old _régime_. The Treasury Lords were convinced, however, that
they had made a mistake, and they resolved to give the measure a full
and fair trial. On the 10th of January, 1840, another minute was issued,
ordering the adoption of a uniform penny rate. By adopting Mr. Hill's
plan, the Government simply placed itself in the position of a trader,
who declared that he intended for a time to be satisfied with a part of
his former profits; but hoped eventually to secure himself against loss
by increased business, greater attractiveness, and diminished cost
of management. In six months, the policy of the Government was
acknowledged on all hands to be the correct one, for on the 10th of
August the Treasury had its minute confirmed by the Statute 3 & 4 Vict.
chap. 96. The _Quarterly Review_,[97] as an exception to the general
feeling, stigmatizes the measure "as one of the most inconsiderate jumps
in the dark ever made by that very inconsiderate assembly." It is
"distinguished by weakness and rashness," &c. But the judgment of
posterity is sadly against the reviewer.

A Treasury appointment was given to Mr. Hill to enable him to work out
his plans, or, in the wording of the said appointment, "to assist in
carrying into effect the penny postage." He only held his office about
two years, for when the Conservative party came into power in 1841, he
was politely bowed out of it on the plea that his work was finished;
that his nursling had found its legs, and might now be taken into the
peculiar care of the Post-Office authorities themselves. A study of the
past history of the Post-Office might have enlightened the minds of the
members of the Executive Government as to the advisability or otherwise,
of leaving entirely the progress of Post-Office improvement in the hands
of the authorities. Mr. Hill intreated the new premier, Sir Robert Peel,
to let him remain at any pecuniary sacrifice to himself, but
his entreaties were unavailing. He must watch his scheme from a

Speaking of the hindrances which Mr. Hill met with in official circles,
we are reminded of a pamphlet which appeared shortly after this period,
evidently from some Post-Office official, "_On the Administration of the
Post-Office_." This precious pamphlet has been long consigned to
well-merited oblivion, and we only rescue it for a moment from the limbo
of all worthless things, to show the spirit which then actuated some of
those in office. It reminds us forcibly of the criticism which Mr.
Palmer's scheme called forth from the leading spirits of the Post-Office
of his day. The pamphlet, illogical and abusive throughout, laid it down
as a principle that "the Post-Office is not _under any obligation_ to
convey the correspondence of the public." Again, that "the Post-Office
is a Government monopoly for the benefit of the public revenue, and
exists for the _sole_ purpose of profit." Then there are praises for the
old, and abuses for the new _régime_. "The celerity, the certainty, the
security with which so vast a machine executed such an infinite
complexity of details, were truly admirable!" Mr. Hill comes in for a
good share of detraction. He is counselled to leave his "pet scheme" to
the "practical men" of the Post-Office. In the following flowery
language he is recommended "to behold it (his project) as a spectator
from the shore, viewing his little bark in safety, navigated by those
who are practically best acquainted with the chart, wind, and waves."

Mr. Hill's popularity outside the Post-Office contrasted favourably with
the estimation in which he was held inside. The whole community had
become impressed with the value of his measures and the important
services he had rendered. Spurred on to exertions by the treatment he
had received at the hands of an administration, which, to use the fine
expression of Lord Halifax in reference to another public benefactor,
"refused to supply the oil for a lamp which gave so much light," a
public subscription was opened throughout the country, which, joined in
by all classes, was quickly represented by a handsome sum. The money,
which amounted to over thirteen thousand pounds, and which was only
considered an expression of national gratitude, and by no means a full
requital for his services, was presented to him at a public banquet got
up in London under the auspices of the "Merchandise Committee." In an
address which accompanied the testimonial, Mr. Hill's measure of reform
was pronounced one "which had opened the blessings of a free
correspondence to the teacher of religion, the man of science
and literature, the merchant and trader, and the whole British
nation--especially the poorest and most defenceless portions of it--a
measure which is the greatest boon conferred in modern times on all the
social interests of the civilized world." Mr. Hill's bearing on the
occasion in question is described as most modest and unassuming. He
expressed his gratitude for the national testimonial in few but telling
phrases. He delicately alluded to his proscription from office,
regretting that he could not watch the progress of his measure narrowly,
and pointed out improvements which were still necessary to give complete
efficiency to his reform. Mr. Hill gave ample credit to those who had
sustained him in his efforts to carry his plans through Parliament, and
especially named Messrs. Wallace and Warburton, members of the special
Committee of 1838, Mr. Baring the Ex-chancellor of the Exchequer, and
Lords Ashburton and Brougham.

We shall have frequent occasion as we advance, to mention Mr. Hill's
name in connexion with Post-Office history during the past twenty years;
but we may here notice the remaining particulars of Mr. Hill's
_personal_ history. On the restoration of the Whigs to power in 1846,
Mr. Hill was brought back into office, or rather first placed in office
at St. Martin's-le-Grand, as secretary to the Postmaster-General, the
present Marquis of Clanricarde. In 1854, on Colonel Maberly's removal to
the Audit Office, Mr. Hill attained the deserved honour of Secretary to
the Post-Office under the late Lord Canning--the highest fixed
appointment in the department, and second only in responsibility to that
of Postmaster-General. In 1860 Mr. Hill was further honoured with the
approval of his sovereign, and few will question it, when we say it was
a worthy exercise of the royal prerogative, when he was called to
receive the dignity of Knight Commander of the Bath.

The arduous exertions, extending over a quarter of a century, and the
ever-increasing duties of the Secretary of the Post-Office have, within
the last few years, begun to tell upon the physical system of Sir
Rowland Hill, and have more than once caused him to absent himself from
the post which he has made so honourable and responsible. During the
autumn of last year he obtained leave of absence from active duty for
six months--his place being filled by Mr. Tilley, the senior assistant
secretary of the Post-Office--a step which was generally understood to
be preparatory to his resignation, should no improvement be manifest in
his health. Now (March, 1864) his retirement is announced, and he leaves
us and passes "not into obscurity, but into deserved repose." May he be
long spared to enjoy the rest and quiet which he has so well earned, and
the gratitude and sympathy which must be universally felt for him. His
early work, that would have been Herculean, even if he had not been
assailed by foes without and foes within, must have caused him immense
labour of hand and labour of brain; the carrying out also of many
important subsequent measures, which may be said to have followed as
necessary corollaries of his great reform, must have occasioned him an
amount of bodily and mental toil and excitement of which the "roll of
common men" have neither experience nor conception. Not to speak of his
services to commerce, Sir Rowland Hill, more than any living
individual, has succeeded in drawing close the domestic ties of the
nation, and extending in innumerable ways the best interests of social
life. He deserves well of his country, and we are only giving expression
to a feeling which is uppermost at this moment in most men's minds, when
we add the hope that a debt of gratitude may soon be discharged by some
gracious national tribute.[99]

The Executive Government, on its part, has shown a just and highly
appreciative estimate of Sir Rowland Hill's remarkable services in the
provision which has been made for him on his retirement. By a Treasury
minute, dated March 11th, 1864, advantage is taken of the special clause
in the Superannuation Act, relating to extraordinary services, to grant
him a pension of three times the usual retiring allowance. The language
in which this resolution is couched--doubtless from the pen of Mr.
Gladstone--is unusually complimentary for this class of official
documents. After recounting Sir Rowland Hill's eminent services--the
facts of which are based upon a statement just presented by the veteran
reformer himself, (see Appendix H)--and stating the amount of his
pension if treated on the ordinary superannuation allowance, the Lords
of the Treasury say that they consider the present a fitting case for
special arrangement. "Under the circumstances, it may justly be averred
that my Lords are dealing on the present occasion with the case not
merely of a meritorious public servant, but of a benefactor of his race;
and that his fitting reward is to be found not in this or that amount of
pension, but in the grateful recollection of his country. But my Lords
discharge the portion of duty which belongs to them with cordial
satisfaction, in awarding to Sir Rowland Hill for life his full salary
of 2,000_l._ per annum." Lord Palmerston has further given notice that
he will move in the House of Commons, that the pension be continued to
Lady Hill, in the event of her surviving her husband.[100]

One thing only mars the gracefulness of the minute in question. A vague
and indefinite attempt is made towards partitioning the merit of the
original suggestion of the penny postage scheme between Sir R. Hill and
some other nameless projector or projectors. On the contrary, we have
not been more definitely led to any conclusion in the range of postal
subjects which have claimed our attention, than to the one which gives
to Sir Rowland Hill the entire merit of the suggestion, and the chief
merit in the carrying out, of penny-post reform. It would, of course,
have been impossible to carry out and perfect the system without the
cordial assistance and co-operation of the other principal officers of
the Post-Office; for the past twenty years that assistance seems to have
been faithfully rendered; and Sir Rowland Hill, in retiring, pays a just
tribute to those who have laboured to promote the new measures, and into
whose able hands they have now fallen.


[81] _Select Committee of Postage_, 1843, p. 133.

[82] Miss Martineau, quoting from the _Political Dictionary_, vol. ii.
p. 563, says that Mr. Hill first offered his scheme to the Government of
Lord Melbourne before it was presented to the country. However this may
be, Mr. Hill makes no mention of the fact in his frequent appearances
before Committees of the House of Commons, &c.

[83] _Post-Office Reform_, p. 2, third edition.

[84] _Post-Office Reform_, p. 14, third edition.

[85] _Our Exemplars, Poor and Rich_, edited by Matthew Davenport Hill.
London, 1851, p. 317.

[86] _The Westminster Review_, July, 1860, p. 78, in an able but
exceedingly _ex parte_ article on "The Post-Office Monopoly," doubts
whether Mr. Hill's system is a near approximation to perfect justice,
being, in its opinion, "by no means the _summum bonum_ of letter-rates."
"A charge of one penny for the carriage of all letters of a certain
_weight_ within the United Kingdom, irrespective of distance, is
eminently arbitrary."... "No one in London who has written two letters,
one to a friend residing in the same town as himself, and another to one
in Edinburgh, can have failed, in affixing the stamps to them, to
observe the unfairness of charging the same sum for carrying the one 400
yards and the other 400 miles, when the cost of transmission must in the
one case be so much more than in the other." These quotations plainly
show that Mr. Hill's early arguments have been lost upon the reviewer.
If Mr. Hill demonstrated one thing more plainly than another, it was
that the absolute cost of the transmission of each letter was so
infinitesimally small, that if charged according to that cost, the
postage could not be collected. Besides, it is not certain that the one
letter would cost the Post-Office more than the other. Moreover, to the
sender the value of the conveyance of the local letter was equal to its
cost, or he would have forwarded it by other means. No doubt a strong
argument might be based on these grounds, as to the justice of a lower
rate for letters posted and delivered in the same town. Such a measure
might be supported on Mr. Hill's principles; but the apparent anomaly is
surely no argument against a State monopoly of letter-carrying.

[87] _Post-Office Reform_, p. 8.

[88] _Mirror of Parliament_, 15th June, 1837.

[89] _Ibid._ 18th December, 1837.

[90] Rev. Sydney Smith, Mr. McCullagh.

[91] Hansard, xxxviii. p. 1099.

[92] Miss Martineau, vol. ii. p. 429.

[93] Lord Lichfield said it would require a twelvefold increase, "and I
maintain," said he, "that our calculations are more likely to be right
than his."--(_Report_, 2821.)

[94] Mr. Hill related some of these in his pamphlet. Thus, at page 91,
we read:--"Some years ago when it was the practice to write the name of
a Member of Parliament for the purpose of franking a newspaper, a friend
of mine, previous to starting on a tour into Scotland, arranged with his
family a plan of informing them of his progress and state of health,
without putting them to the expense of postage. It was managed thus: he
carried with him a number of old newspapers, one of which he put into
the post daily. The postmark, with the date, showed his progress; and
the state of his health was evinced by the selection of the name, from a
list previously agreed upon, with which the newspaper was franked. 'Sir
Francis Burdett,' I recollect, denoted vigorous health." Better known is
the anecdote of a postal adventure of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, already
adverted to at the commencement of the present chapter. The story is
told originally, in Mr. Hill's pamphlet also:--Once, on the poet's
visits to the Lake district, he halted at the door of a wayside inn at
the moment when the rural postman was delivering a letter to the barmaid
of the place. Upon receiving it she turned it over and over in her hand
and then asked the postage of it. The postman demanded a shilling.
Sighing deeply, however, the girl handed the letter back, saying she was
too poor to pay the required sum. The poet at once offered to pay the
postage, and in spite of some resistance on the part of the girl, which
he deemed quite natural, did so. The messenger had scarcely left the
place, when the young barmaid confessed that she had learnt all she was
likely to learn from the letter; that she had only been practising a
pre-conceived trick: she and her brother having agreed that a few
hieroglyphics on the back of the letter should tell her all she wanted
to know, whilst the letter would contain no writing. "We are so poor,"
she added, "that we have invented this manner of corresponding and
franking our letters."

[95] Select Committee on Postage, 1843.

[96] _Ibid._

[97] October, 1859, Art 9. See also Raikes' _Diary_, vol. iii.

[98] "Lord Lowther," so Mr. Hill was told, "was a steady friend to Post
reform, and was well acquainted with the department." Without doubt the
new Postmaster-General's feelings, however ridiculous, were consulted in
this matter. Mr. Hill's anxiety for the general scheme, and for
subsequent minor proposals, was quite natural. When refused the Treasury
appointment, he asked to be taken into the Post-Office there to see his
plans worked out. Lord Lowther, when he comes to speak on the proposal,
somewhat indignantly asks the Treasury Lords if "the character and
fortunes of the thousands employed in the Post-Office are to be placed
at the mercy of an _individual_ who confesses that he is 'not very
familiar with the details of the methods now practised.'" "It is easy to
imagine," continued Lord Lowther, "the damage the community might
sustain from _his tampering_ with a vast machine interwoven with all the
details of Government and necessary to the daily habits and events of
this great Empire!" The matter is not one of "detail," but of
"principle;" if their Lordships want this or that carried into
execution, they have only to say so, and Lord Lowther will see that it
is done, "though it may be in opposition to my own opinion."

[99] We find that Birmingham, at which town Sir Rowland Hill spent some
of the earlier years of his life, has been the first to move in the
matter. At a meeting held March 3, a statue was voted to cost 2,000_l._
to be placed in the new public hall. A petition to the House of Commons
was likewise adopted.

[100] This motion has twice been deferred, owing, it is said, to
representations made by members of both sides of the House of Commons. A
few days ago, an influential deputation from the House met the First
Lord of the Treasury at his official residence, the members of which
strongly urged, that in place of the deferred pension to Lady Hill, a
Parliamentary Grant, sufficient though reasonable, be made to Sir
Rowland Hill at once. It is considered certain that, when the House
resumes after Easter, Lord Palmerston will propose a grant, most
probably, of 30,000_l._



There are, of course, two aspects in which to contemplate the measure of
penny-post reform. The first relates to its social, moral, and
commercial results; the second views it in its financial relationship.
When the system had been in operation two years, it was found that the
success of the scheme in its first aspect had far surpassed the most
sanguine expectations ever formed of it by any of its advocates. As a
financial measure, it cannot be said to have succeeded originally. In
this latter respect it disappointed even Mr. Hill, who, though he never
mentioned the date when the revenue derivable from the Post-Office would
be recovered under the new system, was very emphatic in his assurances
that the loss during the first year would not exceed 300,000_l._
Calculating upon a fourfold increase of letters, in his pamphlet[101] he
estimated the net revenue, after deducting for franks and newspapers, in
round numbers at 1,300,000_l._; a sum only 300,000_l._ less than the
revenue of 1837. We do not say that Mr. Hill originally calculated on
recovering the absolute _net_ revenue by the collection of postage; but
any deficiency which might continue after the scheme was fairly tried,
he expected to see supplied, eventually, by increased productiveness in
other departments of the revenue, which would be benefited by the
stimulus given to commerce by improved communication.[102] Before the
Parliamentary Committee he was equally explicit:[103] when asked, if,
on a fivefold increase, there would still be a deficiency on the net
revenue, he answered in the affirmative, to the extent of, he should
think, 300,000_l._ He again, however, stated his conviction that the
deficit would be made up by the general improvement of trade and
commerce in the country. It is true that events proved that the falling
off in the _gross_ revenue was considerably in excess of all the
calculations which had been made: but even under this head, much may be
said; and in considering the different results of penny postage, we
expect to be able to point out that the scheme had intrinsic qualities
in it, which, under proper treatment, must have made it in all respects
a success. Mr. Hill met another Parliamentary Committee in 1842, when
his recommendations--in their principal features, at any rate--had been
acted upon for nearly two years. In the course of this further
investigation--to the circumstances attending which we shall presently
allude--much information relative to the carrying out of the measure,
its successes, and failures, was elicited.

It was shown beyond all dispute, that the scheme had almost entirely
prevented breaches of the law, and that if any illicit correspondence
was carried on, it was simply and purely in matters where the question
of speed was involved; that the evils, amounting to social prohibitions,
so prevalent before the change, had been, for the most part, removed.
Commercial transactions, relating even to very small amounts, were now
managed through the post. Small orders were constantly transmitted;
the business of the Money-order Office having increased almost
_twenty-fold_--first, from the reduction of postage in 1840, and then
from the reduction of the fees in November of the same year. These
orders are generally acknowledged. Printers send their proofs without
hesitation;[104] the commercial traveller writes regularly to his
principal, and is enabled for the first time to advise his customers of
his approach; private individuals and public institutions distribute
widely their circulars and their accounts of proceedings to every part
of the land. Better than any account that we might give of the reception
of this boon by the country, and the social and commercial advantages
which were immediately seen to follow from it, we may here give some
account of the correspondence which flowed in upon Mr. Hill between
1840-1842, and which he read to the select committee appointed to try
the merits of his scheme. Ten times the weight of evidence, and far more
striking instances of the advantages of the penny-post scheme might
_now_ be adduced, but it must be remembered that we are here speaking
merely of first results, and when the scheme had been but two years in
operation. Numbers of tradesmen wrote to say how their business had
increased within the two years. One large merchant now sent the whole of
his invoices by post; another increased the number of his "prices
current" by 10,000 per annum. Messrs. Pickford and Co. the carriers,
despatched by post _eight_ times the number of letters posted in 1839;
whilst the letters, had they been liable to be charged as per single
sheet, would have numbered 720,000 in 1842 from this one firm, against
30,000 letters in 1839. In this case we have an exemplification of the
correctness of the argument upon which Mr. Hill built his scheme; for
the increase of money actually paid for postage was at the rate of 33
per cent. Mr. Charles Knight, the London bookseller, said the penny
postage stimulated every branch of his trade, and brought the country
booksellers into almost daily communication with the London houses. Mr.
Bagster, the publisher of a Polyglot Bible in twenty-four languages,
stated to Mr. Hill that the revision which he was just giving to his
work as it was passing through the press would, on the old system, have
cost him 1,500_l._ in postage alone, and that the Bible could not have
been printed but for the penny post. Secretaries of different benevolent
and literary societies wrote to say how their machinery had been
improved; conductors of educational establishments, how people were
everywhere learning to write for the first time in order to enjoy the
benefits of a free correspondence, and how night-classes for teaching
writing to adults were springing up in all large towns for the
same object. Mr. Stokes, the honorary secretary of the Parker
Society--composed of the principal Church dignitaries and some
intelligent laymen--which has done so much for ecclesiastical literature
by reprinting the works of the early English reformers, stated that the
Society could never have come into existence but for the penny postage.
One of the principal advocates for the repeal of the Corn Laws
subsequently gave it as his opinion, that their objects were achieved
_two years earlier_ than otherwise would have been the case, owing to
the introduction of cheap postage. After a lapse of twenty years, many
more useful societies might be mentioned of which the same could be
said. An interesting letter from the late Professor Henslow, the then
Rector of Hitcham in Suffolk, may be given, as it contains a pretty
accurate estimate of the social advantages accruing to the masses. The
professor had, consequent upon the change at the Post-Office, arranged a
scheme of co-operation for advancing among the landed interest of the
county the progress of agricultural science. After stating that the mere
suggestion of such a thing had involved him in a correspondence which he
could not have sustained if it had not been for the penny postage, he
goes on to say: "To the importance of the penny postage to those who
cultivate science, I can bear most unequivocal testimony, as I am
continually receiving and transmitting a variety of specimens by post.
Among them, you will laugh to hear that I have received three living
carnivorous slugs, which arrived safely in a pill-box! That the penny
postage is an important addition to the comforts of the poor labourer, I
can also testify. From my residence in a neighbourhood where scarcely
any labourers can read, much less write, I am often employed by them as
an amanuensis, and have frequently heard them express their satisfaction
at the facility they enjoy of now corresponding with distant relatives.
The rising generation are learning to write, and a most material
addition to the circulation of letters may soon be expected. Of the vast
domestic comfort which the penny postage has added to homes like my own,
I need say nothing more." Miss Harriet Martineau bore testimony to the
social advantages of the measure in the neighbourhood where she resided.
A celebrated writer of the period[105] gives it as his opinion, that
"the penny-post scheme was a much wiser and more effective measure than
the Prussian system of education" just then established. "By the
reduction of the postage on letters," adds he, "the use and advantage of
education has been brought home to the common man (for it no longer
costs him a day's pay to communicate with his family). A state machinery
of schoolmasters on the Prussian system would cost far more than the
sacrifice of revenue by the reduction of postage. This measure will be
the great historical distinction of the reign of Victoria. Every mother
in the kingdom who has children earning their bread at a distance lays
her head on the pillow at night with a feeling of gratitude for this
blessing." Almost all now living, who shared the benefits of the scheme
at this early date, could probably relate some anecdote which
circumstances had brought to their knowledge as to the operation of
penny postage _on the poorer classes especially_. Thus, the then
Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, visiting the Shetland Islands in
1842, writes:[106] "The Zetlanders are delighted with cheap postage.
The postmaster told me that the increase in the number of letters is
astonishing.... Another gentleman who is well acquainted with the people
told me, that although the desire of parents to keep their offspring at
home is unusually strong in Zetland, yet that cheap postage has had the
effect of reconciling families to the temporary absence of their
members, and has thus opened to the islanders the labour-market of the
mainland." An American writer,[107] in an admirable pamphlet on cheap
postage, says: "The people of England expend now as much money as they
did under the old system; but the advantage is, they get more service
for their money, and it gives a spring to business, trade, science,
literature, philanthropy, social affection, and all plans of public
utility." Joseph Hume, writing to Mr. Bancroft, then American minister
at the court of St. James's, 1848, says: "I am not aware of any reform,
amongst the many which I have promoted during the past forty years, that
has had, and will have, better results towards the improvement of the
country socially, morally, and politically." And Mr. Hill himself, in
addressing the Statistical Society in May, 1841,[108] made a statement
which was neither an idle nor a vain boast, when he assured them that
"the postman has now to make long rounds through humble districts where,
heretofore, his knock was rarely heard."

We have yet the second, or financial, aspect of the measure to consider.
In two years a tolerably correct idea might be formed as to the results
of the scheme financially; but it would certainly not be fair to attempt
any full estimate of such a thorough reform within a more circumscribed
period. Not that this was not attempted. Colonel Maberly discovered, at
the end of the _first week_, that Mr. Hill's plan had failed, at any
rate, as a question of revenue. No doubt the wish was father to the
thought. He not only thought so, however, but proceeded to take timely
action and shield himself and his congeners against some probable
future attack. In his own words, he charged "the officials to take care
that no obstacle was thrown in the way of the scheme, so as to give a
colour to the allegation"--which the prophetic colonel was only too sure
would be made--"that its failure was owing to the unwillingness of the
authorities to carry it fairly into execution."[109]

In the first year of penny postage, notwithstanding all the confident
prophecies to the contrary from those who might have been supposed to
have had means of judging, the net proceeds of the Post-Office were
between four and five hundred thousand pounds, whilst the number of
letters actually sent was _tripled_. Against a million and a half yearly
revenue of the previous year, there certainly appeared an enormous
deficit; but till all other arguments were exhausted, it ought not to
have been considered either evidence or proof of the failure of cheap
postage. In the first instance, the Post-Office authorities said the
scheme would not pay its expenses: a year sufficed to prove their
mistake. It was then said that the revenue sacrificed would never be
recovered, and accidental circumstances, of which we shall presently
speak, favoured for a time this view: the argument, however, was based
on erroneous views, as subsequent events have sufficiently shown. Bad as
things appeared, there were, nevertheless, many significant signs at the
end of two years that the _gross_ revenue under the old would soon be
reached under the new system, and even prospects that the past _net_
revenue might still be recoverable. Both these anticipations have now
been entirely realized. With a tenfold--nay, in many cases, a
hundredfold--gain to different classes of the community--with the
Post-Office supplying more situations by thousands than under the
_ancien régime_, the old gross revenue was passed in 1850-1, and the net
revenue was reached last year. Moreover, every complaint under this head
has long since been silenced. Many considerations went to hinder the
early growth of the revenue; and it is to some of these considerations
that we must now turn for a moment.

It is of primary importance that the reader should remember that Mr.
Hill, in his pamphlet and elsewhere, expressed a decided opinion that
the maintenance of the Post-Office revenue depended upon the carrying
out of _all his plans_.[110] In a speech which he delivered at
Wolverhampton, September 7th, 1839, he said: "The mere reduction in the
rates of postage will, of course, greatly increase the number of
letters; but much will still depend on the extent to which the
facilities for despatching letters are improved by a careful employment
of the many economical and speedy modes of conveyance which now exist,
and by a solicitous attention to all the minute ramifications of
distribution. If, on the one hand, due attention is paid to the
increasing demands of the public for the more frequent and more speedy
despatch of letters, and, on the other hand, pains are taken to keep
down the cost of management, though some temporary loss of revenue will
arise, I see no reason to fear that the loss will be either great or
permanent." Mr. Hill's proposals, it will be remembered, were embraced
under four principal heads. The first, a uniform and low rate of
postage, was fully carried out; but it was the only part of the measure
which was realized at this time. The second, increased speed in the
delivery of letters; and the third, consisting of provisions for
greater facility in the despatch of letters, were not attempted, or,
if attempted, only in the slightest degree. With regard to the
simplifications of the operations of the Post-Office, which formed the
fourth great item, little or nothing was done, though that little was
rendered easy of accomplishment by the uniformity of postage-rates. Not
only was the scheme not fairly worked, and the improvements only
partially carried out, but they were crippled in their operation by
officials who, if not hostile, were half-hearted and far from anxious
for a successful issue. The natural difficulties in the way of the
measure were numerous enough without the addition of official
opposition. Trade was flourishing when the Postage Bill was carried; it
was fearfully depressed in the first year of penny postage. It is well,
as Miss Martineau points out, that none foreknew the heavy reverse which
was at hand, and the long and painful depression that ensued after the
passing of the Act, for none might then have had the courage to go into
the enterprise.

This circumstance, accounting, as it does, for some of the deficit in
the first and second years, also served to test the real principles of
the reform.[111] Mr. Hill's plan, though given over to the apathy and
_vis inertiæ_ of the authorities--to "the unwilling horses of the
Post-Office," as Mr. Baring subsequently designated them--really worked
well, though at a loss, when everything else was working ill. Moreover,
the tendency of cheap communication to improve the general revenue of
the country was clearly apparent so early as 1842; and this is a fact
which ought not to be lost sight of for a moment. The reduction of
postage-rates was to the community a reduction of taxation; the capital
released was driven into other and perhaps more legitimate channels. The
Exchequer lost revenue from one source, but it gained it in other ways,
as a consequence on the outlay at the Post-Office. In 1842, there was an
acknowledged loss to the Post-Office revenue of 900,000_l._ In the same
year, no serious defalcation appeared in the general accounts of the
country, notwithstanding the extent of the depression in trade.

There were special as well as general considerations entering into the
question of the acknowledged deficiency in the revenue. It is clear that
Mr. Hill--who did not foresee that so much money would be sacrificed,
and who was sanguine of recovering it at no distant date--likewise
could have had but an indefinite idea of the vast amount of extra
machinery which would be called into operation by the full development
of his plans; the extent of the measures that must follow if the country
was to be equally privileged with cheap correspondence; and the
concessions that would have to be granted when the wedge was driven in
by this, his principal measure. As one only of the causes leading to the
extra heavy expenses of the Post-Office department, we may mention the
changes in the system of mail-conveyance consequent on the introduction
of railways. Dating from 1838, railways had been gradually absorbing all
the stage-coach traffic. Mr. Hill, when making his original proposals,
calculated that the number of chargeable letters might be increased
twenty-four fold without overloading the mails, and without any material
addition to the sums paid to contractors. So great and important--we
would almost say vital--was the question of _speed_ to the Post-Office,
that railways were almost immediately brought into requisition, although
the cost of the carriage of the mails was, at the outset, doubled,
tripled, and even quadrupled! Many striking examples of the great
difference in the cost of the two services are furnished in different
Post-Office Reports. For instance:[112] In 1844, a coach proprietor in
the North of England actually _paid_ to the Post-Office Department the
sum of 200_l._ annually for what he regarded as the privilege of
conveying the mails, twice a-day, between Lancaster and Carlisle. Now
the Post-Office _pays_ the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway the sum of
18,000_l._ annually for the same service. The items of charges for
mail-conveyance by railway at the present time--if they could have
been known by any means, or even guessed at, by the enterprising
post-reformer of 1837--might have had the effect of deterring him from
offering his suggestions when he did. Certain it is, that the proposals
would have had small chance of success, if those who had charge of the
fiscal concerns of the country could have known that the sum which
would have to be paid by the Post-Office to railway companies alone, in
the year 1863, would not fall far short of the whole amount standing for
the entire postal expenses of 1839.

In 1842 Mr. Hill left the Treasury, and was thus cut off from all active
supervision of his measures. The Post-Office authorities found a friend
in Mr. Goulbourn, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was known to
sympathise with their views. It had been arranged that Mr. Hill should
continue his services for some short time longer in his improvised place
at the Treasury Offices. The divergence in the views of the new chiefs
and the reformer made his position more and more unpleasant. On his
being bowed out of office, Mr. Hill petitioned the House of Commons. The
petition--which was presented by Mr. Baring, the ex-Chancellor of the
Exchequer--described briefly the Post-Office measures of 1839; his own
appointment to the Treasury; the fact of his appointment being annulled;
the benefit of the new measures in spite of their partial execution; the
obstructive policy of the Post-Office officials; and thus concludes:--

    "That the opinion adopted by Her Majesty's Government, that the
    further progress in Post-Office improvements may be left to the
    Post-Office itself, is contrary to all past experience, and is
    contradicted by measures recently adopted by that establishment.

    "That, notwithstanding the extreme depression of trade which existed
    when the penny rate was established, and has prevailed ever since;
    and notwithstanding the very imperfect manner in which your
    Petitioner's plans have been carried into effect, the want of due
    economy in the Post-Office, the well-known dislike entertained by
    many of those persons to whom its execution has been entrusted, and
    the influence such dislike must necessarily have upon its success,
    yet the results of the third year of partial trial, as shown by a
    recent return made to the House of Lords, is a gross revenue of
    two-thirds, and a net revenue of one-third, the former amount.

    "That your Petitioner desires to submit the truth of the foregoing
    allegations to the severest scrutiny, and therefore humbly prays
    your honourable House will be pleased to institute an inquiry into
    the state of the Post-Office, with the view of adopting such
    measures as may seem best for fully carrying into effect your
    Petitioner's plans of Post-Office improvement, and thus realizing
    the undoubted intentions of the Legislature."

The prayer of the petition was granted, and its proceedings are duly
chronicled.[113] The object of this committee was "to inquire into the
measures which have been adopted for the general introduction of a penny
rate of postage, and for facilitating the conveyance of letters; the
results of such measures, as far as relates to the revenue and
expenditure of the Post-Office and the general convenience of the
country; and to report their observations thereon to the House." Before
proceeding to give any account of the further measures brought under
discussion in connexion with this committee, we must give, in a few
sentences, a _résumé_ of the principal improvements which had actually
been carried out during the interval of the sittings of the two

    1. The uniform rate of one penny for a letter not above half an
    ounce, with weight adopted as the standard for increase of charge.

    2. The value of a system of prepayment was established,[114] the
    necessary facility being afforded by the introduction of
    postage-stamps. Double postage was levied on letters not prepaid _in
    London only_.

    3. Day-mails were established on the principal railway-lines running
    out of London, thus giving some of the principal towns in the
    provinces one additional delivery, with two mails from the
    metropolis in one day.

    4. An additional delivery was established in London, and two were
    given to some of the suburbs.

    5. Colonial and foreign rates for letters were greatly lowered, the
    inland rates--viz. the rates paid for those letters passing through
    this country--being abandoned altogether in some cases, as Mr. Hill
    had recommended.

    6. The privilege of franking, private and official, was abolished,
    and low charges made for the transmission of parliamentary papers.

    7. Arrangements were made for the registration of letters.

    8. The Money-order Office was rendered available to a fourfold
    extent. And--

    9. The number of letters increased from 75 millions in 1838-9, to
    219 millions in 1842-3.[115]

This was certainly a large instalment of the improvements which the
promoters of penny-post reform hoped to see realized; but, at the same
time, it was only an instalment. The committee for which Mr. Hill had
petitioned must now judge for themselves whether all had been done that
might and ought to have been done to enhance the merits of the measure,
and make it as profitable to the country as possible. In addition, it
was requisite that they should consider several further suggestions
which Mr. Hill had, since the introduction of his plan, proposed as
likely to improve it, as well as hear him on some of the objections that
had been raised to it. Thus, with regard to the latter, the Chancellor
of the Exchequer (Mr. Goulbourn) had stated; just before the committee
was appointed, that "the Post-Office did not now pay its expenses." This
statement was startling, inasmuch as Colonel Maberly himself had given
500,000_l._ or 600,000_l._ as the proceeds of the penny postage rates in
the advent year of the measure. But Mr. Hill resolved the difficulty.
The inconsistency was explained quite simply, that in a return furnished
by the Post-Office, the whole of the cost of the packet-service--a
little over 600,000_l._--was charged against the Post-Office revenue.
Though the cost of the packets had not been charged against the
Post-Office for twenty years previously, this new item was here debited
in the accounts to the prejudice of the scheme; and Mr. Goulbourn, who
disclaimed any hostility to the new measure, thought himself justified,
under the circumstances, in making the statement in question.

Again: It was strongly and frequently urged that correspondence was less
secure than under the old system. It was said by the Post-Office
officials, that the system of prepayment operated prejudicially against
the security of valuable letters. Under the old _régime_ it was argued,
the postman was charged with a certain number of unpaid letters, and
every such letter, so taxed, was a check upon him. "What security," it
was now asked, "can there be for the delivery of letters for which the
letter-carriers are to bring back no return?" With prepaid letters, it
was said, there was great temptation, unbounded opportunity for
dishonesty, and no check. To some extent, and so far as letters
containing coin or other articles of value were concerned, there were
some grounds for these remarks. It is a great question whether, in the
case of valuable letters, the dishonest postman would be discouraged
from a depredation by the thought that he would have the postage of the
letter to account for; but still, freedom from all such considerations,
under the new system, would clearly seem to increase the risks which the
public would have to run. Previously to the penny postage era, all
letters containing, or supposed to contain, coin or jewellery, were
registered gratuitously at the Post-Office as a security against their
loss. Under the new system, it was considered impracticable to continue
the service, and the Post-Office authorities, with the sanction of the
Treasury, dropped it altogether. The Money-order Office was available;
the fees had been greatly reduced, and the officials, in warning persons
against sending coin in letters, strongly recommended that this Office
should be used for the purpose. Still, the number of coin-letters
increased, and the number of depredations increased with them, to the
great prejudice of the measure. Mr. Hill, whilst in the Treasury,
recommended a system of registration of letters, which appears to have
been somewhat similar to a plan proposed by the Post-Office authorities
themselves in 1838. A system of registration was the result; but the
rate of charge of one shilling per letter was enough in itself to render
the entire arrangement nugatory. In October, 1841, Lord Lowther proposed
to the Treasury that they should let him put down the evil in another
way, viz. that they should allow him to use his powers, under the 3 & 4
Vict. c. 96, sec. 39, to establish a _compulsory_ registration of
letters supposed to contain coin or jewellery, and to make the charge
for such compulsory registration a shilling per letter. The Treasury
Lords referred the proposal to Mr. Hill. He concurred in the opinion of
the Postmaster-General, and thought the principle of compulsory
registration quite fair. He pointed out, however, in a letter to the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, many objections to the plan, and contended
that, so long as the registration fee was fixed at the high rate of a
shilling, inducements enough were not held out to the public to register
their letters _voluntarily_. Mr. Hill, therefore, suggested that the fee
should be at once lowered to sixpence, to be reduced still further as
soon as practicable. The public, under a lower rate, would have little
excuse for continuing a bad practice; but if it was continued,
restrictive measures might _then_ be tried, as the only remaining method
of protecting the public from the consequences of their own imprudence.
The sixpenny rate would, he thought, be remunerative; nor would the
letters increase to a much greater number than that reached under the
old system when they were registered gratuitously. This subject was
still under discussion when the special committee was granted, when, of
course, all the proposals relative to the registration of letters were
laid before it and investigated. Strong objections were made to Mr.
Hill's proposition to lower the rate. It was contended that the number
of registered letters would so increase, that other Post-Office work
could not be accomplished. The Postmaster-General, for example,
contested the principle of registration altogether, admitting, however,
that it was useful in reducing the number of ordinary letters containing
coin, and the consequent temptations to the officers of the Post-Office.
Like many of the additional proposals, this subject was left undecided;
but no one at this date questions the propriety of the recommendations
made under this head. The charge for registration has, within the last
few years, been twice reduced, with benefit to the revenue, and no
hindrance to the general efficiency of the Post-Office. Not only so, but
the compulsory registration clause is now in active operation.

We cannot enter far into the minutiæ of the Committee's deliberations.
Mr. Hill endeavoured to show that economy in the management of the
Post-Office had been neglected. The number of clerks and letter-carriers
which had sufficed for the complex system that had been superseded, must
more than suffice for the work of the Office under his simplified
arrangements: yet no reduction had been made. Economy, he said, had been
neglected in the way contracts had been let; in the manner railway
companies were remunerated for carrying mails. He computed that the sum
of 10,000_l._ a-year had been paid to these companies for space in the
trains that had never been occupied. He also endeavoured to show that
the salaries of nearly all the postmasters in the country needed
revision; that the establishments of each should also be revised. The
changes under the new system, taken together with the changes which
railways had made, had had the effect of increasing the work of some
offices, but greatly decreasing that of many more. He proposed that
there should be a complete revision of work and wages; that postmasters
should be paid on fixed salaries; and that all perquisites, with the
exception of a poundage on the sale of postage-stamps, should be given
up. Late-letter fees had, up to the year 1840, been received by the
postmasters themselves. Under the Penny Postage Act, however, these fees
went to the revenue, and compensation, at a certain fixed rate, was
granted to the postmasters in lieu of them. Mr. Hill stated that the
amount of compensation granted was generally too much, and was to be
accounted for on the ground that the postmasters had, in all the cases,
made their own returns.

Mr. Hill's principal recommendations to this Committee were--

    (1) The plan of a cheap registration of letters. (2) That _all_
    inland letters should be prepaid (care being taken that postmasters
    should be supplied with a sufficient stock of postage-stamps), and
    double postage charged for all unpaid letters. (3) Reduction in the
    staff of officers till the number of letters increased to five or
    sixfold; that the London officers should be fully and not only
    partially employed; and that female employment might be encouraged
    in the provinces. (4) Simplification in the mode of assorting
    letters. (5) The adoption of measures to induce the public to
    facilitate the operations of the Post-Office--by giving complete and
    legible addresses to letters, by making slits in house-doors, and
    other means. (6) The establishment of a greater number of rural
    post-offices, till, eventually, there should be one set up in every
    village. (7) All restrictions as to the weight of parcels to be
    removed, and a book-packet rate to be established, with arrangements
    for conveying prints, maps, &c. &c. That railway stations should
    have post-offices connected with them, and that letter-sorting
    should be done on board the packets, were among his miscellaneous

With especial reference to the London Office, Mr. Hill recommended (1)
the union of the two corps of general and district letter-carriers; (2)
the establishment of district offices; (3) an hourly delivery of letters
instead of one every two hours, the first delivery to be finished by
nine o'clock.

Nearly the whole of these recommendations were combated by the officers
of the Post-Office during their examination--and successfully so--though
it is certainly remarkable that, in the face of their opinions, the
great majority of the proposals have subsequently been carried out with
unquestioned advantage to the service. It would be a weary business to
relate the objections made, and the exceptions taken to each
recommendation as it came up to be considered. Of course the _non
possumus_ argument was frequently introduced. Colonel Maberly said it
was an impossibility that there should be hourly deliveries in London. A
post-office in every village was thought equally absurd. We need only
add, that the labours of the Committee led to little practical result.
They decided, by a majority of four, not to report any judgment on the
matter. Though this result must have been eminently unsatisfactory to
Mr. Hill, especially on account of their not having expressed themselves
on his grievances, yet, by refusing to exonerate the Post-Office from
the charges which he had brought against it, the Committee may be said
to have found for the reformer. With regard to Mr. Hill's further
suggestions, they refer to the evidence, and, "entertain no doubt that
his propositions will receive the fullest consideration" from the
Treasury and the Post-Office. So they did eventually, after some weary
years of waiting. Fifty years before, Mr. Palmer, writing to Mr. Pitt,
said, "I have had every possible opposition from the Office." Mr. Hill
might truly have said the same. Thus it is that history repeats itself,
and "the thing which hath been, it is that which shall be."


[101] _Post-Office Reform_, p. 26.

[102] _Results of the New Postal Arrangements_, read before the
Statistical Society of London, 1841.

[103] Second Report, p. 365.

[104] The reader of such books as Cowper's _Life and Letters_, and
Moore's _Correspondence_, will find that the means of obtaining franks,
or carriage for their manuscripts or proofs, gave the poets frequent
uneasiness, and lost them much time. So with many needy literary men, in
what Professor de Morgan somewhat absurdly calls the "Prerowlandian
days." The Professor himself gives an instance of an author sending up
some dry manuscripts to him, under cover to a member of Parliament,
expressing a hope, we think, that the representative would feel some
interest in the subject.

[105] Laing's _Notes of a Traveller_.

[106] _Fraser's Magazine_, September, 1862.

[107] Mr. Joshua Leavitt.

[108] Page 96.

[109] Select Committee on Postage, 1843, p. 246.

[110] Parliamentary Committee, _Third Report_, p. 64.

[111] "The first result of the scheme amply vindicated the policy of the
new system, but it required progressive and striking evidence to exhaust
all opposition."--_Ency. Brit._ Eighth Edition.

[112] Postmaster-General's _First Report_.

[113] Select Committee on the Post-Office, 1843.

[114] In the last month of high charges, of two and a half million
letters passing through the London Office, nearly two millions were
unpaid, and few more than half a million paid. Twelve months afterwards,
the proportion of paid to unpaid letters was entirely changed, the
latter had run up to the enormous number of five and a half millions;
the former had shrunk to about half a million.

[115] Select Committee on Postage, 1843, p. 93.



It will be fresh in the memory of many readers, that the year 1844
revealed to the public certain usages of the Government, and a branch of
post-office business--previously kept carefully in the dark--which went
far to destroy the confidence of the nation in the sanctity of its
correspondence. In the session of 1844, Mr. Thomas S. Duncombe presented
a petition from Mr. W. J. Linton, M. Mazzini, and two other persons
residing at 47, Devonshire Street, Queen's Square, complaining that
their letters were regularly detained and opened at the Post-Office. The
petitioners declared that they "considered such a practice, introducing
the spy-system of foreign states, as repugnant to every principle of the
British constitution, and subversive of that public confidence which was
so essential to a commercial country." The petitioners prayed for an
inquiry, and Mr. Duncombe supported their prayer. Sir James Graham, then
Home Secretary, got up in the House and stated that, as regarded three
of the petitioners, their letters had not been detained; as for the case
of M. Mazzini, a warrant had been obtained from the Home-Office to stop
and open the correspondence of that person. He had the power by law and
he had exercised it. "The authority," said Sir James, "was vested in the
responsible Ministers of the Crown, and was intrusted to them for the
public safety; and while Parliament placed its confidence in the
individual exercising such a power, it was not for the public good to
pry or inquire into the particular causes which called for the exercise
thereof."[116] He hoped that the House would confide in his motives, and
that they would not call upon him to answer any further inquiries. The
speech of the Home Secretary added fuel to the flame. Had Sir James
Graham entered more fully into the subject, and gone into the real state
of the law, it is probable that the subject might have been allowed to
drop. Not only was the slightest explanation of the principle adopted
refused by the Home Secretary, but that refusal was given somewhat
cavalierly. Public attention was thus roused; the most exaggerated
rumours got abroad; it was openly stated by the press that a gigantic
system of espionage had been established at St. Martin's-le-Grand, and
now no mere general assurances of its unreality could dispel the talk or
stop newspaper extravagances. Sir James Graham was abused most
unreasonably. There was hardly a public print or public speaker in the
kingdom that did not heap insults or expressions of disgust on his name.
This state of things could not continue; accordingly, we find Lord
Radnor, moving soon after in the House of Lords, for a return of all the
warrants which had been issued for the detention of letters during a
certain period, animadverting especially upon the alleged practice of
general warrants to intercept all letters addressed to a certain person
instead of there being issued a separate warrant in the case of each
letter.[117] This mode of proceeding, as he truly said, if acted upon,
was a flagrant violation of the words of the statute. Lord Campbell
expressed the same views. Lord Brougham observed that the first statute
conferring this power had been framed by Lord Somers. It had been
continued ever since by various Acts, and had been exercised by Sir
Robert Walpole, Lord Grenville, and Mr. Fox, as well as under the
administrations of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne. If Lord Campbell's
construction of the Act were correct, the sooner they had a new one the
better. Lord Denman was for putting an end to the power altogether. The
return was granted, the Duke of Wellington approving the Home
Secretary's conduct notwithstanding.

On the 24th of June, 1844, Mr. Duncombe again called the attention of
the House of Commons to the subject, by presenting a petition from Mr.
Charles Stolzman, a Polish refugee, complaining that his letters had
been detained and opened. Mr. Duncombe contended that the Act of 1837
never meant to confer an authority upon a Minister of the Crown to
search out the secrets of exiles resident in this country at the
instance of foreign Governments, but was only designed to meet the case
of domestic treason. "Mr. Stolzman was a friend of M. Mazzini," said Mr.
Duncombe, "and this was why his letters had been tampered with." After
describing the way in which letters were opened, he concluded a most
powerful speech by again moving for a committee of inquiry. He did not
want to know Government secrets; he doubted if they were worth knowing;
but he wanted inquiry into the practice of the Department, which he
contended was unconstitutional and contrary to law. Sir James Graham,
without entering into any further explanation, except saying that the
law had not been violated, and that if it had, the honourable member
might prove it before a legal tribunal, objected strongly, and in almost
a defiant manner, to any committee. Mr. Macaulay, Lord Howick, Mr.
Sheil, and Lord John Russell warmly supported the motion for an inquiry.
Sir Robert Peel, Lord Stanley, and Mr. Monckton Milnes opposed it, when
it was rejected by a majority of forty-four. What party speeches failed
in doing, the clamour and popular tumult outside at length accomplished.
Popular ridicule settled upon the subject; pencil and pen set to work
upon it with a will. Newspapers were unusually, and sometimes
unreasonably, free in their comments, and all kinds of stories about the
Post-Office went the round of the press. Sir James Graham had to bear
the brunt of the whole business; whereas the entire Cabinet, but
especially Lord Aberdeen, the Foreign Secretary, ought equally to have
shared the opprobrium. As it was, the bearing of the Home Secretary in
the House of Commons was singularly unwise and unadroit. The subject had
now come to be regarded as of too great public importance to be suffered
to rest; besides, it was an attractive one for the Opposition side of
the House. Mr. Duncombe renewed his motion towards the end of July in
the same session. It was in a slightly altered form, inasmuch as he now
moved for a select committee "to inquire into a department of Her
Majesty's Post-Office commonly called 'the secret or inner office,' the
duties and employment of the persons engaged therein, and the authority
under which the functions of the said office were discharged." Mr.
Duncombe made some startling statements as to the mode and extent of the
practice of letter-opening, all of which he declared he could prove if
the committee was granted. The Government saw the necessity of giving
way, in order that the public mind might be quieted. The Home Secretary
now acknowledged, that since he was last questioned on the subject, the
matter had assumed a very serious aspect, and he thought it was time
that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, should be
told. Though he would have readily endured the obloquy cast upon him,
even though it should crush him, rather than injure the public service;
and though he had endured much, especially after the votes and speeches
of the Opposition leaders--all men conversant with official duties--in
favour of Mr. Duncombe's former motions, he now felt himself relieved
from his late reserve, and felt bound to confess that he believed it to
be impossible to maintain the power confided to him longer without a
full inquiry. He would now not only consent to the committee, but would
desire that it should make the fullest possible inquiry, and he would
promise on his part, not only to state all he knew, but lend all the
resources of his Department to attain that object. In accordance with
this determination, he proposed that the Committee should be a secret
one, invested with the amplest powers to commence the investigation at
once, and should be composed of five usually voting against the
Government, viz. Sir C. Lemon, Mr. Warburton, Mr. Strutt, Mr. Orde, and
the O'Connor Don; and four who generally support them, viz. Lord Sandon
(chairman), Mr. T. Baring, Sir W. Heathcote, and Mr. H. Drummond. "To
this committee," said Sir James, "I gladly submit my personal honour and
my official conduct, and I make my submission without fear." The
committee was appointed after Mr. Wilson Patten's name had been
substituted for Mr. Drummond's, on account of the latter being a lawyer;
and after an unsuccessful attempt to add Mr. Duncombe's name, which was
rejected by 128 to 52. Its object was "to inquire into the state of the
law with respect to the detaining of letters in the General Post-Office,
and to the mode in which that power had been exercised, and that the
Committee should have power to send for persons, papers, and records,
and to report the result of their inquiry to the House." A Committee of
the House of Lords was appointed at the same time. Sir James Graham's
examination lasted four days, when he fulfilled his pledge to make a
full and unreserved disclosure of all he knew. Almost all the members of
that and former Governments were examined. Lord John Russell confessed
to having done the same as Sir James Graham when he held the seals of
the Home-Office, though he had not used the power so frequently. He also
stated that he supported Mr. Duncombe in his previous motions for
inquiry, because he thought it necessary that the public should have the
information asked for. Lord Normanby had used the power in Ireland for
detecting "low ribbonism, which could not be _ferretted out_ by other
means." Lord Tankerville testified to the existence of a warrant signed
by Mr. Fox in 1782, ordering the detention and opening of all letters
addressed to foreign ministers; another, ordering that all the letters
addressed to Lord George Gordon should be opened. Witnesses were also
brought from the Post-Office. Mr. Duncombe, on being asked for a list
of witnesses to prove his allegations, refused to hand in their names
unless he were allowed to be present during the examination. This the
Committee had no power to grant, and consequently he declined to
proceed. Mr. Duncombe appealed to the House, but the decision of the
Committee was confirmed.

No inconsiderable part of the Committee's time was taken up in the
production and examination of records, acts, and precedents bearing on
the subject. The officers of the State Paper Office and other high
Government functionaries produced records and State papers of great
importance, from which we learn many interesting particulars of early
postal history. At some risk of being charged with anachronism, we have
thought it desirable to introduce these details in the order of the
_subject_ under treatment.

James I. in establishing a foreign post, was more anxious that
Government secrets should not be disclosed to foreign countries, "which
cannot be prevented if a promiscuous use of transmitting foreign letters
and packets should be suffered," than that the post should be of use to
traders and merchants. There was a motive for the jealous monopoly of
postal communications; and if the proclamation from which the above is
taken (Rymer's Foedera) is not clear on the subject, the following
extract from a letter written by the one of James's secretaries to the
other, Lord Conway, is sufficiently explicit: "Your Lordship best
knoweth what account we shall be able to give in our place in Parliament
of that which passeth by letters in and out of the land, if every man
may convey letters as he chooseth." Sir John Coke, the writer of the
above, would seem to have got rid of the difficulty in a thorough
manner, if we may believe an English letter-writer addressing a friend
in Scotland, when he wrote, "I hear the posts are waylaid, and all
letters taken from them and brought to Secretary Coke."[118]

During the Commonwealth, of course, letter-opening was to be expected.
The very reason which Cromwell gave for establishing the posts was, that
they would be "the best means of discovering and preventing many wicked
designs against the Commonwealth, intelligence whereof cannot well be
communicated but by letter of escript." Foreign and home letters shared
an equal fate. On one occasion, the Venetian ambassador remonstrated
openly that his letters had been delayed and read, and it was not
denied. At the Restoration, a distinct clause in the "Post-Office
Charter" provided that "no one, except under the immediate warrant of
one of our principal Secretaries of State, shall presume to open any
letters or pacquets not directed unto themselves."

Under the improved Act of Queen Anne, 1711, it is again stated that "no
person or persons shall presume to open, detain, or delay any letter or
letters, after the same is or shall be delivered into the General or
other Post-Office, and before delivery to the persons to whom they are
addressed, except by an express warrant in writing under the hand of one
of the principal Secretaries of State for _every such opening_,
detaining, or delaying." This Act was continued under all the Georges,
and again agreed to in 1837, under 1 Vict. c. 32.

During the last century, the practice of granting warrants was
exceedingly common; and they might be had on the most trivial pretences.
It was not the practice to record such warrants regularly in any
official book,[119] and few are so recorded: we can only guess at their
number from the frequent mention made of them in the State trials of the
period, and in other incidental ways. In 1723, at Bishop Atterbury's
trial, copies of his letters were produced and given in evidence against
him. A clerk from the Post-Office certified to the fact that they had
passed through the post, and that he had seen them opened, read, and
copied. Atterbury, as well he might, asked for the authority for this
practice; and, especially, if the Secretary of State had directed that
his letters should be interfered with? A majority in the House of Lords
decided that the question need not be answered. It is pleasant to relate
that twenty-nine peers recorded an indignant protest against this
decision. One of them proposed to cross-examine the Rev. (!) Edward
Willes, "one of His Majesty's Post-Office decipherers," but the majority
going to a still greater length, resolved: "That it is the opinion of
this House that it is not consistent with the public safety to ask the
decipherers any questions which may tend to _discover the art or mystery
of deciphering_."[120] Again, at the trial of Horne Tooke for high
treason in 1795, a letter written to him by Mr. Joyce, a printer, was
intercepted at the Post-Office, and was stated by the prisoner to be the
immediate occasion of his apprehension. On his requiring its production,
a duly certified copy was brought into Court by the Crown officers and
given in evidence.

Twelve years after the trial of Bishop Atterbury, members of both Houses
became alarmed for the safety of their correspondence, and succeeded in
getting up an agitation on the subject. Several members of the House of
Commons complained that their letters had been opened. Revelations were
made at this time which remind us strongly of the episode of 1844, both
discussions resulting in a parliamentary committee of inquiry. It was
stated in the debate of 1735, that the liberty which the Act gave "could
serve no purpose but to enable the idle clerks about the office to pry
into the private affairs of every merchant and gentleman in the
kingdom."[121] It transpired on this occasion that a regular
organization existed, at enormous expense, for the examination of home
and foreign correspondence. The Secretary of the Post-Office stated that
the greater part of 45,000_l._ had been paid, without voucher of any
kind, to Robert, Earl of Oxford, for defraying the expenses of this
establishment. Among the principal annual expenses were the salaries of
the chief decipherers[122] (Dr. Willes and his son), 1,000_l._; the
second decipherer, 800_l._; the third, 500_l._; four clerks, 1,600_l._;
doorkeeper, 50_l._; incidental charges, but principally for seals,
100_l._ The result of the inquiry was, that the Committee condemned the
practice, and the House declared that it was a breach of privilege on
the part of the Government to use the power except in the exact manner
described in the statute.

Whether any real improvement took place may best be judged by the
following circumstances. Walpole, who doubtless carried his prerogative
in those matters beyond any two Secretaries of State we could mention,
lent his ear to both public and private applications alike, issuing
warrants even to further cases of private tyranny. In the Report of the
Secret Committee, p. 12, we find that a warrant is granted, in 1741, for
what purpose may be judged by the following: "At the request of A, a
warrant is issued to permit A's eldest son to open and inspect any
letters which A's youngest son might write to two females, one of which
that youngest son had imprudently married." And this inquisitorial
spirit beginning with the highest, descended even to the lowest class of
officials. A writer in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, vol. xviii. p. 405
(quoting from the _State Trials_, vol. xviii. p. 1369), tells us, in
relation to this subject, that so little attention was paid to the
requirements of the Act of Queen Anne, or the Committee of the House of
Commons just referred to, the very bellmen took to scrutinizing the
letters given them for their bags. One of those functionaries was
examined at the trial of Dr. Hensey in 1758, and deposed as follows:
"When I have got all my letters together I carry them home and sort
them. In sorting them I observed that the letters I received of Dr.
Hensey were generally directed abroad and to foreigners; and I, knowing
the Doctor to be a Roman Catholic, advised the examining-clerk at the
office to inspect his letters." This witness, in answer to the
questions, "How came you to know Dr. Hensey to be a Roman Catholic?" and
"What had you to do with his religion?" clinched his evidence thus: "We
letter-carriers and postmen have great opportunities to know the
characters and dispositions of gentlemen, from their servants,
connexions, and correspondents. But, to be plain, if I once learn that a
person who lives a genteel life is a Roman Catholic, I immediately look
upon him as one who, by education and principle, is an inveterate enemy
to my King and country."

At the beginning of the present century an improvement was carried out.
It was seen that the indiscriminate issue of the warrants was stimulated
and fostered by the fact that no account was kept of them. As a means of
placing a necessary check upon the officers, Lord Spencer, then Home
Secretary, introduced the custom in 1806, of recording the dates of all
warrants granted, and the purposes for which they were issued. Since the
year 1822, the whole of the warrants themselves have been preserved at
the Home Office. In comparing the number of warrants issued by different
Home Secretaries during the present century, we find that Sir James
Graham enjoys the unenviable notoriety of having granted the greatest
number, though the fact is partly explained by the commotion which the
Chartists made in the north of England, 1842-3.

The revelations made in the two Committees with reference to foreign
correspondence, especially that of foreign Ministers accredited at the
English Court, were very remarkable, and not likely to induce confidence
in our postal arrangements on the part of other powers. It was shown
that in times of war whole foreign mails had been known to have been
detained, and the letters almost individually examined. The Lords'
Committee went so far as to say it was clear, "that it had been for a
long period of time and under successive administrations, up to the
present time, an established practice that the foreign correspondence of
foreign Ministers passing through the General Post-Office should be sent
to a department of the Foreign Office, before the forwarding of such
correspondence, according to the address." What the feelings of foreign
Governments were at this revelation may well be imagined. They would
know, of course, that the English Government, hundreds of years ago,
had not scrupled to lay violent hands on the letters of their
representatives, if by any possibility they could get hold of them. When
Wolsey, for example, wanted possession of the letters of the ambassadors
of Charles V. he went to work very openly, having ordered "a watche
should be made" in and about London, and all persons going _en route_ to
the Continent to be questioned and searched. "One riding towards
Brayneford," says an early record, "when examyned by the watche,
answered so closely, that upon suspicion thereof, they searched hym, and
found secretly hyd aboute hym a pacquet of letters in French." In the
reign of Queen Mary, Gardiner ordered that the messengers of Noailles,
the French ambassador, should be taken and searched in much the same
manner.[123] Notwithstanding this, they would scarcely be prepared for
the information that later Governments, with less to fear, had preferred
more secret measures, establishing a system of espionage which was
certainly not in accordance with the English character, or likely to
subserve the interests of peace in Europe. That the arrangement with
regard to foreign mails was unlawful, may be judged by the prompt
action which was taken in the matter. "Since June, 1844, the
Postmaster-General," so runs the Lords' Report two months later, "having
had his attention called to the fact, that there was no sufficient
authority for this practice, has discontinued it altogether."

The Commons' Committee reported that the letter-opening warrants might
be divided into two classes--(1) Those issued in furtherance of criminal
justice, usually for the purpose of affording some clue to the
hiding-place of an offender, or to the mode or place of concealment of
property. (2) Those issued for the purpose of discovering the designs of
persons known or suspected to be engaged in proceedings dangerous to the
State, or deeply involving British interests, from being carried on in
the United Kingdom. In the case of both classes of warrants, the mode of
proceeding was nearly similar. The first were issued on the application
of the law-officers; the principal Secretary of State himself determined
when to issue the latter. No record was kept of the grounds on which the
second class of warrants were issued. "The letters which have been
detained and opened are," according to the Committee,[124] "unless
retained by special order, as sometimes happens in criminal cases,
closed and re-sealed _without affixing any mark to indicate that they
have been so detained and opened_, and are forwarded by post according
to their respective superscriptions." They then classed the warrants
issued during the present century in the following way:--For thefts,
murders, and frauds, 162; for treason and sedition, 77; foreign
correspondence, 20; prisoners of war, 13; miscellaneous, 11; and for
uncertain purposes, 89. Undoubtedly, with one class of letters, the
Government were only performing a duty in applying the law as laid down
in 1 Vict. c. 33. The information obtained by the warrants to find the
_locale_ of Chartist disaffection was described by the Committee as most
valuable and useful to the Government. While the whole history of the
transaction in question grates unpleasantly on English ears, there can
be no doubt that in other cases--such as frauds on the banks and
revenue, forgeries, murders, &c.--the power was used impartially to the
advantage of individuals and the benefit of the State. Whether, however,
the discoveries and the benefits were so many as to counterbalance the
odium of countenancing what was so like a public crime, and which
violated public confidence in the Post-Office, or whether the issue of a
few warrants annually, in proportion to the 40,000 committals[125] which
took place yearly at that time, could by any means be called an
efficient instrument of police, are vastly different questions. With
regard to the general question of letter-opening, the issue was
altogether vague and uncertain. Though the _practical_ end of the
inquiry was, no doubt, gained, and warrants may almost be said to have
ceased, still the Committees recommended Parliament to decide that the
power and prerogative of opening letters, under certain given
circumstances, should _not_ be abrogated. They argued that, if the
_right_ of the Secretary of State was denied, it would be equivalent to
advertising to every criminal conspirator against the public peace, that
he might employ the Post-Office with impunity.[126] It was decided, in
consequence of this finding, that the law should remain unaltered.

Mr. Duncombe was not satisfied. In the next session he attempted to
revive the subject by calling the attention of the House to what he
termed the evasive and unsatisfactory character of the report of the
Secret Committee, and moving the appointment of a Select Committee to
investigate the whole subject over again; but he met with little
success. Sir J. Graham, Sir. R. Peel, Viscount Sandon, Mr. Warburton,
Mr. Ward, and Lord John Manners, spoke against his motion, which he then
withdrew. Upon this, Lord Howick tried to carry a resolution for the
appointment of a Committee to inquire into the case of Mr. Duncombe's
letters only. Mr. Disraeli seconded the motion, desiring not to have the
Government censured, but to see the practice condemned. Mr. Roebuck
believed that the country would not be content until the invidious power
intrusted to the Secretary of State respecting letter-opening was
absolutely abolished. Lord John Russell spoke against the motion, which
was negatived by 240 to 145 members.[127] A few days later Mr. Duncombe
renewed his attack in another form, moving that Colonel Maberly,
Secretary to the Post-Office, should attend at the bar and produce
certain books connected with his office. The Home Secretary resisted the
motion, grounding his objection on the reports of the Committees and the
necessities of the public service. Lord John Russell and a great number
of the Liberal party concurring in this view, the motion was again
rejected by 188 to 113.[128] For some weeks the subject was not again
noticed in Parliament, and probably would have dropped; but it was a
theme on which the Press could not be induced to be silent. Fresh events
occurring in Italy, owing, it was said, to the past action of the
English Government at the Post-Office, Mr. Sheil gave notice of a
resolution, which he moved on the 1st of April, 1845, expressing regret
that Government had opened the letters of M. Mazzini, thus frustrating
the political movement in Italy. Few members, however, showed any desire
to prolong a desultory debate, and thirty-eight only were found willing
to affirm Mr. Sheil's proposition. Mr. Wakley, a day or two afterwards,
tried to revive the same discussion, but a motion which he made was
negatived by three to one. On the 8th of April, 1845, Mr. Duncombe,
while intimating his desire to waive personal questions, and disclaiming
all party feeling, moved for leave to bring in a Bill "to secure the
inviolability of letters passing through the Post-Office." He was at war
with the system, not with the Government. Let the Government approach
the subject in a fair and not in a party spirit. All the Ministers,
however, and the chiefs of the Liberal party, again stoutly resisted any
change in the law; and this long controversy was finally set at rest by
an adverse decision of 161 to 78.

The English people, it must be added, all along objected less to the
_power_ which the Government possessed in the exertion of their
discretion, than to the _manner_ in which that power was exercised. Mr.
Duncombe's statements during the earlier stages of the discussions,
relating to the "secret office"--never denied--could not be forgotten by
the public when they intrusted their letters to the custody of the
Post-Office. The revelations in question caused a perfect paroxysm of
national anger, because it was felt, throughout the length and breadth
of the land, that such arrangements were repugnant to every feeling of
Englishmen. Had the officers of the Government broken open letters in
the same way as, under certain circumstances, the law allows the
sheriff's officers to break open houses and writing-desks, there might
still have been complainings, but these complainings would neither have
been so loud nor yet so justifiable.[129] There was something in the
melting apparatus, in the tobacco-pipe, in the forged plaster of paris
seals, in the official letter-picker, and in the place where, and manner
how, he did his work, utterly disgusting to John Bull, and most
unsuitable to the atmosphere of England. The law, it is true, remains
unaltered, but it is believed to be virtually a dead letter.


[116] Hansard, 1844.

[117] _Ibid._

[118] Lang's _Historical Summary of the Post-Office in Scotland_.
Postmaster-General's _Third Report_.

[119] Report of Secret Committee, 1844, p. 9.

[120] _Lords' Journal_, xxii. pp. 183-6.

[121] _Commons' Journal_, vol. xxii. p. 462.

[122] The place was not only lucrative, but in the path of promotion. We
find that, for the proper performance of these very unclerical duties,
the Rev. Dr. was first rewarded with the Deanery of Lincoln and
afterwards with the Bishopric of St. David's.

[123] Froude.

[124] Report of Secret Committee, 1844, pp. 14-17.

[125] Report of the Secret Committee, 1844, pp. 14-17.

[126] _Ibid._ Commons' Committee.

[127] Hansard, 1844-5.

[128] _Ibid._

[129] Among many expressions of opinion to which the inquiry on the
subject gave rise, we find the following characteristic effusion from
Thomas Carlyle: "It is a question vital to us that sealed letters in an
English post-office be, as we all fancied they were, respected as things
sacred; that opening of men's letters, a practice near of kin to picking
men's pockets, and to other still viler and far fataler forms of
scoundrelism, be not resorted to in England, except in cases of the very
last extremity. When some new Gunpowder Plot may be in the wind, some
double-dyed high treason, or imminent national wreck not avoidable
otherwise, then let us open letters; not till then. To all Austrian
Kaisers and such like, in their time of trouble, let us answer, as our
fathers from of old have answered--Not by such means is help here for



From the year 1844 to the present time the progress of the Post-Office
institution has been great and unexampled. Among Mr. Hill's minor
proposals were those for the institution of day-mails, the establishment
of rural posts, and the extension of free deliveries. The period between
the passing of the Penny Postage Act and the year 1850 saw these useful
suggestions carried out to an extent which proved highly beneficial to
the public. With regard to the day-mails, Mr. Hill proposed that on the
_morning_ of each day, as well as evenings, mails should leave London
after certain country and continental mails had arrived, by which means
letters, instead of remaining nearly twenty-four hours in London, might
be at once forwarded to their addresses, and two mails per diem be thus
given to most English towns. The Earl of Lichfield would seem to have
seen the useful and practicable nature of these proposals, for, being
Postmaster-General at the time, he did not wait to adopt them till the
passing of the Act of 1839. As early as 1838 one or two day-mails were
established, running out of London. Before 1850 we find the list
included those of Dover, Southampton, Bristol, Birmingham, and
Cambridge. These day-mails are now established on every considerable
line of railway in the kingdom. London, in 1864, possesses not only
day-mails on all the lines running from the metropolis, but one to
Ireland, and two by different routes into Scotland. Further, a great
number of railways in the United Kingdom have stipulated to take mails
by any passenger-train.

Mr. Hill also contemplated the establishment of rural posts in every
village. In 1840, the number of village post-offices was about 3,000. At
that time nothing but "guarantee posts"--by means of which parties in
the country might obtain additional accommodation on their consenting to
bear the whole additional expense--were granted to new localities. Mr.
Hill urged upon the Post-Office authorities the abandonment of this
plan, and the gradual establishment of ordinary post-offices. He
calculated that an annual outlay of 70,000_l._ would suffice to give 600
additional daily posts to neglected districts, and he pledged his word
that the outlay would be remunerative. There are now more than 8,000
additional rural post-offices, the erection of which has done all for
the public and the Post-Office revenue that Mr. Hill anticipated.

The extension of free deliveries, also strongly urged by Mr. Hill, has
progressed fairly from that time to this. Round each provincial town
there used to be drawn a cordon, letters, &c. for places beyond which
had either to be brought by private messenger, or were charged an extra
sum on delivery as a gratuity to the postmaster. From year to year new
places have been included in these free deliveries; soon the most remote
and inaccessible parts of our country--the nooks and crannies of our
land--will enjoy nearly equal privileges with our large towns, more
rural messengers being appointed as this work approaches completion.

In 1848, the advantages of a book-post were granted to the country. By
the new rate, a single volume might be sent to any part of the United
Kingdom at the uniform rate of sixpence per pound. The privileges of
this book-post were gradually extended to the colonies. The railway
companies, at the time and subsequently, complained loudly that the
Post-Office, by establishing the book-post, had entered into an unfair
competition with them. This competition was described as very
injurious, on account of the low rates at which books and book-packets
were conveyed. It was answered, however--and in this answer the country
very generally agreed--that the railway companies had no legal or
equitable right to the monopoly of parcel-traffic; and if they had, the
exceptions taken in the case of the book-post were only to books and
printed matter intimately connected with objects such as the diffusion
of knowledge and the promotion of education--matters with which the
Post-Office was now most immediately concerned. The facts, however,
were, that very few indeed of the packets sent by the book-post were
such as had been previously sent by railway. The Post-Office, by
offering its vast machinery for the transmission of such articles,
especially to remote districts, gave facilities which had never before
been offered, and which caused books and documents to pass through the
Post-Office which otherwise, had no book-post existed, would not have
been sent through any other channel. A Select Committee, which sat in
1854, on the conveyance of mails by railway, took evidence on this
point, and in their report stated it as their opinion, that a large
proportion of the packets sent would not have been so forwarded but for
the facilities offered by the Post-Office in their distribution.

Any loss, however, which the railways might experience in this respect
was more than counterbalanced when the Executive abolished the
compulsory impressed stamp on newspapers, this arrangement giving rise
to a conveyance of newspaper-parcels by railway-trains to an enormous
extent, and proportionately lessening the work and profits of the

The year 1849 is principally remarkable for the agitation which existed
with respect to Sunday labour at the General Post-Office. Previous to
this year no work was allowed in the London establishment, but now an
arrangement was proposed to receive the mails as on other days, officers
attending, though not during the period of Divine service, to assort
and dispose of the letters received. Public meetings were held in London
and many of the principal towns to protest against any increase of the
Post-Office work. Public opinion in the metropolis was pretty unanimous
against any change; in the provinces it was more divided. The
authorities gave way before the force of opinion, and the London office
has remained closed ever since on the first day of the week. In the
country different arrangements are made. In Scotland, and in one or two
English towns, no letter-delivery takes place from house to house, a
short time only being allowed for the public to apply for their letters
at the post-office windows. In the majority of English towns the early
morning delivery only is made. The day-mails, as a rule, do not run on
Sundays. The post-offices in the major part of our English and Scotch
villages are entirely closed on Sundays.

Wires having been laid down to St. Martin's-le-Grand from the different
railway stations, telegraph messages were first used to expedite
post-office business on the 31st of August, 1849. All important matters,
such as bag or registered letter irregularities, requiring prompt
notice, are made known or explained through the medium of the electric

Commissioners were appointed from about this year to secure the services
of railways on the most equitable terms, and to arbitrate for that
purpose between the Post-Office and the railway companies. The
Committee, on the conveyance of mails by railways, suggested this
course. On the debate which followed the report of the Committee to
which we have before alluded, Sir Robert Peel frankly acknowledged "the
enormous error" into which he, and the House generally "had fallen when
the railroad bills were under discussion. They ought to have foreseen,"
said he, "when these bills were before them, that they were in fact
establishing a monopoly, a monopoly in respect to which there could be
no future condition. They ought to have foreseen that, if the railroads
were successful, other modes of internal communication would almost
necessarily fall into disuse, and they ought, therefore, to have
stipulated--_as it would have been perfectly just and easy for them to
have done_--that certain public services should be performed at a
reasonable rate." However, as this had not been done, Parliament could
only fall back upon its inherent right to say on what terms such
services should be provided from time to time; for which purpose they
could not do better than employ arbitration, as it was the same course
pursued when the companies disputed with the owners of property the
value of land compulsorily taken for railway works. Sir James
Graham[130] moved a declaratory clause on the occasion, that arbitrators
should take into consideration the cost of the construction of the
particular lines in awarding the sums for different services. Mr.
Labouchere, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, speaking for the
Government, wished the arbitrators to be wholly free, but he gave a
pledge on behalf of the Post-Office that no attempt would be made to
exclude the cost of construction from the consideration of the
arbitrators. With this assurance, the Opposition expressed themselves

In 1855, the Postmaster-General, the late Lord Canning, commenced the
practice of furnishing the Lords of the Treasury, and through them the
public, with annual reports on the Post-Office. These reports, which
have been continued up to the present time, show the progress of the
Department from year to year, and present to the general reader, as well
as to the statistician, a vast mass of interesting information. Compared
with the reports of the Committee of Revenue Inquiry or of the
Commissioners of Post-Office Inquiry, they are lucid and interesting in
their nature. Though constructed on the same plan and little varied from
year to year, they are much above the ordinary run of official
documents. Lord Canning, in recommending the adoption of the plan, gave
as one reason among many, that the Post-Office service was constantly
expanding and improving, but that information respecting postal
matters, especially postal changes, was not easily accessible. This
information, he believed, could be given without any inconvenience,
whilst many misapprehensions, and possibly complaints, might be avoided.
The public might thus see what the Post-Office was about; learn their
duty towards the Department, and find out--what half the people did not
then and perhaps do not even yet understand--what were the benefits and
privileges to which they were justly entitled at its hands.

The Duke of Argyll succeeded Lord Canning in the management of the
Post-Office in 1855, and his years of office are distinguished by many
most important improvements and reforms. One important change consisted
in the amalgamation of the two corps of London letter-carriers, effected
soon after the installation of the Duke of Argyll at the Post-Office.
The two classes of "General Post" and "London District" letter-carriers
were perhaps best known before 1855, by the former wearing a red, and
the latter a blue, uniform. The object of this amalgamation, for which
Mr. Hill had been sedulously striving from the period of penny postage,
was to avoid the waste of time, trouble, and expense consequent on two
different men going over the same ground to distribute two classes of
letters which might, without any real difficulty, be delivered together.
The greatest objection in the Post-Office itself to completing the
change, arose from the different _status_ of the two bodies of men, the
one class being paid at a much higher rate of wages and with better
prospects than the other class. This difficulty was at length
surmounted, when the benefits of this minor reform became clearly
apparent in earlier and more regular deliveries of letters. Inside the
Post-Office the work was made much more easy and simple, and the gross
inequality existing between two bodies of public servants whose duties
were almost identical, was done away.[131]

Still more important was the division of London into ten postal
districts, carried out during the year 1856. The immense magnitude of
the metropolis necessitated this scheme; it having been found impossible
to overcome the obstacles to a more speedy transmission of letters
within and around London, or properly to manage without some change, the
ever increasing amount of Post-Office business. Under the new
arrangements, each district was to be treated in many respects as a
separate town, district post-offices to be erected in each of them.
Thus, instead of all district post-letters being carried from the
receiving houses to the chief office at St. Martin's-le-Grand, there to
be sorted and re-distributed, the letters must now be sent to the
principal office of the district in which they were posted; sorted
there; and distributed from that office according to their address. The
time and trouble saved by this arrangement is, as was expected,
enormous. Under the old system, a letter from Cavendish Square to
Grosvenor Square went to the General Post-Office, was sorted, and then
sent back to the latter place, travelling a distance of four or five
miles: whereas, at present, with hourly deliveries, it is almost
immediately sent from one place to the other.[132] An important part of
the new scheme was, that London should be considered in the principal
provincial post-offices as ten different towns, each with its own centre
of operations, and that the letters should be assorted and despatched on
this principle. Country letters would be delivered straightway--without
any intermediate sorting--to that particular part of London for which
they were destined; whilst the sorters there having the necessary local
knowledge, would distribute them immediately into the postmen's walks.
With respect to the _smaller_ provincial towns, it was provided that
their London correspondence should be sorted into districts on the
railway during the journey to the metropolis. Thus, on the arrival of
the different mails at the several railway termini, the letters would
not be sent as formerly to the General Post-Office, but direct to each
district office, in bags prepared in the course of the journey. It was a
long time before this new and important plan was thoroughly carried out
in all its details; but now that it is in working order, the result is
very marked in the earlier delivery of letters, and in the time and
labour saved in the various processes. In fact, all the anticipated
benefits have flowed from the adoption of the measure.

In the same year a reduction was made in the rates for book-packets. The
arrangement made at this time, which exists at present, charges one
penny for every four ounces of printed matter; a book weighing one pound
being charged fourpence. A condition annexed was, that every such packet
should be open at the ends or sides, and if closed against inspection,
should be liable to be charged at the unpaid letter rate of postage.
This penalty was soon found to be unreasonably heavy and vexatious, and
was therefore reduced to an additional charge of sixpence only. At the
present time, the conditions under which such packets may be sent
through the post are the same, but the fines inflicted for infringements
are still further reduced.

In 1857, a new regulation provided that a book-packet might consist of
any number of sheets, which might be either printed or written, provided
there was nothing in it of the nature of a letter. If anything of the
sort should be found in the packet on examination, it was to be taken
out and forwarded separately as a letter, and charged twopence as a fine
in addition to the postage at the letter rate. The packet might consist
of books, manuscripts, maps, prints with rollers, or any literary or
artistic matter, if not more than two feet wide, long, or deep.

In the same year, the letter-rate to all the British Colonies (which
were not previously under the lower rates) was reduced to the uniform
one of sixpence for each half-ounce, payable in advance. The privileges
of the English book-post were also extended to the Colonies; the rate at
which books &c. might be sent being threepence for every four ounces.
Exceptions were made in respect to the following places, viz.--Ascension
Island, East Indies, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and the Gold
Coast, to which places the rate charged was fourpence for four ounces,
the weight being restricted to three pounds.

Another important improvement was made when, about the same time, the
postage on letters conveyed by private ship between this country and all
parts of the world, was reduced to a uniform rate of sixpence the

Nor were these reforms the only results of the wise rule of the Duke of
Argyll. Through his exertions, a postal convention was concluded with
France, resulting not only in a considerable reduction of postage on
letters passing between the two countries, but in the lowering of the
rate to all European countries, letters for which _went by way of
France_. An attempt was made to arrange a postal convention with the
United States during the year 1857, but like so many previous ones, it
came to nothing.

The Duke of Argyll is also favourably remembered in the metropolitan
offices, for having granted--to the major establishment at any rate--the
boon of a Saturday half-holiday.

But perhaps his Grace laboured most arduously to bring about a more
satisfactory relation between the railway companies and the Post-Office.
Since the advent of cheap postage, nothing had so much impeded the
progressive development of the Post-Office, as the adverse attitude of
the companies who must convey the mails, now that all other modes of
conveyance had been virtually superseded by the power of steam. Although
the Postmaster-General failed in this instance, he is none the less
entitled to the gratitude of the country for his well-meant attempt to
repair the mistake which the Executive originally made in not carefully
providing for the public service. Few could say that the existing law
was, and is, not defective. The gain to the Post-Office through railways
is certainly enormous: besides the advantage of increased speed, they
make it possible to get through the sorting and the carrying of the
mails at the same time. But here the gain ends; and the cost for the
service really done is heavy beyond all proportion. The cost of carrying
mails by coaches averaged twopence farthing a mile; the average cost
under railways is tenpence a mile, some railways charging nearly five
shillings per mile for the service they render. The cost of running a
train may be reckoned, in most cases, at fifteen pence per mile; and
thus the Post-Office, for the use of a fraction of a train, may be said
constantly to be paying at the rate of from sixty to three hundred per
cent. in excess of the whole cost of running! The Postmaster-General
stated that the terms upon which one railway company would undertake
postal service was totally disproportionate to those of a neighbouring
company. On the other hand, all the companies were alike dissatisfied,
however dissimilar the contracts, or the terms imposed and agreed
to.[133] Moreover, it was declared next to impossible to secure
regularity and punctuality in the conveyance of mails, and to agree to
amicable arbitration for the services which were done, until the
Legislature should lay down reasonable laws, binding all the companies
alike. A Bill was introduced into the House of Lords regulating the
arrangements between the Post-Office and the different companies. Though
it was carefully prepared, it was strongly opposed by the railway
interest in Parliament. The opposition was all the more unreasonable,
inasmuch as many of its clauses sought to remove objections to the
existing law which railway companies had frequently complained of. As
far as the Post-Office was concerned, it seems to have been the extent
of the wish of the authorities that the question of remuneration might
be based on the actual cost of running the trains, making due allowance,
on the one hand, for the benefits accruing to the companies from their
connexion with the mail service, and adding, on the other hand,
compensation for any special extra expenses to which the companies might
be subjected by the requirements of that service, _together with a full
allowance for profit_.[134] The Bill also provided for the more
extensive employment of ordinary passenger trains,--not, however, to the
supercession of the regular mail-trains--for the _exclusive_ employment
of certain trains for postal purposes, for penalties, &c. The measure
had been brought in late in the session, and was eventually withdrawn.
The Bill itself, with its twenty-one clauses, forms part of the Appendix
to the Postmaster-General's fourth report; and as the basis of
arrangements between the two interests is still unsettled and uncertain,
the Duke of Argyll there commends it to the careful attention of the
public, as well as to the fair consideration of the railway authorities

In 1858, on the accession of Lord Derby to power, Lord Colchester was
appointed to the Post-Office without a seat in the Cabinet. Improvements
continued during his short administration, both as regards inland,
foreign, and colonial postages; but nothing calls for special mention
here except an attempt on the part of the Post-Office to render the
payment of inland letters compulsory. The plan cannot be said to have
had a fair trial. Its benefits and advantages were not clearly apparent,
except to those who were acquainted with the machinery of the
Post-Office. While, without doubt, the principles upon which it was
based were sound, the objections to the arrangement lay on the surface,
and were such as could not be overcome except by the exercise of great
patience on the part of the public: the measure pressed heavily on
certain interests: a great portion of the less thoughtful organs of the
public press manifested considerable repugnance to it, and, in
consequence, the Postmaster-General was led to recommend to the
Treasury the withdrawal of the order after the expiration of a few weeks
of partial trial. As pointed out by Mr. Hill at the time, compulsory
prepayment of letters was a part of the original plan of penny postage;
it was one of the recommendations which he made having for their object
the simplification of accounts, and the more speedy delivery of letters.
The Secretary of the Post-Office in urging a fair trial of the
measure,[135] argued that after the lapse of a few months it would be
productive of good even to letter-writers, not to speak of the saving of
time, trouble, and expense to the Department. He very truly added that
there were no difficulties attributable to the new rule which might not
be surmounted by a little care or ingenuity. As it was, the public
preferred an immediate termination of the experiment to the possible and
problematical advantages that might arise from its continuance; and in
this instance the country was indulged by an early return to the old

In the following year, Lord Colchester was succeeded by the late Earl of
Elgin as Postmaster-General, with a seat in Lord Palmerston's Cabinet.
When Lord Elgin was sent on the special mission to the East in 1860, the
Duke of Argyll held the joint offices of Lord Privy Seal and
Postmaster-General until a permanent successor was appointed in the
person of Lord Stanley of Alderley, who now (March, 1864) holds the

In 1859, the Money-order Office in London, and the money-order system
generally, were remodelled. By a process meant to simplify the accounts,
and other judicious alterations, a saving of 4,000_l._ a-year was
effected, while the public were benefited by some concessions that had
been much desired, such as the granting of money-orders up to the amount
of 10_l._ instead of 5_l._ The money-order system was likewise extended
to the colonies, the first connexion of the kind having been opened with
Canada and our European possessions of Gibraltar and Malta. It has
subsequently been extended to the principal British colonies, including
the whole of Australia.

Important improvements were also made in the department charged with the
transmission of mails. Several accelerations--in one case a most
important one--were made in the speed of the principal mail-trains; the
number of travelling post-offices was increased; the construction of the
whole of them was improved; and the apparatus-machinery, attached to the
carriages for the exchange of mail-bags at those stations where the
mail-trains do not stop, was called more and more into requisition.

Under the Earl of Elgin, the British Post-Office endeavoured to form
conventions with foreign countries, the object in all cases being the
increase of postal facilities. In the case of Spain and Portugal, the
authorities seem to have been successful, and partially so with the
German Postal Union. An attempt to renew negotiations with the United
States calls for mention here. The advocates of ocean penny postage (of
which so much was heard some years previously--not only a desirable, but
a practicable scheme) may thus obtain some idea of the difficulty of
coming to any reasonable arrangement between the two countries. We have
already stated that a former Postmaster-General urged upon the
Government of the United States the necessity of reduction in the rates
of postage of letters circulating from one country to the other, but was
unsuccessful at the time.[136] In 1859, the Postmaster-General of the
United States (Mr. Holt) communicated to the English Department his
concurrence in the principle of a reduction in the postage of British
letters from twenty-four to twelve cents, providing that England would
give America the lion's share of the proposed postage! The United
States' Government would agree to the change provided the new rate be
apportioned as follows, viz.:--

    United States' Inland Postage      3 cents.
    Sea Rate of Postage                7   "
    British Inland Postage             2   "

The Earl of Elgin objected to this proposal as not equitable. He argued,
with perfect truth and fairness, that each country ought to be
remunerated according to the value of the service it rendered, and that,
whether the inland service was considered (where the three items of
collection, conveyance,[137] and delivery must be taken into account),
or the sea service (undoubtedly better worked and regulated with us than
in America), this country had a fair claim to a larger share of postage
than the United States. As, however, an unrestricted intercourse between
the two countries was far more important than a nice adjustment in the
revision of the postage, the English Postmaster-General would only press
for equality, and proposed the following division:--

    British Inland Postage               1_d._ or 2 cents.
    Sea Postage                          4_d._ "  8   "
    United States' Inland Postage        1_d._ "  2   "
                                         -----   ---------
                                         6_d._   12 cents.
                                         -----   ---------

In the event of the American Government not being prepared to agree,
Lord Elgin proposed that a disinterested third party should be called
in, to whom the whole matter might be amicably referred. To this
communication no answer whatever was returned, and the English
Department had to wait until the next report of the United States
Post-Office was published, in order to ascertain how the proposals had
been received. It was found that Mr. Holt here complained that a
reasonable offer that he had made to England had been declined there,
"_and for reasons so unsatisfactory_, that for the present no
disposition is felt to pursue the matter further." It is sincerely to be
regretted that this great improvement, which would have been gladly
hailed by thousands on both sides of the Atlantic, should have been so
arrested, and especially that the United States' Government should have
been deaf to the proposition to send the matter to arbitrament.
Unquestionably, the present results, as well as the responsibility of
future exertion, lies at the door of the United States; and it is to be
hoped that, in justice to the thousands whom the Americans have
eagerly invited to populate their country--not to mention other
considerations--they will soon renew their efforts to obtain the boon of
a sixpenny postage, and be prepared to meet the mother-country on
reasonable grounds with equal terms.

The postal service with Ireland being considered deficient, so much so,
that frequent mention was made of the subject in the House of Commons, a
new and special service was brought into operation on the 1st of
October, 1860. Night and day mail-trains have, on and from that date,
been run specially from Euston Square Station to Holyhead, and special
mail-steamers employed, at enormous expense, to cross the Channel.
Letter-sorting is carried on not only in the trains, but on board the
packets; nearly all the Post-Office work, including the preparation of
the letters for immediate delivery at London and Dublin respectively,
being accomplished on the journey between London and Dublin, and _vice
versâ_--a journey which is now accomplished in about twelve hours. By
means of this new service, a great saving of time is also effected on
the arrival and departure of most of the American and Canadian mails.
It cannot but be interesting to the reader who may have followed us as
we have endeavoured to trace the progress of post communication in this
country, to know how much is really possible under the improved
facilities of our own day. A better instance could not be afforded than
that occurring at the beginning of the year 1862, when the important
news on which depended peace or war was hourly expected from the United
States. Before the packet was due, the Inspector-General of Mails took
steps to expedite the new Irish mail service, to the greatest possible
extent, in its passage from Queenstown to London, and the result is so
clearly and accurately given in the _Times_ of the 8th of January, 1862,
that we cannot do better than quote the account entire:--

"The arrangements for expressing the American mails throughout from
Queenstown to London, which we described as being so successfully
executed with the mails brought by the _Africa_ last week, have been
repeated with still more satisfactory results in the case of the mails
brought by the _Europa_. These results are so exceptional that we record
them in detail. The _Europa_ arrived off Queenstown, about five miles
from the pier, at 9 P.M. on Monday night. Her mails and the despatches
from Lord Lyons were placed on board the small tender in waiting, and
arrived at the Queenstown Pier at 10.5 P.M., at which point they were
transferred to an express steamboat for conveyance by river to Cork.
Leaving Queenstown Pier at 10.10 P.M., they arrived alongside the quay
at Cork at 11.15 P.M. and thirteen minutes afterwards the special train
left the Cork station for Dublin, accomplishing the journey to Dublin
(166 miles) in four hours and three minutes, _i. e._ at a speed of about
41 miles an hour, including stoppage. The transmission through the
streets between the railway termini in Dublin and by special train to
Kingstown occupied only thirty-six minutes, and in four minutes more the
special mail-boat _Ulster_ was on her way to Holyhead. The distance
across the Irish Channel, about sixty-six statute miles, was performed
by the _Ulster_, against a contrary tide and heavy sea, in three hours
and forty-seven minutes, giving a speed of about seventeen and a half
miles an hour. The special train, which had been in waiting for about
forty-eight hours, left the Holyhead Station at 8.13 A.M., and it was
from this point that the most remarkable part of this rapid express
commenced. The run from Holyhead to Stafford, 130½ miles, occupied
only 145 minutes, being at the rate of no less than fifty-four miles an
hour; and although so high a speed was judiciously not attempted over
the more crowded portion of the line from Stafford to London, the whole
distance from Holyhead to Euston, 264 miles, was performed by the London
and North-Western Company in exactly five hours, or at a speed of about
52-2/3 miles an hour, a speed unparalleled over so long a line, crowded
with ordinary traffic. The entire distance from Queenstown Pier to
Euston Square, about 515 miles, was thus traversed in fifteen hours and
three minutes, or at an average speed of about thirty-four and a quarter
miles an hour, including all delays necessary for the several transfers
of the mails from boat to railway, or _vice versâ_.... By means of the
invention for supplying the tender with water from a trough _in
transitu_, the engine was enabled to run its first stage of 130½
miles, from Holyhead to Stafford, without stopping."

During the session of 1860-1, an Act was passed through Parliament for
the establishment of Post-Office Savings' Banks on a plan proposed by
Mr. Sykes, of Huddersfield.

In order to encourage the registration of letters containing coin or
valuable articles, the registration fee was reduced, in 1862, from 6_d._
to 4_d._ each letter. At the same time, the plan of compulsory
registration of letters was revived, and applied to all letters passing
through the _London Office_ which contained, or were supposed to
contain, coin. Last year the plan was found to have been so successful
in its results, that it was extended to _all inland letters_. The public
may judge of the benefits and blessings of this proscriptive
measure--to the officers of the Post-Office at any rate--when we state
that the convictions for letter-stealing, since the plan was fully
adopted, have been reduced more than ninety per cent.

In 1862, the Pneumatic Conveyance Company set up a branch of their
operations at the Euston Square Station, London. The Post-Office took
advantage of this new mode of conveyance to send the mail-bags to the
North-Western District Office from this important railway terminus. The
work is, of course, accomplished with marvellous expedition. The
machinery for other localities is in course of construction, and may
ultimately extend all over the metropolis, to the supercession, as far
as the Post-Office is concerned, of the existing mail-vans.

During the month of May, 1863, a Postal Congress--the first of the
kind--originated, we believe, by Mr. Rasson of the United States,
assembled at the _Bureau des Postes_, in the Rue Jean Jacques, Paris,
under the presidency of the French Postmaster-General, M. Vandal. The
object of the Congress was "the improvement of postal communication
between the principal commercial nations of the world." As we find that
the little republic of Ecuador was represented, the postal affairs of
_little_ kingdoms were also not overlooked. Each civilized nation was
asked to send a delegate, and all the most important States responded.
Mr. Frederic Hill, brother of Sir Rowland Hill, and Assistant Secretary,
was the English representative; the President represented France; M.
Metzler, Prussia; Mr. Rasson, the United States; M. Hencke, Hamburg, &c.
&c. The prepayment of foreign letters was one of the most difficult
subjects discussed. The Congress came to the conclusion that it would be
best to leave it optional with the writer of the letter whether the
postage should be paid to its destination, or paid on receipt; in the
latter case, however, it was thought desirable that a moderate
additional postage should be charged. Another important matter was
settled in a conclusive manner. It was first decided that the postage
of foreign letters should be regulated by weight: it then became highly
necessary, in order to the carrying out of this decision, that the
postage should be calculated by a common standard; hence the following
resolution, which was agreed to--"The metrical decimal system, being of
all systems of weighing that which is best suited to the requirements of
the postal service, it is expedient to adopt it for the international
postal relations, to the exclusion of every other system." Other
subjects of lesser importance, such as the route of foreign letters, the
division of postage rates, the transmission of coin in letters (which
they agreed to allow), were discussed very fully and, we are
assured, very amicably. The Congress seems to have arrived at a good
understanding of the principles of postal reciprocity, and good will
doubtless be the result. The Postal Congress of last year was a Peace
Congress of the most efficient kind, and in every sense of the term.

Within the last ten years the facilities offered to letter-writers by
the Post-Office have materially increased. Four thousand additional
persons have had to be employed in the service, one half, at least, of
whom are engaged on account of the facilities and improvements in
question, whilst the remainder may be said to have been required by the
gradual increase of work in the establishment. The establishment of
mid-day mails, increasing the number of daily deliveries in almost every
provincial town; the acceleration of night-mails, allowing more time for
posting in some places, and earlier deliveries in all; the increase in
the number of village posts, to the extent of between three and four
hundred every year; the gradual extension of free deliveries; the
establishment of pillar letter-boxes as receptacles for letters;
reductions in the rate of foreign and colonial letters, and also in the
registration fee for home letters; the division of London, and to some
extent other large towns, like Liverpool, into districts; and above all,
the establishment of thousands of new savings' banks on safe principles,
in connexion with improved money-order offices; are some of the
principal advantages and facilities to which we refer. The past ten
years have been years of great, gradual, and unexampled improvement. Nor
is there anything but progress and advancement in prospect. The fact is,
that the Post-Office is capable of infinite extension and growth:
besides it belongs to the nation, and the people will expect the
development of the utmost of its utilities. At the present time the
experiment is being tried whether, without impairing its efficiency or
the performance of its more proper business, the Post-Office can
undertake the distribution of stamps; and it is not impossible,
considering that it has at its command an organization which penetrates
the entire kingdom, as no other private or public institution does, that
the Stamp Department may be transferred to the control of the

Further, there is no doubt but that Mr. Gladstone's Bill, if passed
through Parliament, "to amend the law relating to Government Annuities,"
will have a most important effect upon the Post-Office institution.[138]
It is true that under the Savings' Bank Act any person may purchase a
deferred annuity through the Post-Office, only the clause making it
necessary to pay the purchase-money in one sum has a direct deterrent
effect upon the measure. The provisions of the new Bill, on the
contrary, allow the purchase-money to be paid in even weekly
instalments. Equally important is the second part of the Bill, which
empowers the Government to assure a person's life for 100_l._ It is
proposed to draft all this extra business on to the Post-Office
establishment, and no interest, except the insurance company interest,
is likely to say nay. Until assurance or other companies can appoint
agents, and open out offices in every town and village, the Government
is likely to have a monopoly of any business it chooses to undertake.


[130] _Life of Sir James Graham._ By Mr. T. MacCullagh Torrens, vol. ii.

[131] Postmaster-General's _First Report_, p. 35.

[132] So late as the year 1842, a letter posted at any London
receiving-house after _two_ in the afternoon was not delivered at
Islington until the next morning.--Postmaster-General's _Second Report_.

[133] See Address by the late Mr. Robert Stephenson on his election to
the Presidency of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1855, given in
the Appendix to the larger edition of Mr. Smiles' _Life of George
Stephenson_, and also a reply to it from the Inspector-General of
Mails.--Postmaster-General's _Second Report_, pp. 45-55.

[134] Appendix to Postmaster-General's _Second Report_, p. 51.

[135] _Fifth Report_, Appendix, pp. 43-8.

[136] During the progress of one of these negotiations the following
memorandum, written by Mr. Bancroft, American Minister, is so
characteristic of his people that we are tempted to amuse our readers
with its reproduction entire.--Postmaster-General's _First Report_,
Appendix, p. 83. "Approved as far as 'the rate for sea.' What follows is
superfluous and objectionable. Make your rates (England) to your
colonies and possessions, and foreign countries, what you please, high
or low, one sea-rate or a dozen, or none at all; one inland rate or a
dozen, or none at all. What your people pay we are willing to pay, but
not more, and _vice versâ_. Our security is, that we pay what your
people pay from the same place for the same benefit, and _vice versâ_."

[137] In America letters are certainly carried much greater distances,
at the uniform charge of three cents, than with us for a penny; but it
must be borne in mind that there are no official deliveries of letters
in the United States.

[138] It is possible that this useful measure may be delayed. However it
is, the Post-Office machinery is ready for this incidental application,
and it is surely thrifty to make the most of available resources, though
they may have been originally provided for very different purposes.



"It has often struck me that some pains should be taken to make the main
features of the Post-Office system intelligible to the people."--_Speech
of Mr. Rowland Hill at Liverpool_, 1847.


It is scarcely possible to over-estimate the importance of the postal
regulations of this country. Every section of society, and, to some
extent, every individual, participates in the benefits--commercial,
social, and moral--bestowed by our cheap Post-Office. It is not our
purpose here to urge the value and utility of the Post-Office
institution--which most of our readers gratefully admit--but rather to
furnish some general information relative to the organization and
ordinary working of the Department, sensible that an intelligible
account of the principal features in the system will increase the
interest already felt in the Post-Office, as a mighty engine spreading
the influences of commerce, education, and religion throughout the
world. The Postmaster-General for 1854, in starting an annual report of
the Post-Office, stated that "many misapprehensions and complaints arise
from an imperfect knowledge of matters which might, without any
inconvenience, be placed before the public;" and also, "that the
publicity thus given will be an advantage to the Department itself, and
will have a good effect upon the working of many of its branches."

Endeavouring to exclude all matter that is purely technical, and
presenting the reader with no more statistical information than is
necessary to a proper understanding of the subject, and only premising
that this information--for the correctness of which we are alone
responsible--has been carefully collated from a mass of official
documents not easily accessible, and others presented to the public from
time to time, we will first describe--



The Post-Office being a branch of the public service, instituted by
statute, is, of course, under the control of the Government of the
country in every respect. The principal Acts of Parliament which now
regulate the Post-Office are those of 1 Vict. c. 32-36, entitled "An Act
to repeal the several laws relating to the Post-Office;" "An Act for the
management of the Post-Office;" "An Act for consolidating the laws
relative to offences against the Post-Office;" one to which we have
previously referred, 2 Vict. c. 98, "An Act to provide for the
conveyance of mails by railway;" 3 & 4 Vict. c. 96, "An Act for the
regulation of the duties of Postage." Besides these more important Acts,
there are others of later date relating to the Money-order Office,
colonial posts, and, more recently, one relating to the Post-Office
Savings' Banks.

According to the latest returns,[139] there are 11,316 post-offices in
the United Kingdom, of which 808 are head-offices, and 10,508
sub-offices. To these must be added a great number of road letter-boxes,
making a total of 14,776 public receptacles for letters, or more by
10,000 than the total number before penny postage. The total number of
letters passing through the Post-Office during the year 1863 was
642,000,000, or, in the proportion of letters to population, no less
than 22 to each person in the three kingdoms. As contrasted with the
last year of dear postage, the number of letters show an _eightfold_
increase. The distance over which the mails travel with this enormous
amount of correspondence, in the United Kingdom alone, is nearly 160,000
miles per day. Of the mails conveyed by railway, a distance of 50,000
miles is accomplished every working-day; 72,000 miles per diem are
traversed on foot; and the rest are carried by mail-coaches, mail-carts,
and steamboats.

The gross revenue of the Post-Office for the year 1863 was, in round
numbers, 3,800,000_l._, being more by nearly a quarter of a million
sterling than the proceeds for the year 1862. Of this enormous total,
England contributed upwards of 3,000,000_l._, the remainder having been
raised from Ireland and Scotland. To this sum should be added a further
item of 130,000_l._ for the impressed stamp on newspapers sent through
the post, the charges for which are collected by the Commissioners of
Inland Revenue. The actual expenditure of the Department, including the
expenses of mail-packets (great part of which appertain to the
Admiralty), amounted, in round numbers, to 3,000,000_l._ The amount of
all the items belonging exclusively to Post-Office charges is, however,
less than two and a quarter millions. The net revenue of the Post-Office
for 1863 may, therefore, be stated at 1,790,000_l._; or, counting the
whole of the packet expenses--which mode of reckoning, however, would
lead to erroneous notions of the financial success of penny postage--to
a clear revenue of 900,000_l._

At the end of 1862, the staff of officers employed in the British
Post-Office numbered 25,380. Of this number 25,285 were engaged in the
British Isles, 73 in foreign countries (as agents collecting the British
share of foreign postage), and 22 in the colonies.[140] Of the
_employés_ at home, between 3,000 and 4,000 are attached to the London
Office alone, while the remainder, including more than 11,000
postmasters, belong to the establishments in the various towns and
villages of the United Kingdom. The entire staff is under the immediate
control of the Postmaster-General, assisted by the General Secretary of
the Post-Office in London. The service of the three kingdoms,
notwithstanding this direct control, is managed in the respective
capitals, at each of which there is a chief office, with a secretarial
and other departmental staffs.[141]

_The Postmaster-General_, the highest controlling authority at the
Post-Office representing the Executive, is now always a peer of
the realm, a member of the Privy Council, and generally, though
not necessarily, a Cabinet Minister. Of course he changes with
the Government. As we have seen in the origin of the office, he
holds his appointment by patent granted under the Great Seal. The
Postmaster-General has in his gift all the postmasterships in England
and Wales where the salary is not less than 120_l._ per annum (all under
that sum being in the gift of the Treasury Lords), and to those in
Ireland and Scotland where the salary is 100_l._ and upwards. Besides
this amount of patronage, now dispensed to officers already in the
service, he has the power of nomination to all vacancies in the General
Post-Offices of London, Edinburgh, and Dublin.[142] The following
noblemen have occupied the position of Postmaster-General during the
last forty years, or since the joint Postmaster-Generalship was
abolished in 1823,[143] viz. Earl of Chichester (1823), Lord Frederick
Montague (1826), Duke of Manchester (1827), Duke of Richmond (1830),
appointed Postmaster-General of Great Britain and Ireland the year
after; Marquis of Conyngham (July, 1834), Lord Maryborough (December,
1834), Marquis of Conyngham again (May, 1835), Earl of Lichfield (June,
1835), Viscount Lowther (September, 1841), Earl St. Germains (June,
1846), Marquis of Clanricarde (July, 1846). Still more recently, we find
the Earl of Hardwicke, Viscount Canning, Duke of Argyll (twice), Lord
Colchester, the Earl of Elgin, and Lord Stanley of Alderley.

_The Secretary of the Post-Office_ holds the highest fixed appointment
in the establishment, and may be regarded, therefore, as the responsible
adviser of the Postmaster-General. The principal secretaries during the
century have been Francis Freeling, Esq. (1797), created a baronet in
1828; Lieut.-Colonel William Leader Maberly (1836); Rowland Hill, Esq.
(1856), knighted in 1860; and, as at present, John Tilley, Esq.

The chief office in London is divided into six principal departments,
each under the charge of a chief officer. These heads of departments are
severally responsible to the Postmaster-General for the efficiency and
discipline of their respective branches. Something like the same
arrangement, though on a much smaller scale, is preserved in the
less-important chief offices of Edinburgh and Dublin. The branches in
question consist of--(1) The Secretary's Office; (2) The Solicitor's
Office; (3) The Mail Office; (4) The Receiver and Accountant-General's
Office; (5) The Money-order Office; and (6) The Circulation Office.

1. _The Secretary's Office_ exercises a general _surveillance_ over all
the other departments of the Post-Office, including, of course, all
provincial offices. It is the medium of communication with the Lords of
the Treasury, and also with the public. All important matters
originating in other branches, or in country offices, pass through this
office to the Postmaster-General, returning through the same channel. In
1763, the secretaries of the Post-Office had one clerk and two
supernumerary clerks assigned to them. Now, the three secretaries are
assisted in their duties by one chief clerk, one principal clerk for
foreign and colonial business, sixteen senior clerks, and thirty-eight
clerks in other two classes. There is also a force of nineteen
supplementary clerks, five official paper-keepers, and nineteen

2. _The Solicitor's Office_, as its name implies, deals with the law
business of the Post-Office. It gives employment to a solicitor, an
assistant-solicitor, and four clerks.

3. _The Mail Office_ has to do with all matters connected with the
transmission of mails, whether the conveyance be by railroad, water, or
stage-coach. Attached to this office are the travelling post-offices of
the country, which are under its exclusive management. The Mail Office
arranges with the different railway companies for the conveyance of the
mails, in the contracts for which are included provision for the
employment of post-offices fitted up in railway-carriages; it
also looks to the proper performance of each post-office contract
embracing mail-conveyance. The staff of the Mail Office comprises an
inspector-general of mails, a deputy inspector-general, two principal
clerks, and twenty-one clerks in three classes. The connexion between
the Mail Office in London and its important adjuncts, the travelling
post-offices, is kept up by a staff of five inspectors of mails (three
employed in England, one in Scotland, and one in Ireland), a supervisor
of mail-bag apparatus, and several subordinate officers. The travelling
offices employ a force of 54 clerks in three classes, and 139 sorters in
four classes.

4. _The Receiver and Accountant-General's Office_ takes account of the
money of each department, remittances being received here from all the
other branches and each provincial town in England. General accounts of
revenue and expenditure are also kept, this office being charged with
the examination of the postage and revenue accounts of each postmaster.
All salaries, pensions, and items of current expenditure are also paid
through this office. In 1763, the duties of these offices, then
distinct, were performed by a receiver, an accountant, and four clerks.
Now, the appointments comprise the receiver and accountant-general, a
chief examiner, a chief cashier, a principal book-keeper, with
forty-seven clerks in three classes, and nine messengers.

5. _The Money-order Office_, occupying a separate building in Aldersgate
Street, takes charge of the whole of the money-order business of the
country, in addition to doing an enormous amount of work as a
money-order office for the metropolis. Of course, everything relating to
this particular branch of post-office business, and also some part of
the savings' bank accounts, pass through this channel. Each provincial
postmaster sends a daily account of his transactions to this office.
Attached to the Money-order Office, we find a controller, a chief clerk,
an examiner, a book-keeper, 112 clerks in three classes, and 27

6. _The Circulation Office_ in London manages the ordinary post-office
work of the metropolis. In it, or from it, all the letters, newspapers,
and book-packets posted at, or arriving in, London, are sorted,
despatched, and delivered. Not only so; but in this office nearly all
the continental, and most part of the other foreign mails for the whole
of the British Islands, are received, sorted, and despatched. Under
ordinary circumstances, moreover, British letters for a great number of
places are sent in transit through London, where it is requisite they
should be rearranged and forwarded. This daily Herculean labour is
performed by the clerks, sorters, and letter-carriers attached to the
department. The ten district-offices in London, engaged with the same
kind of work on a small scale, are subordinate to the Circulation Office
at St. Martin's-le-Grand. The Registered Letter Branch, employing no
less than fifty clerks, and the Returned Letter Branch, with the Office
for Blind Letters, are parts of the Circulation Department. The _major_
branch of the Circulation Office comprises the controller, a
vice-controller, 15 deputy-controllers, and 251 clerks in three classes.
The _minor_ establishment, as it is called, employs no fewer than 2,398
persons. In this force are included 42 inspectors of letter-carriers in
three classes; the rest, being composed of sorters, stampers,
letter-carriers, and messengers.

To these six principal departments may now be added that for the
management of the new _Post-Office Savings' Banks_. Like the Money-order
Office, it occupies a separate building, in St. Paul's Churchyard. The
Savings' Bank Department keeps a personal account with every depositor.
It acknowledges the receipt of every single deposit, and upon the
requisite notice being furnished to the office, it sends out warrants
authorizing postmasters to pay withdrawals. Each year the savings'
bank-book of each depositor is sent here for examination, and at the
same time the interest accruing is calculated and allowed. The
correspondence with postmasters and the public on any subject connected
with the banks in question is managed entirely by this department. The
already-existing machinery of the Post-Office has been freely called
into operation, and the business of the new banks has increased the work
of almost all the other branches, especially those of the Receiver and
Accountant-General's and the Money-order Offices. Through the former all
the investments are received, and all remittances to postmasters for the
repayment of deposits are made; while the surplus revenue goes from that
office direct to that of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the
National Debt. Again, and as another instance of our meaning, the
Money-order Office is required to undertake the examination of the
general savings' bank account of each provincial postmaster. The staff
of the Savings' Bank Office in London is not yet complete, nor will it
be until the complete effect of the new on the old savings' bank
system be seen.[146] At present, it comprises a controller, an
assistant-controller, a principal clerk, ten first-class clerks (four of
upper and six of lower section), fifteen second-class clerks, with a
number of third-class clerks, and six messengers.

The branches of minor importance and the miscellaneous officers of the
London Establishment, consist of a _Medical Department_, comprising one
medical officer, one assistant medical officer, and one messenger. There
are, besides, distinct medical officers attached to each of the London
districts. The amount required for this service for 1863-4, including
medicine (given gratuitously to all officers who are not in receipt of
150_l._ salary), is 1,715_l._ _A House-keeper's Department_, including a
housekeeper and sixteen female servants, requiring a yearly payment of
763_l._ Six engineers, ten constables, and six firemen are also
constantly employed and paid by the Post-Office. When we add to this
gigantic organization no less than 516 letter-receivers in London, who
receive from 4_l._ to 90_l._ a-year for partial service, the reader will
have a tolerably correct idea of the establishment required to compass
the amount of London postal business in the twenty-fourth year of penny

_The Surveyor's Department_ is the connecting medium between the
metropolitan offices and the post-offices in provincial towns. The
postmasters of the latter are under the immediate supervision of the
surveyor of the district in which the towns are situate, and it is to
this superior officer that they are primarily responsible for the
efficient working and discipline of their respective staff of
officers. Among the many responsible duties of the surveyors, may be
mentioned[148] those of visiting periodically each office in their
district, to remedy, where they can, all defects in the working of the
postal system; to remove, when possible, all just grounds of complaint
on the part of the public; "to give to the correspondence of their
district increased celerity, regularity, and security" when opportunity
offers, and to arrange for contracts with these objects. The Act of
Queen Anne provided for the appointment of one surveyor to the
Post-Office, whose duties it should be to make proper surveys of
post-roads. Little more than a hundred years ago, one of these
functionaries was sufficient to compass the duty of surveyor in England.
There are now thirteen surveyors in the United Kingdom,[149] nine of
whom are located in England, two in Ireland, and two in Scotland. These
principal officers are assisted in their duties by thirty-two
"surveyors' clerks," arranged in two classes, and thirteen stationary
clerks. To this staff must also be added thirty-three "clerks in
charge," in two classes, who are under the direction of the surveyors,
and whose principal duty consists in supplying temporarily the position
of postmaster, in case of vacancies occurring through deaths, removals,

There are, in all, 542 head provincial establishments in England and
Wales, 141 in Ireland, and 115 in Scotland. They vary exceedingly, no
two being exactly alike, but are settled in each town pretty much in
proportion to the demands of the place, its size, trade, &c. Sometimes,
however, the _position_ of a town--the centre of a district, for
instance--gives it more importance in an official sense than it would
otherwise acquire from other and ordinary circumstances. The number of
sub-offices attached to each town also varies greatly, according to the
position of the head-office.[150] Next to the three chief offices, the
largest establishments are those of Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow,
Birmingham, and Bristol. Among the most important offices of the second
class, we may enumerate Aberdeen, Bath, Belfast, Cork, Exeter, Leeds,
Hull, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Norwich, Sheffield, Southampton, and York.[151]
With respect to the rest, classification would be difficult; the
postmasters receiving salaries ranging from 20_l._ to 400_l._ per annum,
and varying from those where the whole of the duty of the office is
performed by the postmaster himself, to others where he is assisted by a
large staff of clerks and other auxiliaries.[152]

Each head-postmaster is directly responsible for the full efficiency and
proper management of his office. Under the approval of the district
surveyor, the sanction of the Postmaster-General, and the favourable
report of the Civil Service Commissioners, the postmaster is allowed to
appoint nearly the whole of his own officers, he being responsible to
the authorities for their proper discipline and good conduct. Formerly,
and up to as late as eight years ago, each postmaster rendered an
account of his transactions to the chief office quarterly. He now
furnishes weekly general accounts, and daily accounts of money-order
business, besides keeping his book open to the inspection of the
superior officers of the Post-Office.[153]


[139] Postmaster-General's _Reports_, 1863, 1864, and _Revenue
Estimates_ for 1864-5, from which the whole of our statistics are

[140] The colonial post-offices proper are not under the rule of the
English Postmaster-General. All appointments to these offices are made
by the Colonial Secretary, if the salary is over 200_l._; if under that
sum, by the Governors of the different colonies.

[141] An attempt was made at further centralization a few years ago,
when it was proposed to reduce the chief offices of Edinburgh and Dublin
to the position of offices in other large towns, a measure which had the
effect of rousing the people of the sister-countries to arms. The
Commissioners of Post-Office Inquiry who sat in 1855 reported against
the proposal, considering the present system to possess advantages to
the public over those accruing from the suggested change.

[142] For information relative to the necessary qualifications,
examinations, &c. of candidates for appointment in the metropolitan or
provincial offices, see Appendix (C).

[143] The following list of Postmasters-General before this period,
taken from a return made to the House of Commons, March 25, 1844, may
not be uninteresting to some of our readers. After Sir Brian Tuke, the
first "Master of the Postes," we find his successors to have been Sir
William Paget, one of Henry VIII.'s Chief Secretaries of State, and John
Mason, Esq. "Secretary for the French Tongue." "The fees or wages" of
each of these functionaries are given at 66_l._ 13_s._ 6_d._ a-year. The
reader will be familiar with the Postmasters-General under Elizabeth,
James I., Charles I. and the Commonwealth. Coming to the reign of
Charles II. we find Philip Froude, Esq. acting for the Duke of York from
1678 to 1688.


    Sir Robert Cotton; Thomas Frankland, Esq.             1690-1708


    Sir Thomas Frankland; Sir John Evelyn                 1708-1715


    Lord Cornwallis; James Craggs, Esq.                   1715-1720
    Edward Carteret, Esq.; Galfridus Walpole              1720-1733


    Edward Carteret, Esq.; Lord Thomas Lovel              1733-1739
    Sir John Eyles; Lord Lovel                            1739-1744
    Lord Lovel alone (now Earl of Leicester)              1744-1759
    Earl of Besborough                                    1759


    Earl of Egmont; Hon. R. Hampden                       1762
    Lord Hyde; Hon. R. Hampden                            1763
    Earl of Besborough; Lord Grantham                     1765
    Earl of Sandwich; Lord de Spencer                     1768
    Viscount Barrington; Hon. Henry Carteret              1782
    Earl of Tankerville; Hon. H. Carteret                 1784
    Lord Carteret; Lord Walsingham                        1787
    Lord Walsingham; Earl of Chesterfield                 1790
    Earl of Chesterfield; Earl of Leicester               1794
    Earl of Leicester; Lord Auckland                      1798
    Lord Auckland; Lord Charles Spencer                   1801
    Lord Spencer; Duke of Montrose                        1804
    Earl of Buckinghamshire; Earl of Carysfort            1806
    Earl of Chichester alone                              1814
    Earl of Chichester; Marquis of Salisbury              1816

When the Earl of Salisbury died in 1823, a successor was not appointed,
the joint office being abolished, principally through the exertions of
the late Marquis of Normanby.

[144] See Appendix (A).

[145] For further information respecting this and all the other
metropolitan offices, see Appendix (D). Extracts from the Revenue
Estimates of 1864-5.

[146] The closing of the Birmingham old Savings' Bank, for example, must
have greatly increased the work of the central office, and this will
follow as a consequence if in other large towns the example of
Birmingham be followed.

[147] Large as this staff undoubtedly is, it would have been larger but
for timely changes in the system of keeping accounts. In 1855 the Civil
Service Commission suggested various improvements in the organization,
which resulted in a decrease of officers attached to some of the

[148] Postmaster General's _Second Report_.

[149] See Appendix (A).

[150] _Head-office_ is the official term given to the independent
post-towns, and such as are only subordinate to one of the three
metropolitan offices. _Sub-offices_ are, of course, under the
head-offices. _Receiving-offices_, at which letters are received, but
not delivered, are also under the authority of the head-office of the
neighbourhood. Those post-offices at which money-orders are issued
and paid are designated _Money-order Offices_, and include all
the head-offices and a large number of sub-offices, and a few
receiving-offices. _Packet-Offices_ are those at which the regular
mail-packets (ship-letters may be received or despatched. at any port)
are received and from which they are despatched. London and Southampton
are packet-offices for the Continental Mails, the East and West Indies,
and South America. Liverpool, and Queenstown take the United States and
Canada. The mail-packets for the Cape of Good Hope and the West Coast of
Africa sail to and from Devonport.

[151] For further information respecting these offices, see Appendix
(D), _Revenue Estimates_; also, for a statement of the amount of postage
collected in our largest towns, see Appendix (E).

[152] The staff of the largest provincial offices usually consists of
clerks, sorters, stampers, messengers, letter-carriers, and rural
post-messengers. The _clerks_ are now principally engaged on clerical
duties, attending to the public on money-order business, &c. or in
connexion with registered letters or unpaid-letter accounts. In offices
where the staff is smaller, the clerks also engage in sorting and
despatching letters. In many small country towns females are employed as
clerks. The _sorters_ are principally engaged in sorting duties.
_Stampers_ and _messengers_ do duties such as their designations denote.
_Letter-carriers_--the familiar "postmen" of every household--are almost
exclusively engaged in delivering letters, &c. from door to door.
_Auxiliary letter-carriers_ are those only partially so employed,
principally on the largest, or early morning delivery. _Rural
post-messengers_ is the official name for "country postmen," who make
daily journeys among the villages and hamlets surrounding each town,
delivering and taking up letters on their way.

[153] For fuller information on this head, see Appendix, to the
Postmaster-General's _First Report_, pp. 71-4. The following forms part
of a later Document (_Ninth Report_, 1862-3), and is interesting enough
to be quoted entire: "Owing to the successful measures which the
Department has adopted by means of bonds, frequent supervision, and care
in the selection of persons admitted into the service, and afterwards
promoted therein, very few losses have occurred, of late years at least,
through defalcation. More than twenty years ago, however, a postmaster
who owed the office 2,000_l._ but who had given security for only a part
of that sum, absconded, leaving an unpaid debt of upwards of 1,000_l._
The recovery of the debt had long been considered hopeless, but a short
time ago a letter was unexpectedly received from the postmaster's son
enclosing a remittance in payment of part of his father's debt, and
expressing a hope that after a time he should be able to pay the
remainder--a hope which was soon realized, every farthing of the debt
having now been discharged, in a manner most creditable to the gentleman



In order to give the reader a proper idea of the channel through which
ordinary correspondence flows--the circulation of letters in the
Post-Office system--it will be necessary to devote a long chapter to the
subject. We therefore propose to post an imaginary letter in the
metropolis for a village in the far away North, following it from its
place of posting till we finally see it deposited in the hands of the
person to whom it is addressed.


The General Post-Office, the great heart of the English postal system,
is a fine and, now that so many district offices are opened in London,
very convenient building. On the ground-floor the different offices
attached to the Circulation and Mail departments are located. Upstairs
we find the Secretary's department, that of the Receiver and
Accountant-General, and other branches of the Circulation Office.
Approaching the large hall of the General Post-Office, through one of
the three-columned porticoes, we post our letter, and as it is now
nearly six o'clock P.M. we stand aside, for a few minutes only, to
witness one of the most stirring scenes in the metropolis. Throughout
the day, one side of the hall presents a busy enough scene, and its
boxes, open for the receipt of correspondence for all parts of the
world, are constantly beset with people. Not only do these huge slits
still gape for letters, but the large windows, closed through the day,
are thrown wide open as a quarter to six chimes from the neighbouring
clocks. It is then that an impetuous crowd enters the hall, and letters
and newspapers begin to fall in quite a literary hail-storm. The
newspaper window, ever yawning for more, is presently surrounded and
besieged by an array of boys of all ages and costumes, together with
children of a larger growth, who are all alike pushing, heaving, and
surging in one great mass. The window, with tremendous gape, is
assaulted with showers of papers which fly thicker and faster than the
driven snow. Now it is that small boys of eleven and twelve years of
age, panting, Sinbad-like, under the weight of huge bundles of
newspapers, manage somehow to dart about and make rapid _sorties_ into
other ranks of boys, utterly disregarding the cries of the official
policemen, who vainly endeavour to reduce the tumult into something like
post-office order. If the lads cannot quietly and easily disembogue,
they will whiz their missiles of intelligence over other people's heads,
now and then sweeping off hats and caps with the force of shot. The
gathering every moment increases in number and intensifies in purpose;
arms, legs, sacks, baskets, heads, bundles, and woollen comforters--for
whoever saw a veritable newspaper-boy without that appendage?--seem to
be getting into a state of confusion and disagreeable communism, and
"yet the cry is still they come." Heaps of papers of widely-opposed
political views are thrown in together; no longer placed carefully in
the openings, they are now sent in in sackfuls and basketfuls, while
over the heads of the surging crowd were flying back the empty sacks,
thrown out of the office by the porters inside. Semi-official legends,
with a very strong smack of probability about them, tell of sundry boys
being thrown in, seized, emptied, and thrown out again _void_. As six
o'clock approaches still nearer and nearer, the turmoil increases more
perceptibly, for the intelligent British public is fully alive to the
awful truth that the Post-Office officials never allow a minute of
grace, and that "Newspaper Fair" must be over when the last stroke of
six is heard. _One_, in rush files of laggard boys who have purposely
loitered, in the hope of a little pleasurable excitement; _two_, and
grown men hurry in with their last sacks; _three_, the struggle
resembles nothing so much as a pantomimic _mêlée_; _four_, a Babel of
tongues vociferating desperately; _five_, final and furious showers of
papers, sacks, and bags; and _six_, when all the windows fall like so
many swords of Damocles, and the slits close with such a sudden and
simultaneous snap, that we naturally suppose it to be a part of the
Post-Office operations that attempts should be made to guillotine a
score of hands; and then all is over so far as the outsiders are

Among the letter-boxes, scenes somewhat similar have been enacted.
Letters of every shape and colour, and of all weights have unceasingly
poured in; tidings of life and death, hope and despair, success and
failure, triumph and defeat, joy and sorrow; letters from friends and
notes from lawyers, appeals from children and stern advice from parents,
offers from anxious-hearted young gentlemen, and "first yesses" or
refusals from young maidens; letters containing that snug appointment so
long promised you, and "little bills" with requests for immediate
payment, "together with six-and-eightpence;" cream-coloured missives
telling of happy consummations, and black-edged envelopes telling of
death and the grave; sober-looking advice notes, doubtless telling when
"our Mr. Puffwell" would do himself the honour of calling on you, and
elegant-looking billets in which business is never mentioned, all
jostled each other for a short time; but the stream of gladness and of
woe was stopped, at least for one night, when the last stroke of six was
heard. The Post-Office, like a huge monster, to which one writer has
likened it, has swallowed an enormous meal, and gorged to the full, it
must now commence the process of digestion. While laggard boys, to whom
cartoons by one "William Hogarth" should be shown, are muttering "too
late," and retiring discomfited, we, having obtained the requisite "open
sesame," will make our way to the interior of the building. Threading
our course through several passages, we soon find ourselves among
enormous apartments well lit up, where hundreds of human beings are
moving about, lifting, shuffling, stamping, and sorting huge piles of
letters, and still more enormous piles of newspapers, in what seems at
first sight hopeless confusion, but in what is really the most admirable
order. In the newspaper-room, men have been engaged not only in emptying
the sacks flung in by strong-armed men and weak-legged boys, but also in
raking up the single papers into large baskets, and conveying them up
and down "hoists," into various divisions of the building. Some estimate
of the value of these mechanical appliances, moved of course by steam
power, may be formed from the fact that hundreds of tons of paper pass
up and down these lifts every week. As many of the newspapers escape
from their covers in the excitement of posting, each night two or three
officers are busily engaged during the whole time of despatch, in
endeavouring to restore wrappers to newspapers found without any
address. Great as is the care exercised in this respect, it will
occasionally happen that wrong newspapers will find their way into loose
wrappers not belonging to them, and under the circumstances it would be
by no means a matter of wonder if--as has been more than once pointed
out--Mr. Bright should, instead of his _Morning Star_, receive a copy of
the _Saturday Review_, or an evangelical curate the _Guardian_ or
_Punch_, in place of his _Record_ paper.

In the letter-room the officers are no less busily engaged: a number of
them are constantly at work during the hours of the despatch, in the
operation of placing each letter with the address and postage label
uppermost, so as to facilitate the process of stamping. In the General
Post-Office the stamping is partly effected by machinery and partly by
hand, and consists simply in imprinting upon each letter the date, hour,
and place of posting, while at the same time the Queen's head with
which the letter is ornamented and franked gets disfigured.[154] It will
easily be imagined that a letter containing a box of pills stands a very
good chance of being damaged under this manipulation, as a good stamper
will strike about fifty letters in a minute. Unpaid letters are kept
apart, as they require stamping in a different coloured ink and with the
double postage. Such letters create much extra labour, and are a source
of incessant trouble to the Department, inasmuch as from the time of
their posting in London to their delivery at the Land's End or John
O'Groat's, every officer through whose hands they may pass has to keep a
cash account of them. The double postage on such letters is more than
earned by the Post-Office. All unfastened and torn letters, too, are
picked out and conveyed to another portion of the large room, and it
requires the unremitting attention of several busy individuals to finish
the work left undone by the British public. It is scarcely credible that
above 250 letters daily are posted _open_, and bearing not the slightest
mark of ever having been fastened in any way; but such is the fact. A
fruitful source of extra work to this branch of the office arises
through the posting of flimsy boxes containing feathers, slippers, and
other _récherché_ articles of female dress, pill-boxes containing
jewellery, and even bottles. The latter, however, are detained, glass
articles and sharp instruments of any sort, whenever detected, being
returned to the senders. These frail things, thrown in and buried under
the heaps of correspondence, get crushed and broken, yet all are made up
again carefully and resealed.

When the letters have been stamped, and those insufficiently paid picked
out, they are carried away to undergo the process of sorting. In this
operation they are very rapidly divided into "roads," representing a
line of large towns: thus, letters for Derby, Loughborough, Nottingham,
Lincoln, &c. might be placed in companionship in one division or "road,"
and Bilston, Wednesbury, Walsall, West Bromwich, &c. in another. When
this primary divisional sorting is finished, the letters are divided and
subdivided over and over again, with the exception of those for the
various travelling sorting-carriages upon the different lines of
railway, which remain in divisions corresponding with various portions
of the country through which the several mail-trains run. It is into one
of these divisions that our own letter falls, to be seen again, however,
when we come to describe the Travelling Post-Offices. During the time
occupied in making up the mails, the Circulation Branch of the General
Post-Office presents a busy scene, yet retains the utmost order and
regularity. Hundreds of men are engaged in the various operations of
sorting and sub-sorting, yet all proceeds really noiselessly, and as if
the hundreds and thousands of letters representing the commerce and
intelligence of the English people could not be treated too carefully.
Every now and again the sorter pauses in his rapid movements, and places
a letter on one side. In some cases this signifies that he has detected
a letter containing a _coin_ of some sort; and when such letters have
been posted without being registered by the sender, the Department takes
this duty upon itself, charging a double fee on delivery. The number of
letters of this class detected in London alone during the first six
months after the plan was brought into operation, was upwards of 58,000.
Letters which cannot be read, or letters imperfectly addressed, are also
thrown on one side and conveyed to another part of the Circulation
Branch, where gentlemen whose extraordinary faculty of discernment have
gained them the singularly inappropriate name of "blind officers" sit in


is the receptacle for all illegible, misspelt, misdirected, or
insufficiently addressed letters or packets. Here the clerk or clerks,
selected from amongst the most efficient and experienced officers, guess
at what ordinary intelligence would readily denominate insoluble
riddles. Large numbers of letters are posted daily with superscriptions
which the sorters cannot decipher, and which the great majority of
people would not be able to read. Others, again, are received with
perhaps only the name of some small village, the writers thinking it a
work of supererogation to add some neighbouring town, or even a county.
Numberless, for instance, are the letters bearing such addresses
as "John Smith, gardener, Flowerdale," or "Throgmorton Hall,
Worcestershire." Circulars, by the thousand, are posted in London and
other large towns without hesitancy, and with the greatest confidence in
the "final perseverance" principle of the Post-Office people, with
addresses not more explicit than the foregoing. Many country gentlemen
would seem to cherish the idea that the names of their mansions should
be known equally far and near from their manorial acres, and somehow
they seem to inoculate their correspondents with the same absurd notion.
If, however, it be possible to reduce the hieroglyphics on some strange
letter to ordinary every-day English, or find, from diligent search in
his library of reference, information relative to imperfectly-addressed
letters (information which might have been given much more easily by the
senders), our readers may be sure that the cunning gentleman of the
Blind Office, justly known for his patience and sagacity, will do it,
unless, indeed, the letter be "stone blind," or hopelessly incomplete.
As a genuine example of stone-blind letters, take the following, the
first of a batch which has been known to pass through the blind-room of
the General Post-Office:--

    |                                   |
    |    Uncle John                     |
    |                                   |
    |        Hopposite the Church       |
    |                                   |
    |            London.  Hingland      |
    |                                   |

It would certainly have been a wonderful triumph of skill to have put
this letter in a fair way for delivery: for once the blind officer
would acknowledge himself beaten; and then the Dead Letter Officers
would endeavour to find "Uncle John's" _relative_, intimating to the
said relative that greater explicitness is needed if "Uncle John" must
be found.

But they manage better with the next letter in the batch.

    |                          |
    |    Coneyach lunentick    |
    |                          |
    |        a siliam          |
    |                          |

is part of the address of a letter which the sorter no doubt threw away
from him with some impatience. The blind officer, however, reads it
instantly, strikes his pen, perhaps, through the address, and writes on
the envelope, "Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum," and passes it out for

    |                         |
    |                         |
    |       Obern yenen       |
    |                         |
    |                         |

is seen in an instant to be meant for "Holborn Union." "Isle of Wight"
is, in like manner, written on a letter improperly addressed as

    |                               |
    |        Ann M----              |
    |                               |
    |            Oileywhite         |
    |                               |
    |                Amshire        |
    |                               |

The probability is that the last-mentioned letter will come back to the
Dead Letter-Office, on account of no town being given in the address;
still, the usual course is to send it out to the local district
designated, there being always the possibility that certain individuals
may be locally known.

"_Ashby-de-la-Zouch_" is a town to spell which gives infinite trouble to
letter-writers; but the Post-Office official is especially lenient and
patient in cases of this kind. There are fifty different ways of
spelling the name, and few letters, except those of the better classes,
give it rightly spelt. "Hasbedellar-such" is the ordinary spelling among
the poor living at a distance.

    |                                       |
    |    Ash Bedles in such                 |
    |                                       |
    |        for John Horsel, grinder       |
    |                                       |
    |        in the county of Lestysheer    |
    |                                       |

is a copy of a veritable address meant for the above town.

The blind letter officers of an earlier date succumbed before the
following letter:--

    |                                           |
    |    For Mister Willy wot brinds de Baber   |
    |                                           |
    |  in Lang-Gaster ware te gal is            |
    |                                           |

but the dead letter officers were enabled from the contents to make out
that it was meant for the editor of a Lancaster paper, "where the gaol
is." The communication enclosed was an essay written by a foreigner
against public schools!

The blind officers are supplied with all the principal London and
provincial directories, court guides, gazetteers, &c.; and by the help
of this, their library of reference, added to their own experience and
intelligence, they are generally able to put again into circulation
without the necessity of opening them, five out of six of all the
letters which are handed over to them. The addresses of some letters are
at once seen to be the result of mistake on the part of senders. Letters
addressed "Lombard Street, Manchester," "St. Paul's Churchyard,
Liverpool," both obviously intended for London, are sent out for trial
by the letter-carriers at what are believed to be their real
destinations. (See _Ninth Report_.) Letters, again, for persons of rank
and eminence, dignitaries of the Church, prominent officers of the army
or navy, whose correct addresses are known, or can be ascertained, are
immediately sent out for delivery to their right destination, however
erroneously directed, without question or examination of contents. The
following strange letters, meant for the eye of royalty, would not be
impeded in their progress in any way:--

    |                            |
    |      Keen Vic Tory at      |
    |                            |
    |        Winer Casel         |
    |                            |

and another--

    |                            |
    |      Miss                  |
    |                            |
    |        Queene Victoria     |
    |                            |
    |          of England        |
    |                            |

would go to Windsor Castle without fail; while the following, posted in
London at the breaking-out of the Polish Insurrection, would find its
way to St. Petersburg as fast as packet could carry it:--

    |                                  |
    |      To the King of Rusheya      |
    |                                  |
    |       Feoren, with speed.        |
    |                                  |

When the letter-carriers and the blind officers have expended all their
skill upon certain letters in vain, the next step is to send them to


in order that they may be returned to the writers, provided any clue can
be obtained from the contents as to their whereabouts. The branch
in which this work is accomplished is now a very considerable
establishment, employing at least a score more clerks, &c. than in the
days of the old postage. In 1763, just a hundred years ago, the records
show that two clerks only were engaged in opening "_dead and insolvent
letters_." Now, nearly fifty officers are employed in the same duties.
Nor are these duties by any means so only in name. Last year
considerably over two millions of letters were returned to their writers
through the Dead-Letter Office from failures in the attempts to
deliver them. "Three-quarters of the non-deliveries," says the
Postmaster-General, "were on account of the letters being insufficiently
or incorrectly addressed, nearly 11,000 letters having been posted
_without any address at all_."

In every provincial post-office in England and Wales a dead or returned
letter-bag is now forwarded daily to London, containing all the letters
which, from any cause, cannot be delivered. Each letter bears on its
front, written prominently in red ink, the reason of its non-delivery.
Thus, if the addressee cannot be found, or should have left the town,
the words "Cannot be found," or "Gone--left no address," are written
respectively. On the arrival of these bags in London, inclosed in the
larger bags containing the general correspondence, they are at once
passed to the "returned-letter branch," as the Dead-Letter Office is
called, where no time is lost in opening them. Every letter received is
first examined by an experienced and responsible officer, to make sure
that it has been actually presented according to its address, and that
the reasons assigned on the cover of the letter are sufficient to
account for its non-delivery. In doubtful cases, before the letter is
opened, the directories and other books of reference, of which there is
a plentiful supply in this office, are consulted, and should it be found
or thought that there has been any oversight or neglect, the letter is
re-issued, with proper instructions, by the first post. About 300
letters are thus re-issued daily, many of which ultimately reach the
persons for whom they are intended.

When it has been fully ascertained that nothing further can be done to
effect the delivery of an imperfectly or improperly addressed letter, it
only remains to have it sent back to the writer. This is done, if
possible, without the letter being opened. By an arrangement of ten
years' standing, if the returned letter has the writer's name and
address embossed on the back of the envelope, impressed on the seal, or
written or printed anywhere outside, it will not be opened, but
forwarded back according to this address. We may point out here,
however, that this arrangement, excellent and satisfactory as it is, has
sometimes led to serious mistakes and confusion; so much so, in fact,
that the Postmaster-General, in his report for 1861, appealed to the
public on the subject. It would appear that the practice of using
another person's embossed envelope is on the increase. When such a
letter, according to the arrangement, is forwarded to the supposed
writer, it has frequently fallen into the wrong hands (the master and
merchant instead of the clerk or other servant), and grievous complaints
have been made on the subject. The remedy, of course, lies with
letter-writers themselves. If there are no outward marks to indicate the
sender, the letter is then opened, and, if a suitable address can be
found inside, the letter is inclosed in the well-known dead-letter
envelope and forwarded according to that address. If a letter should be
found to contain anything of value, such as bank-notes, drafts,
postage-stamps, the precaution is taken of having a special record taken
of it, and it is then sent back as a registered dead letter. Money to
the value of 12,000_l._ or 14,000_l._ is annually found in these
returned letters. Of this sum about 500_l._ per annum falls into the
public exchequer, on account of no address being found inside, and no
inquiry being made for the missing letters. A vast number of bank
post-bills and bills of exchange are likewise found, amounting in all,
and on the average, to something like 3,000,000_l._ a-year. These bills,
however, as well as money-order advices, always afford some clue to the
senders, even supposing no address should be given inside the letter,
and inquiries are set on foot at the bankers and others whose names may
be given in the paper transactions. Forty thousand letters reach the
English returned branch each year containing property of different
kinds. Many presents, such as rings, pins, brooches, never reach their
destination, and are never sent back to the sender, because they are
often unaccompanied with any letter. These articles, of course, become
the property of the Crown.

Postmasters of Irish towns send their "dead and insolvent letters" to
Dublin, and the residuum of the local Scotch post-towns are sent to
Edinburgh. In both these capitals, this particular class of letters is
dealt with in exactly the same manner as in the London office. We are
assured that the letters themselves, and the articles found in the
Scotch and Irish dead letters, illustrate no little the characters, the
feeling, and habits of the two people. The Scotch have, comparatively
speaking, the fewest dead letters; and as the writers are generally
careful to give their addresses inside the letters, little trouble is
said to be experienced in returning them, if it is necessary. The Irish
dead letters are more numerous than either the English or the Scotch.
This mainly arises from the circumstance of the nomadic habits of a
considerable portion of the Irish people: owing also to the same
circumstance, it is impossible to return many of the letters to the
writers. The Scotch dead letters rarely contain coin or any very
valuable enclosures, while of articles of jewellery, such as usually
form presents or tokens of affection, we are told there is a "lamentable
deficiency." The Irish dead letters, on the contrary, "are full of
little _cadeaux_ and small sums of money," illustrating at the same time
both the careless and the affectionate nature of the people.

Letters which can neither be delivered nor returned through the
Post-Office are, if found to be valuable and if posted in the United
Kingdom, appropriated to the public revenue after a certain time; if
received for delivery from a foreign State, they are sent back to the
chief office of that country for final disposition. Letters posted in
this country found to be of no value, are kept at the Post-Office for a
month and then destroyed; foreign letters under the same circumstances
are not destroyed for two months.

And now, unless we at once return from our digression, we shall
not be in time to see the great night-mail despatched from St.
Martin's-le-Grand. Whilst we have been occupied with a contemplation of
the few waifs and strays of our national correspondence, the great bulk
of that correspondence has been well and carefully disposed of: the
letters and newspapers which we saw two hours ago as a mass of
inextricable confusion, are now carefully stowed away in their
respective bags, and not a letter or newspaper can be found. The hall
clock is silently approaching the hour of eight, when the bags must all
be sealed and ready to leave the place. At five minutes before that
time, all is still bustle and activity; five minutes perhaps after that
hour the establishment is nearly deserted. "Everything is done on
military principles to minute time." "The drill and subdivisions of
duties are so perfect," adds a close observer, "that the alternations
are high pressure and sudden collapse." This is the more remarkable,
inasmuch as the Post-Office, is subject to great variations in the
amount of work to be done. Particular nights in the week, Mondays and
Tuesdays for example, are known as the "heaviest," and even such events
as elections, influence the labour to be performed within the same given
time. During the last election for Lambeth, 40,000 circulars were posted
in London in one day, and properly disposed of. On the 14th of February
last, 957,000 extra letters, or valentines, passed through the
Circulation Office in London. Compared with Valentine's Day 1863, there
was an increase of a quarter of a million letters!

In place of the old mail-coaches waiting in the yard of the office until
the work is completed inside, we have now the well-known mail-vans. As
they are rapidly supplied with bags, they chase each other to the
various railway stations, from which, to all points of the compass, the
night-mails now depart. Half an hour afterwards, we find ourselves in
one of these trains watching operations not dissimilar to those we have
just left, but much more wonderful, considering how they are


The travelling post-office deserves special attention, not less on
account of the interesting nature of the work performed, than because it
serves many important ends in the system of which it forms a part. It is
to the railway post-offices that the Department is indebted for much of
the simplification of its accounts. At different points in a mail-coach
journey, long stoppages used to be made in order that the "bye" and
"forward" letters might get sorted; on the introduction of railways, it
was seen that the number of bags must either be enormously increased,
and other complications arise, or the railways could not to any extent
be rendered available for post-office purposes. Just at this juncture,
it was suggested that the work might be done during the journey, and
the obstacles were soon surmounted. Further, by means of the travelling
offices, the Post-Office is enabled to offer more time for the posting
of letters, and not only so, but to give the public the benefit of
earlier deliveries.

The railway-mail service has now assumed quite gigantic proportions.
Twenty-six years ago, when railways were only partially used for
post-office purposes, a writer predicted that they would "soon become
the _ne plus ultra_ of rapidity," and that the Post-Office would have to
take to them more and more. "In a few years," said the writer, "railways
will have become so general, that scarcely a mail-coach will be left in
England; certainly, none will be wanted in London." Both predictions
have since been verified; for the last twenty years, railways have
gradually absorbed all the mail contracts,--year by year the estimates
for this service showing a corresponding increase.[155] The first
railway post-office journey was made on the Grand Junction Railway,
between Liverpool and Birmingham, on the 1st of July, 1837. When the
line was completed to London, in January, 1838, the travelling office
started from the metropolis. The following curious account of the "Grand
Northern Railway Post-Office," as it was called, is culled from the
_Penny Magazine_. "On the arrival of the four 'accelerators' at the
Euston Station with the mails, the railway servants immediately carry
the large sacks to a huge looking machine, with a tender attached to it,
both at the end of the train. This caravan is the flying Post-Office,
with a table for sorting letters, and holes round the walls for their
reception." The carriage was certainly either an ungainly structure, or
the above is a most ungainly report. "In ten minutes," continues the
narrator, "the omnibuses are emptied of their contents, and the train of
carriages is then _wound up_ to the station at Camden Town, where the
engine is attached, _and the Primrose Hill tunnel soon prevents us
hearing the thunder of their rapid progress_." The Londoner of 1864, in
these days of metropolitan railways can afford to smile at this last
sentence. That the change in the system of mail conveyance wrought
immediate and striking improvement at the Post-Office does not admit of
question. In a contemporary account, we find an interesting but
wonder-stricken writer stating that "by means of the extra railway
facilities, letters now pass along this line (London and Birmingham) in
a space of time so inconceivably quick, that some time must elapse
before our ideas become accustomed to such a rapid mode of intercourse."
We learn from different works published by Mr. Charles Knight, that when
the railways were extended farther northwards, the Railway Post-Office
was extended with them, and was formed into sections. Thus, when the
lines were continued north as far as Lancaster, there were two divisions
formed, one staff of clerks, &c. to the number of eight, working between
London and Birmingham, and ten between Birmingham and Lancaster.[156]
There were two mails each day in both directions. The distance between
London and Lancaster (241 miles) was accomplished in eleven hours and a
half. The weight of the railway post-office, tender, bags, and clerks,
is stated by Mr. Whishaw, in his work on railways, to have been at that
period about nine tons. At that time, the expense of the service was
regulated by the weight carried. At present, on the great trunk line of
the London and North Western Railway Company, no fewer than eight
mail-trains run daily up and down, each conveying railway post-office
carriages and post-office employés. Half of these trains are run
specially, the number of passengers being limited. The weight of mails
running over this ground must have increased fourfold at the least,
inasmuch as the number of officers have been augmented in even a greater
proportion. Surprising as was the speed at which the first railway
post-office travelled, and wonderful as it was thought at the time, one
of the mail-trains now runs nearly double the distance between London
and Lancaster during the time which used to be taken for that ground
alone. _The Limited night-mail_, travelling between the Euston Square
station in London, and Perth in Scotland, accomplishes the distance of
451 miles in eleven hours and a half, or about forty miles an hour
including stoppages!

The railway post-office proper, is now extended over nearly every
considerable line of railway in the kingdom. It comprises a number of
divisions or sections, named generally from the locality through which
they extend, or the railway travelled over, as the Bangor and Leeds
division, the Caledonian Railway post-office. The four principal or
trunk mails, three of them being divided into two sections, are (1) the
North-Western Railway post-office, travelling between London and
Carlisle; (2) the Irish Mail, between London and Holyhead; (3) the Great
Western, between London and Exeter; and (4) the Midland, between Bristol
and Newcastle-on-Tyne. Most of these divisions have _day_- as well as
_night_-mails running over them daily. Four trains a-day, being two in
each direction, are therefore the usual proportion of mails on the chief
lines of railway. As London is the _heart_ of the postal system, so
these four principal mails may be termed its _main arteries_, while as
veins in the great system, there are a number of smaller divisions of
the railway post-office that have not been enumerated. Again, at other
parts or points not important or extensive enough for travelling
offices, railway trains are arranged to wait the arrival of the trunk
mails; and thus, to continue the figure, our letters--the life-blood of
a nation's commerce and sociality--are conveyed to the remotest corners
of the country.

It may be imagined that a proper control of this vast machinery,
extending through almost every county in the kingdom, with its scattered
staff of officials, will be difficult; but the efficient working of the
whole is nevertheless as thoroughly and promptly maintained as in any
other department where personal supervision is more direct. Each
divisional part has distinct officers allotted to it, the number of
_clerks_ being regulated according to the number of mails running over
the division in the course of a day, and the number of _sorters_
according to the amount of sorting duties to be performed. Each mail
travels under the charge of one clerk, while each division is locally
superintended by one senior clerk. The entire direction, however, of all
the travelling officers is vested in the Inspector-General of Mails, who
also presides over the Mail Office at St. Martin's-le-Grand. We may here
further state, that the _length_ of the divisions--the extent of one of
which forms a post-office journey or "trip"--varies slightly, averaging
about 170 miles; the average _time_ taken to perform the journeys being
between five and six hours. As a rule, the night-mails travel during the
night-time, or between eight P.M. and six A.M.; the day-mails generally
speaking throughout the day.

But we must make ready for our journey, and enter more into detail.
While van after van is arriving with its heavy loads of mail-bags, we
have time to notice that the train standing at the great London terminus
is nearly all post-office. Two or three carriages are being filled as
full as possible with made-up bags, and two more, fitted up like
post-offices, are simply meant for operations similar to those we have
already seen at the General Post-Office, in connexion with the
unfinished work which has now to be accomplished during the journey. It
is with the remaining carriage only that we have to do. Seen from the
outside, the office itself may still answer to the description given of
it twenty-five years ago by our authority above adverted to, although
considerable improvements must have been made in its construction since
that time. Though the structure is built with a very evident serviceable
purpose, the large, heavily-painted, windowless vehicle, looks more as
if intended for the conveyance of Her Majesty's horses than Her
Majesty's mails; the roof, however, covered with glass, with other
contrivances for the purposes of ventilation, soon convinces us that it
is intended for some description of the _genus homo_. We go inside, and
find it built like an ordinary saloon carriage, about twenty-two feet
long, and as wide and spacious as the railway arrangements will allow.
It is night-time, the reader will remember, and the interior looks warm
and cheerful with its row of bright-burning moderator lamps, and, in
this respect, contrasts strongly and pleasantly, as far as we are
concerned, with the dimly-lighted station, through which the cold night
air is rushing. The reader who is following us in this description must
abstain from imagining anything like luxury in the internal fittings.
Everything here is requisite for accomplishing the work in hand, but
there is no provision for any kind of indulgence; and spacious as the
place seems at a first glance, there is not to be found, when we come to
look narrowly, a single foot of spare room. Along the whole length of
one side of the carriage, and encroaching materially upon its width, a
number of tiers of boxes--the "holes" of our ancient authority--are
arranged for the sorting processes; the smaller ones for the letters,
and the larger ones in the centre of the office--more like shelves, many
of them being movable--for the newspapers and all that vast variety of
articles forwarded according to the rules of book-post. Every available
inch of space on the other side of the office is covered with upright
pegs, in recesses sunk in the carriage-sides, upon which are hung the
bags--now made of canvas, with the names of towns conspicuously painted
upon them--to be used in the course of the journey. These recesses, as
well as the two ends of the office, are well padded over, to secure
additional safety to the officers in the event of any accident.[157]
Under the desks or counters, which run from one end of the carriage to
the other, bags are packed, to be given out as the train arrives at the
respective stations.

In less time, however, than it would take to read the foregoing, the
mail has speeded miles away, and reached, by this time, the fox-covers
and game-preserves of those Hertfordshire landowners who, when the
railway was projected, expressed the wish that its concoctors "were at
rest in Paradise!" The train possibly "thundered" through Camden Town as
it used to do in olden times, but it would be but a momentary sensation,
not to speak of the inhabitants being now quite accustomed to it. The
post-office work commenced when the train left the station. The bags
were quickly seized by the proper sorter, cut, and their contents turned
out on the desk. Then he distributes what he finds in the bags according
to a pre-arranged order. The registered letters which have found their
way to the office he at once transfers to the clerk on duty whose
special province it is to deal with them; the bundles of ordinary
letters--in one of which packets is the identical letter we ourselves
posted--he hands over to his fellow-sorters, who, each standing opposite
to a distinct set of boxes, labelled with the names of different towns
on the route, at once sort them away. The newspapers he deals with
himself. The work thus started, the scene presently becomes one of
considerable animation and a pleasant-enough sort of excitement, till
every bundle of letters is cut open and disposed of in the boxes. There
is then a lull, but it is only temporary. It is true that the train will
not stop till the county of Warwickshire is reached; but the intervening
country is provided for nevertheless--arrangements having been made that
at all the towns we pass the exchange of letter-bags shall be effected
by means of machinery whilst the train is progressing at its usual
speed. The contrivance in question deserves minute description.[158] The
machinery is not worked in the post-office, but in an adjoining van. By
means, however, of a substantial iron gangway, the two carriages are
connected, so that we can pass easily from one to the other and see the
operation itself. As we do so we are evidently nearing some town, for
the sorter is at that moment engaged in peering out of the window into
the darkness in search of some familiar object, such as bridge, river,
or cluster of trees, by means of which he is enabled to tell his
whereabouts with almost mathematical precision. Whilst he is busy
finding his position we will take the time to explain, that the
machinery is arranged so as to secure, simultaneously in most cases,
both the receipt and the despatch of bags. For the purpose of receiving
bags, a large strong net is fixed to one side of the van, to be drawn
down at the proper moment; and close to the door, on each side of it,
securely fixed to the carriage, are hollow iron bars, inside each of
which, working by means of a rope and pulley, an iron arm is fixed, upon
which the bags to be delivered, securely strapped in a thick, leathern
pouch, are suspended. Where the exchange has to be effected at the
station we are nearing, the arrangements are just the counterparts of
this. A net is spread to catch each pouch from the extended arm of the
carriage, and pouches are hung from iron standards in the ground of
sufficient height for the net in the train. The operation itself is
just commencing. The door is pushed back into the groove in which it
works, and then the sorter, touching a spring that holds up the net, it
is loosened from its supports, and projects over the carriage-sides; the
iron arm, acting on its pulley-rope, is drawn round into the carriage,
where the pouch is rapidly fastened to it by means of a catch or
spring--but in such a manner that a touch from the net-apparatus at the
station will bring it off--and then let down, remaining by virtue of its
own weight at right angles to the door. A moment of waiting, and then
all the machinery acts its assigned part properly; the pouch disappears
from the arm (or arms, if the bags have been heavy enough for two to be
used), and at the same moment another descends into the post-office net,
and all is over and quiet as before. We mean, of course, comparative
quiet, as much as is possible amid the din and endless rattle of a train
speeding at the rate of forty miles an hour.

We follow the sorter as he makes his way back into the post-office
carriage, carrying with him the treasures we have watched him pick up by
the wayside. These new arrivals disposed of in the orthodox way, and the
process repeated two or three times, there is suddenly a movement among
the officers as they busy themselves in collecting from the different
boxes all the letters that have been received from first to last for the
bags about to be despatched at the approaching town--the first junction
station. The letters in question are examined to test the correctness of
the sorting, then tied up in bundles in a sharp and decisive way, then
placed away carefully in the several bags, which are tied, sealed, and
ready for delivery just as the train is brought to a stand. Here they
are given out; fresh supplies are received from a number of large towns
in the immediate district, and the train is again on its way. The bags
received are at once opened; the same round of sorting, collecting,
examining, is gone through; the same process of despatching for the next
and all subsequent postal stages is repeated, just as we have described.
Little variation is noticed, except that at certain points a much
larger number of bags are thrown into the office--for instance, as the
train nears the more thickly populated parts of the midland counties,
then the "black country," as it is called, and subsequently the
manufacturing districts. At one of these points a considerable addition
was made to the staff of sorters, who fell at once to work in the vacant
spaces left for them. And it was not before they were required; for
presently the train arrives at one of the principal mail junctions in
the kingdom, where an immense number of bags wait our arrival. These
bags have been brought somewhat earlier on, by other mail trains,
arranged so as to effect a junction with us; these having in their turn
met with other trains running across the country in transverse
directions. Thus there are here, bags from towns near and towns remote,
containing letters for places from which we are, as yet, hundreds of
miles distant. The work, however, will be resumed with increased
activity, according to the number of letters which may be forthcoming,
only whatever number there may be, all must be finished in a given time.
So far, the reader may imagine the duty to be one of dull routine and
very monotonous; so as a rule we believe it is: there are circumstances
connected with the manner of travelling, however, which conspire to make
it at times somewhat varied and exceptional. One moment, and we are
clattering down a hill, and the sorting partakes, to some extent, of the
same tear-away speed; another time, we are panting up a line of steep
gradient, and the letters find their boxes very deliberately; now, the
rails are somewhat out of order, or the coupling of the carriages has
not been well attended to, or we are winding round a succession of sharp
curves, and can scarcely keep our feet as the carriage lurches first to
one side, then to the other; in all which cases, not only is our own
equilibrium a source of difficulty to us, but we see that things proceed
anything but smoothly among the letters, which refuse to go in at all,
or go in with a spirited evolution, fluttering outside, and then landing
at their destination upside down, or in some other way transgressing
official rules in such case made and provided. Then the work is
accompanied to the different kinds of music, well known to "express
travellers." Now the train is tearing away through a tunnel, or through
an interminably long cutting of thick-ribbed stone, and then under or
over a bridge. Nor is this all, nor the worst: these noises are very
frequently varied by what is anything but a lively tune on the engine
whistle, but which, supposing the signal lights to be against us, or
Cerberus asleep at his post, is too often a round of screeching and
screaming enough to waken the Seven Sleepers.

Whatever be the general character of the work, we are bent on enjoyment
during this particular journey. The country through which the train is
now proceeding is but thinly supplied with towns, hence the number of
letters received is much smaller, and we may avail ourselves of the
opportunity which this break in the character of the duty gives us, to
examine more closely and from our own point of view, a few of the
letters which are waiting to be despatched. The sorters also, glad of a
little relaxation, have produced from their hiding places under the blue
cloth-covered counter, an oval kind of swing-seat attached to it, which
turns outside somewhat ingeniously upon a swivel, and seat themselves at
their work.

Undoubtedly, the first thing which will strike an observer placed in
circumstances like ours, is, that the Post-Office is eminently a
democratic establishment, conducted on the most improved _fraternité et
égalité_ principles. The same sort of variety that marks society, here
marks its letters; envelopes of all shades and sizes; handwriting of all
imaginable kinds, written in all shades of ink, with every description
of pen; names the oddest, and names the most ordinary, and patronymics
to which no possible exception can be taken. Then to notice the _seals_.
Here is one envelope stamped with the escutcheoned signet of an earl;
another where the wax has yielded submissively to the initials of plain
John Brown; and yet another, plastered with cobbler's wax, with an
impression that makes no figure in _Burke_ or _Debrett_, but which,
indeed, bears many evidences of having been manufactured with hob-nails.
Then to think that Queen Victoria, and John Brown, and the cobbler
aforesaid, must each find the inevitable Queen's head, without which no
letter of high or low degree can pass unquestioned! Here they are--these
letters--mingling for a few hours at any rate in silent but common
fellowship, tossed about in company, belaboured with the self-same
knocks on the head, sent to their destination locked in loving embrace,
and sometimes, as in the case of the cobbler's, exceedingly difficult to

If we turn to consider the addresses, how amusing we find some in their
ambiguity; how blundering and stupid a few more! Some say too little,
others too much; some give the phonetic system with _malice prepense_,
others because it is nature's own rendering and they have never known
school! Sometimes (and the practice is growing) the envelope is covered
with long advertisements, for the benefit and information of the
Post-Office officials, we presume, in which case it is difficult to
arrive at the proper address of the letter at the first or even second
glance. Some give the address of the _sender_ in prominent printed
characters, and it is surely not a matter of wonder when the letter, as
not unfrequently, happens, finds its way back to the sender. In all
cases of this kind, time is of course lost to the Post-Office, and the
work of examination is necessarily deliberate, hesitating, and slow. At
one point, the quota of letters from the sister-isle is received, and it
is then perhaps that the sorter's patience is put to the severest test.
The addresses of the letters of the poorer Irish are generally so
involved--always being sent to the care of one or two individuals--that
they usually present the appearance of a little wilderness of words. As
a specimen of the kind of letter referred to, we give our readers a copy
of one which actually passed through the Post-Office some time ago,
assuring them that though the following is rather an _ultra_ specimen,
this kind of minute but indefinite address is by no means uncommon among
the class referred to:--

    |                                              |
    |    To my sister Bridget, or else to          |
    |                                              |
    |    my brother Tim Burke, in care             |
    |                                              |
    |    of the Praste, who lives in the parish    |
    |                                              |
    |    of Balcumbury in Cork, or if not to       |
    |                                              |
    |   _some dacent neighbour in Ireland_.        |
    |                                              |

The English poor oftener, as we have already seen, show their unbounded
confidence in the sagacity of the officers of the Post-Office by leaving
out some essential part of the address of a letter, but very seldom
writing too much. We once saw a letter addressed as follows:--"Mary
H----, a tall woman with two children," and giving the name of a large
town in the West of England.

The Scotch people, as a rule, attain the golden mean, and exhibit the
greatest care in such matters. Nor can we wonder at this. The poorer
classes are certainly better educated, and whilst seldom profuse on
their letters, they are cautious enough not to leave anything of
consequence unwritten. The statistics of the Dead Letter Offices of the
three countries confirm, to some considerable extent, our rough

After all, however, the cases of blunder are exceptional; and
as no really blind letters are found in the travelling offices,
because no letters are posted here, little difficulty is felt,
comparatively speaking, and nothing but patience and the Rosetta stone
of experience are needed for the performance of the duty. The great
majority of letters are like the great majority of people--ordinary,
unexceptionable, and mediocre. It could not well be otherwise. In the
railway post-office, however, much is learned from the habit of
association. The officers, of course, take some degree of interest in
the towns on his ride; for, almost domesticated on the rail, he becomes
a sort of denizen of those towns he is constantly passing, and sees, or
fancies he does, from the letters that arrive from them, a kind of
corroboration of all he has settled in his mind with regard to them.
Almost every town has its distinctive kind of letters. That town we just
passed is manufacturing, and the letters are almost entirely confined to
sober-looking advice-cards, circulars, prices current, and invoices,
generally very similar in kind and appearance, in good-sized envelopes,
with very plainly written or printed addresses. Now and then a lawyer's
letter, written in a painfully distinct hand, or a thick, fat, banker's
letter, groaning under the weight of bills and notes, escapes from
company such as we have described; but still the letters sustain the
town's real character. Now we are at an old country town, with
quiet-going people, living as their fathers did before them, and
inheriting not only their money and lands, but their most cherished
principles: their letters are just as we expected, little, quiet,
old-fashioned-looking things, remarkable for nothing so much as their
fewness. _Now_ we are among the coal-districts, and almost all the
letters have a smudged appearance, making you imagine that they must
have been written by the light of pit-candles, in some region of carbon
"two hundred fathoms down." _This_ bag comes from a sea-bathing place,
and so long as summer continues, will unmistakably remind you of
sea-shore, sea-sand, and sea-anemones. _These_ bags have previously had
to cross a broad sea ferry, and the letters tell of salt water as
certainly as if they were so many fishes. Another twenty miles, and we
come to an old cathedral town with its letters looking as orthodox as
any Convocation could wish; whilst that other town is clearly a resort
of fashion, if we may judge from the finely scented, perfumed,
elegant-looking billets that escape from its post-bag.

And thus interested and observing, we are rapidly reaching our
destination. We are at the terminus at last. The office is emptied of
all its contents, and the bags, securely made up, are forwarded under
care of other officers in different trains, proceeding far and near. Nor
have we forgotten our own letter. In the vast mass of letters it holds a
well-secured place, being safely ensconced in one of these very bags;
and we will endeavour to be present when the bag is opened, that we may
verify our assertion. Out of the carriage and once on _terra firma_, we
feel a sensation of dreamy wonder that nothing has happened to us; that,
considering the noise and the whirl, and the excitement of the work we
have witnessed, our brain is not tied up in a knot somewhere in the
head, instead of only swimming. Dusty, tired, and sleepy, we hurry
through the streets for refreshment, if not repose, while the day is
just breaking.

Of course, this Post-Office machinery, which we have attempted to
describe, is necessarily delicate and liable to derangements, inasmuch
as it has to depend to a great extent on the proper carrying out
throughout the country of an infinite number of railway arrangements.
Its successful working is doubtless primarily due to the special time
chosen for the conveyance of mails. The ordinary traffic disposed of,
the mail-trains take its place, and through the long night the best part
of the Post-Office work is accomplished. The good or bad management of
railway companies may assist or retard the efficiency of the Post-Office
to an almost incalculable extent. The railway post-office is like a
gigantic machine, one part interdependent on another, and all alike
dependent on the motive power of the different contracting parties.
Railway accidents are fruitful sources of discomfiture to the
Post-Office Department. The mail-trains have, within the last two or
three years, enjoyed an immunity from any very serious calamity of this
nature: yet even when this is not the case, it very seldom happens that
the Post-Office arrangements suffer, except on the particular journey
wherein the accident occurred. Fresh supplies of men and _matériel_ are
summoned with a speed that would, or ought to, surprise some other
commissariat departments, and the work proceeds the next day or night as
if the equilibrium had never been disturbed.

As the question whether continual railway travelling is prejudicial to
health has frequently been discussed of late, it may not be out of place
to instance the case of the travelling _employés_ of the Post-Office,
which seems to show that persons in the enjoyment of good health are
benefited by railway travelling. The ratio of sickness among the
Post-Office clerks and sorters engaged upon railways is certainly not
greater, we are told, than among the same class of officers employed at
the London establishment. The fact seems to be that, were it not that
the former travel generally at night-time, are exposed to sudden changes
of weather, and are, on certain emergencies, forced to travel oftener
and further than the authorized limits, the ratio would be considerably
less than it is. Dr. Waller Lewis, the medical officer of the
Post-Office, supplies us, in a recent report, with a number of cases
that have come under his immediate notice, where incessant, and even
excessive railway travelling, does not seem to have been at all
detrimental to the health of those so engaged. "One of our best
officers," says Dr. Lewis, "states that he has no doubt that, during the
period of twenty years that he has been engaged in railway duties, he
travelled, on an average, a hundred miles a-day, Sundays included. All
this time he not only enjoyed excellent health, but he was stouter and
stronger than he has been since leaving that duty." Dr. Lewis further
tells us, that it is part of his duty to examine candidates for
appointment in this department of the public service, and again to
examine them after they have undergone a probation varying from six to
eighteen months. "In reply to my question, addressed to such officers
after a probationary term, of how they found the travelling agree with
them, some stated that they had never been so well in their lives. A
considerable number of them replied that they had not had an hour's
illness since they commenced railway duty." Of course, these
last-mentioned persons were _candidates_ for appointments in a lucrative
branch of the Post-Office, and their statements must be received subject
to this understanding and with due caution: still, it seems certain that
the general testimony borne in the travelling offices is not
unfavourable to the healthiness of the employment.

With regard to the question of injury to the eyesight from railway
travelling, Dr. Lewis may again be supposed to speak authoritatively
when he considers "it very injurious to allow the eyes to rest on
external objects near at hand, such as telegraph-poles or wires, near
trees or hedges, &c. whilst the train is in motion;" but, speaking of
the same subject, he "does not find that in the travelling post-office
much mischief is occasioned to the sight."[159] When we remember that
the Post-Office work is generally performed by means of a strong
artificial light, and much tedious deciphering of the addresses of
letters necessarily occurs, as we have seen, during travelling, it must
be admitted that the eyesight is here put to the strongest possible

We have now traced our letter, posted in the metropolis, through the
travelling post-office into the establishment of a provincial town. We
shall follow it presently, and not leave it till it is properly
delivered at the rural village to which we saw it addressed; but we must
take the opportunities as they occur to describe with minuteness each
particular, whether bearing directly or collaterally on our subject, as
well as to add now and then a timely exhortation to the reader. Thus,
you are indignant, perhaps, that a certain letter you ought to have had
is not to hand at the proper moment, but has suffered some delay in
transit. However, just think how many letters you do get, which come to
your desk as true as the needle to the pole. Just listen to the old
gentleman yonder as he tells how long the same business letter from a
certain old-established house used to be in arriving, and what was paid
for it when it did arrive. Above all, pray think of the travelling caged
officials--those wingless birds of the Post-Office--and of what they go
through o' nights in order that you may have your letter or your
newspaper--posted yesterday in some quiet corner of the country 500 or
600 miles away--with your buttered toast to breakfast in town!


Thirty years ago the arrangements in the north country town of the
district to which our imaginary letter was addressed, and which we are
engaged to visit, were of the most primitive kind. It has always been an
important town. Even anterior to the first establishment of the British
Post-Office, it was the first town in the county in which it stands.
Subsequently, it was on the direct line of one of the principal
mail-routes in the kingdom, and now, in these days of railroads, it is a
kind of junction for the district. Postally speaking, it was, and is, a
place of importance, including within its boundaries nearly a hundred
villages, all deriving their letter-sustenance from it. At the period of
time in question the post-office was situated in the most central part
of the town, the outside of the building partaking of the ugly and
old-fashioned style of the shops of that day. It was then considered
quite sufficient for the business of the place that there should be a
small room of about twelve feet square devoted to postal purposes; that
there should be a long counter, upon which the letters might be stamped
and charged, and a small set of letter-boxes for the sorting processes.
Added, however, to the proper business of the neighbourhood, there used
to be a kind of work done here which was confined to a few towns only on
the line of mails, selected for this supplementary business on account
of their central positions. The mail-coaches, as they passed and
repassed northwards and southwards, stopped here for half an hour until
certain necessary sorting operations could be performed with a portion
of the letters. In this way our particular town held the style and
designation, and with it the _prestige_, of a "Forwarding Office."

The public required little attention, and got but little. Being prior to
the time of postage-stamps, and we may almost add of money-orders, not
to speak of savings' bank business, few applications were ever made to
the officers--consisting of a postmaster, his wife, and another
clerk--for anything but stray scraps of information relative to the
despatch of mails. The communication with the public was anything but
close, being conducted in this town--and, in fact, in all others of our
acquaintance--through a trap-door in a wooden pane in the office-window.
Near to it was a huge slit, being a passage to a basket, into which
letters and newspapers were promiscuously thrown. The principal labour
incident to the old style of postage was in regulating the amount to be
paid on the different letters. Those posted in the town for the town
itself were delivered for a penny; twopence was charged into the country
places surrounding; letters for the metropolis cost a shilling; and
Scotch letters eightpence-halfpenny at least, the odd halfpenny being
the charge as a toll for the letter crossing the Tweed. The delivery of
the letters in the town took place at any time during the day, according
to the arrival of the mails, and it was effected by a single
letter-carrier.[160] Private boxes for the principal merchants in the
town, and private bags for the country gentlemen, were almost
indispensable to those who cared for the proper despatch and security of
their correspondence. Many gentlemen who did not arrange to have private
bags (at a great yearly expense) were compelled to make frequent
journeys to the town to ascertain if any letters had arrived for them.
Some letters for places within a few miles of the town would be known to
be at the office for days and weeks unguessed at, till perhaps some one
would hear, through one of many channels, that a letter was lying at the
post-office for persons of their acquaintance, and inform them of the
fact. Letter-delivering in the rural districts was then a private
concern, and, in consequence, those letters destined for one particular
road were laid aside till a sufficient number were accumulated to make
it worth while to convey them at a charge of a penny the letter.[161]
Owing to the wretched system then in force, many country places round a
post-office were, to all intents and purposes, more remote than most
foreign countries are at this hour. One letter-carrier sufficing for the
wants of the town, we need scarcely say that the number of letters
received was exceedingly small. Not more than a hundred letters were
posted or delivered, on an average, each day, though the town was the
seat of many brisk manufactories, and was, besides, in the heart of the
colliery districts. _Now_, a single firm in the same town will cause a
greater amount of daily postal business.

Our purpose will not allow of our describing all the attendant
circumstances of the state of things existing at this early period, or
more fully than we have already done the postal arrangements of the
past. But there were the "_expresses_," which ought not to be forgotten.
Designed to supply some sudden emergency, they were of great use where
quick intelligence was urgently required. For this purpose they might be
had from the post-office people at any hour, and generally they were
procured through the night. A special mounted messenger might be
despatched, under this arrangement, with a single letter, marked "Haste!
post haste!" carrying with him a way-bill, to account for the time it
had taken him to perform the journey. The charge for expresses was at
the rate of a shilling a mile, the speed at which they travelled
averaging ten miles an hour.

Nor can we stay, much as we should like to do so, to picture the old
mail-coach--its glittering appearance, its pawing horses; or to describe
the royal-liveried guard, "grand and awful-looking in all the composure
of a felt superiority." In the old times it used to pull up at the
half-wooden inn near the post-office, and, during the half-hour allowed
for postal business, was the observed of all observers. The half-hour
was one of unusual bustle both at the office and at the inn; but, as
soon as the time was up, the passengers would take their seats (the
guard occupying a solitary one at the end of the coach), the mails were
thrown as a small addition to the load of bags at the top, and off the
cavalcade would start, to the tune, perhaps, of the "Blue Bells of
Scotland," if the mail was going northwards, or, if southwards, may be
"The Green Hills of Tyrol," from the clear silver key-bugle of his
Majesty's mail-guard.

Now, this is changed, and almost all postal arrangements prior to the
days of Sir Rowland Hill are as so many things of the past. And into
what a grand establishment the Post-Office itself is metamorphosed! The
part now dedicated to the public might be part of a first-class banking
establishment. Entering by a spacious doorway, with a lofty vestibule,
there is accommodation for a score of people to stand in the ante-room
and leisurely transact their business. Then there runs along the whole
length of the first or public room a substantial mahogany counter,
behind which the clerks stand to answer inquiries and attend to the
ordinary daily business. There is a desk for the money-order clerk, and
drawers in which postage-stamps are kept. Close by we see one or two
ranges of boxes; one for callers' letters--"_the poste restante_"--and
another for those who prefer to engage private boxes to having their
letters delivered by letter-carriers.

Outside things are changed also. The wooden pane--nay, the window
itself--has disappeared to make way for a more modern structure; and
instead of the single letterbox, there are several. Late letters are now
provided for in a separate box, and so also are newspapers. The
principal post-office work is accomplished in an interior apartment,
from which the public are studiously excluded.[162] A large table stands
in the centre of the room; a smaller one, well padded with leather,
stands near, and is used specially for letter-stamping; a number of
letter-benches--for boxes are not used much now--are arranged against
three of the four walls and in the middle of the room, on which the
letters and newspapers are sorted. Empty canvas bags of different sizes,
with tin labels attached (if the name of the town is not _painted_ on
them), books, printed papers of different kinds, bundles of string, &c.
make up the furniture of the apartment, and complete the appearance of
it immediately prior to the receipt of the early-morning mail.

Long before the ordinary workmen in our towns are summoned from their
repose, the Post-Office work in the provinces may be said to commence by
the mail-cart clattering through the now silent streets to the railway
station, there to await the arrival of the first and principal mail, and
its first daily instalment of bags. At the given time, and only (even in
the depth of winter) very occasionally late, the train emerges out of
the darkness, its two shining lamps in front, into the silent and almost
empty station. The process described in our account of the travelling
post-office is here gone through; a rapid exchange of bags is made, and
each interest goes its separate and hurried way. During the interval,
and just before the mail-cart deposits its contents at the door of the
post-office, the clerks and letter-carriers will have been roused from
their beds, and somewhat sulkily, perhaps, have found their places in
time. They look sleepy and dull, but this is excusable; the hour is a
drowsy one, and half the world is dozing. The well-known sound of the
mail-cart breaks the spell, however, and soon they are all thoroughly
alive, nay, even interested, in the duties in which they are engaged.
The bags just arrived are immediately seized by one of their number, who
hurriedly cuts their throats, and then empties the contents upon the
huge table in a great heap: somewhere in the heap our letter is
safely deposited. The bundles of letters are quickly taken to the
letter-stampers, through whose hands they must first pass. With a speed
and accuracy which rivals machinery,[163] an agile letter-stamper will
soon impress a copy of the dated stamp of the office upon the back of a
hundred letters, and this done, they are passed over to the clerks and
sorters to arrange them in the different boxes, the process being
repeated till the whole are disposed of. The newspapers and book-packets
are taken from the table without being stamped, and sorted by the
letter-carriers. As soon as the first or preliminary sorting is over,
each sorter will proceed upon distinctive duties; some will prepare the
letters for the letter-carriers, by sorting each man's letters together,
according to their different number. When this is done, the letters are
handed to the carriers, who retire to a separate room, looking with its
desks very like a small schoolroom, and there arrange them in order to
deliver them from house to house. Other officers will prepare the
letters for the sub-officers and rural messengers. When all the letters,
&c. for a certain village are gathered up, they are counted and tied up
in bundles; if any charged letters are sent, the amount is debited
against the sub-postmaster of the place on a letter-bill--something like
an invoice--which invariably accompanies every Post-Office letter-bag
despatched from one post-town to another, or from one head office to a
sub-office. If any registered letters are of the number to be sent, the
name of each addressee is carefully written on the letter-bill. Private
and locked bags for the country gentry still survive, and may be
obtained for an annual fee of two guineas. They are attended to with
some care, and are carried to their destination with the other made-up
bags. When the mails are ready, they are sent from the Post-Office in
various ways. Those for one or two country roads are sent to a local
railway station, and taken in charge by the railway guard, who drops the
bags at the different points on the line according to their address;
others are carried by mail gigs under one or more private contractors,
while the rest are taken by country-walking postmen, who make certain
journeys during the day, returning in the evening with the letters and
bags they have gathered during their travels. Of course the rural
messengers take out loose letters as well; _e. g._ those for detached
dwellings on their line of road. Our letter falls into the hands of one
of those hard-working and deserving men.[164] The village, or rather
hamlet, to which it is addressed is too small for a post-office, but a
rural postman passes through it on his daily journeyings about ten
o'clock each morning, delivering with scrupulous fidelity everything
committed to his care. Thus, posted where we saw it last night, it
passes from hand to hand all through the long night, and eventually
reaches that hand for which it was intended 300 odd miles away, nearly
as surely as if we had travelled to deliver it ourselves.

But to return. While some of the officers are attending in this way to
the wants of the country, others are serving the interests of the town.
A hundred or two gentlemen, bankers and manufacturers, pay an extra
guinea yearly in order to secure certain special privileges at the
Post-Office. These privileges consist, in brief, of having their letters
arranged in private boxes, each labelled with their names, and delivered
from these boxes by one of the clerks as soon as the office is opened,
or the moment the letter-carriers emerge from it to enter upon any of
the daily deliveries of letters. Of course these letters must be
prepared previously.

The office is open to the public for money-orders and for the
transaction of the business of the new savings' banks at nine o'clock,
and continues open on every day, except Saturdays, until six, on which
day two hours longer are allowed. It is not necessary to describe the
arrangements in these branches, seeing that the public are familiar from
daily experience with them. It will suffice to say that separate clerks
are usually delegated to these duties in our large towns, and are
answerable to the postmaster for the correctness of their accounts. The
same clerk attends to the sale of postage-stamps, keeping an account
with the postmaster of the quantity _sold_, and also of the stamps
_bought_ from the public under the recent arrangement. In larger towns
where one clerk is specially retained for these duties, he is known as
the "window clerk," as it devolves upon him to answer all applications
and inquiries.

Throughout the day, the quietness of the post-office proper is broken in
upon and varied by the arrival of some small mail. On one of these
occasions, namely, on the receipt of the day-mail from London, the
operations of the morning are gone over again on a small scale, and for
a short time the office presents an appearance of some of its early
bustle. Letters are delivered in the town, but those arriving for the
country places remain at the office till the next morning.

The work of the Post-Office commences before "grey dawn," and long
before the usual period of ordinary business in our towns; it lasts also
far into the "dewy eve." When merchants lock up their desks and offices,
and complete their last round of duties by posting their letters, the
serious work of the Post-Office, for the second time during the day, may
be said to begin. The hour before the despatch of the principal mail in
any provincial Post-Office, thanks in great part to the dilatoriness of
the public in general, is an hour of busy activity, seldom witnessed in
any other branch of industry whatever. Almost at the same moment the
country mail-gigs from their different rides, mail-carts from the local
railway stations, the rural postmen from their walks, and the
receiving-house keepers from the outskirts of the town, approach the
post-office door, and speedily cause the office to groan as it were
under the weight of letters and bags. All the force of the office is now
engaged, and engaged with a will, if the bags are to be ready for the
London night-mail due from Scotland at the railway station in sixty
minutes. Again, the same round of bag-opening, checking, stamping (only
now the stamps must be obliterated, as the letters are about to be
despatched for the first time), and sorting, which we described in the
morning, is again repeated. The sorted letters are examined, tied up in
bundles of sixty or seventy each, and then despatched in the bags
received at the beginning of the day from the London mail. The bags are
tied, sealed, and hurried away to the station. Now, at length, the
postmaster and his staff breathe freely. For a full hour they have been
engaged as busily, yet as silently, as so many bees in a hive; but now
that the work is finished, the thoughts of rogues, lovers, bankers,
lawyers, clergymen, and shopkeepers; the loves and griefs, the weal and
woes, of the town and country lie side by side, and for a few hours at
least will enjoy the most complete and secret companionship. Every
working day, and to some extent on Sunday, the same routine of work is
prescribed and accomplished with little variation.

In all this consists the _prose_ of Post-Office life; but who shall
describe its _poetry_? Scarcely a day passes in any of our provincial
post-offices without some incident occurring calculated to surprise,
amuse, or sadden. Very probably within a few minutes one person will
have come to make a complaint that a certain letter or letters ought to
have arrived, and must have been kept back; another will make an equally
unreasonable request, or propound some strange inquiry which the poor
post-office clerk is supposed to be omniscient enough to answer. Most
often, however, the cases of inquiry disclose sorrowful facts, and all
the consolation which can be offered--supposing that the clerk has any
of "the milk of human kindness" in him, a quality of mind or heart, much
too rare, we confess, in the Post-Office service--will likely be the
consolation of hope. The official sees now and then brief snatches of
romance; perhaps the beginning or the end, though seldom the transaction
throughout. Amusing circumstances are often brought out by requests
tendered at the Post-Office, that letters which have been posted may be
returned to the writers. A formal, but most essential rule, makes
letters once posted the property of the Postmaster-General until they
are delivered as addressed, and must not be given up to the _writers_ on
any pretence whatever. One or two requests of this kind related to us we
are not likely soon to forget. On one occasion, a gentlemanly-looking
commercial traveller called at an office and expressed a fear that he
had inclosed two letters in wrong envelopes, the addresses of which he
furnished. It appeared from the account which he reluctantly gave, after
a refusal to grant his request, that his position and prospects depended
upon his getting his letters, and correcting the mistakes, inasmuch as
they revealed plans which he had adopted to serve two mercantile houses
in the same line of business, whose interests clashed at every point. He
failed to get his letters, but we hope he has retrieved himself, and is
now serving one master faithfully.

Another case occurred in which a fast young gentleman confessed to
carrying on a confidential correspondence with two young ladies at the
same time, and that he had, or feared he had, crossed two letters which
he had written at the same sitting. We heartily hope a full exposure
followed. Writing of this, we are reminded of a case where a country
postmaster had a letter put into his hand through the office window,
together with the following message delivered with great emphasis:
"Here's a letter; she wants it to go along as fast as it can, cause
there's a feller wants to have her here, and she's courted by another
feller that's not here, and she wants to know whether he is going to
have her or not." If the letter was as explicit as the verbal message
to which the postmaster involuntarily lent his ear, no doubt the writer
would not be long in suspense. These cases, however, are uninteresting
compared to one related by another postmaster. A tradesman's daughter
who had been for some time engaged to a prosperous young draper in a
neighbouring town, heard from one whom she and her parents considered a
creditable authority, that he was on the verge of bankruptcy. "Not a day
was to be lost in breaking the bond by which she and her small fortune
were linked to penury." A letter, strong and conclusive in its language,
was at once written and posted, when the same informant called upon the
young lady's friends to contradict and explain his previous statement,
which had arisen out of some misunderstanding. "They rushed at once to
the Post-Office, and no words can describe the scene; the reiterated
appeals, the tears, the wringing of hands, the united entreaties of
father, mother, and daughter for the restoration of the fatal letter."
But the rule admitted of no exception, and the young lady had to repent
at leisure of her inordinate haste.

We have only space to close with a graphic extract from the
reminiscences of a post-office official, in which the everyday life of a
country post-office is admirably described: "For the poor we were often
persuaded both to read and write their letters; and the Irish
especially, with whom penmanship was a rare accomplishment, seldom
failed to succeed in their eloquent petitions; though no one can realize
the difficulty of writing from a Paddy's dictation, where 'the pratees,
and the pig, and the praiste, God bless him!' become involved in one
long, perplexed sentence, without any period from beginning to end of
the letter. One such epistle, the main topic of which was an extravagant
lamentation over the death of a wife, rose to the pathetic climax, 'and
now I'm obleeged to wash meself, and bake meself!'" The officers of the
Dead-Letter Office could a tale unfold, one would think, only an
essential rule of the service binds them to honourable secresy. The
Post-Office official often, however, and in spite of himself, learns
more than he cares to know. "For," as the writer continues, "a great
deal can be known from the outside of a letter, where there is no
disposition to pry into the enclosure. Who would not be almost satisfied
with knowing all the correspondence coming to or leaving the hands of
the object of his interest? From our long training among the letters of
our district, we knew the handwriting of most persons so intimately,
that no attempt at disguise, however cunningly executed, could succeed
with us. We noticed the ominous lawyers' letters addressed to tradesmen
whose circumstances were growing embarrassed; and we saw the carefully
ill-written direction to the street in Liverpool and London, where some
poor fugitive debtor was in hiding. The evangelical curate, who wrote in
a disguised hand and under an assumed name to the fascinating public
singer, did not deceive us; the young man who posted a circular
love-letter to three or four girls the same night, never escaped our
notice; the wary maiden, prudently keeping two strings to her bow,
unconsciously depended upon our good faith. The public never know how
much they owe to official secresy and official honour, and how rarely
this confidence is betrayed. Petty tricks and artifices, small
dishonesties, histories of tyranny and suffering, exaggerations and
disappointments were thrust upon our notice. As if we were the official
confidants of the neighbourhood, we were acquainted with the leading
events in the lives of most of the inhabitants."

Once more, "Never, surely, has any one a better chance of seeing himself
as others see him than a country postmaster. Letters of complaint very
securely enveloped and sealed passed through our hands, addressed to the
Postmaster-General, and then came back to us for our own perusal and
explanation. One of our neighbours informed the Postmaster-General, in
confidence, that we were 'ignorant and stupid.' A clergyman wrote a
pathetic remonstrance, stating that he was so often disappointed of his
_Morning Star and Dial_, that he had come to the conclusion that we
disapproved of that paper for the clergy,[165] and, from scruples of
conscience, or political motives, prevented it--one of 400 passing daily
through our office--from reaching his hands whenever there was anything
we considered objectionable in it."



Our home and foreign mail-packet service is a costly and gigantic branch
of the Post-Office establishment. During the greater part of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the service was under the control
of the Post-Office authorities. We have already given many details of
the packet management of the period. It was then transferred to the
Board of Admiralty, in whose hands it continued up to so late as 1860.
Even at the commencement of the present century, the service seems to
have been carried on regardless of economy, and not without traces of
that wastefulness--we might almost say corruption--in the management,
which, a hundred years previously, would not have been regarded as very
remarkable. The arrangements eighty years ago, were none of the best. At
this period some of the vessels employed to convey mails were hired,
without any tender, while some few were the property of the Crown. In
1788, the state of the marine mail service attracted parliamentary
attention; for in that year we find a Committee of Fees and Gratuities
reporting that the cost of the mail service had reached an unreasonable
sum. They stated that for eighteen years that cost had been over a
million sterling, or an average charge of 60,000_l._ annually. With
regard to the manner in which the work was done, they found that many
officers of the Post-Office, "even down to the chamber keepers," were
owners of some of the packets employed to the exclusion of all else.
This Committee, with a view to remedying these and other abuses,
recommended that the Government should change the system entirely--the
Government share of the packets to be sold, and the entire service
offered by public and competitive tender. That this advice was not acted
upon, is clear from the fact that four years afterwards, the Finance
Committee urged upon the Government the necessity of complying with the
recommendations of 1788. In 1810, the cost of the service had increased
to 105,000_l._; in 1814 to 160,000_l._[166]

Steam vessels had been in successful operation for three years before
they were introduced into the mail service. In 1818, the _Rob Roy_
steam-packet plied regularly between Greenock and Belfast; in 1821, the
year in which Crown packets were established, the Post-Office, or rather
the Admiralty on behalf of the Post-Office, asked the help of steam. The
Holyhead station for Ireland, and the Dover station for the Continent,
were chosen for the experiment of mail-steamers. They were successful;
and soon we find six steam-packets stationed at each place. Then we have
the gradual introduction of mail contracts. The first of these
commercial contracts was made in 1833, with the Mona Island Steam
Company, to run steamers twice a week between Liverpool and Douglas, in
the Isle of Man. Immediately after, the General Steam Navigation Company
contracted to carry the Rotterdam and Hamburgh mails for 17,000_l._
a-year. In 1853 these mails were transferred to the Ostend route. The
year 1839 was quite an epoch in the history of the packet service; Mr.
Samuel Cunard of Halifax, Nova Scotia, having in that year contracted
with the British Government for a fortnightly mail across the Atlantic,
for the sum of 60,000_l._ a-year. The Cunard line of steamers is now
universally known, and is unrivalled.

Little more than a hundred years ago, 50,000_l._ sufficed to pay for
the entire mail service of the period; about half that sum being the
extent of the charges properly appertaining to the Post-Office. Then,
only a few continental mails and an occasional packet to the colonies of
North America and the West Indies, were all that had to be sustained;
even those were kept up at a considerable loss.[167] At that time the
aboriginal inhabitants of Australia and New Zealand were in undisputed
possession of these enormous colonies; the Dutch were then the only
targets for the arrows of the Caffres in South Africa; Warren Hastings
and Lord Clive were children at Daylesford and Market Drayton, and
little dreamt of their subsequent career in the East; while the tide of
emigration which has since carried Anglo-Saxon blood and Anglo-Saxon
energy into every corner of the globe had not then, to any extent, set
in. That a hundred years of unequalled internal progress has developed
our great empire and called into life fresh and important agencies, what
reflecting mind can doubt? For many recent years the packet service of
the country, traversing every known sea to keep up a connexion with
those whom the exigencies of life and commerce have dispersed so widely,
has cost the nation something like a million sterling per annum!

In accordance with the provisions of an Act passed in the session of
1859-1860, the general control of the British packet service was
transferred (on the 1st of April, 1860) to the Post-Office authorities,
from whom it ought never to have been taken. It was considered that the
Postmaster-General, under the Treasury, was the best judge of the
requirements of the service, and could best set about reducing the
enormous expenditure arising from contracts, which the Lords of the
Admiralty, generally from political motives, had entered into. That this
judgment was the correct one, three years have amply sufficed to prove.
Contracts have been thrown open to public competition; and although many
of the companies which had previously done certain services re-secured
them, it was found that they had to engage to do the work at a much
lower figure--in one or two cases, in fact, for half the amount they had
been wont to receive. All the packet contracts, as they fall vacant, are
advertised fully by the Post-Office authorities, and in sufficient time.
Printed forms are issued, and intending contractors are required to fill
them up, every arrangement being made to secure the efficiency of the
work. Nearly all the contracts are now made terminable on twelve months'
notice being given by the Postmaster-General.

Another change which the Post-Office authorities have made is a radical
but a necessary one, and bids fair to make the mail-packet service, at
no distant date, self-supporting, so far as the mother-country is
concerned. Under the new principle already applied to India and
Australia, the British colonies are required to pay _half the cost_ of
their respective services, the English Government paying the remainder.
The result in some instances has been an increase in postage rates, but
we hope this will not long be considered necessary.

According to the Postmaster-General's _Ninth Report_--from which much of
the information concerning the present state of the mail service is
taken--we find that the total number of steam-ships employed in the
mail-packet service, exclusive of tenders, &c., is no less than
ninety-six, with an aggregate of 140,000 tons, and of 36,000
horse-power. The largest and most powerful mail-packet in the service is
the Cunard paddle-wheel steam-ship _Scotia_, of 3,871 tons burden, and
1,000 horse-power. It belongs to the contractors for the North American
service, Messrs. Cunard, Burns, and Maciver. The smallest packet,
according to the same authority, was stated to be the _Vivid_, of 300
tons, and 128 horse-power, the property of Mr. Churchward. It is more
than probable, however, that this packet is not now in the service, as
Mr. Churchward's contracts have subsequently been given to the Belgian

The mail-packet contracts are divided into those of the Home and those
of the Foreign services. The most important home service is that for
carrying the Irish mails, entered into by the City of Dublin
Steam-packet Company. They are required to keep four powerful
steam-vessels to ply twice a-day between Holyhead and Kingstown, for a
yearly payment of 85,900_l._ This contract lasts until 1865. The least
important contract in the home service, if we may judge by the terms
imposed, is that for the daily conveyance of mails between Greenock and
Belfast, entered into by Mr. Burns of Glasgow. Mr. Burns undertakes to
perform this service in all weathers, _free of expense_, and to pay an
annual sum of 100_l._ as penalty for general improper performance of the

The home contracts dwindle into insignificance before those of the
foreign service. The foreign packets travel over the immense distance of
3,000,000 of statute miles each year. As the cost of the whole service
is nearly a million pounds annually, the average charge per mile is
6_s._ 4_d._ The average speed of the foreign packets is ten miles an
hour. The principal contracts are those for the Indian and Chinese
mails, entered into by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam-navigation
Company, and for which the sum of 253,000_l._ is paid yearly. In this
service, packets sail four times a month from Southampton, and other
mails are met at Marseilles at the like intervals. A fleet of steamers,
of not less than 1,100 tons, are engaged for a system of relays
established in the Mediterranean, and also between Suez and Bombay, Suez
and Calcutta, and Bombay and China. The Australian mails are carried out
to Ceylon in the Indian packets, when, on arrival at that point, another
fleet of steamers, engaged from the same company on a supplementary
contract of 134,672_l._ a-year, carry them between Point de Galle and
Sydney. An additional line of packets to the Antipodes, _viâ_ Panama,
will be run in January, 1865. The West Indian are the worst paying of
all the foreign mails, costing twice as much as they yield.[168] The
Royal Mail Steam-packet Company is paid the enormous sum of 270,000_l._
a-year for their conveyance. The North American mails are carried by
Messrs. Cunard & Co. for the sum of 176,340_l._ a-year. Eight
steam-vessels are employed by this firm, leaving Liverpool once a-week,
and travelling also between New York and Nassau once a-month. Sir Samuel
Cunard himself contracts for the Canadian mails, receiving the yearly
sum of 14,700_l._ These supplementary packets sail from Halifax, on the
arrival of the Cunard steamers from Europe, to Bermuda and St. Thomas,
and also to Newfoundland. The Canadian contract costs less than any
other on the foreign service.

The most distant point to which English mails are conveyed by the
British packet service is Auckland, New Zealand, about 15,000 statute
miles from Southampton. This service is rendered by the Intercolonial
Royal Mail-packet Company, with a fleet of four strong steamers, for
22,000_l._ annually. Of course, this company only performs the journeys
between Sydney in New South Wales and Auckland in New Zealand. The
nearest point from England is Calais, twenty-six miles from Dover.

Notwithstanding the extraordinary length of some of the journeys of the
different mail packets, the Postmaster-General informs us that, except
in case of accident, the packets, even when late, arrive within a few
hours of their time, sometimes within a few minutes. As examples of
remarkable punctuality, which is now the rule, and not the exception, he
gives several instances, from which we select the following:--"The mails
for the West Indies and Central America, despatched from Southampton on
the 17th of September, were delivered at the Danish island of St.
Thomas, distant more than 4,000 miles, at the precise moment at which
they were due. On the same voyage, the mails for Jamaica and Demerara,
conveyed in each case by a separate branch-packet, were delivered within
a few minutes of the time at which they were due; the mails for parts of
Central America and for the Pacific were delivered at Colon, on the
eastern coast of the Isthmus of Panama, distant 5,400 miles, thirty
minutes after time, the packet having been detained at sea that precise
period by H.M.S. _Orlando_; while the mails for Chili, after having been
conveyed with others across the Isthmus of Panama, were delivered at
Valparaiso, distant nearly 9,000 miles from Southampton, two hours
before the appointed time."

The mail packets employ a force, including officers, of more than 8,000
men. In addition to these, there is a staff of thirty-three naval
officers--all officers of the royal navy, though maintained by the
Post-Office--employed upon such packets as those for the Cape and the
west coast of Africa, and charged with the care and correct delivery of
the mails. They are further required to do all they can to guard
against delay on the voyage, and to report on nautical questions
affecting in any way the proper efficiency of the service. Other
officers, besides, are fixed at different foreign stations to direct the
transfers of mails from packet to packet, or from packets to other modes
of conveyance. Then, again, in growing numbers, another class of
officers travel in charge of mails, such as the Indian and Australian,
and on all the North American packets, who, with a number of sorters,
are employed in sorting the mails _during the voyage_, in order to save
time and labour in the despatch and receipt of mails at London and
Liverpool respectively. There are now twenty-eight of this new class of
working mail officers, who, of course, are substituted for the old class
of naval agents. On the less important mail packets no naval officer is
specially appointed, but the mails are taken in charge by the commander.

In past years few casualties, comparatively, have occurred in this
service. The loss of the mail packet _Violet_, on her journey between
Ostend and Dover, in 1856, will be remembered by many. One incident in
that melancholy shipwreck deserves mention here, affording a gleam of
rich sunshine amid a page of dry though not unimportant matter. Mr.
Mortleman, the mail officer in charge of the bags, on seeing that there
was no chance for the packet, must have gone down into the hold and have
removed all the cases containing the mail bags from that part of the
vessel; and further, placed them so that when the ship and all in it
went down, they might float--a proceeding which ultimately led to the
recovery of all the bags, except one, containing a case of despatches.
On another occasion, the mail master of a Canadian packet sacrificed his
life, when he might have escaped, by going below to secure the mails
intrusted to him. Other cases of a similar devotion to duty have, on
several occasions of exposure to imminent danger, distinguished the
conduct of these public officers, proving that some of them regard the
onerous duties of their position in a somewhat higher light than we
find obtains in the ordinary business of life.

During the last year, however, an "unprecedentedly large number of
shipwrecks"[169] are on record, no less than five valuable packets
having been totally lost. In the early part of the year, the _Karnak_,
belonging to Messrs. Cunard and Co., was wrecked in entering Nassau
harbour. Shortly after, the _Lima_ struck on a reef off Lagarto Island,
in the South Pacific Ocean, and went down. The only loss of life
occurred in the case of the _Cleopatra_, the third packet which was
lost. This last-named vessel, belonging to the African Steam-ship
Company, the contractors for the Cape service, was wrecked on Shebar
reef, near Sierra Leone, when an officer and four Kroomen were washed
from a raft and drowned in endeavouring to reach the shore. Towards the
close of 1862, the _Avon_, belonging to the contractors for the West
Indian service, was wrecked at her moorings in the harbour of Colon, New
Granada; and, lastly, the _Colombo_ (conveying the Australian mails from
Sydney) shared the same fate on Minicoy Island, 400 miles from Ceylon.
The greatest loss of correspondence was caused by the failure of the
last-mentioned packet, though, from the care of the Post-Office
authorities, and the prompt arrangements of the contractors, the loss
was not nearly so great as it might otherwise have been if the proper
appliances had not been ready to hand. The mails were rescued from their
ocean bed and brought to London, where every effort that skill could
devise was made to restore them to their original condition. They were
carefully dried, in order that the addresses of the letters and
newspapers might be deciphered. When dried it was requisite that they
should be handled most carefully to prevent them crumbling to pieces--so
much so, in fact, that many were unfit to travel out of London without
being tied up carefully, gummed, and placed in new envelopes, and
re-addressed, providing that the old address could by any means be read
or obtained. Notwithstanding all the care and attention bestowed, a
great number of letters remained, in the words of the Post-Office
people, "in a hopeless state of pulp." An Australian _carte de visite_,
which arrived with the rescued mails from the _Colombo_, and now before
us, may have been a gem of art from one of the antipodean "temples of
the sun," but we have not now the means of judging, as a yellow bit of
paper, with an indistinct outline upon it, is all that remains.


[166] At this period the packets were worked at a considerable loss;
though this large item was occasioned by the war, yet the sea-postage
never amounted to half the cost of the maintenance of the mail-packets.

[167] In the American Colonies, Benjamin Franklin was the last and by
far the best colonial Postmaster-General. He had forty years experience
of postal work, having been appointed postmaster of Philadelphia in
1737. Mr. Pliny Miles, in his history of the Post-Office in America,
_New York Bankers' Magazine_, vol. vii. p. 360, has furnished many
interesting particulars of this period. It appears that Franklin
notified his appointment in his own newspaper as follows: "Notice is
hereby given, that the Post-Office at Philadelphia is now kept at B.
Franklin's in Market Street, and that Henry Pratt is appointed
riding-postmaster for all stages between Philadelphia and Newport,
Virginia, who sets out _about the beginning_ (!) of each month, and
returns in twenty-four days, by whom gentlemen, merchants, and others
may have their letters carefully conveyed." What follows is also
interesting. It would seem that Franklin was somewhat unceremoniously
dismissed from his post, upon which he wrote, by way of protest, that up
to the date of his appointment "the American Post-Office never had paid
anything to Britain. We (himself and assistant) were to have 600_l._
a-year between us, _if we could make that sum out of the profits of the
office_. To do this, a variety of improvements were necessary; some of
these were, inevitably, at the beginning expensive; so that in the first
four years the office became above 900_l._ in debt to us. But it soon
after began to repay us; and before I was displaced by a freak of the
Minister's we had brought it to yield three times as much clear revenue
to the Crown as the whole Post-Office of Ireland. Since that imprudent
transaction," adds Franklin, with a bit of pardonable irony, "they have
received from it--not one farthing!"

[168] The amount of sea-postage collected has never reached within late
years to more than _half_ the entire cost of the mail-packet service. In
1860, this cost was 863,000_l._ and the postage collected amounted to

[169] Postmaster-General's _Ninth Report_, p. 84.



The history of postage-stamps is somewhat remarkable. First used, as
many of our readers will remember, in May 1840, the postage stamp has
only just passed out of its years of minority, and yet at this present
moment there are more than fifteen hundred different varieties of its
species in existence, and the number is increasing every month. The
question as to who invented the postage-stamp would not be easily
settled; it appears to be the result of innumerable improvements
suggested by many different individuals. We will not enter far into the
controversy, and would only urge that the discussion as to its origin
has once more served to exemplify the truth of the saying of the wise
man, "The thing which hath been, it is that which shall be, and there is
no new thing under the sun." Post-paid envelopes were in use in France
as early as the reign of Louis XIV.[170] Pelisson states that they
originated, in 1653, with a M. de Velayer, who established, under royal
authority, a private penny post in Paris, placing boxes at the corners
of the streets for the reception of letters, which should be wrapped up
in certain envelopes. Shopkeepers in the immediate neighbourhood sold
the envelopes, some of which are still extant.[171]

In England, stamps to prepay letters were most probably suggested by the
newspaper duty-stamp, then, and for some time previously, in use. Mr.
Charles Whiting seems to have thrown out this suggestion to the
Post-Office authorities in 1830.[172] Afterwards, Mr. Charles Knight
proposed a stamped cover for the circulation of newspapers. Dr. Gray, of
the British Museum, claims the credit of having suggested that letters
should be prepaid with them, as early as 1834.[173] No steps, however,
were taken in regard to any recommendations on the subject till the
proposals for post reform; and, consequently, the credit of the
improvement has fallen, to a considerable extent, to Sir Rowland Hill.
The use of postage-stamps was scarcely part of his original scheme,
though it followed almost as a matter of course: and, indeed, this
public benefactor, crowned with so many well-won laurels, may easily
afford to dispense with the adornment of this single one.

Mr. Hill's famous pamphlet on _Post Reform_ went through three editions
rapidly. In the first edition, which was published privately, we find no
mention of the use of stamps--though prepayment of letters was always a
principal feature in his proposals--_money payments_ over the counter of
the receiving-office being all that was suggested under this head.
Immediately after the publication of the first edition, the members of
the Royal Commission on the Post-Office, which had been sitting at
intervals since 1833, called the author before them. In connexion with
the subject of the prepayment of letters, the officers of the Stamp
Office--Mr. Dickenson, the paper-maker, and several others--were also
examined, and the subject was thoroughly discussed.[174] Almost, as it
would seem, as a consequence of the proceedings before Committee, Mr.
Hill, in the second edition of his pamphlet, recommended definitely the
use of some kind of stamps or stamped envelopes as a means of
prepayment. When the Committee of the House of Commons met in 1837-8 to
investigate the merits of Mr. Hill's penny-postage scheme, they were,
of course, required to express an opinion as to the desirability or
otherwise of prepayment by means of stamps. A favourable opinion was
given on the subject, so that when the Government brought in and carried
the Penny-Postage Act, a clause for their use formed a component part of

Though it was agreed on all hands that stamps, or stamped paper of some
sort, should come into use with the advent of cheap postage, it was by
no means easy to hit upon a definite plan, or, when a number of plans
were submitted, to decide upon the particular one to be adopted. Stamped
_paper_, representing different charges, was first suggested. Folded in
a particular way, a simple revenue-stamp would then be exposed to view,
and frank the letter. Another suggestion was that a stamped _wafer_, as
it was called, should be used, and, placed on the back of a letter, seal
and frank it at the same time. The idea of stamped _envelopes_, however,
was at first by far the most popular, and it was decided that they
should be the prepaying medium. Plans and suggestions for the carrying
out of this arrangement being required at once, the Lords of the
Treasury issued a somewhat pompous proclamation, dated August 23d, 1839,
inviting "all artists, men of science, and the public in general," to
offer proposals "as to the manner in which the stamp may best be brought
into use." So important was the subject considered, that Lord
Palmerston, the then Foreign Secretary, was directed to apprise foreign
Governments of the matter, and invite suggestions from any part of the
civilized world. Three months were allowed for plans, and two prizes of
200_l._ and 100_l._ were offered for proposals on the subject, "which my
Lords may think most deserving of attention." The palm was carried off
by the late Mr. Mulready, Royal Academician, who designed the envelopes
now known by his name. These envelopes, which allegorically celebrated
the triumphs of the post in a host of emblematical figures, were of two
colours; the one for a penny being printed in black, and the other, for
the twopenny postage, in blue ink. They gave little satisfaction,
however, and at the end of six months were withdrawn from use. There was
little room left on the envelope for the address. They left to the
common and vulgar gaze, as Miss Martineau, we think, has pointed out,
emotions of the mind which had always best be kept in the background,
and instead "of spreading a taste for high art," which had been hoped,
they brought it into considerable ridicule.[175]

Before the postage-envelope was finally withdrawn from use, the Treasury
issued another prospectus, offering a reward of 500_l._ for the best
design and plan for a simple postage-_label_. It was made a condition
that it should be simple, handy, and easily placed on paper, and of a
design which would make forgery difficult, if not impossible. About
1,000 designs were sent in, but not one was chosen. Eventually, the ugly
black stamp, said to be the joint production of some of the officers of
the Stamp- and Post-Offices, was decided upon and brought into use. Two
years afterwards, this black stamp was changed to brown, principally
with a view to make the obliterating process more perfect, and the
better to detect the dishonesty of using old stamps. For the same
reasons, the colour was again changed in a short time to red, and so it
has remained to the present time. The twopenny stamp has been from the
first blue. Up to this date, at different intervals, six other stamps
have been issued, as the necessities of the inland or foreign postage
required them. The tenpenny stamp, of an octagonal shape and brown
colour, is now scarcely ever used, if it be not even withdrawn from
circulation. The list comprises, besides the stamps we have mentioned,
the sixpenny (lilac), the shilling (green), the fourpenny (vermilion),
the threepenny (rose), and the ninepenny (yellow). The last two were
issued only two or three years ago. The whole of the English labels bear
the impression of the head of Queen Victoria, and are all of the same
size and shape (if we except the tenpenny stamp), the sole difference
being in the colour, and in the various borderings round the Queen's
portraits. Besides these distinguishing marks, however, they all tell
the tale of their own value.[176]

Soon after the introduction of postage-stamps, stamped envelopes were
again proposed. This time the proposition was a very simple one, only
consisting of the usual kind of stamp embossed on the right-hand corner
of a common envelope; the shape to be oval, round, or octagonal,
according to the value of the envelope. For the envelopes themselves, a
peculiar kind of paper was prepared by Mr. Dickenson, and was considered
on all hands to be the best possible preventive of forgery. This paper,
which was manufactured with lines of thread or silk stretched through
its substance, has been used ever since. Russia, in adopting the stamped
envelope, guards against forgery by means of a large water-mark of a
spread eagle running over the envelope.

The English Stamp-Office affords every facility in the matter of stamped
paper and envelopes, and private individuals may indulge their tastes to
almost any extent. The officers of Inland Revenue, Somerset House, will
place an embossed stamp on any paper or envelope taken to them, equal to
the value of any of those above mentioned, or to a combination of any of
them, under the following regulations:--

    1st. When the stamps required do not amount to 10_l._ worth one
    shilling is charged, in addition to the postage stamps, for each
    distinct size of paper.

    2d. When the stamps amount to 10_l._ worth no fee is charged if one
    size of paper only be sent.

    3d. When the stamps amount to 20_l._ worth, no fee is charged, and
    two sizes of paper are allowed; 30_l._ three sizes are allowed;
    40_l._ four sizes.

    4th. No _folded_ paper can be stamped; and therefore paper, whether
    intended for envelopes or letters, must be sent unfolded and without
    being creased.

    5th. Every distinct size and form of envelope or paper must be
    marked so as to indicate the plan on which the stamp is to be
    impressed, in order that, when the envelope or letter is folded and
    made up, the stamp may appear in the proper position according to
    the rules of the Post-Office.

    6th. No coloured paper can be received for stamping, nor any paper
    which is too thin to bear the impression of the dies.

    7th. Envelopes provided by the office, with the proper stamps
    thereon, will be substituted for any which may be spoiled in the
    operation of stamping.

A recent concession made by the Board of Inland Revenue may be regarded
as one of the latest novelties in the advertising world. Under the
arrangement in question, the Stamp-Office permits embossed rings with
the name of a particular firm, _e. g._ "Allsop & Co., Burton-on-Trent,"
"De la Rue & Co.," to be placed round the stamp as a border to it.

In 1844, after the _exposé_ of the letter-opening practices at the
General Post-Office, Mr. Leech gave in _Punch_ his "Anti-Graham
Envelopes," and his satirical postage envelope, afterwards engraved by
Mr. W. J. Linton, and widely circulated, represents Sir James Graham
sitting as "Britannia." About the same time there might have been seen
in the windows of booksellers of the less respectable class, a kind of
padlock envelope, exhibiting the motto, "Not to be Grahamed."

For eight long years, the English people may be said to have enjoyed a
complete monopoly in postage-stamps. Towards the close of 1848, they
were introduced into France, and subsequently into every civilized
nation in the world. Last year they even penetrated into the Ottoman
Empire, and strange as it appears, when viewed in the light of
Mohammedan usage, the Sultan has been prevailed upon to allow his
portrait to appear on the new issues of Turkish stamps.

In pursuance of a recommendation of a select committee of the House of
Commons which sat in 1852, a perforating machine was purchased from Mr.
Henry Archer, the inventor, for the sum of four thousand pounds.[177]
The same committee could not decide, they said, on the "conflicting
evidence" whether copper-plate engraving or surface printing would best
secure the stamps against forgery, but they considered that the accurate
perforation of the sheets would be a valuable preventive against
forgery, "inasmuch as it would be exceedingly difficult to counterfeit
sheets, and sheets badly done would at once excite suspicion when
offered for sale." The invention of the perforating machine is said to
have been attended with considerable labour, as, undoubtedly, it was by
skill and ingenuity. To the Post-Office and the public the patent was
sufficiently cheap. For a number of years the stamps had to be separated
from each other by knives or scissors; now one stamp may be torn from
the other with ease and safety. The process of puncturing the narrow
spaces round each stamp--an undertaking not so easy as it seems--is the
last the sheet of stamps undergoes before it is ready for sale.

With regard to the other processes, little is known out of the
Stamp-Office, beyond what may be gathered from a close inspection of the
postage-stamps themselves. For obvious reasons, it has never been
thought desirable to publish any account of the manufacture of stamps.
We may simply say that all English postage-labels are manufactured at
Somerset House, and the entire establishment, which is distinct from the
other branches of the Inland Revenue Department, is managed at the
annual expense of thirty thousand pounds.[178] Of this sum, nineteen
thousand pounds is the estimated cost for the present year, 1863-1864,
of paper for labels and envelopes, and for printing, gumming, and
folding. About five thousands pounds will be necessary to pay the
salaries of the various officers, including five hundred pounds to the
supervisor, and one hundred pounds to the superintendent of the
perforating process. Mr. Edwin Hill, a brother of Sir Rowland Hill, is
at the head of the department. A large number of boys are employed at
the machines, under the superintendence of three or four intelligent
superintendents. The paper used for the stamps is of a peculiar make,
each sheet having a water-mark of two hundred and forty crowns; the
blocks used are of first-rate quality, and only subjected to a certain
number of impressions. The blocks are inked with rollers as in
letter-press printing. Of course, the stamps are printed in sheets,
though each one is struck with the same die or punch. After the
printing, and before the sheets are perforated, they are covered on the
back with a gelatine matter to render the label adhesive.

Great precaution is taken in the printing of the stamps to provide
against forgery. All the lines and marks, as well as the initial
letters in the corner, are arranged so as to make the whole affair
inimitable. The best preservative, however, in our opinion, against a
spurious article, is the arrangement under which stamps are sold. Only
obtainable in any large quantity from the Stamp or Post-Offices, any
attempt on the part of the forger to put a base article into circulation
is encumbered with difficulties. Stamps, while they do duty for coin,
are used almost exclusively for small transactions, and generally among
people well known to each other. Other precautions are nevertheless very
necessary; and besides the initial letters on each stamp--different in
every one of the two hundred and forty in the sheet--which are
regarded as so many checks on the forger, this pest to society
would have to engrave his own die, and cast his own blocks, and find a
drilling-machine, perhaps the most difficult undertaking of all. The
paper, besides, would be a considerable obstacle, and not less so the
ink, for that used in this manufacture differs from ordinary printer's
ink, not merely in colour, but in being soluble in water.

When postage-stamps were first introduced in England, it was little
thought that they would become a medium of exchange, and far less that
they would excite such a _furore_ among stamp collectors. The same stamp
may do duty in a number of various ways before it serves its normal
purpose. It may have proceeded through the post a dozen times imbedded
within the folds of a letter, before it becomes affixed to one, and gets
its career ended by an ugly knock on the face--for its countenance once
disfigured, it has run its course. Besides their being so handy in
paying a trifling debt or going on a merciful errand, the advertising
columns of any newspaper will shew the reader many of the thousand and
one ways in which he may turn his spare postage-stamps to account. You
may suddenly fall upon a promise of an easy competence for the
insignificant acknowledgment of half-a-crown's worth of this article.
Friends to humanity assure you a prompt remittance of thirteen Queen's
heads will secure you perfect exemption from all the ills that flesh is
heir to. For the same quantity another who does the prophetic strain,
will tell you which horse will win the Derby, "as surely as if you stood
at the winning-post on the very day." "Stable Boy," promises all
subscribers of twelve stamps that if they "do not win on this event, he
will never put his name in print again." Of course all this is quackery,
or worse; still the reader need not be told how in innumerable _bonâ
fide_ cases the system of postage-stamp remittances is exceedingly handy
for both buyer and vendor, and how trade--retail at any rate--is
fostered by it. As a social arrangement, for the poorer classes
especially, we could not well over-estimate its usefulness. Again we see
a good result of the penny-post scheme. Since 1840, not only has the use
of postage-stamps in this way never been discouraged (as it was always
thought that fewer coin letters would be sent in consequence), but the
Post-Office authorities have recently made provision for taking them
from the public, when not soiled or not presented in single stamps. This
arrangement is already in force at the principal post-offices, and will
ultimately extend to all. In America, as will be familiar to most
readers, postage-stamps have formed the principal currency of small
value almost since the breaking out of the present fratricidal war. More
recently, the United States Government has issued the stamps without
gum, as it was found inconvenient to pass them frequently from hand to
hand, after they had undergone the gelatinizing process. Under an Act,
"Postage Currency, July 17th, 1862," the Federal authorities have issued
stamps printed on larger sized paper, with directions for their use
under the peculiar circumstances.

The obliteration of postage-labels in their passage through the post,
requires a passing notice. Different countries obliterate their stamps
variously and with different objects. In France they obliterate with a
hand-stamp having acute prominences in it, which, when thrown on the
stamp, not only disfigures, but perforates it with numerous dots placed
closely together. In Holland, the word "_Franco_" is imprinted in large
letters. Some countries, _e. g._ Italy, Austria, and Prussia, mark on
the label itself, the name of the despatching town, together with the
date of despatch. In England, the purpose of the defacement marks is
_primarily_ to prevent the stamp being used again. It also serves to
show--inasmuch as the obliterating stamp of every British Post-Office is
consecutively numbered--where the letter was posted, in the event of the
other dated stamp being imperfectly impressed. For this purpose the
British Postal Guide gives a list of the post-towns and the official
number of each. The mark of St. Martin's-le-Grand is a changeable figure
in a circle, according to the time of day during which the letter has
been posted and struck; for the London district offices, we have the
initials of the district, and the number of the office given in an oval.
The figures in England are surrounded by lines forming a circle; in
Scotland by three lines at the top and three at the bottom of them; in
Ireland the lines surround the figures of the particular office in a
diamond shape.

It only remains to refer for a moment to the _timbromanie_, or stamp
mania. The scenes in Birchin Lane in 1862, where crowds nightly
congregated, to the exceeding annoyance and wonderment of policeman
X--where ladies and gentlemen of all ages and all ranks, from
Cabinet-ministers to crossing-sweepers, were busy, with album or
portfolio in hand, buying, selling, or exchanging, are now known to have
been the beginnings of what may almost be termed a new trade.
Postage-stamp exchanges are now common enough; one held in Lombard
Street on Saturday afternoons is largely attended. Looking the other day
in the advertisement pages of a monthly magazine, we counted no fewer
than sixty different dealers in postage-stamps there advertising their
wares. Twelve months ago, there was no regular mart in London at which
foreign stamps might be bought; now there are a dozen regular dealers in
the metropolis, who are doing a profitable trade. About a year ago, we
witnessed the establishment of a monthly organ for the trade in the
_Stamp-collector's Magazine_; at this present moment there are no less
than _ten_ such publications in existence in the United Kingdom. England
is not the only country interested in stamp-collecting. As might be
expected, the custom originated in France, and has prevailed there for a
number of years. In the gardens of the Tuileries, and also to some
extent in those of the Luxembourg, crowds still gather, principally on
Sunday afternoons, and may be seen sitting under the trees, sometimes in
a state of great excitement, as they busily sell or exchange any of
their surplus stock for some of which they may have been in search. The
gathering of a complete set of postage-stamps, and a proper arrangement
of them, is at least a harmless and innocent amusement. On this point,
however, we prefer, in conclusion, to let Dr. Gray, of the British
Museum, speak,[179] and our readers to judge for themselves. "The use
and charm of collecting any kind of object is to educate the mind and
the eye to careful observation, accurate comparison, and just reasoning
on the differences and likenesses which they present, and to interest
the collector in the design or art shown in their creation or
manufacture, and the history of the country which produces or uses the
objects collected. The postage-stamps afford good objects for all these
branches of study, as they are sufficiently different to present broad
outlines for their classification; and yet some of the variations are so
slight, that they require minute examination and comparison to prevent
them from being overlooked. The fact of obtaining stamps from so many
countries, suggests to ask what were the circumstances that induced the
adoption, the history of the countries which issue them, and the
understanding why some countries (like France) have considered it
necessary, in so few years, to make so many changes in the form or
design of the stamp used; while other countries, like Holland, have
never made the slightest change.

"The changes referred to all mark some historical event of
importance--such as the accession of a new king, a change in the form of
government, or the absorption of some smaller state into some larger
one; a change in the currency, or some other revolution. Hence, a
collection of postage-stamps may be considered, like a collection of
coins, an epitome of the history of Europe and America for the last
quarter of a century; and at the same time, as they exhibit much
variation in design and in execution as a collection of works of art on
a small scale, showing the style of art of the countries that issue
them, while the size of the collection, and the number in which they are
arranged and kept, will show the industry, taste, and neatness of the


[170] Fournier.

[171] Vide _Quarterly Review_ for October, 1839.

[172] Report of Select Committee on Postage, vol. iv. p. 391.

[173] _Hand Catalogue of Postage-Stamps_, p. 6.

[174] Dr. J. E. Gray.

[175] The Mulready envelopes are regarded as great curiosities by
stamp-collectors, and as their value rose to about fifteen shillings, a
spurious imitation found its way into the market, usually to be had at
half a crown. In 1862, stamp-dealers were shocked by the Vandalism of
the Government, who caused, it is said, many thousands of these
envelopes to be destroyed at Somerset House.

[176] Our colonies issue their own stamps, with different designs. Some
of them are emblematical; the Swan River Territory using the design of a
"Swan," and the Cape of Good Hope choosing that of "Hope" reclining; but
they are gradually adopting the English plan of a simple profile of the
sovereign. The portrait of our Queen appears on two hundred and forty
varieties of stamps. Nearly all those used in the colonies, and even
some for foreign governments, are designed, engraved, printed, and
embossed in London, and many of them are much prettier than the products
of our own Stamp-Office. The principal houses for the manufacture of
colonial stamps, are Messrs. De la Rue & Co. and Perkins, Bacon, & Co.
of Fleet Street. See also Dr. Gray's Handbook, p. 8.

[177] "An Abstract of Grants for Miscellaneous Services." Sums voted in
supply from 1835 to 1863 inclusive, moved for by Sir H. Willoughby. In
the same return we find 7,000_l._ were paid for "Foudrinier's
paper-machinery"--we presume for the manufacture of Mulready's

[178] For further information of the staff of officers, and the expenses
of the Stamp-Office, see Appendix (G).

[179] _Hand Catalogue of Postage-Stamps_, Introduction, p. 5.



The idea of Savings' Banks for the industrial classes was first started
at the commencement of the present century. They are said to owe their
origin to the Rev. Joseph Smith, of Wendover, who in 1799, circulated
proposals among his poorer parishioners to receive any of their spare
sums during the summer, and return the amounts at the Christmas
following. To the original sum, Mr. Smith proposed to add one-third of
the whole amount, as a reward for the forethought of the depositor. This
rate of interest, ruinous to the projector, proves that the transactions
must have been of small extent, and charity, a large element in the
work. The first savings' bank really answering to the name was
established at Tottenham, Middlesex, in 1804, by some benevolent people
in the place, and called the Charitable Bank. Five per cent. interest
was allowed to depositors, though for many years this rate was a great
drain on the benevolence of the founders. In 1817, these banks had
increased in England and Wales to the number of seventy-four. During
that year Acts of Parliament were passed offering every encouragement to
such institutions, and making arrangements to take all moneys deposited,
and place them in the public funds. From 1804 to 1861, the savings'
banks of the United Kingdom increased to 638.

A reference to the various deficiencies of the old banks for
savings, and the steps which led to the formation of those now under
consideration, will not be out of place here. We have said that, in the
early part of this century, successive governments offered every
inducement and facility to the savings' bank scheme. Such encouragement
was indispensable to their success. When first started, Government
granted interest to the trustees at the rate of 4½_l._ per cent. This
rate, reduced to 4_l._ as the banks became more established, now stands
at 3_l._ 5_s._ per cent. Of this sum depositors receive 3_l._ per cent.;
the difference paying the expenses of management. The encouragement
which the Legislature has given to the savings' banks of the country
since their commencement, has entailed a loss of about four and a half
millions sterling on the public exchequer. From 1817 to 1841, a loss of
nearly two millions sterling had been incurred by reason of the rate of
interest which was allowed by Government, being greater than that
yielded by the securities in which the deposits had been invested.

Savings' banks have suffered most severely from frauds in the
management, and the feeling of insecurity which these frauds have
engendered from time to time has gone far to mar their usefulness.
Government is only responsible to the trustees for the amounts actually
placed in its hands. The law, previous to 1844, gave the depositor a
remedy against the trustees in case of wilful neglect or default. In
1844, the Legislature thought right to make a most important change in
the law, by which trustees of savings' banks were released from all
liability, except _where it was voluntarily assumed_. It remains a most
significant fact, that all the great frauds with this class of banks
have occurred since that date. We have, indeed, to thank only the
influential gentlemen, who, as a rule, take upon themselves the
management of savings' banks, that such cases have been so rare as they
have.[180] The known frauds in savings' banks are calculated to have
swallowed up a quarter of a million of hard-earned money. The fraud in
the Cuffe Street bank, in Dublin, amounted to 56,000_l._; the Tralee
bank stopped payment in 1848 with liabilities to depositors to the
extent of 36,768_l._, and only 1,660_l._ of available assets; in the
same year, the Killarney savings' bank stopped with liabilities of
36,000_l._, and assets of only half that amount. About the same time,
the Rochdale bank frauds became known, and losses to the extent of
40,000_l._ were the result.

There can be no doubt that the state of the law is still most anomalous,
and that the great majority of the people of this country are under the
impression that there is Government security for each deposit in every
savings' bank. Year by year, changes have been proposed in the
Legislature for giving more security to depositors, but the body of
managers have hitherto been successful in their opposition. Whilst
legislation is thus deferred, the risks to the provident poor still
continue. In the report of a Government Commission appointed during one
of these annual discussions "on the savings of the middle and working
classes," several well-known authorities in such matters, such as Mr. J.
Stuart Mill, and Mr. Bellenden Kerr, expressed decided opinions of the
insecurity of savings'-bank deposits. Mr. J. Malcom Ludlow spoke to the
feeling of the working-classes themselves: "I should say the _great_
reason why the working-classes turn away from savings' banks, is the
feeling of insecurity so largely prevailing amongst them."

Mr. J. S. Mill, when asked for any suggestion on the subject, said: "I
think it would be very useful to provide some scheme to make the nation
responsible for all amounts deposited. Certainly the general opinion
among the depositors is, that the nation is responsible; they are not
aware that they have only the responsibility of the trustees to rely

Some change, or some new system, had long been regarded as absolutely
necessary. In 1861, the number of savings' banks on the old plan was
638; yet out of this number there were no less than fourteen counties in
the United Kingdom without a bank at all. Even in England, when the test
was applied to _towns_, all, for instance, of a size containing upwards
of 10,000 inhabitants, it was found that there were at least twenty-four
without savings'-bank accommodation of any sort. Nor was this all. Even
where savings' banks already existed, 355 were open only once a-week,
and that for a few hours; some twice a-week; but very few--only twenty,
in fact--were open for a few hours every day. When, added to all this
want of accommodation and absence of facility, we remember the
unsatisfactory state of the law concerning them, there can be no wonder
that public attention was called to the subject from time to time. So
early as 1807, Mr. Whitbread introduced a Bill into Parliament to make
the money-order office at the post-office available for collecting sums
from all parts of the country, and transmitting them to a central bank
which should be established in London. At that time, the money-order
department of the Post-Office had not arrived at the state of efficiency
to which it subsequently attained, and the Bill was withdrawn.
Other proposals shared the same fate, till, in 1860, Mr. Sykes of
Huddersfield, engaged in the savings' bank of that town, addressed Mr.
Gladstone on the deficiencies of the existing system. Through his
practical acquaintance with the old plan of working, he was able to
demonstrate that increased facilities for depositing at any time, and
almost at any place, were great desiderata amongst the poorer classes.
The same facilities were necessary for withdrawing deposits. Mr. Sykes
proposed that a bank for savings should be opened at every money-order
office in the kingdom; that each postmaster should be authorized to
receive deposits; and that all the offices should have immediate
connexion with a central bank in London. The general principle of this
scheme was at once seen to be useful and practicable, though, again, the
_mode_ of working was evidently unsatisfactory. Mr. Sykes, for
instance, proposed that all payments and withdrawals should be severally
effected by means of money-orders to be drawn for each separate
undertaking. Any one at all acquainted with the machinery of the
money-order office was aware that this would of necessity be a slow and
complex, as well as expensive plan. Mr. Sykes's idea was, that no
deposit should be less in amount than twenty shillings. This
arrangement, again, would have gone far to negative the merits of the
whole plan, and especially to interfere with its usefulness amongst the
classes which the measure was really intended to benefit. For a few
months this scheme, like those preceding it, exhibited signs of
suspended animation, when it was referred to the practical officers of
the revenue department of the Post-Office, and by them resolved into the
simple and comprehensive measure which the Chancellor of the Exchequer
proposed in 1861, and which was the crowning effort of the legislative
session of that year.

This Bill, entitled "An Act to grant additional facilities for
depositing small savings at interest, with the security of Government
for the due repayment thereof," became law on the 17th of May, 1861.

The first savings' banks in connexion with the post-offices of the
country were established on the 16th of September, 1861. A limited
number was first organized, and in places where no accommodation of the
kind had ever been afforded. The extension of the scheme to Ireland and
Scotland was effected on the 3d and 17th of February respectively.
Nearly all the 2,879 money-order offices of the United Kingdom are now
post-office savings' banks. These banks are in regular working order,
2,000, in round numbers, existing in England and Wales, 450 in Ireland,
and 400 in Scotland. Many of our largest towns have several banks. Thus,
at the present time, January, 1864, we find five banks in Edinburgh,
five in Glasgow, twelve in Dublin, ten in Liverpool, sixteen in
Manchester, ten in Birmingham, and seven in Bristol. Only seventy of
the entire number of new banks have failed to obtain depositors--a fact
which sufficiently proves that the advantages offered by the Post-Office
establishment are understood and appreciated throughout the kingdom. Up
to the end of 1863, the total number of depositors in new banks had been
367,000, of which number no fewer than 307,000 then held accounts. At
present (March, 1864), the weekly deposits amount, in the aggregate, to
40,000_l._, while the withdrawals are no more than one-third of that
sum. The total amount intrusted to the post-office banks since their
first opening has been 4,702,000_l._, of which sum no less than
3,263,000_l._ remain to the credit of depositors. The most gratifying
fact in connexion with the new banks is, that they show a much larger
proportion of small depositors than the old savings' banks have been
able to attract, the average amount of a deposit being 3_l._ 1_s._ 9_d._
in the new, against 4_l._ 6_s._ 5_d._ in the old class of banks.

Between fifty and sixty old savings' banks, including the Birmingham
Bank, closed their accounts during the last year (1863), great part of
the business of each being transferred to the new banks. A sum amounting
to over 500,000_l._ has already been transferred from these banks to the
Post-Office by means of transfer certificates; whilst additional sums,
the amount of which cannot be correctly ascertained, have been withdrawn
from the old and paid into the post-office banks in cash.

With a view to facilitate the proceedings of the trustees of banks which
have been or may hereafter be closed, an Act of Parliament was passed in
the last session which will doubtless have the effect of winding up the
affairs of many of the smaller banks under the old plan, and increasing
the work of those on the new.

The _modus operandi_ of this scheme is as simple as it is satisfactory.
On making the first deposit, under the new arrangements, an account-book
is presented to the depositor, in which is entered his name, address,
and occupation. All the necessary printed regulations are given in this
book. The amount of each deposit is inserted by the postmaster, and an
impression of the dated stamp of the post-office is placed opposite the
entry, thus making each transaction strictly official. At the
close of each day's business, the postmaster must furnish to the
Postmaster-General in London a full account of all the deposits that
have been made in his office. By return of post an acknowledgment will
be received by each depositor in the shape of a separate letter from the
head office, the Postmaster-General thus becoming responsible for the
amount. If such a letter does not arrive within ten days from the date
of the deposit an inquiry is instituted, and the error rectified. An
arrangement like the foregoing shows the boundless resources which the
Government possesses in its Post-Office. The acknowledgment of every
separate transaction in each of the money-order offices of the three
kingdoms, which in any private undertaking would be an herculean labour,
involving an enormous outlay in postage alone, is here accomplished with
marvellous ease, and the whole mass of extra communications make but an
imperceptible ripple on the stream of the nation's letters flowing
nightly from St. Martin's-le-Grand.

When a depositor wishes to withdraw any of his money, he has only to
apply to the nearest post-office for the necessary printed form, and to
fill it up, stating his name and address, where his money is deposited,
the amount he wishes to withdraw, and the place where he wishes it paid,
and by return of post he will receive a warrant, in which the postmaster
named is authorized to pay the amount applied for. In this respect
post-office savings' banks offer peculiar advantages. A depositor, for
instance, visiting the metropolis, and having--as he may easily do in
London--run short of ready money, may, with a little timely notice to
the authorities in London, draw out, in any of the hundred new banks in
the metropolis, from his amount at home sufficient for his needs.
Another person, leaving one town for another, may, without any expense,
and no more trouble than a simple notice, have his account transferred
to his future home, and continue it there under precisely similar
circumstances as those to which he has been accustomed. Last year this
power was largely used, there being no fewer than 20,872 deposits and
15,842 withdrawals made under these circumstances, _e. g._ at places
where the depositor is temporarily residing.[181] The facilities offered
by the Post-Office in this way are unique; no other banks can offer
them; and such is the admirable system adopted by the Post-Office, that
complicated accounts of this nature are reduced to a matter of the
simplest routine. At the end of each month the accounts of the two
offices concerned in transactions of this kind are reconciled by the
addition or deduction of the amounts in question, which arrangement, so
far from being an irksome one, enables the Department to obtain a very
valuable check upon its gross transactions. Under the old system, a
depositor could only effect a transfer of his account from Manchester to
Liverpool by withdrawing it from the one, under the usual long notice,
and taking it to the other. This course was not only troublesome to the
parties concerned, but the depositor ran the risk of losing his money,
or, perhaps, of spending the whole or part of it. Under the Post-Office
system, however, the transfer may be effected in a day or two, without
the depositor even seeing the money, and without the smallest risk of
loss. Suppose a depositor wishes to transfer his account from a bank
under the old plan to one under the new, or _vice versâ_, the matter is
one of equally simple arrangement. He has only to apply to the old
savings' bank for a certificate to enable him to transfer his deposits
in that bank to that belonging to the Post-Office, and when he obtains
such certificate he may present it to any postmaster who transacts
savings'-bank business. The postmaster receives it as if it were so much
money, and issues a depositors' book, treating the case as if the amount
had been handed over to him. A few days longer are required before an
acknowledgment can be sent from London; but this is all the difference
between the case and that of an ordinary savings'-bank deposit[182]

In the order of advantages which post-office savings' banks offer the
depositor, we would rank next to their unquestionable security their
peculiar convenience for deposit and withdrawal. Twelve months ago, a
person might be the length of an English county distant from a bank for
savings. Under the present arrangement, few persons will be a dozen
miles distant from a money-order office, whilst nine-tenths of the
entire community will find the necessary accommodation at their very
doors. As new centres of population are formed, or as hamlets rise into
flourishing villages, and the want of an office for money-orders becomes
felt, the requirement will continue to be met, with the addition in
each case of a companion savings' bank. Again, the expenses of
management--amounting to a shilling in the old banks for each
transaction, against something like half that amount in the new--will
not allow of the ordinary banks being opened but at a few stated periods
during the week. The post-office savings' bank, attached as it is to the
post-office money-order office, is open to the public full eight hours
of every working day.

Sums not below one shilling, and amounts not exceeding thirty pounds in
any one year, may be deposited in these banks; depositors will not be
put to any expense for books, postage, &c. and the rate of interest to
be allowed will be 2½ per cent.--a sum which, though not large, is all
which it is found the Government can pay without loss. It is not thought
that this low rate of interest will deter the classes most sought after
from investing in these banks. The poorer classes, as a rule, regard the
question of a safe investment as a more important one than that of
profits, and wisely think far more of their earnings being safe than of
their receiving great returns for them.

This scheme, last and best of all, must help to foster independent
habits among the working population. Their dealings with the post-office
banks are pure matters of business, and no obligation of any sort is
either given or received. The existing banks, on the other hand, partake
largely of the nature of a charity. An objection frequently urged
against savings' banks with much bitterness is, that many great
employers of labour are on the directorate of such institutions, and
that, consequently, they are able to exercise an oversight over their
characters and savings, not always used for the best of purposes. In the
Committee of Inquiry to which we have already alluded, cases--designated
"rare," we are glad to add--were adduced, from which it appeared that
provident workmen's wages had been reduced by their employers, upon the
ground of their being already well enough off. No such considerations,
however, can affect the new banks: postmasters are forbidden to divulge
the names of any depositor, or any of the amounts which he or she may
have placed in their hands.[183] The advantages of these banks are so
obvious, and the arrangements under which they are worked are of such a
simple nature, that they cannot help but be increasingly useful and
successful. Moreover, they are so accessible, that the working man,
especially, requires nothing but the _will_ to do that which his
everyday experience tells him is so necessary should be done for the
comfort of his family and home.


[180] The case of a fraud of this kind was mentioned by Lord Monteagle
when the Post-Office Savings'-Bank Bill was before the Lords. In a
Hertfordshire Savings' Bank, a deficiency of 10,000_l._ was discovered,
and the entire amount was subscribed by nine of the trustees, who were
noblemen and gentlemen in the neighbourhood.

[181] One of the first deposits which was made on the first day of
opening in the banks started on the new system was withdrawn the next
week in another town at some distance. The depositor was a person
travelling with a wild beast menagerie.--_Mr. Gladstone's Speech at
Mold_, January 5, 1864.

[182] Of course in this case inquiry would have to be made of the old
bank and the National Debt Office. Ordinarily, the receipt of letters on
savings'-bank business received in London, involving inquiry, is
promptly acknowledged, the writers being told that the delay of a few
days may occur before a reply can be sent. At the General Savings'-Bank
Office in London, the transactions of each day are disposed of within
that day; the monthly adjustment of accounts being also prompt. Warrants
for withdrawals are issued in reply to every correct notice received up
to eleven o'clock each morning, and these warrants are despatched by the
same day's post to the depositors who have applied for them. Every
letter received up to eleven o'clock A.M. is answered the same day, or
at the latest the next day, if no inquiry involving delay is necessary.
The arrangements for the examination of savings'-bank books every year
are also very admirable. A few days before the anniversary of the first
deposit, an official envelope is sent down from London to every
depositor, in which he or she are asked to enclose their book so that it
may arrive at the chief office at such a date. It makes its appearance
again in the course of two or three days with the entries all checked,
and the interest stated and allowed. See Appendix (B). Also an
interesting paper by Mr. Frank I. Scudamore, the newly-appointed
Assistant Secretary of the Post Office, read before the _Congrès
International de Bienfaisance_, June 11, 1862.

[183] We have seen complaints made from the public press that in the
Post-Office there is only a pretension to secrecy in this matter, while
the arrangements which make the savings-bank operations so closely
connected with money-order business, conducted by the same clerk at the
same desk, is anything but conducive to desirable privacy. There is much
truth in the latter remark; and if, when the system is perfected and its
work properly gauged, there be no change, the new banks may very
possibly suffer on this account.



1. Every person or firm engaged in extensive correspondence should
purchase the "British Postal Guide," at least once a-year. It is
published quarterly, and may be had at any post-office for a shilling.

2. Those engaged in frequent correspondence with our colonies or with
foreign countries should, in addition, subscribe for the "Postal
Official Circular," published weekly for a penny, which gives the latest
information on all points regarding the incoming and outgoing of all
foreign and colonial mails.

3. Since the division of the metropolis into postal districts, those
requiring frequent communication with different parts of London will
find of great service a penny book which contains a list of all the
streets, &c. in London and its environs, as divided into the ten
districts, and giving the initials in each case. This book may be
purchased at any post-office. It is said that delay is sometimes avoided
by adding the initials of the London districts to letters forwarded from
the provinces.

4. As a rule, with few exceptions indeed, letters are forwarded
according to their address. It is of paramount importance, therefore,
that the addresses of letters should not only be legible, but the proper
and the complete address. Perhaps the following suggestions on this head
may be found useful, viz.:--

    (_a_) Never to post a letter without addressing it either a post
    town or a county. If the information cannot otherwise be obtained,
    the "British Postal Guide" contains a list of all post-offices in
    the United Kingdom, and gives post town to which they are

    (_b_) Letters for small towns or villages ought not to addressed to
    the nearest large town, merely because it the _nearest_; although,
    as a rule, the town in question will be the correct post town, there
    are many exceptions, which can only be known by reference to the
    "Guide" provided, or by inquiry.

    (_c_) If the town be not well known, or if there be two towns of the
    same name in the country, the _county_ ought to be added. (All the
    cities and county towns are well known.) Thus, letters addressed to
    Newport should always give the county, inasmuch as there are several
    towns and villages of that name in England. Again, letters for
    Newcastle should either have the county added, or the usual
    designation thus: Newcastle-on-Tyne, Newcastle-under-Lyme, or
    Newcastle Emlyn.

    (_d_) Letters posted in England for Scotland or Ireland, _vice
    versâ_ (except in the case of the great towns of the three
    countries), should have the name of the country to which they are
    sent given as part of the address. N. B. (North Britain) for
    Scotland, and S. B. (South Britain) for England, would generally be
    thought sufficient for letters circulating between the two

    (_e_) Foreign letters should invariably have the name of the country
    given (in English if possible). It ought also to be given in full.
    Letters addressed "London, C. W." and intended for London in Western
    Canada, have not unfrequently been sent to the West Central District
    in London, and so delayed. Letters addressed to "Hamilton, C. W."
    have also been mis-sent to Hamilton in Scotland, the initials having
    been overlooked.

    (_f_) The street, &c. should be given on all addresses. Well known
    persons and firms get their letters, &c. regularly, although this
    rule may not be adhered to; but the omission frequently leads to
    delays in the _general_ distribution, and sometimes to serious
    mistakes. In large towns where many names of firms approximate in
    appearance somewhat to each other, the addresses of letters cannot
    be too fully given. With London letters, this rule should be
    strictly adhered to.

    (_g_) The number of the house, and the correct one, should be
    carefully added.[184] When information of this sort is kept back,
    hesitation and delay frequently occur in delivery; though, perhaps,
    few letters eventually fail to reach their destination on this

5. Every letter should be examined with care before it is dropped in a
letter-box, in order to see that it has been securely sealed. Thousands
of letters are posted yearly without any precaution of the kind having
been taken with them, the Post-Office authorities having to secure them
as a consequence.[185] Not only so, but twelve thousand letters are
yearly posted without any address at all.

6. Good adhesive envelopes, not too highly glazed, of the ordinary size,
are sufficient security for letters,[186] if the adhesive matter has
been but _slightly_ wetted. If, for additional security, it be thought
advisable also to seal a letter with wax, it should be placed outside
the envelope. Very frequently, the wax is found to have been placed on
the adhesive matter inside the envelope, thus rendering both

7. Letters intended for warm climates should not be sealed with wax at
all, inasmuch as there is great danger of the wax melting and injuring
the letter, as well as the other contents of the mail-bag.

8. Care should be used in securing newspapers and large packets.[187]
Newspapers, when not sent at first from the newspaper offices, should be
addressed on the paper itself and tied with string, as great risk is run
in the matter of covers becoming detached from the newspapers
themselves. Book packets, in addition to being enclosed in covers,
sealed with wax, gum, or other adhesive matter (but open at the ends or
sides), may be tied round the ends with string, as additional security.
When the latter precaution is taken, there is less chance of letters
getting within the folds of the packet, which may happen when it is not
thoroughly secured.

9. Valuable packets or books, if they cannot be well secured, should
scarcely be sent through the post. All such packets are liable to be
roughly handled, and in the mail-bags exposed to pressure and friction.
When safely deposited in the mail-bags, valuable packets are still in
danger, inasmuch as the bags in many cases are constantly being
transferred from one kind of conveyance to another, and frequently
despatched from railway trains by apparatus machinery whilst the train
is in motion.

10. Books with valuable bindings, if it is necessary that they should be
sent through the post, might be well secured in strong boards; valuable
papers or prints should be enclosed in strong paper, linen, parchment,
or other material which will not readily tear or break. Fragile articles
of value (which should by all means be registered, as special care will
then be taken of them in all respects) might best be enclosed in wooden
boxes, and then wrapped in paper.

11. It is hardly necessary now to point out that the postage-stamp
should be placed on the upper right-hand corner of the envelope, and the
address written as much towards the left hand as possible; the address
will then be removed from the stamp and the postmark of the office,
which will be impressed upon the letter before it is despatched. Delay
is caused to the Post-Office operations when the stamp is otherwise
placed; and in cases which occasionally occur, where the stamp is placed
at the _back_ of the letter, it frequently happens that it is sent away
charged with the unpaid postage.

12. The penny receipt-stamp will not, under any circumstances, serve the
purpose of the penny postage-stamp, though many people would seem to
think differently; all letters bearing a receipt-stamp are, of course,
charged as if unpaid. The two kinds of stamp might easily be
assimilated, and there are rumours that this may soon be done; but they
have their distinct duties at present, and the one cannot take the place
of the other.

13. The Post-Office stamped envelopes (which may be obtained singly, in
part packets, or entire packets, of two or three sizes, and embossed
with either penny or twopenny stamps) are in every way the most secure;
and if the paper were of better quality, would be quite as economical,
as if the ordinary envelope and the ordinary stamp were used. All risk
of the stamps becoming detached is, of course, avoided by the use of
stamped envelopes.

14. In place of affixing penny postage-stamps according to the weight of
a letter, however heavy it may be, application might be made for
twopenny, fourpenny, sixpenny, or shilling labels, as the case may be.

15. In affixing stamps, care should be had lest by excess of moisture
all the gum be washed off.[188] The practice of dipping the stamp in
water is objectionable, except some absorbent be used immediately to
remove any unnecessary moisture. It will be found to be a good plan to
wet slightly the gummed side of the stamp, and also the right-hand
corner of the envelope, and then to keep the finger gently on the stamp
until it is firmly fixed. Highly glazed envelopes should be avoided.

16. Letters about which any doubt exists should be carefully weighed
before posting. If the Post-Office weight be exceeded to the smallest
extent, even to the turning of the scale, a letter becomes liable to,
and is charged higher postage--viz. the difference in double or unpaid
postage. So trained has the post-office clerk become of late years by a
recent system of surcharges, that few letters can now pass with an
insufficient number of stamps affixed. To provide against errors in
scales, &c. it would be well in all cases to allow a little margin, or
ask that the letter be weighed in the post-office scales.

In the case of newspapers and book-packets, the same remarks, as well as
the same arrangements, apply. It should be particularly remembered that
a newspaper when posted, say wet from the printing-office, will often
weigh more than it does on delivery; hence surcharges for which the
receiver sometimes cannot account.

17. In posting letters, care should be taken to see that they fall into
the box, and do not stick in the passage. The pillar-boxes of our towns,
whatever may be said to the contrary, are completely safe as a
rule, though the same care should be exercised in depositing the

18. The earlier a letter is posted the better in all cases: towards the
time for the closing of the letter-box, great haste is indispensably
necessary in the manipulations which a town's correspondence must
undergo, whilst earlier on it gets carefully disposed of in proper box
and bag. When letters or newspapers are posted in great numbers, as in
the case of circulars, they should be posted as early as practicable,
and should be tied up in bundles with the addresses all in one
direction, or they may be delayed in the press of work.[190]

19. Every letter of consequence put into the post should contain the
name of the sender and also his address, in order that, if it cannot be
delivered as addressed, it may be promptly returned to the writer.

20. All business letters, at any rate, might have the sender's name and
address embossed on the back of the envelope. On failure to deliver such
letters, they would then be returned to the writers without being
opened. Care should be taken, however, not to use envelopes with another
person's name embossed in this way, as the letter will be forwarded back
to the address thus given, though it should not happen to be the
sender's own.

21. Coin is prohibited to be sent in ordinary letters passing between
one part of the United Kingdom and another.[191] If a letter be posted
containing coin, it will be registered and charged a double registration
fee. Coins or any other articles of value, if properly secured, will be
certain of careful treatment under the registration system.[192]

22. Letters meant to be registered must never be dropped into the
letter-box as in the case of ordinary letters, but should be given to
the clerk in charge of the post-office counter or window to be dealt
with, who will in each case give his receipt for it. The receipt is the
sender's evidence that it has been posted in proper course.

23. Letters containing sharp instruments, liquids, &c. or any other
articles which would be likely of themselves, or if they should escape,
to do injury to the other contents of the mail-bag, should never be
posted. Postmasters have instructions not to forward such letters
according to their address, but, when observed, to send them to the
Dead-Letter Office, from which place they will be returned to the
writers. Valuable letters of this forbidden kind, therefore, run great
risks of delay, while the articles are liable to be destroyed in their
passage through the post.[193]

24. Though the transmission of coin in letters is now absolutely
forbidden, except under the registration scheme, arrangements are made
for rendering it easy to send small sums by post in postage-stamps. When
presented at any of the numerous money-order offices in the United
Kingdom, they may be exchanged for money, at a charge of 2½ per cent.
Any person wishful to send through the post a sum of money under five or
six shillings will find it cheaper to buy stamps and enclose them, in
place of a post-office order. One penny will be charged for buying
forty stamps, a halfpenny for twenty stamps. 60,000_l._ worth of
postage-stamps were bought from the public during the year 1862.

25. In sending postage-stamps in letters, care should be taken to use
_thick_ envelopes, so that enclosures of this kind may neither be seen
nor felt. It is easy to feel a quantity of postage-stamps in a letter
sent in a thin and crisp envelope, and some official becoming aware of
this may not be able to resist the temptation to appropriate them.

26. No enclosures whatever should be sent in newspapers impressed with
the regular newspaper-stamp. Even an old address of such a newspaper
should be carefully cut out. It is not enough that it be obliterated
with the pen, as the rules forbid writing of any kind in addition to the
mere address.[194]

With newspapers stamped by the ordinary postage-label the arrangements
are quite different. Any printed paper or manuscript may be folded up
with the newspaper on which an ordinary penny-stamp is placed, provided
the total amount of the package does not exceed four ounces. The old
address (supposing the newspaper has circulated through the post before)
may be left on or not at the discretion of the sender, as this does not
interfere with the regulation that nothing in the packet shall be of the
nature of a letter. On the other hand, any sentence or message written
in ink or pencil on any part of the paper makes the packet liable to the
unpaid letter-rate of postage.

27. When any letter, book-packet, or newspaper is lost, miscarried, or
delayed, inquiry should be made as soon as evidence has been obtained
that the article in question was really posted. The postmaster of the
town should be informed by the complainant of every particular relating
to the missing letter, &c. the day and hour of its posting, the office
at which and the person by whom this was done. In cases of delay or
mis-sending, the covers ought to be produced in order that the office
stamps on them may indicate the exact place where the delay has been
occasioned. Correspondence on the subject of the complaints will
subsequently be carried on between the applicant and the Secretary's
department in England, Scotland, or Ireland, as the case may be.

28. When any one has reason to believe that he has paid extra postage on
a letter or packet improperly, or has been charged more than the case
would warrant, he should apply to his postmaster, who will bring the
case before the notice of the Secretary, when, if any mistake has been
made, the money will be refunded by order. Postmasters cannot return
postage paid improperly until instructed to do so from the chief

29. When an unpaid letter is presented to a person who has not the means
at disposal of paying the demand upon it (some foreign or colonial
letter may be taxed heavily), it will be kept at the post-office a
month, _if a request be made to that effect_, in order that efforts may
be made to obtain the necessary money to release it.

30. Postmasters and their clerks are forbidden to be parties to the
deceptions which used to be practised, and which are now sometimes
attempted, as to the place of posting of a letter. If any communication
should be forwarded, under cover, to the postmaster of a provincial
town, with a request that it may be posted at his office, it will be
sent to the Returned-Letter Branch in London, and from thence to the

31. Advertisements are occasionally seen, and applications frequently
made, for defaced postage-stamps. It is stated, in some cases, that a
given number will gain certain individuals admission to different
charitable institutions. Whatever may be the purpose for which the old
stamps are required, the Post-Office authorities have found, by inquiry,
that the ostensible reason here given has uniformly been false. It is
sometimes feared that attempts are made to clean and re-issue them,
though this can be attended with but partial success. It is much more
probable that they are sought to indulge some whim, such as papering
boxes or even rooms.

32. With reference to money-orders, the public should be careful--

    (_a_) Always to give particulars of any order required _in writing_.
    When a number of orders are required, to write out a full list of
    them. Forms for single orders may be had gratuitously at all
    money-order offices. These forms, or other written papers, are
    invariably kept on files for a given time, so that reference may
    easily be made to them in the event of any mistake. Mistakes may, of
    course, be made either by the applicant or the clerk on duty. If, on
    production of the paper, the error is seen to have been the
    sender's, he must pay (generally a second commission) for the
    necessary alterations: if, however, it be proved to be caused by the
    clerk issuing the order, the Post-Office calls upon the latter to
    bear the expense himself.

    (_b_) Never to present an order for payment on the day on which it
    is issued, nor, on the other hand, to allow two months to elapse
    before calling for payment.[195]

    (_c_) When sending an order, either to send it to its destination
    singly, or in a letter signed only by initials. Money-orders passing
    between friends need not be accompanied with information such as is
    sometimes required in business transactions.


[184] The irregularities and eccentricities in the numbering of streets
and houses is a great difficulty. On one occasion a London inspector of
letter-carriers, going round the districts, noticed a brass-plate with
the number 95 between two houses numbered respectively 15 and 16. He
made inquiry, when the old lady who tenanted the house said that the
number had belonged to a former residence, and, thinking it a pity that
it should be thrown away, she had transferred it to her new home,
supposing that it would do as well as any other number!

[185] About two hundred letters pass through the General Post-Office
every day unsealed.

[186] It is calculated that 91 per cent. of the letters circulating
through the United Kingdom are enclosed in envelopes; the number of
those sent abroad in envelopes is somewhat smaller, or about 65 per

[187] The number of newspapers delivered in 1862 amounted to nearly
73,000,000, a considerable increase on the previous year. The number of
book-packets exceeded 14,000,000, being an increase on the previous year
of about 1,700,000, or nearly 14 per cent. Upwards of 400,000
newspapers, or about one in two hundred, were undelivered in the same
year, about half of which failures arose from improper or incorrect
addresses, while the remainder were owing to the newspapers becoming
detached from their covers in transit through the post.

[188] It is calculated that every year nearly fifty thousand
postage-stamps rub off letters and newspapers in their passage through
the Post-Office. At one time the quality of the adhesive matter was
called in question, loud complaint, even ridicule, settling on the
theme. Now, however, that the gum is better the number of stamps which
"will not stick" is scarcely perceptibly smaller.

[189] Only one instance is on record of any violent and wilful attempt
to damage a pillar letter-box. This is the more wonderful as the
temptation to lift the lid and contribute articles not contemplated by
our postage-system must naturally be strong in the eyes of our City
Arabs. A singular accident befell one of these letter-boxes (1862) in
Montrose. A quantity of gas from the street pipes seems to have got into
the box, and a night-watchman to have ignited it by striking a match on
the top in order to light his pipe. The top was blown off and the
pillar-box hopelessly damaged, although the watchman and the letters
escaped without injury.

[190] The following announcement from the postmaster of Manchester, as
given in a bill dated 1721, contrasts strangely with the latitude
allowed now. "The post goes out to London," says he, "on Monday,
Wednesday, and Saturday, at nine o'clock in the morning. It will be best
to bring the letters the _night before the going out of the post_,
because the accounts and baggs are usually made up _over-night_." In
these days, when we may post up to within five minutes of the despatch
of a mail, and letters for America may be posted within ten minutes of
the sailing of the packet, we cannot be too thankful for our privileges.

[191] This arrangement does not apply to foreign letters coming to or
going out of this country.

[192] The number of registered letters last year was over two millions,
or one registered letter to about three hundred ordinary letters.

[193] Most of our readers will have heard or read stories of curious
articles passing through the post, and without doubt the records of the
Returned-Letter Branch of the London Office will present strange
appearances in this respect. Sir Francis B. Head, who was permitted to
peruse an extraordinary ledger in the General Post-Office where several
notable letters and packets were registered, has strung together a
catalogue of them, which reminds us of the articles passing through the
post before the revocation of the franking privilege. He tells us he
found amongst the number--two canaries; a pork-pie from Devonport to
London; a pair of piebald mice, which were kept at the office a month,
and duly fed till they were called for by the owner; two rabbits;
plum-pudding; leeches in bladders, "several of which having burst, many
of the poor creatures were found crawling over the correspondence of the
country." Further, there was a bottle of cream from Devonshire; a pottle
of strawberries; a sample bottle of cider; half a pound of soft soap
wrapped in thin paper; a roast duck; a pistol, _loaded almost to the
mouth with slugs and ball_; a live snake; a paper of fish-hooks; fish
innumerable; and last of all, and most extraordinary of all, a human
heart and stomach.--_Head's Essays._

[194] The annual return just published (February, 1864) shows to some
extent how far the public prefers the stamped newspaper, which can be
sent through the Post-Office, in fact, until it is fifteen days old. The
number of stamps issued to the principal London newspapers from June,
1862, to June, 1863, are as follows:--

_Times_, 2,782,206; _Express_, 261,038; _Morning Post_, 260,000; _Daily
News_, 124,888; _Morning Herald_, 103,256; _Globe_, 140,000; _Shipping
Gazette_, 261,000; _Evening Standard_, 80,020; _Evening Star_, 75,000;
_Evening Mail_ (thrice a week), took 345,000; _St. James's Chronicle_,
89,000; _Record_, 423,500; _The Guardian_ (weekly), 219,300; _The
Illustrated London News_, 1,136,062; _Punch_, 129,500. Eleven English
country newspapers took 100,000 each, the principal being the _Sussex
Express_, 336,000, and the _Stamford Mercury_, 334,276. Thirty country
newspapers bought more than 50,000 stamps.

[195] Many orders are never claimed at all. In Ireland twice as many
orders are allowed to "lapse" as in England or Scotland, though there
are many more orders granted in the two latter countries than in
Ireland. Perhaps the fact may be accounted for by the wretched addresses
of most Irish letters, which make it impossible to deliver many of them
and equally impossible to return them to the writers. Of ordinary
money-orders, one in 837 are unclaimed within two months; whilst as a
curious fact, instancing the pertinacity of a careless habit, it may be
stated that when these very orders have been renewed on payment of a
second commission, one in every thirty-nine are again overlooked, and
allowed to lapse, many of them, in fact, becoming entirely cancelled,
and the money forfeited.



The Post-Office, from its peculiar organization and the nature of its
business, is liable to many misconceptions from which the other great
Government Departments are more or less free. In one of the reports of
the Postmaster-General, many of these misunderstandings are recounted
and answered with an evident endeavour to bring about a better feeling
between the people and the people's Post-Office. We cannot do better
than refer here to a few of the instances given, supplementing them by
more which have been suggested to us from that consideration of the
entire economy of the Post-Office, into which we have been led in
dealing with our subject.

1. Unquestionably, the Post-Office is blamed for many errors and
shortcomings which ought never to have been charged against it. On this
important point, the evidence given by each Post-Office Report is
remarkably clear, although, by the way, a writer in a recent number of a
highly respectable quarterly review regards the instances given by
successive Postmaster-Generals as so many "testimonials to character,"
reminding him--so he scurvily added--of nothing so much as "the
testimonials given by dyspeptic noblemen in favour of the Revalenta
Arabica or Holloway's Pills and Ointment."[196] Of course, much trouble
and many losses must, from time to time and at all times, have been
caused by the carelessness or dishonesty of some of many thousand
officials of the Post-Office, though the cases are far from few, and the
authorities, in which it has been shown, to the satisfaction even of the
complainant, that the fault at first attributed to the Post-Office
rested really in other quarters. Some examples are afforded. The
publisher of one of the London papers complained of the repeated loss in
the Post-Office of copies of his journal, addressed to persons abroad.
An investigation showed that the abstraction was made by the publisher's
clerk, his object apparently being to appropriate the stamps required to
defray the foreign postage. In another case, a general complaint having
arisen as to the loss of newspapers sent to the chief office in St.
Martin's-le-Grand, the investigation led to the discovery of a regular
mart held near the office, which was supplied with newspapers by the
private messengers employed to convey them to the post. Again: A man was
detected once in robbing a newsvendor's cart by volunteering, on its
arrival at the entrance of the General Post-Office, to assist the driver
in posting the newspapers. Instead of doing so, however, he walked
through the hall with those intrusted to him, and, upon his being
stopped, three quires of a weekly paper were found in his possession.

To these cases of newspapers let us add a few concerning letters, the
substance of which are adduced in subsequent reports. Thus, a letter
containing a cheque for 12_l._ and sent to a London firm, was said not
to have reached its destination; the Post-Office was blamed for not
delivering it; inspectors were set to work, and after a diligent search,
it was traced from the premises of the person to whom it was addressed
to those of a papier-maché manufacturer, where it doubtless had been
pulped into tea-trays or writing-cases. Again: A bank agent sends his
son to the post with a letter, which on his journey he opens. Spying a
figured cheque, he abstracts it, and posts the letter without it, and it
is afterwards found ornamenting his copy-book! Another bank agent sends
his youthful son to the post-office to receive for him his letters, one
of which, containing some very valuable inclosures, he leaves in his
pocket, and immediately afterwards leaves town for school, carrying with
him the precious missive--worth some 1,500_l._--where it consorts with
his marbles, Everton toffy, and cold Bologna sausage, till the vacation,
the lad all the time being in blissful unconsciousness of the stir
paterfamilias was making about it. Another person complained that
several of his letters were not forthcoming. This case was a mystery. At
length it struck one of the shrewd officials--who grow shrewd through
dint of unravelling the most curious cases--that the letter-box at the
person's door ought to be carefully examined. This was done, and the box
was found exceedingly defective. Fifteen letters were jammed between the
box and the door, where some of them had quietly reposed for the space
of nine years.[197] The secretary of a charitable institution in London
gave directions for posting a large number of "election papers," and
supposed that his directions had been duly acted upon. Shortly, however,
he received complaints of the non-receipt of many of the papers, and in
other cases of delay. He at once lodged a strong complaint at the
Post-Office; but, on examination, circumstances soon came to light which
cast suspicion on the person employed to post the notices, although this
man had been many years in the service of the society, and was supposed
to be of strict integrity. Ultimately, the man confessed that he
embezzled the postage (3_l._ 15_s._ 6_d._), and had endeavoured to
deliver the election papers himself. Once more: A short time since a
registered letter was said to have been posted at Newcastle, addressed
to a banker in Edinburgh, who, not receiving it according to his
expectation, sent a telegraphic message to learn why it had not been
forwarded. The banker supposed that the letter had been lost or
purloined in the Post-Office; but it was at last found to have been duly
delivered to the bank porter in order to post it, but he had locked it
up in his desk and forgotten it.

2. The knowledge of the following misconception may also help to save
the public and the Post-Office a great amount of trouble. "It is often
assumed," says the Postmaster-General, "that a mail-conveyance passing
by, or through a place, ought, as a matter of course, to deposit," there
and then, "the letters directed thereto; the practice being, on the
contrary, that until the mail arrives at the head post-office of the
district, the letters in question are not separated from the other
letters of the district. A slight consideration of the nature and
objects of the postal service will show that such separation cannot be
effected in any other way, unless, indeed, the mail-conveyance, even
supposing it to be but a _mail-cart_, were converted into a travelling
post-office, and furnished with clerks of unlimited local knowledge
(which is plainly impossible), or unless every town and village in the
kingdom, having any correspondence with the place in question, were to
make up a bag for that place; in which case its mail would contain
nearly as many bags as letters."

3. "It happens from time to time that, owing to the stream of postal
communications having been diverted from the old mail-road to a line of
railway, or from other causes of like nature, it becomes desirable to
reduce the post-office of a town from the condition of a _principal_
office to that of a _sub_-office. This step not unfrequently gives rise
to complaints, the inhabitants being under the impression that they will
not in future be so well served. This is a misconception. The change is
not made when it will subject the correspondence to delay; nor does it
cause any withdrawal of accommodation in respect to money-orders. It is,
in fact, only a departmental arrangement, which consists in carrying on
the sorting of the letters for the new sub-office at some intermediate
office, instead of sending the letters in direct bags."

4. "Another misconception, which occasionally causes trouble and
disappointment, consists in assuming that a discretionary power can be
intrusted to subordinate officers to remit penalties or overcharges
under special circumstances. Cases will occur in which strict observance
of a general rule may inflict more or less injustice upon individuals,
and where a dispensing power immediately at hand might furnish a remedy.
In an establishment as large and as widely spread as the Post-Office,
however, there will always be many subordinate officers, some of them
carrying on their duties beyond the easy reach of any supervising
authority, who are not fit depositaries of such a power, affecting, as
it would to a great degree, the public revenue. It therefore
becomes necessary to lay down definite and precise rules, from
which no departure can be allowed, except under sanction of the
Postmaster-General; and in the few instances in which these rules press
hardly, appeal must be made to the General Post-Office. It must be
added, that in many instances even such appeal is necessarily fruitless,
the Postmaster-General being bound to a particular course by positive

5. "In regard to the expense of railway conveyance, the public naturally
supposes, that as such conveyance is cheapest for ordinary purposes, and
as the charges made for the carriage of mails are subject to
arbitration, that it must be cheapest for postal purposes also; and,
indeed, so cheap, as to warrant the free use of the railways, either as
substitutes for other conveyance, or for the multiplication of mails.
The fact, however, is very different. Except in certain instances, where
companies have entered into arrangements, securing to the Post-Office
the use of their trains on moderate, though still highly remunerative
terms, railway conveyance, with all its acknowledged advantages, has
proved much more expensive than that which it has superseded." We have
already spoken at length of railways in relation to the Post-Office, and
will not here add any further remark.

6. The English Postmaster-General is frequently supposed to have some
control over colonial post-offices, and even those of foreign countries.
Except at Gibraltar and Malta, however, he is quite powerless out of the
United Kingdom.

7. Frequent applications are made, it seems, for extra foreign and
colonial mails, yet those existing are only kept up at a ruinous loss.
Of the eight great lines of packet communication, only one pays its
expenses and yields a profit. If the letters sent abroad were charged
with the whole cost of the packets, the foreign agencies, and other
incidental expenses, not only would all the sea-postage be swallowed up,
but the mails would entail a loss of nearly four hundred thousand pounds
a year. "We want," said a leading weekly commercial paper lately,
"increased facilities for communication with our West Indian Colonies;"
yet every letter now forwarded to those colonial possessions of ours
costs one shilling over and above the postage charged! On each letter
conveyed between this country and the Cape there is a dead loss of
sixpence; to the West Coast of Africa, one shilling and sixpence.
Everybody has heard of the New Galway line of packets for America, now
suspended for the second time: every letter carried by these packets
under their first contract was charged _one_, and cost the country _six_
shillings; under the second attempt, each letter is said to have cost
even more than six shillings! With the change of system and change of
management, described briefly in speaking of the packet service, there
can be no question that this state of things will not be allowed to
continue. The principle of requiring the colonies themselves to pay a
moiety of the cost of their service is a step in the right direction,
and is, certainly, only just:[198] the colonies will not be taxed for
the mother-country, as in one memorable instance in history, nor, as at
present, will the mother-country be taxed unfairly for the colonies:
there will then be equal interest in keeping down the expenditure, and
in establishing rates of postage high enough to be remunerative.

8. The English Post-Office will compare favourably with that of any
nation in the world. In no country are post-office privileges procured
cheaper than with us. Like any other institution capable of endless
growth, and which must grow and expand with the progressive influences
of the times, it clearly is not perfect in every arrangement; but in
answer to complaints of the hard, unyielding, and stringent rules which
are said to bind the English Post-Office, it may not be out of place to
institute a few comparisons, asking that some reference should be made
to contemporary history. In England, coin was suffered for many years to
pass in ordinary letters, to the temptation and seduction of many of the
officers, and the practice grew from a thoughtless economy, in spite of
all the appeals that were made to the contrary. At present coin is not
allowed to pass through the post-office, except in registered letters:
in France it has long been, and is now, a _penal_ offence to transmit
coin in letters.[199] At the time Sir Rowland Hill was urging his
penny-postage scheme on the attention of the British Legislature,
another European State (Piedmont, 1837) had the most stringent and
severe regulations maintained in its Post-Office. The law punished any
one posting a book or a newspaper opposed to the principles of the
monarchy with from two to five years' hard labour; any one who might
receive of such newspapers or books through the post without having
delivered it into the hands of the authorities with two years'
imprisonment; a reward of one hundred crowns was offered to any one
giving information. These arbitrary and iniquitous laws are equalled and
even surpassed, in European codes of still later date--witness Russia
and, until quite recently, Austria.

9. The opinion is frequently expressed in conversation, and we have
often met with such expressions of opinion in our daily and weekly
press, to the effect that the Post-Office ought to give more
accommodation to the public in many ways, and so disburse some, if not
all, of its enormous profits. These profits are said to be absurdly
large; that fifty per cent. is ten times the interest of money lent on
decent security, and five times as much as would satisfy sanguine
private speculators. This subject of Post-Office profits is made, _de
facto_, the principal argument against what is called the Post-Office

We have already, in other parts of this book, offered an opinion on
steps which might be taken in the way of affording extra facilities to
the public. A cheaper sea service and a halfpenny post for our towns are
two of the most important and most practicable measures. Granted that
our packet service ought to be kept up as at present, we have an
invincible argument for universal free deliveries at home. When
asked[200] if he thought it necessary that our Colonies should have
greater postal facilities than they could pay for, Mr. Hamilton,
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, answered that "a colony might
reasonably complain if it was deprived of advantages of postal
communication, simply because that postal communication might not be
remunerative." Again, on the question of Post-Office revenue,[201] "I
think the first charge upon that revenue is to supply reasonably all
portions of Her Majesty's dominions with postal communication," which
consideration, it seems to us, will apply equally at home and abroad.
Still more important seems the plan of a halfpenny post for local
letters, that is, for letters posted and delivered in the same town.
Before the days of penny postage, we had penny posts in all the
principal towns of the country. A halfpenny post, if only applied to our
largest towns, where it would be certain to be remunerative,[202] would
have the effect of materially lessening the weight of the argument that
our present rate of charges is anomalous and unfair. But this would be
by no means the most important result. Such posts would necessitate more
frequent deliveries in provincial towns--the postmen to be paid
accordingly as fully, and not as now, only partially, employed. On the
other hand, it is quite clear that the Post-Office net revenue is a fair
and honourable item on the credit side of the Government accounts, with
which the public, except through their representatives in Parliament,
have nothing whatever to do. The penny postage scheme was carried
through Parliament in the confident expectation resolutely urged by the
intrepid founder of that scheme, that all the benefits promised under it
would result to the country, without any great relinquishment of
Post-Office revenue, and that only for a term of years. Gradually, year
by year, with enormous gain to the public convenience in innumerable
ways, the revenue derivable from this branch of the service has risen
beyond the highest standard of the past. Any relinquishment of the
profits--which, by the way, staves off other taxes--depends on
Parliament, and not on the Post-Office.[203]

10. Perhaps of all the prevalent misconceptions to which the public have
been, and still are, liable, none is so unfounded as that the servants
of the Post-Office are, as a body, ill-used and ill-paid. Without
question, individual cases of hardship and inequality exist; but that
there is anything inherently wrong in the system, or that that system is
administered with harshness or partiality, or that there is in this
Department more than the usual modicum of cases in which the legislation
for the many presses heavily on the few, no one who will make himself
acquainted with the subject in all its bearings can believe for a
moment. Statements to a contrary effect have often appeared in the
public newspapers; instead, however, of representing the feelings of the
officers, they have much more frequently goaded them into discontent, no
doubt, at times, against their better feeling and judgment. Two or three
years ago, the Postmaster-General, in referring to these statements,
dwelt upon the weight of responsibility resting with that part of the
public press who, unthinkingly, and on an _ex parte_ view of their case,
indulged the martial sentiments of the men with encouragement to the
utter abandonment of discipline and control. We incline to the belief
that the time will come when, in the provinces for instance, more
liberal allowances will be made to the lower grades of Post-Office
officials; when the graphic description already given by the postman
poet would, if uttered, be regarded as a libel on his class of officers.
On the other hand, with regard to the same class of men in the
metropolitan office, the more the question is calmly considered, the
less reason is there for sympathy with the popular view. In 1860, the
_Times_ gave a dismal account of the sufferings of the London
letter-carriers, whose cause it espoused more warmly than wisely.
"Hard-worked and ill-paid," said the leading journal, "these men are all
discontented and sullen; they are indifferent to the proper performance
of their duties, and hold the threat of dismissal in utter disdain,
feeling sure, as they say, that even stone-breaking on the road-side
would not be harder labour and scarcely less remunerative." A short time
after, the other side of the picture relating to these would-be
stone-breakers was given, not by an anonymous writer in the _Times_,
but by a Cabinet Minister. The report of the late Lord Elgin stated that
"there need not be the least difficulty in procuring, at the present
wages, honest, intelligent, and industrious young men, perfectly
qualified for the office of letter-carrier: and, I may add, that in
cases of dismissal--happily a rare occurrence, considering the number of
men employed--the most strenuous efforts are made to obtain readmission
to the service." Regarding the question in a practical common-sense
light, there could be no manner of doubt as to which statement should
carry most weight. Other organs of the press, however, either thought
differently, or dispensed with the preliminary investigation which the
Post-Office courts rather than discourages, and which inquiry it would
only have been fair to make. Only last year an important commercial
paper commented sympathisingly on "the loud and deep complainings of the
London letter-carrier, of the grinding oppression to which they are
subjected, and their ineffectual struggles to obtain redress;" and this
opinion was echoed round by many smaller lights.

What, however, are the facts? The rate of wages of the lowest class of
letter-carriers in London ranges from 18_s._ to 25_s._ a week. Each man
(who must necessarily begin _under 21 years of age_) commences at the
former sum, and steadily advances at the rate of a shilling more each
year, till he attains the maximum of 25_s._ This is for the lowest
class, be it remembered: but besides the chances of rising into a higher
class of carrier, he has the prospect, realized by many in the course of
two or three years, of being promoted to the higher grade of sorter. If,
as some have been, he be appointed to the corps of travelling sorters,
he will nearly double his income at a bound. But not to dwell on chances
of promotion, the letter-carrier, in addition to his wages, is allowed
to receive Christmas-boxes; and many thus receive, as the public must
know well, most substantial additions to their income. He is supplied
with two suits of clothes, one for summer, and the other for winter
wear. If ill, he has medical attendance and medicine gratis. When
unfitted for work, he may retire upon a pension for which he has not now
to pay a farthing; and during service, if he insure his life for the
benefit of his family, the Post-Office will assist him to pay his
premiums, by allowing him 20 per cent. on all his payments. Every year
he is allowed a fortnight's holiday, without any deduction from his pay;
many spare hours each day he may devote to other pursuits, for if, when
at work at the office, his hours of duty exceed eight hours daily, he is
at full liberty to ask for investigation and redress. In short, a London
letter-carrier is in as good a position, relatively, as many skilled
artisans, without, as regards his pay, being subject to any of the
contingencies of weather, trade, and misfortune, which make the wages of
other workmen occasionally so precarious, and without having had to go
through any expensive apprenticeship or preparation for his calling, as
in the case of most of the numerous handicrafts of life.[204]

Finally, it cannot truly be said that the Post-Office institution is not
moving with the age, but is as it used to be, intrenched in the
traditions of the past. Different from other departments, with their
undeviatingly narrow routine, the Post-Office is managed with that
enlightened policy which openly invites suggestion and criticism; nay,
it goes further, and offers rewards to persons, either in its employ or
otherwise, who may devise any plan for accelerating its business.
Post-Office work is of such a nature that the Post-Office establishment
admits of constant improvement as well as constant expansion. The
authorities publicly intimate that they will be glad to receive clear
and correct information respecting any faulty arrangements, promising
that such information shall have the best attention of the practical
officers of the department. At the same time, they take the opportunity
to urge upon John Bull the practice of patience, reminding him of what
he is often inclined to forget, that changes in machinery so extensive
and delicate must be made carefully, and only after the most mature
thought and fullest investigation. "The Post-Office," says Mr. Mathew D.
Hill, the respected Recorder of Birmingham,[205] "no longer assumes to
be perfect, and its conductors have renounced their claims to
infallibility. Suggested improvements, if they can sustain the
indispensable test of rigid scrutiny, are welcomed, and not, as of old,
frowned away. The Department acts under the conviction that to thrive it
must keep ahead of all rivals; that it must discard the confidence
heretofore placed in legal prohibitions, and seek its continuance of
prosperity only by deserving it."


[196] In this category we suppose the reviewer placed the following
letter addressed to the Secretary of the Post-Office, from Lord
Cranworth when Lord Chancellor. We adduce it here, on the contrary, as a
specimen of a handsome and manly apology: "Sir,--Complaints were made
early last month, that a letter posted by Mr. Anderson, of Lincoln's
Inn, and addressed to me, had never reached its destination.... You
caused inquiry to be made.... I feel it a duty to you, Sir, and the
Post-Office authorities, to say that I have just found the missing
letter, which has been accidentally buried under a heap of other papers.
I have only to regret the trouble which my oversight thus caused, and to
take the earliest opportunity of absolving all persons, except myself,
of blame in the matter. I have, &c. &c. CRANWORTH." Somewhat similar to
the above case, occurring only last year, we may refer to the
circumstance, probably in the memory of most of our readers, when, among
a batch of complainants whose letters The _Times_ admitted to its
columns, was one from the late Mr. John Gough Nicholls, the eminent
_littérateur_, who grieved bitterly that a letter sent through the post
to him had not arrived at his address. From a manly apology which he
made to the Post-Office authorities a few days afterwards, also given in
The _Times_, it appeared that the reason why he never received the
letter was, that _it had not been sent through the Post-Office_, as it
ought to have been, but was delivered by a private messenger at another
house in the street.

[197] We do not mention this latter circumstance, be it understood, to
discourage the use of slits or letter-boxes in private doors. An
occurrence of the above kind must be exceedingly rare, whilst nothing so
much helps the prompt delivery of letters as such an arrangement.

[198] Perhaps, however, there is room to doubt whether the true reform
will consist in anything less than the entire abolition of packet
subsidies, and the offering of the contracts in the ordinary way of
commercial transactions. An ocean penny-postage, _e. g._ penny
sea-postage, would then be almost inevitable. A letter charged a penny
the half-ounce would amount to nearly 300_l._ a ton, an enormous
freightage it will be admitted, to the United States, being even fifteen
times steam freight to India. Nor when the letters get across the sea
would they be subject to heavy inland postage either in the one country
or the other. In the United States letters are circulated for thousands
of miles for three cents, while for half an anna, a sum equivalent to
three farthings of English money, a letter may be forwarded through the
length and breadth of British India.

[199] As another example, take the United States, with Mr. Anthony
Trollope for a judge on postal concerns. In his _North America_, vol.
ii. p. 368, we read: "It is, I think, undoubtedly true that the amount
of accommodation given by the Post-Office of the States is small, as
compared with that afforded in some other countries, and that that
accommodation is lessened by delays and uncertainty.... Here in England,
it is the object of our Post-Office to carry the bulk of our letters at
night, to deliver them as early as possible in the morning, and to
collect them and take them away for despatch as late as may be in the
day; so that the merchant may receive his letters before the beginning
of his day's business, and despatch them after its close. In the States
no such practice prevails. Letters arrive at any hour of the day
miscellaneously, and were despatched at any hour. I found that the
postmaster of one town could never tell me with certainty when letters
would arrive at another. I ascertained, moreover, by painful experience
that the _whole_ of a mail would not always go forward by the first
despatch. As regarded myself, this had reference chiefly to English
letters and newspapers. 'Only a part of the mail has come,' the clerk
would tell me. With us the owners of that part which did not _come_
would consider themselves greatly aggrieved and make loud complaint.
But, in the States, complaints made against official departments are
held to be of little moment." We are further told that the "letters are
subject to great delays by irregularities on railways. They have no
travelling post-offices in the States, as with us. And, worst of all,
there is no official delivery of letters." "The United States'
Post-Office," says Mr. Trollope, "does not assume to itself the duty of
taking letters to the houses of those for whom they are intended, but
holds itself as having completed the work for which the original postage
has been paid when it has brought them to the window of the post-office
of the town to which they are addressed." The recognised official mode
of delivery is from the office window, many inhabitants paying for
private boxes at the post-office. If delivered, a further sum must be
paid the bearer. Surely English people have reason to be content with
their privileges, and in a certain degree to "rest and be thankful."

[200] Report of the Committee of the House of Commons on Packet and
Telegraph Contracts, p. 27.

[201] _Ibid._ p. 34.

[202] A halfpenny post is in full operation at the city of Quebec.

[203] The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his place in Parliament, has
just adverted (April) to the argument indicated above. "If the
Post-Office revenue be abandoned in whole, or in part, a gap will be
created which will have to be supplied by direct taxation." That our
postage rates may be regarded as a kind of mild taxation, not unfairly
levied, and that the work is done by the State with more uniformity of
purpose and greater regularity than would be possible under any private
company, our senators agree, perhaps with the single exception of Mr.
Roebuck. That gentleman, however, it will be remembered, held that
Sebastapol might have been reduced more easily had the business been
made a subject of contract! With respect to the state monopoly and the
advantages derived from it, political economists are also pretty well
agreed. Blackstone has been referred to previously. Sergeant Stephens,
in his _Commentaries_, endorses Blackstone's views. Mr. M'Cullagh, in
his _Principles of Political Economy_, is so clear on this point that we
venture to make a quotation: "Perhaps, with the single exception of the
carriage of letters, there is no branch of industry which Government had
not better leave to be conducted by individuals. It does not, however,
appear that the Post-Office could be so well conducted by any other
party as by Government; the latter only can enforce perfect regularity
in all its subordinate departments, can carry it into the smallest
villages and even beyond the frontier, and can combine all its separate
parts into one uniform system on which the public may rely for security
and despatch. Besides providing for the speedy and safe communication of
intelligence, the Post-Office has everywhere almost been rendered
subservient to fiscal purposes, and made a source of revenue; and
provided the duty on letters be not so heavy as to oppose any very
serious obstacle to the frequency and facility of correspondence, it
seems to be a most unobjectionable tax; and is paid and collected with
little trouble and inconvenience." Fourth Edition, 1849, pp. 296-7. See
also M'Cullagh's _Commercial Dictionary_, where he speaks still more
decidedly, and Mr. Senior's _Political Economy_. Sydney Smith, who with
Mr. M'Cullagh was opposed to the penny-postage movement, was favourable
to the Government monopoly of the Post-Office.

[204] These remarks must not be understood to apply to the _clerks_ in
the different branches of the London establishment. These clerks, &c.,
who are required to be educated gentlemen, are as a rule, paid on lower
scales of salary than obtain, we believe, in the other Government

[205] _Fraser's Magazine_, September, 1862, p. 536.





_Her Majesty's Postmaster-General._


    _Secretary_                              JOHN TILLEY, ESQ.

    _Assistant Secretaries_                 {FREDERIC HILL, ESQ. and
                                            {FRANK IVES SCUDAMORE, ESQ.

    _Chief Clerk of the Secretary's Office_  RODIE PARKHURST, ESQ.

    _Chief Clerk of Foreign Business_        WILLIAM PAGE, ESQ.

    _Solicitor_                              WM. HENRY ASHURST, ESQ.

    _Assistant Solicitor_                    R. W. PEACOCK, ESQ.

    _Inspector-General of Mails_             EDWARD JOHN PAGE, ESQ.

    _Deputy Inspector-General of Mails_      JOHN WEST, ESQ.

    _Receiver and Accountant-General_        VACANT.

    _Controller of Circulation Department_   WILLIAM BOKENHAM, ESQ.

    _Deputy Controller_    _ditto_             THOMAS BOUCHER, ESQ.

    _Controller of Money-Order Office_       FRED. ROWLAND JACKSON, ESQ.

    _Controller of Post-Office Savings'_}
    _Banks_                             }    GEORGE CHETWYND, ESQ.

    _Medical Officer_                        WALLER LEWIS, ESQ. M.D.

_Post-Office District Surveyors._

    Northern District        CHRIS. HODGSON, ESQ.        Penrith.

    Southern District        J. H. NEWMAN, ESQ.          Dorking.

    Eastern District         ANTHONY TROLLOPE, ESQ.      Waltham Cross.

    Western District         G. H. CRESSWELL, ESQ.       Devonport.

    Derby District           ERNEST MILLIKEN, ESQ.       Derby.

    Manchester District      WILLIAM GAY, ESQ.           Altrincham.

    Shrewsbury District      W. J. GODBY, ESQ.           Shrewsbury.

    Gloucester District      JOHN PATTEN GOOD, ESQ.      London.

    Birmingham District      A. M. CUNYNGHAME, ESQ.      London.


    _Secretary_                         GUSTAVUS CHARLES CORNWALL, ESQ.

    _Accountant_                        JOSEPH LONG, ESQ.

    _Controller of Sorting Office_      R. O. ANDERSON, ESQ.

    _Solicitor_                         R. THOMPSON, ESQ.

    _Surveyors_                        {H. JAMES, ESQ. Limerick, and
                                       {W. BARNARD, ESQ. Dublin.


    _Secretary_                         FRANCIS ABBOTT, ESQ.

    _Accountant_                        JOHN MARRABLE, ESQ.

    _Controller of Sorting Office_      T. B. LANG, ESQ.

    _Solicitor_                         J. CAY, JUN. ESQ.

    _Surveyors_                        {JOHN WARREN, ESQ. Aberdeen, and
                                       {E. C. BURCKARDT, ESQ. Edinburgh.



    "It may not be too much to say that half the people in this country
    who use the Post-Office do not know clearly all the benefit they may
    derive from it."--_Household Words_, 1856.

We have already directed the attention of those engaged in frequent
correspondence, especially with our colonies and foreign countries, to
the necessity of consulting the official books published for their
guidance. The following digest of Post Office regulations may, perhaps,
answer the ordinary requirements of the general reader.


As at present constituted, the British Post-Office has, with the few
exceptions noticed in our historical survey, an exclusive authority to
convey _letters_ within the United Kingdom. It is also required by law
to convey newspapers when the public choose to use the post for that
purpose. The Post-Office further undertakes the conveyance of books and
book-packets, and the remittance of small sums of money. Still more
recently, it has entered into competition with the banking interest of
the country: it now threatens a scheme which will compete with benefit
societies and insurance offices. It is only with regard to the carriage
of letters, however, that the Post-Office possesses any special
privileges, the other branches of its business being open to any person
or persons who may choose to undertake them.

(_a_) The rates of postage on all letters passing through the
Post-Office are now regulated by weight,[206] irrespective of distance,
and (with some exceptions, which we will mention presently) altogether
irrespective of their contents. Letters weighing _less than four ounces_
may be sent unpaid, but they will be charged double postage on delivery.
Letters may be sent insufficiently stamped, but that deficiency,
whatever it may be, will also be charged double postage on delivery. The
rate for letters is familiar to every reader.

(_b_) All re-directed letters are liable to additional postage, but at
the _prepaid_, and not the unpaid rate. Thus, for a letter under half an
ounce, re-addressed from one post-town to another, additional postage,
to the amount of one penny, is levied. Re-directed letters, not
addressed to a fresh post-town, but to a place within the district
belonging to the same post-town to which they were originally sent, are
not charged with any additional postage, the first payment franking them
until they are delivered. Letters for officers in the army and navy, and
private soldiers and seamen employed on actual service, have their
letters re-addressed to them from place to place without any charge for

(_c_) No letter, &c. can be forwarded through the post which is more
than two feet in length, breadth, or depth, nor any unpaid letter or
packet which weighs more than four ounces, unless three-quarters of the
postage due on it have been paid. The exceptions to this rule are--

1st. Packets sent to or received from places abroad.

2d. Packets to or from any of the Government departments or public

3d. Petitions or addresses to the Queen, whether directed to Her Majesty
or forwarded to any member of either House of Parliament.

4th. Petitions to either House of Parliament.

5th. Printed parliamentary proceedings.

(_d_) Late letters, &c. are received till within five minutes of the
despatch of the mails, except where the Post-Office surveyor may deem a
longer interval necessary, and providing that this arrangement does not
necessitate any office being open after ten o'clock at night. In each
post-office window placards are exhibited showing the time up to which
such letters may be posted.

No late letters can be forwarded by the mail preparing for despatch
unless prepaid in stamps, including the ordinary postage and the
late-letter fee. Government letters are an exception to this rule; they
may be posted, without extra fee, up to the latest moment.

(_e_) Letters containing sharp instruments, knives, scissors, glass, &c.
are not allowed to circulate through the post, to the risk of damaging
the general correspondence. Such communications, when posted, are
detained and forwarded to the Metropolitan Office, where correspondence
is at once opened with the senders.

Letters for the United Kingdom found to contain coin are only forwarded
to their destination under certain restrictions. Such letters, if not
registered, are at once treated as if they were, and charged on delivery
with a double registration-fee, or eightpence in addition to the


The registration-fee of fourpence, prepaid in stamps, will secure
careful treatment to any letter, newspaper, or book-packet addressed to
any part of the United Kingdom. Record is kept of all such letters
throughout their entire course. The registration of a packet makes its
transmission more secure, by rendering it practicable to trace it from
its receipt to its delivery. For a fee of sixpence letters may be
registered to any British colony, except Ascension, Vancouver's Island,
British Columbia, and Labuan, for which places they can only be
registered part of the way. Letters may be registered to several foreign
countries at varying rates. (_See British Postal Guide._)

Every letter meant for registration should be presented at the
post-office window, or counter (as the case may be) and a receipt
obtained for it, and must on no account be dropped into the letterbox
among the ordinary letters. If, contrary to this rule, a letter marked
"registered" be found in the letter-box, addressed to the United
Kingdom, it will be charged an extra registration-fee of double the
ordinary fee, or one of eightpence instead of fourpence.

The latest time for posting a registered letter on payment of the
ordinary fee is generally up to within half an hour of the closing of
the letter-box for that particular mail with which it will require to be
forwarded. A registered letter will be received at all head offices up
to the closing of the general letter-box, or until the office is closed
for the night, on payment of a late fee of fourpence in addition to the
ordinary registration fee. All fees, as well as postage, of registered
letters must be prepaid in stamps. A registered letter, when
re-directed, is liable to the same additional charge as if it were an
ordinary letter, the original register fee, however, sufficing until it
is delivered.

By Act of Parliament, the Post-Office is not responsible for the
absolute security of registered letters, though every care and attention
are given to them. Each registered letter may be traced from hand to
hand, from posting to delivery, with unfailing accuracy, and there can
be no question as to the great security which is thus afforded. Any
officer who may neglect his duty with registered letters is called to
strict account, and, if the Postmaster-General should see fit, will be
required to make good any loss that may be sustained. In cases where
registered letters have been lost (in the proportion, it is said, of
about one in ninety thousand), or some abstraction of their contents,
the Department makes good the loss, if the fault is shown to rest with
the Post-Office, and if the sum lost be of moderate amount and the
sufferer a person not in affluent circumstances.


For information of the despatch of foreign and colonial mails; rates of
postage; and as to whether prepayment be optional or compulsory; see the
"British Postal Guide," published quarterly.

Letters addressed to places abroad may be prepaid in this country either
in money or stamps, but such payment must be made either wholly in
stamps or wholly in money. The only exception to this rule is when the
rate of postage includes a fractional part of a penny, for which, of
course, there are no existing English stamps.

With certain exceptions, the only admitted evidence of the prepayment of
a foreign letter is the mark agreed upon with the particular foreign
country or colony.

When prepayment is _optional_, any outward letter (_e. g._ going abroad)
posted with an insufficient number of stamps is charged with the
deficient postage in addition, unless the letter has to go to Holland,
or to the United States, or to a country through France, in which case
it is treated as wholly unpaid, the postal conventions with these
countries not allowing the recognition of partial prepayment. When,
however, prepayment of the whole postage is _compulsory_, a letter, or
aught else posted with an insufficient number of stamps, is sent (by the
first post) to the Returned Letter Office.

Letters for Russia and Poland are also treated as wholly unpaid, if the
full postage has not been paid in the first instance.

Letters to or from Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand, British West Indies
(except Turk's Island), Honduras, and St. Helena, posted wholly unpaid,
or paid less than one rate, are detained and returned to the writers for
postage. If the letters should be paid with one rate (paid for half an
ounce, for instance, when the letter weighs more than half an ounce),
they are forwarded (except in the case of New Zealand), charged with the
deficient postage and sixpence as a fine. Letters for New Zealand must
be fully prepaid.

Letters for nearly all our remaining British colonies, if posted unpaid,
either wholly or in part, are, on delivery, charged sixpence each in
addition to the ordinary postage.

Letters intended to be sent by private ship should, in all cases, have
the words "By private ship," or "By ship," distinctly written above the
address. The postage of letters forwarded by private ship is
sixpence--if the weight does not exceed half an ounce--and the postage
must generally be prepaid. Exception is made to most of our North
American and African colonies, to which places prepayment by private
ship is not compulsory. (See table in the _British Postal Guide_.)

When the route by which a foreign or colonial letter is to go is not
marked on the letter, it will be sent by the principal or earliest
route. In some cases, the postage paid (provided it be by stamps) is
regarded as an indication of the wish of the sender, and the letters are
forwarded by the route for which the prepayment is sufficient. Thus,
letters for Holland, Denmark, Norway, &c. which, as a rule, are sent
_viâ_ Belgium, are sent _viâ_ France, if the prepayment be insufficient
for the former, but sufficient for the latter route.

_North American and Indian Mails._--Letters for passengers on board the
Cunard mail packets for America touching at Queenstown, provided they be
addressed to the care of the officers in charge of the mails on board
such packets, _and be registered_, may be posted in any part of the
United Kingdom up to the time at which registered letters intended for
transmission to America by the same packets are received, and they will
be delivered on board the packets at Queenstown.

Letters for passengers on board the Mediterranean packets about to sail
from Southampton for India, China, Australia, &c. and the Canadian mail
packets touching at Londonderry, may, under similar conditions, be
posted up to the same time as registered letters for India and Canada.

The letters should be addressed thus: "Mr. ----, on board the mail
packet at Queenstown, Londonderry, or Southampton (as the case may be),
care of the officer in charge of the mails."

Letters directed to the care of the packet agent at Suez, and despatched
by the Indian mails _viâ Marseilles_, which always leaves after the
mails _viâ Southampton_, will most probably there reach passengers for
India, &c. who may have previously sailed in the Southampton packets.


(_a_) It is not compulsory to send newspapers through the post.

(_b_) The rate for newspapers stamped with the _impressed_ stamp is one
penny for two sheets, three-halfpence for three sheets, and twopence for
four sheets, of printed matter.

(_c_) No newspaper, or other publication, can pass through the post,
unless the impressed stamp be of the value of at least one penny.

(_d_) The title and date of every publication so passing must be printed
at the top of every page.

(_e_) The impressed stamp (or stamps, if more than one publication be
sent under one cover) must be distinctly visible on the outside. When a
newspaper is folded so as not to expose the stamp, a fine of one penny
is made in addition to the proper postage of the paper.

(_f_) The publication must not be printed on pasteboard or cardboard,
but on ordinary paper, nor must it be enclosed in a cover of either

(_g_) Newspapers bearing the impressed stamp cannot circulate through
the post after they are _fifteen days old_.

(_h_) They must not contain any enclosure, and must either have no cover
at all, or one which shall be open at both ends. They must have no
writing either inside or outside, except the name of the persons to whom
they are sent, the printed title of the publications, and the printed
names of the publishers or agents sending them. If one of these
newspapers be addressed to a second person, the address in the first
instance still remaining, it is regarded as an infringement of the above
rule, and renders the paper liable to be charged as an unpaid letter.

(_i_) In order that newspapers may be sent abroad, the publishers must
first have had them registered at the General Post-Office.

(_j_) Newspapers intended for transmission to our colonies or foreign
countries must, in all cases, be prepaid _with postage-stamps_, the
impressed stamp here, in all respects, standing for nothing. Though this
is the case, all newspapers sent abroad are liable to the same
regulations as English newspapers bearing impressed stamps.

(_k_) It must be borne in mind, that the arrangements for inland
newspapers forwarded under the book-post regulations, and paid with the
ordinary postage-stamp, are entirely distinct from the above.


(_a_) Printed proceedings of the British Parliament are forwarded
through the Post-Office at a special rate, and possess privileges in
their transmission not belonging to either the newspaper- or
book-postage. Parliamentary proceedings, however, may pass through the
post at either the special rate, the newspaper rate, or book-post rate,
always provided that the conditions of the particular rate chosen be
complied with.

(_b_) "Parliamentary proceedings," if these words are written or
printed on the cover (otherwise they are liable to be charged letter
rate), may circulate through the United Kingdom at the following rates
of postage:--

    Weighing not more than 4 oz.                            1_d._
    Weighing more than 4 oz. and not exceeding 8 oz.        2_d._
            "          8 oz.         "        12 oz.        3_d._
            "         12 oz.         "        16 oz.        4_d._

and so on; one penny being charged for every additional _quarter_ of a
pound or fraction of a quarter of a pound.

(_c_) Prepayment of parliamentary proceedings is _optional_ throughout
the United Kingdom. Prepayment may also be made in part, when the
_simple difference only_ will be charged on delivery.

Parliamentary proceedings can only be sent to the colonies or foreign
countries by means of the book-post system, and, of course, only where
book-posts are established.


(_a_) Written or printed matter of any kind--including matter which may
be sent by the ordinary newspaper-post, or under the special privileges
of parliamentary proceedings--may be sent through the book-post under
the following rates and conditions:--


    A packet weighing not more than 4 oz.                       1_d._
           "          more than  4 oz. but not exceeding 8 oz.  2_d._
           "          more than  8 oz.         "         1 lb.  4_d._
           "          more than  1 lb.         "        1½ lb.  6_d._
           "          more than 1½ lb.         "         2 lb.  8_d._

and so on; twopence being charged for every additional _half-pound_ or
fraction of a half-pound.

(_c_) The postage on book-packets must be prepaid, and that by
postage-stamps affixed outside the packets or their covers. If a
book-packet should be posted insufficiently prepaid, it is forwarded,
charged with the deficient book postage together with an additional
rate; thus, one weighing over four ounces and only bearing one penny
stamp, would be charged twopence additional postage on delivery. If a
book-packet is posted bearing no stamps at all, it is charged as an
_unpaid letter_.

(_d_) In cases where a book-packet is re-directed from one to another
postal district in the United Kingdom, the same charge is made on
delivery as was originally made for the postage, one penny for four
ounces, twopence for a packet under eight ounces, and so on.

(_e_) Every book-packet must be sent either without a cover, or with one
open at the ends or sides, in order that the contents may be examined if
it be thought necessary. For greater security, it may be tied round the
ends with string, though each postmaster is empowered to remove it for
the purpose of examining the packet. He will re-secure it, however,
after examination. As a security against fraud, it has been found
necessary to adopt precautionary measures with book-packets and
newspapers: it has been demonstrated over and over again that many
people will evade the Post-Office charges, cheap as they now are, if it
be possible to do so.[207] When any head postmaster has grounds for
suspecting an infringement of the rules of the book-post, and
occasionally when he has no suspicion, he is required to open and
examine packets passing through his office, in order to assure himself
that the privileges of the book-post are being legitimately used.

(_f_) A book-packet may contain any number of separate books or other
publications (including printed or lithographed letters), photographs
(when not on glass or in cases containing glass), prints, maps, or any
quantity or quality of paper, parchment, or vellum. The whole of this
description of paper, books, and other publications, may either be
printed, written, engraved, lithographed, or plain, or the packet may
consist of a mixture of any or all these varieties. The binding,
mounting, or covering of books and rollers, &c. in the case of prints or
maps, are allowed. In short, whatever usually appertains to the sort
of articles described, or whatever is necessary for their safe
transmission, may be forwarded through the post at the same rate
charged for the articles themselves.

(_g_) Among the general restrictions, we find the following:--

    No book-packet must exceed two feet in length, width, or depth.

    No book-packet must contain anything inclosed which is sealed
    against inspection, nor must there be any letter inclosed, or
    anything in the way of writing in the packet of the nature of a
    communication, either separate or otherwise. Entries on the first
    page of a book, merely stating who sends it, are allowable (and even
    desirable in case of failure of delivery) inasmuch as they are not
    regarded as of the nature of a letter.

    Any packets found with a communication written in it (if the
    communication in question cannot be taken out, but forms a component
    part of the packet) will be charged with the _unpaid letter
    postage_, and then sent forward.

    If a packet be found containing an enclosure, whether sealed or
    otherwise, or anything of the shape of a letter, such enclosure or
    letter will be taken out and forwarded separately to the address
    given on the packet. It is sent forward, of course, as an unpaid
    letter, but, in addition, another single rate is charged. Thus, if
    the article taken out of the packet does not exceed half an ounce in
    weight, the charge of threepence will be levied on delivery, while
    the remainder of the packet, if prepaid, will be delivered free at
    the same time.

(_h_) And lastly. The conveyance of letters being the main business of
the Post-Office, the authorities make distinct stipulations that
book-packets and newspapers must not interfere with the quick and
regular conveyance and delivery of letters. Though it is believed to be
of very rare occurrence, head postmasters are authorized to delay
forwarding any book-packet or newspaper for a period not exceeding
twenty-four hours beyond the ordinary time, if the other interests of
their office demands it.


Arrangements for an inland pattern-post, such as has been in existence
for a short time between this country and France, for the conveyance of
_patterns_, have just been made. The pattern-post is now in operation,
and must prove beneficial to those engaged in mercantile pursuits.

(_a_) At present, parcels of patterns may be forwarded through the post,
subject to the undermentioned regulations, at the following fixed rates,
prepaid with stamps, viz.:--

 For a packet weighing under 4 oz.                                  3_d._
          "            above 4 oz. and not exceeding 8 oz.          6_d._
          "            above 8 oz.          "        1 lb.    1_s._ 0_d._
          "            above 1 lb.          "       1½ lb.    1_s._ 6_d._

and so on; threepence being charged for every additional four ounces.

(_b_) The pattern must not be of intrinsic value. All articles of a
saleable nature, wearing apparel, medicine, &c. or anything which may
have a value of its own and not necessarily a money value, are excluded
by this rule.

(_c_) The patterns-packet must not contain any writing inside, except
the address of the manufacturer or trademark, the numbers, or the prices
of the articles sent.

(_d_) The patterns must be sent in covers open at the ends or sides, in
the same way as book-packets, so as to admit of easy and thorough
examination. Samples of seeds, drugs, and other things of that
character, which cannot be sent in open covers, may be inclosed in bags
of linen, paper, or other material, tied at the neck with string. If
transparent bags are used, as in France, the articles may easily be
seen; but even then the bags must not be tied so that they cannot easily
be opened in their passage through the post.

(_e_) Articles such as the following are prohibited by this new post,
and few of them can be sent even at the letter-rate of postage, viz.
metal boxes, porcelain or china, fruit, vegetables, bunches of flowers,
cuttings of plants, knives, scissors, needles, pins, pieces of watch or
other machinery, sharp-pointed instruments, samples of metals or ores,
samples in glass bottles, pieces of glass, acids, &c., copper or
steel-engraving plates, or confectionary of all kinds. In almost all
these cases, the contents of a letter-bag would be in danger of being
damaged or spoiled.


(_a_) Inland money-orders are obtainable at any of the offices of the
United Kingdom on payment of the following commission:--

    On sums not exceeding 2_l._          for       3_d._
    Above 2_l._ and not exceeding 5_l._   "        6_d._
    Above 5_l._          "        7_l._   "        9_d._
    Above 7_l._          "       10_l._   "  1_s._ 0_d._

The commission on money-orders made payable in any of the British
Colonies where money-order business is transacted is _four times_ the
sum charged for inland orders, except at Gibraltar and Malta, where the
commission is only three times the British rate.

(_b_) The amount of any one money-order cannot exceed 10_l._, nor less
than 1_d._ No order is allowed to contain a fractional part of a penny.

(_c_) Applications for a money-order should always be made in writing.
"Application Forms" are supplied gratuitously at all money-order
offices. The surname, and, at least, the initial of one Christian name
of both the person who sends the order, and the person to whom the money
is to be paid, must always be given. The address of the remitter of the
money should also be given. The following exceptions are allowed to the
above rule:--

    (1) If the remitter or payee be a peer or bishop, his ordinary title
    is sufficient.

    (2) If a firm, the usual designation will suffice--if that
    designation consist of names of persons, and not of a company
    trading under a title.

    (3) Money-orders sent to the Privy Council may be issued payable to
    "The Privy Council Office."

    (4) When the remitter notifies that the order is to be paid through
    a bank, he may withhold the name of the person for whom it is
    intended if he chooses; or he may, if he wishes, substitute a
    designation instead of a person's name; as, for example, he may make
    an order payable, through a bank, to "The Cashier of the Bank of
    England," or "The Publisher of _The Times_."

(_d_) A money-order is always issued on the _head_ office of any town
where there are several money-order offices, except the persons sending
it request that it should be made out for some other subordinate office.

(_e_) The sender of any money-order may make his order payable ten days
after date, by simply signing a requisition at the foot of the order to
that effect, and affixing a penny receipt-stamp to his signature.

(_f_) An order once made out cannot be cancelled by the officer issuing
it under any circumstances. If the sender should require to transmit it
to a different town than the one he first mentioned, or to a
different name, he must apply to the issuing postmaster, and make the
necessary application on the proper form which will be furnished to
him. Directions on all these subjects are printed on the back of

(_g_) When an order is presented for payment (not through a bank), the
postmaster is required to see that the signature on the order is
identical with the name to which he is advised to pay the money, and
that the name be given as full in the one case as it is in the other. If
this is so, the person presenting the order is required to state the
name of the party sending it, and should the reply be correct, the order
is paid, unless the postmaster shall have good reason for believing that
the applicant is neither the rightful claimant, nor deputed by him. If
presented through a bank, however, it is sufficient that the order be
receipted by some name, and that (crossed with the name of the receiving
bank) it be presented by some person known to be in the employment of
the bank. The owner of a money-order is always at liberty to direct, by
crossing it, that an order be paid through a bank, though the sender
should not make it so payable. The ordinary questions are then dispensed

(_h_) Money-orders, when paid, do not require a receipt-stamp.

(_i_) Under no circumstance can payment of an order be made on the day
on which it has been issued.

(_j_) After once paying a money-order, by whomsoever presented, the
Post-Office is not liable to any further claim. Every endeavour, it is
stated, will be made to pay the money to the proper party, or to some
one believed to be delegated by the proper party.

(_k_) A money-order in the United Kingdom becomes _lapsed_, if it be not
presented for payment before the end of the second calendar month after
that in which it was issued (thus, if issued in January, it must be paid
before the end of March). A second commission for a new order will then,
after that time, be necessary. _Six_ months are allowed in the colonies.

If the order be not paid before the end of the twelfth calendar month
after that in which it was issued, all claim to the money is lost.[208]

(_l_) In case of the miscarriage or loss of an inland money-order, a
duplicate is granted on a written application (enclosing the amount of a
second commission and the requisite particulars) to the Controller of
the Money-Order Office of England, Scotland, or Ireland (as the case may
be), where the original order was _issued_. If it be desired to stop
payment of an inland order, a similar application, with postage-stamps
to the amount of a second commission, must be made to the controller of
the money-order office in that part of the United Kingdom in which the
order is _payable_. All mistakes made in money-orders can only be
rectified in this manner by correspondence with the chief metropolitan
office and by payment of a second commission. Whenever the mistake is
attributable to the Post-Office, however, and a second commission is
rendered necessary, the officer in fault is called upon to pay it.

Proper printed forms, moreover, are supplied for every case likely to
arise, and full instructions are given on money-orders. In addition,
however, to supplying the proper forms, the postmasters are required to
give every necessary information on the subject of second or duplicate

(_m_) No money-order business is transacted at any post-office on
Sundays. On every lawful day, the time for issuing and paying
money-orders is from ten till four at the chief offices in London,
Edinburgh, and Dublin, and from nine till six at provincial offices. On
Saturday nights it is usual to allow two extra hours for this business.


We have already explained at some length the origin and ordinary working
of these banks; the following _résumé_ of the distinctive features of
the new plan may therefore suffice:--

    (_a_) Nearly all the money-order offices in the United Kingdom are
    now open each working-day for the receipt and payment of
    savings-bank accounts.

    (_b_) Deposits of one shilling, or any number of shillings, will be
    received, provided the total amount of deposits in any one year does
    not exceed 30_l._, or the total amount standing in one name does not
    exceed, exclusive of interest, 150_l._

    (_c_) Each depositor, on making the first payment, must give every
    necessary particular regarding himself, and sign a declaration. He
    will then receive a book (gratis) in which all entries of payments
    and withdrawals will be regularly made by an officer of the

    (_d_) Interest at the rate of 2_l._ 10_s._ per cent. is given on all
    money deposited.

    (_e_) Secrecy is observed with respect to the names of depositors in
    post-office banks, and the amounts of their deposits.

    (_f_) Depositors have direct Government security for the prompt
    repayment, with interest, of all their money.

    (_g_) Married women may deposit money in these banks, and money so
    deposited will be paid to the _depositor_, unless her husband give
    notice of marriage, in writing, and claim payment of the deposits.

    (_h_) Money may also be deposited by, or in behalf of, minors.
    Unlike some ordinary savings-bank, depositors over seven years of
    age are treated here as persons of full age, though minors under
    seven cannot withdraw, or have drawn, their deposits until they
    attain that age.

    (_i_) Charitable societies and penny-banks may deposit their funds
    in the Post-Office banks, but a copy of their rules must, in the
    first instance, be sent to the Postmaster-General. Special aid is
    given to penny-banks established in connexion with those of the

    (_j_) Friendly societies, duly certified by the Registrar of these
    societies, may also deposit their funds, without limitation or
    amount, under the same condition.

    (_k_) A depositor in an old savings-bank may have his money
    transferred to the Post-Office banks with the greatest ease. He has
    only to apply to the trustees of the old savings-bank for a
    certificate of transfer (in the form prescribed by the Act of
    Parliament regulating the transactions of these banks, viz. 24 Vict.
    cap. 14), and he can then offer the certificate to the Post-Office
    bank, and it will be received as if it were a cheque. Of course he
    can draw out from one bank and pay into the other in the usual way,
    but the transfer certificate will save him both trouble and risk.

    (_l_) A depositor in any one of the Post-Office savings-banks may
    continue his payments in any other bank at pleasure without notice
    or change of book. The same facilities of withdrawal, as we have
    previously shown, are also extended to him.

    (_m_) Additional information may be obtained at any post-office, or
    by application to the Controller, Savings-Bank Department, General
    Post-Office, London. All applications of this kind, or any letters
    on the business of the savings-banks, as well as the replies
    thereto, pass and repass free of postage.


1. Petitions and addresses to Her Majesty, or to members of either House
of Parliament, forwarded for presentation to either House, may be sent
_free_, provided that they do not weigh more than two pounds, and are
either without covers, or enclosed in covers open at the ends or sides.
They must not contain any writing of the nature of a letter, and if,
upon examination, anything of the kind be found, the packet is liable to
be charged under the book-post arrangement.

2. Letters on the business of the Post-Office, relating to any of its
numerous branches, may be forwarded to the head offices of London,
Edinburgh, or Dublin, by the public, free of all postage. Letters for
the different departments of the Government in London may be prepaid, or
otherwise, at the option of the sender.

3. Letters addressed by the public to the district surveyors of the
Post-Office, on postal business, may also be sent without postage,
though all letters addressed to local postmasters should be prepaid by

4. It is absolutely forbidden that information respecting letters
passing through the Post-Office should be given to any persons except
those to whom such letters are addressed. Post-Office officials are
strictly prohibited from making known official information of a private
character, or, in fact, any information on the private affairs of any
person which may be gathered from their correspondence.

5. Letters once posted cannot be returned to the writers under any
pretence whatever--not even to alter the address, or even the name, on a
letter. Further, postmasters have not the power to _delay forwarding_,
according to the address, any letter, even though a request to that
effect be made on the envelope, or to them personally, either orally or
in writing. Each letter, put into the Post-Office, is forwarded,
according to its address, by the _first mail_ leaving the place, unless,
indeed, it be posted "too late," when it is not forwarded till the next
succeeding mail.

6. Each postmaster is required to display a notice in the most
conspicuous position in his office, giving every necessary information
respecting the time of despatch and receipt of mails, delivery of
letters, hours of attendance, &c. &c.

7. On Sundays there is usually but one delivery of letters, viz. in the
morning, and two hours are allowed during which the public may purchase
postage-stamps, have letters registered, or pay foreign and colonial
letters, &c.; but for the rest of the day all other duties, so far as
the public are concerned, are wholly suspended. In the General
Post-Office in London no attendance is given to the public. In all the
towns of Scotland, and also in one or two towns in England, no delivery
of letters takes place from door to door, but the public may have them
by applying during the time fixed for attendance at the post-office.

8. In England and Ireland, where, as a rule, letters are delivered on
Sunday mornings, arrangements are made under which any person may have
his letters kept at the post-office till Monday morning by simply
addressing a written request to the postmaster to that effect. Of
course, all the correspondence for such applicant is kept, even
supposing some of it should be marked "immediate;" and no distinction
is allowed. Letters directed to be kept at the post-office in this way
cannot be delivered from the post-office window, except in the case of
holders of private boxes, who may either call for their letters or not,
as they may think proper. Instructions sent to the postmasters of towns
under this arrangement are binding for three months, nor can a request
for a change be granted without a week's notice.

9. Any resident, in town or country, can have a private box at the
post-office on payment of an appointed fee. That fee is generally fixed
at a guinea per annum, payable in advance, and for a period of not less
than a year. Private bags in addition are charged an extra sum.

10. "No postmaster is bound to give _change_, or is authorized to demand
change; and when money is paid at a post-office, whether in change or
otherwise, no question as to its right amount, goodness, or weight, can
be entertained after it has left the counter."

11. Except in the case of foreign or colonial letters about to be
prepaid in money, a postmaster or his clerks are not bound to weigh
letters for the public, though they may do so provided their other
duties will allow of it.

12. Postage-stamps or stamped envelopes (the latter to be had in packets
or parts of packets, and charged at an uniform rate, viz. 2_s._ and
3_d._ for a packet of twenty-four envelopes) may be obtained at any
post-office in the United Kingdom at any time during which the office is
open--in most cases, from 7 or 7.30 A.M. till 10 P.M.

13. A licence to sell postage-stamps can be obtained, free of expense,
by any respectable person, on application to the office of Inland
Revenue, Somerset House, London, or (in the provinces) by application to
the district stamp distributor.

14. Every rural messenger is authorized to sell stamps and embossed
envelopes at the same price at which postmasters sell them; and when, in
the country, the rural postman is applied to for these articles, he must
either supply them, or (if he has none in his possession) must take
letters with the postage in money, and carefully affix stamps to them
when he arrives at the end of his journey.

15. Each postmaster is authorized to purchase postage-stamps from the
public, if not soiled or otherwise damaged, at a fixed charge of 2½
per cent. Single stamps will not be received, but those offered must be
presented in strips containing at least two stamps adhering to each
other. This arrangement was fixed upon primarily in order to discourage
the transmission of coin by post.

16. Letter-carriers and rural messengers are prohibited at any time from
distributing letters, newspapers, &c., except such as have passed
through the Post-Office. They are not allowed to receive any payment
beyond the unpaid postage on letters or newspapers delivered.[209]
Further, in delivering letters, they are not allowed to deviate from the
route laid down for them by the proper authorities.

17. Persons living within the free delivery of any town cannot obtain
their letters at the post-office window, unless they rent a private box,
in which case they may apply for them as often as a mail arrives. In
some cases where there are not frequent deliveries of letters, persons
may apply at the post-office for their letters arriving by a particular
mail after which there is not an immediate delivery from door to door.

18. Persons having a distinct residence in any town cannot have their
letters addressed to the post-office (except a private box be taken),
and a postmaster is warranted, when such letters arrive so addressed, to
send them out by the first delivery. The "Poste Restante" is meant for
commercial travellers, tourists, and persons without any settled
residence. Letters so addressed are kept in the office for one month,
after which, if they are not called for, they are returned to the
writers through the Dead-Letter Office. "Ship-letters" in sea-port
towns, or letters addressed to seamen on board ship expected to arrive
at these towns, are kept _three_ months before they are thus dealt with.

19. When any letters, &c. remain undelivered, owing to the residences of
the persons to whom they are addressed not being known, a list of such
addresses is shown in the window of the post-office to which they may
have been sent, during the time (only _one week_ in these cases) they
are allowed to remain there.

20. Greenwich time is kept at the Post-Office.


1. The London district comprises all places within a circle of twelve
miles from St. Martin's-le-Grand, including Cheshunt, Hampton, Hampton
Court, Sunbury, and the post towns of Barnet, Waltham Cross, Romford,
Bromley, Croydon, Kingston, and Hounslow.

2. There are ten postal districts, each of which is treated in many
respects as a separate post town. The names of the districts are as
follows, the initial letter or letters of the name forming the necessary
abbreviation to each, viz.:--East Central, West Central, Western,
South-Western, North-Western, Northern, North-Eastern, Eastern,
South-Eastern, and Southern.

3. The portion of each district within three miles of the General
Post-Office is designated the Town Delivery. Within the town limits
there are eleven deliveries of letters daily, the first or principal
commencing at 7.30 and generally concluded by 9 A.M.; the last delivery
commences at 7.45 P.M.; there being something like hourly deliveries
within the interval. Each town delivery occupies on an average
forty-five minutes. There are seven despatches daily to the suburban

4. As a general rule, the number of despatches from the suburban
districts is the same as the number of deliveries.

5. Information relative to the time of delivery and the time for each
despatch to the head office, and also from thence to the provinces, is
afforded at each town and suburban receiving-house. At each of these
houses, several hundreds in number, stamps are sold, letters are
registered, and separate boxes are provided for "London District" and
"General Post" letters.


6. The "Poste Restante" arrangements for London are somewhat different
to those in the provinces; but like the latter they are meant to
provide for strangers and travellers who have no permanent abode in
London,--residents in London not being allowed the privilege.

7. Letters addressed to "initials" cannot be received; if so addressed
they are returned to their writers through the Returned Letter-Office.

8. Letters addressed "Post-Office, London," or "Poste Restante," are
delivered only at the Poste Restante Office, on the south side of the
hall of the General Post-Office, between the hours of 9 A.M. and 5 P.M.

9. All persons applying for letters at the Poste Restante must be
prepared to give the necessary particulars to the clerk on duty, in
order to prevent mistakes, and to insure the delivery of the letters to
the persons to whom they properly belong. If the applicant be a subject
of the United Kingdom (and subjects of states not issuing passports are
regarded as British subjects), he must be able to state from what
place or district he expects letters, and produce some proof of
identification; and if he sends for his letters the messenger must be
supplied with this information, as well as show a written authority to
receive them. If the applicant be a foreigner, he must produce his
passport; or should he send for his letters, the messenger must take it
with him.


[206] The average weight of inland letters is now about a quarter of an
ounce; that of colonial letters about a third of an ounce; of a foreign
letter also about a quarter of an ounce. The average weight of
newspapers is about three ounces, and of book-packets ten ounces.

[207] With charges extremely low, the Post-Office is victimized by all
kinds of craftiness. The dodging of the proper payment is sometimes
quite ludicrous. Hundreds of newspapers, for instance, are annually
caught (and we may reasonably assume that thousands more escape) with
short loving messages deftly inscribed between their paragraphs of type,
or letters, different descriptions of light articles, and even money
curiously imbedded in their folds. Almost everybody might tell of some
adventure of this kind in his experience not only before penny-postage,
but even after it.

[208] Moneys accruing to the revenue from lapsed orders are allowed to
go into a fund for assisting officers of the Post-Office to pay their
premiums on life assurance policies. No officer, however, can be
assisted to pay for a policy exceeding 300_l._

[209] This prohibition does not extend to Christmas gratuities.



All candidates for appointment in the Post-Office, whether to places in
the gift of the Postmaster-General, or to those in provincial towns in
the gift of the respective postmasters, must pass the stipulated
examination prescribed by Government, and which is conducted under the
auspices of the Civil Service Commissioners in London.

I. Candidates for clerkships in the Secretary's Office, London, must
pass an examination on the following subjects, viz.[210]:--

    1. Exercise designed to test handwriting and composition.

    2. Arithmetic (higher branches, including vulgar and decimal

    3. Precis.

    4. A Continental language, French or German, &c.[211]

II. Candidates for general clerkships in the Metropolitan Offices are
examined in[210]--

    1. Writing from dictation.

    2. Exercise to test orthography and composition.

    3. Arithmetic (higher rules).

III. Candidates for the place of letter-carrier, &c.

    1. Writing from dictation.

    2. Reading manuscript.

    3. Arithmetic (elementary).

All officers nominated to places in provincial offices must be
examined by the postmaster, under the auspices of the Civil Service
Commissioners, the examination-papers to be in all cases submitted to
the Commissioners for inspection and judgment.

IV. For clerks, the examination consists in

    1. Exercises designed to test handwriting and orthography.

    2. Arithmetic.

V. For sorters, letter-carriers, and stampers:--

    1. Writing from dictation.

    2. Reading manuscript.

    3. Arithmetic (of an easy kind).

VI. For messengers:--

    1. Writing their names and addresses.

    2. Reading the addresses of letters.

    3. Adding a few figures together.

No person under sixteen years of age is eligible for any situation in
the Post-Office.

Candidates for clerkships in London must be under twenty-four years of
age but not under seventeen. The stipulated age in the country is from
seventeen to twenty-eight.

No one is eligible for an appointment who has been dismissed the Civil

No one is eligible who is connected, directly or indirectly, with the
management of an inn or public-house.

Sorters, stampers, or railway messengers must not be under 5ft. 3in.
high in their stockings.

All officers appointed to the London Office must pass a medical
examination before the medical officer of the Department. A special
examination after probation is required from those appointed to the
travelling post-offices. In the country, candidates must provide a
medical certificate to the effect that they enjoy good health.

Sorters and letter-carriers may be promoted to clerkships.

Persons of either sex are eligible for appointment in provincial

Letter-carriers are provided with uniforms.

Post-office officials are assisted, at the rate of about 20 per cent. in
payment of premiums for life assurance. They are also entitled to
superannuation allowance, according to their length of service. Clerks
in the General Post-Office are allowed a month's, and sorters,
letter-carriers, &c., a fortnight's, leave of absence each year.

Clerks, sorters, &c. in the provinces are allowed leave of absence for a
fortnight in each year.

Postmasters in the country and officers in the General Post-Offices must
give security to the Postmaster-General for the faithful discharge of
their duties, in amounts calculated according to the responsible nature
of the appointment. A guarantee office[212] or two sureties are taken.

The clerks, &c. in the country offices are required to give security in
the same manner to the postmasters who may have appointed them.

After the preliminary examinations have been passed successfully, each
new officer, before commencing duty, is required to make a declaration
before a magistrate, to the effect that he will not open, or delay, or
cause or suffer to be delayed, any letter or packet to which he may have
access. He is then put on _probation_ for a term of six months, after
which period, if able to perform all the duties required of him, he
receives a permanent appointment.

Promotion from class to class in the Post-Office is now, as a rule,
regulated by seniority of service--a much more satisfactory arrangement
to the whole body of officers than the system of promotion by merit
which it has just superseded.

Heads of departments, postmasters, and all other officers employed in
the Post-Office, are prohibited by law, under heavy penalties, from
voting or interfering in elections for members of parliament.

No officer of the Post-Office can be _compelled_ to serve as mayor,
sheriff, common councilman, or in any public office, either corporate or
parochial; nor can he be compelled to serve as a juror or in the


[210] This examination is for third-class clerks only. Vacancies are
filled up in the first and second classes from the third without any
further examination.

[211] Clerks in the Solicitor's Office are examined also in
conveyancing, and in the general principles of equity and common law.

[212] A Post-Office Mutual Guarantee Fund, suggested by Mr. Banning, the
postmaster of Liverpool, is in active operation in London, and deserves
mention. By means of this fund many officers of the Post-Office have
been relieved from the necessity of providing personal securities, or of
paying yearly sums to some guarantee office. Any clerk in London who may
wish to join _deposits_ the sum of 10_s._, and letter-carriers 5_s._
These deposits are invested in the name of trustees in Government
securities. There are at present nearly 3,000 subscribers, with an
invested capital of 900_l._ Last year there were no demands at all on
the fund except payments to members leaving the service, who not only
draw out their original deposits, but are entitled to receive back a
proportionate amount of interest after defaults have been paid.


Estimates of 1864-5._)

In all cases marked thus * the present holders of office, or some of
them, receive additional allowances, either on account of length of
service, compensation, as paid on some previous _scale_ of salary, or
for extra work.

  _Number_ |                      |          _Salary of Office._
   _of_    |    _Designation._    +-----------+------------+------------
 _Persons._|                      | _Minimum  | _Annual    | _Maximum
           |                      |per Annum._|Increment._ |per Annum._
           |                      |     £     |   £ _s._   |     £
      1    | Postmaster-General   |    --     |     --     |   2,500
      1    | Secretary            |   1,500   |after 5 yrs |   2,000
      2    | Assistant            |     700   |   50  0    |   1,000
           |   Secretaries*       |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
           |_Secretary's Office._ |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
      1    | Chief Clerk          |     600   |   25  0    |     800
           |{Principal Clerk   }  |           |            |
      1    |{for Foreign and   }  |     600   |   25  0    |     800
           |{Colonial Business*}  |           |            |
     11    | First-class Clerks:--|           |            |
           |   4 First Section    |     500   |   25  0    |     600
           |   7 Second Section*  |     400   |   20  0    |     500
      4    | Senior Clerks        |     --    |     --     |     440
     19    | Second-class Clerks* |     260   |   15  0    |     380
     16    | Third-class Clerks   |     120   |   10  0    |     240
     11    | Supplementary Clerks |      80   |    5  0    |     150
     10    | Probationary Clerks  |           |            |
           |   at 5_s._ a day     |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
           |_Solicitor's Office._ |           |            |
      1    | Solicitor            |     --    |     --     |   1,500
      1    | Assistant Solicitor  |     --    |     --     |     800
      1    | Second-class Clerk   |     260   |   15  0    |     380
      2    | Third-class Clerks   |     120   |   10  0    |     240
      1    | Fourth-class Clerk   |      80   |    5  0    |     150
           |                      |           |            |
           |   _Mail Office._     |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       1   | Inspector-General*   |     600   |   25  0    |     800
       1   | Deputy               |           |            |
           |   Inspector-General  |     500   |   20  0    |     600
       1   |{Principal Clerk of } |     400   |   20  0    |     500
           |{  Stationary Branch} |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       1   |{Principal Clerk of } |     350   |   20  0    |     450
           |{  Travelling Branch} |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       3   | First-class Clerks   |     260   |   10  0    |     350
       6   | Second-class Clerks* |     180   |    7 10    |     240
      12   | Third-class Clerks   |      80   |    5  0    |     150
       5   | Inspectors of Mails  |     300   |   20  0    |     500
           |   Allowance of 15_s._|           |            |
           |   a day when         |           |            |
           |   travelling.        |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
           | _Travelling          |           |            |
           |   Post-Office._      |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       8   | First-class Clerks   |     260   |   10  0    |      350
      15   | Second-class Clerks  |     180   |    7 10    |      240
      30   | Third-class Clerks   |      80   |    5  0    |      150
     141   | Sorters:--           |           |            |
           |   10 First-class     |40s. a wk. |    2 12    | 50s. a wk.
           |   19 Second-class    |32s.   "   |    2 12    | 38s.   "
           |   38 Third-class     |25s.   "   |    2 12    | 30s.   "
           |   74 Fourth-class    |18s.   "   |    2 12    | 25s.   "
           | Clerks in this       |           |            |
           |   office are also    |           |            |
           |   allowed travelling |           |            |
           |   allowances at the  |           |            |
           |   rate of 5s. a      |           |            |
           |   trip; sorters, 3s. |           |            |
           |   a trip             |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       1   |{Supervisor of Mails'}|           |            |
           |{  Bag Apparatus     }|     --    |     --     |      290
           |                      |           |            |
           |   _Receiver and      |           |            |
           | Accountant-General's |           |            |
           |     Office._         |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       1   |{Receiver and        }|     600   |   25  0    |      800
           |{ Accountant-General*}|           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       1   | Chief Examiner*      |     475   |   20  0    |      575
       1   | Cashier*             |     475   |   20  0    |      575
       1   |Principal Book-keeper*|     425   |   20  0    |      525
      11   | First Class Clerks:--|           |            |
           |   5 First Section    |     310   |   15  0    |      400
           |   6 Second Section*  |     260   |   10  0    |      350
      17   | Second-class Clerks* |     180   |    7 10    |      240
      22   | Third-class Clerks   |      80   |    5  0    |      150
           |                      |           |            |
           |_Money-Order Office._ |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
        1  | Controller*          |    500    |   25  0    |      750
        1  | Chief Clerk*         |    400    |   20  0    |      550
        1  | Examiner*            |    375    |   15  0    |      450
        1  | Book-keeper*         |    375    |   15  0    |      450
       13  | First-class Clerks:--|           |            |
           |   4 First Section    |    365    |   15  0    |      400
           |   9 Second Section   |    260    |   10  0    |      350
       52  | Second-class Clerks  |    180    |    7 10    |      240
       55  | Third-class Clerks   |     80    |    5  0    |      150
        6  | Probationary Clerks  |           |            |
           |   5_s._ per day      |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
           | _Circulation         |           |            |
           |   Department._       |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
        1  | Controller*          |     600   |   25  0    |      800
        1  | Vice-Controller*     |     500   |   20  0    |      600
        3  | Sub-Controllers      |     450   |   20  0    |      600
       16  | Deputy Controllers   |     350   |   15  0    |      500
       40  | First-class Clerks*  |     260   |   10  0    |      350
       80  | Second-class Clerks* |     180   |    7 10    |      240
      118  | Third-class Clerks*  |      80   |    5  0    |      150
           | {First-class      }  |           |            |
        7  | { Inspectors of   }  |     210   |   10  0    |      300
           | { Letter-carriers }  |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       15  | Second-class ditto   |     150   |    7 10    |      200
       20  | Third-class  ditto   |     110   |    5 10    |      145
    2,356  | Sorters, Messengers, |           |            |
           |   &c. viz.--         |           |            |
           | Sorters:             |           |            |
           |        100 1st Class | 40s. a wk.|    2 12    | 50s. a wk.
           |        450 2d  Class | 24s.   "  |    2 12    | 38s.   "
           | Messengers:          |           |            |
           |         20     "     | 21s.   "  |    2 12    | 40s.   "
           | Stampers 60 1st Class| 28s.   "  |    2 12    | 35s.   "
           |    "    199 2d  Class| 21s.   "  |    2 12    | 27s.   "
           | Letter-carriers:     |           |            |
           |       330 1st Class* | 26s.   "  |    2 12    | 30s.   "
           |       962 2d  Class* | 20s.   "  |    2 12    | 25s.   "
           |                      |           |            |
           |   _Surveyors'        |           |            |
           |      Department._    |           |            |
           |                      |           |            |
       13  | Surveyors*           |     500   |   25  0    |      700
       32  | Surveyors' Clerks:-- |           |            |
           |   13 First Class*    |     300   |   20  0    |      400
           |   19 Second Class*   |     200   |   10  0    |      300
       13  | Stationary Clerks    |      80   |    5  0    |      150

The surveyors have travelling allowances at the rate of 20_s._ per diem;
surveyors' clerks, 15_s._ per diem; clerks in charge, 10_s._ and 7_s._
per diem. The whole are also allowed actual expenses of locomotion.


(_Extracted from the Estimates of 1864-5._)

         |                             |       _Salary of Office._
  _Number|                             |--------------------------------
   of    |      _Designation _         | _Minimum | _Annual  | _Maximum
 Persons_|                             |per Annum_|Increment_|per Annum_
         |                             |          |          |
         |    _DUBLIN_                 |     £    |  £  _s._ |    £
         |                             |          |          |
     1   |Secretary                    |    700   |  50  0   |  1,000
     1   |Chief Clerk                  |    500   |  20  0   |    600
     2   |First-class Clerks           |    300   |  15  0   |    400
     4   |Second-class Clerks          |    140   |  10  0   |    300
     1   |Solicitor                    |     --   |    --    |  1,000
     1   |Accountant*                  |    500   |  20  0   |    600
     1   |Examiner*                    |    325   |  20  0   |    425
     1   |Controller of Sorting Office |    400   |  20  0   |    500
     4   |Deputy Controllers           |    280   |  10  0   |    350
         |                             |          |          |
         |  _General Body of Clerks._  |          |          |
         |                             |          |          |
    13   |First-class Clerks*          |    200   |  10  0   |    300
    39   |Second-class Clerks          |    125   |   7 10   |    180
    14   |Supplementary Clerks         |     70   |   5  0   |    120
     1   |Inspector of Letter-carriers |    125   |   7 10   |    200
     1   |Medical Officer              |     --   |    --    |    200
         |                             |          |          |
         |  _EDINBURGH._               |          |          |
         |                             |          |          |
     1   |Secretary                    |    700   |  50  0   |  1,000
     1   |Chief Clerk                  |    500   |  20  0   |    600
     2   |First-class Clerks           |    300   |  15  0   |    400
     3   |Second-class Clerks          |    140   |  10  0   |    300
     1   |Solicitor                    |     --   |    --    |    400
     1   |Accountant*                  |    500   |  20  0   |    600
     1   |Examiner*                    |    325   |  20  0   |    425
     1   |Controller of Sorting Office |    450   |  20  0   |    550
     3   |Deputy Controllers           |    280   |  10  0   |    350
     1   |Inspector of Letter-carriers |    125   |   7 10   |    200
     1   |Medical Officer              |     --   |    --    |    150
         |                             |          |          |
         |  _General Body of Clerks._  |          |          |
         |                             |          |          |
    12   |First-class Clerks           |    200   |  10  0   |    300
    30   |Second-class Clerks          |    125   |   7 10   |    180
     9   |Probationary Clerks,         |          |          |
         |  5s. a day                  |          |          |


(_Extracted from the Estimates of 1864-5._)

 Number  |                     |Poundage|         Salary of Office.
 of      |Designations.        |allowed.|-----------+---------+------------
 Persons.|                     |[213]   | Minimum   |Annual   | Maximum
         |                     |        |per Annum. |Increase |per Annum.
         |                     |        |           |         |
         |_Liverpool Office._  |   £    |    £      | £  s. d.|    £
         |                     |        |           |         |
     1   |Postmaster           |  730   |    --     |   --    | 1,000
     1   |Chief Clerk          |   --   |   400     |20  0  0 |   500
     2   |Principal Clerks     |   --   |   200     |10  0  0 |   300
     1   |{Controller of}      |   --   |   300     |10  0  0 |   400
         |{Sorting Office}     |        |           |         |
     5   |Assistant Controllers|   --   |   200     | 5  0  0 |   250
     1   |{Inspector of   }    |        |           |         |
         |{Letter-carriers}    |   --   |   125     | 7 10  0 |   200
     2   |Assistant Inspectors |   --   |    80     | 5  0  0 |   120
     8   |First-class Clerks   |   --   |   150     | 5  0  0 |   200
    16   |Second-class Clerks  |   --   |   100     | 4  0  0 |   140
    15   |Third-class Clerks   |   --   |    60     | 3  0  0 |   100
    23   |First-class Sorters  |   --   |31s. a week| 2 12  0 |35s. a week.
    23   |Second-class Sorters |   --   |26s.    "  | 2 12  0 |30s.    "
    46   |Third-class Sorters  |   --   |22s.    "  | 1  6  0 |25s.    "
    93   |Fourth-class Sorters |   --   |18s.    "  | 1  6  0 |21s.    "
         |{Allowance to a }    |   --   |    --     |   --    |90l. a-year.
         |{Medical Officer}    |        |           |         |
         |                     |        |           |         |
         |_Manchester Office._ |        |           |         |
         |                     |        |           |         |
     1   |Postmaster           |  790   |    --     |   --    |   700
     1   |Chief Clerk          |   --   |    --     |   --    |   450
     5   |Principal Clerks     |   --   |   200     | 7 10  0 |   250
     5   |First-class Clerks   |   --   |   150     | 5  0  0 |   200
    10   |Second-class Clerks  |   --   |   100     | 5  0  0 |   150
         |Medical Officer      |   --   |    --     |   --    |    80
     1   |{Inspector of   }    |        |           |         |
         |{Letter-carriers}    |   --   |   150     | 7 10  0 |   200
     2   |Assistant ditto      |   --   |    80     | 5  0  0 |   120
         |Sorting Clerks:--    |        |           |         |
    20   |  First-class        |   --   |31s. a week| 3 18  0 |38s. a week.
    37   |  Second-class       |   --   |21s.    "  | 2 12  0 |30s.    "
   116   |Letter Carriers      |   --   |18s.    "  | 1  6  0 |23s.    "
         |                     |        |           |         |
         | _Glasgow Office._   |        |           |         |
         |                     |        |           |         |
     1   |Postmaster           |  673   |    --     |   --    |   700
     1   |{Controller of }     |        |           |         |
         |{Sorting Office}     |   --   |   200     |10  0  0 |   300
     5   |First-class Clerks   |   --   |   150     | 5  0  0 |   200
     5   |Second-class Clerks  |   --   |   100     | 4  0  0 |   140
    10   |Supplementary Clerks |        |    60     | 3  0  0 |   100
     1   |{Inspector of   }    |        |           |         |
         |{Letter-carriers}    |   --   |   125     | 7  0  0 |   200
         |{Assistant      }    |        |           |         |
     2   |{Inspectors of  }    |   --   |    80     | 5  0  0 |   120
         |{Letter-carriers}    |        |           |         |
    10   |First-class Sorters  |   --   |31s. a week| 2 12  0 |35s. a week.
    24   |Second-class Sorters |   --   |26s.    "  | 2 12  0 |30s.    "
    29   |Third-class Sorters  |   --   |22s.    "  | 1  6  0 |25s.    "
    66   |Fourth-class Sorters |   --   |18s.    "  | 1  6  0 |21s.    "
    97   |{Auxiliary      }    |        |           |         |
         |{Letter-carriers}    |   --   |    --     |   --    | 6s.    "
         |{Allowance to   }    |        |           |         |
         |{Medical Officer}    |   --   |    --     |   --    |    90
         |                     |        |           |         |
         |_Birmingham Office._ |        |           |         |
         |                     |        |           |         |
     1   |Postmaster           |  500   |    --     |   --    |   700
     3   |Chief Clerks         |   --   |   150     | 5  0  0 |   230
     2   |Clerks               |   --   |   150     | 5  0  0 |   200
    12   |Ditto                |   --   |    60     | 5  0  0 |   140
     1   |{Inspector of   }    |        |           |         |
         |{Letter-carriers}    |   --   |   125     | 7 10  0 |   180
         |{Assistant       }   |        |           |         |
     1   |{Inspector of    }   |        |           |         |
         |{Letter-carriers }   |   --   |    80     | 5  0  0 |   120
    25   |Sorters              |   --   |21s. a week| 2 10  0 |35s. a week.
    20   |{Third-class    }    |        |           |         |
         |{Letter-carriers}    |   --   |22s.    "  | 1  6  0 |25s.    "
    48   |{Fourth-class   }    |   --   |18s.    "  | 1  6  0 |21s.    "
         |{Letter-carriers}    |        |           |         |
     6   |{Temporary      }    |   --   |    --     |   --    |18s.    "
         |{Letter-carriers}    |        |           |         |
     5   |Auxiliaries          |   --   |    --     |   --    |10s.6d. "
     1   |Medical Officer      |   --   |    --     |   --    |60l. a year.
         |                     |        |           |         |
         | _Bristol Office._   |        |           |         |
         |                     |        |           |         |
     1   |Postmaster           |  325   |    --     |   --    |   600
     1   |Chief Clerk          |   --   |   200     |10  0  0 |   300
     2   |First-class Clerks   |   --   |   150     | 5  0  0 |   200
     7   |Second-class Clerks  |   --   |   100     | 4  0  0 |   140
     8   |{Supplementary}      |   --   |    60     | 3  0  0 |   100
         |{Clerks       }      |
     1   |{Inspector of   }    |        |           |         |
         |{Letter-Carriers}    |   --   |   110     | 5  0  0 |   140
     9   |First-class Sorters  |   --   |27s. a week| 2 12  0 |33s. a week.
    12   |Second-class Sorters |   --   |23s.    "  | 1  6  0 |26s.     "
    10   |Third-class Sorters  |   --   |19s.    "  | 1  6  0 |22s.     "
    24   |Fourth-class Sorters |   --   |16s.    "  | 1  6  0 |18s.     "
    28   |Auxiliaries          |   --   |    --     |   --    |10s. 6d. "
     1   |Medical Officer      |   --   |    --     |   --    |50l. a year.


                   |Salary of |Poundage|Staff |Other      |Total
   Name of Town.   |Postmaster|allowed.| of   |Subordinate|Expenses of
                   |          |        |Clerks|Officers.  |Establishment
                   |          |        |      |           |for 1864-5.
                   |   £      |   £    |      |           |      £
  Bath             |  450     |  155   |   7  |     80    |   4,997
  Brighton         |  500     |  210   |   8  |     36    |   3,357
  Birkenhead       |  350     |   74   |   6  |     30    |   2,652
  Carlisle         |  300     |   68   |   6  |     45    |   3,138
  Derby            |  300     |  110   |   5  |     42    |   3,449
  Exeter           |  500     |  145   |  13  |    104    |   6,185
  Gloucester       |  300     |   72   |   6  |     29    |   2,404
  Hull             |  450     |  200   |  15  |     63    |   4,887
  Leeds            |  450     |  280   |  12  |     86    |   7,265
  Newcastle-on-Tyne|  450     |  240   |   9  |     54    |   4,318
  Norwich          |  380     |  118   |   6  |     68    |   4,453
  Oxford           |  331     |   72   |   8  |     23    |   2,362
  Plymouth         |  332     |  105   |   6  |     37    |   2,648
  Portsmouth       |  360     |  118   |   5  |     23    |   2,104
  Preston          |  300     |  105   |   6  |     43    |   2,995
  Sheffield        |  400     |  215   |  17  |     57    |   4,708
  Shrewsbury       |  400     |   95   |   8  |     68    |   4,830
  Southampton      |  450     |  160   |   8  |     52    |   4,415
  Worcester        |  320     |   70   |   7  |     40    |   2,514
  York             |  400     |  125   |  11  |     70    |   5,059
                   |          |        |      |           |
  Belfast          |  340     |  116   |   6  |     47    |   3,407
  Cork             |  340     |  105   |   6  |     39    |   2,719
                   |          |        |      |           |
  Aberdeen         |  400     |  146   |  10  |     55    |   3,545
  Dundee           |  230     |  109   |   5  |     30    |   2,038
  Greenock         |  300     |  100   |   7  |     40    |   2,692


[213] On the sale of postage-stamps.


AMOUNT OF POSTAGE (including Postage-Stamps sold by the Post-Office and
by the Office of Inland Revenue) during the years 1861 and 1862 at those
Towns in the United Kingdom where the amount was largest.

 +---------------------+------------- -+----------------+
 |                     |    1861       |     1862       |
 +---------------------+------------- -+----------------+
 |                     |               |                |
 | _ENGLAND._          |     £         |      £         |
 |                     |               |                |
 | Bath                |   17,795      |    18,433      |
 | Birmingham          |   48,818      |    50,272      |
 | Bradford, Yorkshire |   17,098      |    19,640      |
 | Brighton            |   21,945      |    22,579      |
 | Bristol             |   33,865      |    35,720      |
 | Cheltenham          |   11,834      |    12,315      |
 | Exeter              |   16,334      |    16,739      |
 | Hull                |   20,561      |    20,819      |
 | Leeds               |   30,641      |    32,736      |
 | Leicester           |   10,420      |    11,238      |
 | Liverpool           |  115,268      |   117,676      |
 | London              |  979,662[214] | 1,033,268[215] |
 | Manchester          |  102,263      |    98,650      |
 | Newcastle-on-Tyne   |   24,844      |    25,998      |
 | Norwich             |   12,740      |    12,997      |
 | Nottingham          |   12,237      |    13,376      |
 | Plymouth            |   11,520      |    11,493      |
 | Sheffield           |   20,364      |    21,188      |
 | Southampton         |   15,182      |    15,852      |
 | York                |   13,368      |    13,850      |
 |                     |               |                |
 | _IRELAND._          |               |                |
 |                     |               |                |
 | Belfast             |   18,431      |    19,189      |
 | Cork                |   13,418      |    13,568      |
 | Dublin              |   67,458      |    65,199      |
 |                     |               |                |
 | _SCOTLAND._         |               |                |
 |                     |               |                |
 | Aberdeen            |   15,283      |    16,326      |
 | Edinburgh           |   73,863      |    74,569      |
 | Glasgow             |   70,476      |    73,809      |
 +---------------------+------------- -+----------------+


[214] Including £163,837 for postage charged on Public Departments.

[215] Including £149,202 for postage charged on Public Departments.



(_Estimates_ 1863-4).

 _Conveyance of Mails by Railway                     _Amount required
 in England and Wales, viz._:--                         for_ 1864-5.

 By the Birkenhead Railway                                    2,500
    "   Bristol and Exeter                                    9,875
    "   Chester and Holyhead                                 30,200
    "   Cockermouth and Workington                              104
    "   Colne Valley                                             15
    "   Cowes and Newport                                        23
    "   Cornwall                                              5,500
    "   Great Northern                                        9,877
    "   Great Western                                        49,829
    "   Great Eastern                                        21,367
    "   Knighton                                                120
    "   Lancaster and Carlisle                               18,206
    "   Lancashire and Yorkshire                              6,900
    "   Leominster and Kington                                  300
    "   Llanelly                                                 40
    "   London, Brighton, and South Coast                     1,890
    "   London, Chatham, and Dover                               94
    "   London and North Western                             82,416
    "   London and South Western                             21,620
    "   Manchester and Altrincham                                60
    "   Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire               2,600
    "   Maryport and Carlisle                                   841
    "   Midland                                              35,190
    "   Monmouthshire                                            91
    "   London, Tilbury, and Southend                            25
    "   North Eastern                                        39,177
    "   North Staffordshire                                     712
    "   North Union                                           4,878
    "   Oystermouth                                              40
   "    Oldham and Guide Bridge                                  20
   "    Seaham and Sunderland                                    70
   "    Shrewsbury and Hereford                               2,031
   "    Shrewsbury, Borth, &c.                                2,180
   "    Shropshire Union Railway                              2,085
   "    South Devon                                           7,479
   "    South Eastern                                        23,635
   "    South Staffordshire                                      45
   "    South Yorkshire                                          18
   "    Stockton and Darlington                               1,311
   "    Taff Vale                                             1,000
   "    Tenbury                                                   8
   "    West Cornwall                                         1,500
   "    West Hartlepool                                          17
   "    Whitehaven Junction                                     364
   "    Allowance for probable variation of Awards or
             Agreements                                       19,313

 The Irish Railway Service (the principal recipients being
     the Great Southern and Western £30,982, Midland
     and Great Western £15,208, Belfast and
     Dublin Junction £5,917, Dublin and Drogheda,
     £4,485) requires                                         86,833

 The Scotch Railway Service (the principal items being the
     Caledonian £28,497, the Scottish Central £13,068,
     the Scottish North Eastern £12,000, and the
     Great North of Scotland £7,584) requires                 79,754
           Total for conveyance of Mails by Railway         £564,102



(_From the Estimates of 1864-5._)

 _Number |                                                  |_ Amount
    of   |                                                  |required
 Persons |                                                  |  for_
         |                                                  | 1864-5.
         |                                                  |     £
     1   | Controller                                       |    500
     1   | Assistant-Controller                             |    300
     1   | Assistant-Superintendent of Postage Stamping     |    200
     1   | Clerk                                            |    120
     1   | Superintendent of Printing Label-stamps          |    175
     1   |       "           Perforating   "                |    100
     1   | Foreman of Embossing Machines, 42_s._ per week   |    109
     1   | Packer, at 25_s._ per week                       |     65
     3   | Tellers, from 18_s._ to 30_s._ per week          |    211
     6   | Assistant-Telling Boys, from 7_s._ to 12_s._ per |
         |     week                                         |    127
    24   | Boys for working Machines, from 4_s._ to 12_s._  |
         |     per week                                     |    433
         | Allowance to the Accountant's Department for     |
         |     keeping the Accounts, to the Receiver-       |
         |     General's and to the Warehouse-keeper's      |
         |     Departments                                  |  1,050
         |                                                  | ------
         |              Total Salaries, &c.                 |  3,390
         |                                                  |
         | Poundage to Distributors and Sub-Distributors    |  4,600
         | Paper for Labels and Envelopes, Printing         |
         |     and Gumming Labels, and Folding and          |
         |     Gumming Envelopes                            | 18,500
         | Postage and Carriage of Parcels                  |    450
         | Tradesmen's Bills                                |    400
         | Miscellaneous Expenses                           |    500
         | Estimate of additional expenditure for increase  |
         |     of business                                  |  nil.
         |                                                  | ------
         |         Total amount required for the            |
    --   |           Manufacture of Postage-Labels          |
    41   |           and Envelopes                          | 27,840


The following important document, published by Sir Rowland Hill on his
resignation of the Secretaryship of the Post-Office, and circulated
privately, is deserving of careful study, as giving the results of the
penny-postage reform up to the latest date:--


    Before stating the results of postal reform, it may be convenient
    that I should briefly enumerate the more important organic
    improvements effected. They are as follows:--

    1. A very large reduction in the rates of postage on all
    correspondence, whether inland, foreign, or colonial. As instances
    in point, it may be stated that letters are now conveyed from any
    part of the United Kingdom to any other part--even from the Channel
    Islands to the Shetland Isles--at one-fourth of the charge
    previously levied on letters passing between post towns only a few
    miles apart;[216] and that the rate formerly charged for this slight
    distance, viz. fourpence--now suffices to carry a letter from any
    part of the United Kingdom to any part of France, Algeria included.

    2. The adoption of charge by weight, which, by abolishing the charge
    for mere enclosures, in effect largely extended the reduction of

    3. Arrangements which have led to the almost universal resort to
    prepayment of correspondence, and that by means of stamps.

    4. The simplification of the mechanism and accounts of the
    Department generally by the above and other means.

    5. The establishment of the book-post (including in its operation
    all printed and much MS. matter) at very low rates, and its modified
    extension to our colonies and to many foreign countries.

    6. Increased security in the transmission of valuable letters
    afforded, and temptation to the letter-carriers and others greatly
    diminished, by reducing the registration fee from 1_s._ to 4_d._, by
    making registration of letters containing coin compulsory, and by
    other means.

    7. A reduction to about one-third in the cost--including postage--of
    money-orders, combined with a great extension and improvement of the

    8. More frequent and more rapid communication between the metropolis
    and the larger provincial towns, as also between one provincial town
    and another.

    9. A vast extension of the rural distribution--many thousands of
    places, and probably some millions of inhabitants, having, for the
    first time, been included within the postal system.

    10. A great extension of free deliveries. Before the adoption of
    penny postage many considerable towns, and portions of nearly all
    the larger towns, had either no delivery at all, or deliveries on
    condition of an extra charge.

    11. Greatly increased facilities afforded for the transmission of
    foreign and colonial correspondence, by improved treaties with
    foreign countries, by a better arrangement of the packet service, by
    sorting on board, and other means.

    12. A more prompt despatch of letters when posted, and a more prompt
    delivery on arrival.

    13. The division of London and its suburbs into ten postal
    districts, by which, and other measures, communication within the
    twelve-miles circle has been greatly facilitated, and the most
    important delivery of the day has, generally speaking, been
    accelerated as much as two hours.

    14. Concurrently with these improvements, the condition of the
    _employés_ has been materially improved; their labours, especially
    on the Sunday, having been very generally reduced, their salaries
    increased, their chances of promotion augmented, and other important
    advantages afforded them.


    My pamphlet on "Post-Office Reform" was written in the year 1836.
    During the preceding twenty years, viz. from 1815 to 1835 inclusive,
    _there was no increase whatever in the Post-Office revenue, whether
    gross or net_, and therefore, in all probability, none in the number
    of letters; and though there was a slight increase in the revenue,
    and doubtless in the number of letters, between 1835 and the
    establishment of penny postage early in 1840--an increase chiefly
    due, in my opinion, to the adoption of part of my plan, viz. the
    establishment of day mails to and from London--yet, during the whole
    period of twenty-four years immediately preceding the adoption of
    penny postage, the revenue, whether gross or net, and the number of
    letters, were, in effect, stationary.

    Contrast with this the rate of increase under the new system, which
    has been in operation during a period of about equal length. In the
    first year of penny postage the letters more than doubled; and
    though since then the increase has, of course, been less rapid, yet
    it has been so steady that, notwithstanding the vicissitudes of
    trade, every year, without exception, has shown a considerable
    advance on the preceding year, and the first year's number is now
    nearly quadrupled. As regards revenue, there was, of course, at
    first a large falling off--about a million in gross, and still more
    in net revenue. Since then, however, the revenue, whether gross or
    net, has rapidly advanced, till now it even exceeds its former
    amount, the rate of increase, both of letters and revenue, still
    remaining undiminished.

    In short, a comparison of the year 1863 with 1838 (the last complete
    year under the old system) shows that the number of chargeable
    letters has risen from 76,000,000 to 642,000,000; and that the
    revenue, at first so much impaired, has not only recovered its
    original amount, but risen, the gross from 2,346,000_l._ to about
    3,870,000_l._ and the net from 1,660,000_l._ to about

    The expectations I held out before the change were, that eventually,
    under the operation of my plans, the number of letters would
    increase fivefold, the gross revenue would be the same as before,
    while the net revenue would sustain a loss of about 300,000_l._ The
    preceding statement shows that the letters have increased, not
    fivefold, but nearly eight and a half fold; that the gross revenue,
    instead of remaining the same, has increased by about 1,500,000_l._;
    while the net revenue, instead of falling 300,000_l._, has risen
    more than 100,000_l._

    While the revenue of the Post-Office has thus more than recovered
    its former amount, the indirect benefit to the general revenue of
    the country, arising from the greatly increased facilities afforded
    to commercial transactions, though incapable of exact estimate, must
    be very large. Perhaps it is not too much to assume that, all things
    considered, the vast benefit of cheap, rapid, and extended postal
    communication has been obtained, even as regards the past, without
    fiscal loss. For the future, there must be a large and
    ever-increasing gain.

    The indirect benefit referred to above is partly manifested in the
    development of the money-order system, under which, since the year
    1839, the annual amount transmitted has risen from 313,000_l._ to
    16,494,000_l._--that is, fifty-two fold.

    An important collateral benefit of the new system is to be found in
    the cessation of that contraband conveyance which once prevailed so
    far that habitual breach of the postal law had become a thing of

    It may be added, that the organization thus so greatly improved and
    extended for postal purposes stands available for other objects, and
    passing over minor matters, has already been applied with great
    advantage to the new system of savings' banks.

    Lastly, the improvements briefly referred to above, with all their
    commercial, educational, and social benefits, have now been adopted,
    in greater or less degree--and that through the mere force of
    example--by the whole civilized world.

    I cannot conclude this summary without gratefully acknowledging the
    cordial co-operation and zealous aid afforded me in the discharge of
    my arduous duties. I must especially refer to many among the
    superior officers of the Department--men whose ability would do
    credit to any service, and whose zeal could not be greater if their
    object were private instead of public benefit.

                                                           ROWLAND HILL.

    _Feb. 23rd, 1864_.



[216] When my plan was published, the lowest General Post rate was
fourpence; but while the plan was under the consideration of Government
the rate between post towns not more than eight miles asunder was
reduced from fourpence to twopence.

[217] In this comparison of revenue, the mode of calculation in use
before the adoption of penny-postage has of course been retained--that
is to say, the cost of the packets on the one hand, and the produce of
the impressed newspaper stamps on the other, have been excluded. The
amounts for 1863 are, to some extent, estimated, the accounts not having
as yet been fully made up.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

   A missing reference to footnote [83] was inserted.

   The following is a list of changes made to the original.
   The first line is the original line, the second the corrected one.

   been the permanent arrangements for the transmision of the
   been the permanent arrangements for the transmission of the

   Nothwithstanding the losses he must have suffered
   Notwithstanding the losses he must have suffered

   wafer or wax, or even if totally unfastened by either. "At
   wafer or wax, or even if totally unfastened by either. At

   rusely no argument against a State monopoly of letter-carrying.
   surely no argument against a State monopoly of letter-carrying.

   Rev. Sydn Smith, Mr. McCullagh.
   Rev. Sydney Smith, Mr. McCullagh.

   it might be desirable, but impracticable" (10,939). "Most
   it might be "desirable, but impracticable" (10,939). "Most

   offices; (3) a hourly delivery of letters instead of one every
   offices; (3) an hourly delivery of letters instead of one every

   vender, and how trade--retail at any rate--is fostered by it.
   vendor, and how trade--retail at any rate--is fostered by it.

   the parties concerned, but the depositor run the risk of
   the parties concerned, but the depositor ran the risk of

   Thus, letters addressed to Newport should alway give the
   Thus, letters addressed to Newport should always give the

   A singular accident befel one of these letter-boxes (1862) in Montrose.
   A singular accident befell one of these letter-boxes (1862) in Montrose.

   every town and village in the kingdom, having any correpondence
   every town and village in the kingdom, having any correspondence

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