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Title: Sir Rowland Hill - The Story of a Great Reform
Author: Smyth, Eleanor C.
Language: English
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SIR ROWLAND HILL



COBDEN AS A CITIZEN

A Chapter in Manchester History. Containing a facsimile of Cobden's
pamphlet, “Incorporate your Borough,” with an Introduction and
a complete Cobden Bibliography, by William E. A. Oxon. With 7
Photogravure Plates, and 3 other Illustrations. Demy 8vo, half
parchment, 21s. net.


COILLARD OF THE ZAMBESI

The Lives of Francois and Christina Coillard, of the Paris Missionary
Society, 1834-1904. By C. W. Mackintosh. With a Photogravure
Frontispiece, a Map, and 64 other Illustrations. Second Edition. Demy
8vo, 15s. net.


THE LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN

By the Right Hon. John Morley, M.P. With Photogravure Portrait from
the Original Drawing by Lowes Dickinson. 2 vols. Large Crown 8vo, 7s.
the set. Also a “Popular” Edition. 1 vol. Large Crown 8vo, 2s. 6d. net.


LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN.



[Illustration: SIR ROWLAND HILL, K.C.B., D.C.L., F.R.S., F.R.A.S.

     _By permission of Messrs. De La Rue._]



  SIR ROWLAND HILL

  THE STORY OF A GREAT REFORM

  TOLD BY HIS DAUGHTER


  [Illustration: FACSIMILE OF THE
  ORIGINAL SKETCH FOR
  THE POSTAGE STAMP]


  LONDON

  T. FISHER UNWIN

  ADELPHI TERRACE

  MCMVII



[_All rights reserved._]



  IN LOVING MEMORY OF

  ROWLAND HILL      AND      CAROLINE PEARSON

  (Born December 3, 1795,      (Born November 25, 1796,
   Died August 27, 1879)        Died May 27, 1881)

  THIS BOOK IS WRITTEN

  BY

  THEIR LAST REMAINING IMMEDIATE DESCENDANT

  ELEANOR C. SMYTH


     “A fond desire to preserve the memory of those we love from
     oblivion is an almost universal sentiment.”

                      —(Lord Dufferin on his mother—_Songs, Poems, and
                            Verses_. By HELEN, LADY DUFFERIN.)

     “Reform does not spell ruin, lads—remember Rowland Hill!”

                         —(_Punch_ on the Postal Reform Jubilee, 1890.)



PREFACE


In Gladstone's “'musings for the good of man,'” writes John Morley
in his Life of the dead statesman (ii. 56, 57), the “Liberation of
Intercourse, to borrow his own larger name for Free Trade, figured
in his mind's eye as one of the promoting conditions of abundant
employment.... He recalled the days when our predecessors thought
it must be for man's good to have 'most of the avenues by which
the mind and also the hand of man conveyed and exchanged their
respective products' blocked or narrowed by regulation and taxation.
Dissemination of news, travelling, letters, transit of goods, were
all made as costly and difficult as the legislation could make them.
'I rank,' he said, 'the introduction of cheap postage for letters,
documents, patterns, and printed matter, and the abolition of all
taxes on printed matter, in the catalogue of free legislation. These
great measures may well take their place beside the abolition of
prohibitions and protective duties, the simplifying of revenue laws,
and the repeal of the Navigation Act, as forming together the great
code of industrial emancipation.'” To the above the biographer adds
that in Gladstone's article in the _Nineteenth Century_ on Free Trade,
Railways, and Commerce, he divided the credit of our material progress
between the two great factors, the Liberation of Intercourse and the
Improvement of Locomotion.

In view of the occasional attempts to revive the pernicious franking
privilege, and of the frequently recurring warfare between Free Trade
and the rival system, whose epitaph we owe to Disraeli, but whose
unquiet spirit apparently declines to rest within its tomb, the
present seems a fitting time to write the story of the old reform
to which Gladstone alluded—“the introduction of cheap postage for
letters,” etc., the narrative being prefaced by a notice of the
reformer, his family, and some of his friends who are not mentioned in
later pages.

My cousin, Dr Birkbeck Hill's “Life of Sir Rowland Hill and History
of Penny Postage” is an elaborate work, and therefore valuable as
a source of information to be drawn upon by any future historian
of that reform and of the period, now so far removed from our own,
which the reformer's long life covered. Before Dr Hill's death he
gave me permission to take from his pages such material as I cared
to incorporate with my own shorter, more anecdotal story. This has
been done, but my narrative also contains much that has not appeared
elsewhere, because, as the one of my father's children most intimately
associated with his home life, unto me were given opportunities of
acquiring knowledge which were not accessible to my cousin.

Before my brother, Mr Pearson Hill, died, he read through the greater
portion of my work; and although since then much has been remodelled,
omitted, and added, the narrative ought to be substantially correct.
He supplied sundry details, and more than one anecdote, and is
responsible for the story of Lord Canning's curious revelation which
has appeared in no previous work. In all that my brother wrote his
actual words have been, as far as possible, retained. The tribute to
his memory in the first chapter on the Post Office was written after
his decease.



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                                            PAGE

        PREFACE                                                      ix

        INTRODUCTORY                                                  1

     I. THE OLD POSTAL SYSTEM                                        39

    II. SOME EARLY POSTAL REFORMERS                                  70

   III. THE PLAN                                                     92

    IV. EXIT THE OLD SYSTEM                                         119

     V. AT THE TREASURY                                             148

    VI. THE STAMPS                                                  185

   VII. AT THE POST OFFICE                                          211

  VIII. AT THE POST OFFICE (_Continued_)                            245

    IX. THE SUNSET OF LIFE                                          286

        APPENDIX—RESULTS OF POSTAL REFORM                           306

        INDEX                                                       311



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  SIR ROWLAND HILL (_Portrait by Rajon_)                 _Frontispiece_

  FIRST SKETCH OF POSTAGE STAMP                            _Title-page_

  ROWLAND HILL'S BIRTHPLACE, KIDDERMINSTER                            7

  BRUCE CASTLE SCHOOL                                                15

  THOMAS WRIGHT HILL                                                 17

  JOSEPH PEARSON (_Bust by Chantrey_)                                26

  SIR ROWLAND HILL (_Photo by the London Stereoscopic Co._)          49

  FACSIMILE OF ROWLAND HILL'S WRITING                                97

  NO. 2 BURTON CRESCENT                                             109

  CAROLINE PEARSON, LADY HILL                                       141

  NO. 1 ORME SQUARE                                                 149

  AN OLD POST OFFICE                                                157

  THE MULREADY ENVELOPE                                             205

  SIR ROWLAND HILL (_Photo by Maull & Polyblank_)                   209

  EARLY TRAVELLING POST OFFICE WITH MAIL-BAGS EXCHANGE APPARATUS    240

  PEARSON HILL                                                      244

  SIR ROWLAND HILL (_“Graphic” portrait_)                           286

  THE STATUE, KIDDERMINSTER                                         301



INTRODUCTORY


The earliest of the postal reformer's forefathers to achieve fame
that outlives him was Sir Rowland Hill, mercer, and Lord Mayor
of London in 1549, a native of Hodnet, Shropshire, who founded a
Grammar School at Drayton, benefited the London Blue Coat School,
was a builder of bridges, and is mentioned by John Stowe. From his
brother are descended the three Rowland Hills famous in more modern
times—the preacher, the warrior, and the author of Penny Postage.
Some of the preacher's witticisms are still remembered, though they
are often attributed to his brother cleric, Sydney Smith; Napier, in
his “Peninsular War,” speaks very highly of the warrior, who, had
Wellington fallen at Waterloo, would have taken the Duke's place, and
who succeeded him as Commander-in-Chief when, in 1828, Wellington
became Prime Minister. A later common ancestor of the three, a landed
proprietor, married twice, and the first wife's children were thrown
upon the world to fight their way as best as they could, my paternal
grandfather's great-grandfather being one of the dispossessed. But
even the blackest cloud has its silver lining; and the fall, by
teaching the young people self-help, probably brought out the latent
good stuff that was in them. At any rate, family tradition preserves
memory of not a few men and women—Hills, or of the stocks with which
they married—of whom their descendants have reason to be proud.

There was, for example, John Hill, who served among “the twelve
good men and true” on a certain trial, was the only one of them
who declined to accept a bribe, and, the fact becoming known, was
handsomely complimented by the presiding judge. Thenceforth, whenever
the Assizes in that part of the country came round again, John used
to be asked after as “the honest juror.” At least two of my father's
forebears, a Symonds and a Hill, refused to cast their political votes
to order, and were punished for their sturdy independence. The one
lived to see a hospital erected in Shrewsbury out of the large fortune
for some two hundred years ago of £30,000 which should have come to
his wife, the testator's sister; the other, a baker and corn merchant,
son to “the honest juror,” saw his supply of fuel required to bake his
bread cut off by the local squire, a candidate for Parliament, for
whom the worthy baker had dared to refuse to vote. Ovens then were
heated by wood, which in this case came from the squire's estate. When
next James Hill made the usual application, the faggots were not to be
had. He was not discouraged. Wood, he reflected, was dear; coal—much
seldomer used then than now—was cheap. He mixed the two, and found the
plan succeed, lessened the proportion of wood, and finally dispensed
with it altogether. His example was followed by other people: the
demand for the squire's firewood languished, and the boycotted voter
was presently requested to purchase afresh. “An instance,” says Dr
Birkbeck Hill, “of a new kind of faggot vote.”

Another son of “the honest juror” was the first person to grow
potatoes in Kidderminster. Some two centuries earlier “the useful
tuber” was brought to England; but even in times much nearer our
own, so slowly did information travel, that till about 1750 the only
denizen of that town who seems to have known of its existence was
this second John Hill. When the seeds he sowed came up, blossomed,
and turned to berries, these last were cooked and brought to table.
Happily no one could eat them; and so the finger of scorn was pointed
at the luckless innovator. The plants withered unheeded; but later,
the ground being wanted for other crops, was dug up, when, to the
amazement of all beholders and hearers, a plentiful supply of fine
potatoes was revealed.

On the spindle side also Rowland Hill's family could boast ancestors
of whom none need feel ashamed. Among these was the high-spirited,
well-dowered orphan girl who, like Clarissa Harlowe, fled from home
to escape wedlock with the detested suitor her guardians sought
to force upon her. But, unlike Richardson's hapless heroine, this
fugitive lived into middle age, maintained herself by her own
handiwork—spinning—never sought even to recover her lost fortune,
married, left descendants, and fatally risked her life while preparing
for burial the pestilence-smitten neighbour whose poor remains his
own craven relatives had abandoned. Though she perished untimely,
recollection of her married name was preserved to reappear in that
of a great-grandson, Matthew _Davenport_ Hill. The husband of Mrs
Davenport's only daughter, William Lea, was a man little swayed by the
superstitions of his time, as he showed when he broke through a mob of
ignorant boors engaged in hounding into a pond a terrified old woman
they declared to be a witch, strode into the water, lifted her in his
arms, and, heedless of hostile demonstration, bore her to his own home
to be nursed back into such strength and sanity as were recoverable.
A son of William Lea, during the dreadful cholera visitation of 1832,
played, as Provost of Haddington, a part as fearlessly unselfish as
that of his grandmother in earlier days, but without losing his life,
for his days were long in the land. His sister was Rowland Hill's
mother.

On both sides the stocks seem to have been of stern Puritan
extraction, theologically narrow, inflexibly honest, terribly
in earnest, of healthy life, fine physique—nonagenarians not
infrequently. John Symonds, son to him whose wife forfeited succession
to her brother, Mr Millington's fortune, because both men were
sturdily obstinate in the matter of political creed, was, though a
layman, great at extempore prayer and sermon-making. When any young
man came a-wooing to one of his bonnie daughters, the father would
take the suitor to an inner sanctum, there to be tested as to his
ability to get through the like devotional exercises. If the young man
failed to come up to the requisite standard he was dismissed, and the
damsel reserved for some more proficient rival—James Hill being one of
the latter sort. How many suitors of the present day would creditably
emerge from that ordeal?

Through this sturdy old Puritan we claim kinship with the
Somersetshire family, of whom John Addington Symonds was one,
and therefore with the Stracheys; while from other sources comes
a collateral descent from “Hudibras” Butler, who seems to have
endowed with some of his own genuine wit certain later Hills; as
also a relationship with that line of distinguished medical men, the
Mackenzies, and with the Rev. Morell Mackenzie, who played a hero's
part at the long-ago wreck of the _Pegasus_.

A neighbour of James Hill was a recluse, who, perhaps, not finding
the society of a small provincial town so companionable as the books
he loved, forbore “to herd with narrow foreheads,” but made of
James a congenial friend. When this man died, the task fell to his
executors, James Hill and another, to divide his modest estate. Among
the few bequests were two books to young Tom, James's son, a boy
with a passion for reading, but possessed of few books, one being a
much-mutilated copy of “Robinson Crusoe,” which tantalisingly began
with the thrilling words, “more than thirty dancing round a fire.”
The fellow executor, knowing well the reputation for uncanny ways
with which local gossip had endowed the deceased, earnestly advised
his colleague to destroy the volumes, and not permit them to sully
young Tom's mind. “Oh, let the boy have the books,” said James Hill,
and straightway the legacy was placed in the youthful hands. It
consisted of a “Manual of Geography” and Euclid's “Elements.” The
effect of their perusal was not to send the reader to perdition, but
to call forth an innate love for mathematics, and, through them, a
lifelong devotion to astronomy, tastes he was destined to pass on in
undiminished ardour to his third son, the postal reformer.

Thomas Wright Hill was brought up in the straitest-laced of Puritan
sects, and he has left a graphic description of the mode in which,
as a small boy of seven, he passed each Sunday. The windows of the
house, darkened by their closed outside shutters, made mirrors in
which he saw his melancholy little face reflected; his toys were
put away; there were three chapel services, occupying in all some
five and a half hours, to which he was taken, and the intervals
between each were filled by long extempore prayers and sermon-reading
at home, all week-day conversation being rigidly ruled out. The
sabbatical observance commenced on Saturday night and terminated on
Sunday evening with “a cheerful supper,” as though literally “the
evening and the morning were the first day”—an arrangement which,
coupled with the habit of bestowing not Christian but Hebrew names
upon the children, gives colour to the oft-made allegation that our
Puritan ancestors drew their inspiration from the Old rather than
from the New Testament. The only portion of these Sunday theological
exercises which the poor little fellow really understood was the
simple Bible teaching that the tenderly-loved mother gave to him and
to his younger brother. While as a young man residing in Birmingham,
however, he passed under the influence of Priestley, and became one
of his most devoted disciples, several of whom, at the time of the
disgraceful “Church and King” riots of 1791, volunteered to defend
the learned doctor's house.[1] But Priestley declined all defence,
and the volunteers retired, leaving only young Tom, who would not
desert his beloved master's threatened dwelling. The Priestley family
had found refuge elsewhere, but his disciple stayed alone in the
twilight of the barred and shuttered house, which speedily fell a prey
to its assailants. Our grandfather used often to tell us children
of the events of those terrible days when the mob held the town at
their mercy, and were seriously opposed only when, having destroyed
so much property belonging to Nonconformity, they next turned their
tireless energy towards Conformity's possessions. His affianced wife
was as courageous as he, for when while driving in a friend's carriage
through Birmingham's streets some of the rioters stopped the horses,
and bade her utter the cry “Church and King,” she refused, and was
suffered to pass on unmolested. Was it her bravery or her comeliness,
or both, that won for her immunity from harm?

[Illustration:

     By permission of the Proprietors of the “_Illustrated London
     News_.”

ROWLAND HILL'S BIRTHPLACE, KIDDERMINSTER.]

The third son of this young couple, Rowland, the future postal
reformer, first saw the light in a house at Kidderminster wherein
his father was born, which had already sheltered some generations
of Hills, and whose garden was the scene of the potato story. The
child was weakly, and, being threatened with spinal trouble, passed
much of his infancy in a recumbent position. But the fragile form
held a dauntless little soul, and the almost abnormally large brain
behind the too pallid forehead was a very active one. As he lay prone,
playing with the toys his mother suspended to a cord stretched within
easy reach above him; and, later, working out mental arithmetical
problems, in which exercise he found delight, and to the weaving of
alluring daydreams, he presently fell to longing for some career—what
it should be he knew not—that should leave his country the better
for his having lived in it. The thoughts of boys are often, the poet
tells us, “long, long thoughts,” but it is not given to every one to
see those daydreams realised. Though what is boy (or girl) worth who
has not at times entertained healthily ambitious longings for a great
future?

As he grew stronger he presently came to help his father in the school
the latter had established at Birmingham, in which his two elder
brothers, aged fifteen and fourteen, were already at work. The family
was far from affluent, and its young members were well aware that on
their own exertions depended their future success. For them there was
no royal road to learning or to anything else; and even as children
they learned to be self-reliant. From the age of twelve onwards, my
father, indeed, was self-supporting. Like Chaucer's poor parson, the
young Hill brothers learned while they taught, even sometimes while on
their way to give a lesson, as did my father when on a several miles
long walk to teach an equally ignorant boy the art of Navigation;
and perhaps because life had to be taken so seriously, they valued
the hardly-acquired knowledge all the more highly. Their father early
accustomed his children to discuss with him and with each other the
questions of the time—a time which must always loom large in the
history of our land. Though he mingled in the talk, “it was,” my Uncle
Matthew said, “a match of mind against mind, in which the rules of
fair play were duly observed; and we put forth our little strength
without fear. The sword of authority was not thrown into the scale....
We were,” added the writer, “born to a burning hatred of tyranny.”[2]
And no wonder, for in the early years of the last century tyranny was
a living, active force.

If, to quote Blackstone, “punishment of unreasonable severity”
with a view to “preventing crimes and amending the manners of a
people” constitute a specific form of tyranny, the fact that in
1795, the year of Rowland Hill's birth, the pillory, the stocks,
and the whipping-post were still in use sufficiently attests this
“unreasonable severity.” In March 1789, less than seven years before
his birth, a yet more terrible punishment was still in force. A
woman—the last thus “judicially murdered”—was burnt at the stake; and
a writer in _Notes and Queries_, of 21st September 1851, tells its
readers that he was present on the occasion. Her offence was coining,
and she was mercifully strangled before being executed. Women were
burnt at the stake long after that awful death penalty was abolished
in the case of the more favoured sex. The savage cruelty of the
criminal code at this time and later is also indicated by the fact
that over 150 offences were punishable by death. Even in 1822, a date
within the recollection of persons still living, and notwithstanding
the efforts made by Sir Samuel Romilly and others to humanise that
code, capital punishment was still terribly common. In that year,
on two consecutive Monday mornings, my father, arriving by coach
in London from Birmingham, passed within sight of Newgate. Outside
its walls, on the first occasion, the horrified passengers counted
nineteen bodies hanging in a row; on the second, twenty-one.

During my father's childhood and youth this country was almost
constantly engaged in war. Within half a mile of my grandfather's
house the forging of gun barrels went on all but incessantly, the
work beginning before dawn and lasting till long after nightfall. The
scarcely-ending din of the hammers was varied only by the occasional
rattle from the proof shed; and the shocks and jars had disastrous
effect upon my grandmother's brewings of beer. Meanwhile “The Great
Shadow,” graphically depicted by Sir A. Conan Doyle, was an actual
dread that darkened our land for years. And the shadow of press-gang
raids was a yet greater dread alike to the men who encountered them,
sometimes to disappear for ever, and to the women who were frequently
bereft of their bread-winners. It is, however, pleasant to remember
that sometimes the would-be captors became the captured. A merchant
vessel lying in quarantine in Southampton Water, her yellow flag
duly displayed, but hanging in the calm weather so limply that it was
hardly observable, was boarded by a press-gang who thought to do a
clever thing by impressing some of the sailors. These, seeing what
was the invaders' errand, let them come peaceably on deck, when the
quarantine officer took possession of boat and gang, and detained both
for six weeks.

For those whose means were small—a numerous class at that time—there
was scant patronage of public conveyances, such as they were. Thus the
young Hill brothers had to depend on their own walking powers when
minded to visit the world that lay beyond their narrow horizon. And to
walking tours, often of great length, they were much given in holiday
time, tours which took them to distant places of historic interest, of
which Rowland brought back memorials in his sketch book. Beautiful,
indeed, were the then green lanes of the Midlands, though here and
there they were disfigured by the presence of some lonely gibbet,
the chains holding its dismal “fruit” clanking mournfully in windy
weather. Whenever it was possible, the wayfarer made a round to avoid
passing the gruesome object.

One part of the country, lying between Birmingham and Wolverhampton,
a lonely heath long since covered with factories and houses, known
as the “Lie Waste,” was also not pleasant to traverse, though the
lads occasionally had to do so. A small collection of huts of
mud-and-wattle construction sheltered some of our native savages—for
they were nothing else—whose like has happily long been “improved off
the face” of the land. These uncouth beings habitually and literally
went “on all fours.” Whether the attitude was assumed in consequence
of the low roofs of their dwellings, or the outcasts chose that mode
of progression in imitation of the animals which were their ordinary
companions, history does not say, but they moved with wonderful
celerity both in and out of doors. At sight of any passer-by they
were apt to “rear,” and then oaths, obscene language, and missiles of
whatever sort was handy would be their mildest greeting, while more
formidable attack was likely to be the lot of those who ventured too
near their lairs. Among these people the Hill boys often noticed a
remarkably handsome girl, as great a savage as the rest.

As the three elder brothers grew well into their teens, much of
the school government fell to their lot, always with the parental
sanction, and ere long it was changed in character, and became
a miniature republic.[3] Trial by jury for serious offences was
instituted, the judge being my grandfather or one of his sons, and the
jury the culprit's fellow-pupils. Corporal punishment, then perhaps
universal in schools, was abolished, and the lads, being treated as
reasonable creatures, early learned to be a self-respecting because a
self-governing community. The system, which in this restricted space
cannot be described in detail, was pre-eminently a success, since it
turned out pupils who did it and themselves credit. “All the good I
ever learned was learned at Hazelwood,” I once heard say a cheery old
clergy-man, probably one of the last surviving “boys.” The teaching
was efficiently carried on, and the development of individual talent
was wisely encouraged, the pupils out of school hours being allowed to
exercise the vocation to which each was inclined, or which, owing to
this practice, was discovered in each. Thus in boyhood Follet Osler,
the inventor of the anemometer and other scientific instruments, was
enabled to bring to light those mechanical abilities which, till he
exhibited their promise during his hours of voluntary work, were
unsuspected even by his nearest of kin. Again, Thomas Creswick, R.A.,
found an outlet for his love of art in drawing, though, being a very
little fellow when he began, some of these studies—of public buildings
in Birmingham—were very funny, the perspective generally having the
“Anglo-Saxon” peculiarities, and each edifice being afflicted with
a “list” out of the perpendicular as pronounced as that of Pisa's
leaning tower—or nearly so.

The fame of the “Hazelwood system” spread afar, and many of our then
most distinguished fellow-countrymen visited the school. Among the
rest, Bentham gave it his hearty approval; and Captain Basil Hall, the
writer of once popular books for boys, spoke of the evident existence
of friendly terms between masters and pupils, declared the system to
be “a curious epitome of real life,” and added that the boys were not
converted into little men, but remained boys, only with heads and
hands fully employed on topics they liked.

Visitors also came from foreign lands. Bernadotte's son, Prince
Oscar, afterwards first king of Sweden of that name, travelled to
Hazelwood, examined the novel system, and, later, established at
Stockholm a “Hillska Scola.” From France, among other people, came M.
Jullien, once secretary to Robespierre—what thrilling tales of the
Great Revolution must he not have been able to tell!—and afterwards
a wise philanthropist and eminent writer on education. He sent a son
to Hazelwood. President Jefferson, when organising the University
of Virginia, asked for a copy of “Public Education,”[4] the work
describing the system and the joint production of Rowland, who found
the ideas, Matthew, who supplied the composition, and, as regards a
few suggestions, of a younger brother, Arthur. Greece, Spain, far-off
Mexico even, in course of time sent pupils either to Hazelwood or to
Bruce Castle, Tottenham, to which then picturesque and somewhat remote
London suburb the school was ultimately transferred. “His Excellency,
the Tripolitan Ambassador,” wrote my father in his diary of 1823, “has
informed us that he has sent to Tripoli for six young Africans; and
the Algerine Ambassador, not to be outdone by his piratical brother,
has sent for a dozen from Algiers.”[5] Happily, neither contingent
put in an appearance. In both cases the enthusiasm evoked seems to
have been short-lived.

[Illustration:

     By permission of Messrs. De La Rue.

BRUCE CASTLE SCHOOL, TOTTENHAM.]

An old Hazelwood pupil, Mr E. Edwards, in his written sketch of “Sir
Rowland Hill,” said of the school that no similar establishment “in
the world, probably at that time, contained such an array of costly
models, instruments, apparatus, and books. There was an observatory
upon the top of the house fitted with powerful astronomical
instruments. The best microscopes obtainable were at hand. Models
of steam and other engines were all over the place. Air-pumps and
electrical machines were familiar objects. Maps, then comparatively
rare, lined the walls. Drawing and mathematical instruments were
provided in profusion. Etching was taught, and a copper press was
there for printing the pupils' efforts in that way. A lithographic
press and stones of various sizes were provided, so that the young
artists might print copies of their drawings to send to their admiring
relatives. Finally, a complete printing press with ample founts of
type was set up to enable the boys themselves to print a monthly
magazine connected with the school and its doings.” Other attractions
were a well fitted-up carpenter's shop; a band, the musicians being
the pupils; the training of the boys in vocal music; a theatre in
which the manager, elocution teacher, scene painter, etc., were
the young Hill brothers, the _costumière_ their sister Caroline,
and the actors the pupils; the control of a sum of money for school
purposes; and the use of a metallic coinage received as payment for
the voluntary work already mentioned, and by which certain privileges
could be purchased.[6]

My grandfather inspired his sons and pupils with a longing to acquire
knowledge, at the same time so completely winning their hearts by
his good comradeship, that they readily joined him in the long and
frequent walks of which he was fond, and in the course of which his
walking stick was wont to serve to make rough drawings of problems,
etc., in road or pathway. “His mathematical explanations,” wrote
another old pupil in the “Essays of a Birmingham Manufacturer” (W. L.
Sargent), “were very clear; and he looked at the bearings of every
subject irrespective of its conventionalities. His definition of a
straight line has been said to be the best in existence.”[7]

[Illustration:

     By permission of Messrs. Thos. De La Rue.

THOMAS WRIGHT HILL.]

In my father's “Life,” Dr Birkbeck Hill, when writing of his
recollections of our grandfather, said that it seemed “as if the
aged man were always seated in perpetual sunshine. How much of
the brightness and warmth must have come from his own cheerful
temperament?... His Sunday morning breakfasts live in the memory
like a landscape of Claude's.” At these entertainments the old man
would sit in his easy-chair, at the head of the largest table the
house could boast, in a circle of small, adoring grandchildren, the
intervening, severe generation being absent; and of all the joyous
crowd his perhaps was the youngest heart. There were other feasts,
those of reason and the flow of soul, with which he also delighted
his young descendants: stories of the long struggle in the revolted
“American Colonies,” of the Great French Revolution, and of other
interesting historical dramas which he could well remember, and
equally well describe.

His old pupils would come long distances to see him; and on one
occasion several of them subscribed to present him with a large
telescope, bearing on it a graven tribute of their affectionate
regard. This greatly prized gift was in use till within a short time
of his last illness.

Young Rowland had a strong bent towards art, as he showed when, at
the age of thirteen, he won the prize, a handsome box of water-colour
paints, offered by the proprietor of the _London School Magazine_ for
“the best original landscape drawing by the youth of all England,
under the age of sixteen.” He painted the scenery for the school
theatre, and made many water-colour sketches in different parts of
our island, his style much resembling that of David Cox. He was an
admirer of Turner long before Ruskin “discovered” that great painter;
and, as his diary shows, marvelled at the wondrous rendering of
atmospheric effects exhibited in his idol's pictures. Nearly all my
father's scenery and sketches perished in a fire which partially burnt
down Hazelwood School; and few are now in existence. After the age
of seventeen he gave up painting, being far too busy to devote time
to art, but he remained a picture-lover to the end of his days. Once
during the long war with France he had an adventure which might have
proved serious. He was sketching Dover Castle, when a soldier came
out of the fortress and told him to cease work. Not liking the man's
manner, the youthful artist went on painting unconcernedly. Presently
a file of soldiers, headed by a corporal, appeared, and he was
peremptorily ordered to withdraw. Then the reason for the interference
was revealed: he was taken for a spy. My father at once laid aside his
brush; he had no wish to be shot.

In 1835 Rowland Hill resigned to a younger brother, Arthur,[8] the
head-mastership of Bruce Castle School, and accepted the post of
secretary to the Colonisation Commissioners for South Australia,
whose chairman was Colonel Torrens.[9] Another commissioner was John
Shaw Lefevre, later a famous speaker of the House of Commons, who, as
Lord Eversley, lived to a patriarchal age. But the prime mover in the
scheme for colonising this portion of the “Island Continent” was that
public-spirited man, Edward Gibbon Wakefield. William IV. took much
interest in the project, and stipulated that the chief city should
bear the name of his consort—Adelaide.

The Commissioners were capable men, and were ably assisted by
the South Australian Company, which much about the same time was
started mainly through the exertions of Mr G. F. Angas. Among the
many excellent rules laid down by the Commissioners was one which
insisted on the making of a regular and efficient survey both of
the emigrant ships and of the food they carried. As sailing vessels
were then the only transports, the voyage lasted several months, and
the comfort of the passengers was of no small importance. “When,”
said my father in his diary, “defects and blemishes were brought to
light by the accuracy of the survey, and the stipulated consequences
enforced, an outcry arose as if the connection between promise and
performance were an unheard-of and most unwarrantable innovation.
After a time, however, as our practice became recognised, evasive
attempts grew rare, the first expense being found to be the least.”
He often visited the port of departure, and witnessed the shipping
off of the emigrants—always an interesting occasion, and one which
gave opportunities of personal supervision of matters. Being once at
Plymouth, my mother and he boarded a vessel about to sail for the new
colony. Among the passengers was a bright young Devonian, apparently
an agriculturist; and my father, observing him, said to my mother:
“I feel sure that man will do well.” The remark was overheard, but
the Devonian made no sign. He went to Australia poor, and returned
wealthy, bought an estate close to his birth-place which was in the
market, and there settled. But before sailing hither, he bought at one
of the Adelaide banks the finest one of several gold nuggets there
displayed, and, armed with this, presented himself at my father's
house, placed his gift in my mother's hand, and told how the casual
remark made forty years before had helped to spur him on to success.

The story of Rowland Hill and a mysteriously vanished rotatory
printing press may be told here.

In 1790 Mr William Nicholson devised a scheme for applying to ordinary
type printing the already established process of printing calico by
revolving cylinders. The impressions were to be taken from his press
upon successive sheets of paper, as no means of producing continuous
rolls had as yet been invented; but the machine worked far from
satisfactorily, and practically came to nothing. A quarter of a
century later Mr Edward Cowper applied Nicholson's idea to stereotype
plates bent to a cylindrical surface. But till the advent of “Hill's
machine” (described at the Patent Office as “A.D. 1835, No. 6762”)
all plans for fixing movable types on a cylinder had failed. It is
therefore incontestable that the first practical scheme of printing on
a continuous roll of paper by revolving cylinders was invented and set
to work by Rowland Hill in the year named. The machine was intended
mainly for the rapid printing of newspapers, but the refusal of the
Treasury to allow an arrangement by which the Government stamp could
be affixed by an ingenious mechanical device as the scroll passed
through the press—a refusal withdrawn later—deferred for many years
the introduction of any rotatory printing machine.

The apparatus was kept at my Uncle Matthew's chambers in Chancery
Lane, and was often shown to members of the trade and others. Although
driven by hand only, it threw off impressions at the rate of 7,000 or
8,000 an hour, a much higher speed than that hitherto attained by any
other machine. But from 1836 onwards my father's attention was almost
wholly taken up with his postal reform, and it was only after his
retirement from the Post Office in 1864 that his mind reverted to the
subject of the printing press. Several years before the latter date
his brother had left London; but of the rotatory printing machine,
bulky and ponderous as it was, a few small odds and ends—afterwards
exhibited at the Caxton Exhibition in 1877—alone remained.

In 1866 the once well-known “Walter Press” was first used in the
_Times_ office. Of this machine my father has said that “except as
regards the apparatus for cutting and distributing the printed sheets,
and excepting further that the 'Walter Press' (entered at the Patent
Office as “A.D. 1866, No. 3222”) is only adapted for printing from
stereotype plates, while mine would not only print from stereotype
plates, but, what is more difficult, from movable types also, the two
machines are almost identical.” He added that “the enormous difficulty
of bringing a complex machine into practical use—a difficulty familiar
to every inventor—has been most successfully overcome by Messrs
Calverley and Macdonald, the patentees.”

By whom and through what agency the machine patented in 1835 was
apparently transported from Chancery Lane to Printing House Square is
a mystery which at this distant date is hardly likely to be made clear.

It has always been a tradition in our family that the courtship
between Rowland Hill and Caroline Pearson began when their united
ages amounted to eleven years only, the boy being by twelve months the
elder. The families on both sides lived at the time at Wolverhampton,
and the first kiss is said to have been exchanged inside a large
culvert which crossed beneath the Tettenhall Road in the neighbourhood
of the Hills' house, and served to conduct a tiny rivulet, apt in
wet weather to become a swollen stream, into its chosen channel
on the other side the way. The boy delighted to creep within this
shelter—often dry in summer—and listen to the rumbling overhead of
the passing vehicles. Noisy, ponderous wains some of these were,
with wheels of great width and strength, and other timbers in like
proportion; but to the small listener the noisier the more enjoyable.
These wains have long vanished from the roads they helped to wear
out, the railway goods trains having superseded them, although of
late years the heavy traction engines, often drawing large trucks
after them, seem likely to occupy the place filled by their forgotten
predecessors. Little Rowland naturally wished to share the enchanting
treat with “Car,” as he generally called his new friend, and hand in
hand the “wee things” set off one day to the Tettenhall Road. Many
years later the elderly husband made a sentimental journey to the
spot, and was amazed at the culvert's apparent shrinkage in size.
Surely, a most prosaic spot for the beginning of a courtship!

The father of this little girl was Joseph Pearson, a man held in such
high esteem by his fellow-citizens that after the passing of the great
Reform Bill in 1832 he was asked to become one of Wolverhampton's
first two members.[10] He was, however, too old for the wear and tear
of Parliamentary life, though when the General Election came on he
threw himself with all his accustomed zeal into the struggle, and was,
as a consequence, presently laid up with a temporary ailment, which
caused one of his political foes to declare that “If Mr Pearson's gout
would only last three weeks longer we might get our man in.” These
words coming to Mr Pearson's ears, he rose from his sick-bed, gout or
no gout, and plunged afresh into the fray, with so much energy that
“we” did _not_ “get our man in,” but the other side did.

“He was,” once said a many years old friend, “conspicuous for his
breadth of mind, kindness of heart, and public spirit.” He hated the
cruel sports common in his time, and sought unceasingly to put them
down. One day, while passing the local bull-ring, he saw a crowd of
rough miners and others preparing to bait a bull. He at once strode
into their midst, liberated the animal, pulled up or broke off the
stake, and carried it away on his shoulder. Was it his pluck, or his
widespread popularity that won the forbearance of the semi-savage
by-standers? At any rate, not a hostile finger was laid upon him.
Meanwhile, he remembered that if brutalising pastimes are put down,
it is but right that better things should be set in their place. Thus
the local Mechanics' Institute, British Schools, Dispensary, and
other beneficent undertakings, including rational sports for every
class, owed their origin chiefly to him; and, aided by his friend John
Mander, and by the Rev. John Carter, a poor, hard-working Catholic
priest, he founded the Wolverhampton Free Library.

Joseph Pearson was one of the most hospitable and genial of men,
and, for his time, a person of some culture. He detested cliques and
coteries, those paralysing products of small provincial towns, and
would have naught to do with them. Men of great variety of views
met round his dinner-table, and whenever it seemed necessary he
would preface the repast with the request that theology and politics
should be avoided. With his Catholic neighbours—Staffordshire was a
stronghold of the “Old Religion”—the sturdy Nonconformist was on the
happiest of terms, and to listen to the conversation of the often
well-travelled, well-educated priests was to him a never-failing
pleasure. For Catholic Emancipation he strove heartily and long. With
all sects he was friendly, but chiefly his heart went out to those who
in any way had suffered for their faith. One effect of this then not
too common breadth of view was seen when, after his death, men of all
denominations followed him to his grave, and the handsomest of the
several journalistic tributes to his memory appeared in the columns
of his inveterate political and theological opponent, the local Tory
paper. A ward in the Hospital and a street were called after the
whilom “king of Wolverhampton.”[11]

[Illustration:

     _From a Photograph by Messrs. Whiteley & Co._

_The bust was the last work of Sir Francis Chantry._

JOSEPH PEARSON.]

He had three daughters, of whom my mother was the eldest. His wife
died young, and before her sixteenth year Caroline became mistress
of his house, and thus acquired the ease of manner and knowledge of
social duties which made of her the charming hostess who, in later
years, presided over her husband's London house. She will make a brief
reappearance in other pages of this work.

Joseph Pearson's youngest daughter, Clara, was a beautiful girl,
a frequent “toast” at social gatherings in the three counties of
Stafford, Warwick, and Worcester—for toasts in honour of reigning
belles were still drunk at festivities in provincial Assembly Rooms
and elsewhere, what time the nineteenth century was in its teens.
When very young she became engaged to her cousin, Lieutenant
(afterwards Captain) Alexander Pearson, R.N., who at the time of
Napoleon's sojourn at St Helena was stationed there, being attached
to the man-of-war commanded by Admiral Plampin. One gift which
Lieutenant Pearson gave my aunt she kept to the end of her life—a lock
of Napoleon's hair. Lieutenant Pearson often saw the ex-Emperor, and,
many years after, described him to us children—how, for instance, he
would stand, silent and with folded arms, gazing long and fixedly
seaward as though waiting for the rescue which never came. The
lieutenant was one of the several young naval officers who worshipped
at the shrine of the somewhat hoydenish Miss “Betsy” Balcombe, who
comes into most stories of St. Helena of that time. Wholly unabashed
by consideration of the illustrious captive's former greatness, she
made of him a playmate—perhaps a willing one, for life must have
been terribly dreary to one whose occupation, like that of Othello,
was gone. Occasionally she shocked her hearers by addressing the
ex-Emperor as “Boney,” though it is possible that the appellation
so frequently heard in the mouths of his British enemies had no
osseous association in his own ears, but was accepted as an endearing
diminutive. One day, in the presence of several witnesses, our cousin
being among them, she possessed herself of a sword, flourished it
playfully before her, hemmed Napoleon into a corner, and, holding
the blade above his head, laughingly exclaimed: “Maintenant j'ai
vaincu le vanqueur du monde!” But there was no answering laugh; the
superstitious Corsican turned pale, made some short, unintelligible
reply, left the room, and was depressed and taciturn for the rest of
the day. It was surmised that he took the somewhat tactless jest for
an omen that a chief who had been beaten by a woman would never again
lead an army of men.

During Rowland Hill's prime, and until the final breakdown of his
health, our house was a favourite haunt of the more intimate of his
many clever friends. Scientific, medical, legal, artistic, literary,
and other prominent men met, exchanged views, indulged in deep talk,
bandied repartee, and told good stories at breakfast and dinner
parties; the economists mustering in force, and plainly testifying by
their bearing and conversation that, whatever ignorant people may say
of the science they never study, its professors are often the very
reverse of dismal. If Dr Southwood Smith[12] and Mr (later Sir Edwin)
Chadwick's talk at times ran gruesomely on details of “intramural
interment,” the former, at least, had much quaint humour, and was
deservedly popular; while Dr Neil Arnott, whose chief hobbies were
fabled to be those sadly prosaic things, stoves, water-beds, and
ventilation, but who was actually a distinguished physician, natural
philosopher, author, and traveller, was even, when long past sixty,
one of the gayest and youngest of our guests: a mimic, but never an
ill-natured one, a spinner of amusing yarns, and frankly idolised by
the juvenile members of the family whose minds he mercifully never
attempted to improve.

Charles Wentworth Dilke,[13] founder of the _Athenæum_ newspaper,
a famous journalist and influential man of letters, at whose house
one met every writer, to say nothing of other men and women, worth
knowing, was another charming old man, to listen to whose talk was a
liberal education. Did we walk with him on Hampstead Heath, where once
he had a country house, he became an animated guide-book guiltless of
a dull page, telling us of older times than our own, and of dead and
gone worthies who had been guests at “Wentworth House.” On this much
worn, initial-carven, wooden seat used often to sit Keats listening
to the nightingales, and, maybe, thinking of Fanny Brawne. At another
spot the weakly-framed poet had soundly thrashed a British rough
who was beating his wife. Across yonder footpath used to come from
Highgate “the archangel a little damaged,” as Charles Lamb called
Coleridge. At that road corner, in a previous century, were wont
to gather the visitors returning from the Well Walk “pump-room,”
chalybeate spring, and promenade, till they were in sufficient force
to be safe from highwaymen or footpads who frequented the then lonely
road to London. In a yet earlier century certain gallant Spanish
gentlemen attached to Philip and Mary's court, rescued some English
ladies from molestation by English ruffians; and memorials of this
episode live in the still traceable circle of trees whose predecessors
were planted by the grateful ladies, and in the name of the once
quaint old hostelry hard by, and of the road known as the Spaniards.

Another wanderer about Hampstead's hills and dales was the great
Thackeray, who was often accompanied by some of the family of Mr
Crowe, a former editor of the _Daily News_, and father to Eyre Crowe,
R.A., and Sir Joseph Archer Crowe. These wanderings seem to have
suggested a few of the names bestowed by Thackeray on the characters
in his novels, such as “Jack Belsize” and “Lord Highgate,” while the
title of “Marquess of Steyne” is reminiscent of another Thackerayan
haunt—“Dr” Brighton. Hampstead still better knew Dickens, who is
mentioned later in these pages. The two writers are often called
rivals; yet novels and men were wholly unlike. Each was a peerless
genius in his own line, and each adorned any company in which he
moved. Yet, while Dickens was the life and soul of every circle,
Thackeray—perhaps the only male novelist who could draw a woman
absolutely true to life[14]—always struck us as rather silent and
self-absorbed, like one who is studying the people around him with a
view to their reproduction in as yet unwritten pages. His six feet
of height and proportionate breadth, his wealth of grey hair, and
the spectacles he was said never to be seen without, made of him a
notable figure everywhere. Yet, however outwardly awe-inspiring, he
was the kindliest of satirists, the truest of friends, and has been
fitly described as “the man who had the heart of a woman.”[15] At the
Athenæum Club he was often seen writing by the hour together in some
quiet corner, evidently unconscious of his surroundings, at times
enjoying a voiceless laugh, or again, perhaps when telling of Colonel
Newcome's death, with “a moisture upon his cheek which was not dew.”

Another literary friend—we had many—was William Henry Wills, also
mentioned later: a kind friend to struggling authors, who did not a
little to start Miss Mulock on her career as authoress, and who made
her known to us. He once told us a curious story about an old uncle
with whom as a lad he used to stay in the days before the invasion of
the west country by railways with their tendency to modernisation of
out-of-the-way places. This ancient man lived in a large ancestral
mansion, and literally “dined in hall” with his entire household.
There was a sanded floor—formerly, no doubt, rush-strewn—and the
family and their “retainers” sat down together at a very long table
to the midday repast, the servants taking their place literally
“below the salt,” which was represented by a large bowl filled with
that necessary concomitant. In how many other country houses did
this mediæval custom last into the first third of the nineteenth
century?[16] Mrs Wills—only sister to the Chambers brothers, William
and Robert, who, together with our other publisher friend, Charles
Knight, did so much to cheapen the cost and in every way to raise
the tone of literature—was, in addition to possessing great charm of
manner, an admirable amateur actress, and an unrivalled singer of
Scottish songs.

Hampstead, midway in the nineteenth century, was still a picturesque
little town, possessed of several stately old houses—one known as Sir
Harry Vane's—whose gardens were in some cases entered through tall,
wide, iron gates of elaborate design which now would be accounted
priceless. It was still the resort of artists, many of whom visited
the pleasant house of Edwin Wilkins Field, conspicuous among the
public-spirited men who rescued from the builder-fiend the Heath, and
made of it a London “lung” and a joy for ever; himself a lawyer, the
inspirer of the Limited Liability Act, and an accomplished amateur
water-colour painter. His first wife was a niece of Rogers, the
banker-poet, famous for his breakfast parties and table talk. At Mr
Field's house we came first to know Clarkson Stanfield, R.A., the
famous sea-scape painter, and his family, who were musical as well as
artistic, and gave delightful parties. It was said that Stanfield was
familiar with the build and rig of a ship down to its minutest detail,
because he and his lifelong friend and fellow Royal Academician,
David Roberts, ran away from school together to sea at a time when
life on the ocean wave seemed to most boys the ideal existence.
To the last, Stanfield looked like an old sea-dog, and was bluff,
hearty and genial. Hampstead still remembers him with pride; and
“Stanfield House,” wherein the first really good local Free Library
was sheltered, is so called because for nearly twenty years it was his
dwelling.

At the Fields' house, among other celebrities, artistic, literary and
legal, we also met Turner; and it was to “Squire's Mount,” and at a
crowded evening party there that a characteristic anecdote of this
eccentric, gifted painter belongs. The taciturn, gloomy-looking guest
had taken an early farewell of host and hostess, and disappeared,
only to return some minutes later, wonderfully and fearfully
apparelled, and silently commence a search about the drawing-room.
Suddenly he seemed to recollect, approached a sofa on which sat three
handsomely-attired ladies, whose indignant countenances were a sight
for gods and men when the abruptly-mannered artist called on them to
rise. He then half dived beneath the seat, drew forth a dreadfully
shabby umbrella of the “Gamp” species, and, taking no more notice of
the irate three than if they had been so many chairs, withdrew—this
time for good. Turner had a hearty contempt for the Claude worship,
and was resolved to expose its hollowness. He bequeathed to the nation
two of his finest oil paintings on condition that they were placed
in the Trafalgar Square Gallery beside two of Claude's which already
hung there, and to this day act as foils. A custodian of the Gallery
once told me that he was present when Turner visited the room in which
were the two Claudes, took a foot-rule from his pocket and measured
their frames, doubtless in order that his own should be of like
dimensions.

Other artists whom we knew were Mulready, Cooke—as famous for his
splendid collection of old Venetian glass as for his pictures—Creswick
and Elmore; but much as Rowland Hill loved art, the men of science,
such as Airy, the Astronomer Royal; Smyth, the “Astronomical Admiral”;
Wheatstone, Lyell; Graham, the Master of the Mint; Sabine, the
Herschels, and others were to him the most congenial company. After
them were counted in his regard the medical men, philosophers and
economists, such as Harley, Coulson, Fergusson, the Clarkes, Sir Henry
Thompson—the last to die of his old friends—and Bentham, Robert Owen,
James and John Stuart Mill—these last four being among the earliest
great men he knew, and counting in some ways as his mentors.

Of his literary friends no two held a higher place in his esteem
than Maria Edgeworth and Harriet Martineau. Of the latter and of her
able, untiring help in promoting the cause of Penny Postage, mention
will appear later. The former, my father, and his brother Arthur, as
young men, visited at her Irish home, making the pilgrimage thither
which Scott and many other literary adorers had made or were destined
to make, one of the most interesting being that of Mrs. Richmond
Ritchie, Thackeray's daughter, of which she tells us in her editorial
preface to a recent edition of “Castle Rackrent.” The two brothers
had looked forward to meet a charming woman, but she exceeded their
expectations, and the visit remained in the memory of both as a
red-letter day.[17]

Among literary men, besides those already mentioned, or to be named
later, were Leigh Hunt, De Quincey—who when under the influence of
opium did the strangest things, being one day discovered by my father
and a friend hiding in some East End slum under the wholly erroneous
impression that “enemies” were seeking to molest him—Sir John Bowring,
Dr Roget, author of “The Thesaurus,” and the Kinglakes. “Eothen,” as
the writer of that once famous book of travels and of “The Invasion of
the Crimea,” was habitually called by his friends, was a delightful
talker; and his brother, the doctor, was equally gifted, if less
fluent, while his sister was declared by Thackeray to be the cleverest
woman he ever met.

Dr Roget was a most cultivated man, with the exquisite polish and
stately bearing of that now wholly extinct species, the gentlemen of
the old school. He was one of the many tourists from England who,
happening to be in France after the break-up of the short-lived
Peace of Amiens, were detained in that country by Napoleon. Though a
foreigner, Dr Roget had lived so long in England, and, as his book
proves, knew our language so well, that he could easily have passed
for a native of these isles; and thus readily fell a victim to the
Corsican's unjustifiable action. Happily for himself, Dr Roget
remembered that Napoleon had recently annexed Geneva to France; and
he therefore, as a Genevese, protested against his detention on the
ground that the annexation had made of him a French subject. The plea
was allowed; he returned to England, and finally settled here; but the
friend who had accompanied him on the tour, together with the many
other _détenus_, remained in France for several years.

Political friends were also numerous, some of whom will be mentioned
in later pages. Of others, our most frequent visitors were the
brilliant talker Roebuck, once known as “Dog Tear 'Em” of the House
of Commons; the two Forsters, father and son, who, in turn and for
many years, represented Berwick-upon-Tweed; J. B. Smith (Stockport);
and Benjamin Smith (Norwich), at whose house we met some of the
arctic explorers of the mid-nineteenth century, congenial friends
of a descendant of the discoverer of Smith's Sound, and with whose
clever daughters, Madame Bodichon being the eldest, we of the younger
generation were intimate. At one time we saw a good deal also of Sir
Benjamin Hawes, who, when appointed Under-Secretary to the Colonies
in Lord John Russell's Administration of 1846, said to my parents:
“Heaven help the Colonies, for I know nothing at all about them!”—an
ignorance shared by many other people in those days of seldom distant
travel.

My father's legal friends included Denman, Wilde, Mellor, Manning,
Brougham, and others; and racy was the talk when some of these
gathered round “the mahogany tree,” for the extremely small jokes
which to-day produce “roars of laughter” in Court were then little in
favour, or failed to reach the honour of reproduction in print.

Quite as interesting as any of the other people we mingled with were
the foreign political exiles who became honoured guests in many
households; and some of these terrible revolutionists were in reality
the mildest mannered and most estimable of men. Herr Jansa, the great
violinist, was paying a visit to this country in 1849, and out of
pure kindness of heart volunteered to play at a concert at Willis's
rooms got up for the benefit of the many Hungarian refugees recently
landed here. For this “crime” the then young Emperor Francis Joseph
caused the old man to be banished; though what was Austria's loss was
Britain's gain, as he spent some years among us respected and beloved
by all who knew him. We met him oftenest at the house of Sir Joshua
Walmsley, where, as Miss Walmsley was an accomplished pianist, very
enjoyable musical parties were given. The Hungarian refugees, several
of whom were wonderful musicians, were long with us; and some, like
Dr Zerffi, remained here altogether. The Italian exiles, Mazzini,
Rufini, Gallenga, Panizzi—afterwards Sir Antonio, Principal Librarian
at the British Museum, and planner of the Reading Room there—and
others came to speak and write English better than many English
people. Poerio, Settembrini, and other victims of King “Bomba”—whose
sufferings inspired Gladstone to write his famous “Two Letters”—were
not here long; Garibaldi was an infrequent bird of passage, as was
also Kossuth. Kinkel, the German journalist, a man of fine presence,
had been sentenced to lifelong incarceration at Spandau after the
Berlin massacre—from which Dr Oswald and his sister with difficulty
escaped—but cleverly broke prison and took refuge in England; Louis
Blanc, historian and most diminutive of men, made his home for some
years among us; and there were many more. Quite a variety of languages
was heard in the London drawing-rooms of that time, conversation was
anything but commonplace; and what thrillingly interesting days those
were!

The story of my father's connection with the London, Brighton, and
South Coast Railway, and of that portion of his life which followed
his retirement from the Post Office, will be alluded to later in this
work.

As it is well not to overburden the narrative with notes, those of
mere reference to volume and page of Dr Hill's “Life” of my father
are generally omitted from the present story; though if verification
of statements made be required, the index to my cousin's book should
render the task easy, at least as regards all matter taken from that
“Life.”


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Another volunteer was a young man named Clark, one of whose sons
afterwards married T. W. Hill's elder daughter. An acquaintance
of Clark's, politically a foe, sought to save his friend's house
from destruction by writing upon it the shibboleth, “Church and
King.” But like Millais' Huguenot knight, Clark scorned to shelter
himself or property under a false badge, and promptly effaced the
kindly-intentioned inscription.

[2] “Remains of T. W. Hill.” By M. D. Hill, p. 124.

[3] “Six years have now elapsed,” wrote my father in 1823, “since we
placed a great part of the government of the school in the hands of
the boys themselves; and during the whole of that time the headmaster
has never once exercised his right of veto upon their proceedings.”

[4] Its full title was “Plans for the Government and Liberal Education
of Boys in Large Numbers,” and the work speedily went into a second
edition.

[5] Algeria was not conquered by France till 1830; and until the
beginning of the nineteenth century our shores were still liable
to piratical raids. One such (in Norway) is introduced in Miss
Martineau's story, “Feats on the Fiords.” The pirates, during hundreds
of years, periodically swept the European coasts, and carried off
people into slavery, penetrating at times even so far north as
Iceland. What was the condition of these North African pirate States
prior to the French conquest is told by Mr S. L. Poole in “The Barbery
Corsairs” (“Story of the Nations” series).

[6] It was a visit paid to Bruce Castle School which caused De
Quincey, in that chapter of his “Autobiographic Sketches” entitled
“My Brother,” to write: “Different, O Rowland Hill, are the laws of
thy establishment, for other are the echoes heard amid the ancient
halls of Bruce. There it is possible for the timid child to be happy,
for the child destined to an early grave to reap his brief harvest
in peace. Wherefore were there no such asylums in those days? Man
flourished then as now. Wherefore did he not put forth his power upon
establishments that might cultivate happiness as well as knowledge.”
The stories of brutalities inflicted upon weakly boys in some of our
large schools of to-day might tempt not a few parents to echo De
Quincey's pathetic lament, though perhaps in less archaic language.

[7] It is as follows:—“A straight line is a line in which, if any two
points be taken, the part intercepted shall be less than any other
line in which these points can be found.”

[8] He was an ideal schoolmaster and an enthusiastic Shakespearean,
his readings from the bard being much in the same cultured style as
those of the late Mr Brandram. Whenever it was bruited about the
house that “Uncle Arthur was going 'to do' Shakespeare,” there always
trooped into the room a crowd of eager nieces, nephews, and others,
just as in a larger house members troop in when a favourite orator is
“up.” At his own request, a monetary testimonial raised by his old
pupils to do him honour was devoted to the purchase of a lifeboat
(called by his name) to be stationed at one of our coast resorts.

[9] Colonel Torrens, after whom a river and a lake in South Australia
were named, had a distinguished career. For his spirited defence in
1811 of the island of Anholt he was awarded a sword of honour. But
he was much more than a soldier, however valorous and able. He was a
writer on economics and other important problems of the day; was one
of the founders of the Political Economy Club, and of the _Globe_
newspaper, then an advocate of somewhat advanced views; and interested
himself in several philanthropic movements. His son, Sir Robert
Torrens, sometime M.P. for Cambridge, lived for many years in South
Australia, and was its first Premier. While there he drew up the plan
of “The Transfer of Land by Registration,” which became an Act bearing
his name, and is one of the measures sometimes cited as proof that
the Daughter States are in sundry ways well ahead of their Mother. In
consequence of the good work the plan has accomplished in the land of
its origin, it has been adopted by other colonies, and is a standard
work on the list of Cobden Club publications. Colonel Torrens's eldest
granddaughter married Rowland Hill's only son.

[10] The candidates ultimately chosen were the Hon. Charles Pelham
Villiers, who represented the constituency for sixty-three years—from
January 1835 till his death in January 1898—and Mr Thomas Thornley of
Liverpool. Both men, as we shall see, served on that select Committee
on Postage which sat to enquire as to the merits of my father's plan
of postal reform, and helped to cause its adoption. The two men were
long known locally as “Mr Pearson's members.” Mr Villiers will be
remembered as the man who, for several years in succession, brought in
an Annual Motion on behalf of Free Trade, and as being for a longer
while, perhaps, than any other Parliamentarian, “the Father of the
House”; but the fact is not so well known that he came near to not
representing Wolverhampton at all. The election agent who “discovered”
him in London described him in a letter to my grandfather (who was
chairman of the local Liberal Association) as “a young gentleman
named Villiers, a thorough free-trader, of good connexions, and good
address.” Thus his advent was eagerly looked for. Always given to
procrastination, the candidate, however, was so long in making his
appearance or communicating with the constituents, that his place
was about to be taken by a more energetic person who went so far as
to issue his address and begin his canvass. Only just in time for
nomination did Mr Villiers drive into Wolverhampton. Whereupon Mr
Throckmorton gracefully retired.

[11] He died in July 1838, in the midst of the agitation for the
postal reform, in which he took an enthusiastic interest.

[12] Grandfather to Miss Octavia Hill.

[13] His son was one of the Commissioners who aided Prince Albert to
inaugurate the Great Exhibition of 1851, and was created a baronet in
recognition of his services.

[14] What other man ever depicted a Becky Sharpe, a Beatrix Esmond, a
Mrs Bute Crawley, or a Lady Kew—to say nothing of minor characters?

[15] “Thackeray's London.” By W. H. Rideing.

[16] Less than half a century before the time described by Mr Wills,
the mother of Sir Humphrey Davy left the fact on record that in
Penzance, a town of 2,000 inhabitants, there were but one cart, one
carpet, no such thing as a silver fork, no merchandise brought to the
place save that carried by pack-horses, and every one who travelled
went on horseback. On this state of things Palmer's mail coaches had a
most rousing effect.

[17] When Miss Edgeworth's father in 1804 wrote the preface to her
“Popular Tales,” he quoted Burke as saying that in the United Kingdom
one person in every hundred could read, and added that he hoped
his daughter's works would attract the attention of a good many
“thousands.” Millions of readers were probably undreamed of. The
schoolmaster has made some progress since those days.



CHAPTER I

THE OLD POSTAL SYSTEM

     “Postage is one of the worst of our taxes. Few taxes, if any,
     have so injurious a tendency as the tax upon the communication
     by letters. I cannot doubt that a taxation upon communication
     by letters must bear heavily upon commerce; it is, in fact,
     taxing the conversation of people who live at a distance from
     each other. The communication of letters by persons living at a
     distance is the same as a communication by word of mouth between
     persons living in the same town. You might as well tax words
     spoken upon the Royal Exchange as the communications of various
     persons living in Manchester, Liverpool, and London.”—Lord
     ASHBURTON, a conservative peer.

     “We build National Galleries, and furnish them with pictures;
     we propose to create public walks for the air and health and
     exercise of the community at the general cost of the country.
     I do not think that either of these, useful and valuable as
     they are to the community, and fit as they are for Government
     to sanction, are more conducive to the moral and social
     advancement of the community than the facility of intercourse by
     post.”—SAMUEL JONES LOYD (Lord OVERSTONE), banker and financier.

     “It is commercial suicide to restrict the free transmission of
     letters.”—(Sir) WILLIAM BROWN, a Liverpool merchant.

     “We are cut off from our relatives by the high rates of
     postage.”—G. HENSON, a working hosier of Nottingham.


In a short sketch of the postal reform written by my brother,[18]
in the year of the late Queen's first jubilee—which was also the
jubilee of the publication of our father's “Post Office Reform,” the
pamphlet that swept away the old system—the following passage from
Miss Martineau's “History of the Thirty Years' Peace, 1815-1845” is
quoted with excellent effect. From a novel point of view, and in
somewhat startling colours, it presents us with a picture of the
state of things which, under that old system, existed in our country
through four-tenths (less one year) of the nineteenth century, and is
therefore within the recollection of people still living.

We look back now, Miss Martineau says,[19] with a sort of amazed
compassion to the old crusading days when warrior husbands and their
wives, grey-headed parents and their brave sons parted, with the
knowledge that it must be months or years before they could hear
even of one another's existence. We wonder how they bore the depth
of silence, and we feel the same now about the families of polar
voyagers;[20] but till the commencement of Her Majesty's reign it did
not occur to many of us how like to this was the fate of the largest
classes in our own country. The fact is that there was no full and
free epistolary intercourse in the country except for those who,
like Members of Parliament, had the command of franks. There were
few families in the wide middle class who did not feel the cost of
postage to be a heavy item in their expenditure; and if the young
people sent letters home only once a fortnight, the amount at the
year's end was a rather serious matter. But it was the vast multitude
of the poorer classes who suffered, like the crusading families of
old, and the geographical discoverers of all time. When the young
people went out into the world the separation between them and those
left behind was almost like that of death. The hundreds of thousands
of apprentices, of shopmen, of governesses, of domestic servants, were
cut off from family relations as effectually as if seas or deserts
divided them (vol. iv. p. 11).

Yet it was not so much the number of miles of severance or the
paucity of means of communication that raised walls of oblivion
between members of those poorer families which form the large
majority of our race; for by 1840—the year when the postal reform was
established—communication between even distant places was becoming
comparatively easy. Separation was mainly caused by dear postal
charges. Fourpence carried a letter 15 miles only; the average rate,
even taking into account the many penny letters circulated by the
local town-posts—which, it is said, numbered some two hundred, the
greater part being very profitable undertakings—was 6-1/4d.[21] Mr
Brewin of Cirencester, in his evidence before the Parliamentary
Committee of 1838 (Third Report), put the case with startling effect
when he said: “Sixpence is a third of a poor man's daily income. If
a gentleman whose fortune is a thousand a year, or £3 a day, had to
pay one-third of his daily income—a sovereign—for a letter, how often
would he write letters of friendship?”

But Mr Brewin's illustration, admirable as it is, did not cover the
entire case. And, first, it is worth pointing out that the “poor man's
daily income” was not only actually smaller, but, generally speaking,
it had also smaller purchasing power in the 'thirties than it came
to have later in the century when freer trade and lighter taxation
prevailed. The real hardship, however, was that too often the man
“whose fortune is a thousand a year”—and sometimes much more—was,
unlike his poorer brother on 1s. 6d. a day, exempt altogether from
postal charges.

For the franking system is a hoary iniquity. It dates back
considerably more than two hundred years. To such an extent was the
practice, legally or illegally, carried, that, as Mr Joyce, in his
“History of the Post Office,” tells us: “In Great Britain alone the
postage represented by the franked letters, excluding those which
were, or which purported to be, 'On His Majesty's Service,' amounted
in 1716 to what was, for that time relatively to the total Post Office
revenue, the enormous sum of £17,500 a year” (p. 142). By 1838 the
number of franked missives was some 7,000,000 a year. Of these, rather
less that 5,000,000 were “double” letters, about 2,000,000 eight-fold
letters, and some 77,000 thirteen-fold letters, free carriage of
which caused a loss to the revenue during the twelvemonths of about
£1,065,000.

The franking privilege—which enabled its possessor to write his name
outside a letter, thereby rendering it exempt from postal charge—was
in vogue long before it received formal recognition by Parliament, and
is indeed said to have been given by way of bribe to the Commons what
time the Post Office became a Crown monopoly. The first intention was
that franking should be enjoyed only by Members during each session;
but later it was practised in and out of session. When the measure
came before the House, a few Members condemned it as “shabby,” “a
poor mendicant proviso,” etc. But the Bill was passed. The Upper
House rejected it. Then the Commons, with a knowledge of human nature
creditable to their understanding if to nothing else, inserted a
clause providing that the Lords' letters should also be franked;
whereupon the Bill became an Act.

The old system worked with great tenderness towards the “haves,” and
with corresponding harshness towards the “have nots.” It enabled
some members of the favoured classes to send by post free of charge
such things as fifteen couples of hounds, two maid servants, a cow,
two bales of stockings, a deal case containing flitches of bacon, a
huge feather-bed, and other bulky products, animate and inanimate.
“The 'Ambassador's bag,'” said Mr Roebuck one night in the House of
Commons, “was often unduly weighted. Coats, lace, boots, and other
articles were sent by it; even a pianoforte, and a horse!”[22]

On the other hand, the unfavoured many were heavily taxed for the
transmission of missives often smaller, easier of carriage, and
lighter of weight; and were so taxed to make up for the immunity
enjoyed by the favoured few, since the revenue, at all costs,
must be maintained. Thus to Rowland Hill's parents, and to many
thousands more, in those days of slender income and heavy taxation,
the postman's knock was a sound of dread. The accepted letter might
prove to be a worthless circular or other useless sheet, on which the
too-trusting recipient had thrown away the money needed for necessary
things whose purchase must be deferred.

Incredibly high the postal rates sometimes were. A packet weighing
32 oz. was once sent from Deal to London. The postage was over £6,
being, as Rowland Hill's informant remarked, four times as much as
the charge for an inside place by the coach.[23] Again, a parcel of
official papers, small enough to slip inside an ordinary pocket, was
sent from Dublin to another Irish town addressed to Sir John Burgogne.
By mistake it was charged as a letter instead of as a parcel, and
cost £11! For that amount the whole mail-coach plying between the two
towns, with places for seven passengers and their luggage, might have
been hired. Extreme cases these perhaps, but that they could and did
happen argued something rotten in the state of—the old system.

The peers of the realm and the Members of Parliament could not only
frank their own letters, but those also of their friends, who,
perhaps, in nine cases out of ten could well afford to do without
such help. The number of franks which privileged people could write
was limited by law,[24] but was frequently exceeded if a donor hated
to say “No,” or found that compliance with requests enhanced his
popularity, or was to his advantage. Members of Parliament sometimes
signed franks by the packet, and gave them to constituents and
friends. It was an easy, inexpensive way of making a present, or of
practising a little bribery and corruption. The chief offenders were
said to be the banker Members, who, in one day (of 1794), sent 103,000
franked letters through the London Post Office alone. No wonder a
“banker's frank” came to be a byword. Franks were also sometimes given
to servants instead of, or to eke out, their wages; and the servants,
being then as a rule illiterate, sold the franks again.

Forgery of franks was extensively practised, since to imitate a
man's writing is not difficult. Mr Joyce tells us that, under the
old system, the proportion of counterfeit to genuine franks varied
from half to three-quarters of the entire number. Why forgery should
be resorted to is easy to understand. The _un_privileged nursed a
natural grudge against the privileged, and saw no harm in occasionally
enjoying a like immunity from postal charges. Prosecutions availed
little as deterrents. Even the fate of the Rev. Dr Dodd, hanged at
Tyburn in 1771 for the offence, could not check the practice.

The strictness of the rules against forging the frank on a letter, so
long a capital offence, contrasted strangely with the extraordinary
laxity of those relating to the franking of newspapers. To pass freely
through the post, a newspaper, like a letter, had to be franked by a
peer or a Member of Parliament. But no pretence was ever made that
the signatures were genuine; and not only was anybody at liberty to
write the name of peer or Member, but the publishers themselves were
accustomed to issue the newspapers with their customer's name and
address, and the franking signature already _printed_ on each cover!
Indeed, were this useless form to be disregarded, the paper was
counted as an unpaid letter, and became liable to a charge of perhaps
several shillings.

The cost of conveying newspapers by post was practically covered by
the duty stamp. Yet “No newspaper could be posted in any provincial
town for delivery within the same, nor anywhere within the London
District (a circle of 12 miles radius from the General Post Office)
for delivery within the same circle, unless a postage of 1d., in
addition to the impressed newspaper stamp, were paid upon it—a
regulation which, however, was constantly evaded by large numbers of
newspapers intended for delivery in London being sent by newsagents
down the river to be posted at Gravesend, the Post Office then having
the trouble of bringing them back, and of delivering them without
charge.”[25]

The newspaper duty at its lowest charge was 1d., and at its highest
4d., and varied with the varying burden of taxation. Thus during the
long period of George III.'s almost incessant wars it rose from the
lower to the higher figure. Before a word could be printed on any
newspaper the blank sheet had to be taken to the Stamp Office to
receive the impress of the duty stamp, and therefore prepayment of
newspaper postage was secured. It may be that when the stamp duty
rose to 3d. and 4d., the official conscience was satisfied that
sufficient payment had been made; and thus the franking signature
became an unnecessary survival, a mere process of lily-painting and
refined gold-gilding, which at some future time might be quietly got
rid of. If so, the reason becomes evident why the forgery of franks on
newspapers was viewed with leniency, the authorities having, by means
of the stamp, secured their “pound of flesh.” But no duty stamp was
ever impressed on letters which were treated altogether differently,
prepayment in their case being, if not actually out of the question,
so rare as to be practically non-existent.

The duty on newspapers was an odious “tax on knowledge,” and rendered
a cheap Press impossible. Only the well-to-do could indulge in the
luxury of a daily paper; and recollection of childish days brings back
a vision of the sheet passing through a succession of households till
its contents had become “ancient history,” and it ended its existence
in tatters. The repeal of the stamp duty and of that other “tax
unwise,” the paper duty, changed all this, and gave rise to the penny
and halfpenny Press of modern times and the cheap and good books that
are now within the reach of all. The fact is worth recording that yet
another—perhaps more than one other—article of daily use did duty in a
plurality of households during those far-off days of general dearness.
This was tea, then so costly that it was a common practice for poor
people to call at the houses of the well-to-do, and ask for the used
leaves, though not to cleanse carpets and glassware as we do at the
present day, but to infuse afresh.

The making of exemptions is a huge mistake; and, according to the
cynic, a mistake is more reprehensible than a crime. Exemptions create
discontent, and justly so. Peel, inimical as he was to the postal
reform, was well aware of the evils of the franking system, and said
that “were each Government Department required to pay its own postage,
much would be done towards checking the abuse.”[26]

It was Rowland Hill's wish that franking should be totally abolished.
But vested interests—that worst bar to all social progress—proved
stronger than the reformer; and his plan, in that and some other
details, was not carried out in its entirety. Franking was enormously
curtailed, but it was a scotching rather than a killing process; and
after his retirement the evil thing slowly but steadily increased.
Nor does the tendency at the present day give sign of abatement.

[Illustration: _From a Photograph by the London Stereoscopic Co._

Yours very affectionately Rowland Hill]

As some of that increasingly large portion of the public which knows
nothing of the old postal system are under the erroneous impression
that others than Rowland Hill suggested the use of postage stamps for
letters, it is well to point out that the employment of such stamps
before 1840, so far from cheapening or rendering easier the payment of
postal charges, must have made them considerably dearer, and have yet
further complicated the process of letter-“taxing.”[27]

Postage stamps, like railway tickets, are mere tokens of prepayment,
and, however mentally hazy on the subject of the origin of postage
stamps some of us may be, we can all easily understand how absurd,
indeed impossible, introduction of the tickets would have been in
the dark ages before railway trains began to run. Equally impossible
would have been the employment, or even the suggestion, of stamps when
letters were posted unpaid. Under the old system the letters of the
unprivileged classes were rated, primarily, according to the distance
travelled, though not necessarily the distance actually separating
writer and recipient, because, although before 1840 railways existed,
no close network of lines covered our land, providing, as it does
to-day, direct and plentiful means of inter-communication; and
therefore the Post Office, to suit its own convenience, often obliged
some of its mail matter to perform very circuitous routes, thereby
not only retarding delivery, but rendering still greater the already
great variability of rates. “Thus, for example, letters from Loughton
to Epping (places only 2 or 3 miles apart) were carried into London
and out again, and charged a postage of 7d.—that being the rate under
the old system for letters between post towns ranging from 30 to 50
miles apart.”[28] That this circumambulatory practice was responsible
for waste of time as well as increase of cost is shown by the fact
that of two letters, the one addressed to Highgate, and the other
to Wolverhampton (120 miles further along the same coach road), and
both posted in London at the same hour, the Highgate letter would be
delivered last. As regards cost, an anomaly quite as absurd as the
two foregoing existed in the case of letters between Wolverhampton
and Brierley Hill which were carried by a cross-post passing through
Dudley. If a letter went the whole way, the postage was 1d.; but if
it stopped short at Dudley, 4d. was charged. Of the letters which
performed circuitous routes, Scott, in the fortieth chapter of “Guy
Mannering,” humorously remarks that, “There was a custom, not yet
wholly obsolete, of causing a letter from one town to another, perhaps
within the distance of 30 miles, to perform a circuit of 200 miles
before delivery; which had the combined advantage of airing the
epistle thoroughly, of adding some pence to the revenue of the Post
Office, and of exercising the patience of the correspondents.”

The question of charge was still further complicated, because,
secondarily, there existed “single,” “double,” “treble,” and yet
heavier rates of postage; as when the treble rate was passed, further
increase was reckoned by weight, the charge being quadrupled when the
letter weighed an ounce, rising afterwards by a “single” postage for
every additional quarter ounce. It was as well, perhaps, that the
people who lived before the 'forties did not lead the feverish life of
to-day. Otherwise, how would the post officials, to say nothing of the
public, have remembered these positively bewildering details?

A “single” letter had to be written on a single sheet of paper, whose
use probably gave rise to the practice of that now obsolete “cross”
writing which often made an epistle all but illegible, but to which in
those days of dear postage recourse was unavoidable when much matter
had to be crammed into the limited compass of that single sheet. If a
second sheet, or even the smallest piece of paper, were added to the
first, the postage was doubled. The effect of fastening an adhesive
stamp on to a single letter would therefore have been to subject
the missive to a double charge; while to have affixed a stamp to an
envelope containing a letter would have trebled the postage. In other
words, a man living, say, 400 miles from his correspondent, would have
to pay something like 4s. for the privilege of receiving from him a
single sheet of paper carried in a wholly unnecessary cover bearing
an equally unnecessary, because entirely useless, adornment in the
shape of an adhesive stamp. For obvious reasons, therefore neither
“the little bags called envelopes,” as in his pamphlet Rowland Hill
quaintly described these novel adjuncts, nor the stamps, were, or
could be, in use.[29]

One veracious anecdote will suffice to show what came of evasion,
wilful or unintentional, of a hard and fast postal rule. A letter was
once sent from London to Wolverhampton, containing an enclosure to
which a small piece of paper had been fastened. The process called
“candling” showed that the letter consisted of three parts; and the
single postage being 10d., a charge was made of 2s. 6d.[30]

It will thus be seen that in reckoning the postage on a letter,
distance, the number of enclosures (if any), and, finally, weight
had to be taken into consideration. Nor should it be forgotten that
of single inland letters the variations of charge amounted to over
forty. Under so complicated a system, it was, save in very exceptional
circumstances, far easier to collect the postage at the end of the
letter's journey than at its beginning; and, in the absence of
prepayment, of what possible use could stamps have been, or what man
in his senses would have proposed them?[31] Had later-day ignorance
of the actual state of things under the old postal system been less
widespread than it is, any claim to authorship of postage stamps
before reform of that system was attempted or achieved would, for
lack of the credulous element among the public, scarcely have been
hazarded.

The “candling” of letters was practised to ascertain whether single,
double, treble, or still heavier postage should be charged. The
missive was carried into a darkened room, and held up against a strong
artificial light. This process not only gave the examining official
some idea of the number of enclosures, if any, but often revealed
their character. It was to defeat temptation to dishonesty caused by
this scrutiny that the practice, not yet obsolete, was adopted of
cutting a banknote in two before posting it, and keeping back the
second half till receipt of the first had been acknowledged.

Single letter postage between London and Edinburgh or Glasgow cost
1s. 3-1/2d., between London and Aberdeen 1s. 4-1/2d., and between
London and Thurso 1s. 5-1/2d., the odd halfpenny being the duty
exacted in protectionist days to enable the epistle to cross the
Scottish border. A letter to Ireland _via_ Holyhead paid, in addition
to ordinary postage, steamer rates and toll for using the Menai and
Conway bridges. Or, if a letter took the southerly route to Ireland,
the extra charge was levied at Milford. Single letter postage to
Londonderry was 1s. 5d. To the many other more distant Irish towns it
was still heavier.

These single charges—enforced, too, at a time when the nation, wearied
out with many years of almost incessant war, was poorer far than it
is now—seem to us exorbitant. When, therefore, we think of them as
doubled, trebled, quadrupled, and so forth, it is easy to understand
why to all but the rich letter-writing became an almost lost art; and
we realise more clearly the truth of Miss Martineau's word-picture
which a superficial reader might be inclined to pronounce overdrawn.

The rates had been oppressive enough in 1801 when, in order to swell
the war-tax, a further contribution to the Exchequer of £150,000
was enforced. But in 1812 a yet further contribution of £200,000
was required; and these higher rates—the highest ever reached—were
maintained for a quarter of a century after the peace of 1815: that
is, till Rowland Hill's reform swept the old system away.

In order to increase the postal revenue, the screw had been tightened
in a variety of ways, even to the arresting of further progress in
Ralph Allen's much-needed “cross-posts” reform.[32] As Mr Joyce puts
it: “In 1695 a circuitous post would be converted into a direct one,
even though the shorter distance carried less postage; in 1813 a
direct post in place of a circuitous one was constantly being refused
on the plea that a loss of postage would result.”[33] In the latter
year all sorts of oppressive and even bewildering new regulations were
enforced whose tendency was to make of the Post Office a yet harsher
tax-raising machine. One new charge was of “an additional penny on
each letter for the privilege of the mail-coach passing through”[34]
certain towns; and other rules were equally vexatious.

The lowest single postage to Paris was 1s. 8d.; and in the case of
foreign letters partial prepayment was the rule. For instance, when
a letter travelled from London to Paris, the writer paid 10d., which
freed it as far as Calais only, its recipient paying the other 10d. on
its delivery in the French capital. Collection of postage at the end
of the entire journey would have been contrary to regulation.

The lowest single postage to Gibraltar was 2s. 10d.; and to Egypt, 3s.
2d. When a letter crossed the Atlantic to Canada or the United States
an inland rate at each end of the transit was charged in addition to
the heavy ocean postage. A packet of manuscript to either of those
countries cost £5 under the old system. But at this “reduced” (!) rate
only a 3-lb. packet could be sent. Did one weigh the merest fraction
of a pound over the permitted three, it could not go except as a
letter, the postage upon which would have been £22, 0s. 8d.[35] One
can hardly expect the public of to-day to believe that rates such as
these were ever in force. They sufficiently explain why it was that
the ill-to-do relatives of equally ill-to-do people who emigrated to
the Colonies or foreign countries often lost all trace of them.

In the _Morning Chronicle_ of 22nd August 1837, appeared an
announcement that, “Henceforth postage on letters to the Mediterranean
will be at the rate of only 10s. an ounce”—showing that even as
regards countries nearer home than America postal charges rendered
letter-writing an expensive occupation even to the well-to-do if they
had a large foreign correspondence. To-day “a letter can be sent from
London westward to San Francisco or eastward to Constantinople or
Siberia for a less amount of postage than was charged in 1836 on one
going from Charing Cross to Brompton.”[36] And in the future the cost
is likely to become less.

The old postal rates being so burdensome, it was inevitable that
tricks and evasions of many sorts should be practised, notwithstanding
the merciless penalties that were inflicted on delinquents detected in
the act.

It is probably no exaggeration to say that hundreds, if not thousands,
of newspapers were annually posted which no one particularly cared
to read. Yet it is certain that many a recipient eagerly welcomed
the paper sent him even though he might rarely unfold its pages. As
newspapers went free—or nominally did so, for after all the postage
was indirectly taken out of the pocket of the man who invested 5d.
in every copy of his “daily”—and letters, except those which passed
between members of the privileged classes, did not, the newspaper
came to be a frequent bearer of well-disguised messages from one
member of the unprivileged classes to another. The employment of
inks of different colours, of variations in modes of writing names,
callings, and addresses, and even peculiar flourishes executed by
the pen, conveyed valuable information to him who received the paper,
and enabled many tradesmen to keep up a brisk correspondence without
contributing a farthing to the revenue.

How, for example, should the uninitiated postal authorities know that
the innocent-looking superscription on a newspaper sent from London to
“Mr John Smith, Grocer, Tea-dealer, etc, No. 1 High Street Edinburgh,”
conveyed to Mr Smith the assurance that on Tuesday the price of sugar
was falling, and that the remittances he had sent in discharge of his
indebtedness had been received? Yet so it was, for however fictitious
the name and address, the case is genuine, the conspiring pair of
correspondents having come forward during the agitation for penny
postage as voluntary witnesses to the necessity for the reform, their
evidence being the revelation of their fraud made on condition that
they should be held exempt from prosecution. There were six different
modes of writing Mr Smith's name, one for each working day of the
week; and the wording of his trade varied still oftener, and served to
give him the latest news of the market. If Mr Smith's fellow-tradesman
(and fellow-conspirator) in London wrote the address immediately after
the name, omitting all mention of Mr Smith's calling, the latter knew
that the goods he had sent had reached their destination. Variations
rung upon the locality name, such as High Street (without the number),
High St., 1 High Street, 1 High St., No. 1 High Street, or No. 1
High St., related to pecuniary matters. For while we have seen how
satisfactory was the news conveyed in “No. 1 High Street,” “High
St.,” on the contrary, told Mr Smith that the bills he sent had been
dishonoured.

But Mr Smith and colleague were by no means the only correspondents
who deliberately plotted to defraud the revenue; for, under the old
system, it seemed to be each person's aim to extract the cost of
postage on his own letters out of the pocket of some other person. In
this achievement, however, there can be little doubt that, as a rule,
the well-to-do made the most successful score.

The story told by Mr Bertram in “Some Memories of Books” about the
apprentice to a printing firm is another instance of evasion. The
young man was frequently in want of clothing, and made known his need
to those at home with as little outlay as though he had been a member
of Parliament or peer of the realm. He printed small slips of paper
bearing such legends as “want trousers,” “send new coat,” etc., pasted
them into newspapers, and sent these to his parents.

At the present day indulgence in a practice of this sort would seem
contemptible, a fraud to which only the meanest of mankind would
resort. But had we too lived when postage was charged on a fourth part
only of the entire mail, and when the writers of the letters forming
that fourth part, and we among them, were taxed to make up the loss on
the franked three-quarters, perhaps even we, immaculate as we believe
ourselves to be, might have been tempted to put our scruples into our
pocket to keep company with our slender purse, and have taken to
“ways that are dark,” though, if less astute than Mr John Smith and
his London correspondent, possibly also to “tricks that are vain”—with
unpleasant consequences to ourselves.

There is an oft-quoted story about Coleridge, who, one day while
wandering through the Lake District, saw a poor woman refuse a letter
which the postman offered her. The kindly poet, in spite of the
woman's evident reluctance to accept the gift, paid the money she
could not raise; but when the letter was opened, it was seen to be a
blank sheet of paper not intended for acceptance, but sent by her son
according to preconcerted agreement as a sign that he was well.[37]
This, then, is not only yet another illustration of the frauds to
which the “have nots” were driven to resort, but, further, shows how
profitless, even costly, was the labour imposed upon the Post Office
by the system to which the authorities clung with so unaccountable
an affection. For an unaccepted sheet of paper does not travel from
London to the Lake District for nothing; and when we multiply one
unaccepted letter by many thousands, one may form some idea of the
amount of fruitless trouble as well as fruitless outlay which was
incurred by the Department.

The enforced silence between severed relations and friends was
therefore rendered yet more painful when the letters—genuine letters
too, not dummies—got as far as the post office nearest to their
intended destination, or even to the door of the poor dwellings to
which they were addressed, yet failed to cross the threshold because
their should-be recipients were too poverty-stricken to “take them
up.” In many instances mothers yearning to hear from absent children
would pawn clothing or household necessaries rather than be deprived
of the letters which, but for that sacrifice, must be carried back
to the nearest post office to await payment. One poor woman, after
striving for several weeks to make up the money to redeem a longed-for
letter from her granddaughter in London, went at last to the local
office with the shilling which a pitying lady gave her, only to find
that the letter had been returned to town. She never received it.
Another poor woman begged a local postmaster's daughter to accept
a spoon by way of pledge till the ninepence charged upon a letter
awaiting payment at the office could be raised. A labouring man
declined an eightpenny letter though it came from a far-off daughter
because the price meant one loaf the less for his other children. It
was much harder for the poorest classes to find pence enough to lavish
on postage in those yet earlier and often hungrier nineteenth century
decades than even the “Hungry Forties”; during which years a man had
sometimes to spend more than eightpence—more occasionally than double
that sum—on his children's loaf.

The refused missives, after waiting a while at the local office
for the chance of redemption, went back to the chief office, were
consigned to the “dead” department, and were there destroyed, thus
costing the Service—meaning, of course, the public—the useless double
journey and the wasted labour of not a few officials.

Sometimes a kind-hearted postmaster would advance the sum due for
a letter out of his own pocket, taking his chance of being repaid.
But not every postmaster could afford to take such risks, nor was it
desirable that they should be laid upon the wrong shoulders.

In 1837 the Finance Account showed a profitless expenditure of
£122,000 for letters “refused, mis-sent, re-directed, and so forth.”
This loss of revenue was, of course, quite distinct from that already
mentioned as caused by the use of franks fictitious and genuine.
Truly, the unprivileged paid somewhat dearly for the advantages
enjoyed by the privileged, since it lay with the former both to make
good the loss and to provide the required profit.

Under the old system the postman would often be detained, sometimes as
much as five minutes, at each house at which he called while he handed
in his letters, and received the money due upon them. In business
quarters this sort of thing had long been found intolerable, and
therefore, by private arrangement with the merchants, the postman, on
the first, and by far the heaviest, delivery of the day, did not wait
for his money. But after the second delivery he had to call at every
house where he had left letters earlier in the day and collect the
postage: a process which often made the second delivery lengthy and
wearisome. A test case showed that while it took a man an hour and a
half to deliver 67 letters for which he waited to receive payment,
half an hour sufficed for the delivery of 570 letters for which he did
not wait to be paid.[38]

Another evil of the old system was the temptation to fraud which it
put in the way of the letter-carriers. When a weak or unscrupulous man
found a supply of loose cash in his pocket at the end of his delivery,
his fingers would itch—and not always in vain—to keep it there. Again,
an honest man, on his way back to the office with the proceeds of his
round upon him, was not safe from attack if his road was lonely or the
streets ill-lighted or deserted. The old foot and horse posts were
often robbed. Murders even, Mr Joyce reminds us, were not infrequent,
and executions failed to check them.

The system of account-keeping was “an exceedingly tedious,
inconvenient, and, consequently, expensive process.”[39] The money
which the recipient of a letter paid to the postman passed to the
local postmaster, who sent it on to the head office. It went through
many hands, and peculation was rife. “The deputy postmasters could
not be held to effectual responsibility as regards the amounts due
from them to the General Office; and as many instances of deficit came
at times to light, sometimes following each other week after week in
the same office, there can be no doubt that the total annual loss must
have reached a serious amount.”[40]

On the arrival of the mails at the General Post Office, the clerks
were required to see that the charge entered upon every letter had
been correctly made, and that each deputy postmaster had debited
himself with the correct amount of postage; to stamp the letters—that
is, to impress on them the date when they were posted; to assort them
for delivery, in which work the letter-carriers assisted; to ascertain
the amount of postage to be collected by each letter-carrier, and to
charge him therewith. In addition to all this, another detail must not
be forgotten—that in the London Office alone there were daily many
thousands of letters which had to undergo the “candling” process.

For the outgoing mails the duties were somewhat similar, and quite
as complicated, and some seven hundred accounts had to be made out
against as many deputy postmasters.

Simplification of account-keeping under the old system, however much
needed, seemed hopeless of attainment.

Even in England, the most prosperous “partner” of the United Kingdom,
there were at the time of the late Queen's accession, districts larger
than Middlesex, within whose borders the postman never set foot. Of
the 2,100 Registrar's districts into which England and Wales were
divided, 400 districts, each containing on the average about 20 square
miles and some 4,000 inhabitants—making in all a population of about
a million and a half—had no post office whatever. The chief places in
these districts, containing about 1,400 inhabitants each, were on the
average some 5 miles, and in several instances as much as 16 miles,
from the nearest post office.[41]

The 50,000 Irish, or immediate descendants of Irish in Manchester,
said Cobden in his evidence before the Parliamentary Committee of
1838, were almost as completely cut off from communication with their
relatives in Ireland as though they were in New South Wales.[42] And
when he drew this comparison, it counted for much more than it would
do to-day. Great Britain and Australia were then practically much
further asunder than they are now, sailing vessels at that time taking
from four to six months to do the single, and sometimes nearly twelve
the double voyage. A good many years had yet to elapse before the
Indian Ocean was bridged by the fast steamships which have reduced
that several months' journey to one of a few weeks only.

The great free-trader's calico printing works were situated at a
little town or village, of some 1,200 inhabitants, called Sabden, 28
miles from Manchester. Although a manufacturing centre, it had no post
office, and nothing that did duty for one.

In the opening paragraph of the twenty-seventh chapter of “The Heart
of Midlothian,” Scott says that in 1737 “So slight and infrequent was
the intercourse betwixt London and Edinburgh, that upon one occasion
the mail from the former city arrived at the General Post Office in
Scotland with only one letter in it. The fact is certain. The single
epistle was addressed to the principal director of the British Linen
Company.”

In “Her Majesty's Mails” Mr Lewins says that: “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” (p. 85).

The old system being at once clumsy, irrational, irritating, and
unjust, little wonder need be felt that when Queen Victoria's reign
began, each inhabitant of England and Wales received on an average one
letter in three months, of Scotland one in four months, and of Ireland
one a year.[43]

Until 1748 there were but three posts a week between London and
Birmingham. In that year the number was doubled. The notice making
known this improvement contains denunciations of the people who were
in “any way concerned in the illegal collecting or delivery of Letters
or Packets of Letters.” The fines for the offence were “£5 for every
letter, and £100 for every week this practice is continued.” But fines
could not arrest the smuggling, because the practice was remunerative
to the smugglers, and popular among those who employed them, and who
thus enjoyed cheap rates of postage. Therefore the illegal traffic
went on growing, till by the time the old system came to an end it had
assumed vast proportions.

Publishers and other business men wrote letters on one large sheet of
paper for different people living in the same district. On reaching
its destination the sheet was divided into its separate parts, each
of which being then delivered by hand or local post. A similar
practice in respect of money payments prevailed.[44] One publisher and
bookseller said he was “not caught” till he had thus distributed some
20,000 letters. Several carriers made the collection and distribution
of letters their only business, and in the collecting process women
and children were employed. In one district the illegal practice was
more than fifty years old, and in at least another, as we see by the
notice quoted in the preceding paragraph, its age must have exceeded
a century. In one then small town the daily average of smuggled
letters amounted to more than 50, and on one occasion rose above
150. The Mr Brewin of Cirencester already mentioned said he knew two
carriers who conveyed four times as many letters as did the mail.[45]
One carrier confessed to having smuggled about 60 letters a day. On
another carrier's premises a bag was seized containing 1,100 letters.
Twelve walking carriers between Birmingham and Walsall were employed
exclusively in conveying letters at a charge of a penny apiece. Five
Glasgow merchants illegally transmitted letters at the rate severally
of three, eighteen, sixteen, eight, and fifteen to one that went
legally. Five-sixths of the Manchester letters contributed nothing
whatever to the postal revenue.[46] Nor does the list of delinquencies
end here.

Letters were also smuggled in warehousemen's bales and parcels; among
manufacturers' patterns and other things which coach proprietors, on
payment of a trifle for booking, carried free of charge; in weavers'
bags, in farmers' “family boxes,” and in other ways.[1]

Even the mail-coach drivers and guards engaged in the unlawful
traffic, though in many instances letters were sent in coach parcels
not so much to save postage as to facilitate transmission and ensure
early delivery.

Mr Maury, of the American Chamber of Commerce, assured the Select
Committee that when regular steam communication between Liverpool and
New York was established, the first steamer carried _five_ letters
in the large bag provided in expectation of a heavy dispatch. Ten
thousand letters were, however, placed in another bag sent to the
care of the consignee of the same vessel; and Mr Maury himself
contributed some 200 free letters to this second bag. Every ten days
a steamer left this country for America each carrying some 4,000
smuggled letters—a fact of which the postal authorities were well
aware; and almost every shipbroker hung a bag in his office for the
convenience of those who sent letters otherwise than through the post.
Letters so collected by one broker for different ships in which he
was interested were said to be sometimes “enough to load a cab.” In
111 packages containing 822 newspapers sent in the course of five
months to America, 648 letters were found concealed. The postmaster
of Margate reported that in the visitors' season the increase of
population there made no proportionate increase of postage, a fact
which he attributed to the illegal conveyance of letters by steamers.
The growing facilities for travel caused a corresponding growth of
letter-smuggling. At the same time, the more general establishment
of local penny posts tended to secure to the Post Office the
conveyance of letters between neighbouring towns and villages;[47] and
undoubtedly did much to recoup that extensively swindled Department
for its loss of revenue caused by franking, evasions like those of Mr
John Smith and others, and letter-smuggling.

As usual, the people who practised the deception were scarcely so much
to blame as those who, spite of every effort at reform, persisted
in maintaining a system which created favouritism, hampered trade,
severed family ties, and practically created the smuggling offence
which scandalised the official conscience. Had the rates been less
exorbitant, and had they fallen impartially on rich and poor, these
dishonest practices might have had little or no existence. They ceased
only when at last the old order changed, and, happily, gave place to
new.


FOOTNOTES:

[18] “The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago.” By Pearson Hill. Cassell &
Co. (1887).

[19] As the passage is slightly condensed, quotation marks are not
employed. The words generally—whole sentences sometimes—are, however,
Miss Martineau's own.

[20] Written while yet the fate of the Franklin Expedition was an
unsolved mystery.

[21] The two sorts of post were kept quite distinct, the business
of the general post and that of the local posts being carried on in
separate buildings and by different staffs. It was not till the postal
reform had been established some years that Rowland Hill was able to
persuade the authorities of the wisdom of that amalgamation of the two
which formed an important feature of his plan.

[22] “Hansard,” cxlvi. 189.

[23] Travelling as well as postage has cheapened. A fourth part of £6
is 30s.—the price of each “inside place.” To-day a first-class railway
_return_ ticket between Deal and London costs less than half 30s.

[24] Fourteen franks a day was the number each M.P. could issue.

[25] “The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago,” p. 6.

[26] “Life,” i. 135. Peel voted against the Penny Postage Bill;
and even that kindly friend to the poorer classes, the “good” Lord
Shaftesbury—then Lord Ashley—followed Sir Robert's example.

[27] That is, of calculating the amount of postage to be levied on
each letter.

[28] “The Origin of Postage Stamps,” p. 17. By Pearson Hill.

[29] A recent discussion in _Notes and Queries_ (Tenth Series, vol.
i.) has shown that envelopes are mentioned by Swift and later writers
of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They are sometimes
called “envelopes” and sometimes “covers.” Their use must have been
exceedingly limited, and still more limited, perhaps, is the number of
people who have actually seen them. They were probably square sheets
of paper used to enclose a number of missives addressed to one person
or several persons living in the same neighbourhood; and were, most
likely, better known to the race of letter smugglers (about whom see
further) than to any one else. An obituary notice in the _Liverpool
Daily Post and Mercury_ of 23rd May, 1906, on the late Mr J. D. Tyson,
“a notable Liverpool insurance broker,” shows how new the use of
envelopes as we now understand them was more than half a century ago.
The writer says: “Even the introduction of the envelope was greatly
opposed by most of the old firms; and for fear the envelope would
be thrown away and all traces of posting be lost, the juniors were
instructed to pin the envelope to the letter. This had soon to give
way when the usefulness of the envelope became so pronounced.”

[30] The neat and rapid folding of the large sheets of paper on which
single letters were written was regarded as one of the fine arts;
and lessons in it were sometimes given to boys at school. I have a
distinct recollection of seeing a number of people seated round a
table and practising letter-folding, and of my begging to be allowed
to join the circle and try my diminutive 'prentice hand at the game. A
dignified and elaborate process was the sealing of the folded letter,
impressing much the juniors of the family, who looked on admiringly,
while the head thereof performed the ceremony, the only drawback being
the odious smell of the unnecessarily large, old-fashioned “lucifer”
match employed to light the candle. When one of the seals hanging to
the broad silken strap showing below the paternal or grand-paternal
waistcoat was pressed upon the bountifully spread, hot wax till a
perfect impression was left, the letter thus completed would be held
up for all to see. What would those stately, leisurely-mannered
gentlemen of the olden time, who, perhaps, took five or more minutes
over the fastening of a letter, have said to our present style of
doing things—especially to the far from elegant mode of moistening the
gummed envelope flap which has superseded the cleanly spreading of the
scented wax and application of the handsome seal of armorial bearings
carved on a precious stone and set in a golden shield?

[31] According to an extract taken from the “New Annual Directory for
1800,” in the Guildhall Library, prepayment might be made in the case
of the local “penny” (afterwards “twopenny”) post. That this fact
should need an advertisement seems to argue that, even as regards the
local posts, prepayment was not a common practice.

[32] This was he who did “good by stealth, and blush[ed] to find it
fame.” Out of his contract with the Post Office he made the large
income, for that time, of £12,000 a year, and spent the greater part
of it in those acts of beneficence which, aided by Pope's famous
lines, have preserved for him well-deserved, lasting fame.

[33] “History of the Post Office,” p. 357.

[34] “History of the Post Office,” p. 357.

[35] “The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago,” p. 13.

[36] “The Jubilee of the Uniform Penny Postage,” p. 22. By Pearson
Hill.

[37] “Letters, Conversations, and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge,”
ii. 114. In different versions of the story the absent relative is
described as father, husband, or brother; and in not a few cases the
hero's action, through a mistake made by Miss Martineau when writing
the History already alluded to, has been claimed for Rowland Hill,
who is further supposed—quite erroneously—to have been then and there
inspired with the resolve to undertake postal reformation.

[38] “Eighteenth Report of the Commissioners of Revenue Inquiry,” pp.
621, 622. Now, if 570 letters, payment for which had not to be waited
for, could be delivered in half an hour, it follows that in the hour
and half consumed in delivering those 67 other letters, three times
570, or 1710, _prepaid_ letters might have been distributed. This one
small fact alone furnishes proof of the necessity for prepayment, for
this test delivery was made in the heart of the city of London, where
prompt delivery and common-sense postal regulations are of paramount
importance to business men.

[39] “Post Office Reform,” p. 29.

[40] “Post Office Reform,” p. 29.

[41] “The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago,” p. 12.

[42] “Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage,” p. 22.

[43] “The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago,” p. 14.

[44] “Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage,” p. 12.

[45] _Ibid._ pp. 13, 14.

[46] “Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage,” pp. 13, 14.

[47] “Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage,” pp. 15-30.



CHAPTER II

SOME EARLY POSTAL REFORMERS


In Mr Joyce's already quoted and exhaustive work upon the Post
Office as it existed before 1840 an interesting account is given of
the reformers who, long before Rowland Hill's time, did so much to
render the service efficient, and therefore to benefit the nation.
As pioneers in a good cause, they deserve mention in another volume
dealing with the same public Department; and their story is perhaps
the better worth repeating because it shows how curiously similar is
the treatment meted out to those who are rash enough to meddle with
a long-established monopoly, no matter how greatly it may stand in
need of reform. In every instance the reformer struggled hard for
recognition of the soundness of his views, toiled manfully when once
he had acquired the position he deserved to hold, was more or less
thwarted and harassed while he filled it, and, precisely as if he
had been a mischievous innovator instead of a public benefactor, was
eventually got rid of.

As regards the Post Office, each of the best-known reformers was
handicapped by the fact that, with one notable exception, he was that
unwelcome thing, an outsider. Murray was an upholsterer, or, according
to another account, a clerk in the Assize Office; Dockwra was a
sub-searcher at the Custom House; and Palmer was the proprietor of the
Bath theatre. My father, as has been shown, had been a schoolmaster, a
rotatory printing press inventor, and a member of the South Australian
Commission. Even when his plan was accepted by the Government, he
had yet to set foot within the Post Office, though not for want of
trying to enter, because while collecting material for his pamphlet in
1836 he had applied to the authorities for permission to inspect the
working of the Department, only to meet with a refusal.

The one notable exception was Ralph Allen, Pope's “humble Allen,” and,
as mentioned in the previous chapter, the author of the cross-posts.
The original of Fielding's “Squire Allworthy” had, Mr Joyce tells us,
“been cradled and nursed in the Post Office,” and his grandmother
was postmistress at St Columb, Cornwall. Here he kept the official
accounts in so neat and regular a manner that he attracted the
attention of the district surveyor, and, later, was given a situation
in the Bath Post Office, eventually becoming its chief official.[48]

Mr Joyce's narrative, as we have seen, is brought down only to the end
of the old postal system. To that which superseded it he makes but
brief allusion, because the subject had already been dealt with in the
two volumes edited and added to by Dr Birkbeck Hill.

In the present work the story will be carried less than thirty years
beyond the time at which Mr Joyce's narrative ends—that is, so far as
postal reform is concerned. The later history of the Post Office,
which would easily make a volume as large as Mr Joyce's, has yet to
find an author, and to rank worthily beside his should be written with
a corresponding care and accuracy of detail.

One chapter only need be devoted here to the most prominent early
postal reformers, and their story shall begin with Witherings (1635).
Speaking of his work, Mr Joyce says, “This was the introduction of
postage.”[49] To Witherings, therefore, must be awarded the merit
of having furnished cause for a new meaning of the word “post,”
whose earlier usage still survives in some provincial hotel notices
announcing “posting in all its branches.”[50]

In Witherings' time the postal rates were, for single letters, “under
80 miles, 2d.; under 140 miles, 4d.; over 140 miles, 6d.—for until
1840 the charges were calculated according to distance. For double
letters double rates were, of course, exacted. If “bigger” than
double, the postage became 6d., 9d. and 1s. Single postage to and from
Scotland was 8d., to and from Ireland 9d. These were heavy rates at a
time when the country was far less wealthy and the relative value of
money higher than is now the case. But at least service was rendered
for the heavy rates, as “Henceforth the posts were to be equally open
to all; all would be at liberty to use them; all would be welcome.”[51]

Witherings especially distinguished himself in the management of the
foreign postal service, which he accelerated and made more efficient.
In 1637 he was appointed “Master of the Posts,” and was thus the only
reformer from outside who, withinside, rose to become supreme head
of the Department. The office was given to enable him to undertake,
unhindered, the improvements he proposed to make in the inland posts.
Three years later he was dismissed, and an end put to “the career of
one who had the sagacity to project and the energy to carry out a
system, the main features of which endure to the present day.”[52]

In 1643 the postal revenue amounted to some £5,000 a year only. By
1677 the Department's profits were farmed at £43,000 a year, and
the officials consisted of one Postmaster-General and seventy-five
employees. A writer of the day tells us that “the number of letter
missives is now prodigiously great.”

In 1658 John Hill, a Yorkshire attorney, did good work, and tried
to accomplish more. He already supplied post horses between York
and London, undertook the conveyance, at cheap rates, of parcels
and letters, and established agencies about the country for the
furtherance of a scheme to greatly reduce the postal charges
throughout the kingdom; his proposal being a penny rate for England
and Wales, a twopenny rate for Scotland, and a fourpenny rate for
Ireland. But the Government declined to consider the merits of the
plan.

When Dockwra—who gave practical shape to the scheme which Murray had
assigned to him—established his reform of a penny post, London had
no other post office than the general one in Lombard Street,[53] and
there was no such thing as a delivery of letters between one part of
London and another. Thus, if any Londoner wished to write to any other
Londoner, he was obliged to employ a messenger to convey his missive
to its destination; and as the houses then had no numbers, but were
distinguished only by signs, the amateur letter-carrier must have been
often puzzled at which door to knock.

Dockwra soon put his great scheme into working order. He divided city
and suburbs into districts—in that respect forestalling a feature
of Rowland Hill's plan—seven in number, each with a sorting office;
and in one day opened over four hundred receiving offices. In the
city letters were delivered for 1d., in the suburbs for 2d. It must
have been quite as epoch-making a reform to the Londoners of the
seventeenth century, as was the far wider-reaching, completer scheme
established a hundred and sixty years later to the entire nation. For
Dockwra's, though for its time a wonderful advance, was but a local
institution, the area served being “from Hackney in the north to
Lambeth in the south, and from Blackwall in the east to Westminster in
the west.”[54] He also introduced a parcel post.

The local penny posts—for they were afterwards extended to many other
towns—have given some people the erroneous impression that Rowland
Hill's plan of penny postage was simply an elaboration and a widening
of Dockwra's older system. Things called by a similar name are not
necessarily identical. Indeed, as we have seen, the word “postage” had
formerly quite a different meaning from that it now has; and, although
Dockwra's “penny post” and Rowland Hill's “penny postage” related
equally to postage in its modern interpretation of the word, that the
system established in 1840 materially differed from preceding systems
will be shown in the succeeding chapter.[55]

Dockwra's reform was inaugurated in 1680, proved of immense benefit
to the public, was intended to last for ever, and did last for a
hundred and twenty-one years. In 1801 the charges on the local—to
say nothing of those on the general—post were raised from 1d. and
2d. to 2d. and 3d., while its area, which in Queen Anne's reign had
been extended to from 18 to 20 miles beyond London, shrank into much
narrower limits.[56] The increase of charge was due to that augmented
contribution, on the part of the Post Office, to the war-tax which
has been already mentioned. During the last twenty-five of the years
1801-1840 the country was at peace, but the tendency of “temporary”
war-taxes is to become permanent, or to die a very lingering death;
and, as has been shown, no diminution was made in postal rates; and
letter-writing in thousands of homes practically ceased to be.

In 1663 the entire profits of the Post Office had been settled
on James, Duke of York; and Dockwra's reform, like other large
measures, being costly to establish, he had to seek financial help
outside the Department, the requisite money being furnished by a few
public-spirited citizens of London. The undertaking was a losing
speculation at first, but presently began to prosper; and the Duke's
jealousy was at once roused. “So long,” says Mr Joyce, “as the
outgoings exceeded the receipts, Dockwra remained unmolested; but no
sooner had the balance turned than the Duke complained of his monopoly
being infringed, and the Courts of Law decided in his favour. Not only
was Dockwra cast in damages, but the undertaking was wrested out of
his hands.”[57]

During James's reign this eminent public servant met with no
recognition of his valuable work; but under William and Mary he was
granted a pension, and after some delay was reinstated as comptroller
of the penny post. But in 1700 both situation and pension came to
an end; and the man who had conferred so signal a benefit upon his
fellow-citizens was finally dismissed.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the posts in Ireland were
few and far between. Carrick-on-Shannon was the only town in County
Leitrim which received a mail, and that not oftener than twice a week.
Several districts in Ireland were served only at the cost of their
inhabitants.

Besides London, Bath alone—favoured by its two distinguished
citizens, Ralph Allen and John Palmer—had, before 1792, more than
one letter-carrier; and many important centres of population, such
as Norwich, York, Derby, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Plymouth, had none
at all—the postmaster, and in some instances a single assistant,
constituting the entire staff, no sort of duty outside the official
walls being undertaken. The Channel Islands were treated as though
they had been in another planet. Before 1794 they had no postal
communication with the rest of the United Kingdom, though for some
years local enterprise had provided them with an inter-insular
service. When Palmer appeared on the scene, the number of towns in
the British Isles which received mails increased rapidly, while those
already served two or three times a week began to receive a post
daily.

In no respect, perhaps, has greater progress been made than in the
matter of mail conveyance, both as regards acceleration and safety,
and in other ways. In Witherings' time about two months were required
for a letter and its answer to pass between London and Scotland or
London and Ireland. Exchange of correspondence between the three
kingdoms was, strange to say, far less expeditiously carried on
than that between London and Madrid. But when it is remembered how
direful was the condition of our thoroughfares in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries, the impossibility of anything like swift
progress becomes evident. Ruts there were, says Arthur Young, which
measured 3 feet in depth, and in wet weather were filled to the
brim with water; while in “Guy Mannering” Scott speaks of districts
“only accessible through a succession of tremendous morasses.” In
“Waverley” (_temp._ 1745) is described the “Northern Diligence, a
huge, old-fashioned tub drawn by three horses, which completed the
journey from Edinburgh to London ('God willing,' as the advertisement
expressed it) in three weeks.” Twenty years later, even, the coaches
spent from twelve to fourteen days upon the journey, and went once a
month only. In some places the roads were so bad that it was necessary
to erect beacons alongside them to keep the travelling public after
dark from falling into the ponds and bogs which lined the highways and
sometimes encroached upon them. Elsewhere, the ponderous “machines”
groaned or clattered over rocky and precipitous ways, rolling and
pitching like a vessel on an angry sea. Not even by the more
lightly-freighted men on foot and boys mounted on the wretched steeds
provided for the Post Office service could swifter progress be made.
No wonder that letter and answer should travel but slowly.

In 1784, when Palmer proposed the abolition of these slow-moving
and far from trustworthy mail-carriers,[58] and the substitution
in their place of the existing stage-coaches,[59] great were the
scorn and indignation of the postal authorities. Seven miles an hour
instead of three and a half! And coaches instead of post-boys! Were
ever such mad proposals heard of! The officials were “amazed that
any dissatisfaction, any desire for change should exist.” Not so
very long before, they had plumed themselves on the gratifying fact
that “in five days an answer to a letter might be had from a place
distant 200 miles from the writer.” And now, even in face of that
notable advance, the public wanted further concessions! One prominent
official “could not see why the post should be the swiftest conveyance
in England.” Another was sure that if travelling were made quicker,
the correspondence of the country would be thrown into the utmost
confusion. But he thought—and perhaps the parentage of the thought
was not far to seek—that to expedite the mails was simply impossible.
The officials, indeed, were “unanimously of opinion that the thing
is totally impracticable.”[60] And, doubtless, Palmer was set down
as “a visionary” and “a revolutionist”—names to be bestowed, some
fifty-three years later, upon another persistent reformer. A second
Committee, formed to consider Palmer's proposals, reported that it
had “examined the oldest and ablest officers of the Post Office, and
they had no confidence whatever in the plan.” “It is always,” said
Brougham, when, in the Upper House, he was advocating adoption of the
later reform, “the oldest and ablest, for the Committee considered the
terms synonymous.”[61]

Thus does history repeat itself. As it was with Palmer, so, before
him, it was with Witherings and Dockwra; and, after him, with Rowland
Hill. The unforgivable offence is to be wiser than one's opponents,
and to achieve success when failure has been predicted.

But worse things than prophecy of failure accompany reforms, attempted
or accomplished, and act like a discordant chorus striving to drown
sweet music. Prophecy of dire results, such as ruin of society,
disruption of the Empire, etc., are sometimes raised, and carry dismay
into the hearts of the timid. My father, who was born less than
forty-three years after “the change of style,” as a child often heard
old people, in all seriousness, lament the loss of “our eleven days,”
and declare that since it was made everything in this country had gone
wrong.[62] I too, when young, have heard aged lips attribute the awful
cholera visitation of 1832 to our sinfulness in passing the Catholic
Emancipation Bill; and the potato disease and consequent Irish famine
in the mid 'forties to interference with the sacred Corn Laws. We
laugh at this sort of thing to-day, but are we much wiser than our
forebears?

Although these great reforms differ widely in character, the gloomy
predictions concerning them are substantially alike. The terrible
things prophesied never come to pass; and of the reforms when once
established no sane person wishes to get rid.

When at last Palmer had borne down opposition and been placed in
authority, he set to work in a far-reaching, statesmanlike manner.
The old, worthless vehicles which, owing to their frequent habit of
breaking down on the road, had become a constant source of complaint,
were gradually got rid of; and by 1792 all his mail-coaches were
new. He was a born organiser, and insisted on the introduction and
maintenance of business-like methods. Unnecessary stoppages along
the road were put an end to, and necessary stoppages shortened; the
mail-bags to be taken on were made up before the coaches appeared, the
mail-bags to be taken off were ready to the guard's hand; and strict
punctuality was enforced. The guards and coachmen were armed, and no
one unskilled in the use of firearms was employed in either capacity.
The harness and other accoutrements were kept in good repair, the
coaches were well-horsed, and the relays were made with reasonable
frequency.[63]

Palmer had calculated that sixteen hours ought to suffice for the
London and Bath coach when covering the distance between the two
cities. The time usually spent on the road was thirty-eight hours. The
first mail-coach which started from Bath to London under his auspices
in 1784 performed the journey in seventeen hours, proving with what
nearness to absolute accuracy he had made his calculations. For a
while seventeen hours became the customary time-limit. Not long after
this date mail-coaches were plying on all the principal roads.

Before the first of Palmer's coaches went to Liverpool, that seaport
was served by one letter-carrier. Ten years later, six were needed.
One postman had sufficed for Edinburgh; now four were required.
Manchester till 1792 had but one letter-carrier, and its postal staff
consisted of an aged widow and her daughter. Previous to 1794 the Isle
of Wight was served by one postmaster and one letter-carrier only.

Before Palmer took over the management of the coaches they were
robbed, along one road or another, at least once a week. It was not
till his rule was ten years old that a coach was stopped or robbed;
and then it was not a highwayman, but a passenger who did the looting.
Before 1784 the annual expenditure incurred through prosecution of the
thieves had been a heavy charge on the service, one trial alone—that
of the brothers Weston, who figure in Thackeray's “Denis Duval”—having
cost £4,000. This burden on the Post Office revenue henceforth shrank
into comparatively insignificant dimensions.

Palmer traversed the entire kingdom along its coach routes, making
notes of the length of time consumed on each journey, calculating in
how much less time it could be performed by the newer vehicles, and
always keeping an observant eye on other possible improvements.

Before the end of the eighteenth century Dockwra's London penny
post[64] had fallen upon evil days. Neglect and mismanagement had
been its lot for many years; there was a steady diminution of its
area, and no accounts were kept of its gains. Palmer looked into the
condition of the local post, as, in addition to the mail conveyance,
he had already looked into the condition of the newspaper post and
other things which stood in need of rectification; and, later, the old
penny post, now transformed into a twopenny post, was taken in hand
by Johnson, who, from the position of letter-carrier, rose, by sheer
ability, to the office of “Deputy Comptroller of the Penny Post.”

As a rule, Palmer was fortunate in choosing subordinates, of
whom several not only accomplished useful work long after their
chief had been dismissed, but who introduced reforms on their own
account. Hasker, the head superintendent of the mail-coaches, kept
the vehicles, horses, accoutrements, etc., to say nothing of the
officials, quite up to Palmer's level. But in another chosen man the
great reformer was fatally deceived, for Bonner intrigued against his
benefactor, and helped to bring about his downfall.

One reform paves the way for succeeding reforms. Palmer's improved
coaches caused a marked increase of travelling; and the establishment
of yet better and more numerous vehicles led to the making of better
roads. By this time people were beginning to get over the ground at
such a rate that the late Lord Campbell, when a young man, was once,
in all seriousness, advised to avoid using Palmer's coaches, which,
it was said, owing to the speed at which they travelled between
London and Edinburgh, and elsewhere, had caused the death of several
passengers from apoplexy! “The pace that killed” was 8 miles an hour.
By the time the iron horse had beaten the flesh-and-blood quadruped
out of the field, or rather road, the coaches were running at the rate
of 12 miles an hour.

Everywhere the mails were being accelerated and increased in number.
For now the science of engineering was making giant strides; and
Telford and his contemporary MacAdam—whose name has enriched our
language with a verb, while the man himself endowed our thoroughfares
with a solid foundation—were covering Great Britain with highways the
like of which had not been seen since the days of the Roman Conquest.

And then arrived the late 'twenties of the nineteenth century,
bringing with them talk of railways and of steam-propelled locomotives
whose speed, it was prophesied by sanguine enthusiasts, might some day
even rival that of a horse at full gallop. The threatened mail-coaches
lived on for many a year, but from each long country highway they
disappeared one after another, some of them, it is said, carrying, on
their last journey, the Union Jack at half-mast; and, ere long, the
once busy roadside inn-keepers put up their shutters, and closed the
doors of their empty stables. More than half a century had to elapse
before the hostelries opened again to the cyclists and motorists who
have given to them fresh life and energy.

And thus passed away the outward and visible witnesses to Palmer's
great reform, not as many things pass because they have reached the
period of senile decay, but when his work was at the high water-mark
of efficiency and fame. Perhaps that singular fact is suggestive
of the reason why the disappearance of the once familiar pageant
gave rise to a widespread regret that was far from being mere
sentimentality.

When they were in their prime, the “royal mail-coaches” made a brave
display. Ruddy were they with paint and varnish, and golden with
Majesty's coat-of-arms, initials, etc. The driver and guard were
clad in scarlet uniforms, and the four fine horses—often increased
in a “difficult” country to six or more—were harnessed two abreast,
and went at a good, swinging pace. Once upon a time a little child
was taken for a stroll along a suburban highroad to watch for the
passing of the mail-coaches on their way from London to the north—a
literally everyday pageant, but one unstaled by custom. In the
growing dusk could be distinguished a rapidly-moving procession of
dark crimson and gold vehicles in single file, each with its load of
comfortably wrapped-up passengers sitting outside, and each drawn by
four galloping steeds, whose quick footfalls made a pleasant, rhythmic
sound. One heard the long, silvern horns of the guards, every now
and then, give notice in peremptory tones to the drivers of ordinary
conveyances to scatter to right and left, and one noted the heavy
cloud of dust which rolled with and after the striking picture. A
spectacle it was beside which the modern railway train is ugly, the
motor-car hideous: which rarely failed to draw onlookers to doorways
and windows, and to give pedestrians pause; and which always swept
out of sight much too quickly. The elderly cousin accompanying the
child drew her attention to the passing procession, and said that her
father was doing something in connection with those coaches—meaning,
of course, their mails—something that would make his country more
prosperous and his own name long remembered. The child listened in
perplexity, not understanding. In many noble arts—above all, in the
fashioning of large, square kites warranted, unlike those bought at
shops, to fly and not to come to pieces—she knew him to be the first
of men. Yet how even he could improve upon the gorgeous moving picture
that had just flashed past it was not easy to understand.

In the days when railways and telegraphs were not, the coach was
the most frequent, because the fastest, medium of communication. It
was therefore the chief purveyor of news. On the occurrence of any
event of absorbing interest, such as the most stirring episodes of
the twenty-years-long war with France, or the trial of Queen-Consort
Caroline, people lined the roads in crowds, and as the coach swept
past, the passengers shouted out the latest intelligence. Even from
afar the waiting throngs in war time could always tell when the news
was of victories gained, or, better still, of peace, such as the
short-lived pact of Amiens, and the one of long duration after June
1815. On these occasions the vehicle was made gay with flags, ribbons,
green boughs, and floral trophies; and the passengers shouted and
cheered madly, the roadside public speedily becoming equally excited.
It fell one day to Rowland Hill's lot, as a lad of nineteen, to meet
near Birmingham an especially gaily-decked coach, and to hurry home
with the joyful intelligence of the “crowning mercy”—at one stage of
the battle, 'tis said, not far from becoming a defeat—of Waterloo.

The once celebrated Bianconi was known as “the Palmer of Ireland.”
Early in the nineteenth century he covered the roads of his adopted
country with an admirably managed service of swift cars carrying mails
and passengers; and thus did much to remedy postal deficiencies there,
and to render imperative the maintenance in good order of the public
highways. Once, if not oftener, during his useful career, he came to
the Post Office on official business, and “interviewed” Rowland Hill,
who found him an interesting and original-minded man, his fluent
English, naturally, being redolent of the Hibernian brogue. Bianconi's
daughter, who married a son of the great O'Connell, wrote her father's
“Life”; and, among other experiences, told how on one occasion he was
amazed to see a Catholic gentleman, while driving a pair of horses
along the main street of an Irish town, stopped by a Protestant who
coolly detached the animals from the carriage, and walked off with
them. No resistance could be offered, and redress there was none. The
horses were each clearly of higher value than the permitted £5 apiece,
and could therefore legally become the property of any Protestant mean
enough, as this one was, to tender that price, and (mis)appropriate
them. When Catholic Emancipation—long promised and long deferred—was
at last conceded, this iniquitous law, together with other laws as bad
or worse, was swept away.[65]

With the advent of railways the “bians” gradually disappeared, doing
so when, like the mail-coaches, they had reached a high level of
excellence, and had been of almost incalculable public benefit.

The mail-coach, leisurely and tedious as it seems in these days of
hurry, had a charm of its own in that it enabled its passengers to
enjoy the fresh air—since most of them, by preference, travelled
outside—and the beauties of our then comparatively unspoiled country
and of our then picturesque old towns, mostly sleepy or only slowly
awakening, it is true, and, doubtless, deplorably dull to live in.
The journey was at least never varied by interludes of damp and
evil-smelling tunnels, and the travelling ruffian of the day had less
opportunity for outrage on his fellowman or woman. The coach also,
perhaps, lent itself more kindly to romance than does the modern,
noisy railway train; at any rate, a rather pretty story, long current
in our family, and strictly authentic, belongs to the ante-railway
portion of the nineteenth century. One of my mother's girl-friends,
pretty, lively, clever, and frankly coquettish, was once returning
alone by coach to London after a visit to the country. She was the
only inside passenger, but was assured that the other three places
would be filled on arrival at the next stage. When, therefore, the
coach halted again, she looked with some curiosity to see who were
to be her travelling companions. But the expected three resolved
themselves into the person of one smiling young man whose face she
recognised, and who at once sat down on the seat opposite to hers,
ere long confessing that, hearing she was to come to town by that
coach, he had taken all the vacant places in order to make sure of
a _tête-à-tête_. He was one of several swains with whom she was
accustomed to flirt, but whom she systematically kept at arm's-length
until she could make up her mind whether to say “yes” or “no.” But he
had come resolved to be played with no longer, and to win from her a
definite answer. Whether his eloquent pleading left her no heart to
falter “no,” or whether, woman-like, she said “yes” by way of getting
rid of him, is not recorded. But that they were married is certain;
and it may as well be taken for granted that, in accordance with the
time-honoured ending of all romantic love stories, “they lived happy
ever after.”

No eminent postal reformer rose during the first thirty-seven years
of the nineteenth century unless we except that doughty Parliamentary
free lance, Robert Wallace of Kelly, of whom more anon. But the
chilling treatment meted out by officials within the postal sanctuary
to those reform-loving persons sojourning outside it, or even to those
who, sooner or later, penetrated to its inner walls, was scarcely
likely to tempt sane men to make excursions into so inhospitable a
field.

Yet it was high time that a new reformer appeared, for the Department
was lagging far behind the Post Offices of other countries—especially,
perhaps, that of France—and the wonderful nineteenth “century of
progress” had now reached maturity.


FOOTNOTES:

[48] “History of the Post Office,” p. 146.

[49] “History of the Post Office,” p. 18.

[50] The word “postage,” we are told, was originally applied to
the hire of a horse for “posting,” and was extended to letters in
comparatively recent times only. It is therefore well when meeting
with the word in other than modern documents not to conclude too
hastily that it relates to epistolary correspondence. An Act of 1764
is said to be the first in which was used “postage” in the sense of
a charge upon letters. But in 1659 the item, “By postage of letters
in farm, £14,000,” appears in a “Report on the Public Revenue in the
Journals of the House of Commons,” vii. 627. The fact likewise seems
well worth recalling that in the translation of the Bible of 1611 the
words “post” and “letters” are connected, notably in “2 Chronicles,”
xxx. 6, and in “Esther.” Chapter xvii. of Marco Polo's travels, by the
by, contains an interesting description of the horse and foot posts
in the dominions of Kubla Khan, which were so admirably organised
that the journeys over which ordinary travellers spent ten days were
accomplished by the posts in two.

[51] “History of the Post Office,” p. 18.

[52] _Ibid._ p. 21.

[53] In George I.'s reign, besides London, Chester is said to have
been the only town in England which possessed two post offices.

[54] “History of the Post Office,” p. 37.

[55] “The ancient penny post resembled the modern penny post only in
name,” says Justin M'Carthy in “A History of Our Own Times,” chap. iv.
p. 99.

[56] The “New Annual Directory for 1800” (see Guildhall Library),
speaking of the “Penny Post,” defines its area as “the cities of
London [and] Westminster, the borough of Southwark and their suburbs.”

[57] “History of the Post Office,” pp. 37-40.

[58] Or, in his own words, mails trusted to “some idle boy without a
character, mounted on a worn-out hack, who, so far from being able
to defend himself against a robber, was more likely to be in league
with one.” Apparently, the people of this class had no better name
in France, and probably other countries, to judge by a fragment
of conversation taken from Augier, and chronicled in Larousse's
“_Dictionnaire du XIXe Siècle_,” xii. 1497:—“La poste est en retard.”
“Oui, d'une heure à peu près. Le piéton prend courage à tous les
cabarets.”

[59] As a contemporary of Palmer, Scott was never guilty of an
anachronism not unknown to present-day authors who sometimes cause the
puppet men and women of their romances to travel before 1784 in _mail_
when they really mean _stage_ coaches. The terms are too often taken
to be synonymous.

[60] “Report of the Committee of Inquiry (1788).”

[61] “Hansard,” xxxix. 1201, etc.

[62] For nearly two centuries the change was opposed here, partly
perhaps chiefly, because it was inaugurated on the Continent by a
Pope, Gregory XIII. Common-sense and the noblest of all sciences were
on the side of His Holiness; but religious bigotry was too strong even
for that combination; and for those many years religious bigotry held
the field. Opposition did not cease even when the correction was made;
and grave divines preached against the wickedness of an Act which,
they said, brought many millions of sinners eleven days nearer to
their graves; and in one of Hogarth's series of Election Pictures, a
man is seen bearing a placard on which is inscribed the words, “Give
us back our eleven days.” Most of us, too, are familiar with the cruel
story of the witch mania which was shared by men as excellent as Sir
Matthew Hale and John Wesley. To-day, we are glad that old, friendless
men and women, to say nothing of their harmless, necessary cats, are
permitted to die peacefully. Are there any now among us who would
restore the Act, _De Comburendo Heretico_, expunged from the Statute
Book in William's III.'s reign—a removal which doubtless scandalised
not a few sincerely devout persons?

[63] In the oldest days of coaching, the horses which started with the
vehicle drew it to the journey's end. Relays of horses were a happy
afterthought.

[64] Dublin became possessed of a local penny post before 1793;
but not until that date, or a hundred and thirteen years after the
establishment of Dockwra's reform in London, was it considered worth
while to extend the boon to Manchester—which had now displaced Bristol
as the second town in the kingdom—or to the last-named city and to
Birmingham. At this time, too, it was still customary to address
letters bound for the centre of the cutlery industry to “Sheffield,
near Rotherham”, the latter being the more important town.

[65] For a graphically described contrast between the treatment meted
out in those “good old times” to Catholics and that to Protestants,
see Sydney Smith's too-seldom read “Peter Plymley's Letters.”



CHAPTER III

THE PLAN

     “If in 1834 only a moderate reduction had been made in the
     extortionate rates of postage which were then in force, Rowland
     Hill might not have embarked upon his plan; and, even if he had
     done so, that plan might have failed to evoke from the public
     sufficient force to overcome opposition in high quarters.
     In proportion to the extent of the evil did men welcome the
     remedy.”—JOYCE'S “History of the Post Office,” p. 420.

     The postal reform “perhaps represents the greatest social
     improvement brought about by legislation in modern times.”—JUSTIN
     M'CARTHY in “A History of Our Own Times,” chap. iv. p. 89.


For many years my father's attention had been turned towards the
question of postal reform; although in that respect he was far from
standing alone. The defects of the old system were so obvious that
with many people they formed a common subject of conversation; and
plans of improvement were repeatedly discussed. So far back as 1826
Rowland Hill's thoughts had outgrown the first stage on the road to
“betterment”—that of mere fault-finding with the things that are. He
had drawn up a scheme for a travelling post office. The fact that,
whereas the mails from all parts as a rule reached London at 6 A.M.,
while the distribution of letters only began three hours later, struck
him as a defect in need of urgent remedy. If, he argued, the inside
of the mail-coach, or “an additional body thereto, were to be fitted
with shelves and other appliances, the guard might sort and [date]
stamp the letters, etc., on the journey. By so doing, time would be
saved: the mails would either leave the provincial towns three hours
later, giving more time for correspondence, or the letters could be
delivered in London three hours earlier.” In January 1830 he suggested
the dispatch of mail matter by means of pneumatic tubes. But neither
project went beyond the stage of written memoranda; nor, in face of
the never-failing hostility manifested by the post officials towards
all reforms, especially those emanating from outsiders, was likely to
do more.

Early in the 'thirties reductions in certain departments of taxation
had been made; and my father's mind being still turned towards the
Post Office, he fell into the habit of discussing with his family and
others the advisability of extending similar reductions to postal
rates.

And this seems a fitting place to mention that while from every member
of his family he received the heartiest sympathy and help throughout
the long struggle to introduce his reform, it was his eldest brother,
Matthew, who, more than any other, did him yeoman service; and, after
Matthew, the second brother, Edwin.[66] Of the five Hill brothers
who reached old age, it has been claimed for the eldest that,
intellectually, he was the greatest. He had not, perhaps, the special
ability which enabled my father to plan the postal reform, a measure
which probably none of his brothers, gifted as in various ways all
were, could have thought out, and brought to concrete form; neither
had the eldest the mathematical power which distinguished Rowland.
But in all other respects Matthew stood first; and that he was one of
the wittiest, wisest, most cultivated, and, at the same time, most
tender-hearted of men in an age especially rich in the type there can
be no doubt. He was the first Birmingham man to go to the Bar, and for
twenty-eight years was his native city's first recorder.

The second brother, Edwin, was also an unusually clever man, and had
a genius for mechanics which placed him head and shoulders above his
brethren. His help in furthering the postal reform, as well as in
other ways, was given “constantly and ably,” said my father. Out of a
very busy brain Edwin could evolve any machine or other contrivance
required to meet the exigencies of the hour, as when, to make life
less hard to one who was lame and rheumatic, he devised certain
easily-swinging doors; and when in 1840 he was appointed Supervisor
of stamps at Somerset House he was quite in his element. Among other
things, he invented an ingenious method, said the First Report of
the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, by which the unwieldy, blank
newspaper sheets which, as we have seen, were obliged, before being
printed, to go to Somerset House to receive the impress of the duty
stamp, were separated, turned over, and stamped with a speed and
accuracy which had previously been considered unattainable.[67] He
was also the inventor of the envelope-folding machine known as De
La Rue's, and shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The process of
embossing the Queen's head on the postal envelopes was likewise his
invention; and, further, he published two once well-known works—the
one on “Principles of Currency,” the other on “Criminal Capitalists.”
He applied the latter title to those proprietors of houses and shops
who knowingly let them out as shelters for criminals or depots for the
sale of stolen goods; and he proposed that, in order to check crime,
these landlords should first be struck at.[68]

Matthew it was who, after many conversations with Rowland on the
subject so frequently in the latter's thoughts, advised him to draw up
his plan in pamphlet form. The advice was followed, and the detailed
scheme laid before the adviser, who approved of it so highly that he
suggested its publication by their mutual friend, Charles Knight. This
was done, with what far-reaching effect we know. But my uncle's help
did not end here. For him, who, self-aided, had won an influential
position both at the Bar and in the brilliant, intellectual society
of his day, it was easier than for his lesser known junior to have
access to men likely to prove powerful advocates of the scheme and
good friends to its author. Henceforth, as his biographers remind us,
the eldest brother devoted to the proposed reform all the time and
labour he could spare from his own work.[69] He introduced Rowland to
men of influence in both Houses of Parliament, to several of the chief
journalists, and other leaders of public opinion. Their sympathy was
soon enlisted, as was also that of many of my father's own friends,
and, ere long, that of the great majority of the nation when once the
merits of the plan came to be understood.

[Illustration: Facsimile of Manuscript Page (in Sir ROWLAND HILL'S
handwriting) of the Draft of his Pamphlet on Post Office Reform. See
3rd Edition (1837) page 49.]

When, in 1834, Rowland Hill joined the Association formed for the
total abolition of the odious “taxes on knowledge” there was a duty
of 1s. 6d. on every advertisement; a paper duty at 1-1/2d. the
lb.; and the newspaper stamp duty was at its highest—4d. This last
burden—undoubtedly a war-tax—was reduced once more to 1d. only in
1835, when we had been at peace for twenty years. So easy is it to lay
a war-tax on the nation: so difficult to take it off again. Weighted
after this fashion, how could journalistic enterprise prosper? The
Association was of opinion that if the Press could be cheapened
newspapers would increase, and advertisements multiply, while the
fiscal produce of journalism would be as large as ever. In estimating
this probable expansion Rowland Hill applied a principle on which he
subsequently relied in reference to postal reform, namely, that the
increased consumption of a cheapened article in general use makes up
for the diminished price.

The Revenue for the financial year which ended with March 1836 had
yielded a large surplus; and a reduction of taxation was confidently
looked for. Thus the time seemed ripe for the publication of my
father's views upon the postal question; and he set to work to write
that slighter, briefer edition of his pamphlet which was intended for
private circulation only.

It was in this year also that he made the acquaintance of one of the
greatest of all those—many in number—who helped to carry his proposed
scheme into accomplished fact—Robert Wallace of Kelly, Greenock's
first Member of Parliament and the pioneer postal reformer of the
nineteenth century. From the time Mr Wallace entered Parliament, at
the General Election which followed the passing of the great Reform
Bill of 1832, he took the deepest interest in postal matters, and
strove to reform the Department with a persistency which neither
ridicule could weary nor opposition defeat. He was in the field two
years before Rowland Hill; and while thus unconsciously preparing the
way for another man, was able to accomplish several useful reforms on
his own account.

In 1833 Mr Wallace proposed that postage should be charged by weight
instead of by number of enclosures, thereby anticipating my father
as regards that one suggestion. But nothing came of the proposal.
He was more fortunate when moving for leave to throw open to public
competition the contract for the construction of mail-coaches, which,
when adopted, led to an annual saving of over £17,000. He also secured
the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into the management of the
Post Office. The Commission was established in 1835, continued to
work till 1838, issued ten Reports,[70] and by its untiring efforts
was, as my father always maintained, justly entitled to much of the
credit of his own later success. Mr Wallace was, of course, to the
fore in the Commission, and gave valuable evidence in favour of the
establishment of day mails, which subsequently formed a feature of
Rowland Hill's plan, and was eventually carried into effect with great
advantage to the public and to the Revenue. To Mr Wallace we also
owe the boon of registration of letters. He likewise pleaded for a
reduction of postal rates, and of more frequent communication between
different centres of population. In Parliament, during the session of
1836, and in the last speech he made there before the publication of
Rowland Hill's pamphlet, he urged the abandonment of the manifestly
unjust rule of charging postage not according to the geographical
distance between one place and another, but according to the length of
the course a letter was compelled to take.[71] As regards the question
of reduced postal rates, he said: “It would be proper not to charge
more than 3d. for any letter sent a distance of 50 miles; for 100
miles, 4d.; 200 miles, 6d.; and the highest rate of postage ought not
to be more than 8d. or 9d. at most.”[72]

A detailed plan of wholesale reform (as was my father's) Mr Wallace
never had, and he no more dreamed of postage stamps—though the
suggestion of these has been sometimes attributed to him as well as
to other men—or of prepayment than he did of uniformity of rate. He
was an older man than Rowland Hill, and of higher social standing; yet
was he so incapable of jealousy or other petty meanness, that when the
younger man, on completion of his scheme, laid it before the veteran
Scotsman, the latter threw aside all other plans and suggestions, took
up the only practicable reform, and worked for it as heartily as if it
had been his own.

To Mr Wallace every would-be postal reformer turned with unerring
instinct as to his best friend; and it was through the instrumentality
of this public benefactor that Rowland Hill had been furnished with
sundry Parliamentary Blue Books containing those statistics and other
valuable facts, mastery of which was essential to the completion of
his pamphlet, since it was necessary to understand the old system
thoroughly before destroying it.

“As I had never yet been within the walls of any post office,”
wrote my father of Mr Wallace's friendly act, “my only sources of
information for the time consisted of those heavy Blue Books, in which
invaluable matter too often lies hidden amidst heaps of rubbish. Into
some of these [books] I had already dipped; but Mr Wallace, having
supplied me by post with an additional half-hundred-weight of raw
material,[73] I now commenced that systematic study, analysis, and
comparison which the difficulty of my self-imposed task rendered
necessary.”

Basing his calculations on the information drawn from these and other
volumes, Rowland Hill found that, after the reduction of taxation
in 1823, the price of soap fell by an eighth, tea by a sixth, silk
goods by a fifth, and coffee by a fourth. The reduction in price was
followed by a great increase of consumption, the sale of soap rising
by a third, and that of tea by almost half. Of silk goods the sale had
more than doubled, and of coffee more than tripled. Cotton goods had
declined in cost during the previous twenty years by nearly a half,
and their sale was quadrupled.[74]

In his pamphlet Rowland Hill dwelt upon this fact of increased
consumption following on decreased price. It was clear, then, that the
taxes for remission should be those affording the greatest relief to
the public accompanied with the least loss to the Revenue; and that
scrutiny should be made into the subject in order to discover which
tax, or taxes, had failed to grow in productiveness with increase of
population and prosperity. The test showed that, whereas between 1815
and 1835 the nation had added six millions to its numbers, and that
trade had largely increased, the postal revenue was rather smaller in
the later than in the earlier year. During the same period the revenue
from the stage-coaches had grown by 128 per cent. In France, where the
postal charges were more reasonable, the revenue of the Department
had, in the same twenty years, increased by 80 per cent.

Reform in our own postal system was obviously a necessity.

But the fiscal loss to the country, as shown in the state of our
postal revenue, serious as it was, seemed to Rowland Hill a lesser
evil than the bar, artificial and harmful, raised by the high charges
on correspondence, to the moral and intellectual progress of the
people. If put upon a sound basis, the Post Office, instead of being
an engine for the imposition of an unbearable tax, would become a
powerful stimulus to civilisation.

Still delving among the Parliamentary Blue Books, he further gathered
that the cost of the service rendered—that is, of the receipt,
conveyance, and distribution of each ordinary missive sent from post
town to post town within the United Kingdom—averaged 84/100ths of
a penny only; 28/100ths going to conveyance, and 56/100ths to the
receipt and delivery, collection of postage, etc. Also that the
cost of conveyance for a given distance being generally in direct
proportion to the weight carried, and a newspaper or franked letter
weighing about as much as several ordinary letters, the average
expense of conveying a letter chargeable with postage must be still
lower, probably some 9/100ths of a penny: a conclusion supported by
the well-known fact, already alluded to,[75] that the chargeable
letters weighed, on an average, one fourth only of the entire mail.

He also found that the whole cost of the mail-coach service for
one journey between London and Edinburgh was only £5 a day.[76]
The average load of the mail diurnally carried being some six
hundred-weight, the cost of each hundred-weight was therefore 16s.
8d. Taking the average weight of a letter at a quarter of an ounce,
its cost of carriage for the 400 miles was but 1/36th part of a
penny—in the light of Rowland Hill's amended estimate actually less.
Yet the postage exacted for even the lightest “single” letter was
1s. 3-1/2d. The ninth part of a farthing—the approximate cost of
conveyance—is a sum too small to be appreciable, and impossible to
collect. Therefore, “if the charge for postage be made proportionate
to the whole expense incurred in the receipt, transit, and delivery
of the letter, and in the collection of its postage, it must be made
uniformly the same from every post town to every other post town in
the United Kingdom.”[1] In other words, “As it would take a ninefold
weight to make the expense of transit amount to one farthing, it
follows that, taxation apart, the charge ought to be precisely the
same for every packet of moderate weight, without reference to the
number of its enclosures.”[77]

The custom of charge by distance seemed self-condemned when a simpler
mode was not only practicable but actually fairer. Now, with increase
of the number of letters the cost of each was bound to diminish; and
with reduction of postage, especially the great reduction which seemed
easy of attainment, increase of number could not fail to follow.

The simple incident of the falling apple is said to have suggested
to Newton the theory of gravitation. So also the discovery that the
length of a letter's journey makes no appreciable difference to the
cost of that journey led Rowland Hill to think of uniformity of rate;
and in that portion of his “Life” which is autobiographic he said that
the “discovery” that such a rate would approach nearer to absolute
justice than any other that could be fixed upon was “as startling to
myself as it could be to any one else, and was the basis of the plan
which has made so great a change in postal affairs” (i. 250).

Mention has already been made of the time-wasting and costly mode in
which, during or after delivery of the letters, the postage had to be
collected, necessarily in coin of the realm. In rural districts the
postman's journey, when twofold, doubled the cost of its delivery,
its distance, and its time-duration. The accounts, as we have seen,
were most complicated, and complication is only too apt to spell
mismanagement, waste, and fraud. Simplicity of arrangement was
imperative. But simplicity could only be attained by getting rid of
the complications. The work must be _changed_. Time must be saved,
and unprofitable labour be done away with. But how? By abolishing the
tiresome operations of “candling” and of making the “calculations”
(of postal charge) now inscribed on every letter; by expediting the
deliveries, and by other devices. Above all, the public should learn
to undertake its due share of work, the share non-performance of which
necessitated the complications, and swelled the expenses. That is,
the _sender_ of the letter should pay for its transit before the Post
Office incurred any cost in connection with it, only, as under the
existing system and in numberless cases, to meet with a refusal on
the part of the should-be receiver to accept it.

In other words, prepayment must be made the rule. Prepayment would
have the effect of “simplifying and accelerating the proceedings of
the Post Office throughout the kingdom, and rendering them less liable
to error and fraud. In the central Metropolitan Office there would be
no letters to be taxed, no examination of those taxed by others; no
accounts to be made out against the deputy postmasters for letters
transmitted to them, nor against the letter-carriers. There would be
no need of checks, no necessity to submit to frauds and numberless
errors for want of means to prevent or correct them. In short, the
whole of the financial proceedings would be reduced to a single,
accurate, and satisfactory account, consisting of a single item per
day, with each receiver and each deputy postmaster.”[78]

Distribution would thenceforth be the letter-carriers' only function;
and thus the first step towards the acceleration of postal deliveries
would be secured. And while considering this last point, there came
into Rowland Hill's mind the idea of that now common adjunct to
everybody's hall-door—the letter-box. If the postman could slip his
letters through a slit in the woodwork, he need not wait while the
bell or knocker summoned the dilatory man or maid; and his round
being accomplished more expeditiously, the letters would be received
earlier.[79] The shortening of the time consumed on the round would
unquestionably facilitate the introduction of those hourly deliveries
in thickly populated and business districts which formed part of the
plan of postal reform.

How best to collect the prepaid postage had next to be decided; and
among other things, Rowland Hill bethought him of the stamped cover
for newspapers proposed by his friend Charles Knight three years
before, but never adopted; and, finally, of the loose adhesive stamp
which was his own device. The description he gave of this now familiar
object reads quaintly at the present day. “Perhaps this difficulty”—of
making coin payments at a post office—“might be obviated by using a
bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered at the
back with a glutinous wash which, by applying a little moisture, might
be attached to the letter.”[80]

The disuse of franks and the abandonment of illicit conveyance, the
breaking up of one long letter into several shorter ones, and the
certain future use to be made of the post for the distribution of
those circulars and other documents which either went by different
channels or were altogether withheld,[81] should cause the number
of missives to increase enormously. Although, were the public, in
accordance with its practice in other cases, to expend no more in
postage than before, the loss to the nett Revenue should be but
small. Even were it to be large, the powerful stimulus given by easy
communication and low-priced postage to the productive power of the
country, and the consequent increase of revenue in other departments,
would more than make up for the deficiency. On all these grounds,
then, the adoption of the plan must be of incalculable benefit.

The uniform rate of a penny the half-ounce ought to defray the cost
of letter-carriage, and produce some 200 per cent. profit. My father
originally proposed a penny the ounce; and thirty-three years later,
being then in retirement, he privately advised the Government of the
day to revert to the ounce limit. His suggestion was adopted; but the
limit has since been brought up to four ounces—a reduction which, had
it been proposed in 1837, must inevitably have ensured the defeat of
the postal reform.

As regards the speedy recovery of the nett Revenue appearances seem to
indicate that he was over-sanguine; the gross Revenue not reaching
its former amount till 1851, the nett till 1862.[82] The reasons were
several, but among them can hardly be counted faulty calculations
on Rowland Hill's part. We shall read more about this matter in a
later chapter. Meanwhile, one cause, and that a main one, shall be
mentioned. As railways multiplied, and mail-coaches ceased to ply, the
expenses of conveyance grew apace.[83]

[Illustration:

  _From a Photograph by Messrs. Whiteley & Co._

No. 2, BURTON CRESCENT,

Where “Post Office Reform” was written. A group of people stand
opposite the house.]

Under the increased burden the old system, had it endured much longer,
must have collapsed. The railway charges for carrying the mails,
unlike the charges for carrying passengers and goods, have been
higher, weight for weight, than the charges by the mail-coaches, and
the tendency in later years has by no means made towards decrease.

The pamphlet was entitled “Post Office Reform: Its Importance and
Practicability.”[84] Use of the words “Penny Postage” was carefully
avoided, because a reformer, when seeking to convert to his own way
of thinking a too-often slow-witted public, is forced to employ the
wisdom of the serpent in conjunction, not only with the gentleness of
the dove, but also with something of the cunning of the fox or weasel.
Thus canny George Stephenson, when pleading for railways, forbore to
talk of locomotives running at the tremendous rate of 12 miles an
hour lest his hearers should think he was qualifying for admission to
a lunatic asylum. He therefore modestly hinted at a lower speed, the
quicker being supposed to be exceptional. So also Rowland Hill, by
stating the arguments for his case clearly, yet cautiously, sought to
lead his readers on, step by step, till the seeming midsummer madness
of a uniform postal rate irrespective of distance should cease to
startle, and, instead, be accepted as absolutely sane.

In this way he engaged the attention, among others, of the once
famous Francis Place, tailor and politician, to whom he sent a copy
of “Post Office Reform.” Mr Place began its perusal with an audible
running accompaniment of “Pish!” and “Pshaw!” varied by an occasional
remark that the “hitch” which must inevitably destroy the case would
presently appear. But as he read, the audible monosyllabic marginal
notes ceased, and when he turned the last page, he exclaimed in the
needlessly strong language of the day: “I'll be damned if there
_is_ a hitch after all!” and forthwith became a convert. Leigh Hunt
expressed his own sentiments in happier form when he declared that
the pamphlet's reasoning “carries us all along with it as smoothly as
wheel on railroad.”

Through the kindness of Mr Villiers, the long-time senior Member
for Wolverhampton, the pamphlet, while still in manuscript, was
confidentially submitted to the Government. The author, through his
friend, expressed his willingness to let them have the entire credit
of introducing the plan if they would accept it. Otherwise he reserved
the right to lay it before the public. Many years after, Mr Villiers
wrote of the satisfaction he felt that the measure was left to the
unbiassed judgment of the people, for, after all, the Government
had not the courage to accept the offer, and the only outcome of a
rather pleasant interview, in January 1837, with the Chancellor of
the Exchequer, Mr Spring Rice, was the suggestion made by him and
adopted by Rowland Hill, that the penny rate should be charged not on
an ounce, but on half an ounce—to the cautious keeper of the national
purse seemingly a less startling innovation.

That the plan should be treated, not as a party question, but strictly
on its merits, was its author's earnest, oft-repeated desire. Nor
could it be properly regarded from a political aspect, since it
counted among its advocates in the two Houses, and outside them,
members of both parties. Yet, notwithstanding this support, and the
fact that the friends of the proposed reform daily grew more numerous,
the best part of three years was consumed in converting to recognition
of its merits not only a fairly large portion of the official world,
but the Prime Minister himself. However, the same Prime Minister, Lord
Melbourne, it was who declared that it was madness to contemplate as
possible the abolition of the Corn Laws.

“Post Office Reform” made no small sensation. It was widely read
and discussed, as indeed was but natural, seeing how thoroughly
dissatisfied with the old system nearly every one outside the official
circle was. The proposed reform was, as a rule, heartily approved,
although by some would-be clever people it was mercilessly ridiculed;
and a writer in the _Quarterly Review_ assailed it, declaring, among
other things, that “prepayment by means of a stamp or stamped cover is
universally admitted to be quite the reverse of convenient, foreign
to the habits of the people,” etc.—yet another illustration of the
folly of indulging in prophecy unaccompanied by knowledge. He further
professed to see in the proposal “only a means of making sedition
easy.”![85]

To this attack Matthew Hill made a scathing reply in the _Edinburgh
Review_, using, to flagelate the foe, the ready wit and unanswerable
logic of which he was a master. Then passing to the financial side
of the question, he pointed out that the temporary diminution of
income ought to be regarded as an outlay. The loss, he argued, would
be slight in comparison with the object in view. Even if the annual
deficit were one million during ten years, that would be but half what
the country had paid for the abolition of slavery; and _that_ payment
was made with no prospect of _money_ return. Should hope of ultimate
profit fail, a substituted tax might be imposed; and were it asked,
what tax? the answer should be, _any_—certain that none could operate
so fatally on all other sources of revenue as the present postal tax.

Time was on the side of the reformer, and before long the public,
having digested both the pamphlet and the debates thereon, took up the
question with enthusiasm. In the largest city in the kingdom as in the
smallest hamlet, meetings were convened in support and furtherance of
the proposed reform. Within twelve months two thousand petitions were
presented to Parliament, causing, on one occasion, a curious scene.
Mr Scholefield, having laid on the table a petition from Birmingham,
praying for adoption of the penny postage plan, the Speaker called on
all members who had charge of similar petitions to bring them up. At
once a “crowd” rose to present them amid cheering on all sides.

The number of signatures reached a quarter of a million; and as many
of the petitions proceeded from Town Councils, Chambers of Commerce,
and other such Corporations, a single signature in many instances
represented a considerable number of persons.

Grote, the historian of Greece, and an earnest worker for the
reform, presented a petition. One from the city contained over
12,500 signatures, bore the names of the Lord Mayor and many London
merchants, and was filled in twelve hours. In the Upper House, the
Lord Radnor of the time, an earnest friend to reforms of many sorts,
presented no fewer than forty petitions. The signatures were of many
classes, all sects, and both political parties.

In the City, on the proposal of Mr Moffatt, afterwards Member for
Southampton, the “Mercantile Committee” was formed. Its founder, whom
Rowland Hill has described as “one of my most zealous, steady, and
efficient supporters,” threw himself with great earnestness into the
formation of this Committee, raising funds, and gathering together the
able men, London merchants and others, who became its members. Its
principal aim was to collect evidence in favour of the plan; and to
its ceaseless energy much of the success of the movement was due. Mr
Ashurst, father to a late Solicitor to the Post Office, was requested
to become Solicitor to the Committee. He accepted the invitation,
declined to receive remuneration for his services, and worked with
unflagging industry.[86] Mr Bates, of the house of Baring Brothers,
acted as Chairman; Mr Cole as Secretary. In addition to the above, and
to Mr Moffatt, may be mentioned the names of Messrs William Ellis,
James Pattison, L. P. Wilson, John Dillon,[87] John Travers, J. H.
Gladstanes, and W. A. Wilkinson—all warm supporters of the plan from
the beginning.

Mr Cole excelled in the invention of pictorial devices of the sort
which are far more likely to convert the average citizen to faith
in a newly propounded reform than all the arguments, however able,
that were ever spoken or written; and are therefore most valuable.
He drew, for instance, a mail-coach with a large amount of postal
matter piled, by artistic licence, on the roof instead of inside
“the boot.” Six huge sacks contained between them 2,296 newspapers
weighing 273 lbs.; a seventh sack, as large as any of its fellows,
held 484 franked letters, and weighed 47 lbs.; while a moderate-sized
parcel was filled with Stamp Office documents. They were all labelled
“go free.” A bag of insignificant dimensions leant up against one of
the sacks. It held 1,565 ordinary letters, weighed 34 lbs., and was
marked “pay £93.” This tiny packet paid for all the rest! Cole was too
sensible a man to make use of an illustration which, if untrue, could
only have inspired ridicule. His figures were absolutely correct, and
represented the actual proportions of the mail matter carried from
London to Edinburgh on 2nd March 1838. His Brobdingnagian “single”
and Lilliputian “double” letters, whose names are indicative of their
relative size, were one evening handed round the House of Commons with
telling effect. They were, of course, designed to satirise the old
system practice of “taxing” letters according to number of enclosures.
Both had passed through the post that day, the giant having been
charged just half what was paid on the dwarf.

In all the large centres of population the great mercantile houses
were foremost among those who took up the good cause, and the Press
also threw itself into the struggle with much heartiness except in
those cases where the cue given was—attack! Happily these dissentients
were soon outnumbered and outvoiced. A few journals, indeed, achieved
marvellously sudden conversions—behaviour which even in the present
more enlightened days is not absolutely unknown. Twenty-five London
and eighty-seven provincial papers—there were far fewer papers
then than there are now—supported the proposed reform, and their
championship found an echo in some of the foreign Press. In London
the _Times_ (after a while), the now defunct _Morning Chronicle_,
and the _Spectator_ were pre-eminent. Mr Rintoul, founder and first
editor of the _Spectator_, not only championed the reform long before
its establishment, but continued to give the reformer constant
support through trials and triumphs till 1858, when, to the great
loss of journalism and of all good causes, death severed Mr Rintoul's
connection with that paper.[88]

Outside London, the _Scotsman_—then renowned for its advanced
views—the _Manchester Guardian_, the _Liverpool Mercury_, and
the _Leeds Mercury_—then in the hands of the well-known Baines
family—were, perhaps, especially active. Their support and that of
other ably conducted provincial papers never varied, and to the end of
his life Rowland Hill spoke gratefully of the enlightened and powerful
aid thus given.


FOOTNOTES:

[66] “All the members of his family,” says Mr John C. Francis in
_Notes and Queries_, 10th Series, No. 141, 8th September 1906, “were
proud of Rowland and his scheme. There was no jealousy: each worked in
harmony. The brothers looked at all times to each other for counsel;
it was a perfect home, with the good old father as its head. Truly
have his words been verified: 'The union of my children has proved
their strength.'” ... “Never did a family so unite in working for the
common good.”

[67] “By his inventive mechanical skill,” says Mr Francis, “he greatly
improved the machinery [at Somerset House]. My father frequently
had occasion to see him, and always found him ready to consider
any suggestion made. Especially was this the case when he obtained
permission for a stamp to be made with the sender's name round the
rim. This was designed for him by Edwin Hill.”

[68] Of Edwin's kindness of heart many instances are remembered. Of
these, two, characteristic of the man, shall be selected. The head
gardener at Bruce Castle lived in the (then) village of Tottenham
down a narrow entry at a corner of which stood one of the inevitable
drink-traps which in this civilised country are permitted to be set
up wherever the poor most do congregate. John simply could not pass
that public-house. He was too good a man to be allowed to sink into a
sot; and eventually my uncle bethought him of building a gardener's
cottage in a corner of the Castle grounds. The plan succeeded: John
lived to a hale old age, and some of his children did well in the
world. One afternoon, when my uncle was walking along the Strand on
his way home from Somerset House after an arduous day's work, he saw
a shabbily-dressed child sobbing bitterly. Now, Edwin Hill could
never pass a little one in distress, and therefore stopped to ask
what was the matter. The child had wandered from home, and was lost.
The address it gave was at some distance, and in quite an opposite
direction from that in which my uncle was bound. Most men would have
made over the small waif to the first policeman who came in sight. But
not this man. He took the wearied mite in his arms, carried it home,
and placed it in its anxious mother's arm.

[69] “Matthew Davenport Hill,” p. 142. By his daughters, R. and F.
Hill.

[70] In the Ninth of which was embodied the Commissioners' examination
of Rowland Hill made in February 1837. It is curious that even these
able men, when discussing the plan with its author, spoke with most
hesitation of that detail of whose wisdom so many officials were more
than doubtful, yet which, from the first, never presented any real
difficulty—the practicability of prepayment—“Life,” i. 274.

[71] As we have seen, in the chapter on “The Old Postal System,” Sir
Walter Scott has made a somewhat biting remark upon the “few pence”
which the Post Office added to its revenue on letters which were sent
a long round in order to meet Departmental convenience.

[72] “Hansard,” xxxv. (2nd Series), 422.

[73] “Raw material by the half-hundred-weight” and “by post” in
non-prepayment days is suggestive of heavy demands upon my father's
purse. But no demand was made. Mr Wallace's frank as an M.P. would
cause the packages he sent to be carried free of charge. It was
literally a _cabful_ of books which arrived, thus adding yet another
item to the oft-quoted list of huge things which could “go free” when
sent by a member of the privileged classes. One trembles to think what
would have been the charge to one of the _un_privileged.

[74] After the adoption of free trade the prices of foreign produce
fell still further, and their consumption since Rowland Hill drew
up his estimates has grown enormously. With increase of business
following on increase of consumption, came necessarily increase of
employment and of national prosperity. So also when the old postal
system was abolished, and the business of the Department advanced
by leaps and bounds, a very large addition had to be made to the
number of employees. That fact is obvious, but another, perhaps
because it is less obvious, is but little known. “The introduction of
penny postage,” wrote my father in 1869, “was really followed by a
reduction in the hours, and an increase in the remuneration to nearly
every man in the Department, save only the Postmaster-General and
the Secretary”—himself. In some quarters the reverse was erroneously
believed to be the case.—“Life,” ii. 345.

[75] Chap. i. p. 50.

[76] “When at length I obtained precise information, I found that
in taking care not to make my estimate too low, I had made it
considerably too high; and I think the history of this rectification
too curious and characteristic to be omitted. Two years later, the
Parliamentary Committee appointed to consider my plan ordered, at
my suggestion, a Return on the subject, when, to my surprise and
amusement, the Report of the Post Office gave as the cost of the mail
the exact sum estimated by me—viz., £5. Struck with this coincidence,
the more so as I had intentionally allowed for possible omission, I
suggested the call for a Return in detail, and, this being given,
brought down the cost to £4, 8s. 7-3/4d. In the Return, however, I
discovered an error, viz., that the charge for guards' wages was that
for the double journey instead of the single; and when this point was
adjusted in a third Return, the cost sank to £3, 19s. 7-3/4d. When
explanation of the anomaly was asked for, it was acknowledged by the
Post Office authorities that my estimate had been adopted wholesale.”
(Rowland Hill in the “Appendix to the Second Report of the Select
Committee on Postage, 1838,” pp. 257-259.) In estimating the real
cost of a letter between London and Edinburgh we must therefore seek
for a fraction still smaller than the one indicated by my father's
calculations.

[77] “Post Office Reform,” p. 19.

[78] “Post Office Reform,” pp. 24, 25.

[79] This proposal was by no means received at the outset with
universal favour. When the public was notified, after Government's
acceptance of the plan of postal reform, of the advisability of
setting up letter-boxes, many people—the majority, no doubt—adopted
the suggestion as a matter of course. But others objected, some of
them strongly; and one noble lord wrote in high indignation to the
Postmaster-General to ask if he actually expected him, Lord Blank, “to
cut a hole in his mahogany door.”

[80] “Post Office Reform,” pp. 45, 94-96.

[81] Among these he included small orders, letters of advice,
remittances, policies of insurance, letters enclosing patterns,
letters between country attorneys and their London agents, documents
connected with magisterial and county jurisdiction, and with local
trusts and commissions for the management of sewers, harbours, roads,
schools, charities, etc., notices of meetings, of elections, etc.,
prices current, catalogues of sales, prospectuses, and other things
which, at the present time, are sent by post as a matter of course.

[82] Cobden was even more optimistic. In a letter to Rowland Hill he
said: “I am prepared to find that the revenue from the penny postage
_exceeds_, the first year, any former income of the Post Office.”

[83] It was in 1838 that the mails began to go by rail.

[84] This was not my father's first pamphlet. In 1832 he published
“Home Colonies: Sketch of a Plan for the Gradual Extinction of
Pauperism and for the Diminution of Crime.” The pamphlet advocated the
settlement of able-bodied paupers on waste lands—a proposal frequently
revived by different writers—by the cultivation of which the men would
be made self-supporting, and the State be saved their charge. The
successful working of similar experiments in Belgium and Holland was
instanced as proof that the theory was not mere Utopianism.

[85] No. 128, p. 531. The author of the diatribe was John Wilson
Croker, whose name is preserved from oblivion by Macaulay's fierce
criticism in one of his famous “Essays,” that on Croker's edition of
Boswell's “Life of Johnson”—criticism which in severity rivals that
on the poet Montgomery in the same series. Many years later Gladstone
said to Dr Hill: “You have succeeded in doing what Macaulay attempted
to do, and failed—you have suppressed Croker.”—(Mrs Lucy Crump's
“Letters of George Birkbeck Hill.”)

[86] Mr Ashurst, as we are reminded in Mr Bolton King's “Mazzini”
(pp. 88 and 104), was a solicitor who had been a friend of Robert
Owen, and who made Mazzini's acquaintance at the time of the once
famous Governmental letter-opening scandal which agitated the far-off
'forties, and caused Carlyle, Duncombe, Shiel, Macaulay, and many
more people both in the House of Commons and out of it to denounce
a practice which, as was only too truly said, through sending “a
warning to the Bourbons, helped to entrap hapless patriots,” meaning
the brothers Bandiera. The agitation led to the abolition of the
custom of opening private letters entrusted for conveyance to the Post
Office; or did so for a while. It is a custom that is very old, and
has not lacked for apologists, as what evil custom ever did? During
Bishop Atterbury's trial in 1723, a Post Office clerk deposed on oath
that some letters which were offered in evidence were facsimiles made
of actual documents stopped, opened, and copied in the office “by
direction”; and on Atterbury's asking if the witness had received
warrant for the act, the Lords put in the plea of public expediency,
and the enquiry came to an end.

[87] Mr John Dillon, of the once famous old firm of Morrison, Dillon,
& Co., was probably one of the last wealthy London merchants who lived
above their place of business. The Dillons were hospitable people,
and their dwelling was commodious and beautifully furnished; but not
many merchant princes of the present day would choose as a residential
quarter—Fore Street, E.C.

[88] Mr Rintoul was fortunate in being father to a devoted daughter
who, from an early age, gave him valuable assistance in his editorial
work. While still a young girl, and for the space of some few weeks
when he was suffering from severe illness, she filled the editorial
chair herself, and did so with ability. At the present day we are
frequently assured by people who did not live in the times they
criticise so freely that the “early Victorian” women were inferior
to those of the present day. The assertion is devoid of truth. The
women of half a century and more ago were bright, witty, unaffected,
better mannered and perhaps better read than their descendants, often
highly cultivated. They dressed simply, not extravagantly—happily
for the bread-winning members of their family—did not gamble, were
self-reliant, original-minded, and _not_, as has been asserted,
absurdly deferential to their male relations. Indeed, it is probable
that there were, proportionately, quite as many henpecked husbands
in the land as there are now. If in some ways the Victorian women
had less liberty than have the women of to-day and travelled less,
may it not, as regards the former case, have been partly because the
community was not so rich as it is at the present time, and because
the facilities for travel were fewer and the conditions harder? In
intellectual power and noble aims the women of half a century ago were
not inferior to those of to-day. Certain it is that the former gave
less time to pleasure and more to self-culture, etc. There are to-day
many women who lead noble, useful lives, but their generation does
not enjoy a monopoly of all the virtues. To take but a few instances
from the past: has any woman of the present time excelled in true
nobility of character or usefulness of career Elizabeth Fry, first
among female prison reformers; Florence Nightingale, pioneer of the
nursing sisterhood, and indefatigable setter to rights of muddle in
Crimean War hospitals and stores; Caroline Herschel, distinguished
astronomer; Mary Somerville, author and scientist—though three of
these belong to a yet earlier generation—and Barbara L. S. Bodichon,
artist, foundress of Girton College, and originator of the Married
Women's Property Act? The modern woman is in many ways delightful,
and is, as a rule, deservedly independent; but it is not necessary to
accompany insistence on that fact by cheap and unmerited sneers at
former generations of the sex. It is also not amiss to ask if it was
not the women of the past age who won for the women of the present the
liberties these latter enjoy.



CHAPTER IV

EXIT THE OLD SYSTEM


By the early summer of 1837 the agitation in favour of the postal
reform was in full movement, and in the midst of it the old king,
William IV., died. His youthful successor was speedily deluged
with petitions in favour of penny postage. One of the first acts
of her first Parliament was to appoint the Select Committee for
which Mr Wallace had asked—“To enquire into the present rates and
mode of charging postage, with a view to such a reduction thereof
as may be made without injury to the revenue; and for this purpose
to examine especially into the mode recommended for charging and
collecting postage in a pamphlet published by Mr Rowland Hill.” Of
this Committee, which did so much to help forward the postal reform,
the doughty Member for Greenock was, of course, chosen as Chairman.
The Committee sat for sixty-three days; and in addition to the postal
officials and those of the Board of Stamps and Taxes (Inland Revenue),
examined Rowland Hill and over eighty other witnesses of various
occupations and from different parts of the country.

The story of their arduous labours is told at great length in Dr
Birkbeck Hill's edition of my father's Autobiography. There is
therefore no need to elaborate it here. The evidence told heavily
against the existing postal system—whose anomalies, absurdities, and
gross injustice have been described in the first chapter of this
work—and, with corresponding force, demonstrated the necessity for its
reform.[89]

It might have been supposed that the Committee's careful and
elaborate examination of Rowland Hill's plan, supported as it was
by an unanswerable array of facts, would have sufficed to ensure
its adoption. “He had yet to learn the vast amount of _vis inertia_
existing in some Government Departments. The minds of those who
sit in high places are sometimes wonderfully and fearfully made,
and 'outsiders,' as he was destined to find, must be prepared to
knock long and loudly at the outer door before they can obtain much
attention.”[90]

That the Post Office authorities would oppose the plan was a foregone
conclusion. They fought against it in the strenuous fashion known
metaphorically as “tooth and nail.” The Postmaster-General of the
day—he who said that “of all the wild and visionary schemes which
he had ever heard or read of it was the most extraordinary”[91]—gave
it as his opinion that if twelve times the number of letters were
carried, the expenses of conveyance would become twelve times
heavier—a strange argument for an educated man to use. He also
declared that with increase of correspondence the walls of the Post
Office would burst—a premonition which, not unnaturally, provoked
Rowland Hill into asking whether the size of the building should
be regulated by the amount of correspondence, or the amount of
correspondence by the size of the building.

The Secretary to the Post Office, Colonel Maberly, was apparently free
from the dread of the possible effect of increased correspondence
which exercised the minds of other post officials besides the
Postmaster-General. The Secretary told the Committee he was sure that
even if no charge were made people would not write more frequently
than they did under the existing system; and he predicted that the
public would object to prepayment. He approved of a uniform rate,
but apparently in theory only, as he added that he thought it quite
impracticable. He doubted whether letter-smuggling—to which practice
Mr Peacock, Solicitor to the Post Office, and other officials made
allusion as an evil on a very large scale—would be much affected by
the proposed reduction of postage, since “it cannot be reduced to
that price that smugglers will not compete with the Post Office at
an immense profit.” He pronounced the scheme to be “fallacious,
preposterous, utterly unsupported by facts, and resting entirely on
assumption”; prophesied its certain failure, if adopted, and said the
revenue would not recover for forty or fifty years.[92]

Some of the officials made the rather humiliating confession that
they should not know how to deal with the multitude of letters likely
to follow a change of system, and a “breakdown” was so frequently
predicted, that it was hard to avoid the suspicion that the wish
was father to the thought. The dread expressed of this increase of
correspondence is, in the light of these later days, unaccountable.
“Has any one,” pertinently asked my father, “ever heard of a
commercial company _afraid_ of an expected growth in its business?”

It was maintained that a fivefold increase of letters would
necessitate a fivefold number of mail-coaches, and Rowland Hill
was accused of having omitted this “fact” in his calculations. The
objection was absurd. The coaches were by no means fully laden, many
having very little to carry, and the chargeable letters, as we have
seen, formed only a small portion of the entire mail. Twenty-four
coaches left London every evening, each bearing its share of that
small portion; but had the whole of it been conveyed in one coach, its
bulk would not have displaced a single passenger.

Colonel (afterwards General) Colby,[93] indeed, told the Committee
that his attention was first drawn to the desirability of cheapening
postage while travelling all over the kingdom, when he had “observed
that the mails and carriages which contained the letters formed a
very stupendous machinery for the conveyance of a very small weight;
that, in fact, if the correspondence had been doubled, trebled, or
quadrupled, it could not have affected the expense of conveyance.”[94]

To determine this question of the weight of the mails, the Committee
caused a return to be made in the case of the coaches leaving London.
The average was found to be only 463 lbs.—a little over a quarter of
the weight which, according to Post Official estimates, a mail-coach
would be capable of carrying.[95]

In the chapter on the old system we have seen the straits to which
the poor were reduced when having to “take up” a letter which had
come from distant relative or friend. Yet how eager was this class to
enjoy the privilege possessed by those better off than themselves,
was shown during the examination of Mr Emery, Deputy-Lieutenant for
Somerset, and a Commissioner of Taxes, when he told the Committee that
the poor people near Bristol had signed a petition for the reduction
of postage, and that he “never saw greater enthusiasm.” Testimony to a
similar effect abounds in the Committee's Reports.

That some, at least, of the public were not so alarmed at the prospect
of prepayment as were the officials generally, is seen by the evidence
of several witnesses who advised that it should be made compulsory.
The public were also quick to appreciate the advantage of payment by
stamps instead of money. Sir (then Mr) William Brown of Liverpool,
said he had seen the demoralising effect arising from entrusting
young men with money to pay for postage, which, under the existing
arrangement, his house [of business] was frequently obliged to do. His
view was corroborated by other witnesses.[96]

Mr Samuel Jones Loyd (afterwards Lord Overstone) greatly regretted
“that the post was ever taken as a field for taxation, and should be
very glad to find that, consistently with the general interests of the
revenue, which the Government has to watch over, they can effect any
reduction in the total amount so received, or any reduction in the
charges without diminishing the total amount.”[97]

Lord Ashburton was of much the same opinion.

Rowland Hill himself dissented from the view generally—and indeed
still—held that so long as the Department as a whole thrives, its
funds may justly be applied to maintain special services which do not
repay their own costs. On the contrary, he thought that every division
of the service should be at least self-supporting, though he allowed
that, for the sake of simplicity, extensions might be made where
there was no immediate expectation of absolute profit. All beyond
this he regarded as contrary to the true principles of free trade—of
the “Liberation of Intercourse,” to use the later-day, and in this
case more appropriate, phrase. Whenever, therefore, the nett revenue
from the Post Office is too high for the interests of the public, the
surplus, he maintained, should be applied to the multiplication of
facilities in those districts in which, through the extent of their
correspondence, such revenue is produced.[98]

Most of the Post Office chiefs examined by the Committee viewed with
disfavour the proposal to “tax” letters by weight. An experiment had
been made at the Office from which it was inferred that a greater
number could be taxed in a given time on the plan in use than by
charging them in proportion to the weight of each letter. The test,
however, was of little value because the weighing had not been made by
the proposed half-ounce, but by the quarter-ounce scale; and, further,
because it was already the custom to put nearly every letter into the
balance unless its weight was palpable to the hand.[99]

While some of the officials objected to uniformity of rate as
“unfair in principle,” others thought well of it on the score that
uniformity “would very much facilitate all the operations of the Post
Office.”[100]

But, admissions apart, the hostility to the plan was, on the part
of the Post Office, unmistakable. This opposition rendered Rowland
Hill's work all the harder. “My own examination,” he says, “occupied
a considerable portion of six days, my task being not only to state
and enforce my own views, but to reply to objections raised by such of
the Post Office authorities as were against the proposed reform. This
list comprised—with the exception of Mr Peacock, the Solicitor—all
the highest officials in the chief office; and, however unfortunate
their opposition, and however galling I felt it at the time, I must
admit on retrospect that, passing over the question of means employed,
their resistance to my bold innovation was very natural. Its adoption
must have been dreaded by men of routine, as involving, or seeming to
involve, a total derangement of proceeding—an overthrow of established
order; while the immediate loss of revenue—inevitable from the manner
in which alone the change could then be introduced (all gradual or
limited reform having by that time been condemned by the public
voice)—a loss, moreover, greatly exaggerated in the minds of those
who could not, of did not, see the means direct and indirect of its
recuperation, must naturally have alarmed the appointed guardians of
this branch of the national income.”[101]

Some members even of the Committee were opposed to essential features
of the reform, so that it barely escaped, if not actual wreckage,
serious maiming at their hands. “The divisions on the two most
important of the divisions submitted to the Committee,” wrote Rowland
Hill, “and, indeed, the ultimate result of their deliberations, show
that the efforts that had been made had all been needed.”[102]

A resolution moved by Mr Warburton recommending the establishment of
a uniform rate of inland postage between one post town and another
resulted in a tie, and was only carried by the casting vote of the
chairman, Mr Wallace. Mr Warburton further moving that in view of “any
large reduction being made in the rates of inland postage, it would be
expedient to adopt a uniform rate of one penny per half-ounce without
regard to distance,” the motion was rejected by six to three, the
“aye” stalwarts being the mover, and Messrs Raikes Currie[103] and M.
J. O'Connell. Then Mr Warburton, still manfully striving, moved to
recommend a uniform rate of three halfpence: the motion being again
lost. The following day Mr Warburton returned to the charge, and urged
the adoption of a twopenny uniform rate, rising by a penny for each
additional half-ounce. This motion was not directly negatived like its
predecessors, but was met by an amendment which was tantamount to a
negative. Again the votes were equal; and again the motion was carried
by the casting vote of the chairman.

The rejected amendment was moved by Mr Thomson, who proposed that
a draft report originating with Lord Seymour should be adopted, the
chief recommendations of which were the maintenance of the charge by
distance, such rate to vary from 1d. (for under 15 miles) to 1s. (for
above 200 miles), or of some similar scale. Had the Seymour amendment
been adopted, “not only the recommendations for uniformity and decided
reduction of postage would have been set aside, but also those for
increased facilities, for the general use of stamps, and for charge
by weight instead of by the number of enclosures.”[104] In fact, the
old postal system would have been simply scotched, not killed—and very
mildly scotched, many of its worst features being retained. Yet this
amendment would have gone forth as the recommendation of the Committee
but for the casting vote of Mr Wallace.

It is but fair to Lord Seymour to say that, however “erroneous in
its reasonings on many points,” the amendment yet contained passages
justifying the reformer's views, “particularly as regards the evils
which high rates of postage brought upon the poor, the vast extent
of illicit conveyance, the evils of the frank system, and even many
of the advantages of a uniform charge.” Had the recommendations in
the Seymour Report been prepared “two years before, almost every
one of them would have been received as a grace; but it was now
too late, their sum total being altogether too slight to make any
approach towards satisfying the expectations which had subsequently
arisen.”[105]

The adoption of a twopenny rate was not only contrary to Rowland
Hill's plan, but actually rendered “strict uniformity impracticable,
since reservation would have to be made in favour of the local penny
rates then in existence which could not be raised without exciting
overpowering dissatisfaction.”[106]

“Seldom, I believe, has any committee worked harder,” wrote my father,
in after years. “Mr Wallace's exertions were unsparing, his toil
incessant, and his zeal unflagging.” The _Times_ spoke but the truth
when in its issue of 31st May 1839, it said that the Post Office
Inquiry was “one conducted with more honesty and more industry than
any ever brought before a Committee of the House of Commons.”[107]

Yet how near it came to destroying the reform outright.

The third and concluding Report of the proceedings of this memorable
Committee was entrusted for revision to the competent hands of Mr
Warburton, who made of it a model Blue Book. “On all important
points,” wrote Rowland Hill, “it gave to my statements and conclusions
the sanction of its powerful authority. Nevertheless, as the Committee
had determined on the recommendation of a twopenny rate, the Report
had to be framed in at least formal accordance with this fact;
though both Mr Wallace, in whose name it went to the Committee, and
Mr Warburton, its author, were strongly in favour of the penny rate.
A careful perusal of the document, however, will show that, though
the twopenny rate is formally recommended, the penny rate is the one
really suggested for adoption. In this sense it was understood by
the public; and, to my knowledge, it was wished that it should be so
understood.”[108]

Outside the official circle, opinion, though mainly favourable, was
still a good deal divided; and the dismal prophecies which always
precede the passing into law of any great reform had by no means
ceased to be heard. It is therefore not altogether surprising that
even so clear-sighted a man as Sydney Smith—whose wisdom is too seldom
remembered by those who think of him only as a wit—should have laughed
at “this nonsense of a penny post.” But when the “nonsense” had had
three years of trial he wrote to its author, uninvited, a letter of
generous appreciation.

Miss Martineau, as an able journalist and political economist, gave
valuable assistance to the postal reform. To read her statesmanlike
letters to my father, even after the lapse of over half a century,
is indeed a “liberal education.” In these, when writing of the old
system, she employed several notable phrases, of which, perhaps,
one of the finest was that describing the barrier raised by heavy
postal rates between severed relatives as “the infliction which makes
the listening parent deaf and the full-hearted daughter dumb.” In a
letter, written shortly before penny postage became a reality, to him
whom in her Autobiography she calls “the most signal social benefactor
of our time,” she told how “we are all putting up our letter-boxes on
our hall doors with great glee.” In the same letter she described the
joy of the many poor “who can at last write to one another as if they
were all M.P.s!” _As if they were all M.P.s!_ What a comment, what a,
may be, unconsciously satirical reflection on the previous state of
things![109]

The great O'Connell gave to the postal reform the aid of his powerful
influence both within and without Parliament. He was a friend of
Matthew Davenport Hill, and at an early stage of the agitation assured
my uncle of his hearty appreciation of the plan. O'Connell himself
would have proposed the Parliamentary Committee on Postage, of which,
as we have seen, one of his sons was made a member, had not Mr Wallace
already taken the initiative; and, later, when the Bill was before the
House, four of the O'Connells, headed by their chieftain, went into
the “Ayes” lobby, together with other members from the Green Isle. The
proposed reform naturally and strongly appealed to the sympathies of
the inhabitants of the poorer of the two islands. In May 1839, on the
occasion of a public deputation to the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne,
to urge adoption of the reform, O'Connell spoke in moving terms of
its necessity. One passage of his speech recalls the remark made,
many years after, by Gladstone when, at the final interview between
himself and a later Irish leader, the aged statesman, in answer to
a question put by the historian of “Our Own Times,” said that, in
his opinion, O'Connell's principal characteristic was “a passion of
philanthropy.”[110] “My poor countrymen,” said O'Connell in 1839, “do
not smuggle [letters], for the high postage works a total prohibition
to them. They are too poor to find out secondary conveyances; and if
you shut the Post Office to them, which you do now, you shut out warm
hearts and generous affections from home, kindred, and friends.”[111]

Hume, one of the great economists, a member of that “Manchester
School” which the shallow wits of the present time deride, and present
at this deputation, was a man who never advocated any course likely
to be improvident. Yet, undismayed by possible loss of revenue, he
gave the postal reform his heartiest support;[112] while Mr Moffatt,
bolder still, volunteered, should the Government shrink from the
undertaking, to start a City Company to work the Post Office,
meanwhile guaranteeing to the State the same annual income that it was
accustomed to receive.

Mr Warburton, who headed the deputation, said, with telling emphasis,
that the proposed reform was a measure which a Liberal party had a
just right to expect from a Liberal Administration. The deputation,
a very important one, numbering, among others, 150 Members of
Parliament, was unmistakably in earnest, and the Government hesitated
no longer. Mr Warburton's hint was perfectly well understood; and Lord
Melbourne's reply was cautious but favourable.[113]

Some three weeks later Mr Warburton wrote to tell my father that
“penny postage is to be granted.”[114] Three days later still, Mr
Warburton wrote again that the very date was now settled on which
public announcement of that fact would be made. A few days later
still, Mr Warburton rose in the House to ask the Home Secretary,
Lord John Russell, whether the Government intended to proceed with a
twopenny or a penny rate. Lord John replied that the Government would
propose a resolution in favour of a uniform penny postage.

By Mr Warburton's advice, Rowland Hill was present when this
announcement was made, and deep was the gratification he felt.

Still somewhat fearful lest the Government should hesitate to adopt
prepayment and the postage stamps—details of vital necessity to the
success of the plan—its author, about this time and at the request of
the Mercantile Committee, drew up a paper, which they published and
widely circulated, entitled “On the Collection of Postage by Means of
Stamps.”

In the Upper House, Lord Radnor, a little later, repeated Mr
Warburton's question; and Lord Melbourne replied that the Chancellor
of the Exchequer would shortly bring the matter forward.

My father drew up yet another paper, entitled “Facts and Estimates as
to the Increase of Letters,” which was also printed by the Mercantile
Committee, and a copy sent to every member of Parliament in the hope
that its perusal might secure support of the measure when introduced
to the Commons.

On 5th July, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Spring Rice, brought
in his Budget, the adoption of uniform penny postage being proposed in
it.

During the debate, Rowland Hill sat underneath the gallery, but
when the division came on he had, of course, to withdraw. The two
door-keepers however, who took a lively interest in the progress of
affairs, and were zealous friends to the reform, advised its author
to keep within hail; and at intervals one or other of them gave a
hurried whisper through the grating in the door. “All right!” “Going
on capitally!” “Sure of a majority!” came in succession; and when the
anxious listener was laughingly informed that Colonel Sibthorpe—a Tory
of Tories, and at one time beloved of _Punch's_ caricaturists—had gone
into the “Ayes” lobby, the cause indeed seemed won. In a House of only
328 members there were 215 “ayes,” and 113 “noes,” being a majority of
102, or nearly 2 to 1.

But the House of Lords had still to be reckoned with; and towards it
the untiring Mercantile Committee next directed its attention. Some
of its members were formed into a deputation to interview the more
influential peers, the Duke of Wellington for one.[115] Mr Moffatt
thereupon put himself into communication with the old soldier, and
received from him a characteristic and crushing reply. “F. M. the
Duke of Wellington presents his compliments to Mr Moffatt. The
Duke does not fill any political office. He is not in the habit of
discussing public affairs in private, and he declines to receive
the visits of deputations or individuals for the purpose of such
discussions,” etc.

Nothing daunted, Rowland Hill resolved to try direct appeal, and
wrote to the Duke, setting forth briefly “a few facts in support of
the Bill,” etc. No answer was received, but the letter had a scarcely
looked-for effect.

The second reading of the Bill in the Commons took place on the 22nd
July, Mr Goulburn, Sir Robert Inglis, and Sir Robert Peel attacked the
measure; and Mr Baring, Lord Seymour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
Mr Wallace, and Mr Warburton defended it. The House did not divide.
The Bill was read a third time on 29th July, and passed.

My paternal grandfather was in the House on the occasion, and was
probably the happiest and proudest man there, the author of the plan
not even excepted.

A few days later, my father, through Lord Duncannon,[116] received
a summons to confer with Lord Melbourne at the latter's house the
following Sunday. Lord Duncannon was present at the interview; and
the three soon went to work in the most friendly fashion.

The subject in hand having, after a while, been thoroughly mastered,
Lord Melbourne began to walk up and down the room, his lips moving as
if rehearsing his speech for the House of Lords, but uttering no word.
While thus employed, a servant entered, and made an all but inaudible
announcement to his master. “Show him into the other room,” said
Lord Melbourne; and presently passed through the folding doors into
the adjoining apartment. A hum of conversation at once began, one of
the voices rising at last to angry tones, and the postal reformer's
name being once audibly pronounced by the irate speaker. “It is Lord
Lichfield,” quietly observed Lord Duncannon. Gradually, peace seemed
to be restored; the visitor departed, and Lord Melbourne, re-entering,
said: “Lichfield has been here. Why a man cannot talk of penny postage
without getting into a passion passes my understanding.”

The following day, 5th August, the Prime Minister, in a long speech,
moved the second reading of the Penny Postage Bill in the Upper House.

The Postmaster-General supported the measure, but did not conceal his
distrust of it from a financial point of view.

To Lord Brougham's speech allusion has already been made.[117]

The Duke of Wellington did not believe that reduced rates of postage
would encourage the soldiers on foreign or colonial service to write
home oftener than before;[118] and in the earlier part of his speech
drew so doleful a picture of the state of our national finances and
of the danger likely to accrue to them through the lowering of any
duty, that the anxious listener—who, by Lord Melbourne's wish, was
in the House—seated on the steps of the throne, feared he was about
to witness the slaughter of the scheme for which he and others had
worked so strenuously. But Lord Duncannon, observing the downcast
countenance, came up and kindly whispered: “Don't be alarmed; he is
not going to oppose us.”

Nor did he; for, after alluding to the evils of high postal rates,
the Duke went on to say that, in his opinion, the plan most likely
to remedy these was that known as Mr Rowland Hill's. “Therefore,” he
concluded, “I shall, although with great reluctance, vote for the
Bill, and I earnestly recommend you to do the same.”[119]

The Bill passed.[120] It received the Royal assent on the 17th August;
and at once Mr Wallace wrote to congratulate Mrs Hill on the success
of her husband's efforts, “a success to which your unremitting
exertions have greatly contributed.”

[Illustration: CAROLINE PEARSON, LADY HILL.]

Mr Wallace's tribute was well deserved. My mother was a devoted
wife, a true helpmate, therein resembling the late Lady Salisbury,
Mrs Gladstone, Lady Campbell-Bannerman, and many lesser known women.
During the long postal reform agitation, her buoyant hopefulness
and abiding faith in her husband's plan never failed to cheer and
encourage him to persevere. Years after, when their children were
old enough to understand the position, their father would tell them
how much he owed to her, and bade them never to forget the debt. She
was, moreover, a pattern scribe, sitting, hour after hour, untiring,
unshirking, giving her opinion when asked for it, and in a handwriting
both legible and beautifully formed, covering page after page with
the sentences he dictated. More than one pamphlet, his journal, and
letters innumerable were thus written by her; and she also helped in
the arduous preparation for his examination before the Commissioners
of Post Office Inquiry in 1837, the Select Committee on Postage of
1838, and the still later Committee of 1843. Years of useful work did
she thus devote to the reform, and many a time was she seated already
busy at her task when the first hour of the long day's vigil struck
four. From her own lips little was ever heard of this; but what other
members of the family thought of it is shown by the remark made by an
old kinswoman of my father. Some one having spoken in her presence
of her cousin as “the father of penny postage,” she emphatically
exclaimed: “Then I know who was its mother!”

The free-traders naturally hailed the postal reform with enthusiasm.
It was an economic measure entirely after their own hearts, being,
like their own effort for emancipation, directed against monopoly
and class favouritism. Moreover, it gave an immense impetus to their
crusade, since it enabled the League's literature to be disseminated
with an ease and to an extent which, under the old system, would have
been impossible. Thus one reform helps on another. “The men of the
League are your devoted servants,” wrote Cobden in one of his cheery
letters. “Colonel Thompson,[121] Bright, and I have blessed you not a
few times in the course of our agitating tour.”

Cobden was one of the earliest and heartiest of Rowland Hill's
supporters. He thought so highly of “Post Office Reform” that he
urgently advised its republication in a cheaper form, offering to
defray half the cost.[122] Of the plan, when it had been some time
established, he wrote that “it is a terrible engine for upsetting
monopoly and corruption: witness our League operations, _the spawn of
your penny postage_.”

When Sir Robert Peel—more enlightened or more independent in 1846
than in 1839 and later—repealed the Corn Tax, Cobden again wrote to
Rowland Hill. “The League,” he said, “will be virtually dissolved
by the passing of Peel's measure. I shall feel like an emancipated
negro—having fulfilled my seven years' apprenticeship to an agitation
which has known no respite. I feel that _you_ have done not a little
to strike the fetters from my limbs, for without the penny postage we
might have had more years of agitation and anxiety.”[123]

The Post Office, as we have seen, had hitherto existed chiefly for the
benefit of the aristocratic and moneyed classes—those of the latter,
at least, who were Members of Parliament, then rich men only—the
general public having to pay dearly for the privilege of using the
Department for conveyance of their correspondence. But with the
advent of the new system, the Post Office straightway became the paid
servant—and a far more faithful and efficient one than it is sometimes
given credit for being—of the entire nation, since upon every man,
woman, and child in the United Kingdom were henceforth conferred equal
rights to postal intercourse.

Strange to say, the passing of the Penny Postage Bill had, to some
extent, depended upon the successful making of a bargain. In April
1839 Lord Melbourne's Government brought in what was known as the
Jamaica Bill, which proposed to suspend for five years that Colony's
Constitution. The measure was strenuously opposed by the Conservatives
led by Peel and by some of the Liberals. On the second reading of the
Bill, the Government escaped defeat by the narrow majority of five,
and at once resigned. Peel was sent for by the Queen, but, owing to
the famous “Bedchamber Difficulty,” failed to form a Ministry. Lord
Melbourne returned to office, and the Radical members agreed to give
his Administration their support on condition that penny postage
should be granted. “Thus,” says my brother, “one of the greatest
social reforms ever introduced was actually given as a bribe by a
tottering Government to secure political support.”[124] A party move
not altogether without precedent.

When the new postal system became a legalised institution both Mr
Wallace and Mr Warburton, independently of one another, wrote to Lord
Melbourne, and urged him to give Rowland Hill a position in which
he would be enabled to work out his plan. Of Mr Wallace's letter my
father said that it was but a specimen of that tried friend's general
course. “He makes no reference to his own valuable labours, but only
urges claim for me.” Mr Warburton's letter was equally generous and
self-oblivious.

Lord Melbourne turned no deaf ear to these appeals. In the autumn of
1839 the reformer was appointed for a term of two years—afterwards
extended to three—to the Treasury to superintend the working of his
plan. Obviously, his proper place, and that to which the public
expected him to be raised, was the Post Office; but the hostile
element there was probably too formidable to be withstood. The new
Chancellor of the Exchequer—Mr Spring Rice had gone to the Upper House
as Lord Monteagle—was Mr (afterwards Sir) Francis Baring, whom Rowland
Hill found an able, zealous, high-minded chief, and whose friendship
he valued to the last.

Of what can only be correctly described as the fanatical opposition
of the Post Office authorities to the reform, it is easy, and
customary, to point the finger of scorn or of derision. This is
unjust. Honourable men occupying responsible positions as heads of
an important branch of the Civil Service, and bound, therefore,
to safeguard what they believe to be its truest interests, have a
difficult task to carry out when they are confronted with the forcible
acceptance of an untried scheme in whose soundness they have little or
no faith. That the policy the postal officials pursued was a mistaken
one time has abundantly proved; but if their opposition argued lack of
understanding, they merely acted as the generality of men similarly
situated would have done. Even Rowland Hill, who, as an outsider,
battered so long at the official gates, was wont to confess, when,
later, he found shelter within the citadel they defended, that he
was not a little apt to feel towards other outsiders a hostility
similar to that which his old enemies had felt towards him. The
sentiment is not inspired by the oft-alleged tendency to somnolence
that comes of the well-upholstered official armchair and assured
salary, but from the heart-weariness born of the daily importunity
of persons who deluge a long-suffering Department with crude and
impracticable suggestions, or with complaints that have little or no
foundation.[125]

By the time the postal reform had come to be an established
institution, not a few former adversaries loyally aided the reformer
to carry out its details, by their action tacitly confessing, even
when they made no verbal acknowledgment, that their earlier attitude
had been a mistake. Now that all are dead their opposition may rightly
be regarded with the tenderness that is, or should be, always extended
to the partisans of a lost cause.

A great deal of the opposition was, however, far from honest, and
unfortunately had very mischievous effects. On this subject something
will be said in the course of the ensuing chapter.


FOOTNOTES:

[89] The members in addition to Mr Wallace were Viscount Lowther, Lord
Seymour, Sir Thomas Fremantle, and Messrs Warburton, Poulett Thomson,
Raikes Currie, Morgan John O'Connell, Thornley, Chalmers, Pease,
Mahony, Parker (Sheffield), George William Wood, and Villiers. Three
of these—Lord Seymour, Mr Parker, and Mr Thomson (afterwards Lord
Sydenham)—were opponents of the plan, but that their opposition was
mainly official was evidenced when, the Government having adopted the
plan of reform, all three became its advocates.—“Life,” i. 287.

[90] “The Jubilee of the Uniform Penny Postage,” p. 18. By Pearson
Hill, 1890. Cassell & Co. Ltd.

[91] “Hansard,” xxxviii. 1462, 1464.

[92] “Third Report of the Select Committee on Postage,” pp. 29, 34,
etc. The gross revenue which rather more than recovered in 1851, was
achieved on a four-and-three-quarters-fold increase of letters only,
whereas the Postmaster-General said that recovery would require a
twelvefold increase. Rowland Hill calculated that recovery would ensue
on a five-and-three-quarters increase.

[93] Director of the Ordnance Survey, a distinguished geologist,
and an earnest worker in the cause of postal reform from quite an
early date. He had lost his hands during the Napoleonic wars; and
when he dined at our house always brought his knife, fork, etc., and
his manservant, who screwed them into place, and changed them when
needful, a process which deeply interested us children. He did not,
however, permit this serious loss to stand in the way of his leading
an active and useful public career.

[94] “Third Report,” p. 48.

[95] _Ibid._ p. 49. The Superintendent of the Mail-coaches considered
that each coach could carry 15 hundred-weight or 1680 pounds.

[96] “Third Report,” p. 42.

[97] _Ibid._ p. 27.

[98] “Post Office Reform,” p. 55.

[99] “First Report,” questions 1369, 1372.

[100] “Third Report,” p. 34, etc.

[101] “Life,” i. 325-327.

[102] “Life,” i. 325-327.

[103] Father to a later Postmaster-General.

[104] “Life,” i. 328.

[105] “Life,” i. 329.

[106] _Ibid._ i. 330.

[107] The _Times_ was now a hearty champion of the reform, and wrote
frequently and ably in support of it.

[108] “Life,” i. 337. During the writing of this Report my father
had frequent occasion to call upon its author in order to check
elaborate calculations and to put important questions in the clearest
light—on the principle, apparently, that two heads, when each is
mathematical, are better than one. “Philosopher Warburton,” as he
was sometimes called, was one of the best friends the postal reform
had. He was a man of wide influence, and an indefatigable worker.
Originally a timber merchant, he abandoned commerce for science his
favourite pursuits being mathematics and astronomy. He was a member
of the Political Economy Club from its foundation in 1821 till his
death in 1858; he was one of the founders of the London University,
and served on its first council; and he represented Bridport, Dorset,
in successive Parliaments from 1825 to 1841. It is often asserted
that a recluse, bookworm, or scientist cares for nothing outside his
own four walls or lower than the starry heavens. In this case never
was saying more completely falsified. Mr Warburton was unusually
public-spirited, a prominent Parliamentarian, and a lucid writer.
When my father visited him, he was always received in his friend's
sanctum, the dining-room, whose appearance never altered. Dining there
would have been impossible, although the table was always set out at
full length. It was entirely covered with piles of volumes, most of
them Blue Books. The sideboard, save for one small space reserved for
astronomical instruments, was similarly loaded, as were also all the
chairs but one in addition to that reserved for Mr Warburton's use.
The floor was likewise piled with books, very narrow passages only
being left to enable people to move about; and the whole place bore a
look upon it as of “the repose of years.” When, after talking a while,
Mr Warburton resumed his pen, my father had time, during his several
visits, to read the whole of one of Macaulay's brilliant and then
newly-published Essays in a volume which always occupied a particular
spot on a table.

[109] Many years after the establishment of the postal reform, on
the occasion of a tour to the English Lakes, our parents took my
younger sister and me to visit Miss Martineau at her prettily-situated
Ambleside house. We two girls were charmed with her bright, sensible
talk, and her kindly, winning personality. We found her also much
better-looking than from her portraits we had expected to see her.
_They_ missed the wonderful lighting up of the clever face which,
when animated, looked far younger than when in repose. Among other
interesting items of information, she told us of her, I fear, useless
efforts to rescue the local rural population, then mostly illiterates,
from the curse of intemperance. She contemplated giving a lecture
on the subject, and showed us some horrifying coloured drawings
representing the ravages effected by alcohol on the human system which
she had prepared for it; but, as she knew that no one would come if
the lecture were announced as about Drink, she said she should call it
a “Discourse on Our Digestive Organs,” or something of the sort. We
never heard the fate of that proposed lecture.

[110] “The Story of Gladstone's Life,” p. 38. By Justin M'Carthy.

[111] “Life,” i. 342. How well the great orator understood his
poorer countrymen's need was shown when, for a few weeks before the
10th of January 1840, a tentative reduction to a uniform fourpenny
rate outside London was introduced. The increase of letters during
those few weeks stood at, for England and Wales, 33; Scotland,
51; and Ireland, 52 per cent. When my father and his brothers—as
told in the Introductory Chapter—used to wander about the “green
borderland” outside the smaller Birmingham and Wolverhampton of the
early nineteenth century, they sometimes, in the summer and autumn
seasons, fell in with the Irish haymakers and harvesters, and were
struck with the frugal manner in which they lived, their sobriety and
their unwillingness to break into the little hoard of money—their
wages—which they aimed to take back intact to their families in
Ireland at the end of their few months' service here. The postal
reform enabled these men to write letters and to send their money home
cheaply, frequently, and without waiting for the season's close.

[112] Writing of penny postage, eight years later, to the American
historian Bancroft, Hume said: “I am not aware of any reform amongst
the many 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.”

[113] In Earl Russell's “Recollections,” at p. 231, a quotation
is made from an entry in his journal for 1839, which says: “The
Cabinet”—of which he was a member—“was unanimous in favour of the
ingenious and popular plan of a penny postage.”

[114] “Life,” i. 343.

[115] Only those who remember any of the generation which lived
through the long and anxious years of the terrible war with France can
form an adequate idea of the veneration—adoration even—felt by the
nation for the great Duke—_the_ Duke as he was generally called. My
father, at no time addicted to the “scarlet fever,” was nevertheless
one of the heartiest devotees; and one day during our three years'
sojourn at Brighton he took some of us children to the railway station
to see the veteran, then about to return to town after a visit to the
seaside. There he sat alone under the sheltering hood of his open
carriage which, with its back turned towards the locomotive, was
mounted on an ordinary truck at the rear end of the train. He wore a
dark, military cloak and close-fitting cloth cap, and with his thin
face, hooked nose, and piercing eyes looked like an ancient eagle. His
unwandering gaze was bent sea-wards as though he descried a foreign
fleet making with hostile intentions for our shores. He was so used to
being stared at that but for his at once giving the military salute
in acknowledgment of our father's respectful bow and bared head, we
might have thought him unconscious of the presence of strangers. He
seemed so to be even when our father took us close to the train, and
bade us look well at the greatest of living Englishmen because he was
so old that we might not see him again. It would, however, have been
difficult to forget a face so striking. After all, that was not our
only sight of him. We often afterwards saw him riding in Hyde Park,
where the crowd saluted him as if he were Royalty itself; and, later
still, we looked on at his never-to-be-forgotten funeral. Mention of
the “Iron Duke” and of the Brighton railway brings back to memory
another old soldier who figured in the same wars and, as Earl of
March, achieved distinction. This was the then Duke of Richmond, on
whom we children looked with awesome curiosity, because rumour, for
once a truth-teller, declared that ever since 1815 he had carried
somewhere within his corporeal frame a bullet which defied all
attempts at extraction, and, indeed, did not prevent his attaining
to a hale old age. While my father was on the directorate of the
London and Brighton railway, and lived at that seaside resort, he
often travelled to town with some distinguished man whom he invited
to share his _coupé_. (Why, I wonder, is this pleasant sort of
compartment rarely or never seen nowadays?) More than once the Duke
of Richmond was his companion. The time was the mid 'forties, when
railway locomotives were far less powerfully built than they are now,
and when, London Bridge Terminus being up a rather long incline, it
was customary, on the departure of a train from the ticket-taking
platform, to employ a second engine to aid the one in front by pushing
from behind. The travellers were seated in an end _coupé_, and
opposite their seats were, of course, only the usual glass windows.
When, therefore, the Duke for the first time saw the auxiliary engine
coming close up against the carriage, he did not know what it meant,
turned pale, and showed considerable uneasiness. My father soon
assured him that all was right, and then asked why he, a veteran
campaigner, was unnerved by a mere railway engine. Whereupon the old
soldier laughingly replied that he would far sooner face the foe on
the battlefield than sit quietly right in face of the “iron horse.”

[116] Lord Duncannon had been a member of the Commission of Post
Office Inquiry of 1835-1838 (already mentioned) which examined
Rowland Hill in February 1837. He was at first a strong opponent of
the Reform, but during the examination became one of its heartiest
supporters. The other two Commissioners were Lord Seymour—who, later,
served on Mr Wallace's Select Committee, was afterwards Duke of
Somerset, and gave to the world an unorthodox little volume—and Mr
Labouchere, afterwards Lord Taunton, and uncle to the better-known
proprietor of _Truth_.

[117] Chap. ii. p. 80. With Lord Brougham and others, my father,
some years before, had been associated in the movement for the
“Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,” a Society which, in England and
Wales acted as pioneers in the good work of publishing cheap and
wholesome literature, just as in Scotland did the Chambers Brothers.
Unfortunately, Brougham believed himself to be scientific, and
contributed to the series an article so full of mistakes that some
wag immediately dubbed the Society that for the “_Con_fusion of
Useful,” etc. Brougham was a supporter of the postal reform, and my
father found in him more kindliness than the world gave him credit for
possessing. The great lawyer was a very eccentric man, and _Punch_
caricatured him unmercifully, invariably representing him as clad in
the large-checked “inexpressibles” which he is said to have always
worn because, in a moment of weakness, he had purchased as a bargain
so huge a roll of cloth of that pattern that it supplied him with
those garments for the rest of his days. The story is pretty generally
known of his causing to be published the news of his death, and of his
sitting, very much alive, in a back room of his darkened house, and
reading, with quite pardonable interest, the obituary notices which
appeared in the different newspapers. He wrote an execrable hand,
which varied in degrees of illegibility. The least illegible he and
his secretary alone could read; a worse he only; the very worst, not
even he could decipher, especially if he had forgotten the matter of
which it treated. This story has, of course, been fathered on many
bad writers; but any one possessed of a Brougham autograph must feel
convinced that to none but him could possibly belong its authorship.

[118] How much mistaken the old warrior was as regards the soldiers'
letters has been abundantly proved. During the first eight months of
postal communication between the United Kingdom and our comparatively
small army in the Crimea—and long, therefore, before the Board School
era—more than 350,000 letters passed each way; while when the Money
Order system, for the first time in history, was extended to the seat
of war, in one year over £100,000 was sent home for wives and families.

[119] “Life,” i. 352-360.

[120] When it passed the Lords, Cobden is said to have exclaimed:
“There go the Corn Laws!”

[121] Colonel Perronet Thompson was the author of the once famous
“Anti-Corn-Law Catechism,” which might, with great advantage, be
reprinted now. He was a public-spirited man, one of the foremost among
the free-traders, and deserves to be better remembered than he is.

[122] The pamphlet was published at a shilling; in those days of paper
taxation, when books were necessarily dear and correspondingly scarce,
a by no means exorbitant price.

[123] During a part of Cobden's Parliamentary career and that of his
and our friends, J. B. Smith and Sir Joshua Walmsley, all three men
were next-door neighbours, living in London in three adjoining houses.
Hence Nos. 101, 103, and 105 Westbourne Terrace came to be known as
“Radical Row.”

[124] “The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago,” p. 24.

[125] Losses, for example, are often imputed to the Post Office for
which it is entirely blameless. Did space allow, scores of instances
might be cited. One of the most absurd was the case of a London
merchant, who, in the course of very many months, wrote at intervals
angry letters to the Postmaster-General asking why such or such
a letter had not reached its destination. No amount of enquiries
could trace the errant missives; and the luckless Department was, at
corresponding intervals, denounced for its stupidity in equally angry
letters to the Press. One day, while certain city improvements were
being carried out, an ancient pump, near the merchant's office, which
had long refused to yield any water was taken down, when its interior
presented an unusual appearance. An errand-boy had, at odd times,
been sent to post the Firm's letters, and had slipped them into the
narrow slit where once the vanished pump-handle used to work. The
introduction of street letter-boxes was then recent, and their aspect
still unfamiliar. The boy had therefore taken the venerable relic for
one of those novel structures, and all the missing letters lay therein.



CHAPTER V

AT THE TREASURY


To any one disposed to belief in omens it would seem that the
beginning of Rowland Hill's connection with the Treasury augured ill
for its continuance. Even the letter which invited him to office went
near to miss reaching its destination.

He had left town for a brief rest after the strenuous work of the
close upon three years' struggle for postal reform, leaving strict
orders at the South Australian Office that if any communication from
the Government intended for him arrived there it should be forwarded
without delay. The document did arrive, but was laid aside to await
the wanderer's return because it bore in the left-hand corner what
seemed to be the signature of a then well-known man connected with
Australian affairs who, at the meetings of the Association, was much
given to bestow on its members much unsought advice and worthless
criticism; and was therefore, by unanimous consent, voted an
insufferable bore. However, when a messenger came from the Treasury
to ask why no notice had been taken of a letter from the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, the alarmed clerk on duty hastened to send on the
belated dispatch, wrapped up as a brown paper parcel, by railway,
as being, to his mind, the most expeditious, apparently because most
novel mode of conveyance. But parcels by rail made slower progress
in those days than in these; and when at last this one reached its
destination its date was hardly of the newest.

[Illustration:

  _From a Photograph by Messrs. Whiteley & Co._

No. 1, ORME SQUARE.

The residence of Rowland Hill when Penny Postage was established. The
Tablet was put up by the L.C.C.]

The first interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer was scarcely
satisfactory, but through no fault of Mr Baring, who was but the
mouthpiece of the Cabinet. The Government, as we have seen, offered
a temporary (two years') engagement to a man already provided with
steady employment, and therefore in a fairly good financial position,
as things were then accounted; required him to devote his whole time
to the public service; and to this temporary engagement proposed to
attach the salary of a head clerk. This, too, to a man who, with the
help of thousands of supporters of every class, had just inaugurated
an epoch-making reform destined to confer lasting benefit on his
own country and on the entire civilised world; who was on the wrong
side of forty; and who had a wife and young children to support. The
offer—however intended—could only be described as shabby; and the fact
that during the interview the amount of emolument was twice increased
suggested a hard-bargain-driving transaction rather than a discussion
between friendly negotiators. We have also seen that in 1837 Rowland
Hill, through his friend Mr Villiers, offered to make a present to
the Government of his plan—willing, because he was convinced of its
soundness and workability, to let them have the full credit of its
introduction, but stipulating that if the gift were refused he should
refer his proposals to the Press, and to the country—a gift the
Government had not the courage to accept. It is therefore clear that
monetary greed found no place in my father's temperament, but only the
dread which every prudent husband and father must feel when confronted
with the prospect, in two years' time and at the age of forty-six, of
recommencing the arduous battle of life.

He told Mr Baring that while he was willing to give his services
gratuitously, or to postpone the question of remuneration till the
new system should have had adequate trial, it would be impossible
for him to enter on such an undertaking were he placed on a footing
inferior to that of the Secretary to the Post Office—a necessary
stipulation if the reformer was to have full power to carry his plan
into operation. He was well aware that the post officials viewed it
and him with unfriendly eyes; and his anxiety was not diminished by
the knowledge that his reform would be developed under another roof
than that of the Treasury, and by the very men who had pronounced the
measure revolutionary, preposterous, wild, visionary, absurd, clumsy,
and impracticable. His opponents had prophesied that the plan would
fail; and as Matthew Davenport Hill, when writing of this subject,
wittily and wisely said: “I hold in great awe prophets who may have
the means of assisting in the fulfilment of their own predictions.”
It was therefore imperative that Rowland Hill's position should be
a well-defined one, and he himself be placed on an equality with
the principal executive officer among those with whose habits and
prejudices he was bound to interfere. The labour would be heavy,
and the conditions were unusual. He must try to turn enemies still
smarting under the bitterness of defeat into allies willing as
well as able to help on the reform they detested; and to persuade
them not to place obstacles in its way. The innovations to be made
would be numerous, because, while reduction of postage and modes of
prepayment formed the principal features of the plan, they were far
from being the only features. The projected increase of facilities for
transmitting letters, etc., would cause an immense amount of extra
work; and as in this matter he would have to contend with the Post
Office almost single-handed, nothing would be easier than for its head
officials to raise plausible objections by the score to every proposal
made. Nor could the public, who had now secured cheap postage and an
easier mode of paying for it—to superficial eyes the only part of the
plan worth fighting for—be henceforth relied upon to give the reformer
that support which was necessary to carry out other important details;
the less so as the reformer would be debarred from appealing for
outside help or sympathy, because, when once the official doorways are
passed, a man's independence is lost, and his lips are perforce sealed.

The interview was brought to a close by Rowland Hill telling Mr Baring
that before returning a definite answer he must consult his friends;
and that as his eldest brother was away on circuit at Leicester, and
he proposed to start at once for that town to seek fraternal advice,
three days must elapse before the matter could be settled.

He found his brother lying on a couch in a state of exhaustion after
a very hard day's work, and Rowland proposed to delay discussion of
the question till the following day. But Matthew would not hear of
this; and, getting more and more moved as the younger man proceeded
with his tale, presently sprang upright, and, oblivious of fatigue,
threw himself with ardour into the subject of the offered appointment.
After a while, Matthew proposed to write a letter on his own account
to Rowland, which the latter should hand to the Chancellor of the
Exchequer. This was done the next day, the younger brother writing
to the elder's dictation; and the letter is given at full length in
my father's “Life” and in my brother's “The Post Office of Fifty
Years Ago.” In Matthew's own clear and eloquent language—for he was
as admirable a writer as he was a speaker—are expressed the views
enunciated above, which Rowland had already laid before Mr Baring at
the interview just described.

Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my father met again the
former wrote him a letter explanatory of the course of conduct to
be adopted on his engagement at the Treasury, stating, among other
things, that free access to the Post Office, and every facility of
enquiry as to the arrangements made would be given, but that all “your
communications will be to the Treasury, from which any directions to
the Post Office will be issued; and you will not exercise any direct
authority, or give any immediate orders to the officers of the Post
Office.” The explanation was said to be given “to prevent future
misunderstanding”; and this was doubtless the euphonious mode of
expressing apprehension of a state of things which, in view of the
well-known hostility of St Martin's-le-Grand, the writer felt was
likely to arise; and again mention was made of the condition that
“the employment is considered as temporary, and not to give a _claim_
to continued employment in office at the termination of those two
years.”[126]

The prospect was scarcely satisfactory; nevertheless, my father hoped
that by the end of his term of engagement, and by unceasing effort
on his part, he might find himself “in a recognised position, in
direct communication with persons of high authority, and entrusted
with powers which, however weak and limited in the outset, seemed,
if discreetly used, not unlikely in due time to acquire strength
and durability. I was far from supposing that the attainment of my
post was the attainment of my object. The obstacles, numerous and
formidable, which had been indicated in my brother's letter had all,
I felt, a real existence; while others were sure to appear of which,
as yet, I knew little or nothing. Still, I felt no way daunted, but,
relying at once on the efficiency of my plan, I felt confident of
succeeding in the end.”[127]

The goal at which Rowland Hill aimed was, as he told Mr Baring at
this second interview, the permanent headship—as distinguished from
the political headship—of the Post Office, then filled by Colonel
Maberly:[128] the only position in which the reformer could really
acquire that authority which was essential to the development of his
plan. But the Fates were stronger even than one strong-willed man; and
Colonel Maberly held the post for fifteen years longer. Thus, when the
helm came at last into Rowland Hill's hands, he was long past middle
life; and his years of almost unrestricted influence were destined to
be but few.

Further encouragement to accept the present position was given by
Mr Baring's friendly, sympathetic attitude; and it should here be
recorded that the longer Rowland Hill served under his chief the
more cordial grew the relations between them. Ample proof of this
confidence was seen in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's increased
readiness to adopt suggestions from the new official, and to leave to
him the decision on not a few questions of importance.

On the first day of my father's appointment he accompanied Mr Baring
to the Post Office, that being the first time the reformer had set
foot within its portals. He was much interested in the different
processes at work, such as date-stamping, “taxing”—the latter destined
soon, happily, to be abolished—sorting, etc. But the building, which
had been erected at great expense only ten years previously, struck
him as too small for the business carried on in it; badly planned,
badly ventilated, and deficient in sanitary arrangements—a monument
to the fatuity alike of architect and builder. This discovery led
him to think of practicable alterations in the existing edifice and
of devolution in the shape of erection of district offices; and by
Mr Baring's wish he drew up a paper giving his views in detail,
and including with his proposals that necessary accompaniment of
amalgamation into one force of the two corps of letter-carriers, the
general and the “twopenny post” men, which has already been alluded
to. But this greatly needed measure was, perforce, deferred till after
Colonel Maberly's retirement.

In order the better to get through as much of his projected work as he
could accomplish in the twice twelvemonths before him, my father rose
daily at six, and after an early breakfast set off for the Treasury,
where at first his appearance at an hour when many officials were
probably only beginning to rise caused considerable astonishment, and
where he stayed as long as he could. If even under these circumstances
the progress made seemed slow and unsatisfactory to the man longing to
behold his scheme adopted in its entirety, how much worse would not
the reform have fared had he kept strictly to the hours prescribed by
official custom!

A few weeks after his acceptance of office, and at Mr Baring's
suggestion, he visited Paris to inspect the postal system there. He
found it in many respects well ahead of our own. In France the old
system never weighed so heavily upon the people as did our own old
system upon us. The charges were about two-thirds of our own for
corresponding distances, but the number of a letter's enclosures
was not taken into consideration, the postage varying according to
weight. Though Paris was much smaller than London, its post offices
were more numerous than ours, being 246 against our 237. There was a
sort of book post, a parcel post for valuables of small dimensions at
a commission paid of 5 per cent.—the Post Office, in case of loss,
indemnifying the loser to the extent of the value of the article; and
a money order system so far in advance of our own that the French
people sent more than double as much money through the post as we
did. The gross revenue was about two-thirds that of the British Post
Office; the expenses 20 per cent. more; the nett revenue less than
half.

Street letter-boxes were an old institution in France; our own,
therefore, were but an adaptation. The larger towns of Germany
possessed them, as did also the towns and villages of the Channel
Isles. After his visit to France, Rowland Hill urged the Treasury to
adopt street letter-boxes, and one was put up in Westminster Hall.
But it was not till the early 'fifties that they were introduced to
any great extent. Before the establishment of penny postage there
were only some 4,500 post offices in the United Kingdom. In the year
of my father's death (1879), the number had grown to over 13,000,
in addition to nearly 12,000 pillar and wall boxes. And the advance
since 1879 has, of course, been very great.[129] But it is not alone
in number that the change is seen. In the case of post offices,
a handsome edifice full of busy workers has, in many towns and
districts, replaced an insignificant building managed by a few more or
less leisurely officials, or by even one person.

[Illustration: A POST-OFFICE IN 1790. By permission of the Proprietors
of the _City Press_.

AN OLD POST OFFICE.]

It was during this visit to Paris that my father became acquainted
with M. Piron, _Sous Directeur des Postes aux Lettres_, a man whose
memory should not be suffered to perish, since it was mainly through
his exertions that the postal reform was adopted in France. For
several years during the latter part of Louis Philippe's reign, M.
Piron strove so persistently to promote the cause of cheap postage
that he actually injured his prospects of rising in the Service, as
the innovation was strenuously opposed both by the monarch and by the
Postmaster-General, M. Dubost, the “French Maberly.” Therefore, while
the “citizen king” remained on the throne the Government gave little
or no encouragement to the proposed reform. But M. Piron, too much
in earnest to put personal advancement above his country's welfare,
went on manfully fighting for cheap postage. He it was who made the
accidental discovery among the archives of the French Post Office of
documents which showed that a M. de Valayer had, nearly two hundred
years before, established in Paris a private (penny?) post—of which
further mention will be made in the next chapter. Neither Charles
Knight, who first suggested the impressed stamp, nor Rowland Hill,
who first suggested the adhesive stamp, had heard of M. de Valayer or
of his private post; and even in France they had been forgotten, and
might have remained so but for M. Piron's discovery. One is reminded
of the re-invention of the mariner's compass and of many other new-old
things.

Nine years after my father's official visit to Paris, that is, with
the advent of the Revolution of 1848, the reforming spirit in France
had stronger sway; and M. Piron's efforts were at last crowned with
success. The uniform rate proposed by him (20 centimes) was adopted,
and the stamp issued was the well-known black head of Liberty. In
order to keep pace with the public demand, the first sheets were
printed in such a hurry that some of the heads—the dies to produce
which were then detached from one another—were turned upside down. M.
Piron sent my father one of the earliest sheets with apologies for the
reversals. These are now almost unobtainable, and are therefore much
prized by philatelists.

During this visit to Paris, or at a later one, my father also made
the acquaintance of M. Grasset, M. St Priest, and other leading post
officials; and, among non-official and very interesting people, M.
Horace Say, son to the famous Jean Baptiste Say, and father to the
late M. Léon Say, three generations of illustrious Frenchmen.

Although travelling in France—or, indeed, in England or any other
country—was in 1839 very different from what it has become in these
luxurious days, for railways were established later in France than
they were here, my mother had accompanied her husband. One day the
pair set off in a _calèche_ to visit some old friends who lived in a
rather distant part of the country. Darkness came on, and ere long
all trace of the road was lost. At last the wretched little vehicle
broke down in a field; and the driver, detaching the horse, rode off
to try to discover their whereabouts. The process was a slow one; and
the travellers were left alone for what seemed to be many hours. Near
the field was a wood in which wolves had been seen that day, and there
was good reason to dread a visit from them. When at last the driver,
having found the right road, reappeared, attached the horse to the
_calèche_, and pushed on again, he drove his party by mistake to the
back-door of their friends' house. It was now late at night, and the
family, who had retired to rest, and were waked by the driver's loud
knocking, mistook the belated travellers for robbers, and refused
to unbar the door. It was only after a long parley that the wearied
visitors were admitted, to receive, of course, the warmest welcome.
The master of the house had been the hero of an unusually romantic
story. As a young officer in the French army, he was captured at the
time of the unfortunate Walcheren expedition, and carried to England,
there to remain some years as a prisoner of war. While on _parole_ he
made many friends in this country, where he occupied part of his time
by the study of English law, in which he became a proficient. During
his novitiate he became acquainted with a young lady unto whom he was
not long in losing his heart. As he came to know her and her widowed
mother better, a suspicion crossed his mind that the daughter was
being kept out of a handsome property, rightly hers, by a fraudulent
relative. Examination of the case strengthened suspicion into
conviction, and he undertook to champion her cause, his knowledge of
English law coming in as a powerful weapon to his hand. On conclusion
of the trial, he and some of those who had acted with him set off for
the lady's home as fast as horses, post-boys, and money could take
them. “They are scattering guineas!” exclaimed a bystander. “They have
won the case!” It was so, and something more than the case, for the
gallant young Frenchman was rewarded for his prowess by receiving in
marriage the hand of the girl for whom he had accomplished so much.
When the war was over, M. Chevalier returned to France together with
his wife and her mother.

Heartily as Mr Baring approved of the new system, he still distrusted
the principle of prepayment. In this opinion he was, as we have seen,
not singular. By many people it was still pronounced “un-English” to
prepay letters. But my father was so confident of the wisdom of the
step that Mr Baring ultimately gave way, stipulating only that the
responsibility should rest, not on the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
but on the author of the reform. The condition was unhesitatingly
accepted.

To ensure use of the stamps, Mr Baring, later, proposed that it
should be made illegal to prepay postage other than by their means;
but Rowland Hill, hating compulsion, and feeling confident of their
ultimate acceptability, maintained that it would be better if at first
the two modes of payment, money and stamps, contended for public
favour on equal terms, and succeeded in convincing Mr Baring of the
soundness of that view.

The question of the stamps was therefore one of the first to require
my father's attention on his return from Paris; and he found much
to occupy him in dealing with the many suggestions contained in the
letters sent in by the public, and in the vast number of designs
accompanying them. As the succeeding chapter will show, the subject,
in one form or another, took up much of his time for a little over
twelve months.

Early in December, at his suggestion, the tentative postal rate of
1d. for London, and 4d. for the rest of the kingdom was introduced,
all tiresome extras such as the penny on each letter for using the
Menai and Conway bridges, the halfpenny for crossing the Scottish
border, etc., being abolished. This experiment was made to allow
the postal staff to become familiarised with the new system, as a
vast increase of letters, necessarily productive of some temporary
confusion, was looked for on the advent of the uniform penny rate.
Under the old system 4d. had been the lowest charge beyond the radius
of the “twopenny post”; therefore, even the preliminary reduction
was a relief. But although three years earlier a lowering of the
existing rates to a minimum of 6d. or 8d. would have been eagerly
welcomed, the public were now looking forward to yet lower charges;
and the prospect of paying 4d. was viewed with great dissatisfaction.
People began to suspect that the concession would go no further, that
the Government intended to “cheat the public,” and my father was
accused of having “betrayed his own cause.” Thus easily is a scare
manufactured.

The result of the first day of this preliminary measure was awaited
with some anxiety. The increase of the fourpenny letters was about 50,
and of the penny letters nearly 150 _per cent._, the unpaid letters
being about as numerous as usual, prepayment being not yet made
compulsory. This state of things my father considered “satisfactory”;
Mr Baring “very much so.” The next day the numbers fell off, and
this gave the enemies of postal reform a delightful, and by no means
neglected, opportunity of writing to its author letters of the “I told
you so!” description.

The 10th of January 1840, when the uniform penny rate came into
operation, was a busy day at the post offices of the country.
Many people made a point of celebrating the occasion by writing
to their friends, and not a few—some of the writers being entire
strangers—addressed letters of thanks to the reformer.[130] One of
these was from Miss Martineau, who had worked ably and well for the
reform; and another from the veteran authoress, Miss Edgeworth, whom,
some twenty years earlier, Rowland Hill had visited in her interesting
ancestral home.[131]

At that time, and for many years after, there was at St
Martin's-le-Grand a large centre hall open to the public, but,
later, covered over and appropriated by the ever-growing Circulation
Department. At one end of the hall was a window, which during part of
the day always stood open to receive the different kinds of missives.
These, as the hour for closing drew near, poured in with increasing
volume, until at “six sharp,” when the reception of matter for the
chief outgoing mail of the day ended, the window shut suddenly,
sometimes with a letter or newspaper only half-way through.[132] On
the afternoon of the 10th, six windows instead of one were opened;
and a few minutes before post time a seventh was thrown up, at which
the chief of the Circulation Department himself stood to help in the
receipt of letters. The crowd was good-tempered, and evidently enjoyed
the crush, though towards the last letters and accompanying pennies
were thrown in anyhow, sometimes separating beyond hope of reunion;
and though many people were unable to reach the windows before six
o'clock struck. When the last stroke of the hour had rung out, and
the lower sash of every window had come down with a rush like the
guillotine, a great cheer went up for “penny postage and Rowland
Hill,” and another for the Post Office staff who had worked so well.

So much enthusiasm was displayed by the public that the author of the
new system fully expected to hear that 100,000 letters, or more than
three times the number usually dispatched, had been posted. The actual
total was about 112,000.

The reformer kept a constant watch on the returns of the number of
inland letters passing through the post. The result was sometimes
satisfactory, sometimes the reverse, especially when a return issued
about two months after the establishment of the penny rate showed
that the increase was rather less than two-and-three-quarters-fold.
The average postage on the inland letters proved to be three
halfpence; and the reformer calculated that at that rate a
four-and-three-quarters-fold increase would be required to bring up
the gross revenue to its former dimensions. Eleven years later his
calculation was justified by the result; and in the thirteenth year
of the reform the number of letters was exactly five times as many as
during the last year of the old system.

Meanwhile, it was satisfactory to find that the reductions which had
recently been made in the postage of foreign letters had led to
a great increase of receipts, and that in no case had loss to the
revenue followed.

One reason for the comparatively slow increase in the number of inland
letters must be attributed to the persistent delay in carrying out my
father's plan for extending rural distribution. In the minute he drew
up, he says: “The amount of population thus seriously inconvenienced
the Post Office has declared itself unable to estimate, but it
is probable that in England and Wales alone it is not less than
4,000,000. The great extent of the deficiency [of postal facilities]
is shown by the fact that, while these two divisions of the empire
contain about 11,000 parishes, their total number of post offices of
all descriptions is only about 2,000. In some places _quasi_ post
offices have been established by carriers and others, whose charges
add to the cost of a letter, in some instances as much as sixpence. A
penny for every mile from the post office is a customary demand.”[133]

Of the beneficent effects of cheap postage, gratifying accounts were
meanwhile being reported; some told in conversation, or in letters
from friends or strangers, some in the Press or elsewhere.

One immediate effect was an impetus to education, especially among
the less affluent classes. When one poor person could send another
of like condition a letter for a penny instead of many times that
amount, it was worth the while of both to learn to read and write.
Many people even past middle age tried to master the twin arts; and
at evening classes, some of which were improvised for the purpose,
two generations of a family would, not infrequently, be seen at work
seated side by side on the same school bench. Other poor people,
with whom letter-writing, for lack of opportunity to practise it,
had become a half-forgotten handicraft, made laborious efforts to
recover it. And thus old ties were knit afresh, as severed relatives
and friends came into touch again. Surely, to hinder such reunion by
“blocking” rural distribution and other important improvements was
little, if at all, short of a crime.

Mr Brookes, a Birmingham home missionary, reported that the
correspondence of the poorer classes had probably increased a
hundredfold; and that adults as well as young people took readily to
prepayment, and enjoyed affixing the adhesive Queen's head outside
their letters.

Professor Henslow, then rector of Hitcham, Suffolk, wrote of the
importance of the new system to those who cultivated science and
needed to exchange ideas and documents. He also stated that before
penny postage came in he had often acted as amanuensis to his poorer
parishioners, but that they now aspired to play the part of scribe
themselves.

The servant class, hitherto generally illiterate, also began to indite
letters home; and a young footman of Mr Baring's one day told my
father that he was learning to write in order to send letters to his
mother, who lived in a remote part of the country; and added that he
had many friends who were also learning. Indeed, one poor man, settled
in the metropolis, proudly boasted that he was now able to receive
daily bulletins of the condition of a sick parent living many miles
away.

Charles Knight found that the reduced rates of postage stimulated
every branch of his trade—an opinion endorsed by other publishers and
book-sellers; and the honorary secretary to the Parker Society, whose
business was the reprinting of the early reformers' works, wrote, two
years after the abolition of the old system, to tell the author of the
new one that the very existence of the Society was due to the penny
post.

“Dear Rowland,” wrote Charles Knight, in a letter dated 10th May 1843,
“The Poor Law 'Official Circular' to which par. No. 7 chiefly refers,
is one of the most striking examples of the benefit of cheap postage.
It could not have existed without cheap postage. The Commissioners
could not have sent it under their frank without giving it away, which
would have cost them £1,000 a year. It is sold at 4d., including the
postage, which we prepay; and we send out 5,000 to various Boards of
Guardians and others who are subscribers, and who pay, in many cases,
by post office orders. The work affords a profit to the Government
instead of costing a thousand a year.”

After four years of the new system Messrs Pickford said that their
letters had grown in number from 30,000 to 720,000 _per annum_.
And testimony of similar character was given either in evidence
before the Committee on Postage of 1843, or, from time to time, was
independently volunteered.

The postal reform not only gave a vast impetus to trade and education,
but even created new industries, among them the manufacture of
letter-boxes and letter-weighing machines—which were turned out in
immense quantities—to say nothing of the making of stamps and of
stamped and other envelopes, etc.

In two years the number of chargeable letters passing through the post
had increased from 72,000,000 _per annum_ to 208,000,000. Illicit
conveyance had all but ceased, and the gross revenue amounted to
two-thirds of the largest sum ever recorded. The nett revenue showed
an increase the second year of £100,000, and the inland letters were
found to be the most profitable part of the Post Office business.[134]
It is a marvel that the new system should have fared as well as
it did, when we take into consideration the bitter hostility of
the postal authorities, the frequent hindrances thrown in the path
of reform, to say nothing of the terrible poverty then existing
among many classes of our fellow country people under the blighting
influence of Protection and of the still unrepealed Corn Laws; poverty
which is revealed in the many official reports issued during that sad
time, in “S.G.O.'s” once famous letters, and in other trustworthy
documents of those days, whose hideous picture has, later, been
revived for us in that stirring book, “The Hungry Forties.”

The hindrances to recovery of the postal revenue were in great
measure caused by the delay in carrying out the details of Rowland
Hill's plan of reform. Especially was this the case in the
postponement of the extension of rural distribution—to which allusion
has already been made—one of the most essential features of the plan,
one long and wrongfully kept back; and, when granted, gratefully
appreciated. Issue of the stamps was also delayed, these not being
obtainable for some months after the introduction of the new system;
and there was a still longer delay in providing the public with an
adequate supply.[135]

The increase of postal expenditure was another factor in the case.
The total charge for carrying the inland mails in 1835—the year
before “Post Office Reform” was written—was £225,920; and it remained
approximately at that figure while the old system continued in force.
Then it went up by leaps and bounds, till by the end of the first year
of the new system (1840) it reached the sum of £333,418. It has gone
on steadily growing, as was indeed inevitable, owing to the increase
of postal business; but the growth of expenditure would seem to be out
of all proportion to the service, great as that is, rendered. By 1868
the charge stood at £718,000,[136] and before the nineteenth century
died out even this last sum had doubled.

The following instance is typical of the changes made in this respect.
In 1844 the Post Office _received_ from the coach contractors about
£200 for the privilege of carrying the mail twice a day between
Lancaster and Carlisle. Only ten years later, the same service
performed by the railway cost the Post Office some £12,000 a year.[137]

Another form of monetary wastefulness through overcharge arose from
misrepresentation as to the length of railway used by the Post Office
on different lines, one Company receiving about £400 a year more
than was its due—although, of course, the true distance was given in
official notices and time-tables. Even when the error was pointed out,
the postal authorities maintained that the charge was correct.

This lavish and needless increase of expenditure on the part of
the Post Office made Mr Baring as uneasy as it did my father. Not
infrequently when explanations were demanded as to the necessity for
these enhanced payments, evasive or long-delayed replies were given.
Thus Rowland Hill found himself “engaged in petty contests often
unavailing and always invidious”;[138] and in these petty contests
and ceaseless strivings to push forward some item or other of his
plan, much of his time, from first to last, was wasted. Thus, at
the beginning of 1841, when he had been at the Treasury a year and
quarter, it became evident that, unless some improvement took place,
two years or even a longer period would not suffice to carry out the
whole of his plan.

Before 1841 came to an end he was destined to find the opposing powers
stronger than ever. In the summer of that year the Melbourne Ministry
fell—to the harassed postal reformer a heavy blow. For, if during the
past two years he had not succeeded in accomplishing nearly all he had
hoped to do, still the record of work was far from meagre. But if,
with Mr Baring as an ally, and under a Government among whose members,
so far as he knew, he counted but a single enemy, progress was slow,
he had everything to dread from a Ministry bound to be unfriendly.

With their advent, conviction was speedily forced upon him that the
end was not far off. The amount and scope of his work was gradually
lessened; minutes on postal matters were settled without his even
seeing them; and minutes he had himself drawn up, with the seeming
approbation of his official chiefs, were quietly laid aside to be
forgotten. On the plea of insufficiency of employment—insufficiency
which was the natural consequence of the taking of work out of his
hands—the number of his clerks was cut down to one; and all sorts of
minor annoyances were put in his way. Meanwhile, the demands from the
Post Office for increased salaries, advances, allowances, etc., which
during the past two years had been frequently sent up to the Treasury,
became more persistent and incessant than ever.

Rural distribution was still delayed, or was only partially and
unsatisfactorily carried out. Some places of 200 or 300 inhabitants
were allowed a post office, while other centres peopled by 2,000 or
3,000 went without that boon. This plan of rural distribution, whose
object was to provide post offices in 400 registrars' districts which
were without anything of the sort, was, after long waiting, conceded
by the Treasury before the break-up of the Melbourne Ministry; and my
father, unused till latterly to strenuous modes of official evasion,
believed the measure safe. He forgot to take into account the Post
Office's power of passive resistance; and several months were yet to
elapse ere he discovered that Mr Baring's successor had suspended his
predecessor's minute; nor was its real author ever able to obtain
further information concerning it.

Nor was this all. Letters written by Rowland Hill to the new
Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of registration and other
reforms remained unnoticed, as did also a request to be allowed to
proceed with one or two more out of a list of measures which stood
in need of adoption. Later, my father wrote urging that other parts
of his reform should be undertaken, drawing attention to the work
which had already been successfully achieved; and so forth. A brief
acknowledgment giving no answer to anything mentioned in his letter
was the only outcome. At intervals of two months between the sending
of each letter, he twice wrote again, but of neither missive was any
notice taken.

Among other projects it had been decided that Rowland Hill should go
to Newcastle-on-Tyne to arrange about a day mail to that town; and the
necessary leave of absence was duly granted. He was also desirous of
visiting some of the country post offices; but, being anxious to avoid
possible breach of rule, he wrote to Colonel Maberly on the subject.
The letter was referred to the Postmaster-General, and, after him, to
the Chancellor of the Exchequer: the result being that the sanction to
any portion of the journey was withdrawn.

One of the worst instances of the official “veiled hostility” to
reform and reformer appeared in a document which my father—who might
easily have given it a harsher name—always called the “fallacious
return,” published in 1843. In this the Post Office accounts were so
manipulated as to make it seem that the Department was being worked
at an annual loss of £12,000 or more. The unfriendly powers had all
along prophesied that the reform could not pay; and now, indeed, they
had a fine opportunity of “assisting in the fulfilment of their own
predictions.”

Till the new postal system was established, the “packet service”
for foreign and colonial mails had, “with little exception,” been
charged to the Admiralty. In the “fallacious return” the entire amount
(£612,850) was charged against the Post Office. Now, in comparing the
fiscal results of the old and new systems, it was obviously unfair to
include the cost of the packet service in the one and exclude it from
the other. Despite all statements made to the contrary—and a great
deal of fiction relating to postal arithmetic has long been allowed
to pass current, and will probably continue so to do all down the
“ringing grooves of time”—the nett revenue of the Department amounted
to £600,000 _per annum_.[139]

Another “mistake” lay in under-stating the gross revenue by
some £100,000. On this being pointed out by my father to the
Accountant-General, he at once admitted the error, but said that a
corrective entry made by him had been “removed by order.”[140] And not
only was correction in this case refused, but other “blunders” in the
Post Office accounts on the wrong side of the ledger continued to be
made, pointed out, and suffered to remain.

In one account furnished by the Department it was found, says my
father, “that the balance carried forward at the close of a quarter
changed its amount in the transit; and when I pointed out this fact
as conclusive against the correctness of the account, it was urged
that without such modification the next quarter's account could not be
made to balance.”[141] Not a very bright example of the application of
culinary operations to official book-keeping because of the ease with
which it could be detected. What wonder that to any one whose eyes are
opened to such ways, faith in official and other statistics should be
rudely shaken!

The effect of these high-handed proceedings was naturally to foster
mistaken ideas as to postal revenues.

In 1842 Lord Fitzgerald, during a debate on the income-tax, said that
the Post Office revenue had perished. The statement was speedily
disposed of by Lord Monteagle, who, after pointing out the falseness
of the allegation, declared that the expense of the packet service had
no more to do with penny postage than with the expense of the war in
Afghanistan or China, or the expense of the Army and Navy.[142]

In the House of Commons, Peel, of course only quoting memoranda which
had been provided for his use, repeated these misleading statistics;
and, later, they have found further repetition even in some of the
Postmaster-General's Annual Reports.

These frequently recurring instances of thwarting, hindering, and
misrepresentation showed plainly that the working of the postal reform
should not have been entrusted to men whose official reputation was
pledged not to its success but to its failure; and that the “shunting”
of its author on to a Department other than that in which if endowed
with due authority he might have exercised some control, was, to put
the case mildly, a great mistake.

One ray of comfort came to him in the midst of his troubles. In the
hard times which prevailed in the early 'forties diminution of revenue
was far from being peculiar to the Post Office. The country was
undergoing one of the heaviest of those periodically recurrent waves
of depression which lessen the product of all taxes (or the ability
to pay them) when, in April 1843, my father was able to write in his
diary that the Post Office “revenue accounts show an increase of
£90,000 on the year.... The Post Office is the only Department which
does not show a deficiency on the quarter.”[143]

In July 1842, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote to Rowland Hill
to remind him that his three years' engagement at the Treasury
would terminate in the ensuing September, and adding that he did not
consider it advisable to make any further extension of the period of
engagement beyond the date assigned to it.

Dreading lest, when the official doors should close behind him, his
cherished reform should be wrecked outright, its author offered
to work for a time without salary. The offer was refused, and the
intended dismissal was announced in Parliament. The news was received
with surprise and indignation there and elsewhere.

The Liberal Press was unanimous in condemnation of the Government's
conduct, and some of the papers on their own side, though naturally
cautious of tone, were of opinion that Rowland Hill had been harshly
used. The Ministers themselves were probably of divided mind; and
my father, when commenting upon a letter which the Prime Minister
about this time addressed to him, says: “I cannot but think that,
as he wrote, he must have felt some little of that painful feeling
which unquestionably pressed hard upon him in more than one important
passage of his political career.”[144]

At the last interview the postal reformer had with the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, Mr Goulburn's courteous manner also went “far to
confirm the impression that he feels he is acting unjustly and under
compulsion.”[145]

One of the most indignant and outspoken of the many letters which
Rowland Hill received was from his former chief, Mr Baring, who
stigmatised the conduct of the Government as “very shabby,” more than
hinted that jealousy was the cause of dismissal, and added that had
the Postmaster-General's plan of letter-registration been carried into
effect, it “would have created an uproar throughout the country.”
It was well known that the head of the Post Office did not feel
too kindly towards the reform, and was bent on charging a shilling
on every registered letter, while Rowland Hill stoutly maintained
that sixpence would be sufficient.[146] Hence the allusion. The
Postmaster-General is said to have demanded his opponent's dismissal,
and as he was credited with being in command of several votes in the
Lower House, his wishes naturally carried weight.

Cobden gave vent to his disgust in a characteristic letter in which
he suggested that the programme of the Anti-Corn-Law League should be
followed:—a national subscription raised, a demonstration made, and a
seat in Parliament secured. But the programme was not followed.

Among other letters of sympathy came one from the poet who, as his
epitaph at Kensal Green reminds us, “sang the _Song of the Shirt_.”
Said Hood: “I have seen so many instances of folly and ingratitude
similar to those you have met with that it would never surprise me to
hear of the railway people, some day, finding their trains running on
so well, proposing to discharge the engines.”[147]

The public, used to nearly four years of the new system, took alarm
lest it should be jeopardised; and the Mercantile Committee, well
entitled as, after its arduous labours, it was to repose, roused
itself to renewed action, and petitioned the Government to carry out
the postal reform in its entirety.

But the ruling powers were deaf to all protests; and thus to the
list of dismissed postal reformers was added yet one more. First,
Witherings; then, Dockwra; next, Palmer; and now, Hill.

While giving due prominence to the more salient features of the
intrigue against the postal reform and reformer, the painful narrative
has been as far as possible curtailed. It is, however, well worth
telling if only to serve as warning to any would-be reformer—perhaps
in any field: in the Post Office certainly—of the difficulties that
lie in the path he yearns to tread. Should the reader be inclined to
fancy the picture overdrawn, reference to the “Life of Sir Rowland
Hill,” edited by Dr G. B. Hill, will show that in those pages the
story is told with far more fulness of detail and bluntness of
truth-speaking.

More than thirty years after Peel had “given Rowland Hill the sack,”
as at the time _Punch_, in a humorous cartoon, expressed it, the real
story of the dismissal was revealed to its victim by one who was
very likely to be well-informed on the subject. It is an ugly story;
and for a long time my brother and I agreed that it should be told
in these pages. Later, seeing that all whom it concerned are dead,
and that it is well, however difficult at times, to follow the good
old rule of _de mortuis nil nisi bonum_, it has seemed wiser to draw
across that relic of the long-ago past a veil of oblivion.

But here a digression may be made into a several years' later history,
because, however chronologically out of place, it fits in at this
juncture with entire appropriateness.

It is obvious that no person could succeed in cleansing so Augean a
stable as was the Post Office of long ago without making enemies of
those whose incompetency had to be demonstrated, or whose profitable
sinecures had to be suppressed. Thus even when Rowland Hill's position
had become too secure in public estimation for open attack to be of
much avail, he was still exposed to that powerful “back-stairs”
influence which, by hindering the progress of his reform, had done
both the public service and himself individually much harm.

Of the reality of this secret hostility, ample proof was from time to
time afforded, none, perhaps, being more striking than the following.
When Lord Canning had been political head of the Post Office for some
months, he one day said to my father: “Mr Hill, I think it right to
let you know that you have enemies in high places who run you down
behind your back. When I became Postmaster-General, every endeavour
was made to prejudice me against you. I determined, however, to judge
for myself. I have hitherto kept my eyes open, saying nothing. But I
am bound to tell you now that I find every charge made against you to
be absolutely untrue. I think it well, however, that you should know
the fact that such influences are being exerted against you.”[148]

When, at the age of forty-seven, Rowland Hill had to begin the world
afresh, one dread weighed heavily upon his mind. It was that Peel's
Government might advance the postal charges to, as was rumoured, a
figure twice, thrice, or even four times those established by the
reformed system. It was a dread shared by Messrs Baring, Wallace,
Moffatt, and very many more. Great, therefore, was the relief when
the last-named friend reported that the new Postmaster-General had
assured him that there was no danger of the postage rates being
raised.[149]

After the dismissal by Peel, a long and anxious time set in for the
little household in the then semi-rural precinct of Orme Square,
Bayswater; and again my mother's sterling qualities were revealed.
Reared as she had been in a circle where money was plentiful and
hospitality unbounded, she wasted no time in useless lamentations, but
at once curtailed domestic expenses—those most ruthlessly cut down
being, as, later, our father failed not to tell us, her own. In his
parents' home he had lived in far plainer style than that maintained
in the house of which, for many years, owing to her mother's early
death, she had been mistress. Yet in all that ministered to her
husband's comfort she allowed scarcely any change to be made. At the
same time, there was no running into debt, because she had a hearty
contempt for the practice she was wont to describe as “living on the
forbearance of one's tradespeople.”

But at last anxiety was changed to relief. One morning a letter
arrived inviting her husband to join the London and Brighton Railway
Board of Directors. Owing to gross mismanagement, the line had long
been going from bad to worse in every way; and an entirely new
directorate was now chosen. The invitation was especially gratifying
because it came from personal strangers.

My father's connection with the railway forms an interesting chapter
of his life which has been told elsewhere. In a work dealing only with
the postal reform, repetition of the story in detail would be out of
place. One brief paragraph, therefore, shall suffice to recall what
was a pleasant episode in his career.

The “new brooms” went to work with a will, and the railway soon began
to prosper. The price of shares—notwithstanding the announcement that
for the ensuing half-year no payment of dividends could be looked
for—rose rapidly; ordinary trains were increased in speed and number,
expresses started, and Sunday excursion trains, by which the jaded
dwellers “in populous city pent” were enabled once a week to breathe
health-giving sea-breezes, were instituted; the rolling stock was
improved, and, by the building of branch lines, the Company was ere
long enabled to add to its title “and South Coast.” The invitation
to my father to join the Board met, at the sitting which discussed
the proposal, with but one dissentient voice, that of Mr John Meesom
Parsons of the Stock Exchange. “We want no Rowland Hills here,” he
said, “to interfere in everything; and even, perhaps, to introduce
penny fares in all directions”—a rate undreamed of in those distant
days. He therefore resolved to oppose the unwelcome intruder on
every favourable occasion. The day the two men first met at the
Board, the magnetic attraction, instinct, whatever be its rightful
name, which almost at once and simultaneously draws together kindred
souls, affected both; and forthwith commenced a friendship which in
heartiness resembled that of David and Jonathan, and lasted throughout
life. Mr Parsons, as gleefully as any school-boy, told us the story
against himself on one out of many visits which he paid us; and with
equal gleefulness told it, on other occasions and in our presence, to
other people.[150]

An incident which occurred four years after the termination of Rowland
Hill's engagement at the Treasury seemed to indicate a wish on Peel's
part to show that he felt not unkindly towards the reformer, however
much he disliked the reform. In the seventh year of penny postage, and
while its author was still excluded from office, the nation showed its
appreciation of Rowland Hill's work by presenting him with a monetary
testimonial. Sir Robert Peel was among the earliest contributors, his
cheque being for the maximum amount fixed by the promoters of the
tribute. Again Mr “Punch” displayed his customary genius for clothing
a truism in a felicitous phrase by comparing Peel's action with that
of an assassin who deals a stab at a man with one hand, and with the
other applies sticking-plaster to the wound.


FOOTNOTES:

[126] Letter to Rowland Hill from Mr Baring, dated “Downing Street,
14th September 1839.”

[127] “Life,” i. 371.

[128] An amusing character-sketch of Colonel Maberly is to be found in
the pages of Edmund Yates's “Recollections and Experiences.”

[129] In connection with the putting up of one receptacle in London
not many years ago, a gruesome discovery was made. The ground near St
Bartholomew's Hospital had been opened previous to the erection of a
pillar letter-box, when a quantity of ashes, wood and human, came to
light. “Bart's” looks upon Smithfield, scene of the burning of some of
the martyrs for conscience' sake. No need, then, to ponder the meaning
of these sad relics. They clearly pointed to sixteenth-century man's
inhumanity to man.

[130] The first person to post a letter under the new system is said
to have been Mr Samuel Lines of Birmingham, Rowland Hill's former
drawing-master, whose portrait hangs in the Art Gallery of that city.
He was warmly attached to his ex-pupil, who, in turn, held the old
man in high esteem, and maintained an occasional correspondence with
him till the artist's death. Determined that in Birmingham no one
should get the start of him, Mr Lines wrote to my father a letter of
congratulation, and waited outside the Post Office till at midnight of
the 9th a clock rang out the last stroke of twelve. Then, knocking up
the astonished clerk on duty, he handed in the letter and the copper
fee, and laconically remarked: “A penny, I believe.”

[131] Another well-known literary woman, the poetess, Elizabeth
Barrett Browning, according to her “Letters” recently published, wrote
to an American friend earnestly recommending adoption of “our penny
postage, as the most successful revolution since 'the glorious three
days' of Paris”—meaning, of course, the three days of July 1830 (i.
135).

[132] This window and the amusing scramble outside it are immortalised
in Dickens's pleasant article on the Post Office in the opening
number of _Household Words_, first edition, 30th March 1850. (Our
friend, Mr Henry Wills, already mentioned in the Introductory Chapter,
was Dickens's partner in _Household Words_, and brought the famous
novelist to our house at Hampstead to be dined and “crammed” before
writing the article. It was a memorable evening. No doubt the cramming
was duly administered, but recollection furnishes no incident of this
operation, and only brings back to mind a vivid picture of Dickens
talking humorously, charmingly, incessantly, during the too brief
visit, and of his doing so by tacit and unanimous consent, for no
one had the slightest wish to interrupt the monologue's delightful
flow. His countenance was agreeable and animated; the impression
made upon us was of a man, who, as the Americans aptly put it, is
“all there.” We often saw him both within doors and without, for one
of his favourite walks, while living in Tavistock Square, was up
to Hampstead, across the Heath—with an occasional peep in at “Jack
Straw's Castle,” where friends made a rendezvous to see him—and back
again to town through Highgate. Every one knew him by sight. The word
would fly from mouth to mouth, “Here comes Dickens!” and the lithe
figure, solitary as a rule, with its steady, swinging pace, and the
keen eyes looking straight ahead at nothing in particular, yet taking
in all that was worth noting, would appear, pass, and be lost again,
the while nearly every head was turned to look after him.) Whenever
visitors were shown over the Post Office, they were advised so to time
their arrival that the tour should end a little before 6 P.M., with
a visit to a certain balcony whence a good view could be obtained
of the scene. One day my father escorted the Duchess of Cambridge
and her younger daughter—better known since as Duchess of Teck—over
the Post Office. He was delighted with their society, being greatly
struck with the elder lady's sensible, well-informed talk, and the
lively, sociable manner of the younger one. Both were much amused by
the balcony scene, and Princess Mary entered keenly into the fun of
the thing. She grew quite excited as the thickening crowd pressed
forward faster, laughed, clapped her hands, and audibly besought the
stragglers, especially one very leisurely old dame, to make haste, or
their letters would not be posted in time.

[133] “Life,” i. 451. In 1841 the census gave the population of
England and Wales as a little under 16,000,000. The delay above
mentioned therefore affected at least a fourth of the number.

[134] “Report of the Committee on Postage” (1843), p. 29.

[135] See also chap. vi.

[136] “Life,” i. 412.

[137] “First Annual Report of the Postmaster-General, 1854.”

[138] “Life,” i. 414.

[139] “Life,” ii. 4, 5.

[140] “Life,” ii. 87.

[141] _Ibid_, i. 448.

[142] “Hansard,” lxiv. 321.

[143] “Life,” i. 460.

[144] “Life,” i. 471.

[145] _Ibid._, i. 468.

[146] The registration fee is one of the postal charges which have
become smaller since that time, to the great benefit of the public. It
is pleasant to know that the threatened plan of highly-feed compulsory
registration was never carried into effect.

[147] “Gentle Tom Hood,” as the wittiest of modern poets has been
called, was a friend of old standing. Though little read to-day, some
of his more serious poems are of rare beauty, and his _Haunted House_
is a marvel of what Ruskin used to call “word-painting.” His letters
to children were as delightful as those of the better-known “Lewis
Carroll.” Hood was very deaf, and this infirmity inclined him, when
among strangers or in uncongenial society, to taciturnity. Guests who
had never met him, and who came expecting to hear a jovial fellow
set the table in a roar, were surprised to see a quiet-mannered man
in evidently poor health, striving, by help of an ear-trumpet, to
catch other people's conversation. But, at any rate, it was _not_ in
our house that the hostess, piqued at the chilly silence pervading
that end of her table which should have been most mirthful, sent her
little daughter down the whole length of it to beg the bored wit to
“wake up and be funny!” Hood had many cares and sorrows, including
the constant struggle with small means and ill-health; and it is
pleasant to remember that when the final breakdown came, Sir Robert
Peel—concealing under a cloak of kindly tactfulness, so kindly that
the over-sensitive beneficiary could not feel hurt—bestowed on the
dying man some sorely-needed monetary assistance.

[148] This and the previous paragraph are contributed by Mr Pearson
Hill, who was always, and deservedly, entirely in our father's
confidence.

[149] “Life,” i. 436. The only time, later, when there seemed a chance
of such increase was during the Crimean War, “when,” said my father in
his diary, “being called upon to make a confidential report, I showed
that, though some immediate increase of revenue might be expected
from raising the rate to twopence, the benefit would be more than
counterbalanced by the check to correspondence; and upon this the
project was abandoned.”

[150] It was during Rowland Hill's connection with the Railway Company
that a riddle appeared in a certain newspaper which was copied into
other papers, and was therefore not slow in reaching our family
circle. It was worded much as follows: “When is Mr Rowland Hill like
the rising sun?—When he tips the little Hills with gold.” We never
knew who originated this delightful _jeu d'esprit_, but our father
was much amused with it, and we children had the best possible reason
for being grateful to its author. The riddle cropped up afresh in
Lord Fitzmaurice's “Life of Lord Granville” (i. 174); but the Duke of
Argyll, then Postmaster-General, is therein made the generous donor.



CHAPTER VI

THE STAMPS


Between the date of Rowland Hill's leaving the Treasury, and that
of his appointment to the Post Office to take up afresh the work to
which, more than aught else, he was devoted, an interval of about
four years elapsed, during a great part of which, as has just been
mentioned, he found congenial employment on the directorate of the
London and Brighton railway; a little later becoming also a member
of the Board of Directors of two minor lines of railway. But as this
episode is outside the scope of the present work, the four-years-long
gap may be conveniently bridged over by the writing of a chapter on
postage stamps.

Since their collection became a fashion—or, as it is sometimes
unkindly called, a craze—much has been written concerning them, of
which a great part is interesting, and, as a rule, veracious; while
the rest, even when interesting, has not infrequently been decidedly
the reverse of true. This latter fact is especially regrettable when
the untruths occur in works of reference, a class of books professedly
compiled with every care to guard against intrusion of error. Neglect
of this precaution, whether the result of carelessness or ignorance,
or from quite dissimilar reasons, is to be deplored. No hungry person
cares to be offered a stone when he has asked for bread; nor is it
gratifying to the student, who turns with a heart full of faith to a
should-be infallible guide into the ways of truth, to find that he has
strayed into the realm of fiction.

The present chapter on stamps merely touches the fringe of the
subject, in no wise resembles a philatelist catalogue, and may
therefore be found to lack interest. But at least every endeavour
shall be made to avoid excursion into fableland.

Since the story of the postal labels should be told from the
beginning, it will be well to comment here on some of the more glaring
of the misstatements regarding that beginning contained in the
notice on postage stamps which forms part of the carelessly-written
article on the Post Office which appeared in the ninth edition of the
“Encyclopædia Britannica,” vol. xix. p. 585.

(1) “A postpaid envelope,” the writer declares, “was in common use in
Paris in the year 1653.”

So far from being “in common use,” the envelope or cover was the
outcome of an aristocratic monopoly granted, as we have seen in a
previous chapter, to M. de Valayer, who, “under royal approbation” set
up “'a private' [penny?][151] post, placing boxes at the corners of the
streets for the reception of letters wrapped up in envelopes which
were to be bought at offices established for that purpose.”[1] To
M. de Valayer, therefore, would seem to belong priority of invention
of the street letter-box, and perhaps of the impressed stamp and
envelope; although evidence to prove that the boon was intended for
public use seems to be wanting. In the days of Louis XIV. how many
of the “common”alty were able to make use of the post? M. de Valayer
also devised printed forms of “billets,” prepaid, and a facsimile of
one is given in the _Quarterly Review's_ article.[152] Like our own
present-day postcards, one side of the billet was to be used for the
address, the other for correspondence; but the billet was a sheet of
paper longer than our postcard, and no doubt it was folded up—the
address, of course, showing—before being posted. There is no trace on
the facsimile of an adhesive stamp. Neither is mention made of any
invention or use of such stamp in France or elsewhere in the year
1670, although some seeker after philatelist mare's-nests a while
since read into the article aforesaid fiction of that sort.

(2) “Stamped postal letter paper (_carta postale bollata_) was issued
to the public by the Government of the Sardinian States in November
1818; and stamped postal envelopes were issued by the same Government
from 1820 till 1836.”

There was no such issue “to the public.” For the purpose of collecting
postal duties, “stamped paper or covers of several values, both
with embossed and with impressed stamps, appear to have been used in
the kingdom of Sardinia about the year 1819.”[153] The use of these
stamped covers, etc., was almost entirely limited to one small class
of the community, namely the Ministers of State, and was in force
from about 1819 to 1821 only. “In March 1836, a formal decree was
passed suppressing their further use, the decree being required simply
to demonetise a large stock found unused in the Stamp Office at
Turin.”[1] The Sardinian experiment, like the earlier one of M. de
Valayer in Paris, had but a brief existence, the cause of failure in
both cases being apparently attributable to the absence of uniformity
of rate.

(3) “Stamped wrappers for newspapers were made experimentally in
London by Mr Charles Whiting, under the name of 'go-frees,' in 1830.”

In this country Charles Knight—in as complete ignorance as was
my father of M. de Valayer's experiment in the mid-seventeenth
century—has always been considered the first to propose the use of
stamped covers or wrappers for newspapers; and this he did in 1834,
his covers being intended to take the place, as payers of postage,
of the duty stamp, when that odious “tax on knowledge” should be
abolished. Had it been possible under the old postal system to prepay
letter-postage as well as newspaper-postage, what more likely than
that a man so far-seeing as was Mr Knight would also have suggested
the application of his stamp to all mail matter? _Letter_ postage
stamps and prepayment had, of necessity, to await the advent of 1840
and uniformity of rate.[154]

(4) “Finally, and in its results most important of all, the adhesive
stamp was made experimentally by Mr James Chalmers in his printing
office at Dundee, in 1834.”

An untruth followed by other untruths equally astounding.

Mr Chalmers, when writing of his stamps, has happily supplied
refutation of the fraudulent claim set up for him since his own death
and that of the postal reformer; and as Mr Chalmers is the person
chiefly concerned in that claim, and was a man as honourable as he
was public-spirited, his evidence must necessarily be more valuable
than that of any other witness. He published his suggestions as to
postal reform, etc., in full, with his name and address added, in
the _Post Circular_[155] of 5th April 1838, his paper being dated
8th February of the same year. Specimens of his stamps accompanied
his communication; and in a reprint of this paper made in 1839 he
claimed November 1837 as the date of his “_first_” experiments in
stamp-making—the italics being his own. In none of his writings is
there mention of any earlier experiments; neither is allusion made
to any such in the numerously-signed “certificate” addressed by his
fellow-citizens of Dundee to the Treasury in September 1839. The
certificate eulogises Mr Chalmers' valuable public services, speaks of
his successful efforts in 1825 to establish a 48 hours' acceleration
of the mail-coaches plying between Dundee and London, and recommends
to “My Lords” the adoption of the accompanying “slips” proposed by
him. But nowhere in the certificate is reference made to the mythical
stamps declared, nearly half a century later, to have been made in
1834. Yet some of these over one hundred signatories must have been
among the friends who, according to the fable, visited Mr Chalmers'
printing office in that year to inspect those early stamps. An
extraordinary instance of wholesale forgetfulness if the stamps had
had actual existence.[156] The “slips” made “_first_” in November 1837
were narrow pieces of paper of which one end bore the printed stamp,
while the other end was to be slipped under the envelope flap—a clumsy
device, entailing probable divorce between envelope and “slip” during
their passage through the post. The fatal objection to all his stamps
was that they were type-set, thereby making forgery easy. In every
case the stamps bear the face-value proposed by Rowland Hill in his
plan of reform—a penny the half, and twopence the whole ounce. Not
only did Mr Chalmers _not_ invent the stamp, adhesive or otherwise,
but of the former he disapproved on the ground of the then supposed
difficulty of gumming large sheets of paper.[157]

It may be added that copies of the _Post Circular_ figure in the “Cole
Bequest” to the South Kensington Museum; and if a very necessary
caution addressed to the custodians there while the Chalmers claim was
being rather hotly urged has received due attention, those documents
should still be in the Museum, unimpeachable witnesses to the truth.

This claim to priority of invention, or of _publication_ of invention,
of the stamps which, with culpable carelessness, obtained recognition
in the pages of the “Encyclopædia Britannica” has no foundation in
fact. The writer of the article on the Post Office in “Chambers's
Encyclopædia,” ix. 677 (edition 1901), is far better informed on the
subject of which he treats, though even he says that “Both” [men]
“seem to have hit on the plan independently; but,” he adds, with true
discernment of the weakest feature of the claim, “the use of adhesive
postage stamps, without uniform rates, and at a time when the practice
of sending letters unpaid was almost universal, would obviously have
been impossible.”

This impossibility has already been demonstrated in the present
work in the chapter on “The Old System.” The simple explanation
of the cause which prompted Mr Chalmers, late in 1837, to make
designs for the stamps is not far to seek. At some time during the
intervening months he had read “Post Office Reform,”[158] opened up a
correspondence with its author—till then an entire stranger—and joined
the ranks of those who were helping on the reform. It is a pity that
in the attempt to fix upon this public-spirited man credit for an
invention which was not his, the good work he actually accomplished
should be frequently lost sight of.

The “Dictionary of National Biography” also too readily gave
countenance to the Chalmers fable, a decision perhaps explained by the
priority of position accorded in the alphabet to C over H. An accident
of this sort gives a misstatement that proverbial long start which is
required for its establishment, and naturally handicaps truth in the
race; the consequence being that rectification of error is not made,
and the later article is altered to bring it into seeming agreement
with the earlier.[159]

On the other hand, the conductors of “Chambers's Encyclopædia”
evidently recognise that a work of reference should be a mine of
reliable information, one of their most notable corrections in a
later edition of a mistake made in one earlier being that attributing
the suppression of garrotting to the infliction on the criminals of
corporal punishment—an allegation which, however, often asserted by
those outside the legal profession, has more than once been denied by
some of the ablest men within it.

No notice would have been taken in these pages of this preposterous
claim were it not that the two works of reference whose editors or
conductors seem to have been only too easily imposed upon have a
wide circulation, and that until retraction be made—an invitation
to accord which, in at least one case, was refused for apparently
a quite frivolous reason—the foolish myth will in all probability
be kept alive. The fraud was so clumsily constructed that it was
scarcely taken seriously by those who know anything of the real
history of the stamps, impressed and adhesive; and surprise might be
felt that sane persons should have put even a passing faith in it,
but for recollection that—to say nothing of less notorious cases—the
once famous Tichborne claimant never lacked believers in his equally
egregious and clumsily constructed imposture.

How little the Chalmers claimant believed in his own story is shown
by his repeated refusal to accept any of the invitations my brother
gave him to carry the case into Court. Had the claim been genuine,
its truth might then and there have been established beyond hope of
refutation.

In all probability most of the claimants to invention of the postage
stamp—they have, to our knowledge, numbered over a dozen, while the
claimants to the entire plan of reform make up at least half that
tale—came from the many competitors who, in response to the Treasury's
invitation to the public to furnish designs, sent in drawings and
written suggestions.[160] What more natural than that, as years went
past and old age and weakened memory came on, these persons should
gradually persuade themselves and others that not only had they
invented the _designs_ they sent up for competition, but also the very
_idea_ of employing stamps with which to pay postage? Even in such a
strange world as this, it is not likely that _all_ the claimants were
wilful impostors.[161]

Rowland Hill's first proposal in regard to the postage stamps was
that they and the envelopes should be of one piece, the stamps being
printed on the envelopes. But some days later the convenience of
making the stamp separate, and therefore adhesive, occurred to him;
and he at once proposed its use, describing it, as we have seen, as
“a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered at
the back with glutinous wash,” etc. As both stamps are recommended in
“Post Office Reform” as well as in its author's examination before the
Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry in February 1837, it is clear
that priority of _suggestion_ as well as of _publication_ belong to
Rowland Hill.[162]

By 1838 official opinion, though still adverse to the proposal to tax
letters by weight, had come to view with favour the idea of prepayment
by means of stamps. Still, one of the chief opponents enumerated as
many as nine classes of letters to which he thought that stamps would
be inapplicable. The task of replying to eight of these objections
was easy enough; with the ninth Rowland Hill was fain to confess his
inability to deal. Stamps, it was declared, would be unsuitable to
“half-ounce letters weighing an ounce or more.”[163]

That the stamps—whatever should be the design chosen—would run risk
of forgery was a danger which caused no little apprehension; and the
Chairman of the Board of Stamps and Taxes (Inland Revenue) proposed
to minimise that risk by having them printed on paper especially
prepared. In the case of the envelopes bearing the embossed head, the
once famous “Dickinson” paper, which contained fine threads of silk
stretched across the pulp while at its softest, was that chosen. It
was believed to be proof against forgery, and was in vogue for several
years, but has long fallen into disuse.

The Government, as we have seen, decided in July 1839 to adopt the
plan of uniform penny postage, including the employment of “stamped
covers, stamped paper, and stamps to be used separately,”[164] and
invited the public to furnish designs for these novel objects. In
answer to the appeal came in some 2,600 letters containing suggestions
and many sets of drawings, of which forty-nine varieties alone were
for the adhesive stamps. It was, if possible, an even less artistic
age than the present—though, at least, it adorned the walls of its
rooms with something better than tawdry _bric-à-brac_, unlovely
Japanese fans, and the contents of the china-closet—and in most cases
beauty of design was conspicuous by its absence, a fault which,
coupled with others more serious, especially that of entire lack of
security against forgery, fore-doomed the greater number of the essays
to rejection.[165]

To become a financial success it was necessary that the stamps should
be produced cheaply, yet of workmanship so excellent that imitation
could be easily detected. Now there is one art which we unconsciously
practise from infancy to old age—that of tracing differences in
the human faces we meet with. It is this art or instinct which
enables us to distinguish our friends from strangers; and it was,
perhaps, recognition of this fact that long ago led to the placing
on the coinage of the portrait of the reigning monarch because it
was familiar to the public eye, and therefore less likely than any
other face to be counterfeited. In an engraving of some well-known
countenance, any thickening or misplacing of the facial lines makes
so great an alteration in features and expression that forgery is
far more easily detected than when the device is only a coat-of-arms
or other fanciful ornament.[166] For this reason, therefore, it was
decided in 1839 to reproduce on the postage stamp the youthful Queen's
head in profile designed by Wyon for the money of the then new reign,
daily use of which coinage was making her face familiar to all her
people. The head is also identical with that on the medal—likewise by
Wyon—which was struck to commemorate her first State visit to the city
in November 1837.

The stamp then being difficult to counterfeit, and worth but little
in itself, while the machinery employed to produce it was costly,
the reason is obvious why, so far as is known, only two attempts,
and those so clumsy that one wonders who could have wasted time in
forging the things, were made to imitate the finely executed, earliest
“Queen's head.”[167]

The design was engraved by hand on a single steel matrix, the head,
through the agency of this costly machinery, being encompassed by
many fine, delicately-wrought lines. The matrix was then hardened,
and used to produce impressions on a soft steel roller of sufficient
circumference to receive twelve repetitions, the beautiful work of
the original matrix being therefore repeated, line for line, in every
stamp printed. The roller, being in turn hardened, reproduced, under
very heavy pressure, its counterpart on a steel plate a score of
times, thus making up the requisite 240 impressions which cause each
sheet to be of the value of one sovereign.[168]

Absolute uniformity was thus secured at comparatively little cost.
The ingenious process was invented by Mr Perkins,[169] of the firm
of Perkins, Bacon & Co. of Fleet Street, who, during the first forty
years of the reformed postal system, printed some 95/100ths of our
postage stamps, and in that space of time issued nearly 21,000,000,000
of penny adhesives alone.[170] Later, the contract passed into
the hands of Messrs De La Rue, who hitherto, but long after 1840,
had merely printed stamps of a few higher values than the penny
and twopenny issue. In at least one work of fiction, however, the
impression is conveyed that the latter firm from the first enjoyed the
monopoly of stamp production of all values.

About midway in the 'fifties a serious fire broke out on Messrs
Perkins & Co.'s premises, and much valuable material was destroyed.
Investigation of the salvage showed that barely two days' supply
of stamps remained in stock; and some anxiety was felt lest these
should become exhausted before fresh ones could be produced, as even
a temporary return to prepayment by coin of the realm would by this
time have been found irksome. But with characteristic zeal, the firm
at once recommenced work, and only a few people were ever aware how
perilously near to deadlock the modern postal machine had come. It was
after this fire that the crimson hue of the penny adhesive was altered
to a sort of brick-red. The change of colour—one of several such
changes exhibited by the red stamp—is duly recorded in Messrs Stanley
Gibbon & Co.'s catalogue, though the probably long-forgotten accident
with which it would seem to be connected is not mentioned.

The reasons for the four months' long delay in the issue of the stamps
were twofold. They were, first, the more or less open hostility of
the Post officials to both reform and reformer, which, as has been
stated, caused all sorts of hindrances to be strewn in the path of
progress; and, secondly, the apprehension still felt by the Government
that the public would not take kindly to prepayment. The stamps
ought, of course, to have been issued in time to be used by the 10th
January 1840, when the new system came into force. When they were at
last forthcoming, none were forwarded to the receiving offices till
complaint was made. The fault was then found to lie with the wording
of the Treasury letter giving the requisite directions. Later, another
difficulty arose. The Stamp Office persisted in issuing the stamped
covers in entire sheets as they were printed, and the Post Office
refused to supply them uncut to the receivers. Three days alone were
wasted over this wrangle. A week later the Post Office, which had
formally undertaken the distribution of the covers, discovered that
such work was beyond its powers. For a month after the first issue of
the stamps the receiving offices remained unsupplied.

While the Government and others still cherished the delusion that the
recipient of a letter would feel insulted if denied the time-honoured
privilege of paying for it, the delayed publication of the stamps was
less to be regretted since it enabled the experiment to be first tried
with money only.

The official forecast was at fault. From the very start, and with
the best will in the world, the public, when posting letters, put
down pennies and missives together, and when the stamps—called by
would-be wits the “Government sticking-plasters”—at last appeared, the
difficulty was not to persuade people to make use of them, but to get
them supplied fast enough to meet the popular demand.

While the stamps were still new that large section of mankind which
never reads public instructions was occasionally at a loss where to
affix the adhesive. Any corner of the envelope but the right one would
be chosen, or, not infrequently, the place at the back partly occupied
by the old-fashioned seal or wafer. Even the most painstaking of
people were sometimes puzzled, and a certain artist, accustomed, like
all his brethren of the brush, to consider that portion of his canvas
the right hand which faced his left, was so perplexed that he carried
to the nearest post office his letter and stamp, knocked up the clerk,
and when the latter's face appeared at the little unglazed window of
the ugly wooden screen which is now superseded everywhere, perhaps
save at railway booking offices, by the more civilised open network,
asked politely, “Which do you call the right hand of a letter?” “
We've no time here for stupid jokes,” was the surly answer, and the
window shut again directly.

A similar rebuff was administered to a man who, while travelling,
called for letters at the post office of a provincial town. He was
the unfortunate possessor of an “impossible” patronymic. “What name?”
demanded the supercilious clerk. “Snooks,” replied the applicant;
and down went the window panel with a bang, accompanied by a forcibly
expressed injunction not to bother a busy man with idiotic jests.

To the post office of, at that time, tiny Ambleside, came one day a
well-to-do man to buy a stamp to put on the letter he was about to
post. “Is this new reform going to last?” he asked the postmaster.
“Certainly,” was the reply; “it is quite established.” “Oh, well,
then,” said the man, resolved to give the thing generous support,
“give me _three_ stamps!” Not much of a story to tell, perhaps, but
significant of the small amount of letter-writing which in pre-penny
postage days went on even among those well-to-do people who were not
lucky enough to enjoy the franking privilege.

The postal employees also showed their strangeness to the new order of
things by frequently forgetting to cancel the stamps when the letters
bearing them passed through the post—thereby enabling dishonest people
to defraud the Department by causing the unobliterated labels to
perform another journey. Many correspondents, known and unknown, sent
Rowland Hill, in proof of this carelessness, envelopes which bore such
stamps. Once a packet bearing four uncancelled stamps reached him.

The Mulready envelope had met with the cordial approbation of the
artist's fellow Royal Academicians when it was exhibited in Council
previous to its official acceptance; though one defect, palpable to
any one of fairly discerning ability, had apparently escaped the
eighty possibly somnolent eyes belonging to “the Forty”—that
among the four winged messengers whom Britannia is sending forth in
different directions seven legs only are apportioned. The envelope
failed to please the public; it was mercilessly satirised and
caricatured, and ridicule eventually drove it out of use. So vast a
number of “Mulreadies” remained in stock, however, that, on their
withdrawal, a machine had to be constructed to destroy them. There
were no philatelists then to come to their rescue.

[Illustration: THE MULREADY ENVELOPE.]

Forgery of the stamps being out of the question, fraudulent people
devoted their energies to getting rid of the red ink used to
obliterate the black “pennies” in order to affix these afresh to
letters as new stamps. The frauds began soon after the first issue of
the adhesives, for by the 21st of May my father was already writing
in his diary of the many ingenious tricks which were practised.
Cheating the Post Office had so long been an established rule, that
even when postage became cheap, and the public shared its benefits
impartially—peer and Parliamentarian now being favoured no more highly
than any other class—the evil habit did not at once die out.

In some cases the fraud was palpable and unabashed. For example, Lord
John Russell one day received a sheet of paper, the label on which
had been washed so mercilessly that the Queen's features were barely
discernible. The difficulty of dealing with the trouble was, of
course, intensified by the fact that whereas the stamps were impressed
on the paper by powerful machinery, and had had time to dry, the
obliterations were made by hand,[171] and were fresh—a circumstance
which, in view of the tenacity of thoroughly dried ink, gave a great
advantage to the dishonest.

At this juncture an ink invented by a Mr Parsons was favourably
reported on as an obliterant, but it shortly yielded to the skill
of Messrs Perkins & Co.; and the stamp-cleaning frauds continuing,
several of our leading scientific men, including Faraday, were
consulted. As a result, new obliterating inks, red and black, were
successively produced, tested, and adopted, but only for a while. Some
of the experiment-makers lived as far off as Dublin and Aberdeen;
and Dr Clark, Professor of Chemistry at the University of the latter
city, came forward on his own account, and showed his interest in the
cause by making or suggesting a number of experiments. Many people,
indeed, went to work voluntarily, for the interest taken in the matter
was widespread, and letters offering suggestions poured in from many
quarters. But apparently the chemically skilled among the rogues were
abler than those employed by the officials, since the “infallible”
recipes had an unlucky knack of turning out dismal failures.
Therefore, after consultation with Faraday, it was resolved that, so
soon as the stock of stamps on hand became exhausted, an aqueous ink
should be used both for the stamps and for the obliteration, ordinary
black printing ink being meanwhile employed for the latter process.
Professor Phillips and Mr Bacon, of the firm of Perkins & Co., at the
same time undertook to procure a destructive oleaginous ink to be used
in the printing of the new stamp.

It was hoped that thoroughly good printer's ink would be found
efficacious for obliterating purposes; but ere long a chemist named
Watson completely removed the obliteration. He then proposed for use
an obliterative ink of his own invention, which was tried, but proved
to be inconveniently successful, since it both injured the paper
and effaced the writing near the stamp. Its use had therefore to be
abandoned.

The trouble did not slacken, for while Mr Watson was laboriously
removing the black printing ink from the black pennies, and making
progress so slowly that, at a like rate, the work could not have
repaid any one, honest or the reverse, for the time spent upon it,
Mr Ledingham, my father's clerk, who had throughout shown great
enthusiasm in the cause, was cleaning stamps nine times as fast, or
at the rate of one a minute—a process rapid enough to make the trick
remunerative.

Ultimately, it occurred to Rowland Hill that “as the means which were
successful in removing the printing ink obliterant were different from
those which discharged Perkins' ink, a secure ink might perhaps be
obtained by simply mixing the two.”[172] The device succeeded, the
ink thus formed proving indestructible; and all seemed likely to go
well, when a fresh and very disagreeable difficulty made its unwelcome
appearance. To enable this ink to dry with sufficient rapidity, a
little volatile oil had been introduced, and its odour was speedily
pronounced by the postal officials to be intolerable. Happily, means
were found for removing the offence; and at length, a little before
the close of the year, all requirements seemed to be met.[173]

It had been a time of almost incessant anxiety. For more than six
months there had been the earlier trouble of securing a suitable
design for the stamps, and then, when selected, the long delay in
effecting their issue; and now, during another six months, this later
trouble had perplexed the officials and their many sympathisers.
In the end, the colour of the black penny was changed to red, the
twopenny stamp remaining blue. Thenceforth, oleaginous inks were
used both for printing and for obliterating; the ink for the latter
purpose being made so much more tenacious than that used to print
the stamp that any attempt to remove the one from the other, even
if the destruction of both did not follow, must at least secure the
disappearance of the Queers head. A simple enough remedy for the evil,
and, like many another simple remedy, efficacious; yet some of the
cleverest men in the United Kingdom took half a year to find it out.

Before trial it was impossible to tell which of the two kinds of
stamps would be preferred: the one impressed upon the envelope and so
forming a part of it, or the other, the handy little adhesive. Rowland
Hill expected the former to be the favourite on account of its being
already in place, and therefore less time-consuming. Moreover, as a
man gifted with a delicate sense of touch, the tiny label which, when
wet, is apt to adhere unpleasantly to the fingers, attracted him less
than the cleanlier embossed stamp on the envelope; and perhaps he
thought it not unlikely that other people would be of like mind. But
from the first the public showed a preference for the adhesive; and
to this day the more convenient cover with the embossed head has been
far seldomer in demand. It is not impossible that if the present life
of feverish hurry and high pressure continues, and even intensifies,
the reformer's expectations as regards the choice of stamps may yet
be realised. It may have been the expression of this merely “pious
opinion” on his part which gave rise to some absurd fables—as, for
instance, that he recommended the adhesive stamp “very hesitatingly,”
and only at the eleventh hour; that he sought to restrict the public
to the use of the impressed stamp because he preferred it himself; and
rubbish of like sort.

From the time that Rowland Hill first planned his reform till the day
when his connection with the Post Office terminated, his aim ever was
to make of that great Department a useful servant to the public; and
all who knew what was his career there were well aware that when at
length he had beaten down opposition, that object was attained. He
was the last man likely to allow personal predilections or selfish or
unworthy considerations of any kind to stand before the welfare of the
service and of his country.

[Illustration:

  _From a Photograph by Maull and Polyblank._

SIR ROWLAND HILL.]


FOOTNOTES:

[151] “Life,” i. 377. It is curious that neither in the article on
the French Post Office in the “Encyclopædia Brittanica” nor in that
in Larousse's “_Dictionnaire du XIXe Siècle_” is mention made of M.
de Valayer or M. Piron. Whether the real worthies are excluded from
the articles in order to make room for the fustian bound to creep in,
it would be difficult to say. But, while perusing these writings,
a saying of my brother's often returns to mind. “I have never,” he
declared, “read any article upon the postal reform, friendly or the
reverse, which was free from misstatements.”

[152] No. 128, p. 555.

[153] “The Origin of Postage Stamps,” p. 7. By Pearson Hill. Here is a
story of a “find” that is more interesting than that at Turin or that
of M. Piron already alluded to, because it comes nearer home to us.
About the middle of the nineteenth century, and during the demolition
in London of some old houses which had long been appropriated to
governmental use, and were now abandoned, the discovery was made of
a large number of the paper-duty stamps, issued by George III.'s
Ministry in order to tax the “American Colonies.” When the obnoxious
impost was cancelled, and the many years long revolt had become a
successful revolution, the ex-colonies thenceforth assuming the
title of “The United States,” the stamps became waste material, and
were thrown into a cupboard, and forgotten. At the time of their
reappearance, the then Chairman of the Board of Stamps and Taxes
(Inland Revenue Office), Mr John Wood, gave half a dozen of them to
Rowland Hill, as curiosities; and one is still in my possession.
Another was given by my father to the American philanthropist, Mr
Peabody, then visiting this country, who was greatly interested in
the discovery. Now it would be just as correct to say that the tax
had been imposed on the American Colonies—of course it never _was_
imposed, since, as we know, payment was from the first refused—till
the middle of the nineteenth century, simply because the stamps were
only found some eighty years after their supersession, as it is to
say that the Sardinian “stamped postal letter paper” and “stamped
postal envelopes” were employed till 1836, in which year, after long
disuse, they were formally abolished. But the manner and matter of the
“Encyclopædia Britannica's” article on the Post Office and the stamps
are not what they should be, and much of them would reflect discredit
on the average school-boy.

[154] Prepayment, as has been stated, was not actually unknown, but
was so rare as to be practically non-existent.

[155] The _Post Circular_ was a paper set up temporarily by the
“Mercantile Committee” to advocate the reform. It was ably edited by
Mr Cole, and had a wide circulation.

[156] The stamps were probably exhibited at the Dundee printing
office, any time between November 1837 and September 1839—at which
later date they were sent to London.

[157] Published in February of that year.

[158] Published in February of that year.

[159] Dr Birkbeck Hill, on one occasion, told me that in the article
on my father which he was asked to write for the D.N.B. he said of
the adhesive stamp that its invention had been “wrongfully attributed
to Mr James Chalmers”—words which nowhere appear in the article as
it now stands. “The proprietors of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica,'”
wrote my brother in “The Origin of Postage Stamps,” pp. 14, 15 (note),
“did not avail themselves of the offer I had made to place them in
communication with those from whom official information could be best
obtained—indeed, they appear to have made no application to the Post
Office for information of any kind.... Meanwhile, as it afterwards
turned out, they were abundantly supplied with Mr P. Chalmers' _ex
parte_, and, to say the least, singularly inaccurate statements.
With the editor of the 'Dictionary of National Biography' I had no
communication whatever.” Is it after this careless fashion that much
of our “island story” is compiled? If so, what wonder that long before
the present day wise men should have declared that all history needed
to be rewritten?

[160] One of these claimants was a man connected with a well-known
national museum; and his pretensions were to us a never-failing source
of amusement. He was distinguished for two peculiarities: one being a
passion for slaughtering the reputations of his friends; the other,
the misappropriation to his own credit of all originality in any
reforms or inventions projected by them. So far as I am aware, only
one claimant was of my own sex; and she, at least, had the courage of
her opinions, for, instead of biding her time till the postal reformer
was no more, the poor insane creature wrote direct to him, saying she
was the originator of the entire plan, and begging him to use his
influence with the Government to obtain for her an adequate pension.
The stories connected with some of the other claims are quite as
curious as the foregoing.

[161] Inaccuracy of memory applies to other things than invention
of postage stamps. Here is a curious instance. “Sir John Kaye, in
writing his history of the Sepoy War, said he was often obliged to
reject as convincing proof even the overwhelming assertion, 'But I was
there.' 'It is hard,' he continues, 'to disbelieve a man of honour
when he tells you what he himself did; but every writer long engaged
in historical enquiry has had before him instances in which men,
even after a brief lapse of time, have confounded in their minds the
thought of doing, or the intent to do, a certain thing with the fact
of actually having done it. Indeed, in the commonest affairs of daily
life we often find the intent mistaken for the act, in retrospect.'
Kaye was writing at a period of not more than ten to twelve years
after the events which he was narrating. When you extend ten years
to twenty or twenty-four, memories grow still more impaired, and
the difficulty of ensuring accuracy becomes increasingly greater.”
(Thus “The Reformer,” A. and H. B. Bonner, vii. 36, 37.) Most of
the claims to invention of the postage stamp seem to have been made
considerably more than ten, twelve, twenty, or twenty-four years after
its introduction—some of them curiously, or, at any rate, opportunely
enough, forty years or so after; that is about the time of Rowland
Hill's death, or but little later.

[162] For the adhesive stamp, see “Post Office Reform,” p. 45, and
“Ninth Report of the Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry,” p. 38.
The impressed stamp is mentioned in “Post Office Reform” at p. 42,
and also in that “Ninth Report.” The writer of the “Encyclopædia
Britannica's” article (xix. 585), while quoting Rowland Hill's
description of the adhesive stamp, adds: “It is quite a fair inference
that this alternative had been suggested from without,” but gives no
reason for hazarding so entirely baseless an assertion. The article,
indeed, bears not a few traces of what looks like personal malice; and
it is a pity that the editorial revising pen, whether from indolence
or from misunderstanding of the subject on its wielder's part, was
suffered to lie idle.

[163] These are the actual words made use of. See “Second Report of
the Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry,” Question 11,111.

[164] Thus the Treasury Minute.

[165] “In the end there were selected from the whole number of
competitors four whose suggestions appeared to evince most ingenuity,”
wrote my father. “The reward that had been offered was divided
amongst them in equal shares, each receiving £100” (“Life,” i. 388).
Sir Henry Cole gives their names as follows:—“Mr Cheverton, Mr C.
Whiting, myself, and, I believe, Messrs Perkins, Bacon & Co. After the
labour,” he adds, “of reading the two thousand five” (?six) “hundred
proposals sent to the Treasury, 'My Lords' obtained from them no other
modes of applying the postage stamp than those suggested by Mr Hill
himself—stamped covers or half sheets of paper, stamped envelopes,
labels or adhesive stamps, and stamps struck on letter-paper
itself.”—(“Fifty Years of Public Life,” i. 62, 65, 66.)

[166] So profoundly did Rowland Hill feel the importance of this fact
that he invariably scouted a suggestion occasionally made in the early
days of the postal reform that his own head should appear on at least
one of the stamps. The some-time postmaster of New Brunswick, who
caused his portrait to adorn a colonial stamp now much sought after by
philatelists on account, perhaps, of its rarity, for it was speedily
abolished, seems to have been of quite a different frame of mind.

[167] This earliest stamp was a far finer and more artistic piece of
workmanship than any of its successors; and has only to be compared
with the later specimens—say, for example, with King Edward's head on
the halfpenny postcards and newspaper bands—to see how sadly we have
fallen behind some other nations and our own older methods, at any
rate in the art of engraving, or, at least, of engraving as applied to
the postage stamp.

[168] In the paper drawn up by Rowland Hill, “On the Collection of
Postage by Means of Stamps,” and issued by the Mercantile Committee
in June 1839, he had recommended that, for convenience' sake, the
stamp should be printed on sheets each containing 240, arranged in
twenty rows of twelve apiece; and they are so printed to this day. It
has been asserted that at first the sheets were printed in strips of
twelve stamps each; but there is no truth in the statement. Archer's
perforation patent, which makes separation of the adhesives easy, and
is therefore a boon to the many of us who are often in a hurry, was
not adopted before the mid-'fifties.

[169] His father, an American, was the inventor of the once famous
air-gun.

[170] Fifteen years after the issue of the first stamps, during which
time more than 3,000,000,000 had been printed, it was deemed advisable
to make a second matrix by transfer from the first. It had become
necessary to deepen the graven lines by hand, but the work was so
carefully done that the deviation in portraiture was very slight.

[171] And a hasty hand, too, for in those days of manual labour there
was a keen race among the stampers as to who, in a given time, should
make the greatest number of obliterations. The man whose record stood
habitually highest was usually called on to exhibit his prowess to
visitors who were being escorted over the Department.

[172] Rowland Hill's Journal, 9th November 1840.

[173] “Life,” i. 399-407.



CHAPTER VII

AT THE POST OFFICE


As the evident weakening of Peel's Government became more marked, the
thoughts of the man who had been sacrificed to official intrigues, and
unto whom it was, as he pathetically writes, “grief and bitterness to
be so long kept aloof from my true work,” turned longingly towards
the Post Office and to his insecurely established and only partially
developed plan. With a change of Ministry, better things must surely
come.

His hopes were realised. In 1846 the Peel Administration fell, and
Lord John (afterwards Earl) Russell became Prime Minister. The public
voice, clearly echoed in the Press, demanded Rowland Hill's recall to
office, there to complete his reform.[174]

One of the first intimations he received of his probable restoration
was a letter from Mr Warburton advising him to be “within call if
wanted.” A discussion had risen overnight in Parliament. Mr Duncombe
had complained of the management of the Post Office, and so had Mr
Parker, the Secretary to the Treasury. The new Postmaster-General,
Lord Clanricarde, it was reported, had found “the whole establishment
in a most unsatisfactory condition”; and the new Prime Minister
himself was “by no means satisfied with the state of the Post Office,”
and did not “think the plans of reform instituted by Mr Hill had been
sufficiently carried out.” Messrs Hume and Warburton urged Mr Hill's
recall.[175]

Several of the good friends who had worked so well for the reform both
within and without Parliament also approached the new Government,
which, indeed, was not slow to act; and my father entered, not, as
before, the Treasury, but his fitter field of work—the Post Office.
The whirligig of time was indeed bringing in his revenges. An entire
decade had elapsed since the reformer, then hopeful and enthusiastic,
inwardly digested the cabful of volumes sent him by Mr Wallace, and
dictated to Mrs Hill the pages of “Post Office Reform.” He had at
the time been denied admission to the Post Office when seeking for
information as to the working of the old system he was destined to
destroy. He now found himself installed within the official precincts,
and in something resembling authority there.

Thus before the passing of the year 1846 he was able to comment yet
further in his diary on the curious parallel between his own treatment
and that of Dockwra and Palmer. “Both these remarkable men,” he
wrote, “saw their plans adopted, were themselves engaged to work them
out, and subsequently, on the complaint of the Post Office, were
turned adrift by the Treasury.” We “were all alike in the fact of
dismissal.... I alone was so far favoured as to be recalled to aid in
the completion of my plan.”[176]

At the time when Dockwra, the most hardly used of all, was driven
from office a ruined man, and with the further aggravation of
responsibility for the costs of a trial which had been decided
unjustly against him, the “merry monarch's” numerous progeny were
being lavishly provided for out of the national purse. The contrast
between their treatment and that of the man who had been one of the
greatest benefactors to his country renders his case doubly hard.

In an interview which Mr Warburton had with the Postmaster-General
preparatory to Rowland Hill's appointment, the Member for Bridport
pointed to the fact that his friend was now fifty-one years of
age, and that it would be most unfair to call on him to throw up
his present assured position only to run risk of being presently
“shelved”; and further urged the desirability of creating for him the
post of Adviser to the Post Office, in order that his time should
not be wasted in mere routine duty. At the same time, Mr Warburton
stipulated that Rowland Hill should not be made subordinate to the
inimical permanent head of the Office. Had Mr Warburton's advice
been followed, it would have been well for the incompleted plan, the
reformer, and the public service. Rowland Hill himself suggested, by
way of official designation, the revival of Palmer's old title of
Surveyor-General to the Post Office; but the proposal was not received
with favour. Ultimately he was given the post of Secretary to the
Postmaster-General, a title especially created for him, which lapsed
altogether when at last he succeeded to Colonel Maberly's vacated
chair. The new office was of inferior rank and of smaller salary than
his rival's; and, as a natural consequence, the old hindrances and
thwartings were revived, and minor reforms were frequently set aside
or made to wait for several years longer. Happily, it was now too late
for the penny post itself to be swept away; the country would not have
allowed it; and in this, the seventh year of its establishment, its
author was glad to record that the number of letters delivered within
12 miles of St Martin's-le-Grand was already equal to that delivered
under the old system throughout the whole United Kingdom.

By 1846 Rowland Hill was occupying a better pecuniary position than
when in 1839 he went to the Treasury. He had made his mark in the
railway world; and just when rumours of his retirement therefrom
were gaining ground, the South Western Railway Board of Directors
offered him the managership of that line. The salary proposed was
unusually high, and the invitation was transparently veiled under
a Desdemona-like request that he would recommend to the Board some
one with qualifications “as much like your own as possible.” But
he declined this and other flattering offers, resigned his three
directorships, and thus relinquished a far larger income than that
which the Government asked him to accept. The monetary sacrifice,
however, counted for little when weighed in the balance against the
prospect of working out his plan.

His first interview with Lord Clanricarde was a very pleasant
one; and he left his new chief's presence much impressed with his
straightforward, business-like manner.

On this first day at St Martin's-le-Grand's Colonel Maberly and
Rowland Hill met, and went through the ceremony of shaking hands. But
the old animosity still possessed considerable vitality. The hatchet
was but partially interred.

With Lord Clanricarde my father worked harmoniously; the diarist after
one especially satisfactory interview writing that he “never met with
a public man who is less afraid of a novel and decided course of
action.”

Early in his postal career, my father, by Lord Clanricarde's wish,
went to Bristol to reorganise the Post Office there, the first of
several similar missions to other towns. In nearly every case he
found one condition of things prevailing: an office small, badly
lighted, badly ventilated, and with defective sanitary arrangements;
the delivery of letters irregular and unnecessarily late; the mail
trains leaving the provincial towns at inconvenient hours; and other
vexatious regulations, or lack of regulations. He found that by an
annual expenditure of £125 Bristol's chief delivery of the day could
be completed by nine in the morning instead of by noon. Although
unable to carry out all the improvements needed, he effected a good
deal, and on the termination of his visit received the thanks of the
clerks and letter-carriers.[177]

In 1847 a thorough revision of the money order system was entrusted to
him; and, thenceforth, that office came entirely under his control.
Seventeen years later, Lord Clanricarde, in the Upper House, paid his
former lieutenant, then about to retire, a handsome tribute of praise,
saying, among other things, that, but for Mr Hill, the business of
that office could hardly have been much longer carried on. No balance
had been struck, and no one knew what assets were in hand. On passing
under Mr Hill's management, the system was altered: four or five
entries for each order were made instead of eleven; and official
defalcation or fraud, once common, was now no more heard of.[178]

Lord Clanricarde placed the management of that office under my
father's command in order that the latter should have a free hand; and
it was settled that all returns to Parliament should be submitted to
Rowland Hill before being sent to the Treasury, with leave to attack
any that seemed unfair to penny postage. Previous to this act of
friendliness and justice on the Postmaster-General's part, papers had
generally been submitted to the permanent head of the office and even
to officers of lower rank, but had been withheld from the reformer's
observation.[179]

“Eternal vigilance” is said to be the necessary price to pay for
the preservation of our liberties; and, half a century ago, a like
vigilance had to be exercised whenever and wherever the interests of
the postal reform were concerned.

The arrears in the Money Order Departments of the London and
provincial offices were so serious that to clear them off would, it
was declared, fully employ thirty-five men for four years. The Post
Office had always maintained that the Money Order Department yielded
a large profit; but a return sent to Parliament in 1848 showed that
the expenditure of the year before the change of management exceeded
the receipts by more than £10,000. In 1849 my father expressed “a
confident expectation” that in the course of the year the Money Order
Office would become self-supporting. By 1850 that hope was realised.
By 1852 the office showed a profit of £11,664, thereby, in six years,
converting the previous loss into a gain of more than £22,000;[180]
and during the last year of Rowland Hill's life (1878-79) the profits
were £39,000.

A reduction of size in the money order forms and letters of advice,
and the abolition of duplicate advices effected a considerable saving
in stationery alone; while the reduction of fees and the greater
facilities for the transmission of money given by cheap postage
raised the amount sent, in ten years only, twenty-fold. In 1839 about
£313,000 passed through the post; and in 1864, the year of my father's
resignation, £16,494,000. By 1879 the sum had risen to £27,000,000;
and it has gone on steadily increasing.

Perhaps the following extract from Rowland Hill's journal is
satisfactory, as showing improvement in account-keeping, etc. “July
8th, 1853.—A recent return to Parliament of the number and cost of
prosecutions [for Post Office offences] from 1848 to 1852 inclusive,
shows an enormous decrease—nearly, I think, in the ratio of three to
one. This very satisfactory result is, I believe, mainly owing to the
improved arrangements in the Money Order Office.”[181]

The new postal system, indeed, caused almost a revolution in official
account-keeping. Under the old system the accounts of the provincial
postmasters were usually from three to six months in arrear, and
no vouchers were demanded for the proper disbursement of the money
with which the postmasters were credited. In consequence of this
dilatoriness, the officials themselves were often ignorant of the
actual state of affairs, or were sometimes tempted to divert the
public funds to their own pockets, while the revenue was further
injured by the delay in remitting balances. Under the new system each
postmaster rendered his account weekly, showing proper vouchers for
receipts and payments and the money left in hand, to the smallest
possible sum. This improvement was accompanied by lighter work to a
smaller number of men, and a fair allowance of holiday to each of them.

When, in 1851, my father's attention was turned to the question
of facilitating life insurance for the benefit of the staff, and
especially of its humbler members, it was arranged with Sir George
Cornwall Lewis,[182] at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, that,
to aid in making up the requisite funds, the proceeds of unclaimed
money orders, then averaging £1,100 a year, and all such money found
in “dead” letters as could not be returned to their writers, should
be used. Accumulations brought the fund up to about £12,000. In this
manner “The Post Office Widows' and Orphans' Fund Society” was placed
on a firm footing. A portion of the void order fund was also employed
in rescuing from difficulties another society in the London office
called “The Letter-Carriers' Burial Fund.”[183]

Although in 1857 my father, with the approval of Lord Colchester,
the then Postmaster-General, had proposed the extension of the money
order system to the Colonies, it was not till the Canadian Government
took the initiative in 1859 that the Treasury consented to try the
experiment. It proved so successful that the measure was gradually
extended to all the other colonies, and even to some foreign countries.

Like Palmer, Rowland Hill was a born organiser, and work such as that
effected in the Money Order Office was so thoroughly congenial that
it could scarcely fail to be successful. The race of born organisers
can hardly be extinct. Is it vain to hope that one may yet arise to
set in order the said-to-be-unprofitable Post Office Savings Bank,
whose abolition is sometimes threatened? As a teacher of thrift to one
of the least thrifty of nations, it is an institution that should
be mended rather than ended. Mending must surely be possible when,
for example, each transaction of that Bank costs 7.55d. exclusive of
postage—or so we are told—while other savings banks can do their work
at a far lower price.[184]

The following story is illustrative of the strange want of
common-sense which distinguishes the race, especially when posting
missives. “Mr Ramsey, (missing-letter clerk),” writes Rowland Hill in
his diary of 27th May 1847, “has brought me a packet containing whole
banknotes to the amount of £1,500 so carelessly made up that they had
all slipped out, and the packet was addressed to some country house in
Hereford, no post-town being named. It had found its way, after much
delay, into the post office at Ross, and had been sent to London by
the postmistress.”

It is not often that the head of so dignified and peaceful an
institution as the Post Office is seen in a maimed condition, and that
condition the result of fierce combat. Nevertheless, in that stirring
time known as “the year of revolutions” (1848), a newly-appointed
chief of the French Post Office, in the pleasant person of M. Thayer,
arrived in this country on official business. He came supported on
crutches, having been badly wounded in the foot during the June
insurrection in Paris. He told us that his family came originally from
London, and that one of our streets was named after them. If, as was
surmised, he made a pilgrimage to Marylebone to discover it, it must
have looked to one fresh from Paris a rather dismal thoroughfare.

About 1849 Rowland Hill instituted periodical meetings of the Post
Office Surveyors to discuss questions which had hitherto been settled
by the slower method of writing minutes. These postal parliaments were
so satisfactory that henceforth they were often held. They proved
“both profitable and pleasant, increased the interest of the surveyors
in the work of improvement, and by the collision of many opinions,
broke down prejudices, and overthrew obstacles.”

One of the greatest boons which, under my father's lead, was secured
to the letter-carriers, sorters, postmasters, and others, all over
the kingdom, was the all but total abolition of Post Office Sunday
labour. In a single day 450 offices in England and Wales were relieved
of a material portion of their Sunday duties. Three months later the
measure was extended to Ireland and Scotland, 234 additional offices
being similarly relieved. While these arrangements were in process of
settlement, Rowland Hill, in the autumn of 1849, resolved to still
further curtail Sunday labour. Hitherto the relief had been carried
out in the Money Order Department only, but it was now decided to
close the offices entirely between the hours of ten and five. To make
this easier, it became necessary to provide for the transmission
of a certain class of letters through London on the Sunday, and to
ask a few men to lend their services on this account. Compulsion
there was none: every man was a volunteer; and for this absence of
force my father, from beginning to end of the movement, resolutely
bargained. Previous to the enactment of this measure of relief, 27
men had been regularly employed every Sunday at the General Post
Office. Their number was temporarily increased to 52 in order that
some 5,829 men—all of whom were compulsory workers—should elsewhere be
relieved, each of some five-and-three-quarters hours of labour every
“day of rest.” In a few months, all the arrangements being complete,
and the plan got into working order, the London staff was reduced to
little more than half the number employed before the change was made.
Ultimately, the services even of this tiny contingent were reduced,
four men sufficing; and Sunday labour at the Post Office was cut down
to its minimum amount—a state of things which remained undisturbed
during my father's connection with that great public Department.

The actual bearing of this beneficent reform was, strange to say,
very generally misunderstood, and perhaps more especially by “The
Lord's Day Society.” Thus for some months Rowland Hill was publicly
denounced as a “Sabbath-breaker” and a friend and accomplice of His
Satanic Majesty. The misunderstanding was not altogether discouraged
by some of the old Post Office irreconcilables; but it is only fair
to the memory of the chief opponent to record the fact that when
the ill-feeling was at its height Colonel Maberly called his clerks
together, told them that, owing to unjust attacks, the Department was
in danger, and exhorted them to stand forth in its defence.[185]

When the turmoil began the Postmaster-General was inclined to side
with some of the leading officials who advocated compulsion should
the number volunteering for the London work be insufficient. Happily,
the supply was more than ample. But when the trouble subsided Lord
Clanricarde generously admitted that he had been wrong and my father
right.

Some of the provincial postmasters and other officials,
misunderstanding the case, joined in the clamour, and went far on the
way to defeat a measure planned for their relief. Others were more
discerning, and the postmaster of Plymouth wrote to say that at his
office alone thirty men would be relieved by an enactment which was
“one of the most important in the annals of the Post Office.”

The agitation showed how prone is the public to fly to wrong
conclusions. Here was Rowland Hill striving to diminish Sunday work,
and being denounced as if he was seeking to increase it! It goes
without saying that, during the agitation, numerous letters, generally
anonymous, and sometimes violently abusive, deluged the Department,
and especially the author of the relief; and that not even Rowland
Hill's family were spared the pain of receiving from candid and,
of course, entirely unknown friends letters of the most detestable
description. Truly, the ways of the unco gude are past finding out.

While the conflict raged, many of the clergy proved no wiser than the
generality of their flocks, and were quite as vituperative. Others,
to their honour be it recorded, tried hard to stem the tide of
ignorance and bigotry. Among these enlightened men were the Hon. and
Rev. Grantham Yorke, rector of St Philip's, Birmingham; the Professor
Henslow already mentioned; and Dr Vaughan, then head-master of Harrow
and, later, Dean of Llandaff. All three, although at the time personal
strangers, wrote letters which did their authors infinite credit, and
which the recipient valued highly. The veteran free-trader, General
Peronnet Thompson, also contributed a series of able articles on the
subject to the then existing _Sun_.

Some of the newspapers at first misunderstood the question quite as
thoroughly as did the public; but, so far as we ever knew, only the
_Leeds Mercury_—unto whose editor, in common with other editors,
had been sent a copy of the published report on the reduction
of Sunday labour—had the frankness to express regret for having
misrepresented the situation.[186] Other newspapers were throughout
more discriminating; and the _Times_, in its issue of 25th April 1850,
contained an admirable and lengthy exposition of the case stated with
very great clearness and ability.[187]

“Carrying out a plan of relief which I had suggested as a more general
measure when at the Treasury,” says Rowland Hill in his diary, “ I
proposed to substitute a late Saturday night delivery in the nearer
suburbs for that on Sunday morning. By this plan more than a hundred
men would be forthwith released from Sunday duty in the metropolitan
district alone.”[188] He further comments, perhaps a little slyly,
on the “notable fact that while so much has been said by the London
merchants and bankers against a delivery where their places of
business are, of course, closed, not a word has been said against a
delivery in the suburbs where they live.”[189]

To give further relief to Sunday labour, Rowland Hill proposed “so
to arrange the work as to have the greatest practicable amount of
sorting done in the travelling offices on the railways; the earlier
portion ending by five on Sunday morning, and the later not beginning
till nine on Sunday evening. The pursuit of this object led to a
singular device.”[190] He was puzzling over the problem how to deal
with letters belonging to good-sized towns too near to London to
allow of sorting on the way. The railway in case was the London and
North-Western; the towns St Albans and Watford. The thought suddenly
flashed upon him that the easiest way out of the difficulty would be
to let the _down_ night mail train to Liverpool receive the St Albans
and Watford _up_ mails to London; and that on arrival at some more
remote town on the road to Liverpool they should be transferred,
sorted, to an _up_ train to be carried to London. No time would be
really lost to the public, because, while the letters were performing
the double journey their destined recipients would be in bed; nor
would any additional expense or trouble be incurred. The plan was a
success, was extended to other railways, and the apparently eccentric
proceeding long since became a matter of everyday occurrence.

In 1851 prepayment in money of postage on inland letters was abolished
at all those provincial offices where it had thus far been allowed.
Early in the following year the abolition was extended to Dublin, next
to Edinburgh, and, last of all, to London—thus completing, throughout
the United Kingdom, the establishment of prepayment by stamps alone,
and thereby greatly simplifying the proceedings at all offices. To
save trouble to the senders of many circulars, the chief office, St
Martin's-le-Grand, continued to receive prepayment in money from 10
A.M. to 5 P.M., in sums of not less than £2 at a time: an arrangement,
later, extended to other offices.

An extract from Rowland Hill's diary, under date 29th October 1851,
says: “A clerkship at Hong-Kong having become vacant by death, the
Postmaster-General has, on my recommendation, determined not to fill
it, and to employ part of the saving thus effected in giving to the
postmaster and each of the remaining clerks in turn leave of absence
for a year and a half,[191] with full salary, and an allowance of
£100 towards the expense of the voyage. By these means, while ample
force will still be left, the poor fellows will have the opportunity
of recruiting their health.”

Early in 1852 Rowland Hill also writes in his diary that “The
Postmaster-General has sanctioned a measure of mine which, I expect,
will have the effect of converting the railway stations in all the
larger towns into gratuitous receiving offices.” The plan, convenient
as it has proved, was, however, long in being carried out.

The agitation to extend penny postage beyond the limits of the
British Isles is much older than many people suppose. Far back in the
'forties Elihu Burritt[192] strove long and manfully in the cause of
“_ocean_ penny postage”; and in my father's diary, under date 5th
March 1853, it is recorded that the Postmaster-General received a
deputation “which came to urge the extension of penny postage to the
Colonies.”[193] It was a reform long delayed; and as usual the Post
Office was reproached for not moving with the times, etc. That a large
portion of the blame lay rather with the great steamship companies,
which have never failed to charge heavily for conveyance of the mails,
is far too little considered.

But the great steamship companies are not alone in causing the Post
Office to be made a scapegoat for their own sins in the way of
exacting heavy payments. In 1853 Rowland Hill gave evidence before a
Parliamentary committee to consider railway and canal charges; and
showed that, owing to the strained relations between the Post Office
and the railway companies, the use of trains for mail conveyance
was so restricted as to injure the public and even the companies
themselves; also that, while the cost of carrying passengers and
goods had been greatly reduced on the railways, the charge for
carrying the mails had grown by nearly 300 per cent., although their
weight had increased by only 140 per cent. He also laid before the
Committee a Bill—approved by two successive Postmasters-General—framed
to prescribe reasonable rates, and laying down a better principle
of arbitration in respect of trains run at hours fixed by the
Postmaster-General. The Committee, as shown by their Report, mainly
adopted Rowland Hill's views, which were indeed perfectly just,
and, if adopted, would, in his estimation, have reduced the annual
expenditure in railway conveyance—then about £360,000—by at least
£100,000. The proposals were made to secure fair rates of charge in
all new railway bills, but it was intended to extend the arrangement
eventually to already existing railways. But the railway influence in
Parliament was too strong to allow adoption of these improvements;
and attempts subsequently made were unavailing to alter the injurious
law enacted early in the railway era, and intended to last only
till experience of the working of the lines should have afforded
the requisite data for laying down a scale of charges.[194] Being
of opinion that, in order to serve the public more effectually, far
greater use should be made of the railways, the reformer tried to
procure for the Post Office the unrestricted use of all trains for
a moderate fixed charge. Owing, however, to the existing law, the
uncertainty of rates of payment, the excessive awards frequently made,
and other causes, this useful measure was not adopted, with the result
that the subsidies to the companies went on increasing in magnitude.

In the same year the Great Northern Railway had spontaneously begun
to run a train at night, at such speed as to outstrip the night mail
on the London and North-Western line. Believing that the object was
to tempt the public into agitating for the use of the rival train
and line, my father applied to the North-Western Railway company for
such acceleration as would obviate the possibility of such a demand
being made. He also suggested the introduction of what are now called
limited mails; but this idea was not adopted for some years.[195]
Till the acceleration was accomplished the answer to a letter leaving
London by the night mail for Edinburgh or Glasgow could not be
received till the afternoon of the next day but one.

Increased speed, however, was found to produce unpunctuality,
misunderstandings, and other evils; and the public grew dissatisfied.
Of course the railway companies blamed the Post Office, and,
equally, of course, though with better reason, the Post Office
blamed the railway companies. My father proposed that each side
should be subjected to fines whenever irregularity occurred, and
that punctuality should receive reward. But the proposal was not
accepted. In 1855, however, the attempt was again made to induce the
railway companies to agree to the payment of mutual penalties in
case of unpunctuality, coupled with reward to the companies, but not
to the Office, for punctual performance. Only one company—the North
British—accepted the proposal, the result being that the instances
of irregularity were in half a year brought down from 112 to 9, the
company at the same time receiving a reward of £400.

Later, the railway companies agreed to accelerate their night mails
between London and Edinburgh and Glasgow. An _additional_ payment
of some £15,000 a year had to be made, but the benefit to the two
countries was so great that the outlay was not grudged. The effort to
extend a like boon to Ireland was not so successful. The companies
which had begun with moderate demands, suddenly asked for lessened
acceleration and increased remuneration; and the Government adopted
their views in preference to those of the Postmaster-General and the
postal reformer. As a natural consequence, an annual subsidy of over
£100,000 had to be paid in addition to the necessary cost of provision
for letter-sorting in the trains and steamships. Punctuality also
was often disregarded, and penalties were suspended on the score of
insufficient pier accommodation at Holyhead.

Some of the companies were short-sighted enough to refuse what would
have been remunerative work offered by the Post Office. On one short
line of 23 miles, £3,000 per annum was demanded for the carriage of a
night mail; and, although the Office offered to furnish a train of its
own, as by law any one was entitled to do, and to pay the appointed
tolls, though legally exempt from so doing—such payment to be
settled by arbitration—the proposal was rejected. Ultimately, a more
circuitous route was adopted at a third of the cost first demanded.

There was great need of reorganisation and common-sense rearrangement
in these matters. Why, for instance, when carrying a letter between
Land's End and John O'Groat's should twenty-one separate contracts,
irrespective of engagements with rural messengers and of plans for the
conveyance of mail-bags to and from railway stations and post offices,
have been required?

With a view to the reduction of these extravagant subsidies, Rowland
Hill proposed that “Government should, on ample security, and to a
limited extent, advance loans on the terms on which it could itself
borrow to such companies as were willing to adopt a reasonable tariff
of charge for postal services.” He hoped by these means to reduce
the annual payments to the companies by about £250,000. The Duke of
Argyll, then Postmaster-General, and Mr Hutchinson, Chairman of the
Stock Exchange, highly approved of the plan; but, though it evoked
much interest, and came up again as a public question more than once
in later years, no progress was made. Were State purchase of the
railways to become the law of the land, solution of the difficulty
might yet be discovered.

One of the measures Rowland Hill hoped to see accomplished was the
conveyance of mails on one of the principal lines by special trains
absolutely limited to Post Office service. The cost would be moderate
if the companies could be induced to join in an arrangement under
which, the bare additional expense in each instance being ascertained
by a neutral authority, a certain fixed multiple of that amount
should be paid. Captain (afterwards Sir Douglas) Galton, of the Board
of Trade, and Sir William Cubitt heartily approved of the plan, the
latter estimating the cost in question at 1s. to 1s. 3d. a mile, and
advising that two and a half times that amount should be offered.
Under this rule the Post Office would pay less for the whole train
than it already paid for a small part of one. The plan of charge by
fixed scale found little favour with the companies; but the proposed
special mail service was ultimately adopted.

The Postmaster-General (Lord Canning's) Commission in 1853 on
the Packet Service—which included among its members Lord Canning
himself and the then Sir Stafford Northcote—did much useful work,
and published an able Report giving a brief history of “contract
mail-packets”; explaining why, under older conditions, heavy subsidies
were necessary, and expressing their opinion that, as now the steamers
so employed carry passengers and freight, these large subsidies could
no longer be required. When a new route has been opened for the
extension of commerce, further continuance of the Service, unless
desirable on account of important political reasons, should depend on
its tendency to become self-supporting. Among other recommendations
made were the omission in future contracts of many conditions whose
effect is increase of cost; a reduction of the contract to an
undertaking (subject to penalties for failure) to convey the mails at
fixed periods and with a certain degree of speed, and an agreement
that, except in the case of a new route, contracts should not be
allowed to exist for a long period.

When at last the management of the Packet Service was transferred from
the Admiralty to the Post Office, a useful—indeed necessary—reform
was accomplished. While in the hands of the former Department, the
Service had become a source of very heavy expense, owing, in great
part, to its extension for political reasons very far beyond postal
requirements.

Great inconvenience had resulted also from the slight control
possessed by the Post Office over the Service. In 1857, for example,
the contract with the West Indian Packet Company was renewed without
the knowledge of either the Postmaster-General or of Rowland Hill. The
absence in the contracts of stipulations as to punctuality likewise
had ill effects. The most punctual service at this time was that
between Devonport and the Cape of Good Hope, as the Union Steamship
Company, into whose contract such stipulations had been introduced
in strong form, made during 1859 every one of its voyages within the
appointed time.

Investigation of the Packet Service accounts showed how abundant
was the room for diminution of cost. The annual charge to the Home
Government for conveying the mails to and from Honduras was, as a
consequence, readily cut down from £8,000 to £2,000, and eventually
to £1,500. There had always been a heavy loss on the foreign and
colonial service. That to the Cape of Good Hope and Natal was reduced
in six years from £28,000 to £5,400 per annum. Much of the merit of
this diminution of cost, as regards the Packet Service, was always
attributed by my father to his youngest brother Frederic; and while
that department remained under the latter's control the large annual
loss was reduced by more than £200,000—one-half the sum—by the cutting
down of expenditure, the other half by increased yield from the
correspondence. The cost to the British taxpayer was further lightened
by calling upon the colonists, who had hitherto been exempt from all
such charges, henceforth to bear their fair share of the expense. Thus
both punctuality and economy were insisted upon.

About 1857 a persistent demand arose for a mail service to Australia
by the Panama route, the Press vigorously taking up the agitation,
and the Government being accused of “red tapeism” because they did
not move in the matter, or not until the outcry grew so loud that it
was deemed expedient to apply to the shipping agencies for tenders.
Being one day at the Athenæum Club, Rowland Hill met a friend, a man
of superior education and varied knowledge, who had long held an
important post in the Far East, almost on the shores of the Pacific.
“Why,” asked this friend, “do you not establish an Australian mail by
the Panama route?” “Why should we?” was the counter-question. “Because
it is the shortest,” replied the friend. At once Rowland Hill proposed
an adjournment to the drawing-room, where stood a large globe; the
test of measurement was applied, and thereupon was demonstrated the
fallacy of a widespread popular belief, founded on ignorance of the
enormous width of the Pacific Ocean—a belief, as this anecdote shows,
shared even by some of those who have dwelt within reach of its
waters.[196]

But convincing friends was of far less moment than convincing the
public; and Rowland Hill drew up a Report on the subject which, backed
by the Postmaster-General, Lord Colchester, had the desired effect
of preventing, for the time being, what would have been a heavy and
useless expenditure of public money.[197]

It is found that great public ceremonies affect the weekly returns
of the number of letters passing through the post. Sometimes the
result is a perceptible increase; at other times a decrease. The
funeral of the great Duke of Wellington was held on the 18th November
1852, and “all London” was in the streets to look at it. The weekly
return, published on the 22nd, showed that the number of letters
dispatched by the evening mail from the metropolis on that memorable
18th fell off by about 100,000. The next day's letters were probably
increased by an extra 10,000. The revolutionary year, 1848, also had
a deteriorating influence on correspondence, the return published in
1849 for the previous twelvemonths showing a smaller increase than,
under ordinary circumstances, might have been expected.

In 1853 Docker's ingenious apparatus for the exchange of mail-bags
at those railway stations through which trains pass without stopping
was introduced. The process is described by the postal reformer as
follows:—“The bags to be forwarded, being suspended from a projecting
arm at the station, are so knocked off by a projection from the train
as to fall into a net which is attached to the mail carriage, and is
for the moment stretched out to receive them; while, at the same time,
the bags to be left behind, being hung out from the mail carriage, are
in like manner so struck off as to be caught in a net fixed at the
station; the whole of this complex movement being so instantaneous
that the uninformed eye cannot follow it.” It was this inability to
understand the movement which led to a ridiculous error. On the
first day of the experiment people assembled in crowds to witness
it. At Northallerton “half Yorkshire” gathered—according to the
mail inspector—and many were under the impression that the outgoing
set of bags they saw hanging to the projecting arm in readiness for
absorption by the passing train, and the incoming set hanging out
from the mail carriage, ready to be caught in the net fixed at the
station, were one and the same thing. Though what useful purpose could
be served by the mere “giving a lift” of a hundred yards or so to one
solitary set of bags is rather hard to perceive.

[Illustration:

  By permission of the Proprietors of the “_City Press_.”

AN EARLY TRAVELLING POST OFFICE WITH MAIL BAGS EXCHANGE APPARATUS.]

The invention was not altogether a success, very heavy bags—especially
when the trains were running at great speed—being sometimes held
responsible for the occurrence of rather serious accidents. It even
became necessary to cease using the apparatus till the defect,
whatever it might be, could be put right. Several remedies were
suggested, but none proved effectual till my brother, then only
twenty-one years of age, hit upon a simple contrivance which removed
all difficulties, and thenceforth the exchange-bag apparatus worked
well. Sir William Cubitt, who had unsuccessfully striven to rectify
matters, generously eulogised his youthful rival's work.

The stamp-obliterating machines which superseded the old practice
of obliteration by hand were also my brother's invention. In former
days the man who could stamp the greatest number of letters in a
given time was usually invited to exhibit his prowess when visitors
were shown over the office. The old process had never turned out
impressions conspicuous for legibility, and means of improvement had
been for some time under consideration. But it was a trial presided
over by Lord Campbell in 1856 which precipitated matters. An important
question turned upon the exact date at which a letter had been posted,
but the obliterating stamp on the envelope was too indistinct to
furnish the necessary evidence. Lord Campbell sharply animadverted
upon the failure, and his strictures caused the Duke of Argyll—then
Postmaster-General—to write to Rowland Hill upon the subject. The
use of inferior ink was supposed to be responsible for the trouble,
and various experiments were tried, without effecting any marked
beneficial result. Objection was made to abolition of the human hand
as stamper on the ground that thus far it had proved to be the fastest
worker. Then my brother's mechanical skill came to the rescue, and
complaints as to clearness and legibility soon became rare.[198] By
the machines the obliterations were made faster than by the best
hand-work, the increase of speed being at least 50 per cent. About the
year 1903 my brother's machines began, I am told, to be superseded by
others which are said to do the work faster even than his. Judging
by some of the obliterations lately made, presumably by these later
machines, it is evident that, so far as clearness and legibility are
concerned, the newer process is not superior to the older.

My brother was a born mechanician, and, like our uncle Edwin Hill,
could, out of an active brain, evolve almost any machine for which,
in some emergency, there seemed to be need. To give free scope to
Pearson's obvious bent, our father had, in his son's early youth,
caused a large four-stalled stable adjoining our house at Hampstead
to be altered into a well-equipped workshop; and in this many a long
evening was spent, the window being often lighted up some hours
after the rest of the family had retired to bed, and my brother
being occasionally obliged to sing out, through the one open pane, a
cheery “good-night” to the passing policeman, who paused to see if a
burglarious conspiracy was being devised during the nocturnal small
hours, from the convenient vantage-ground of the outhouse.

The dream of my brother's life was to become a civil engineer, for
which profession, indeed, few young men could have been better fitted;
and the dream seemed to approach accomplishment when, during a visit
to our father, Sir William (afterwards first Lord) Armstrong spoke
most highly of Pearson's achievements—he had just put into completed
form two long-projected small inventions—and offered to take the
youth into his own works at Newcastle-on-Tyne. But the dream was
never destined to find realisation. Sir William's visit and proposal
made a fitting opportunity for the putting to my brother of a serious
question which had been in our father's head for some time. In his
son's integrity, ability, and affection, Rowland Hill had absolute
trust. Were the younger man but working with him at the Post Office,
the elder knew he could rely on unswerving support, on unwavering
fidelity. The choice of callings was laid before my brother: life
as a civil engineer—a profession in which his abilities could not
fail to command success—or the less ambitious career of a clerk at
St Martin's-le-Grand. Our father would not dwell upon his own strong
leaning towards the latter course, but with the ever-present mental
image of harassing official intrigues against himself and his hard-won
reform, it is not difficult to picture with what conflicting emotions
he must have waited his son's decision. This was left entirely in
the young man's hands; and he chose the part which he knew would
best serve his father. The cherished dream was allowed to melt into
nothingness, and my brother began his postal career not as a favoured,
but as an ordinary clerk, though one always near at hand, and always
in the complete confidence of his immediate chief. Whatever regrets
for the more congenial life Pearson may have harboured, he never, to
my knowledge, gave them audible expression, nor could any father have
had a more loyal son. When, many years later, it seemed desirable
that some official should be appointed to report on the value of the
mechanical inventions periodically offered to the Post Office, and to
supervise those already in operation, it seemed when my brother was
selected for that post as if he had only received his due, and that
merely in part.

He had also administrative ability of no mean order; and when only
twenty-eight years of age was selected by the Postmaster-General to
go to Mauritius to reorganise the post office there, which through
mismanagement had gradually drifted into a state of confusion,
apparently beyond rectification by the island authorities. He speedily
brought the office into good working order; but perhaps his Mauritian
labours will be best remembered by his substitution of certain
civilised stamps—like those then used in some of the West Indian
isles—in place of the trumpery red and blue, penny and twopenny,
productions which were the handiwork of some local artist, and which
are now so rare that they command amazingly large sums of money in the
philatelist world.

[Illustration: By permission of the Proprietor of Flett's Studios,
late London School of Photography.

PEARSON HILL.]


FOOTNOTES:

[174] The people of to-day who have never known the old postal system
can have no idea of the unanimity and strength of that voice. Memory
of the former state of things was still fresh in men's minds; and,
with perhaps one exception, no person wished for its return. “Hill,
you are the most popular man in the kingdom,” one day exclaimed an old
friend. The exception—there might have been more than one, but if so,
we were none the wiser—was one of the Bentincks who, so late as the
year 1857, suggested in the House of Commons a return to franking on
the score that penny postage was one of the greatest jobs and greatest
financial mistakes ever perpetrated. Sir Francis Baring advised Mr
Bentinck to try to bring back the old postal rates, when he would see
what the country thought of the proposal.—(“Hansard,” cxlvi. 188, 189.)

[175] By this time Mr Wallace had retired from public life, and only
a short while later became involved in pecuniary difficulties. By
the exertions of his friends and admirers, an annuity was secured to
him—a provision which, though small in comparison with his former
prosperity, placed the venerable ex-Parliamentarian well above want.
He died in 1855, aged eighty-two.

[176] “Life,” ii. 9, 10.

[177] “Life,” ii. 58.

[178] The _Times_ (Parliamentary Debates), 15th June 1864. The
Money Order Office dates from 1792. It was first known as “Stow &
Co.,” being started as a private undertaking by three Post Office
clerks; and its mission was to enable small sums of money to be
safely transmitted to our sailors and soldiers. Later, all classes
of the community were included in the benefit, the remittances to be
forwarded being still restricted to small sums. Each of the three
partners advanced £1,000 to float the enterprise, and division of
the profits gave to each about £200 a year. The commission charged
was 8d. in the pound, of which 3d. each went to the two postmasters
who received and paid the orders, and 2d. to the partners. The
Postmaster-General sanctioned the measure, which clearly supplied a
felt want, but refrained from interference with its management. In
1838 “Stow & Co.” ceased to exist, becoming thenceforth an official
department, and the then partners receiving compensation for the
surrender of their monopoly. The fees were thereupon fixed at 6d. for
sums not exceeding £2, and 1s. 6d. for sums of £2 to £5, the rates
being still further reduced in 1840.

[179] “Life,” ii. 59, 60.

[180] “Life,” ii. 257.

[181] “Life” ii. 260.

[182] Reputed author of the well-known saying that “Life would be
endurable were it not for its pleasures.”

[183] “Life,” ii. 304-307. In 1871 the amount of unclaimed money
orders was £3,390. In that year the Lords of the Treasury put an
end to this disposal of unclaimed money except in regard to the
then existing recipients of the aid; and the accumulated capital,
together with the interest thereon, about £20,707, was paid into the
Exchequer.—(Editor, G.B.H.'s, note at p. 306.)

[184] “Life,” ii. 365. (Note by its Editor.)

[185] “Life,” ii. 122. On the famous 10th of April 1848 (Chartist
day) Colonel Maberly likewise showed his martial spirit and strong
sense of the virtue of discipline when he requested Rowland Hill
to place his own clerks and those of the Money Order Office—in all
about 250—under his, the Colonel's, command, thus making up a corps
of special constables some 1,300 strong. All over London, on and
before that day, there was great excitement; a large supply of arms
was laid in, defences were erected at Governmental and other public
buildings, very little regular work was done, and there was any amount
of unnecessary scare, chiefly through the alarmist disposition of the
Duke of Wellington—seldom, rumour said, averse from placing a town in
a more or less state of siege, and ever ready to urge upon successive
Governments the desirability of spending huge sums on fortifications
whose destiny ere long was to become obsolete—though partly also
because there were many people still living who could remember the
Gordon riots immortalised in “Barnaby Rudge,” and who feared a
repetition of their excesses. But the Chartists were a different
set of men from Gordon's “tag, rag, and bobtail” followers. On the
morning of the 10th, my father, driving to the Post Office, came up
in Holborn with the long procession marching in the direction of
Kennington Common (now a park), preparatory to presenting themselves
with their petition at the Houses of Parliament. Calling on the
cabman to drive slowly, my father watched the processionists with
keen interest, and was much struck with their steady bearing, evident
earnestness, and the bright, intelligent countenances of many of them.
On close inspection, not a few terrible revolutionists are found to
look surprisingly like other people, though the comparison does not
invariably tell in favour of those other people.

[186] The _Mercury's_ article (25th April 1850) was so good that it
seems worth while to quote some of it. “Macaulay informs us that the
post, when first established, was the object of violent invective as a
manifest contrivance of the Pope to enslave the souls of Englishmen;
and most books of history or anecdote will supply stories equally
notable. But we really very much doubt whether any tale of ancient
times can match the exhibition of credulity which occurred in our own
country, and under our own eyes, within these last twelve months....
Nearly 6,000 people have been relieved from nearly six hours' work
every Sunday by the operation of a scheme which was denounced as a
deliberate encouragement to Sabbath-breaking and profanity.”

[187] _À propos_ of never answering attacks in the Press and
elsewhere, my father was not a little given to quote the opinion of
one of the Post officials who “goes so far as to declare that if he
found himself charged in a newspaper with parricide, he would hold
his tongue lest the accusation should be repeated next day with the
aggravation of matricide.”—“Life,” ii. 235.

[188] This relief, proposed in November 1849, became an accomplished
fact a few days before the year died out.

[189] “Life,” ii. 138.

[190] _Ibid._ ii. 137.

[191] In those slower-going days a large part of the holiday would be
taken up by the journey home and back.

[192] A frequent and always welcome visitor at my father's house
was this son of America—“the learned blacksmith,” as he was
habitually called. He was one of the most interesting as well as
most refreshingly unconventional of men, but was never offensively
unconventional because he was one of “Nature's noblemen.”
Sweet-tempered, gentle-mannered, and pure-minded, he won our
regard—affection even—from the first. He could never have been guilty
of uttering an unkind word to any one, not even to those who were
lukewarm on the slavery question, who did not feel inspired to join
the Peace Society, or who were languid in the cause of “ocean penny
postage.” On the last-named subject he had, as an entire stranger,
written to my father a long letter detailing his scheme, and urging
the desirability of its adoption; and it was this letter which led
to our making Elihu Burritt's acquaintance. He became a great friend
of my elder sister, and maintained with her a many years' long
correspondence. Once only do I remember seeing him angry, and then
it was the righteous indignation which an honest man displays when
confronted with a lie. It was when unto him had been attributed the
authorship of my father's plan. He would have nothing to do with
a fraudulent claim to which sundry other men have assented kindly
enough, or have even, with unblushing effrontery, appropriated of
their own accord. Elihu Burritt and Cardinal Mezzofanti were said to
be the two greatest linguists of the mid-nineteenth century; and I
know not how many languages and dialects each had mastered—the one
great scholar a distinguished prince of the Roman Catholic Church,
the other an American of obscure birth and an ex-blacksmith. Another
trans-atlantic postal reformer, though one interested in the reform
as regarded his own country rather than ours, was Mr Pliny Miles, who
in outward appearance more closely resembled the typical American of
Dickens's days than that of the present time. In his own land Mr Miles
travelled far and wide, wrote much, spoke frequently, and crossed the
Atlantic more than once to study the postal question here. He was an
able man, and a good talker. I well remember his confident prophecy,
some few years before the event, of a fratricidal war between the
Northern and Southern States; how bitterly he deplored the coming
strife; and how deeply impressed were all his hearers both with the
matter and manner of his discourse. I believe he had “crossed the bar”
before hostilities broke out.

[193] “Life,” ii. 241.

[194] “Life,” ii. 227-230.

[195] “My notion is,” wrote the diarist, “to run a train with only one
or two carriages in addition to those required for the mail, and to
stop only once in about 40 miles.” A long distance run in those days.
The speed was fixed at 40 miles an hour, stoppages included. This was
considered very quick travelling in the 'fifties.

[196] “It is curious,” says my father, “how inveterate is the mistake
in question. Columbus expected to reach Cathay more quickly by sailing
westward, but was stopped by the American continent. The projectors
of the 'Darian Scheme' hoped to enrich themselves by making their
settlement a great _entrepot_ between Europe and the East Indies; and
Macaulay, in his interesting narrative of the enterprise ('History
of England,' vol. v. p. 200), considers their mistake to consist
mainly in the assumption that Spain would permit a settlement on its
territory; but it seems not to have occurred to him that, in any
event, the scheme was intrinsically hopeless, seeing that the old
route by the Cape of Good Hope, besides avoiding the cost and delay of
transhipment, surpasses the Darian route even in shortness” (“Life,”
ii. 292). It is also well known that the discoverer of certain rapids
on the great river St Lawrence believed himself to be nearing the
country of Confucius when he called them “La Chine.”

[197] Thus the agitation for an “all red route” is a mere revival.

[198] Sixth Annual Report of the Postmaster-General.



CHAPTER VIII

AT THE POST OFFICE—_Continued_


The important Commission appointed in 1853 to revise the scale of
salaries of the Post Office employees held many sittings and did
valuable work.[199] Its report was published in the following year.
Rowland Hill's examination alone occupied eight days; and he had the
satisfaction of finding the Commissioners' views in accordance with
his own on the subject of patronage, promotion, and classification.

On the score that the business of the Post Office is of a kind which
peculiarly requires centralisation, the Commission condemned the
principle of the double Secretariate, and recommended that the whole
should be placed under the direction of a single secretary; that in
order to enable “every deserving person” to have within his reach
attainment to “the highest prizes,” the ranks of the Secretary's
Office should be opened to all members of the establishment; and
that throughout the Department individual salaries should advance
by annual increments instead of by larger ones at long intervals:
all advancements to be contingent on good conduct. It was also
advised that, to attract suitable men, prospects of advancement
should be held out; that improvement in provincial offices—then much
needed—should be secured by allowing respective postmasters, under
approval and in accordance with prescribed rules, to appoint their own
clerks; and that promotion should be strictly regulated according to
qualification and merit—a rule which in time must raise any department
to the highest state of efficiency. The abolition of a crying evil
was also advised. At the time in question all appointments to the
office rested not with the Postmaster-General but with the Treasury,
the nomination being in effect left to the Member of Parliament for
the district where a vacancy occurred, provided he were a general
supporter of the Government. It was a system which opened the way to
many abuses, and was apt to flood the service with “undesirables.”
The Commissioners advised the removal of the anomaly both for obvious
reasons and “because the power which the Postmaster-General would
possess of rewarding meritorious officers in his own department by
promoting them to the charge of the important provincial offices would
materially conduce to the general efficiency of the whole body.”
The relinquishment of patronage—a privilege always held dear by
politicians—was conceded so far as to allow to the Postmaster-General
the appointing of all postmasterships where the salary exceeded £175
a year, thus avoiding the application in all cases where the Post
Office is held in conjunction with a private business or profession. A
subsequent concession reduced the minimum to £120. The relinquishment
of so much patronage reflected great credit on the Administration then
in power.[200]

It is pleasant to remember that when, in after years, the postal
reform, by its complete success, had proved the soundness of its
author's reasoning, the Conservatives and “Peelites,” who of old
had opposed the Penny Postage Bill, seemed sometimes to go out of
their way to show him friendliness. One of the kindest of his old
opponents was Disraeli—not yet Earl of Beaconsfield—who, as Chancellor
of the Exchequer, invited the reformer to share his hospitality,
and especially singled out the new guest for attention. The first
Postmaster-General to invite Rowland Hill to his house was his second
chief, the Tory Lord Hardwicke, who had also asked Colonel Maberly,
but was careful to put the two men one at each end of the very long
table.

When, therefore, at last (in 1854) my father was given the post
Colonel Maberly had so long filled, and became thenceforth known
to the world as Secretary to the Post Office, it was with deep
gratification that he recorded the fact in his diary that “all those
to whom I had on this occasion to return official thanks had been
members of the Government by which, twelve years before, I had been
dismissed from office.[201] I could not but think that the kind and
earnest manner in which these gentlemen now acted proceeded in some
measure from a desire to compensate me for the injustice of their
former leader; and this view made me even more grateful for their
consideration.”[202]

The old hostility between Colonel Maberly and Rowland Hill was
scarcely likely to decrease while they remained, to use the sailor
Postmaster-General's favourite expression, “two kings of Brentford.”
Colonel Maberly had never been sparing of his blows during the long
agitation over the postal reform previous to its establishment; and
a dual authority is hardly calculated to transform opponents into
allies. It was therefore fortunate that the peculiar arrangement,
after enduring, with considerable discomfort, for seven and a half
years, was brought to a close.

We all have our strong points; and one of Colonel Maberly's was a
happy knack of selecting heads of departments, the chief Secretary's
immediate subordinates. They were an able staff of officers, unto
whom my father always considered that the good reputation the Post
Office enjoyed while he was its permanent head was largely due. With
their aid the reformer devised and matured measures of improvement
more rapidly than before—more rapidly because there was now far less
likelihood, when once authorisation had been obtained for carrying
them out, of seeing his proposals subjected to tiresome modifications
or indefinite delays, too often leading to entire abandonment. Thus he
was enabled to give most of his time to the work of organisation, to
him always, as he has said, “of all occupations the least difficult
and the most pleasant.” He encouraged his newly-acquired staff “to
make what proved to be a valuable change in their mode of proceeding;
for whereas the practice had been for these officers simply to select
the cases requiring the judgment of the Secretary, and to await his
instructions before writing their minutes thereon, I gradually induced
them to come prepared with an opinion of their own which might serve
in a measure for my guidance.” This placing of confidence in able and
experienced men had, as was but natural, excellent results.

The arrangement of secretarial and other duties being now settled,
reforms proceeded satisfactorily; new and greatly improved post
offices were erected, and older ones were cleared of accumulated
rubbish, and made more habitable in many ways. It was found that
at the General Post Office itself no sort of provision against the
risk of fire existed—an extraordinary state of things in a building
through which many documents, often of great value and importance,
were continually passing. Little time was lost in devising measures to
remedy this and other defects.

But, strange to say, in 1858 the construction and alteration of post
office buildings was transferred by the Treasury to the Board of
Works. Knowing that the change would lead to extravagance, Rowland
Hill essayed, but quite unsuccessfully, to effect a reversal of this
measure; and in support of his views instanced a striking contrast.
A new post office had been erected at Brighton, the cost, exclusive
of a moderate sum expended to fit it up as a residence, being about
£1,600. A similar building had now to be put up at Dundee, whose
correspondence was half that of Brighton. The Board of Works' estimate
came to four or five times that amount, and all that Rowland Hill
could accomplish was to bring the cost down to £5,700.

The first of the long series of “Annual Reports of the
Postmaster-General” was published in 1854. It was prefaced with an
interesting historical sketch of the Post Office from its origin,
written by Matthew Davenport Hill's eldest son Alfred, unto whom my
father was further beholden for valuable assistance as arbitrator
in the already mentioned disputes between the Post Office and the
railway companies. The modern weakness of apathy—most contagious of
maladies—seemed after a while to settle even on the Post Office, for,
late in the 'nineties, the issue was for a time discontinued.

One passage alone in the First Report shows how satisfactory was the
progress made. “On the first day of each month a report is laid before
the Postmaster-General showing the principal improvements in hand,
and the stage at which each has arrived. The latest of these reports
(which is of the usual length) records 183 measures, in various stages
of progress or completed during the month of December 1854. Minor
improvements, such as extension of rural posts, etc., are not noticed
in these reports.”[203]

Another small periodical publication first appeared in 1856, which,
revised and issued quarterly, is now a well-known, useful little
manual. This was the _British Postal Guide_. Its acceptability was
made evident by its ready sale, amounting, not long after its issue,
to 20,000 or 30,000 copies. Two years later an old publication known
as the _Daily Packet List_ was rearranged, enlarged, and turned into
a weekly edition, which, as the _Postal Circular_, accomplished much
useful service. Had the Treasury allowed the extension of the sphere
of this little work, as recommended by the Postmaster-General and
Rowland Hill, it could have been so extended as to become a postal
monitor, correcting any possible misconceptions, and keeping the
public constantly informed as to the real proceedings of the Post
Office.

By November 1854 the diarist was able to write that his “plan has been
adopted, more or less completely, in the following States: Austria,
Baden, Bavaria, Belgium, Brazil, Bremen, Brunswick, Chile, Denmark,
France, Frankfort, Hamburg, Hanover, Lubeck, Naples, New Grenada,
Netherlands, Oldenburg, Peru, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia,
Saxony, Spain, Switzerland, Tuscany, United States, and Wurtemberg.”
It seems worth while to repeat the long list just as my father gave
it, if only to show how much, since that time, the political geography
of our own continent has altered, most of the tiny countries and all
the “free cities” of mid-nineteenth-century Europe having since that
date become absorbed by larger or stronger powers. It will be noticed
that Norway and Sweden had not yet followed the example of the other
western European countries. But the then “dual kingdom” did not long
remain an exception.

Among the first European powers to adopt the postal reform were,
strange to say, Spain and Russia, neither of which was then accounted
a progressive country. In September 1843 the Spanish ambassador
wrote to Rowland Hill asking for information about postal matters,
as his Government contemplated introducing the postage stamp, and,
presumably, a certain amount of uniformity and low rates. Not long
after, news came that Russia had adopted stamps. The chief motive in
each case was, however, understood to be the desire to prevent fraud
among the postmasters.

Although Spain moved early in the matter of postal reform, Portugal
sadly lagged behind, no new convention having been effected with that
country, and, consequently, no postal improvements, save in marine
transit, made for fifty years. In 1858, however, mainly through the
good offices of the British Ministers at Madrid and Lisbon, and of Mr
Edward Rea, who was sent out from London by the Postmaster-General for
the purpose, better postal treaties were made, both with Spain and
Portugal. Even with such countries as Belgium, Germany (the German
Postal Union), and the United States, progress in the way of treaties
was very slow.

The postal revenues of all these European countries were smaller than
our own, Portugal's being less than that of the city of Edinburgh.
Small indeed is the connection between the amount of a country's
correspondence and the number of its population. According to an
official return published in the _Journal de St Petersburg_ in 1855,
the letters posted during the year throughout the huge empire of
Russia were only 16,400,000, or almost the same number as those posted
during the same year in Manchester and its suburbs.

By 1853 a low uniform rate of postage was established over the length
and breadth of our even then vast Indian Empire; a few outlying
portions alone excepted. For many years after the introduction of the
new system, involving, as it did, complete adoption of Rowland Hill's
plan, the Indian Post Office did not pay expenses; but by 1870 it
became self-supporting.[204]

It has sometimes been asserted that, in his eagerness to make his
reform a financial success, Rowland Hill cut down the wages of the
lower strata of employees. Nothing could be more untrue. Economy,
he believed, was to be obtained by simpler methods and better
organisation, not by underpaying the workers. While at the Post
Office he did much to improve the lot of these classes of men. Their
wages were increased, they had greater opportunity of rising in the
service, a pension for old age combined with assistance in effecting
life assurance, gratuitous medical advice and medicines,[205] and
an annual holiday without loss of pay. The number of working hours
was limited to a daily average of eight, and a regulation was made
that any letter-carrier who, taking one day with another, found his
work exceed that limit, should be entitled to call attention to the
fact and obtain assistance. An exhaustive enquiry was made as to
the scale of wages paid, the hours of work required, etc.; and the
report, when published, told the world that the men of similar rank in
other callings, such as policemen, railway porters, and several more,
were not so well treated as their brethren in the postal service.
So clearly, indeed, was this proved that public endorsement of the
fact was at once evidenced by a marked increase of applications for
situations as sorters, letter-carriers, etc.

A striking proof of this recognition of a truth came at first hand to
Rowland Hill's knowledge. He was consulting an old medical friend,
and in the course of conversation the latter said that his footman
wished to obtain an appointment as letter-carrier. Whereupon my
father pointed out that the man was better off as footman, because,
in addition to receiving good wages, he had board, lodging, and
many other advantages. This, answered the doctor, had already been
represented to the man; but his reply was that in the Post Office
there was the certainty of continuity of employment and the pension
for old age. The fact that the employees in a public department are
not, like many other workers, liable at any moment to be sent adrift
by the death or impoverishment of their employers, constitutes one of
the strongest attractions to the service. Has this circumstance any
connection with the growing disinclination of the poorer classes to
enter domestic service?

In 1854 rural distribution was greatly extended, 500 new offices being
opened. This extension, it may be remembered, was one of several
measures which were persistently opposed by the enemies of the postal
reform. How much the measure was needed, and, when granted, how
beneficial were its results, is shown by the fact that it was followed
by the largest increase of letters which had taken place in any year
since 1840, or a gain on 1853 of 32,500,000.

The measure affected several hundreds of different places and a
very large percentage of the entire correspondence of the United
Kingdom. Formerly there were to every office limits, sometimes narrow,
sometimes wide, beyond which there was either no delivery, or one
made only at additional charge, generally of a penny a letter: an
arrangement which, in spite of my father's repeated efforts to amend
it, outlived the introduction of the new postal system for more than
fourteen years, and in the districts thus affected partially nullified
its benefits. Not until this and other survivals of the older state
of things were swept away could his plan be rightly said to be
established.

London—whose then population formed one-tenth and its correspondence
one-fourth of the United Kingdom—was also not neglected. It was
divided into ten postal districts,[206] each of which was treated as a
separate town with a local chief office in addition to its many minor
offices. The two corps of letter-carriers—the general postmen and
those who belonged to the old “twopenny post”—which till this time
existed as distinct bodies of employees, were at last amalgamated;
their “walks” were rearranged, and a new plan of sorting at the chief
office was instituted, while the letters and other missives intended
for the different districts, being sorted before they reached London,
were no longer, as of old, sent to St Martin's-le-Grand, but were
at once dispatched for distribution to the local chief office whose
initials corresponded with those upon the covers. Door letter-boxes
increased in number in the houses of the poorer as well as of the
richer classes; and the use, in addition to the address, on the
printed heading of a letter of the initials denoting the postal
district from which it emanated, and on the envelope of that where it
should be delivered—a use to which the public generally accustomed
itself kindly—greatly facilitated and expedited communication
within the 12 miles circuit, so that thenceforth it became possible
to post a letter and receive its reply within the space of a few
hours—a heartily appreciated boon in the days when the telephone was
not. As a natural consequence, the number of district letters grew
apace, and the congestion at St Martin's-le-Grand was perceptibly
lessened. At the same time, the Board of Works to some extent amended
the nomenclature of the streets and the numbering of houses. The
most important delivery of the day, the first, was accelerated by
two hours; in some of the suburbs by two and a half hours. That
is, the morning's letters were distributed at nine o'clock instead
of at half-past eleven. Since that time, and for many years now,
the delivery has been made at or before eight o'clock. Nothing
facilitated these earlier deliveries more than the sorting of letters
_en route_; and the practice also enabled more frequent deliveries
to be made. Improved communication with the colonies and foreign
countries, through better treaties, was likewise effected; and each
improvement was rendered easier by the rapid growth everywhere of
railways and shipping companies, and the increased speed of trains and
steamships.

In 1855 “the system of promotion by merit,” recommended by my father
and endorsed with approval by the Civil Service Commissioners “was
brought into full operation. In the three metropolitan offices, when
a vacancy occurred application for appointment was open to all; the
respective claims were carefully compared, and, without the admission
of any other consideration whatever, the claim which was adjudged
to be best carried the day. To keep our course free from disturbing
influences, it was laid down that any intercession from without in
favour of individual officers should act, if not injuriously, at
least not beneficially, on the advancement of those concerned.” ...
“By the transfer to the Post Office of appointment to all the higher
postmasterships, opportunity for promotion was greatly enlarged,
and posts formally bestowed for political services now became the
rewards of approved merit. This change obviously involved great
improvement in the quality of the persons thus entrusted with powers
and duties of no small importance to the public. In the provincial
offices a corresponding improvement was, in great measure, secured
by delegating the power of appointing their subordinates, under
certain restrictions, to the respective postmasters, who, being
themselves responsible for the good working of their offices, were
naturally led to such selection as would best conduce to that end.
This delegation, so far as related to clerks, was made on the
recommendation of the Civil Service Commissioners; and the trust
being satisfactorily exercised, was subsequently extended to the
appointment of letter-carriers also.” The measure worked well. “From
the different departments of the metropolitan offices, and from
the provincial surveyors the reports of its operation were almost
uniformly satisfactory. Officers were found to take more personal
interest in their duties, to do more work without augmentation of
force, to make up in some degree by additional zeal for the increased
yearly holiday that was granted them, and to discharge their duties
with more cheerfulness and spirit, knowing that good service would
bring eventual reward.”[207]

The new system of promotion by merit worked far better than that of
the Commissioners' examinations for admission to the Civil Service.
As regards the letter-carriers, it has always been found that the
men best fitted for this duty were those whose previous life had
inured them to bodily labour and endurance of all kinds of weather.
The new educational requirements in many instances excluded these
people, while giving easy admission to shopmen, clerks, servants,
and others accustomed to indoor and even sedentary life, who were
little fitted to perform a postman's rounds. The Duke of Argyll, then
Postmaster-General, requested the Commissioners to adopt a somewhat
lower standard of acquirement. At the same time he authorised the
subjection of candidates for the office of letter-carriers to a
stricter test as regards bodily strength, with the result that about
one man in every four was rejected. By these means, and the greater
attention paid to the laws of sanitation in offices and private
dwellings, the health of the department gradually reached a high
standard.

That the plan of confining admission to the service to candidates
who have passed the Civil Service examinations is not without its
drawbacks, is seen by the following extract from a Report by Mr
Abbott, Secretary to the Post Office in Scotland. “Considering,” he
says, “the different duties of the account, the secretary's and the
sorting branches, I am inclined to believe that the examination should
have more special reference to the vacancy the candidate is to fill
than to his general knowledge on certain subjects proposed for all
in the same class, more especially as regards persons nominated to
the sorting office, where manual dexterity, quick sight, and physical
activity are more valuable than mere educational requirements.”[208]

As may be surmised by the foregoing, Rowland Hill was one of the many
clear-sighted men who declined to yield unquestioning approbation
to the system of competitive examinations introduced by the Civil
Service Commissioners; nor did longer acquaintance with it tend
to modify his opinion on the subject. The scheme, he thought,
“worked unsatisfactorily, the criteria not being the best, and the
responsibility being so divided that no one is in effect answerable
for an appointment made under it. The consequence of its adoption has
been, in many instances, the rejection of men who gave promise of
great usefulness, and the admission of others whose usefulness has
proved very small.[209] If no way had been open to the public service
but through competitive examination as now conducted, I cannot say
what might have been my own chance of admission, since on the plan
adopted, no amount of knowledge or power in other departments is
regarded as making up for deficiency in certain prescribed subjects.
Under such a system neither George Stephenson nor Brindley would have
passed examination as an engineer, nor perhaps would Napoleon or
Wellington have been admitted to any military command. The principle,
if sound, must be equally applicable to manufacturing and commercial
establishments, but I have heard of none that have adopted it. Indeed,
a wealthy merchant lately declared (and I believe most of his brethren
would agree with him) that if he had no clerks but such as were
chosen for him by others, his name would soon be in the _Gazette_.
I have always been of opinion that the more the appointments to the
Post Office, and indeed to other departments, are regulated on the
principles ordinarily ruling in establishments conducted by private
individuals, the better it will be for the public service. The
question to be decided between candidates should be, I think, simply
which is best fitted for the duties to be performed; and the decision
should be left to the person immediately answerable for the right
performance of the duty.”[210]

While tranquillity reigned at St Martin's-le-Grand from, and long
after, 1854, not only among the heads of departments, but generally
throughout the office, and while reports from all quarters,
metropolitan and provincial, bore testimony to efficient work
accomplished and good conduct maintained, it was inevitable that in a
body so numerous as was that of the lower grade employees some amount
of discontent should arise. Promotion by merit, in whatever class, has
few charms in the eyes of those who are deficient in the very quality
which insures promotion, and who, perhaps for many years, have drawn
steady payment for ordinary duty so performed as to become scarcely
more than nominal. In every large community there are certain to be
some “bad bargains” who, though practically useless as workers, have
often abundant capacity for giving trouble, especially, maybe, in the
way of fomenting a spirit of mutiny.[211]

At the Post Office this spirit manifested itself even while every care
was being taken to ameliorate the condition of this multitudinous
class of employees, and to rectify individual cases of hardship, and
while, even during the time of insubordination, many respectable
men outside the postal walls were showing their appreciation of the
advantage of a letter-carrier's position over that of men of like
class in other callings, by applying for appointment to that corps.
Misrepresentation is a principal factor in stimulating disaffection,
and, for reasons other than sympathy with the alleged victims of
supposed tyrannical employers, is sometimes, though, happily, rarely,
employed by those who, as non-officials, are sheltered by anonymity
as well as by extraneity from participation in such punishment as may
befall the better-known disaffected.

From an early period of Rowland Hill's career at the Post Office
he was subjected to almost constant personal attacks on the part
of a certain weekly newspaper. Many were written with considerable
plausibility, but all were void of substantial truth, while others
were entire fabrications. All too were of the sort which no
self-respecting man condescends to answer, yet which, perhaps all the
more on account of that contemptuous silence, do infinite harm, and
by an unthinking public are readily believed. Many of these attacks
were traced to men who had left the postal service—to the no small
advantage of that service—and whose dismissal was supposed to be
the work of the permanent postal head; and one such man at least, a
scribe with a ready pen, and ink in which the ingredient gall was
over-liberally mingled, vented his spleen during a long succession
of years with a perseverance worthy a better cause. As the newspaper
in question had rather a wide circulation—since when did harmful
literature fail to meet ready sale?—and the postal employees were,
in many cases, no wiser than their fellow-readers, it was perhaps
not unnatural that the attacks, which were directed more frequently
and angrily against the postal reformer than against his colleagues,
should meet with credence. “It certainly was rather ill-timed,” says
Rowland Hill, on hearing[212] of a particularly vicious libel, “for
in the previous month (November 1858) I had induced the Treasury to
abandon its intention of issuing an order forbidding the receipt of
Christmas boxes, and also had obtained some improvement in their scale
of wages, the Treasury granting even more than was applied for.”[213]

It was not long before the agitation assumed a still more serious
form, no fewer than three anonymous letters threatening assassination
being received at short intervals by the harassed reformer. The
heads of the different postal departments, becoming alarmed for the
safety of the permanent chief's life, advised his temporary absence
from the Office; and Mr Peacock, its solicitor, who knew that an
expert had satisfied himself and others that the handwriting of the
first of these letters could be traced to a certain postman who had
been giving much trouble of late, proposed immediate arrest and
prosecution. But, on comparing the suspected man's actual handwriting
with that, disguised though it was, of the anonymous letter, Rowland
Hill disagreed with the expert's view, and refused assent to so
drastic a proceeding; happily so, for later circumstances seemed to
point to justification of the adverse opinion. My father also declined
to absent himself from the Office, and even when a fourth letter
appeared, in which were mentioned the place, day, and hour when the
fatal blow would be struck, he still, as was his custom, walked the
last half mile of his way to work, armed only with his umbrella, and
on the fateful occasion passed the indicated spot without encountering
harm of any kind. Later than this, somehow, word of the anonymous
letters reached my mother's ears, though not, of course, through her
husband; and thenceforth she made it her daily practice to drive down
to the Post Office, and accompany him home.

This episode would hardly be worth the telling did it not serve to
show how little need there generally is to pay attention to letters,
however threatening, when written by persons who dare not reveal their
identity. On occasions of this sort memory brings back to mind the
story of the brave Frenchman who at the time of the Franco-German
war wrote to the then newly-proclaimed German Emperor, William I.,
at Versailles, to remind him of sundry ugly passages in his life,
and to threaten him with condign punishment—the writer being a near
neighbour, and appending to his letter his actual name and address.
This man at least had the courage of his opinions. The anonymous
scribbler is seldom so valorous.

In 1858 “The Post Office Library and Literary Association” was
established, the institution being aided by the delivery of lectures,
an enterprise in which several of the leading officials participated.
Mr West gave a fascinating discourse on etymology; and Rowland Hill
took his turn by lecturing on the annular eclipse of the sun (“visible
at Greenwich”) which happened in that year.[214] In 1859 similar
institutions were started at most of the London district offices, and
in some provincial towns.

When the volunteer movement was in the heyday of its youth, the
Post Office was one of the earliest of the great public departments
to establish a corps of its own, whose exploits were humorously
related by “Ensign” Edmund Yates, under the heading “The Grimgribber
Rifle Volunteers,” in several numbers of _All the Year Round_ of
the period. The corps became amalgamated with the “Civil Service”
volunteer force, of which fine body it was perhaps the pioneer company.

“I wrote,” says Rowland Hill, “to the Postmaster-General, Lord
Colchester, on the subject (of raising a volunteer corps), and
obtained his ready sanction. Upon my communicating with the heads
of departments, I was told that there would be readiness enough to
volunteer if only the expenses could be provided for, or reduced to a
low rate; that the men would willingly give their time, but thought it
somewhat unreasonable that there should be a demand for their money
also. The difficulty was overcome by the same means, and I suppose to
about the same extent, as in other corps; but from that day to this I
have been unable to understand the policy or propriety of making men
pay for liberty to serve their country, a practice which must, in the
nature of things, debar large numbers from enrolment. The movement was
not limited to the chief office, and was especially satisfactory at
Edinburgh.”[215]

In July 1859 Sir Edward Baines, proprietor of the _Leeds Mercury_,
wrote to introduce to Rowland Hill the inventor of the Post Office
Savings[216] Bank scheme, Mr (afterwards Sir) Charles Sikes, a banker
of Huddersfield—a scheme which has been a great convenience to people
of limited means. Depositors and deposits have increased, till the
modest venture launched in 1860, under the auspices of the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, Mr Gladstone, has grown into a colossal undertaking.
Sir Charles, with characteristic lack of self-advertisement, never
sought reward of any kind for the good work he had initiated. He was
satisfied with the knowledge that it had proved of immense benefit to
his fellow-men. He long survived the carrying into practical shape of
his scheme; and now that he is dead, his invention has, of course,
been claimed by or for others.

The postal reform is one which, save as regards its most salient
features, has been established somewhat on the “gradual instalment
system,” each instalment, as a rule, coming into operation after a
hard struggle on the part of its promoter, and several years later
than when first proposed. Prepayment of postage, for example, one of
the most essential parts of my father's plan, was long allowed to
remain optional, although he had “counted upon universal prepayment
as an important means towards simplifying the accounts, with
consequent economy of time and expense, the expedient of double
postage on post-payment being regarded as a temporary mode of
avoiding the difficulties naturally attending a transition state;
and though hitherto deferring the measure to more pressing matters,
I had always looked forward to a time suitable for taking the step
necessary to the completion of my plan. The almost universal resort
to prepayment had rendered accounts of postage very short and easy,
but obviously universal practice alone could render them altogether
unnecessary.”[217]

The attempt to make prepayment compulsory was renewed in 1859, the
proportion of unpaid letters having by that date become very small.
But the public generally were insensible to the advantage to the
service which economy of time and labour must secure, while the few
active malcontents who thought themselves qualified to be a law
unto themselves, if not to others, raised so much clamour that it
was considered advisable to postpone issue of the edict. An error
of judgment, perhaps, since the public soon becomes accustomed to
any rule that is at once just and easy to follow; as indeed had
already been shown by the readiness—entirely contrary to official
prediction—with which prepayment had, from the first, been accepted.
After all, submission to compulsory prepayment of our postage is not
one whit more slavish than submission to compulsory prepayment of our
railway and other vehicular fares, a gentle form of coercion to which
even those of us who are the most revolutionary of mind assent with
exemplary meekness.

So far back as 1842[218] Rowland Hill had recommended the
establishment of a parcel post, but, although renewing his efforts
both in 1858 and 1863, he was forced to leave accomplishment of this
boon to later reformers. In the last-named year, however, the pattern
post came into operation.

In 1862 he was able to make important alterations in the registration
of letters. Allusion has already been made to the ancient quarrel
between a former Postmaster-General and my father over the amount
of fee, the political head of the office wishing to keep it at 1s.,
Rowland Hill to reduce it to 6d., a reduction easily obtained when
in 1846 the latter entered the Post Office. A largely increased
number of registered letters had been the result. The fee was now
still further reduced, the reduction being followed by an even larger
increase of registered letters; while the registration of coin-bearing
letters was at last made compulsory. Before 1862 coins had often
been enclosed in unregistered letters, at times so carelessly that
their presence was evident, and abstraction easy. As a natural
consequence, misappropriation was not infrequent. After the passing
of this necessary enactment the losses diminished rapidly; the number
of letters containing money posted in the second half of that year
increased to about 900,000, and the number of those which failed to
reach their destination was only twelve.

While it is undeniable that occasionally a letter-carrier or sorter
has been responsible for the disappearance of some articles—at times
of great value—entrusted to the care of the department, the public
itself is frequently very far from blameless. As has already been
shown, carelessness that can only be called culpable sometimes throws
temptation in the men's way. In the course of a single twelvemonths,
nearly 31,000 letters entirely unaddressed were posted, many of which
contained money whose sum total amounted to several thousands of
pounds.

The number of things lost in the post through negligence to enclose
them in properly secured covers, or through placing them in covers
which are imperfectly addressed or not addressed at all, so that
sometimes neither sender nor intended recipient can be traced, is very
great. In one twelvemonths alone the accumulations at the Dead Letter
Office sold at auction by order of the Postmaster-General comprised
almost every description of wearing apparel from socks up to sealskin
jackets and suits of clothing, Afghan, Egyptian, and South African war
medals, a Khedive's Star, a pearl necklace, some boxes of chocolate,
a curious Transvaal coin, and several thousands of postage stamps.
Did none of the losers dream of applying for repossession of their
property ere it passed under the auctioneer's hammer; or did they
resign themselves to the less troublesome assumption that the things
had been stolen?

Simply to avoid payment of the registration fee—whose present amount
can hardly be found burdensome—people will hide money or other
valuables in some covering material that is inexpensive, or that may
be useful to the recipient, such as butter, puddings, etc., which are
sent off by the yet cheaper parcel post. One of the most flagrant
cases of deception was that of a lady living in Siam, who dispatched
to the old country several packages said to contain stationery
and walking-sticks, and valued at £7, 10s. 0d. Suspicion was
aroused—perhaps by the odd combination of treasures—and the parcels
were opened, when the “stationery and walking-sticks” of modest value
resolved themselves into a superb collection of diamonds and other
jewels worth about £25,000.

The Post Office is often reproached for slowness or unwillingness
to adopt new ways; and, as a rule, the accusations are accompanied
by brilliant and highly original witticisms, in which figure the
contemptuous words “red tape.” For the apparent lack of official zeal,
the reproaching public itself is often to blame. Its passion—dating
from long past times, yet far from moribund—for defrauding the
department which, on the whole, serves it so well, yet with so few
thanks and so many scoldings, is one chief bar to possible reforms.
When, for example, the book-post was established in 1846,[219] all
sorts of things which had no right to be where they were found used
to be hidden between the pages. In one instance, a watch was concealed
in an old volume, within whose middle leaves a deep hole had been
excavated which was artfully covered over by the outside binding and
by several pages at the beginning and end of the book. To the casual
observer it therefore presented an innocent appearance, but fell
victim to post-official, lynx-eyed investigation.

“With every desire to give the public all possible facilities,” wrote
my father in his diary, “we were often debarred from so doing by the
tricks and evasions which too frequently followed any relaxation of
our rules.”

Even the great Macaulay transgressed strict postal regulations, being
in the habit, as his nephew tells us in one of the most delightful
biographies ever written, of sending him, when a school-boy, letters
fastened with sealing-wax, the seal hiding the welcome golden “tip.”
As the use of seals has almost entirely died out, and sealed missives,
even in Macaulay's time, were coming to be looked at with suspicion—as
probably containing something worth investigation—by those through
whose hands they pass, the boy was fortunate in that his uncle's
letters reached him safely.

Very unreasonable, and sometimes downright absurd, are many complaints
made by the public. A lady once wrote to the authorities saying that
whereas at one time she always received her letters in the morning,
they now only reached her in the evening. The fact was that, through
the making of better arrangements, the letters which used to come in
with the matutinal tea and toast were now delivered over-night.

The following is a rather curious story of theft. The cook in a
gentleman's family residing at Harrow one day received an unregistered
letter from Hagley, near Birmingham, which, when posted, contained a
watch. On reaching its destination the cover was found to enclose a
couple of pebbles only. She at once went to her master for advice. An
eminent geologist was dining at the house. When he saw the enclosures,
he said: “These are Harrow pebbles; no such stones could be found
at Hagley.” This showed that the letter must have been tampered
with at the Harrow end of the journey. The postal authorities were
communicated with, and an official detective was sent to Harrow to
make enquiries. Something about the letter had, it seems, attracted
notice at the local post office—perhaps the watch had ticked—which
proved that the packet was intact when handed to the letter-carrier
for delivery. He had not, however, given the letter to the cook, but
to the butler, who passed it on to the cook. The delinquent, then,
must be either the letter-carrier or the butler. The letter-carrier
had been long in the postal service, and bore an excellent character.
Suspicion therefore pointed to the butler. He was called into the
dining-room, and interrogated. He denied all knowledge of the watch,
and declared he had given the packet to the cook exactly as he had
received it. But while the interrogation was proceeding, his boxes
were being examined; and, although no watch was found in any, the
searchers came upon some things belonging to his master. Taxed with
their theft, the man pleaded guilty, but once more disclaimed all
knowledge of the watch. On some pretext he was allowed to leave the
room, when he retired to the pantry, and there committed suicide.

As time wore on, during the ten years which followed 1854 and my
father's appointment as Secretary to the Post Office, he sometimes
found that his earlier estimate of former opponents was a mistake.
When on the eve of entering the Post Office in 1846, he was, for
instance, especially advised to get rid of Mr Bokenham, the head of
the Circulation Department.[220] The new-comer, however, soon learned
to appreciate at their just value Mr Bokenham's sterling qualities
both in official and private life. So far from “inviting him to
resign,” my father, unasked, moved for and obtained that improvement
in position and salary which his ex-adversary so thoroughly well
deserved, and which any less disinterested man would probably have
secured for himself long before. Nor was Mr Bokenham's the only
instance of genuine worth rewarded by well-merited promotion in
position or salary, or both.

Another former strong opponent had been Mr William Page, unto whose
efforts the successful conclusion of that treaty, known as “The
Postal Union,” which enables us to correspond with foreign nations
for 2-1/2d. the half-ounce, was largely due. At the present day
2-1/2d. seems scarcely to deserve the term “cheap” postage, but in the
middle of the nineteenth century it was a reduction to rejoice over.
No visitor was more welcome to our house than Mr Page, who was one
of the most genial and least self-seeking of men. He was a staunch
“Maberlyite,” and, even when most friendly with us, never concealed
his attachment to the man to whom he owed much kindness, as well as
his own well-deserved advancement, and the appointment to the postal
service of his two younger brothers. This unswerving loyalty to a
former chief naturally made us hold Mr Page in still warmer esteem,
since the worship of the risen sun is much more common and much less
heroic than is that of the luminary which has definitely set. When my
father died, Mr Page, at once and uninvited, cut short an interesting
and much-needed holiday in Normandy because he knew we should all wish
him to be present at the funeral.

But although the situation at the Post Office greatly improved after
the chief opponent's translation to another sphere of usefulness, the
old hostility to the reform and reformer did not die out, being in
some directions scotched merely, and not killed.

One of the most prominent among the irreconcilables was the novelist,
Anthony Trollope. But as he was a surveyor, which means a postal
bird of passage or official comet of moderate orbit regularly moving
on its prescribed course, with only periodic appearances at St
Martin's-le-Grand, he did not frequently come into contact with the
heads there. He was an indefatigable worker; and many of his novels
were partly written in railway carriages while he was journeying
from one post town to another, on official inspection bent. On one
occasion he was brought to our house, and a most entertaining and
lively talker we found him to be. But somehow our rooms seemed too
small for his large, vigorous frame, and big, almost stentorian voice.
Indeed, he reminded us of Dickens's Mr Boythorn, minus the canary,
and gave us the impression that the one slightly-built chair on which
he rashly seated himself during a great part of the interview, must
infallibly end in collapse, and sooner rather than later. After about
a couple of hours of our society, he apparently found us uncongenial
company; and perhaps we did not take over kindly to him, however
keen our enjoyment, then and afterwards, of his novels and his talk.
He has left a record in print of the fact that he heartily detested
the Hills, who have consoled themselves by remembering that when a
man has spent many years in writing romance, the trying of his hand,
late in life, at history, is an exceedingly hazardous undertaking. In
fact, Trollope's old associates at the Post Office were in the habit
of declaring that his “Autobiography” was one of the greatest, and
certainly not the least amusing, of his many works of fiction.

But Anthony Trollope had quite another side to his character beside
that of novelist and Hill-hater, a side which should not be lost sight
of. In 1859 he was sent out to the West Indies on official business;
and, although a landsman, he was able to propose a scheme of steamer
routes more convenient and more economical than those in existence,
”and, in the opinion of the hydrographer to the Admiralty, superior to
them even in a nautical point of view.”[221] Nevertheless, the scheme
had to wait long for adoption. Indeed, what scheme for betterment has
_not_ to wait long?

Whenever my father met with any foreign visitors of distinction, he
was bound, sooner or later, to ask them about postal matters in their
own country. The examined were of all ranks, from the King of the
Belgians to Garibaldi, the Italian patriot, whom he met at a public
banquet, and presently questioned as to the prospects of penny postage
in Italy. Garibaldi's interest in the subject was but languid; the
sword with him was evidently a more congenial weapon than the pen—or
postage stamp. When, later, Rowland Hill told his eldest brother of
the unsatisfactory interview, the latter was greatly amused, and said:
“When you go to Heaven I foresee that you will stop at the gate to
enquire of St Peter how many deliveries they have a day, and how the
expense of postal communication between Heaven and the other place is
defrayed.”

To the year 1862 belongs a veracious anecdote, which, although
it has no relation to postal history, is worth preserving from
oblivion because its heroine is a lady of exalted rank, who is held
in universal respect. In connection with the Great Exhibition of
that year, whose transplanted building has since been known as the
Alexandra Palace of North London, my father came to know the Danish
Professor Forchammer; and, when bound for the Post Office, often took
his way through the Exhibition, then in Hyde Park, and the Danish
Section in particular. One morning he found the Professor very busy
superintending a rearrangement of the pictures there. A portrait had
just been taken from the line in order that another, representing
a very attractive-looking young lady, which had previously been
“skied,” might be put into the more important place. The young lady's
father had not yet become a king, and the family was by no means
wealthy, which combination of circumstances perhaps accounted for
the portrait's former inconspicuous position. On my father's asking
the reason for the change, Professor Forchammer replied that a great
number of people was expected to visit that Section to-day to look at
the portrait, and it was imperative that it should be given the best
place there, in consequence of the announcement just made public that
the original was “engaged to marry your Prince of Wales.”

My father parted with great regret from Lord Clanricarde when the
Russell Administration went out of office. His kindness and courtesy,
his aptitude for work, his good sense and evident sincerity, had
caused the “Secretary to the Postmaster-General,” after a service of
nearly six years, to form a very high opinion of his chief.[222]

Lord Clanricarde's successor, Lord Hardwicke, belonged to the rough
diamond species; yet he tried his hardest to fulfil intelligently
and conscientiously the duties of his novel and far from congenial
office. He had a cordial dislike to jobbery of any kind, though once
at least he came near to acquiescing in a Parliamentary candidate's
artfully-laid plot suggesting the perpetration of a piece of
lavish and unnecessary expenditure in a certain town, the outlay
to synchronise with the candidate's election, and the merit to be
claimed by him. Happily, Lord Hardwicke's habitual lack of reticence
gave wiser heads the weapon with which to prevent so flagrant a job
from getting beyond the stage of mere suggestion. It was the man's
kind heart and dislike to give offence which doubtless led him into
indiscretions of the sort; but amiable as he was, he had at times
a knack of making people feel extremely uncomfortable, as when, in
conformity with his own ideas on the subject, he sought to regulate
the mutual relations of the two chief Secretaries, when he called
in all latchkeys—his own, however, included—and when, during his
first inspection of his new kingdom, he audibly asked, on entering
a large room full of employees, if he had “the power to dismiss all
these men.” The old sailor aimed at ruling the Post Office as he had
doubtless ruled his man-of-war, wasted time and elaborate minutes
on trivial matters—such as a return of the number of housemaids
employed—when important reforms needed attention, and had none of the
ability or breadth of view of his predecessor.

Lord Canning was my father's next chief, and soon showed himself
to be an earnest friend to postal reform. It was while he was
Postmaster-General, and mainly owing to his exertions, that in
1854 fulfilment was at last made of the promise given by Lord John
Russell's Government, to place the author of Penny Postage at
the head of the great department which controlled the country's
correspondence—a promise in consideration of which Rowland Hill, in
1846, had willingly sacrificed so much. When Lord Canning left the
Post Office to become Governor-General of India, my father felt as
if he had lost a lifelong friend; and he followed with deep interest
his former chiefs career in the Far East. During the anxious time
of struggle with the Mutiny, nothing pained my father more than the
virulent abuse which was often levelled at the far-seeing statesman
whose wise and temperate rule contributed so largely to preserve to
his country possession of that “brightest jewel of the crown” at
a season when most people in Britain lost their senses in a wild
outburst of fury. Lord Canning's management of India won, from
the first, his ex-lieutenant's warmest admiration. The judgment
of posterity—often more discerning, because less heated, than
contemporaneous opinion—has long since decided that “Clemency Canning”
did rightly. The nickname was used as a reproach at the time, but
the later title of “The Lord Durham of India” is meant as a genuine
compliment, or, better still, appreciation.[223]

The Duke of Argyll—he of the “silvern tongue”—succeeded Lord Canning,
and showed the same aptitude for hard work which had distinguished
his predecessors. His quickness of apprehension, promptitude in
generalisation, and that facility in composition which made of his
minutes models of literary style, were unusually great. When he left
the Post Office he addressed to its Secretary a letter of regret at
parting—an act of courtesy said to be rare. The letter was couched in
the friendliest terms, and the regret was by no means one-sided.

Lord Colchester, the Postmaster-General in Lord Derby's short-lived
second Administration, was another excellent chief, painstaking,
hard-working, high-minded, remarkably winning in manner, cherishing
a positive detestation of every kind of job, and never hesitating to
resist pressure on that score from whatever quarter it might come. His
early death was a distinct loss to the party to which he belonged.

For Lord Elgin, who, like Lord Canning, left the Post Office to
become Governor-General of India, my father entertained the highest
opinion alike as regarded his administrative powers, his calm and
dispassionate judgment, and his transparent straightforwardness of
character. “He is another Lord Canning,” the postal reformer used
to say; and that was paying his new chief the greatest compliment
possible.

So far, then, as my father's experience entitled him to judge,
there are few beliefs more erroneous than that which pictures these
political, and therefore temporary masters of the Post Office—or,
indeed, of other Governmental departments—as mere “ornamental
figure-heads,” drawing a handsome salary, and doing very little to
earn it. The same remark applies to my father's last chief, who was
certainly no drone, and who was ever bold in adopting any improvement
which seemed to him likely to benefit the service and the public.

Hitherto the reformer had been fortunate in the Postmasters-General
he had served under; and by this time—the beginning of the
'sixties—everything was working harmoniously, so that Mr (afterwards
Sir John) Tilly, the then Senior Assistant Secretary, when contrasting
the present with the past, was justified when he remarked that, “Now
every one seems to do his duty as a matter of course.”

But with the advent to power in 1860 of the seventh chief under whom
my father, while at the Post Office, served, there came a change;
and the era of peace was at an end. The new head may, like Lord
Canning, have had knowledge of that hostility to which the earlier
Postmaster-General, in conversation with Rowland Hill, alluded. But
if so, the effect on the later chief was very different from that
upon Lord Canning. At this long interval of time, there can be no
necessity to disinter the forgotten details of a quarrel that lasted
for four years, but which will soon be half a century old. Perhaps
the situation may be best expressed in the brief, and very far from
vindictive reference to it in my father's diary. “I had not,” he
wrote, “the good fortune to obtain from him that confidence and
support which I had enjoyed with his predecessors.” Too old, too
utterly wearied out with long years of almost incessant toil and
frequently recurring obstruction, too hopelessly out of health[224] to
cope with the new difficulties, the harassed postal reformer struggled
on awhile, and in 1864 resigned.

He was sixty-eight years of age, and from early youth upward, had
worked far harder than do most people. “He had,” said an old friend,
“packed into one man's life the life's work of two men.”[225]


FOOTNOTES:

[199] The Commissioners were Lord Elcho, Sir Stafford Northcote, Sir
Charles Trevelyan, and Mr Hoffay.

[200] “Life,” ii. 245-249.

[201] These were, of course, the “Peelites”—the members who, together
with their leader, had seceded from the Tory party on the Free Trade
question.

[202] “Life,” ii. 225, 226.

[203] “Life,” ii. 267.

[204] “Life,” ii. 317.

[205] A medical man had now been added to the staff, the first so
appointed being Dr Gavin, a much-esteemed official, who perished
untimely, if I remember rightly, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, during the
awful visitation there of the cholera epidemic of 1853.

[206] Afterwards diminished to eight.

[207] “Life,” ii. 298-301.

[208] “Life,” ii. 300. At this time the Post Office staff numbered
over 24,000, of whom more than 3,000 served in the London district.

[209] A thirty or more years old example of this rejection returns to
memory. A young man—a born soldier, and son to a distinguished officer
in the Engineers—failed to pass the inevitable Army examination.
The subject over which he broke down was some poem of Chaucer's, I
think the immortal Prologue to _The Canterbury Tales_—that wonderful
collection of masterly-drawn portraits of men and women who must have
been living people over five hundred years ago. Even an ardent lover
of him “whose sweet breath preluded those melodious bursts that fill
the spacious times of great Elizabeth with sounds that echo still,”
has never yet been able to perceive what connection the strains of
“Dan Chaucer, the first warbler,” can have with the science of modern
warfare. The born soldier, it was said, was fain to turn ranchman in
the American Far West.

[210] As regards this oft-discussed matter, it seems that
Herbert Spencer was of like mind with my father. Speaking in his
“Autobiography of Edison,” the great philosopher says that “that
remarkable, self-educated man” was of opinion that “college-bred men
were of no use to him. It is astonishing,” continues Herbert Spencer,
“how general, among distinguished engineers, has been the absence of
education, or of high education. James Brindley and George Stephenson
were without any early instruction at all: the one taught himself
writing when an apprentice, and the other put himself to school when
a grown man. Telford too, a shepherd boy, had no culture beyond
that which a parish school afforded. Though Smeaton and Rennie and
Watt had the discipline of grammar schools, and two of them that of
High Schools, yet in no case did they pass through a _curriculum_
appropriate to the profession they followed. Another piece of
evidence, no less remarkable, is furnished by the case of Sir Benjamin
Baker, who designed and executed the Forth Bridge—the greatest and
most remarkable bridge in the world, I believe. He received no regular
engineering instruction. Such men who, more than nearly all other
men, exercise constructive imagination, and rise to distinction only
when they are largely endowed with this faculty, seem thus to show by
implication the repressive influence of an educational system which
imposes ideas from without instead of evolving them from within.”
(“Autobiography,” i. 337, 338.) The remarks are the outcome of Herbert
Spencer's perusal of a biographical sketch of the celebrated engineer,
John Ericsson. In this occurred a significant passage: “When a friend
spoke to him with regret of his not having been graduated from some
technical institute, he answered that the fact, on the other hand,
was very fortunate. If he had taken a course at such an institution,
he would have acquired such a belief in authority that he would never
have been able to develop originality and make his own way in physics
and mechanics.”

[211] In writing of the discontents which occasionally troubled the
postal peace during the mid-nineteenth century, it must be clearly
understood that no allusion is intended to those of later times. In
this story of an old reform the latest year at the Post Office is
1864; therefore, since this is a chronicle of “ancient history” only,
comments on the troubles of modern days, which the chronicler does not
profess to understand, shall be scrupulously avoided.

[212] He never wasted his time in reading the attacks, even when some
good-natured friend occasionally asked: “Have you seen what Blank has
just written about you?”

[213] “Life,” ii. 328.

[214] Some of us enjoyed a capital view of the eclipse at Swindon in
fine weather and pleasant company. Our friend, Mr W. H. Wills, who was
also present, wrote an amusing account of the eclipse—appending to it,
however, a pretty story which never happened—in _Household Words_. The
eclipse was soon over, but the great astronomical treat of the year
was, of course, Donati's unforgettable comet, “a thing of beauty,”
though unfortunately not “a joy for ever,” which blazed magnificently
in the northern hemisphere for some few weeks.

[215] “Life,” ii. 334.

[216] Here was another reformer from outside the Post Office. Yet
one more was Sir Douglas Galton, who first proposed that the Post
Office should take over the telegraphic system. His father-in-law, Mr
Nicholson of Waverley Abbey, sent the then Captain Galton's paper on
the subject to Rowland Hill in 1852. The communication being private,
my father replied also privately, giving the project encouragement,
and leaving Captain Galton to take the next step. He submitted his
plan to the Board of Trade, whence it was referred to the Post Office.
The Postmaster-General, Lord Hardwicke, did not view the scheme with
favour, and it was dropped, to be resumed later within the Office
itself. Had Captain Galton's proposals been resolutely taken up in
1852, the British taxpayers might have been spared the heavy burden
laid upon them when, nearly twenty years later, the State purchase of
the Telegraphs was effected “at a cost at once so superfluous and so
enormous.” (“Life,” ii. 251, 252.)

[217] “Life,” ii. 335.

[218] “Report of the Select Committee on Postage (1843),” p. 41. Also
“Life,” ii. 336.

[219] Professor de Morgan was one of the many literary and scientific
men who took an interest in the book-post when first proposed. At the
outset it was intended that no writing of any sort, not even the name
of owner or donor, should be inscribed in a volume so sent, but the
Professor descanted so ably and wittily on the hardship of thus ruling
out of transit an innocent book, merely because, a century or more
ago, some hand had written on its fly-leaf, “Anne Pryse, her boke; God
give her grace therein to loke,” that not even the hardest-hearted
official, and certainly not my father, could have said him nay; and by
this time any writing, short of a letter, is allowed. The Professor
had a wonderfully-shaped head, his forehead towards the top being
abnormally prominent. He was devoted to mathematics, and gave much
time to their study; thus it used to be said by those who could not
otherwise account for his strange appearance, that the harder he
worked at his favourite study the keener grew the contest between the
restraining frontal bones and protruding brain, the latter perceptibly
winning the day. A delightful talker was this great mathematician,
also a pugilistic person, and on occasion not above using his fists
with effect. One day he was summoned for an assault, and duly appeared
in the police court. “I was walking quietly along the street,” began
the victim, “when Professor de Morgan came straight up to me——”
“That's a lie!” exclaimed the disgusted mathematician. “I came up to
you at an angle of forty-five degrees.” This anecdote has been given
to several eminent men, but Professor de Morgan was its real hero.

[220] By shear ability, industry, and steadiness, Mr Bokenham had
worked himself up from a humble position to high rank in the Post
Office. One day a rough but pleasant-looking man of the lower
agricultural class came to London from his and Mr Bokenham's native
East Anglia, and called at St Martin's-le-Grand. “What! Bill
Bokenham live in a house of this size!” he exclaimed. He had taken
the imposing, but far from beautiful edifice built in 1829 for his
cousin's private residence.

[221] “Life,” ii. 288.

[222] In Edmund Yates's “Recollections” many pleasant stories are told
of Lord Clanricarde, to whose kindness indeed the author owed his
appointment to the Post Office.

[223] “The close of his career as Postmaster-General,” wrote my father
many years later, “was highly characteristic. For some reason it was
convenient to the Government that he should retain his office until
the very day of his departure for the East. Doubtless it was expected
that this retention would be little more than nominal, or that, at
most, he would attend to none but the most pressing business, leaving
to his successor all such affairs as admitted of delay. When I found
that he continued to transact business just as usual, while I knew
that he must be encumbered with every kind of preparation, official,
personal, and domestic, I earnestly pressed that course upon him,
but in vain; he would leave no arrears, and every question, great or
small, which he had been accustomed to decide was submitted to him
as usual to the last hour of his remaining in the country. Nor was
decision even then made heedlessly or hurriedly, but, as before, after
full understanding.... In common with the whole world, I regarded
his premature death as a severe national calamity. He was earnest
and energetic in the moral reform of the Post Office, and had his
life been longer spared, might perhaps have been the moral reformer
of India.... That such a man, after acquiring a thorough knowledge
of myself, should have selected me for the difficult and responsible
post of Secretary to the Post Office, and have continued throughout
my attached friend, is to me a source of the highest gratification.”
(“Life,” ii. 353-355.)

[224] He had been still further crippled in 1860 by a paralytic
seizure which necessitated entire abstention from work for many
months, and from which he rallied, but with impaired health, although
he lived some nineteen years longer.

[225] “Life,” ii. 353-363. Yates, in his “Recollections,” gives
a vivid character sketch of this political head of the office.
The portrait is not flattering. But then Yates, who, like other
subordinates at St Martin's-le-Grand, had grievances of his own
against the man who was probably the most unpopular Postmaster-General
of his century, does not mince his words.



CHAPTER IX

THE SUNSET OF LIFE


In February 1864, Rowland Hill sent in his resignation to the Lords
of the Treasury. Thenceforward, he retired from public life, though
he continued to take a keen interest in all political and social
questions, and especially in all that concerned the Post Office.[226]
In drawing his pen-portrait, it is better that the judgment of a few
of those who knew him well should be quoted, rather than that of one
so nearly related to him as his present biographer.

[Illustration: _From a Portrait in_ “THE GRAPHIC.”

SIR ROWLAND HILL.]

In the concluding part to the “Life of Sir Rowland Hill and History of
Penny Postage,” partly edited, partly written by Dr G. Birkbeck Hill,
the latter, while reviewing the situation, justly holds that “In the
Post Office certainly” his uncle “should have had no master over him
at any time.” ... “Under the able chiefs whom he served from 1854 to
1860, he worked with full contentment.” When “this happy period came
to an end, with the appointment of” the Postmaster-General under whom
he found it impossible to work, “his force was once more, and for
the last time, squandered. How strangely and how sadly was this man
thwarted in the high aim of his life! He longed for power; but it
was for the power to carry through his great scheme. 'My plan' was
often on his lips, and ever in his thoughts. His strong mind was made
up that it should succeed.”... “There was in him a rare combination
of enthusiasm and practical power. He clearly saw every difficulty
that lay in his path, and yet he went on with unshaken firmness. In
everything but in work he was the most temperate of men. His health
was greatly shattered by his excessive toils and his long struggles.
For the last few years of his life he never left his house, and never
even left the floor on which his sleeping room was. But in the midst
of this confinement, in all the weakness of old age and sickness, he
wrote: 'I accept the evil with the good, and frankly regard the latter
as by far the weightier of the two. Could I repeat my course, I should
sacrifice as much as before, and regard myself as richly repaid by
the result.' With these high qualities was united perfect integrity.
He was the most upright and the most truthful of men. He was often
careless of any gain to himself, but the good of the State never for
one moment did he disregard. His rule was stern, yet never without
consideration for the feelings of others. No one who was under him
ever felt his self-respect wounded by his chief.[227] He left behind
him in all ranks of the service a strong sense of public duty which
outlived even the evil days which came after him. One of the men who
long served under him bore this high testimony to the character of his
old chief: 'Sir Rowland Hill was very generous with his own money, and
very close with public money. He would have been more popular had he
been generous with the public money and close with his own.'”[228]

When Mr Gladstone was Chancellor of the Exchequer, my father often
worked with him, their relations being most harmonious. Shortly
before the postal reformer's resignation, the great statesman wrote
that “he stands pre-eminent and alone among all the members of the
Civil Service as a benefactor to the nation.” At another time Mr
Gladstone assured his friend that “the support you have had from me
has been the very best that I could give, but had it been much better
and more effective, it would not have been equal to your deserts and
claims.” And at a later season, when Rowland Hill was suffering from
an especially virulent outbreak of the misrepresentation and petty
insults which fall to the lot of all fearlessly honest, job-detesting
men, the sympathising Chancellor wrote: “If you are at present
under odium for the gallant stand you make on behalf of the public
interests, at a period, too, when chivalry of that sort by no means
'pays,' I believe that I have, and I hope still to have, the honour
of sharing it with you.”[229] Writing soon after my father's death,
the then leader of the Opposition used words which Rowland Hill's
descendants have always prized. “In some respects his lot was one
peculiarly happy even as among public benefactors, for his great plan
ran like wildfire through the civilised world; and never, perhaps,
was a local invention (for such it was) and improvement applied in
the lifetime of its author to the advantage of such vast multitudes
of his fellow-creatures.” Ten years later, the same kindly critic, in
the course of a speech delivered at Saltney in October 1889, said:
”In the days of my youth a labouring man, the father of a family, was
practically prohibited from corresponding with the members of his
household who might be away. By the skill and courage and genius of
Sir Rowland Hill, correspondence is now within reach of all, and the
circulation of intelligence is greatly facilitated.”[230]

A very busy man himself, my father was naturally full of admiration
for Gladstone's marvellous capacity for work and for attending to a
number of different things at once. One day, when the Secretary to
the Post Office went to Downing Street to transact some departmental
business with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he found the latter
engaged with his private secretaries, every one of whom was hard at
work, a sculptor being meanwhile employed upon a bust for which the
great man was too much occupied to give regular sittings. Every now
and then during my father's interview, Mrs Gladstone, almost, if not
quite, as hard-working as her husband, came in and out, each time on
some errand of importance, and all the while letters and messengers
and other people were arriving or departing. Yet the Chancellor of the
Exchequer seemed able to keep that wonderful brain of his as clear as
if his attention had been wholly concentrated on the business about
which his postal visitor had come, and this was soon discussed and
settled in Gladstone's own clear and concise manner, notwithstanding
the should-have-been-bewildering surroundings, which would have driven
my father all but distracted. A characteristic, everyday scene of that
strenuous life.

On Rowland Hill's retirement, he received many letters of sympathy and
of grateful recognition of his services from old friends and former
colleagues, most of them being men of distinguished career. They
form a valuable collection of autographs, which would have been far
larger had not many of his early acquaintances, those especially who
worked heartily and well during the late 'thirties to help forward the
reform, passed over already to the majority. One letter was from Lord
Monteagle, who, as Mr Spring Rice, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the
Melbourne Administration, had proposed Penny Postage in the Budget of
1839.

Prolonged rest gave back to Rowland Hill some of his old strength, and
allowed him to serve on the Royal Commission on Railways, and to show
while so employed that his mind had lost none of its clearness. He was
also able on several occasions to attend the meetings of the Political
Economy Club and other congenial functions, and he followed with keen
interest the doings of the Royal Astronomical Society, to which he had
belonged for more than half a century.[231] He also spent much time
in preparing the lengthy autobiography on whose pages I have largely
drawn in writing this story of his reform. He survived his retirement
from the Post Office fifteen years; and time, with its happy tendency
to obliterate memory of wrongs, enabled him to look back on the old
days of storm and stress with chastened feelings. Over several of
his old opponents the grave had closed, and for the rest, many years
had passed since they and he had played at move and counter-move.
Thus, when the only son of one of his bitterest adversaries died
under especially sad circumstances, the news called forth the aged
recluse's ever ready sympathy, and prompted him to send the bereaved
parent a genuinely heartfelt message of condolence. Increasing age
and infirmities did not induce melancholy or pessimistic leanings,
and although he never ceased to feel regret that his plan had not
been carried out in its entirety—a regret with which every reformer,
successful or otherwise, is likely to sympathise—he was able in
one of the concluding passages of his Autobiography to write thus
cheerfully of his own position and that of his forerunners in the same
field: “When I compare my experience with that of other reformers or
inventors, I ought to regard myself as supremely fortunate. Amongst
those who have laboured to effect great improvements, how many have
felt their success limited to the fact that by their efforts seed was
sown which in another age would germinate and bear fruit! How many
have by their innovations exposed themselves to obliquy, ridicule,
perhaps even to the scorn and abhorrence of at least their own
generation; and, alas, how few have lived to see their predictions
more than verified, their success amply acknowledged, and their deeds
formally and gracefully rewarded!”[232]

Owing to the still quieter life which, during his very latest years,
he was obliged to lead through broken health, advancing age, and the
partial loneliness caused by the passing hence of his two eldest
brothers, one of his children, and nearly all his most intimate
friends, he was nearly forgotten by the public, or at any rate by that
vastly preponderating younger portion of it, which rarely studies “the
history of our own times,” or is only dimly aware that Rowland Hill
had “done something to the Post Office.” Many people believed him to
be dead, others that he was living in a retirement not altogether
voluntary. Thus one day he was greatly amused while reading his
morning paper, to learn that at a spiritualist meeting his wraith had
been summoned from the vasty deep, and asked to give its opinion on
the then management of the Post Office. The helm at that time was in
the hands of one of the bitterest of his old opponents, and sundry
things had lately taken place—notably, if memory serves me aright,
in the way of extravagant telegraphs purchase—of which he strongly
disapproved. But that fact by no means prevented the spirit from
expressing entire satisfaction with everything and everybody at St
Martin's-le-Grand, or from singling out for particular commendation
the then novel invention of halfpenny postcards. These the living man
cordially detested as being, to his thinking, a mischievous departure
from his principle of uniformity of rate.[233] Later, he so far
conformed to the growing partiality for postcards as to keep a packet
or two on hand, but they diminished in number very slowly, and he was
ever wont to find fault with the unfastidious taste of that large
portion of mankind which writes descriptions of its maladies, details
of its private affairs, and moral reflections on the foibles of its
family or friends, so that all who run, or, at any rate, sort and
deliver, may read.

During the quarter-century which elapsed between Rowland Hill's
appointment to the Treasury and his resignation of the chief
secretaryship to the Post Office, many generous tributes were paid him
by the public in acknowledgment of the good accomplished by the postal
reform.

The year after the establishment of penny postage, Wolverhampton,
Liverpool, and Glasgow, each sent him a handsome piece of plate, the
Liverpool gift, a silver salver, being accompanied by a letter from
Mr Egerton Smith, the editor of the local _Mercury_. Mr Smith told my
father that the salver had been purchased with the pence contributed
by several thousands of his fellow-townsmen, and that Mr Mayer, in
whose works it had been made, and by whom it was delivered into the
postal reformer's hands, had waived all considerations of profit, and
worked out of pure gratitude. The other pieces of plate were also
accompanied by addresses couched in the kindliest of terms.

From Cupar Fife came a beautiful edition of the complete works
of Sir Walter Scott—ninety-eight volumes in all. In each is a
fly-leaf stating for whom and for what services this unique edition
was prepared, the inscription being as complimentary as were the
inscriptions accompanying the other testimonials. My father was
a lifelong admirer of Scott; and when the Cupar Fife Testimonial
Committee wrote to ask what form their tribute should take, he was
unfeignedly glad to please his Scots admirers by choosing the works
of their most honoured author, and, at the same time, by possessing
them, to realise a very many years long dream of his own. As young
men, he and his brothers had always welcomed each successive work as
it fell from pen and press, duly receiving their copy direct from
the publishers, and straightway devouring it. Younger generations
have decided that Scott is “dry.” Had they lived in those dark, early
decades of the nineteenth century, when literature was perhaps at
its poorest level, they also might have greeted with enthusiasm
the creations of “the Great Unknown,” and wondered who could be
their author.[234] My father set so high a value on these beautiful
presentation volumes that, from the first, he laid down a stringent
rule that not one of them should leave the house, no matter who might
wish to borrow it.

The National Testimonial—to which allusion has already been made—was
raised about three years after Rowland Hill's dismissal from the
Treasury, and before his restoration to office by Lord John Russell's
Administration, by which time the country had given the new postal
system a trial, and found out its merits. In 1845 Sir George Larpent,
in the name of the Mercantile Committee, sent my father a copy of
its Resolutions, together with a cheque for £10,000, the final
presentation being deferred till the accounts should be made up.
This was done in June 1846, on the occasion of a public dinner at
which were assembled Rowland Hill's aged father, his only son—then a
lad of fourteen—and his brothers, in addition to many of those good
friends who had done yeoman service for the reform. The idea of the
testimonial originated with Mr John Estlin,[235] an eminent surgeon of
Bristol, and was speedily taken up in London by _The Inquirer_, the
article advocating it being written by the editor, the Rev. Wm. Hinks.
The appeal once started was responded to by the country cordially and
generously.

Many pleasant little anecdotes show how heartily the poorer classes
appreciated both reform and reformer. Being, in 1853, on a tour in
Scotland, my father one day employed a poor journeyman tailor of
Dunoon to mend a torn coat. Somehow the old man found out who was
its wearer, and no amount of persuasion would induce him to accept
payment for the rent he so skilfully made good. A similar case
occurred somewhat earlier, when we were staying at Beaumaris; while a
“humble admirer” who gave no name wrote, a few years later than the
presentation of the National Testimonial, to say that at the time he
had been too poor to subscribe, but now sent a donation, which he
begged my father to accept. His identity was never revealed. Another
man wrote a letter of thanks from a distant colony, and not knowing
the right address, inscribed the cover “To him who gave us all the
Penny Post.” Even M. Grasset, when in a similar difficulty, directed
his envelope from Paris to “Rowland Hill—where he is.” That these
apologies for addresses can be reproduced is proof that the missives
reached their destination.[236]

It would be easy to add to these stories; their name is legion.

Tributes like these touched my father even more deeply than the
bestowal of public honours, although he also prized these as showing
that his work was appreciated in all grades of life. Moreover, in
those now far-off days, “honours” were bestowed more sparingly and
with greater discrimination than later came to be the case; and merit
was considered of more account than money-bags. Thus in 1860 Rowland
Hill was made a K.C.B., the suggestion of that step being understood
to lie with Lords Palmerston and Elgin (the then Postmaster-General),
for the recipient had not been previously sounded, and the gift came
as a surprise.

After my father's retirement, the bestowal of honours recommenced,
though he did _not_ assume the title of “Lord Queen's head,” as Mr
Punch suggested he should do were a peerage offered to him—which was
not at all likely to be done. At Oxford he received the honorary
degree of D.C.L.,[237] and a little later was presented by the then
Prince of Wales with the first Albert Gold Medal issued by the
Society of Arts. The following year, when Rowland Hill was dining at
Marlborough House, the Prince reminded him of the presentation. Upon
which the guest told his host a little story which was news to H.R.H.,
and greatly amused him. The successive blows required for obtaining
high relief on the medal had shattered the die before the work was
completed. There was not time to make another die, as it was found
impossible to postpone the ceremony. At the moment of presentation,
however, the recipient only, and not the donor, was aware that it was
an empty box which, with much interchange of compliments, passed from
the royal hands into those of the commoner.

From Longton, in the Staffordshire Potteries, came a pair of very
handsome vases. When the workmen engaged in making them learned for
whom they were intended, they bargained that, by way of contribution
to the present, they should give their labour gratuitously.

An address to Rowland Hill was voted at a town's meeting at Liverpool,
and this was followed by the gift of some valuable pictures. Their
selection being left to my father himself, he chose three, one work
each, by friends of long standing—his ex-pupil Creswick, and Messrs
Cooke and Clarkson Stanfield, all famous Royal Academicians. Three
statues of the postal reformer have been erected, the first at
Birmingham, where, soon after his resignation, a town's meeting was
held to consider how to do honour to the man whose home had once been
there, the originator of the movement being another ex-pupil, Mr
James Lloyd of the well-known banking family. From Kidderminster his
fellow-townsmen sent my father word that they were about to pay him
the same compliment they had already paid to another Kidderminster
man, the famous preacher, Richard Baxter. But this newer statue, like
the one by Onslow Ford in London,[238] was not put up till after
the reformer's death. Of the three, the Kidderminster statue,
by Thomas Brock, R.A., is by far the best, the portrait being good
and the pose characteristic. Mr Brock has also done justice to his
subject's strongest point, the broad, massive head suggestive of the
large, well-balanced brain within. That the others were not successful
as likenesses is not surprising. Even when living he was difficult
to portray, a little bust by Brodie, R.S.A., when Rowland Hill was
about fifty, being perhaps next best to Brock's. The small bust in
Westminster Abbey set up in the side chapel where my father lies
is absolutely unrecognisable. Another posthumous portrait was the
engraving published by Vinter (Lithographer to the Queen). It was
taken from a photograph then quite a quarter-century old. Photography
in the early 'fifties was comparatively a young art. Portraits were
often woeful caricatures; and the photograph in our possession was
rather faded, so that the lithographer had no easy task before him.
Still, the likeness was a fair one, though the best of all—and they
were admirable—were an engraving published by Messrs Kelly of the
“Post Office Directory,” and one which appeared in the _Graphic_.

[Illustration:

  _From a Photograph by the late T. Ball._

THE STATUE, KIDDERMINSTER.

By Thomas Brock, R.A.]

In June 1879, less than three months before his death, the Freedom of
the City of London was bestowed upon the veteran reformer. By this
time he had grown much too infirm to go to the Guildhall to receive
the honour in accordance with long-established custom. The Court of
Common Council therefore considerately waived precedent, and sent to
Hampstead a deputation of five gentlemen,[239] headed by the City
Chamberlain, who made an eloquent address, briefly describing the
benefits achieved by the postal reform, while offering its dying
author “the right hand of fellowship in the name of the Corporation.”
My father was just able to sign the Register, but the autograph is
evidence of the near approach to dissolution of the hand that traced
it.

On the 27th of August in the same year he passed away in the presence
of his devoted wife, who, barely a year his junior, had borne up
bravely and hardly left his bedside, and of one other person. Almost
his last act of consciousness was, while holding her hand in his, to
feel for the wedding ring he had placed upon it nearly fifty-two years
before.

My father's noblest monument is his reform which outlives him, and
which no reactionary Administration should be permitted to sweep away.
The next noblest is the “Rowland Hill Benevolent Fund,” whose chief
promoters were Sir James Whitehead and Mr R. K. Causton, and was
the fruit of a subscription raised soon after the postal reformer's
death, doubled, eleven years later, by the proceeds of the two Penny
Postage Jubilee celebrations, the one at the Guildhall and the other
at the South Kensington Museum, in 1890. Had it been possible to
consult the dead man's wishes as to the use to be made of this fund,
he would certainly have given his voice for the purpose to which it
is dedicated—the relief of those among the Post Office employees who,
through ill-health, old age, or other causes, have broken down, and
are wholly or nearly destitute. For, having himself graduated in the
stern school of poverty, he too had known its pinch, and could feel
for the poor as the poor are ever readiest to feel.

My father's fittest epitaph is contained in the following poem which
appeared in _Punch_ soon after his death. His family have always, and
rightly, considered that no more eloquent or appreciative obituary
notice could have been penned.


In Memoriam

ROWLAND HILL

ORIGINATOR OF CHEAP POSTAGE

     Born at Kidderminster, 3rd December 1795. Died at Hampstead, 27th
     August 1879. Buried in Westminster Abbey, by the side of James
     Watt, Thursday, 4th September.

  No question this of worthy's right to lie
    With England's worthiest, by the side of him
  Whose brooding brain brought under mastery
    The wasted strength of the Steam giant grim.

  Like labours—his who tamed by sea and land
    Power, Space, and Time, to needs of human kind,
  That bodies might be stronger, nearer hand,
    And his who multiplied mind's links with mind.

  Breaking the barriers that, of different height
    For rich and poor, were barriers still for all;
  Till “out of mind” was one with “out of sight,”
    And parted souls oft parted past recall.

  Freeing from tax unwise the interchange
    Of distant mind with mind and mart with mart;
  Releasing thought from bars that clipped its range;
    Lightening a load felt most i' the weakest part.

  What if the wings he made so strong and wide
    Bear burdens with their blessings? Own that all
  For which his bold thought we oft hear decried,
    Of laden bag, too frequent postman's call,

  Is nothing to the threads of love and light
    Shot, thanks to him, through life's web dark and wide,
  Nor only where he first unsealed men's sight,
    But far as pulse of time and flow of tide!

  Was it a little thing to think this out?
    Yet none till he had hit upon the thought;
  And, the thought brought to birth, came sneer and flout
    Of all his insight saw, his wisdom taught.

  All office doors were closed against him—hard;
    All office heads were closed against him too.
  He had but worked, like others, for reward.
    “The thing was all a dream.” “It would not do.”

  But this was not a vaguely dreaming man,
    A windbag of the known Utopian kind;
  He had thought out, wrought out, in full, his plan;
    'Twas the far-seeing fighting with the blind.

  And the far-seeing won his way at last,
    Though pig-headed Obstruction's force died hard;
  Denied his due, official bitters cast,
    Into the cup wrung slowly from their guard.

  But not until the country, wiser far
    Than those who ruled it, with an angry cry,
  Seeing its soldiers 'gainst it waging war,
    At last said resolutely, “Stand you by!

  “And let him in to do what he has said,
    And you do not, and will not let him do.”
  And so at last the fight he fought was sped,
    Thought at less cost freer and further flew.

  And all the world was kindlier, closer knit,
    And all man's written word can bring to man
  Had easier ways of transit made for it,
    And none sat silent under poortith's ban

  When severed from his own, as in old days.
    And this we owe to one sagacious brain,
  By one kind heart well guided, that in ways
    Of life laborious sturdy strength had ta'en.

  And his reward came, late, but sweeter so,
    In the wide sway that his wise thought had won:
  He was as one whose seed to tree should grow,
    Who hears him blest that sowed it 'gainst the sun.

  So love and honour made his grey hairs bright,
    And while most things he hoped to fulness came,
  And many ills he warred with were set right,
    Good work and good life joined to crown his name.

  And now that he is dead we see how great
    The good work done, the good life lived how brave,
  And through all crosses hold him blest of fate,
    Placing this wreath upon his honoured grave!

                             —_Punch_, 20th September 1879


FOOTNOTES:

[226] On leaving office he drew up a short paper entitled, “Results of
Postal Reform,” a copy of which appears in the Appendix.

[227] He was, indeed, never likely to err as once did the unpopular
Postmaster-General who summoned to his presence the head of one of the
departments to give an explanation of some difficult matter that was
under consideration. The interview was bound to be lengthy, but the
unfortunate man was not invited to take a chair, till Rowland Hill,
who was also present, rose, and, by way of silent protest against an
ill-bred action, remained standing. Then both men were asked to sit
down.

[228] “Life,” ii. 411-414.

[229] “Life,” ii. 363, 400.

[230] It is well to reproduce these remarks of one who could remember
the old postal system, because among the younger generations who know
nothing of it, a belief seems to be prevalent that the plan of penny
postage was merely an elaboration of the little local posts. Gladstone
was thirty when the great postal reform was established, and was
therefore fully qualified to speak of it as he did.

[231] His love for “the Queen of all the Sciences” was gratified one
cloudless day in the late autumn of his life by following through his
telescope the progress of a transit of Mercury, which he enjoyed with
an enthusiasm that was positively boyish. An early lesson in astronomy
had been given him one wintry night by his father, who, with the
little lad, had been taking a long walk into the country. On their
return, young Rowland, being tired, finished the journey seated on his
father's back, his arms clasped round the paternal neck. Darkness came
on, and in the clear sky the stars presently shone out brilliantly.
The two wayfarers by and by passed beside a large pond, in which, the
evening being windless, the stars were reflected. Seeing how admirable
an astral map the placid waters made, the father stopped and pointed
out the constellations therein reproduced, naming them to his little
son. The boy eagerly learned the lesson, but his joy was somewhat
tempered by the dread lest he should fall into what, to his childish
fancy, looked like a fathomless black abyss. Happily, his father had a
firm grasp of Rowland's clinging arms, and no accident befell him.

[232] “Life,” ii. 401.

[233] A more recent instance of killing a man before he is dead, and
raising his spirit to talk at a _séance_, was that of Mr Sherman,
the American statesman. His ghost expatiated eloquently on the
beauties and delights of Heaven—with which region, as he was still in
the land of the living, he could hardly have made acquaintance—and
altogether uttered much unedifying nonsense. The following veracious
anecdotes show what hazy views on history, postal or otherwise, some
children, and even their elders, entertain. A school mistress who
had recently passed with honours through one of our “Seminaries of
Useless Knowledge,” was asked by a small pupil if Rowland Hill had
not invented the penny post. “No, my dear,” answered the learned
instructress. “The penny post has been established in this country for
hundreds of years. All that Rowland Hill did was to put the Queen's
head on to a penny stamp.” The other story is of a recent _viva voce_
examination in English history at one of our large public schools.
“Who was Rowland Hill?” was the question. “Rowland Hill,” came without
hesitation the reply, though not from the grand-nephew who was
present and is responsible for the tale, “was a man who was burned
for heresy.” Could the boy have been thinking of Rowland Taylor, a
Marian martyr? The fact that my father was not exactly orthodox, lends
piquancy to the story.

[234] While we were children our father used often to read aloud to
us—as a schoolmaster and elocutionist he was a proficient in that
comparatively rare art—and in course of time we thus became acquainted
with nearly all these books. He probably missed the occasional lengthy
introductory chapters and other parts which well bear pruning, for
memory holds no record of their undeniable tediousness. We certainly
did not find Scott “dry.” Why should we? Through him we came to know
chivalric Saladin, David of Huntingdon, and tawny-haired Richard of
the Lion's heart; to love the noble Rebecca, and to assist at the
siege of Torquilstone Castle; to look on at the great fight between
the Clan Chattan and the Clan Quhele, and to mourn over Rothesay's
slow, cruel doing to death; to know kings and queens, and companies
of gallant knights and lovely ladies, and free-booters like Rob Roy
and Robin Hood, and wits and eccentric characters who were amusing
without being vulgar or impossible. Also was it not Sir Walter who
“discovered” Scotland for our delight, and through that discovery
contributed largely to his native land's prosperity?

[235] The Mercantile Committee suggested a National Testimonial in
March 1844, but Mr Estlin's proposal was yet earlier.

[236] A third letter to the postal reformer, also delivered, came
directed to the General Post Office to “Mr Owl O Neill.” Owing to
the present spread of education, the once numerous (and genuine)
specimens of eccentric spelling are yearly growing fewer, so that
the calling of “blind man”—as the official decipherer of illegible
and ill-spelled addresses is not very appropriately termed—is likely
to become obsolete. It would surely have given any ordinary mortal
a headache to turn “Uncon” into Hong-Kong, “Ilawait” into Isle of
Wight, “I Vicum” into High Wycombe, “Searhoo Skur” into Soho Square,
or “Vallop a Razzor” into Valparaiso. Education will also deprive us
of insufficiently addressed letters. “Miss Queene Victoria of England”
did perhaps reach her then youthful Majesty from some Colonial or
American would-be correspondent; but what could have been done with
the letter intended for “My Uncle Jon in London,” or that to “Mr Michl
Darcy in the town of England”? The following pair of addresses are
unmistakably Hibernian. “Dennis Belcher, Mill Street, Co. Cork. As you
turn the corner to Tom Mantel's field, where Jack Gallavan's horse was
drowned in the bog-hole,” and “Mr John Sullivan, North Street, Boston.
He's a man with a crutch. Bedad, I think that'll find him.” That the
French Post Office also required the services of “blind man” these
strange addresses, taken from Larouse's “Dictionnaire du XIXe Siècle,”
vol. xii. p. 1,497, demonstrate. The first, “À monsieur mon fils à
Paris,” reached its destination because it was called for at the chief
office, where it had been detained, by a young man whose explanation
satisfied the enquiring official. Whether the letter addressed to
Lyon, and arriving at a time of thaw, “À M. M., demeurant dans la
maison auprès de laquelle il y a un tas de neige” was delivered is not
so certain.

[237] He had long before added to his name the justly-prized initials
of F.R.S. and F.R.A.S.

[238] This last statue had not long been unveiled when the street
boys—so reported one of our newspapers—began to adorn the pedestal
with postage stamps.

[239] These were Mr Washington Lyon, mover of the resolution; Sir John
Bennett, the seconder; Mr Peter M'Kinley, the Chairman of General
Purposes Committee; Mr (afterwards Sir Benjamin) Scott, F.R.A.S., the
City Chamberlain; and Mr (afterwards Sir John) Monckton, F.S.A., the
Town Clerk.



APPENDIX

RESULTS OF POSTAL REFORM


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;[240] and
that the rate formerly charged for this slight distance—viz. 4d.—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 rates.

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 M.S. 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 1s. to 4d., 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
system.

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 dispatch 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 12-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
employees 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.


RESULTS

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 to about £3,870,000, and the net
from £1,660,000 to about £1,790,000.[241]

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. 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; while the net
revenue, instead of falling £300,000, has risen more than £100,000.

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 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 to
£16,494,000, 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
course.

It may be added that the organisation 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 civilised 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.

      HAMPSTEAD,
  _23rd February 1864_.


FOOTNOTES:

[240] When my plan was published, the lowest General Post rate was
4d.; but while the plan was under the consideration of Government the
rate between post towns not more than 8 miles asunder was reduced from
4d. to 2d.

[241] 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.



INDEX


  Abbott, Sec. P.O., Scotland, 259

  Aberdeen, 54, 206

  Abolition of postal tolls over Menai and Conway bridges
        and Scottish border, 161;
    of money prepayment, 228

  Account-keeping, official (blunders in), 174, 175;
    postal, 62-64, 105, 106, 175;
    practically revolutionised, 219

  Accountant-General, the, 175

  Adelaide, South Australia, 19

  Adhesive stamps. (See Postage stamps)

  Admiralty, the, 174, 236

  Advertisement duty, the, 97

  Adviser to the P.O., 214

  Afghanistan, war in, 176

  Aggrieved lady, an, 274

  Air-gun, the, 200

  Airy, Sir G. B., Astronomer Royal, 34

  Albert Gold Medal, story of an, 299

  Algeria, 14

  Algerine Ambassador, the, 14

  Allen, Ralph, postal reformer, 55, 71, 77

  _All the Year Round_, 267

  Amalgamation of two corps of letter-carriers, the, 41, 155

  “Ambassador's bag,” the, 43

  Ambleside, 132, 204

  American Chamber of Commerce, the, 68

  —— colonies, revolt of the, 17;
    and the paper-duty stamp, 188

  —— rancher, an, 260

  Amiens, the Peace of, 35, 88

  Angas, Mr G. F., 19

  “Anne Pryse, her boke,” 272

  Annual motion, Mr Villiers', 24

  —— Reports of the Postmaster-General, 171, 176, 250

  Annular eclipse of the sun, 266

  Anonymous letters, 225, 264, 265

  “Anti-Corn-Law Catechism,” the, 143;
    League, the, 142, 143, 178

  Appointments, the power to make, transferred to Post Office, 246;
    excellent appointments made by Colonel Maberly, 248;
    best rules for, 209, 261

  Archer's perforation patent, 200

  Argyll, Duke of. (See Postmasters-General)

  Armstrong, Sir Wm. (Lord Armstrong), 242

  Army and Navy, the, 176;
    letters and money orders (Crimean War), 140

  Arnott, Dr Niel, 28

  Artist, a puzzled, 203

  Ashburton, Lord, 39, 124

  Ashley, Lord. (See Shaftesbury)

  Ashurst, Mr Wm., 114

  “As if they were all M.P.s,” 131

  Association for abolition of taxes on knowledge, 97

  Astronomical Society, the Royal, 291

  Astronomy, 6, 81;
    an early lesson in, 291

  Athenæum Club, 31, 237;
    newspaper, 29

  Atterbury, trial of Bishop, 114

  Auction sale of lost articles, 271

  Augean stable, an, 180

  Augier, M., 79

  Australia, 19, 65;
    mails to, 237, 238

  Austria, 37;
    adopts postal reform, 251

  Authors who draw on their imagination for their facts, 186-189

  “Autobiographic Sketches,” De Quincey, 16

  Average postage on letters, the, 41, 165


  Back-stairs influence, 178-181

  Bacon, Mr (Messrs Perkins, Bacon & Co.), 207

  Bad bargains, the State's, 262

  Baden adopts postal reform, 251

  Baines family, the (_Leeds Mercury_), 117, 267

  Baker, Sir B., 261

  Balcombe, Miss B., 27, 28

  Bancroft, United States' historian, 134

  Bandiera, the brothers, 114

  Bankers' franks, 45

  “Barbary Corsairs, The,” 15

  Baring brothers, the, 114

  ——, Sir F., 138;
    a zealous chief, 145;
    first interview with, 149;
    discusses terms of engagement with R. H., 149-153;
    his friendly attitude, 154;
    distrusts principle of prepayment, 160;
    suggests compulsory use of stamps, 161;
    satisfied with result of tentative rate, 162;
    uneasy at increase of expenditure, 171;
    his indignation at R. H.'s dismissal, 178;
    dreads possible raising of postal rates, 181;
    on suggested revival of old system, 212

  “Barnaby Rudge,” 224

  Bates, Mr (Messrs Baring Brothers), 114

  Bath, 71, 77, 82

  Bavaria adopts postal reform, 251

  Baxter, Richard, 300

  Beaumaris, 297

  “Bedchamber Difficulty,” the, 144

  Belated letter, a, 148

  Belgians, King of the, 278

  Belgium, 109;
    adopts postal reform, 251, 252

  Bennett, Sir J., 302

  Bentham, Jeremy, 13, 34

  Bentinck, Mr, M.P., 211

  Bernadotte, 14

  Bertram, Mr, “Some Memories of Books,” 59

  Bianconi, “the Palmer of Ireland,” 88

  Bible, the, 72

  Birmingham, 7, 8, 10, 11, 66, 67, 84, 88, 113, 133, 162, 274

  Blackstone on our criminal code, 9

  Black wall, 75

  Blanc, Louis, 38

  “Blind man,” the, in England and France, 298

  Blue Books, 100, 102;
    a model one, 129

  Blue Coat School, the, 1

  Board of Stamps and Taxes (Inland Revenue), the, 119, 188, 197

  —— Trade, 268

  —— Works, 249, 250, 256

  Bodichon, Mme. B. L. S., 36, 118

  Bokenham, Mr, Head of the Circulation Department, 164, 275, 276

  Bolton-King, Mr, 114

  “Bomba,” King, 37

  Bonner, post official, 84

  ——, A. and H. B., 195

  Book post, the, 272, 273

  Boswell's “Life of Johnson,” 112

  Bourbons, the, 114

  Bowring, Sir J., 35

  Boythorn, Mr, 277

  Brandram, Mr, 18

  Brawne, Fanny, 29

  Brazil adopts postal reform, 251

  Breakdown prophesied, a, 122

  Bremen adopts postal reform, 251

  Brewin, Mr, 41, 42, 67

  Bridport, 130, 213

  Brierley Hill, 50

  Bright, John, 143

  Brighton, 30, 182-184, 249, 250

  Brindley, Jas., 260, 261

  Bristol, 84, 124, 297

  British Linen Co., the, 66

  “British Postal Guide,” the, 251

  Brobdingnagian and Lilliputian letters, 116

  Brock, Thos., R.A., 301

  Brodie, Wm., R.S.A., 301

  Brompton, 57

  Brookes, Mr, 167

  Brougham, Lord, 36, 80, 139, 140

  Brown, Sir Wm., 39, 124

  Browning, Eliz. Barrett, 163

  Bruce Castle, 14, 16, 18, 95

  Brunswick adopts postal reform, 251

  Budget of 1839, penny postage proposed in the, 135

  Building and correspondence, relative sizes of, 121

  Bull-baiting, etc., 25

  Burgoyne, Sir J., 44

  Burke, Edmund, 35

  Burritt, Elihu, 229

  Busy day, a, 289, 290

  Butler, S., “Hudibras,” 5


  Cabful of Blue Books, a, 100

  Calais, 56

  Calverley, 22

  Cambridge, 19

  ——, Duchess of, 164;
    Princess Mary of, 164

  Campbell-Bannerman, Lady, 141

  Campbell, Lord, 85, 241

  Canada, postal rates to, 56;
    extension of Money Order System to, 220

  Canals and Railway charges, 230, 231

  “Candling” letters, 52, 54, 64, 105

  Canning, Lord. (See Postmasters-General)

  Cape of Good Hope, Steamship Co., 236, 237, 238

  Carlyle, Thos., 114

  Carrick-on-Shannon, 77

  Carriers and others as smugglers, 66-69

  “Carroll, Lewis,” 179

  Carter, Rev. J., 25

  “Castle Rackrent,” etc., 34

  Catholic Emancipation, 26, 81, 88

  —— gentleman despoiled, a, 88

  Causton, Mr R. K., M.P., 302

  Caxton Exhibition, the, 22

  Celestial and other postal arrangements, 278

  Census return (1841), 166

  “Century of progress,” the, 91

  Chadwick, Sir E., 28

  Chalmers, Mr, M.P., 120

  ——, Jas., 189-193

  ——, P., 193, 194

  “Chambers' Encyclopædia,” 192, 193

  ——, Wm. and Robert, 31, 140

  Chancellors of the Exchequer—
    Spring Rice (Lord Monteagle), 111, 135, 138, 145
    Sir F. Baring, 138, 145, 149-153, 154, 160, 161, 162, 171
    H. Goulburn, 173, 177
    Sir Geo. Cornwall Lewis, 219
    B. Disraeli, 247. (See also Disraeli)
    Gladstone, 268, 288, 289. (See also Gladstone)

  Chancery Lane, 21, 22

  “Change of style, the,” 81

  Channel Isles, 77, 156

  Charing Cross and Brompton, postage between, 57

  Charles II., 173

  “Chartist Day,” 223, 224

  Chaucer, 8, 260

  Chester, 74

  Chevalier, M., 159, 160

  Cheverton, Mr, 198

  Chile adopts postal reform, 251

  China, war with, 176

  Cholera at Haddington, 4

  Christmas-boxes, 264

  “Chronicles,” Second Book of, 72

  Civil Service Commissioners and examinations, 257-261

  —— war in the United States predicted, 230

  Claimants to authorship of postal reform or postage
        stamps, 49, 53, 189-195

  Clanricarde, Lord. (See Postmasters-General)

  Clark, Professor, 206

  ——, Sir Jas., 34

  ——, Thos., 7

  Claude, 17, 33, 34

  Clerks, duties of, under old system, 64

  Coaches. (See Mail coaches)

  Cobden, R., 65, 109, 141;
    his letters to R. H., 143, 178

  —— Club, 19

  Coin-bearing letters, 270

  Colby, General, 123

  Colchester, Lord. (See Postmasters-General)

  Cole, Mr (Sir Henry), 114, 115, 190, 191, 198

  Coleridge, S. T., 29, 60

  Collection of postage in coin, 62, 63, 105

  Colonial penny postage, 230

  Colonies, the, 17, 188, 230

  Colonisation Commissioners for South Australia, 19

  Comet of 1858, the, 266

  Commission on Packet Service, the, 235

  —— on Railways, 291

  —— to revise salaries of postal employees, 245, 246

  Commissioners, Civil Service. (See Civil Service, etc.)

  —— of Inland Revenue, Reports of the, 63, 95

  —— of Post Office Inquiry, the, 98, 99, 142, 196, 197

  Committee of Inquiry (1788), 80

  —— on Postage, the Select (1838), 42, 58, 65, 67-69, 103, 119,
      121-130, 142, 169, 270;
   on Postage (1843), 142, 169

  —— on canal and railway charges, 230, 231

  Compulsory prepayment of postage, 269

  Congestion at St Martin's-le-Grand, 256

  Conservatives and Peelites, 247

  Constantinople, 57

  Conveyance of inland mails. (See Mails)

  Conway bridge, 54, 161

  Cooke, Wm., R.A., 34, 300

  Corn Laws, the, 81, 111, 141, 143, 169

  Corporal punishment abolished at Hazelwood, 12

  Correction “removed by order,” a, 175

  Correspondence and building: should they agree in size? 121

  Cost of conveyance of letters between London and Edinburgh, 103

  Coulson, Mr, 34

  Cowper, Mr E., 21

  Cox, David, 18

  Craik, Mrs (Mulock, Miss), 31

  Creswick, Thos., R.A., 13, 34, 300

  Crimean War, 140, 182

  “Criminal Capitalists,” Edwin Hill, 95

  Croker, J. W., 112

  Cross-posts, the, 55

  “Crowd” of petitions, a, 113

  Crowe family, the, 30

  Crump, Mrs Lucy, 112

  Crusaders and others, 40, 41

  Cubitt, Sir Wm., 235, 240

  Cupar-Fife, testimonial from, 295


  _Daily News_, the, 30

  _Daily Packet List_, the, 251

  Darian Scheme, the, 238

  Davenport, Mrs, 4

  Davy's, Sir H., mother and Penzance, 31

  “Dead” letters, 220;
    auction sale at office of, 271

  Deal, 44

  Debating society, a youthful, 9

  “De Comburendo Heretico” Act, 81

  Decrease of price: increase of consumption, 101, 104

  —— of prosecutions for theft, 83, 219

  Definition of local penny post area, 75, 76

  Degree of D.C.L. (Oxon.), 299

  De La Rue & Co., Messrs, 95, 201

  Deliveries, acceleration and greater frequency of, 256

  “Denis Duval,” Thackeray, 83

  Denman, Lord, 36

  Denmark adopts postal reform, 251

  Deputation to Lord Melbourne, 133, 134

  Deputy Comptroller of the Penny Post, 84

  Designs for postage stamps, 197

  _Détenu_, a, 35

  Dickens, Chas., 31, 163, 164, 277

  “Dickinson” paper, the, 197

  “Dictionary of National Biography,” the, 192, 193

  “_Dictionnaire du XIXe Siècle_,” 79, 186, 298

  Dilke, C. W., antiquary, journalist, etc., 29

  Dillon, Mr (Messrs Morrison and Dillon), 115

  Dining in hall, 31

  Discontent at P.O., 262-265;
    at tentative rate, 162

  “Discourse on Our Digestive Organs,” a, 132

  “Dismal Science,” the, 28

  Disraeli, B. (Lord Beaconsfield), viii., 247

  Distribution an only function, 106

  Districts, London divided into, 74, 255

  Docker's mail-bags exchange apparatus, 239

  Dockwra, Wm., postal reformer, 71;
    inventor of local penny posts, introduces delivery of letters,
        divides city and suburbs into postal districts, opens over 400
    receiving offices, introduces parcel post, etc., his rates
        lasting till 1801, then raised to swell war-tax, 74, 75;
    falls victim to Duke of York's jealousy, loses situation, ruined
        by law-suit, pensioned, pension revoked, he sinks into
        poverty, 76;
    his penny post falls upon evil days, 83;
    remarks on his dismissal, 80, 179, 213

  Dodd, Rev. Dr, 46

  Donati's comet, 266

  Dover Castle, 18

  Doyle, Sir A. C., “The Great Shadow,” 10

  Drayton Grammar School, 1

  Dubost, M., 157

  Dublin, 83, 206, 228

  Dudley, 50

  Duncannon, Lord, 138, 139, 141

  Duncombe, T., M.P., 114, 212

  Dundee, 189, 190, 191, 250

  Dunoon, 297

  Duty stamp on newspapers, 46, 47, 95


  Eagerness for postal reform among the poor, 124

  Eclipse, Mr Wills and the, 266

  Economy, how best secured, 253

  Edgeworth, Maria, 34, 35, 163

  Edinburgh, 54, 58, 59;
    one letter to, 66, 78, 83, 85;
    cost of letter conveyance to, 103;
    a mail-coach's postal burden, 115, 116, 233;
    postal revenue larger than that of Portugal, 252

  _Edinburgh Review_, the, 112

  Edison, 261

  Education, impetus given to, 166-168

  Edwards, Mr E., 15

  Egerton-Smith, Mr, 295

  Egypt, postal rates to, 56

  Eight hours movement, an, 253

  Elcho, Lord, 245

  Elgin, Lord. (See Postmasters-General)

  Ellis, Mr Wm., 115

  Elmore, A., R.A., 34

  Emery, Mr, his evidence, 124

  Emigrants and emigrant ships, 20

  Employees, number of, in London, 259

  “Encyclopædia Britannica,” the (ninth edition), mistakes in article
        on Post Office, 186-189, 193, 196, 201

  “Engaged to marry your Prince of Wales,” 279

  England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, letters in, 66, 138.
    (See also Number of letters)

  Envelopes, 51, 52, 186, 187

  Eothen, 35

  Episode of a wedding ring, 302

  Epping, 50

  Ericsson, 262

  “Essays of a Birmingham Manufacturer” (Sargent), 16

  “Esther, The Book of,” 72

  Estlin, Mr J., 297

  Etymology, lecture on, 266

  Euclid's Elements, 5

  Evasions, losses, and thefts, 57-60, 66-69, 106, 146, 147, 272-275

  Every division should be self-supporting, 125

  Examinations, Civil Service, 257-261

  Exchange of bags apparatus (Docker's), 239, 240

  Excursion and express trains, etc., 183

  Executions outside Newgate, 10

  Expenditure, increase of, 109, 170-172

  Extension of penny postage to Colonies, 230

  Facilitating life insurance for staff, 219

  “Facts and Estimates as to the Increase of Letters,” 135

  Faggot vote, a new kind of, 3

  “Fallacious return,” the, 174

  Faraday, 206, 207

  “Feats on the Fiords,” 15

  Fergusson, Sir Wm., 34

  Field, Mr E. W., 32

  “Fifty Years of Public Life,” 198

  Fire at Hazelwood, 18

  First letter posted under new system, 162

  Fitzgerald, Lord, 175

  Fitzmaurice, Lord, 184

  Foot and horse posts, 79

  Footman prefers public to domestic service, 254

  Forchammer, Professor, 279, 280

  Ford, Onslow, R.A., 300

  Foreign letters, reduction in postage of, 165;
    foreign postal revenues, 156, 252, 253

  —— pupils, 14

  Forging gun barrels, 10

  Forster, Mr M., M.P.; Mr J., M.P., 36

  Forth bridge, the, 261

  Forty miles an hour, 232

  Four ounces weight limit, 108

  France, 14, 18, 35, 36, 79, 87;
    old postal system, 155-157;
    travelling in during the 'thirties, 158;
    adopts postal reform, 251, 266

  Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria, 37

  Francis, Mr J. C., 93, 95

  Franco-German War, the, 265

  Frankfort adopts postal reform, 251

  Franking system, the, 42-44, 45, 48, 49, 100, 107;
    proposed return to, 211

  Franklin Expedition, the, 40

  Frauds and Evasions. (See evasions, etc.)

  Freedom of the City of London, 301

  Free library, etc., at Wolverhampton, 25;
    at Hampstead, 33

  —— trade and protection, ix., x., 24, 101

  —— traders favour postal reform, 140

  Fremantle, Sir T., 120

  French Post Office, the, 155-158, 221

  —— revolutions. (See Revolution, etc.)

  Frenchman, a brave, 265

  Fry, Elizabeth, 117

  Funeral of the Duke of Wellington, 239


  Gallenga, 37

  Galton, Sir D., 235, 267

  Garibaldi, 37, 278, 279

  Gavin, Dr, 253

  _Gazette_, the, 261

  George I., 74;
    III., 47, 188

  German Postal Union, the, 252

  Germany, street letter-boxes in, 156

  Gibbets, 11

  Gibraltar, 56

  Gladstone, Mrs, 141, 290

  ——, W. E., ix., x., 37, 112, 268, 288, 289, 290

  Glasgow, 54, 68, 233, 294

  Gledstanes, Mr, 115

  _Globe_, the, 19

  Gordon riots, the, 224

  Goulburn, H. (See Chancellors of the Exchequer)

  Gradual instalments, 268

  Graham, Thos., Master of the Mint, 34

  “Grahamising” letters, 114

  _Graphic_, the, 301

  Grasset, M., 158, 298

  Gravesend, newspapers sent _viâ_, 46

  Great Exhibition of 1851, 95;
    of 1862, 279

  —— Northern Railway, 232

  “Great Shadow, The,”—Conan Doyle, 10

  Greece, 14, 113

  Greenock's first member, 98, 119. (See also Wallace, etc.)

  Gregory XIII., Pope, 81

  “Grimgribber Rifle Corps,” the, 266

  Grote, Geo., M.P., 113

  Guildhall, the, 53, 76, 302

  “Guy Mannering,” 50, 78


  Hackney, 76

  Haddington, 4

  Hale, Sir Matthew, 81

  Half-ounce letters of eccentric weight, 197;
    half-ounce limit, 108

  Hall, Captain Basil, 13

  Hall-door letter-boxes, 106, 131, 256

  Hamburg adopts postal reform, 251

  Hampstead, 29, 30, 32

  Hanover adopts postal reform, 251

  “Hansard,” 43, 80, 99, 121, 176, 212

  Hardwick, Lord. (See Postmasters-General)

  Harley, Dr G., 34

  Harlowe, another Clarissa, 3

  Hasker, 84

  Hawes, Sir B., 36

  Hazelwood school and system, 12-16

  “Heart of Midlothian, The,” 66

  Henslow, Professor, 167, 225

  Henson, G., 39

  “Her Majesty's Mails”—W. Lewins, 66

  “Here comes Dickens!” 164

  Hereford, 221

  Herschel family, the, 34, 117

  High postal rates mean total prohibition, 133

  Highgate, 50

  Hill, Alfred, 250

  ——, Arthur, 18, 29, 297

  —— brothers, 8-16, 93, 94, 133

  ——, Caroline (born Pearson), 22, 23, 26;
    Mr Wallace's congratulations, 141;
    “mother of penny postage,” 142;
    her help, unselfishness, and courage, 182, 212, 265;
    the wedding ring, 302

  Hill, Caroline (Mrs Clark), 16

  ——, Edwin, 93;
    his help, a mechanical genius, supervisor of stamps at Somerset
        House, machines for folding and stamping newspapers, folding
        envelopes, embossing Queen's head, etc., author of “Principles
        of Currency,” “Criminal Capitalists,” etc., 94, 95;
    anecdotes, 95, 96, 242, 293, 297

  ——, Frederick, 237, 297

  ——, Dr G. B., author of “Life of Sir Rowland Hill,” and editor of
        “The History of Penny Postage,” x, 17, 38, 71, 112, 120,
        193, 286-288

  ——, James, 2, 4, 5

  ——, John, postal reformer, 74

  —— ——, 2

  —— ——, the younger, 3

  ——, Matthew Davenport, 4, 9, 21;
    helps reform, 93;
    first Recorder of Birmingham, 94;
    advises R. H. to publish pamphlet, 96;
    his reply to Croker, 112, 132, 150;
    “prophets who can assist in fulfilment of their own
        predictions,” 150;
    an admirable letter, 152;
    on questioning Garibaldi, 279, 293, 297

  ——, Miss Octavia, 28

  ——, Pearson, his help in preparing this book, ix.;
    pamphlets, etc., 39, 47, 50, 56, 57, 65, 66, 120, 145, 180, 181,
      188, 193;
    on writings upon postal reform, 187;
        perfects Docker's exchange-bags apparatus, is complemented by
        Sir Wm. Cubitt, invents stamp-obliterating machine, 240, 241;
    Sir Wm. Armstrong's offer, 242;
    P. H. renounces true vocation and enters Post Office, appointed to
        examine mechanical inventions sent there, 243;
    reorganises Mauritius post office, 244, 297

  ——, R. and F., the Misses, authors of “Matthew Davenport Hill,”
    etc., 96

  ——, Rev. Rowland, preacher, 1

  ——, Sir Rowland (Lord Hill), warrior, 1

  —— —— ——, Lord Mayor of London, 1

  —— —— ——, postal reformer, birth, 7;
    weakly childhood, love of arithmetic, early ambition, helps in
        school, 8-16;
    writes “Public Education” 14;
    scene-painter, etc., wins drawing prize, 17;
    thrilling adventure, 18;
    takes home news of Waterloo, 88;
    joins Association for abolition of taxes on knowledge, 97;
    becomes Secretary to South Australian Commission, 18;
    the rotatory printing press, 21, 22;
    a young lover, 23;
    some of his friends, 28-37;
    his connection with the London and Brighton railway, 38, 182-184;
    the heavy burden of postal charges, 44;
    the franking system, 48;
    first to propose letter postage stamps, 49;
    Coleridge's story, 60;
    reformers before him, 70-91;
    many callings, 71;
    his penny post not identical with that of Dockwra, 75;
    on “the change of style,” 81;
    doing something to the mail-coaches, 87;
    in mid-'twenties proposed travelling post office, 92;
    later conveyance of mail matter by pneumatic tube, 93;
    discussed application of lighter taxation to letters, his brothers'
        help, 93, 94;
    M. D. H. advises writing pamphlet, Chas. Knight publishes it, M. D.
      H.'s influential friends, 96;
    Mr Wallace and R. H., 98;
    Blue Books, 100;
    reasons out his plan, 100-108;
    Commissioners of P.O. Inquiry and R. H.'s evidence and plan, 98;
    cost of conveyance of letters, 102-105;
    pamphlet issued, 109;
    plan privately submitted to Government and offered to them,
        declined, 111, 149;
    _Quarterly Review_ attacks plan, M. D. H. defends it in
      _Edinburgh Review_, 112;
    the great mercantile houses, Press, etc., support reform, 116-118;
    Parliamentary Committee formed, 119;
    R. H. under examination, 119-120;
    in after years excuses P.O. hostility, 126;
    the Committee's good work, 129;
    penny postage to be granted, 134;
    writes two papers for Mercantile Committee, in House of Commons
        during debate, door-keepers on voting prospects, 135;
    R. H. writes to Duke of Wellington, present at third reading of
        Bill, 138;
    in House of Lords during debate, 141;
    appointment in Treasury, 145;
    the outsider as insider, old opponents later become
      friends, 146, 147;
    adventures of a letter, 148;
    terms of engagement, 149-153;
    visits M. D. H. at Leicester, the latter's letter, 151, 152;
    R. H.'s goal, 153;
    first visit to P.O., 154;
    finds building defective, early attendance at Treasury, 155;
    visits Paris, 155-160;
    suggests adhesive stamps, 107, 135, 138, 160, 196;
    accepts responsibility for prepayment, 160;
    by stamps or money? stamp troubles last for twelve months, 161;
    tentative rate satisfactory, uniform penny postage
      established, 162;
    congratulatory letters, 162-163;
    royal visitors to P.O., 164;
    testimony to benefits of reform, 166-169, etc;
    delay in issue of stamps, 170;
    lavish increase of expenditure, official evasions, 171-176;
    visit to Newcastle-on-Tyne prevented, the “fallacious return,” 174;
    error in accounts, 175;
    receives notice of dismissal, 176;
    offers to work without salary, 177;
    public indignant at dismissal, 177-179;
    R. H. and registration fee, 178;
    leaves Treasury, 179, 180;
    Lord Canning's curious revelation, xi., 181;
    will Peel raise postal rates? 181;
    joins London and Brighton Railway Directorate, 182-184;
    hears of M. de Valayer's invention, 189;
    Mr Chalmers' correspondence with R. H., 192;
    R. H.'s proposals as to stamps, 196;
    Treasury decides to adopt them, 198;
    stamp obliteration troubles, 205-208;
    absurd fables, 209;
    Peel's Government falls, restoration to office of reformer
        demanded, appointed to P.O., 211;
    compares his own case with that of Dockwra and Palmer, 213;
    Mr Warburton on terms, 214;
    R. H. willingly sacrifices good income for sake of reform,
        interview with Lord Clanricarde and Colonel Maberly, 215;
    reorganises Bristol post office, also entire Money Order System,
      turns deficit into profit, many improvements effected, 215-219;
    missives that go astray, 220;
    relief of Sunday labour, 222-227;
    the Chartists, 224;
    relief to Hong Kong officials, 228;
    post offices at railway stations suggested, 229;
    Parliamentary Committee on railway and canal charges, 230;
    efforts to obtain reasonable railway terms, 230-235;
    Steamship Co.'s heavy charges, 230;
    tries to obtain use of all railway trains, an acceleration of
        North-Western night mail train, and adoption of limited
        mails, 232;
    suggests fines for unpunctuality and rewards for punctuality,
        etc., 233, etc.;
    also Government loans to Railway Companies, 234;
    proposes trains limited to P.O. use, 235;
    Packet Service contracts: these often made without P.O. knowledge
        or control, 236;
    route to Australia by Panama longer than rival route, R. H.'s
        report to that effect, 238;
    exchange of mail-bags operation, 239;
    stamp-obliteration experiments, 240;
    workshop fitted up for P. H., who renounces prospects as civil
        engineer, 242-243;
    R. H. examined by Commission to revise postal employees'
        salaries, 245;
    good work done by Commission, 246;
    Conservatives and Peelites, R. H. becomes Secretary to the
      P.O., 247;
    his love of organisation, 248;
    encourages staff to independence of opinion: excellent results,
        new post offices erected and old ones improved, provision
        against fire made, building, etc., transferred to Board of
        Works: consequent increase of expenditure, 249;
    publication of “Annual Reports” begins, 250;
    minor reforms made, postal reform adopted by many
        countries, 251, 252;
    R. H. advocates economy by better organisation, a medical officer
        appointed, 253;
    secures better terms for employees 253, 254;
    his doctor's footman, 254;
    London divided into districts, 255;
    R. H. on Civil Service examinations, 257-261;
    era of peace, discontent and threatening anonymous letters, libels
        by dismissed officials, worse threats, R. H.'s coolness,
        uneasiness of colleagues, 262-265;
    lecture on the annular eclipse, 266;
    P.O. volunteer corps, is introduced to inventor of Post Office
        Savings Bank scheme, 267;
    reform by gradual instalments, 268;
    compulsory prepayment of postage, 268, 269;
    again recommends parcel post, pattern post established,
        registration fee reduced, and compulsory prepayment at last
        obtained, 270;
    decrease of losses, tricks and evasions, 271;
    old opponents friends, Messrs Bokenham, Page, etc., 275-277;
    R. H. and Garibaldi, 278;
    R. H. and a Danish professor, 279;
    on successive Postmasters-General, 280-285;
    final breakdown in health, resignation, 285;
    pen-portraits and appreciations, 286-289;
    letters of sympathy, 290;
    joins Royal Commission on Railways, his early lesson in Astronomy,
        prepares his autobiography, 291;
    his remarks on own career, 292; his spirit at a _séance_, 293;
    honours, testimonials, etc., 294-302;
    two stories of a torn coat, 297;
    strange addresses, “Mr Owl O'Neill,” etc., 298;
    vases from Longton, pictures from Liverpool, statues, etc., 300;
    photographs, etc., presentation of the Freedom of the City of
        London, 301;
    death, his two noblest monuments, two Jubilee celebrations, 302;
    his fittest epitaph, 303-305;
    “Results of Postal Reform,” 286, 307-311

  Hill, Sarah (Lea), 4, 7, 8, 10

  —— —— (Symonds), 4, 6

  ——, Thos. Wright, 5, 6, 7, 10, 15, 16, 17, 94, 138, 291, 297

  “Hillska Scola,” a, 14

  Hinks, Rev. Wm., 297

  “History of England, The,” Macaulay, 238

  “History of Our Own Times, The,” Justin M'Carthy, 75, 92, 133

  “History of the Post Office, The,” H. Joyce, 42, 45, 55, 56, 63, 70,
    71, 72, 73, 75, 76, 92

  “History of the Thirty Years' Peace, The,” H. Martineau, 40, 41

  Hodnet, Shropshire, 1

  Hoffay, Mr, 245

  Hogarth, 81

  Holland, 109. (See also Netherlands)

  Holyhead, 54, 233

  “Home Colonies and Extinction of Pauperism,” etc., 109;
    home colonies in Belgium and Holland, 109

  Hong Kong post office, 228;
    clerks' holiday, 229

  Honours, testimonials, etc., 294, 302

  Hood, “Gentle Tom,” 178, 179

  Hostility of P.O. (See Opposition, etc.)

  Hourly deliveries, 107

  House of Commons, 43, 72, 96, 111, 113, 114, 116;
    Committee on Postage, 121-130;
    debates on Penny Postage Bill, 135, 138, 178, 224

  House of Lords, 43, 96, 111, 136, 139;
    passes Penny Postage Bill, 141, 224

  _Household Words_, 163, 266

  Huddersfield, 268

  “Hudibras,” 5

  Huguenot Knight, Millais', 7

  Hume, J., M.P., 133, 134, 212

  Hungarian refugees, 37

  “Hungry 'Forties,” the, 61, 169

  Hunt, Leigh, 35, 110

  Hutchinson, Mr, 234

  Hydrographer to the Admiralty, the, 278


  Iceland, 15

  Iddesley, Lord. (See Northcote, Sir S.)

  Impetus to education and trade, 166-169

  Improvement in locomotion, x.

  Improvements in Money Order system, account-keeping, holidays, 219;
    in life insurance and other funds, 219, 220;
    in lot of letter-carriers, sorters, etc., 253, 254, etc.

  Income, a poor man's daily, 42

  Increase of employment, pay, and prosperity, 101;
    of postal expenditure, 109, 170, 171, 172;
    of deliveries, 256;
    of facilities and speed in conveyance, 69, 257

  Indian Mutiny, the, 282;
    P.O. becomes self-supporting, 253

  Indignation at R. H.'s dismissal, 177-179

  Industrial emancipation, Gladstone on, vii., viii.

  Inglis, Sir R. H., M.P., 138

  Inland letters most profitable part of P.O. business, 169

  —— Revenue Board, the, 119, 188, 197

  _Inquirer_, the, 297

  “Intercourse, Liberation of,” x., 125

  “Invasion of the Crimea, The,” Kinglakes, 35

  Ireland, 44, 54, 66, 73, 74, 77, 133, 233

  Irish famine, the, 81

  —— haymakers and harvesters, 133

  —— in Manchester, 65

  Iron horse more formidable than foe on battlefield, 137


  Jamaica Bill, the, 144

  James II., 76, 77

  Jansa, Herr, 37

  Jefferson, President, 14

  “John Halifax,” Miss Mulock, 31

  John O' Groat's, 234

  Johnson, post official, 84

  ——, Dr, 112

  Jones, Loyd (Lord Overstone), 39, 124

  _Journal de St Pétersbourg, Le_, 252

  Joyce, Mr Herbert, “The History of the Post Office,” 42, 45, 55, 56,
        63, 70, 71, 72, 76, 92

  Jubilee, Queen Victoria's first, 39

  —— of the Uniform Penny Postage, 57, 120

  Jullien, M., 14


  Kaye, Sir J., 195

  Keats, John, 29

  Kelly, Messrs (“The London Directory”), 301

  Kidderminster, 3, 7, 300, 303

  King Edward's head (postage stamp), 199

  Kinglakes, the, 35

  Kinkel, Gottfried, 38

  Knight, Charles, 32;
    publishes “Post Office Reform,” 96;
    first to propose use of impressed stamp, 107, 158, 168, 189

  Kossuth, 37

  Kubla Khan, 72


  Lachine Rapids, 238

  Labouchere, H. (Lord Taunton), 138

  Lamb, Chas., 29

  Lambeth, 76

  Land's End, 234

  Larousse, “_Dictionnaire du XIXe Siècle_,” 79, 186, 298

  Larpent, Sir Geo., 296

  Last woman burnt, 9

  Lea, Provost, 4;
    Sarah (see Hill, Sarah);
    William, 4

  Ledingham, Mr, 207

  _Leeds Mercury_, the, 117, 226, 267

  Lefevre, J. S. (First Lord Eversley), 19

  Leitrim, 77

  Letter, adventures of a, 148, 149

  —— boxes, door, 106, 107, 131, 256

  —— carriers, 41, 62, 63, 105, 106;
    improvement in lot of, 220, 253, 254, etc.;
    letter-carrier and footman, 254;
    amalgamation of two corps of, 255, 256;
    the right sort of men as, 258, 275

  —— folding a fine art, 52

  —— smuggling, 66-69, 121, 133

  “Letters, Conversations, and Recollections of S. T. Coleridge,” 60

  “Letters of George Birkbeck Hill,” Mrs L. Crump, 112

  Letters subjected to protective rates, 54;
    refused, mis-sent, etc., loss on, 62;
    no delivery before Dockwra's time, 74;
    losses of, 146, 147, 221;
    number of, after reform, 133, 165, 168, 169, 239;
    after extension of rural distribution, 255;
    sorted _en route_, 227;
    strangely addressed, 297, 298

  Lewins, Mr, “Her Majesty's Mails,” 66

  Lewis, Sir G. C. (See Chancellors of the Exchequer)

  Liberation of Intercourse, x., 125

  Lichfield, Lord. (See Postmasters-General)

  “Lie Waste,” the, 11

  “Life endurable but for its pleasures,” 219

  “Life of Lord Granville,” Lord Fitzmaurice, 184

  “Life of Sir Rowland Hill, and History of Penny Postage,” G. B. Hill,
        x., 38, etc.

  Limited Liability Act, the, 32

  Lines, Mr, 162

  Liverpool, 24, 39, 68, 83, 227, 294, 300, 301

  _Liverpool Mercury_, the, 117, 295;
    _Post and Mercury_, 52

  Lloyd, Mr Jas., 300

  Local posts, 53, 74, 75, 76, 83, 84

  Lombard Street office, 74

  London and Brighton railway, 38, 182-184, 185

  —— divided into postal districts by Dockwra, 74;
    by Rowland Hill, 255

  ——, pop. one-tenth, correspondence, one-fourth of the United
        Kingdom, 255

  _London School Magazine_, 17

  London University, 130

  Londonderry, 54

  Long distance runs in the 'forties, 232

  Longton, Staffordshire Potteries, 300

  Lonsdale, Lord. (See Postmasters-General)

  “Lord Queen's Head,” 299

  “Lord's Day Society's” mistaken action, 223

  Lords of the Treasury, 190, 220

  Losses of letters, etc., 146, 147, 220, 221, 271

  Loughton, 50

  Louis Philippe, King, 157

  Louis XIV., 187

  Lowther, Lord. (See Postmasters-General)

  Lubeck adopts postal reform, 251

  Lyell, Sir Chas., 34

  Lyon, Mr W., 301


  Maberly, Colonel (Sec. to the P.O.) disapproves of postal
      reform, 121, 122, 150, 155, 173, 214, 215;
    Yates on, 154;
    commands at P.O. on “Chartist Day,” at time of Sunday labour
        question, 223;
    leaves P.O., 247;
    excellent appointments, 248

  MacAdam, 85

  Macaulay, 112, 114, 131, 226, 238, 273

  Macdonald (_Times_), 22

  Mackenzie family, the, 5

  Madrid, 78

  Mahony, Mr, M.P., 120

  Mails, the, by land—coaches, 64, 79, 82-90, 98, 103, 170;
    railways, 109, 115, 122, 227, 240;
    cost of conveyance of, 109, etc., 230-235

  ——, by sea. (See Packet Service)

  Majority of 102 for Penny Postage Bill, 136

  Manchester, 39, 65, 83, 84;
    number of letters equals that of all Russia, 252

  _Manchester Guardian_, the, 117

  “Manchester School,” the, 134

  Mander, Mr J., 25

  Manning, “The Queen's Ancient Serjeant,” 36

  “Manual of Geography,” a, 5

  Map of Europe, political changes in, 251

  Marco Polo's travels: the posts, 72

  Margate postmaster's report, 69

  Marian martyr, a, 294

  Married Women's Property Act, 118

  Martineau, Harriet, 15, 34, 40, 41, 55, 60, 131, 162

  Master of the Posts (Witherings), 73

  “Matthew Davenport Hill,” by his daughters, 96

  Mauritius post office reorganised, 244

  Maury, Mr, 68

  Mayer, Mr, 295

  Mayor, the Lord, 113

  Mazzini, 37, 114

  M'Carthy, J., “History of Our Own Times,” etc., 75, 92, 133

  M'Kinley, Mr P., 302

  Mediterranean, postal rates to the, 56

  Melbourne, Lord. (See Prime Ministers)

  Mellor, Mr Justice, 36

  Mendi bridge, 54, 161

  Mercantile Committee, the, 114, 135, 136, 137, 179, 190, 200, 296

  —— houses and postal reform, 114

  Mercury, a transit of, 291

  Merit, promotion by, 257, 258, 262

  Mexico, 14

  Mezzofanti, Cardinal, 230

  Miles, Mr Pliny, 230

  Milford, 54

  Mill, James and John Stuart, 34

  Millais, Sir J. E., 7

  Millington's hospital, 2, 4

  Moffat, Mr Geo., M.P., 113, 134, 137, 181

  Monckton, Sir G., 302

  Money Order System, 140;
    how founded, unsatisfactory financial condition, 217;
    R. H. undertakes its management, it becomes self-supporting,
        increase of business, decrease of fraud, unclaimed money
        orders made use of, etc., 216-222;
    extension of system to colonies, 220

  Monteagle, Lord, 175, 290.
    (See also Spring Rice)

  Morgan, Professor de, 272, 273

  Morley, John, M.P., vii.

  _Morning Chronicle_, the, 56, 116

  Morrison, Dillon, & Co., Messrs, 115

  “Mother of Penny Postage, the,” 142

  Mulready, W., R.A., 34;
    his envelope, 204, 205

  Murray, R., postal reformer, 70, 74

  My grandmother's brewings jeopardised, 10


  Napier, Sir Wm., 1

  Naples (the two Sicilies) adopts postal reform, 251

  Napoleon, story of, 27, 28;
    the _détenus_, 35, 36, 260

  Natal, 237

  National Gallery, the, 33

  Navigation Act, repeal of the, ix.

  Netherlands, the, adopts postal reform, 251

  “New Annual Directory for 1800, The,” 53, 76

  —— Brunswick postmaster, 199

  Newcastle-on-Tyne, 77, 173, 253

  Newgate, executions outside, 10

  New Grenada adopts postal reform, 251

  —— industries created, 169

  —— meaning of the word “post,” 72

  —— South Wales, 65

  —— York, 68

  Newsbearers, coaches as, 87, 88

  Newspapers, 46, 47, 57-60, 97, 116, 117, 129;
    stamp duty on, 46, 47, 95.
    (See also Press)

  Newton, Sir Isaac, 104

  Nicholson, Mr, inventor, 21

  ——, Mr (Waverley Abbey), 267

  Nightingale, Florence, 117

  _Nineteenth Century_, the, x.

  Ninth part of a farthing, the, 104

  —— Report of the Commissioners of P.O. Inquiry, 98, 196

  Nominations, system of, 246

  “Nonsense of a Penny post,” 131

  “No Rowland Hills wanted,” 185

  North British Railway, 233

  North-Western Railway, 227, 232

  Northcote, Sir Stafford (Lord Iddesley), 235, 245

  Northern diligence, the, 78

  Norway, 15, 251

  Norwich, 77

  _Notes and Queries_, 9, 52, 93

  Number of letters after reform, 133, 165, 168;
    in two years' time, 169;
    in seventh year of reform number delivered in and round London
        equal to those for the entire United Kingdom under old
        system, 214, 239;
    after extension of rural distribution, 255, 256


  Obliteration by hand (stamping), 206, 240, 241

  Ocean penny postage, 229

  O'Connell, Daniel, M.P., 88, 132, 133;
    M. J., M.P., 120, 127

  Offer (R. H.'s) to give plan of postal reform to
        Government, 111, 149;
    to give services at Treasury gratuitously, 150

  Official account-keeping and “blunders,” 174, 175, 176

  Old opponents become friendly, 147, 246, 247, 275

  —— postal system, the, 39-69;
    in France, 155-157

  Oldenburg adopts postal reform, 251

  “Oldest and ablest officers, the,” 80

  “On the Collection of Postage by Means of Stamps,” 135, 200

  Opening letters in the P.O., 114, 115

  Opposition honest and dishonest, 93, 120-122, 125, 126, 145-147,
        202, 212, 275-278

  “Origin of Postage Stamps, The,” 50, 188, 193

  Oscar, Prince, 14

  Osler, Mr Follett, 13

  Oswald, Dr and Miss, 38

  Ounce limit, the first proposal, 108

  Outsiders as reformers, 146, 265, 267

  Owen, Robert, 34, 114

  Oxford, 299


  “Pace that killed, the,” 85

  Pacific Ocean's enormous width, 238

  Packet Service, the, 174, 175;
    Commission sits on, contract mail-packets, etc., management
        transferred to P.O., evils of Admiralty control, West Indian
        packet service, Union Steamship Co., services to Cape of Good
        Hope, Honduras, Natal, reductions in cost, Australia _viâ_
        Panama not the shortest route, cost of
        conveyance, 230, 235-238;
    improved communication, foreign and colonial, 257

  Page, Mr Wm., 276, 277;
    Messrs E. and H., 276

  Palmer, John, postal reformer, 71;
    favours Bath, increases number of coaches, 77;
    proposes abolition of foot and horse posts, causes stage to become
        mail coaches, 79;
    a visionary, 80;
    placed in authority, by 1792 all coaches new, first quick coach to
        Bath, 82;
    robbery nearly ceases, traverses the entire kingdom, 83;
    looks to newspaper and penny posts, 84;
    coaches said to go at dangerous speed, reach highest level of
        proficiency, 85;
    are beaten by “iron horse,” 86;
    remarks on his dismissal, 80, 179, 213, 214;
    a born organiser, 220

  “Palmer of Ireland, The,” Bianconi, 88

  Palmerston, Lord. (See Prime Ministers)

  Panama, mails _viâ_, 237, 238

  Panizzi, Sir Antonio, 37

  Paper-duty, the, 97;
    stamps for “the American Colonies,” 188

  Parcel post recommended, 270

  Paris, 56, 155-158, 186, 221

  Parker, Mr, M.P., 212

  ——, Mr, M.P. (Sheffield), 120

  —— Society, the, 168

  Parricide and matricide, 226

  Parsons, Mr, 206

  ——, Mr J. M., 183, 184

  Patent Office, the, 21

  Patronage, relinquished, 246

  Pattern post introduced, 270

  Pattison, Mr J., 115

  Peabody: American philanthropist, 188

  Peace of Amiens, the, 35, 88

  Peacock, Mr, Solicitor to the P.O., 121, 126, 265

  Pearson, Alex., 27, 28;
    Caroline, (see Hill);
    Clara, 26;
    Joseph, 23-26

  Pease, Mr, M.P., 120

  Peculation rife under old system, 63

  Peel, Sir Robert, 48, 138, 144.
    (See also Prime Ministers)

  Peelites and Conservatives, 247

  _Pegasus_, wreck of the, 5

  Penny postage proposed in Budget of 1839, 135;
    passes in Commons, 138;
      in Lords, 142;
    established, 162;
    education encouraged, severed ties reknit, 166, 167;
    beneficial effect on trade, etc., 168, 169;
    other than inland, 230;
    and Garibaldi, 227, 228;
    two Jubilee celebrations, 302

  —— posts, Dockwra's, 74, 75;
    other local, 33, 76, 83, 84

  Perkins, Bacon, & Co., Messrs, 198, 200, 201, 206, 207

  Peru adopts postal reform, 251

  “Peter Plymley's Letters,” Sydney Smith, 89

  Petitions in favour of penny postage, 113, 124

  Phillips, Professor, 207

  Pickford, Messrs, 168

  Pictures from Liverpool, 300

  Pillar and wall letter-boxes. (See Street letter-boxes)

  Pirate States and pirate raids, 14, 15

  Piron, M., _Sous Directeur des Postes aux Lettres_, 157, 158,
        187, 188

  Place, Mr, and “Post Office Reform,” 110

  Plampin, Admiral, 27

  Plymouth, 20, 77;
    the postmaster of, 225

  Pneumatic tubes, 93

  Poerio, 37

  Political Economy Club, the, 19, 120

  —— heads of P.O. no drones, 284

  Poole, Mr S. L., “The Barbary Corsairs,” 15

  “Poor Law Official Circular, The,” 166

  Poor sufferers from dear postage, 42, 55, 59-62, 123

  Pope, Alex., 55, 71

  “Popular Tales,” Miss Edgeworth, 35

  Portugal adopts postal reform, 251;
    postal revenue smaller than that of Edinburgh, 252

  Post, new meaning of the word, 72

  Postcards, 293

  _Post Circular_, the, 190, 191

  Post Office—account-keeping, 62-64, 105, 106;
    authorities oppose reform, 120-122, 125, 126, etc.;
    Money Order system during Crimean war, 140 (see also Money Order
        system); becomes servant to entire nation, 144, 209;
    only department not showing deficiency of revenue, 176;
    P.O. _versus_ Stamp Office, 202;
    Widows' and Orphans' Fund, 220;
    transference of appointments to, 246;
    unjust accusations against, 272

  “Post Office Directory, The,” 301

  —— ——, Indian, self-supporting, 253

  —— —— Library and Literary Association, the, 266

  “Post Office of Fifty Years Ago, The,” 39, 47, 56, 65, 66, 145

  “Post Office Reform,” 40, 63, 64, 99, 101, 104, 106, 107, 109, 110,
        111, 143, 192, 196, 213

  —— —— Savings Bank, the, 220, 267

  —— —— surveyors, the, 222

  —— Offices, etc., great increase in number of, 156

  —— ——, Registrars' districts without, 64, 65

  —— officials fear increase of business, 121

  Postage “single,” “double,” “treble,” etc., 49-52, 55, 57

  —— stamps, 49, 51, 53;
    impressed and embossed, 95;
    description of adhesive, 107, 135, 160;
    delay in issue, 170;
    their collection, misleading accounts in the “Encyclopædia
        Britannica,” and elsewhere, 185-193, etc.;
    envelopes, M. de Valayer's private post, 186;
    doings of Sardinian P.O., 187;
    stamps on newspaper wrappers, 107, 158, 189;
    stamps useless without uniformity of rate and prepayment, 189, etc.;
    R. H.'s proposals, 196, 198, etc.;
    adhesive stamps recommended in “Post Office Reform,” and “Ninth
        Report of the Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry,” official
        approval of prepayment by stamps, 196;
    Treasury invites public to send in designs, results disappointing,
        why monarch's portrait was chosen, 199;
    precautions against forgery, 197-199;
    description of stamp-making, 200;
    Messrs Perkins & Co. make stamps first forty years of new system,
        are succeeded by Messrs De La Rue, stock nearly destroyed by
        fire, 201;
    changes of colour, 201, 208;
    why issue delayed, 202;
    eagerly adopted when issued, where to stick Queen's head?
        anecdotes, 203;
    uncancelled stamps, the Mulready envelope, 204;
    cleaning off obliterations, 205-208;
    public interested, many experiments and suggestions, 206, 207;
    the black penny becomes red, 208;
    public prefer adhesive to embossed, absurd fables, 209

  _Postal Circular_, the, 251

  Postal contribution to war-tax, the, 47, 55, 76

  —— districts, London divided into, 74, 255

  _Postal Guide_, the _British_, 251

  Postal Parliament, a, 222

  —— rates. (See Postage “single,” etc., and other headings)

  —— reform and reformers, 70-90, 100, 108, 127, 129, 144, 180, etc.

  —— revenue. (See Revenue, etc.)

  —— Service, advantages of, 254

  —— Union, the, 276

  Postmaster-General on crutches, a, 221

  Postmasters-General—
    Lord Lichfield, 120, 139
    —— Lowther, 120, 178, 182
    —— Clanricarde, 212, 213, 214, 215-219, 224, 229, 230, 280
    —— Hardwicke, 247, 248, 268, 286, 281
    —— Canning, xi., 181, 235, 281, 282, 284
    Duke of Argyll, 184, 234, 241, 259, 283
    Lord Colchester, 220, 238, 267, 283
    —— Elgin, 283, 284, 299
    A later Postmaster-General, 284, 285

  Postmen. (See Letter-carriers)

  Potatoes at Kidderminster, 3, 7

  Prepayment of postage, 49, 105, 106, 107, 124, 160, 162, 189, 196,
        202, 203, 228, 268, 269, 270

  Press-gang, the, 10, 11

  Press, the, generally favours postal reform, 116;
    on R. H.'s dismissal, 177.
    (See also newspapers)

  Priestley, Joseph, 6, 7

  Prime Ministers—
    Lord Melbourne, 111, 133, 134, 135, 136, 138, 139, 141, 144, 145,
        171, 173, 291
    Sir Robert Peel, 143, 177, 180, 181, 182, 184, 211
    Lord John Russell, 211, 212, 280, 281, 296
    —— Palmerston, 299
    W. E. Gladstone, 289.
    (See also Chancellors of the Exchequer)

  Prince of Wales, the, 280, 299

  Princess's portrait, a, 279

  “Principles of Currency,” Edwin Hill, 95

  Printing press, the rotatory, 21, 22, 71

  Private penny post, M. de Valayer's, 157, 158, 186-188

  Profitless expenditure, 51, 60-62, etc.

  Promotion by merit, 257, 258, 262

  Prophecies and prophets, 80, 130

  Protection applied to correspondence, 54, 161

  Protestant despoiler, a, 88

  Prussia adopts postal reform, 251

  Public buildings barricaded, 224

  “Public Education,” 14

  Pulteney, Sir Wm., 66

  _Punch_, 136, 180, 184, 299, 303-305

  Pump, story of a, 146, 147

  Puritans, the, 4, 6


  _Quarterly Review_, the, 112, 187

  Queen Adelaide, 19

  —— Anne, 76

  —— Caroline's trial, 87

  —— Victoria, 39, 40, 64, 66, 119

  Queen's head: postage stamp, 95, 167, 199, 205, 208, 294

  Quincey, De, 16, 35


  Radical Row, 144

  Radnor, Lord, 113, 135

  Raikes Currie, Mr, M.P., 120, 127

  Railway, London and Brighton, etc. (See other headings)

  Railways, supersede coaches, 89, 109;
    conveyance of mails by train dearer than by coach, mails first go
        by rail (1838), 109;
    heavy subsidies to, 170, 171, etc.;
    sorting of letters on, 227, 228;
    applications made to, acceleration of night mails, companies demand
        increased payments, twenty-one separate contracts, trains
        limited to P.O. service, 231-235;
    improved communication, 257

  Ramsey, Mr, 221

  Rea, Mr E., 252

  “Recollections and Experiences,” E. Yates, 154, 280, 285

  Recovery of gross revenue, 122, 165

  Reform Bill of 1832, the, 23, 98

  “Reformer, the,” 195

  Registrars' districts without post offices, 64, 65

  Registration of letters, 99;
    fees, 178, 270

  “Registration, The Transfer of Land by,” 19

  Relays of horses, 82

  Relief to Hong Kong officials, 228, 229

  Rennie, Sir J., 261

  Report of the Committee of Inquiry (1788), 80;
    of the Committee on Postage (1843), 169

  Reports of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, 63, 95;
    of the Commissioners of Post Office Inquiry, 98, 196, 197;
    of the Select Committee on Postage (1838), 42, 58, 64, 65, 67, 69,
        103, 123-126, 129, 130

  “Results of Postal Reform,” 286, 307-311

  Revenue from coaches, increase of, 102

  ——, National, 72, 97

  ——, Postal, 42, 43;
    in seventeenth century, 72, 73, 102, 108, 109, 122, 126, 165, 169,
        175, 176, 252;
    foreign, 102, 156

  Revolution, the French, of 1789, 14, 17;
    of 1848, 158, 221

  Richmond, the Duke of, 137

  Rintoul, R. S., the _Spectator_, 116, 117;
    his daughter, 117

  Riots at Birmingham, 7

  Ritchie, Mrs Richmond, 34

  Roberts, David, R.A., 32

  Robespierre's Secretary, 14

  “Robinson Crusoe,” 5

  Roebuck, J. A., M.P., 36, 43

  Rogers, S., “the banker poet,” 32

  Roget, Dr, “The Thesaurus,” 35

  Romance in a culvert, 23;
    in a coach, 89, 90

  Romantic lawsuit, a, 159, 160

  Romilly, Sir S., 10

  “Rowland Hill Benevolent Fund, The,” 302

  “Rowland Hill: where he is,” 298

  Rufini, 37

  Rural distribution, 166, 167, 170, 172, 255

  Russell, Lord John (Earl Russell), 36, 134, 135, 205.
    (See also Prime Ministers)

  Russia adopts postal reform, 251, 252;
    number of letters in 1855, 253


  S. G. O.'s Letters, 169

  Sabden, 65

  Sabine, Sir E., 34

  St Alban's and Watford mails, 227

  St Colomb, Cornwall, 71

  St Helena, Napoleon at, 27, 28

  St Martin's-le-Grand, 153, 154, 163, 228, 243, 248, 250, 253, 256,
        262, 263-265, 277, 293

  St Peter, 279

  St Priest, M., 158

  Salisbury, Lady, 141

  Saltney, Gladstone at, 289

  San Francisco, 57

  Sardinia, 187, 188, 251

  Sargent, Mr. W. L., 16

  Saturday night deliveries, 227

  Savages in England, 11

  Savings Bank. (See Post Office, etc.)

  Saxony adopts postal reform, 251

  Say, three generations, 158

  Scholefield, Mr, M.P., 113

  Schoolmistress, an ill-informed, 294

  Scotland, 54, 66, 73, 74, 297

  _Scotsman_, the, 117

  Scott, Sir Benjamin, 302

  ——, Sir Walter, 50, 66, 78, 79, 99, 295, 296

  Secretary to the P.O., Scotland, 211

  “Sedition made easy,” 112

  “Seminaries of Useless Knowledge,” 294

  Settembrini, 37

  Seven miles an hour! Preposterous! 79

  Seymour, Lord (Duke of Somerset), 120, 128, 138

  Shaftesbury, Lord, 48

  Sheffield, near Rotherham, 84

  Sherman, Mr, 293

  Shiel, Mr, 114

  Shrewsbury, 2

  Siberia, postal rates to, 57

  Sibthorpe, Colonel, M.P., 136

  Sikes, Sir Chas., 267

  Simplicity _versus_ complications, 105

  Smeaton, 261

  Smith, Mr B., M.P., 36

  “Smith, John,” and friend's fraud, 58, 60, 69

  ——, Mr J. B., M.P., 36, 143

  ——, Southwood, Dr, 28

  ——, Sydney, 1, 89, 131

  Smithfield and the martyrs, 157

  Smuggling letters, 66-69, 121, 133

  Smyth, Admiral, 34

  Snooks! 203

  “Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,” the, 139

  —— of Arts, the, 299

  “Some Memories of Books,” a story from, 59

  Somerset House, 94, 95

  Somerville, Mary, 117

  Sorters, improvement in their lot, 253, 254

  Sorting in travelling post offices, 92, 227, 228

  Southampton, the press-gang at, 11

  South Australian Commission, the, 19, 148

  —— Kensington Museum, the, 191, 302

  South-Western Railway Co.'s offer, 215

  Spain, 14;
    adopts postal reform, 251, 252

  Spanish gentlemen to the rescue, 29

  _Spectator_, the, 116

  Spencer, Herbert, 261, 262

  Spirits called from the vasty deep, 293

  Spring Rice. (See Chancellors of the Exchequer)

  Spy, taken for a, 18

  Squire's firewood, the, 3

  Stamp obliteration, 241

  —— Office _versus_ P.O., 202

  “Stamped covers, stamped paper, andstamps to be used separately,” 197

  Stamps and Taxes (Inland Revenue) Office, 119, 188, 197

  ——, postage. (See Postage stamps)

  Stanfield, Clarkson, R.A., 32, 300

  Stanley Gibbons & Co., Messrs, 201

  —— of Alderley, Lord, 284, 285

  Stationery and walking-sticks, 272

  Statues at Birmingham, Kidderminster, and London, 300

  Steamship Co.'s. (See Packet Service)

  Stephenson, Geo., 110, 260

  Stockholm, 14

  “Story of Gladstone's Life, The,” 133

  Stow & Co., 217

  Stowe, John, 1

  Stracheys, the, 5

  Strangely addressed letters, 297, 298

  Street letter-boxes, 147, 156, 187

  _Sun_, the, 226

  Sunday labour relief measures, 222-227

  Survivals of the Old System, 255

  Sweden, 14, 251

  Swift, Dean, 52

  Swindon, 266

  Switzerland adopts postal reform, 251

  Symondses, the, 2, 4, 5


  Taunton, Lord. (See Labouchere, Mr)

  “Taxes on knowledge,” 47, 97, 189

  “Taxing” letters, 49, 105, 106, 116, 125

  Taylor, R. (Marian martyr), 294

  Telegraphs, State purchase of, 267, 268, 293

  Telford, 85, 261

  Tentative fourpenny rate, 133, 161

  Tenth January 1840, scene at the General Post Office, 162

  Testimonials and honours, 294-302

  Tettenhall Road and the culvert, 23

  Thackeray, 30, 31, 34, 35, 83

  Thayer, M., 221

  Theft, story of a, 274

  “There go the Corn Laws!” 141

  “Thesaurus, The,” Dr Roget, 35

  Thompson, Colonel Perronet, 143, 225

  —— Sir H., 34

  Thomson, Poulett, M.P. (Lord Sydenham), 120, 128

  Thornley, Mr Thos., M.P., 24, 120

  Throckmorton, Mr, 24

  Thurso, 54

  Tichborne claimant, the, 194

  Tilly, Sir J., 284

  _Times_, the, 116, 129, 216, 226

  Tipping the little Hills with gold, 184

  Torn coat, two stories of a, 297

  Torrens, Colonel, 19

  ——, Sir R., 19

  Tottenham, 14

  Travelling in France in the 'thirties, 158

  —— post offices, 92, 227, 228

  Travers, Mr J., 115

  Treasury, the, invites public to send in designs for stamps, 194,
        197, 249, 251, 286

  Trevelyan, Sir Chas., 245

  —— Sir Geo., 273

  Trial by jury at school, 12

  Tripolitan ambassador, the, 14

  Trollope, Anthony, 277, 278

  Turner, J. W. M., R.A., 18, 33, 34

  Tuscany adopts postal reform, 251

  Twenty-one separate contracts, 234

  Two sympathetic door-keepers, 135, 136

  “Two Letters,” Gladstone's famous, 37

  Two thousand petitions, 113

  Twopenny post, the, 84, 161, 255

  —— rate, proposed and carried, 129

  Tyburn, 46

  Tyson, Mr, 52


  Umbrella, story of an, 33

  Unclaimed money and valuables, 219, 220

  Uniformity of postal rates, 105, 108, 125, etc.

  “Union of my children has proved their strength, the,” 94

  —— Steamship Co., the, 236

  United States, 56;
    mails to, 68, 69;
    civil war predicted, 230;
    adopts postal reform, 251, 252

  Unjust accusations, P.O., 272

  Unpaid letters in 1859, 269

  Uselessness of postage stamps before 1840, 49, etc.


  Valayer, M. de, 157, 158, 186-188

  Vases from Longton, 300

  Vaughan, Dr, 225

  Victorian women, the early, 117, 118

  Villiers, Hon. C. P., M.P., 24, 111, 120, 149

  Vinter, Mr, 301

  Virginia, the University of, 14

  Vision of mail-coaches, a, 86, 87

  Voluntary work at Hazelwood, 13;
    at the P.O., 222-224

  Volunteers, the P.O., 266


  Wages, increase of. (See Improvements, etc.)

  Wakefield, E. G., 19

  Walcheren Expedition, the, 159

  Wales, the Princess of, 279

  Wall letter-boxes. (See Street, etc.)

  Wallace of Kelly, R., M.P., postal reformer, 90;
    proposes charge by weight, public competition in mail coach
        contracts, appointment of Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry
        (Postage), establishment of day mails, registration of letters,
        reduction of postal charges, more frequent mails, etc., 98, 99;
    advocates R. H.'s plan, sends him Blue Books, 100;
    Chairman of Committee, 119;
    his two casting votes, 127, 128;
    his zeal and toil, favours penny rate, 129;
    supports Penny Postage Bill, 138;
    writes to Mrs Hill on its passing, 141;
    urges Lord Melbourne to give appointment to R. H., 145, 181;
    retirement and death, 212

  Walmsleys, the, 37, 143

  Walsall, 67

  “Walter Press,” the, 22

  War with France, 10, 18, 47

  War-tax, postal contribution to the, 47, 55, 76

  Warburton, Hy., M.P., 120, 127;
    serves on Parliamentary Committee and writes report, 129;
    favours penny rate, “Philosopher Warburton” at home, 130;
    on deputation to Lord Melbourne, questions Government in House,
        “Penny Postage is to be granted,” 134;
    advises R. H. to attend debate, 125;
    supports Bill, 138;
    urges giving appointment to R. H., 145;
    and restoration to office, 212;
    interviews Postmaster-General, 214

  Watch-smuggling, 273;
    a stolen, 274, 275

  Waterloo, the battle of, 1, 88

  Watford and St Albans' mails, 227

  Watson, Mr, 207

  Watt, James, 261, 303

  “Waverley,” 78

  Wedding ring, episode of a, 302

  Weighing letters, 125

  Weight of chargeable letters one-fourth of the entire mail only, 103;
    average carried and capable of being carried by coach, 123

  Wellington, Duke of, 1, 136, 137, 138, 141, 224, 239, 260

  Wesley, John, 81

  West Indian Packet Service, 236

  West, Mr, on Etymology, 266

  Westminster, 76;
    the Hall, 156;
    the Abbey, 301, 303

  Wheatstone, Sir Chas., 34

  Whitehead, Sir Jas., 302

  Whiting, Mr, 189, 198

  Widows' and Orphans' Fund, the P.O., 220

  Wild and visionary scheme, a, 120

  Wilde, Sir Thos. (Lord Truro), 36

  Wilkinson, Mr W. A., 115

  William I., German Emperor, 266

  —— III., 81;

  —— IV., 19, 119

  Wills, Mr W. H., 31, 163, 266;
    Mrs Wills, 31

  Wilson, Mr L. P., 115

  Window immortalised by Dickens, a, 163

  Witch mania, the, 81

  Witherings, postal reformer, gives new meaning to the word “post,”
        made “Master of the Posts,” an able administrator, dismissed,
        72, 73, 78;
    remarks on his treatment, 80, 179

  Wolverhampton, 11, 23, 25, 26, 50, 52, 133, 294

  Wolves, 159

  Wood, Mr J. (Stamps and Taxes Office), 188

  ——, Mr G. W., M.P., 120

  Works of Reference, 185, 186, 192, 195, 196

  Wreckage, postal reform narrowly escapes, 127, 129

  Wurtemberg adopts postal reform, 251

  Wyon, Wm., R.A., 199


  Yates, Edmund, 154, 266, 280, 285

  “Year of Revolutions, The,” 221, 239

  York, 74, 77

  ——, James, Duke of, 76

  Yorke, Hon. and Rev. G., 225

  Young, Arthur, 78


  Zerffi, Dr, 37



  Printed at

  The Edinburgh Press

  9 and 11 Young Street



  ┌───────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┐
  │ Transcriber's Note:                                               │
  │                                                                   │
  │ The original spelling, hyphenation, and punctuation have been     │
  │ retained, with the exception of apparent typographical errors     │
  │ which have been corrected.                                        │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.             │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant  │
  │ form was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.     │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Italicized words are surrounded by underline characters, _like    │
  │ this_.                                                            │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Mid-paragraph illustrations have been moved between paragraphs    │
  │ and some illustrations have been moved closer to the text that    │
  │ references them. The List of Illustrations paginations were       │
  │ changed accordingly.                                              │
  │                                                                   │
  │ Footnote numbers [1] on pages 68, 186 and 188 are duplicated in   │
  │ the original text and have no corresponding footnotes.            │
  └───────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┘





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