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Title: The Life of Sir Rowland Hill and the History of Penny Postage, Vol. I (of 2)
Author: Hill, Sir Rowland, Hill, George Birkbeck Norman
Language: English
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                                THE LIFE
                            SIR ROWLAND HILL
                 K.C.B., D.C.L., F.R.S., F.R.A.S., etc.
                                 AND THE
                        HISTORY OF PENNY POSTAGE.

                            SIR ROWLAND HILL
                               HIS NEPHEW
                      GEORGE BIRKBECK HILL, D.C.L.

                                AUTHOR OF

                            _IN TWO VOLUMES._

                                 VOL. I.

                          THOS. DE LA RUE & CO.
                            110, BUNHILL ROW.
       (_The right of Translation and Reproduction is reserved._)

                               PRINTED BY




_The following pages tell how much Sir Rowland Hill felt your kindness
in a time of great trouble. In his Private Journal I find even stronger
expressions of his gratitude. “I spoke,” he says in recording one of
his interviews with you, “in strong terms, and with emotion which I in
vain tried to suppress, of the feeling I entertained towards him for the
uniform kindness, sympathy, and support I have received at his hands.” In
asking you, therefore, to allow me to dedicate to you all in this work
that is mine, I am sure that I have done what would have been pleasing to

_I am, Sir, with the highest respect_,

                         _Your obedient servant_,

                                                            _G. B. HILL._


Sir Rowland Hill, after his retirement from the public service, as soon
as prolonged rest had given him back some portion of his former strength,
satisfied a mind which had always found its chief happiness in hard work,
by taking upon himself the task of writing the history of his great
postal reform. In a “Prefatory Memoir” he gave, moreover, a sketch of
the earlier part of his life. It had been his hope that he might live
to bring out his book himself; but, for reasons which the reader will
find set forth in his Preface,[1] he at last, though with reluctance,
came to the decision that the publication must be delayed till after his
death. Though he had, as it seemed, really finished his work, and had
even gone so far as to have a few copies printed, yet he spent many an
hour on its revision. He went through it more than once with the utmost
care, sparing no pains to obtain complete accuracy. In the year 1872
he asked me to examine it carefully, and to point out whatever might
strike me as being defective either in its method or its execution. I
found, as I told him, that the “Prefatory Memoir” was too short, and
“The History of Penny Postage” too long. Too little was told of the way
in which his character had been trained for the hard task which awaited
it, and too much was told of the improvements which had been effected.
In the case of inventors it is not so much what a man does, as how he
learns to do it, and how he does it, that we all care to know. We so soon
come to think that what is has always been, that our curiosity is not
much excited about the origin of the conveniences of modern life. Though
the improvements themselves we accept as a matter of course, yet if in
getting them adopted there was a hard struggle with ignorance, routine,
indifference, and jealousy, then our interest is at once aroused. In his
book there were very many passages which I had read with the strongest
interest, containing as they did the history of a great and a very
curious fight. In these there was scarcely any change that I could wish
made. But mixed up with these there were accounts of improvements which,
though important in themselves, were of little interest to an outsider.
I suggested, therefore, that certain parts should be altogether struck
out, and that others should be gathered either into one Appendix at the
end of the History, or into Appendices at the end of the chapters. Though
he did not by any means adopt all my recommendations, yet he entrusted
me with the duty of writing the history of his early life. In the course
of the next few years he drew up many interesting papers containing the
recollections of his childhood and youth. In this he was aided by his
brother Arthur, in whose mind, though he has seen more than fourscore
years, the past seems to live with all the freshness of yesterday. These
papers he put into my hands some months before his death, and, together
with them, a large number of old letters and a manuscript history of his
life which he had begun to write when he was but seventeen years old. In
fact, the abundance of the materials thus placed at my disposal was so
great, that my chief difficulty has been to keep my part of the work at
all within reasonable limits.

If the “Prefatory Memoir” in which his early life was told had really
been an Autobiography, I might well have hesitated, and hesitated long,
before I ventured to rewrite it. So much of a man’s character is shown by
his style, that even an imperfect life written by himself will, likely
enough, be of far greater value than the most perfect life written by
another. But, as will be seen later on,[2] so far as the style goes,
this Memoir was in no sense autobiographical. It was, indeed, told in
the first person; but “I had,” he said, “to devolve upon another the
task of immediate composition.” I may add that his brother, who thus
assisted him, had not at his command many of the materials which were
afterwards placed at my disposal. My uncle had not at that time wished
that a full account should be given of his early days, and he had not,
therefore, thought it needful to lay before him either the letters or
the fragment of an early autobiography which I have mentioned above. He
had a strange unwillingness to let this history of his youthful days
be seen. In a memorandum which he made a few years ago he says, “These
memoirs of the early part of my life having been written, for the most
part, when I was very young and ill-informed, contain much which I have
since known to be ridiculous; and for this reason I have never shown
them to any one—except, I think, a small portion to my wife. After some
hesitation I have decided to preserve the memoirs for any use to which
my executors may think proper to put them.” A far greater value is added
to them by the fact that the author intended them for no other eye but
his own. None of his brothers, I believe, even knew that he was writing
them. He used, in late years, often to speak to me about them; but it was
only a short time before his death that he could bring himself to let me
read them. When he gave them to me he bade me remember that he was very
young and ignorant when he wrote them. “You must not,” he said, “judge me
harshly.” Happily I was soon able to tell him that, though I had been a
great reader of autobiographies, there were few which had interested me
more than his. I found nothing to dispose me to ridicule, but much that
moved my pity, and still more that roused my admiration.

I need scarcely say that the “Prefatory Memoir” has been of great service
to me in my task. It is not for me to say how well it is written, or to
praise the work of one to whom I owe everything. I may, at all events,
acknowledge my debt. I have, as the reader will see, largely drawn upon
it. That it was, however, imperfect—necessarily so, as I have shown—will
be at once recognised by any one who considers how much I have quoted
from my uncle’s Memoirs and from the letters. It contained, for instance,
no mention of the visit to Edgeworth-Town, and not a single extract from
a letter.

In giving so full an account of my grandparents and of their home-life,
I have borne in mind the saying of Mr. Carlyle, that “the history of a
man’s childhood is the description of his parents and environment.”[3]
In a very large sense is this true of the childhood of Rowland Hill.
I have not dwelt so much, as I should otherwise have done, on the
character of his eldest brother, towards whom he felt himself indebted
in so many ways. By “The Life of Matthew Davenport Hill, the Recorder of
Birmingham,” by his daughters, I find myself forestalled in this part of
my work.

In my duty as Editor of “The History of Penny Postage,” I have ventured
not only here and there on a verbal alteration, but also on considerable
omissions, and in some places, on a change of arrangement. In fact, I
have acted on the advice which I gave eight years ago. I have gathered
into Appendices some of the less important matters, and I have thus
enabled my readers, as their tastes may lead them, either to read the
whole History, or, if they find that too long, to follow a somewhat
briefer but still a connected narrative. In making changes such as these
I was running, I was well aware, a great risk of falling into serious
errors. A reference, for instance, might be left in to a passage which,
by the new arrangement, was either not given at all, or else was found
on a later page. I have, however, spared no pains to guard against such
blunders, trying always to keep before me the high standard of strict
accuracy which the subject of my biography ever set me.

                                                              G. B. HILL.

The Poplars, Burghfield, September 21st, 1880.


                                 BOOK I.

                               CHAPTER I.

    Birth of Rowland Hill. His Father’s Ancestors, 1—His Mother’s
    Ancestors, 5—His Father’s unusual Character, 7—His Relish of
    Life, 8—His legal reading, 9—Study of Astronomy. Priestley,
    11—His Short-hand, 13—A Schoolmaster, 14—His Love of Theories,
    18—Admirable as a Father, 19—A Reformer, 20—A Free-trader, 23—A
    bad Man of Business, 24—His Death, 26—Rowland Hill’s Mother,
    27—He himself a Combination of the strong Qualities of each
    Parent, 31—Bailie Lea, 32—Birmingham Riots, 33—Birth-place,
    34—Life at Horsehills. Dearth of 1800, 35—A Night-alarm,
    37—Peace of Amiens, 38—Trafalgar, 39—Currency, 40—Forgers,
    41—Mr. Joseph Pearson, 42—Early Courtship, 43—Love of Counting.
    Water-wheel, 44—Perpetual Motion, 45.

                               CHAPTER II.

    Hill Top, 47—School opened, 48—Young Traders, 49—Miss
    Edgeworth, 50—Workshop. Household Work, 51—Feeling of
    Responsibility, 52—Debts. Ruling Machine, 53—Rowland Hill
    becomes a Teacher, 54—His Father’s Lectures, 55—Electrical
    Machine, 56—A young Astronomer, 57—Habit of Criticism,
    58—Mathematics, 60—Learning by teaching, 61—Mr. Beasley,
    62—Discovery of his own Deficiencies, 63-67—Horse-dealing,
    64—Literary and Scientific Societies, 68—Representation of
    Minorities, 69—William Matthews, 73—Prize for Drawing, 74.

                              CHAPTER III.

    Early Perseverance, 76—School Theatre, 77—Map-making, 79—His
    Father’s Lecture on Electricity, 80—Family Help, 82—Alarum
    Water-clock, 83—Screw Steamboats, 84—Land Surveying. Map of
    Scene of Thornton’s Murder, 85—Ambition. A model College,
    87—No Jealousy of the Sons in the Father, 88—Punctuality,
    89—Enforcement of Penalties, 90—Family Debts paid off.
    “Exhibition.” Shakespeare corrected, 91—Eighteen Hours’ Work
    a-Day. Zerah Colbourn, 92—Mental Arithmetic, 93—Trigonometrical
    Survey, 94—A Rival School, 97—Survey of a Coal-pit, 98—Roman
    Road, 99.

                               CHAPTER IV.

    Dr. Arnold, 100—Charter House, 101—“Public Education,”
    103—The New System, 104—Overwork, 105—Court of Justice,
    107—A Constitution, 108—Benevolent Society, 109—Magistrates,
    110—Character on leaving, 111—Band. Corporal Punishment. Marks,
    112—School “a little World,” 113—Conference of Teachers,
    114—Code of Laws, 115—Juries. “Voluntary Labour,” 116—Fights,
    118—“School Fund,” 119—Punctuality, 120—Rank, 121—“Edinburgh
    Review.” Captain Basil Hall, 122—Mr. W. L. Sargant,
    123—Unalterable Determinations. Enforcement of Penalties,
    124—Restraint of Temper. Rowland Hill’s Courage, 125—His
    Brother Matthew goes to the Bar. His Brother Arthur takes his
    Place, 126—Becomes his Father’s Partner. Architect of the new
    School-house, 128—Hazelwood opened, 130.

                               CHAPTER V.

    Long Walks. Shrewsbury, 131—Criminal Trial, 132—Margate,
    133—Peace of 1814. Public Lectures, 134—Illuminations after
    Waterloo. First Sight of a Steam-boat, 135—Benjamin West.
    Sub-Secretary to a Deaf and Dumb Institution, 136—Derbyshire,
    137—Floods, 138—Hampden Club, 139—Chester. Liverpool, 140—John
    Howard. Uriconium, 141—Gratitude to his Parents, 142—Early
    Rising. John Kemble, 143—Lord Mayor’s English. Habeas Corpus
    Act, 144—Netley Abbey, 145—Freshwater. Stonehenge, 146—Diet,
    147—Thomas Campbell. New Hall Hill Meeting, 149—Major
    Cartwright. Election of first Member for Birmingham, 150.

                               CHAPTER VI.

    Fire at Hazelwood, 151—Origin of the Fire, 158—Fire Insurance,
    158—Trip to Ireland. Gas. Steamboats, 160. Ireland in 1821,
    161—Edgeworth Town Assisting School, 162—Miss Edgeworth,
    163—“Public Education,” 164—Miss Edgeworth’s Father, 165—A
    Sunday Evening at Edgeworth Town, 166—The “Monsoons.”
    Steamboats, 168—Hermit’s Cave, 169.

                              CHAPTER VII.

    “Public Education” published, 170—Jeremy Bentham. An active
    Schoolmaster, 171—The Greek Committee. Wilberforce. Grote,
    172—Hillska Skola. Hazelwood famous, 173—Joseph Hume.
    “Edinburgh Review.” De Quincey, 174—Overwork. Tour in Scotland,
    175—Paris, 176—Break-down in Health, 177—Hazelwood full,
    178—Plan of a model School, 179—“A Sucker from the Hazelwood
    Tree,” 180—Bruce Castle, 181—Marriage, 182.

                              CHAPTER VIII.

    Family Group broken up, 184—Brotherly Love, 185—All Things
    in common, 186—Articles of Partnership, 187—Family Fund,
    188—Family Council, 191—League of Brothers, 192—Reason _versus_
    Authority, 194—Rowland Hill’s Sisters, 195—Howard Hill, 196—“A
    little ideal World,” 198—Early Prejudices, 199—Society for
    the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Vernier Pendulum, 201—Home
    Colonies, 202—Rowland Hill retires from School-keeping.
    Confidence in himself, 203—Schemes, 204—Robert Owen, 206—Social
    Community, 207—Sir J. Shaw-Lefevre, 209—Professor Wheatstone,
    210—Pantisocracy, 213—Mr. Roebuck, 214—A new Career, 215.

                               CHAPTER IX.

    Mr. E. G. Wakefield. South Australian Association. Past
    Training, 216—Stamp Duty on Newspapers, 217—Mr. Charles Knight
    and Stamped Covers. Pauper Education, 218—Lord Brougham. South
    Australian Colonisation, 219—Secretary to the Commission,
    220—Survey of the Colony. Emigrant Ships, 221—Progress of
    the Colony, 222—Representation of Minorities. Resignation of
    Secretaryship, 223—Printing Machine, 224—First Hopes of Postal
    Reform, 229.

                                BOOK II.

    Preface to the History of Penny Postage, 233.

                               CHAPTER I.

                  CONCEPTION OF MY PLAN. CHIEFLY 1836.

    The Post Office as it used to be, 237—Coleridge and Miss
    Martineau, 239—Franks, 240—A Travelling Post Office,
    241—Effects of Reduction in Taxation, 243—Post Office Revenue,
    244—Systematic Study of Postal Accounts, 246—Cost of Primary
    Distribution, 248—Cost of Conveying a Letter from London to
    Edinburgh, 249;—Uniform Rate, 250—Secondary Distribution,
    251—Contraband Conveyance, 253—Effects of Cheapness on
    Consumption, 255—Mr. Wallace, 257—Commission of Inquiry of
    1835-8, 259.

                               CHAPTER II.

                        PROMULGATION OF MY PLAN.

    “Post Office Reform,” 262—Plan laid before Government. Mr.
    Villiers, 263—Stamped Covers, 265—Publication of “Post Office
    Reform,” 267—Examined before the Commission of Inquiry,
    268—Stamps, 270—Recommendation of Commissioners, 273—Government
    does Nothing, 274—Appeal to Public, 275—Instances of heavy
    Postage, 276—Support of the Press, 278—Court of Common
    Council, 280—Post Office Consolidation Act, 281—“The old
    state of things,” 282—Difficulties raised, 285—Appointment
    of Parliamentary Committee, 287—City of London Petition,
    289—Ignorance of the Postmaster-General, 290.

                              CHAPTER III.

                        PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE.

    Letters to Lord Lichfield, 292—Mercantile Committee,
    294—Parliamentary Committee, 295—Postage Rates, 296—Number
    of Letters, 298—Contraband Conveyance, 300-4—High Postage
    and the Poor, 305-9—Mr. Jones-Loyd, 310—Low Postage no Tax,
    311—Uniform Rate, 312—Mode of Prepayment, 315—Charge by Weight,
    317—Conveyance of Mails, 319—Letters _not_ sent by Post,
    320—Franks, 321—Colonel Maberly’s Plan, 323—Examined before the
    Committee, 325—Votes of Committee, 327—Lord Seymour’s Report,
    329—Committee’s Report, 331—Mr. Warburton, 333.

                               CHAPTER IV.

                           PENNY POSTAGE BILL.

    United States, 336—Issue of Report, 337—Reduction _by_ a
    Penny. Petitions, 339—“Post Circular,” 340—Deputation to Lord
    Melbourne, 341—Adoption of Plan, 343—Stamps, 345—Envelopes,
    346—“Facts and Estimates,” 347—Stationers. The Budget, 348—The
    Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Resolution, 350—The Division,
    352—Duke of Wellington, 353—Penny Postage Bill, 355—“Kitchen”
    of the House of Commons, 356—Interview with Lord Melbourne,
    357—The Bill before the Lords, 359—The Bill becomes Law. Miss
    Martineau, 361—Lord Ashburton, 362—Wolverhampton Testimonial,

                               CHAPTER V.

                     APPOINTMENT IN TREASURY (1839).

    Interview with Mr. Baring, 365—Mr. M. D. Hill’s letter,
    366—Appointment Accepted, 369—First Visit to the Post Office,
    371—Proposed Establishment of London District Offices,
    373—Private Journal Resumed, 374—Sorting of Letters, 375—Visit
    to the French Post Office, 376—“Quarterly Review.” Post-paid
    Envelopes in 1653, 377—“Edinburgh Review,” 378.

                               CHAPTER VI.

                        PENNY POSTAGE (1839-40).

    Competing Plans of Collecting the Postage, 381—Mr. Cobden’s
    Expectations, 382—Stamps, 383—Fourpenny Rate, 384—The
    Chancellor of the Exchequer at Home, 385—“My Lords,”
    386—Franking Abolished, 388—Treasury Warrant, 389—Penny Postage
    begins, January 10th, 1840, 390.

                              CHAPTER VII.

                             STAMPS (1840).

    Mr. Edwin Hill’s Appointment, 392—The Mulready Envelope,
    393—Number of Letters in the First Quarter, 395—Official
    Dignity, 396—First Issue of Stamps, 397—Attempts at Forgery.
    Obliteration of Stamps, 399—The Commissioners of Stamps and
    Taxes and Mr. Edwin Hill, 405—Manufacture of Stamps, 406—Number
    Issued, 407.

                              CHAPTER VIII.

                         SUBSIDIARY PROCEEDINGS.

    Registration. Negotiations with France, 410—Money Orders.
    Increase in Expenditure partly caused by Railways,
    411—Applications for Increase of Salaries, 413—Pillar
    Letter-Boxes, 417—Captain Basil Hall. Gummed Envelopes,
    418—Envelope Folding Machine, 419—“A Princess Royal,” 420—Miss
    Edgeworth, 421.

                               CHAPTER IX.

                      PROGRESS UNDER DIFFICULTIES.

    Mr. Baring’s increasing Confidence, 422—Post-Office
    Correspondence. Messengers, 425—Lecture at the Polytechnic,
    426—Threatened Break-down in the Post Office, 427—Errors in
    Accounts. Distribution of Stamps, 429—Slow Progress, 431—Want
    of Statistics, 433—Question of a Twopenny Rate, 435—Liberal
    Administration falling, 437—Change of Ministry, 439—Mr.
    Baring’s Letter, 440—Testimonials, 442.

                               CHAPTER X.

                          NEW MASTERS (1841-2).

    Mr. Goulburn, 443—Lord Lowther, 444—Lack of Employment,
    445—Mr. Cole, 447—Errors in Returns, 448—“Penny Postage is
    safe,” 449—Country Post Offices, 451—Mr. Baring’s Minute on
    Rural Distribution, 452—Modes of Waste, 453—Frauds, 454—Lord
    Lowther’s Plan of Registration, 455—Cost of the Packet
    Service, 460—Official Reticence, 462—Letters to Mr. Goulburn,
    463—Announcement of Dismissal, 467—Sir Robert Peel, 469.

                               CHAPTER XI.

                         OUT OF OFFICE (1842-3).

    Proposed Publication of Correspondence with the Treasury,
    473—Earl Spencer, 474—Mr. Baring, 475—Mr. Cobden, 477—Thomas
    Hood, 479—Personal Expenditure, 480—Mr. Stephen, 481—Official
    Publication of Correspondence, 482—Petition to House of
    Commons, 483—Publication of the whole Correspondence,
    484—Australian Letters and India, 485—Sir T. Wilde’s Motion,
    487—Mr. Goulburn’s Amendment, 489—Sir Robert Peel’s Defence,
    491—Committee of Enquiry, 492—Sir George Clerk, 493.


    A.—Royal Astronomical Society, p. 497.

    B.—Preface to the Laws of the Society for Literary and
       Scientific Improvement, p. 511.

    C.—Cube Roots, p. 513.

    D.—Vernier Pendulum, p. 517.

    E.—Coach Company, p. 520.

    F.—Sir Rowland Hill’s Printing Press, p. 525.

    G.—Speech at Greenock, p. 529.

    H.—“Facts and Estimates as to the Increase of Letters,” p. 534.

    I.—Extracts from Reports of Commissioners of Inland Revenue
       (Mr. Edwin Hill), p. 539.

    J.—Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (June 23rd, 1841),
       p. 542.


    PORTRAIT OF SIR ROWLAND HILL                        (_Frontispiece_)

    THOMAS WRIGHT HILL (Father of Sir Rowland Hill)       Facing page  8

    SARAH HILL (Mother of Sir Rowland Hill)                    ”      28


    BRUCE CASTLE, TOTTENHAM                                    ”     181

    FAC-SIMILE OF THE MULREADY ENVELOPE                        ”     393



    “When I was yet a child ...
                           ... my mind was set
    Serious to learn and know, and thence to do
    What might be public good; myself I thought
    Born to that end.”






Rowland Hill, the third son of Thomas Wright Hill and Sarah Lea, his
wife, was born at Kidderminster on the third day of December, 1795. On
both sides he sprang from families which belonged to the middle-class,
but which, by the time of his birth, had somewhat come down in the world.
When he was presented with the freedom of the City of London a few months
before his death, the Chamberlain informed him that he belonged to a line
which already twice before had received that high distinction. Whether
he could claim kindred with Sir Rowland Hill of Queen Elizabeth’s time,
and with Sir Rowland Hill, the famous soldier of the Peninsular War, I
have no means of knowing. In a fire which sixty years ago burnt down part
of his father’s house, many family deeds were destroyed, some of which,
he informed me, went back to the age of the Tudors. He was not, however,
without ancestors, who justly raised in him a strong feeling of pride.
His father’s mother, Sarah Symonds, “had a common descent with the family
of Symons, or Symeon, of Pyrton, the heiress of which branch married John
Hampden.”[4] His father, who had many kinsmen of the name of Butler,
had been told in his youth that he was related by blood to the author of
“Hudibras.”[5] With these two famous men his connection was but remote.
But both father and mother could tell the boy of nearer and undoubted
ancestors, who had shown, some of them, strong independence of character,
and one or two a noble spirit of self-sacrifice. In the eloquent words
of Romilly, he might have said that “his father left his children no
other inheritance than the habits of industry, the example of his own
virtuous life, an hereditary detestation of tyranny and injustice,
and an ardent zeal in the cause of civil and religious freedom.” With
perfect truthfulness he might have applied these words to his mother
also. The detestation of tyranny and injustice, and the ardent zeal in
the cause of civil and religious freedom were, indeed, hereditary, in
most of the branches of his family. They were chiefly old Puritan stocks,
with much of the narrowness, but all the integrity of the best of the

His father had received a hurt in defending a house against the brutal
mob which, in the year 1791, burned down in Birmingham the chapels and
the dwellings of unoffending dissenters. His grandfather, James Hill,
had shown his attachment to civil liberty in a curious way. He was a
baker in Kidderminster—“a substantial freeholder,” as his son described
him. He was descended from a considerable landowner who had married
twice, and had left the children of his first wife very much to shift for
themselves. One of them had settled in trade in Kidderminster.[6] James
Hill was his grandson. In his time the bakers all heated their ovens
with faggots, which they bought of the neighbouring squire. An election
for the county came on; the squire was one of the candidates, and the
steward asked James Hill for his vote. “My father,” his son records,
“could not bring himself to the expected compliance. The result was that
at the next faggot-harvest[7] his application was refused, and he was
thus put to great inconvenience.” The baker, however, was an ingenious
man. Coals were cheap if faggots were dear. He began by trying a mixture
of coals and wood. He found, by repeated trials, that he could go on
lessening the quantity of faggots and increasing the quantity of coal.
Other bakers profited by his experience, and the faggots now lacked
purchasers. “Applications were made to him to know if he had no room for
faggots, from the quarter which had refused the supply.”[8] James Hill’s
brother, John, had enrolled himself as a volunteer against the Young
Pretender in 1745; for, like a famous brother-volunteer, Fielding’s Tom
Jones, “he had some heroic ingredients in his composition, and was a
hearty well-wisher to the glorious cause of liberty and of the Protestant
religion.” He was once summoned to Worcester to serve on a jury, when
he alone of the twelve jurymen refused a bribe. The judge, coming to
hear of this, praised him highly, and whenever he went the same circuit
asked whether he was to have the pleasure of meeting “the honest juror.”
Later on in life he became, like Faraday, a Sandemanian, and was bound by
conscience to a kind of practical communism. He died in the year 1810,
at the age of ninety-one, and so was well known by Rowland Hill and his
brothers. It is a striking fact that there should still be living men who
can well remember one who volunteered against the Young Pretender.

James Hill’s wife was the grand-daughter of a medical practitioner at
Shrewsbury of the name of Symonds, who had married Miss Millington,
the only sister of a wealthy lawyer of that town. An election for the
borough came on. The doctor refused to place his vote at the disposal
of his rich brother-in-law, the attorney. “The consequence is,” writes
Thomas Hill “that Millington’s Hospital now stands a monument of my
great-grandfather’s persistence and his brother-in-law’s implacability.
Of this privation,” he adds, “my mother used to speak with very good
temper. She said the hospital was a valuable charity, and she believed
that no descendant of her grandfather’s was the less happy for having
missed a share of the fortune bestowed upon the hospital.” Through this
lady Rowland Hill was related to the Rev. Joshua Symonds, the friend
and correspondent of Howard and Wilberforce.[9] Such were the worthies
he could undoubtedly boast of on his father’s side. There is no man
among them whom the world would reckon as famous; and yet I remember how
proud I felt as a mere child when my father first told me of the “honest
juror,” and of the forefather who had lost a fortune by his vote. To
such feelings as these Rowland must have been susceptible in a singular

The story of his mother’s ancestors is more romantic, but, perhaps,
even more affords a just cause for honest pride. Her grandmother’s name
was Sarah Simmons. She had been left an orphan at an early age, and was
heiress to a considerable fortune. She was brought up by an uncle and
aunt, who were severe disciplinarians, even for the time in which they
lived. They tried to force her to marry a man for whom she had no liking,
and, when she refused, subjected her to close confinement. She escaped
from their house in the habit of a countrywoman, with a soldier’s coat
thrown over it. In those days, and much later also, poor women in wet
weather often wore the coats of men. She set out to walk to Birmingham,
a distance of some fifteen miles. On the road she was overtaken by one
of her uncle’s servants, mounted on horseback, who asked of her whether
she had been passed by a young lady, whose appearance he described.
She replied that no such person had passed her, and the man rode away,
leaving her rejoicing at the completeness of her disguise. She reached
Birmingham, and there supported herself by spinning. To her fortune she
never laid claim. At the end of two years she married a working man
named Davenport. For thirteen years they lived a happy life, when a
fever broke out in the town, and carried off a great number of people.
One of her neighbours died among the rest. The alarm was so great that
no one was found daring enough to go near the dead man’s house. Mrs.
Davenport, fearful that his unburied body might spread the pestilence
still more widely through the neighbourhood, herself ordered his coffin,
and with her own hands laid him in it. Her devotion cost her her life. In
a few days this generous woman was herself swept away by the fever. Her
husband never held up his head after her death, and in about a year was
himself carried to his grave. They left four children behind them; the
eldest a girl of thirteen. She showed herself the worthy child of such a
mother. From her she had learnt how to spin, and by her spinning, aided
no doubt by that charity which the poor so bountifully show to the poor,
she managed to support herself and her brothers until the two boys were
old enough to be apprenticed to trades. Then she went out to service in
a farm-house. She married her master’s son, whose name was William Lea.
He had been called out to serve in the militia when it was raised on the
landing of the Young Pretender. He, like John Hill, the volunteer, lived
till he was past ninety, and, like him, was known by kinsmen who are
still living. Once he saved a poor old woman from death by drowning, to
which she had been sentenced on a charge of witchcraft by a brutal mob.
Where the Birmingham cattle-market now is, there was of old a piece of
water known as the Moat. In it he saw the unhappy woman struggling for
her life, and surrounded by a crowd as cruel as it was ignorant. Being
a powerful man he easily forced his way through, leapt into the water,
and brought the poor creature to land. He took her home and kept her in
his house for some days till she had recovered her strength. Mrs. Lea,
according to her daughter, was a woman of considerable information. She
had been taught by her mother by word of mouth as they sat spinning
together, and she, in her turn, in the same way taught her daughter. Her
views of political events were much wider and more liberal than those of
most of the people round her. Her daughter often heard her condemn the
harsh policy of the mother-country towards our settlements in America,
and foretell as the result the separation between the two that soon
followed. She had had too heavy a burthen of care thrown on her when
she was still a child, and her health broke down almost before she had
reached middle life. She died when her daughter Sarah, Rowland Hill’s
mother, was but fifteen. The young girl had for some years, during her
mother’s long illness, taken upon herself the chief part of all the
household duties. At the same time she had been a most devoted nurse. For
most of her life she was troubled with wakefulness. She had, she said,
formed the habit when she was a mere child, and used to lie awake in the
night fearing that her sick mother might require her services. She had
a brother not unworthy of her. He settled in Haddington, where the name
of Bailie Lea was long held in respect. When the cholera visited that
town in 1832 he was found “fearlessly assisting all who stood in want of
aid.” In the houses on both sides of him the dreadful disorder raged, and
at length his own servant was struck down. The old man showed no signs
of fear, but bore himself as became the grandson of the woman who had
lost her life by her devotion to the public good when the fever raged in

In the short account that I have thus given of Rowland Hill’s kindred,
there is seen much of that strong sense of duty, that integrity, that
courage, and that persistency which in so high a degree distinguished him
even from his very childhood. There are but few signs shown, however,
of that boldness of thought and fertility of mind which were no less
his mark. These he inherited from his father. Thomas Wright Hill was,
indeed, as his son said of him, a man of a very unusual character. I
have never come across his like, either in the world of men or books.
He had a simplicity which would have made him shine even in the pages
of Goldsmith. He had an inventiveness, and a disregard for everything
that was conventional, that would have admirably fitted him for that
country where kings were philosophers, or philosophers were kings. He
had, his friends used to say, every sense but common-sense. He was the
most guileless of men. He lived fourscore years and eight, and at the
end of his long life he trusted his fellow-men as much as he had at the
beginning. His lot had been for many years a hard one. His difficulties
had been great—such as might have well-nigh broken the heart of many
a man. “If ever,” he once wrote, “that happy day shall arrive when we
can pay off every account as presented, we should fancy ourselves in
a terrestrial Paradise.” He longs “to accelerate the arrival of that
blessed hour, if that be ever to come, when I shall be able to say, ‘I
owe no man anything but love.’” Yet he had always been cheerful. When
death one winter came upon his household, and carried off his youngest
son, he wrote, “Christmas, for the first time, as far as I can remember,
comes without a smile.” He had by this time seen sixty-eight Christmases,
and at one period of his life, poverty had been an unfailing guest at his
board. He had inherited from his father, as he said, a buoyant spirit of
optimism which carried his thoughts beyond all present mishaps. He never
spoke ill of the world. Like Franklin, he said on his death-bed that he
would gladly live his days over again. His relish of life had even at the
last lost but little of its keenness. Yet he met his death with the most
unruffled calmness, and with profound resignation. I account myself happy
in that he lived to such an age, that I was able to know him well. The
sitting-room in the house where he spent his last years faced, indeed,
the south. The sun could not, however, every day have shone in at his
window. Nevertheless in my memory it seems 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!

[Illustration: THOMAS WRIGHT HILL.


When at the age of fourteen he left the Grammar School of his native
town, he was apprenticed to one of his uncles, a brass-founder in
Birmingham. It had been at one time his strong wish to be articled to an
attorney; but “his good mother was incredulous as to the possibility of
a lawyer and an honest man being united in the same person.” His eldest
son, the late Mr. Matthew Davenport Hill, said that his father had many
of the qualities which make an able lawyer:—

    “He had what is known in the profession as a good head for law.
    He was quick at discovering distinctions, possessed logical
    powers, both strong and subtle, and a memory exceedingly
    retentive: while his language was at once lucid and accurate.
    In conversation he was a fluent speaker, and with early
    practice doubtless would have learnt to make fluent speeches;
    but I do not think he could ever have brought himself to utter
    an unnecessary word.”

He used to read with eagerness all law books that came in his way, and
was, says his son, better informed on all matters pertaining to the
law than almost any layman he ever met with. I greatly doubt, however,
whether as a lawyer he could have made his way. When he was in his
seventieth year, his son was counsel in a political trial, where the
judge so far forgot his position on the bench, as in summing-up to speak
of the learned gentleman who was opposed to him. “Thanks to God,” wrote
the old man on hearing of the case, “that it is not my profession to
plead before such judgment-seats. I should ruin the best of causes by
unbridled indignation.” With his eager and impatient mind, with his love
for “the divine principle of utility,” he would never have borne “the
tyranny of lawyers,” which was, to use Gibbon’s words, “more oppressive
and ridiculous than even the old yoke of the clergy.”

Leaving school as he did at an early age his education was but imperfect.
Nevertheless in his Calvinistic home he had studied one book thoroughly,
and that was the Bible. Its beautiful language was ever at his command.
On Sunday afternoons, while he was still a child, it had been his
father’s wont to entertain him and his brother with Scripture stories
told in homely words. “The story of Gideon,” wrote the old man, more than
eighty years later, “was a great favourite, and ecstatic was the moment
when my father came to narrate the breaking of the jugs, the sudden
blaze of the lamps, and the accompanying shout of the watchword—‘The
sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.’” The child used to delight in reading
the Latin quotations in Stackhouse’s “History of the Bible.” He did not
understand them, but he found pleasure in the melody of the words. Later
on at school he acquired a fair knowledge of Latin and some knowledge
of Greek, but he was removed at too early an age to become much of a
scholar. Like many another youth of those days eager after knowledge,
he had but few books at his command. Even his copy of Robinson Crusoe
was but a fragment. It began, as he vividly recollected, with the words
“‘More than thirty dancing round a fire,’ by which,” he wrote, “those who
are familiarly acquainted with that fascinating book will perceive how
dreadfully my copy had suffered mutilation.” A friend of his father’s—a
man of secluded habits and of a studious turn of mind, and therefore set
down by some of the good people of Kidderminster as being in league with
the Evil One—knowing that the boy was fond of reading, bequeathed to
him two volumes. One of the trustees wished to have them burnt at once,
as they bore a suspicious appearance and came from a dangerous quarter.
“My father,” wrote his son, “who was somewhat less credulous than his
neighbours, said, ‘Oh! let the boy have them;’ whereupon were put into
my hands a ‘Manual of Geography,’ and a copy of ‘Euclid’s Elements.’”
On Euclid he at once fastened, and soon mastered it. He went on to
algebra and the higher mathematics. To astronomy he devoted himself
with an ardour that never flagged. When he was eighty-four years old he
repaired with his telescope to Willingdon that he might observe the great
eclipse of the sun of the year 1847. To this eclipse he had long been
looking forward, but unhappily he was disappointed by a cloudy sky. Even
within a month or two of his death he was engaged in framing a system of
nomenclature for the stars.

His settlement at Birmingham was, in one way, most fortunate. It
brought him under the instruction of the excellent Priestley. He left
the strict and narrow sect in which he had been brought up, and joined
a congregation which its pastor, perhaps with justice, described as
the most liberal of any in England. He became an orthodox Unitarian.
“For about five years I had,” as he said on his death-bed, “great
privileges in the pastoral services of Dr. Priestley, and especially
in his lectures to the younger members of his congregation, and in
occasional conversations with him. This delightful period was closed
by the Birmingham riots.” The philosopher could not but have liked his
thoughtful and high-minded disciple. In fact, Thomas Hill was heard to
say, with not a little pride, that when he had once made some request of
Priestley, he received as answer, “You know, Hill, I never can refuse you

Rowland Hill said that through his father he himself owed much to
Priestley as a teacher of politics and science. To him as a teacher
of religion he acknowledged no obligation. From Priestley Thomas
Hill got, no doubt, an increased relish for the study of Natural
Philosophy. When he was a child of nine, he had been present at some of
Ferguson’s lectures. Much that he had heard and seen had been beyond
his understanding, but “some parts of the lecturer’s apparatus were,”
as he said, with a memory that had with the flight of nearly eighty
years lost none of its freshness, “delightfully comprehensible.” He
gradually acquired a considerable knowledge of most of the branches of
Natural Philosophy, and what he knew he knew thoroughly. On some of these
subjects he lectured at the Birmingham Philosophical Institution, and
lectured well. He did not, however, servilely follow authority. So early
as 1807, and perhaps earlier, writes his son, “he emphatically protested
against the use of the term, ‘electric fluid,’ (substituting that of
‘electric influence,’) and against the Franklinian theory of positive and
negative electricities.”

His favourite study, next to astronomy, was the formation of our
letter-sounds, and here he was under no obligation, either to Priestley,
or, so far as I know, to anyone else. In a lecture that he delivered
before the Institution so early as 1821, he established the distinction
between vocal and whispered sounds. It is to him that Dr. Guest, the
learned master of Caius College, Cambridge, refers in the following
passage in his “History of English Rhythms.”[10] “The distinction here
taken between vocal and whisper letters appears to me important. I
once thought it was original; but in conversing on this subject with a
respected friend, to whose instructions I owe much, I found his views so
nearly coinciding with my own, that I have now but little doubt the hint
was borrowed.”

For years he laboured at a philosophic system of short-hand. It never
came into general use, nor, with all its ingenuity, was it likely to do
so. For were brevity set on one side, and philosophy on the other, he
would not have hesitated for a moment in his choice. His hand should be
as short as philosophy allowed, but not one whit shorter. “After nearly
half-a-century of thought, and many a year of labour,” he wrote to one
of his sons, “I have, as I think, succeeded beyond my most sanguine
expectations in constructing a short-hand. Cast your eye over it, and
observe the distinctness of the elementary characters—the graceful shape
of the words—the perfect continuity of every combination as to the
consonants—the distinctness of the lines resulting from the lineality of
the short-hand writing. The art rests almost wholly in myself, and it
is, my dear fellow, too good, I feel sure, to be lost now so perfect.”
In a later letter, written in the spring of the year in which the great
Reform Bill was carried, he says, with a charming and touching simplicity
of character not unworthy of Don Quixote himself, “Were THE BILL once
passed, one might hope for general amendment. Then should I think
seriously of publishing my short-hand, which I am sure is a good thing.
The more closely I compare my own system with others, the more I like it.”

It was not vanity that led him to wish for the spread of his short-hand.
He was not, indeed, insensible to fame, but the ruling passion that was
strong in him to the very end of his life was the love of his fellow-men.
In one letter he speaks of “the divine principle of divided labour;” in
another he prays that “the divine principle of utility may be carried
into every corner of human practice.” There might justly be applied to
him the words that he himself used of a friend: “He had a matchless
benevolence—an interest in the happiness of others.” His youngest
son’s death was a dreadful blow to him. “The vacancy,” he wrote, “seems
appalling.” One brother was lying dead at home, another had fallen ill
in London. The old father feared that some “inconsiderate expression of
impatience” of his, written before the news had reached him of his son’s
illness, might have increased his fever. “You must forgive one who knew
not what he did.” In the midst of all his sorrow and anxiety he found
no small comfort. His beloved child had lived to see the beginning of
good times. “The French Revolution (of 1830,) and the change of ministry
to a liberal complexion, he had to rejoice in, and this affords us
great consolation.” So, too, his private troubles were at another time
overwhelmed beneath the greater troubles of his country. “Our family
trials,” he writes, “merge completely in the sad prospects for our

At the age of forty he had left trade, for which he was but little
fitted, and had opened a school. One of the ablest among his pupils thus
describes him:—

    “‘Old Daddy,’ as he was afterwards more familiarly called, was
    one of the kindest and most upright men I ever knew: irascible
    as became his profession: tender-hearted: intelligent,
    and reflective: imbued with the liberalism which is now
    predominant: of moderate scholastic attainments, having indeed
    been originally engaged in some small business; but resolute in
    making his boys understand whatever he taught them.”[11]

He had, indeed, some high qualifications for the schoolmaster’s life.
His “great and pure simplicity”—I use the words of another of his
pupils—could not but win the hearts and ennoble the characters of all
who were under him. He was, wrote a third, “a genuine man, to whom, if
to any of the children of men, may be applied the emphatically Christian
praise, that ‘He was an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile.’”
On his simplicity his boys could easily impose, but though they tricked
him, they never ceased to respect him. The morality of his school was, on
the whole, high. It was, above all, distinguished by great truthfulness
and honesty. Certainly, in one respect, he was an excellent teacher. He
was, as Mr. Sargant says, resolute in making his boys understand whatever
he taught them. He was altogether free from one of the worst, and one
of the commonest, faults of a teacher. He never confounded rules with
reasons. He cared far more that his pupils should understand _why_ a
thing is done, than _how_ a thing is done. “His explanations of the first
principles in mathematics,” says one of his pupils, “were very clear.”
From this same gentleman I learn that not a little that is now taught
as new in the modern system of geometry had been taught him by his old
master. A week before his death he mentioned with satisfaction, that a
definition which he had given of a straight line had been pronounced by a
mathematician to be the best that existed.[12]

“He looked,” as I have been told by one who was long under him, “at the
bearings of every subject, irrespective of its conventionalities. In
every case he would be asking, ‘If we were to begin the world afresh,
how should we proceed?’ He would always consider what is the best thing
to be done, and next how can it be done irrespectively of everything
conventional. When he had once arrived at his conclusions, and laid down
his principles, he would carry them out without regard to anyone or
anything.” Yet he was as free from arrogance as any man could well be. He
had an old-fashioned courtesy which never forsook him even when he caned
an unruly boy. Towards women, towards children, towards the oppressed,
towards the poor, in a word towards those who were weaker than himself,
he bore himself like a second Knight of La Mancha, or another Colonel
Newcome. Nevertheless he was not a good teacher. He had at least one
great failing. He was wanting, as one of his sons has said, in mental
perspective. There was no “keeping” in his mind. In the image that he
formed to himself of the world of learning, all things seemed to be
equally in the foreground. He could not distinguish between the relative
values of the different branches of study. All kinds of knowledge ranked
in his eyes as of equal importance. He was, for instance, an excellent
teacher of correct pronunciation and clear articulation. “We were,” says
Mr. Sargant, “thoroughly taught the elements of English; and our spelling
was immaculate.... The dropping of an ‘h’ was one of the seven deadly
sins.” He had a quick ear for melodious and rhythmical sounds. In writing
of the year 1770, he said, “It was a date which I found no pleasure in
expressing. The previous year, 1769, was that in which I first became
acquainted with the way of distinguishing years by their number, and I
was well pleased with the metrical expression of the number first learnt.
That of the subsequent 1770 ended in what my ear felt as a bathos, and
I longed for the metrical restoration of 1771.” He was not seven years
old when 1770 thus distressed him. He used to tell how as a child he had
been delighted with the name Melinda, and how he used to repeat it again
and again. His ear was grievously offended by what he called a collision.
There was a collision when two like sounds came together. When his
boys repeated the multiplication table they had to speak euphoniously.
A collision here would have been a most serious offence. They said five
sixes are thirty, but five times five is twenty-five. Five fives would
have set their master’s teeth on edge, as Dean Gaisford’s were set by a
wrong Greek accent. “Your old friend, Mr. A——,” he wrote to his eldest
son, “has sent No. 1. of his Birmingham—m—m—Mercury. I hope more skill
and more taste will appear in the selection of materials than has been
evinced in the choice of a name.” In returning home from the lectures
that he gave at the Philosophical Institution—and very good lectures they
were, too—he would with pride draw the attention of his friends to the
fact that they had not heard that night one single collision. “He used to
delight,” as his son once told me, “in peculiar terms, and would amend
Euclid’s language. Thus, instead of allowing the boys to say ‘the lines
are at right angles to each other,’ he taught them to say, ‘the lines
have a mutual perpendicularity.’ To my great annoyance the boys made a
catch-cry of this, and I could hear them shouting out in the playground,
‘the lines have a mutual perpendicularity.’”

He had devised an admirable plan for curing stammering, and here he
was as successful in practice as in theory. He never failed to work
a cure, but he had to complain that “strange as it might appear, it
was frequently much more easy to induce the capacity for speaking
without stammering than the inclination.” The regard that he paid to
mere utterance was, however, so excessive that the general progress
of his pupils was greatly retarded. He took months to carry a class
through numeration, for, fond though he was of mathematics, he paid
more attention to the modulation of the voice when the figures had to
be expressed aloud in words, than to the figures themselves. He took
the class up to decillions. Why he stopped there it was not easy to see.
It was no slight task to get a Midland County lad to express, with a
correctness that would satisfy the master’s ear, a number far smaller
than a decillion. When he had learnt the arithmetical value of the
figures, when he had been taught to say _hundred_, and not _underd_,
_nine_ and not _noine_, _five_ and not _foive_, the modulation of the
whole sentence remained as a vast, but not, as he at length found, an
insuperable task. If far too much time was wasted, no small good was thus
done. His pupils were always known by the distinctness and correctness of
their utterance.

He was, indeed, very fond of forming theories, but he too often forgot
to test them by practice. Having once convinced himself by a process of
reasoning that they were sound, he did not think it needful to put them
to the proof. He was also in this part of his character like Don Quixote,
who, when he had found that his pasteboard helmet did not bear the blows
of his sword, having patched it up, was satisfied of its strength, and,
without putting it to a second trial, looked upon it as a most finished
piece of armour. When he came to build his new school-house he showed
his love of theory in a curious way. “My father,” wrote his son, “having
found that, with but slight deviation from the line of road, the house
might be made to stand in exact coincidence with the cardinal points,
would, I believe, from that moment, have been almost more willing to
abandon the scheme than to lose such an opportunity of gratifying his
taste.” Now most men when they build a house, build it to serve, not as
the letters on a vane to show the points of the compass, but as a place
of residence. A place of residence is certainly not the better, but a
good deal the worse, for standing in exact coincidence with the cardinal

Notwithstanding his faults as a schoolmaster, he was, in many ways,
admirable as a father. His children could say of him what Burns said of
his father:—“He conversed familiarly on all subjects with us, as if we
had been men.” “Perhaps,” wrote Mr. M. D. Hill, “after all, the greatest
obligation we owe to our father is this: that from infancy he would
reason with us—argue with us, would perhaps be a better expression, as
denoting that it was a match of mind against mind, in which all the rules
of fair play were duly observed; and we put forth our little strength
without fear. Arguments were taken at their just weight; the sword
of authority was not thrown into the scale.” He did not much delight
to season his fireside with personal talk. It was all those matters
that make up the life of a good citizen in a free state that he mostly
discussed. In subjects such as these, time has proved that he was no
fanciful theorist. Strong and staunch Liberal though he always was, in
no single respect was he ever a man of violent or extreme views. He
never was a Republican. The news of the opening scenes of the French
Revolution had, indeed, been to him glad tidings of great joy. But the
horrors of the Reign of Terror he never forgot or condoned. They did not
scare him however from the path of reform. Unlike many of the Whigs, he
always hated Bonapartism. He had, indeed, condemned as much as any man
the conduct of England when in 1793 she joined the confederacy against
France. He could never forgive Pitt his share in that proceeding. But
when Bonaparte wantonly broke through the Peace of Amiens, and renewed
the war, he was dead against him. He would have said with Southey,
that had he only a single guinea in the world, he would, rather than
see peace made for want of funds, give half of it in war-taxes. “My
own wish,” he wrote in 1807, when the fear of a French invasion was
still in the minds of men, “is that every man and every boy throughout
the United Islands should be compelled, under a penalty that would be
submitted to for conscience sake alone—that each should be compelled to
provide himself with arms, and learn to use them.” He had his children
and his pupils drilled. He was above all things a sturdy Englishman. But
he longed for reforms—reforms of all kinds, but reforms that kept well
within the lines of the Constitution. Above all he longed for a thorough
reform of Parliament, as the fount and source of all other reforms. In
that gloomiest of all years, 1811, he wrote, “a Parliamentary reform, a
strong effusion of the healthy vigour of Democracy, is the only hope.”
Six years later, writing to his eldest son, he says, “You will see that
I have not lost sight of the excellent maxim—‘The whole man must stand
or fall together.’ If your father cannot get rich without fawning, he
must remain poor. If he cannot live without it, he must die, as by far
the easiest alternative. Your account of London is appalling. But the
land, the sunshine, the rain on our planet are as ever. Why then despair?
The political heavens lower; but who shall say of what force the storm
shall be, and of what duration? Who shall predict ravages too great
to be compensated by succeeding seasons of calm? Let us not fear for
ourselves—little indeed is needful to life—let us fear for our beloved
country, and each to his utmost so trim the bark as to avoid the rocks of
anarchy on the one hand, and the equally fatal, though less conspicuous,
shoals of despotism on the other. The time is coming, I apprehend, when
none that carries a conscience will be able to remain neuter.” He had
in political matters that reasonableness which is the mark of the best
English mind. When in 1819 the proposal had been made that the franchise
of Grampound should be transferred to some large town, he wrote, “Cobbett
and Co. would persuade the multitude to despise the boon as falling
far short of what should be granted, and thus they furnish the foes of
all reform with a pretence for withholding this trifling, but far from
unimportant, concession.”

Evil, indeed, were the days in which the vigour of his manhood was
spent, and gloomy ofttimes must have been the family talk. But amid all
the gloom there was no despondency. He belonged to that hopeful but
small band of brave men who amid the darkest days of the long Tory rule
steadfastly held up the banner of freedom and progress. He did his best
to train up his children as soldiers in the good cause. Recruits were
indeed needed. The government was the most oppressive that there had been
in England since the days of the Stuarts, while the upper and middle
classes were sunk in an indifference that had not been witnessed since
the evil times of the Restoration. “If any person,” wrote Romilly in
1808, “be desirous of having an adequate idea of the mischievous effects
which have been produced in this country by the French Revolution and
all its attendant horrors, he should attempt some legislative reform, on
humane and liberal principles. He will then find, not only what a stupid
dread of innovation, but what a savage spirit it has infused into the
minds of many of his countrymen.” There were scarcely any Reformers left
in Parliament. The great Whig party was either indifferent or hopeless.
The Criminal Law was everywhere administered with savage severity. The
Bishops, with the Archbishop of Canterbury at their head, were ready to
hang a poor wretch for the crime of stealing goods that were worth five
shillings. The royal dukes fought hard for the slave trade. The Habeas
Corpus Act was suspended, and honest men were left to languish in prison.

Such were the evil days in which Thomas Hill brought up his children,
and such were the evil deeds which were ever rousing his fiercest anger.
The savageness of the penal code he hotly denounced. He had heard of
the execution of a man whom he had known for a crime which no one now
would dream of punishing with death. “I feel only compassion,” he wrote,
“for the poor sufferer. Institutions more atrocious than his crimes have
exacted from him a ten-fold forfeit, and he now is the injured party. It
is a consolation for me to have abhorred the Draconian statutes even from
my boyhood.” Slavery and the slave-trade, and religious oppression of
every kind, whether carried out by law or by custom, he utterly loathed
and detested. “We were all,” said one of his sons, “born to a burning
hatred of tyranny.” He was too poor to take in a newspaper by himself,
but he joined with three or four of his neighbours in subscribing to a
London weekly journal. It was always read aloud in the family circle.
The sons caught almost from their infancy their father’s ardent love of
liberty. “He tuned their hearts, by far the noblest aim.” One of them
could remember how, when he was a child, an account of a trial was read
aloud by his eldest brother. “I underwent,” he writes, “considerable
excitement in its recital, caused principally, as I recollect, by the
spirited manner in which the defendant, who employed no counsel, resisted
all attempts to put him down. My father’s enthusiasm, I remember, was so
strong as to draw from him the wild exclamation, ‘Why the man’s a god!’”
This enthusiasm he retained through life. “Beg of Arthur,” he wrote to
one of his sons, on tidings coming of the Battle of Navarino, “not to get
over-intoxicated with the Greek news. I bustled home to make him quite
happy, and, on inquiring for him out of breath, found he had started.”
I remember well how I used to read aloud to the old man, now in his
eighty-seventh year, the accounts of the Hungarian Insurrection, and how
deep were his groans over the defeat of the patriots, and how burning was
his indignation at the cruelties of the Austrians and the Russians.

It was not merely a spirit of freedom that he implanted in his children.
In the midst of his enthusiasm he never failed to consider the best cure
for the evils which he attacked. He was a diligent reader of Adam Smith.
“What he read he was fond of giving forth and discussing, willingly
listening to objections, and never leaving them unanswered.... Our whole
family might be regarded as a little political economy club, sitting not
indeed at stated times, but yet at short intervals, and debating, if not
with much method, yet with great earnestness. He was,” added his son, “in
political matters always right. As long as his children could remember
he was a thorough free-trader. He condemned all laws against usury. He
laughed at all social objections to the employment of machinery.[13] He
strongly condemned the judge-made law which involved in partnership
all persons who were paid for the use of capital by a share in profits,
and foresaw the benefits to be derived from a general system of
limited liability. He was earnestly in favour of the representation
of minorities, and about sixty years ago drew up a plan for effecting
this, which was in substance the same as that lately promulgated, and,
indeed, independently devised, by Mr. Hare.[14] He maintained the justice
of allowing counsel to address the jury for the defence in trials for
felony, and even of receiving the evidence of parties.”[15] He filled the
minds of his children with a passion for sweeping away injustice, and
baseness, and folly from the face of the earth. To apply to him his own
words, “he invigorated their souls for the conception and accomplishment
of many things permanently great and good.” He was cheered by the great
changes for the better which he lived to see. “Surely,” he once wrote,
“the days of routine and mummery are swiftly passing away.” A few months
before the Reform Bill was carried he wrote to one of his sons:—“Even I
hope to see mighty changes wrought. You, my dear boy, may hope to enjoy
the beneficial effects of them. For myself it will be amply sufficient if
I can die assured that my dear children will reap even the first-fruits
of that harvest for which we have all been thus long labouring.”

Dear as his memory is to me, yet I cannot but own that his character
had its imperfect side. It was not only that he allowed himself to be
mastered by his theories. There was, moreover, a want of thoroughness in
much that he did. He never could satisfy himself that he had done all
which could be done, and so he rarely brought anything to completion. He
was readier to conceive than firm to execute. He worked slowly, and was
too much inclined to put off to another day any piece of business which
he much disliked. He lived, indeed, with great simplicity; but, owing in
part to his own bad management of business matters, he was never able to
shake himself free from a burden of debt till his sons came to his help.
It is, perhaps, not wonderful that he took the world somewhat easily,
as he had from nature such a happy constitution, that the more he was
troubled, the longer and the more soundly he could sleep.

His, indeed, was a temperament that wins a man happiness, but refuses
him fame. He had little ambition and few wants. His utmost wishes scarce
travelled beyond a simple house, a sufficiency of homely fare and
clothing, a good library, and a set of philosophical and astronomical
instruments. “Never be cast down,” he wrote to one of his sons; “moderate
success is nearly a certainty, and more is not worth a wish.” It was
not that he lived the sour life of an anchorite. Few men had a heartier
relish of all honest pleasures. He was even famed for his love of
apple-pie. “My dear,” I have heard him say after the simplest of meals,
when asked by his daughter whether he had enjoyed his food, “My dear, I
only hope the Queen has had half as good a dinner.” Such hospitality as
he could afford he at all times delighted in showing. Who that partook of
his Sunday morning breakfasts could ever forget the charming courtesy and
the warmth of affection that make the aged man’s simple parlour live in
the memory like a landscape of Claude’s?

The love that he had ever borne his fellow-men came to the relief of the
sufferings of his last hours. As he was dying, the gloom that had covered
the world during so much of his manhood seemed to him at last to have
been cleared away. The Great Exhibition of 1851 had just been opened.
“Thank God! thank God!” he said, “for living to see this day!... This
real peace meeting. I cannot join them with my voice, but I can in my
heart. ‘All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with cheerful
voice.’ I leave the world bright with hope. Never, surely, has God’s
government of the world been so clear as at the present period.” The day
before his death he insisted that one of his sons and his doctor should
breakfast in his room, as, though he was himself unable to eat, he took
pleasure in seeing others eat and refresh themselves.

    “And still to love, though pressed with ill,
    In wintry age to feel no chill,
    With me is to be lovely still.”

On the last evening, when his long life of fourscore years and eight was
almost at its lowest ebb, the love for his fellow-men that had thrown
a radiance on his whole life was not dim, nor was the natural force of
his mind abated. “I shall sadly miss,” his son recorded in his journal,
“his warm and intelligent sympathy. Nothing was so acceptable to him,
even up to the time of my visiting him last night, as an account of any
improvements in progress in the Post-office.” A few days earlier he had
exclaimed that he could not have believed that a death-bed could be so
pleasant. He knew nothing of that melancholy state when life becomes a
burthen and death remains a dread. Much of his happiness arose, he said,
from his full confidence in the benevolence of the Creator. He composed
the following lines:—


_Aura veni._

    “Come, gentle breeze, come, air divine,
    Comfort this drooping heart of mine!
    Ah! solace flows with heaven’s own breath,
    Which cheers my soul that sank in death.
    The works of God all speak His praise;
    To Him eternal anthems raise;
    This air of heavenly love’s a token,
    Let pensive musing now be broken,
    Prayer for far greater boons be spoken.
    God, couldst Thou find my soul a place
    Within the realms of boundless grace—
    The humblest post among the ranks
    Of those that give Thee endless thanks—
    Then would my leaping powers rejoice
    To sing Thy name with heart and voice;
    Then toil my character to rear,
    By following Thy commands on purer, loftier sphere.
    And may I rest my humble frame
    On Love supreme, which crowns Thy name.”

“His last parting with this world was to take one by one the hand of each
of his children, and, after placing it near his heart, to kiss it, and
point upwards with a radiant expression of intense love and happiness.”

Much as Rowland Hill owed to his father, he owed scarcely less to his
mother. She, though the inferior of her husband in quick intelligence and
originality, was his superior in shrewd common sense and in firmness of
purpose. She was as practical as he was theoretical, and as cautious as
he was rash. To his father Rowland owed his largeness of view and his
boldness of conception. But it was his mother from whom he derived his
caution, his patience, and his unwearying prudence. Had he not had such a
father, he would not have devised his plan of Penny Postage. Had he not
had such a mother, he would not have succeeded in making what seemed the
scheme of an enthusiast a complete and acknowledged success. He was never
weary in his old age of sounding her praises, and acknowledging how much
he owed to her. He could scarcely speak of her without the tears starting
into his eyes, while his utterances, broken through strong emotion, could
hardly discharge the fulness of his heart. The last record that I have
of my conversations with him ends with her praises. “My mother was,” he
said, “a most admirable woman in every respect. She had great natural
intellect. She had a willingness to exert herself for the good of her
family, and she did exert herself beyond her powers.” My record thus
ends:—“Here he became so affected that I thought a longer talk might be
hurtful to him, and so I came away.”

[Illustration: SARAH HILL.


Her husband was no less mindful of her high merits. “Her children arise
up, and call her blessed;—her husband also, and he praiseth her.” After
her death he more than once told his daughter that the only merit he
claimed in bringing up his family was that of letting their mother do
exactly as she liked. “It was to her influence—an influence of the most
beneficial kind—that he attributed the merit of their becoming good and
useful members of society.” “As a theme for eloquence,” he one day wrote
to one of his sons, “you may sound the trumpet of past success and long
experience in your _transcendent_ mother.” “She was,” said her daughter,
“a large-hearted woman, taking upon herself all duties that lay within
her reach, whether properly belonging to her or not.” To her great
courage her son thus bears testimony:—

    “Many instances fell under my own observation, but the one I
    mention was of earlier date. Happening to be present when, in
    the midst of a violent thunderstorm, an imperious mistress
    ordered her terrified maidservant to go and take down the
    clothes that were hanging out to dry, my mother at once
    volunteered for the service, and performed it in full, though
    not without imminent risk of her life; for before she could
    regain the house a tree, from which she had detached one of the
    lines, was struck by lightning.”[16]

She had been as a mere child the most dutiful of daughters. She was the
most devoted and unselfish of wives and mothers. Yet by strangers all her
merits were not quickly seen. Her warm heart was hidden beneath cold and
reserved manners. Outsiders were astonished at the extraordinary degree
of affection that her children felt for her. Some of this coldness of
manner, and all the hidden warmth of heart were inherited from her by her
famous son. She had had but a small chance of getting much book-learning,
yet she took a strong interest in her husband’s studies and pursuits. Her
son said that she possessed remarkable sagacity and no small readiness in
contrivance. It was not, however, by inventiveness or by originality that
she was distinguished. In those qualities her husband was strong. She was
strong where he was weak. If he had every sense but common sense, she
had common sense in a high degree. She had with it an unusual strength
of character—a strength that made itself none the less felt because it
was quiet. “We must not forget,” wrote one of her sons to his brother,
when the death of her youngest child was looked for, and they were all
dreading the terrible blank that would arise, “we must not forget that
mother is not an ordinary woman—her powers of self-control and conformity
to existing circumstances are unusually great.” She was not wanting in
honest ambition. She did not, indeed, look for any high position for her
sons. She smiled incredulously when one of her boys told her that the day
would come when she should ride in his carriage. But she was resolved
that her children should not sink through poverty out of that middle
class into which they were born. She was most anxious that they should
have the advantages of that education which had never fallen to her
lot. It was her doing that her husband left trade, for which he was but
ill-fitted, and started a school. In the step that he thus took she saw
the best means of getting their own children taught. She was unwearying
in her efforts to add to her husband’s scanty income, and most rigid in
her economy. She longed to provide for him and for her children that
freedom of action which is only enjoyed by those who have freedom from
debt. Her eldest son has thus recorded his recollections of her during
the terrible year 1800, when he was but a child of eight years:—

    “Well do I remember that time of dearth, and even famine. As
    I was the eldest, my mother, in the absence of her husband,
    opened her heart now and then to me; and I knew how she lay
    in wakefulness, passing much of the night in little plans for
    ensuring food and clothing to her children by the exercise
    of the strictest parsimony. How she accomplished her task I
    know not; I cannot imagine; but certain it was that we never
    wanted either wholesome food or decent raiment, and were always
    looked upon by the poor of the neighbourhood as gentlefolk. Her
    achievement she regarded in after and more prosperous years
    with honest pride and gratulation. Nor was she less anxious for
    our instruction than for our physical comforts. She had but
    little reading, but possessed a quick and lively apprehension
    and natural good taste. She was clever at figures, working
    by mental arithmetic; not pursuing rules, but acting on her
    natural sagacity. She was honourable and high-minded, and had a
    great contempt for the unreal in religion, morals, or manners;
    shabby gentility and dirt, especially when concealed, excited
    her disapprobation. In her youth she was comely, not to say
    handsome. I remember her, fair-haired and fair-complexioned.
    She was the tenderest of parents.”

Her merits as the mistress of a household were thus summed up by Rowland
Hill. “I scarcely think there ever was a woman out of France who could
make so much out of so little.”

The husband and wife each supplied in character that in which the other
was wanting. In Rowland was seen a remarkable combination of the strong
qualities of each parent. His father, however, had a two-fold influence
on his character. Almost as much as he nourished his intellect and one
side of his moral nature by sympathy, so he increased another side by the
strong feeling of antipathy that he unconsciously raised. The son was
shocked with his father’s want both of method and steady persistence,
with the easy way in which he often set on one side matters that troubled
him, and with the complacency with which he still regarded his theories,
however much they were buffeted and bruised by practice. Here Rowland set
before him his mother’s best qualities. He had, indeed, received them
in large measure from nature, but he cultivated them from his earliest
youth with a steadiness that never fell off or wearied. He went, perhaps,
into the opposite extreme of that which he shunned, and gained a certain
rigidity of character which at times appeared to be excessive.

I have seen a letter from his mother’s brother, Bailie Lea, written
years ago to one of his nieces, in which he recalls, he says, “times,
some seventy years ago, long before any of you were born.” He describes
with some humour how he had helped young Tom Hill in his courtship. He
adds, “The happy hour began to draw nigh, the gown was bought, made, and
fitted on; the knot tied, the work was done, and it speaks for itself in
every quarter of the globe.” With honest and just pride in his sister,
the old man adds, “But Tom Hill could not have accomplished the half of
what appears with any other woman for a wife than Sally Lea.” Certainly
Rowland Hill always believed that he himself could not have accomplished
the half of what he did had he not had such a mother. I know not whether
my grandfather had any rivals. A charming story that is told of his old
age leads me to think that he must have had at least one. His wife, when
they had been married close on fifty years, one day called him, with a
Birmingham plainness of speech, “An old fool!” A child who was staying
in the house overheard him, as he left the room and slowly went up the
stairs, muttering to himself, “Humph! she called me an old fool—an old
fool!” Then he stopped, and was silent for a few moments, till suddenly
rubbing his hands together, he exclaimed, “A lucky dog I was to get her,
though!” His memory had carried him back full fifty years, before the
ring was bought and the gown made, when young Tom Hill had still to win
the heart and hand of Sarah Lea. A few years after her death he was one
day missing. Some hours passed by, and nothing could be heard of the aged
man who numbered now his fourscore years and four. At length he was seen
trudging slowly homewards. He had gone on foot full five miles to his
wife’s grave, and on foot he was making his way back.

His marriage had been delayed for a short time by the riots in which the
chapels of the dissenters, and many of their houses, were burnt to the
ground by a brutal Church-and-King mob. With several of his companions he
had hurried off to defend the house of their revered pastor, but their
services were unhappily declined. Priestley declared that it was the duty
of a Christian minister to submit to persecution. The rest of the story
of this eventful scene I shall tell in the words of his eldest son:—

    “His companions went away, perhaps to escort their good pastor
    and his family, whose lives would not have been secure against
    the ruffians coming to demolish their home and property. My
    father barred the doors, closed the shutters, made fast the
    house as securely as he could against the expected rioters,
    and then awaited their arrival. He has often described to me
    how he walked to and fro in the darkened rooms, chafing under
    the restriction which had been put on him and his friends. He
    was present when the mob broke in, and witnessed the plunder
    and destruction, and the incendiary fire by which the outrage
    was consummated. Lingering near the house, he saw a working
    man fill his apron with shoes, with which he made off. My
    father followed him, and, as soon as the thief was alone,
    collared him, and dragged him to the gaol, where he had the
    mortification to witness the man quietly relieved of his booty,
    and then suffered to depart, the keeper informing my father
    that he had had orders to take in no prisoners that night! The
    mob, which had begun by attacking dissenters as public enemies,
    burning down their chapels and their houses, and making
    spoil of their goods, soon expanded their views, and gave
    unmistakable signs that the distinction between dissenter and
    churchman had had its hour, and was to be superseded in favour
    of the doctrine now so well known, ‘La propriété, c’est un
    vol.’ When matters came to this pass the magistrates swore-in
    special constables. My father was one of this body; and,
    like his comrades, compendiously armed with half a mop-stick
    by way of truncheon, he marched with them to the defence of
    Baskerville House, in Birmingham, which was under attack by the
    mob. The special constables at first drove all before them, in
    spite of the immense disparity of numbers; but after a time,
    becoming separated in the _mêlée_, they sustained a total
    defeat. Some were very severely bruised, and one died of the
    injuries which he received in the fight. My father, although
    not conscious at the time of having received a blow, could
    not the next morning raise his arm. He was always of opinion
    that if they had had a flag, or some signal of that kind, round
    which they could have rallied, the fortune of the day would
    have been reversed.”

The blow that he had received was at all events so severe that his
marriage had to be put off for a fortnight. For three or four years the
young couple lived at Birmingham.[17] They then removed to Kidderminster,
where Rowland was born in the freehold house that had belonged to three
generations of his family.[18] It was not, however, to remain long in
his father’s hands. The French war ruined the manufacture in which
he had engaged, and in the great straits to which he was before long
reduced, he was able to retain nothing of his small inheritance. He left
Kidderminster, and removed to Wolverhampton, where he found employment.
His salary however was so small that it was only by means of the severest
thrift that he managed to keep his head above water. It was in the stern
school of poverty that Rowland was brought up from his earliest years.
Like Garrick, he was “bred in a family whose study was to make four pence
do as much as others made four pence half-penny do.”


His father had taken an old farm-house, called Horsehills, that stood
about a mile from Wolverhampton. It had long been empty, and the rent
was so low that at first it excited his suspicions. It was not till he
had signed the lease that he was informed that the house was haunted.
He cared much about a low rent, and nothing about ghosts. On such terms
he would have been only too glad to find a haunted house each time he
changed his place of abode. He lived here till Rowland was seven years
old. When the child had become a man of eighty he put on record many
of the memories that he still retained of this home of his early days.
Here it was that they were living during the terrible dearth of 1800,
of which for many a year, men, he says, could hardly talk without a
shudder. He could remember how one day during this famine when they were
dining on bread and butter and lettuce, a beggar came to the door. His
mother took from the dish one of the slices and sent it to the man. He
refused it because there was not butter enough for him. The half-starved
people took to plundering the fields of the potatoes, and the owners,
in order to secure them, set about to dig them up and store them. Late
rains, moreover, had followed the hot weather, and the roots had begun
to sprout. Rowland writes, “I remember that when our crop of late
potatoes was dug up, we children were set to spread them over the floor
of the only room that could be spared. It was one of the parlours.”
Likely enough they were thus brought into the house as a safer place
against the rioters than any outhouse. Bread riots broke out. Most of
the judges declaimed on the winter circuits against the forestallers.
“A violent clamour was excited against corn-dealers and farmers, which
being joined in by the mob, artificial scarcity became the cry. Farmers
were threatened, and their barns and ricks in many places were set on
fire.”[19] One band of rioters came to Horsehills, thinking no doubt
that, as it was a farm-house, the occupier was a farmer. “The house
was entered, and a demand made for bread; but the poor fellows, hungry
as they doubtless were, listened to explanations; and upon one of them
saying, ‘Oh, come away; look at the missis how bad her (she) looks,’
they all quietly withdrew.” I have heard my father say that so terrible
had been the dearth, and so painful were the memories it raised, that
they had all come to look upon bread as something holy. Once, when a
mere child, he had seen a play-fellow wantonly waste a piece of bread by
throwing it about. He was seized with alarm lest some terrible judgment
from Heaven should come, not only upon the one guilty person, but upon
all who were in his company. He feared lest the roof might fall down
upon them. It may have been during this time of famine that Rowland, for
the first time in his life, and perhaps for the last time, wished to go
into debt. He was one day telling me how slowly and painfully he had,
in his boyhood, saved up his money in order to buy useful articles of
which he stood in need. I asked him whether he had never been tempted
by the pastrycook. “No,” he answered; but yet, he added with a smile,
according to a story that was told of him, he once had been. He had gone,
when a very little child, to a woman who kept a stall in Wolverhampton
market-place, and had asked her to let him have a half-penny-worth of
sweets on trust. When she refused, he then begged her to lend him a
half-penny, with which he would buy the sweets.

One adventure in these days of his childhood impressed itself most deeply
on his memory. His father, who had gone one day on business to a town
some miles off, was very late in returning. His mother became uneasy,
and set off quite alone to meet her husband. Soon after she had started,
he returned, but though he had come by the way along which she had gone,
he had not met her. He in his turn was full of alarm. He sent off his
eldest boy, a lad of nine, in one direction. The two next boys, Edwin
and Rowland, who were at most eight and six years old, he bade go by
one road to Wolverhampton, and come back by another. He himself took a
third way. The boys set out, not indeed without fear, but nevertheless
“with a conviction that the work must be done.” The two younger lads had
first to go along a dark lane. They then came to a spot where, underneath
the cross-ways, there lay buried, as they knew, the body of a lad who
had ended his life with his own hand. The place was known as Dead Boy’s
Grave. Next they had to pass near the brink of a gravel pit, “to them
an awful chasm, which they shuddered by as they could.” At length they
made their round, and not far off midnight, as Rowland believed, reached
home. There to their great joy they found the rest gathered together.
The eldest boy, who had been alone, though a lad of great courage, had
suffered not a little from fear. Neither he, nor his father, had met
the mother, who reached home before them. As she had been going along
the lane, she had been alarmed, she said, by a man who started up on
the other side of the hedge. In her fright she had cleared the opposite
fence at a bound, and had made her way home over the fields. The next day
her husband went with her to the spot, but though he was an active and
muscular man, he failed to make in his strength the leap which she had
made in the terror which comes from weakness.

Rowland Hill was fond of talking in his old age of his childhood, of
which he retained a very clear memory. He remembered how one day in the
autumn of 1801, his brothers came back from school with the news that
the mail coach had driven into Wolverhampton decked with blue ribbons.
Tidings had just arrived of peace with France.[20] The whole country was
in a blaze with bonfires and illuminations. Rowland and his brothers,
when it grew dark, set fire to the stump of an old tree, and so bore
their part in the general rejoicings. When war broke out again with
France he was living in Birmingham. “Old Boney,” became the terror of all
English children, as “Malbrook,” a hundred years before, had been the
terror of all French children. Within half-a-mile of his father’s house,
“the forging of gun-barrels was almost incessant, beginning each day
long before dawn, and continuing long after nightfall; the noise of the
hammers being drowned ever and anon by the rattle from the proof-house.”
Their own house each time felt the shock, and his mother’s brewings of
beer were injured by the constant jars. On the open ground in front of
the house, one division of the Birmingham Volunteers was drilled each
Sunday morning. Sunday drilling, in this season of alarms, went on
throughout the length and breadth of the land. The press-gang now and
then came so far as this inland town. He could remember the alarm they
caused him and his brothers. They were fearful not so much for themselves
as for their father.

One day a captured French gun-boat was dragged into Birmingham, and
shown at a small charge. Hitherto he had seen no vessel bigger than a
coal barge. For the first time he saw a real anchor and ship guns. As he
returned home with his brothers, they talked over the loss of the Royal
George, and other “moving accidents by flood.” He could “well remember
the mingled joy and grief at the great, but dearly-bought, victory of
Trafalgar.” The following verses of a rude ballad that was sung in the
streets remained fixed in his memory:—

    “On the nineteenth[21] of October,
      Eighteen hundred and five,
    We took from the French and Spaniards
      A most glorious prize.

    “We fought for full four hours,
      With thundering cannon balls;
    But the death of gallant Nelson
      Was by a musket ball.

    “Britannia and her heroes
      Will long bemoan their loss;
    For he was as brave an Admiral,
      As e’er the ocean crossed.”

Other memories of his carried back those who heard him talk in his latter
years to a state of life that was very unlike the present. The baker who
supplied them with bread kept his reckoning by tallies. Their milk-woman
had just such another score as that which was presented to Hogarth’s
Distressed Poet. A travelling tailor used to come his rounds, and, in
accordance with the common custom, live in their house while he was
making clothes for the family. In every show of feats of horsemanship,
the performance always ended with the burlesque of the Tailor riding
to Brentford to vote for John Wilkes. Whenever any disaster came upon
the country, there were still found old people who solemnly shook their
heads, and gravely pointed it out as another instance of the divine wrath
for the great sin that the nation had committed when it made the change
of style.

The changes that he saw in the currency were very great. In his early
childhood, gold pieces—guineas, half guineas, and seven shilling
bits,—were not uncommon, but they began to disappear, and before long
were scarcely ever seen. When one did come to hand, it was called a
stranger. About the year 1813, one of his brothers sold a guinea for a
one pound note and eight shillings in silver. As the gold began to be
hoarded, these one pound notes took their place. Bank of England notes
were in Birmingham looked upon with suspicion, for they were more often
forged than provincial notes. The silver coins of the realm were so well
worn, that hardly any of them bore even a trace of an effigy or legend.
“Any that were still unworn were called pretty shillings and the like,”
and were suspected by the lower class of dealers as something irregular.
Together with the state currency, tokens circulated to a great extent.
There were Bank of England tokens, of the value of five shillings, three
shillings, and one shilling and sixpence. The parish of Birmingham
had its notes for one pound, and five shillings, and its workhouse
shilling, as the coin was called. It had been issued by the guardians as
a convenient means of distributing out-of-door relief. All these coins
and tokens were more or less forged. The coins of the realm stood lowest
in point of security, then the Bank of England tokens; while the parish
tokens were hardly ever imitated, and were everywhere received with
confidence. Forgery was constantly carried on. One daring and notorious
forger and coiner, named Booth, long defied the police. His house stood
in the midst of an open plain, some miles from Birmingham, and was very
strongly barricaded. The officers had more than once forced an entry;
but so careful had been his watch, that, by the time they had been able
to break in, all proofs of his crime had been destroyed. Rowland Hill
had seen him riding into town, on his way to the rolling-mills, with the
metal in his saddle-bags. The boy took more than a common interest in the
man, as in this very rolling-mill one of his own brothers was employed.
One day the messenger whom Booth had sent with the metal had forgotten
to bring a pattern. “Taking out a three-shilling piece, the man inserted
it in one slit after another of the gauge, until he found the one which
exactly corresponded with its thickness, and this he gave as the guide.”
His long freedom from punishment rendered the coiner careless, and he was
at last surprised. The whole Birmingham police force was mustered, and a
troop of dragoons was got from the barracks. A ladder had been brought,
and an entrance was made through the tiling of the roof. It seemed as if
they were once more too late, for at first nothing could be found. One of
the “runners,” however, in mounting the ladder, had through the bars of
an upper window seen Booth hurriedly thrusting papers, that no doubt were
forged notes, into the fire. A hole was broken into the chimney, and in
it were found one whole note, and one partly burnt. The prisoners were
taken to Birmingham, and thence were sent by the magistrates to Stafford,
under the guard of a small body of horse. Booth was hanged.

It is scarcely wonderful that criminals openly defied the laws, for
the police-force of Birmingham was very small. The town contained in
the early years of this century about seventy thousand inhabitants.
Yet the whole police-force for day duty consisted of less than twenty
men. By night, guard was kept by the usual body of “ancient and most
quiet watchmen.” The town, moreover, like all other towns, was but
dimly lighted with its oil-lamps. Rowland was about seventeen years old
when, “with almost unbounded delight, I first saw,” he writes, “streets
illuminated by gas.” Yet the peace was, on the whole, not ill kept.
From 1803 to 1833 there were but three riots, and of these only one was
at all serious. The town had not even in those days a Recorder, and
the criminals were sent to the Assizes at Warwick. The stage-coaches,
as Rowland well remembered, were all furnished with strong staples, to
which the fetters of prisoners were fast locked. He had himself, when
he was still a little lad, sat on the coach beside a man thus fettered.
The fellow made light of his position. “He had,” he said, “only robbed a
hen-roost, and they couldn’t touch his neck for that.” Some idle gossip,
seeing Rowland thus sitting by the thief, at once spread the report that
the boy on the coach was going to Warwick on the charge of robbing his

I have been carried away in my narrative not a little distance from the
quiet home in the neighbourhood of Wolverhampton. The old farm-house was
endeared to Rowland Hill by one memory, for here it was that he first met
with his future wife. Her father, Mr. Joseph Pearson, was a manufacturer
of Wolverhampton. “I regarded him throughout life,” said his son-in-law,
“with esteem and affection. He was in the town, near to which he resided,
the recognised leader of the Liberal party, and, at a later period, when
the town became enfranchised, was the standing Chairman of the Committee
for returning the Liberal candidate. He had always been a staunch
Liberal, to use the modern term, and I doubt not was regarded by his
Tory neighbours as a Jacobin; for so all were held who either preferred
Fox to Pitt, or ventured to question the justice or necessity of the war
of 1793. I have been told that during the course of that war he once took
part in a meeting held in the market-place of the town to petition for
peace, when cannon, brought out in apprehension, or feigned apprehension,
of a tumult, stood pointed at the assembly.” He had once, when a young
man, during his year of office as constable of the borough, faced a mob
of colliers bent on bull-baiting. He pulled up the stake, and put a stop
for that day to the sport. About the same time Basil Montagu had to flee
for his life from a country town, where he, too, had spoilt sport by
saving an innocent man from the gallows. Mr. Pearson took great pleasure
in Thomas Hill’s society. In social position he was, indeed, above him,
for he was a man of considerable property, and a magistrate for the
county. In Mrs. Hill’s rice-puddings, in the making of which she was “a
notable woman,” and in her husband’s talk, he found, however, enough to
satisfy him.

Rowland was but a year older than Mr. Pearson’s eldest daughter. The
beginning of his courtship he has himself told in the following words:—

    “Mr. Pearson’s visit led to intimacy between the families,
    especially as regards the children; and as his eldest daughter
    had attained the age of five, while I was no more advanced than
    six, the two were naturally thrown much together, and, in fact,
    took the first step towards that intimacy and affection which
    some twenty-five years later were cemented by marriage. One
    whimsical little passage in these earliest days I must record.
    Under the high road, in the part nearest to my father’s house,
    ran what is in the midland counties called a culver (that is a
    long low arch), placed there for the passage of the rivulet,
    which turned my little water-wheel. Into this culver my brother
    and I occasionally crept by way of adventure, and at times to
    hear the noise of a wagon as it rumbled slowly overhead. Into
    this ‘cool grot and mossy cell’ I once led my new companion,
    both of us necessarily bending almost double; and I cannot but
    look back upon the proceeding as probably our earliest instance
    of close association and mutual confidence. Many years later we
    revisited the spot together, but found the passage completely
    silted up, so as to be inaccessible to future wooers, however

At the age of three or four, Rowland was nearly carried off by the
scarlet fever. So ill he was that for a short while his father and mother
thought that he had ceased to breathe. The attack left him weak for some
years. “I have never overcome,” he wrote in his eighteenth year, “and
most probably never shall quite overcome, the effects of that illness.
Ever since I can remember I have suffered much from sickness.” He had
to pass many hours of every day lying on his back. He used to beguile
the time by counting. He assisted himself, as he said, by a kind of
topical memory. “My practice was to count a certain number, generally
a hundred, with my eye fixed on one definite place, as a panel of the
door, or a pane in the window, and afterwards, by counting-up the points,
to ascertain the total.” He here first showed that love of calculation
which so highly distinguished him in after life. His health remained so
feeble that he had passed his seventh birthday before he was taught his
letters. Backward though he was in book-learning, he was really a forward
child. At the age of five he had made himself a small water-wheel, rude
enough no doubt. Yet it worked with briskness in a little stream near his
father’s house. A water-wheel had always a great charm for him. He had
been taken to see one before he was three years old, and he used to cry
to be taken to see it again. When he was an old man he would go miles out
of his way to see one at work. The year after he made his wheel, when he
was now six, he and his brother Edwin, a boy of eight, built themselves a
small model-forge of brick and mortar. The wheel was about two feet and
a-half across, and was pretty fairly shaped. It was turned by a stream
from the spout of the pump. The axle, which they made out of the stem of
a cherry-tree, cost them a good deal of trouble:—

    “We attempted to connect our machinery by means of a crank
    with the handle of the pump, expecting that if we once gave it
    a start the water would turn the wheel, while this would not
    only work the forge, but also maintain, by its operation on the
    pump, the stream necessary to its own movement. In short, we
    looked for a perpetual motion, and were greatly disappointed to
    find motion at an end as soon as our own hands were withdrawn
    from the pump. When we mentioned our perplexity to my father,
    after informing us that our attempt was hopeless, and giving us
    such explanation as we could understand, he consoled us under
    our discomfiture by telling us that many persons, much older
    and wiser than ourselves, had expended time, labour, and money,
    in the same fruitless quest.”[22]

A few years after this his father himself came across one of these
dreamers. He was taken by a friend to see a machine for producing
perpetual motion. The inventor boasted of his success. “_There_,” he
said, “the machine is.” “Does it go?” the visitor asked. “No, it does not
go, but I will defy all the world to show _why_ it does not go.”

The lads happily had a fair supply of tools. Their father, in his
boyhood, had been fond of using them, and had kept some of them so
carefully that they were quite serviceable for his sons. In three old
looms that had belonged to their grandfather they found an abundant
supply of materials.

Their life at Horsehills, if somewhat hard, was far from being unhappy.
A few years after they had left the neighbourhood, Rowland and his elder
brothers passed through Wolverhampton on the top of a stagecoach. At
a certain point of the road the three boys stood up in order to get a
glimpse of their old home. A gentleman seated by them, on learning what
they were gazing at, said, “to our no small gratification,” as Rowland
remembered, “that we must have been good lads when we lived there, since
we were so fond of the place.”


When Rowland Hill was seven years old a great change took place in the
family life. His mother had always thought very highly of her husband’s
powers and learning. She knew that he was fit for some higher kind of
work than any he had hitherto done. She longed, moreover, to procure for
her children a better education than any that then seemed likely to be
within their reach. One of their friends, Mr. Thomas Clark, kept a school
in Birmingham, of which he was willing to dispose. He also had been a
member of Dr. Priestley’s congregation, and in the midst of the riots
had shown great courage. “Church and King” had been the cry of the mob,
and “Church and King” chalked on the house-door was no small safeguard
against its fury. Some friendly hand had written these words on the door
of the schoolmaster’s house. As soon as he saw them he at once rubbed
them out. With this brave and upright man Thomas Hill became in later
years closely connected by marriage. His elder daughter married one of
Mr. Clark’s sons. Mrs. Hill persuaded her husband to give up his business
in Wolverhampton, and to buy the school. They removed it to a convenient
house called Hill Top, on the outskirts of Birmingham. Here Rowland
passed the next sixteen years of his life. Here—

    “His parents, with their numerous offspring, dwelt,
    A virtuous household, though exceeding poor!
    Pure livers were they all, austere and grave.”

The purchase-money must have been paid off by instalments. I have
before me, as I write, a card of the terms. The charges were moderate.
Day-scholars paid four guineas or five pounds a year, and boarders twenty
guineas or twenty-five guineas, according to age. The address that the
new schoolmaster published is somewhat curious. It is as follows:—


    “T. Hill, sensible of the severe responsibility attached to the
    office of a public preceptor, resolves, if entrusted with that
    charge, to devote himself to the duties of it with assiduity,
    perseverance, and concentrated attention, as indispensable
    to reputation and success. To ensure the co-operation of his
    pupils, he will make it his study to excite their reasoning
    powers, and to induce in them habits of voluntary application;
    for this purpose, varying the ordinary course of instruction,
    and, as occasion shall offer, drawing their attention to
    subjects more particularly fitted to interest their feelings;
    he will always endeavour, by kindness and patience, firmness
    and impartiality to secure for himself their affection and
    esteem. And as he aspires to exhibit models of education,
    possessing higher excellencies than mechanical dexterity
    or mere intellectual acuteness; his anxious aim will be to
    make instruction in art and science, the culture of the
    understanding, and of the physical powers, subservient to the
    nobler intention of fostering and maturing the virtues of the

Rowland was at once placed in the school, and thus at the age of seven
his formal education began. His health still continued weak, and his
studies were too often broken in upon by illness. He was fortunate
enough, however, to find at his new home, in an outbuilding, a workshop,
fitted with benches, a vice, and a blacksmith’s forge. “Here,” he said,
“we spent much of our spare time, and most of our spare cash, which
latter, however, was but very scanty.” The want of pence, indeed, often
troubled him full sore. “Ever since I can remember,” as he wrote in a
Journal which he began to keep in his eighteenth year, “I have had a
taste for mechanics.... In works of the fingers I chiefly excel.” But
the best mechanician wants materials, and materials cost money. One Good
Friday morning he and his brother Matthew turned dealers. They had been
sent with a basket to buy hot cross buns for the household. As they went
along, the street-vendors were calling out, after the Birmingham fashion—

    “Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
    One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!
    Sugar ’em, and butter ’em, and clap ’em in your muns.”

The two lads, as they came home, began in jest to repeat the cry. Matthew
was an admirable mimic, and had caught it exactly. To their surprise
they found themselves beset with purchasers. “Not having face enough to
reject demands which we had provoked, perhaps not unwilling to carry on
the jest, we soon emptied our basket, and had to return for more, deeming
ourselves, however, well recompensed for the additional trouble by the
profits arising from the difference between the wholesale price, at which
we had been allowed to purchase, and the retail price at which we had
sold.” The elder of these two lads the town, as years went on, received
as its Recorder; to the younger it raised a statue in his life-time.

This was not the first time that Rowland had turned dealer. Not long
after his family had moved to Hill Top his mother gave him a little
plot of land for his garden. It was covered with a crop of hoarhound.
This he was going to clear away to make room for his flowers, but he
was told that it had a money value. “I cut it properly, tied it up in
bundles, and, borrowing a basket of my mother, set off one morning on a
market-day—Thursday, as I remember—with my younger brother Arthur as my
sole companion, for the market-place of the town; and, taking my stand
like any other caterer, soon disposed of my wares, receiving eightpence
in return. Fortunately I was saved the tediousness of retail dealing, the
contents of my basket being purchased in the gross by a woman who had
taken her stand near, and who, I hope, cleared a hundred per cent. by the
transaction, though she disparaged her bargain by warning me to tell my
mother, ‘She must tie up bigger bunches next time.’”

By the age of nine he had saved half-a-guinea, which he laid out on a
box of colours. His first great purchase, however, was, as he told me,
the volumes of Miss Edgeworth’s “Parent’s Assistant.” These cost him
fifteen shillings. “Hers was a name which he could never mention but with
gratitude and respect.” I once asked him what were the books that had
chiefly formed his character. He answered that he thought he owed most
to Miss Edgeworth’s stories. He read them first when he was about eight
or nine years old, and he read them a great many times. He said, and the
tears came into his eyes as he spoke, that he had resolved in these early
days to be like the characters in her stories, and to do something for
the world. “I had always had,” he said to me at another time, “a very
strong desire to do something to make myself remembered.”

    “While yet a child, and long before his time,
    Had he perceived the presence and the power
    Of greatness.”

Most of his spare money was laid out, however, in the purchase of tools
and materials. With such old wood as they could lay hands on, and such
new wood as they could afford to buy, he and his brothers set about
building a flat-bottomed boat in which they meant to sail through the
Birmingham and Worcester Canal into the Severn, and up the Severn to
their uncle at Shrewsbury. They had no more misgivings about their scheme
than Robinson Crusoe had about his escape from his island in his canoe.
Yet there was certainly one great bar to their plan, of which, however,
they knew nothing. The canal, at this time, had not been carried half-way
to the Severn. They finished their boat, and, though it was found to be
too frail for the canal, nevertheless it carried the bold voyagers across
a horse-pond.

In the occupations of the workshop, and even in his regular education,
Rowland suffered interruption, not only from frequent attacks of illness,
but also from the need that his father was under of employing his
children part of each day in household work. He could not afford to keep
many servants. While Rowland all his life regretted that he had been
taken away from school at an early age, yet the hours that he had passed
in the discharge of domestic duties he never looked upon as time misspent.

    “I was called upon at a very early age to perform many offices
    which, in richer families, are discharged exclusively by
    servants—to go on errands, to help in cleaning, arranging, and
    even repairing, and, in short, to do any sort of work that
    lay within my power. By this means I gradually acquired, as
    will hereafter better appear, a feeling of responsibility, and
    habits of business, dispatch, punctuality, and independence,
    which have proved invaluable to me through life.”[23]

He might well have taken to himself the words of Ferdinand, and said:—

                      “Some kinds of baseness
    Are nobly undergone, and most poor matters
    Point to rich ends.”

No man, indeed, ever felt more deeply than he did the vast importance of
that great part of education, which no examinations can test, and which
many examiners and framers of schemes of public competition seem to treat
with utter contempt.

The feeling of responsibility which he speaks of did not seem to those
who knew him as a child to have been, as he himself says, gradually
acquired. It grew, no doubt, with exercise, but it was a part of his
inbred worth. “From a very early age,” says one of his brothers, “he
felt responsibility in a way none of the others of us did. If anything
went wrong it was he who felt it.” He had inherited little of his
father’s “buoyant optimism,” and none of his contentedness when things
were going wrong. From a very early age his mother began to share with
him the troubles that well-nigh weighed her down. They had only grown
by her husband’s change of occupation. Matters grew worse and worse as
the French War went on. “Never surely yet,” wrote her husband, “was a
time when debts were collected with more difficulty, or left uncollected
with more danger.” She tried more than one plan to add to the earnings
of the family, and every plan she used to talk over with Rowland when
he was still a mere child. At times she was terribly straightened. Her
brother-in-law, Williams, “a tradesman and a scholar,” as her husband
described him, once sent them in their distress a present of five
pounds. “The sight of it,” wrote my grandfather, in a letter which I
have before me, “produced in both of us mingled emotions of pleasure
and pain. Pleasure as a strong, too strong, testimonial of your regard
and affection, and pain as it could not but remind us of the toils and
privations which you are undergoing to enable you to be generous as well
as just. So powerful was the latter impression that our first impulse
would have urged us to beg leave to return this too serious mark of
affection, adopting the ‘burning words’ of David, ‘Shall we drink the
blood of these men?’ but cooler consideration led to the fear that such a
measure would give more pain to you than relief to ourselves.”

Others of their friends were ready to help them. One of them, in the
hearing of one of her children, said to her, “Now, Mrs. Hill, remember
you are never to be in want of money to go to market with.” A strong
feeling of independence led her, however, to rely on herself, on her
husband, and her children. She had a hatred of debt, and in this hatred
every one of her children came to share. “I early saw,” said Rowland,
“the terrible inconvenience of being poor. My mother used to talk to me
more than to all the others together of our difficulties, and they were
very grievous. She used to burst into tears as she talked about them.
One day she told me that she had not a shilling in the house, and she
was afraid lest the postman might bring a letter while she had no money
to pay the postage. She had always been careful to save the rags, which
she kept in two bags—one for the white, and the other for the coloured.
The white were worth three or four times more than the coloured. It
occurred to her that she might sell them, though the bags were not full.
I was always sent by her on such errands, and I got this time about three
shillings for the rags.”

She persuaded her husband to buy a ruling-machine, which she and Rowland
chiefly worked. “That business is not at present well performed by
anybody in Birmingham, and so it would be a likely thing for some of the
lads to work at,” the father wrote to his brother-in-law. She turned
the handle, while her little son, a child of nine, fed the machine. “It
interfered largely with my education,” he said. In time he learnt to
make the brass pens that were used in ruling, and so earned a little
money for himself. They next took to making the copy-books, at first
with the help of a bookbinder. But the help of this man the boy before
long showed was not needed. “I soon acquired, in its simpler forms, the
art of bookbinding—an art which I find I have not yet quite lost, having
lately, in my seventy-first year, made up a scrap-book in what is called
half-binding for the use of my grandchildren.” Johnson also had learnt in
his youth how to bind a book, neither did he in advanced life forget the
art. “It were better,” wrote Mrs. Thrale to him, “to bind books again,
as you did one year in our thatched summer-house, than weigh out doses
of mercury and opium which are not wanted.” There were other plans which
Mrs. Hill formed, and carried out with unwearying industry, and in all of
these her little son was always ready to take his share.

At the age of eleven his education was still more broken in upon, for he
was called upon to assist his father and his elder brothers in teaching.
“Young and inexperienced as I was,” he wrote, “I had inferiors both in
age and knowledge; some of the pupils not being more than six or seven
years old.”[24] At the age of twelve his school education came almost
entirely to an end. He was, it is true, somewhat longer enrolled among
the boys, and he still received some instruction. But henceforth he was
much more a teacher than a pupil. One day in every week, for a few years
of his boyhood, his employment lay altogether outside school-work. His
second brother, Edwin, had been engaged every Wednesday in the Assay
Office. But he got a better appointment. “Rowland,” wrote his father,
“succeeds Edwin at the Assay Office. So that you see preferment goes on
among us, and I will answer we think ourselves as happy on such occasions
as our virtuous Governors fancy themselves, even in their sinecures,
which our posts certainly cannot be called.”

The best part of his education he got from his father, not in
class-hours, but in the daily intercourse of their home life. This
went on for many a year after he left off receiving from him regular
instruction. “His children were,” Rowland wrote, “though in an irregular
and desultory manner, his private pupils, and as a private teacher he was
very successful.”[25]

In the year 1807 his father gave a series of lectures on electricity,
mechanics, astronomy, pneumatics, and the gases.

    “These lectures, to which I paid a fixed attention, gave me
    a new impulse. I resolved to make an electrical machine for
    myself, and speedily went to work. The cylinder (plate-glass
    machines were yet unknown) I got blown at a glass-house in the
    town, paying for it the sum of sixteen shillings. Of course,
    to a child, there was much difficulty at almost every step,
    but my hardest task was to make a pattern for the caps. My
    first attempt was sufficiently primitive, viz., to cut one
    out from a large turnip. Not succeeding in this, I resorted
    to casting. Lead was the metal I naturally chose, as most
    easily melted; and having, after many attempts, at length
    succeeded in bringing my sand into due shape, I emptied my
    ladle into the mould and brought out my pattern cap, which,
    when duly smoothened in the lathe of a friendly workman in the
    neighbourhood, I bore, with no small pride and satisfaction,
    to the founder’s, that it might be cast in brass. One serious
    difficulty in construction I avoided by carrying the axle,
    which was a strong iron rod, right through the cylinder,
    instead of attempting to break it off, as usual, just within
    the caps. The prime conductor, too, I did not attempt to make
    hollow, but satisfied myself with bringing a piece of wood into
    the proper cylindrical shape, and then covering it over, first
    with paper, and afterwards with tinfoil.

    “While the work was in progress I was attacked with illness,
    and for a time was confined to the house. It was during this
    period that the new caps, in all their first brightness,
    arrived from the brass-founder’s; and as soon as I was a little
    better I was of course eager to attach them to the cylinder;
    but the workshop being too cold for an invalid, my patience
    would have been sorely tried had not my indulgent mother made
    provision for me in the parlour, by substituting for the
    hearthrug an old carpet folded in several doubles, so as to
    prevent the droppings from my ladle from injuring the somewhat
    better carpet on the floor; and here, the cement being melted
    over a good fire, the cylinder was duly prepared for mounting.

    “My simple apparatus was completed in about a year and a-half.
    I set it to work with no small trepidation, having heard much
    about the uncertainty of electrical action, and fearing lest my
    limited means and powers might have left some fatal defect. So
    great was my uncertainty, that even after giving the machine
    three or four turns, I still hesitated to apply the decisive
    test, and great indeed were my pride and joy when my knuckle
    drew from the conductor its first spark.[26] Downstairs I
    rushed in quest of sympathy, nor could I be satisfied until
    my father and many others had witnessed the performance
    with admiring eyes. A few years afterwards I added some
    improvements, substituting for the deal frame one of mahogany,
    procuring a hollow conductor from the tinman’s, made of course
    according to my own directions, and giving also greater
    neatness and efficiency to the subordinate parts of the machine
    and its various adjuncts; and I may add the apparatus, though
    in a somewhat imperfect state, is still extant. Meanwhile,
    however, a friend of my father’s, the late Mr. Michael
    Beasley, a schoolmaster of Stourbridge, who through life showed
    great affection for me, and to whom I owe much in various ways,
    having seen the machine in its first simple state, engaged me
    to make a duplicate for himself, though on a smaller scale.
    This I accomplished in about six months; and while my outlay
    amounted to two pounds, I received in payment, for materials
    and workmanship, the sum of three guineas, which I considered a
    handsome remuneration, though I have now no doubt that my kind
    friend would have given me yet more had his means been less

It was from his father, that his son got his strong love for astronomy,
and acquired, as he said, even while a boy, no inconsiderable knowledge
of the subject. A few years before his death, he drew up an interesting
paper on his astronomical studies.[28]

In it he says:—

    “My father (like myself in youth and early manhood) was a great
    walker, and we frequently journeyed together. When I was only
    nine years of age I walked with him, for the most part after
    dark, from Birmingham to Stourbridge, a distance of twelve
    miles—with occasional lifts no doubt—according to usage—on his
    back. I recollect that it was a brilliant starlight night, and
    the names of the constellations, and of the brighter single
    stars, their apparent motions, and the distinction between
    the so-called fixed stars and planets, formed then, as on
    many similar occasions, never-failing subjects of interesting
    conversation, and to me of instruction. On the way we passed by
    the side of a small pool, and the air being still, the surface
    of the water gave a perfect reflection of the stars. I have a
    vivid recollection, after an interval of nearly seventy years,
    of the fear with which I looked into what appeared to me a vast
    abyss, and of my clinging to my father, to protect me from
    falling into it.”

His father had a reflecting telescope that showed Jupiter’s moons and
Saturn’s rings, a Hadley’s quadrant, an artificial horizon, and a
tolerably good clock. He took in, moreover, the “Nautical Almanac.” “By
means of this simple apparatus,” wrote his son, “he not only regulated
the clock, but determined the latitude, and even the longitude of our
house, or rather of the playground. In these occupations I was always
his assistant.” No sooner had Rowland learnt anything than he set about
teaching it. In fact, as he himself stated, learning and teaching with
him generally went on hand in hand. He gave lectures on astronomy to
the boys of the school, and later on to a Literary and Scientific
Association, of which he was one of the founders. “With a view to these
lectures, I read all the contributions of Sir William Herschel to the
transactions of the Royal Society. My reverence for the man led me to
contrive, on the occasion of my second visit to London, to go round by
Slough, in order that I might obtain a glimpse—as the coach passed—of
his great telescope, which I knew could be seen over the tops of the
neighbouring buildings.” Astronomy was, indeed, as he always said, his
favourite science. At an early date he became a member of the Royal
Astronomical Society. He kept up his interest in its proceedings till the
close of his life. When he had passed the age of threescore years and
ten, he discovered some important errors in the Address of one of the

All through life, whatever he read he read with an acuteness, a patience,
and an earnest desire to arrive at the truth, that would have done honour
to a judge.

    “When a boy, I was fond of reading books of elementary science.
    I occasionally met with statements which puzzled me—which
    appeared to me to be wrong; but assuming, as children do, the
    infallibility of the author—or perhaps I should say of a
    printed book—I naturally came to the conclusion that my own
    understanding was in fault, and became greatly disheartened.
    After awhile—I forget on what occasion—I applied for a solution
    of the puzzle to my father, who, possessing a large amount
    of general information, was well qualified to advise. To my
    great delight, he assured me that I was right and the author
    wrong. My unqualified faith in printed statements was now of
    course at an end; and a habit was gradually formed of mentally
    criticising almost everything I read—a habit which, however
    useful in early life, is, as I have found in old age, a cause
    of much waste of thinking power when the amount is so reduced
    as to render economy of essential importance. Still, through
    the greater part of my life, this habit of reading critically,
    combined as it was with the power of rapid calculation, has
    been of great use to me, especially in my contests with the
    Post Office, and, after I had joined the Department, in the
    revision of the thousands of Reports, Returns, and Minutes
    prepared by other officers.”

How deep were some of the problems which in his youth he tried to fathom
is shown by the following extract from his paper on Astronomy:—

    “Some sixty years ago, my attention having been accidentally
    drawn to a tide-mill for grinding corn, I began to consider
    what was the source of the power employed, and came to the
    conclusion that it was the momentum of the Earth’s revolution
    on its axis. The next question I asked myself was—could such
    power be diverted—in however slight a degree—without drawing,
    as it were, on the stock? Further consideration showed me
    that the draught required for grinding the corn was trifling
    in comparison with that employed in grinding the pebbles on
    every seashore upon the Earth’s surface; and consequently that
    the drain on the Earth’s momentum might suffice in the course
    of ages to effect an appreciable retardation in the Earth’s
    diurnal revolution.

    “I now, as usual in case of difficulty, applied to my father.
    He could detect no fault in my reasoning, but informed me that
    Laplace had demonstrated in his great work (”_La Mécanique
    Céleste_“) that the time occupied in the Earth’s diurnal
    revolution is absolutely invariable. Of course both my father
    and I accepted the authority as unquestionable; but I never
    could fully satisfy my mind on the subject, and for the greater
    part of my life it was a standing puzzle.”

Many were the lines of thought that Thomas Hill opened out before his
children. “At an early age,” said his son, “we were all fond of reading,
had a strong desire for knowledge, and became studious, assisting one
another, and obtaining, when required, effectual help from my father.”
Though he was ready enough to help his children, yet he did not himself
set them to study. “I had an excellent understanding for mathematics,”
his son said, “and my father had a great liking for them, with a fair
knowledge of them, yet he did not teach me them.” That is to say, he did
not teach them formally and by book. When he was out walking he would
work out problems in geometry for his sons, now and then stopping to
describe figures with his walking-stick on the dust of the road. It was
not till Rowland Hill was twenty-five years old, that he went through
Euclid. He had, indeed, some slight acquaintance with the three first
books, but even these he knew very imperfectly. One Christmas holidays
he gave up all his spare time to Euclid, and made himself master of the
whole of it before school opened. Yet five years earlier than this I find
the following record in his Journal:—

    “It is frequently the case that when walking by myself I make
    calculations, or invent demonstrations of rules in Mensuration
    or Trigonometry to beguile away the time, and I find nothing
    else so effectual. I lately made a calculation in my mind,
    to determine the distance of a fixed star, supposing its
    annual parallax to be one second; and, for the sake of round
    numbers, I took the diameter of the Earth’s orbit at two
    hundred millions of miles. I forget what was the result of the
    calculation, but I know that it was many billions of miles.
    Some time ago, as I was walking to Smethwick, I was making
    some calculations respecting the capacity of the boiler of a
    steam-engine, which it was my intention to make, and for some
    reason or other I wished to find the diagonal of a cube of
    certain dimensions. Never having seen any rule to accomplish
    this, I set about to find one; which I soon did.”

Earlier even than this, when he was but seventeen, his friend Mr.
Beasley, the Stourbridge schoolmaster, asked him to give lessons in
Navigation to a young midshipman, who had come to live with him as his

    “Though I had never yet opened a book on Navigation in my life,
    I unhesitatingly undertook the task. Probably, in preparing my
    lessons I had some assistance from my father; but one way or
    other, I discharged the duty to the satisfaction, I believe,
    of all concerned, teaching my pupil not merely what might be
    learnt from books, but also the practical art of Navigation,
    so far as this could be done on land, so that he became able,
    by actual observation, to find latitude, longitude, and local
    time, the second being a matter of some difficulty. This,
    however, was a serious addition to my work, Mr. Beasley’s
    school being twelve miles distant, and my weekly journey
    thither and back being always performed on foot, with a
    Hadley’s quadrant to carry each time to and fro, though even
    when so encumbered I was in those days a very brisk walker. I
    must add that, at the time when this extra labour came upon
    me, my ordinary hours in school were nine and a-half per diem,
    in addition to which I, in common with my father and eldest
    brother, Matthew, had many lessons to give elsewhere.”[30]

A year later, his Journal shows that he began a new study. He had become
by this time an accomplished draughtsman, and he thought perhaps to turn
his powers to good account. “I this day,” he writes, “began to study
Architecture. I can hardly say as yet how I shall like it. I am rather
afraid that there is too much to be remembered for me, as I have but a
poor memory.” He learnt enough of the Art to enable him, a few years
later on, to be the sole architect of his new school-house.

His mind would at this time have puzzled an examiner—his knowledge and
his ignorance were so strangely mixed. “One cause,” he said, “of our
backwardness in school learning no doubt was that my father, who was
proud of us, never informed us of our great deficiencies. Perhaps he
was not aware of them, for though very backward we were, I think, in
advance of our schoolfellows, who in those early days were drawn almost
exclusively from the lower grade of the middle class.” In a passage that
I have already quoted, Rowland Hill stated that he owed much in many
ways to Mr. Beasley. He it was who first let him know how much there
is to learn. He was, indeed, both in parts and in knowledge, far below
his brother schoolmaster, Thomas Hill; yet in many ways he was a better
teacher. He formed a high opinion of the lad, and as he grew older, used
to be fond of talking of “my young friend Rowland Hill,” and of the great
things he was to do. He would often take him to the small inn at Hagley,
and give him tea. There he would at times hold forth in praise of his
powers to the admiration of the small company. When the first Arctic
expedition was on the point of starting, he one day said to them, in
all gravity, “If the Government really wants to succeed, they will send
my young friend Rowland Hill.” At this time his young friend certainly
was no longer a boy. As the old man told this story of his early days,
he laughed very heartily. Indeed, he had been just as much amused, he
said, when he first heard himself thus praised. Nevertheless, extravagant
though his good friend’s estimate of him had always been, yet it had
done him good, as it had roused his ambition, and had not satisfied and
soothed his vanity.

This worthy man, after a life of no small benevolence and usefulness,
unhappily went out of his mind. A very harmless vanity that grew upon
him was the first sign he gave that his reason was failing. In one
of his letters to Rowland Hill, which chance has preserved, he says,
“No book need be written in these times, unless it be of an original
kind, and very perfect in its construction. But now my vanity urges
me to say that my books _are_ of the _original_ character. Who ever
published a Dictation Book before me?” The next sign that he gave of his
eccentricity—and a very strong sign it was in those days—was leaving off
shaving. The following story I tell as his “young friend” told it me.
“One morning Mr. Beasley’s son came in late for breakfast. The father,
who was very formal in his talk, said to him, ‘Well, Mr. Thomas, what
piece of utility have you done this morning? _I_ have wheeled three
barrows of muck from the pig-yard into the field.’ His son replied, ‘I,
Sir, have shaved my chin this morning, and that’s the utility I have
performed.’ His father slowly rose, and stumping out of the room (he was
a fat man) exclaimed, ‘What! violate the laws of God and man, and call
that utility!” However, as has been shown, he had rendered his young
friend one great service, which by him was never forgotten.

Still more did Rowland Hill learn how little he had already learnt,
when his eldest brother and he began to give lessons in a neighbouring
school. “We went,” he said, “to teach mensuration and the lower branches
of mathematics. I went as my brother Matthew’s assistant. The boys were
immoral, and, so far as conduct went, were very far behind our boys.
But Matthew soon became aware that in instruction, especially in Latin,
they were far in advance of ours. This led him to investigate the causes
of this superiority. He at once began to take into his own hands the
teaching of Latin in our own school.” The two lads had to go a distance
of five miles to give these lessons, and Matthew at this time was not
strong enough to stand the double walk.

    “For the first time in our household history, a horse had to be
    bought. We had hitherto never dreamt of travelling by any other
    means than the feet. My father and I undertook the purchase.
    We had been informed that a certain butcher had a horse on
    sale. We went to his house, looked as wise as we could, and
    being informed that the price was twelve pounds, ventured, with
    some trepidation, to bid eleven. This was refused: the butcher
    declaring that he did not at all want to part with his horse,
    and that ‘his missis’ had been scolding him for thinking of
    such a thing. My father was no more fitted for bargain-making
    than was the Vicar of Wakefield, and we agreed to pay the full
    sum. The butcher clinched the matter, as soon as the terms were
    settled, by taking down a leg of mutton and offering to give it
    us if we would release him from his bargain. With this offer
    we were of course too cunning to close. I need not add that
    the beast was a sorry jade. When it made its first appearance
    at Mr. ——’s school, the pupils tauntingly inquired which cost
    most, the horse or the saddle, which was new. I used to ride
    behind my brother till we were near the house, when I got down
    and walked. In the end we resold the horse in the horse-fair
    for five pounds.”

Most of all was Rowland Hill indebted for that first of all knowledge,
the knowledge of self, to an eminent physician, Dr. Johnstone, who had
engaged him to give lessons to his sons. It was at his table, he said,
that it was first brought home to him with full force how little he as
yet knew. “I heard matters talked of which I could not in the least
understand. This discovery of my ignorance was at first very painful
to me, and set me to work very hard—too hard, in fact, for my health.”
He thus touchingly describes in his Journal his state of mind. He was
twenty-four years old when he made this entry:—

    “There is one regret that will force itself upon my mind
    whenever I am led to contemplate the effects of the
    improvements which have from time to time been made in the
    proceedings of the school. I cannot help examining my own
    education, and contrasting what it unfortunately is with what
    it might have been had I been placed under the influence of
    such a system. Except my own, I am unacquainted with any
    language, whereas my youngest brother Howard, who has been
    educated, I may almost say, by myself—for it has been almost
    entirely according to my own plans—is familiar with Latin and
    French, and has made considerable progress in Greek, and this
    without neglecting anything else. When I left school—that
    is, when I became a teacher—I had for about two years held
    undisputed the first place in the school. It is fair, then, to
    suppose that I should occupy the same place under any system of
    procedure—that if I were a boy in the school at this moment,
    I should be at the head of the school. Compare, then, the
    acquirements of the boy who now stands in the first place in
    the school, with mine at his age, and oh, what a difference
    will be found! When I left school I was a proficient in no
    single thing. I could not write fit to be seen; I understood
    but very little of arithmetic; and was not master even of the
    paltry art of spelling. Of the classics and of the higher
    branches of the mathematics I was altogether ignorant. I
    believe drawing was the only thing I understood even tolerably.
    Every attainment I am now master of—and, God knows, they are
    but few!—I have acquired since I became a teacher, and for the
    most part by myself. Fortunately I have, in a tolerably high
    degree, the faculty of invention (and here I ought to consider
    that this may be in a great measure the effect of education,
    and if I have acquired this only, much has been done for me).
    Many a time have I given lessons, both at home and abroad, on
    subjects which I began to study with my pupils. Frequently
    have I solved a problem of which I never had heard till asked
    by my pupil to explain it to him. I remember well that the
    first time I ever saw the inside of a work on mensuration was
    when asked by a young gentleman at a school where I assisted
    Matthew in giving lessons, to explain to him one of the most
    difficult problems in the book: it is to find the area of a
    zone—a problem which involves many minor ones. Many of these I
    had before invented for myself, ignorant of the existence of
    any work on the subject. I was able to give the young man the
    assistance he required, and with so little hesitation that I
    believe he did not suspect my ignorance.

    “Circumstances similar to this have forced me into an
    acquaintance with many subjects, and I may truly say that
    almost all I know has been acquired in teaching others. For
    from the circumstance of my having, till within the last few
    years, found among those with whom I associated, few who were
    my equals, and scarcely any who were my superiors, I thought
    that, except my father and one or two other individuals,
    there were none whose acquirements would entitle them to a
    rank higher than my own. I was, therefore, satisfied with the
    progress I had made. But what was my disappointment when the
    increasing character of the school and other circumstances
    opened my way into a class of society among whom I found it was
    taken for granted that a man should be acquainted with Latin,
    and Greek, and French—languages of which I was profoundly
    ignorant, and the knowledge of which I foolishly thought
    was confined to a few. No one knows the pain which I have
    frequently felt when, in a company where I was but slightly
    known, the conversation has turned upon literary subjects,
    lest it should be discovered that I was unacquainted with that
    which no one seemed to take credit to himself for knowing, and
    to be ignorant of which appeared, therefore, to be so much the
    more disgraceful. With what shame have I sometimes declared my
    ignorance, rather than appear to understand that which I did
    not! What would I not give to become young again, and enter
    the school in its present state! I do not blame my father; he
    has been an excellent parent to us all. The difficulties he
    had to contend with in early life were such as to leave him
    but little time to attend to the education of his children.
    His whole efforts, together with my mother’s, were necessary
    to enable him to maintain us; and notwithstanding his talents
    are so great, he certainly is not acquainted with the modes
    of influencing others. System is what he likes as little as
    he understands. We cannot blame him for this; we may with as
    much justice blame a man because he is not six feet high.
    And I have often thought that the education which he gave us
    was more favourable to originality than if we had made great
    acquirements. Perhaps if I had been a good classical scholar I
    never should have invented the system of operating upon others
    which I have arranged. It is impossible to say how it would
    have been. I have often asked myself the question, Is it now
    too late to educate myself? I am afraid it is too late to do
    much. Ever since I was a child I have worked very hard; my time
    has always been very closely occupied in gaining a livelihood;
    and I now begin to feel the effects of so laborious a life.
    My memory is less tenacious than it was; and I find great
    difficulty in beginning a study to which I am not accustomed.
    Besides, my time is so fully occupied in attending to the
    school, and to the great mass of private teaching on which I
    am engaged (altogether seldom amounting to less than thirteen
    hours per day, even subtracting meal-times), that I feel I
    cannot work any harder. My mind almost always feels wearied.
    If I rise earlier than usual in the morning, I am no gainer,
    for I fall to sleep in the middle of the day; so that the only
    alternative left me is, either to be satisfied with the little
    time I can now devote to my own improvement, or give up some
    of my engagements, and thus lessen our income, which is not at
    all superfluous. What to do I know not; and the dissatisfied,
    uncertain state of mind in which I now am makes me sometimes
    very miserable, and I am afraid materially injures my health.
    Here I ought to say that my kind parents have frequently
    expressed their wish that I should not labour so hard as I do,
    but I am constantly in hopes that by so doing I may secure
    future ease.”

The ease that he desired to secure was only that “independence, that
first earthly blessing,” to use Gibbon’s words, which a man may enjoy to
the full, and yet scorn delights and live laborious days, while he freely
indulges the last infirmity of noble mind, and pursues with unrestrained
course some lofty object of ambition. “So inviting are the distant
prospects of ambition,” Rowland Hill wrote in his Journal only a year
later, “and such is my anxiety to correct the defects of my education,
that I feel it difficult to resist the temptation of sacrificing physical
to mental health—future strength to future fame.... I am convinced of the
necessity of making very vigorous improvements in my own mind. I hope I
have already done much, and I am determined to accomplish more.” In some
of his letters that have been preserved, I see that more than once he
turned his mind towards Cambridge. Even at the age of seven-and-twenty he
had not given up all hope of getting for himself a University education.
He asked his eldest brother to ascertain the cost. On hearing from him in
answer, he wrote, “I do not know how to decide respecting Cambridge. I am
disappointed at finding the thing so terribly expensive.”

In more than one Literary and Scientific Society that he helped to found,
he had long laboured hard to train his mind and increase his knowledge.
He and his brothers, as he told me when he gave me an account of the
foundation of the first of these small societies, were becoming aware of
their great deficiencies in education. To cure these, some of them formed
a Mutual Improvement Society. It never numbered more than five members.
Their father gave them the use of a comfortable summer-house that was in
the garden at Hill Top. Here they met early every Sunday morning, and
set each other tasks for the coming week. They then read through, and
talked over the tasks of the last week. He said, with a smile, that he
could well remember strongly supporting in the summer-house the abolition
of the National Debt, by the simple means of not paying it. They bought
the quarto edition of Johnson’s Dictionary, and took in the “Edinburgh
Review.” They paid for their own coal, and for their breakfast, which
they always cooked with their own hands. “We never thought of coming
upon our father for anything. We enjoyed the meal the most in the week.”
From his Journal I find that it was in the year 1816 that this society
was founded, and that its object was “the improvement of our literary

In the following year the members, while still keeping up their Sunday
morning meetings, formed a second society for literary and scientific
discussion. They met each Thursday evening in the summer-house. In course
of time these two societies came to an end. But in 1819 a third society
was formed. I extract the following entries from his Journal:—

    “_December 17th, 1819._—This evening I read a lecture on the
    history of Astronomy before a society of young men which
    has lately been formed, and of which I am a member. We have
    adopted the name of a society I have before mentioned, and
    which is not now in existence. We call it ‘The Society for
    Literary Improvement;’ our place of assembly is a large room
    in Great Charles Street. There are at present about twenty
    members, who lecture in rotation. After the lecture, which is
    but short, a discussion on the subject follows.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “_December, 1820._—During the last half-year I have continued
    the subject of Astronomy, by giving two lectures on the Solar
    System. I also opened the discussion at one of our monthly
    meetings by an address ‘On the nature and utility of systematic
    arrangements.’” Each of these lectures was delivered from short
    notes. At the first lecture on Astronomy, I was so completely
    taken-up with my subject that I was not aware how fast time
    was flying, till, looking at my watch, I found that I had been
    speaking an hour and three-quarters.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “_November, 1821._—Since February, which is the date of the
    last entry in this book, I have delivered two lectures before
    the Society for Literary and Scientific Improvement; one on
    Comets and the Asteroids, the other on the Fixed Stars.

    “We have adopted a plan of electing a committee which secures
    a very exact representation of the whole body. Every member
    is returned by unanimous votes, and he may be recalled at any
    moment by a resolution of the majority of his constituents, who
    may then return another representative, but this must be done
    by a unanimous vote. Very much to my surprise, I was the first
    member elected.”

The plan of election had been devised by his father, who, as I have
already said, was strongly in favour of the representation of minorities.
I have before me a copy of the laws of this society. The tenth, in which
the mode of election is described, I give below:—[31]

On a loose sheet of paper that I have found, I find the following

    “The objects proposed in arranging the plan of choosing the
    Committee are:—

    “1st. A fair representation (as near as can be) of all the
    classes of which the general body is composed.

    “2nd. Responsibility on the part of the members of the

    “To obtain the first of these objects, it has been provided
    that each member of the Committee shall be chosen by a _section
    only_ of the society; and, as will appear upon examination,
    opportunity is afforded, in forming the sections, for every
    voter to class himself with those whose views most resemble his

    “To obtain the second object, frequent elections are
    appointed, and to every section of the society is secured an
    undoubted right to the services of one individual member of
    the Committee. Added to this are the provisions that the
    proceedings of the Committee may be attended by any member of
    the society as an auditor, and that a public register is to be
    kept of the attendance, or non-attendance, of each member of
    the Committee.”

Some months after the Society had been founded Rowland Hill made the
following entry in his Journal:—

    “The Society for Scientific and Literary Improvement has
    gradually increased in numbers and importance ever since its
    establishment. We have had some excellent lectures, and I
    always look forward to the night of meeting with pleasure. I
    am still a member of the Committee. Our time has been very
    much occupied in revising the Laws, which we have now printed.
    At the request of the Committee I wrote the Preface which is
    annexed to the Laws.[32] If the Society should ever become
    numerous, which now appears probable, I am confident, from the
    form of its constitution, that it will become a formidable

In the following passage in the Preface, its author was stating, no
doubt, the difficulties which he had himself undergone:—

    “The experience of almost every one who has passed the time
    usually devoted to education, but who still feels desirous
    of improvement, must have convinced him of the difficulty of
    regularly devoting his leisure hours to the object he has in
    view, from the want of constantly acting motives, and the
    absence of regulations which can enforce the observance of
    stated times. However strong the resolutions he has made, and
    whatever may be his conviction of the necessity of adhering to
    them, trivial engagements, which might easily be avoided, will
    furnish him, from time to time, with excuses to himself for his
    neglect of study. Thus may he spend year after year, constantly
    wishing for improvement, but as constantly neglecting the means
    of it, and old age may come upon him before he has accomplished
    the object of his desires; then will he look back with regret
    on the many opportunities he has lost, and acknowledge in
    despair that the time is gone by.”

With much vigour does he defend the mode of election:—

    “Experience,” he says, “proves that, owing to imperfect methods
    of choosing those who are to direct the affairs of a society,
    the whole sway sometimes gets into the hands of a small party,
    and is exercised, perhaps unconsciously, in a way that renders
    many persons indifferent and alienates others, until all
    becomes listlessness, decay, and dissolution.”

While this Society was in full vigour, yet another was started by Rowland
Hill and some of his brothers:—

    “About Michaelmas, eight of us agreed to form another society,
    to meet on the Sunday mornings at each others’ houses,
    according to the plan of the old society, which has before
    been mentioned. Since that time we have met with the greatest
    regularity. When I joined each of these societies, I did it
    with a view of improving myself in extemporaneous speaking:
    this, at least, was one object. I then made a determination
    to speak upon every subject which should come before either
    society, a resolution which I have hitherto kept invariably.
    Besides this practice, I give an extemporaneous lecture once
    a week to the boys. At first it was a great labour to make an
    address at all, but now I speak with comparative ease. It is
    very seldom that I make the slightest preparation for speaking.”

The Minutes of this Society I have before me. Each member in turn “had
to provide a subject for the consideration of the Society, and might
propose either an extract for criticism, an outline for composition,
or a question for discussion.” The subjects were, on the whole, very
well chosen. They certainly would contrast favourably with those which
used to be debated in the Union Society of Oxford in my undergraduate
days. The following is the list of the subjects provided by Rowland
Hill:—_Are Importation Duties beneficial to Society or otherwise?_
_Paper Currency_; _Instinct_; _The Fine Arts_; _The Political Effects
of Machinery_; _Inductive Philosophy, as applied to the Common Affairs
of Life_; _The Effects of the Extension of Education_; _Duelling_; _The
Constitution of Minor Societies_; _The Qualities Necessary to Produce
Success in Life_; _Rank_; _Public Opinion_; _The Economy of Time_. Among
the subjects introduced by other members, I find:—_A Critical Review
of Miss Edgeworth’s “Ormond”_; _The Possibility of the Introduction
of a Philosophical Language_; _The Means we Possess of Judging of
Others_; _The Study of Languages_; _Critical Remarks upon a portion
of Kenilworth_; _Is it better to Admit or Exclude the Representation
of Death on the Stage?_ _Is the Acquirement of Literary Attainments
Prejudicial to Commercial Pursuits?_

In other ways, moreover, he was steadily training his mind and increasing
his knowledge. Thus I find recorded in his Journal:—

    “_April 20th, 1818._—This morning I began to learn French, in
    company with William Matthews.[33] We are to meet at our house
    every other morning at five o’clock, and study till seven. We
    do not at present intend to have a teacher; perhaps when we
    have gained a little knowledge of the language we may apply to
    one. As my time is so valuable to me, I intend to spend one
    of our vacations in France, when I have made a considerable
    progress in the language, as that will be the most rapid way of

       *       *       *       *       *

    “_May 25th._—We have discontinued the French for the present,
    as William Matthews is obliged to give his attention to some
    other pursuit.”

Some two or three years later is the following entry:—

    “At Christmas I had an attack of my old complaint—the
    ear-ache—which confined me to the house for a fortnight.
    However, I turned the time to advantage by reading French with
    such industry that, although I knew but little of the language
    when I began, yet at the end of the fortnight I could read it
    with sufficient ease as to be amused by it. I recollect that in
    one day I read a hundred pages of ‘Gil Blas,’ closely printed
    in small type.”

His efforts at self-improvement were—as he recorded in his old age—to
some extent at least, misdirected. When he was a boy of thirteen he won
the first of three prizes for original landscape-drawings, which had been
offered by the proprietor of “The School Magazine”[34] to all candidates
under sixteen. In the number of the Magazine for September, 1807,
appeared the following announcement:—

    “We have received several beautiful drawings in different
    styles, which do great credit to the talents of the young
    persons by whom they are sent, and to the exertions of the
    gentlemen under whom they have studied the pleasing art.

    “The principal prize is awarded to Master Rowland Hill, who has
    given us a view of St. Philip’s Church, Birmingham, and the
    surrounding objects, as taken from the playground of Hill Top

    “Master Hill is thirteen years and eight months only, and his
    performance is attested by his father, Mr. Thomas Wright Hill,
    and his drawing-master, Mr. Samuel Lines. To him is awarded—

    “‘A Drawing-Box, value Three Guineas.’”

“What,” he wrote in his Journal a few years later, “was my surprise and
delight to find that I had obtained the first prize! The whole family
participated in my joy, and I believe this was the happiest day of my
life.” But his success, as he himself has pointed out, had its drawback:—

    “This, and the _éclat_ I obtained a year or two later by
    painting the scenes for our little theatre, caused my
    parents and myself to assume that nature intended me for an
    artist. I accordingly employed the greater part of my spare
    time in practising drawing from patterns, from nature, from
    plaster-casts of the human frame, and, eventually, from life.
    Sketching from nature I found a most agreeable occupation,
    especially as it fell in with my love of visiting ancient
    ruins and fine scenery. I continued to pursue drawing with
    great earnestness for several years, and some of my drawings
    obtained the honour (undeserved, I fear) of appearing in the
    Birmingham Exhibitions. At length, however, I discovered that I
    possessed no natural aptitude for the artistic profession, and,
    consequently, directed my efforts to other matters.”


In the account that I have given of Rowland Hill’s mental training, I
have, in more than one place, been carried somewhat out of the regular
course of my narrative. I must now return to the time when he was still a
mere boy, and was as yet but little aware how boundless is the ocean of
knowledge, on whose shores he had picked up but the tiniest of shells.
He would not by any means have been accounted a forward child. In any
school famous for learning he would have taken a low place. Nevertheless,
his comrades had not failed to discover his peculiar power. One of his
brothers thus writes about him:—

    “My brother Rowland’s character is, to a considerable extent,
    portrayed in the History of Penny Postage; and, amongst the
    rest, his power of commanding success. But it may be well for
    me to testify, relative to this quality, that he showed it
    from a very early age. For myself, I can say that whenever I
    knew that he had set an object before him, I felt sure that it
    would be attained; and yet this was not from any high estimate
    of his talents; for, being less than three years his junior,
    and perhaps of a more sprightly and imaginative disposition, I
    fear I was wont to assume in comparing his mental powers with
    mine, and certainly did not soon recognise their high order.
    Probably, if I analyzed my feeling at all, I based it chiefly
    on belief in his perseverance. Again and again I had seen
    work prosper in his hands, and had had few or no failures to
    point to; whereas I knew that I was ever devising mighty plans
    which came to nothing. His early performances were chiefly of
    a mechanical nature, and diligent practice rendered him very
    fertile in resources—a fact of which I was well aware years
    before I could have designated the power by its proper term.”

It was in the management of the school theatre that this fertility in
resources first became conspicuous. His younger brother, Arthur, had a
strong dramatic turn, and was eager, like many another lad of thirteen,
to strut and fret his hour upon the stage. Others he found ready to join
him, and then for aid and advice he turned to Rowland, who was by two
years his senior.

“The more I told them about the cost and other difficulties, the more
anxious they grew as to the success of their enterprise, until at length,
by their joint entreaty, I was prevailed on to assume the management;
undertaking myself to paint the scenes, construct the machinery, and
direct the whole course of action. I declined to become a performer,
having no turn that way.”[35] The young company put their money into a
common stock. The Manager recorded in his Journal:—“A code of laws was
drawn up for the management of the theatre, and we were very exact in the
observance of them. I was constituted manager, with power to appoint the
different actors, and, under certain restrictions, to appropriate the
funds in what way I pleased.”

It was in the summer of 1811 that they formed their plans; but it was
not till the Easter of the following year that they were ready to give
their first performance. Their difficulties were great. The school-room
was to be their theatre; and in the school-room they could only work
before the boys had risen, and after they had gone to bed. In the code of
laws which governed the company, it was laid down that they should rise
an hour before the usual time. Whatever scenery they set up had always
to be taken down before lessons began. The room was long, but narrow,
and not lofty enough to allow the scenes, at the time of shifting, to
be drawn up. Not one of the company had ever been behind the curtain of
a real theatre. Rowland, however, undertook to be architect, carpenter,
scene-painter, and manager. He had, by this time, become most expert in
the use of his tools. He was never so happy as when he was working in his
carpenter’s shop. His knowledge of drawing and painting was also turned
to good account. He began by carefully planning his work, and taking the
most exact measurements. So accurately had everything been contrived
beforehand, that when the scenes and their supports came to be put up
they all fell at once into their proper places. The young company was
greatly hampered by want of funds, and had from time to time to turn from
the theatre to more than one plan of raising money. Among other “ways
and means,” they set up a manufactory of fire-balloons, and gained some
money by the tickets of admission that they sold to those who witnessed
the ascent. At first they could only afford the simplest of materials for
their scenes. These were painted on brown paper, the sheets being glued
together. The side-scenes were painted on both sides, and revolved, in
changing, on a pivot in the middle. Each season saw, however, an increase
of magnificence, and some of the young artist’s scenery was so strongly
made and so carefully painted that it has been in use even in the last
few years.

Meanwhile, his younger brother was engaged in writing a tragedy, and in
drilling his company. “Finding all dramas to which he had access far too
long and difficult for his purpose, he boldly turned author; and parts
were learned and scenes practised, though with considerable increase to
inevitable difficulties, from the circumstance that the drama grew as
the work proceeded, new thoughts striking the young dramatist, and new
scenes being added for their development.” Thus _The Hostile Chieftains_,
a tragedy founded on one of Mrs. Radcliffe’s tales, was written six
times over. _The Tragedy of Nero_, as well befitted so great a subject,
was the composition of three of the brothers working together. Even the
manager, architect, carpenter, and scene-painter had found time to lend
a hand. The first season opened with the performance of _The Rivals_,
a tragedy, and not by Sheridan. It was witnessed with great applause
by crowded audiences during its run of two nights. It was in the third
season that _The Hostile Chieftains_ was performed. Meanwhile, no doubt
as a necessary preparation for Mrs. Radcliffe, a trap-door had been made
in the ceiling. A band of musicians also was formed. This was the last
season of the little company, but it ended gloriously; for the play had a
run of five nights.

In many other ways did the young lad show his ingenuity. He was the
family carpenter, locksmith, and clock-cleaner. He even took to pieces
and set to rights a watch which had been returned to the maker for
repairs, but was sent back as faulty as ever. When he was sixteen Mr.
Beasley projected a new piece of “utility”—a school-atlas—and called upon
“his young friend, Rowland Hill,” to undertake the task of constructing
the maps. “This was,” Rowland wrote in his Journal, a few years later, “a
much greater undertaking than I at first imagined, owing to the great
difference that exists in the works which it was necessary to consult. In
a chart of the Mediterranean belonging to my father, Algiers is as much
as three inches from its proper place.... I have given it up entirely. I
could not be satisfied with copying from another map, and from the great
number of books and maps which it was necessary to consult, I found that,
with the little time I could devote to it, it must be the work of not
less than ten or fifteen years.” He finished, however, the map of Spain
and Portugal, which was published.

Three years later, when he was now nineteen, he gave still further proofs
of his ingenuity:—

    “In January, 1815, my father gave a lecture on electricity
    to the Birmingham Philosophical Society, of which he was a
    Fellow, I performing the experiments. At that period the means
    of securing electrical action were either imperfect, or, at
    best, not very generally known. A previous attempt (by another
    Fellow of the Society) to give an illustrated lecture on the
    subject had utterly failed; and it was confidently believed
    by various members that, in the theatre of the institution
    at least—whether because of the crowded audiences usually
    attending the lectures, whether from insufficient ventilation,
    or from some unknown cause—all further attempt was useless.
    This stimulated my father to the effort, the more so as his
    successful lectures, previously mentioned, had been given under
    circumstances far more unfavourable. His credit was thus staked
    upon the issue, and he resolved, and I with him, that no effort
    should be spared to secure success. We carefully examined the
    whole of the Society’s apparatus, and brought it into complete
    order. Remembering an exhibition of constellations at one of
    my father’s former lectures, I went to work to prepare more,
    which I desired to make on a much larger scale; but glass,
    the material on which the tinfoil was laid, being not only
    inconveniently fragile, but at that time, on account of the
    high duty, an expensive article, I tried the substitution of
    cardboard, which fortunately I found to be, when quite dry,
    a satisfactory non-conductor. Using this, I produced several
    constellations of such size as to be well seen by a large body
    of spectators; and, which delighted me even more, I so arranged
    one, viz, that of the Great Bear, that while receiving the
    spark it was kept in constant revolution. At length we got
    everything to do well; but our elation at this preliminary
    success was considerably checked by hearing that our
    predecessor had thus far done as well as ourselves. This made
    us very anxious, and our care was redoubled. Observing that
    the lecture-table was covered with lead, surmounted with green
    baize, and fearing that this combination would in some measure
    rob our conductor (the nap acting as so many points), we
    covered the whole with glazed brown paper; and again, anxious
    lest any accumulation of electric influence, either in the
    subjacent lead or elsewhere, might be troublesome, we crossed
    the table with a number of wires, which, being first brought
    into connection below, were passed through the floor, and
    lastly, being thrust into the spout of a pump in the basement,
    were brought into contact with the column of water within, so
    as to make our conduction, or rather abduction, complete. We
    also took advantage of a furnace, which had been set up behind
    the lecture-table for chemical purposes, to diffuse as much
    warmth as possible over our whole apparatus, that all dampness
    might be kept away.

    “At length the important night arrived, and, notwithstanding
    all our precautions, we went to the lecture-room in great
    trepidation. The clock struck seven, and the electrical
    machine, which had been kept near a large fire in the
    apparatus-room till the last moment, was carried in and
    attached to the table. The lecture began, and the machine was
    set in motion, while we stood in breathless anxiety to watch
    the result. To our inexpressible relief we soon saw that it was
    in full power; and experiment succeeded experiment without the
    slightest failure. All had proceeded well till about the middle
    of the lecture, when suddenly the rod of the winch, which,
    with superfluous caution, had been made of glass, snapped in
    two, and the machine was brought to a stand. Though enough had
    been done to establish the success of our attempt, my father,
    naturally anxious to complete his lecture, and remembering
    that he was in the midst of a manufacturing town, inquired
    earnestly whether any one present could furnish a substitute of
    any description, however rude. One or two gentlemen immediately
    disappeared, and, meantime, my own machine, which had been
    brought as a provision against mishap, was used for some minor
    experiments, for which its power well sufficed. While this was
    going on my brother Edwin had carried the broken winch into
    a small workshop on the premises, and, sawing off the leg of
    a stool, had shaped this at the ends, fitted it to the winch
    handle, and, returning to the room, attached it to the socket
    on the axle of the machine, which again began to revolve, so
    that when our kind friends returned with their substitutes
    the necessity for them had passed away, and the lecture went
    on swimmingly to the end; my Great Bear, which was, so far
    as I know, a novelty, attracting particular attention, and
    eliciting, contrary to the rule and usage of the society, a
    round of applause.

    “One of the loudest foreboders of evil consoled himself for
    his error by remarking on the number of assistants ‘Hill’ had
    had, adding that he had better have brought his wife and all
    his family to help him. So trifling a circumstance would not
    have been noticed here had it not touched the key-note of our
    success. In our course through life, from the beginning to the
    present hour, each one of us has been always ready to help
    the others to the best of his power; and no one has failed to
    call for such assistance again and again. Each one, I am sure,
    recognises in this fact a main cause of such success as he has
    attained; and I cannot too emphatically declare that to mine it
    has been essential.

    “In the following January my father gave a second and last
    lecture on the same subject. Emboldened by our past success,
    we proceeded to experiments involving greater risk of failure;
    among others a thunder-cloud, which, to effect its discharge
    (whereby a model building was to be blown up with gunpowder),
    had to be moved by electric influence through a distance of
    not less, I think, than eight or ten feet. But the crowning
    illustration, with which the lecture concluded, was a revolving
    planisphere of my construction, four feet in diameter, and
    representing all stars, of not less than the fourth magnitude,
    within forty degrees of the South Pole. Wishing that the
    various magnitudes should appear in the illustration, I devised
    an arrangement for that purpose. For producing the sparks to
    represent stars of the first magnitude, I cut the approaching
    edges of the tinfoil into a round shape, and placed them
    about one-twelfth of an inch asunder; for those of the second
    magnitude I gave the edges a pointed shape, also reducing the
    space between them to a minimum; for stars of the third and
    fourth magnitudes, while retaining the same arrangement, I
    produced further obscuration by covering the one with a single
    thickness, and the other with two thicknesses, of thin paper.
    To represent the Magellanic clouds was a more difficult matter;
    but here also I hit upon an expedient. Piercing the disc, in
    the proper places, with holes proportionate to the size and
    in the form of the respective nebulae, I placed behind each
    hole in a plane parallel to that of the disc, and distant
    about half an inch from it, a piece of paper somewhat more
    than sufficiently large to correspond with the perforation;
    and I so arranged that this paper was illuminated by sparks
    at the back of the disc. When I add that the planisphere thus
    illuminated was at the same time kept in constant and equable
    revolution, I shall perhaps be regarded as justified in the
    belief entertained at the time that the whole result was a
    more exact representation of the starry heavens than had ever
    before been produced. The applause previously given to my
    Great Bear was more than redoubled on sight of my Southern
    Sky, and the lecture terminated amidst the congratulations of
    friends, my father being, of course, greatly pleased, myself
    sufficiently elated, and the whole family triumphant. I may add
    that a full description of my planisphere will be found in the
    ‘Philosophical Magazine’ for October, 1818.”[36]

In 1816 he devised and constructed an alarum water-clock:—

    “As a complete description of this might weary the reader,
    I will give only a general conception of its structure. As
    already implied, the lapse of time was to be marked by the
    flow of water, and the most obvious difficulty being to render
    this equable, I employed for the purpose a floating syphon.
    The tube, which was so fine as to pass only about three drops
    per minute, was stuck through a flat piece of cork, which
    floated on the surface of water in a tin can; and as the water
    issued from the syphon it dropped into another can, though of
    much smaller size, hung at one end of a balance; so that, as
    this latter can filled, it became heavy enough to bear its own
    end of the beam down, while the opposite end, being of course
    tilted up, struck the trigger, which, as in ordinary alarums,
    released the weight, thus setting the clapper in motion. Now
    the length of time required to give the counterbalancing weight
    of water depended, of course, on the amount of weight put on
    the trigger-beam; and this was varied according to requirement,
    principally by means of a sliding weight, hanging from the beam
    as from a common steelyard. This sufficed so far as quarter
    hours were concerned, additional means of some complexity being
    used for securing the observance of smaller portions of time.
    The end was that I could count on being called within three
    or four minutes of the time fixed upon. In its early days,
    however, I was sometimes annoyed by irregularity, and, upon
    careful inspection, I perceived that this was caused by dust,
    which, falling into the water, found its way into the syphon,
    and impeded the flow. To remove this inconvenience, I enclosed
    my alarum in a box, taking care also to change the water with
    sufficient frequency. I remember that on the evening when I
    first got the machine to work, not willing to leave my new
    light under a bushel, I fetched up half-a-dozen boys into the
    room where it stood, that they might see and admire. When I had
    explained the mechanism, and arranged for a _réveille_ at the
    end of a quarter of an hour, the boys sat down in expectation;
    and probably being over-worked, according to our practice at
    the time, one of them fell fast asleep. Great was my delight,
    and great the amusement of his companions, when, at the end
    of the time, this, the first person ever awakened by alarum
    of mine, started up with a sudden exclamation of surprise and
    alarm, showing that my little machine had effectually performed
    its duty.

    “I may here remark that for one machine that I executed there
    were many that I devised. Thus I find the following entry in my
    Journal about a year later:—

        “‘_December 21st, 1817._—I also wish to make a model of
        a boat to be driven by pumping [in] water at the prow
        and forcing it out at the stern. This is an idea of my
        father’s; and I think it will obviate the objection against
        driving canal boats by machinery, which is that the paddles
        agitate the water to such a degree as to injure the sides
        of the canal’

        “A few years later I set down another first conception,
        this time of my own, which, however, I never carried
        further. The record is as follows:—

        “‘Steam vessels might be propelled by means of an endless
        screw, something like a corkscrew with the wire flattened
        in a direction perpendicular to the axis. There might
        be several fixed at the sides, at the stern, &c. This
        apparatus would work equally well whether altogether or
        partly immersed in water. If one could be placed so as to
        move like a rudder, it would be exceedingly efficient in
        changing the direction of the boat.’”[37]

I find also in his Journal for the year 1817, the following record: “If I
can find time, I intend to construct a model of an engine which I have
long thought of. It is something similar to a steam-engine, only that it
is to work by exploding a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gases. Such an
engine I think might be employed to advantage in driving carriages, as
the gases might be condensed.” A few months later he writes: “During the
Christmas vacation I tried a few experiments to ascertain the force of
exploded oxygen and hydrogen when in combination, and found it to be so
small that it cannot be applied to the purpose I intended; at least, that
such an engine would be far more expensive than one to work by steam.”

Soon after he had finished his clock he undertook a very different piece
of work. He had already taught himself the art of land-surveying. “I
learned the art,” he wrote, “as best I could; I might almost say I found
it out, for I had then no book on the subject, and my father had no
special knowledge of the matter.” As was usual with him, he at once began
to teach what he himself had learnt. With a class he measured and mapped
the playground and some little of the neighbourhood. About this time a
murder—famous in legal history—was committed within four miles of Hill
Top, and at once roused a strong public interest.

    “The name of the victim was Mary Ashford. Thornton, the man
    charged with the crime, and whom the whole neighbourhood
    believed to be guilty, got off at the trial by setting up an
    _alibi_. So strong was the feeling excited by this escape,
    that it was resolved to resort to the long-disused right of
    appeal; and a subscription being speedily raised to defray
    the expenses, the necessary proceedings were commenced. This
    startling course brought the matter into the London papers,
    and interest became general. Illustrated journals there were
    none, but my drawing-master published a portrait of the poor
    girl—taken, I suppose, after death—with a view of the pond in
    which the body was found; and one of the Birmingham newspapers
    (the _Midland Chronicle_) gave a rude plan of the ground on
    which the chief incidents occurred. This, however, being
    apparently done without measurement, and not engraved either on
    wood or copper, but made up as best could be done with ordinary
    types, was of course but a very imperfect representation. I
    resolved to improve upon this, and, in conjunction with a
    former schoolfellow, to whom, though he was much older than
    myself, I was then giving private lessons in surveying, I led
    my class to the spot, took the measurements, and constructed
    a complete map, not merely of the spot where the murder was
    committed, but of the neighbourhood, so far as to include the
    place of the alleged _alibi_. This was published not only in
    Birmingham but also in London, and we cleared about fifteen
    pounds by the enterprise. It may be convenient to the reader to
    add, though this has nothing to do with my story, that when the
    case of appeal came before the Court of King’s Bench, Thornton,
    throwing down his glove in due form, demanded wager of battle;
    and as this barred all other measures, while of course the age
    of ordeals was passed, the proceedings came to an end, and the
    prisoner was released. However, he never again ventured to
    show himself near the scene of his alleged crime. In the next
    Session of Parliament an Act was passed abolishing wager of
    battle, and with it the right of appeal. I remember that our
    family verdict on the subject condemned the latter half of this

Rowland Hill’s map was copied by a dishonest tradesman:—

    “Incensed at such rascally treatment,” he records in his
    Journal, “I told my publisher I was determined to maintain
    an action for damages against the man. On examining the Act
    respecting the copyright of engravings, my brother Matthew was
    fearful that we might not succeed in the event of a trial,
    because we had not specified on the plate the exact day on
    which it was published. It said ‘published,’ etc., ‘Nov.,
    1817,’ I immediately had the plate altered before any more
    impressions were taken; but as several had been sold of the
    first kind, my brother thought that there would be some danger
    in risking a trial.”

The inventions and schemes that I have described were rather the
occupations of Rowland Hill’s few hours of leisure than the real work
of his life. It was in school-work that he was closely engaged for long
hours every day during many a year. His position was not a little trying.
Had it not been for one side of his father’s character, it might have
become unbearable. He and his brother Matthew, as they grew older and saw
more of the outside world, had become more and more dissatisfied with the
state of the school. They were both ambitious youths; and up to a certain
age their chief ambition—at all events, their nearest ambition—was to
make Hill Top a thoroughly good school. Before many years had passed,
the elder brother was bent on making his way at the bar, while Rowland
was thinking how he should reform the education of England—I might
almost say, of the world. As his views widened with increasing years, he
recorded in his Journal:—

    “The beneficial effects which I every day see arise from the
    improvements which have been introduced into the school, and
    the acknowledged superiority of our system of education,
    lead me to think that the combination of talent, energy, and
    industry which exists in our family, directed as it is, with
    few exceptions, to the science of education, may some time or
    other produce effects which will render our name illustrious
    in after ages. The more I mix with the world, the more insight
    I have into the proceedings and opinions of other men, the
    conviction is forced upon me that our family possesses talents,
    and energy, and devotedness to one object, seldom to be met
    with.... Our plans are calculated for large numbers, and to
    obtain them is the present object of all our attention. Some of
    us think that the best mode will be to attempt to induce the
    public to establish a large school or college for the education
    of the children of the upper and middle classes. Other members
    of the family are afraid that in so doing we may risk our
    present establishment; but I think that the attempt may be so
    managed as not in the slightest degree to injure our present
    school, but rather to forward its success. To establish this
    college is the height of my ambition. I feel confident that,
    with great numbers and great capital, the science and practice
    of education might be improved to such a degree as to show that
    it is now in its infancy.”

It was at the age of twenty-five, when he had for some years been the
real head of the school, that he made this record. When, however, his
brother and he first began their reforms, their efforts were turned to
much smaller matters. Matthew set about improving the teaching, while
Rowland chiefly took in hand the organization of the school and the
management of the accounts. As regards most of their changes, their
father at first showed, if not great unwillingness, at all events
considerable indifference. Often they had to set themselves against some
of his most cherished theories; often they had to stir him up to action
when he would have liked much rather to remain in complete repose. “It
is an old sore,” writes one of the brothers, later on, “to witness my
father’s apathy in the midst of all our exertions.” It was at first no
easy matter to win his consent to their plans of reform, but he soon
recognised his sons’ ability, and gave their powers full play. Many a man
who is too easy-going to carry out to the full the work that lies before
him, is yet “rough, unswayable, and rude,” when his own children come
forward and do his work with their own hands. This was not Thomas Hill’s
character. “My father,” his son said, “showed no signs of vexation, nor
was he ever jealous of any of us. He used only to express a fear that I
had got too much on my hands. So far from being jealous, he was proud
of my doing the work, and used to boast of it to others.” How highly,
indeed, he had always thought of his son is shown by the following
anecdote, which I find recorded in Rowland’s Journal for 1817:—

    “My father, a little time since, was speaking of me to my
    friend William Matthews, when he said, ‘Once in my life I
    struck him, but I afterwards found that it was unjustly; and
    I’d give this right hand to recall that blow. I hope Rowland
    has forgotten it; I wish that I could.’ It is unnecessary
    to say that, when my friend told me this, I felt both great
    pleasure and pain. It is now about eleven years since the
    affair happened to which he referred. Many a tear has that blow
    cost me, though my father acknowledged himself sorry for having
    struck me very soon after.”

So much did the young man take upon his own shoulders, that before he was
of age he was, in almost everything but name, the real Head-master.

“My first reform,” he one day told me, “was about the school-bell. I
was then not more than twelve. It rang very irregularly. I looked into
the matter and discovered the cause. It was owing to the following rule
of my father’s. There was a monitor whose duty it was to ring the bell,
and a penalty was fixed for any delay. But any one who happened to be
in the school-room at the time was bound to ring the bell, and was
fined for omission. This was one of my first attempts at legislation.
I with difficulty persuaded my father to reverse his rule—to fine
any one who did ring the bell, except the monitor. That change was
eminently successful.” In the hours of meals there had also been great
irregularity. The bell was never rung till everything was ready. He
proposed that henceforth the bell should be rung at fixed times, it
being taken for granted that everything was ready. “My mother said it
was impossible to have the dinner at the exact time, as a large leg of
mutton required more time to roast than a smaller one. I said no doubt it
must have more time, but the cook must begin earlier. She gave in on my
earnestly desiring it.”

In his Journal for the year 1817 he records: “If the monitor neglect
to ring the bell at the proper time, he incurs heavy penalties, which
I take care to collect rigorously, convinced that in the end it is the
most merciful mode of proceeding.” As he grew older he was more inclined
in every case to fix lighter penalties; but whether he was dealing with
his pupils, with the servants of the London and Brighton Railway, or
the servants of the Post Office, he always rigorously enforced whatever
penalty had been justly incurred.

Many duties he undertook, he said, as it was less trouble for him to do
them himself than to be called in to help another. His father did not
keep his accounts on any good system—he had not even an index to his
ledger—nor did he make them out at any fixed time. To him they were a
necessary evil, and were treated accordingly. The bills were never sent
out till the very end of the holidays. “I had a great liking for working
in the carpenter’s shop. All through my holidays I was in constant dread
lest my father should come up to ask me to help him in making out the
accounts, and so call me off from some piece of construction. At last I
said that I would rather make up the accounts myself, as I got so tired
of these constant interruptions. One of my cousins helped me. He and I
used to rise very early one morning just before the holidays, and at last
we always completed the posting from the ledger, which before had been
spread over the whole holidays, by breakfast-time, while the accounts
were sent off with the boys.” Rowland was about fourteen when he thus
began to make up the school-bills. At the age of sixteen or seventeen
he took into his own hands the entire management of his father’s money
affairs, and “a heavy responsibility it was.” There were not a few debts
owing, but in no long time, by dint of great efforts, he paid off all
that was due. “I went round and discharged all the debts, and was very
much complimented by my father’s creditors.”

About the same time the two brothers were planning to have a kind of
“Speech Day”—an Exhibition, as they called it. “We are busily employed,”
wrote Rowland in his Journal, in the year 1813, “in preparing for an
Exhibition at Christmas of oratory, penmanship, arithmetic, parsing,
&c.” In the dramatic part of the entertainment the boys were chiefly
drilled by Matthew. The rest of the work mainly fell on Rowland. Three
years later his brother was away in London, “eating his terms,” and
his father had fallen sick. “I had to drill,” he said, “the boys in
recitation. I disliked the work very much, and was very unfit for it; but
I had to do it. We always printed the pieces the boys were to repeat.
In the scene from ‘Hamlet,’ where Horatio says, ‘My lord, I think I
saw him yesternight!’ and Hamlet answers, ‘Saw?—who?’ I thought ‘who’
ought to be ‘whom.’ I consulted my father, who agreed with me; and so we
printed it. Matthew—[the old man, as he came to this part of the story,
laughed heartily]—Matthew was very angry with me for thus correcting
Shakespeare.” He has made in his Journal the following record of the
Exhibition of this year:—

    “At the last Christmas exhibition, the first act of Plautus’s
    ‘Captives’ was performed in Latin. For this I painted a street
    scene, which took me several days. I believe I never worked
    harder than when preparing for this exhibition. The boys were
    brought to such a pitch of excellence in mental arithmetic,
    and their other exercises, that we were obliged to give them a
    great deal of practice that they might not recede. Besides this
    I gave a great many lessons from home, attended to a class who
    were drawing maps and plans; and at the same time painted the

    “During more than three weeks, including even Sundays, I was
    hard at work on an average at least eighteen hours to each
    day; sometimes much more. This I could have borne without
    injury, but I had almost all the care and responsibility of the
    school on my hands at the same time; for my brother Matthew
    was in London several weeks just before the holidays, and my
    father was unwell. I am not yet recovered from the ill effects
    upon my health of the exertions I then made; but, however,
    that exhibition raised our school very high in the public
    estimation. The mental arithmetic astonished very much, and as
    we invited questions from the audience, they could not suppose
    that the boys had been practised in the questions which I asked

To what a pitch of excellence he raised his classes is shown by the
following record:—

    “About the same time there arrived in England an American lad
    named Zerah Colbourn, whose power in mental arithmetic was made
    the subject of public exhibition. As this was a department in
    which I had diligently exercised both myself and my pupils, I
    accompanied my father to the performance with great interest.
    We found that the boy’s power consisted chiefly in finding
    with great rapidity the factors of numbers, and square and
    cube roots. I naturally tried my ability against his, and I
    found that so long as low numbers were dealt with, I equalled
    and even surpassed him in rapidity, but that he could deal
    effectually with numbers so high as to be far beyond my
    management. Thus he would rapidly extract the cube root of
    a number expressed in nine figures, provided always it were
    an exact cube, for with other numbers he declined to deal.
    His mode of proceeding was a secret, which, with some other
    devices, his father declared himself willing to reveal so
    soon as a subscription of, I think, one thousand pounds or
    guineas should have been raised. As this did not seem to me a
    very hopeful project, I came to the conclusion that my only
    way of becoming acquainted with the secret was to find it out
    for myself. I accordingly went to work, and soon discovered a
    mode of performing myself that which I had witnessed with so
    much wonder; and not content with this, proceeded to consider
    whether means might not be found for mentally extracting roots
    without limitation to exact cubes. This was an incomparably
    harder problem, nor did I arrive at its solution till a year
    or two later. Each process, as soon as discovered, I taught
    to my pupils, who in the easier task—all that Colbourn ever
    attempted—became more rapid and far more correct than Colbourn
    himself; for with him, in extracting a cube root expressed in
    three figures, it was a common incident to fail in the second,
    an error which my pupils learned for the most part to avoid.
    I may add that some of them became so quick and accurate in
    both processes, that when on a public occasion, viz., at
    Midsummer, 1822, printed tables of cubes and their roots had
    been placed in the hands of examiners, and questions asked
    therefrom ranging up to two thousand millions, and of course
    without any limitation to exact cubes, the answers—fractions,
    however being disregarded—were given so quickly as to lead
    some sceptics, little aware of the monstrous absurdity of the
    hypothesis, to declare that the whole must have been previously
    learned by rote. I reduced my discovery to writing, intending
    to publish it in a contemplated manual of mental arithmetic;
    but unfortunately this, with other papers, was lost in a manner
    never fully known, and to repeat the discovery I fear I should
    now find quite impracticable.[39]

    “While on the subject of mental arithmetic, I may mention
    that I brought the pupils in my class to perform mentally
    other difficult calculations with a facility that excited no
    small surprise. Thus they would readily find the moon’s age
    (approximately, by epacts) for any day of any year; also, the
    day of the week corresponding with any day of the month; and,
    by a combination of the two processes, ascertain the day of the
    month corresponding with Easter Sunday in any year.”

It was with some reason that Mr. Sargant, in describing his old school,
writes: “Our arithmetic was amazing, even excelling, by our laborious
acquisition of mental arithmetic, the success of the present Privy
Council Schools.”[40] In surveying, also, the young teacher’s pupils made
almost as much progress as in mental arithmetic. He had undertaken to
make a complete survey of Birmingham:—

    “I now made my first trigonometrical survey; taking my first
    stations on our own playground (which fortunately commanded a
    view of many of the principal objects in the town), and, as
    before, engaging my surveying class in the work, both for their
    instruction and my own assistance.

    “This occupation led me to inquire into the great
    trigonometrical survey then carried on by Colonel Mudge,
    especially that part of it which related to the neighbourhood
    of Birmingham, my chief object being to ascertain what records
    would avail for our map, and what further steps it would be
    needful for me to take to complete the work. With this view I
    procured his report, and studied it with care, finding it more
    interesting than any novel. I read with particular interest
    the part describing the measurement of the great base line on
    Hounslow Heath by his predecessor, General Roy; and I gathered
    from it that my own base lines, taken one on our playground
    and the other on the opposite side of Birmingham, were far too
    short, the longer extending to only one hundred-and-thirty
    feet. I therefore resolved to recommence my work, and not
    only to take a much longer base line, but also to measure it
    as accurately as I could. I now give a passage taken from my

    “‘I accordingly procured some long deal rods and three stools
    for the purpose of measuring a line with great accuracy.
    The stools are made to rise and fall, and somewhat resemble
    music-stools; this construction was necessary, in order to
    place the rods always upon the same level.[41]

    “‘I chose Bromsgrove Street as the situation of the base, on
    account of its remarkable levelness, and the number of objects
    which are visible from different parts of it. The base extends
    from the corner of the Bell Inn, on the right-hand side of the
    Bristol Road, and opposite to the end of Bromsgrove Street, to
    the wall at the north-eastern end of Smithfield; being nearly
    half a mile in length, and so admirably situated with respect
    to the objects, that there is not a single obtuse angle upon it.

    “‘Besides measuring with the rods, I surveyed the line twice
    with a land chain, properly adjusted, and after making
    every allowance for the elongation of the chain during
    the admeasurement, I found the difference in the total
    length of the base, which is nearly half a mile, to be only
    three-quarters of an inch. When the survey is completed, I
    intend to write an account of it, which will be found among my

    “‘I have thought of publishing parts of it in some of the
    magazines, particularly a relation of a new mode of using the
    theodolite, which I have invented. This mode increases its
    power exceedingly.’

    “In performing this work it was of course necessary to avoid
    the daily traffic, which would have disturbed our operations;
    and, as my Journal shows, my class and I, during the three days
    occupied in the process, viz., May the 25th, 27th, and 30th,
    rose the first day at three, the second at five minutes before
    three, and the third at five minutes past two.

    “The improved mode of using the theodolite referred to above
    consisted in making it do the work of a repeating circle; and
    thus I was enabled, with respect to each of the principal
    angles, to obtain the mean of perhaps twenty measurements. I
    may here mention that the fact of this contrivance happened,
    on a subsequent occasion, to do me good service. Some years
    afterwards, being in London, I wished to visit the Royal
    Observatory, and procuring a letter of introduction to Captain
    Kater, then a member of the Board of Longitude, I applied to
    him for an order. With all the politeness that can attend a
    negative, he told me that the Astronomer Royal (Mr. Pond) had
    been so much interrupted of late as to deprecate any further
    issue of orders save in cases of absolute necessity. As some
    consolation, however, he offered to show me his own apparatus;
    which, I need not say, I examined with great interest. In
    the course of conversation I mentioned my new device, when,
    turning to me with a look of great pleasure, he told me that
    he had hit upon the same improvement himself. Before I left he
    sat down and wrote the order; of which I did not fail to make
    use. I may add that at a later period he visited the school,
    subsequently placed a son under our care, and continued till
    death to honour me with his friendship.

    “To return to the survey, I give a second extract from my

        “‘_June 23rd, 1819._—This day I completed the calculations
        for the trigonometrical survey of Birmingham, and some
        parts of the adjoining country.

        “‘After completing the survey of the town, I thought it
        desirable to extend it for the purpose of verifying the
        admeasurement of the base, by computing the length of two
        lines which were measured by Colonel Mudge. These are
        the distance [the respective distances] of Wolverhampton
        and Wednesbury spires from a station at Bar beacon.
        Colonel Mudge has left no mark to show the situation of
        his station; he describes it indeed, but not with very
        great precision. He says in his report, ‘The station is
        thirty yards north of the plantation.’ I have supposed
        his description to be exactly correct, that is, that the
        station was placed directly north of the centre of the
        plantation, and thirty yards from the nearest part of the
        clump of trees. If this be correct the station would stand
        fifty-six yards directly north of the flagstaff, and this I
        have supposed to be its situation.

        “‘The distance of Wolverhampton spire from the station
        at Bar beacon, Colonel Mudge gives at 48,345 feet. This,
        reduced to the distance from the flagstaff, gives 48,355

        “‘By my operations I make the distance to be 48,362 feet,
        differing by only seven feet in upwards of nine miles. The
        distance of Wednesbury spire from the station at Bar beacon
        is, according to Colonel Mudge, 25,140 feet. This, reduced
        to the distance from the flagstaff, is 25,098 feet. I have
        found the same line to measure 25,102 feet, differing by
        only four feet in nearly five miles.[43]

       *       *       *       *       *

        “‘Besides measuring these distances, I reduced the latitude
        and longitude of St. Philip’s church, and of the station on
        this house [my father’s], from the latitude and longitude
        of Bar beacon as given by Colonel Mudge.’[44]

        “One other line measured in the course of my operations (I
        think it was the one from the station on Bar beacon to that
        on Clent Hill near Hagley) was of yet greater length than
        those mentioned above, being no less than fourteen miles.
        Indeed, the triangles became so large that I had to make
        allowance for spherical excess, the rotundity of the earth
        becoming otherwise a source of error.

        “Whenever it was practicable I measured all three angles
        of each triangle; and, after allowance for the spherical
        excess, there was no instance, I believe, in which the sum
        of the three angles differed from 180° by so much as half a

        “Those possessed of such instruments as are used at the
        present day will perhaps smile at the self-satisfaction
        with which I regarded this approximate accuracy; but they
        must remember that I had only a common theodolite, such as
        was in use fifty years ago.

        “It may be mentioned here that, on account of the length of
        the lines, communication between our stations was a matter
        of some difficulty and much interest. When two divisions of
        the surveying class had to set out in different directions
        for places many miles apart, for the purpose of acting
        in concert with each other, of course a certain amount
        of forethought and injunction before starting, and sharp
        watchfulness on the spot, were indispensable: spare flags
        were carried for telegraphic purposes, and telescopes
        for observation of the signals previously agreed upon. I
        need not say that each signal at one station was eagerly
        welcomed at the other, and that its repetition, given by
        way of acknowledgment at the latter, was no less warmly
        hailed at the former.

        “There was a little incident on this occasion which, though
        somewhat foreign to my subject, I mention as ludicrously
        characteristic of schoolboy _esprit de corps_ according to
        its manifestation fifty years ago. I understand the feeling
        is now much mitigated, without, however, being injuriously
        impaired. In the midst of our proceedings at Bar beacon
        the pupils of another school came upon the ground, being
        apparently out for a holiday. A feeling of hostility soon
        manifested itself in our party, and that without any other
        provocation from the other side than arose from mere
        presence; and though the rival party mustered at least
        three-fold our number, it was soon suggested, no doubt
        half in joke, that we should challenge them to fight; if
        I would only deal with the master a good account should
        soon be given of all the rest. This absurd petition being
        of course rejected, a more peaceful means was hit upon
        for the vindication of our honour. The hill on which we
        stood was, and perhaps still is, surmounted by a flagstaff
        sixty or seventy feet high, by means of which it was
        announced to the world round about whether the family at
        the neighbouring hall were at home or otherwise. About
        half-way up this standard was a small platform, accessible
        by a perpendicular ladder; and to this one of our number, I
        believe the youngest, proceeded to mount, descending after
        a short stay. Though not a word was said, the hint was
        immediately taken by the other party, one of whom repeated
        the feat. A second of our number was likewise followed by
        a second of theirs; but a third finding no imitator, the
        victory remained with us. Further, however, to enhance the
        triumph, the little fellow who had made the first ascent,
        having remounted to the platform, ‘swarmed’ up thence to
        the top of the pole, returning to the ground with no small
        self-satisfaction. As no similar attempt was made by the
        rival party, enough was thought to have been done for the
        honour of the school; and when we left the ground, it was
        with the dignified air of demonstrated superiority.

        “Before leaving the subject of surveys, I may mention
        that I afterwards led my class to measure and plot, with
        sections longitudinal and transverse, so much of the
        Ickenield Street as then remained on Sutton Coldfield, the
        length being about three miles; and lastly, that at the
        request of Dr. Blair, now well known to every reader of the
        life of Professor Wilson, we made a survey underground,
        viz., of a coal-pit, his property, near Dudley. This,
        though a dark and dirty piece of work, was much enjoyed by
        the lads, the more so as at the close of their task they
        were plentifully regaled at Dr. Blair’s hospitable table.

        “These operations extended over a portion of 1818 and 1819.

        “A little incident which occurred during the survey on
        Sutton Coldfield may be worth mentioning. A farmer coming
        up towards the close of our operations asked what we were
        doing, and upon being told that we were surveying the Roman
        road, inquired, ‘What’s that?’ At this time, the sun, being
        low in the sky, threw the depressed parts of the road
        into sufficient shadow to bring out alike the convexity
        of the carriage-way and the comparative elevation of the
        causeways on either side, so that the road, not easily
        discernible in the full light of day, had now its outlines
        distinctly marked. The answer, therefore, was easy, and
        pointing to the long line of road stretched before us, I
        replied, ‘There it is.’ The rustic looked in the direction
        indicated, and after gazing for awhile in bewildered
        surprise exclaimed, ‘Good God, I have crossed this way
        every day for twenty years, and never saw that before!’”[45]


Able and successful though Rowland Hill was as a teacher, nevertheless he
often regretted that he was withdrawn from duties which he alone could
perform, to undertake that which another might have done with at least a
fair amount of success. “I ought,” he records in his Journal, “to have
nothing to do but to superintend others; my time is unfortunately too
much occupied as a teacher.” Certainly the singular system of education
which he had devised required for its proper working the almost undivided
attention of its author. Before I describe it, I would ask the reader
to bring before his mind the state of our schools in the days of our
fathers. Let him read “Tom Brown.” Let him see what Rugby was even after
Dr. Arnold had for some years been its master. Let him see the shocking
brutality to which an inoffensive child could be exposed. I can never
think on some of the scenes of that story without feeling that Arnold’s
great name is stained by the cruel deeds that were done under his own
roof. Had he thought a little more of suffering and a little less of
sin, he would have been a better master and a greater man. At the time
that Rowland Hill began his reforms Arnold was still at Oxford. He was
not appointed to Rugby till six years after Matthew and Rowland Hill had
brought out their work on Public Education. There had been little sign as
yet of any improvement in our schools. There was still many a place where
a gentle and timid child was exposed to savage and ignorant cruelty.
These ancient foundations boast, and with justice, of the famous men whom
they have reared. They are proud of their traditions; and yet I can never
visit one of these old schools without seeing rise before my mind a long
line of unhappy children who were too gentle, too delicately wrought for
the rough and brutal world into which they were suddenly thrown, and
whose little hearts were well-nigh broken by the cruelty of an unfeeling
herd of masters and boys.

    “Continuo auditæ voces, vagitus et ingens,
    Infantumque animæ flentes in limine primo.”

In the year 1821, Southey thus wrote of one of the playmates of his own

    “The eldest son was taken from the Charter House because he
    was, literally, almost killed there by the devilish cruelty
    of the boys. They used to lay him before the fire till he was
    scorched, and shut him up in a trunk with sawdust till he had
    nearly expired with suffocation. The Charter House, at that
    time, was a sort of hell upon earth for the under boys. He was
    of weak understanding and feeble frame.”[46]

I own the value and the force of the traditions of a school. I know that
they cling to places, and are not easy to transplant; but, were I a
Charter House boy, after reading such a passage as this, I should feel
that I drew a freer, as well as a purer, air on the open downs above
Godalming, than in the old buildings near Smithfield.

In the instruction that was given there had been but little general
improvement. The old classical education was, no doubt, in many ways
admirably well suited for boys who were quick at languages. But it made
the dull ten times as dull as they came from nature, and marked down many
a lad as a hopeless blockhead whose good parts were merely overwhelmed by
the gross ignorance of his teachers. Pedantry, scarcely less than penury,
can freeze the genial current of the soul. If the fools and blockheads
could only once gather their poor wits together, and only once give their
thoughts utterance, what a tale of wrong would they pour forth against
the brutal and ignorant pedants who had, in their childhood, puffed out
the far too feeble light which had been given to light them through the

Bad, indeed, was the general state of education when Rowland Hill set
up for its reformer—so bad that it almost excuses the audacity of the
young enthusiast. His audacity, certainly, was almost boundless. “We must
honestly confess,” his eldest brother and he say, in the volume which
they published on education, “that we retain hardly a single opinion
relating to any part of our profession which we held in early life. One
by one we have surrendered them all to the force of experience.” He was
but twenty-five at most when he wrote this, and all the wisdom of our
forefathers he had already scattered to the winds. With some reason
did one of his pupils say, “There was a great want of reverence for
authority in his school. There was no respect for the opinion of the
great and good men of all ages—that _consensus_ of opinion.” In his old
age, Rowland Hill described his career as a schoolmaster as a series of
experiments. In the years when he was making his greatest changes, and
striking out into the newest of paths, he had, as he himself said, no
misgivings as to his fitness for his post; and yet it was not till after
this time that he so painfully found out how little he knew, and how much
he had still to learn. He had, however, this ground for his confidence,
that all his plans did work. In the midst of his boldness he was still
cautious. He had a horror of failure, and a strong but wholesome dread of
that ridicule which awaits the mere dreamer. Many might well have thought
that such a school as he described could scarcely have existed even in
Utopia, and yet it flourished in Birmingham.

It was in the year 1822 that the two brothers brought out their work on
Public Education.[47] Part of it had been written, at all events, as
early as 1818. The plans, so far as the government of boys is concerned,
are almost all Rowland’s; the composition of the work is mostly
Matthew’s. Fanciful though it often is, dogmatic, and even arrogant in
places, yet it can still be read with pleasure and with advantage by
those who take an interest in education. The young schemer was, indeed,
fortunate in finding in his eldest brother a writer who could throw over
his plans the charm of a lively and a singularly clear style. In this
work is set forth a complete scheme for the government of a large school.
From the best method of cultivating the heart and the head, down to
the pettiest details of every-day life, all is considered, and for all
provision is made. Here it is shown how out of almost any boy, however
unpromising he may at first sight seem, can be made a good man and a
good citizen. Here, too, is laid down a plan for drying school-boys’ wet
shoes. The brothers, one and all alike, had the fullest trust in their
system. “Even if they had never made a penny by it,” said one who knew
them well, “they would still have tried to carry it out. They were like
ministers of religion who were, indeed, paid for their ministry, but who,
nevertheless, taught their dogmas as a matter of conscience.” The founder
was for many years confident that his system could be worked by others,
if only they took it up with understanding and zeal. He looked forward
to the time when he should see great colleges on the same system spring
up in all parts of the country, to the almost boundless advantage of his
fellow-men. He has since been heard to confess that having, after long
years, looked into his code of laws, he thought it far too complex. He
added, with a smile, that he greatly doubted whether he should send his
own son to a school conducted on such a complicated system.[48] In truth,
even before he had given up school-keeping, he had found out the need of
greater simplicity, and had cleared away much of the machinery which he
had so laboriously constructed.

In the preface to the first edition, the brothers state:—

    “Having satisfied our minds that our general theory was
    correct, by a long course of experiments, and by the
    acquiescence of those who are so much interested in a careful,
    and even rigorous, examination of our plans, we have latterly
    proceeded without the trepidation which at first attended us at
    every step, and rendered the task of reducing the convictions
    of our minds to practice, a tedious and painful operation.
    We now feel our system to be sufficiently matured for public
    inspection—not that it is incapable of infinite improvement.
    We are far from pretending to a state of perfection; that
    we should belie daily by the changes which we still find it
    expedient to introduce. But there is a wide difference between
    alterations which proceed from the adoption of new principles,
    and those which are in furtherance of old ones. The latter
    will become gradually more and more minute, until they cease
    altogether to effect any of the important features.”

We may once more be tempted to smile, as we read of the long course of
experiments carried out by a young man who was but five-and-twenty. It
is not, however, by years but by labour that life is rightly measured.
Rowland Hill at a very early age had come into the only inheritance which
he was ever to receive—man’s inheritance of labour and sorrow. He had
seen, it is true, but five-and-twenty summers. Yet far distant must have
seemed to him the time of childhood’s careless years. He had begun to
labour early, and into every hour, into every day, into every year, he
had got the work of two. How much he had already done is shown by one
of his father’s letters to his brother Matthew, dated April 24th, 1823.
Well-nigh broken down by work, the young man had gone up to London to
seek rest by a change of scene:—

    “I hope change of place and your good company will be of
    service to our beloved Rowland. You are aware that his
    indisposition originates in his intense application to the
    business of the school, and I think it particularly excited
    by anything which draws hard upon his inventions; I therefore
    suggest that the discussion of new plans is not a desirable
    subject of conversation.... I most ardently wish that the dear
    lad could reflect more on the much that is effected than on the
    little that may remain in the state of a desideratum. If we
    can maintain our present position—and surely it is far easier
    to preserve than to gain—if we can do this, we have enough to
    make us very proud and very happy. I do hope that improvements
    will for awhile be entrusted to that quiet operation of time
    and experience which will slightly tax the mental powers of one
    who has done a life’s work in less than half the years he may
    fairly hope to pass in usefulness, and who must not be suffered
    to be worn out prematurely.”

This letter was found a few years ago, and was shown to the aged man who,
after his long life of usefulness, had at last entered upon that period
of rest from which he was never to be roused again. It so chanced that I
called on him soon after he had seen it. I have this note of my visit:—

    “He spoke with great emotion of the hard work and anxieties
    of his youth, and said that he had broken down several times
    before he gave up the school. He and his brother Matthew used
    constantly to talk over school matters—too much so by a great
    deal. He had been lately shown a letter written by his father,
    saying that he was going to London for a holiday, and that
    not a word must be said to him about business, for he greatly
    needed rest, and had already done the work of a life-time.
    ‘And so I had,’ my uncle said to me, with a voice broken with

If any still smile at the young man’s “long course of experiments,”
surely it will be with a smile of kindly pity and not of contempt. The
trepidation which we are told attended the youthful reformer at every
step is, I fancy, a rhetorical flourish of Matthew’s. There was but
little trepidation in Rowland Hill at any period of his life. In his
early years his daring would have seemed in almost any other man the most
overweening rashness. But, as I have already said, he knew what he could
do, and always kept well within his powers.

The first mention of his new system in his Journal is as follows:—

    “Soon after Midsummer (1816), I established a Court of Justice
    in the school. The judge is chosen monthly by the boys. The
    sheriff and the keeper of the records are chosen in the same
    manner. The attorney and solicitor-general are appointed by
    me. The judge appoints the inferior officers, as the clerk and
    crier of the Court, the constables, etc. The jury consists of
    six boys, chosen by ballot, from amongst those who have not for
    the last month disgraced themselves by appearing on certain
    bad lists, or by being convicted of any disgraceful offence.
    All evidence is taken, even that of the parties themselves. No
    oaths are administered, as we wish to impress the boys with the
    conviction that it is criminal to tell falsehoods at any time
    and in any place. The assizes are appointed to be held once per
    week; but it sometimes happens that there are no offenders.
    The sheriff keeps a book in which he enters all the sentences,
    which are generally the forfeiture of premial marks, a certain
    number of which entitle a boy to a holiday. If a boy cannot pay
    the marks, he is imprisoned in a large wooden cage, at the rate
    of one hour for five marks. The greatest number of offences
    are leaving school without permission and before the tasks are
    completed.... If a boy pleads guilty (as most of them do), his
    punishment is always lessened one-sixth; but the prisoners
    are never asked whether they are guilty or not, that they may
    not be induced to tell lies. The sheriff always presents his
    book to me for my signature to each sentence, and I have the
    power of mitigating and pardoning. I never yet have had cause
    to find fault with a single verdict of a jury or sentence of a
    judge; and I have found that these trials, besides saving my
    father and myself a deal of trouble in deciding disputes and
    investigating offences (for the Court tries civil as well as
    criminal causes), have very considerably lessened the number of
    offences. I believe (and I have good opportunities of becoming
    acquainted with other schools) that our boys are by far the
    most moral set I ever was acquainted with. This circumstance
    may, I think, in a great measure be attributed to these and
    some later regulations.”

Whether the cage was at any time in public view I do not know. Before
long, however, he and his brothers came to see how much harm is done by
exposing a boy to public shame, as is shown by the following passage in
the second edition of Public Education:—

    “Confinement, and disability to fill certain offices, are our
    severest punishments;—public disgrace, which is painful in
    exact proportion to the good feeling of the offender, is not
    employed, and every measure is avoided which would destroy
    self-respect. Expulsion has been resorted to, rather than a boy
    should be submitted to treatment which might lead himself and
    his schoolfellows to forget that he was a gentleman.”

A few months later on he gave his pupils—what many a ruler has since
given his people—a Constitution:—

    “I have long thought that the system of representation might
    be introduced with advantage into the government of a school;
    and soon after Christmas (1816), with my father’s approbation,
    I drew up a set of resolutions, which were unanimously passed
    at a general meeting of the school, appointing a mode of
    electing a committee for the management of the school. They
    have the direction of everything except the school hours
    and the quantity of work to be done. We were afraid then of
    entrusting them with the regulation of these things, but the
    committees have acted so very properly, and have showed so
    decidedly that they are fit to be entrusted with power, that
    I think no inconvenience would arise from their having the
    power to appoint the school hours and the work to be done in
    the school; however, they show no wish to be entrusted with
    such power. The committee is chosen monthly in the following
    manner:—We have a list of all the boys, which is arranged once
    per month according to general superiority.... The boy who
    stands at the top of this list names a committee-man; the two
    next boys name another; the three next a third, and so on. If
    there is not the exact number of boys at the end of the list
    to form a division, they are reckoned with that above. The
    election is by ballot. By a resolution passed at the first
    general meeting, all the teachers, with the exception of my
    father, are to be members of the committee _ex officio_; but
    I am the only teacher who ever attends the meetings of the
    committee, as we do not wish to mix too much aristocracy in the
    government of our little community. After a bill has passed the
    committee, it is presented to Mr. Hill for his approbation,
    without which it is not considered as a law. It is then read
    aloud in the school-room by the president of the committee,
    between certain hours of the day, and posted up against the
    wall for at least three days. My father has never yet found
    it necessary to refuse his approbation to a single law. The
    committee is obliged by the laws to meet at least once per
    week; sometimes it assembles oftener than that. They appoint
    the officers of the Court of Justice, who were before appointed
    by the whole school. We derive many advantages from this form
    of government in the school. One advantage, and that not an
    inconsiderable one, is that it teaches the boys the manner
    in which public meetings ought to be conducted; a species of
    knowledge in which, if we may judge from some late specimens,
    the present generation is particularly ignorant. But the effect
    of most importance attending this mode of governing is that
    it has the best effect upon the morals of the scholars. Of
    course the committee will consist of boys whose age or superior
    acquirements give them a lead in all the affairs of the school;
    and it is of the utmost importance that these boys should lead
    the others the right road, and not astray, as is too frequently
    the case. Now they feel themselves under some obligation not
    to break those laws which they themselves have assisted in
    enacting, and the scholars cannot complain that the laws are
    too severe, because, either in their own proper persons or in
    those of their representatives, they must have assisted in
    passing them. The consequence has been that, since things have
    been so constructed, we have gone on much more pleasantly to
    all parties than before.”

About the same time that the Constitution was granted, a Benevolent
Society was formed amongst the boys:—

    “In February last (1817) my father advised the boys to raise
    a subscription among themselves to be applied to benevolent
    purposes; and, that they might not become too soon tired,
    he recommended that they should subscribe small sums. They
    immediately entered into his views with great spirit; the names
    of subscribers were set down, and a general meeting was called
    for the next day. At this meeting resolutions were entered into
    for the regulation of the Society, and a committee, consisting
    of seven boys, was elected to dispose of the funds. The
    committee meets once per week. A general meeting is held once
    in every month to receive the report of the committee, to elect
    a new one, pass the accounts, &c. I was elected treasurer,
    and still keep the office. The weekly subscriptions amount
    to rather more than five shillings; donations and forfeits
    generally make it up to about six shillings. The boys have been
    able to relieve many poor families with bacon and potatoes,
    or bread. I consider everything of this kind as doubly
    advantageous, because at the same time that the distressed
    are relieved, the attention of the boys is directed in a good
    channel. It finds them something to do and to think about.
    Boys will be acting, and if they cannot do good, they will do

In the autumn of the following year further reforms were carried out:—

    “_October 10th, 1818._—A few weeks ago the following law was
    passed by the committee:—

        “‘Resolved—That on the same day as that on which the judge
        is appointed, a magistrate shall be elected in the same
        manner (that is by ballot). This officer shall have the
        appointment of the constables, who shall be under his
        direction. These officers shall constitute the police, and
        their duty shall be the detection, and, in some cases,
        the punishment of crime. The magistrate shall levy all
        penalties not exceeding ten premial marks, and decide
        disputes respecting extra work, games, &c., the parties
        having the right of appeal to a teacher, or to the Court
        of Justice; but, if the appellant should be unsuccessful,
        the punishment shall be doubled. In cases which, from
        their importance, do not come under the cognizance of the
        magistrate, he shall order the attorney-general to bring
        the offending party to trial at the next assizes.

        “‘The magistrate may hold his court in any part of the
        school premises, and if any one shall refuse to attend,
        either as culprit or witness, after having received a
        verbal or written order, from the magistrate in person, or
        from either of the constables, he shall subject himself to
        the fine of twenty premial marks. Any one thinking himself
        unjustly detained by the magistrate or his officers, shall
        have his action for damages, to be assessed by the jury. It
        shall be considered the duty of the magistrate to examine
        into every offence, and punish the aggressor as early as
        possible after the offence is committed. If the magistrate
        shall neglect his duty (that is to say if any offence
        shall come to the knowledge of a teacher which has not
        been punished within a proper time by the magistrate), it
        shall be considered the duty of the committee to remove him
        from his office. But if the magistrate shall go through
        his duty to the satisfaction of the committee, the master
        shall be requested to reward him with permission to give
        to any number of his schoolfellows, not exceeding six, an
        afternoon’s holiday, which he may enjoy with them. The
        magistrate may also reward his constables, by giving to
        each of them an afternoon’s holiday, and the privilege of
        choosing either one or two schoolfellows to enjoy it with
        them. When the magistrate shall be absent from school,
        he shall appoint a deputy, for whose acts he shall be

        “‘This appointment of a magistrate has saved me a deal of
        trouble in punishing slight offences and deciding disputes.
        It appears quite to have put a stop to a practice which
        before we never found it possible to check—namely, that of
        throwing stones. Indeed, it is a very great improvement
        in the management of the school, as from the nature of
        the magistrate’s reward, every one is interested in his
        performing his duty as much as possible to the satisfaction
        of the master. Another improvement in the discipline of the
        school is a regulation made a few months ago, which is that
        when a boy above the age of twelve leaves the school, a
        subcommittee is appointed to draw up his character, subject
        to the revisal of the general committee, after which it
        is entered in a book kept for the purpose, and read aloud
        before the whole school. This law has had an excellent
        effect upon all; but particularly upon the elder boys. It
        is generally the case at schools that, a short time before
        a boy is about to leave, he finds his character at school
        to be less and less important as the time for his leaving
        approaches, the consequence of which is that he becomes
        careless about it, and gives a deal of trouble to his
        teachers. But with us the case is exactly reversed: as the
        time for leaving approaches, the boy is aware that his
        conduct will have a greater and greater effect upon the
        character he is to leave behind him, and his behaviour is
        accordingly better each day till the time of his removal

The next entry on the subject of reforms in the school is dated July
11th, 1820:—

    “It is now more than six months since I made any entry in this
    Journal; during that time I have been engaged in business
    almost incessantly. I have introduced many improvements
    into our system lately, the most prominent of which is the
    adaptation of music to our evolutions. The boys form in
    classes, march to their places, to their meals, to bed, down in
    the morning, &c., to music; the consequence of which is that
    every movement is made in one-half of the time it formerly
    occupied, and with one-tenth part of the noise. Another
    advantage is the great practice it gives to the band, which now
    plays nineteen times a day, without the least injurious effect
    to the health of the performers, as they are engaged but for a
    minute or two each time.

    “I believe I have before mentioned that we have been enabled to
    abolish corporal punishment in the school; but as I then looked
    upon it as an experiment, I could not speak so confidently of
    the result as I now can. It is nearly two years and a-half
    since the experiment was first tried, so that I now think
    it decisive. The result has far surpassed my most sanguine
    expectations. Since its adoption the plan has at various times
    received many improvements. A detailed account of it may be
    seen in a work we are now preparing for the press, which
    contains a complete description of our system of government
    in the school. All that is here necessary for me to say is,
    that every punishment consists in the forfeiture of counters,
    which are the currency of the school, and which are obtained by
    excelling in the different classes, by filling various offices,
    but principally by work which is done out of the school
    hours. The system is so arranged that the boys are induced to
    perform these tasks before the fines are incurred, so that
    while they are thus engaged they have not the disagreeable
    feeling that they are working for punishment,—therefore the
    work is performed with pleasure. Our object in instituting
    this plan was to remove the disagreeable necessity of corporal
    punishment: this we have completely accomplished; but, in
    effecting that, we have derived advantages which were not
    anticipated, and which are still more important.

    “These counters can be obtained by work of almost every
    description, done at any time; and there is no one scarcely
    who is either so deficient in talent or so indolent, but that
    some occupation can be found in which he will engage with
    pleasure. [His father, ten years before this, had written,
    ‘Those who do anything may, in almost all cases, perhaps in all
    without exception, be brought to do useful things.’] Indeed,
    there have been repeated instances of boys who have entered
    the school with the worst of characters for idleness or for
    stupidity, who, having been induced by example to engage in
    some pursuit which they could follow with pleasure and with
    credit, have thus acquired a taste for excellence which has
    extended to other things, and have ultimately risen to a very
    respectable rank in the school. In short, this has become the
    most important part of our system. The school is now, as it
    were, a little world. The counters are our currency; trades
    and professions of various kinds, from the improvisiatore and
    banker to the musician, punch-keeper,[51] and serving-man
    are carried on among us. Here may be seen the boy of talent
    exercising his ingenuity to obtain opulence by the most speedy
    and effectual means, engaged, perhaps, in the construction
    of some curious and difficult model, or in rendering into
    English verse the poetry of his favourite author of antiquity;
    there the industrious boy may be seen who, already rich, from
    the love of wealth or the love of riches, is plodding on to
    increase his stores; and, alas! not unfrequently may be seen
    the little bankrupt, asking the charity of his friends, or
    parting with his last marble to save himself from the terrors
    of a gaol.

    “Indeed, the whole machine of the school (for such is the
    regularity of our proceedings that the appellation is not
    misapplied) is now become so very perfect that we are able to
    appropriate every minute of the day to its respective use; and
    the bells ring, the classes assemble, break up, take their
    meals, &c., with such clock-like regularity that it has the
    appearance almost of magic.

    “I believe I may say that by far the greater part of the system
    is my own, and I am not a little proud of its effects....
    The school is certainly at this time in a very high state of
    improvement. Our annual exhibition, which took place about
    the middle of June, gave very great satisfaction to the
    audience, and considerably raised the character of the school.
    The performances consisted principally of the whole of the
    ‘Rudens’ of Plautus and Miss Edgeworth’s ‘Eton Montem.’ For
    this exhibition I painted a new back-scene; it is a view on the

In November, 1821, he records:—

    “About two months ago I persuaded the teachers to agree
    to devote one evening in the week to the consideration of
    improvements to be introduced into the proceedings of the
    school. We meet every Saturday, from seven till ten in the
    evening, and great benefit has already been derived from the
    regulation. My principal object in effecting this was to have
    an opportunity of operating on the minds of the teachers
    themselves; and I find that this has been done to the advantage
    of us all.”

“No chance visitor,” I have been informed by one who knew the school
well, “had on that evening the slightest chance of seeing any of the
family. The boys,” he added, “dreaded the conference of teachers, from
the effect it had on them. It kept everything in such excessive rigidity.”

    “_March 10th, 1823._—I find the conference a most powerful
    engine. It is true that I have given up to it much power which
    I previously possessed, but this, perhaps, is more a nominal
    than a real sacrifice, and I believe myself to be so true a
    friend to liberty, as to like to see others exercise power as
    well as myself; and this, I think, few liberty men can say.”

The Journal affords, however, but an imperfect record of this active
little commonwealth. It is in “Public Education” that the constitution
and its working are described at length. Their chief aims are thus
briefly summed-up in the following passage:—

    “The great features of the object we have in view will have
    been already appreciated, we hope, by the intelligent reader.
    We shall be disappointed if he have not already discovered
    that by the establishment of a system of legislation and
    jurisprudence, wherein the power of the master is bounded
    by general rules, and the duties of the scholar accurately
    defined, and where the boys themselves are called upon to
    examine and decide upon the conduct of their fellows, we have
    provided a course of instruction in the great code of morality
    which is likely to produce far more powerful and lasting
    effects than any quantity of mere precept.”

Undoubtedly the part of the system that would at first sight most
strike an outsider was the power that was placed in the hands of the
boys. Arnold and his government through the sixth form were, as I have
said, still unknown. His sixth-form boys, moreover, were not elected by
their schoolfellows, as they would have been on Rowland Hill’s plan.
He was, indeed, to no small extent, bound down by the traditions—the
_lex non scripta_—of Rugby. But it was by an unwritten law—a law that
was nowhere strictly defined—that his power was limited. The boys of
Hill Top and Hazelwood had a constitution that had not grown, but had
been deliberately made. A few years after it had been promulgated, a
Code of Laws was published, which filled more than a hundred pages of a
closely-printed volume. It opens thus:—


    “Convinced that numerous and important advantages would be
    derived from engaging their pupils in the consideration and
    in the practice of rules for their own government, from
    placing restrictions to the powers of the teachers, and from
    giving to the regulations of the school a permanent form, the
    proprietors, early in the year 1817, proposed to the school a
    certain division of powers, together with regulations for their
    exercise, which, having received the joint assent of teachers
    and pupils, became the constitutional laws of the school;
    and, in the confident expectation that the powers placed in
    the hands of the pupils would never be employed but for the
    welfare of the school, the proprietors pledged themselves not
    to alter these laws without the consent of a majority of the
    proprietors and regular teachers, meeting in conference, on one
    hand, and of a majority of the pupils on the other. With such
    joint consent, occasional alterations have been made in the
    constitutional laws, tending chiefly, if not entirely, to throw
    more and more power into the hands of the pupils.”

Fanciful as this may seem, yet for many years the school was carried on
strictly in accordance with the provisions of this Code, and carried on
with great vigour and spirit. The boys, for the most part, entered with
eagerness into the system, and went through their part in it with zeal.
In an old letter I read that one day the Committee met before breakfast
for the despatch of some important business. A motion was made, and
carried almost unanimously, that they should proceed with the business
without regard to school-time, play-hours, or meals. It was not till
eleven that the work was finished and the Committee adjourned. A jury,
trying a charge of theft, deliberated over its verdict from before noon
till after eight at night. The “School Magazine” records: “The jury
during this time suffered considerably, both from cold and hunger, having
had nothing to eat from breakfast, at nine, till after the verdict was
given.” In nine years nearly six hundred cases came before the Court; out
of these there were but nine appeals to the Committee, which formed the
Higher Court.

The part of the system which in my judgment is most worthy of study is
that to which its founder gave the name of “Voluntary Labour.” So highly
did he himself think of it that he always reckoned it among the three
inventions on which he might chiefly pride himself. The other two were
his Printing Press and his Penny Postage. In an extract that I have
given from his Journal,[52] this device is partly explained. In “Public
Education” it is described at length: there we read:—

    “The favourite subjects seem to be working the printing-press;
    penmanship of various kinds; drawing, etching, and painting;
    constructing maps, making surveys, and delineating mathematical
    diagrams; reading books on which they prepare themselves for
    answering questions; studying music; modelling animals and
    constructing machines; filling offices bearing salaries;
    learning orations, extracts from the poets, parts in plays, and
    dialogues; taking reports of lectures, trials, and debates;
    and composition, in prose and verse, in various languages.
    This department, which is now become so important a feature in
    our system, took its rise from the necessity of furnishing to
    boys who had no chance of obtaining marks by excelling their
    schoolfellows, opportunities of gaining them by working harder
    than those to whom nature had been more propitious. It appeared
    to us that, as in the common course of events this must be
    their lot in after-life, it would be well to accustom them to
    it in their early years; nor were we without hopes that their
    superior industry would enable them to press on the heels of
    their competitors, and to show them that talent alone would not
    be sufficient, at all times, to secure superiority. It seemed
    also of consequence to make imprisonment as rare as possible,
    both because it is attended with unavoidable disgrace—to which
    no mind can with safety be frequently exposed—and because,
    unlike labour, it is pain without any utility, except that of
    example, which appertains to all judicious penalty of whatever

    ... “One of the most valuable habits of life is that of
    completing every undertaking. The mental dissipation in which
    persons of talent often indulge, and to which they are,
    perhaps, more prone than others, is destructive beyond what
    can readily be imagined.... The habit of finishing ought to
    be formed in early youth. We take care to reward no boy for
    fragments, whatever may be their excellence. We know nothing
    of his exertions until they come before us in a state of

A few years ago Sir Rowland Hill made the following record as regards
this scheme of Voluntary Work:—

    “One sequel of this plan (it might be too much to call it a
    consequence), I mention with the permission of the gentleman
    concerned. Amongst those who adopted drawing as his chief
    occupation was a little boy who, up to that time, had shown no
    particular aptitude for any kind of study. Here, however, he
    succeeded so well as soon to attract no small attention. His
    power was fostered then and afterwards, and painting eventually
    became his profession. Of his eminence in the art I need not
    speak, the works of Thomas Creswick needing no eulogy.”

The plan that he devised for putting a check on fights among the boys was
as ingenious as it was successful. Fighting had hitherto been against the
rule, but it had gone on much as in most other schools. He brought it
almost to an end by withdrawing the prohibition. Boys might fight as much
as they liked if the combat took place in strict accordance with the new
regulations. If, however, they fought in defiance of them, not only the
“mighty opposites” themselves, but also all the spectators of the fray,
were severely punished. “It was the duty of the eldest boy present, under
a heavy penalty, to convey immediate information to the Magistrate, that
the parties might be separated.” Those, however, who wished to fight in
the manner that the law directed, gave notice of their intention to the
Magistrate. It was his duty to inquire into the cause of the quarrel, and
to do his best to reconcile the parties. If, however, after six hours
had passed by he had not been able to settle “the swelling difference
of their settled hate,” then he and his two assistants took them to a
retired spot in the playground, where they could fight it out. Meanwhile,
all the rest of the boys were confined to the school-room. In later years
one of the masters was made the Marshal of the Lists, and not a single
boy was allowed to be present. In the first three months after the new
rules had been laid down, four formal fights took place. In the next four
years there were but two. Informal combats still went on to some extent,
but “in every instance early information was conveyed to the Magistrate,
who immediately separated the belligerents.” The result was that fighting
soon became almost unknown.

Another institution is thus described in “Public Education:”—

    “The Committee has the management of the School Fund. It
    amounts now to upwards of £100 per annum, and is partly
    furnished by the proprietors of the school, and partly by the
    parents of the boys. It is expended, for the most part, in the
    purchase of philosophical instruments, musical instruments,
    apparatus for printing, maps, school-coin, and books for the
    school library, the pupils being invited to recommend the
    purchase of books or other articles by entries in a register
    kept for the purpose. To those who have not witnessed the
    prudence and uprightness with which very young persons can be
    taught to use power, it may appear a dangerous arrangement to
    intrust boys with the disposal of such a fund; but we have
    never had the slightest reason to regret the experiment. At the
    end of each session—the interval from vacation to vacation—the
    Committee prepares a statement of the expenditure, which is
    printed at the school press, and each pupil takes home a copy
    for the perusal of his friends. Thus a powerful check is
    furnished, if any were required, to improper expenditure. The
    advantages derived to the boys from the management of this
    fund are very considerable. To discuss the various merits and
    defects of books and instruments, to ascertain where and how
    they can be best procured, to transact the business attendant
    on their purchase, and to keep the necessary accounts, must
    all be useful exercises. Neither can it be doubted that these
    preliminaries to the possession of a desired object, very
    much tend to heighten its value, and increase the wish for
    its preservation. Thus habits of care are induced which are
    of the highest importance. Our school-rooms are all hung
    with valuable prints and maps. The musical instruments are
    constantly accessible to all the boys. The library contains
    many costly books, and property of a great variety of kinds is
    constantly exposed to the use of our pupils with almost perfect

The punctuality that was established in the school was very striking.
To use the words of “Public Education,” it was “an almost superstitious

    “Punctuality of attendance entitles a boy to a reward, which
    goes on increasing from week to week during all the half-year,
    until the progression is interrupted by a failure, after which
    it commences anew.”

It went on not only from week to week, but from half-year to half-year.
If a boy were a single second late at a single roll-call, his name was
struck off the list, and he had to begin again. “Neither illness nor
engagement of any kind was a valid plea for absence.” It was his duty not
to get ill, and it was the duty of his friends not to call him away from
school on any grounds whatever. If there was any marrying, christening,
or dying to be gone through in his family, it should be gone through in
holiday time. In this “almost superstitious punctuality” I was myself
brought up till I went to the University. There, as I well remember, I
received a kind of shock when I found my superstition treated with scorn.
The first time that I went to the lecture-room, I entered it on the first
stroke of the hour. My tutor received me with a look of mild wonder; but,
happily, he spared me his reproof. Ten minutes later in came the rest of
my companions. It was some days before I could break through the frost of
custom, and summon up resolution to be unpunctual. When, however, I found
out how worthless the lectures commonly were, I recognised that even the
custom of punctuality may be more honoured in the breach than in the

The rank of the boys was fixed each week, and fixed on a different

    “For one week the rank of each boy depends upon his progress in
    Greek, as far down the school as that language is taught. Those
    who do not learn Greek follow according to their proficiency
    in some other study. Latin determines the order for another
    week, geometry for a third, and so forth. Most of the studies
    determine the arrangement for a single week each; but a few,
    which are very important, decide it for two distinct weeks in
    each half-year.”

This peculiar arrangement is thus defended:—

    “It is of great importance that the pupil should, very early
    in life, have an opportunity of tasting the pleasure of
    success; and, in order to ensure so desirable an end, we have
    been careful to attach rank to excellence in each department,
    sometimes ranging our pupils in the order of classical
    attainments; then as mathematicians; then according to manual
    excellence; and, lastly, according to their general conduct
    and behaviour. Thus each boy in his turn attains rank and
    consideration in that branch of study wherein nature has fitted
    him to excel, and where comparatively moderate efforts will
    ensure success.”

Twice each half-year the rank of the boys was determined by their

    “In arranging the boys according to propriety of manners
    and general good conduct, which is done twice in the course
    of each half-year, the teachers determine the rank of every
    boy to the best of their discretion. In doing this, however,
    they are materially assisted by the various records which are
    preserved of the good and bad conduct of the scholars. On the
    day previous to an arrangement of this description, all such
    records are posted into a ledger, where each boy has a debtor
    and creditor account, which every one has an opportunity of
    inspecting, that he may satisfy himself as to its correctness.”

The “Edinburgh Review” for January, 1825, contains a lively description
of the school in “the report of a very intelligent friend, who lately
inspected the whole establishment in the most careful manner.” This
friend was Captain Basil Hall.

    “After observing generally that he has no hesitation in saying
    that the scheme works admirably in practice, he proceeds:—

        “‘The most striking circumstance, perhaps, is the universal
        cheerfulness and the kindly terms which the boys are on
        with the masters. I had abundant opportunity of satisfying
        myself that this was sincere. There was also an air of
        hearty attention to their business, which I never saw in
        any other school—no languor, no yawning—but all activity,
        and abstraction from everything but the lesson. They
        all seemed to go about their work like persons who knew
        their business, and had no doubts about success; and the
        frequent changes from topic to topic kept this degree of
        animation always afloat. The various musterings, ringing
        of bells, music and marching, which certainly in the book
        appear a little like trifling and loss of time, are, in
        practice, excellently adapted to maintain good order,
        and are all performed so rapidly, that although I was
        quite familiar with the description, and was warned by
        the master from time to time what was going to be done, I
        could not, sometimes with the closest attention, follow
        these movements. In a written description it will sometimes
        happen that what in fact is the work of a moment, and must
        be performed in some manner at every school, occupies
        as much space and is as prominently put forward as the
        essential instruction which these mere forms are but the
        preparation for. And I think it right to state that, after
        seeing the whole proceedings of a day, I am not aware
        that any of those musterings and other arrangements,
        having punctuality as their object, could be dispensed
        with without harm. The music consists of a band of twelve
        boys. Their instruments are the same as those used by
        military bands, and they play extremely well. The study of
        music, of drawing, of fencing, and several other similar
        accomplishments, is quite voluntary. The play hours of
        the boys are occupied partly in mere play, but chiefly
        in objects having some useful end in view. They have a
        printing-press of their own, and publish a monthly magazine
        embellished with etchings on copper, and lithographic
        prints, all executed by the boys. Reports of their trials
        are given at length; the school discipline is canvassed;
        accounts of the expenditure of their funds are drawn up in
        a business-like manner; and, in short, the whole system is
        a curious epitome of real life. It is extremely important
        to remark that all this, being quite general, the every-day
        business of their lives, produces no coxcombry amongst the
        boys. They are not converted, as I had apprehended they
        would be, into little men. They are still boys, but boys
        with heads and hands fully employed on topics they like.

        “‘They were all very neatly dressed, and remarkably clean
        and tidy—all rosy and healthy-looking, and merry as
        any children could be at home. The house is thoroughly
        ventilated. Their library is well arranged and catalogued.
        It is managed, like everything else, exclusively by
        the boys. Everybody is allowed to propose any book for
        purchase, and the name is submitted to a committee, who

The account that Mr. W. L. Sargant gives of the school is not so

    “Hazelwood was so different from other schools, that there
    would inevitably be great varieties of opinion as to its
    merits. The men educated there have not generally done it
    justice, and I confess that I formerly shared in their
    depreciation of it; yet, when I once spoke slightingly of it to
    a near relative who had known me from childhood, he objected
    that so competent a judge as my father was well pleased to get
    such an education for me. I fancy that the Hills taught us to
    be unjust to themselves—that they stimulated us to aspire to a
    higher degree of excellence than they enabled us to reach; that
    they excited a thirst they could not quench, and thus sent us
    away with a painful consciousness of deficiencies.”

In another passage he writes: “Whatever fifty years ago might be the
merits of Hill Top, it was a gain to a boy to be in daily intercourse
with men of such ability.” He goes on to say:—

    “By juries and committees, by marks, and by appeals to a sense
    of honour, discipline was maintained. But this was done, I
    think, at too great a sacrifice. The thoughtlessness, the
    spring, the elation of childhood, were taken from us; we were
    premature men.... The school was, in truth, a moral hot-bed,
    which forced us into a precocious imitation of maturity. I
    have heard an Oxford friend say that Arnold’s men had a little
    of the prig about them. I know too well that some of us had
    a great deal of the prig about us. I have often wished that
    I had the ‘giftie to see ourselves as others see us;’ but I
    have comforted myself with observing that in later life my
    schoolfellows (perhaps, therefore, I myself) outgrew this
    unamiable character. The Hazelwood constitution, discipline,
    instruction, were in a perpetual flux: the right to-day was
    wrong to-morrow; we learnt to criticise and doubt everything
    established; ‘whatever is, is wrong,’ might have been our
    motto. We had a conceit that we could amend everything, from
    education to driving a horse. This constituted our priggism.”

Rowland Hill as a schoolmaster was, in his way, as stern as Arnold. He
voluntarily, indeed, gave up power, but he constantly held that a master
must be first feared and then loved. He was certainly always feared by
his pupils, and always respected; but he was never loved. Tender though
his inward nature was, yet for their love he cared but little. He aimed
at their welfare. In the discharge of the duty which he owed them, he
was willing to make any sacrifice of his time, his liberty, and his
pleasures. He ever strove to treat them with the strictest justice. But
he asked for no return of their affection. Should he receive it, he was
gratified; but was it refused him, he could do without it. No small
insight into his character is given by the following passage in “Public

    “We perfectly agree with Rousseau, that the severest evil which
    children suffer is the bondage which they endure. We also agree
    with him, that the restraints of necessity are more easily
    borne than those which are imposed by the will of others. ‘It
    is in the nature of man,’ says he, ‘to endure patiently the
    absolute necessity of his circumstances.’ ‘It is all gone,’ is
    an answer against which a child never objects; at least, if
    he believes it to be true.’[55] Experience must establish the
    truth of this position in every mind; we all know that a child
    leaves off crying for the moon years before he submits without
    a struggle to the commands of his parents. The cause of this
    difference arises, we think, partly from the uniform regularity
    with which the natural restraints operate, and partly because
    the child observes that all around him are subjected to the
    same laws. If the child had ever had the moon, or if it had
    ever seen the moon in the possession of another person, it
    would not be so patient under the privation. Sagacious parents
    are aware of this, and take every means of showing their
    children that their determinations are as unalterable as
    those of nature; and certainly much may be done by prudently
    avoiding hasty determinations with respect to children, and by
    inflexibly persisting in all determinations when made.”

In governing his school, and in later years in governing all who were
placed under his authority, this was the rule that he always aimed at
carrying out. By nature, indeed, he was far too hasty in coming to a
determination. Nay, he was hot-tempered, and even passionate. No sooner
had he discovered his fault than he set about to find for it a cure. One
of the methods that he took was certainly very strange. “He gave public
notice to the boys that if any one saw him in a passion he might come
up and tell him so; receiving a small reward for so doing. This reward
was obtained more than once.” He was so rigidly just that no boy who
had played the part of Gil Blas would have found in him an Archbishop
of Granada. By his Code of Laws he still further put himself under
restraint. Every breach of school law, every offence against a master,
had its exact penalty fixed. But when once the penalty had been incurred,
it was enforced to the full. His determinations, indeed, were as
unalterable as those of nature. His strong will and his undaunted courage
could not but have won his pupils’ respect. One of them has told me how
he remembers a day at Hill Top, when a big fellow, who could easily
have knocked his master down, set him at defiance before all the boys.
“Rowland Hill ran up to him, seized him by the collar, and said, ‘If you
don’t do it this moment, I will knock you down.’ The fellow was cowed
in a moment, and, though he was by far the stronger of the two, at once
obeyed.” This happened, I should add, in the days before the Constitution
had been promulgated, and while the rod still flourished. No doubt he
would have been better liked had he not been so over-worked and so
over-weary. “There was always in him,” another of his pupils tells me, “a
nervous fidgetiness that things should be done rightly.” His impatience
arose from an over-wrought brain. But few signs of it were seen by those
who knew him only in later life in his hours of repose. Life’s evening
brought him calm.

Though the system that I have thus described was mainly Rowland’s, yet at
no time was he without the help of at least one of his brothers in the
management of the school. Matthew withdrew at an early period to go to
the Bar. His place was taken by the fourth brother, Arthur. I find the
following record in Rowland’s Journal:—

    “Arthur has made himself master of Latin by very intense
    application. This circumstance is a considerable relief to
    my mind. When I first determined to follow, at least for the
    first part of my life, the business of a schoolmaster, I had no
    doubt that Matthew would remain with us, and that eventually
    we should become partners in the management of the school. As
    Matthew was a good classical scholar, I thought that he would
    take that department of instruction, and that I had better
    pursue the mathematics, a study better suited to my taste than
    any other. When Matthew entered as a student at Lincoln’s Inn,
    all my plans and hopes were disarranged. I have been long
    undetermined how to proceed, and lately I made up my mind to
    pursue the study of languages, as I considered a classical
    knowledge as absolutely necessary to the master of a school;
    but now Arthur has taken that department, and as I have no
    doubt he will manage it well, I shall pursue my mathematical
    studies with increased ardour.”

The young master soon gave proof of his vigour:—

    “_June 17th, 1818._—This evening and the last some of our
    boys performed the whole of Plautus’s ‘Captives.’ They were
    astonishingly perfect.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “_July 20th, 1820._—In Arthur I find a most able ally in the
    executive part of the business. His application is almost
    incessant, and I am sorry to say it has materially injured his
    eyesight. Under his care the boys have made wonderful progress
    in the classics. We have found that frequent exercise in Latin
    dialogue has been of the greatest use in the acquirement of
    that language: for this purpose an act of a Latin play is
    learned and performed every month. At the same time other boys
    are engaged in shorter Latin dialogues, in Greek recitation,
    and in the performance of scenes from the works of the French
    dramatists. The very frequent rehearsals which are necessary,
    the circumstance of their being engaged in a real conversation,
    frequently speaking of real and tangible objects, familiarizes
    them wonderfully with the language they are using, and is, I
    believe, the nearest approach that can be made to the mode in
    which we learn our native language. For this, as well as for
    many other valuable improvements, we are indebted to my brother

A week or two earlier than the date of this entry their father had thus
written about the two young men:—

    “Rowland and Arthur are most laborious and successful fellows.
    I hope that they are building a reputation that may make
    them comfortable in their fortunes. But all that is human is
    precarious. Time and chance must happen to them as to all. A
    good conscience is the only treasure insured against all risks,
    and this is a treasure which I trust my dear children will
    never feel the want of.”

The school steadily rose in reputation and in numbers. Hill Top was
before long found to be too confined for the swelling scene, and a new
school-house was built.

    “_December 21st, 1817._—During the holidays it is my intention
    to finish the plans, &c., and to make a model of a new house,
    which we intend to erect in the country, most probably at

    “_December 20th, 1818._—A few days ago, without any
    solicitation, or even a hint on my part, my father took me
    into partnership: that is to say, all our business since has
    been carried on under the firm of Thomas Wright Hill and Son.
    I do not know whether my father intends to give me a share of
    the profits of the business, and I shall say nothing about
    it myself till he can better afford it, which, when we have
    got over the difficulties occasioned by our building so large
    a house, will I hope be very soon. Our school has slowly
    increased for many years, and we have now upwards of seventy

In the following passage he has recorded how he was his own architect and
his own clerk of the works:—

    “As the duty of architect devolved entirely on me, I had fallen
    to drawing plans, designing elevations, &c., and after much
    labour—for I believe I drew at least twenty plans in all—my
    work being in a sufficiently forward state, a builder was
    applied to for an estimate; but the amount he named being too
    large for our means, I had gone to work a second time, and
    formed, after many attempts at economy, an entirely new set of
    plans, which considerably lowered the estimate; and on the more
    moderate expense we resolved to venture.

    “It was in the summer of 1818 that the building began. My
    father having found that, with but slight deviation from
    the line of road, the house might be made to stand in exact
    coincidence with the cardinal points, would, I believe,
    from that moment, have been almost more willing to abandon
    the scheme than to lose such an opportunity of gratifying
    his taste. For this purpose astronomical observations were
    necessary; and my father, my brother Frederic, and I, sat up
    the whole of one night (July 3rd) to determine the meridian.
    Of course the middle part of the night was unoccupied, but
    excitement kept us awake; and my brother Frederic, then a lad
    of fifteen, no more sleepy than the rest, passed the time in
    ascertaining by measurement and mental calculation the number
    of bricks already on the ground. Such calculations occupying
    the restless hours of the night were too common with more than
    one member of our family, and most of all, I believe, with
    myself. One night, some time after this, when the building
    was completed, I passed a sleepless period in reckoning up
    mentally the total payment to be made for painting, colouring,
    and whitewashing the house from top to bottom. Having made the
    plans, I had all the dimensions in memory; but the number of
    rooms being large, their dimensions exceedingly various, and
    the charge per square yard differing also in respect of the
    description of paint used, number of coats, &c., there was
    of course a good deal of complication. The calculation was,
    however, completed. On the presentation of the bill I found
    that the amount somewhat exceeded my calculation, but I soon
    detected certain charges made contrary to agreement; and this
    error being admitted by the contractor, the excess above my
    estimate became so trifling that the bill was paid without
    further examination.

    “To return a little, I must mention that besides being
    architect, I found myself compelled to act as clerk of the
    works, as without sharp daily inspection—hourly would have
    been better if I could have spared the time—there were
    constant departures from the contract, some of which would
    have proved very injurious to the building. As I had the main
    responsibility of the school during most of the time, and no
    vehicle at command, the two miles and back having therefore
    always to be performed on foot, the work was very heavy,
    though probably the exercise involved was beneficial. In July,
    1819, the house being finished, to which we gave the name of
    Hazelwood, the school was removed thither; and in our larger
    and more commodious premises we were enabled to make various
    improvements hitherto impracticable.”[56]

The responsibility that he had incurred weighed heavily on him, as more
than one passage in his Journal shows:—

    “I am very sanguine that the change of situation will be much
    to our advantage. If such is not the case, I shall be very
    miserable, as although the determination to build has been made
    with the consent and decided approbation of every member of the
    family, yet I have been the prime mover in the business, and
    have become, as it were, the responsible person. I must own
    that I am a little anxious about it.”

A year later (June 17th, 1819), writing to his eldest brother, he says:—

    “This is an anxious time to us all. I hope the experiment will
    succeed. If it does not, I shall be very miserable, as I have
    been prime mover in inducing them to try it. But, however, at
    present everything promises well.”

His cares were soon lessened. The venture was found to be a sound one,
and the new building thoroughly answered its purpose.

    “We find that comfort we expected from the superior convenience
    of the house. Every one who visits it is delighted with its
    plan, and it is so seldom that a house is built purposely for
    a school that it has been the object of considerable interest.
    At present we have every reason to be satisfied with our
    determination to remove from Hill Top.”

He had seen but twenty-four years, and though old when measured by work,
he was young enough thoroughly to enjoy his complete success. Three years
later “Public Education” was brought out, and Hazelwood School became
famous. It was while the book was ready for publication that the young
enthusiast had pleased himself with the belief that the improvements
which he and his brothers were making in the science of education would
render their name illustrious in after ages. How bright for a brief time
this vision was, and how it quickly faded away, I shall show later on.
Here I shall make a break in my narrative, while I recount some of the
incidents of his boyhood and early manhood.


From his early boyhood Rowland Hill delighted in long walks. He would
go many a mile to see either fine scenery or an old building. Of what
had pleased him as a boy, he never grew weary as a man. He had never, he
said, to the best of his belief, come within thirty miles of Stonehenge
without going to see it. When he was a lad of eleven he paid a visit to
Shrewsbury. How deeply what he saw impressed him is shown by an account
which he drew up in his old age:—

    “Those who have travelled along the same road will remember [he
    writes] the fine view which bursts upon the sight from the top
    of a hill a little beyond Shifnal, and may imagine the delight
    felt thereat by three lads accustomed to little but the plains
    of Warwickshire.”

No less charmed was he with his first sight of the Severn:—

    “Those who have lived from infancy where a river flows can have
    no conception of its attraction to those who at a later age see
    it for the first time. The motion of the water, the breadth
    of the stream, the barges on its surface, with their sails
    sometimes unfurled to the wind, the lofty bridges, with their
    series of arches, were such never-ending charms that we could
    not understand how any one could regard them with indifference.”

It was Assize time at Shrewsbury, and he was taken to see a criminal

    “Of all that passed before our eyes or occupied our thoughts
    during this ever-to-be-remembered visit, incomparably the
    most striking and impressive scene was a criminal trial. The
    spacious court, the crowded benches, the barristers in their
    robes, the servitors with their javelins, the awful presence
    of the judge when he entered amidst the sound of the trumpet
    and took his seat on the lofty bench, all prepared our minds
    for the solemn inquiry about to begin. The case was one of
    burglary, attended with violence. The cottage of an aged
    couple had been entered and robbed, the old man being severely
    beaten by one of the offenders, who all—three in number—had
    been subsequently apprehended. Of these, one—whose part in
    the proceeding had gone no further than keeping watch at the
    door (so at least he alleged)—had, while in prison on another
    charge, given the information which enabled justice to lay
    hands on the others, and had consequently been admitted as
    King’s evidence. I need not say that we felt towards him the
    dislike and contempt with which an approver is generally
    regarded. His fellows in crime, particularly the chief
    offender, took their places at the bar with a demeanour that
    astonished us, so completely did it differ from all that we
    had expected. Doubtless they were seeking to cover their real
    trepidation with an appearance of unconcern; but this we
    could not then understand. They taboured on the front of the
    dock with their fingers, looked about in a defiant manner,
    and nodded in various directions, as if in recognition of
    acquaintances. They were defended by counsel; and an attempt
    was made to take the offence out of the category of burglary,
    first by the plea that it was not committed by night (the hour
    being no later than nine on a summer’s evening), and, secondly,
    by the allegation that as the door was on the latch, the house
    could not be said to have been broken open—points made, of
    course, in desperation, and very summarily dealt with by the
    judge. The only further attempt was to discredit the evidence
    of the approver, who was severely cross-examined, though the
    following short passage is all that I now remember of the
    process: ‘How came you to think of informing?’ ‘Because my
    conscience told me I had done _wrang_.’ ‘And why didn’t your
    conscience tell you you had done _wrang_ before you got into
    prison for stealing the pig?’ The evidence was too strong to
    be shaken, and both prisoners were convicted. Of course when
    such a host of minor offences were capital, so grave a crime
    as this was on the fatal list; and we heard the judge, after
    putting on the black cap, pronounce the terrible sentence of
    death. The defiant look put on at first was still maintained
    by both prisoners; but when the judge, after warning the more
    ruffianly of the two that he could not hold out to him any hope
    of mercy, addressed his companion, telling him that, as he had
    abstained from violence, his life would be spared, this latter
    at once broke down, falling upon his knees, while he poured out
    his thanks and promises of amendment. Shortly afterwards the
    sentence passed on the other was executed; and somewhat beyond
    the fatal hour, while going on an errand, I unfortunately and
    most unintentionally caught a distant sight of the hanging

For many years his excursions were chiefly made on foot. Though his
health was at all times of his life delicate, yet his frame was active,
and capable of great endurance. He was, when a boy, one of the quickest
runners and best leapers in the school, and he became a strong swimmer.
“I walked to Stourbridge once a week, to give a lesson,” he records in
his Journal. “This I could do without the least fatigue, as it is only
twelve miles from hence, and I have often walked upwards of thirty miles
in one day.” His fondness for feats led him, he said, to hazard his
health. Thus, once in a walk of five-and-twenty miles in a hilly country,
he went the last mile on the run. In his Journal he recorded many of his
trips. In the year 1813 he was taken, for the benefit of his health, to
Margate. “We could see,” he wrote, “the coast of France. My mother was
rather uneasy at being so near to the French.” He walked over to Dover,
and began to sketch the castle and town from the Castle Hill. Some
soldiers told him that a day or two before a man had been put into prison
for drawing there:—

    “I could not, however, believe them, and went on with my
    drawing. However, in a little time a file of soldiers came out
    of the Castle with fixed bayonets, and told me that if I did
    not go away directly they would take me into custody. I now
    thought it time to be gone, and so walked away to our lodgings,
    with no wish to stop in a town where the inhabitants were under
    a military government.”

The following year peace was made with France:—

    “_June 3rd, 1814._—About three o’clock this morning the
    glorious news of the signature of the preliminaries for peace
    arrived in Birmingham. I was up at four o’clock for the purpose
    of going to Hagley, to which place I had the pleasure of taking
    the news. I never saw so many pleasant faces in my life.”

In the summer of 1815 he again went to Margate. How he found money to pay
for the trip he has thus left on record:—

    “My eldest brother and I, who, on account of depressed health,
    had two years before been taken by my mother to Margate (much
    to my delight, as I then first saw London and the sea), were
    eager to repeat the trip, and not having the means at hand,
    set about to acquire them. Availing ourselves of such of
    the apparatus used at my father’s late lecture, and those
    delivered eight years before, as belonged to the family, we
    boldly determined to give four public lectures ourselves, the
    admission to be by purchased tickets. My brother was to do the
    speaking part, and I, as before, to manage the experiments.
    While, however, we made every preparation with great diligence,
    we unluckily had yet to learn that audiences are scarcely to
    be collected without full notice; and our notification to the
    public was so short and imperfect, that when the day was close
    at hand we found that either we must be satisfied with an
    audience of thirty persons, or fill the school-room where the
    lecture was to be delivered by gratuitous admission. Taking
    this latter course, we performed to an audience which gave
    us abundant applause, but did little to forward our ulterior
    object. Nothing daunted, we resolved to try elsewhere, in a
    more advised manner; and being encouraged thereto by our friend
    Mr. Beasley, we proceeded, after due preparation of all sorts,
    to the little town of Stourbridge; hiring a man with a cart to
    convey the apparatus, and ourselves performing the journey on
    foot. Here our success was considerable, the result being due,
    I have no doubt, in great measure to our warm-hearted friend,
    who was an enthusiastic admirer of us both, and by no means
    kept his flattering estimate to himself.

    “Our total profits being sufficient to warrant the journey,
    we took it accordingly; intending thereby to get up such a
    stock of health as would carry us briskly through the next

He left Birmingham for London at half-past six o’clock in the evening of
June 23rd.

    “At about three o’clock in the afternoon of the next day we
    entered London, amidst the thunder of carriages and the buzz of

       *       *       *       *       *

    “In the afternoon I went to see the Exhibition of Paintings
    at Somerset House. Of the landscapes, Turner’s pleased me
    most: there was one, a most beautiful painting, called ‘The
    Rebuilding of Carthage.’ Turner is almost the only man who
    attempts to paint the sun. It is done in this picture with
    great success. It quite dazzled my eyes to look at it. The
    reflection of the sun’s rays upon the water was remarkably
    fine. The Exhibition closed this evening for the season. I
    stopped as long as I could.”

The same evening he went to Drury Lane and saw Kean. The after-piece was
very bad. “I should have thought that a London audience would not have
sat to hear such stuff.” On leaving the theatre he “walked about the
streets to see the illuminations for the late victory at Waterloo.”

    “_Margate, July 3rd, 1815._—We went to see the steam-boat
    come in from London. It is worked by means of two wheels,
    resembling water-wheels, one of which is placed on each
    side of the vessel, and about a-half sunk in the water. It
    comes from London and returns three times in each week. It
    generally performs the voyage in about twelve hours. In the
    best cabin there is a handsome library, draught-boards, &c. It
    is surprising to see how most people are prejudiced against
    this packet. Some say that it cannot sail against the wind if
    it is high; but when it entered the harbour the wind and tide
    were both against it, and the former rather rough, yet I saw
    it stem both.” “There was,” he said, “a great crowd, and much
    enthusiasm, though carpers predicted failure, and sneered at

He visited Canterbury. In mentioning the destruction of Thomas a’Becket’s
tomb, he writes:—

    “There are, indeed, few monuments which were erected prior to
    the Reformation but what are defaced some way or other. It is
    surprising that people should be so bigoted against bigotry.”

On his return to London he was introduced to the painter West:—

    “We went to his house this morning, and saw some hundreds of
    paintings, all by West. How proud must he feel in walking
    through his gallery to see so many proofs of his own industry!
    While we were looking at the paintings Mr. West came by. I was
    introduced to him, and had the honour of conversing with him
    for some time.... He is a fine old man, upwards of seventy
    years of age.”

Soon after his return home he obtained an appointment. His father might a
second time have written “preferment goes on among us.”

    “_August 30th, 1815._—At the last meeting of the Committee of
    the Institution for the Education of Deaf and Dumb Children,
    established in this town a few years ago, my father was elected
    to the office of secretary, and I am to be sub-secretary, for
    which I am to receive a salary of £20 per annum.”

About this appointment he thus wrote in later years:—

    “This post I gladly accepted, as it would make a very handsome
    addition to my pocket money. I soon found, however, that the
    duties were by no means merely nominal; the current labour
    being considerable, and the minutes, from the commencement of
    the Institution, which existed only in rough, having all to
    be transcribed. This appointment was very useful to me, as I
    was called upon to transact semi-public business, and was,
    moreover, at the meetings of the committee and elsewhere,
    brought into contact with men whose superior attainments made
    me feel keenly the necessity for increasing my own. This post I
    retained until the increasing demands of the school compelled
    me to give it up.”

In the summer holidays of the next year (1816) he made with some of his
companions a tour in Derbyshire. He thus describes two of the views that
he saw:—

    “The views in this valley, varying at every step, are
    extremely beautiful. Sometimes the river is pent in between
    the surrounding hills, and the eye is at a loss to discover
    the passage by which it enters or leaves the valley. Proceed a
    little further, and the spectator is enchanted with the long
    perspective of woody hills and barren rocks between which the
    rapid Derwent pours its foaming waters.... As we sat with the
    window open to enjoy the freshness of the air, the massive
    outline of the opposite rocks, just distinguished through the
    gloom of night, and the silence of evening, which was only
    broken by the low murmur occasioned by a fall in the river,
    created very pleasing sensations in our minds. It was a kind of
    _silence hearable_, if I may be allowed to use a parody.”

They went to see a great chasm in the earth called Elden Hole. It was, as
they learnt on the way, enclosed by a wall:—

    “The woman went with us who keeps the key. On the road
    we entered into a discussion respecting the right of the
    landholder to lock up such a place, which debate was
    interspersed with many learned remarks respecting the
    equality of birthright, &c., but when we came to the hole we
    were unanimous in agreeing that it was for the good of the
    neighbourhood that it should be very securely fenced.... We
    threw several large stones down the hole. The noise which
    they made was at first very loud; it then ceased, as though
    the stone had lodged upon some projecting part of the rock;
    directly after the noise was continued, but less loud; then it
    became a long unequal moan, which imperceptibly died away.”

On his way home he and one of his companions walked in one day from
Ashbourne to Birmingham, a distance of forty-three miles. For many days
heavy rains had fallen, and the river Dove had overflowed its banks:—

    “When we came to a turn in the road, about a furlong from the
    bridge, we were surprised to find the road and the fields on
    each side, as far as the eye could reach, covered with water.
    The top of the bridge was the only dry spot we could see....
    It was a distressing sight. Most of the fields had but a few
    days before been mown. The tops of the haycocks could just be
    seen above the water. A great number of men were employed in
    carrying away as much of the hay as could be saved from the
    flood. Whilst we were waiting, undetermined what steps to take,
    two men came up who had ridden through the flood on horseback.
    They told us that the road was inundated for a mile and a-half,
    that in some places it was very deep, and that the water was
    rising very fast.

    “We inquired if there was any other road by which we could
    reach Lichfield (the next town on our road), and were informed
    that there was none but what, it was most probable, would be
    in the same situation. Our only alternative, therefore, was
    either to go back to Sudbury, and perhaps remain there two or
    three days, or wade through the flood. As we were both able to
    swim, should it be necessary, we determined to proceed. We were
    able to reach the bridge by going out of the road and along a
    field, but could proceed no further in that way. We now sat
    down and took off the lower parts of our dresses, made bundles
    of them, which, together with our folios, we fastened upon our
    backs, that our arms might be at liberty if we should find it
    necessary to swim, and waded through the water. We did not find
    it so deep as we expected. By keeping the highest part of the
    road, we never found the water more than three feet in depth.”

They reached Lichfield at five in the afternoon. Not having yet had
enough of the water, they stopped to bathe in the canal, and saw the
Birmingham coach go by:—

    “After bathing, I found that my heel, in consequence of the
    continual rubbing of my shoe, had become very painful, so much
    so that it was with the greatest difficulty that I could walk
    at all. But I managed to double the heel of my shoe under my
    foot, and tie on the shoe with strings, and then I could walk
    very well.

    “The next coach passed us when we were within about eight miles
    of Birmingham, and then we determined to walk the whole of the

    “Before this it began to rain, and did not cease till we
    reached home, which was at about eleven o’clock. Having walked
    forty-three miles, we were not ashamed to own ourselves
    tolerably well tired.”

Writing in 1817, he records in his Journal:—

    “A Hampden Club was formed in this place, I think about
    twelve months since, for the purpose of promoting a reform in
    the Commons House of Parliament. It consists chiefly of the
    working-class, though some of its members have a right to rank
    higher.... The conduct of this body of men throughout has been
    such as reflects great honour upon them. When their number was
    small, they met at some public-house; but our magistrates, by
    threatening to take away the publican’s licences, managed to
    displace them, and in this way they followed them from house to

    “These meetings throughout the country are the true reason
    of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and the passing
    of the gagging bills, and other tyrannical acts, tending to
    abridge the liberty of the people of this country, and not
    any conspiracy, as the ministers wish the old women, male and
    female, to believe.

    “It is very probable that a few individuals, whose distresses
    and misfortunes have accumulated upon them till they have been
    driven to despair, may have formed the mad scheme of conspiring
    against the government; not that I think they were at all
    connected with the attack upon the Prince Regent, which, in
    my opinion, was the mere ebullition of popular discontent.
    But what can three or four wretched fanatics do towards the
    overthrow of a government, though they may be in possession
    of a _stocking full_ of ammunition?[58] Since the passing
    of these acts, great numbers of people have been arrested
    upon _suspicion_ and sent to prison, where they will be kept
    during the pleasure of a rascally administration, or till the
    expiration of the acts. Great numbers of valuable members of
    the community have left this country for America, unwilling to
    live where they can only enjoy their liberty at the pleasure of
    the ministry.”

In the Easter holidays of 1817, he set out on another trip:—

    “_April 4th, 1817._—After having breakfasted, we set out on
    foot at a quarter after three in the morning. We reached
    Wolverhampton at a little before seven.... We dined at Shifnal,
    at a baker’s shop, on bread and butter. Our dinner cost us not
    quite fourpence each.”

At Shrewsbury he found that there was a strong competition among the
coach proprietors, and that the fare to Liverpool had been reduced to
four shillings:—

    “As such an opportunity might never occur again, we determined
    upon setting out the next morning.”

At Chester he had time to see the cathedral:—

    “I do not know whether, as this was Easter Sunday, a better
    choir of singers than usual had been provided, but I never
    heard any singing which pleased me so much. The organ, a
    fine-toned instrument, was played with great skill. I cannot
    better describe the effect of this heavenly harmony than by a
    quotation from the beautiful poem of ‘The Sabbath.’”[59]

From Liverpool they walked out to the village of Bootle, where they
looked about for an inn in which to pass the night:—

    “The only inn in the village is ‘The Bootle Hotel.’ We were
    afraid of that word ‘hotel,’ and, learning that there was
    another inn to be found a little further on, we proceeded; but
    this we found as much too mean as the other was too grand for
    us. We went on, therefore, and soon came to a third inn; but
    here we were more frightened than before, for the sign was
    ‘The Royal Waterloo Hotel.’”

On the way home he passed a night at Shrewsbury, at the house of his
father’s sister:—

    “In the evening my aunt showed us four or five letters
    addressed by John Howard to an uncle of my father’s, Mr.
    Symonds, a dissenting minister of Bedford. Mr. Howard was, at
    one time of his life, a member of his congregation. In one of
    these letters he mentions the pleasure he received, when at
    Rome, in seeing the monuments of ancient art. Foster, in his
    essay on ‘_Decision of Character_,’ mentions, as an instance
    of Howard’s unremitting perseverance in the attainment of
    one object, that he went to Rome without visiting its public
    buildings. I am not sorry that the author was mistaken. If
    Howard had done so, I think it would have been mere affectation.

    “At about four or five miles beyond Salop, we passed near to a
    curious old wall, which stands in a field to the right of the
    road. From the materials of which it is built, we judged it to
    be Roman masonry. We were all ignorant as to what building it

He and his friend were out seven days, travelled 273 miles, and spent
twenty-nine shillings each. Nevertheless he thought that these trips
stood in need of justification, for his next entry is as follows:—

    “In reading these memoirs hereafter, I may perhaps think that I
    was extravagant in taking so many journeys; but it is necessary
    to my health. Without a journey about once a year, I never
    should be able to go through the business that I do. Towards
    the end of the half-year I always get thin and pale, and my
    headache (which for the last two years, with the exception of
    the holidays, has been almost constant,) generally is worse
    at that time, which makes it necessary for me to take some
    recreation, to get up a stock of health for the next half-year;
    this is the most lucrative mode of proceeding. Lately an
    application was made to me to undertake to give three lessons
    per week, of two hours each, to a young man, an old scholar
    of ours. As I had already plenty to do, I was undetermined
    whether to undertake it or not; but I argued with myself thus:
    If I undertake this business, I shall receive about thirty
    pounds per annum for it. I shall certainly injure my health by
    such close application; but I shall be able to afford to take a
    journey oftener than before, which will put all straight again.
    Besides, this is the most pleasant way of proceeding to me;
    for if I am to be at work, the more constantly I am employed
    the better, and when the holidays come, the more perfect the
    holiday the better. I like either to have no business at all
    to do, or to be fully employed. The headache has become so
    habitual to me, that unless it is very bad, I am seldom aware
    that anything is the matter with me, unless my attention is
    called to it, as by some one inquiring whether I am better.”

The next entry of any interest in his Journal is about his parents:—

    “_May 11th, 1817._—It is my wish to say something of my parents;
    to express, if possible, the gratitude which I feel for their
    care during my childhood, for the pains they have taken in
    my education, and for their judicious treatment since I have
    attained maturer years. But the task is too great, and I shall
    not attempt it. I hope that I shall always show them, by kind
    and dutiful conduct, that I am fully aware of the magnitude of
    my obligations. I am thought, I believe, to have cold feelings;
    but if any one can entertain stronger feelings of gratitude
    towards his parents than I do, his heart must burst, for it
    cannot contain them.... My father and mother have acted most
    judiciously in using every means in their power to make home a
    place of comfort to us. The consequence is that we have none
    of that itching, which is so prevalent in most young people,
    to be always from home; and I think I may say without vanity
    that there is not a family in Birmingham where there is less
    discord than in ours. For this we are indebted to our parents,
    who, instead of interfering in all our undertakings, as is too
    common with many enlightened fathers and mothers, allow us to
    use our own judgment and discretion; and when we are in the
    wrong, rather let us find it out ourselves than by a continual
    interference beget a spirit of opposition in their children. My
    mother is a woman of strong native talents, but she has had few
    opportunities of cultivating them. She is kind, affectionate,
    possessed of great courage and spirit, and is well adapted to
    the situation she occupies as manager of a large household. My
    father possesses the strongest mind of any man I know.”

Two days after he had made this entry he writes:—

    “_May 13th._—It has frequently been a surprise to me that
    people should choose to scald their mouths and injure their
    health by eating and drinking hot food, particularly tea and
    coffee, the goodness of which they appear to estimate according
    to the pain it must give them in drinking it. For five or six
    weeks past I have had mine made by mixing with tea and coffee
    of the usual strength about one-half of cold water, brought
    directly from the pump; so that it is both cool and weak—two
    very good qualities in my estimation. Lately two of my brothers
    have followed my example.”

    “_May 24th._—For the last month or two I have been in the
    habit of lying in bed rather too late. I now make a resolution
    to get up earlier in future. It is my intention to rise with
    the boys—that is, at six o’clock. That I may see whether this
    resolution is kept, I will keep an account of the time at which
    I rise every morning.”

He kept up these entries for more than two years; but in August, 1819, he

    “It is now some weeks since I discontinued the practice of
    entering the time at which I rise. My object in doing it at
    first was to break myself of a habit of lying late in bed. This
    object I have accomplished, nor do I fear a relapse; it is
    therefore unnecessary that I should continue the motive.”

In June, 1817, he again went to London:—

    “_June 23rd._—In the evening I went to Covent Garden Theatre,
    to see John Kemble play for the last time. He took his most
    celebrated character, Coriolanus. It is a part for which he
    is well calculated, as it requires a noble and dignified
    mien. Kemble has left the stage in good credit; yet I think
    if he had remained much longer he would have fallen in the
    public opinion, as he is become so old as not to be able to
    disguise it even on the stage; and his recitation is terribly
    monotonous.... The play of Coriolanus is well known to contain
    many aristocratic sentiments not very agreeable to the friends
    of liberty; and I was sorry to find that when any sentiment
    of this kind was expressed it always received the approbation
    of the audience. Upon mentioning this circumstance, I learned
    that, for some reason or other, the audience at Covent Garden
    Theatre has lately become very loyal.

    “After the play, Kemble came forward to address the audience.
    He appeared to suffer much from the feeling that it was for
    the last time. Whether this was real or affected I cannot say;
    but if acting, it was acting of a very superior kind. After he
    had retired, a crown of laurel and a scarf were thrown upon
    the stage. The manager was then called. He came forward, and
    promised to present them to Mr. Kemble.

    “When the curtain drew up for the farce, which was ‘The
    Portrait of Cervantes,’ a part of the audience, intending it
    as a mark of respect to Mr. Kemble, called out, ‘No farce, no
    farce! off, off!’ &c. The others, who wished to see the farce,
    clapped and called, ‘Go on, go on!’ It was doubtful which
    party was the more numerous. At length Fawcett, the manager,
    again came forward to say that, if it were the wish of the
    audience that, out of respect to Mr. Kemble, the farce should
    not be acted, he would desire the curtain to be dropped. Some
    immediately cried out, ‘Yes; down with it!’ Others, ‘No; go
    on!’ The poor man did not know what to do. He again attempted
    to speak, but the noise was too great for him to be heard; so
    he retired, and the curtain fell. This satisfied but one party;
    the other became directly more clamorous. After a few minutes,
    the curtain was again drawn up, and the farce proceeded;
    but the noise was still kept up, and I was unable to hear a
    sentence all the night. I heard afterwards that Talma was at
    the theatre this night, and that he was much pleased with the
    enthusiasm of the audience. He said that the French talked a
    great deal about enthusiasm, but that they possessed much less
    than the English.”

He went to the House of Commons, and “heard the Lord Mayor, Lord
Cochrane, and some others speak on the side of liberty.” The debate was
on the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act[61]:—

    “It is a pity that every good man is not also a learned and
    clever man. I was sorry to find that the Lord Mayor, whom I
    expected to be a first-rate speaker, was very deficient even
    in common grammar; but, nevertheless, such a man is of more
    service to the great cause of liberty than a hundred of your
    place-hunters, let their delivery be ever so elegant, and their
    grammar ever so correct.”

On June 30th he visited Chantrey’s studio:—

    “I left the Gallery with very great regret, and I am sure that
    I was sincere when I told Mr. Whitwell [the friend who had
    introduced him] that to him I was obliged for the greatest
    gratification I ever received.”

The following evening he started for the Isle of Wight:—

    “I left London at six in the evening for Southampton. The road
    lay through Brentford and Staines. Near to the latter place, in
    a field, I saw the place where King John signed ‘Magna Charta.’
    The spot is marked by a sun-dial. I was glad to hear some of
    the passengers give it as their opinion that something of the
    kind was wanting now.

    “As soon as it became light, we enjoyed most delightful views
    of a richly-wooded country. The trees in Hampshire are the
    largest I ever saw, and the country is almost covered with
    what we consider large woods. There is not a finer sight in
    the world than to be elevated above an extensive wood, and to
    see the trees extending as far as the eye can reach, till they
    become scarcely distinguishable from the sky.”

He went to sketch Netley Abbey:—

    “While I was drawing, several parties came to visit the
    Abbey, and I entered into conversation with most of them.
    One gentleman was finding great fault with the taste of the
    proprietor of the Abbey. He said, ‘Now, if this was my Abbey,
    I’d get some masons and stop up all the holes, and I don’t know
    if I should not whitewash it. Would not you, Sir?’ I thought
    this opening speech promised fair, so that I nodded assent to
    induce him to go on; and he proceeded: ‘Then I’d remove all
    this rubbish (pointing to the masses of stonework which lay
    on the ground) and fetch some loads of gravel from the beach,
    with which I would cover the floor of the chapel, and have it
    rolled nice and flat; or I don’t know whether I should not lay
    turf instead, and keep the grass cut short, and as level as a
    bowling-green. Then I’d build a nice thatched cottage just by
    the gate there for the porter to live at; but I think I should
    have it within the chapel, because it would add very much to
    its appearance. The Abbey would be worth coming to see then;
    but now the fellow that owns it must be a fool.’ The gentleman
    then asked me what I thought of his proposed alterations, and
    I told him that they would certainly make the chapel look very
    _neat_ and _pretty_. ‘Ah!’ says he, ‘I see you are a young man
    of taste.’ I did not think it necessary to contradict him.
    He wished me good morning, and walked off, and I resumed my
    drawing, rejoicing that the Abbey was in better hands than his.”

Crossing over to the Isle of Wight he passed through the village of

    “Wishing to be acquainted with the etymology of the name
    Freshwater, I asked the sailors if the water in the bay was not
    so salt as the sea-water generally is. ‘Oh, yes,’ they replied,
    ‘it’s all alike.’ ‘What, then, is the reason of the names
    Freshwater Town and Freshwater Bay?’ I inquired. ‘Why, they are
    in Freshwater parish to be sure,’ was the reply.”

On his way home he saw Stonehenge:—

    “It is certain that great numbers of the stones have been
    carried off (I suppose in pieces), and afterwards used in
    building, as Inigo Jones mentions in his account of Stonehenge
    that such was the case between two different periods at which
    he visited the Temple. What must be the feelings of those
    who could, for the sake of the value of stones as building
    materials, disturb and destroy so venerable, so interesting a
    monument of antiquity, I cannot guess. I think it would be well
    if the government of the country would purchase this and every
    other valuable antiquity of the island, and preserve them as
    much as possible from injury.”

In one of the papers that he drew up in his old age, he thus describes
his last visit to Stonehenge:—

    “We also went to see Stonehenge, for about the tenth time in
    my life, since whenever there was a chance to visit this most
    interesting and much controverted antiquity I never failed
    to take advantage of it. But this, my last visit, was a very
    different affair indeed from my first in 1817. Forty-three
    years before I had set out for Stonehenge, in company with my
    father, breakfasting on the way at a small inn, a mile or two
    from the place. While my father rested I went, sketch-book in
    hand, to the so-called Druidic temple. Not a creature, human
    or animal, was in sight, not even the ‘Shepherd of Salisbury
    Plain’ himself. I was alone with the wonderful stone monument,
    and nothing but the sky and the vast downs in sight. By-and-by
    came a shepherd, chatty and communicative, with fifteen hundred
    sheep, and thus only was my solitude broken upon. But to-day
    (1860) what a change! Easy communication and love of locomotion
    had vulgarized even Stonehenge. We found a crowd of people
    making noisy the place, and rudely shattering my early peaceful

In April, 1817, he had recorded his “intention of making experiments to
ascertain the comparative nourishment which is derived from different
kinds of food.” In the following January he records the result:—

    “My engagements this half-year are such as will not allow me
    to continue my experiments upon food, as I am obliged to be
    out very much. I have, therefore, brought my experiments to a
    conclusion without having completed them. But, however, I have
    ascertained some remarkable facts, as the Journal will show,
    and I hope that my trouble will not altogether be thrown away.


    “_April 15th, 1817._—I was thinking yesterday that little was
    known of the comparative nutriment which we receive from the
    different kinds of food we eat, and I then determined to try
    a few experiments, from the results of which a table may be
    formed showing the comparative value of the principal kinds of
    food upon which we live. It is also my intention to notice the
    effects which each kind of fare has upon my health.

    “I shall live three days upon each of the principal kinds of
    food, and take nothing else except coffee, tea, and water. I
    shall always drink three cups of coffee at my breakfast, three
    cups of tea at my tea, and as much water as I feel inclined
    for. With my meat and potatoes I shall allow myself salt, but
    nothing else.

    “That, at the time I am eating one kind of food, I may feel no
    effects from the kind which I eat before, it is my intention,
    after having lived three days upon any particular food, to
    take the usual fare for the next three days, and so on.

    “Before I enter on my Journal, I will say something of the
    usual state of my health. For the last year or two I have
    suffered much from the headache: I have almost constantly
    been troubled with bile; but a few days ago I made a tour to
    Liverpool, which I found to improve the state of my health
    considerably, and since my return I have been tolerably well.

    “I began my experiments this morning: during this day and the
    two next I shall eat nothing but dry bread untoasted. I have
    taken a stale quartern loaf, which weighed 4 lbs. 4 oz. It is
    made partly of old flour, and partly of that of last year,
    which was very bad. The loaf is rather moist, and a little
    brown. It came from the old Union Mill, and cost one shilling
    and fourpence half-penny.

    “It is now seven o’clock at night. I have made three meals
    from it, and have eaten about one-third, which is less than I
    expected I should eat. I have not stinted myself at all. I am
    much the same in every respect as I was yesterday, only that I
    feel as though I had eaten too much. I do not know whether I
    shall be able to eat any supper.

    “_April 16th._—I eat a little supper last night. I have been
    much the same to-day as I was yesterday.

    “_April 17th, 6.30 p.m._—I have not been quite so well to-day
    as I was yesterday. I am troubled very much with the bile and
    the headache. I have a good deal of the loaf left, more, I
    think, than will last me for supper. My mother says there has
    been a visible alteration for the worse in my appearance since
    the commencement of the three days.

    “_9.45._—I have just finished my loaf and supper. I made no
    point of exactly finishing the loaf: it is merely accidental.

    “_April 20th._—During this and the two last days I have fared
    as usual. Still troubled with the bile and headache, though not
    so unwell as before.

    “The next three days I shall eat nothing but bread and butter,
    the bread of the same kind as before.”

He next tried dry toast, cold toast and butter, hot toast and butter,
bread and bacon, bread and cheese, rice pudding, boiled green pease and
salt, damson-pie and sugar, bread and sugar; living for three days on
each article. It is not, perhaps, surprising that, in the course of the
experiments, he one day records “an acute pain in my left side nearly the
whole of the day.”

The next entry that I quote is of a very different kind:—

    “_February 15th, 1819._—Campbell, the poet, is now in
    Birmingham. He is engaged by the Philosophical Society to
    deliver a course of twelve lectures on poetry. This morning he
    called here to put his son under our care during his stay in
    Birmingham. We consider this a feather in our cap.

    “_March 2nd._—Young Campbell, who is about fifteen, is a boy of
    talent. He has never been at a school, but has been educated
    at home by his father. Mr. Campbell is so pleased with what we
    are doing for the boy, that he says he should like exceedingly
    to leave him with us; but, as he is an only child, he cannot
    persuade Mrs. Campbell to part with him.

    “_March 12th._—Yesterday, Mr. Campbell dined with us. He is
    a very pleasant man in company. He related a great number of
    pleasing anecdotes; but he did not answer the expectations I
    had formed of the poet Campbell.[62]

    “_August 22nd, 1819._—The people of Birmingham have taken the
    first decisive step towards parliamentary reform. A town’s
    meeting has been held at New Hall Hill for the purpose of
    considering the best means of obtaining the representation of
    all the unrepresented people of England, and particularly those
    of Birmingham. At this meeting an immense concourse of people
    assembled; some accounts say eighty thousand. I was present,
    and witnessed nearly the whole proceedings. It was unanimously
    resolved to appoint Sir Charles Wolseley representative of
    Birmingham, with directions to make every effort to obtain a
    seat in the House of Commons when it shall again assemble after
    the present vacation. The object of this meeting was treated
    by the opposite party with the greatest ridicule; but that it
    deserves anything rather than ridicule is manifest from the
    alarm it has evidently excited in the minds of the supporters
    of the present system.

    “At our Birmingham meeting the people conducted themselves with
    the greatest decorum. Our magistrates had the good sense not to
    provoke them by the presence of the military, and the immense
    assembly dispersed without the least mischief being done.”

    “_August 10th._—A few days ago I accompanied my brother
    Matthew to Warwick, to assist him in preparations for the
    defence of Major Cartwright, who was tried at the Assizes just
    concluded. The offence charged against him, and the others
    who were tried with him, was the election of a legislatorial
    attorney or representative of the people of Birmingham (Sir
    Charles Wolseley). My brother was engaged for the major, Denman
    for Edmonds and Maddocks, and Wooller and Lewis defended
    themselves. The trial occupied two whole days, the Court
    sitting to a late hour each day. The speeches of Denman,
    Matthew, and Wooller were, I think, the most eloquent I ever
    heard; but in spite of justice, reason, and everything else
    but the advice of the Judge, the blockheads in the jury-box
    gave a verdict of guilty.... Matthew, as usual, received the
    compliments of the Judge. He is rising very fast into fame.”

Thirteen years later, when the Reform Bill was carried, the great town
of Birmingham was at last represented in Parliament. “They have made me
Chairman of Attwood’s Committee,” wrote old Mr. Hill to his eldest son,
who was at that time a candidate for Hull.... “I am glad that you like
what I spoke at the town’s meeting. All I said came from the heart as
prompted by a sincere affection for liberty, goodness, and truth. Still
the fervour of delivery was not the less because Attwood and Birmingham
had common cause with Hill and Hull.” In that town in which, more than
forty years before, he had braved the violence of a Tory mob, the old
man had now the high honour of being called upon to propose, on the
nomination day, the election of the first representative that Birmingham
ever sent to the Commons House of Parliament.


It was in July, 1819, that the new school-house was opened at Edgbaston
with the happiest promise. Little more than a year later it was almost
destroyed by fire:—

    “Everything (Rowland Hill recorded in his Journal) seemed to be
    in a prosperous condition. We anticipated being shortly able
    to pay all the expenses incurred in our building and removal,
    when an event happened which plunged us all into the deepest

    “On the morning of Wednesday, the 23rd of August, 1820, I was
    awaked at five in the morning by the monitor entering my room
    to take the keys of the lower rooms. I inquired what was the
    time, and was glad to find that it wanted an hour of the time
    at which I usually rose. I turned in my bed, and in a moment
    was again asleep, little thinking of the destruction which, in
    all probability, had then commenced. In about half-an-hour I
    was again awaked, by two or three boys running into my room,
    with the alarming information that the rooms in the roof were
    on fire.

    “In a moment I was in the roof rooms with my brothers, who
    slept in the same chamber as myself. These rooms were even then
    so full of smoke that it was difficult to discern the objects
    near to us. The fire we found to be in a closet opening into
    one of these rooms; the flames appeared through the crevices
    of the door, which, never having been painted, appeared almost
    transparent with the strong light within. The first impulse
    was to endeavour to open the door and to throw in water, which
    some had brought from the chambers below; but in this we did
    not succeed, and, after a moment’s reflection, we gave up the
    attempt, judging it best to confine the flames as much as
    possible, for had the door been opened they would have burst
    upon us in such a manner as to have driven us at once from
    the room. The whole family had now caught the alarm. [In the
    midst of the alarm Rowland Hill remembered that his eldest
    brother’s wife, who, with her husband, happened to be staying
    in the house, was in a delicate state of health. He went to
    their room, and, quietly beckoning his brother out, in the
    hope of saving her a sudden shock, told him that the house was
    on fire.] After hastily slipping on a few clothes, some began
    to remove the furniture from the different rooms.... In a few
    moments we were all roused from a deep sleep, and plunged into
    the most active and distressing employment. No one can be
    surprised that at first the bustle and alarm should be such
    as to prevent our taking, perhaps, the best possible means to
    prevent the ravages of the fire; it has since struck us that
    by taking off some of the slates it is possible that we should
    have been able to throw water upon the fire and retard it,
    if not put it quite out; but this was not thought of at the
    moment, and the time during which there would have been any
    chance of success lasted but for a few minutes.

    “The first anxiety was for the safety of the boys; but, as the
    fire was over their heads, alarm on that account soon subsided.
    As soon as they had risen they began to throw their bedding out
    at the windows, and to remove the other furniture of the rooms,
    and even in the midst of all the bustle and anxiety I could
    not but admire the activity and presence of mind on the part
    of the boys. We are indebted to them more than to any other
    individuals that the loss, though it was very great, was not
    still more ruinous.”

The fire began in a closet under the roof. It was so close to the
staircase that all communication with the other rooms on the attic floor
was soon cut off.

    “Order was somewhat restored among us—as much, perhaps, as it
    could be under such circumstances; each of the elders among us
    having taken the direction of certain things, with a number of
    boys and others under his control, when a new cause of alarm
    arose. It was recollected by my mother that one of the servant
    girls, with a poor woman who came the day before to do some
    sewing, slept in the bed which I have mentioned [it was a bed
    in one of the roof rooms, which was occasionally used by sewing
    and washing women], and it was found that the girl only had
    escaped. I was at the front of the house giving directions
    respecting the procuring of water when I learnt this alarming
    news. I immediately ran upstairs, passed my father, who was
    then on his way to rescue the woman, and who generously tried
    to prevent my going by taking the risk upon himself; rushed
    through the room in which was the fire into the next, and,
    taking the woman from the bed, on which she lay in a fainting
    fit, carried her in my arms to the top of the stairs. I could
    do no more: although the whole was but the work of a minute,
    such was the effect of the alarm and of the dense smoke which
    I had breathed, that I loosed her, and she was caught by those
    who stood upon the stairs. I myself staggered down one or two
    steps, and should have fallen had I not been caught by one of
    those who stood about. A few minutes were sufficient for me to
    recover my strength. How the woman revived I do not know, but I
    saw her soon after, apparently well, watching the furniture at
    the front of the house.

    “It afterwards appeared that the girl, awaked by the smoke,
    called her bedfellow, ran downstairs and alarmed those who
    slept on the first floor, about the same time that the
    discovery was made by the boy who slept under the closet,
    and who saw the fire as he lay in bed, through a ventilator
    in the ceiling which opened through the floor of the closet.
    The woman, instead of following her companion, actuated by
    one of those inexplicable motives which sometimes influence
    the conduct of the uneducated, remained in the room very
    deliberately dressing herself, and I afterwards learned
    that when I carried her out of the room her stays were very
    regularly laced. When she did attempt an escape, owing to her
    alarm, her want of knowledge of the arrangement of the rooms,
    and the density of the smoke, she was unable to find the door,
    and, after groping about the room some time, she said that she
    ‘threw herself on the bed, and gave herself up for lost.’ Next
    to effecting her escape, or making some noise which would have
    alarmed those who were about, throwing herself on the bed was
    the best thing; for had she been elsewhere I never should have
    found her, as the smoke was so thick that I could not discover
    a single object in the room, and only found the bed by knowing
    its situation from having been frequently in the room. If we
    had known at the time we were in the next room, immediately
    after the first alarm, that she was there, she would have been
    rescued without any difficulty. The poor woman’s obstinacy cost
    her her life, for although she was not in the least burnt, yet
    such was the effect of the smoke upon her lungs, together with
    the alarm, that the next day she became exceedingly ill, and
    although we procured for her the best medical advice the town
    afforded, she died in a few days. The surgeon who attended her
    said that she died of a disease to which she had long been
    subject, an enlargement of the heart, which was brought on in
    this instance by the causes I have before stated.

    “The engines arrived shortly after. I had provided for them a
    stock of water by placing some large tubs in the front of the
    house, which we filled with water before the engines came. One
    of our pumps was undergoing repairs at the time, so that it did
    not afford us any water. The other very soon became dry; but
    we found an excellent supply from a pit a little nearer to the
    town, on the right side of the road. Five men, for the promise
    of five shillings each, stood in the water to fill the buckets,
    and such was the rapidity of the supply, that not one of the
    engines was for an instant without water.

    “By about eight the engines ceased to play—the fire was
    extinguished. Till this time so actively had I been engaged,
    that I believe I had not time to reflect upon the consequences
    of this accident. But now all was over. Exertion was no further
    of any use. In informing my father that such was the state of
    things, my throat felt as stopped, and the tears came to my
    eyes. I went upstairs, and to the top of the house. The whole
    of the roof, excepting that part over the school-room, was
    destroyed. Two or three of the beams, reduced to charcoal,
    remained in their places, and a few of the slates still rested
    upon some of the bending rafters; the rest was bare to the sky.
    In some places the rubbish was still smoking. To extinguish
    this completely, and to search every place to be certain
    that all was safe, occupied my attention for a time; but the
    consideration of the probable effect this accident might have
    on our future success would obtrude itself on my mind. We had
    insured the house and furniture, but for a small sum; the first
    for £500, the latter for £250, and I soon saw that the loss
    would be considerable.

    “In order to throw the water immediately upon the fire, we
    raised a ladder which had been made a few months before to be
    in readiness in case of such an accident. Up this the firemen
    carried their pipes, and played almost directly upon the

Among the firemen on the crumbling roof, directing and aiding them, was
his brother Edwin. “Observing that one of the men had difficulty in
reaching a place where the flames remained unsubdued, he seized one of
the largest slates, and so held it as to deflect the stream, all this
being done while his bride stood in anxiety below.”

    “Another pipe was carried up the stairs, and threw its water
    upon the fire through an opening over the back stairs. This
    engine was very effective, till a scoundrel (and there were
    several about who took advantage of the confusion to plunder
    the house), in order to make the confusion still greater,
    stamped upon the pipe and burst it. A fireman who saw this,
    took a short staff out of his pocket and gave the fellow a
    blow on his head, which sent him completely downstairs. I did
    not know of this till after the fire was over and the rascal
    had escaped, otherwise he should have been dealt with as he
    deserved. I cannot think of any crime which so completely
    shows the absence of all good feeling as to take advantage of
    another’s misfortunes, and even to increase them for the sake
    of plunder.

    “It was necessary to do much immediately. We had all risen
    in the greatest haste, and were but half-dressed. The poor
    boys had lost all their clothes, except such as were on their
    backs, and some which were then at the washerwoman’s,—for
    their trunks, which were kept in one of the roof rooms, were
    destroyed. We were all wet, hungry, tired, and distressed.
    The house was completely swilled throughout with the immense
    quantity of water which had been thrown upon it, so that it was
    impossible to inhabit it immediately. Our family consisted of
    almost eighty individuals, who were at that moment houseless.
    The kindness of our friends and neighbours, however, soon
    relieved us of part of our anxiety. They provided us with clean
    linen, shoes, and everything we could want. A lady who keeps
    a female school on the opposite side of the road, kindly lent
    the boys a change of stockings. Our good friend, Miss Bache,
    came with her servants laden with food for breakfast, which was
    eaten by some in the garden. One or two gentlemen undertook the
    care of the house and furniture; others led away the people
    who had assisted to the ‘Plough and Harrow,’ where they were
    refreshed with bread and cheese and ale, and all pressed us to
    leave the place for a time and recruit our strength. The boys
    were divided amongst the neighbours, who took them to their
    houses. Mr. and Mrs. Busby, than whom kinder-hearted people
    never existed, claimed a right to receive our own family, as
    being the nearest neighbours. Here we breakfasted. It was a sad
    meal, each trying to appear as little affected as possible, in
    order to keep up the spirits of the others. If anything could
    have removed our distress, it would have been accomplished
    by the kindness of our friends, which no doubt did very much
    to alleviate it. Invitations for ourselves and the boys—not
    only from our immediate friends, but also from gentlemen whose
    names we scarcely knew,—poured in upon us, and if our family
    had been ten times as numerous, they would have been disposed
    of with greater ease than was the case; for the offers of
    assistance were so earnest and so numerous, that it was painful
    to be obliged to refuse such as we could not accept.

    “Our friend, Mr. Witton, offered us the use of the whole of his
    house at Kitwell ready furnished. Mr. Blakeway, another of our
    friends, made an offer, which we gladly accepted, of a house
    of his in Tenant Street, which then stood empty. In this we
    determined to put up the beds, most of which had been saved,
    and use it as a lodging-house till our own could be repaired.

    “We were anxious to inform the friends of the children as soon
    as possible of the accident, in order to prevent that alarm
    which the exaggerated accounts in the first instance generally
    circulated on such an occasion would raise. This was undertaken
    by a friend; but, notwithstanding the precaution, the good
    people of Kidderminster, from which town we had several boys,
    were terribly alarmed. An uncle of a boy named H——, whose
    friends reside at Kidderminster, happened to be in Birmingham
    at the time of the fire. As soon as the news reached him,
    he wrote to his sister (the boy’s mother), to prevent any
    uneasiness which she might have felt had she heard a wrong
    account from another quarter. In his haste he incautiously made
    use of the following expression: ‘Hazelwood is burnt down,
    but Henry is safe.’ The report was immediately circulated in
    Kidderminster that the house was burnt down, and that all the
    boys except H—— were burnt. The friends of the other children
    were in a state of the greatest anxiety. The father of one of
    the boys immediately rode over in the greatest haste. He was
    soon followed by another. I need not say how glad they were to
    see their children.

    “During the course of the day the friends of many of the
    children arrived, and took their sons home. This, though it
    relieved us of the care of them, made us anxious whether
    an impression might not get abroad, that either we were
    particularly careless or very unlucky; the more so, as an
    alarm of the same kind, sufficient to induce us to send
    for the engines, although they had nothing to do when they
    arrived, took place the winter before. We now began to place
    the furniture in the school-room and the chamber over, as this
    part of the house had not been injured by the fire or the
    water. Some also took precautions to defend the house from
    further injury by rain. To accomplish this, we borrowed a great
    quantity of tarpaulin from the different carriers in the town,
    by means of which a temporary roof was constructed. I engaged
    a number of men to remove the rubbish which had fallen with the
    roof and ceilings upon the floors of the garrets, and to riddle
    it in order that nothing valuable might be lost. The quantity
    of rubbish collected amounted to several wagon-loads. Frederic,
    and I slept at night in the school-room to guard the house.
    We had also a watchman on the outside. The other part of the
    family slept at the neighbours’ houses.

    “The next day the family again assembled at dinner at the house
    of my brother Edwin. We now made arrangements for restoring
    things as soon as possible. One undertook the repairs of the
    building; another those of the furniture; one to make out the
    account for the Fire Office; another to prepare the house
    in Tenant Street. Printed circular-letters were sent to our
    friends as soon as possible, expressive of our gratitude
    for the kindness we had met with, and stating our intention
    of resuming the business of the school on the Thursday
    following—that is, eight days after the fire.

    “Besides the injury done to the roof, the floors of the rooms
    in that part of the house, and the garret ceilings, were almost
    completely destroyed. The garret floors were much injured by
    the burning wood which fell upon them, and they doubtless would
    have been destroyed altogether, but that persons were engaged,
    at a considerable risk, in throwing water upon the blazing
    timbers as they fell, before the engines arrived. The walls and
    ceilings of the lower rooms were also much injured by the water.

    “The school assembled on the day appointed. Till the roof was
    completed the boys slept in Tenant Street; when that was done
    they occupied the chambers of the house, a part of our own
    family sleeping from home. It was not till Christmas that we
    were enabled to reinstate everything.

    “Among the things destroyed in the flames, almost every one
    of us has lost something which he valued highly. My brother
    Arthur has lost the accounts of some tours which he has taken
    at various times; Howard has lost a copy of Mavor’s ‘British
    Tourist,’ which he gained as a prize in the school. But in
    things of that description I have been the greatest sufferer. I
    have lost all my original drawings, six in number, which were
    framed and glazed. I made these drawings when I was quite a
    boy, and for that reason I valued them. At Hill Top they hung
    in the parlour, but when we removed they were put in one of the
    roof rooms till a convenient opportunity should occur to hang
    them up. The electrical planisphere, representing the southern
    sky, and the water-alarum, both of which I have described in
    these memoirs, were consumed in the flames. I valued these
    because they were the best specimens I possessed of my boyish

    “I have not yet lost the impression which this accident made
    upon my mind. My sleep is frequently broken by dreaming of
    fire; when awake I often suppose that I smell smoke; and it is
    not till I am out of bed that I can convince myself that I have
    been deceived. It is remarkable that at the present time, and,
    indeed, immediately after the fire, I remembered but little of
    what took place; although the roof fell in, and the flames were
    seen at a great distance from the house, I have no recollection
    of noticing either; yet I was more than once on different parts
    of the roof, giving directions to the firemen.”

He thus accounts for the origin of the fire:—

    “Upon making known the situation of things as they stood
    previous to the fire, it was suggested by some one that it
    might have originated thus. I have before said that a great
    quantity of carpeting, old and new, lay in the closet. An old
    Brussels carpet was folded up and placed on the floor of the
    closet; on this lay a roll of new Scotch carpet; and the whole
    was surmounted by a number of empty paper hat-boxes. This being
    the state of things, and the closet having no ceiling, it is
    very probable that during the heavy rains which fell a short
    time previous, some of the water might penetrate through the
    roof and wet the carpets. The rain was succeeded by some of the
    hottest weather I ever remember. The heat immediately under
    the slates would be very great; and we were told that Brussels
    carpeting, which is composed partly of hemp and partly of wool,
    if wet and afterwards exposed to heat, will ferment and fire
    spontaneously, in the manner that hay sometimes does. This
    opinion, upon inquiry, we found to be confirmed by experience.
    A ship in the Mediterranean took fire from the fermentation
    of some wet ropes stowed in the hold. A relation of ours, a
    builder, had his premises partly destroyed by the fermentation
    of a quantity of hair for plaster, placed under a shed. He
    knows this to have been the cause, from the circumstance of the
    hair’s smoking having been noticed the day preceding.”

He discusses the question of insurance:—

    “The question whether or not it is wise to insure, and to what
    amount, appears to me a very difficult one. If a person’s
    property be such that the loss of his house and furniture would
    not be a ruinous injury, then it appears to me it would be
    absurd for him to insure, because more than half the premium
    consists of duty to the Government, and by becoming his own
    insurance broker he saves that sum and the profit also. It
    appears to me also to be bad policy to insure to a great
    amount, because by a strange arrangement in all insurance
    offices, the sum paid for damage is not estimated, as it ought
    to be, by considering what proportion the damage bears to the
    whole value of the building, and paying the sufferer the same
    fraction of the insurance. Thus, if a house be worth £1,000,
    and is insured for £100, if the building is damaged to the
    amount of £100, the office will pay the whole of that sum;
    whereas I should say it ought to pay only the tenth part of
    £100—that is, £10; for the rate of insurance upon a large sum
    is no less than that upon a small one, and the probability of
    a house being injured to the amount of £100 is greater than
    the chance of its being injured to the amount of £200, still
    greater than the chance of its sustaining an injury to the
    amount of £300, and so on.

    “It was reasoning in this manner that induced me to insure
    for so small a sum; but I forgot that our risk was greater
    than that of our neighbours, in consequence of so many persons
    residing under the same roof. For this reason, and because
    we should not be equally well able to bear a second loss, we
    have now insured to a much greater amount; but I am not sure
    that we were not right before, and are mistaken now, because
    the circumstance of our having been unfortunate is no proof of
    error, any more than the gaining a prize in the lottery is a
    proof of the propriety of purchasing a ticket.

    “Some people have very strange ideas about insurance from fire.
    They appear to think that it actually prevents a fire taking
    place. Birmingham furnishes a remarkable instance of an error
    of this kind. The workhouse, which is the property of the
    whole town, is insured in the Birmingham Fire Office, which is
    supported by a comparatively small number of individuals. I
    wonder whether the company insures its own office? Perhaps it
    does in another—or perhaps in its own!”

He fails, as it seems to me, to take into account that freedom from daily
anxiety which a man buys who insures his property to its full value, or
something not much short of it. His eldest brother told me that, at one
time of his life, he himself was so much troubled by the thought that
if he died early he should leave his young wife and children but ill
provided for that his health became affected, and his power of work
was lessened. His dread of poverty was, therefore, tending to keep him
poor. He insured his life heavily, and at once regained his cheerfulness.
He had paid, he added, in his long life far more in premiums than his
children would ever receive back on his death. This outlay, nevertheless,
he looked upon as a real money gain to him. It had given him freedom from
care, and this freedom had greatly helped to increase his earnings.

In the summer of 1821, Rowland Hill and his next brother, Arthur, crossed
over to Ireland, to inspect the Edgeworth-Town Assisting School. This
curious institution had been lately founded by Lovell Edgeworth, the
brother of Maria Edgeworth. On their way the travellers passed through
Manchester. There for the first time they saw a whole town lighted by
gas. Between Liverpool and Dublin steamboats ran during the summer
months. None ventured as yet to cross the winter seas. The fares were
high—a guinea and a-half for the passage. The sailing packets charged but
seven shillings; and it was in one of them that the two brothers crossed
over. On landing they had to undergo the Custom House examination, as
Import Duties were still kept up between the two islands. Two packets
arrived almost at the same time, but there was only one officer to
examine all the baggage. There were fees to pay; and overcharge was
rendered easy by the difference that still subsisted between English and
Irish money.

During their stay in Dublin they drove out with an Irish barrister to see
the Dargle. “We found,” wrote the younger of the two brothers—

    “A line of bushes laid across the road into the grounds, and
    were told by men working on the spot that we could not pass,
    the place being under preparation for the King’s visit. Had we
    been alone we should have either turned back or tried the power
    of a bribe; but our Irish friend knew better; and after one or
    two cajoling phrases, which moved not very much, proceeded to
    ‘damn the King!’ The effect was complete, a gap being at once
    made, through which we passed, while one of the men remarked
    that others had applied, speaking of the King in high terms,
    but all those had been turned back.”

One evening they saw the general departure of the mails for the
provinces. They expected, as a matter of course, to find the guard of
each coach armed, as in England, with a blunderbuss; but they found
that he carried, in addition, a sword and pistols, while some of the
coaches had two guards, and others even three. They left Dublin for
Edgeworth-Town on a Sunday morning. For the first time in their life they
heard bells rung from churches that did not belong to the Establishment.

Rowland Hill’s Journal contains an interesting account of this tour:—

    “On the road to Edgeworth-Town we were struck with the
    miserable state of the poor Irish. Many live in huts without
    either window or chimney, the door serving every purpose of
    ingression and of egression. The poor women and children were
    generally without shoes and stockings; the men, however, almost
    always wear both, and even in the midst of summer appear
    dressed in great coats. Though Sunday, we saw many parties
    dancing in the roads and fields, the men in their great coats,
    and carts and wagons passed along apparently as much as on any
    other day. Every time the coach stopped it was surrounded by
    beggars, apparently in the lowest possible state of misery.

    “With a few exceptions, everything appears to be neglected. The
    land is miserably cultivated, and worse fenced, and the houses
    seem falling into ruin. You see gates with one hinge, and no
    fastening, tied up by means of ropes or haybands; windows
    reduced from a proper size to a single pane of glass, the
    remainder of the window, as it was broken, having been stopped
    up with a flat stone, a piece of wood, plaster, or a turf. In
    many places half the houses are in a state of ruin, and quite
    uninhabited. We learned that many had been reduced to this
    state at the time of the riots.”

At Edgeworth-Town they lodged in the best inn of which the place could
boast. Nevertheless under the bed they found put away a store of old

    “After breakfast we went with Mr. Edgeworth to see his school.
    It consists of about 160 boys, of all classes, from the sons
    of beggars to the children of some of the most wealthy men in
    the neighbourhood. They are classed without any distinction
    but that of merit, and to destroy every difference in
    appearance, all the boys wore pinafores as a kind of uniform.
    Out of school, however, some distinction is made. The sons of
    gentlemen and respectable tradesmen have a separate playground,
    and the boarders are divided among two or three houses,
    according to their rank in society.

    “About three-fourths of the boys had neither shoes nor
    stockings, but they all appeared clean, happy, and contented.

    “The plan of the school in some measure resembles the
    Lancasterian, only that Mr. Edgeworth accomplishes much more
    than I have ever seen done in a Lancasterian school. Every
    boy pays a little for his education—viz., from 1_d._ to 5_d._
    per week, according to his circumstances. Mr. Edgeworth has
    a nursery of four or five acres, in which the poor boys are
    allowed to work, in order to enable them to pay for their
    education, for the washing of their pinafores, &c. There
    are two masters with salaries, one of whom has the general
    superintendence of the school in Mr. Edgeworth’s absence, the
    other teaches the classics. The weekly payments of the boys
    defray every expense of the establishment, except the rent,
    within about a hundred a year. The boarders pay the masters of
    the houses at which they lodge for all expenses attending their

So eager were some of the boys to earn money by working over-time, that
Mr. Edgeworth was forced to limit the hours of this kind of labour. A
penalty was fixed for any one who should venture to begin work before the
appointed time. Shortly before the arrival of the two visitors, a boy
had been found on a summer morning hard at work as early as two o’clock.
He was saving up money to buy his mother a garment of which she stood
greatly in need. Not only was the breach of rule forgiven, but high
honour was done to the young offender. “The mode taken was characteristic
alike of man and country. When the required sum was made up, and the
garment purchased, this being hung from the top of a pole, was borne in
triumph through the single street of the town, all the boys marching in
procession, with their landlord at their head.”

    “The boys, as far as we could ascertain in the course of a
    week’s close inspection, are exceedingly orderly, attentive,
    and well behaved. Mr. Edgeworth states that he finds the
    children of the peasantry much more docile than those of
    gentlemen, and the English more tractable than the Irish.

    “The hay-harvest was now about, and the boys spent considerable
    part of the day in the park making the hay. They worked in
    classes, under the direction of monitors, and proceeded with
    the utmost order and regularity; they very soon turned the
    grass of several acres.

    “Mr. Edgeworth spends a good deal of time in joking with his
    boys. We saw him act before them the drunken, idle, low, but
    shrewd Irishman, and many other characters for the instruction
    and entertainment of his boys. They laugh with him, and, for
    the time, master and scholars appear to be on the most familiar

    “On Wednesday we dined at Mr. Edgeworth’s house: there is
    something highly fascinating in the company of celebrated
    people. In conversing with Miss Edgeworth, I felt that I
    was renewing, as it were, an old acquaintance; for who is
    there to whom she is altogether unknown? I must acknowledge,
    however, that my introduction to her was not made without some
    trepidation on my part, but so kind, so unassuming is her
    manner, that in a very short time I felt almost entirely at my
    ease in her company. I could not, however, quite rid myself of
    the feeling that I was in the company of one who had shown by
    her works that she could detect, and that she noticed every
    little symptom of weakness which to a common eye might pass
    unobserved. I was uneasy lest she should discover the defects
    in my education before I could take an opportunity of alluding
    to them, as is my custom in similar cases. Miss Edgeworth is
    a short, sprightly woman, without any of the affectation of
    politeness, but with much that is real. One is apt to suppose
    that a person of celebrity must always appear as though a high
    character was to be supported; there is nothing of this kind
    about Miss Edgeworth; she is exceedingly lively, and even
    playful in her manner, and seems to have not the slightest
    objection to a good joke.”

“I still esteem it,” writes the surviving brother, “one of the greatest
honours of my life to have sat next to her at dinner by her own desire.
To me, and doubtless to my brother Rowland also, the interview with this
admirable woman savoured of romance. As an abstraction, she had long
been to every member of our family an object of respect amounting to
reverence. Her works had been to us a source of delight, of instruction,
of purity, and of elevation, but herself seemed indefinitely removed, and
we could hardly believe that we were now actually in her presence, and
admitted to friendly intercourse.”

    “On Saturday I gave Mr. Edgeworth some parts of the rough
    draft of ‘Public Education’ to read, which I had taken with me
    to Ireland. He desired one of his monitors to take it to his
    house, and leave it in his bedchamber, stating that he always
    lay in bed till the middle of the day on Sunday, and that he
    could read it before he arose in the morning.

    “On Sunday morning, after our return from church, Mr. Edgeworth
    sent to request our attendance at his school. We found the
    boys all drawn up in divisions, and several gentlemen from the
    neighbourhood were present. We joined Mr. Edgeworth, who stood
    on a kind of stage formed by the stairs. He began a speech to
    his boys on the subject of the papers which I had lent him to
    read, in which he spoke in the most extravagant terms of what
    he had read. He was sure that we had carried the science of
    education to a perfection never before aimed at; he considered
    himself highly flattered by our visit to his school, but felt
    ashamed that we had not been better repaid for our trouble. He
    hoped we would allow him to return the visit, as he was sure
    nothing would delight him so much as a complete knowledge of
    our plans.

    “After he had concluded, he requested that I would honestly
    state my opinions respecting his school, and he insisted
    on my finding fault with something or other. I now felt
    the convenience of having been practised at extemporaneous
    speaking: for called upon as I was to address a great number
    of individuals, without any previous notice or opportunity of
    arranging and collecting my thoughts, and immediately after Mr.
    Edgeworth had spoken in the highest terms of a work which, till
    I afterwards undeceived him, he considered as entirely my own
    production, and for which he lauded my powers in an extravagant
    degree, I should not have been able to utter a single connected
    sentence, had not former practice rendered that easy which,
    without practice, is to some altogether impossible.

    “In the evening we dined at Mr. Edgeworth’s. On entering the
    library we found Miss Edgeworth reading ‘Public Education.’
    She spoke of it in less extravagant but not in less pleasing
    terms than her brother. She had read the greater part, and with
    the highest delight. Upon her complimenting me as the author,
    I informed her that I had written but a small part, and that
    my elder brother was the principal author. She then spoke with
    less restraint of the merits of the book, and said that it
    reflected the highest credit on the writer, whoever he might
    be. That her praise was not the unmeaning stuff of common-place
    compliment I am sure, for it was not uniform. She objected to
    some parts, which she advised us to alter. She had made notes
    with her pencil as she read the book, which she pointed out to
    us. Most of her suggestions we have adopted; a few which did
    not meet our views, after mature deliberation we have ventured
    to disregard. One part of the work contains a compliment to
    Miss Edgeworth, written, as I could not help telling her for my
    own credit, before we had any intention of visiting Ireland. It
    is in speaking of our obligations to her as the author of so
    many excellent tales for children. The name of her father had
    been coupled with hers, but was afterwards crossed out from the
    belief that the tales were almost entirely her own production.
    This she had noticed, and, with tears in her eyes, requested
    that his name might be restored, stating that he had materially
    assisted her in all her productions, and that she wished never
    to be considered separately from him....

    “I cannot describe the restless activity of Mr. Edgeworth. This
    evening he displayed more character than I had before had an
    opportunity of observing. Let it be remembered that this was
    Sunday evening.

    “We did not sit down to dinner till after seven o’clock. So
    long as the ladies remained in the room Mr. Edgeworth kept some
    curb on his spirits. He was the complete gentleman, behaving
    with the greatest respect towards his female relations,
    and, indeed, towards every one at the table. As soon as the
    barbarous custom now in vogue had driven the ladies to the
    drawing-room, Mr. Edgeworth invited us to draw our chairs
    together. The butler was ordered to bring some bottles of a
    particular claret, which he told us was better than nectar. A
    toast was proposed, and we proceeded to the business of the
    evening, Mr. Edgeworth for some time watching very carefully
    to see there was no unnecessary display of ‘daylight.’ Between
    every toast, Mr. E. spoke in the most extravagant terms of
    our book; and ‘Hazelwood School,’ ‘Mr. Hill and family,’ ‘The
    author of the book,’ &c., were toasted with all due solemnity.
    We did not fail to return thanks, and to propose ‘The
    Edgeworth-Town Assisting School,’ ‘Miss Edgeworth,’ &c.

    “I must remark that in the morning he had asked me many
    questions respecting our band, and had expressed to his
    boys his earnest wish that a band should be formed in his
    school. Some of the boys, it was stated, could already play a
    little upon the flute. Mr. Edgeworth desired them to perfect
    themselves with all possible despatch.

    “In the midst of our jollification, as we sat with the windows
    open, we heard two flutes playing a quick tune in the town. Mr.
    Edgeworth was delighted with this, and immediately sent one
    of his servants to fetch the players, whoever they might be.
    The man soon returned with two of the scholars, who had been
    parading up and down the street without shoes and stockings,
    and marching to their own music. We immediately adjourned to a
    kind of conservatory, into which the dining-room opened, where,
    after giving us another tune, the boys joined us in drinking
    ‘Success to the band.’ ... Delighted with every one, and with
    himself in particular, Mr. Edgeworth got into the most playful
    humour. Sometimes, after a toast, he directed we should join
    hands all round, then cross them, &c.... At about midnight, he
    proposed that we should go to the school-house, and see how
    things went on there. He opened a back door, which let us at
    once into the street. The key of this door he always kept about
    him, as he said, that he might go out and inspect the state
    of the town at any hour of the night without disturbing his
    family. This he frequently does, going into people’s houses in
    disguise,—in imitation, I suppose, of the hero of the Arabian
    tales. The butler was sent forward to call up O’Brien, the
    classical teacher of the school, and Steele, one of the head
    monitors. He was cautioned, at the same time, not to forget
    the good things which were under his care.... Steele, who,
    though a young man of genteel appearance, is the son of a poor
    bricklayer, sallied forth from a small cottage, and met us in
    the street. Both he and O’Brien had been in bed. Mr. Edgeworth,
    like most men who are occasionally very familiar with their
    inferiors, is very tenacious of his rank and authority. Poor
    Steele was desired to relate a story—of which the length very
    far exceeded the interest—about a silver trowel which had been
    presented by Mr. Edgeworth to Steele’s father, on account of
    his having had the honour to open the family vault at the time
    of the death of the late Mr. Edgeworth. The young man, as was
    natural enough when we consider that he had been called out of
    a warm bed, and was now standing in the street at midnight,
    began his relation with his head covered. Mr. Edgeworth
    immediately ordered him to take off his hat, and even made him
    put it on the ground.

    “At the school-house, after carefully satisfying ourselves that
    all the boys were safely roosted, we proceeded much in the same
    manner as at Mr. Edgeworth’s house. O’Brien and Steele were
    asked by him if they knew any good songs, and they accordingly
    favoured us with some of their best.

    “Shortly after, Mr. Edgeworth, as though a thought had suddenly
    struck him, cried out that he should uncommonly like a
    beefsteak. Most of us agreed that it would be a good thing; but
    Arthur, who had been rather fidgetty most of the evening, could
    stand it no longer, and accordingly made good his retreat to
    the inn. For my own part, I cannot say that I receive the least
    true pleasure from parties like this; but, as every one must
    occasionally join in them, I think it best to make oneself as
    comfortable as possible under all the circumstances, and not to
    attempt to swim against the stream.

    “The mistress of the house, who I afterwards learned had been
    in bed, was now summoned, and questioned as to the possibility
    of satisfying our wishes. Fortunately she was provided with
    the means, and at about two o’clock we sat down to a beefsteak
    supper. After supper, Mr. Edgeworth commenced an oration in
    praise of his butler’s grandmother, who had been remarkable for
    many good qualities. The glasses were filled, the butler was
    furnished with one, and with the utmost solemnity we drank to
    the memory of the worthy grandmother....

    “The next day we took our leave of the Edgeworths. Miss
    Edgeworth had now read the whole of the book. She spoke of its
    excellences in the same terms as before, but she objected to
    some parts of our plan. She is afraid that the republicanism
    of the school may be alarming, and advises that this part
    should be made less prominent. She says she is afraid that
    parents will dread the republican spirit which our system must
    infuse among the boys. I think she has too much good sense to
    think this an evil in itself—indeed, she spoke of it only as a
    matter of prudence as regards ourselves. She, perhaps, may be
    right, but I think that we may venture; because, in the first
    place, the republican tendency of our plans is very far from
    obvious, and there are very few Miss Edgeworths to find it out.
    And again, I think people are now beginning to be a little
    enlightened on the subject, and that we shall soon be on the
    popular side of the question, even with that class which it is
    our interest to please.”

On their way back to Dublin, the travellers overheard two Irishmen
discussing the career of Napoleon, tidings of whose death had lately
arrived. One of them maintained that the failure of his Russian campaign
was altogether due to a premature setting-in of the monsoons. The other
modestly remarked that he had always understood that these winds were
known only on the Indian Ocean. “Yes,” replied the first; “but that year
they blew a _tremendious_ long way inland, carrying with them prodigious

The brothers took the steam-packet from Dublin to Holyhead. “The captain
told them that his company intended to attempt running it throughout the
next winter; and cautiously remarked that he thought in a storm a steamer
might even have some advantages over a sailing-vessel.”

In the summer of the following year (1822), Rowland Hill again visited
the Isle of Wight, accompanied by two of his younger brothers:—

    “While in the Isle of Wight, I visited a cave in the side of an
    immensely high cliff. This cave is called the Hermit’s Hole.
    The only road to it is along a narrow path leading from the top
    of the cliff. This path is steep and narrow, and the descent
    is somewhat dangerous, as a slip would inevitably precipitate
    a person down the cliff, a height of about seven hundred
    feet, into the sea which roars below. Travellers in the Isle
    of Wight speak in strange terms of this cave. One says ‘the
    mere thought of such an adventure (that of visiting the cave)
    is enough to shake the strongest nerves;’ and he recommends no
    one to venture, as ‘the path is so narrow that it is impossible
    to turn round, consequently a person who should set out must
    go all the way.’ I believe I am naturally cowardly. I have,
    however, I hope educated myself to face danger as well as most
    men. I therefore feel a pleasure and an interest in voluntarily
    putting my courage to the test, and I am proud when I find
    I can do that which other people pronounce to be difficult.
    Arthur would not venture to the edge of the cliff; but, after
    taking off my coat, I proceeded down the path, followed by
    Frederic. At first the path is protected by a projecting rock,
    which forms a kind of breastwork on the sea side, but after a
    few yards there is no protection whatever. I found the path
    better than I had expected; but it is very steep and narrow,
    and, besides slanting in length towards the cave, has a side
    slant towards the sea. There were several loose stones upon
    it, which made the danger so much the greater; some of these
    upon the least touch fell into the sea. It was with some
    difficulty I overcame an involuntary feeling of the necessity
    of leaping after them. The cave has nothing in itself to repay
    the danger of reaching it: the whole pleasure, indeed, consists
    in the danger overcome. Notwithstanding the accounts given
    by travellers, I turned back two or three times to see for
    Frederic. He ventured the greater part of the way; but when he
    came to a place where the path turned round a projecting part
    of the cliff, his courage failed him, and he hurried back. I
    must confess, however, that he accomplished more than I could
    have done at his age. I think the path was about twenty yards
    in length.”


In the summer of 1822 “Public Education” was published. Every effort
had been made to work up the school to a high degree of excellence. “I
am perfectly aware,” Rowland Hill wrote, “that much must be done before
our school is fully prepared to stand the minute, and, perhaps, in many
cases, invidious inspection which will take place in consequence of our
inviting attention. I am also convinced of the necessity of making very
vigorous improvements in my own mind. I hope I have already done much,
and I am determined to accomplish more.” The Exhibition, or Speech-day,
of June, 1822, had been a great success. “It was,” old Mr. Hill wrote to
his eldest son, “a night of triumphant excellence.” Under the date of
August 4th, 1822, Rowland Hill records in his Journal:—

    “We have every reason at present to be pleased with the
    reception the book has met with. It has not yet received much
    attention from reviewers. An article has, it is true, appeared
    in the ‘Monthly Magazine,’ speaking of it in terms of the
    highest praise, and it has been noticed in terms of general
    commendation in several of the newspapers; but I allude chiefly
    to the private expression of the opinions of people of the
    highest literary rank The book appears to interest its readers
    in a very unusual manner. It seems to be spreading a kind of
    education mania in the world.... Jeremy Bentham is a man who
    will not be forgotten in the world; though neglected by a great
    part of his countrymen, he is held in the highest esteem by the
    enlightened and honest.... To him, as the author of a work
    on education, and as a man of the greatest influence, Matthew
    presented a copy of our book. A short time after he received
    an invitation to dine with Mr. Bentham. He was received in the
    most flattering manner. Mr. Bentham informed him that, when
    he first saw the book, disgusted as he had often been by the
    vague generalities of treatises on education, he threw it aside
    without looking into it. Shortly after, however, he opened the
    book, with very slight hopes of discovering anything worth
    reading. His attention was very soon fixed; he gave it to his
    reader, a young man of seventeen, who, to use Mr. Bentham’s own
    phrase, went ‘chuckling all the way through it.’ Mr. Bentham
    was so delighted with the work that he kept it on a little
    shelf constantly within reach, and opened it many times during

Bentham sent a friend to inspect the school. “He certainly did not
neglect his duty, for he would take nothing on credit. Such inspections
as these, however, far from displeasing us, are exactly what we want.”

So favourable was the inspector’s report, that Bentham placed two Greeks
at Hazelwood at his own expense. He circulated the Magazine that the boys
published among his friends, and even sent a contribution to its pages in
a letter franked by Joseph Hume:—

                                “Queen’s Square Place, Westminster,
                                                 “April 11th, 1823.

    “Proposed for the ‘Hazelwood Magazine,’ with Mr. Bentham’s love
    to the good boys thereof, that they may consider which of the
    two modes of discipline is preferable.

    “_Extract from the_ MORNING CHRONICLE, _April 11th, 1823_.

    “‘AN ACTIVE SCHOOLMASTER.—According to the ‘German Pedagogic
    Magazine,’ vol. 3, p. 407, died lately in Spain, a schoolmaster
    who for fifty-one years had superintended a large institution
    with old-fashioned severity. From an average inferred by means
    of recorded observations, one of the ushers had calculated
    that in the course of his exertions he had given 911,500
    canings, 124,000 floggings, 209,000 custodes, 136,000 tips with
    the ruler, and 22,700 tasks to get by heart. It was further
    calculated that he made 700 boys stand on peas, 600 kneel on a
    sharp edge of wood, 5,000 wear the fool’s cap, and 1,700 hold
    the rod. How vast the quantity of human misery inflicted by a
    single perverse educator.’—_Whitehaven Gazette._”

Bentham wrote to Dr. Parr “in high terms of the system, saying that
it had caused him to throw aside all he had done himself.” He kept up
his interest in the school, and some years later, in company with Mrs.
Grote, at whose house he was staying, visited Rowland Hill at Bruce
Castle. “Mr. Bentham,” he wrote on September 15th, 1827, “paid us a
visit on Wednesday, and went away highly delighted. I never saw him in
such spirits before. It is the first time he has left his home since his
return from Paris (in 1825).” The fame of Hazelwood rapidly spread. The
Greek Committee placed two young Greeks in the school:—

    “His Excellency the Tripolitan Ambassador 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. The Persian Ambassador also
    thinks it would be much to the advantage of the monarchy he
    represents to put a few persons under our guidance. If these
    worthies should come, we must look out for a Mosque.”

“We will rejoice over them,” wrote old Mr. Hill to his son, “when
winds and seas have wafted them to port. Think not this proceeds
from incredulity. So much good fortune as to be the means of sending
civilization, and of darting one ray of liberty upon the wilds of Africa,
seems too much to hope for.”

Wilberforce, the venerable champion of negro emancipation, and Grote, the
future historian of Greece, went to Birmingham to inspect the school.
Grote heard the boys construe Homer. Even at that time enough was known
of his studies in Greek to make the young master who was taking the
class feel not a little nervous. Two of Mrs. Grote’s nephews were removed
from Eton and placed at Hazelwood. Five years later Grote, writing to
Rowland Hill to introduce a friend, says, “I have taken the liberty of
mentioning to him the high opinion which I entertain of the Hazelwood
system.” The elder of the two nephews on leaving Cambridge went over to
Stockholm as a kind of apostle of the new learning. “Public Education”
had been translated into Swedish by Count Frölich, and a company was
formed in Sweden to found a “Hillian School.” Professor Säve, of the
University of Upsala, stayed a month at Hazelwood, carefully studying the
system. But even a Professor could not master such a system in a month,
and aid was called for from England. The young Cambridge man offered
himself as a volunteer in the great cause. He went over to Stockholm,
and for many a year helped to keep the faith pure and undefiled in the
_Hillska Skola_.

Lord John Russell sent Dr. Maltby to inspect the school, and Dr. Maltby
some years later on, when Bishop of Durham, gave out the prizes. “The
number of visitors here,” wrote Mr. M. D. Hill when on a visit to his
father’s house, “is immense. It is quite a nuisance. They sometimes have
three or four parties at a time, and not a day passes without some.”
The Marquis of Lansdowne, the Earl of Clarendon, Lord Auckland, Lord
Kinnaird, Sir George Napier, Sir George Pollock, Brougham, De Quincey,
Roscoe, Malthus, Joseph Hume, Nassau Senior, Robert Owen, W. J. Fox,
Basil Hall, Babbage, and Lardner were all interested in Hazelwood,
and not a few of them sent pupils there. Some of them even wished to
reform the constitution. “We have had, on the whole,” wrote old Mr.
Hill to his son, “a pleasant interview with Mr. Hume and Dr. Gilchrist.
They wish to set us right in two important particulars. First—That we
should compel all to remain when the Committee comes to be chosen.
Second—That the votes be all secret on that and all other occasions. We
are quite obstinate on both questions, and, in conformity with usage,
persist in old ways. You will be most highly amused with the honourable
gentleman’s penetrative inspection, when it shall become safe to tell
all. He is, however, a right good fellow. The Doctor set out with a
grammatical examination, but presently delapsed into an etymological
disquisition and lecture, exquisitely amusing and, as I maintain, highly
instructive.” In January, 1825, “Public Education” was criticised in
the “Edinburgh Review,” and criticised in the most friendly spirit.
The “London Magazine” followed a year later with a long, and a still
more friendly, article by De Quincey. M. Jullien, the editor of the
“Revue Encyclopédique,” himself inspected the school, and then published
in his Review an article on the book. The ex-President of the United
States, Thomas Jefferson, who was at that time organising the University
of Virginia, sent for the work. Mr. Bowring wrote to say that he had
himself sent out a copy to the President of Haiti. Many pupils were sent
to Hazelwood from abroad, chiefly from the newly-founded Republics of
South America. The school almost at one bound sprang into fame. “It was
a celebrity,” Rowland Hill wrote in his old age “which I now think was
excessive, and which was followed in some instances by disappointment.”
Yet at the time it might well have seemed to the young man that his
early dreams were not the children of an idle brain. He might well
have thought that he had already done much towards rendering his name
illustrious in after ages.[63] In his letters, however, I find few signs
of triumph. In his Journal, unfortunately, a break of many years begins
about this time. He had begun to keep it for the sake of practice in
composition, and his lesson was now learnt. “I can now employ my time to
greater advantage, and I rather grudge the little attention which I still
devote to my history.”

His health was breaking down under his heavy labour. Writing to his
eldest brother a fortnight after the beginning of the summer holidays of
1822, he says:—

    “You complain, and with justice, that I do not write to you.
    To tell the truth, since the holidays commenced I have done
    nothing at all. I can scarcely say how the time has passed;
    all I know is that it is gone. The exertions previous to the
    exhibition were succeeded by a languor of which I have not yet
    been able to rid myself. It was not my intention to have left
    home these holidays, for there is much that I wish to do, but
    every one tells me I am thin and pale.... Arthur and Frederic
    are much in the same predicament with myself.”

He had much wanted, he said, to go to Scotland, with letters of
introduction to the officer who was conducting the trigonometrical
survey. Owen’s establishment at New Lanark had also “a strong magnetic
influence.” A year later (1823) he again excuses his neglect to write to
his brother. “Writing a letter always costs me a headache.” He had just
enjoyed a six weeks’ tour through the north of England and Scotland:—

    “Through Westmoreland and Cumberland I of course walked, and
    never spent four days more pleasantly than in viewing the
    delightful scenery those counties afford. At New Lanark I was
    received in the most hospitable manner by the Owens. I spent
    two days and a-half there very pleasantly and profitably. In
    the management of the children neither rewards nor punishments
    are employed. The consequences are that the children appear
    very happy, very healthy, many very intelligent, and many
    very inattentive and disorderly; but when I consider that the
    children in the schools are nearly all under ten years of age,
    and that what they are taught is effected without any pain
    whatever being intentionally inflicted, I cannot be sure that
    theirs is not the correct mode of proceeding.”

During this tour he was free from pain nearly all the time:—

    “But the very morning after my return the pain returned, and
    has not yet left me, though it is not so bad as at first....
    I am cruelly disappointed to find that so much time and money
    should have been expended to so little purpose, as it at
    present appears.”

Three months later he describes his fear of a relapse into “the maddening
state of mind” from which he had but lately escaped.

In the spring of 1824 he writes:—

    “I cannot condense my efforts as I used to do. I am obliged to
    take more time for everything.”

A few months later his brother Matthew writes to him:—

    “I am very glad to hear of your recovery. If I were you, I
    would let the exhibition go to the Devil rather than overwork
    myself.... Depend upon it, you will never be paid either in
    fame or profit for any exertion in that barren spot. Spare
    yourself for better times.”

When the summer holidays began, he took a trip to Paris:—

    “I visited one of the floating baths on the Seine, when,
    forgetful of my weak state, I plunged at once into deep water.
    Immediately the attendants hurried forward to my rescue with
    long, slender poles, like boat-hooks, and were very angry, as
    though I had intended suicide. And, in fact, I found that I was
    quite too weak to swim.”

It was in vain that his brother urged him to spare himself. Whatever he
put his hand to, he did with all his might. A year later (September,
1825) he was once more dangerously ill. “Mr. Hodgson,”[64] his father
wrote, “prohibits all hints even about business. He says that the
serious aspect assumed by the carbuncle is clearly the effect of mental
excitation, and that your brother’s is the first instance of such a turn
in a person under forty that has come under his observation.... It is a
sad thing to be paralysed at the instant of high water in our affairs.
Disappointment is, however, no new thing to us, and patience may work a
retrieval, as it has done in times past.”

Two days later he again writes:—

    “Though it were vain to disguise the fears which intrude
    themselves on your mother’s mind and my own, still we have Mr.
    Hodgson’s assurance that all will go well, provided the dear
    boy’s mind can be kept from painful excitement.... Mr. Hodgson
    has told your mother that, as soon as Rowland recovers, he
    shall strongly advise him, as a medical friend, to abandon any
    plan that shall demand unusual energy. These, my dear boy, are
    damping suggestions. My fear is that they will be unavailing,
    and that a life so truly valuable will be lost in splendid but
    abortive efforts.”

The severe operations which he had to undergo he bore with the utmost
fortitude. During the worst of them he never uttered a sound, but merely
said when it was over, “Come, that’s no trifle.” Bodily pain at all times
of his life he endured with silent patience.

It was fortunate that there was no sense of failure in his plans to
heighten his illness. He had none of that misery to encounter which, as
he had written, would come upon him should Hazelwood not succeed. His
success seemed complete. In 1819 the new school-house had opened with
sixty-six pupils. Year after year for seven years the numbers steadily
rose till, by 1826, there were 150. Rugby did not at that time number so
many. When he was lying on his sick-bed his father wrote—“Applications
(for admittance) are almost become a source of anxiety, unless they
were made pleasant by a greater portion of health and strength to meet
them.” I have been told by one who was then living in Birmingham that
so great for a time was the eagerness to get boys into Hazelwood that,
when the school was full, strangers often sought the advocacy of a common
friend, in the hope of still securing a place for their son. The very
thoroughness of the success was a great misfortune. The steady growth of
the new school during its first few years was due to its real merits.
The two youngest sons had joined their elder brothers in the management,
and for some years there were four of them all working harmoniously
together, and with the greatest energy. “Public Education” did not at
first rapidly swell the numbers. But when Jeffrey in the “Edinburgh
Review,” and De Quincey in the “London Magazine,” both blew a loud blast
in its praise, then the tide of prosperity set in with far too sudden
and too full a flood. The heads of the young schoolmasters were by no
means turned by their success. They found themselves confronted with
fresh difficulties. Rowland Hill had before this become painfully aware
of his own shortcomings. But these were brought more than ever home to
him by his very success, for it lifted him at once into a higher class
of society. Men of rank and men of learning sent their children to be
educated at Hazelwood. The expectations that “Public Education” raised
were undoubtedly too high. The young authors wrote with thorough honesty.
But they were writing about their own inventions and their own schemes;
and, like all other inventors and schemers, they had a parental fondness
for the offspring of their own brains. The rapid increase in the number
of pupils was, moreover, as it always must be, a great source of danger
to the discipline. In any school it is always a very hazardous time when
the proportion of new boys is large. But in such a school as Hazelwood,
with its complicated system of self-government, the hazard must have been
unusually great. Out of 117 boys, with whom the school opened in January,
1825, only sixty-three had been in it more than seven months. At the very
time, therefore, when Rowland Hill might with good reason have looked to
enjoy some rest from his prolonged toil, a fresh strain was thrown upon
him. It is not wonderful that he sank under it for a time, almost broken,
as it seemed, in health and spirits.

In the midst of his hard work, a few months before the second of the two
illnesses, he had been suddenly called upon to face a new difficulty. He
had been bent on founding a great school, which should serve as a kind
of model to the whole country. “I had refrained from writing to you,” he
wrote to his eldest brother, when he was regaining his strength, “because
I knew it to be important to my speedy recovery to keep down as much as
possible all those associations connected with the little school, and
with the great school, which so uniformly arise in my mind whenever I
write to you, let the subject be what it may.”

Even so early as the year 1820 he had recorded in his Journal:—

    “All our plans are necessarily calculated for great numbers,
    and I contend that, where the strength of the teachers is
    proportionate, a school cannot be too numerous. If we had 500
    instead of 70 boys, I would make this place a Paradise. Till we
    have some such number, the effects of our system, great as they
    have already been, cannot be justly appreciated. I have some
    hopes that in time we may be able to explode the foolish ideas
    that private education and limited numbers are desirable.”

A few years later he began to see that it was not in a suburb of
Birmingham that even he could make a Paradise. He saw that to carry out
his plans the day must come when he should move to the neighbourhood
of London. There was still much, he felt, to be done before he should
be ready to take this step. But from a clear sky there came a clap of
thunder. He was suddenly filled with alarm lest his plans should be
forestalled. He was startled to learn that Bentham had one day said to
Matthew Hill, “I have been thinking whether, if a sucker were taken from
your Hazelwood tree and planted near London, it would grow.” In February,
1825, Matthew wrote that Brougham had just told him that he, John
Smith,[65] and James Mill had resolved to found a school at London on
the Hazelwood plan immediately. “Brougham has some money in hand, and J.
Smith has offered to find the rest at four per cent. Brougham says that
Burdett, Hobhouse, and Mill are strongly in favour of Hazelwood.”[66]
Rowland Hill was not a little alarmed at the news, and with some reason,
too. “Will it not be well,” he wrote back to his brother, “to inform
Brougham that we have it in contemplation to establish a metropolitan
school ourselves? If he knows this already, I think his conduct is very
strange.” The brothers were not long in coming to a decision. They
resolved to act upon Bentham’s thought with all speed, and plant near
London a sucker from the Hazelwood tree.


As soon as Rowland had somewhat recovered his strength, he began to
explore the country round London, in the quest after a suitable house.
The search was a long one. “I have,” he wrote in March, 1826, “with the
exception of a small district which I am just going to explore, and a
part of Essex, examined every great road from London.” At length his
efforts were crowned with success. In the old mansion which had for ages
borne the name of Bruce Castle, standing in the beautiful fragment of
what once had been a wide park, he found a home for his new school. He
had always been keenly alive to the charms both of scenery and antiquity.
Here he found the two happily combined. The park, indeed, was but small,
yet so thick was the foliage of the stately trees, and so luxuriant the
undergrowth of the shrubberies, that its boundaries failed to catch the
eye. High overhead the rooks, from time immemorial, had had their homes
in the lofty elms. The wood-pigeons built on the topmost branches of a
noble cedar of Lebanon, and the cuckoo, with his two-fold shout, never
forgot there the return of spring. The kingfisher has been seen perching
on a branch that overhung the pool in which the water-hen has reared
her young. Hard by the main building stood an ancient tower, where the
owls, year after year, made their nest—a tower which was standing when
Elizabeth visited the mansion, and when Henry VIII. met there his sister,
Queen Margaret of Scotland. Ancient though it is, it does not go back
to days when both the house and manor took their name from their owner,
the father of King Robert Bruce. The foundations of earlier buildings
have been found deep beneath the lawn. On two of the bricks of the house
there can still be read the first letters of names which were carved,
as the date tells, when a Stuart was King in England. Through a narrow
gate in the western boundary of the park, the path leads, across a quiet
lane, into the churchyard. Here, as tradition told, the wall had been
broken down when the last of the Lords Coleraine died, who had once
owned the manor, and through the gap the body had been carried to its
resting-place. Close by this little gate rose a graceful Lombardy poplar
to the height of 100 feet—a landmark to all the country round. Through
the trees, when winter had stripped them of their leaves, was seen from
the windows of the Castle an ancient church-tower of singular beauty: ivy
had covered it to the coping-stone with the growth of full two hundred
years. When the foliage of summer hid it from the view, nevertheless it
made its presence known by a peal of bells famous for their sweetness.
The sound of the summoning bell might well inspire lofty thoughts and
high aims, for it had once hung in the Citadel of Quebec, and had rung
out the alarm when Wolfe stormed the heights of Abraham. The bells still
remain, but the ivy has yielded to the ruthless hand of an ignorant
restorer. The tower is ivy-mantled no more; and the graceful work of two
long centuries has been in a moment wantonly cast away.

This beautiful home was doubly endeared to Rowland Hill, for here he
brought his bride, and here he spent the first six years of his wedded
life. In the same summer that he left Hazelwood he had married the
playmate of his childhood. His affection for her had grown with his
growth, and had never for a moment wavered. He had long loved her
with the deep but quiet love of a strong nature. He was no Orlando to
character his thoughts on the barks of trees. Even to his Journal,
though he kept it hidden from every eye but his own, he never entrusted
his secret. Two years before he kept his golden wedding-day he noticed,
it would seem, this silence so uncommon in a lover. “From motives of
delicacy,” he noted down, “I avoided in my Journal all mention of my
early attachment to C——.” If his early records were silent in her praise,
yet, when he came to write the history of the great work of his life, he
spoke out with no uncertain accents. “I cannot record my marriage,” he
wrote, “without adding that my dear wife’s help in my subsequent toils,
and not least in those best known to the public, was important, perhaps
essential, to their success.” An old-fashioned friend of his family, who
knew well how hard she had laboured in helping her husband in his great
work, on hearing some one say that Mr. Rowland Hill was the Father of
Penny Postage, quaintly remarked, “Then I know who was its Mother. It was
his wife.”


The family group at Hazelwood, of which Rowland Hill had for many years
formed the central figure, began with his settlement at Bruce Castle
to break up. It had from time to time been lessened by the marriage
of a child; nevertheless, four sons and a daughter had been left, who
lived year after year under their parents’ roof in harmony and with
great singleness of heart. “In our course through life,” he said in a
passage which I once more quote, “from the beginning to the present hour,
each one of us has been always ready to help the others to the best
of his power; and no one has failed to call for such assistance again
and again.” How great was the aid that he afforded his brothers, they
gratefully acknowledged. One of them, writing to him a few years after he
had left Hazelwood, said:—

    “No one, I am sure, can forget for many hours together that the
    family owes much more to you than to any other member—that, in
    fact, the sacrifices you have made, and the energy and talent
    you have brought to bear on its advancement ought to obtain
    for you the constant acknowledgments and gratitude of all.
    Arthur and I frequently avow this in our private conversation.
    I think, too, you show beyond dispute that you have been more
    persevering than most of us in your pursuits, even though you
    were not allowed to choose your profession.”

In the time of their tribulation and in the time of their wealth, the
brothers were equally united. Many years they had passed in breathing—

    “The keen, the wholesome air of poverty;
    And drinking from the well of homely life.”

Not a few years had they now enjoyed of prosperity. But prosperity had
no power to snap that bond which had been knitted in adversity. “The
whole family participated in my joy,” wrote Rowland, when, as a boy of
thirteen, he won the drawing prize. Throughout life, every prize that he
won—every prize that any of them won—was a matter of rejoicing to all.
“The spirit of co-operation was recommended to us,” the brothers wrote,
“by our parents—during their lives and on their death-beds.” An instance
of this may be seen in the following letter, written to Rowland Hill by
his father:—

                                             “_September 17, 1827._

    “MY DEAR SON,—This day thirty-five years ago I lost my beloved
    brother Matthew. Dating this letter first brought into my
    mind the recollection of the circumstance that this was the
    melancholy anniversary, which is marked in my mind more than
    any other day of the year. Nor have I a wish that such might
    not be the case. To see my children united, as they are, in
    strong fraternal affection is doubly delightful, as it so
    forcibly reminds me of that which subsisted between my brother
    and myself to the moment of his death, and which will remain
    with me till quenched by the corresponding event. The sorrows
    of such feelings you know to be preferable to the joys of
    anti-social gratifications.”

On this spirit they all steadily acted. I have come across an old letter
in which the eldest son wrote to ask Rowland for his help in a matter
of great moment. It so happened that the request came at a time when he
could be but ill spared from his school. He answered:—

    “As we cannot, from ignorance of many of the facts, judge how
    far my going is important to your interests, I will state to
    you the sacrifice on our part, and then leave the decision
    in your hands, begging of you to determine the question with
    reference to the total amount of advantage, and not caring
    whether the sacrifice is on our side or yours.”

He states at length the difficulties under which he himself lies; and
thus concludes:—

    “You know us too well to suspect us of unwillingness to assist
    in promoting your success in life. If the probable advantage to
    yourself, and through you to the other members of the family,
    will, in your opinion, outweigh the probable inconveniences
    which we may sustain, pray say so without the slightest
    reserve, and I will meet you at the time appointed.”

When he was first made a partner in the school, he recorded in his
Journal: “I do not know whether my father intends to give me a share of
the profits of the business, and I shall say nothing about it myself till
he can better afford it.” It would seem that for the next nine years
he altogether forgot to say anything about it, for it was not till the
time of his marriage that any division was made of the common stock.
The father and mother and the four sons who had been concerned in the
management of the school had hitherto lived like the early Christians:
“Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed
was his own; but they had all things common.” “I suppose,” writes one
of the survivors of this band of brothers, “when any one was about to
incur a larger expense than usual, as for a long journey, he must have
mentioned the matter to the others, and so obtained at least a tacit
consent; but there was nothing formal in the matter, nor can I remember a
single discussion on the subject; for each knowing the family necessities
acted accordingly. Of any separate fund possessed by any single member
I have no recollection.” To hold property in common for many years would
generally put family concord to a severe strain. To divide it might,
perhaps, put it to one still more severe. Happily in the division that
now took place the strain was not felt. The second son, Edwin, who up to
this time had had no share in the school, was made arbitrator, and he
apportioned the common property, which was of no inconsiderable amount,
among his parents and his brothers. “I have,” he wrote, “considered the
property as having been accumulated within the last twelve years, and I
have supposed that the efforts of each brother were equally efficient
at the same age. I suppose accumulation to begin with the age of twenty
years. The value of the services of each I have assumed to increase with
the age of each, and in the proportion of age.”

The brothers now drew up Articles of Partnership. The two schools were
to be managed as one business. The parents retired, but their place
was filled up by the second son and his wife. The Twelfth Article of
Partnership was as follows:—

    “From a consideration that it is far more important that each
    claimant should receive enough money to enable him to defray
    the reasonable expenses of his maintenance, clothing, &c., than
    that some should be accumulating property, whilst others might
    be running in debt, it was determined that should the profits
    in any one year ever fall so low as not to yield more than the
    estimated amount of the necessary expenses of each claimant
    for that year, the proportions recorded above shall no longer
    be observed, and the following sums (which are considered as
    equivalent to such necessary expenditure) shall be substituted
    in their stead.”

The “necessary expenditure of each claimant” was calculated by the number
of people whom he had to support. For each of the three unmarried
brothers it was fixed at the same amount. The two married brothers were
each to be allowed between two and three times as much as a bachelor.
If in any year there were not profits enough made to supply even the
“necessary expenditure,” each claimant, nevertheless, could draw upon the
general fund for “the stated sum.” In more years than one it happened
that “the total of profits arising from all sources did not equal the
expenses incurred in the maintenance of the families.” The profits
were then divided “according to the plan provided to meet such a case,
namely, that each partner have a share proportioned to his estimated
reasonable expenses.” The more children a partner had, the larger share
he received. In this arrangement there was, it must be allowed, something
not altogether in accordance with the principles laid down by Mr. Malthus.

When, some years later, the school partnership was dissolved, a plan for
mutual insurance was at once formed by Rowland Hill and the three other
surviving partners under the name of _The Family Fund_:—

    “To afford to each a security, to a certain extent, against
    future suffering from poverty, and to secure to all such
    advantages of union as are perfectly consistent with the
    non-existence of a partnership, it is further agreed to form
    a fund, to be called the Family Fund, to be applied to the
    relief of any of the undersigned, or their wives, or their
    descendants, who, in the opinion of the Managers of the Fund,
    may require such relief.

    “The Managers of the Fund to consist of the survivors among the
    undersigned, or such other persons as the Managers, for the
    time being, may appoint in writing.

    “The Managers to have the uncontrolled disposal of the Fund, as
    regards both principal and interest.”

Each brother was to begin by contributing to the fund a considerable sum
of money, “and, further, one-half of the surplus of his annual clear
earnings (exclusive of the proceeds of investments) over his reasonable
expenses.” The surplus earnings were to be taken on a series of years. An
estimate, varying in each case, was adopted of the reasonable expenses
of each brother. While they considered it expedient, they said, to leave
themselves and their successors unfettered in the management of the fund,
they, nevertheless, thought that it might be useful to put on record some
of their views. From these views I extract the following:—

    “That anyone possessing an interest in the Fund should be
    considered as entitled to relief, if in circumstances much
    depressed as compared with the others, though not in absolute

    “That so long, however, as he is able, without great
    embarrassment, to draw on his own capital, his claim to relief
    should not be admitted.

    “That in determining the amount of relief, regard should be had
    to the propriety or impropriety of the conduct which has led to
    its necessity.

    “That at occasional annual meetings,—say once in ten years,—it
    is desirable to consider whether it might not be expedient
    to close the Family Fund account, and divide the whole among
    the undersigned, or their wives and their descendants. It
    is the present opinion of the undersigned that such a step
    will probably be expedient, when all their children shall
    have attained adult age, with a view, perhaps, of a similar
    arrangement being entered into by such of their descendants as
    may desire it.

    “That in the ultimate division of the Fund, regard should
    be had first to the unmerited necessities of the respective
    families; secondly, to the amount of aid which shall have been
    previously afforded to each from the Fund; and, lastly, to the
    total amount contributed.”

The Family Fund existed for many years. At last it had done its work,
and it was brought to a close. Whereupon the four brothers issued the
following address to “the junior members of the Hill family”:—

    “Many of you know that until lately there existed, under
    the name of the Family Fund, a joint property formed by
    contributions from several members of the family, and intended
    to serve as a security against pecuniary distress on the part
    either of the subscribers, or of those immediately dependent
    on them. As each of us who did so subscribe subsequently
    accumulated property sufficient for the limited security
    required, as the above arrangement was attended with trouble,
    and, in the unsatisfactory state of the laws respecting
    property, might, at some future time, have caused serious
    difficulties, we brought it to a close, and divided the
    property of which we had thus been joint owners.

    “As this dissolution is liable to misapprehension, we think
    it may be useful to you to be informed that it proceeds from
    no distrust of the principle on which the Family Fund was
    established; which, indeed, we still regard as perfectly sound
    in itself, and, under a better state of the law, equally
    applicable to any set of persons who, having confidence in each
    other, are yet, individually, of such limited means, as to
    stand exposed to risk of pecuniary difficulties.

    “The principle involved is simply that of insurance, founded
    on the undoubted fact that want is a greater evil than
    wealth, beyond a simple competence, is a benefit; and that,
    consequently, where the income is either terminable or
    uncertain, it is wise, after providing the necessaries of
    life, to employ at least a part of the remainder in purchasing
    security for the future.

    “We may add that in such a union, beyond the mere material
    benefit, there naturally arises a moral influence of
    considerable power; and of this we have experienced the
    advantage; our connection having been sufficiently close to
    give to each of us, in a great measure, the benefit of the
    experience, knowledge, and judgment, of all the others, and to
    secure to each that friendly advice of which every one, some
    time or other, stands in need.

    “We attribute such success as has attended our family, and
    such respect as it has obtained, very much to the spirit
    of co-operation which was recommended to us by our parents
    during their lives and on their death-beds; and which we, in
    turn, living and dying, would recommend to our successors
    as amongst the best means of enabling them to do good to
    themselves individually and collectively, and no less to their
    fellow-creatures at large.

                                                    “EDWIN HILL,
                                                    “ROWLAND HILL,
                                                    “ARTHUR HILL,
                                                    “FREDERIC HILL.

    “Bruce Castle, Tottenham, _July, 1856_.”

As they trusted each other for aid in case of need, so at all times did
they look to each other for counsel. The affairs of all were known to
each. At every important turn, each sought the judgment of all. “I have
mentioned your advice to the Family Council,” wrote Rowland Hill, in the
year 1825, to his eldest brother. “After some discussion, the following
agreement was come to.” In describing a decision to which he came twelve
years after this date, he writes: “As usual in cases of great difficulty,
I consulted my father and my brothers.” Eleven years later he entered in
his Journal: “E. H., A. H., F. H., and I, met to consult on the steps
to be taken in consequence of the Postmaster-General’s communication,
and decided what should be done. These family consultations are a great
aid to me.” When he was bringing the great work of his life to a close,
he did not, he writes, send in his resignation, as Secretary to the
Post-office, till he had first consulted his brothers. The following
letter, which he wrote to his eldest brother, shows, not only how
strongly he felt the advantages of this family union, but also how ready
he always was to own, and own to the full, how much he himself had owed
to it:—

                                    “Hampstead, 4th December, 1867.

    “MY DEAR MATTHEW,—Thank you very much for your kind and
    affectionate letter. Fortunately, the members of our family
    have always been ready to assist one another—consequently, each
    has worked with the combined force of all. This was markedly
    the case as regards Penny Postage, as I have endeavoured to
    show in the history. But for your great help and that of our
    brothers, I should have accomplished but little.

    “No one, I am sure, has a better right to draw consolation from
    past services than yourself. Not only have you individually and
    directly effected a vast amount of good, but you have been the
    pioneer for us all.

                    “Very affectionately yours,

                                                    “ROWLAND HILL.”

    [_A fac-simile of this letter is given over-leaf._]

In the earlier meetings of the Family Council, rules were sometimes laid
down for their own guidance. Some of the brothers took too little heed
to what they said before outsiders; and, when politics or religion was
the subject of talk, forgot that they were schoolmasters, and spoke out
with the freedom of men. The Council accordingly passed the following
resolution: “It is our opinion that when anyone, by announcing an
opinion, or by a mode of expression, has startled his hearers, that
circumstance is a strong presumptive proof that he has done an injury to
himself.” This is worthy of La Rochefoucauld himself, and yet it was but
little acted on, it would seem, by some of the members. Rowland Hill,
writing to one of his brothers about the time when this resolution was
passed, says: “In making your own conduct conform to that which we all
agree to be right, you exercise a degree of self-control which no other
member of the family has ever evinced.” It was to this rule, I have no
doubt, that he was referring. At another meeting of the Council, I find
it recorded: “It is desirable to settle how far perfection of speculative
opinion should be sacrificed to practical effect.” The question, I fear,
remains unsettled to the present day.

[Illustration: [FAC-SIMILE OF LETTER.]]

[Illustration: [FAC-SIMILE OF LETTER.]]

This curious league of the brothers was due to many causes. From
childhood they had been steadily trained up in it by their parents.
They had long lived all together under the same roof. The eldest son,
who left home at an earlier age than any of the rest, did not finally
quit it till he was six-and-twenty. Each had a thorough knowledge of the
character of all the rest, and this knowledge resulted in thorough trust.
They had all come to have a remarkable agreement on most points—not
only of principle, but also of practice. The habits of one, with but
few exceptions, were the habits of all. He who had ascertained what
one brother thought on any question would not have been likely to go
wrong, had he acted on the supposition that he knew what was thought by
all. They were all full of high aims—all bent on “the accomplishment of
things permanently great and good.” There was no room in their minds for
the petty thoughts of jealous spirits. Each had that breadth of view
which enables a man to rise above all selfish considerations. Each had
been brought up to consider the good of his family rather than his own
peculiar good, and to look upon the good of mankind as still higher than
the good of his family. Each was deeply convinced of the great truth
which Priestley had discovered, and Bentham had advocated—that the object
of all government, and of all social institutions, should be the greatest
happiness of the greatest number for the greatest length of time. In
their youth their aims were often visionary; but they were always high
and noble. If they were daring enough to attempt to improve mankind, they
were, at all events, wise enough to begin their task by setting about
to improve themselves. One of the brothers had by nature a hot temper.
He was, as a boy, “jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel.” He
was the first of them “deliberately and seriously to adopt the maxim
which treats all anger as folly.... Having arrived at a principle, and
that while yet a youth, he strove earnestly, and with great success, to
reduce it to practice.” Certainly his latter years were all placidity.
Another brother had convinced himself “that men become what they are,
not of themselves, but by birth, education, fellowship, and other
such influences; and, therefore, he regarded the slightest approach to
vindictive feeling as both wrong and foolish.” Whatever wrongs he has
suffered through life—and he has had his share—he has never suffered
the pure benevolence of his soul to be for one moment clouded over by
resentment. In truth, they all, at all times, with set purpose, aimed at
placing themselves under the guidance of reason.

They had all been trained by their father from their earliest years to
reason, and to reason not for victory but for truth. As the family day
by day gathered for its meals—meals of the most frugal kind, where, for
many years, nothing stronger than water was drunk—there was often held a
debate on—

            “Labour and the changing mart,
    And all the framework of the land.”

In this debate all, parents and children alike, were on an equality.
Age was never put forward as a substitute for argument. There had been
little timidity in any of them in their early days, and little fear of
pushing any principle to its extreme consequences. “Keble,” writes Dr.
Newman,[67] “was a man who guided himself and formed his judgments, not
by processes of reason, by inquiry, or by argument, but, to use the word
in a broad sense, by authority.” Rowland Hill, and the other members of
his family, were the exact opposite of Keble. They cared nothing for
authority in the sense in which Dr. Newman uses the word. On reason,
inquiry, and argument, and on them alone, were their judgments formed.

Into such questions as these the elder of the two sisters entered with
scarcely less eagerness than her brothers. She had the same “hereditary
detestation of tyranny and injustice,” and the same “ardent zeal in
the cause of civil and religious freedom.” She was as thorough-going a
reformer as any of them—“yet a Woman too.” She had her brother Rowland’s
high courage and his quiet fortitude also. At the time of the fire at
Hazelwood she was but a girl: yet so great were the efforts that she
then made that she injured her spine. A year and a-half she was forced
to spend on the couch. “Her household motions, light and free” as they
had hitherto been, were suddenly checked. “Nevertheless, throughout
this long period,” says one, who spent much of the time with her, “no
murmur was ever heard.” We, who knew her only in her latter years, let
our memory dwell, with a pleasure and a consolation that never fail, on
her wonderful equanimity, her gentle disposition, and her comprehensive
love. The few who can remember her girlhood say that it showed the woman
“as morning shows the day.” She married early, but she married the warm
friend of all her brothers—the upright son of the upright schoolmaster
who, for conscience sake, had braved the violence of a furious mob.[68]
Her new home was close to Hazelwood, and so by her marriage the family
circle was rather widened than narrowed. The younger sister was an
invalid from her infancy. Her disposition was gentle and loving, but
throughout her short life she was one who was much more called upon to
bear than to do.

“An awful blank” was made in the family group by the death of Howard,
the youngest son. He bore the name of the great and good man whose
friendship to his father’s uncle was the boast of his family. Had he been
granted a long life even that high name might have received from him
fresh honour. He was but five-and-twenty years old when he was cut off by
consumption. Like many another who has suffered under that malady, he was
happily buoyed up by hope nearly to the end. Almost up to his last day
the light of a bright vision, on which he had for some time dwelt, had
not faded away from his sky. “He was bent on showing the world an example
of a community living together on principles strictly social.” He had
saved some money, and all that he had, and himself too, he was ready to
sacrifice for the good of his community. Much time he purposed to spend
in travelling on foot gathering information, and still more time was to
be spent in acquiring the power of enduring bodily toil. He hoped that
others would contribute towards the furtherance of his scheme, but he
would accept, he said, no contribution as a loan. His colony he meant to
settle with foundling children of the age of two years.

    “Whether I should begin with one or ten infants, or any
    intermediate number, would chiefly depend on the amount of
    contributions raised. I would not take more than ten for the
    first year, and should afterwards increase according to my
    power, aiming to about twenty-five of each sex. These children
    I should endeavour to instruct to maintain and enjoy life by
    co-operative exertions.”

His utilitarianism was of no narrow kind. His aim was the highest
development of his pupils, both morally and intellectually. He was eager
to begin at once, but if his brothers could for awhile but ill spare his
services he was willing to wait. “It must, however, be remembered,” he
wrote, “that as the success of the experiment much depends on my power
of conforming to a new mode of life, every delay by which my present
necessarily expensive and insincere habits are continually strengthened
greatly increases the difficulty of the proposed undertaking.” He would
have, he well knew, to face the judgment of the world, which is always
hard on those founders of new republics or novel communities who venture
to lay their foundations outside Utopia or below the sky.

    “I am almost careless of the opinion of others, and am
    labouring to make myself quite insensible to any expression of
    either praise or blame. Further, I propose to seclude myself
    and _protegés_ as far as is practicable for about fifteen

He died at an age when the growth of the mind in all who strive after
knowledge is very rapid. Had he lived a few years longer, he would
have seen that the world, as a whole, is wiser than any one man in it,
and that total seclusion from it is the worst of all trainings for the
young. But death swept him away, and there is nothing left of him save
“a fragment from his dream of human life.” The world never knew his
great worth, and his brothers never forgot it. “Time, and the ordinary
current of events,” wrote one of them to his father, “have had their
ordinary effect of deadening the acuteness of our feelings, but at
present the world wears but a dreary aspect to me.” “Believe me, my
beloved son,” wrote the bereaved father a few weeks later, “that whenever
troubles assail us we mechanically turn to thoughts of our children for
comfort.... That you and all our offspring may be as fortunate as we
respecting this first of parental rewards, the prudence and integrity of
children, is our most earnest prayer. Greater good luck it were useless
to hope for, almost impious to desire.”

The vision that another brother raised was of a very different kind. “He
had read Adam Smith’s great work as if it had been an attractive novel.”
Political economy became his favourite study. Huskisson had just entered
upon his reforms of our fiscal system, and the youth longed to play his
part in the great work of improvement that seemed at length to have
fairly begun. For him the school was too small a stage. “He longed for a
wider scope, and, above all, a greater power of doing good.” Huskisson
must surely stand in need, he thought, of more enlightened assistants
than he had at present. Was not his progress along the path of reform
timid and slow, and was not that owing to the fact that, in the offices
of Government, there were few to be found but men of routine and mummery?
He asked his eldest brother whether it would not be practicable to put
him under Huskisson’s wing. He was reminded of the boy who wished to go
apprentice to a bishop.

Such dreams as these were not unnatural in young men who had lived so
much to themselves. It was not till they were grown up that they began
at all to mix in the world. When Rowland Hill was twenty, he mentions in
his Journal two young men as “almost the only persons excepting our own
family with whom I am in habits of intimacy. Indeed, I enjoy so much the
society we have at home,” he says, “that I do not feel the want of a very
extensive circle of friends.” “They had a little ideal world of their
own,” said one who knew them well in those days. Such a world, however
noble it may be, has its own dangers. The high purpose, the fixed mind,
the unconquerable will, the courage never to submit or yield, may well
be nourished there; but it is on a wider stage that a man best learns to
measure life. They who do not master this lesson betimes find it a hard
thing to master it at all; for soon custom lies upon them with a weight—

    “Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life.”

From them no small part of the world is likely to remain hidden. To not
a little that men have thought and felt they remain insensible. They can
form a right judgment of those who differ from them only in opinion, but
they find it hard to understand any who go further than this, and differ
from them also in sentiment. Lord Macaulay had this defect in a striking
degree, and yet he had been brought up in a wider circle than the life of
a provincial town, and his mind ranged within no narrow bounds.[69]

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Some of the greatest benefactors of mankind would have held that, however
true this might be of Horatio, it could not rightfully be addressed to

When all that is needed is an appeal to reason and not to sentiment, then
in such men prejudices may quickly fall away. Like many another ardent
and honest reformer of those days, Rowland Hill had in his youth formed
a harsh judgment of the ruling classes. His father had belonged to a
small political club, which met once a week at the houses of the members.
“The conversation,” writes one of the brothers, “very commonly took a
political turn, the opinions on all sides savouring of the extreme, so
that my father was, by comparison, a moderate. It is notorious that men,
very remote from power, with its duties and responsibilities, are apt
to be extravagant in expectations and demands; and so it certainly was
here. ‘I would do thus,’ or ‘I would have this,’ were put forth in full
ignorance of what was practicable, sometimes of what was even desirable.
Such discourse could not but assist the bias already in our minds, so
that we grievously underrated the great actual advantages and high
comparative freedom which our country enjoyed.”

When Rowland Hill, on one of his early visits to London, first saw
Guildhall, he wrote in his Journal: “Much to the disgrace of the City
of London, the monument of Pitt remains there still.” In some later
year he placed opposite the word _disgrace_ a mark of interrogation.
Such feelings as these, which had been nursed in the worst days of Tory
rule, began to die out with the dawn of happier times. With the passing
of the great Reform Bill, all bitterness passed away from him and his
brothers. Nay even, into such good heart had they been put by the repeal
of the Test and Corporation Acts, Roman Catholic Emancipation, and the
Battle of Navarino, that, though the King was George IV., yet at a small
supper-party at Hazelwood one of them struck up, “The King: God bless
him,” and all joined heartily in the refrain. Their enthusiasm was partly
due to some spirited political verses composed and recited by Sheridan
Knowles, who happened to be one of the guests. “It was not without
considerable feeling,” wrote one of the brothers, “that we afterwards
learnt that, while this loyal effusion was pouring forth, the poor King
was dying.”

The removal to the neighbourhood of London at once opened to Rowland Hill
a wider world:—

    “In November, 1826 [he wrote], I assisted in founding the
    Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, which,
    commencing public operation in the following year, took
    so active and important a part in the creation of cheap
    literature. Though as a member of the committee[70] I took some
    share in the duty, I fear, upon reflection, that such aid as
    I was enabled to give was scarcely equivalent to the benefit
    which I derived from association with the able and eminent men
    with whom I was thus brought in contact.”

His residence at Bruce Castle he but briefly described in the Prefatory
Memoir to “The History of Penny Postage.” It was, to a great extent,
the life of a schoolmaster; and that life in the earlier part of the
narrative had been set forth at considerable length. The following is the
account he gave of these years:—

    “During a portion of 1829, and throughout the two following
    years, I occupied part of my leisure hours in devising means of
    measuring time, in connection with astronomical observations,
    more minutely than had hitherto been done. With this view I
    tried many experiments, and succeeded in carrying accuracy
    of measurement first to one-tenth, and by a subsequent
    improvement, to one-hundredth of a second. In June, 1832, I
    addressed a letter to the Council of the Astronomical Society,
    of which I had been a member for about seven years, showing
    the principle of my device, which is in some measure indicated
    by the name I gave it, viz., the ‘Vernier pendulum,’[71] and
    applying for the loan of one of the Society’s clocks, with a
    view to further experiment. This being granted, I continued my
    investigation for some time, when it was brought to a close
    by a circumstance which, combined with others, changed my
    whole course of life. I shall, therefore, only further remark
    that as the letter just mentioned records a piece of work to
    which I gave much time and thought, and of which I felt then,
    and perhaps feel still, a little proud, I have given it in
    Appendix D. My invention, I must add, never came into use,
    being superseded by an adaptation of electricity to the same
    purpose, which, while equal in accuracy, had the advantage of
    much readier use.

    “My health, which had already twice broken down under the
    weight of my work, now began to show signs of permanent
    injury; and I was becoming sensible of the necessity for some
    change, though to obtain this was no easy matter. Simple rest
    I feared would not answer the purpose, as my mind was likely,
    by mere force of habit, to revert to my suspended duties, and
    moreover to busy itself with anxiety about the little family
    now depending upon me. Change of occupation was, therefore,
    what I sought, and this was one motive to the astronomical
    investigations previously referred to. I found, however,
    that so long as I remained at my post, there was small hope
    of substantial benefit, and I began to consider the means of
    release. In 1831 I had prepared for Lord Brougham a paper which
    I entitled ‘Home Colonies: Sketch of a Plan for the Gradual
    Extinction of Pauperism and for the Diminution of Crime;’ and
    this, with Lord Brougham’s consent, was published in 1832.[72]
    My hope in writing it, beyond that of doing good, had been
    that it might lead to my temporary employment by Government in
    examination of the Home Colonies of Holland, which were at that
    time attracting much public attention, and seemed to afford
    valuable suggestions for the improvement of our own Poor Law
    Administration, then, as is well known, in a lamentable state.
    One great object of the plan, as set forth in my pamphlet, was
    the education of the pauper colonists. The pamphlet excited
    a certain amount of interest, as well among working-men as
    those higher in society: but I had yet to learn how strongly
    the doors of every Government office are barred against all
    intruders, and how loud and general must be the knocking before
    they will open. I must in fairness add that I had also to be
    made aware how much official doors are beset by schemers, and
    how naturally groundless projects raise a prejudice against
    all proposals whatever. Any one curious on the subject may
    find some notice of the plan in the ‘Penny Magazine,’ Vol. I.,
    p. 42. However, I scarcely need add that no result followed,
    either to the public or to myself, the evils which I had sought
    to mitigate being otherwise grappled with in the Poor Law
    Reform of 1834.

    “Meantime my malady increased, and it was at length determined
    that the school at Hazelwood should be disposed of, and the
    removal to Bruce Castle made complete, the middle of 1833
    being fixed upon as the time for the change. My intention was
    to employ the whole of the midsummer holidays, and as much
    more time as I could profitably so spend, in a tour on the
    Continent, leaving the question of my return to be decided by
    the state of my health and other circumstances. I had begun to
    feel unsettled in my occupation. In addition to its wearing
    effect upon my health, I had begun to doubt the expediency of
    my continuing in a profession into which I had entered rather
    from necessity than from choice, though I had subsequently
    laboured in it, like other members of my family, with zeal and
    even enthusiasm, and in which the very progress made by the
    school in public estimation made my position on some important
    points increasingly uncomfortable. This pressed the more after
    the untimely death of one of the two brothers associated with
    me at Bruce Castle, the youngest of our family, who, having
    enjoyed many of those advantages in education which were denied
    to me, had been as it were my complement. It is true, indeed,
    that the accession of my brother Arthur from Hazelwood brought
    present relief, but this also facilitated my withdrawal,
    giving me as a successor one whose heart I knew to be fully
    and fixedly engaged in his work.[73] My ambition had grown
    with our success, or rather, indeed, far outrun it; and I was
    now thoroughly convinced—partly, I must admit, by a check in
    our tide of success—that in my present career, unless I could
    add to my other qualifications those classical acquirements
    which rank so high in general estimation, it could have no
    sufficient scope. I think, indeed, I was perfectly honest in
    saying, as I did at the time, that neither wealth nor power was
    my main object, though I was not insensible to the allurements
    of either, but that it was indispensable to my desires to do,
    or at least to attempt, something which would make the world
    manifestly the better for my having lived in it. What that was
    to be I could by no means tell, further than that it must be
    some work of organization, which I knew to be my forte; but
    that point secured, I still felt, notwithstanding my impaired
    health, my old unlimited confidence as to achievement. All this
    may have been very rash, and even foolish; I merely mention it
    as a fact, and look upon it as turning out fortunate, since it
    was essential to the sequel.

    “Although, however, I separated myself from duties in which
    I had been earnestly engaged for three-and-twenty years, I
    have never lost interest in the school, nor ever failed
    to render it such assistance as lay in my power. I gladly
    hailed the early return of its prosperity; and at the end of
    thirty-six years from my withdrawal I rejoice to see it still

“The check in the tide of success” was in great measure due to the
failure in Rowland Hill’s health. There were other causes, however, at
work. On some of these I have already touched, while others I could not
at present with any propriety describe. The description is the less
needful as with them he was only remotely connected. It was not wonderful
that his health began, as he said, to show signs of permanent injury.
Less than two years after he had been warned that he must abandon any
plan that should demand unusual energy, he had, in defiance of his
doctor, opened his new school. In December, 1829, in June, 1832, and
in December, 1832, I find the state of his health made the subject of
anxious discussion in the Family Council. His work as a schoolmaster
was becoming distasteful to him, and he was beginning to long for a
change. He longed still more eagerly for that freedom of thought, speech,
and action, which even at the present day a schoolmaster can but very
imperfectly command. It was in change of occupation that his active mind
for many a long year always found its best repose. Besides the matters
that he has recorded in the extract that I have just given, he seems,
at this time of his life, to have turned over in his mind many other
schemes. The following I have found jotted down in a memorandum, dated
December, 1832:—

    Pendulous Mechanism applied to Steam-Engines.
    Propelling Steamboats by a Screw.
    Improvement in Bramah’s Press.
    Plan for Checking the Speed of Stage-Coaches.
    Weighing Letters.
    Assorting Letters in Coach.
    Telegraphs: by Pressure of Air, &c.
    Gas: for Distant Places Compressed along Small Pipes.
    Road-making by Machinery.

To one scheme he must have given not a little thought, though I cannot
find that he ever brought it before the world. It is curious as
containing, as he says, the germs, and something more than the germs,
of the Parcels Delivery Company, the General Omnibus Company, and the
District Post. In 1873, he thus docketed the paper in which it is
described: “I have no recollection as regards this scheme; but I presume
that it was one of my several projects to obtain a living after I had
withdrawn from the school.”[75]

All his brothers but one had become still more eager than himself to
give up school keeping. One alone was happy in his work. He throughout
life loved his school as much as his scholars loved him. Rowland Hill
was not singular in his family in his desire “to do, or at least to
attempt, something which would make the world manifestly the better for
my having lived in it.” I find recorded in the handwriting of another
of the brothers at this date that “his favourite objects are connected
with improvements in the art and science of national government; and the
happiest position in which he can hope or desire to be placed is one in
which he is pursuing such objects, in conjunction with the other members
of the family.” To carry out their objects they required comparative
leisure and complete freedom of action. Some of them had more than once
turned their eyes towards the community of New Harmony, which Robert
Owen had lately established in Indiana, on the banks of the Wabash. In a
letter, dated February 8th, 1827, Rowland Hill tells one of his brothers
that he has just met with a friend who had lately returned from New

    “He gives excellent accounts of Harmony, though Owen has
    met with the difficulties we expected on account of his
    indiscriminate admissions. Several of the members of the
    Society of Natural History of New York, with the president at
    their head, have joined the community.... Here is a specimen
    of the advantages of the system. The naturalists having made
    the children acquainted with their wants, the little creatures
    swarm over the woods, and bring in such an abundance of
    specimens that they are forming several immense collections,
    some of which they will present to new communities, and others
    will be exchanged for collections in other quarters of the
    world. W—— says by these means vast numbers of insects have
    been discovered, of the existence of which the world was
    previously in ignorance. What think you of selling Bruce Castle
    again, and going off?”

In a paper that he drew up a few years ago he has left a brief record of
his acquaintance with Mr. Owen:—

    “My visit to New Lanark was the first decided step towards
    an intimacy with the Owen family, which continued for many
    years. From the commencement I saw much to admire in Mr.
    Owen’s views; but I invariably urged him to be satisfied with
    their gradual introduction, and above all not to attempt to
    apply them in their complete form to persons of all ages
    taken indiscriminately, and without previous training, from
    society at large. Mr. Owen always evinced a most friendly, I
    might say affectionate, feeling towards myself, my wife, and
    other members of the family. His opinions regarding myself
    were shown, among other ways, by his urging me to undertake,
    on terms advantageous to myself, the management of one of his
    communities; but, for the reasons indicated above, I declined
    the offer.”

Not long after the removal to Bruce Castle, some of the brothers
carefully prepared a scheme for establishing a “Social Community.” The
first mention that I find of the plan is the following:—

    “Sketch out a plan detailing—first, the objects in which union
    can take place with little danger of violence to our present
    habits; as, united purchases of food, clothing, coals; library;
    news-room; use of each other’s knowledge and connections;
    cooking; rooms and apparatus for receiving friends, parties,
    &c. (persons not to go to each other’s houses unless invited.
    If one wants society, he must go to the public rooms); pleasure
    grounds; baths; cab or omnibus.

    “Economy of having men of various professions united, as a
    medical man, a lawyer, architect, schoolmaster; house-warmer;
    telegraph for own use and for hired use.”

From the scheme, when completed, I make the following extracts:—


    “_Object._—The union of the family and the formation of a small
    community of persons, in addition to the family, thinking and
    feeling as we do.

    “The Community to be established near London, for the sake of
    access to the world at large, and to be located on a farm for
    the sake of economy, and as a means of providing profitable and
    healthy employment for the members during part of each day.

    “Plans either for public good or private emolument to be
    matured in the Community, and then either prosecuted at the
    Community’s establishment or carried into effect in the world
    at large by members liberated for a time for that purpose.

       *       *       *       *       *


    “Find a case in which an intelligent man has left other
    pursuits for farming, and has succeeded.

    “Find an intelligent person familiar with farming pursuits, and
    proper as a member of the Community.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “Draw up a statement showing the probable yearly income and
    expenditure in conducting a farm of —— acres at —— near London.
    Also the probable amount of the produce of such farm—the kinds
    of produce which it is best to grow—the amount of assistance
    required—of superintendence—of risk—the principal sources of
    pleasure or annoyance in farming occupations—how far they are
    conducive to health—especially as regards the members of our
    own family.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “Check among ourselves, in every possible way consistent with
    our present position, expensive habits of every kind, and
    even desires for costly gratifications. Encourage habits of
    simplicity and economy, and in every way prepare for entering
    into a state of comparative seclusion and frugality.

       *       *       *       *       *


    “Release from many unpleasant restrictions as to the free
    expression of opinion, to dress, to absurd customs.

    “Economy in houses, clothes, food, fire, artificial light, and
    matters of appearance generally.

    “Superior education for our children.

    “Superior opportunities of obtaining knowledge ourselves by
    observations, experiments, &c.

    “Release from perplexing and harassing responsibilities.

    “Release from the necessity of compelling the observance, on
    the part of others, of matters often really opposed to wisdom
    and sound morality, and very frequently of merely conventional

    “Society. Enjoyment of that of most of the members of our own
    family, and that of persons of similar views, who might be
    willing to join in the plan.

    “Probable power of appearing before the world advantageously by
    means of discoveries mechanical, scientific, agricultural, or

    “Increased security from infectious disorders, anarchy, injury
    by change in the national prosperity; also the security which
    arises from the cultivation of economical habits.

    “Mitigation of the evils consequent upon the employment of

    “Improvement of habits by the influence of numbers upon the
    individual character of members of the Community.

    “Great advantages of the close union of a variety of talent
    by the collection of a number of persons, and their intimate
    organization and knowledge of each other.

    “Facility for bringing the whole strength of the Community to
    bear upon one point when needful.

    “Increased opportunities of producing extensive good.

    “(Improvements in machinery, farming, &c., may be introduced
    without producing even temporary distress, if the Community can
    execute its own labour.)”

The “great advantages of the close union of a variety of talent” were
seen by a man who had been trained in a widely different school. In the
year 1836, Rowland Hill received the following letter from his friend Mr.
John Lefevre.[76]

    “MY DEAR MR. HILL,—It has frequently occurred to me that if
    eight or ten individuals of average intellect were to direct
    their attention simultaneously and in concert on any specific
    object which it might be desirable to invent, or any particular
    subject which it might be useful to explain, their joint
    efforts might produce a more satisfactory result than the
    unaided powers of a single person, although such person might
    be considerably superior to any one of the parties to the
    combination. I am anxious to try this experiment, and it would
    give me great pleasure if you would join me in it.

    “I would propose that you and Coode[77] and I should each
    choose two associates, to be approved of by us all, and that
    the nine associates should meet once a month about seven in the

    “Each should furnish two questions for the consideration of the
    association, and out of these we would fix on two or three for
    the subject of each meeting.

    “One of us should in turn act as the _reporter_ of the meeting,
    _i.e._, he should be responsible for a statement of the result.

    “The subjects should, in the first instance, be as simple as
    possible, and should be such as to be matters of scientific
    amusement rather than of importance I say this because by
    adopting this course, if the whole thing fails, we shall only
    have been amused without having been disappointed.

    “Let me know at your leisure what you think of this, and do not
    mention it to any one until you have made up your own mind on
    its _primâ facie_ practicability.

                           “Yours ever,

                                                      “J. LEFEVRE.”

    “I heartily concurred in the suggestion,” Sir Rowland Hill
    has recorded, “and the first meeting was, I think, held at
    my house. My nominees were Mr. Wheatstone and my brother
    Edwin.[78] Among the earliest subjects of conversation were
    Wheatstone’s Telegraph—not then in practical use—and my
    printing machine.... I brought under the consideration of my
    friends a question which I had long had in mind, as to whether
    steamships could not use as fuel the hydrogen of the sea-water;
    but Coode, who was a remarkably well-informed and clear-headed
    man, succeeded in showing that the heat which would be lost
    in extracting the hydrogen would be equal to that gained by
    its combustion. Consequently that what I aimed at was really,
    though in a disguised form, nothing else than a perpetual
    motion. So far as my memory serves, this was anterior to the
    announcement of the doctrine of the correlation of forces.”

Shortly after I had lighted on a copy of the scheme of a Social
Community, I called on Sir Rowland Hill. The following is my note of the
conversation that passed:—

    “I talked to him about the scheme of a Social Community. He
    said that it was mainly the project of some of his brothers,
    but that he quite approved of it. Their chief aims were to
    escape from work that was too severe, and to get complete
    freedom of speech. He had no doubt that they should have made
    it answer. They were resolved to be very frugal. I said that
    to most men of business the scheme would seem that of madmen.
    He answered that at that time there were many such projects
    supported by men of great weight. Owen’s plan was more or less
    approved of by Brougham and others. He (Sir R. Hill) and his
    brothers saw great merits in it, though they also saw great

The following letter, which he wrote to one of his brothers in defence of
the scheme before it had as yet in any way taken shape, throws much light
on the objects that they had in view:—

    “I am very sorry, and not a little surprised, that our plan
    should have been so far misunderstood as to cause so much alarm
    on the part of mother and yourself, and I hasten to remove your
    fears by simply telling you what the plan is. The only plan to
    which I have given my consent is this:—To ascertain, in the
    most satisfactory manner, by enquiry and even by experiment,
    what is the smallest sum on which we can live with economy
    but comfort, avoiding all such expenses as are at present
    incurred, not because they are conducive to happiness, but
    because we are expected by others to meet them; yet at the same
    time indulging in some gratifications which we are at present
    denied. In determining this sum to allow nothing whatever for
    the produce of our labour, letting that stand as security
    against the ill-effects of any error in our calculation. Having
    determined this amount, to ascertain next, how much capital,
    secured in the fullest manner, as by mortgage on ample freehold
    landed property, would afford the required income, and then
    to continue our present undertaking till such a capital is
    raised.... I think you will now see that our views are by no
    means very dissimilar. Your wish is, I believe, to save money
    with the intention of retiring and living on your savings at
    some future time. You perhaps would wait, till you can maintain
    without labour the same rank you now hold, still continuing to
    mix with the world and to conform with the world’s notions of
    propriety and happiness. We are for separating from society
    so far as may be necessary to enable us to regulate our mode
    of living solely with a reference to _our own_ conceptions of
    comfort. We conceive that our plan promises these advantages
    over yours, that it will enable us to put it into execution
    earlier, and that we shall be more happy when it is executed
    than if we adopted your plan.

    “The very common plan of working very hard during the best
    years of your life, in order that you may heap up security for
    future comfort, is, I think we are all agreed, a very mistaken
    one. It is much wiser to be satisfied with a less amount of
    security, and enjoy your ease while your spirits and health
    remain unimpaired, and before your habits are so far fixed as
    to render any change undesirable. Still there is an amount of
    security which is necessary to prevent care and anxiety; but
    that necessary amount will, of course, be proportionate to the
    scale of living you may adopt.

    “To me it appears to be of very little consequence whether we
    are consistent or not, but it is very important to be right.

    “If we have been right hitherto, we should make no change
    because we have been right; if we have been wrong, it would
    be unwise to continue so for the sake of being consistent.
    I know that right and wrong are here comparative; and that
    it may be wise to continue in a path which you have already
    trodden, though it may not be the most direct, or the least
    rugged, rather than encounter the hedges and ditches which may
    lie between you and the straight and even road. But if you can
    satisfy yourself that the advantages of the direct road will,
    in all probability, more than balance the labour and risk of
    getting into it, you would be foolish not to make the change.
    I am not begging the question by assuming that the proposed
    course is the best; I only wish to show on what grounds the
    propriety of a change ought to be discussed.

    “Though I disregard a character for consistency, which is a
    virtue or a vice according to circumstances (which is it in
    Lord Eldon?) yet I am desirous to show that I have not made
    so many mistakes, nor so decidedly changed my views as you
    imagine. I conceive that we have been already remunerated
    for the additional outlay in building at Hazelwood. With
    the views I now advocate, the propriety of purchasing Bruce
    Castle may be questioned; but I do not see that the step was
    manifestly improper. The buildings and grounds would, in all
    probability, sell for more than they cost us.... My views have
    certainly changed inasmuch as I am now inclined to abandon the
    hope of establishing the College, or collection of schools
    of which I used to talk; but the change has been caused by
    circumstances as unexpected by others as they were by myself.
    I allude to the great reduction in numbers at Hazelwood, and
    to the present prospects there and here (we expect barely
    to maintain our late number), showing, I fear, diminished
    confidence in the public—to the vexations arising from the
    fact of our being obliged to teach so much which we consider
    as nearly useless, and, in some cases, very mischievous—from
    the unreasonable expectations of the friends of our pupils,
    and from the still-continuing caprices of the parents, as
    manifested constantly by the removal of boys with whom we have
    been most successful.... I think too that we are all wearing
    ourselves out very fast, and that the time is not very far
    distant when some of us will be obliged to stop, without
    perhaps health and spirits sufficient to enjoy any mode of
    living. As to my anxiety to do good, it is as strong now as
    ever, and I think that the proposed change, by allowing us to
    educate our children for a better state of society, will enable
    us through their means to do good much more effectually, and
    even speedily, than we could on any other plan.... As regards
    myself, even if you were all the warmest advocates of the plan,
    it is very possible that I might never share its advantages.
    I have not as yet said anything to my wife on the subject.
    It is true that she often talks of retirement as a desirable
    thing, but even if she should be inclined to join in this very
    economical plan of retirement, I think the persuasions of her
    friends would very likely influence her against it, and without
    her consent I shall not join in it myself.”

Rowland Hill was, indeed, a man, to use Gibbon’s words, “whom nature
had designed to think as he pleased, and to speak as he thought.” Such
freedom as this is only enjoyed in its fullest extent by those who have
secured “independence, that first earthly blessing.” But independence, if
it is chiefly enjoyed by men of ample means, is, nevertheless, within the
reach of those who have but simple wants. Yet after all there was not a
little truth in what their old father wrote on hearing of this scheme of
his sons: “My dear son Rowland. You and your brothers are the last men to
make monks of.”

Such a scheme as this has a strong outward resemblance to the
Pantisocracy of Southey and Coleridge; but the differences between
the two schemes are far greater than the resemblances. The two poets
were as young as they were unversed in the ways of the world, when the
delightful prospect of happiness opened before their view to live with
their friends in the most agreeable and most honourable employment, to
eat the fruits they had raised, and see every face happy around them.[79]
The band of friends whom they had gathered round them were, perhaps, not
more experienced than themselves. But the planners of the other scheme
were men who had spent many years in hard work, and in habits of strict
economy. They did not, like the two poets, look upon money as a huge
evil with which, happily, they should not long have to contend. They
had learnt its value. They knew how to buy and how to sell. They had a
certain amount of capital at their command. Two of them, moreover, were
skilful in the use of tools, and fertile in mechanical inventions. They
had long tried in their family union the plan of a Social Community,
and were entering upon their undertaking with a clear insight into the
difficulties which awaited them. They were fully alive, moreover, to
the dangers that Owen had brought upon himself by his indiscriminate
admission of all comers. They only proposed to invite men to join them
with whose characters they had first become thoroughly acquainted.
In a list of “members apparently qualified,” I find the names of Dr.
Southwood Smith and Mr. Roebuck. “I formed an intimate acquaintance
with Mr. Roebuck,” Sir Rowland Hill has recorded, “about the year 1830.
In 1832 (I think) my wife nursed him through a long illness at Bruce
Castle.” Their _Social Community_ was not so much an end in itself as a
means towards other and far higher ends. They had schemes for moving the
earth; but they wanted a fulcrum. They had no leisure. What Rowland Hill
could do when he was free from his school, he showed in the next four
years of his life. In the spare time that a man could command who was
Secretary to a new and active Commission, he invented, as will be seen,
a printing-press, and devised his great scheme of Postal Reform. In
like manner his youngest surviving brother, who, a year or two after the
Social Community was planned, was made the First Inspector of Prisons in
Scotland, had in no long time thoroughly reformed them, and made them a
model for the whole kingdom.

No steps were taken to carry through their scheme. It had scarcely been
completed on paper before Rowland Hill obtained, what he had long wanted,
“a work of organisation.” Within no long time all the other brothers were
happily engaged in occupations that suited their powers and their tastes.
“When I was a young man,” said Sir Rowland Hill one day to me, “there
were very few careers open. I never even dreamed of the possibility of
getting into the Civil Service.” A new career, however, was at length
opening for him, and the long, though broken, course of his public
services was on the point of beginning. To this point I have traced his
life, and here I shall bring the first part of my task to an end. His
history for the next thirty years will be given in his own narrative. I
shall take up my pen again at the date of his retirement, and do my best
to describe the closing years of his long and honourable life. My task
will be no easy one, for

                  “The eyes of men,
    After a well-graced actor leaves the stage,
    Are idly bent on him that enters next,
    Thinking his prattle to be tedious.”


[In the Summer of 1833, as has been shown, Rowland Hill had gone abroad
for the benefit of his health. In the Prefatory Memoir to the History of
Penny Postage, he thus carries down from that date the history of his
life to the year when his great occupation first took strong hold of his

    “I had spent some weeks in France, without, however, having
    gone further than Orleans (travelling was slow in those days),
    when an opportunity for such a change as I was revolving in my
    mind happened to present itself. A project was forming for the
    colonisation of the then unoccupied territory now called South
    Australia, the prime mover being the late Mr. Edward Gibbon
    Wakefield, with whom I had previously some acquaintance, and
    who, indeed, had shown me a year before a prospectus of his
    enterprise, in which, however, all places for names, whether
    directors or officers, were then vacant. Meeting him now in
    France, I was invited by him to join in the scheme, being also
    assured that several men of high character and position had
    already done so. His proposal was that, in the event of his
    project being launched, I should be secretary in England; while
    another gentleman, the late Mr. Gouger, was to be secretary
    in the new colony. Though very unwilling to cut my holiday so
    short, yet fearing that if I missed this opportunity I might
    not soon find another equally promising, I determined on
    accepting the offer, and went forthwith to my work.

    “The change was obviously a very great one, and it was to be
    seen how far my past training, if I may apply the term to
    what was in so large a degree fortuitous, had fitted me for
    the duties that now devolved upon me. Necessity had taught
    me diligence, punctuality, and perseverance; and combined
    with inclination, and perhaps some natural aptitude, it had
    cultivated in me the power and habit of invention, created a
    certain versatility, and armed me with boldness to surmount
    obstacles, to disregard mere conventionalisms, and to feel and
    exercise a certain independence of spirit. I had also been
    led to acquire a power of influencing and directing others,
    and of holding subordinates to responsibility. In my new
    occupation all these powers and habits were to find abundant
    exercise; and the question naturally arises in my mind whether,
    considering all that lay before me, the course of circumstances
    by which they had been formed or strengthened was not more
    fortunate than the training which would have been given by
    a more premeditated and systematic mode of proceeding, with
    ample means at command. Had I been more regularly prepared for
    the profession I was leaving, should I have been equally able
    to perform what I afterwards accomplished, or indeed equally
    fitted to make those improvements in school management of which
    I have already spoken, and which, however trivial some of
    them may appear in these more advanced days, were at the time
    decided and even bold innovations?[80]

    “Before going on to my proceedings in reference to the South
    Australian Association, I will, for the sake of convenience,
    mention two passages which occurred in the midst of them;
    and here I will take the liberty to remark that, though I
    had ceased to take part in formal education, I nevertheless
    bore the general object constantly in mind, and made all my
    subsequent efforts more or less subservient thereto.

    “In the year 1834 I took, with others, an active part in
    proposing that total abolition of the stamp duty on newspapers
    which was effected about twenty-five years later: and I
    endeavoured to show, I still think correctly, that this might
    be done with little or no loss to the revenue. It must be
    remembered that there was then a heavy duty on advertisements,
    and my expectation was that the field for advertising would so
    increase, and thereby so multiply advertisements, as soon to
    restore the whole fiscal produce of newspapers to its former
    amount. In estimating the probable increase in the number of
    newspapers, I applied a principle on which I subsequently
    relied in reference to postal reform, viz., that the cheapening
    of an article in general demand does not as a rule diminish the
    total public expenditure thereon, the increased consumption
    making up for the diminished price. Perhaps the actual state of
    things (1869), though the matter is complicated by the repeal
    of the advertisement duty, may be regarded as sufficient to
    show that such expectation was not unreasonable. These views
    I set forth when I went up in a deputation to the Chancellor
    of the Exchequer; and the late Lord Monteagle, who then held
    the office, not only did me the honour to listen with much
    attention, but requested that he might be supplied with further
    information on the subject—a request with which I complied as
    soon as I could collect the necessary materials. The result, as
    may be remembered, was not the total abolition, but a reduction
    of the stamp duty, from about threepence-halfpenny (net) to one
    penny; an excellent measure in itself, yet but feebly tending
    to that recuperation for which I looked; since the retention
    of any duty left a serious obstacle to the multiplication of
    journals, a fact abundantly shown _e converso_ by subsequent
    events. My argument on the subject will be found in full in the
    ‘Companion to the Newspaper’ for June 1st, 1834; where also,
    I may observe, may be seen the first suggestion of stamped
    covers, though not in relation to letters. The suggestion came
    from the editor, Mr. Charles Knight, and was indeed in some
    sort indispensable to the plan of total abolition, since the
    unstamped newspapers would not be transmissible by post without
    payment; and this, if made in money, would seriously add to the
    trouble of transmission. Of course, adhesive stamps were as yet
    undreamt of.

    “In looking over the paper referred to, I find that, at the
    time when I drew it up, London was the only town in Great
    Britain which produced a daily newspaper; that there were but
    six other towns with papers issued oftener than once per week;
    only two of the six being in England, viz., Liverpool and

    “The other passage referred to is my addressing a letter
    to Lord Brougham, in April, 1834, on the subject of pauper
    education. The bill subsequently called the New Poor Law was
    then in progress through Parliament, and the intended changes
    seemed to me to afford an opportunity, not to be neglected,
    for improving the education of pauper children, then for the
    most part in a wretched state, the schoolmasters being very
    frequently themselves paupers. To suggest this improvement was
    the object of my letter.

    “I pointed out that the union of parishes, combined with the
    proposed classification of paupers (a design unfortunately
    but very imperfectly realized), would bring together large
    numbers of pauper children, and thus facilitate their
    education. By reference to the report of the Commissioners,
    I showed that children educated in workhouses became for the
    most part paupers for life; while in the few parishes where
    good education had already been established, few remained
    chargeable beyond the age of childhood; that by making good
    education general, one great source of pauperism would be
    stopped; and that even as regarded immediate benefit, if
    industrial occupation were introduced into the schools, the
    expense of maintaining the children would be partly defrayed by
    the results of their labour, while such occupation instead of
    retarding would even promote their intellectual progress. After
    urging some further considerations, I concluded by offering
    any assistance that I could give in forming a complete plan.
    Perhaps amidst Lord Brougham’s multitudinous duties he had no
    attention to spare for the proposal; perhaps the difficulty
    with which the actual changes were made, and the outcry long
    maintained against them, may have indisposed Government to
    any further innovation. But whatever may be the explanation,
    I cannot avoid speculating on the amount of the benefit which
    might by this time have resulted from the suggestion, had it
    been adopted and efficiently worked. How much pauperism and how
    much crime might have been prevented![81]

    “To return now to the subject of South Australian Colonisation.
    The main principles on which it was intended to proceed were,
    first, that the colony should from its very establishment be
    self-supporting (a condition hitherto unheard of); secondly,
    that means should be taken to keep the colonists from that
    dispersion which had so often produced grievous suffering and a
    fearful mortality; thirdly, that no convicts should be admitted
    into the colony; fourthly, that means should be taken for the
    immigration of a sufficient number of free labourers; and,
    lastly, that in the selection of these the numbers of the sexes
    should be kept equal. It is only necessary to add that, with
    a view to discourage dispersion and to supply an emigration
    fund, the price of land was to be fixed comparatively high,
    probably at one pound per acre. All these provisions will be
    found embodied in the Act of Parliament eventually passed on
    the subject (4th and 5th William IV., chap. 95).

    “As I found Mr. Wakefield’s report relative to the high
    character of the association fully supported by the facts, I
    joined it with great satisfaction.

    “Hoping to avoid the expense, difficulties, uncertainty, and
    delay of an application to Parliament, the association applied
    to the Colonial Secretary for a charter; which, however, was
    refused, partly on the alleged ground of want of precedent.
    As there was no remedy, we took the necessary measures for
    carrying a bill through Parliament. But here the obstacles were
    so many, that earnest and able as were those who undertook the
    management of the bill, viz., Colonel Torrens, Mr. Whitmore,
    and Mr. (now Sir William) Hutt, there would have been but small
    chance of success without some one to take upon him, as it
    were, the drudgery of the process. Such aid we were fortunate
    enough to command in the person of my brother Matthew, who
    had been elected to the first reformed Parliament as member
    for Hull. By the joint efforts of all, the bill was at length
    carried through both Houses.

    “Commissioners to put the Act in execution were appointed by
    the Crown, May 5th, 1835; the chairman being Colonel Torrens,
    and Sir William Hutt and Sir John Lefevre being two of the
    commissioners. To this body I was appointed Secretary. To
    colonise, without any assistance from Government, an almost
    unknown wilderness, was a sufficiently difficult task; but
    the difficulties of the commission were increased by certain
    stipulations which Government, doubtless a little uneasy at the
    novel project of independent colonisation, had thought proper
    to impose.[82] One of these was the preliminary investment
    in Government securities of the sum of £55,000, £35,000 to
    be produced by sale of land, and the remaining £20,000 to
    be raised on the security both of further sales and of the
    colonial revenue; the investment in full to precede the
    exercise of any of the general powers and authorities under
    the Act. As no surveys had yet been made, the province indeed
    being very little known, and as even the site of the capital
    could not yet be fixed on, compliance with such requirements
    was obviously difficult, and the difficulty was increased by
    the want of funds with which to pay preliminary expenses; but
    by great effort the necessary means were secured before the
    close of November in the same year,[83] And here, in justice,
    it must be mentioned, that in the great work of founding the
    colony, the Commissioners were materially assisted by the
    formation of the South Australian Company, due mainly to the
    exertions of Mr. G. F. Angas.

    “Under all circumstances, however, the early surveying of the
    land was very important; while, at the same time, economy
    restricted the choice of surveyors mainly to those embarking
    in the enterprise on other grounds. The selection having been
    made, however, and the staff sent out, we hoped for the best;
    but disappointment followed. The survey made slow progress,
    and demands came home for such an increase of force as in
    that early stage would have swamped the whole enterprise.
    These, fortunately, my previous practice in surveying enabled
    me successfully to oppose; but it was not until a new chief
    surveyor had been sent out, in the person of Lieutenant (now
    General) Frome, R.E., and a new governor with ampler powers
    than his predecessor, that matters were at length put right.[84]

    “The payments to ship-owners and ship-surgeons were regulated
    by the number of emigrants conveyed; but as the occurrence
    of births and deaths produced considerable variation during
    the voyage, it became important to determine at what period
    the number should be ascertained. I advised that this should
    be done, not, as was customary, at the beginning of the
    voyage, but at its close, so as to supply a strong motive to
    the maintenance of the general health aboard ship. This plan
    being adopted answered so well, that the number that arrived
    in the colony often exceeded that recorded at departure; the
    births on board having outnumbered the deaths. Not thinking
    it well, however, to trust entirely to this arrangement, I
    took, under authority of the Commissioners, every care to have
    both ship and provisions effectually surveyed. On both points
    a controversy frequently occurred which it may be well to
    mention. I always took care that the requirements authorised by
    the Commissioners should be emphatically urged on the attention
    of the contractors, and constantly received assurance that they
    were fully understood, and should be fully acted upon; but when
    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

    “Another difficulty arose from unpunctuality in time of
    sailing, the ships chartered to convey emigrants being too
    often unprepared when the appointed day arrived. The first
    means adopted to obtain punctuality was to stipulate for fines
    in case of delay; but the artificial nature of this arrangement
    rendered its maintenance difficult. Excuses were tendered,
    often plausible, sometimes substantial, so that their rejection
    was hard, while at the same time, whether the penalty were
    enforced or remitted, the passengers by the particular ship
    suffered all the inconvenience of delay. To remedy these evils,
    the rule now established was, that whenever the day for sailing
    arrived, whether the vessel were ready or not, the expense of
    boarding and maintaining the emigrants was to be borne by the
    ship-owners. This gave such a motive to punctuality that delay
    became infrequent, while, at the worst, detained passengers
    were relieved from all loss save that of time. I may add that
    the combined effect of our precautions was that no emigrant
    ship was lost, nor even sustained any serious accident.

    “Yet further to expedite the despatch of emigrants, I procured
    one additional arrangement. At this early period the sailing
    of chartered ships being but monthly, the interval was
    inconveniently long; so that persons who had made up their
    minds to emigrate were often kept for two or three weeks
    in that unsettled state which inevitably precedes a great
    removal. To furnish intermediate opportunity, I induced the
    Commissioners to give notice to ship-owners that if they
    were willing to submit to the conditions imposed on vessels
    chartered by the Commissioners, at the same time undertaking
    the conveyance at the lowest rate yet tendered and accepted,
    any unappropriated space should be occupied, in whole or in
    part, by such emigrants as might be on hand.

    “In short, the whole scheme—in which, however, I must admit
    that my share was but subordinate—worked so well that in the
    year when I withdrew from my connection with the colony, though
    this was only the fourth year of the despatch of settlers,
    the sales of land produced as much as £170,000, the number
    of chartered ships being thirty-eight, and that of emigrants
    upwards of five thousand.

    “Subsequently, indeed, difficulties arose, serious indications
    of which had appeared before I ceased to be secretary. The
    expenditure in the colony, notwithstanding every precaution
    taken at home, had begun to exceed the authorised estimates,
    and this eventually compelled the Commissioners to seek aid
    from the Government; the consequence being that the management
    of the colony was in effect transferred to the Colonial
    Office. The debt, however, then contracted was, I believe,
    subsequently discharged, and if so, the colony may fairly
    be said to have been from the first self-supporting, being
    certainly the first, and perhaps the only, colony that could
    claim that honour.

    “As regards the political system of the colony, I may be
    allowed to mention that when the Commissioners, in their third
    annual report, recommended Government to grant it municipal
    institutions, the recommendation included at my suggestion the
    plan[85] which has been already spoken of[86] as devised by my
    father many years before, and has recently been more known to
    the world in connection with the name of Mr. Hare. This plan
    was adopted at the time, though abandoned at a later period.

    “As this secretaryship was my first public employment, and as
    the estimation in which I was held at its close was important,
    if not essential to my subsequent course, I may, perhaps, be
    pardoned if I give here the letter in which my resignation
    was acknowledged, and my services referred to. I have only to
    add that, heavy as were my duties during the four years of my
    secretaryship, and the year or two that preceded my formal
    appointment to that post, I was also engaged, throughout the
    whole period, at one or other of two arduous undertakings.
    Of the former I shall speak presently; the latter was Postal
    reform; my facts being collected, my plan devised, my pamphlet
    written, and my case established before a parliamentary
    committee, more than a year before I left my post.

                            “‘South Australian Colonisation Office,
                         “‘Adelphi Terrace,[87] September 27, 1839.

    “‘SIR,—The Colonisation Commissioners for South Australia beg
    to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 16th instant,
    tendering your resignation as Secretary to their Board; an
    appointment in the Treasury having been conferred upon you by
    Her Majesty’s Government

    “‘In communicating their acceptance of your resignation, and
    in conveying to you their thanks for the zeal, energy, and
    talent which you have uniformly displayed in the discharge of
    your duties as Secretary, the Commissioners cannot forego the
    satisfaction of recording their high appreciation of your
    successful exertions, in systematising the general business
    of the Commission, and in devising, framing, and carrying
    into effect the arduous and complicated arrangements of the
    Department of Emigration.

    “‘Though sensible of the loss they have suffered in being
    deprived of that combination of theoretical and practical
    ability which you have manifested in conducting their business,
    yet the Commissioners, while expressing their individual
    regret, cannot withhold from you their sincere congratulations
    upon the advancement you have obtained through the important
    service which you have rendered to the public.

    “‘I have the honour to be, Sir,

                   “‘Your most obedient servant,

                                            “‘ROBERT TORRENS,
                                      _Chairman of the Commission_.

    “‘ROWLAND HILL, Esq. &c. &c. &c.’

“The former of my two interludes—if I may so style a piece of downright
hard work—was an improvement of the printing machine, which I took in
hand when it yet seemed doubtful whether the South Australian enterprise
would yield me an income. My attention to the subject of printing, I may
here observe, arose from my connection with the Useful Knowledge Society,
then so actively engaged in promoting and cheapening popular literature.

“Every one knows that about twenty years before this period the
process of printing, at least in the largest offices, had been almost
revolutionized by the admirable machine invented in great part by the
late Mr. Edward Cowper, afterwards Professor Cowper of King’s College,
London; with whom, I may add, I became acquainted about this time, and
whom to know was to regard and esteem. At the time when I turned my
thoughts earnestly to the subject, the machines then in use (for by this
time great improvements had been made in the original invention, partly
by Mr. Cowper himself, partly by others, particularly by Mr. Applegarth),
could throw off in the hour, instead of the two hundred and fifty single
impressions, to which the Stanhope press, the best in previous use, was
limited, eight hundred sheets thoroughly well printed on both sides, or
four thousand of such quality as was admissible in newspapers, printed on
one side.

“Meantime, however, an important improvement had been made in the
manufacture of paper, viz., that of Fourdrinier; and it occurred to me
that advantage might be taken of this to construct a printing machine
capable of working at much higher speed. By Fourdrinier’s machine, as is
well known, paper is produced, not in single sheets, as by the former
mode, but in long scrolls, capable, I believe, of almost indefinite
extension; and I perceived that by their use, one, and probably the only
insuperable obstacle to a rotatory machine, was removed. I perceived also
that such machine would have a double advantage; its greater speed being
produced by a far smaller expenditure of power.

“The difficulties to be surmounted, however, were neither small nor few.
The plan implied the necessity of attaching the types to a roller; which,
again, involved a change in their form, and also devices to keep them
firmly in place against the combined power of gravity and what is called,
or rather miscalled, centrifugal force. Another difficulty regarded the
supply and proper distribution of the ink, for which no interval could
be left, as the process of printing off was to be absolutely continuous.
As my invention was not practically adopted, and has been in a great
measure superseded by later improvements, I forbear details, referring
the curious either to my specification, which is dated August 12th, 1835,
and numbered 6762; a printed copy of which may be procured at the Patent
Office, or to the ‘Repertory of Patent Inventions,’ No. 35, where the
machine is accurately and lucidly described.

“It is but just to record, that in giving my invention a practical shape,
I was constantly and ably assisted by my brother Edwin, who, I may here
add, afterwards became known as the originator of the machine for folding
envelopes, which attracted so much attention at the Great Exhibition
of 1851. Many of the minor parts, essential, however, to the efficient
working of our printing machine, were of his device and construction, and
in my necessary absence the work proceeded under his superintendence.

“At length, as is already implied, the machine was completed, and the
patent secured. Its operation was repeatedly shown to members of the
trade and others interested in the matter; the work produced, though at
high speed, being pronounced beautiful, and that which is technically
called the register accurate perhaps beyond parallel, while its
action was so rapid that even when worked by hand it threw off double
impressions of the size of the _Globe_ newspaper at the rate of eight
thousand per hour, or nearly ten-fold the number produced at the same
time by the reciprocating machine; nay, more, during this very process it
could concurrently throw off eight thousand single impressions from each
of its two rollers; thus making up thirty-two thousand single impressions
in all.

“It remains to be explained why the invention never came into general

[It was Sir Rowland Hill’s wish that the passage which next followed
in the Prefatory Memoir should be enlarged. He was not well enough
himself to make the additions which he desired, but he supplied his son,
Mr. Pearson Hill, with the necessary information and documents. After
suggesting in a manuscript marginal note the changes which should be
made, he added: “I leave this in my son’s hands, who will best know how
to deal with it.” Mr. Pearson Hill has accordingly supplied me with the
following statement:—]

    “The practical difficulties to the employment of the machine
    for the printing of newspapers—the work for which it was
    especially fitted—were all in a fair way of being removed. A
    provisional contract, which is still in our possession, had
    even been entered into with certain parties to provide my
    father with the means of rapidly casting curved stereotype
    plates, similar to those now used for printing newspapers, when
    he found himself face to face with what proved an insuperable
    difficulty on the part of the Stamp Office.

    “In those days, and indeed for many years after, newspapers
    were charged with Stamp Duty. By the requirements of the Inland
    Revenue Department, every separate sheet on which a newspaper
    was printed had to bear an impressed stamp—the separate sheets
    being sent to the Stamp Office to be so impressed, and then
    returned to the various newspaper printing offices ready for

    “This necessity for cutting the paper into separate sheets
    before printing, of course, was absolutely inconsistent with
    printing the newspaper from a continuous scroll. My father
    applied, therefore, to the Treasury to make arrangements to
    allow the stamp to be affixed by machinery as the scroll passed
    through the press (as was indeed done years afterwards), but
    his request was refused.[88] This decision on the part of the
    Treasury deferred for something like five-and-thirty years the
    introduction of the present rotatory printing-press.

    “The following is a copy of his memorial to the Treasury, and
    of the answer that he received:—


          _The Right Honorable the Chancellor of the Exchequer_.

        The Memorial of

                             ROWLAND HILL.


        That your Memorialist has recently obtained His Majesty’s
        Letters Patent for certain improvements in the method of
        letter-press printing by machinery, the object of which
        improvements, besides considerable economy, is a very
        greatly increased speed in the printing of newspapers, but
        which object cannot be fully realized unless a change can
        be permitted in the manner of impressing the Government
        Stamp upon the newspapers printed by his machines, inasmuch
        as it is an important part of his plan to make use of the
        paper, not in separate sheets but in very long scrolls,
        _i.e._, in the state it is first produced by the modern
        paper-making machines, each long scroll as it passes
        rapidly through the printing-machine receiving a series of
        repetitions of the letter-press.

        Further that

                          Your Memorialist’s

        apparatus is so constructed that one complete impression,
        and no more, is produced by one revolution of the machine,
        since the types necessary to the printing of a complete
        impression are arranged around a cylinder, whose surface
        is by the said types, with the addition of proper marginal
        spaces, wholly covered, so that each revolution of this
        cylinder gives exactly one impression.


        That the Government Stamp could readily be attached to
        the printing cylinder of your Memorialist’s machine, so
        that each revolution of the cylinder giving an impression
        of the type, should necessarily give an impression of the
        Stamp also; and that there are contrivances well known to
        machinists, and extensively used by them, by which the
        number of turns made by a machine can be recorded without
        chance of error or possibility of fraud. The Gas Meter is
        the most familiar instance, and upon its accuracy the Gas
        Companies stake their important interests without doubt or


        Under these circumstances your Memorialist ventures to
        hope that in the Bill now before Parliament for the
        consolidation of the Stamp Acts, a power may be given to
        the Commissioners of Stamps to make such arrangements as
        they may deem advisable for affording to your Memorialist
        and to the Public the advantages which the use of his
        improved printing machine offers.

        Your Memorialist takes the liberty to enclose the draft of
        a clause for consideration.

                          COPY OF ENCLOSURE.

        178.—And whereas it is expedient that no obstacle should
        be presented to the introduction of improvements in
        machinery for printing newspapers; and that to this end it
        is desirable that a provision should be made for allowing
        newspaper stamps to be affixed to the paper before it is
        cut up into separate sheets: Be it therefore enacted, That
        it shall be lawful for any printer of newspapers to stamp
        his own paper (either as it passes through the printing
        machine, or in such other way as he may prefer), provided
        he can satisfy the Commissioners of Stamps and Taxes that
        no danger of a fraud on the Revenue will arise in his case.

                            COPY OF REPLY.

                  Treasury Chambers, 18th June, 1836.


        Having laid before the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s
        Treasury your Memorial praying that a Clause may be
        inserted into the New Stamp Bill, allowing the printers of
        newspapers themselves to impress the necessary Stamps on
        their papers, I am directed to acquaint you that My Lords
        cannot comply with your request.

        I am, Sir,

                        Your obedient Servant,

                                                    A. G. SPEARMAN.

        Mr. Rowland Hill, 2, Burton Crescent.

    “It may not be without interest to the public to show how
    easily ‘insuperable’ official objections can be overcome, when
    those who raise them desire it. Many years afterwards, when
    the proprietors of a London newspaper were making improvements
    in their printing machinery, and required the very facility
    for which my father had vainly contended, the Board of Inland
    Revenue, as I am told, on looking into the Act of Parliament
    on the matter, found that though the printing of the impressed
    stamp at the same time as the rest of the newspaper was clearly
    illegal, the only parties who could proceed against any
    newspaper proprietor so offending were the Commissioners of
    Inland Revenue themselves. Now as the Commissioners had made
    up their minds to allow the change, not only was an intimation
    given to the proprietors of the newspaper in question that they
    would not be interfered with, but the officers of the Stamp
    Office—Mr. Edwin Hill especially—gave most valuable assistance
    in devising the means of carrying out the improved (though
    decidedly illegal) arrangement.

    “I may add that at the Caxton Exhibition in 1877, a copy
    of my father’s patent, as well as a type cylinder, inking
    apparatus, and such other portions of his printing machine as,
    after a lapse of forty-two years, could be got together, were
    exhibited, and are now to be seen by any one interested in the
    matter in the South Kensington Museum.”

[Though the employment of his printing machine for newspaper work was
rendered impossible by the obstacle described above, it might still
have been available for other purposes, had he been able to give it his
attention. He thus continues his narrative:—]

    “It was about this time that I began to entertain distinct
    hopes, however slight as yet their foundation, of employment
    in relation to postal affairs; and as usual in cases of
    great difficulty, I consulted my father and my brothers on
    the subject of future proceedings. I represented that I
    found myself unable to continue my duties in relation to the
    Australian Commission, and, at the same time, both to take
    effectual means for establishing the success of the printing
    machine, and to labour efficiently at my project for postal
    reform. Here was grave matter for consideration, the invention
    having already cost a large amount of labour, spread over a
    whole year, from both my brother and myself, besides £2,000
    in hard cash; while, on the other hand, postal prospects, in
    which every one present took a deep interest, all having
    indeed already laboured with me in the cause, were regarded as
    promising. It was inquired whether my brother, who had thus
    far assisted me in the printing machine, could not himself
    carry the matter to completion; but unhappily his health was
    at that time in too depressed a state to leave any hope that
    he could alone surmount obstacles so formidable. Here I may
    remark that, at one time or other, every member of our family
    has fallen, at least once in his life, through excessive labour
    and anxiety, into severe, protracted, and even dangerous
    illness—illness involving consequences which nothing but our
    unshaken union could have enabled us to support. After long and
    careful consideration, they concurred in advising that the Post
    Office should be preferred to the printing machine; and as this
    recommendation seconded my own opinion, I decided to act upon

    “I have only to say, in conclusion, that a printer of the
    highest standing in his trade, induced, I suppose, partly by
    what I had done in this matter, partly by a general knowledge
    of my antecedents, offered me in 1839 a very advantageous
    partnership,[89] which I should certainly have accepted, but
    that it would have involved my refusal of the offer which
    Government had just then made me, viz., of a post in the
    Treasury for the prosecution of my plan of postal reform.”[90]

[This account of Rowland Hill’s printing-press may be well brought to an
end by the following extract from a letter which he wrote to his wife on
July 17th, 1835:—]

    “I have a good account to give of the printing machine. We have
    now completed the single machine, and the night before last we
    gave it a trial. It worked better than I hoped even, and fully
    established, I think, the correctness of the views we have
    entertained. Miss D——, who left for Birmingham this morning,
    has taken with her the scroll of paper which was printed....
    It will be forwarded to you. I need not ask you to take care
    of it, and to return it when you come back to me. Some day or
    other it may be a great curiosity.”



    “_There is good to a man’s self in doing good to others; and
    the further this extends the higher it rises, and the longer it
    lasts. Besides, there is beauty in order, and there are charms
    in well-deserved praise: and both are the greater, by how much
    greater the subject._”—SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE.


The following narrative was originally drawn up at much greater length,
and in its present shape is the result of a double abridgment, first in
manuscript and afterwards in print. This proceeding was according to a
preconceived plan; my wish being to leave to my relatives a more detailed
history than was likely to be acceptable to the public, and at the same
time to supply ample means for dealing with any question that might arise
as to accuracy of statement.

Perhaps it may be thought that abridgment might have been advantageously
carried yet further; but, on the one hand, I hope there is at present no
more superfluous matter than can be readily skipt; and, on the other,
I naturally desired that the public should have so much of detail as
would distinctly set forth the authorship, execution, and administration
of the chief Postal Reforms effected during the last thirty years. My
story is told in the first person; but it is only in a limited sense
that it is autobiographic. For reasons that will be easily gathered
from the narrative, I had to devolve upon another the task of immediate
composition, and I deemed it fortunate that one upon whose pen I had much
relied from the first, had leisure for the work. This, I may remark, is
much more vicarious in the narrative presented to the public than in
the original, where events are to a great extent described in letters
or in extracts from my Journal. Of course the whole has undergone my
careful revision, a duty in which I have been by no means unaided; but,
after every correction, I cannot feel sure that sense has not sometimes
suffered in paraphrase; and if it appear hereafter that on some minor
points expression conveys or suggests erroneous meaning, I must ask
the reader to believe that such deviation is not only contrary to my
intention and sincere desire, but has occurred in spite of our earnest

If the reader find somewhat too much of self-assertion—if he think I
have too often quoted what is complimentary to myself—I ask him to
consider how much I have suffered from detraction and injustice; how my
conclusions were ridiculed, my success denied; and how, when success was
incontestable, the origination of my plan was claimed by others. Let him
see me dismissed from office, without recompense, by a man of Sir Robert
Peel’s high character, and consider the presumption naturally arising
from an act so unusual; let him observe how long and pertinaciously the
progress of Postal Reform was troubled and thwarted, and how loudly and
confidently I was charged with proceedings for which I of all men was
farthest from being responsible. He will readily be aware that claims and
accusations may revive when I am no more; and will perhaps pardon me if,
with all the reserve adverted to above, I am still led by precaution into
what he may regard as prolixity.

One point more. If it be asked why I do not yet publish this history,
so as to enable me to meet in my own person any controversy to which it
may give rise, I answer—first, that by the time of its completion my
vigour, both of body and mind, had become so impaired, as to put such
direct defence, should it be needed, altogether beyond my power; and,
secondly, that I hope and trust the delay of a few years may enable my
executors, while retaining all statements essential to the completeness
of the narrative, so to place it before the public as to avoid wounding
the feelings of any one.

                                                            ROWLAND HILL.

_February, 1871._




Amongst the many subjects which casually attracted the attention of our
family, the operations of the Post Office naturally took their turn. My
father spoke at times of Palmer’s great improvement,[91] which he well
remembered, and mentioned its beneficial results. Postal considerations,
moreover, came upon us in a very practical form; every day that brought
post-letters brought also a demand for payment, the postman waiting at
the door till he had received his money. In the very early period, when
we were most straitened in means, his rap was not always welcome; the
demand being certain and sometimes inconvenient; the recompense, in
the way of news, doubtful. Tradesmen’s circulars, in particular, which
sometimes came from a considerable distance, and always unpaid, were
great causes of disappointment and irritation. Happily they were but rare
in those days, or the evil would have been intolerable.

As much more than half the present generation have had no experience of
any other system than that of penny postage, it must be difficult, if
not impracticable, to give an adequate conception of the state of things
at the time referred to, of the height and variety of rates charged,
and of the multitudinous shifts resorted to for their evasion. The law
gave the Post Office a monopoly, and respect for the law is considered
characteristic of our countrymen; but, to the best of my memory, I never
knew of any one being withheld from its breach on this point, save by
considerations either of convenience or of prudence.

The following facts are given by way of example: If, when residing at
Birmingham, we received a letter from London, the lowest charge was
ninepence, while the slightest enclosure raised it to eighteenpence,
and a second enclosure to two shillings and threepence, though the
whole missive might not weigh a quarter of an ounce. We had relatives
at Haddington; the lowest rate thence was thirteenpence-halfpenny;
others at Shrewsbury, but the postage thence I do not remember, as we
never used the Post Office in our correspondence with them, since a
tradesman in our town who had occasion to send and, in turn, to receive
a weekly packet, was kind enough to enclose our letters, we carrying
them more than half a mile to place them in his hands, while the return
letters, being dropped by him into the Birmingham Post Office, came to
us charged with merely the local rate of one penny. In looking over
letters of the period antecedent to the Post Office reform, I find
constant reference to expedients for saving postage; thus, in writing
to a friend at a particular town, we would trouble him to call upon
such and such others to communicate intelligence, or to make inquiries,
the result to be reported in his next letter; sometimes, even, we would
ask him to call upon tradesmen to give orders, or to urge despatch in
commissions previously given. If a friend were about to make a journey
to a town where we had connections, we did not hesitate to place letters
in his hands, regardless alike of his trouble and the chance of his
forgetfulness; being ourselves, of course, ready in turn to perform the
like service. In the year 1823, taking a holiday excursion through the
lake district[92] to Scotland, and wishing to keep my family informed
as to my movements and my health (then in a depressed state), I carried
with me a number of old newspapers, and in franking these, according to
the useless form then required, while I left the postmark with its date
to show the place, I indicated my state of health by selecting names
according to previous arrangement; the more Liberal members being taken
to indicate that I was better, while Tories were to show that I was
falling back; “Sir Francis Burdett” was to imply vigorous health, while
probably “Lord Eldon” would almost have brought one of my brothers after
me in anxiety and alarm.[93] In later days, more especially after our
removal to the neighbourhood of London, and most of all while my eldest
brother was in Parliament, we sometimes procured franks, particularly
when for any reason we had unusual regard to appearances; but as at that
time we were in easier circumstances, we felt some compunction in using
franks for general purposes, thinking it questionable to evade an impost
by the use of means from which, as we well knew by earlier experience,
those lower down were utterly debarred. This feeling became stronger as
we learnt the monstrous abuses which had grown up in connection with the
franking system; when we found, for instance, that though a member’s
frank would cover but an ounce, there were franks of another kind which
served for unlimited weight, and were said to have been actually used to
free a greatcoat, a bundle of baby-linen, and a pianoforte.

Even in our early days, however, necessity being the mother of conception
as well as of invention, my father, while testifying great admiration for
the postal system generally, had repeatedly expressed the opinion that,
even for fiscal purposes, postage was unwisely high, an opinion which
in all probability tended to draw my attention to postal affairs. Be
this as it may, the earliest record on the subject that I can find in my
memoranda, and which is dated August, 1826 (that is, ten years before the
publication of my pamphlet), gives my first conception of a travelling
post office. It is as follows:—

    “The mails reach London at six in the morning, and the
    distribution of letters does not commence till after nine.
    Might not the mails arrive three hours later, and consequently
    leave the respective towns three hours later, if the letters
    could be assorted and marked on the road? And might not this be
    done by the guard, if he had the inside fitted up with shelves,
    &c., for the purpose? The charge for postage might be marked
    with a stamp; as each bag was received, all the London letters
    it contained would require the same stamp-mark, except in cases
    of double and treble letters, when the mark might be repeated.
    If, from any defects in the address, the guard should not be
    able to assign any letter to its proper district, he might
    put it by for assortment at the General Post Office, to be
    delivered the next day.... An additional body might be added to
    the coach for inside passengers, or, the load being less, two
    of the horses might perhaps be spared, which would enable the
    speed to be increased (as with a proportionate load two will
    go quicker than four horses), and would save time in changing

At a yet earlier date than this, however, though how many years before
I do not know, I had given some little thought to the subject of more
rapid locomotion; having mainly in view, I believe, the speedier
conveyance of the mail. I had considered, as well as some others, the
question of propulsion by steam, being of course entirely unaware of
the great invention then progressing in the mind of George Stephenson;
and, indeed, having no notion that the laying of a railway would be a
necessary preliminary. Steam, however, I soon abandoned for a more potent
as well as more portable agent, viz., gunpowder;[94] and with this I
made some experiments; but these proving unsatisfactory, I carried my
researches no further, and so escaped, perhaps, a serious explosion.
My next memorandum bears date January 11th, 1830, and suggests the
feasibility of conveying the mails through tubes by atmospheric means;
but this, also, remained a crude and unpublished conception.

I have already mentioned[95] that our opinion was from first to last, and
without reserve or exception, in favour of free trade. Such being our
views, we had welcomed with joy the gradual relaxation of the protective
system, which, commencing under Mr. Huskisson, never absolutely stopped
until protection was no more. We had remarked, with satisfaction, that
the lowering of the tariff had not produced a corresponding reduction
in the public revenue; and we indulged in sanguine hopes that, even
where reduction appeared in a particular department, it either would be
temporary or would be made up in some other.

The year 1835 having brought a large surplus in the general revenue,
we naturally speculated as to its application in the reduction of
duties;[96] and it was then that my thoughts first turned earnestly
to the Post Office. I now examined more in detail the result of the
late financial reforms: and I found (as subsequently stated in my
pamphlet[97]) that in the reductions hitherto made, the relation between
the relief to the public and the loss to the revenue had varied greatly;
so that, while in the instance of leather and soap the reduction of one
half of the duty had eventually caused to the revenue a loss of one
third, in that of coffee the same reduction had actually produced a gain
of one half. This brought me to the conclusion that, “when a reduction of
taxation is about to take place, it is exceedingly important that great
care and judgment should be exercised in the selection of the tax to
be reduced, in order that the maximum of relief may be afforded to the
public with the minimum of injury to the revenue.”[98]

My next attempt was to arrive at some rule which might serve for general
guidance in such cases; and I came to the conclusion that, with some
allowance for exceptions, the best test would be found by examining each
tax “as to whether its productiveness has kept pace with the increasing
number and prosperity of the nation. And the tax which proves most
defective under this test is in all probability the one we are now in
quest of.”[99]

This test brought the tax I had in mind, viz., that on the transmission
of letters, into bad pre-eminence; since, during the previous twenty
years, viz., from 1815 to 1835 (my investigations being made in 1836),
the absolute revenue derived from the Post Office, whether gross or net,
instead of increasing, had even somewhat diminished; whereas, if it had
merely kept pace with the growth of population, to say nothing of the
concurrent spread of education, extension of trade, and advancement in
prosperity, the revenue—I mean the net revenue—would have increased by no
less than £500,000.[100]

To try the matter further, I looked out for some other tax, which, while
less exorbitant, was in other respects liable to as nearly as possible
the same influences, and I naturally took the duty on stage-coaches.
I found that the amount yielded by this, instead of diminishing, like
that in question, had more than doubled in the same period; increasing
from less than £218,000 to nearly £500,000, or about one hundred and
twenty-eight per cent. I found, again, that if the Post Office revenue
had risen in like proportion (and it seemed scarcely to be doubted that
the demand for the conveyance of letters had increased in the same ratio
as that for the conveyance of persons and parcels), the increase of
net revenue would have been no less than £2,000,000.[101] The general
fairness of this conclusion was afterwards shown by the fact; 116 per
cent. having been the ratio of increase in the net revenue of the Post
Office during the twenty years between 1847 and 1867.

For yet further comparison, I turned to the accounts of the Post Office
revenue in France, where the rates of postage were less exorbitant than
with us, and taking the gross revenue (the net revenue not being given),
I found that this had risen from somewhat less than £1,000,000 in 1821
to nearly £1,500,000 in 1835, about fifty-four per cent. in fourteen

Nor was I proceeding without authority in thus condemning the existing
postal rates as unsound in policy, Sir Henry Parnell having attributed
the non-increase of the revenue to the high duty charged on letters;
while Mr. McCulloch had not only taken the same general view, but
attributed the loss to the illicit conveyance of letters, for which the
increased number of coaches gave so much facility.[103] Of the important
services of Mr. Wallace in elucidating the same point I shall speak

While thus confirmed in my belief that, even from a financial point of
view, the postal rates were injuriously high, I also became more and
more convinced, the more I considered the question, that the fiscal loss
was not the most serious injury thus inflicted on the public; that yet
more serious evil resulted from the obstruction thus raised to the moral
and intellectual progress of the people; and that the Post Office, if
put on a sound footing, would assume the new and important character
of a powerful engine of civilisation; that though now rendered feeble
and inefficient by erroneous financial arrangements, it was capable of
performing a distinguished part in the great work of national education.
I became also more alive to the consideration that the duty of rendering
its operation as beneficial as possible, incumbent as this must be on
any institution, became doubly so on the Post Office, from its being a
monopoly; that, as it forbade all others to perform its functions, it was
bound to render its own performance as complete as possible.[104] Of this
view I found strong confirmation in the recent report of a Government

Being thus fully convinced that the present arrangements were wrong, I
had next to inquire as to the changes most effectual for redress. As I
had never yet been within the walls of any Post Office[106] (an advantage
which was, indeed, reserved for me until after the adoption of my plan),
my only sources of information, for the time, consisted in those heavy
blue books, in which invaluable matter too often lies hidden amidst heaps
of rubbish. Into some of these, as previously implied, I had already
dipped; but Mr. Wallace having supplied me by post with an additional
half hundred weight of raw material, I now commenced that systematic
study, analysis, and comparison, which the difficulty of my self-imposed
task rendered necessary.

I started, however, with the simple notion that rates must be
reduced,—but soon came to the conclusion that such reduction might be
carried to a considerable extent not only without loss to the revenue,
but with positive benefit; that a larger reduction might be made without
loss, and a still larger without drawing upon the surplus beyond a
reasonable extent.[107] The question to be decided therefore was, how
far the total reduction might safely be carried; and this involved two
preliminary inquiries; first, what would be the probable increase of
correspondence consequent upon such or such reduction; secondly, what
would be the augmentation of expense consequent upon such increase.

Investigation upon this latter head brought out three important facts.
The first was that one great source of expense was to be found in what
is technically called “taxing” the letters, that is, ascertaining and
marking the postage to be charged on each; the second, that great
expense likewise arose from complicated accounts, postmasters having to
be debited with unpaid postage on letters transmitted to their offices,
and credited with their payments made in return; while they again had
to receive and check the payments of the letter carriers, who, it must
be remembered, received, at that time, from the public, almost all the
postage paid; the third, that the cost of delivering letters, great as it
inevitably was, was much augmented—indeed, save in rural districts, more
than doubled—by being saddled with the collection of postage. It further
appeared that these expenses must increase in something like direct
proportion to increase in the number of letters.

These conclusions led me to perceive that for the effectual reduction
of expense it was necessary to obtain simplicity of operation, and
therefore to reduce the prodigious variety of rates (then extending,
on single inland letters alone, to upwards of forty), and further, to
adopt means to induce prepayment, so as to save the time at once of the
letter carriers, of the clerks with whom they had to account for postage
received, of the provincial postmasters, and, lastly, of the clerks at
the central office.

In considering how far the variety of rates might be reduced, I was
naturally led to inquire what proportion of postal expense proceeded from
the conveyance of letters between town and town, and further, how far
such expense, whatever it might be, varied in relation to distance. On
pursuing this inquiry, I arrived at results so startling that nothing but
the most careful verification could satisfy me of their accuracy. I first
perceived that the expense of such conveyance, which one would naturally
suppose to be very great, was in fact, when divided by the number of
missives, very small.

Having, according to the best information then accessible, estimated
the number of letters and newspapers annually passing through the Post
Office at 126,000,000, I calculated the apparent cost of what I termed
the primary distribution, viz., the receipt, conveyance and distribution
of missives passing from post town to post town, and found that this
cost, on all such letters, newspapers, &c., within the United Kingdom,
was, on the average, only 84-hundredths of a penny each; and that of this
sum only one-third, or 28-hundredths of a penny went to conveyance; the
remaining two-thirds, or 56-hundredths of a penny, appertaining to the
receipt and delivery of letters, the collection of postage, &c. I further
remarked that, as the cost of conveyance for a given distance is, under
ordinary circumstances, in tolerably direct proportion to the weight
carried, and as a newspaper or franked letter (and franked letters were
then very numerous) weighs generally as much as several ordinary letters,
the average expense of conveying a letter chargeable with postage must
be much lower yet; probably about one-third of the sum mentioned above,
or, in other words, nine-hundredths of a penny; a conclusion pretty well
supported by the acknowledged fact that the chargeable letters did not
weigh more than about one-fourth of the whole mail.[108] Beyond this, I
found, by another calculation, based on more exact data, that the cost
of transit as regards the great mass of letters, small as it appeared to
be, was in reality still smaller; being probably loaded with charges not
strictly appertaining to it, and certainly enhanced by the carriage of
the mail to places which were “not of sufficient importance to repay the

Having found, with tolerable accuracy, the total cost of conveying the
mail from London to Edinburgh;[110] having in like manner estimated the
weight of the mail so conveyed, and from these premises deduced the
cost per letter, I found this to be no more than one thirty-sixth part
of a penny, though the distance, four hundred miles, is far above the

Thus, then, I found, first, that the cost of conveying a letter between
post town and post town was exceedingly small; secondly, that it had but
little relation to distance; and thirdly, that it depended much upon
the number of letters conveyed by the particular mail; and as the cost
per letter would diminish with every increase in such number, and as
such increase would certainly follow reduction of postage, it followed
that, if a great reduction could be effected, the cost of conveyance, per
letter, already so small, might be deemed absolutely insignificant.

Hence, then, I came to the important conclusion that the existing
practice of regulating the amount of postage by the distance over which
an inland letter was conveyed, however plausible in appearance, had no
foundation in principle; and that consequently the rates of postage
should be irrespective of distance. I scarcely need add that this
discovery, as startling to myself as it could be to any one else, was the
basis of the plan which has made so great a change in postal affairs.

New prospects having thus opened upon me, I was next led to consider two
further questions, both important to that simplicity of arrangement of
which I was in quest.

First, was it possible that the existing variable charge should be
exchanged for a single uniform rate?

Second, was it practicable to require prepayment?

No great sagacity was needful to perceive how vast would be the
convenience to the public, and the economy of labour to the Post Office,
if either of these points could be secured, and how prodigious the gain
from attaining both.

As regards the first, it was clear that as the expenses of the receipt
and delivery were the same for all letters, while the cost of conveyance,
already so small, seemed reducible to absolute insignificance, a uniform
rate would approach nearer to absolute justice than any other rate that
could be fixed.

It further appeared that as lowness of rate was essential to uniformity
(since no serious elevation of the lowest existing rates would be
tolerated, and the same lowness was the only condition on which
prepayment could be successfully required) every reduction of working
expenses, however obtained, would itself, by facilitating decrease of
rate, become a means of attaining the simplicity indispensable to my plan.

Seeing that there would be great difficulty in establishing any uniform
rate higher than the minimum then in use, viz., one penny, I was of
course led to consider whether the uniform rate could be fixed as low as
that small sum; or, in other words, what loss of net revenue would be
involved in the adoption of a penny rate; and next, whether such loss
would be admissible for the sake of the great advantages to be thereby

Again, however, perceiving that though simple distance did not justify
increase of rate, yet such increase might be required by remoteness from
the great highways of traffic, I thought that probably general uniformity
might be more easily secured by sacrificing universality; and hence
arose my conception, now doubtless generally forgotten, of a practical
distinction between primary and secondary distribution. By primary
distribution, I meant the transmission of letters, &c., from post town to
post town throughout the United Kingdom, and the delivery within the post
towns; and by secondary distribution, that distribution which proceeds
from each post town, as a centre, to places of inferior importance;[112]
my plan being that within the range of primary distribution there should
be a uniform rate of one penny, retaining an additional charge for
secondary distribution (to be collected on delivery), unless, indeed,
any district so served might choose to take the cost of such distribution
upon itself.

Of the equity of such a distinction it is needless to speak, since
the difference of charge would have proceeded from a difference in
actual expense; of its feasibility it is enough to say that it was to
a considerable extent in actual use, the common practice being, on the
arrival of a letter at any post town, for delivery beyond a certain
range, to charge an additional penny. In one instance at least the
existing difference was yet greater, the additional charge in the London
district being as high as twopence. In some towns in each of the three
kingdoms the secondary principle was carried so far as to impose a
special charge, generally of a penny, on all letters not fetched from the
office by the receiver;[113] a practice continued, I believe, for some
time even after the establishment of penny postage. The only remaining
question was whether, supposing this distinction to be set aside, the
advantage of absolute uniformity would compensate for the injustice
involved in establishing equality of charge with inequality of expense.

At the same time, wishing to give primary distribution its greatest
possible range, and to make the rates even on secondary distribution as
low as could fairly be done, I proposed that the whole weight of taxation
should be thrown on the primary distribution, which was to include every
place which could be reached without absolute loss to the revenue, and
that each department of the secondary distribution should just defray
its own expenses.[114] On this plan I hoped that, under economical
management, every important village would be able to obtain at least one
delivery per day, and the importance of such extension will be strikingly
manifest when the reader is reminded that at the period in question
there were, even in England proper, districts as large as the county of
Middlesex in which the postman never set foot.

Upon looking back to this question as it then stood, I am inclined to
think that the early abandonment of this distinction (made for reasons
that will appear hereafter) was on several accounts unfortunate; one
serious consequence being a great aggravation of the immediate loss to
the revenue, but a far more important one its effect in retarding that
extension of postal facilities of which I have yet to speak, and which
was so important both to public convenience and fiscal recovery. As the
additional charge would have repaid the cost of extension, the most
ostensible as well as the most valid objection thereto, would have been
removed; and that development might have been rapid which was, in fact,
lamentably slow. Doubtless the distinction would have been but temporary,
save, perhaps, in those remote places where there is now no delivery at
all; elsewhere, secondary distribution would have gradually yielded to

One important circumstance on which I relied for increase in the number
of post letters was the extent to which, under the stimulus of high
rates, contraband conveyance was carried. Of this I have already made
some little mention, but there was a systematic evasion of the law that
far outstripped anything that could be done by merely private hands. I
had learnt, for instance, that the carriers plying between Birmingham
and the neighbouring towns, to the distance of twelve or thirteen miles,
were in the constant habit of conveying letters, which they delivered at
one penny each (justifying so far my proposed reduction); and a highly
respectable merchant and manufacturer of that town gave it me as his
opinion that the number of letters so distributed very greatly exceeded
the number distributed in the same district by the Post Office.[116]
It was also well known that vast numbers were every day forwarded
by carriers and coach proprietors. Of course, discoveries sometimes
occurred, and penalties were levied, but the traffic was so openly
carried on that the risk could not have been great—an occasional seizure
doing little more than show the extent of the practice, which, indeed,
was not likely to be suppressed so long as it was sanctioned by the moral
sense of the public; in face of which the Post Office itself could not
levy its full penalties. Thus, in the year 1833, though one of the fines
incurred was as high as £1,000, the highest amount actually paid was only
£160.[117] Such a seizure had lately been made, bringing to light in a
carrier’s warehouse one bag containing no less than 1,100 letters.[118]
Independently, however, of positive evidence, it was clear that “the
vast extent to which the trade of the country had increased during the
previous twenty years” (viz., those immediately following the close of
the great war with France and the second war with the United States)
“must have been attended by a proportionate increase in the amount of
mercantile correspondence, while the spread of education and increase
of population during the same period must have greatly augmented the
correspondence of all kinds.”[119]

Now it was easy to foresee (though, as will afterwards appear, the
very probability was then not merely questioned, but denied) that the
proposed reduction to one penny would cause all, or nearly all, this
correspondence to pass through the Post Office, which, by its superior
organisation and command of means, would render private competition on
equal terms altogether futile.

I have already remarked on the encouragement afforded by the increased
sale of various articles after the reduction of the duties thereon; but
perceiving that such reduction could tend to increased sale only by its
effect on price, and that the chief element of price is cost, over which
legislation has no control, I was naturally led to expect that here,
where the reduction would be directly and fully in the price itself, the
consequent increase of custom would be very much greater.[120]

As a means of giving some indication of the results to be looked for, I
took two or three articles, of which, from whatever cause, the price had
fallen, and observed how far cheapening had been followed by increase
in consumption. Thus, the price of soap having fallen by one-eighth,
the consumption had increased by one-third; in tea, a reduction of
one-sixth had increased consumption by almost a half; in coffee, a
gradual reduction of one-fourth (occurring during the previous thirteen
years) had been accompanied by an increase in consumption amounting to
three-fold;—while in cotton goods, a similar reduction of one-half,
spread over about twenty years, had been accompanied by a corresponding
increase of no less than fourfold.

Thus, it appeared that reduction in price, even if it does not increase
the total expenditure on the article affected, seldom, if ever,
permanently lowers its amount.[121]

Hence it followed that, even supposing the postage to be reduced to the
low rate contemplated, the public would probably continue to expend as
much in postage as before; and that thus the gross revenue would be
sustained. According to my calculation, this implied an increase in the
number of letters posted to the amount of between five- and six-fold.

Moreover, the soundness of the principle had already stood the test of
experiment, though on a small scale, in the Post Office itself; the
chief trial having taken place in the London district, and considerable
reductions having also been recently made in the postage of foreign
letters, all speedily followed by great increase in the amount of
receipts therefrom. Of loss to revenue following reduction of postage,
save as a very temporary consequence, I knew no instance.

In brief, I arrived at the following conclusions:—

First, that the number of letters passing through the post would be
greatly increased by the disuse of franks and abandonment of illicit
conveyance; by the breaking up of one long letter into several shorter
ones, by the use of the post for the distribution of circulars and the
issue of many circulars hitherto withheld; and, lastly, by an enormous
enlargement of the class of letter-writers.

Further, that supposing the public, according to its practice in other
cases, only to expend as much in postage as before, the loss to the
net revenue would be but small; and again, that such loss, even if
large, would be more than compensated by the powerful stimulus given by
low postage to the productive power of the country, and the consequent
increase of revenue in other departments.

Finally, that while the risk to Post Office revenue was comparatively
small and the chance of eventual gain not inconsiderable, and while the
beneficial effect on the general revenue was little less than certain,
the adoption of my plan would certainly confer a most important,
manifest, and acceptable benefit on the country.[122]

It is now high time to speak of one whose valuable services in the cause
of Post Office reform are, I fear, but insufficiently remembered at the
present day, but who, nevertheless, was in the field more than two years
before I began my investigations, and who, while unconsciously preparing
the way for my proceedings, procured, by persevering efforts, some
immediate changes of considerable value. This was the late Mr. Wallace,
who, having been elected to the first reformed Parliament for the new
borough of Greenock, began, in 1833, a course of bold criticism on the
proceedings of the Post Office, which, though received at first, perhaps
because of some over-earnestness, with unmerited ridicule, gradually
succeeded in obtaining attention in Parliament, and even in some degree
from the public.

Up to that time the Post Office, notwithstanding its manifold
imperfections, had for a long period—perhaps ever since the adoption
of Palmer’s great reform—almost always escaped general censure. Nor,
indeed, is this surprising; for it must be admitted that, however far it
lagged behind the knowledge of the age, it was even then, abstractedly
considered, a wonderful machine, conveying missives to and from the most
distant places with much more approach to regularity and certainty than
any other means had yet afforded; so that it was generally regarded
in those days as an admirable mystery, whose apparent vagaries and
shortcomings resulted, no doubt, from insuperable difficulties well
understood by the initiated, but far beyond the comprehension of the
profane vulgar. The merit of breaking down this prestige is due in great
measure to Mr. Wallace’s exertions; for, though the Commissioners of
Revenue Inquiry, already referred to, had a short time before with great
ability exposed much mismanagement in the Post Office, and recommended
various improvements (some of which were afterwards taken up by Mr.
Wallace, and some still later by myself), yet these exposures and
recommendations, buried as they were in voluminous reports, attracted
little attention from the public.

Mr. Wallace, however, not contented with denouncing abuses, proceeded to
indicate various remedies; thus, he advised the adoption of weight as a
measure of charge, instead of the absurd and troublesome plan then in
use, which regulated it mainly by the number of enclosures. Again, he
proposed that the contract for the construction of mail-coaches should be
thrown open to public competition; a measure which being soon afterwards
adopted, effected a saving of more than £17,000 per annum. He also urged
the consolidation of the London General and District Post Offices; a
measure which subsequently formed part of the plan of penny postage,
though not carried into effect until many years afterwards; and, lastly,
he urged the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into the management
of the Post Office; a measure carried into effect early in 1835—the
Commission continuing its labours until 1838, during which period it
issued no less than ten reports; its efforts fairly entitling it to the
credit of much of the subsequent improvement. During the first year of
its operations Mr. Wallace, suspending his efforts in Parliament, more
effectually served the cause to which he had devoted himself by assisting
in the investigations of the Commission; giving evidence, in the course
of which he recommended, amongst others, the following improvements:
first, the establishment of day mails—which subsequently formed part of
my plan, and was eventually carried into effect, with great advantage
to the public and to the revenue; secondly, a reduction in the rates of
postage; and thirdly, more frequent communication between place and place.

In 1836, resuming his labours in Parliament, while urging various other
measures, he repeated his recommendation of a reduction in the rates of
postage, naming eightpence or ninepence as a maximum (a limitation which,
whatever may be thought of it now, would then have been regarded as a
great improvement); he advised, secondly, the registration of letters
(afterwards carried into effect with advantage both to the public and
the revenue); and lastly, the abandonment of a rule, so monstrous that
its maintenance seems now hardly credible, by which the rate of charge,
instead of being regulated by the actual distance between place and place
(supposing distance to be the true criterion), was varied according to
the length of the course, often very circuitous, which the letter was
made to take for the convenience of the Post Office. It was in this
year (1836) that my acquaintance with Mr. Wallace began; but I must now
return for a time to my own proceedings, merely observing here, though
I shall have occasion to recur to the subject, that any one wishing for
a concise, but I believe tolerably complete, statement of Mr. Wallace’s
services, may refer to the report of a speech, given in the Appendix (F),
which I made at Greenock in the year 1850, at a meeting convened for the
purpose of originating a national testimonial to Mr. Wallace, for his
services in relation to postal reform.

Being now prepared with my main facts and conclusions, I had to consider
how best to give them effect. The time seemed propitious, the Liberals
being in power, the almost superstitious respect for the Post Office
being, not indeed shattered, but certainly shaken, and a large surplus
being ready to make good the immediate loss likely to follow reduction,
as well as to provide for the moderate permanent loss on which I had
reckoned, as a proper sacrifice to the public good, in view of the great
advantages to be thereby secured. By this time, moreover, I had many
friends in Parliament, and even some acquaintance with one or two members
of the Government; which encouraged me to hope that my plan would, at
least, receive attention; and attention, I was sanguine enough to think,
must soon induce adoption.

I set to work, therefore, to give my matter such shape as seemed best
fitted to illustrate my facts and give force to my arguments. In urging
the various benefits to be anticipated from cheap and easy postal
conveyance, I did not fail to dwell on its aid to education, which was
then at length beginning to be regarded as a matter of national interest
and national duty, though the movement in its favour was still grievously
clogged by sectarian prejudice and political animosities. The following
passage will show that I gave it the chief place in my summary:—[123]

    “Its object is not to increase the political power of this or
    that party, but to benefit all sects in politics and religion;
    and all classes from the highest to the lowest. To the rich,
    as to the less wealthy, it will be acceptable, from the
    increased facilities it will afford for their correspondence.
    To the middle classes it will bring relief from oppressive
    and irritating demands which they pay grudgingly; estimating
    them even beyond their real amount, because probably of
    their frequent recurrence—which they avoid by every possible
    contrivance, and which they would consider quite intolerable
    if they knew that nearly the whole is a tax. And to the poor
    it will afford the means of communication with their distant
    friends and relatives, from which they are at present debarred.
    It will give increased energy to trade; it will remove
    innumerable temptations to fraud; and it will be an important
    step in general education; the more important, perhaps, because
    it calls on Government for no factitious aid, for nothing in
    the shape of encouragement, still less of compulsion; but
    merely for the removal of an obstacle, created by the law, to
    that spontaneous education which happily is extending through
    the country, and which, even the opponents of a national system
    will agree, ought to be unobstructed in its progress.”[124]



As yet I had proceeded almost alone; but when I had made a draft of my
intended pamphlet, our usual family council was convened, to hear it read
and consider its contents. I cannot now recall, even vaguely, the various
discussions that ensued, nor the suggestions and modifications to which
they gave rise; but the general result was a hearty approval of the plan,
and that ready co-operation in promoting it which never failed me in any
need, either before or after. Probably the wording of the draft underwent
various changes, but the general tenour remained unaltered; and when all
had been done that our united care could effect, the paper was printed
(though marked “Private and Confidential.”) With certain exceptions,
to be named hereafter, and with some additions to the Appendix, it
was substantially and almost literally the same as that subsequently
published under the title of “Post Office Reform, Second Edition.”[125]

When, however, I placed my paper in the hands of Government (which I did
early in January, 1837), it was in the earnest desire that no publication
might be necessary.[126] Hoping, with the sanguine expectation of
an inventor, that a right understanding of my plan must secure its
adoption, and relying with confidence on the clearness and force of my
exposition, I little knew as yet the endless complexities in the machine
of Government, the deep-rooted prejudice of routine, or the countless
interests ready to start up in alarm at the appearance of innovation.

The first result, however, of my sending in my treatise was encouraging,
as I received a summons to wait upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr.
Spring Rice. I must add that he received me courteously, that he listened
attentively to my representations, and seemed to imply a sort of general
approval of my plan, by suggesting some modification in detail, advising
the reconsideration of some of its parts, and recommending that in some
others the facts and arguments should be given more in detail; and, in
conclusion, by requesting me to send in a supplement to my paper.

In this document, which I sent in on the 28th of the same month
(January), I gave more in detail my reasons for expecting a great
increase in the number of letters. The ounce, which I had taken merely as
the lowest rate then recognised in the Post Office, having been objected
to as too large for the minimum weight and measure of increase (on the
ground that it would allow several letters to be sent under one cover,
to be afterwards distributed by private hand), I adopted the Chancellor
of the Exchequer’s suggestion for the substitution of the half-ounce.
Perhaps some future reformer may recommend the restoration of the
original standard.[127] On the other hand, the pound having been objected
to as too high a maximum, since its use might excite discontent among
coach proprietors and other carriers, who would probably regard it as an
interference with their trade, I proposed a reduction to four ounces. At
a later period, however, if I may so far anticipate events, when penny
postage came to be established, the pound limit was the one adopted,
and even this limitation was afterwards withdrawn, so as to leave no
restriction in weight save what would arise from augmented charge.

I had also to deal with the question of prepayment, on which difficulties
had been raised both in the office and by some persons without; the
former taking alarm lest its establishment, however attained, should
greatly diminish the amount of correspondence, and the latter objecting
that it would enable the clerks in the Post Office to become possessed
of information relative to parties corresponding which might be used
for the commercial injury of one or other, and also pointing out that
servants or others intrusted with money for the payment of postage might
be tempted to keep this for their own use, destroying the letters to
conceal their dishonesty. While giving various reasons, which I need
not repeat, for declining to share in the alarm of the Post Office,
I suggested, as a means of obviating the other difficulties, the use
of stamped covers, a device which, as I have already mentioned,[128]
had been originally recommended, not, indeed, for letters, but for
newspapers, by Mr. Charles Knight; and I take occasion to remark that the
mention of this expedient, as applied to letters, occurred for the first
time in this supplementary paper. I pointed out at the same time that, to
whatever extent the covers might be used, to that extent, or nearly so,
the revenue would be collected in large sums instead of small, a change
obviously tending to the simplification of accounts in the department

I submitted at the same time that mode of gradual introduction of my plan
which appeared almost immediately afterwards in the second edition of my
pamphlet; and, as time would be required for the preliminary arrangements
necessarily extending over the whole country, I suggested its
experimental application, in the meantime, to the local correspondence of
the London District, containing, as I pointed out, one-twelfth part of
the whole population of the United Kingdom.

To return to my interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I must
admit that the hopes with which it began were considerably damped
before its close. I was at least made very distinctly aware that
Government had by no means made up its mind to the adoption of my plan.
This was very disappointing, for I could not but feel that unless the
plan were voluntarily taken up by Government, its introduction would
have to encounter serious obstacles, and would be attended with grave
disadvantages. If the public must be called on to enforce attention on
a reluctant Government, even supposing the call to be answered, the
plan would have to be adopted in such shape and in such manner as the
public voice might demand, little thanks meantime being given for the
concession; whereas if Government kept the matter entirely in its own
hands, it might proceed tentatively, and therefore safely; lowering
the rates with caution, and meanwhile removing anomalies, increasing
facilities, extending operations, and taking all other measures tending
to enlarge public convenience, to increase correspondence, and to sustain
the revenue; while every succeeding improvement would come with a grace,
and be received with gratitude. To this hour I regret that this course
was not taken; believing that by it much misunderstanding, nay, much
animosity, would have been prevented, much trouble saved, facilities
more promptly secured, and even the loss of revenue, which, in the year
following the adoption of my plan compelled a temporary augmentation of
other duties, altogether avoided.

Almost as soon as I laid my plan before Government, I took into council
a few trusty friends, and thus had the benefit of various criticisms,
and of some suggestions. Of all those I consulted there was no one whose
reply I awaited with greater anxiety than that of Mr. Wallace, already
recognised as the leading Post Office reformer of the day. Would he not
treat me as an intruder on his domain, a poacher on his manor? Would he
not at best give me but a cold approval, keeping his heart all the while
for his own device? His prompt reply brought full relief. It was couched
in kind and encouraging language, and conveyed his hearty concurrence
in the main features of my plan. In recognising the generosity of his
conduct, I felt also that a great point was gained. Nor did the sequel
fail to confirm the first impression. Mr. Wallace gave me all the
advantage of his position, and laboured through three anxious years to
promote my views as earnestly as if they had been his own.

Within a few days from my sending in the supplementary paper to the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, I had occasion again to trouble him. Mr.
Labouchere having given notice of motion for a bill to amend the Post
Office Laws, it seemed important that my plan, unless the Government
itself were going to take it up, should be forthwith presented to the
public, with a view to its producing some effect on the contemplated
legislation; and it became necessary to inquire whether it would be
proper to publish the paper. I thought, moreover, that if the Government
seriously entertained my project, such intention would be given as a
reason for withholding leave of publication; and that thus I should
obtain some indication on the subject. I was informed that the Chancellor
of the Exchequer had no objection whatever to its publication; and so I
brought out my little work with all speed.

Meanwhile I had received many encouraging letters, some from private
friends, and others from persons to whom I was less known, or not known
at all. Amongst those which gave me the most satisfaction was one
from Colonel Colby, who, in expressing approval of my paper, gave me
also some account of exertions previously made by himself with a view
to the gradual reduction of postage rates for long distances. A second
letter was from Mr. Raikes Currie, who afterwards was a member of the
Parliamentary Committee appointed to consider my plan, and a third from
Professor Empson, of Haileybury College, who reported that he had heard
my plan spoken of in Edinburgh, at a dinner at the Lord Advocate’s, in
the most favourable terms; and who undertook to speak about it, within
a few hours, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, “if he can listen to
anything and anybody except banks and bankers.” Now that penny postage
has long been an established fact, and that doubt of its practicability
has disappeared in the certainty of success, the circumstances just
mentioned may seem trivial; but in the midst of the anxiety that attended
its incipient course, every indication of advancing favour was eagerly
received and carefully recorded.

Meanwhile, however, a proceeding of yet greater importance had taken
place. Soon after the private circulation of my pamphlet, I received a
summons to give evidence before the Commission for Post Office Inquiry
already mentioned, which was now collecting matter for its ninth report,
(the subject being the London Twopenny Post, though the term comprehended
also the threepenny delivery). The Commissioners were the late Lord
Bessborough (then Lord Duncannon), Lord Taunton (then Mr. Labouchere),
and the Duke of Somerset (then Lord Seymour). I need not say that their
invitation was gladly accepted; my first examination took place on
February 13th, 1837; and in my evidence I pointed out the principal
defects, in the existing system of distribution within the London

The first was that the deliveries were too few and too slow; and the
second, that all letters, whencesoever collected or whithersoever going,
had, with some trifling exceptions, to be sent primarily to the central
office in St. Martin’s-le-Grand. It will hardly be believed now that,
by the combined effect of these two mal-arrangements, the time required
for an interchange of letters within London itself was, on the average,
little less than fifteen hours; while between London and Tottenham, the
distance from the central office being under seven miles, and the road
supplied with coaches passing to and fro at all hours of the day, the
average was as high as nearly twenty-five hours.

In the way of remedies, I proposed, first, that the rate, supposing the
postage to be prepaid, should be reduced from twopence or threepence
to one penny; secondly, that the deliveries should be made hourly; the
necessary facilities to be afforded by the establishment of district
offices, and the combining in one body the two sets of letter carriers
then employed,—the one in delivering the local, or, as they were called,
the twopenny post letters, the others those arriving from without
the district, which were called general post letters. These several
improvements, I scarcely need say, have now been effected, though after
long delay, to be hereafter explained.

Considering the comparatively small amount of reduction to be made on
the district letters, leaving the postage, on the average, at nearly
one-half of its existing rate, I did not estimate the consequent increase
in number, even supposing all facilities to be afforded, at more than
three-fold. I may observe, in passing, that it is now (1867) more than

For further facility I suggested that improvement in the nomenclature
of streets which is now in progress; and I may here mention that as the
suggestion was fruitless at the time, I took occasion at a later period,
when the bill to establish the Board of Works was in hand, to obtain the
insertion of the clause giving the requisite powers.

Having, previously to my examination, in a letter to the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, made the first mention of stamps, I repeated the
suggestion here. I have already said whence the first notion was derived,
and how far it extended; but as there has been some little public
discussion on the matter, I extract from my evidence the passage relating
to it:—

    “A few years ago, when the expediency of entirely abolishing
    the newspaper stamp, and allowing newspapers to pass through
    the Post Office for one penny each, was under consideration, it
    was suggested by Mr. Charles Knight, the publisher, that the
    postage on newspapers might be collected by selling stamped
    wrappers at one penny each.[129] Availing myself of this
    excellent suggestion, I propose the following arrangement:

    “Let stamped covers and sheets of paper be supplied to the
    public from the Stamp Office or Post Office, as may be most
    convenient, and sold at such a price as to include the postage.
    Letters and newspapers so stamped might be put into the [Post
    Office] letter-box, as at present, instead of being delivered
    to the receiver.

    “Covers, at various prices, would be required for packets of
    various weights; and each should have the weight it is entitled
    to carry legibly printed with the stamp.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “Should experience warrant the Government in making the use of
    stamped covers universal, most important advantages will be
    secured—advantages, indeed, of such magnitude, that before any
    exception whatever is admitted, the policy of such exception
    should be very fully considered.

    “1. The Post Office would be relieved altogether from the
    collection of the revenue, and from all accounts relating to
    that collection. Distribution would be its only function.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “The only objection which occurs to me to the universal
    adoption of this plan is the following: Persons unaccustomed
    to write letters would, perhaps, be at a loss how to proceed.
    They might send or take their letters to the Post Office
    without having had recourse to the stamp. It is true that,
    on presentation of the letter, the receiver, instead of
    accepting the money as postage, might take it as the price
    of a cover or band, in which the bringer might immediately
    enclose the letter, and then redirect it; but the bringer
    would sometimes be unable to write. Perhaps this difficulty
    might be obviated by using a bit of paper just large enough to
    bear the stamp, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash,
    which the bringer might, by applying a little moisture, attach
    to the back of the letter, so as to avoid the necessity for
    redirecting it.”[130]

It is curious to observe, by the last paragraph of the above, that
the adhesive stamp, now of universal and indeed almost exclusive use,
was originally devised as a mere expedient for exceptional cases; the
stamped cover, which it has displaced, being the means of payment which
was expected to become general. Although I hoped at this time, that in
order to relieve the Post Office of all account-keeping, and to prevent
all avoidable delay in delivery, prepayment would in the end be made
universal, yet, knowing how much better it is to induce than to compel, I
proposed that in the outset, at least, the alternative should be allowed;
the old rate of twopence or threepence remaining undiminished where
payment was deferred.[131]

My first examination being finished, I was informed that Mr. Robert
Smith, then head of the Twopenny Post Department, would be called on
for his evidence, and that afterwards I should have opportunity of
commenting thereon. Knowing that there would be much difference between
us, and fearing that reply and rejoinder, if made in the ordinary way,
might weary out the Commissioners before they could arrive at any sound
conclusion, I ventured to suggest that we should be examined together.
I was not aware of any precedent for this course, nor do I know that
it has ever been repeated. The plan, however, was adopted by the
Commissioners, and with good success. In this manner, statement promptly
met counter-statement, and argument counter-argument; so much so, indeed,
that the proceeding, as will be seen on reference to the evidence,[132]
eventually took the form rather of discussion between Mr. Smith and
me than of examination of either; much to the saving of time, and the
facilitation of conclusions.

Mr. Wallace also gave earnest evidence in support of my views, and the
result was that the Commissioners recommended as immediate measures, by
way of experiment, the optional use of stamped penny covers within the
London District, increase in the weight allowed in a single packet, and
an additional daily delivery; and on the presentation to the House of
Commons of an important petition, of which I shall speak hereafter, Lord
Duncannon announced that it was the intention of Government to carry so
much of the plan into effect.

While I could not but regard this concession as a great triumph, I
had nevertheless to guard against a serious danger, the reality of
which subsequent events did not fail to demonstrate. Lord Duncannon’s
intimation that the contemplated change would be considered as a trial
of the general plan, made it necessary to guard against inferences to be
drawn from a partial failure, which was but too probable; for where the
reduction in postage would be but small, frequent and rapid delivery was
my main dependence; and this, in the proposed measure, was to receive
scarcely any attention. Now should this be regarded as a trial of my
plan, and should its results, in consequence of its incompleteness, fall
short of what I held out as likely to follow its complete adoption, there
was little chance that either the Post Office, or the Government, or the
public, or even the Commissioners, would draw the necessary distinction
and attribute the partial failure to its true cause. I therefore felt
that I must put the matter in its true light, and that before the trial
should begin. I consequently wrote to the Secretary of the Commissioners
a letter, in which, while expressing my satisfaction at the intended
change, I very distinctly pointed out that it would afford no test of my
plan, as this could not be fairly tried unless adopted in its integrity
so as to comprehend division into districts with hourly deliveries.[133]
This last course, therefore, I again urged on the Commissioners; pointing
out that the amount of revenue at stake in so limited a change was but
small; that success here would warrant extension of the plan, while
failure would set the matter at rest.

I had the satisfaction to learn that this letter produced its intended
effect. After reconsidering the question, the Commissioners, guardedly,
but yet distinctly, spoke in favour of complete adoption within
the London District;[134] a course, I may observe, which, besides
its immediate benefit, would have subjected my plan to a tolerably
fair experiment. It is curious to remark that the point on which the
Commissioners spoke with most hesitation is one which never presented any
real difficulty, viz., the practicability of general prepayment.

It now only remained to see whether the Government would act on the
recommendation of its own Commission, which certainly seemed the more
probable as all the Commissioners were likewise members of Government.
This fair prospect, however, ended in disappointment; nothing whatever
was done. My only consolation for the moment was that my plan had escaped
an unfair trial.

The rejection of this very moderate and limited improvement made it clear
that the only course left was to bring the public voice to bear forcibly
on the question. I was, as already implied, very reluctant to take any
step to promote such a result; and I had even, in the first edition of
my pamphlet, held forth an earnest warning on the subject. I give the
passage. Unfortunately for the Government, as well as for myself, it
proved prophetic to the letter:—

    “Judging from the rapid growth of public opinion which we have
    recently witnessed with regard to other institutions, we may
    expect that in a few years, or even months, if ‘the still small
    voice’ which, at present, gives scarcely audible expression to
    half-formed desires, be neglected, it will swell into a loud,
    distinct, and irresistible demand; and then a reform, which
    would now be received with gratitude, as one of the greatest
    boons ever conferred on a people by its Government, would
    perhaps be taken without thanks, and even with expressions of
    disappointment, because less extensive than unreasonable people
    might have expected.”[135]

But could the public voice be drawn forth? Doubtless the proposed
reduction of postage would be acceptable enough; but would the measure be
regarded as practicable, as capable of adoption without such loss to the
revenue as would necessitate the imposition of yet heavier burdens? Could
the public be got to take the plan into its serious consideration? Was
not a proposal so paradoxical likely to be classed with numberless wild
schemes, which had enjoyed a momentary attention only to be thrown aside
with scorn? Was not a conclusion, which had startled myself, even when
I had arrived at it by laborious investigation, likely to be ridiculed
as absurd by those to whom it was presented in the abrupt manner in
which it would inevitably reach most minds? That a large portion of the
public would thus deal with it was beyond all doubt; and would there be
a yet larger or more influential body to take the opposite course? Even
supposing this to be so, would the majority be sufficiently large and
influential to carry Parliament with it, to constrain Government, and
to overbear the Post Office; which, so far as indications went, seemed
likely to put forth all its powers of obstruction?

These questions it was not easy to answer; but repeated success in
innovation had inspired confidence. Bold as the attempt appeared, and
doubtful as the issue must be, it was advised by my father and brothers,
whom I as usual consulted, that trial should be made. Knowing that I
should derive from them whatever aid it was in their power to afford, I
proceeded to the work, having, however, as yet no more time to employ in
it than remained after the full discharge of the duties attaching to my
post as Secretary to the South Australian Commission.

As mentioned before, I had already published the pamphlet previously
circulated as private and confidential, and it is to this publication
that I have already made repeated reference, under the title, “Post
Office Reform, Second Edition.”

The appearance of the pamphlet speedily brought in letters from various
quarters, amongst others an amusing one from Leigh Hunt, in which he
declared that the reasoning of my pamphlet “carries us all along with it
as smoothly as wheel on railroad,” and another from a gentleman known
to me in relation to Australian affairs, who advised that my pamphlet
should be republished in as cheap a form as possible, offering himself to
bear half the expense; an offer afterwards repeated by Mr. Cobden. Why
these offers were not accepted I cannot now recollect. The same gentleman
also informed me of a remarkable instance of exorbitant postage which
had come to his knowledge. The captain of a ship arriving at Deal had
posted for London a packet weighing thirty-two ounces, which came to
the person to whom it was addressed charged with a postage not of five
shillings and sixpence, according to the rate proposed by me, but of
upwards of six pounds, “being,” as my informant observed, “four times as
much as the charge for an inside place by the mail.” So that, had the
captain, instead of posting the letter, sent a special messenger with it
up to London, allowing him to travel inside both ways, and paying him
handsomely for his time, as well as indemnifying him for his travelling
expenses, the result would have been a considerable saving.[136]

The following yet stronger case was afterwards thus mentioned in a letter
from Sir John Burgoyne to my friend Mr. Moffatt, who obligingly placed
the letter in my hands. The name of this gallant veteran I cannot pass
over without gratefully mentioning that he was one of those who zealously
co-operated in the movement. Even at his present advanced age his
interest in postal success remains warm and active.

                                   “Office of Public Works, Dublin,
                                                      “May 8, 1839.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “A packet of official papers was to be transmitted by one of
    our officers from a country town: it seems that _parcels_ for
    the mail were in that town received in the same shop as the
    letters; and, either by mistake of the messenger or of the
    postmaster, this packet, which was meant to be a _parcel_, was
    forwarded as a _letter_. The charge was £11; that is, for a
    packet that I could readily carry off in my pocket; an amount
    for which I could have taken the _whole mail_; places for four
    insides, and three out, with their portmanteaus, carpet-bags,
    &c., &c., &c.”

The following incident I found not less amusing than encouraging:—

Mr. Francis Place, the author of “Principles of Population,” but better
known as a leading man on the Liberal side at Westminster elections,
having received a copy of my pamphlet, remarked to an inquiring friend
that he had not thought it worth perusal, having supposed that it was
only some nonsensical scheme for carrying letters all over England for a
penny, and being wearied out with wild-goose proposals for all sorts of
impracticable measures. Having, however, promised to look at the thing
some fine day, he at length, as he afterwards avowed, began the perusal
in the confident expectation that he should soon find out “the hitch!”
and although as he went on he step by step admitted the soundness of the
reasoning, he was still sure that he should find “the hitch” somewhere.
In this quest he read on to the end of the book, finishing with the
exclamation,—I quote his own words—“I’ll be damned if there is a hitch!”

And here I may mention one member of my family, now no more, who, though
unknown save in his own neighbourhood, where, however, he was highly
respected, used his industry and his local influence, both great, from
first to last, in aid of the cause, viz., my brother-in-law, Mr. Francis
Clark, one of the magistrates of Birmingham, but afterwards resident at
Adelaide, South Australia.

Some of the journals now began to notice my pamphlet, and within the year
the support of the press was almost universal. Amongst all, however, the
most earnest was the _Spectator_, then conducted by my friend, the late
Mr. Rintoul, which maintained throughout his editorship, with unflagging
earnestness, the able advocacy then begun.

A little later, but still within two months from the appearance of the
pamphlet, Mr. Gibbon Wakefield informed me that he and Mr. Rintoul
had had a conference with Daniel O’Connell, who not only promised his
powerful aid, but even volunteered to move for a committee on the plan.
I suppose, however, he must have given way to Mr. Wallace, who, about
a week later, viz., on May 9th, made a motion for that purpose, which,
nevertheless, he withdrew at the request of Lord John Russell and the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, who informed the House that the plan was
under the consideration of Government. On May 30th Lord Ashburton
presented a petition to the House of Lords in its favour—a petition
remarkable for the high character or position of those who signed it.
On the same evening an identical petition was presented to the House of
Commons by Mr. Grote.

All this was very satisfactory; but about a fortnight later, viz., on
June 15th, the plan and its supporters had to endure strictures the
reverse of complimentary. The Earl of Lichfield, then Postmaster-General,
in moving the second reading of a bill relative to Post Office
affairs, asserted, in opposition to Lord Ashburton, that the revenue
of the department had considerably increased, that it was produced by
170,000,000 of letters annually circulated in England, and that if the
reduction in duty for which some individuals called were acceded to, it
would require the enormous number of 416,000,000 annually to produce the
same amount of revenue.[137] “With respect to the plan set forth by Mr.
Hill,” he said, “of all the wild and visionary schemes which he had ever
heard or read of, it was the most extraordinary.”[138]

Save the completion of the “Ninth Report of the Commissioners for Post
Office Enquiry,” already so often referred to, and the passing of
the Act moved by Lord Lichfield, of the value of which I shall speak
presently, little of importance occurred during the next two months.
Meanwhile I procured an introduction to his lordship, from his brother,
the late General Anson, then visiting at the house of my father-in-law,
Mr. Pearson; and, being admitted to an interview, obtained, through his
means, a certain amount of information from the Post Office, which,
though not all that I sought, was yet of considerable use.

On October 19th the matter was brought before the Court of Common Council
of the City of London, by the late Mr. Pritchard, then High Bailiff
of Southwark, who invited me to attend below the bar, that I might be
at hand for reference. While there, Mr. Pritchard having mentioned on
my authority, that the conveyance of a mail from London to Edinburgh
cost no more than five pounds, a member of the Common Council, perhaps
confounding mail with mail-coach, came to me, inquiring whether I had
really made such an assertion; and, upon my answering in the affirmative,
walked away, with every expression of scorn for a statement so obviously
absurd. I need not remind the reader that the amount was afterwards
proved by Post Office returns to be less than four pounds. Fortunately
the court did not agree with the critic; resolutions being passed in
favour of the plan, and a petition for its adoption ordered to be
presented to both Houses of Parliament. Towns’ meetings also began to
be held in other places, and similar petitions ordered. These events,
combined with others previously mentioned, had given me a confidence
which, self-reliant as I was prone to be, my own unaided convictions
could not have supplied.

Meantime, although my plan was for a time set aside, the various efforts
made in relation to the general subject were not altogether without
effect; for, in the course of this year, day mails were established
on one or two of the principal roads, though with some troublesome
restrictions; amongst them, one which now seems incredible, viz., against
their use for the despatch of the morning newspapers. Some further
reductions were made in foreign postage, though certainly with due
caution, as will now be readily acknowledged by any one who learns that
by an announcement gravely made, the public were informed that henceforth
postage on letters to the Mediterranean would be at the rate of “only ten
_shillings_ per ounce.”[139]

The legislative change already referred to as introduced by Lord
Lichfield was an important improvement, bringing all the Acts (one
hundred and forty-one in number) relative to the Post Office into
a single law, possessing the triple advantage of compactness,
brevity, and perfect intelligibility.[140] Another Act authorised the
Postmaster-General, with the consent of the Lords of the Treasury,
to make reductions in postage, both partially and generally; a trust
which afterwards proved of no small convenience. Lastly, Government had
announced as probable that the postage between towns not more than seven
miles apart would be reduced from fourpence to twopence; a change soon
afterwards effected.

All these improvements, while more or less beneficial in themselves,
had the collateral advantage of paving the way for future changes;
and certainly enough remained to be done, as would appear in the most
striking manner, were the old state of things to be restored but for a
single day, and the public compelled but for once to endure practices
which were then regarded as things of course. Many of these have been
already adverted to; perhaps one or two more may with propriety be
mentioned here.

As the day mails were so few, most of the letters arriving in London
by the morning mails on their way to other towns had to lie all day at
the General Post Office; so that places corresponding through London,
even if very near to one another, were, in postal distance, kept as far
asunder as London and Durham; and when a blank post-day intervened,
the delay was even more remarkable. Thus, a letter written at Uxbridge
after the close of the Post Office on Friday night was not delivered at
Gravesend, a distance of less than forty miles, until Tuesday morning.

If two letters were put in the proper district receiving-houses in London
between five and six o’clock in the evening, one addressed to Highgate,
the other to Wolverhampton (which lies one hundred and twenty miles
further on the same road), the Highgate letter was delivered last.

The postage of a letter from Wolverhampton to Brierley Hill, conveyed by
a cross-post passing through Dudley, was only one penny; whereas if the
letter stopped short at Dudley, thus saving some miles in conveyance, the
charge rose to fourpence.

The absurd rule of charging by the number of enclosures, instead of by
weight, often caused great irritation, especially when any one of the
enclosures was very diminutive. Thus, in an instance reported to me at
the time, a certain letter from London to Wolverhampton, which now would
be conveyed for one penny, came charged with a postage of two shillings
and sixpence, viz., tenpence for the letter, tenpence for a returned bill
of exchange enclosed therein, and tenpence for a small scrap of paper
attached to this latter at the notary’s office.

On the poorer classes the inconveniences fell with special weight, for
as letters almost always arrived unpaid, while the postage was often too
heavy to be met at the moment, letters were sometimes withheld for days,
or even weeks, until the means of discharge could be raised.

The necessity for ascertaining the number of enclosures compelled the
examination of every doubtful letter, by the light of a lamp or candle
placed behind it; and this inspection, leading to the discovery of
bank-notes, &c., which otherwise might have escaped remark, exposed
the clerks to needless temptation, led to many acts of dishonesty, and
brought much loss to correspondents.

In addition to the dishonesty thus directly injurious to individuals,
there were other frauds which materially affected the revenue. Such was
the complication of accounts, that the deputy postmasters could not be
held to effectual responsibility as respects 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.[141]

A third edition of my pamphlet being called for within the year, I took
advantage of this, both to notify new facts, and to indicate any further
development of my own views.

The net revenue of the Post Office for the year 1836 (unknown at the
time of my previous publication) showed some increase, and was expected
moreover to be in turn surpassed by that for 1837. This progress was
encouraging; for as the recent changes in the Post Office arrangements,
though not of a decided character, consisted chiefly in reduced charges
and increased facilities, the results were, _pro tanto_, confirmatory of
the soundness of the principles which I had advocated. The augmentation
in net revenue, moreover, was the more striking because, by the
reduction of the stamp duty on newspapers, these had so increased in
number, that their conveyance and distribution, all of course gratuitous,
now comprised several additional millions; and because, at the same time,
commercial depression had reduced the revenue in every other department.

This last fact could not but be viewed by some as a formidable obstacle
to the plan; and though I did not see it in that light, believing that
a reduction of postage would give a stimulus to commerce, which would
greatly benefit all the other sources of revenue, I suggested that
the difficulty could be met by such gradual adoption of the plan as
might suit the caution or timidity of the controlling authorities. My
recommendations appear in the following extract:—

    “It cannot be doubted that a reduction in postage to a certain
    extent would benefit the Post Office revenue, and an opinion
    to this effect is very general in the Post Office itself. Let,
    then, a general system of reductions be put into immediate
    operation, and extended as rapidly as the state of the revenue
    will permit; and concurrently with this, let the means here
    pointed out for simplifying the mechanism of the Post Office
    be adopted as far as practicable, in order that the consequent
    increase in the amount of business may not require an increased

To give effect to these recommendations, I proposed that, as a first
step, the postage between post towns should be immediately reduced by
one half; that the charge should depend no longer on the number of
enclosures, but on weight; that stamps should serve at first for a very
limited range, say for fifteen miles; so that the numerous mistakes
expected to occur in their use (of which there was much groundless
apprehension) might admit of speedy and easy correction; and, though at
that time very desirous of seeing prepayment made universal, because
of the complete simplicity which it would introduce into the Post
Office accounts, I recommended that an option should be given, by which
prepayment should always be lower by one penny than post-payment. Of
course in recommending these expedients I did not swerve from my original
design; my expressed desire being that these first measures should be
gradually extended, as experience warranted, until the whole plan was in

Much anxiety had been expressed, which under present circumstances seems
ludicrous enough, as to the means by which the increased number of
letters, on which I relied for sustaining the revenue, could be conveyed
from town to town. A five-fold increase, it was maintained, would require
a five-fold number of mail-coaches; and I was charged with having
omitted this material fact in my calculations. Reply was easy, because,
first, the existing mail-coaches were by no means fully laden, many of
them indeed having very little to carry; and secondly, the chargeable
letters formed but an inconsiderable part of the mail; the bulk of which
consisted partly of newspapers, and partly of letters and packages sent
under franks, insomuch that, startling as this may seem, the chargeable
letters then divided among the four-and-twenty mail-coaches which left
London every night might, without displacing a single passenger, and
without exceeding or even equalling the ordinary load, have been all
forwarded by a single coach. In short, instead of being justly exposed
to the charge of omission, I had made in my calculations, through excess
of caution, more than due allowance for the increased expense, and that
by the large amount of £100,000. Fortunately I was able truly to add
“that though my plan, with its estimates, had then been before the public
for several months, and though both had been submitted not only to the
general inquirer, but to the scrutinising examination of those who had
most opportunity for acquiring knowledge on the subject, no statement
had appeared which invalidated any one of the calculations.” Caution
in statement, I may observe, had been strengthened in me by almost all
the various trainings through which I had passed. As an instructor,
a surveyor, a machinist, an inventor, a responsible secretary to an
important enterprise, I had had constant need for its exercise; the more
so, perhaps, as I was keenly sensible to the ridicule that follows error,
especially in innovators.

To return to my immediate subject. By this time, the result of a
reduction of postage made six years before in a large portion of the
London district, by the extension of the twopenny range, had been shown
to be favourable; a return on the subject having been called for by the
Commissioners of Post Office Enquiry. It had been calculated by the Post
Office authorities that this reduction would reduce the gross revenue
to the extent of £20,000 per annum; whereas at the end of six years
the revenue, instead of being a loser, was by £10,000 a gainer.[143]
Considerable reductions, also, had recently taken place in the postage
of foreign letters; reductions already followed by a great increase in
receipts. Neither had any instance occurred, within my knowledge, in
which reduction of postage had, after a fair trial, been attended with
loss to the revenue.

On the 23rd of November, Parliament having meantime reassembled, Mr.
Wallace renewed his motion for a committee on my plan, and though but
ten months had elapsed since my first publication, such was already the
progress of public opinion that the committee was not only granted, but,
as would appear from the silence of “Hansard,” without even a debate.
The nomination of its members, which took place four days later, gave
the following list:—Mr. Wallace, Mr. Poulett Thomson, Viscount Lowther,
Lord Seymour, Mr. Warburton, Sir Thomas Fremantle, Mr. Raikes Currie, Mr.
Morgan John O’Connell, Mr. Thornely, Mr. Chalmers, Mr. Pease, Mr. Mahony,
Mr. Parker (Sheffield), Mr. George William Wood, Mr. Villiers.[144]

The reference or instruction to the committee was as follows:—

    “To inquire 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

Three members of this committee, viz., Lord Seymour, Mr. Parker, and
Mr. Poulett Thomson (afterwards Lord Sydenham)—were also members of
Government, and, as I soon found, sat as opponents to the plan.[146] I
need not say, however, that the appointment of the committee, whatever
adverse elements it might contain, filled me with high expectations; so
well assured was I by this time of the soundness of my views, and so
confident that they would derive abundant support from the examination
to be made, whatever might be the ultimate decision of the committee.

Three days later the Duke of Richmond, who had formerly filled the
office of Postmaster-General, in presenting a petition from Elgin, took
occasion to recommend at least a considerable reduction of postage
rates. Lord Lichfield, in reply, declared that “were the plan [of penny
postage] adopted, instead of a million and a half of money being added
to the revenue, after the expenditure of the establishment was provided
for, he was quite certain that such a loss would be sustained as would
compel them to have recourse to Parliament for money to maintain the

On the same day (December 15th, 1837), Mr. Hawes having asked in the
House of Commons whether Government had decided to give effect to the
recommendation of the Commissioners with regard to stamped covers, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer replied that it was intended to introduce
them in the twopenny post department. In thus first mentioning the
name of Mr. (afterwards Sir Benjamin) Hawes, I feel bound to add that
the interest which he showed thus early in my plan became warmer and
warmer as time advanced, and never ceased till his death. The same may
be said of Lord Brougham, of Mr. Hume, and yet more emphatically of Mr.
Warburton. The real purport of the announcement now made, though it does
not clearly appear so in the words quoted, was that the stamped cover
should be used within the range of the twopenny and threepenny post, but
without any reduction of postage there, so that it would be merely a mode
of payment in advance (such payment not being then customary), without
any motive to its use. Sir Robert Peel pertinently asked whether the
two plans of reducing the postage and using stamped covers could not be
combined; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied that “they would
try the latter experiment first on the twopenny post. If it succeeded
they would try it on an extended scale; at the same time he was bound to
say that while he did not wish to speak disparagingly of an attempt he
was himself about to try, he must add he was not very sanguine as to the

Three days later Lord Brougham, in presenting the petition from the Lord
Mayor and Common Council of the City of London, after having given some
account of Palmer’s great improvement, and spoken of the opposition which
it encountered, of the gloomy predictions made as to its inevitable
consequences, and of the grand results obtained by its adoption,
proceeded to comment on the intention of Government to deviate so widely
from the recommendation of the Commissioners of Post Office Enquiry
as to adopt a plan “totally different in its nature, and which might
fail over and over again without the possibility of even a Post Office
speculator pretending that it was a failure of Mr. Hill’s plan, because
it was to be confined to the twopenny post.” Lord Duncannon replied that,
“after mature consideration, it was found to be inexpedient to try the
experiment of Mr. Hill’s plan to the full extent that had been proposed.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not intend to carry the suggestions
of the Commissioners into effect in the way proposed, but he determined
on the issue of penny[148] stamp covers for the short distances, and to
reduce the fourpenny post to twopence. He admitted that this could not
be considered as a trial of Mr. Hill’s plan, but he thought it the safer
course in the first instance.”[149]

The Postmaster-General, after having stated the annual number of
chargeable letters passing through the Post Office (previously given
by himself as 170,000,000) to be only 42,000,000, charged me with
having entirely omitted to provide for the greater bulk of additional
letters required by my plan, and alleged that “if the postage charge
were generally reduced to a penny per letter, it would require twelve
times the present circulation of letters to produce the revenue now
derived from the Post Office charges.”[150] He added, “The mails will
have to carry twelve times as much in weight, and therefore the charge
for transmission, instead of £100,000 as now, must be twelve times that

The day after this announcement—alarmed at the notion of an experiment
whose inevitable failure was sure, in spite of Lord Duncannon’s
disclaimer, to be viewed as, so far, a failure of my plan—I wrote to the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking whether, before the change was made,
I might be afforded an opportunity of stating my views on the subject;
at the same time I expressed a hope that as I had in the first instance
submitted my plan to Government, had taken pains to secure accuracy in
all my statements, and had, while attacking a system, carefully avoided
all personalities, I might be considered as entitled to some attention,
and even indulgence. The Chancellor politely replied that he should have
much pleasure in seeing me, but was unable at present to fix a day for
doing so; I cannot find, however, either in my memory or in my memoranda,
that this day ever came.

So closed the year 1837, one of the busiest and most important in my
life; comprising my first application to Government, the publication and
republication and second republication of my pamphlet, my examination
before the Commissioners of Post Office Enquiry, my hope founded on
their recommendation, its disappointment, my appeal to the public, the
appointment of a parliamentary committee, and the earnest and various
support which had been accorded.

Considering that less than eighteen months had elapsed from my first
earnest attention to the subject, and that I had not only worked with
all the difficulties and disadvantages of an _outsider_, but with the
duties of my post as South Australian Secretary pressing heavily upon
me, I had every reason to be satisfied with my progress, though I will
not undertake to say that I thought so at the time. However, I had full
encouragement to proceed, the more so as I could not then foresee that
two more years of incessant toil would precede the adoption of my plan—a
toil which would have been beyond my strength but for the constant
assistance received from the various members of my family.



I opened the year 1838 with a series of letters to Lord Lichfield, which
were inserted in all the morning papers. These letters were written in
the manner described below; and it may save trouble hereafter to remark
that much else which has appeared under my name, together with not a
little to be found in my minutes at the Treasury and at the Post Office,
was produced in the same way. To me the device and elaboration of plans
was incomparably easier than their exposition or advocacy; with my
brother Arthur the case was the reverse; and this led me to the frequent
employment of his pen. What neither of us could have effected separately,
joint action made easy.

Our mode of proceeding was as follows: I having collected and arranged my
facts and formed a skeleton of the proposed paper, we sat down together,
my brother dictating and I writing, often, however, pausing to bring the
language into more exact expression of my thoughts, or to mention, or at
times to learn, some new idea that arose as we went on. Occasionally,
however, when business pressed we worked apart; but in any case the whole
paper so constructed underwent our joint revision, and we sometimes
found that the thoughts with which we had started had, in the very
attempt to express them, undergone such modification that we rejected all
that had been done, and began our task afresh.

The letters to Lord Lichfield were written mainly in reply to his
lordship’s speeches in Parliament, from which some passages have already
been cited. From these letters I give one or two quotations:—

    “In the series of letters which I shall take the liberty of
    addressing to your lordship, I hope I shall carefully maintain
    that respect for the claims, and consideration for the feelings
    of others, which, I trust, have marked all that I have hitherto
    written. Your lordship must be well aware that whoever enters
    on the task of innovation must expect some amount of ridicule
    or abuse aimed either at his plan or himself. Your lordship
    must feel that a person so circumstanced ought not to allow
    such a necessary consequence of his attempt either to deter him
    from his adopted course, or to provoke his retaliation.”

The following passage from the third letter is in reply to the
announcement by Government that the _principle_ of stamped covers would
be tried in the London District:—

    “Should the trial of stamped covers on the plan now
    unfortunately contemplated issue in success, the world will
    indeed see a paradox,—an effect without a cause. Were such
    an experiment merely useless it might pass without comment;
    but its inevitable failure may produce no small mischief. An
    apparent trial of a plan may easily be confounded with a real
    one; and though I am sure nothing could be further from the
    intentions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, yet, had the aim
    been to throw unfair discredit on the plan, it would have been
    difficult to devise a better mode of proceeding.”

The following passage is from the last letter:—

    “There is one remaining objection, which, as it can scarcely
    have been made seriously, needs but little remark. Your
    lordship objects that, on the required increase in the amount
    of correspondence, ‘the whole area on which the Post Office
    stands would not be large enough to receive the clerks and
    the letters.’ Without adverting to the means which I have
    distinctly pointed out for obviating any such inconvenience,
    I am sure that your lordship will not have much hesitation in
    deciding whether, in this great and commercial country, the
    size of the Post Office is to be regulated by the amount of
    correspondence, or the amount of correspondence by the size of
    the Post Office.”

About the time that the last of these letters appeared, an important
movement, which had been already some weeks in preparation, took definite
shape. Mr. Moffatt, afterwards M.P. for Southampton, had proposed to me
the establishment of a “Mercantile Committee,” to collect evidence in
favour of the plan. His proposal being gladly accepted, he went to work
with such earnestness, that I soon found in him one of my most zealous,
steady, and efficient supporters. Funds he raised with comparative ease,
but the formation of a committee he found more difficult than he had
expected. Now, however, February 5th, 1838, he wrote to inform me that he
had at length prevailed upon Mr. Bates, of the House of Baring Brothers,
to accept the office of chairman; and this point being secured, other
good members were easily obtained. As soon as the committee was formed,
I was invited to attend, in order to give such information as might seem
desirable, and to answer such questions as any of the members might wish
to propose.

Mr. Ashurst, father of the [late] solicitor to the Post Office, having
been requested to act as solicitor to the committee, went promptly to
work; and though by choice he acted gratuitously, he laboured with as
much ardour as if important personal interests were involved in the
issue. No less earnestness was shown by Mr. Henry Cole,[152] who had
been engaged to aid in the work. He was the author of almost innumerable
devices, by which, in his indefatigable ingenuity, he contrived to draw
public attention to the proposed measure. He once passed through the Post
Office, and afterwards exhibited in fac-simile to the public eye (the
originals being previously shown in Parliament), two letters, so arranged
as to display, in the clearest light, the absurdity of the existing rule
of charge. Of these, one nearly as light as a feather, and almost small
enough to require a pair of forceps for its handling, quite a letter for
Lilliput, but containing an enclosure, bore double postage; while the
other, weighing nearly an ounce, eight inches broad, and more than a
foot long, when folded a very creditable letter for Brobdingnag, but all
written on one sheet, had its postage single.

Meanwhile the Parliamentary Committee, appointed on the motion of Mr.
Wallace, began its sittings. Mr. Wallace, being appointed chairman,
thenceforth concentrated his indefatigable efforts upon its work; and his
labour during the whole session—his duties being by no means confined to
the formal sittings—was most severe.

The committee sat no less than sixty-three days. They examined “the
Postmaster-General, the secretaries and the solicitors of the three Post
Offices of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and other officers of the Post
Office department; obtained many important returns from the Post Office,
most of which they directed to be prepared expressly for their use; and
also examined the chairman, secretary, and solicitor of the Board of
Stamps and Taxes, Mr. Rowland Hill, and eighty-three other witnesses,
of various occupations, professions, and trades, from various parts of
the kingdom; in the selection of which they were much assisted by an
association of bankers and merchants in London, formed expressly to aid
the committee in the prosecution of their inquiry.”[153] This association
was the committee formed by Mr. Moffatt.

The committee wisely directed its attention chiefly to the question of
inland postage, which indeed offered abundant matter for investigation.

In speaking of the evidence given before this committee, I follow not the
order in which it was given, but the classification observed in the final
Report; selecting, as the Report does, only those portions which bear
most strongly on the questions to be resolved. My own evidence I shall in
the main pass over, seeing that it was in substance almost identical with
my pamphlet. My plan of “secondary distribution,”[154] however, I now
thought it expedient to abandon, so far as regarded the existing range of
post office operations, not from any doubt of its justice or intrinsic
advantage, but with a view to simplify the great question before the

One question, of course, related to the varying rates of postage,
which any one accustomed to present simplicity would find sufficiently
perplexing. In Great Britain (for in Ireland it was somewhat different)
the postage on a single letter delivered within eight miles of the
office where it was posted was, as a general rule—consequent on a recent
reduction—twopence, the lowest rate beyond that limit being fourpence.
Beyond fifteen miles it became fivepence; after which it rose a penny
at a time, but by irregular augmentation, to one shilling, the charge
for three hundred miles; one penny more served for four hundred miles,
and thenceforward augmentation went on at the same rate, each additional
penny serving for another hundred miles. This plan of charge, with
various complications arising out of it, produced remarkable anomalies.

As if this complexity were not quite enough, there was as a general rule
an additional charge of a half-penny on a letter crossing the Scotch
border; while letters to or from Ireland had to bear, in addition, packet
rates, and rates for crossing the bridges over the Conway and the Menai;
or, if they took the southern route, a rate chargeable at Milford.[156]
Lastly, there was the rule already mentioned, by which a letter with the
slightest enclosure incurred double postage, and with two enclosures
triple; the postage, however, being regulated by weight whenever this
reached an ounce, at which point the charge became quadruple; rising
afterwards by a single postage for every additional quarter of an
ounce.[157] Surely it is no wonder that Post Office officials, viewing
prepayment in connection with such whimsical complexity, and probably
thinking the connection indissoluble, should be hopeless of inducing the
public to adopt the practice.

A second inquiry, which occupied much attention, referred to the number
of chargeable letters then passing annually through the Office. The
importance of this question, which no longer appears at first sight, was
then so great that it was regarded as one of the main points at issue
between the Post Office and myself.

Its importance arose thus. To estimate the increase in correspondence
required for my purpose, it was obviously necessary to know the amount of
loss per letter involved in the proposed reduction of postage; in other
words, the difference between the proposed rate and the average of the
rates actually paid, which average had therefore to be arrived at. This I
placed at sixpence farthing, the Post Office authorities at a shilling.
Actual knowledge, however, did not exist, and each party had resorted
to calculation, dividing the gross revenue by the supposed number of
letters. That number I then estimated at eighty-eight millions,[158]
the Post Office authoritatively declared it to be only forty-two or
forty-three millions;[159] hence the difference in our results as to the
actual average of postage, and consequently as to the required increase
in correspondence, which I fixed at five-and-a-quarter-fold, the Post
Office at twelve-fold.

Of course it would have been easy for the Post Office authorities to
correct their calculation, before the appointment of the committee, by an
actual counting of letters; nor have I ever learned why this corrective
was not applied. I had indeed to thank the department for obligingly
supplying me with a fact essential to my calculation, viz., the number
of letters, general and local, delivered in London in one week; and had
this fact been dealt with by the Post Office as I myself dealt with it
(a process, however, pronounced incorrect by the office),[160] the same
result, or nearly so, must have been arrived at by both parties; but, as
already intimated, had the counting process been applied to the whole
country, as was afterwards done on the requisition of the committee, the
whole question would have been settled at once.

Before my examination, however, I had been enabled, by the civility of
the Postmaster-General, to obtain further information, chiefly as to the
number of letters delivered and postage collected in Birmingham; and
this had led me so far to modify my former estimate, as to reduce it to
seventy-nine and a-half, or, in round numbers, to eighty millions.[161]
I may here add that yet further information, supplied on the requisition
of the committee, enabling me to make yet further correction, I again
reduced my estimate to seventy-eight millions.[162] By the same time,
the Post Office, having abandoned the statement so confidently put
forth, had raised the number to fifty-eight and a-quarter millions,[163]
and this, after the counting mentioned above, it again advanced to
seventy and a-quarter millions.[164] The committee, after very elaborate
calculations made by Mr. Warburton, fixed it at seventy-seven and a-half
millions,[165] that is, ten and a-half millions below my first rough
estimate, made on very limited information, and thirty-five and a-half
millions above the authoritative statement of the Postmaster-General,
made with all means of correction at command. The committee’s conclusion
as to the number of letters confirmed also my estimate as to the average
single postage, viz., sixpence farthing.[166] It seems invidious, but I
think it not superfluous, thus distinctly to report the result, since it
may serve usefully to show, when other reforms are called for, in this
or any other department, that official authority ought not imperiously
to bear down conclusions arrived at by earnest, laborious, and careful

On the question as to the propriety of the existing rates, Colonel
Maberly, the Secretary, and other witnesses from the Post Office, nearly
all gave it as their opinion that these rates were too high, at once for
the general interests of the public and also for those of the revenue.
Indeed, Colonel Maberly believed that “every Postmaster-General had [so]
thought them for many years.”[167] He did not, however, explain why this
opinion, so generally entertained, had been so barren in result; and,
indeed, when the Postmaster-General and the Secretary were interrogated
by the committee as to any general or even specific abatements they might
wish to recommend, no satisfactory reply could be obtained.

The committee received much evidence, both as to the extent to which
the law was evaded by the irregular conveyance of letters, and as to
the evils produced by suppression of correspondence where circumstances
rendered such evasion difficult or impracticable. Thus Mr. Parker and
other publishers reported that it was a common practice, in their
trade, to write a number of letters for different individuals in the
same district, all on one sheet; and that this, on first coming to
hand, was cut up into its several parts, each being delivered either
by hand or through the local posts.[168] Mr. Dillon, of the firm of
Morrison, Dillon, and Co., reported a similar practice, in respect of
money payments.[169] By other witnesses it was established that illicit
correspondence was “carried on throughout the country, in systematic
evasion of the law, if not in open violation of it, to an extent that
could hardly have been imagined, and which it would be difficult to
calculate;” this occurring “principally in the neighbourhood of large
towns, and in populous manufacturing districts;” some carriers making
it “their sole business to collect and distribute letters,” which they
did “openly, without fear of the consequences; women and children”
being “employed to collect the letters.”[170] Throughout one district
the practice was “said to be universal, and was known to have been
established there for nearly fifty years.”[171] “The average number
of letters thus sent daily throughout the year by a house in the
neighbourhood of Walsall exceeded fifty, and by that house more than a
hundred and twenty had been sent in one day. Not one-fiftieth part of the
letters from Walsall to the neighbouring towns was sent by post.”[172]

Mr. Cobden, as yet new to fame, but who had been deputed by the Chamber
of Commerce at Manchester to give in evidence the results of its
inquiries, reported thus—

    “The extent to which evasion is there practised is incredible;
    five-sixths of the letters from Manchester to London do not
    pass through the Post Office.”[173]

Similar evidence was received from Glasgow.[174] Mr. Brewin, of
Cirencester, reported that—

    “The people in that town did not think of using the post for
    the conveyance of letters; he knew two carriers who carried
    four times as many letters as the mail did.”[175]

Further evidence, equally weighty and equally striking, came in from
other quarters.[176] Various devices, now doubtless forgotten through
disuse, were then in constant requisition; thus letters for travellers
and others in the trade were habitually enclosed in the parcels sent by
the great London booksellers to their customers in the provinces; similar
use was made of warehousemen’s bales and parcels, and of boxes and
trunks forwarded by carriers; as also of what were termed “free packets,”
containing the patterns and correspondence of manufacturers, which the
coach proprietors carried free of charge, except fourpence for booking.
In the neighbourhood of Glasgow recourse was had to “weavers’ bags,”
that is, bags containing work for the weavers, which the manufacturers
forwarded to some neighbouring town, and of “family boxes”—farmers having
sons at the University forwarding to them once or twice a week boxes
containing provisions, and the neighbours making a Post Office of the
farmer’s house.[177]

Colonel Maberly, however, did not attach much value to all this evidence,
knowing “from long experience, when he was in Parliament, that merchants
and interested parties are very apt to overstate their case,” and
his view was supported by some of his subordinates, though strongly
contradicted by others, especially by the late solicitor to the General
Post Office, Mr. Peacock, who “apprehends the illegal conveyance of
letters to be carried to a very great extent at the present moment, and
has no doubt that persons of respectability in the higher, as well as the
humbler walks of life, are in the habit of sending letters by illegal
conveyance to a great extent.”[178] The same general opinion was strongly
expressed by the solicitor to the Irish Post Office who represented even
the drivers and guards of the mail-coaches as constantly engaged in the
illegal traffic.

In relation to letters going abroad, the following is the summary of the

    “The evasion of the postage on letters sent from different
    parts of the United Kingdom to the out-ports, for the
    purpose of being put on board of ships bound to foreign
    parts, especially to the United States of America, is yet
    more remarkable than the evasion of the inland postage. It
    is thoroughly known to the Post Office authorities; but the
    practice appears to be winked at. Colonel Maberly speaks of
    that practice as one known, and almost recognised.”[179]

The following curious fact was stated by a witness from Liverpool, Mr.
Maury, president of the “American Chamber of Commerce.” When arrangements
had been completed for the establishment of regular steam navigation
between that town and New York, the postmaster, expecting to have a
large despatch of letters to provide for, was careful to furnish himself
with a bag of ample dimensions, but, “to his astonishment, received only
five letters in all,” though “by the first steamer at least ten thousand
letters were in fact sent, all in one bag, which was opened at the office
of the consignee of the ship. Mr. Maury himself sent at least two hundred
letters by that ship, which went free.”[180]

These extraordinary statements were strongly supported by the evidence
of Mr. Lawrence, Assistant Secretary to the London Office, who “states
that, from what the Post Office have learnt, the American packet, which
leaves London every ten days, carries 4,000 letters, each voyage, which
do not pass through the Post Office; that he is aware of the existence in
London of receiving-houses for letters, to be forwarded otherwise than
by the Post; the Jerusalem Coffee-house, for instance, receives letters
for the East Indies; the North and South American Coffee-house, for
South America, the United States, and British America; that almost every
ship-broker in London has a bag hanging up for letters to be forwarded by
the ship to which he is broker; and that the number of letters for North
America so collected for several ships in the office of one ship-broker
have been enough to load a cab.”

In short, the committee came “to the conclusion that, with regard to
large classes of the community, those principally to whom it is a matter
of necessity to correspond on matters of business, and to whom, also,
it is a matter of importance to save the expense of postage, the Post
Office, instead of being viewed as it ought to be, and would be, under
a wise administration of it, as an institution of ready and universal
access, distributing equally to all, and with an open hand, the blessing
of commerce and civilization, is regarded by them as an establishment too
expensive to be made use of, and as one with the employment of which they
endeavour to dispense by every means in their power.”[181]

They also became convinced that if it were possible, by increased
rigour, to put a stop to the illicit transmission of letters, a vast
diminution must take place in the number of letters written; and that
the suppression of correspondence already caused by high rates would be
greatly magnified. One witness had “made a calculation some time ago
among the poor manufacturers, and found that, when one of them in full
work could earn forty shillings a week, he would receive, on an average,
thirty orders, which, at fourpence a piece, if they went through the Post
Office, would be twenty-five per cent. on his earnings.”[182]

While, however, illicit correspondence was found thus prevalent,
there was abundant and striking evidence to show that “high rates of
postage deter the public to a vast extent from writing letters and
sending communications which otherwise they would write or send;”
that “even those who have the means of evasion within their reach
reduce their correspondence greatly below the standard which, under
other circumstances, they would think expedient;” that “suppression of
correspondence on matters of business takes the place of evasion in
proportion as the transactions to be announced or performed are moderate
in amount, and the condition in life of the parties is humble.”[183]

Were it not too tedious to enumerate even the heads under which
suppression was deposed to, the reader, accustomed to the present state
of things, would be astonished at the extent and variety to which
movements would be restricted by a return to the old rates. Some few
instances are all that can be noted. Who would now divine that high
rates of postage could have any relation to the prevalence of small-pox?
And yet it was found that “Practitioners and others in the country do
not apply for lymph, in the degree they otherwise would do, to the
institutions formed in London for the spread of vaccination, for fear of

Again: “Sixpence,” says Mr. Brewin, “is a third of a poor man’s daily
income; if a gentleman, whose fortune is a thousand pounds a year, or
three pounds a day, had to pay one-third of his daily income, that
is, a sovereign, for a letter, how often would he write letters of
friendship?” ... “The people do not think of using the Post Office; it
is barred against them by the very high charge.”[184] “Mr. G. Henson, a
working hosier from Nottingham, had given his wife instructions not to
take letters in unless they came from particular persons; it would take
half his income were he to pay postage.”[185]

The following statement, showing at once the desire and the inability
of the poor to correspond, is taken from the evidence of Mr. Emery,
Deputy-Lieutenant for Somersetshire, and a Commissioner of Taxes:—

    “A person in my parish of the name of Rosser had a letter
    from a grand-daughter in London, and she could not take up
    the letter for want of the means. She was a pauper, receiving
    two-and-sixpence a week.... She told the Post Office keeper
    that she must wait until she had received the money from the
    relieving officer; she could never spare enough; and at last a
    lady gave her a shilling to get the letter, but the letter had
    been returned to London by the Post Office mistress. She never
    had the letter since. It came from her grand-daughter, who is
    in service in London.”[186]

Struck by this statement, Mr. Emery made further inquiries. The following
statement he received from the postmaster of Banwell:—

    “My father kept the Post Office many years; he is lately dead;
    he used to trust poor people very often with letters; they
    generally could not pay the whole charge. He told me, indeed I
    know, he did lose many pounds by letting poor people have their
    letters. We sometimes return them to London in consequence of
    the inability of the persons to whom they are addressed raising
    the postage. We frequently keep them for weeks; and, where
    we know the parties, let them have them, taking the chance
    of getting our money. One poor woman once offered my sister
    a silver spoon, to keep until she could raise the money; my
    sister did not take the spoon, and the woman came with the
    amount in a day or two and took up the letter. It came from
    her husband, who was confined for debt in prison; she had six
    children, and was very badly off.”[187]

The following was reported by the postmaster of Congresbury:—

    “The price of a letter is a great tax on poor people. I sent
    one, charged eightpence, to a poor labouring man about a week
    ago; it came from his daughter. He first refused taking it,
    saying it would take a loaf of bread from his other children;
    but, after hesitating a little time, he paid the money, and
    opened the letter. I seldom return letters of this kind to
    Bristol, because I let the poor people have them, and take
    the chance of being paid; sometimes I lose the postage, but
    generally the poor people pay me by degrees.”[188]

The postmaster of Yatton stated as follows:—

    “I have had a letter waiting lately from the husband of a poor
    woman, who is at work in Wales; the charge was ninepence; it
    lay many days, in consequence of her not being able to pay the
    postage. I at last trusted her with it.”[189]

Mr. Cobden stated:—

    “We have fifty thousand in Manchester who are Irish, or the
    immediate descendants of Irish; and all the large towns in the
    neighbourhood contain a great many Irish, or the descendants of
    Irish, who are almost as much precluded, as though they lived
    in New South Wales, from all correspondence or communication
    with their relatives in Ireland.”[190]

As the postage between Manchester and most parts of Ireland was then
about double the present postage (1869) from any part of England or
Ireland to Australia, the separation between the Irish in Lancashire and
their countrymen at home must then have been, postally considered, not
only as great, but about twice as great as is now that between the Irish
at home and their friends at the Antipodes.

Of the desire of the poor to correspond, Mr. Emery gave further evidence,

    “That the poor near Bristol have signed a petition to
    Parliament for the reduction of the postage. He never saw
    greater enthusiasm in any public thing that was ever got up
    in the shape of a petition; they seemed all to enter into the
    thing as fully, and with as much feeling as it was possible,
    as a boon or godsend to them, that they should be able to
    correspond with, their distant friends.”[191]

Much evidence was also given as to the extent of moral evil caused by
the suppression of correspondence. On this point Mr. Henson speaks again:—

    “When a man goes on the tramp, he must either take his family
    with him, perhaps one child in arms, or else the wife must be
    left behind; and the misery I have known them to be in, from
    not knowing what has become of the husband, because they could
    not hear from him, has been extreme. Perhaps the man, receiving
    only sixpence, has never had the means, upon the whole line,
    of paying tenpence for a letter to let his wife know where he

Mr. Dunlop believed that—

    “One of the worst parts of the present system of heavy postage
    is, that it gradually estranges an absentee from his home and
    family, and tends to engender a neglect of the ties of blood,
    in fact, to encourage a selfish spirit; at the same time he
    has known very affecting instances of families in extreme
    poverty making a sacrifice to obtain a letter from the Post

Mr. Brankston said:—

    “I have seen much of the evils resulting from the want of
    communication between parents and their children among the
    young persons in our establishment; I find the want of
    communication with their parents by letter has led, in some
    instances, to vice and profligacy which might have been
    otherwise prevented.”[194]

It was also shown that one effect of suppression of correspondence was to
keep working-men ignorant of the state of wages in different parts of the
country, so that they did not know where labour was in demand. Thus Mr.
Brewin said:—

    “We often see poor men travelling the country for work, and
    sometimes they come back, and it appears they have been in
    a wrong direction; if the postage were low they would write
    first, and know whether they were likely to succeed.”[195]

Mr. Henson stated as follows:—

    “The Shoemakers’ Society at Nottingham tell me that 350 persons
    have come there for relief.... Very few of those persons would
    have gone upon tramp if they could have sent circular letters
    to a number of the largest towns in England at a penny to
    receive information whether a job could be got or not.”[196]

It may be observed that one of the main facts now urged in favour of
Trades Unions is, that they collect and circulate the very information
here spoken of as so much wanting.

There was evidence to show that the difficulty of communication

    “The remarkable pertinacity of the poor to continue in their
    own parish, rather than remove to another where their condition
    would be bettered.”[197]

It was also stated that—

    “The consequence of the high rates, in preventing the
    working-classes from having intercourse by letter, is, that
    those who learned at school to write a copy have lost their
    ability to do so.”[198]

Mr. Henson adds that—

    “There are many persons, who, when he first knew them wrote an
    excellent hand, but now, from their scarcely ever practising,
    they write very badly: one of these persons is so much out of
    the habit of writing that he would as soon do a day’s work, he
    says, as write a letter: they are so much out of the habit of
    writing that they lose the art altogether.”[199]

Mr. Davidson, of Glasgow, thought—

    “That additional opportunities of correspondence would lead the
    industrious classes, the working-classes, to pay more attention
    to the education of their children than they do now, and that
    it would have a highly beneficial effect, both upon their moral
    and intellectual character.”[200]

So strong was the sense entertained by some of the witnesses of the evils
inflicted on society by imposing a tax upon postage that they expressed
their doubts whether it were a fit subject for taxation at all. Mr.
Samuel Jones Loyd (now Lord Overstone), said:—

    “I think if there be any one subject which ought not to
    have been selected as a subject of taxation it is that of
    intercommunication by post; and I would even go a step further,
    and say, that if there be any one thing which the Government
    ought, consistently with its great duties to the public, to do
    gratuitously, it is the carriage of letters. 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 those, 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. I therefore
    greatly regret 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.”[201]

Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Brown, and also Lord Ashburton, strongly
supported this opinion, the latter saying:—

    “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. You cannot
    do it without checking very essentially the disposition to

I pause here in my narrative to bar an inference that might very
naturally be drawn from my citing the above passages, viz., that in
my opinion even the present rates constitute a tax, and may therefore
be wisely and justly abandoned in favour of lower ones, or indeed of
absolutely free conveyance. Certainly, if it could be shown that some
other corporation could and would manage the whole correspondence, with
all its numerous and extensive rootlets and ramifications, on lower
terms than the Government, and this without any sacrifice in speed or
certainty, then the difference between such lower rates and the present
might fairly be termed a tax; but I am not aware that such capability has
yet been conceived, still less seriously maintained; and indeed I cannot
but believe that, taking the duty as a whole, the Post Office, so long
as it is well managed, is likely to do the work on better terms than any
rival institution.

Another opinion erroneously attributed to me, and connected with the
above, is, that so long as the department thrives as a whole, its funds
may justly be applied to maintain special services which do not repay
their own cost; whereas, from the first, I have held that every division
of the service should be at least self-supporting,[203] though I allowed
that, for the sake of simplicity, extensions might be made where there
was no immediate expectation of absolute profit.[204] All beyond this I
have always regarded as contrary to the true principles of free trade, as
swerving into the unsound and dangerous practice of protection. Whenever,
therefore, it is thought that the net revenue from the Post Office is
too high for the interests of the public, I would advise the application
of the surplus to the multiplication of facilities in those districts
in which, through the extent of their correspondence, such revenue is

To return to the evidence. With regard to the amount of reduction that
it would be expedient to make, the witnesses generally, whether from the
Post Office or otherwise, were of opinion that it must be large; illicit
conveyance having become too firmly established to be effectually dealt
with by any moderate change. The Secretary indeed was of opinion—

    “That to whatever extent the postage is reduced, those who have
    hitherto evaded it will continue to evade it, since it cannot
    be reduced to that price that smugglers will not compete with
    the Post Office, at an immense profit.”[205]

It has already been shown that a very important, indeed essential, part
of my plan was uniformity of rate. To this various objections were
raised, some of which would now seem frivolous enough. As an instance, I
may mention the statement—

    “That in certain cases extra rates are levied, and are
    applicable to the maintenance of certain roads and bridges,
    undertaken with a view to expedite the mails which travel over

An objection the more frivolous as the total amount of the rates thus
levied was less than £8,000.

Some witnesses from the Post Office regarded the uniform rate as “unfair
in principle.”[207] Dr. Lardner, while he regarded it as abstractedly
unjust, yet thought it should be recommended on account of its
simplicity. All the other witnesses were in its favour, provided the
rate were as low as one penny; and nearly all considered a uniform rate
preferable to a varying one, though the rate should somewhat exceed one

Mr. Jones Loyd observed that the—

    “Justice of the uniform plan is perfectly obvious. You are
    not warranted in varying the charge to different individuals,
    except upon the ground that the cost of conveyance varies; so
    far as that varies the charge ought to vary; but it appears to
    me that that which consists of a tax upon individuals ought to
    have no reference to the place of their residence; it should
    either be equal, or, if it varies at all, it should be in
    proportion to their means of bearing the tax.”

Being asked whether, if a uniform rate of twopence were imposed on all
letters, and if a person at Limerick got his letters for twopence, a
person at Barnet would not soon find out that he ought to have his
letters for a penny, Mr. Loyd answered:—

    “If such be the fact, he would soon find it out, I presume; if
    it was not the fact, of course he would never find it out.”[209]

Mr. Dillon made the following remarkable statement:—

    “To show how little the cost of transit sometimes enters into
    the price of goods, I may mention to the committee, in the
    way of illustration, that we buy goods in Manchester; they
    are conveyed to London; we sell them in London very often to
    dealers resident in Manchester, who again carry them back to
    the place from whence they came, and after the cost of two
    transits, they will have bought them of us cheaper than they
    themselves could have bought them in Manchester. In this
    instance, the cost of transit, as an element of price, has
    become absolutely destroyed by the force of capital and other

Colonel Maberly would like a uniform rate of postage, but did not
think it practicable. “Any arrangements which, in the great details of
Post Office matters, introduce simplicity, he looks upon as a great
improvement.”[211] Most of the other Post Office authorities liked
the idea of a uniform rate, as “it would very much facilitate all the
operations of the Post Office.”[212]

The feasibility of payment in advance, now the almost universal practice,
was the subject of much inquiry. Most of the witnesses from the Post
Office recognised the advantage of the arrangement, though some of
them doubted its practicability. Part of this difficulty, it must be
admitted, was, in some sort, of my own creating; for, perceiving that the
costly system of accounting rendered necessary by payment on delivery
could never be entirely set aside unless prepayment became universal,
my first notion had been to make this compulsory; and though, to smooth
the difficulties, I recommended that in the outset an option should be
allowed,—that, namely, which exists at present,—I certainly looked upon
this as but a temporary expedient, and both desired and expected that the
period of probation might be short. Doubtless it was a mistake, though
a very natural one, so to clog my plan; my aim, however, was not to
establish a pleasing symmetry, but to attain an important practical end.

The Postmaster-General and the Secretary were both of opinion that the
public would not like prepayment. Being called on to reply to objections
on this point, I showed that the question for the public to determine was
between prepayment at a low rate and post-payment at a high rate; and I
ventured to predict that, when so considered, the objection to prepayment
would speedily die away; the more so as the difference proposed to be
made between the two modes of payment, viz., that between one penny
and twopence, was not adopted “as an artificial means of enforcing
prepayment,” but arose “out of the greater economy to the Post Office
of the one arrangement as compared with the other.” Nearly twenty other
witnesses were examined on the same point, all supporting my view,
some going so far as to advise that compulsory prepayment should be
established at once; and, indeed, the ease with which prepayment became
the general, nay almost universal, custom, must make it seem wonderful
that its adoption should ever have been considered as presenting serious

Supposing prepayment to be resolved on, the question remained as to
the mode in which such payment could be most conveniently and safely
made; and this inquiry of course brought the use of stamps into full
discussion. It must be remembered that in proposing by this plan to
supersede the multitudinous accounts then kept in the department, my
object had been not merely to save expense, but to prevent loss through
negligence or by fraud. In relation to this, the committee found
important evidence in the Eighteenth Report of the Commissioners of
Revenue Enquiry, as appears by the following extracts given in the report
of the committee:—

    “Upon the taxation of letters in the evening there is no check.

    “The species of control which is exercised over the deputy
    postmasters is little more than nominal.”

Upon this unsatisfactory state of things it appeared by the evidence of
the Accountant-General of the Post Office that very little improvement
had been made since the issue of the Commissioners’ Report.

Another matter of anxiety relative to the use of stamps was the risk of
their forgery; and on this point Mr. John Wood, the Chairman of the Board
of Stamps and Taxes, together with other officers of the department,
was examined at considerable length. Mr. Wood wished to superadd to the
use of stamps that of some paper of peculiar manufacture, forgery being
more difficult when it requires the combined talents of the engraver,
the printer, and the paper-maker. Specimens of such a paper had been
laid before the committee by Mr. Dickinson, and such a paper, with lines
of thread or silk stretched through it, Mr. Wood regarded as the best
preventive of forgery he had ever seen. I scarcely need say that this is
the paper which was subsequently used in the stamped envelope, though its
use was afterwards abandoned as unnecessary.

The Post Office opinions as to the use of stamps for the purpose of
prepayment were, on the whole, favourable; though the Secretary was of
opinion that, as regards time, labour, and expenditure at the General
Post Office, the saving would not be so great as “Mr. Hill in his
pamphlet seemed to think it would.”[213] He enumerated nine classes of
letters to which he thought stamps would be inapplicable.

The task of replying to these objections was easy, on some points
ludicrously so; thus solemn reference was made to the class of letters
which, not having found the party addressed, had been returned through
the Dead Letter Office to the sender. The additional postage so caused
could not be prepaid in stamps. Of course not, but luckily no such
postage had ever been charged.[214]

Another class of letters presenting a difficulty (here I am careful to
quote the exact words) “would be half-ounce letters weighing an ounce or
above.” I could not but admit that letters exhibiting so remarkable a
peculiarity might present difficulties with which I was not prepared to

“The ninth class,” said the Secretary, “is packets improperly sent
through the Post Office. You may send anything now if you pay the

What could be more obvious than the answer? I gave it as follows: “The
fact is, you may send anything now, whether you pay the postage or

But the Secretary continued, “The committee is aware that there is no
prohibition as to what description of packets persons should put into the
Post Office; the only protection to the Post Office at present is the
postage that would be charged on such packets.”[217]

My answer was easy: “The fact is, that ‘the only protection’ is no
protection at all. The Post Office may charge, certainly, but it cannot
oblige any one to pay; and the fact of there being a deduction in the
Finance Accounts for 1837, amounting to £122,000, for refused, missent,
and redirected letters, and so forth, shows that the Post Office is put
to a considerable expense for which it obtains no remuneration whatever.”

Among the advantages claimed for the proposed use of stamps was the moral
benefit of the arrangement; and this was strongly urged by Sir William
Brown, who had seen the demoralising effect arising from intrusting young
men with money to pay the postage, which, under the existing arrangement,
his house was frequently obliged to do.[218] His view was supported by
other witnesses.

It seems strange now that it should ever have been thought necessary
to inquire gravely into the expediency of substituting a simple charge
by weight for the complicated arrangement already mentioned. But the
innovation was stoutly resisted, and had to be justified; evidence
therefore was taken on the question. Lord Ashburton being called on for
his opinion, thought that the mode in use was “a hard mode, an unjust
mode, and vexatious in its execution.”[219]

On the other hand, though the Secretary admitted the frequent occurrence
of mistakes, which indeed it must have been impracticable to avoid,
viz., “that a great number of letters are charged as double and treble
which are not so, and give rise to returns of postage,”[220] and though
Sir Edward Lees thought “that charging by weight would, to a certain
extent, prevent letters being stolen in their passage through the Post
Office,”[221] yet most of the witnesses from the Post Office were
unfavourable to taxing by weight. The Superintending President described
an experiment made at the office, from which he concluded that a greater
number of letters could be taxed in a given time on the plan then in
use, than by charging them in proportion to the weight of each letter.
The value of this test was pretty well shown by the fact that in this
experiment the weighing was not by the proposed half-ounce, but by the
_quarter_-ounce scale, and that nearly every letter was put into the
scale unless its weight was palpable to the hand.[222]

The probable effect of the adoption of my plan on the expenditure of the
Post Office department was a question likely to elicit opposite opinions.
It was to be considered, for instance, whether the staff then employed
in the London Inland Office, viz., four hundred and five persons,[223]
would suffice for that increase of correspondence on which I counted;
or whether, again, supposing the increase not to be attained, it would,
through economy of arrangement, admit of serious reduction. On these
questions[224] there was much difference of opinion, even within the
office. Thus, while one high official stated that payment in advance,
even though it occasioned no increase of letters, would not enable the
Post Office to dispense with a single clerk or messenger,[225] another
was of opinion that four times the number of letters might be undertaken
by the present number of hands.[226]

Again, as to the sufficiency of the existing means of conveyance, the
Superintendent of the Mail-coaches, after stating “that a mail-coach
would carry of mail fifteen hundredweight, or one thousand six hundred
and eighty pounds, represented that if the letters were increased to
the extent assumed, the present mail-coaches would be unable to carry
them;”[227] while Colonel Colby stated that the first circumstance which
drew his attention to the cheapening of postage was that in travelling
all over the kingdom, particularly towards the extremities, 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 or trebled, or
quadrupled, it could not have affected the expense of conveyance.”[228]

To determine the question the committee directed a return to be made
of the weight of the mail actually carried by the several mail-coaches
going out of London. The average was found to be only 463 pounds,[229]
or little more than a quarter of the weight which, according to Post
Office evidence, a mail-coach would carry; and as it appeared, by other
evidence, that the chargeable letters must form less than one-tenth of
the weight of the whole mail, it was calculated by the committee that,
with every allowance for additional weight of bags, the average weight
of the chargeable letters might be increased twenty-four fold before the
limit of 1,680 pounds would be reached. It was further shown that the
weight of all the chargeable letters contained in the thirty-two mails
leaving London was but 1,456 pounds; that is, less than the weight which
a single mail-coach could carry.[230]

Though the amount to be recommended as the uniform rate was of course a
question for the consideration of the committee, yet, as my plan fixed
it at one penny, most of the witnesses assumed this as the contemplated
change, making it the basis of their estimates, and counting upon this
low rate for turning into the regular channel of the post various
communications then habitually made by other means—such, for instance, as
small orders, letters of advice, remittances, policies of insurance, and
letters enclosing patterns and samples, all of which were, for the most
part, diverted into irregular channels by the excessive postage. Similar
expectations were held out with respect to letters between country
attorneys and their London agents, documents connected with magisterial
and county jurisdiction, and with various local trusts and commissions
for the management of sewers, harbours, and roads, and of schools and
charities, together with notices of meetings and elections to be held
by joint-stock and proprietary bodies.[231] The mere enumeration will
surprise the reader of the present day, accustomed as he must be to send
and receive all such communications by the post alone. Nor will it seem
less strange to learn that at that time the post had little to do with
the circulation of prices current, catalogues of sales, prospectuses,
circulars, and other documents issued by public institutions for the
promotion of religion, literature, science, public instruction, or
philanthropic or charitable ends; all of which, so far as they could then
be circulated at all, were obliged to find their way through channels
more or less irregular.[232]

The committee, however, “also took evidence as to the increase that
was to be expected in the posted correspondence of the country from
the adoption of a uniform rate of twopence;” but on this basis they
found that much greater diversity of opinion prevailed. Some important
witnesses, however, with Lord Ashburton at their head, “were, for the
sake of protecting the revenue, favourable to a plan founded on a
twopenny rate.”[233]

While, however, Lord Ashburton thought the reduction to twopence,
rather than to a penny, safer as regards the direct revenue of the Post
Office, he was strong in his opinion that reduction of postage would act
beneficially on the general revenue of the country, saying that there was
“no item of revenue from the reduction of which he should anticipate more
benefit than he would from the reduction of postage;” and adding that
“if, under any plan of reduction, you did not find an improvement in the
Post Office revenue, you would find considerable benefit in every other

Although it was obvious that the establishment of a low rate of postage
would of itself have a strong tendency to the disuse of the franking
privilege, the committee had to consider how far it might be desirable
to retain that privilege at all. It was found that the yearly number of
franked missives was about seven millions; that those franked by members
of parliament, (somewhat less than five millions in number) might be
counted nearly as double letters, the official franks (about two millions
in number) as eight-fold letters, and the copies of the statutes,
distributed by public authority (about seventy-seven thousand in number),
thirteen-fold letters.[235]

In respect of the official franks, indeed, supposing their contents to
be always in genuine relation to the public service, there was a mere
formal difference between their passing through the Post Office free, and
their being charged to the office of state from which they were posted;
but such a supposition would have been very wide of the truth, for, as
is justly remarked in the Report, “it is liable to the abuse, which no
vigilance can effectually guard against, of being made the vehicle for
private correspondence.” The Report continues:—

    “Thus it appears from Dr. Lardner’s evidence, that while he
    resided in Dublin, the greater part, if not the whole, of his
    correspondence was allowed to pass under the franks of the
    then Postmaster-General for Ireland, and that the extensive
    correspondence in which he is now engaged, in relation to
    various publications, and to engineering, on which he is
    professionally consulted, is carried on principally by means
    of official franks. He states that, as these franks enable him
    to send any weight he pleases, he is in the habit, in order
    to save trouble to those from whom he obtains the franks, of
    enclosing under one cover a bundle of letters to the same

However the objection to the existence of such opportunities might be
lessened in the particular case by the uses to which it was applied,
there was clearly no ground for supposing that it was only for such
laudable purposes that the privilege was employed; indeed, it was
notorious that men of science were far from being the class principally
indulged. Neither could it be the poor and humble to whom the favour
was commonly extended, but, as alleged by one of the witnesses, it was
“principally the rich and independent who endeavoured to obtain franks
from those who are privileged to give them.” Dr. Lardner, too, said that
“a man to obtain such advantages as he obtains must be a person known to
or connected with the aristocratic classes of society.”[237]

Besides considering my plan, the committee had to deal with various
other suggestions, the principal of these being “a graduated scale of
reduced rates, commencing with twopence, and extending up to twelvepence,
tantamount, as was stated, in England, to a reduction of threepence per
letter, which was laid before the committee by Colonel Maberly.” The loss
to the revenue from such reduction he estimated at from seven to eight
hundred thousand pounds a year.[238] None of these plans, however, except
one for charging the rates according to geographical distance, were
approved of by any of the witnesses unconnected with the Post Office.

As regards the importance of those additional facilities in reference
alike to the convenience of the public and the restoration of the
revenue, upon which I had laid such stress, but which unfortunately were
so tardily adopted, much confirmatory evidence came alike from the Post
Office and from other quarters.

The postmaster of Manchester stated that “letters have, in numerous
instances, been sent in coach parcels, not so much with a view to save
postage as to facilitate transmission, and to insure early delivery.
This happens,” he stated, “very much in those neighbourhoods in which
there is not direct communication through the medium of the Post Office,
especially in a populous and manufacturing district between twenty and
thirty miles from Manchester.”[239] In confirmation of the latter remark,
Mr. Cobden stated that in the village of Sabden, twenty-eight miles from
Manchester, where his print-works were, although there was a population
of twelve thousand souls, there was no Post Office, nor anything that
served for one.

Such are a few of the multitudinous statements made to the committee,
in reply to questions, nearly twelve thousand in number, addressed to
the various witnesses. The recital throws at least some light upon
the difficulties by which the way to postal reform was beset, showing
how necessary it was then to strengthen points which now seem quite
unassailable, to prove what now seems self-evident, to induce acceptance
of what no one now would hear of abandoning.

If further illustration of such necessity be needed, it may be found in
the following extracts from the evidence of Post Office officials:—

The Assistant Secretary:—

    “Question 986. I think there are quite as many letters written
    now as there would be even if the postage were reduced [to one

It having been stated that the time for posting letters at the London
receiving offices had been extended from 5 to 6 p.m., Mr. Holgate,
President of the Inland Office, is examined as follows:—

    “Question 1,586. _Chairman._ Has any notice of that been
    conveyed to the public?—I should be very sorry if any had.

    “1,587. How long has that been [the practice]?—The last three

    “1,588. Why should you regret that being made public?—They
    would reach us so much later, and throw so much upon the last
    half-hour in the evening.

    “1,589. That is the time when the office is most pressed by

    “1,590. _Mr. Currie_ [a member of the committee]. In fact, the
    office has given the public an accommodation which the office
    is anxious that the public should not profit by?”[241]

       *       *       *       *       *

    “1,655. If Mr Hill’s plan were carried into effect, I do not
    think that any tradesman could be got to receive letters
    [_i.e._, to keep a receiving-house] under £100 year.”[242]

The Postmaster-General:—

    “Question 2,821. He [Mr. Hill] anticipates only an increase
    of five and a quarter-fold [to make up the gross revenue];
    it will require twelve-fold on our calculation.... Therefore
    it comes to that point, which is right and which is wrong: I
    maintain that our calculations are more likely to be right than

It may be remarked here that the gross revenue rather more than recovered
itself in the year 1851, the increase of letters being then only four and

My own examination occupied a considerable portion of six several 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 or 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. If, as the evidence
proceeded, they began to question the wisdom of their original decision,
they probably thought, at the same time, that the die was now cast, their
course taken, and all that remained was to maintain their ground as best
they could. The nature and extent of Post Office resistance, much as
has appeared already, is most conspicuous in the following extracts—the
last I shall make—from the Digest of Evidence, in which are summed up
the opinions put forth by Colonel Maberly, the Secretary; opinions from
which, so far as I am aware, he never receded:—

    “He considers the whole scheme of Mr. Hill as utterly
    fallacious; he thought so from the first moment he read the
    pamphlet of Mr. Hill; and his opinion of the plan was formed
    long before the evidence was given before the committee.
    The plan appears to him a most preposterous one, utterly
    unsupported by facts, and resting entirely on assumption.
    Every experiment in the way of reduction which has been made
    by the Post Office has shown its fallacy; for every reduction
    whatever leads to a loss of revenue, in the first instance: if
    the reduction be small, the revenue recovers itself; but if the
    rates were to be reduced to a penny, revenue would not recover
    itself for forty or fifty years.”

The divisions on the two most important of the resolutions submitted to
the Committee, and, indeed, the ultimate result of their deliberations,
show that the efforts that had been made had all been needed.

Thus, on a motion made on July 17th by Mr. Warburton to recommend the
establishment of a uniform rate of inland postage between one post town
and another, the Committee was equally divided; the “ayes” being Mr.
Warburton, Lord Lowther, Mr. Raikes Currie, and Mr. Chalmers; the “noes,”
the three members of Government, Mr. P. Thomson, Lord Seymour, and Mr.
Parker, with Mr. Thornley, M.P. for Wolverhampton; so that the motion was
affirmed only by the casting vote of the Chairman.[245]

Mr. Warburton further moving:—

    “That it is the opinion of this committee, that upon any
    large reduction being made in the rates of inland postage, it
    would be expedient to adopt an uniform rate of one penny per
    half-ounce, without regard to distance,”—

the motion was rejected by six to three; the “ayes” being Mr. Warburton,
Mr. Raikes Currie, and Mr. Morgan J. O’Connell; and the “noes” the same
as before, with the addition of Lord Lowther and Mr. G. W. Wood; and upon
Mr. Warburton, when thus far defeated, moving to recommend a uniform
postage of three-halfpence, the motion was again lost by six to four,
the only change being that Mr. Chalmers, who appears to have been absent
during the second division, now again voted with the ayes.[246]

The second day, however, Mr. Warburton returned to the charge, moving
to recommend a uniform rate of twopence the half-ounce, increasing at
the rate of one penny for each additional half-ounce; a motion met, not
by a direct negative, as before, but by an amendment tantamount to
one. On this question, as also on that of uniformity, the committee was
equally divided. Again, therefore, the motion was affirmed only by the
casting vote of the Chairman.[247] The passing of the two resolutions,
however—one to recommend a uniform rate of inland postage irrespective of
distance, and the other to fix the single rate at twopence—was decisive
as to the committee’s course, as will appear by the sequel. We must
return for a time to the rejected amendment.

This had been moved by Mr. P. Thomson, and the substance of it was to
abandon the recommendation of a uniform rate and to consider instead
a Report proposed by Lord Seymour, the chief points of which were to
recommend the maintenance of the charge by distance and the establishment
of a rate varying from one penny, for distances under fifteen miles, to
one shilling for distances above two hundred miles, or of some similar
scale. _This, it must be observed, would have been adopted as the
recommendation of the committee but for the casting vote of the Chairman,
Mr. Wallace._ To what extent so untoward a circumstance would have
retarded the cause of postal reform it would be difficult now even to
conjecture; but it cannot be doubted that the success, which, even with
the support of the committee, was so hardly achieved, would at least have
undergone long and injurious delay.

To make this clear, it must be observed that by the adoption of Lord
Seymour’s draft Report (a copy of which I have before me) 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.

Lord Seymour’s Report, however, though so unsatisfactory in its
recommendations, and, according to my view, very erroneous in its
reasonings on many points (more especially in its main argumentation,
viz., that against uniformity), yet contained passages of great use to
me at the time, as confirming my statements, and more or less directly
supporting my 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. Doubtless, had the recommendations contained in this
Report been voluntarily adopted by the Post Office only 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

Before quite leaving Lord Seymour’s Report, I must, in candour, admit
that on one point his prediction was truer than my own, though, as my own
remained unpublished, I was not committed to it. The following is the

    “It appears that the great change which must result from the
    substitution of railways for mails [mail-coaches] will have the
    effect of increasing considerably the cost of conveying the
    correspondence of the country.”

In my copy of this draft Report (given to me, I suppose, by Mr. Wallace)
I find the following remark in my own handwriting:—

    “No such thing. One railway stands in place of several common

The implied inference, viz., that the cheaper operation of railways would
lower the cost of conveying the mails seemed justified by the moderation
of the charges for this service made up to that time by the railway
companies. The event, however, has contradicted my contradiction, the
railway charges for conveying the mails, unlike the rates for passengers
and goods, being higher, weight for weight, than those on the old mail

The committee having thus decided the two great points of uniformity—rate
and a twopenny charge for the single letter,—Mr. Wallace, with his
usual kindness, immediately wrote to inform me of the result. He was
the more careful to do this because, as he knew, it was not in full
accordance with my wish, the rate recommended being higher than that
which I regarded as desirable; and, what was worse, such as to make
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.

To return to the committee: only one further attempt was made to modify
their resolution, viz., by a motion made at the next meeting by Lord
Seymour, in the following words:—

    “That it is the opinion of this committee that an increase of
    general post letters under an uniform rate of twopence, to the
    extent which will be required to sustain the gross revenue of
    the Post Office, will occasion a considerable addition to the
    cost of the establishment.”

After this day the members of Government ceased to attend, save only that
Lord Seymour once reappeared during the consideration of the Report.
Opposition being thus abandoned, proceedings went on rapidly, so that at
the next meeting the whole of the remaining resolutions, more than twenty
in number, were all carried; the Chairman being requested also to draw up
a Report in conformity therewith.

As the proceedings of the committee approached their close, Mr. Wallace
requested that I would undertake to prepare a draft Report for his
consideration, previously to its being submitted to the Committee. From
this I naturally shrank; but, upon further urgency, I so far consented
as to select so much of the evidence as seemed most necessary for the
purpose, cutting it out from the reports just as it stood, in question
and answer, but classifying it under some twenty different heads. This,
according to my recollection, I placed in Mr. Wallace’s hands, and upon
it he wrote a Report. I must here mention, however, that though this
Report became the basis of that finally issued, it was by no means the
same document, having been re-arranged, in great measure re-written, and
greatly added to, during the recess. Of this more hereafter.

Thus closed, for the present, the work of this memorable committee, on
whose decision rested consequences, not only of the deepest interest to
myself, but, as afterwards appeared, of importance to the whole civilized
world. Seldom, I believe, has any committee worked harder. I must add
that Mr. Wallace’s exertions were unsparing, his toil incessant, and
his zeal in the cause unflagging. My own convictions in relation to the
committee and its chairman were corroborated by the following strong
passage in the _Times_:—

    “Altogether we regard the Post Office Enquiry as one conducted
    with more honesty and more industry than any ever brought
    before a committee of the House of Commons.”[249]

Perhaps, before proceeding to other matters, I may, without
invidiousness, make one more remark in reference to the proceedings of
this committee. It is not unknown that since the successful establishment
of penny postage, there have appeared other claimants to its authorship.
As regards Mr. Wallace, enough has been said to show that he was not of
the number; though of late some persons, trusting perhaps to imperfect
recollections, have advanced such claims in his name. As regards
other claimants, it is most remarkable that throughout this period of
contest—when no less than eighty-seven witnesses deposed in favour of the
measure, and when all solid information and every weighty opinion were so
valuable, when even the principle of uniformity of rate was considered
of such doubtful expediency that it was carried only by the casting vote
of the chairman, while the penny rate was actually rejected in favour
of one of twopence,—they gave no evidence, remained unheard, and were,
so far as has ever appeared, entirely silent. General Colby, indeed,
on whose behalf some such claim has been advanced since his death, did
give evidence, but without the least reference to further discoveries by
himself beyond what has been already mentioned;[250] and I may add, that
though he honoured me with his friendship to the time of his death, he
never even alluded to the claim in question. Indeed, all the claims of
which the public has lately heard are of very recent date, having arisen
long since the success of penny postage became indisputable.

The Report adopted at the last meeting of the committee was placed in
the hands of Mr. Warburton for revision; a work to which he forthwith
applied himself with untiring zeal, referring occasionally to me for
some detail of information, or for the verification of some calculation.
I had therefore frequent occasion to call on him. I should not forget
to add that in the successful introduction of postal reform his able,
earnest, and continuous assistance played not merely an important, but
an essential part.[251] In all my visits to his house I was received in
the dining-room. I well remember the appearance of things—an appearance
which never varied from first to last. What first struck me was that the
room never could be used according to its name; the table, indeed, stood
out in full length, sufficient for a respectable number of guests, but
it was wholly occupied with piles of books, and those not of the most
digestible kind, consisting almost entirely of such as in passing through
the Post Office are marked Par. Pro., and are known to all the world as
“blue books.” The sideboard was similarly heaped, save that a little
room was left for astronomical instruments, Mr. Warburton being an able
mathematician. The chairs, save one, bore each its parliamentary load,
and similar lumber occupied the floor; passages only, and those narrow
ones, being left between the paper walls. There were, however, one or
two books of a lighter kind; but even these seemed insensible of change.
On an early visit I laid hands on a number of the “Edinburgh Review,”
containing one of Macaulay’s brilliant articles; and as the book always
remained exactly where I laid it down, I found opportunity of reading,
bit by bit, the whole essay. The one chair already mentioned, and a
small table near it, were alone unencumbered with books, and alone free
from the dust which, in every other part of the room, seemed to have on
it the repose of years.

Meanwhile, having but inferential knowledge as to the progress of the
work, and thinking it very important that no time should be lost in
publishing the Report, since I hoped it might be advantageously dealt
with in the newspapers during the recess, I felt a certain degree of
impatience at what I supposed must prove but laborious refinement.
In this feeling Mr. Wallace more than fully shared. In the course of
the autumn he wrote to me, in earnest protest against the delay, his
expressions growing stronger as time advanced, until on December 1st he
went so far as to predict that, if the Report were withheld during the
vacation, penny postage would not be carried out during the next year. He
even begged that his letters might be kept as vouchers of his anxiety on
the subject. In the end, however, it became clear enough that no time had
really been lost, the delay being more than atoned for by the excellence
of the result.

Meanwhile, too, the press, not awaiting the appearance of the Report,
began to urge action by reference to what was already known. The _Times_,
in particular, repeatedly wrote in strong support of my plan.

As I have already mentioned the more important events occurring between
the prorogation of Parliament in August and the end of the year 1838,
it will be seen that, so far as postal affairs were concerned, this
was to me a period of comparative rest, though even then scarcely a
week, or perhaps even a day, passed without their making some call on
my attention. Of course, too, my duties at the Australian Commission
remained undiminished, or rather, indeed, increased with the increasing
flow of emigration, and the difficulties already arising in the colony.
However, I was again able to breathe, and to prepare for those new
anxieties which I knew must be in the future. When would the Report
appear? What effect would it produce on the country? Would there be such
a movement as would sufficiently influence ministers and Parliament? To
me, of course, these were questions of the deepest interest, and though,
for the time, the main work was, as it were, taken off my hands, yet it
was necessary to keep watch, to be ready for assistance when called for,
to deal with almost innumerable communications, and to pay attention to
the numerous suggestions that were made. So closed the year 1838.



The first circumstance that I have to record in 1839 was the receipt
of a letter from Sir William Brown,[252] written from Washington,
and informing me of an interview which he had had with the
Postmaster-General of the United States on the subject of my pamphlet.
The Postmaster-General told him that it had afforded him a great deal
of information, and further that it was the intention of the United
States Government to remodel the Post Office laws in the next session of
Congress, and that he thought five cents for all distances would be a
postage sufficient to cover expenses. This rate was afterwards adopted,
though subsequently the charge was yet further reduced. Sir William gave
it as his own opinion that the action of the American Government would
materially assist the movement at home. Three weeks later, however, he
wrote expressing his opinion that my best course would be to write to
the Hon. Mr. Kennedy, who was very desirous of moving in the matter,
and to whom it was wished that I should send the reports, pamphlets,
&c., bearing upon the subject. In writing to this gentleman, I expressed
an opinion that on account of the great extent of territory and the
sparseness of population in the United States, penny postage might not
be so applicable to that country as to England; but added that, as the
American people did not look to their Post Office for revenue, I thought
the general rate, even if not reduced to a penny, might yet be a low one.

The Report so laboriously prepared by Mr. Warburton appeared, I believe,
early in March.

Of this Report (the third of the Committee of 1838) I forbear to give
even a summary; not only because this would involve the repetition of
much that has been already said, but because I have no hope whatever
of doing justice to so very able a document, the result of many months
of hard labour, the very model of a Report, and which, as such, will
even now amply repay the trouble of perusal. It is invaluable as an
authoritative record of a state of things so absurdly strange as to be
now almost incredible, but which was nevertheless justified and upheld
at the time by many able and excellent men. Moreover, its elaborate
calculations, which I was called upon to check, put some of the most
important questions at issue in a clear, striking, and often even amusing
light. On all important points 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,
by whom it was actually drawn, 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. It
only remained to see what effect this masterly Report would have on the
country, the Parliament, and the Government. As respects the first,
enough has been mentioned to justify good expectation; the same might be
said in a less degree of the second; but of the third, all indications
were as yet adverse.

On the 12th of April appeared, in some of the London papers, a letter
which I had felt called upon to write in reply to an article in the
Supplement to McCulloch’s “Commercial Dictionary,” then lately published,
extracts from which had appeared in some of the newspapers. Mr.
McCulloch’s opposition came very unexpectedly, since he had previously
been a decided supporter of the general plan; his name having appeared
amongst the select signatures to the important London petition presented
to Parliament in the year 1837, and already mentioned at page 289 of this
history. He had likewise supported the cause in the _Courier_ newspaper,
resented the delay in adopting my plan, had, in conversation with myself,
strongly condemned the Ministers, and threatened to expose them in the
“Edinburgh Review.” The only circumstance to which I could attribute his
change of opinion was that he had recently been appointed head of the
Stationery Department. We all know, and I myself have been charged with
such experience, that questions often assume a new aspect when viewed
from the windows of a Government office.

Meanwhile, meetings were taking place in various towns to petition in
favour of penny postage, and strong articles on the same side appeared
in many of the leading newspapers. Mr. Wallace, as chairman of the late
committee, received so many letters on the subject of the movement, as
to be under the necessity of publicly acknowledging them _en masse_,
mentioning, by way of instance, that on the single day of writing he had
received nine written communications in reference to various petitions,
together with eight newspapers.

The Post Office, too, began to show signs of uneasiness, and made a few
very cautious reductions; lowering, for instance, the postage between
London and Keswick from thirteen pence to a shilling, and granting
similar indulgence on London letters to twenty-one other places; the
amount of reduction being in each instance the same, or, as the “Post
Circular”[253] put it, not _to_ a penny, but _by_ a penny.

On March 23rd a somewhat remarkable scene occurred in the House of
Commons; Mr. Scholefield having presented a petition from Birmingham, for
which he was member, the Speaker desired all honourable members who had
petitions to present on Penny Postage to bring them up; when instantly a
great number of members on both sides of the House “advanced in a crowd
to present them, amidst cheering on all sides.” The petitions on the
subject in the course of six days amounted to two hundred and fifteen.

The number of the “Post Circular” from which I have taken this account
(No. 12) contains, also, one of those amusing devices with which my
friend Mr. Henry Cole knew so well how to strike the public eye. Probably
the reader will not be displeased at its reproduction. The Edinburgh mail
coach, it will be seen, is depicted, with its guard, coachman, and two
outside passengers; the letter bags—which, as all the world knows, or
then knew, usually occupied the hind boot, so as to lie under the guard’s
foot—are by an artistic liberty placed on the roof, the whole being
arranged in divisions of franks, newspapers, Stamp-office parcels, and
chargeable letters; the first three (which are free of postage) occupy
the whole roof, the last lying in small space on the top of one of the
bulky divisions, the proportions being those of the mail conveyed on
March 2nd, 1838. The legend below sums up the tale.


The depth and extent of public feeling by this time aroused are shown by
the following extract from the _Times_:—

    “Such is the degree of conviction which is carried to all who
    have bestowed any thought upon it, that the only question
    is—and it is asked universally—will these ministers have the
    honesty and courage to try it? On a review of the public
    feeling which it has called forth, from men of all parties,
    sects, and conditions of life, it may well be termed the cause
    of the whole people of the United Kingdom, against the small
    coterie of place-holders in St. Martin’s-le-Grand and its

That the _Times_ did not stand alone, is shown by a general list in the
“Post Circular” of newspapers which took the same side. Though probably
incomplete, it contains the names of twenty-five London papers (nine
daily and sixteen weekly), and of eighty-seven provincial papers. It must
be remembered, too, that the number of journals, especially of country
journals, was then comparatively small.

While public feeling was thus manifesting itself at home, I received
further evidence that attention was excited abroad, Mr. Hume sending me a
pamphlet written by M. Piron, then second in authority in the Post Office
of France, advocating reduction of postage, and speaking of my plan
in very flattering terms. The rate recommended by M. Piron was twenty
centimes the quarter-ounce, or, setting aside the difference of weight,
nearly the same as that previously recommended here by the Parliamentary
Committee. M. Piron, I may here remark, continued to press his views on
the French Government (at one time, I was assured, to his own injury)
till my plan, in a modified form, was adopted by the Revolutionary
Government of 1848.

Now, however, came the crowning proof of the hold which the plan had
taken of the public mind. On one of the first days in May, Lord Melbourne
received a deputation on the subject, in which were comprised about one
hundred and fifty members of Parliament, chiefly, if not exclusively,
supporters of Government The principal speaker was Mr. Warburton, his
most telling passage being as follows:—

    “If he might be pardoned for making the observation upon such
    an occasion, he would say it would be a concession so wise,
    that it would be well calculated to make any Government justly
    popular, _and he would strongly urge it as a measure which
    a Liberal party had a just right to expect from a Liberal

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. O’Connell, mounting on a chair in a distant part of the room, spoke
as follows:—

    “One word for Ireland, my Lord. My poor countrymen do not
    smuggle, 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. Consider, my Lord, that a letter to Ireland and the
    answer back would cost thousands upon thousands of my poor and
    affectionate countrymen considerably more than a fifth of their
    week’s wages; and let any gentleman here ask himself what would
    be the influence upon his correspondence if, for every letter
    he wrote, he or his family had to pay one-fifth of a week’s

Next came Mr. Hume; his voice, as that of the watchful guardian of
the national finances, carrying unusual weight, since it was known to
everybody that he would be the last man to recommend any improvident

Not the least remarkable speech, the concluding one, was that of Mr.
Moffatt, who undertook, if Government shrank from the risk of the
proposed reduction, to form a City company which should take the Post
Office entirely off their hands, guaranteeing to the State the same
amount of revenue as before.

Lord Melbourne’s reply, though reserved, was courteous and encouraging.
He recognised the importance of the deputation, acknowledged the weight
of the facts produced, and while he withheld all present announcement as
to the course to be adopted by Government, promised that the whole matter
should receive prompt and earnest attention.

    “A strong feeling evidently pervaded the room in reference
    to Mr. Warburton’s allusion to the just expectation of this
    important measure being conceded by a Liberal Government. HE

So remarkable a deputation could not but produce a great effect. Mr.
Warburton’s hint was, as I learnt, well understood, and I was afterwards
assured that this proceeding was the very turning-point of the movement;
the Government having thereon decided to adopt the measure. Certainly,
but three weeks later, I received the following letter from Mr.

                                                     “May 22, 1839.

    “MY DEAR SIR,—I have just learnt from Mr. Bannerman, who has it
    from Lords Melbourne and Duncannon, that the penny postage is
    to be granted.

    “I shall see Lord M. and Lord J. R. on Sunday.[256]

    “Dear Sir,

                           “Yours truly,

                                                 “HENRY WARBURTON.”

    “ROWLAND HILL, Esq.”

Three days later I again heard from Mr. Warburton, as follows:—

                                                     “May 25, 1839.

    “MY DEAR SIR,—Mr. Parker, the Treasury Lord, last night, and
    Lord John Russell, this morning, confirmed to me the intentions
    of the Government to propose your plan; and I believe that
    they will announce publicly their intentions to that effect on

    “I shall take an opportunity of expressing my opinion to Lord
    Melbourne that you ought to be employed to superintend the
    execution of the plan. If you have anything to say to me on the
    subject, call before half-past 10 o’clock to-morrow.


                                                 “HENRY WARBURTON.”

    “ROWLAND HILL, Esq.”

The recommendation that I should be employed had in my view a double
importance; agreeing not only with my own natural and ardent desire, but
also with the inevitable conviction that if, by the alternative course,
the management of my plan were committed to the hands of its avowed and
persistent opponents—men who manifestly viewed it not only with dislike
but with scorn, and whose predictions would be falsified if it attained
success—it would have small chance of receiving that earnest and zealous
attention, watchful care, and constant effort for effectual development
combined with strict economy, on which I knew the desired result must
depend. For convenience I mention here that after the passing of the
Postage Bill, Mr. Wallace wrote to Lord Melbourne to the same effect. His
letter is but a specimen of Mr. Wallace’s general course in my regard. He
makes no reference to his own valuable labours, but only urges claims for
me, based on the importance of my discovery.

To return to my narrative; a few days later, Mr. Warburton, having in
the House asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether
Government intended to proceed with a twopenny or penny rate, Lord
John Russell replied that the intention of Government was to propose a
resolution in favour of a uniform penny postage,[257] remarking, “the
plan will be in conformity with that which has been proposed by the
committee as likely to be the most beneficial one,” and adding that,
though the scheme would necessarily involve many months of preparation,
no time should be lost.[258] Having been apprised of Mr. Warburton’s
intention, I was present when the announcement was made; and I leave the
reader to imagine the deep gratification I felt.

Grave doubts yet remained as to whether my plan would be adopted in
its entirety. My first anxiety was as to the introduction of stamps;
their use, as already shown, being indispensable to that rapidity
and economy of postal operation, without which the mere adoption of
the penny rate would be extremely imperfect as a matter of public
convenience, and perhaps seriously detrimental to the direct revenue.
I consequently prepared a paper,[259] which was printed and circulated
by the Mercantile Committee, “On the Collection of Postage by means
of Stamps.” It describes in considerable detail the plan of which the
first bare suggestion had been given, as already shown, early in 1837,
and, except that there is no mention of the Queen’s Head—which was an
after-thought—it describes with considerable accuracy the kinds of
stamps now in use, and the modes of distributing them. The envelopes and
adhesive stamps now so familiar to all, are described the one as “the
little bags called envelopes,” and the other as “small stamped detached
labels—say about an inch square—which, if prepared with a glutinous
wash on the back, may be attached without a wafer.”[260] I must admit,
however, that, as the paper shows, I still looked upon stamped covers
or envelopes as the means which the public would most commonly employ;
still believing that the adhesive stamp would be reserved for exceptional
cases. Unfortunately, the recommendations contained in my paper were
not acted upon until the Government had resorted to other supposed
expedients, which turned out to be real impediments, and were not got rid
of without much trouble.[261]

Meantime, on June 25th, Lord Radnor, in presenting forty petitions in
favour of uniform penny postage, repeated Mr. Warburton’s question as
to the intentions of Government, and received from Lord Melbourne the
assurance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would shortly bring the
matter forward;[262] his words were as follows:—

    “Undoubtedly it is the intention of the Government to carry
    into effect the plan referred to by my noble friend—considering
    how it has been recommended, the strong interest it has
    excited, and the benefits and advantages which unquestionably
    belong to it—with all practicable speed.”[263]

In my anxiety to obtain for the proposed measure a favourable reception
in the House of Commons, I drew up with great care a short paper,
entitled “Facts and Estimates as to the Increase of Letters,” which was
printed by the Mercantile Committee, a copy being sent to every member of

A copy of this document is given in the Appendix (G). The prediction
therein set forth was much longer in fulfilment than I anticipated—the
gross revenue not having been made up till 1851, the twelfth year of
penny postage. Probably, like most projectors, I was over-sanguine.
Probably also I was unduly influenced by the evidence proceeding from
the public in support of my recommendations. But the reader will find
from the following narrative that after the adoption of my plan by the
Legislature many circumstances occurred, which could not possibly have
been foreseen, tending to delay the apparent success of my scheme of
Postal Reform. Among these are the following:—

1st. Delay in the adoption of stamps, and the still greater delay in
effectually supplying the public therewith.

2nd. While my plan applied to inland postage only, large reductions
were also made in foreign and colonial postage, which, however right in
themselves, of course had their effect in delaying the time when the
amount of the gross revenue should have recovered itself.

3rd. The additional facilities to be afforded the public—more especially
by a great extension of rural distribution—though a most important part
of my plan, were, to say the least, for a long time delayed. This I
conceive to have been a main cause of delay in the recovery of the gross

4th. Above all, the execution of my plan was, during the early years of
penny postage, entrusted almost entirely to men whose official reputation
was pledged, not to its success, but to its failure. Even after I
entered the Post Office, near the close of the seventh year of penny
postage, obstacles were so continually thrown in my way that for many
years I could do comparatively little to promote the measure; and it was
not till the fifteenth year, namely, when I became Secretary to the Post
Office, that I could exercise any direct influence therein.

About the time that the paper mentioned above was issued, opposition
arose in so strange a quarter, that if the reader were invited to
conjecture, he could scarcely go right save by considering how best he
could go wrong. If it had been inquired what trade was most likely to
benefit by the multiplication of letters, surely the one selected would
have been the trade in paper. Nevertheless, a deputation of stationers
went up to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, setting forth that they and
their brethren would be put to great inconvenience by the adoption of Mr.
Rowland Hill’s plan. Probably the motive to this whimsical proceeding was
an apprehension that the issue by Government of stamped envelopes would
deprive the petitioners of an expected trade; the fear of this making
them blind to the far more than counterbalancing advantage to be derived
from the multiplication of that which envelopes were intended to contain.
However, I must not omit to mention that, some months afterwards, when
I was in office, I had a very satisfactory interview with these same
gentlemen at the Treasury.

On July 5th, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in bringing forward his
Budget, proposed the adoption of uniform penny postage. After having
dwelt upon the fact that there had been of late a large increase of
expenditure—due partly to improved administration in home affairs,
partly to the establishment of ocean steamers for the conveyance of the
mails, and the employment for the same purpose of railway trains instead
of mail-coaches, partly to the increase of the National Debt by the
borrowing of the twenty millions used in the redemption of negro slavery,
partly, also, to an increase in the means of defence, and lastly, to the
recent insurrection in Canada,—he observed that, as through these various
circumstances there was little or no spare revenue, it would be necessary
that the Government, in yielding to the general wish for the adoption
of penny postage—a measure imperilling a revenue of a million and a
half—must be assured of the concurrence of the House in the adoption of
such means as might be necessary for making good any deficiency that
might arise; he himself expecting that in the outset such deficiency
would be very great. After having stated that on some points he differed
from the conclusions of the committee, he proceeded to eulogise their
labours in the following terms:—

    “I must admit that a committee which took more pains to inform
    itself, whose collection of evidence is more valuable, as
    giving the opinions of many of the most intelligent persons
    of all classes in the country, I never remember in my
    Parliamentary experience.”[264]

In reference to the popular demand for the measure, he made the following
remarkable declaration:—

    “I find that the mass of them [the petitions] present the most
    extraordinary combination I ever saw of representations to one
    purpose from all classes, unswayed by any political motives
    whatever; from persons of all shades of opinion, political and
    religious; from clergymen of the Established Church, and from
    all classes of Protestant Dissenters; from the clergymen of
    Scotland, from the commercial and trading communities in all
    parts of the kingdom.”[265]

Judiciously thinking that it would be better for the House to leave the
details of the measure in the hands of Government, he demanded for the
Treasury the power at once of fixing the rates of postage, of ordering
payment by weight, of making prepayment compulsory, and of establishing
the use of stamps. He concluded by moving the following Resolution:—

    “That it is expedient to reduce the postage on letters to one
    uniform rate of a penny postage, according to a certain amount
    of weight to be determined; that the Parliamentary privilege
    of franking should be abolished; and that official franking be
    strictly limited—the House pledging itself to make good any
    deficiency that may occur in the revenue from such reduction of
    the postage.”[266]

Such opposition as was made was directed rather against the pledge
required of the House than against the plan of penny postage, and on that
point Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Goulbourn were supported by some members
on the Liberal side of the House, including Mr. Hume, who regarded such
pledge as superfluous, seeing that the House was at all times bound to
maintain the national income. He also thought that the Chancellor of the
Exchequer’s estimate of deficiency was excessive, he himself believing
that though there might be a serious deficiency the first, and even the
second, year, it was probable that, as by that time the plan would be in
full operation, the future deficiency would not be greater than Mr. Hill
had allowed for.

All, however, concurred in the opinion that if the experiment were to
be made the penny rate was to be preferred to any other; and while Mr.
Goulbourn said that he should have been much in favour of the measure
were there but a surplus to justify the risk, Sir Robert Peel went so far
as to say—

    “That he should have thought it sufficient, if Government had
    maturely considered the details of this measure, had calculated
    the probable loss to the revenue, and had come forward to
    propose, in this acknowledged deficiency of the public revenue,
    some substitute to compensate the public. He should have
    thought that sufficient. So convinced was he of the moral and
    social advantages that would result from the removal of all
    restrictions on the free communication by letter, that he
    should have willingly consented to the proposition.”[267]

It was very noticeable at the time that, after citing the strongly
condemnatory opinions of Colonel Maberly and Lord Lichfield, Sir Robert
Peel remarked, “I do not say that these opinions convince me.”[268]

The Resolution was agreed to without division.

A week later, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having moved that the
Report on the Postage Acts be received, Mr. Goulbourn, who might be
regarded as the Chancellor of the Exchequer expectant, moved resolutions
of which the object was to have the measure of penny postage postponed,
on the ground, mainly, of the present deficiency in the revenue, the
extensive powers proposed to be given to the Treasury, and the opposition
of the paper-makers.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply, pointed out several recent
instances of partial reduction in postage rates which had been followed,
speedily, by an increase of revenue, taunted the opposition members with
altered tactics since the last debate, and challenged them to a direct
vote against penny postage.

Sir Robert Peel repeated the arguments of Mr. Goulbourn, and again urged
objections to the pledge to make good any loss of revenue.

On the division, the “ayes” were 215, and the “noes” 113, giving a
majority of 102 in favour of penny postage.[269]

Those who frequented the House of Commons thirty years ago will remember
the two doorkeepers of the day—Mr. Pratt, a somewhat tall and grave
personage, and Mr. Williams, a chubby red-faced man, who seemed as if
he escaped bursting only by the relief he found in laughing at the
exuberance of his own humour. Both these men were zealous friends of
penny postage, and, in the warmth of their friendship, always went at
least as far as duty permitted, in enabling me to attend the discussions
on postal matters. On the night when the division took place their
excitement was prodigious. During the debate I had sat under the gallery,
but on the division had, of course, to withdraw. As I passed into the
outer lobby, the inner being required in the division, and used, as
it happened, to receive the supporters of the measure, my two friends
warned me to keep near the door, that they might let me know how things
went on. I took my station accordingly, and ever and anon was informed
through the grating in the door, the flap being for the moment withdrawn,
as to how matters were going on. Each report was better than the last,
Williams’s eager face beaming at each momentary glimpse with increased
gratification: “All right,” “Going on capitally,” “Sure of a majority,”
were given out in succession, until the climax was reached by his
whispering audibly, amidst laughter which he strove in vain to control,
“Why, here’s old Sibby come out;” and certainly when I learnt that
Colonel Sibthorpe, the Tory of Tories, was amongst the supporters of my
plan, I could not but feel that the game was won.

The measure was now considered secure so far as related to the House
of Commons, but people had not yet forgotten the warning given by the
ejaculation so common seven or eight years before, “Thank God, there’s
a House of Lords!” and anxiety began to arise as to the reception which
the measure might experience in the Upper House. Promptly, therefore,
the Mercantile Committee directed its attention that way, and appointed
certain of its members as a deputation to wait upon a few of the more
influential peers. In executing this mission, the deputation naturally
sought an interview with the Duke of Wellington; their application,
however, receiving the following characteristic reply:—

                                            “London, July 16, 1839.

    “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.

    “If, as a Member of Parliament, any gentleman or committee
    should wish to give the Duke information, or the benefit of
    their opinion, he is always ready to receive the same in
    writing, but he declines to waste their time and his own by
    asking any gentleman to come to this distant part of the town
    to discuss a question upon which he would decline to deliver
    his opinion, excepting in his place in Parliament.

    “Moreover the Duke, although not in political office, has
    much public business to occupy his time, and on Thursday in
    particular, the day named by Mr. Moffatt, he will be occupied
    by attendance upon the Naval and Military Commission during
    the whole of the forenoon, until the meeting of the House of
    Parliament of which he is a member.”

Being thus disappointed of an interview, the deputation requested me to
undertake the duty of addressing the Duke by letter. I wrote as follows:—

                                         “Bayswater, July 22, 1839.

    “MY LORD DUKE,—At the request of the Mercantile Committee
    on Postage, I have the honour to submit for your Grace’s
    consideration a few facts in support of the Bill for the
    establishment of a uniform penny postage, which it is expected
    will shortly be brought into the House of Lords.

    “The evidence which has been given before the Select Committee
    on Postage proves that the Post Office revenue has scarcely
    increased at all for the last twenty-four years.

    “That the present high rates lead all classes, except those
    allowed to frank, to evade postage to an enormous extent.

    “That they cause a vast amount of correspondence, mercantile
    as well as domestic, to be actually suppressed, thus crippling
    trade and preventing friendly intercourse.

    “That if postage were reduced to one penny the revenue would be
    more likely to gain than to suffer.

    “That the _present_ average cost to the Post Office of
    distributing letters is ¾_d._ each, and that this cost would be
    greatly reduced under the proposed arrangements.

    “That the cost to the Post Office is frequently greater for
    short distances of six or eight miles than for long distances
    of two or three hundred miles; thus showing the unfairness of
    the present varying charges.

    “And that the partial reductions in postage rates hitherto made
    have, after a short time, invariably benefited the revenue.

    “I have taken the liberty of enclosing a short abstract of the
    Report of the Select Committee on Postage, which has been drawn
    up by the Mercantile Committee, as well as some ‘Facts and
    Estimates as to the Increase of Letters,’ prepared by myself,
    to which I respectfully solicit your Grace’s attention.

    “The boldness, yet safety of the proposed change, its
    simplicity, and its tendency to extend commerce, science, and
    education, will, I confidently hope, recommend it to your
    Grace’s favourable consideration.

                           “I have, &c.,

                                                     “ROWLAND HILL.

    “To His Grace the DUKE OF WELLINGTON, &c., &c., &c.”

To this letter I received no reply, nor was any expected; but the letter
appears to have had its effect, for when the debate came on, the Duke, as
will be seen hereafter, distinctly supported the measure.

Meanwhile the bill for establishing penny postage was brought in by the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord John Russell, and Mr. F. Baring; and
passed the first reading without discussion.[270]

The second reading took place on the 22nd July, after a debate in which
Mr. Goulbourn, Sir Robert Inglis, and Sir Robert Peel attacked, and
Mr. Francis Baring, Lord Seymour, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr.
Wallace, and Mr. Warburton defended the bill. The attack was founded
chiefly on the large powers granted to the Treasury, though Sir R.
Peel, while admitting “that a great reduction of postage might be made,
not only without injury, but with great advantage to the revenue,”
thought, however, “that it would be better to make a partial reduction
of the postage duties than to repeal them almost entirely, as is now
proposed,” and considered “that the advantages to be derived from such a
proposition are much over-rated.”[271] Sir Robert Inglis also objected
to the abolition of the Parliamentary privilege of franking, stating
incidentally that to some mercantile houses it was worth £300 a year;
but his objection was over-ruled by Sir Robert Peel, who strongly urged
the importance of abolishing the privilege in question, adding that, if
each Government department were required to pay its own postage, much
would be done towards checking abuse. He also advised that “Parliamentary
Proceedings” should be subjected to a moderate postage charge; and it is
scarcely necessary to add that Sir Robert Peel’s advice on this point
was followed.[272] The bill was read without a division.

On the following day the public anxiety relative to the House of Lords
showed itself in a petition “signed by the Mayor and upwards of twelve
thousand five hundred of the merchants of the city of London, which the
Noble Lord who presented the petition understood had been signed in
twelve hours,” praying that no temporary deficiency of revenue might
delay the establishment of penny postage.[273] As this, though not by
any means the last petition presented, is the last requiring notice, it
may not be amiss to mention here that the number of petitions presented
to Parliament in favour of penny postage during the single session of
1839 was upwards of two thousand, the number of appended signatures being
about a quarter of a million; while 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

On July the 29th the bill was read a third time and passed, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing, in reply to Sir Robert Peel,
that Government had not yet determined on the precise mode in which the
measure should be introduced.[274]

Before following the bill to the Upper House I will mention a
circumstance which, however trifling in itself, may derive some interest
from its connection with a body so much the “observed of all observers”
as the House of Commons. One night, when a discussion on Post Office
affairs was to come on, I was sitting under the gallery, when one of
the members suggested to me that I should go upstairs and get some
refreshment; a hint of which, after some hesitation as to the propriety
of intruding, I gladly availed myself. Following the directions I
received, I went to the “Kitchen,” where the cooks were hard at work.
Upon my request for tea a wooden tea-tray was handed to me. As I half
suspected that I was thus made to wait upon myself because I was
looked upon as an intruder, I watched the motions of such as came by
unquestionable right. Scarcely had I taken my seat when I saw Joseph Hume
doing as I had done; others followed in like manner, and I soon became
aware that this was the common practice. Whether any change has been made
I know not, but I was glad to remark that the members of an assembly
accounted one of the most fastidious in the world were not ashamed to
wait upon themselves.

A few days later I received a letter from Lord Duncannon, informing me
that Lord Melbourne wished to see me at one o’clock on the following
Sunday. On calling, I found only Lord Duncannon in the drawing-room,
who informed me that the Premier was not yet up, though, as he had been
assured by the servants, he might soon be expected. I must mention,
by the way, that Lord Duncannon, who always, I believe, save in his
official capacity, had been friendly to my plan, had now taken it up with
a certain degree of warmth, having in his place in Parliament declared
himself persuaded, “that, with great exertion on the part of those who
are to carry the bill into execution, there will ultimately not be any
loss,” and added, “that he never recollected so strong a wish having
been expressed to both Houses of Parliament on any measure as had been
expressed on the subject of postage.”[275]

After a little time Lord Melbourne made his appearance, in his
dressing-gown. My reception was most kindly, and we presently went
to work. In the course of conversation I had occasion to speak of
Mr. Warburton, when Lord Melbourne interrupted me with, “Warburton!
Warburton! He’s one of your moral-force men, isn’t he?” I replied that I
certainly believed Mr. Warburton’s hopes of improvement did rest more on
moral than on physical force. “Well,” he rejoined, “I can understand your
physical-force men, but as to your moral-force men, I’ll be damned if I
know what they mean.” Not hitting upon any apposite reply, I remained
silent, and a second time we returned to the subject of the interview,
until at length, seeming to have become possessed of his subject, he
began to pace the room, as if arranging his speech; often moving his
lips, though uttering no audible sound. In this process, however, he was
interrupted by the entrance of a servant, who made an announcement which
did not reach my ear. The answer was, “Show him into the other room,”
and, after a short time, Lord Melbourne, apologising for leaving us,
withdrew. A minute afterwards, the hum of conversation sounded through
the folding-doors, and, by-and-by, one of the voices gradually rose in
distinctness and earnestness, taking at length an angry tone, in which
I presently heard my own name pronounced. As the voice seemed to me
that of a stranger, I must have turned an inquiring eye towards Lord
Duncannon, who informed me that it was that of Lord Lichfield. After a
while, warmth seemed to abate, the tone became moderate, and at length
the farewell was given, Lord Melbourne, re-entering by the folding-doors,
with the remark, “Lichfield has been here; I can’t think why a man can’t
talk of penny postage without going into a passion.”

Next day, August 5th, Lord Melbourne proposed, in a long speech, the
second reading of the Postage Bill. He fully admitted that the income of
the country fell short of the expenditure—allowed that there was great
uncertainty as to the fiscal results of penny postage; but intimated
that a surplus or deficiency of three or four hundred thousand pounds
in an income of forty-eight millions was a matter of comparatively
little moment, and justified the course Government had taken mainly on
the ground of “the very general feeling and general concurrence of all
parties in favour of the plan.”

The Duke of Wellington, after stating various objections to the measure,
especially on the score of depression in the finances, yet recognising
the evils of high postage rates, and expressing an opinion “that that
which was called Mr. Rowland Hill’s plan was, if it was adopted exactly
as proposed, of all plans that most likely to be successful,” concluded
with saying, “I shall, although with great reluctance, vote for the bill,
and I earnestly recommend you to do likewise.”

The Earl of Lichfield was anxious to remove the impression that he was
opposed to the measure, and “to show that, with perfect consistency with
all that he had said or done, he could give a vote for the proposal of
his noble friend at the head of the Government.” He supported the plan,
however, “on entirely different grounds from those on which Mr. Hill
proposed it,” viz., in relation to the universal demand for the measure,
and on the understanding that it was not expected “that by the measure
either the revenue would be a gainer or that under it the revenue would
be equal to that now derived from the Post Office department.”[276]

The bill was read a second time, without a division.

In accordance with Lord Melbourne’s request I was present during the
discussion; as it proceeded there was much anxiety as to the result, but,
above all, speculation was busy as to the course that would be taken by
the Duke of Wellington. I remember, however, that in the outset I myself
felt rather confident on this latter point, having received assurance, as
I think, from Lord Duncannon; but when in the course of the discussion
the Duke dwelt on the low state of the national finances, and the danger
of reducing a duty under such circumstances, I began to fear that I had
been misinformed. I suppose this feeling must have been expressed by my
looks, for Lord Duncannon, leaving his seat, kindly came to where I sat,
on the steps of the throne, and whispered, “Don’t be alarmed, he’s not
going to oppose us.” Thus reassured I listened calmly, and, as the Duke
proceeded, perceived distinctly that my fears were groundless.

The third reading took place four days later without even a debate. The
bill received the Royal assent on the 17th. I must not omit to mention
that on the Royal assent being given, Mr. Wallace, with his usual
kindness, wrote to my wife, to congratulate her on the success of her
husband’s efforts, a success to which her unremitting exertions had
greatly contributed.

Thus, in little more than three years from the time when I entered
seriously upon my investigations, and in little more than two years and
a-half from my first application to Government, this measure, so bold in
its innovation and paradoxical in its policy as to be met in the outset
with the ridicule and scorn of those to whom the public naturally looked
as best qualified by position to judge of its value, had become law.[277]

And now again came a period of comparative rest, though my thoughts
frequently reverted to the recommendations kindly made by Mr. Warburton
and Mr. Wallace, with no small anxiety about my future relations to
the reform now resolved upon. Friends on all hands assured me that,
as Government had taken my plan, it must also take me; but to my mind
the consequence did not appear certain; and even supposing it sure
that Government would take me, it yet remained to be inquired what the
Government would do with me. Many were the suggestions that were made.
The following may be taken as a specimen. One of my brothers meeting Lord
King, the following conversation took place. “Well, what are Government
going to do with your brother Rowland?” “Nay, my Lord, I do not know
that they are going to do anything with him.” “Oh, they must give him
something, no doubt of that; the only question is what. Now this is
what they clearly ought to do. They should tell Colonel Maberly that he
has fought his battle well, stood to his guns to the last, but has been
defeated; and that being the case, must, of course, withdraw and make way
for his successful rival.”

While I thus kept an eye on everything that might give indication as to
my future, I received the following letter from Lord Ashburton, who had
been the first amongst men high in influence and position to take an
active part in the promotion of my plan. It will be remarked that his
Lordship, owing doubtless to his long experience in financial affairs,
was more correct than I in his estimate of immediate results; but it
must be remembered that penny postage was left for years without those
supports which formed an essential part of my plan, and which had been so
pointedly urged by the Duke of Wellington as necessary to its results:—

                           “The Grange, Alresford, August 20, 1839.

    “DEAR SIR,—I most unfeignedly congratulate you that your great
    measure is so far safely landed. You do too much honour to
    the part I have humbly taken in this matter. I have certainly
    been unfeignedly anxious that this important experiment should
    be tried, and tried fairly; but the merit is undividedly
    yours, and the success due to the unexampled perseverance
    and intelligence you have applied to opening and instructing
    the public mind. What Parliament can do is done, and it only
    remains to be hoped that success will not be hazarded by
    imperfect execution. What measures the Post Office will adopt
    I cannot know, but I think they will make a great mistake if
    they do not contrive to secure your assistance.

    “If it should really turn out that your anticipations as to
    maintaining the revenue are realised, your triumph will be
    great indeed: one half of it will be more than I expect; but
    on this point there must, after all, be much speculative
    uncertainty, and my only regret was that our finances were not
    in a better state to make useful experiments. I shall watch the
    result with great interest, and beg you will believe me,

    “Dear Sir,

                        “Yours very truly,



    “I hope the principle of prepayment will be stoutly maintained.
    Any relaxation must be very temporary and with a large
    additional charge. Without this the scheme will not work.
    The plan of postage-stamps seems to my mind the best. The
    post-officers should sell them, and as everybody must put his
    letter into some office, he may there also buy his stamp.”

About a fortnight later, I was summoned to take my part in a very
gratifying proceeding at Wolverhampton, where a subscription had been
raised to present me with a handsome silver candelabrum, which bore the
following inscription:—

    “To ROWLAND HILL, Esq., presented by the inhabitants of
    Wolverhampton, in testimony of their high sense of his public
    services, as the Founder and able Advocate of the Plan of
    Universal Penny Postage, A.D. 1839.”



Before leaving town for Wolverhampton, as I was in constant hope of a
communication from Government, I had given strict injunction at the South
Australian Office that if any such communication arrived it should be
forwarded without delay. Now it so happened that a certain gentleman,
well known to us at the time in connection with Australian affairs, had
bestowed on our proceedings more attention than was either profitable
or convenient, and had begun to be regarded much in the light in which,
doubtless, I myself was then viewed at the Post Office; in short, he had
been unanimously voted an intolerable bore. When, therefore, a packet
arrived at the office with what appeared to be his name written in the
left-hand corner of the direction, it was naturally treated as a missive
which might very conveniently await my return; and it was not until a
messenger came from the Treasury to inquire why no notice had been taken
of a letter from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the clerk on duty
became aware of the mistake. Hastening to correct the blunder, well
aware of the Post Office delay, and impressed with the novel speed of
railway conveyance, he instantly made up the despatch in a brown paper
parcel, which he sent, with all speed, to the station, but which, by the
tardiness of its conveyance, practically demonstrated that even postal
dilatoriness might be outdone.

The packet came into my hands just before the ceremony of presentation
began, and, being eagerly opened, was found to contain a summons to
Downing Street; a fact contributing, as may be supposed, not a little to
the pleasure of the day.

On presenting myself at the Treasury I was very courteously received by
the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Francis Baring
(Mr. Spring Rice having been just raised to the peerage). Before speaking
of what occurred, I wish to premise that I afterwards found in Mr. Baring
a steady friend and zealous supporter, his kind interest in my plan and
myself never failing until death.

This first interview, however, was on one important point very
unsatisfactory. To make this clear, it must be recollected that I then
held a permanent office, involving heavy duties and implying great trust
and responsibility, and that though my salary was as yet only £500 a-year
(all salaries in this new department being then low), yet as I had
been fortunate enough to give full satisfaction, I had every prospect
of increase, and a fair chance of promotion. When, therefore, it was
proposed that I should abandon this position to accept an engagement for
two years only, without any increase of salary, I must confess I could
scarcely avoid regarding the offer as an affront. I was yet more struck
with the disadvantage to which the degradation (for such it was) which I
was to suffer would place me in respect of ability to carry out my plans;
nor did I try to conceal my feelings. However I brought the conference to
a close by informing Mr. Baring that I must consult my friends upon his
offer; and that, as my eldest brother was then at Leicester, I thought
it would be three days before I could give my answer.

Accordingly, on the following day, I went to Leicester, arriving late in
the evening. I found my brother stretched on a sofa; he had had a hard
day’s work, and seemed quite exhausted; so that although I was aware he
must know that important business alone could have brought me so far, I
naturally proposed to defer everything to the next day. Of this, however,
he would not hear; saying that he had another day’s hard work before him,
so that no time must be lost. To do the best under the circumstances, I
began my story in as passionless a manner as I could command; and for
a short time he listened quietly enough, seeming too much oppressed by
fatigue to be capable of strong interest. When, however, I came to the
offer of £500, a sudden change occurred. He seemed not merely to start
but to bound from the sofa, his face flushing, and his frame quivering
with indignation. When he became somewhat more composed, and the whole
matter had been duly discussed, he suggested that he should write a
letter for me to hand to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I eagerly
accepted his offer, but he consented—the hour being by this time over
late—to defer the execution of his task until morning.

At an early hour, we were at work, I writing from his dictation. When
the letter was completed, I returned to town by the first conveyance,
reaching home in the middle of the night. The following is my brother’s
letter. I need not apologize for its insertion in full:—

                                        “Leicester, Sept. 12, 1839.

    “DEAR ROWLAND,—Before I give you my opinion, I think it better
    to prevent the possibility of misapprehension, by putting in
    writing the heads of what you have reported to me as having
    occurred at the interview between the Chancellor of the
    Exchequer and yourself on Tuesday, respecting your proposed
    employment by the Government in carrying your plan of Post
    Office reform into operation.

    “You state that Mr. Baring, having regard to what had been
    arranged between Lord Monteagle and himself, offered to engage
    your services for two years for the sum of £500 per annum;
    you, for that remuneration, undertaking to give up your whole
    time to the public service. That on your expressing surprise
    and dissatisfaction at this proposal, the offer was raised to
    £800, and subsequently to £1,000 per annum. You state that
    your answer to these proposals was, in substance, that you
    were quite willing to give your services gratuitously, or to
    postpone the question of remuneration until the experiment
    shall be tried; but that you could not consent to enter upon
    such an undertaking on a footing in any way inferior to that
    of the Secretary to the Post Office. You explained, you say,
    the object which you had in view in making this stipulation—you
    felt that it was a necessary stipulation to insure you full
    power to carry the measure into effect.

    “I have carefully considered the whole matter in all its
    bearings, and I cannot raise in my mind a doubt of the
    propriety of your abiding by these terms; and I will set down,
    as shortly as I can, the reasons which have occurred to me to
    show that the course you have taken was the only one really
    open to you.

    “It is quite clear that to insure a fair trial for your
    plan you will require great powers; that Ministers will not
    interfere with you themselves, nor, as far as they can prevent
    it, suffer you to be thwarted by others, I can readily believe;
    but I am not so sure of their power as I am of their goodwill.
    You have excited great hostility at the Post Office—that we
    know as a matter of fact; but it must have been inferred if
    the fact had not been known. It is not in human nature that
    the gentlemen of the Post Office should view your plan with
    friendly eyes. If they are good-natured persons, as I dare say
    they are, they will forgive you in time; but they have much
    to overlook. That a stranger should attempt to understand the
    arcana of our system of postage better than those whose duty
    it was to attain to such knowledge, was bad enough; that he
    should succeed, was still worse; but that he should persuade
    the country and the Parliament that he had succeeded is an
    offence very difficult to pardon. Now, you are called upon to
    undertake the task of carrying into action, through the agency
    of these gentlemen, what they have pronounced preposterous,
    wild, visionary, absurd, clumsy, and impracticable. They have
    thus pledged themselves, by a distinct prophecy, repeated over
    and over again, that the plan cannot succeed. I confess I hold
    in great awe prophets who may have the means of assisting in
    the fulfilment of their own predictions. Believe me, you will
    require every aid which Government, backed by the country, can
    give you to conquer these difficulties. You found it no easy
    task to defeat your opponents in the great struggle which is
    just concluded; but what was that to what you are now called
    upon to effect? no less an enterprise than to change your
    bitter enemies into hearty allies, pursuing your projects with
    goodwill, crushing difficulties instead of raising them, and
    using their practical knowledge, not to repel your suggestions
    and to embarrass your arrangements, but using that same
    knowledge in your behalf, aiding and assisting in those matters
    wherein long experience gives them such a great advantage over
    you, and which may be turned for or against you at the pleasure
    of the possessors.

    “To try this great experiment, therefore, with a fair chance of
    success, it must be quite clear that you have the confidence of
    the Government; and that can only be shown by their advancing
    you to an equality, at least, with the principal executive
    officer among those with whose habits and prejudices you must
    of necessity so much and so perpetually interfere. Have you
    made Mr. Baring sufficiently aware of the numerous—I might say
    numberless—innovations, which your plan of necessity implies?
    The reduction of postage and the modes of prepayment are, no
    doubt, the principal features of your plan; but you lay great
    stress, and very properly, in my opinion, on increasing the
    facilities for transmitting letters; and this part of the
    reform will, I apprehend, cause you more labour of detail than
    that which more strikes the public eye. In this department you
    will be left to contend with the Post Office almost alone.
    It will be very easy to raise plausible objections to your
    measures, of which Ministers can hardly be supposed to be
    competent judges, either in respect of technical information
    or of leisure for inquiry. Neither would the public, even
    if you had the means and inclination to appeal to it, give
    you assistance in matters upon which you could never fix its

    “But your personal weight and importance as compared with
    that of others who it is reasonable to believe will, in the
    first instance at least, be opposed to you, will be measured
    very much by comparison of salary. We may say what we will,
    but Englishmen are neither aristocratic nor democratic, but
    chrysocratic (to coin a word). Your salary will, therefore, if
    you have one at all, fix your position in the minds of every
    functionary of the Post Office, from the Postmaster-General to
    the bellman, both inclusive.

    “But though I see these insuperable objections to your
    accepting either of the salaries which have been offered, I
    will not advise you (and you would reject such advice if I gave
    it) to embarrass the Government, if there be any difficulty,
    which there may be unknown to us, in the way of their either
    giving you a higher salary, or postponing the question of
    remuneration until the end of the two years. Your offer made on
    the spur of the moment, to surrender your present appointment,
    and work for the public without salary, though it does look
    somewhat ‘wild and visionary’ at first sight, yet after a
    long and careful reflection upon it, I distinctly advise you
    to renew, and more than that, I seriously hope it will be
    accepted. Your fortune, though most men would consider it
    very small, is enough to enable you to live two years without
    additional income; and I feel certain that the Government and
    the country will do you and your family justice in the end;
    but suppose I should be mistaken, and that you never receive
    a shilling for either your plan or your services in carrying
    it into operation, I should be very glad to change places with
    you, and so would thousands of your countrymen, if, on taking
    your labours and privations, they could also feel conscious of
    your merit.

                          “I remain, &c.,

                                                      “M. D. HILL.”

This letter I forwarded the next day, enclosing it in a short one from
myself to the same effect; in which also I proposed to wait upon Mr.
Baring at four o’clock, to give him any further explanation.

I was received in a manner not merely courteous but most friendly; no
time was lost in debate, and I was requested to call again the following
day at one o’clock, to see the draft of a letter which Mr. Baring
undertook to prepare meanwhile. Of this letter, which, upon my expressing
satisfaction with it, Mr. Baring immediately signed and handed to me, the
following is a copy:—

                               “Downing Street, September 14, 1839.

    “SIR,—I write you the result of our interviews, feeling that
    it may be a satisfaction to you to possess some memorandum on

    “With respect to the position in which you would be placed, I
    would explain that you will be attached to the Treasury, and
    considered as connected with that department with reference
    to the proposed alterations in the Post Office. You will have
    access to the Post Office, and every facility given you of
    inquiry both previously to the arrangements being settled
    and during their working. Your communications will be to the
    Treasury, from whom 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.
    I make this explanation as to the mode of doing our business,
    to prevent future misunderstanding. Your communications
    and suggestions, &c., will be with the Treasury, in whom I
    consider the power to superintend and carry into effect these
    alterations to be vested.

    “With respect to the money arrangements, I understand the
    employment to be secured for two years certain, at the rate
    of £1,500 per annum. I should also add that the employment is
    considered as temporary, and not to give a _claim_ to continued
    employment in office at the termination of these two years.

    “Having put duly upon paper a memorandum of our conversation,
    I cannot conclude without expressing my satisfaction that
    the Treasury are to have the benefit of your assistance in
    the labour which the legislature has imposed upon us, and my
    conviction that you will find from myself and the Board that
    confidence and cordiality which will be necessary for the well
    working of the proposed alterations.

                            “I am, &c.,

                                                     “F. T. BARING.

    “ROWLAND HILL, Esq.”

Of course I inwardly objected to that clause in the letter which limited
my absolute engagement to two years, but I reckoned upon making myself
within that period so useful as to secure a permanent appointment. Mr.
Baring having referred to the arrangement which placed me, not at the
Post Office, but at the Treasury, I replied that of course he might put
me then where he liked, but that I should end by being Secretary to the
Post Office—a prediction in the end fulfilled, though certainly by no
means so speedily as I expected.

The letter was soon followed by a Treasury Minute, making the formal
appointment. On carefully reconsidering both, I thought that my powers
were neither so considerable nor so clearly set forth as could be
desired; nevertheless two days later, viz., on Monday, September 16th,
1839, I entered on the duties of my new office, rejoicing in the belief
that I was at length in a position to effect the great reform I had
originated, feeling, also, at the moment, well rewarded for all past
labours and anxieties, and, though not blind to future difficulties,
yet too well pleased with my success thus far to allow any painful
anticipations much place in my thoughts.

From what has already been stated, the reader must be aware that, however
deep the gratification with which, at the end of three years’ unceasing
effort, I at length found myself in a recognised position, in direct
communication with persons of high authority, and intrusted 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, and on the promised support of Government, I felt
confident of succeeding in the end.

On the very day that I took my place in Downing Street I accompanied
the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Post Office, in order to inspect
the practical working of the department, which, as already mentioned,
I had never had an opportunity of witnessing. My first impressions
contradicted in some measure my expectations; the whole process of
dealing with the letters I found more rapid than I had supposed. Here,
however, was a fallacy very naturally produced, and which has doubtless
imposed upon many an unpractised visitor. The presence of strangers
naturally puts every man on his mettle; and efforts are made which could
not be long sustained. Again, the head of a department, zealous for its
reputation, directs observation, unconsciously perhaps, to his best men;
while the unwary spectator, generalizing on both points, attributes to
every pair of hands and to the whole period of manipulation a speed which
rightly pertains only to a few individuals, and even in their case to
a very brief time. Another source of misconception I found to lurk in
the many errors made in the haste of action; whereby a large number of
letters came back to the hands which had passed them, and being viewed by
the observer as new letters failed, of course, to produce any abatement
in his estimate of speed.

I found the “taxation of letters” more rapid, and the sorting slower,
than I had reckoned upon; but soon perceived that the sorting was greatly
impeded by want of room, which was indeed bitterly complained of by
those concerned. This lack of space was the more remarkable, since the
building, which had been erected at enormous expense, was as yet only ten
years old, and had witnessed but little increase of business within its

The rooms indeed were lofty, even to the full height of the edifice, but
yet ill ventilated; reminding one of what has been said by I forget whom,
that, if the crowd be but dense enough, a man may be stifled even where
his ceiling is the sky. A thermometer in the room marked 72°, but I was
informed it sometimes rose to 90°; so that between heat and impurity of
the air the men’s working powers must have been seriously impaired; to
say nothing of more lasting injury to their health. Some of the officers
in attendance suggested the construction of galleries, which, without
lessening the general height of the room, might afford more space;
but knowing that mere height, as indeed shown by the actual state of
things, is but a secondary consideration, and observing that there was
considerable space between the ceiling and the roof, I recommended that
the room should be divided into two floors, the ceiling being raised, and
that for the removal of bags, recourse should be had to lifts, such as I
had seen in use in the cotton mills at Belper and elsewhere. Both these
suggestions were in the end adopted.

As this inspection had the disadvantage of being foreknown, I determined
that my next should be made without notice; and accordingly somewhat
surprised my friends at the Office by appearing amongst them soon after
six the next morning. I did not perceive, however, any noticeable
difference in the state of things, save that, the work being less, and
the hands therefore fewer, there was a corresponding decrease of bustle
and closeness.

I suggested to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, as room at the
Post Office was already deficient, and was likely to be more so when
the lower rate was adopted, no time should be lost in establishing the
district offices and uniting the two corps of letter-carriers, as I had
recommended. By his request I drew up a paper giving my views in detail.
To dispose of this matter for the present, I must say that I did not then
succeed in convincing him of the soundness of my views, and that, in
fact, they were not acted upon until fifteen years later.

I may mention here, that my Journal, after a long suspension, was now
resumed; and it is by reference to this that I am able to give details
which have long ago passed from my memory. I find that my practice was
still to rise at six, and to proceed straightway to work at my official
duties; indeed, when I was at the Treasury, my attention was so much
diverted to questions of detail on postal matters of all kinds that, had
I confined my work to office hours, though I made these unusually long,
the progress of reform, slow as it actually was, would have been reduced
to a veritable snail’s pace. My long hours, however, soon obliged me to
apply for additional assistance.

From this Journal I proceed to give one or two extracts:—

    “_1839, September 20th._—Mr. Baring came to me at the Treasury.
    [He] had not been able to look over the _agenda_, though at
    work till four this morning. Will take it next, and let me know
    when ready to discuss it. Asked me to state what assistance
    I thought necessary. I replied that I wished to engage the
    services of Cole (whom I had mentioned on a previous day),
    and that I required a clerk or amanuensis.... As to a clerk,
    B. recommended that I should select one from the Post Office,
    as his practical knowledge would be useful to me. To this I
    assented, and it was arranged that B. should write to Colonel
    Maberly on the subject, but it afterwards occurred to me that
    the arrangement might possibly lead to unpleasant consequences.
    I therefore went to Mr. Baring and represented this view of
    the subject, at the same time proposing that I should engage
    Mr. Ledingham.... To this B. consented. I proposed a salary
    of 40_s._ per week, but B. objected to more than 30_s._, such
    being the allowance to supernumerary clerks in the Customs. The
    salary was therefore fixed at this sum.”

The engagement of Mr. Cole, applied for as above, was completed three
days later; and thus I had the great satisfaction of retaining after
my appointment aid which had been so highly serviceable before. Mr.
Ledingham, also, was engaged, and fully justified Mr. Gardiner’s
recommendation;[278] working with me through many years, first at the
Treasury and afterwards at the Post Office, up to the commencement of his
fatal illness, with intelligence, fidelity, and zeal.

About this time I began to experience somewhat of that kind of annoyance
which my own proceedings during the last two years and a-half must
have produced to the Post Office authorities, and in some measure to
the Government of the day. I was now myself, in some sort, within the
pale, and I began to find that through my difference of position there
was a decided change in the sound produced by a knocking at the outer
gate. Suggestions for improvement and applications on other subjects
soon became numerous; and were sufficient to occupy much time, and to
make me practically understand the nervous irritability produced in all
Government departments by applications from without.

A day or two later I again visited the Post Office, and was present at
the sorting of letters for the twopenny post. Here was anything rather
than the pressure which I had observed in the evening sorting of the
General Post letters, the force being evidently far too great for the
work; so that at the rate at which I _saw_ the letters sorted the average
number per delivery, say six thousand, might have been sorted completely
in the time occupied (about an hour and a quarter) by four persons; and
yet the sorters formed quite a crowd. Of course I found in this fact
additional reason for that union of the two divisions of letter-carriers
which was an essential preliminary to the establishment of the district

Mr. Baring had expressed a wish that I should visit the French Post
Office, which, he had been informed, was in some respects very well
managed. Not to dwell too minutely on this inspection, I will only state
some few of the results set forth in my report.

I found that the gross Post Office revenue of France was about two-thirds
that of England; the expenses, about twenty per cent. more, and the net
revenue somewhat less than one-half.[279]

The rates of postage I found to be about two-thirds of our rates for
corresponding distances, but to vary for equal distances, not as with us,
according to the number of enclosures, but simply [as I had proposed for
England] according to the weight of the letter or packet.[280]

I found a kind of book post in use; the charges, however, being regulated
not by weight, but by superficial measurement of the paper.[281]

Considering the small extent of Paris as compared with London, I found
the number of Post Offices much larger, viz., 246 against 237.[282]

There was another point on which the French Post Office was—and, it must
be admitted, still is—in advance of ours, viz., that it undertakes the
transmission of valuables of small dimensions at a commission paid of
five per cent. If the article be lost, the Post Office pays the price at
which it was valued.[283]

An arrangement for transmitting money through the Post Office was, I
found, in great use, or what I thought such, while our money-order
system, owing to the high rates of charge and other causes had but a very
limited operation; the yearly amount transmitted being less than half
that in France.

Meanwhile, there had appeared in the “Quarterly Review” an elaborate
attack, said to have been written by Mr. Croker, on my whole plan and all
its supporters; the Mercantile Committee, the Parliamentary Committee,
the witnesses, and, above all, the Government, receiving each a share of
the reproaches which fell primarily upon myself. A few extracts from this
article may still interest or amuse my readers.

It contains one statement of some importance, which, had I recollected it
at the proper time, would have been useful in a recent discussion as to
the origin of postage stamps:—

    “M. Piron tells us that the idea of a post-paid envelope
    originated early in the reign of Louis XIV. with M. de Valayer,
    who, in 1653, established (with royal approbation) a private
    penny 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....

    “But this device had long been forgotten even in France; and
    we have no doubt that when Mr. Charles Knight, an extensive
    publisher as well as an intelligent literary man, proposed,
    some years since, a stamped cover for the circulation of
    newspapers, he was under no obligation for the idea to Monsieur
    de Valayer. Mr. Hill, adopting Mr. Knight’s suggestion, has
    applied it to the general purposes of the Post Office with an
    ingenuity and address which make it his own.”[284]

My statement that the Post Office revenue had remained stationary during
the twenty years preceding the writing of my pamphlet is pronounced by
the writer to be completely overthrown by the fact that the Post Office
revenue had doubled during the fifteen years preceding that period.[285]

Expectation of moral benefits from low postage is thus met:—

    “On the whole we feel that, so far from the _exclusive_
    benefits to ‘_order_, _morals_, and _religion_’ which Mr. Hill
    and the committee put forward, there is, at least, as great a
    chance of the contrary mischief, and that the proposed penny
    post might perhaps be more justly characterised as ‘_sedition
    made easy_.’”[286]

The reader of the present day, whom dire necessity has accustomed to
modern hardships, will be roused to a sense of his condition by learning
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,”[287] &c.

The attack was answered in the next number of the “Edinburgh Review” in
an article written by my eldest brother, which thus concludes:—

    “Let, then, any temporary diminution of income be regarded as
    an outlay. It would be but slight considered with reference
    to the objects in view, and yet all that is demanded for
    the mightiest social improvement ever attempted at a single
    effort. Suppose even an average yearly loss of a million for
    ten years. It is but half what the country has paid for the
    abolition of slavery, without the possibility of any _money_
    return. Treat the deficit as an outlay of capital, and those
    who make a serious affair of it suppose that a great nation
    is to shrink from a financial operation which a joint-stock
    company would laugh at. But enough of revenue. Even if the
    hope of ultimate profit should altogether fail, let us recur
    to a substituted tax; and if we are asked, What tax? we shall
    answer, Any tax you please—certain that none can operate so
    fatally on all other sources of revenue as this. Letters are
    the _primordia rerum_ of the commercial world. To tax them at
    all, is condemned by those who are best acquainted with the
    operations of finances. Surely, then, cent. per cent. will
    hardly be deemed too slight a burden, and yet that—nay, more
    than that—the new plan will yield.

    “But the country will never consent to adjudge this great cause
    on points of revenue. That the Post Office ought to be open to
    all in practice, as well as in theory, is now felt to be as
    necessary to our progress in true civilisation as the liberty
    of the press, the representation of the people in Parliament,
    public education, sound law reform, the freedom of commerce,
    and whatever else we require to maintain our ‘high prerogative
    of teaching the nations how to live.’”


PENNY POSTAGE. (1839-40.)

My attention, on my return from France (in October of this year), was
mainly directed to the means of introducing the system of penny postage
as promptly as was consistent with safety, much care being obviously
necessary to put the office in order for the expected flood of letters
before the sluices were opened. The Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested
that in the outset stamped letters should not be admitted later than 3
p.m.; the time to be extended when practicable. The heads of the two
chief departments in the Circulation Office urged, as a preliminary,
the erection of the galleries already spoken of; a measure to which
I objected, both because of the time that it would take, and because
I thought a large outlay at the chief office (the estimate, without
including any arrangement for better ventilation, being as high as
£8,000) would delay the establishment of those district offices on which
I relied so much both for public convenience and for the maintenance of
the revenue. As a temporary expedient, I suggested the use of a part of
the Bull and Mouth Inn, which happened then to be vacant; a suggestion
which, unluckily, found no favour at the Post Office; so that, as the
Chancellor of the Exchequer could not make up his mind to adopt the
district system, immediate alterations were resolved upon, at the reduced
cost, however, of £6,000.

One cause of delay was found in an invitation issued by the Treasury,
accompanied with the offer of reward, for plans of collecting the
postage, whether by stamps or otherwise; a proceeding which precluded
any positive action until all the plans, which poured in from various
quarters, should have been duly examined. The communications were more
than two thousand five hundred in number, and the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, who had intended to read all himself, was obliged to delegate
the task to the Junior Lords of the Treasury, who must have had dry
work of it, as I better knew when a considerable portion of the work
devolved ultimately upon myself. Foreseeing much delay, I suggested to
the Chancellor of the Exchequer the expediency of allowing, in the first
instance, prepayment by money, though, as I pointed out, this course
might increase the difficulty of introducing the stamp.

A few days later, viz., on November the 2nd, I laid before the Chancellor
of the Exchequer the sketch of a plan which I had devised for the gradual
introduction of the new system. This was at once to introduce into the
London district the penny rate for prepaid letters, and to abolish
throughout the district the additional charge of twopence then imposed on
every General Post letter delivered beyond certain limits. As to the rest
of the country, I proposed immediately to fix fourpence as the maximum
single inland rate; with the abolition of all anomalous charges, such as
a penny for crossing the Menai Bridge, the halfpenny for crossing the
Scottish border, and the penny for delivery beyond certain limits. These
recommendations, after having been fully considered by the Post Office
and the Treasury, were carried into effect on the 5th December.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed doubts as to both the economy
and the safety of prepayment; and though he admitted that stamps must be
tried, and though I submitted an elaborate Report on the whole subject,
his doubts grew yet stronger; but as I remained confident, he gave way,
only declaring that he threw the responsibility of that part of the
measure entirely upon me. Even had I felt any misgiving, it was now too
late to draw back; but I accepted the responsibility with alacrity.

Amidst these proceedings there were one or two occurrences of some

I received a letter from Mr. Cobden, from which I give an extract,
showing that, however favourably I may have thought of my plan, his
expectations far outran my own:—

    “I am prepared to see all the world sorely puzzled and
    surprised, to find that the revenue from the penny postage
    _exceeds_ the first year any former income of the Post Office.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer consulted me as to the policy of taking
advantage of the willingness, as reported by Dr. Bowring, of the State of
Hamburg to reduce the charge on English transit letters from fourpence
to a penny in consideration of their letters being charged a penny for
passing through England. I strongly advised that the treaty should be
concluded forthwith, which was accordingly done.

When, however, I was consulted as to the policy of further reducing the
inland rate on foreign letters generally, before negotiating similar
reductions with foreign powers, I advised against that course, as likely
to render such negotiations more difficult; and the project was abandoned.

The question of probable forgery of the stamp still causing much anxiety,
various conferences were held on the subject. Not to go into tedious
details, it may be mentioned that the three kinds of stamps now in use,
though in very different degree, viz., stamped letter-paper, stamped
envelopes, and adhesive stamps, were agreed upon, and obtained the
approval of the Treasury.

In the minute establishing the fourpenny rate, care had been taken to
show that the measure was only temporary, and merely intended to give
needful practice in the new mode of charge, viz., by weight, before
the great expected increase in the number of letters should occur.
The explanation, however, did not give universal satisfaction, and I
began now practically to feel how great an advantage had been neglected
when Government declined to take up postal reform without awaiting the
coercion of popular demand. The spontaneous reduction of the existing
high rates to a _maximum_ of even sixpence or eightpence, would have
been welcomed with joy and gratitude; now so low a maximum as fourpence,
though this was the lowest of all General Post rates when my pamphlet
was published, was received with no small amount of dissatisfaction.
Suspicions arose that the concession would go no further; Government was
accused of an intention to cheat the public; and I, too, had a share
in the accusation, being charged in some of the newspapers with having
betrayed my own cause. Hitherto denunciations had fallen on me from
above; my elevation to office now gave opportunity—speedily seized on—for
attacks from below. I had learnt, however, before this time that all this
was to be expected and endured; that the only chance of escaping obloquy
is to avoid prominence; that the thin-skinned should keep within the pale
of private life.

December the 5th, the day appointed for the first change, was of course
passed in considerable anxiety as to the result, but of necessity I had
to await the next morning for the satisfaction of my curiosity. The
following is from my Journal, December 6th:—

    “There was an increase of about fifty per cent. in the number
    of letters despatched from London on Thursday as compared
    with the previous Thursday, and a loss of about £500 out of
    £1,600 in the total charges. The number of paid letters in
    the district post has increased from less than 9,000 to about
    23,000; the number of unpaid letters remaining about the same
    as before, viz., 32,000. No doubt the increase is greater at
    present than it will be in a day or two, as comparatively few
    letters were written the day before the reduction; still the
    result is as yet satisfactory. The Chancellor of the Exchequer
    thinks very much so.

    “_December 7th._—As I expected, the number of letters yesterday
    was less than on Thursday; the increase as compared with the
    previous Friday being about twenty-five per cent. only.”

When it was found that the immediate increase was so very moderate, the
moment had arrived for exultation in those who had predicted failure;
and, like Sir Fretful Plagiary, I was fortunate enough to have more than
one “damned good-natured friend” to keep me sufficiently informed of the

Whilst, as I have said, angry voices arose at the limited extent of the
first reduction, there were at least some persons who, being out of the
reach of general information, received the change much as I had once
hoped the whole public would do, viz., as a great and unexpected boon. A
poor Irishman, for instance, who brought a letter to the Chief Office,
with one shilling and fourpence for the postage, upon having the shilling
returned to him, with the information that the fourpence was all that
was required, broke out in acknowledgment to the window-clerk with a “God
bless your honour, and thank you.”

About a week after the change, I had the satisfaction of hearing from
Messrs. Bokenham and Smith, the two heads of the Circulation Department,
as follows:—

    “_Journal, December 13th._—Bokenham says they do not put more
    than one letter in twenty into the scale, and that a greater
    saving than he expected results from uniformity of rate; that
    the increased number of letters has required no increase of
    strength. Smith gives a similar account (he has two additional
    men). Both laugh at the notion of the insecurity in the
    delivery as resulting from prepayment.”

Three days later I proposed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the
penny rate should come into operation in three weeks from that day; the
prepayment to be made in money until the stamps, now in preparation,
could be issued; and the abolition of franking to take place as soon as
prepayment should be made compulsory. Mr. Baring approved generally of
the plan, but preferred to extend the time to a month, and to abolish
franking at once; the former modification being of little moment, the
latter, as may be inferred from the event, a very judicious change.

Two days afterwards—that we might complete the necessary arrangements
without loss of time—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on leaving Downing
Street, took me with him to his house at Lee, where, after dining, we set
to work, and, continuing without interruption, finished our task about
one in the morning. When I rose to retire, somewhat fatigued with my
long day’s work, I observed, to my surprise, that my host, opening his
Treasury box, began to take out papers as if for immediate examination.
Upon my expressing surprise, and a hope that he was not going to work
more that night, he told me that he should not sleep till all were dealt
with. If I had ever supposed that Chancellors of the Exchequer led an
easy life, I had abundant opportunity, now and afterwards, for disabuse.

The 10th January,[288] 1840, was determined upon as the day when penny
postage should be established throughout the whole kingdom.

I proposed that the scale of weight, as applied to high-priced letters
(foreign and colonial), should ascend throughout by the half-ounce. Mr.
Baring was favourable to this arrangement, but it was abandoned for the
time at the desire of Colonel Maberly, who maintained that trouble would
arise from the minuteness of the grade; and, in fact, it was not adopted
till more than twenty years afterwards.

Meanwhile, the examination of the multitudinous devices for producing
an inimitable stamp having at length been completed, I was called on to
prepare a minute on the whole subject, preparatory to issuing orders
for the execution of the work. The mode of proceeding in such cases may
surprise the uninitiated as much as, in the outset, it had surprised
me. By this time, however, I had fallen into the routine. Accordingly,
I put my own views on the matter, modified by what I had gathered
in conversation with my official superior, into the mouths of “My
Lords,” submitting the draft to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his
comments, in accordance with which I altered again and again until he was
satisfied; soon learning that when this point was gained, the consent of
“My Lords” was as prompt and certain as the facing of a company at the
command of the captain.

Few fictions, I suppose, are more complete than the minutes purporting
to describe the proceedings of the Treasury Board. There was certainly
a large and handsome room containing a suitable table headed with a
capacious arm-chair, the back bearing a crown, and the seat prepared,
as I was informed, for the reception of the Sovereign, whose visits,
however, scarcely seemed to be frequent, as the garniture was in rags.
On this table, according to the minutes, the Chancellor laid such and
such papers, making such and such remarks; sometimes the First Lord of
the Treasury appeared as taking a part, though only on occasions of
some little importance, such, for instance, as my appointment; then
deliberation seemed to follow, certain conclusions to be arrived at, and
corresponding instructions to be given. This had a goodly appearance on
paper, while the simple fact was that, two or three Junior Lords being
seated for form’s sake, papers were read over which were to go forth
as the resultant minutes of the said meeting, but which, having all
been prepared beforehand, had received the signature of the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, or of one of the Secretaries of the Treasury, the
attending Lords giving their assent, as a matter of course, without
a moment’s thought or hesitation. Once, indeed, while I was yet very
new, I did venture to go so far as to inquire, in somewhat hesitating
language, whether I was to complete the minute then in hand before it
received the confirmation of the Board; nor shall I readily forget the
look of perplexity which followed the question. When my meaning was at
length perceived, such answer was given that the inquiry never had to be

With regard, however, to the competing plans for collecting the postage,
though valuable suggestions were afforded by several, no one was deemed
sufficient in itself. In the end there were selected, from the whole
number of competitors, four whose suggestions appeared to evince most
ingenuity. The reward that had been offered was divided amongst them in
equal shares, each receiving £100.

By this minute the plan of prepayment was at length definitely adopted,
as was also the use of stamps; and this in the three forms which I had
recommended before the Treasury issued their invitation for suggestions;
together with the addition recommended at the same time, that stamps
should be impressed upon paper of any kind sent to the Stamp Office by
the public. It was also ordered that the penny rate should be adopted
forthwith; the stamps to be introduced as soon as they could be got
ready. Charge by weight having been previously adopted, there was now
added the rule doubling the charge on letters not paid for in advance.

The Queen having been graciously pleased (and here the words were no mere
form) to abandon her privilege of franking, thus submitting her letters
to the same rule as those of her humblest subject, it was determined that
all other such privilege should cease at the same time. And here it may
be observed, that though the obligation then extended to all Government
offices, viz., to have their letters taxed like those of private persons,
might seem to be only formal, since their so-called payment of postage
was little more than matter of account between one department and
another, yet, as no department likes to see its postage charge in excess,
it constituted, in effect, to a considerable extent, a real check.[289]
At the same time, it was essential for showing the real earnings of the
Post Office.

In anticipation of a large influx of letters, it was ordered that, for a
time, the free receipt of letters at the London offices should cease one
hour earlier than before, with a corresponding arrangement at the country
offices; but that the time for the receipt of late letters should extend
to as late an hour as before.

The warrant for this minute appeared in a supplementary _Gazette_ the
same evening, December 28th; and this is the last event I have to mention
in the year 1839, the third of the penny postage movement.

A question soon arose as to the hour for posting _newspapers_, a
subject accidentally omitted in the minute. Here I may observe that,
though I was constantly striving to anticipate all contingencies, and
that for the most part with success, it would now and then occur that
something escaped observation, and that, in a minute elaborately framed
to meet all cases, some little flaw would still appear to give trouble.
Often, however, the explanation was that a draft liable to extraneous
modification would sometimes be materially changed by the substitution
of a phrase, which, without careful comparison with the whole document,
seemed a just equivalent for that which it replaced. However, as already
said, here was certainly an omission. I had supposed that no change would
be made in respect of newspapers, while Colonel Maberly considered these
as included in the term letters. While we were discussing the point
before the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Colonel Maberly contending that
the restriction would be indispensable, I urging that it would be very
unpopular, we were interrupted by the Chancellor, who meantime had been
opening his letters, and now suddenly exclaimed, “My Exchequer Bills are
at one per cent. premium; so I don’t care for a little unpopularity.” And
thus the matter ended.

All being resolved upon, we did not hold it necessary to pursue the
cautious policy observed on some previous occasions, but took means to
make the coming change as widely known as practicable. Accordingly, a
form of notification having been agreed upon, I ordered half-a-million of
copies to be printed, and at the same time inserted a short advertisement
in every newspaper throughout the kingdom.

On the day before that appointed for the establishment of Penny Postage,
came information as to the effect of the fourpenny rate, showing that
the numerical increase in the letters affected by the reduction was, for
England and Wales, 33 per cent.; for Scotland, 51; and for Ireland, 52;
the increase on the whole being 36 per cent.

At length the great day arrived. The following are the entries in my

    “_January 10th._—Penny Postage extended to the whole kingdom
    this day![290] ... The Chancellor of the Exchequer much pleased
    with Matthew’s admirable article on postage in the ‘Edinburgh
    Review,’ published yesterday.

    “I have abstained from going to the Post Office to-night lest
    I should embarrass their proceedings. I hear of large numbers
    of circulars being sent, and the _Globe_ of to-night says the
    Post Office has been quite besieged by people prepaying their
    letters.[291] I guess that the number despatched to-night will
    not be less than 100,000, or more than three times what it was
    this day twelvemonths. If less, I shall be disappointed.

    “_January 11th._—The number of letters despatched last night
    exceeded all expectation. It was 112,000, of which all but
    13,000 or 14,000 were prepaid. Great confusion in the hall
    of the Post Office, owing to the insufficiency of means for
    receiving the postage. The number received this morning from
    the country was nearly 80,000, part, of course, at the old
    rate. Mr. Baring is in high spirits. It cannot be expected,
    however, that this great number will be sustained at present.

    “_January 13th._—As was expected, the number of letters
    despatched on Saturday was less than on Friday. It was about
    70,000. I did not expect so great a falling off.”

I must not omit to mention that I received a large number of
letters—mostly from strangers—but all dated on this, the opening day,
thanking me for the great boon of Penny Postage.

    “_January 14th._—The number of letters yesterday somewhat
    increased. About 90,000 each way. Mr. Baring, on my report that
    many persons were unable to get to the windows to post their
    letters in time, promised to write to Mr. D. W. Harvey, the
    superintendent of police, to direct that the thoroughfares may
    be kept clear.”

I learnt that on the first evening of the penny rate, notwithstanding
the crush and inconvenience, three hearty cheers were given in the great
hall for Rowland Hill, followed by three others for the officers of the


STAMPS. (1840.)

As the arrangements for printing the stamps advanced, it became apparent
that it would be necessary to appoint some well-qualified person to
superintend the process, manage the machinery, &c. My thoughts turned to
my brother Edwin;[292] and my recommendation being favourably received,
and the consequent inquiries being answered as satisfactorily as I was
well assured they must be, the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed me,
about a fortnight later, that he had made the appointment. The salary he
mentioned was £500 or £600 a-year; but, at my brother’s wish, I informed
him that the smaller sum would be preferred, provided that the sacrifice
might avail to secure him efficient assistance; an arrangement to which
the Chancellor readily consented.[293] This appointment promised no
small relief to me; as hitherto much of the time urgently demanded for
more important business had been necessarily given to merely mechanical
arrangements, since I could not and did not find in uninterested persons
those zealous efforts and that watchful care which were essential to
combined rapidity and security.


Much, however, still, and indeed for a long time afterwards, inevitably
devolved upon me, which would be commonly supposed to be altogether out
of my range. Naturally I was regarded by everybody as responsible for
an innovation made on my advice. It would be beyond measure tedious to
describe or even enumerate, the efforts and precautions for which I was
called upon to give efficiency to the operation of my plan, and at the
same time secure it against that various trickery to which innovation
necessarily opens the door. Of course, too, each novelty in proceeding
was admitted with more or less difficulty. Thus, for instance, though
it was obviously desirable that the paper to be used as covers should,
before issuing, be cut into the proper shape (machine-made envelopes were
not yet thought of), yet that preliminary was objected to, because of
the additional trouble it would give, not only in cutting, but also in
counting. It really cost me a considerable portion of three several days,
to say nothing of some trial of temper, to carry the point.

Towards the end of the following month (April) Mulready’s design,
together with the stamps intended for Post Office use, was formally
approved. Of this design I may remark, that though it brought so much
ridicule[294] on the artist and his employers, yet it was regarded very
favourably, before issuing, by the Royal Academicians, to whom it was
presented when they assembled in council. Neither is the discrepancy
hard to explain, since that which is really beautiful so often wearies by
endless repetition.[295] I will mention here that the public rejection of
the Mulready envelope was so complete as to necessitate the destruction
of nearly all the vast number prepared for issue. It is a curious fact
that a machine had to be constructed for the purpose; the attempt to do
the work by fire in close stoves (fear of robbery forbade the use of open
ones) having absolutely failed.

Of course my watch on the number of letters was unceasing, the
result being very variable; sometimes encouraging, and sometimes so
unsatisfactory as to cause me no small uneasiness; a feeling not much
soothed by information that the plan, as I was informed in confidence by
Mr. Gordon (Secretary to the Treasury), was already pronounced at the
Post Office a total failure.

On March 12th the first parliamentary return on the subject was
obtained; when it appeared that the increase in the number of chargeable
letters was somewhat less than two and a quarter-fold. Certainly I had
expected more, and was obliged, in my disappointment, to fall back on
my general confidence in the soundness of my views, deriving, however,
some encouragement from finding that the average postage, instead of
being only 1¼_d._, as I had calculated, proved to be nearly 1½_d._; a
difference which, however trifling in appearance, would, when multiplied,
as it already had to be, by a hundred and fifty millions, tell sensibly
in the result. This, also, enabled me to correct my calculation as to the
increase in the number of letters necessary to sustain the gross revenue;
which I now reduced from five-fold to four and three-quarters-fold; a
reduction fully justified eleven years later by the result.[296]

A Treasury Minute of April 22nd appointed the 6th of the following month
as the day when prepayment by stamps should begin; the alternative of
prepayment in money being left for the present, so as to allow time for
the public to fall quietly into the new practice. Mr. Baring, indeed,
having but little faith in the expected preference of the public for
stamps, offered to promote their use by making them the only means of
prepayment; but, independently of my confidence in their acceptability, I
preferred that the two modes, money and stamps, should contend for public
favour on equal terms.

A difficulty, however, arose here, for which I was quite unprepared, and
which may still excite wonder. Objection was raised in the department to
the sale of stamps at the three Chief Offices, viz., of London, Dublin,
and Edinburgh. I can only suppose that official dignity was touched, the
feeling excited being such as might arise on board a man-of-war at a
proposal to intrude bales of merchandise on “Her Majesty’s Quarter-deck.”

The issue of stamps, however, began, as appointed, on the 1st of May.
Great, I had the satisfaction of hearing, was the bustle at the Stamp
Office; the sale on this one day amounting to £2,500. It was clear,
therefore, that this practice, so “inconvenient and foreign to the habits
of Englishmen,” was at least to have trial. So far all was well; but now
began a series of troubles, against which I had striven to provide, but
necessarily through the instrumentality of others little interested in
their prevention.

Six days later, I received information that no stamps had been issued to
any of the receiving-houses in London. On inquiring into the cause of
this omission, I found that in the Treasury letter, giving instructions
on the subject, the important word _not_ had been omitted, so that
whereas the minute directed that the issue should not be delayed on
account of certain preliminaries, the letter directed that it should.

Two days later, a new difficulty appeared. The objection raised at the
Stamp Office to perform the duty of cutting up into single covers the
entire sheets which came from the press, had prevented the construction
of proper machinery for the purpose; and now a contest arose between two
departments, the Stamp Office persisting in issuing the sheets uncut,
and the Post Office very properly refusing to supply its receivers with
them until cut. The consequence of this antagonism was that the cutting
had to be carried on throughout the following Sunday. I secured, however,
an additional machine for the Monday, and the promise of another for the
Wednesday. Nevertheless, the delay produced considerable dissatisfaction;
the stamps issued having fallen, to a great extent, into the hands of
private venders, who naturally took advantage of the demand to sell at a

A week later, the issue threatened to come to a standstill; the Post
Office, though it had in writing undertaken the duty of distributing
the stamped covers, now declaring such distribution beyond its power.
My inquiries merely produced a repetition of this declaration; the
nature of the obstacle I failed to learn. As I was unwilling to call
in the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, indeed, at
this time was so much occupied as to be almost inaccessible, I could
but urge and remonstrate; and it was some time before this produced the
desired effect. Even a month after the first issue, the London receivers
remained still unsupplied, the Post Office alleging that it could not
obtain stamps, and the Stamp Office declaring that it had complied, and
more than complied, with all requisitions. The only thing beyond doubt
was that blame rested somewhere; but where, it was hard to discover; the
more so, as each department was too much out of temper to allow of easy
interrogation. I scarcely need add that troubles more or less similar to
these continued to arise from time to time.

Meanwhile, the actual production could scarcely keep pace with the public
demand; the less so as this took the unexpected form already implied;
adhesive stamps so fast rising in preference, that the great stock of
covers which had been prepared proved of comparatively little value.
The presses actually at work were producing more than half a million of
stamps per day, but this was insufficient, and sudden addition was not
practicable, since, by a relay of hands, the work was already carried
on by night and by day without intermission. Of course, such pressure
was not without its evils; some of the work being inaccurately and
even carelessly executed, so that I began to fear that forgery might
be successfully attempted. My apprehensions, however, happily proved
groundless; only two attempts, so far as I know, ever having been made,
and both of a very bungling character, though in one the author was
cunning enough to escape personal detection. In the other, which occurred
in Ireland, the offender was convicted and punished; the detection
occurred through the fact that a young man had written to his sweetheart
under one of the forged stamps, and enclosed another for her use in reply.

Amidst these anxieties another arose, which proved far more durable
and more troublesome. This proceeded from the difficulty of making the
obliteration of the stamp complete and effectual. All the penny stamps,
it must be observed, were at this time printed in black; the obliterating
ink being red; used, I suppose, because that colour had long been
employed in the Post Office to indicate prepayment. Of course the danger
was, first, lest obliteration should be omitted; and, secondly, lest the
effacing marks should afterwards be removed. Even on the first point
there was a good deal to complain of in the outset; so much so that a
certain amount of discredit began to attach to stamps as a whole. The
Post Office replied to complaints by saying that every care was taken;
and no doubt serious difficulties would arise in introducing a new mode,
where so many persons were concerned; these, too, being spread far and
wide over the kingdom.

An extract from my Journal, a few days later, shows how matters were
getting on:—

    “_May 21st._—Several more cases of stamps wholly unobliterated,
    or very nearly so, have come within my knowledge; and all sorts
    of tricks are being played by the public, who are exercising
    their ingenuity in devising contrivances for removing the
    obliterative stamp, by chemical agents and other means. One
    contrivance is to wash over the stamp, before the letter is
    posted, with isinglass, or something else which acts as a
    varnish, and as the obliterating stamp falls on this varnish,
    it is easily removed with soap and water. Tricks of this kind
    are quite sufficiently numerous to produce great annoyance;
    but I doubt whether it is more than the exercise of a little
    ingenuity which will speedily be directed to other objects. I
    am making every effort, however, with the aid of Phillips, the
    chemist,[297] and others, to prevent these frauds, and I trust
    I shall succeed.”

Seven days later I find the following entry:—

    “_May 28th._—To-day Lord John Russell sent a blank sheet of
    paper, which some impudent fellow had addressed to him, using
    a label which had evidently been used before, for the features
    were entirely washed away. Nevertheless, it was passed at the
    Post Office. Whiting, the printer, also sent a note his brother
    had received from Brighton, the stamp of which was so slightly
    obliterated that the mark was scarcely visible, and by night
    would almost certainly pass.”

This took me next day to the Post Office, where I remained during the two
busiest hours of the day, witnessing operations. I give the following

    “_May 29th._—The tricks with the stamps are, Mr. Bokenham says,
    abating; and, practically, he thinks there is no danger of
    their being used twice, now that ink for obliteration has been
    supplied to the deputy-postmasters from the Central Office—a
    measure which I advised in the first instance.”

Nevertheless, more than a fortnight later, I find the following entry:—

    “Pressly[298] assured me that he continually receives letters
    the stamps of which have not been cancelled. That he has sent
    them so frequently to Colonel Maberly that he does not like to
    send any more, lest it should be thought annoying. He gave me
    one recently received.”

Meantime, as the red ink seemed inefficacious, black ink was tried; and,
for a time, this appeared to be effectual.

Additional security was also sought in legislation; advantage being taken
by Mr. Timm, the Solicitor to the Stamp Office, of a bill then preparing
on postal affairs, to introduce a clause enabling the Postmaster-General
to open any letter bearing a forged stamp, or a stamp used for the second
time; but as the Chancellor of the Exchequer felt sure that Parliament
would not grant such a power, the clause, very much to Mr. Timm’s regret
and my own, was struck out. We were, therefore, thrown back upon chemical
and mechanical means of defence. It soon appeared that these must be
put into further requisition, Mr. Donovan, a chemist of Dublin, having
succeeded in removing the effacing black mark without injuring the stamp
below. The stamp, it must be remembered, had been impressed by powerful
machinery, and likewise had had time to dry; while the obliteration was
produced only by hand, and remained fresh. Again, therefore, I had to
call in Mr. Phillips. He came accompanied by Dr. Clark, Professor of
Chemistry in the University of Aberdeen, who had kindly volunteered his
services, and who suggested a number of experiments, which Mr. Phillips
undertook to try. On the same day, however, Mr. Phillips reported
favourably of a new kind of ink devised by a Mr. Parsons, informing me,
nevertheless, that it had yet to be subjected to various tests.

At this juncture came a formal report from the Post Office, stating that
the red ink was found to be removable, and asking for instructions.
The statement, though necessarily made as a matter of form, came to me
as a mere truism; but the request for instructions was more easily made
than complied with; for about the same time Mr. Parsons’ ink yielded
to the skill of Messrs. Perkins and Co., contractors for the supply of
adhesive stamps; who, however, reported in turn, that they had prepared
two other kinds of ink, either of which they thought would answer the
purpose. I lost no time in setting Mr. Phillips to work on the subject;
and, in my anxiety, went so far as to trouble the greatest chemist of
the age. Kindly giving me the needful attention, though in an extremely
depressed state of health, the result of excessive labour—a fact, of
course, unknown to me when I made my application—Mr. Faraday approved of
the course which I submitted to him, viz., that an aqueous ink should
be used, both for the stamps and for obliteration, so soon as the stock
of stamps now on hand should be exhausted, and that, in the mean time,
obliteration should be made with black printing-ink. As the stock of
covers was so large that, considering its little favour with the public,
it was likely to last some years; and as, in dealing with those, an
oleaginous effacing ink was indispensable, while, nevertheless, it would
be impracticable to have two kinds of effacing ink in use at the same
time, it was important to procure a destructible oleaginous ink to be
used meanwhile in printing the adhesive stamps. I accordingly requested
Mr. Phillips, and also Mr. Bacon, of the firm of Perkins and Co., to
undertake the task; which they did.

The new oleaginous ink, produced on the above application, seemed at
first to answer well; but past failure led me to doubt present results.
Meantime, endless suggestions were coming from various quarters, all
requiring to be more or less considered, and many plausible enough to
deserve trial, but all ending, sooner or later, in failure. The worry
of this continued succession of hope and disappointment made me at last
almost afraid to enter my office; where I foreknew that some untoward
report must be awaiting me.

At length I drew up a Report, containing all the information then
possessed, and recommending, for the present, obliteration with good
black printing-ink, prepared in a peculiar manner, and the printing
of the adhesive stamps in coloured inks—blue, as before, for the
twopenny ones, but red for the penny ones; both colours, however, to be
oleaginous, but at the same time destructible; my aim being to render
the obliteration so much more tenacious than the postage stamp that any
attempt at removing the former must involve the destruction of the latter.

The new labels being thus far provided for, anxiety remained as to the
stock of all kinds still on hand. It was still hoped, however, that
thoroughly good printer’s-ink would answer the purpose sufficiently to
prevent any serious abuse; but within three weeks from the date of my
Report, a chemist named Watson had succeeded completely in the removal
of this obliteration also. His process, however, though very simple,
inexpensive, and effectual in relation, at least, to the black stamp,
proved so slow as to demand nine minutes per label in its application;
so that the danger to be apprehended was not very formidable. To prevent
even this, however, Mr. Watson proposed an obliterating ink which he
regarded as quite irremovable. So indeed it proved; but nevertheless its
use was inadmissible, because it both injured the paper and obliterated
the writing in its neighbourhood.

Mr. Watson’s attempts to remove the black ink from the red stamp seemed,
after an interval of some weeks, to succeed. Fortunately, the success
was only apparent, nor, so far as I am aware, has practical success been
subsequently achieved by any one; so that the mode then adopted still
remains in satisfactory use.

Still, however, temporary difficulties remained, and, yet worse,
increased: the process of removing black from black, which Mr. Watson
could carry on but slowly, my clerk, Mr. Ledingham, whose ingenuity had
dealt effectually with many previous devices, succeeded in carrying on
at the rate of one per minute; a rate quite quick enough to make knavery
very profitable. After much thought I hit upon a device which is thus
recorded in my Journal:—

    “_November 9th._—It occurred to me that, as the means which
    were successful in removing the printing-ink obliterant were
    different from those which discharged Perkins’s ink, a secure
    ink might perhaps be obtained by simply mixing the two, and
    some trials made to-day lead me to hope that this plan will
    succeed. Perhaps certain ingredients of Perkins’s ink, added to
    the printing-ink, would do equally well.”

This device succeeded, the ink so formed proving to be indestructible.
Now, at length, all seemed to be right; but one more difficulty yet
remained. To enable this ink to dry with sufficient rapidity, it had been
necessary to introduce a small quantity of volatile oil; and the smell
thus produced was declared at the Post Office to be intolerable. Happily,
means were soon found for removing the offence; and so, at length, a
little before the close of the year, all requirements were met.

But the most grievous trouble that arose to me in connection with these
cares remains to be told. When, from the causes already shown, and others
yet to be described, I was almost overborne with labour and anxiety,
there came a new trouble for which I was quite unprepared; and which,
like the last straw, was enough to break the camel’s back. A blow aimed
at my brother was a precursor of what subsequently befell myself, though
with a difference that will presently appear. Before proceeding, I am
bound to mention that, at a later period, and after time had brought
about some personal change at the Stamp Office, everything was done
to make amends for this wrong. My brother’s services were fully, nay,
handsomely recognised, his powers greatly extended, and his emoluments

    “_Journal, June 29th._—A letter has been addressed by the
    Commissioners of Stamps and Taxes to the Treasury, setting
    forth, and greatly exaggerating, the exertions of its own
    officers with regard to the postage stamps, saying not a word
    of Edwin’s exertions, which have been much greater than those
    of any one else, but adding that, as, from the unpopularity of
    the covers and envelopes, it will probably be unnecessary to
    manufacture any more, and as certain arrangements which they
    propose can be adopted with regard to the labels and stamped
    paper, it will be unnecessary to employ Edwin any longer. The
    fact is, that they are utterly ignorant of machinery and of
    the difficulties it presents, and are consequently unable to
    appreciate Edwin’s peculiar powers. In their opinion the whole
    difficulty consists in the distribution of the stamps and in
    going through certain forms for their registration. At the
    very moment that they propose to dispense with his services,
    Edwin is applying counters to Barnes’ presses, is improving
    the presses to be employed in stamping the paper of the public
    (which before he took them in hand were for this purpose quite
    worthless), and is preparing one of a superior construction. If
    the business is left in the hands of the Commissioners without
    such aid as Edwin gives, my opinion is that we shall soon be in
    a mess.”

After some delay, arising from the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s close
occupation, I succeeded in laying the case fully before him. He at
once expressed agreement in my view of the question, and the result
was that, happily alike for my brother and for the public convenience,
five months later the obnoxious letter was withdrawn; and my brother,
though for a time subjected to more or less of annoyance, was never
afterwards disturbed in his office. On the contrary, some years later
his superintendence, originally confined to the postage department, was
extended to the whole stamping system.[299]

Before leaving the subject of stamps, I must say a few words about the
form in which the adhesive stamps are printed, and the mode of their
production. It may be necessary to inform those who buy stamps only in
small quantities—probably the great mass of her Majesty’s subjects—that,
as I originally proposed,[300] the whole sheet of penny stamps contains
two hundred and forty, the equivalent, of course, of £1; and that as each
row contains twelve stamps, the £1 is easily divisible into shillings,
while the shillings, in like manner, may be promptly reduced to pieces
worth respectively sixpence, fourpence, twopence, or a single penny. In
the outset it was foreseen that the stamps might be used in ordinary

As regards the production of stamps, it must be premised that two
qualities were indispensable; first, cheapness; secondly, security
against imitation. To obtain this latter quality, it was necessary to
have excellence both of design and of workmanship, together with exact
uniformity in the whole number issued—requirements which made extreme
cheapness difficult.

The Queen’s head was first engraved by hand on a single matrix; the
effigy being encompassed with lines too fine for any hand, or even any
but the most delicate machinery to engrave. The matrix being subsequently
hardened, was employed to produce impressions on a soft steel roller of
sufficient circumference to receive twelve; and this being hardened in
turn, was used, under very heavy pressure, to produce and repeat its
counterpart on a steel-plate, to such extent that this, when used in
printing, produced at each impression two hundred and forty stamps; all
this being of course done, as machinists will at once perceive, according
to the process invented by the late Mr. Perkins.

In this manner there were produced in the first fifteen years more than
three thousand millions of stamps; all, as being derived from the same
matrix, of course absolutely uniform. At the end of that time it was
thought desirable to create a second matrix, but as this was obtained by
transfer from the first—save that the lines were deepened by hand—the
deviation from identity was at most very slight. With plates procured
from this, the process, however, being somewhat modified, there had been
printed, up to July, 1867, more than seven thousand millions of stamps;
thus making up a total of considerably more than ten thousand millions,
in all of which the impression is, for all practical purposes, absolutely

Now it will easily be perceived that, if imitation cannot be effected
without resort to the means described above, as used in the production of
the stamps, forgery is in effect impracticable; since no forger can have
the command of very powerful, delicate, and therefore costly machinery,
requiring for its management skilful, and therefore highly-paid,
workmen. If the Queen’s head alone constituted the effigy, something in
imitation might be done by the aid of lithography, or some other such
copying process; but this fails when applied to the extremely delicate
lines already mentioned as constituting the background; which in the
lithographer’s hands do but smirch the paper.

Another difficulty is thrown in the way of the forger by the letters
placed at the four corners of each stamp; which will be found to vary
in every one of the two hundred and forty impressions comprised in a
sheet; the necessary modification being made in each steel-plate by means
of a hand punch. By this arrangement the forger is compelled either to
resort to the like complexity, or to issue his counterfeits in single
stamps, all identical in their lettering; a proceeding which, if carried
to any remunerative extent, would inevitably lead to detection. Of the
additional security derived from the use of a portrait in the stamp, an
advantage long ago recognised in coinage, it will suffice to remark that
of all depictions a portrait is perhaps the one in which change, however
slight, is most easily discovered, especially by those who have it
continually before their eye. We all know that no strange face could have
more than a moment’s chance of passing for that of a familiar friend.



Concurrently with all these transactions, many and various matters,
some of them of great importance, demanded attention.[302] As letters
multiplied, so also, to my surprise and concern, did complaints relative
to theft; and that in a much greater ratio. This, as I afterwards learnt,
was consequent upon a change at the Post Office, made, unluckily, without
notification to the Treasury. A wholesome practice had previously existed
of registering every letter supposed to contain articles of value; but,
under the pressure caused by the increase of letters, this precaution
had been abandoned. Of course, the remedy was to revive it; but here
difficulties arose. No fee had previously been charged; and now that it
was rightly thought necessary that the trouble of registration should
be paid for, a question arose as to what the charge should be; the
rates proposed by the Post Office, viz., one shilling for general post
letters, and twopence for district post letters, seemed to me doubly
objectionable; first, as to excess in the former of the two charges,
and secondly, as to variety without sufficient reason; my wish being
for a uniform rate, and that on no account higher than sixpence. This
difference of opinion, combined with extreme difficulty of access to
the ever-occupied Chancellor of the Exchequer, delayed the measure; but
at length, thinking it better to obtain what I could, in the hope of
subsequent improvement, I gave way so far as to agree to a uniform rate
of one shilling; and procured for that measure the approbation of the
Chancellor of the Exchequer.

As another means of diminishing theft, I proposed a reduction of the fee
for money orders; and this also was carried into effect; the rates being
reduced from 6_d._ to 3_d._ for any sum not exceeding £2; and from 1_s._
6_d._ to 6_d._ for any higher sum up to £5. This reduction, combined with
the low postage charged on transmission, had the effect of increasing the
number of money-orders in ten years by more than twenty-fold.[303]

The most troublesome and unsatisfactory duty now devolving upon me
was resistance to needless increase of expense. I found, with great
concern, that augmentation was proceeding rapidly; and, indeed, the
addition during the first year of penny postage amounted to something
more than £100,000;[304] that, too, following an increase of £70,000
in the previous year; an amount sufficient to produce a very serious
injury to fiscal results, the whole of which I well knew would be by many
attributed to my reform.

The increase was partly due to what was, in one point of view,
an untoward coincidence, viz., the concurrent extension of the
railway system. For though this tended greatly to the convenience
of correspondents, and therefore to increase in the amount of
correspondence, yet its effect in augmenting postal expenditure was quite
startling. That an improvement which has so prodigiously cheapened the
conveyance of passengers and goods should have greatly raised the cost of
conveying the mails, however paradoxical, is demonstrably true, as indeed
appears by the following simple statement.

The total charge for carrying the inland mails in the year 1835 (that
before the writing of my pamphlet) was £225,920;[305] and it will be
remembered that the mail-coaches were then so lightly loaded as to admit
of a manifold increase in burden without much addition to their number.
By the end of 1840, when the number of chargeable letters had little more
than doubled, while that of free missives must have greatly decreased,
this charge had risen to £333,418,[306] and at the present time (1868) it
appears to be as high as £718,480.[307]

Of course, great benefit to the Post Office is derived from the vast
increase in speed, and greater allowance of space; but while in all
these the public has its full share, it enjoys at the same time that
great reduction in expense, which contrasts so remarkably with the
increased charge to the Post Office. To a limited extent, explanation
is to be found in the loss of that immunity from tolls which in England
all mail-coaches enjoyed on the old roads; but the main augmentation is
attributable to circumstances which could not be considered without a
too-long digression. The increase was and is unquestionable; and the
coincidence, as already implied, was misleading, giving an excellent
handle to the enemies of the reform, and demanding of its friends a
longer explanation than the public had time or inclination to follow.

A far less serious but more harassing increase of expense arose out of
demands for augmented salaries, allowances, &c., which now poured in from
all sides; and which came to the Treasury, backed by recommendation from
the Post Office authorities; the Chief Office seeming never to question
the judgment of the local surveyors, save when there appeared plausible
ground for advising yet further augmentation. The reasons advanced were
sometimes so insufficient that it was impossible for me, knowing the
bitter hostility still entertained towards Penny Postage and its author,
to avoid the suspicion that the care incumbent on such occasions was
willingly set aside; that increased expenditure was almost welcomed as a
means of fulfilling adverse prediction.

Not the least remarkable were two cases afterwards stated in my
evidence before a Parliamentary Committee. Additional allowances to two
postmasters (at Swinford and Ballaghaderin in Ireland) were proposed,
on the ground that the money-order business had become so heavy that
each postmaster was obliged to engage a clerk to attend to that duty
alone. The accounts in the Post Office would of course have supplied a
check to this statement; but it came to the Treasury vouched, first,
by the surveyor of the district; second, by the Dublin office; and
third, by the London office. The Treasury, at my suggestion, however,
called for information as to the actual number of money-orders paid and
issued by each office in a given time; and after the lapse of a year the
information was supplied, when it appeared that the actual number of
money-orders paid and issued, when taken together, was in one office only
three per day, and in the other only two. I advised the rejection of the
proposed allowances; but this question, with many others of a similar
character, remained undecided when my duties were interrupted.[308]

I thus found myself engaged in a constant succession of petty contests,
often unavailing, and always invidious; since, while ever called on to
resist the demands of the undeserving, I was debarred, by my position,
from originating any recommendation in favour of the deserving; a
disadvantage under which I laboured for many years, and which seriously
clogged my efforts for subsequent improvement.

The information, too, for rightly weighing these various claims, though
very accessible to the Post Office, was to me difficult and uncertain
of attainment; since, in the investigation, I had of necessity to act
through those to whom I stood opposed, and who were naturally unwilling
to be found in the wrong. The plan which after some experience I
adopted was as follows. I induced the Treasury to issue an instruction
to the Postmaster-General that every application for increased force
or salary at a provincial office should be accompanied with a detailed
statement (in accordance with a printed form prepared by myself) of
the work and expenditure of such office. By making good use of these,
I gradually arrived at averages which I used as guides in subsequent
cases, and thus became enabled to exercise a salutary control. Doubtless
many applications were altogether prevented by the conviction that the
statement would not justify the demand: in some instances such statement
was withheld on the plea of urgency; a move which was met by a temporary
grant of force, to be made permanent if shown to be needful. Other
modes were tried, but in the end lack of success effectually checked
unwarranted attempts. I may add that the plan is still in use, is found
to save much perplexity at the Post Office, and has operated beneficially
in at once preventing needless expenditure and in enabling the Office to
do prompt justice to well-founded claims.

I have already implied that movements were impeded, and labour increased,
by difficulty of access to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but it should
be added that this went so far, especially during the parliamentary
session, that pressing affairs were sometimes kept for weeks, and even
months, awaiting his decision. When, at length, the end of the session
came, the exhausted minister felt the imperative demand for rest; and
resolved to take six weeks’ holiday. The reader who has accompanied me
through the last three years will not wonder to find that I had a like
requirement: I, therefore, requested and obtained leave of absence for
the same period. What proportion of this furlough was available for
its purpose to the Chancellor, I, of course, cannot exactly say; it is
sufficient for me to speak for myself. As the difficulties relative
to obliteration were still upon me, I should not have left town but
from absolute necessity; and even in going I was obliged to make such
arrangements as could scarcely fail of producing recall; knowing, too,
all the time, that even while I was away, many papers would of necessity
be referred to me; so that, at best, my days of vacation would be but

Leaving home on August 14th, I got on pretty well for five days;
when, amongst various papers, came the Postmaster-General’s formal
announcements relative to the failure of obliteration, with a request
from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that I would report upon it. While
I was dealing with this, I received, on the 21st, the notice that Mr.
Parsons’ obliterating ink had proved ineffectual; and my anxiety was so
great, that though but a week of my holiday was gone, I determined on an
almost immediate return to town.

After nine days spent on the matter which had recalled me, and other
business at my office, thinking matters now in tolerable train, I again
left town; going, however, only to Ramsgate, that I might keep within
call, and arranging to receive a daily report of progress. Altogether, I
had this time an interval of twelve days, interrupted only by the daily
receipt of papers which I could deal with where I was; but on September
13th I was again recalled:—

    “_Journal, September 13th, Sunday._—Received a note from Mr.
    Gordon, stating that Lord Melbourne has applied to him for
    information as to the causes of the ‘continued and increasing
    deficiency of the Post Office revenue’ (I think these are the
    words), and as to the future prospects, and requesting I will
    enable him to supply it with as little delay as possible. As
    I cannot, while at Ramsgate, give this information, or rather
    satisfy Lord Melbourne that the revenue is not decreasing in
    reality, ... I decided on returning at once to town, and came
    away by the packet at eleven o’clock.”

Four days were now occupied mainly in procuring the information thus
called for, and in drawing up my Report on the subject; in which the
increase in charges for conveyance had to take a conspicuous part; but
on the 18th I again returned to Ramsgate, where fortunately I was able
to remain until the 30th, my term of holiday having been considerately
extended by a week, on account of interruptions. I have already shown
that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was working as hard as myself;
abundant evidence of this might be produced from my Journal, but I will
give only one more extract:—

    “_December 24th._—Saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer for
    ‘three minutes,’ left with him, for Christmas Day reading, a
    long report on the new envelopes, a minute thereon, a form to
    be filled up in all cases in which application is made for
    advancing the expenses of any office, and some other papers.”

I have now little left to complete the history of this year. Among other
expedients I had recommended the introduction of pillar letter-boxes as
they are now usually called; a plan which in its essential part I had
seen in use in France some years before:—

    “_November 9th._—A day or two ago there was a letter in
    the Times suggesting that a letter-box should be put up in
    Westminster Hall, for the convenience of the lawyers. I thought
    this a good opportunity to propose an experiment on my plan
    for having letter-boxes put up throughout London and other
    towns, in the great thoroughfares and other places of resort;
    the letters being taken out by the messengers now employed to
    collect from the receiving houses. Mr. Baring consents to the
    plan being tried in Westminster Hall: if successful it will add
    greatly to the public convenience (when extended), and will
    save some thousands a-year in London alone.”[309]

Mr. Baring’s consent was, I believe, acted upon; but I had accomplished
little more in this direction when the interruption occurred to which I
have already adverted.

However, as the year of which I am now speaking (1840) advanced, increase
in the number of letters began to show that steady progress which has
never since been interrupted. Before the end of June this was pretty
manifest, and by the middle of November progress was not only steady but

I insert here the following extracts from a letter received somewhat
later from Captain Basil Hall:—

                                        “Portsmouth, Dec. 31, 1840.

    “MY DEAR SIR,—Many thanks for your agreeable information.
    Indeed I have no doubt—nor ever had—that your admirable
    invention (for it well deserves that name) will ere long make
    up the Post Office revenue to what it was. To say nothing of
    the enormous advantages which it brings along with it to all
    classes of the community!

       *       *       *       *       *

    “It strikes me, too, that a great convenience might be added to
    the envelopes if there were put a small lick of the gum which
    is used for the stamps at the angle where the wafer or wax is
    put; so that an envelope might be closed without the trouble
    of a wafer or the double ‘toil and trouble’ of a seal—implying
    lucifer-matches, tapers, and wax. I can easily see how one
    hundred, or any number of envelopes, might have this small
    touch of gum applied to them at a dash of a brush. But, indeed,
    the manufacture of envelopes—supposing Government were to take
    it in hand—would be so enormous that a small profit on each
    would realise a great sum. Every one now uses envelopes, which
    save a world of time; and if you were to furnish the means of
    closing the letter by an adhesive corner a still further saving
    of time would take place.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “I dare say you are sadly bothered with crude suggestions; but
    my heart is so completely in your noble scheme—the greatest of
    the day—that I venture to intrude occasionally.

                      “Ever most truly yours,

                                                      “BASIL HALL.”

This is, so far as I am aware, the first mention of that now almost
universal practice, which has nearly made wafers and sealing-wax things
of the past.

On December 15th I first saw, in my brother Edwin’s room at Somerset
House, and in its earliest form that envelope-folding machine which
attracted so much attention at the first International Exhibition, and
is now in constant and extensive use. In the model it already seemed to
do its work very well, but the labour of some years was yet required
to complete its adaptation to its purpose. In this latter part of the
process my brother received important assistance from Mr. Warren De La
Rue, who in the end purchased the patent.

The following passage shows that the close of the year was full of
anxiety for that which was to follow:—

    “_December 31st._—The Post Office expenses are increasing at an
    enormous rate. As nearly as I can ascertain the present rate of
    expenditure is about £900,000 per annum, which is an increase
    of more than £200,000 in the last two years: the greater part
    of the increase results from the employment of railways, and
    cannot perhaps be avoided (though I think much may be done
    even there to reduce the charge), but a considerable portion
    is owing to the increase of establishments. In the first half
    of the present year the expenses of the several establishments
    were increased at the rate of about £20,000 per annum, and I
    fear that at least an equal increase has taken place in the
    last half of the year. Nearly the whole of this increase of
    establishments might, I believe, have been avoided.”

Before closing the narrative of this year, I may mention one or two
incidents of an amusing character.

Soon after the issue of the adhesive stamp, a distinguished connoisseur,
reading the direction to affix the stamp “on the right-hand side of the
letter,” felt a doubt as to what this might really mean. Being in the
artistic habit of reversing sides in speaking of pictures, and probably
having done so in the case of Mulready’s beautiful though unacceptable
design, he wished to know whether the term “right” were to be received
in the artistic or the common sense. Accordingly, knocking at the office
window, he modestly requested to be informed which was the right-hand
side of the letter, when he was repulsed with the counter-demand, “Do you
think we have nothing to do but to answer idle questions?” the window at
the same time closing with a bang.

In the same year there was, as may be still remembered, much public
excitement in expectation of Her Majesty’s first accouchement; lively
interest turning upon the question whether the nation would be blessed
with a prince or princess. Amongst other speculation on the subject,
doubtless a good deal went on in the room where the three messengers
passed most of their time, with little else to do than to discuss the
topics of the day, of which they probably supposed every one’s head to
be as full as their own. For myself, as I was during the whole period
engaged in the earnest effort to give my plan that full development
which was essential to its success, I fear I did not give to the great
question all the attention which its importance demanded; and even when
the grand announcement was matter of hourly expectation, I was completely
absorbed in the device of means for overcoming one or other of the
numberless difficulties with which I had to contend. In the midst of
this research the door was suddenly thrown open by my messenger, with a
loud exclamation, “A Princess Royal, Sir!” As the sounds which reached
my ear did not inform my understanding, I merely looked up from my paper
with the inquiry, “Who?” and the announcement, though repeated, still
conveying but half-meaning, the only result was that I started up from my
chair, in surprise and perplexity, with a direction to my messenger that
he should “show the lady upstairs.”

I close the year’s history in a manner very pleasing to myself by
transcribing the following extract from a letter received in the
course of it from one to whose works I felt, in common with many of my
contemporaries, deeply indebted; and whose name I can never mention but
with gratitude and respect:—

    “DEAR SIR,—Captain Beaufort[310] told you very truly that
    I take a strong interest in the progress of the Penny
    Postage—both a public and a private interest; and I truly
    think that the British nation, the united empire, owes you
    millions of thanks for the improvements that have been made in
    social intercourse—in all the intercourse of human creatures
    for pleasure or business, affection or profit; including the
    profits of literature and science—foreign and domestic.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “I am, dear Sir,

                          “Your obliged,

                                                 “MARIA EDGEWORTH.”



At the opening of 1841 I had been a year and a quarter in office; and,
as has been seen, had been enabled, by dint of great efforts, backed by
the increasing confidence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to bring
into operation the most striking parts of my plan; those, indeed, which
many, probably most, people at the time regarded as the whole plan;
though the reader must be aware that very much was still lacking to its
completion, to say nothing of those further improvements of which I was
necessarily getting sight as I advanced in my work. If it had ever been
supposed by Government that the whole plan could be established within
the two years for which alone I had been engaged, either unfounded
expectations must have been held as to Post Office co-operation, or I
must have been accredited with such energy—moral and physical—such powers
of convincing, persuading, or over-riding, as have been vouchsafed to
few indeed. I had worked, and was still working, to the utmost extent
of my power; but not only was every onward step retarded by the adverse
feeling and cumbrous routine already referred to, but, as has been seen,
the very maintenance of Stamp Office and Post Office action in such
efficiency as to prevent clog or disaster, had demanded of me almost
incessant watchfulness and exertion. In short, it might by this time
have been perceived that to give full effect even to my published plan
would require at least several years of unremitting labour; while the
field of postal improvement, taken as a whole, was (as, indeed, it
still is) absolutely boundless. However, I felt at this time no further
anxiety about the durability of my engagement than such as related to
the stability of the existing administration. Not only had Mr. Baring
expressed in words his increasing confidence, but yet greater assurance
came to me from his increasing readiness to adopt my suggestions
(whenever I could get opportunity to explain them), and from his leaving
the routine work, so great in amount, more and more to my decision. Nay,
should there arrive the calamitous event just alluded to, the exchange
of the Liberal for a Tory Administration, I could not avoid indulging in
the hope that even the latter, accepting the new order of things as they
had done on a far greater question[311] six years before, might, if only
in a spirit of emulation, carry on the good work; retaining my services
as a necessary means to the end. Should the reader be inclined to think
that I was dwelling too much on my own interests, let him review all the
main circumstances, and I think he will judge me more charitably. Let
him remember how important complete efficiency in the plan was, alike to
public convenience and fiscal ends; let him remember that in the Post
Office itself the plan was already declared a failure; that its very
permanence was yet problematical: let him consider all the reasons there
were to believe that the great ends in question could be attained only
by the constant efforts of one who combined, with the knowledge drawn
from long and laborious investigation, a personal interest so deep that
failure in this would seem to be failure in all, and he will not find it
very hard to understand how, apart from private considerations (to which,
nevertheless, I could not be insensible), I looked upon the retention of
my post as a point of almost vital importance.

However, though these thoughts could not but pass through my mind, their
only immediate effect was to confirm my previous determination (if that
could be strengthened) to make myself so useful that my services should
be regarded as indispensable. I had yet to learn that men in power do not
always prefer public good to party advantage. Meantime, was it possible
that I misapprehended the state of feeling at the Post Office in respect
of my plan and myself? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, friendly as he
had shown himself to both, held a more favourable opinion, and might
he not be in the right? Events were in progress towards the complete
resolution of this question; but, meantime, the difference of opinion
between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and me was necessarily an
obstacle to progress, since it led me to urge what he was often at first,
and sometimes at last, inclined to resist.

I must admit, however, that the first passage in my Journal for the year
1841 which bears at all on the question of Post Office management is far
from being of an adverse character; it is as follows:—

    “_January 16th._—Yesterday I wrote by post to Colonel Maberly
    to ask for certain information which was supposed to exist, but
    which could not be found in the Treasury, owing to their having
    no index to their minutes, and I was only able to indicate very
    vaguely what I wanted. To-day I received copies of a letter
    from the Postmaster-General to the Treasury and the reply,
    both [written] in 1837, containing the information I desired.
    I mention this to show that the Post Office still deserves
    the high reputation it has long enjoyed for promptitude in
    replying to letters (no unimportant convenience to those who,
    like myself, have frequent occasion to address it) and because,
    as I have frequently to find fault, I am the more anxious to
    praise when I can do it conscientiously.”

It may be not unprofitable to mention an arrangement at the Post Office,
explaining, in a measure, its habitual promptitude in reply. The papers
constantly accumulating in the Secretary’s office, I should think, at the
rate of a small cart-load per week, are in the keeping, not of clerks,
but of a corps of messengers, chosen from the general body for their
superior intelligence. These, under one of their own number, manage the
whole business of tying up, docketing, indexing, and arranging; and are
always ready on occasion for the duty of research. The whole is admirably
managed; and, contrary to what any one would have expected, is believed
to be better done than it would be by men of higher station. Many years
after the events now in narration, it was hastily thought, in a general
revision of duties, that the head officer of the corps should be taken
from a higher grade; but the change was found far from beneficial, and
was soon reversed. The explanation seems to be that the higher officer,
thinking himself rather lowered by his new employment, the more so as
handling dusty papers must, in some degree, have marred the results of
his toilet, discharged the duty in but a perfunctory manner; while those
of the lower grade, justly regarding themselves as raised in trust and
position, executed it as men perform a task in which they take pride.

It has been seen how much care was taken to prevent unlawful practices
relative to the stamp; and the experience of many years attests the
efficacy of the means adopted. Of course, too, when discovery, or
seeming discovery, was made of a flaw in our security, the fact was
carefully withheld from the public during the period of experiment and
rectification. What, then, was my surprise and vexation at an occurrence
thus recorded in my Journal?—

    “_February 18th._—In the _Post_ and _Herald_ of this morning
    is a notice of a lecture at the Polytechnic Institution, from
    which it would appear that the lecturer exhibited electrotype
    imitations of the medallion stamp, stating, at the same time,
    that they could be imitated with the greatest ease, that they
    had consequently been abandoned, and that he was authorised by
    Government to make a series of experiments connected therewith.
    I immediately showed the paragraph to the Chancellor of the
    Exchequer, with a view of ascertaining if he had given any such
    authority. He had not.”

On Mr. Cole’s applying at the Polytechnic Institution, the authorities
there produced an official letter from Colonel Maberly, authorising the
experiments in question, and stating that he would bear them harmless.
It must be added that the experiments thus injuriously made were but
a repetition of processes performed some months before, under proper
authority, by Mr. Palmer, of Newgate Street; and, further, that as the
stamp had now been officially registered, no attempt at imitation could
be lawfully made save by authority of the Commissioners of Stamps; who,
again, would have to give power by a formal warrant.

The Post Office condemnation of my plan, founded on the slow progress in
the number of letters, still continuing, it was a little remarkable that
there came from the same quarter written warnings to the Treasury of an
expected “break-down” from excessive increase:—

    “_Journal, February 11th._—[The Chancellor of the Exchequer
    showed me] a note from Colonel Maberly which concludes thus:—

    “If this weather lasts I fear we shall have a break-down. We
    are dreadfully afflicted in London—at Derby they must have
    more assistance—at Bristol our clerks won’t stay, their pay is
    too bad, and those who do remain will be worked to death. We
    will do as well as we can; but, take my word for it, we were
    never so near a break-down.’ Expressions of this kind have
    been rather frequent of late, and it behoves me, I think, not
    altogether to disregard them. They appear to me to be intended
    to be understood thus—there will be a break-down, but the fault
    is not ours; the blame rests with the new system and those
    who forced it upon us. My reply is, if Colonel Maberly cannot
    carry on the new system he ought to resign; if he remain in
    his present position, and there is a break-down, the fault is
    clearly his; at all events, the blame must and ought to fall to
    his share.

    “_February 23rd._—[Lord Lichfield, in a note to Mr. Baring]
    talks in the same manner as Colonel Maberly, but even more
    strongly, of the danger of a break-down.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “I found Mr. Baring had acted with his usual decision. He had
    written to desire that Lord Lichfield would state explicitly
    the dangers he apprehended, and the additional strength
    required; after which we shall look into the cases, and then he
    will see Lord Lichfield and Colonel Maberly on the subject.”

It will have been observed that the apprehensions set forth above are
coupled with allegations of necessity for increased force; and such
demands, if granted as fast as they were made, would have defeated all
hope of that large economy which, in my calculations, was counted upon
from simplification of operations. Of the lavish course taken I proceed
to give some further indication:—

    “_Journal, January 29th._—Had some conversation with the
    Chancellor of the Exchequer as to future proceedings. He is
    becoming uneasy, like myself, at the extravagant and heedless
    demands (apparently) of the Post Office for increased force.

    “_March 27th._—The Postmaster-General having made a
    second application for two additional clerks in the
    Accountant-General’s Office, and two more in the Accountant
    for Ireland’s Office, and intimated that a further addition
    will probably be required in Edinburgh, all on account of the
    quarterly returns ordered some time back, I wrote to Court [the
    London Accountant-General] to request he would call upon me on
    the subject, to bring copies of the forms they have sent out,
    &c., in order that I may judge what additional strength is
    really necessary.”

Mr. Court, calling as requested, though not till eleven days afterwards,
I found that the demand for increased force was made in exclusive
reference to these quarterly returns, which were entirely needless, as
monthly returns, answering every purpose, were already received on the
same subject. Mr. Court acknowledged this, but added that they had been
ordered by Colonel Maberly. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom I
applied on the subject, informed me next day that Colonel Maberly and Mr.
Court would adopt any plan for making these returns that I might suggest
in writing. I had only to advise that they should not be made at all.

    “_May 12th._—The Postmaster-General having applied for what I
    considered a very extravagant establishment for the money-order
    office in Dublin, I drew a minute calling for information as
    to the whole amount of [money-order] poundage collected in
    Ireland, &c.; when it appeared, as I expected, that such amount
    fell short of the minimum cost of the proposed establishment
    in Dublin alone. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on my
    recommendation, has cut down the salaries considerably.

    “_May 25th._—Managed to get about a quarter of an hour with
    the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which eight or ten cases
    were decided; in several instances the Postmaster-General’s
    application for increased expenses in different offices being

The vigilance I had now so long exercised in relation to Post Office
accounts was by no means allowed to abate. The following curious instance
shows that even when Post Office and Stamp Office worked together the
resulting accounts might remain open to question:—

    “_Journal, April 1st._—In going over the proof sheets of that
    part of the annual finance accounts which relates to the Post
    Office, I was led to suspect from their appearance that the
    proceeds of postage stamps sold by the Stamp Office in Ireland
    had been carried to the credit of the British, instead of
    the Irish, Post Office. Went to the Stamp Office to inquire.
    Mr. Pressly was confident that so gross a mistake could not
    have been made, but on inquiry it appeared that my suspicions
    were well-founded. The consequence of the mistake is that the
    British revenue appears to be about £15,000 more, and the
    Irish revenue £15,000 less, than it really was. Mr. Charles
    Crafer, who arranges the financial accounts in the Treasury,
    thinks the account cannot now be altered, but he will append an
    explanatory note. It is strange that the Irish [Post] Office
    should have been satisfied with such a subtraction from their
    revenue, the more so because it makes up the greater part of
    the apparent deficit; the expenses in Ireland having exceeded
    the revenue, according to the account, by about £21,000, though
    really by £6,000 only. The Stamp Office will make arrangements
    for preventing such a mistake in future.”

In connection with the subject of stamps, it should be mentioned that
in the course of this year Mr. Pressly, secretary to the Stamp Office,
having observed that some of the provincial postmasters were also
sub-distributors of stamps for general purposes, suggested the expediency
of making such union the general arrangement. This suggestion I reported
to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was inclined to act upon it to
some extent. At Mr. Pressly’s request, I wrote a minute on the subject,
which was adopted by the Treasury; but the suggestion, owing probably
to the change of Government which took place shortly afterwards, was
not carried into effect. After long lying dormant it was revived in the
year 1863 in a Parliamentary Committee presided over by Mr. Horsfall,
before which I gave evidence in favour of the measure, but the Committee
reported against it. My opinion, however, still is that the vast
organization of the Post Office might be advantageously employed at least
for the distribution of all such stamps as are in frequent demand.

In the following transaction the Post Office alone was responsible:—

    “_Journal, May 19th._—Wrote two or three scolding minutes.
    There have been several instances lately of great inaccuracy
    on the part of one or two of the surveyors, who, in applying
    for authority to increase the expenses at certain provincial
    offices, have been guilty of, to say the least, very careless
    misrepresentations. In the instance of the Cheltenham Office,
    the surveyor deducted £100 from the gross annual income of the
    postmaster for house rent, whereas it afterwards appeared that
    the office is supplied rent free by the inhabitants. This and
    many other inaccuracies almost equally glaring have come before
    the Treasury unnoticed by the Post Office.”

The foregoing circumstances might scarcely be worth mentioning, did they
not tend to show how much my time was occupied in doing other people’s
work, to the great hindrance of my own. A few more instances of this, and
I have done:—

    “_August 24th._—The Postmaster-General reports to the Treasury
    that he cannot proceed with the arrangements for rural
    distribution unless he has a map divided into registrars’
    districts, or a description of the boundaries of the districts.
    Why he should apply to the Treasury to overcome the difficulty
    I know not (I wrote to Colonel Maberly some time ago in reply
    to a remark of his, telling him that there was no such map
    in existence). However, as I would rather do the work myself
    than have the measure delayed, I have been to the Registration
    Office, Poor Law Commission, and Tithe Commission, to see
    if the necessary information for constructing a map can be
    obtained. I have also sent for Arrowsmith to meet me to-morrow
    morning, and hope by a little management to get the thing done.”

It was done accordingly.

With distractions so numerous and so various, with a large amount of
routine work, all requiring to be dealt with carefully, with opposition
at the Post Office to almost every additional improvement that I
proposed, and with the greatest difficulty of obtaining access to the
ever-occupied Chancellor of the Exchequer, without whose sanction no
step, great or small, could be taken, I found progress towards the
completion of my plan but slow; a slowness the more galling because,
meantime, not only general convenience, but the fiscal results of the
measure were grievously suffering; while I feared that the public,
knowing that I was now in office, and yet ignorant of the trammels under
which I laboured, would—as in fact a large portion of it did—charge
upon the plan itself failure really due to the incompleteness of its

It must not be supposed, however, that I was stinted by the Chancellor
of the Exchequer in such aid as money could procure; for as early as
February of this year, having notified to him that I should require some
additional assistance, I was authorised to engage whatever I might think
necessary. Of course, the irremovable pressure was from that kind of work
which I could not leave to others; and this more than once seemed likely
to bear me down:—

    “_Journal, March 6th._—I have been unwell this week, and have
    done little more than carry on the current business. Lawrence,
    whom I consulted to-day, has ordered leeches to be applied to
    my neck, and desires I will get holiday if possible.

    “_March 10th._—Received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a
    very kind note, stating that Lawrence had written to him on my

       *       *       *       *       *

    “He also sent for me and repeated his advice in the kindest and
    most friendly manner, adding that he would undertake any cases
    which could not wait my return. In the course of conversation
    I expressed my regret, half in earnest half in joke, that I
    should have added so much to his own labour by cutting down the
    Post Office revenue so mercilessly. He replied that additional
    taxes would have been necessary even if the postage had not
    been reduced, and that the reduction made the imposition
    of such taxes much more easy. He added that he thought the
    measure was working exceedingly well, and begged that I would
    not be uneasy about it. I am to take a fortnight’s holiday
    immediately, and more at Easter if necessary.”

The Liberal Administration, which had been for some time losing ground,
showed, as the parliamentary session advanced, increasing signs of
weakness; the falling revenue being, of course, one of its chief
difficulties. I could not but feel that for this I should probably be
regarded as in some degree answerable; since the public could know
little of the obstructions to the fiscal success of my plan, and would,
I feared, form its conclusion by simply placing together the two facts,
that the postage had been lowered to a penny and the net postal revenue
fallen from £1,600,000 to £500,000. More than ever did I regret that my
proposals had not been so taken up by the Government as to admit of that
gradual introduction of my plan which would have prevented this loss.
It must be remembered, however, as was handsomely acknowledged by the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the postal loss was by no means the
only one which the revenue had sustained; the country being at that time
under one of those depressions which lessened the produce of all taxes
of whatever kind. In reviewing the whole matter calmly, as I can do now,
I feel also called upon to remember that if, through excess of caution,
the establishment of penny postage had been delayed until such general
depression, combined, as it was, with other causes, had thrown out the
Liberal Government, the reform would, in all probability, have been
deferred, at least, until the return of the Liberals to power six years

Be all this as it may, I felt anxious upon three points. First, would the
Tories, if they came into office, attempt a reactionary course? Second,
supposing that they left the penny rate unchanged, would they stop the
progress of the other improvements essential to the completion of my
plan? And, third, would they retain my services? I naturally clung to
the wish that I might be allowed to complete what I sincerely believed
to be a great improvement; the more so as, with all the fond imagination
of an inventor, I already seemed dimly to foresee its universal adoption
producing universal benefit.

I resolved, at all events, to push forward improvement as fast as I
could, in order that the Government which had given me my post might
have whatever credit such improvements might bring. One of the most
desirable measures was the extension of rural distribution at home.
Having ascertained by a circular of inquiry that there were 400
registrars’ districts without a Post Office, I obtained sanction for the
establishment of a Post Office in each of them, Lord Lichfield promising
to push on the arrangements immediately. By very great exertion progress
to this point was effected in little more than a month; but how very long
the measure, thus apparently secured, had to wait before it was carried
out will appear hereafter.[312]

Amongst the anomalies I found in the Post Office, a striking one lay
in the emoluments of the various provincial postmasters, which, having
been settled on no rule, exhibited abundant irregularities. For this
I sought a remedy. To lay down a satisfactory rule, however, required
such information as was for the time unattainable, through the almost
total want of systematic statistics in the Post Office. The evil of such
deficiency had lately been curiously exemplified. In the year 1837,
the postmasters throughout the kingdom, being called on to report the
amount of their respective late letter fees, which they then retained
as a perquisite, had for the most part rated it low, probably thinking
it to their interest that their emoluments should appear small; but in
the year 1840, when it was proposed to commute such perquisite for a
fixed allowance, the reports then made showed, for the most part, an
enormous augmentation. Though doubtless many of these returns were made
fairly enough, yet the increase, even on the average, was surprisingly
large. Now it was obvious that if the returns had been made as a matter
of course from year to year, when no change was in prospect, such sudden
exaggeration would have been impracticable. I consequently proposed to
the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there should henceforth be a yearly
return of all emoluments; and that, as the Post Office appeared unwilling
to undertake the necessary collection and classification, the duty
should be added to my department. To this recommendation, which was made
as early as February, I received, at the time, no decided answer; Mr.
Baring, though thinking the measure desirable, not rating the statistics
so highly as I did. I again brought the measure before him, with several
others, in the month of July, anxious that all should be adopted before
the change then evidently approaching should take place; and again
obtained a general approbation of all I proposed, without, however, any
authority to proceed further.

Increase in the number of letters had, meanwhile, proceeded

    “_Journal, February 2nd._—The Chancellor of the Exchequer is
    much pleased with the increase of letters, as shown by the
    comparison of the present period with the corresponding weeks
    of 1840, and wishes a form of return, exhibiting the results,
    to be prepared for Parliament. Last night the number of letters
    and newspapers was such, that with every exertion the mails
    could not be despatched in time.”

I need not say that, throughout the whole period which I am describing,
I was anxiously alive to whatever might indicate the probable course of

    “_February 9th._—Herries has been moving for certain returns of
    Post Office revenue, &c., and the Chancellor of the Exchequer
    tells me that he thinks the Tories, especially if they get
    into power, will try to advance the rate to twopence. I told
    him that I did not think they could succeed, at the same time
    reminding him that I always was of opinion that twopence would
    produce the larger revenue.”

Mr. Baring held the opposite opinion, and I now believe that he was
right. A few months afterwards, financial difficulties increasing, I
was called on to estimate the probable effect of raising the rate to
twopence, and my report, made, of course, after careful inquiry and
consideration, was not such as to induce Ministers to try the change. To
avoid recurring to the subject, I may here add that once only was the
question revived. This was during the financial pressure consequent on
the Crimean war; when, being called on 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 probably be more
than counterbalanced, in the long run, by the check to correspondence;
and upon this, the project was finally abandoned.[313]

As has been seen, however, the course of the Tories was still uncertain:—

    “_April 30th._—The Chancellor of the Exchequer brought on his
    Budget to-night. I was under the gallery. The Tories were
    aghast at the Free Trade proposals, which occupied so much of
    their attention, that they had little to say on the subject
    of postage. Perhaps the returns, showing the steady increase
    of letters, may have something to do with the matter. Sir
    Robert Peel was quite silent on the subject; Goulburn talked
    some nonsense and made some false [erroneous would have been a
    juster term] statements with as much confidence as though he
    had understood what he was talking about. He was answered by

    “_May 12th._—The Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed an
    apprehension that Sir Robert Peel would attempt to advance the
    postage rate to twopence.

    “_May 13th._—Mr. Wallace called to say that he has no doubt
    Ministers must resign, and that the Tories will attempt to
    advance the postage—he says to threepence. Last night Mr.
    Patrick Chalmers told me fourpence.

    “_July 6th._—He [the Chancellor of the Exchequer] still thinks
    it probable that Peel will advance the rate.

    “_August 27th._—The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells me that
    from what he observed in the course of his speech last night
    in the House of Commons, when he spoke of the reduction in
    postage, he is satisfied that Peel does not intend to raise the
    rate.... Cole reports that Mr. Moffatt has seen Lord Lowther,
    who tells him that there is no danger of the Tories raising the

From what has been said, it may be inferred that indications of the
approaching change multiplied as time went on; and it is scarcely
necessary for me to add that the dissolution to which the Government
resorted, when defeated in its Free Trade policy, resulted in the
election of a House by which it was unseated. As the catastrophe
approached my personal anxiety naturally increased; a feeling readily
understood and kindly recognised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer:—

    “_May 12th._— ... This led to a conversation as to my own
    position, in course of which Mr. Baring expressed himself very
    strongly as to my zeal and skilful management, and said, that
    if the period for renewing my engagement were come, he should
    certainly propose to continue it, but that he could not, with
    justice to those who might succeed the present Government,
    renew it now. He will, however, record his opinion either in
    a minute or letter to myself as to the manner in which I have
    discharged my duty. Nothing could be more kind and friendly
    than his whole conduct, and I feel much indebted for the open
    manner in which he spoke on so delicate a subject as the
    present position of Government.

    “_June 22nd._—Applied for an interview with the Chancellor of
    the Exchequer, but could see him only for a moment, in the
    presence of others.”

As matters were pressing, I wrote to him a letter in which, after
repeating the various reasons previously urged for placing the
administration of my plan permanently in my own hands, I suggested for
consideration the expediency of taking advantage of official changes then
in progress to transfer Colonel Maberly to some other post. The letter
will be found in the Appendix (J).

    “_July 6th._—Had a long audience with the Chancellor of the
    Exchequer, and nearly emptied my box of papers. This done,
    he entered on the subject of my letter, and in the course of
    a very friendly conversation spoke to the following effect.
    He was afraid that there was no place vacant which could be
    offered to Colonel Maberly. I mentioned the vacancy in the Poor
    Law Commission. He first said that he thought Colonel Maberly
    would not like the appointment, but, on my pressing that he
    should be asked, Mr. Baring intimated that it had been filled
    up; he admitted that it was now desirable that I should be in
    the Post Office, and added nearly as follows: ‘If there had
    been a vacancy in the secretaryship of the Post Office when
    I first knew you I certainly should not have given you the
    appointment, because experience has convinced me that inventors
    are seldom men of business; but, having worked with you for
    nearly two years, I have no hesitation in saying that if there
    were now a vacancy I should propose to Lord Melbourne to give
    you the appointment.’ I suggested that, as the surveyors are
    the agents by whom improvements are carried into effect,
    perhaps the object in view might be accomplished by making me
    Surveyor-General. He promised to think of this, and, referring
    to our conversation of May 12th, said, that as my engagement
    would terminate in about two months, he should not hesitate in
    renewing it in some shape or other.

    “_August 20th._—Spoke again to Mr. Baring on the subject of my
    engagement. He stated that his intention was to renew it for
    a year certain, and, on my proposing an indefinite renewal,
    said that if that were done the question of salary must be
    reconsidered (in which I acquiesced), and that he doubted
    whether he should be justified in such a renewal. Finally, he
    promised to reconsider the matter, and to show me the minute
    before anything was decided. I don’t think this is quite just
    towards myself. My measure has been adopted by Government;
    it has been tried under great disadvantages, owing to the
    continuance at the Post Office of those who are hostile to
    it, and still it has succeeded, and I have given entire
    satisfaction to Mr. Baring, as he has repeatedly assured me; I
    think, therefore, that a permanent position, either in the Post
    Office or the Treasury, should be given to me. It is absurd to
    expect that the work will ever be completed. Practically, there
    is no end to the improvements which it is desirable to make,
    and I ought not to be exposed to the anxiety resulting from
    the insecurity as regards my own income, in addition to that
    which is inseparable from my position. I would rather suffer
    some diminution of income and have the matter made permanent,
    though, considering the labour, responsibility, and difficulty
    of my duties, I don’t think I am overpaid.

    “_August 27th._—Was interrupted after a very short interview
    [with the Chancellor of the Exchequer], and before I got
    through a tithe of my business. Had no opportunity of speaking
    to him, as I intended, on my own engagement.

    “_August 28th._—Waited in vain till late in the evening for an
    interview with Mr. Baring. He has, however, promised to see me
    on Monday. Division in the House of Commons last night on the
    address (a majority of ninety-one against Ministers) makes an
    immediate resignation necessary, and I am, of course, anxious
    not only to settle my own engagement, but several Post Office
    references which have been long in hand.

    “_August 30th._—Had a further conversation with the Chancellor
    of the Exchequer as to my engagement. He now intends to write
    me a letter on the subject, as he did when I was first engaged;
    but I fear it will not be so decisive a renewal as I think it
    ought to be. He appears to shrink from the responsibility of
    any decisive act now, which, though very considerate towards
    his successors, is not, I think, quite fair towards me. He
    is, however, quite friendly, and promises to do all in his
    power. In the course of conversation he said that I must expect
    hereafter a change in the tone of the Post Office authorities;
    that from the very highest to the lowest they were hostile to
    me and my plan, and that now he could no longer support me such
    a change was probable. I think he expressed himself somewhat
    more strongly than facts justify, but, in the main, I fear he
    is correct, and if so, it is clear that the plan has been tried
    under most unfavourable circumstances.

    “_September 1st._—I again spoke to Mr. Baring about my
    engagement. He has not yet written the letter, but promises to
    do it forthwith; the delay causes me much anxiety, and will,
    I fear, prevent the possibility of obtaining any modification
    in the letter, however desirable. Mr. Goulburn is to be the
    Chancellor of the Exchequer, not Sir Robert Peel, as was
    expected. Mr. Baring thinks this an advantageous arrangement
    for myself, as I shall have a better chance of access to him.
    Report makes Lord Lowther Postmaster General, an arrangement
    which would be very favourable to my plan.”

I scarcely need say that the pleasing delusion into which I thus fell was
effectually dispelled in the course of the following year:—

    “_September 2nd._—On arriving at the office I found the
    following letter on my table:—

                                               “‘September 1, 1841.

        “‘DEAR SIR,—As it may be satisfactory to you to have in
        writing the position in which I consider you to stand, I
        propose to put on paper my view, in order that you may use
        it for the information of my successor.

        “‘I wish, therefore, to state that some time ago I informed
        you, in reference to the Post Office business, that I
        thought it would be of great advantage to continue your
        services beyond the two years originally settled; that I
        did not deem it expedient to make any engagement beyond one
        year, but that you might consider that for one year from
        the expiration of the former two years your services were
        engaged, on the same conditions as before.

        “‘I think it but justice to you not to conclude this letter
        without expressing to you my thanks for the unwearied and
        zealous assistance which you have given me in the carrying
        on the Post Office business. I feel satisfied that without
        that assistance it would have been scarcely possible for
        the Treasury to have given any proper consideration to the
        arrangements for putting the scheme into effect, and I am
        happy in having to record my entire satisfaction with the
        manner in which you have conducted the business of your

        “‘You will make what use you please of this letter by
        showing it to my successor.

                      “‘Yours very sincerely,

                                                   “‘F. T. BARING.’

    “This is not what I could wish as regards the length of the
    engagement, but I am satisfied that it is all Mr. Baring
    considers himself justified in doing; and feeling that it
    would be very ungracious to object to so kind a letter, I
    acknowledged it as follows:—

                               “‘Downing Street, September 2, 1841.

        “‘DEAR SIR,—Pray accept my earnest thanks for your very
        kind and gratifying letter, and for the just and able
        manner in which you have carried my plan, so far, into

        “‘Looking forward with much anxiety, but in the hope that
        happier times for all of us may yet be in store,

                          “‘I have, &c.,

                                                  “‘ROWLAND HILL.’”

This must have been one of Mr. Baring’s latest official acts, as the
formal resignation of Ministers took place on the following day; and
though I had subsequently, and, indeed, to the end of his life, much
pleasant intercourse with him, our official relations here terminated.
Of the important aid which he afterwards gave me much remains to be
said; but I will here so far anticipate as to mention an incident
which occurred twenty-two years after this time. Soon after my final
retirement from the Post Office, happening to be at Brighton, I met Sir
Francis Baring—for he had then succeeded to the Baronetcy—and presently
received a call from him. In conversation with my wife he remarked that
oftentimes, when he worked with me at the Treasury, he had disagreed
with me in opinion, but had always found afterwards that he was in the
wrong and I was in the right. Upon Lady Hill’s observing that she had
been taught by her husband to believe all Sir Francis Baring’s decisions
right, he replied, with a laugh, “Well, then, now you have the very best
authority for believing them wrong.”

Three days after the date of Mr. Baring’s letter he left Downing Street
for the continent. About eleven o’clock the same day Mr. Goulburn entered
on the business of his office. Twenty-seven years before this time,
when Bonaparte abdicated the throne of France and withdrew to Elba, a
caricature was said to be privately circulated in Paris, representing
an eagle flying out from a window in the Tuileries, while a fat goose
waddled in at the door. Perhaps the reader who has followed me through
my labours and anxieties, who has sympathized in my disappointments and
rejoiced in my success, and who remembers in addition, that I had been
all my life a Liberal, and was by no means free from the prejudices of
my party, will pardon me when I confess that my mind, at this crisis,
harboured a feeling too much resembling the scorn and bitterness which
prompted the French caricature.

Yet had I, amidst all my troubles, some aids to complacency. Of the
approbation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer I have already spoken, and
certainly this was my greatest comfort. The following tokens, however,
had their value. On the 8th of April, I received a very beautiful silver
salver from Liverpool, accompanied with a letter from Mr. Egerton Smith,
Editor of the _Liverpool Mercury_, the leading journal of that town,
a gentleman who had from the first been an earnest supporter of Penny
Postage, and who remained its steady advocate to the end of his life.
The letter informed me that the salver had been purchased with the pence
contributed by thousands of his fellow-townsmen, and that Mr. Mayer, in
whose works the plate had been produced, and by whom it was delivered
into my hands, had waived all considerations of profit, and worked _con
amore_. On July 2nd I received from Glasgow two highly-wrought silver
wine-coolers, bearing an inscription stating that it was “in testimony of
gratitude,” from a few gentlemen of that city. I may here mention that
two years later I received a very pleasing testimonial from Cupar, Fife,
consisting of the works of Sir Walter Scott, including the Memoir by
Lockhart,—ninety-eight volumes in all.


NEW MASTERS. (1841-2.)

On the day when Mr. Goulburn entered on the duties of his office I wrote
a note to him, enclosing Mr. Baring’s letter, and requesting an interview
at his convenience. Meanwhile circumstances occurred to raise my hopes:—

    “_September 6th._—Called on Mr. Stephen [the late Right Hon.
    Sir James Stephen, K.C.B.] at the Colonial Office on some
    postage business. He assures me that I shall find Mr. Goulburn
    very pleasant to transact business with—a man of high honour
    and of great skill in _details_. Mr. [now Sir John] Lefevre,
    whom I afterwards saw at the Board of Trade, gave a similar
    account of him.”

The first part of this favourable opinion was, in a measure, confirmed
the same day:—

    “This afternoon I had my first interview with Mr. Goulburn: he
    received me with great civility, and inquired as to the nature
    of my engagement, duties, &c. He appeared somewhat at a loss to
    know what I could have to do, and was not a little surprised
    when I told him that seventy-two cases had been referred to me
    in the month of August alone. He seemed to think that my plan
    was fully introduced, and did not, as it appeared to me, learn
    with much satisfaction that much remained to be done. We went
    through three or four papers that were pressing, and he readily
    acquiesced in all my recommendations. He is to consider whether
    the business hereafter shall be conducted with himself or with
    one of the secretaries. I inquired if he saw any objection to
    my communicating with Lord Lowther; he replied, that he thought
    the more I conferred with Lord Lowther the better.”

The next day’s record was also satisfactory:—

    “_September 7th._—Had my first interview with Sir George Clerk,
    the new Secretary, and was received with great politeness.”

Presently, however, came passages of a somewhat different character:—

    “_September 13th._—Called on Lord Lowther. Stated my own
    desire, and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that I
    should communicate freely with him on postage matters. He did
    not appear to me to meet the advance cordially; but it is said
    that he is habitually cold, reserved, and cautious. He told me
    that, his patent not being made out, he was not yet authorised
    to act, and appeared to desire that I should understand that to
    be a reason for restricted communication at present. I found
    that he had read my paper ‘on the results of the plan,’ &c.,
    and the attack upon it, but he expressed no opinion on either.
    Altogether, I do not consider the interview very satisfactory.”

In a few days practical results of the change began to appear. An
application which I made to the Post Office for needful information
was declined, on the alleged authority of the new Postmaster-General,
unless made according to forms which would have made the actual slow
progress intolerably slower; and, at the same time, papers arriving at
the Treasury from the Post Office, which hitherto had been all handed
over to me, were now almost entirely withheld. On the former point,
however, matters were set right for the time by a second interview with
Lord Lowther, who, I found, had acted in the belief that he was merely
continuing the previous practice, and who appeared annoyed at having been
misled. By his authority I wrote a letter to Colonel Maberly, referring
alike to his lordship’s intentions, and to the Treasury Minute in which
my right for immediate information was distinctly laid down. My letter,
which I wished to soften as much as possible, contained the following

    “Let me add, that though clearly entitled to act as I have
    done, I would at once have given up my claim and adopted the
    suggestion contained in your note, if I were not convinced that
    to resort to the formality of Treasury Minutes in the numerous
    instances in which inquiry is necessary would seriously retard
    the progress of business.”

The former order being thus re-established at the Post Office, there
remained to seek a similar restoration at the Treasury. Here, however,
Mr. (now Sir Charles) Trevelyan (Assistant Secretary to the Treasury)
had kindly intervened on my behalf, strongly recommending that the
opportunity of checking the Post Office expenditure should not be taken
from me, and had procured from Sir George Clerk a promise to consult with
Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Goulburn on the subject. As no further result was
obtained, I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, suggesting that, in
my present lack of employment, I should either proceed with measures for
the further introduction of my plans, or that if this were at the time
impracticable, I should be allowed an interval of entire repose after the
heavy labours of the last two years. This letter produced an immediate
effect, Mr. Trevelyan, Sir George Clerk, and even the Chancellor of the
Exchequer all speaking to me on the subject in the course of the same
day; explanations were given, arrangements made (a kind of compromise
which I hoped would, in operation, gradually put all things right), and
the desired holiday most readily granted. “Everything,” says my Journal,
“was said in the most polite and, to all appearance, friendly manner, and
altogether things have assumed a much more favourable aspect.”

My term of holiday was certainly very little interrupted with business,
nor did I find more than three or four papers awaiting me on my return a
month afterwards.

One intervening incident, however, I must not omit to mention. The
original conception of a uniform penny rate has been more than once, of
late years, attributed to Mr. Wallace. How far that generous-hearted man
was from making such a claim himself may be gathered from the following
passage in a speech delivered by him at Aberdeen, and reported in the
_Aberdeen Herald_ of October 2nd:—

    “And here let me say, once for all, that to Mr. Hill alone
    is the country indebted for that scheme; for he is the real
    inventor, and its only discoverer, while the honour conferred
    to-day upon me can only apply to working it out in Parliament.”

The benefit derived from my holiday was not checked by my first interview
with the Chancellor of the Exchequer:—

    “_November 5th._—Got through much business with the Chancellor
    of the Exchequer very satisfactorily.”

Nevertheless, the same interview ushered in what afterwards proved a
very serious matter. It was indeed the beginning of the end; since the
move then first announced at length led, as I was informed, and as I
fully believe, to my being driven from office. Before treating of this,
however, it will be convenient to deal with various other matters.

The withdrawal of routine papers from my charge having, of course,
diminished my amount of work, it was notified to me that my establishment
should be reduced, and it was suggested that Mr. Cole’s services might
be dispensed with. While admitting this on the supposition that affairs
remained on their present footing:—

    “I expressed an opinion (November 10th) that it would be better
    to employ the whole strength of the establishment, and offered
    to go into the Post Office to organize the registration of
    letters and superintend the execution of the remaining parts
    of my plan, &c.; all of which he [Mr. Trevelyan] undertook to
    report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but intimated that
    his instructions were to reduce the establishment, and talked
    of my doing with one clerk, to which I decidedly objected.

    “_November 11th._—Mr. Trevelyan told me that the Chancellor
    of the Exchequer had decided with regard to Cole (he leaves
    on January 10th, at the end of his quarter); that he appeared
    well-inclined as to my going into the Post Office, and would
    write to the Postmaster-General on the subject.

    “_January 8th, 1842._—Cole leaves me to-day. The progress
    of the Penny Postage both before and after its adoption by
    Government, has been greatly promoted by his zeal and activity.”

Meantime, however, it had been ordered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer
that all papers relative to the Post Office, by whomsoever dealt with,
should afterwards be shown to me, in order that I might be made fully
aware of the course of proceeding.

Gradually I seemed to inspire some amount of confidence:—

    “_December 11th._—This week I have had several difficult cases
    not connected with penny postage, and I think I perceive, on
    the part of Sir George Clerk, a tendency to rely more on me
    than heretofore.”

Similar entries appear on December 18th and 24th; but within two months
the favourable aspect changed:—

    “_February 12th, 1842._—I have had three or four cases referred
    to me this week, but by far the greater number, though
    certainly the least difficult, are decided in the Treasury.
    This circumstance, coupled with the total silence on the part
    of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to my recent
    letters to him, shows, I fear, that no friendly feeling is
    entertained towards myself, and if so, towards my plan.”

This impression was gradually confirmed by subsequent events.

While support at the Treasury was thus feeble and vacillating, I could
have very small hope of aid from the Post Office. It has indeed been seen
that Lord Lowther had withdrawn all objection to my calling for returns
as before; but these, though the information I was able to extract from
them was of use, were in themselves a constant source of trouble from
their inaccuracy:—

    “_March 8th, 1842._—Sent [to the Post Office] the financial
    returns recently made to the Treasury, for correction.
    Ledingham cannot convince —— that they are wrong (which they
    clearly are in principle), and they are come back uncorrected.
    It is strange that men whose sole duty it is to keep accounts
    should not only blunder, but be unable to see the error when
    pointed out.”

It was in this account, I believe, but certainly in one from the same
functionary, 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! Errors, however, did not end here:—

    “_May 20th, 1842._—Received the Parliamentary Returns from the
    Post Office. Very inaccurate. Sent Ledingham with them to the
    Post Office to get them corrected.”

In short, it is literally true that an accurate return or statement in
detail of any kind from the Post Office was at this time a rare exception.

If I had found it hard to make head previously to the late change, I
found progress now almost impracticable; and, though I persevered in
unremitting effort, I had little, indeed, of that encouragement which is
derived from the prospect of speedy success. For some time I had even
considerable anxiety lest much that had been done should be undone; but
these forebodings, at least, were not confirmed by the event:—

    “_March 7th, 1842._—To-day’s _Morning Post_ has a leader on
    the subject of the financial measures to be brought forward
    by Sir Robert Peel on Friday, from which the following is an
    extract:—‘It is conjectured by some that Mr. Rowland Hill’s
    Penny Postage inroad upon a revenue which could ill afford such
    an experiment, is to be counteracted, not by the restoration
    of the old system, but by an increase to the uniform rate of
    postage. The objections to this are that it would not do much
    to supply the deficiency, and that it would be an interference
    with an experiment deliberately adopted by a former Parliament,
    and not yet acknowledged by advocates to have failed in a
    financial point of view.’”

It is to be feared that to this very day the “advocates” remain as
obstinately unconvinced as ever:—

    “_March 12th, 1842._—Penny Postage is safe. Sir Robert Peel, in
    announcing his financial measures last night, states that he
    does not intend to advance the rate, at least at present. He
    speaks highly of the social advantages of Penny Postage, and
    expresses an opinion that the measure has not yet had a full
    trial. But he states, erroneously, that the cost of the packet
    service defrayed by the Admiralty exceeds the Post Office net

This was, I believe, the first appearance of a statement which, in one
form or other, has ever since tended to perplex or mislead the public.
More of this hereafter.

Of my efforts for improvement during this year of difficulties I propose
to speak in less detail than heretofore, limiting attention to a few
matters of chief importance. My labours were not altogether ineffectual,
though for the most part, as I have already said, it was but seldom that
I was able to accomplish anything of much importance. To some extent
the rule already adopted with regard to new salaries and additional
emoluments must, I think, have acted to check extravagance, even when
control had passed from my own hands; and I may add that an occurrence
about this time, due to past proceedings, showed in a striking manner the
value of the rule:—

    “_June 11th, 1842._—Week’s work chiefly a large number of
    salary cases, _i.e._, applications for advances, allowances,
    &c., which have been waiting ever since May, 1841, for returns
    ordered from the Post Office. Many prove on investigation to be
    utterly groundless: whether this explains the delay of twelve
    months in making the returns (some, indeed, are not even yet
    sent in) I cannot say.”

Of course, my chief aim at this time, supposing the penny rate to be
secure, was to introduce measures for increased facility, on which
depended, in great degree, the multiplication of letters, and for
improved economy to render such increase adequately beneficial to the

It will be remembered[314] that one of the last acts of the late
Chancellor of the Exchequer was to sanction a plan for extending rural
distribution. The necessity for such a measure is shown in the following
summary, which I subsequently gave in evidence, the items of which,
though literally correct, will scarcely be credited in the present day:—

    “The establishment of rural Post Offices does not appear
    to have been regulated by any well-defined principle. In
    some districts, owing apparently to the greater activity of
    the surveyors, they are exceedingly numerous; in others,
    of superior relative importance, they are comparatively
    infrequent. Some places, of 200 or 300 inhabitants, have them;
    others, with 2,000 or 3,000, are without.

    “Of the 2,100 registrars’ districts, comprised in England
    and Wales, about 400, containing a million and a-half of
    inhabitants, have no Post Offices whatever. The average extent
    of these 400 districts is nearly twenty square miles each; the
    average population, about 4,000. The average population of
    the chief place of the district, about 1,400; and the average
    distance of such chief place from the nearest Post Office,
    between four and five miles.

    “Again, while we have seen that those districts which are
    altogether without Post Offices contain, in the aggregate, a
    million and a-half of inhabitants, it can scarcely be doubted
    that even those districts which are removed from this class
    by having a Post Office in some one or other of their towns
    or villages contain, in their remaining places, a much larger
    population destitute of such convenience. 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 four millions.
    The great extent of the deficiency 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 6_d._ A penny for every mile from
    the Post Office is a customary demand.”

By the plan sanctioned by Mr. Baring, an office was to be established
forthwith in every registrar’s district where as yet none existed; my
intention being to propose such further extension from time to time,
as experience might justify. In my triumph at carrying this measure
through the Treasury before the change of Ministers, I forgot to make
due allowance for the Post Office’s power of passive resistance; and
was, therefore, unprepared for a discovery which I accidentally made four
months later, viz., that Mr. Baring’s minute on rural distribution had
been suspended by Mr. Goulburn. Of the reason for this suspension I could
never, so long as I remained in office, get any information; but more
will appear on the subject hereafter.

I have spoken of the great and increasing expense of railway conveyance.
Convinced that there was room for economy, I had directed a portion of my
attention to this department.

    “_September 10th, 1841._—Completed a long minute on the subject
    of a proposed day mail to Newcastle-on-Tyne, in the course of
    which I have endeavoured to establish some principles with
    reference to day mails, and to point out modes by which the
    cost of railway conveyance in this and other similar cases
    might be greatly reduced. Sent draft to Lieutenant Harness for
    his perusal.”

I cannot mention the name of Lieutenant (now Colonel) Harness without
adding that I always found in him a very zealous and efficient
co-operator. I owe much to the information and assistance which he
yielded me from time to time.

The plan I proposed, which was upon the whole more convenient for the
public than the existing arrangement, involved a saving of about £5,000 a
year, and it was with much satisfaction that five months later I learnt
that it had received the approbation of the Postmaster-General. How I was
unexpectedly prevented from myself carrying this important project into
effect will be shown a few pages later.

A curious incident occurred which, however small in itself, showed
how far the Office was competent to deal correctly with questions of
economy. On the Glasgow and Ayr Railway the practice had been to place
the bags under the care of the railway guard; a service for which the
company received £40 a year. A Report came to the Treasury from the
Postmaster-General, showing that he had superseded this service by the
appointment of a mail guard, and taking credit to himself for economy
so effected by the discontinuance of such payment; the self-gratulation
being made in the apparent forgetfulness that the mail guard’s salary
would be somewhere about double the sum saved.

One form of extravagant expenditure on railway conveyance was in
occupation of superfluous space:—

    “_August 2nd, 1842._—In one instance, to which I have called
    attention, namely, the day mail between York and Normanton, the
    maximum weight of the bags being only two quarters twenty-four
    pounds, two compartments of a second-class carriage are
    occupied by the Post Office, that is to say, sixteen passengers
    are displaced to make room for what is about equivalent to the
    luggage of one. Recommended a thorough investigation of the

In consequence of this discovery, the Post Office was directed to report
upon the state of all the railway lines in respect of space occupied. The
Report, however, had not been received when my services came to an end.

Another form of waste arose from inaccuracy as to the length of railway
used by the Post Office on particular lines, the award, according to a
common practice, fixing not a gross sum, but a mileage rate; thus, after
much dunning for information, I found the Post Office so overpaying one
company by as much as, £400 a year, though the true distance was stated
both in its official notices to the Company and in its own time bills.
What was more remarkable was that the Post Office, after I had pointed
out the error, persisted in maintaining that the amount was correct.

My serious attention was also drawn to the Money-Order Department, in
relation to which I drew a long minute, suggesting means for simplifying
the accounts, and thus effecting a great saving in the cost of
management. Sir George Clerk appeared to be much struck with the facts
of the case; but, considering it too important for his decision, said
he would consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It so happened that
the necessity for decided measures was demonstrated by the discovery of
an alarming fraud at a provincial office. The postmaster had absconded
owing the revenue more than £2,200, of which only £1,000 was covered
by sureties. It was fortunate that his flight had not been taken a
year earlier, when his debt was much larger, varying from £3,000 to
£5,000. Even as it was, but for energetic measures taken by the Post
Office, the loss would have been greater. I pointed out to Sir George
Clerk that about £250,000 appeared to be in the hands of the several
postmasters, and that other losses must be expected. He concurred in this
view, and said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would speak to the
Postmaster-General on the subject. Nevertheless my minute[315] was set
aside, a mere temporary arrangement being substituted.

It may be convenient to remark here that the money-order accounts with
the several postmasters, which were then made up and transmitted to the
Central Office for audit but once a quarter, are now made up and audited
every day; and that no such fraud, at least to any serious amount, has
occurred since 1847, in which year I subjected the Money-Order Office to
a thorough revision.

In reference to the serious case reported above, I have great pleasure
in mentioning that the son of the defaulter, moved only by filial
obligation, eventually made good the whole loss.

I return now to the notification made to me by the Chancellor of the
Exchequer on November 5th, 1841,[316] a notification already spoken
of as fraught with serious consequences. He informed me that the
Postmaster-General had proposed to establish a compulsory registration of
money letters, with a shilling fee to be charged to the receiver, when
not paid by the sender. I pointed out the impracticability of the plan,
and showed how the same end might be obtained by unobjectionable means.
It was arranged that I should see the Postmaster-General, and prepare a
Report on the subject. Had my own plan of registration been adopted, the
complaints on which the Postmaster-General’s recommendation was based
could scarcely have arisen:—

    “_November 8th, 1841._—Saw Lord Lowther. He defends the Post
    Office plan so earnestly that I suspect it must be his own.
    At length, however, he partially admitted its defects, and
    listened rather impatiently to mine [my plan, not my defects,
    which would perhaps have had patient hearing]. Having an
    engagement, he requested me to come again to-morrow. One thing
    surprised me much—he could not see that an increase of lost
    letters, if only proportionate to the increase of letters
    transmitted, argued no increase of risk.”

To illustrate this further, I will mention here that, whereas the number
of money letters passing through the office had increased (according to
Colonel Maberly) by ten-fold, the number of missing money letters (as
shown by a Parliamentary Return obtained a few months later) was no more
than five and a-half-fold; so that the risk in transmission, the only
thing really in question, had very sensibly diminished. This improvement
was the more remarkable, both because previously to the establishment
of Penny Postage the number of such losses was in rapid increase, and
because, as already mentioned, the Post Office subsequently discontinued
a practice of gratuitously registering all letters supposed to contain
articles of value.

When I again called on Lord Lowther as requested, I found him still
decidedly averse to lowering the registration fee, though otherwise half
inclined to adopt my plan. As he desired further information, I undertook
to send him my former Reports on the subject, as also the draft Report
then in preparation, which I accordingly did. The draft, however, was
returned without acquiescence, and his lordship’s note seemed to me to
be written in no friendly spirit. In consequence, I consulted with my
brothers and other friends.

    “_November 23rd, 1841._—They all agree with me as to the
    necessity of adopting decisive measures with a view of
    ascertaining whether or not the further improvements which form
    important parts of my plan are to be carried out fairly and
    speedily, and if not, that a regard to my own reputation will
    require me to resign. Also that the present is a case in which
    I should make a stand, without, however, pushing matters to an
    extreme all at once.”

I accordingly sent in my Report,[317] next day, to the Chancellor of
the Exchequer, together with a letter,[318] in which I offered my
services, under the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and
the Postmaster-General, to carry the proposed measures into effect,
undertaking the whole responsibility, and guaranteeing that there should
be neither a stoppage of the mails nor any additional expense beyond the
amount of the additional fees.

    “_November 24th, 1841._—Wrote also to the Postmaster-General,
    expressing regret that I had not had the good fortune to
    satisfy him as to the practicability of the measures which I
    had recommended, and a hope that a proposal (viz., the above)
    with which I had accompanied the Report would remove his

    “_November 25th, 1841._—The Chancellor of the Exchequer has
    read my Report, but apparently with little attention, for he
    is by no means master of the subject; he seems to consider the
    plan objectionable, but gives reasons for objecting to it which
    ought to recommend it. Among others, that almost everybody
    would take receipts, that is to say, that the gross revenue
    would be increased nearly fifty per cent! He appears to think,
    with the Post Office people, that the main object in view is
    to keep down the quantity of business. My offer to undertake
    the registration had evidently been overlooked. I called
    special attention to it, however, and the whole matter is to be
    referred _privately_ to the Postmaster-General. I begged that
    it might be referred officially, in order that the objections,
    if any, might be recorded, but this was over-ruled, at least
    for the present.”

The Post Office bugbear of an overwhelming number of registered letters,
which was to produce prodigious trouble and disorder at the “forward
offices,” I exposed in a supplementary Report.[319]

As gradually appeared, however, instead of pushing forward an important
improvement, I was only strengthening Post Office hostility. My reports,
together with one subsequently received from the Postmaster-General, were
placed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the hands of Mr. Trevelyan;
who sent for me on December 29th, 1841, to talk over the matter.
Unluckily, however, he had not read my reports, being deterred by their
unavoidable length, but called on me to give him their pith. To make
this summary more conclusive, I proposed, first, to examine the report
sent in by the Postmaster-General; and at length, though Mr. Trevelyan
doubted Mr. Goulburn’s approbation, I prevailed upon him, by the mere
plea of justice, to allow me to read it. I found, however, that while it
did not establish a single ground of objection to my plan, it was written
in a most hostile spirit, treating my offer to undertake the necessary
organization with scorn; and absurdly representing it as one which would
supersede the authority of the Postmaster-General. It was intimated,
nevertheless, that the plan itself would be carried into execution if
required, though it would lead to all sorts of evils; a prediction
which I knew it would be very easy for the Post Office to fulfil. Mr.
Trevelyan, after considering all that I laid before him, told me that he
agreed entirely with me, and had advised Mr. Goulburn accordingly.

Meantime, I had received some information from a private source:—

    “_January 18th, 1842._—Mr. —— reports that Lord L. is very
    apprehensive of attacks in Parliament for the no-progress
    hitherto made, and uneasy as to the working of his registration
    scheme. That in this state of mind he is inclined to rely
    more and more on Maberly, a tendency which he, ——, thinks has
    been promoted by the officials having persuaded him that the
    activity of the Merchants’ Committee, and the pressure from
    the public generally, is attributed to myself. —— says Lord L.
    works very hard, getting up frequently at six in the morning,
    but that his attention is given to small matters, and that he
    constantly changes his objects. This account agrees so well
    with the spirit manifested in Lord L.’s Report on registration
    that I cannot doubt its accuracy. Unfortunately Lord L. is both
    cold and suspicious, otherwise I would go to him and trust to
    the effect of a plain, open and straightforward statement of
    the whole case. With such a man as Mr. Baring such would be
    the true policy; with Lord Lowther it would be useless, perhaps

    “_January 27th, 1842._—Having prepared another letter to the
    Chancellor of the Exchequer, I sent it in this morning.[320]
    In this letter I take no notice of the Postmaster-General’s
    Report, but renew my offer to undertake the registration,
    and, in so doing, state distinctly that I am ready to submit
    to the ‘_immediate_’ authority of the Postmaster-General, so
    that there is no longer any pretence for misunderstanding my
    intentions. I also enumerate several important and urgent
    measures of Post Office improvement which have occupied my
    attention while the question of registration has been pending,
    and propose to submit the details for consideration if the
    decision should be still further delayed. I think this letter
    will make it very difficult for them to prevent the progress of
    the measure if they are so disposed.”

My reason for entering into this detail on the subject of registration
was that, as already implied, it was my proceedings on this subject which
caused me the loss of my post. I had, it appeared, crossed with my advice
a strong wish of the Postmaster-General’s. This, as I was afterwards
told, was never forgiven, but became, more than any other single
circumstance, the ground of the demand which he is said to have made
soon afterwards for my dismissal. I have only to add that, even when my
opposition was set aside, the course recommended by the Post Office was
not taken; the warner was dismissed, but the warning was remembered; and
though Lord Lowther remained Postmaster-General as much as three years
after my removal, his plan of high-feed compulsory registration was never
carried into effect.

I should have felt my own post less assailable had the Post Office
revenue been more rapid in its recovery. I have already referred to such
depression as was caused by increased Post Office expenditure, and by
those circumstances which at the time depressed the revenue in every
department; and it must be added that appearances were made worse by the
manner in which the accounts of the Post Office were kept, the effect at
this time being to reduce an actual increase for the quarter, amounting
to between £30,000 and £40,000, to an apparent decrease. Later, however,
the improvement began to be manifest:—

    “_April 6th, 1842._—The [Post Office] revenue accounts show an
    increase of £90,000 on the year.... The Post Office revenue is
    the only department ... which does not show a deficiency on the
    quarter, a phenomenon which puzzles the Tory papers amazingly.”

It had already been shown in the statement made by Sir Robert Peel on
March 12th, 1842, that a strong disposition existed somewhere to make
the loss resulting from the adoption of penny postage appear as large as
possible, nor could I doubt as to the quarter in which this disposition
existed. Indeed, subsequent events made everything clear. The inference
which it was intended that the public should draw from the statement that
the cost of the packet service exceeded the whole Post Office revenue
long served to mislead that large portion of the public which, for want
of time or ability to examine, takes plausible appearances for facts. The
fallacy, nevertheless, was fully exposed within two months of its first
appearance. Lord Monteagle, on June 21st, 1842, in a debate on the Income
Tax,[321] said:—

    “When his noble friend (Lord Fitzgerald) adverted to the
    revenue formerly derived from the Post Office, and stated that
    the whole of the revenue had disappeared, his noble friend was
    labouring under a very great mistake. The expense of the packet
    service, which was said to swallow up the whole of the revenue
    now derived from the Post Office, had no more to do with the
    penny postage than the expense of the war in Afghanistan or
    China. It was as distinct from the Post Office as the expense
    of the army or navy.”

At a subsequent period, as will appear in its proper place, I was called
upon to expose the fallacy more in detail; but everybody knows that an
error once adopted is slow of eradication. This particular one, gross as
it really is, is not only still to be met with here and there among the
public, but has actually been thrice put forth, since my final withdrawal
from office, in the Annual Report of the Postmaster-General;[322] so that
even now it is far from superfluous to point out, that in comparing the
fiscal results of the new system with those of the old, the cost of the
packet service should be excluded from the one as it was from the other.
Nor is it less necessary to urge that, whenever it is deemed advisable
to maintain a line of conveyance for political purposes, or for any
other purposes not really postal, the expense, barring a due charge for
such postal service as may incidentally be performed, should be charged,
not to the Post Office, but to its appropriate department; confusion of
accounts being always detrimental to economy and obstructive to reform.

Naturally, I received, during this difficult period, but limited support
from without. The public, satisfied with having obtained the adoption of
the penny rate, the reform in which it was most interested, bestirred
itself little in advocacy of those further improvements in which its
interest was less direct and far less obvious; many persons, indeed,
regarding penny postage pure and simple as the be-all and end-all of
the matter. Of course, I could no longer communicate with the public,
my mouth being officially sealed; and I may observe here, that it were
well for the public to understand how completely this is the case with
all subordinate officers. Whatever may be their views on the proceedings
of their department, whatever schemes they may form or adopt for
improvement, or, on the other hand, whatever injustice may be done to
them by their official superiors, or whatever charges may be made against
them in Parliament, by the public press, or otherwise—comment, or even
statement of facts, is forbidden by official rule; a rule, which being
unknown to the public, often leads to erroneous inference, and encourages
attacks which otherwise would be regarded as cowardly.

From one more quarter, however, assistance was given at this time. The
Merchants’ Committee sent in a memorial to the Treasury, signed by
every one of its members, Whig or Tory, urging the complete execution
of my plan, and followed up this step with a deputation to the
Postmaster-General, which ended in their receiving an assurance that
Lord Lowther was desirous of carrying out my measures fully and fairly
“equally so with his predecessor.” Of the value of the assurance the
reader may easily judge by the parallel.

The following was not a little encouraging:—

    “_January 26th, 1842._—Received a letter from Mr. George
    Stokes, Hon. Secretary of the Parker Society (a Society of more
    than 4,000 members, the object of which is to reprint the works
    of the early Reformers), stating that the very existence of the
    Society is owing to penny postage.”

I must now trace the chain of circumstances which more immediately
preceded my dismissal, though the connection will in the outset be
scarcely more visible to the reader than it was, at the time, to
myself. I have already spoken of the letter which I had addressed to
the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the day when he succeeded Mr. Baring
in office. I have also spoken of my attempts relative to registration,
and the offer of my services, subject to the Chancellor’s approval, and
that of the Postmaster-General, for the organization, and, “till fully
established,” the execution of the measures proposed.

The letter in which this offer was made, and which is dated November
24th, 1841, having received no reply, was followed, on December 2nd, by a
short note, covering a further report on the same subject.[323]

On January 27th, 1842, no reply having yet been received to either of
these letters, I again wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, urging
that, if registration could not be dealt with, I might be allowed to
proceed with some other part of my plan, giving at the same time a list
of measures out of which one or more might be selected.[324]

This letter also obtaining no reply, I wrote again on March 7th,
mentioning other parts of my plan which might be introduced pending
the question of registration, adverting to fresh evidence of their
feasibility and advantage, and again requesting that I might be
allowed to proceed in their introduction under the authority of the

I added the actual results thus far obtained, viz., that the chargeable
letters annually delivered in the United Kingdom had already increased
from 75 millions to 208 millions, the increase in the London district
post letters being from about 13 to 23 millions; that the illicit
conveyance of letters was in effect suppressed; that the gross revenue
was about two-thirds of the largest amount ever obtained, and nearly,
if not fully, as great as that under the fourpenny rate; that the net
revenue amounted to about £565,000, showing an increase, notwithstanding
many counteracting causes, of £100,000 upon that for the first year of
penny postage; and lastly, that the inland, or penny post letters, were
decidedly the most profitable, if not the only profitable, part of the
Post Office business.[325]

The letter concluded as follows:—

    “Looking to the progress now making, under the unfavourable
    circumstances to which I have adverted, I see no reason to
    doubt that, if the measure were fully and zealously carried
    into effect, a very few years, with a revived trade, would
    suffice to realize the expectations which I held out. I also
    firmly believe that those circumstances which have tended in no
    inconsiderable degree to diminish the utility of the measure
    ... may be avoided; and that without any increase of expense,
    but simply by improved arrangements.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “Let me hope, Sir, that I may not be considered as unreasonably
    urgent in thus addressing you. Let me beg of you to consider
    with indulgence the peculiarity of my position: that I have
    been appointed, in the words of the Treasury minute, to
    ‘assist in carrying into effect the penny postage;’ that,
    although I have no direct influence over the arrangements,
    they are generally supposed by the public to be under my
    control; that, my name being identified with the plan, I am,
    to a great degree, regarded as responsible for its success.
    On these grounds I confidently, but respectfully, appeal to
    your kindness and justice to afford me the means of satisfying
    public expectation by gradually carrying the plan into
    execution in its fulness and integrity.”

To this letter I received, a fortnight afterwards, a brief reply, if that
can be called reply in which no real answer is given, and no definite
question even touched upon.[326]

I subsequently wrote two other letters[327] (one on March 23rd, and
the other on May 31st) of the same general tenour, but with every
modification which I could think of as likely to lead to the desired
result.[328] To neither of these did I ever receive any reply, so that
the short and evasive answer just mentioned was the only notice ever
taken of the various attempts indicated in the foregoing letters to
obtain attention to the several improvements which I sought to introduce.
I have only to add that all the measures then so slighted are now in
operation, tending alike to public convenience and to the increase of the

Meantime, other circumstances were occurring which before long brought
matters to a crisis.

The proposed establishment of a day mail to Newcastle, in accordance
with my recommendation, having rendered it desirable that I should visit
that town, and Mr. Hodgson Hinde, the Member for Newcastle, having urged
that my journey should be made without delay, I applied to Sir George
Clerk, and obtained his ready acquiescence. Wishing at the same time to
visit some of the country offices, and scrupulously desiring to avoid any
approach to breach of rule, I wrote to Colonel Maberly for authority so
to do, but this request being referred by him to the Postmaster-General,
and representations being made by the latter to the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, the end was that the sanction to my journey was altogether
withdrawn, the management of the matter being handed over to the Post
Office; with what prospect of good result I leave the reader to judge.
This, however, was not all; for soon afterwards, viz., on July 12th, I
received a letter from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not in reply
to any of mine, but announcing that from the ensuing 14th of September
(when my third year at the Treasury would end) my “further assistance”
would be “dispensed with;” the notification, however, concluding with the
following acknowledgment:—

    “In making this communication I gladly avail myself of the
    opportunity of expressing my sense of the satisfactory manner
    in which, during my tenure of office, you have discharged the
    several duties which have been from time to time committed to

Being very unwell at the time when this letter reached me, and of course
far from benefited by its perusal, I was constrained to apply to Sir
George Clerk for a short leave of absence—a request readily granted.
After a little repose I prepared an answer to Mr. Goulburn’s letter,
which, after much reconsideration and consultation with my brothers,
I sent in on July 29th. Its general purpose was to urge that the late
decision might be reconsidered; but, to ease matters, I offered, as I
had done on a previous occasion, to work for a time without salary.[330]
Meanwhile, however, additional discouragement had occurred from the
fact that, in reply to an objection raised against my salary by Colonel
Sibthorpe, the intended discontinuance of my services had been announced
by Sir George Clerk in the House of Commons.

On August 1st I received a note from Mr. Moffatt, of which the following
is an extract:—

    “‘I perused with great concern the flagrant announcement made
    in the House on Friday evening touching the rejection of your
    future services.

    “‘Memory supplies me with no parallel to this treatment; it
    embodies an act of public dishonesty, which, if permitted,
    would be alike discreditable to the Government which proposed,
    and to the assembly which should sanction, such an arrangement.’

    “_August 9th._—Matthew has taken up the matter earnestly; he
    has seen Brougham, Wilde, Villiers, and Aglionby, who express
    great anger and surprise now they understand what is intended.
    It seems they had assumed that I was to be employed in some
    other department; this, they say, is the general impression,
    which accounts for the apathy on the subject hitherto. Some
    course or other will, I expect, be decided on to-morrow. Of
    course I take no part in the matter myself.”

After much consultation, however, it was deemed expedient to defer all
action until the next session of Parliament; and, though the announcement
of this decision was little to my satisfaction, I kept my thoughts to

About a week afterwards I received a letter from the Chancellor of the
Exchequer in reply to my letter of July 29th, which, however, though it
spoke in somewhat elaborate approbation of my services, repeated his
decision as to their discontinuance.[331]

    “_August 20th._—I want to make the remnant of time as effective
    as possible, and with this view generally get to work soon
    after six in the morning.”

    “_September 10th._—Received an unexpected summons from the
    Chancellor of the Exchequer.... He was very cordial and
    friendly, and began to express his regret at the necessity
    under which he felt himself as to the termination of my
    engagement, &c. I told him that I did not intend to avail
    myself of the interview to reopen the question, and merely
    wished to thank him for his intention of recording in a
    Treasury Minute approval of my services.... He intimated
    the probability of his applying to me hereafter for special
    assistance in Post Office affairs, if I had no objection;
    thanked me earnestly for what I had done, and shook hands with
    apparent warmth. His manner now and heretofore, and the tenour
    of his letters, go far to confirm the impression that he feels
    that he is acting unjustly, and under compulsion, I believe,
    of the Postmaster-General, who is said to command five or six
    votes in the House of Commons.”

    “_September 14th._—My engagement terminates to-day.... The
    revenue payments for the quarter up to the 10th instant amount
    to £112,000; or £33,000 more than at the corresponding date of
    last year.

    “_September 17th._—On a review of this Journal I find that the
    savings which I have effected or proposed since the present
    Government came in (September 3rd, 1841) amount at a low
    estimate to £80,000 per annum, of which £51,000 is the amount
    since I received notice of the termination of my engagement.
    And these savings are in no instance obtained by a sacrifice of
    convenience on the part of the public, but in many [instances]
    are the result of measures tending greatly to increase such

    “_September 22nd._—Lord Brougham, who has seen a copy of the
    correspondence between Mr. Goulburn and myself, pronounces
    my case to be ‘irresistible.’ He has kindly volunteered to
    write to Lord Ashburton, who is daily expected to return
    from America, to get him to see Sir Robert Peel on the
    subject.... Sir Thomas Wilde, who had previously seen the
    same correspondence, also expresses a strong opinion as to
    the strength of my case, and has very kindly volunteered to
    undertake it in Parliament. A strong case in such hands will
    indeed, I trust, prove irresistible.

    “_September 23rd._—Many of the Liberal papers are attacking the
    Government on account of my dismissal.

    “_September 26th._—Yesterday and to-day prepared, with
    Matthew’s assistance, a letter to Sir Robert Peel, stating
    shortly the leading facts of my case, tendering proofs of each
    part, and earnestly begging an audience.

    “_September 28th._—Sent in my letter to Sir Robert Peel (dated
    yesterday).[332] Sent also a copy, with a short note dated
    to-day, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    “Received from the Treasury a letter (27th inst.) passing my
    accounts and containing the following paragraph:—‘I am also
    commanded by their Lordships to take this opportunity of
    stating that they consider it due to you, on the termination
    of your engagement with the Government, to express to you
    the approbation with which they have regarded your zealous
    exertions in the execution of the duties which have been
    entrusted to you, and how materially the efficiency of the
    Post Office arrangements has been promoted by the care and
    intelligence evinced by you in the consideration of the various
    important questions which have been referred to you.’

    “_October 12th._—Dined with Mr. Moffatt at the Reform Club.
    Showed him the recent correspondence with Goulburn and Peel,
    and discussed with him confidentially future proceedings. He is
    very much in earnest, and desirous of assisting, through the
    Committee, as much as possible.”

Three days later I received the following letter from Sir Robert Peel:—

                                “Drayton Manor, October 13th, 1842.

    “SIR,—I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of your letter
    dated the 27th of September. It reached me the day after I had
    left London.

    “Had I received it previously to my departure, I should have
    acceded to your request for a personal interview, though I
    consider the subject of your letter fitter for written than for
    verbal communication.

    “Since I received it I have referred to the letter which you
    addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 29th
    of July last, and to the Minutes of the Board of Treasury
    respecting your appointment, and have given to the subject
    generally the best consideration in my power. It had indeed
    been brought under my notice by Mr. Goulburn, at the time that
    his letters of the 11th of July and of the 11th of August were
    addressed to you.

    “I am bound to state to you that I entirely concur in the
    opinion expressed by Mr. Goulburn in that of the 11th of
    August, that the continued employment of an independent
    officer, for the purposes for which it is urged by you, would
    necessarily lead either to the entire supercession of those
    who are by their offices responsible for the management of the
    Post Office department, or to a conflict of authority, highly
    prejudicial to the public service.

    “I entertain a due sense of the motives by which your conduct
    in respect to Post Office arrangements has been actuated,
    and of the zeal and fidelity with which you have discharged
    the duties committed to you; I cannot doubt that there are
    still important[333] improvements in those arrangements to
    be effected, but I must presume that they can be effected
    through the intervention of the regularly-constituted and the
    responsible authority, namely, the Postmaster-General, acting
    under the superintendence and control of the Board of Treasury.

                           “I have, &c.,

                                                      “ROBERT PEEL.

    “Rowland Hill, Esq.”

My dismissal, therefore, was now complete and absolute. My right to
complete my own plan was denied, all opportunity for so doing withheld,
and the measure was to be handed over to men who had opposed it stage
by stage, whose reputation was pledged to its failure, and who had
unquestionably been caballing to obtain my expulsion from office. Of
the feeling under which Mr. Goulburn acted in this matter I have
already given my opinion; indeed, I had now become fully aware that the
responsibility of the act did not rest on him. As regards Sir Robert
Peel, with whom the decision of course lay, to suppose that the reasons
which he gave were those which constituted his real ground of action, or
that he could have considered his letter as any valid answer to mine,
would be an imputation on his understanding which I shall not venture
to make. By whatever necessity he may have been constrained, 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.

The following reply closes the correspondence:—[334]

                                    “Bayswater, October 18th, 1842.

    “SIR,—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your
    letter of the 13th instant, confirming the decision of the
    Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    “In closing this painful correspondence with the Treasury,
    permit me, Sir, to make one observation with the hope of
    removing from your mind the impression that I sought to be
    reinstated in an office which must impede the public service
    by introducing a conflict of powers in the administration of
    the Post Office. I would beg respectfully to recall to your
    recollection that the Post Office is not only under the general
    control of the Treasury, but acts with regard to matters of
    importance under its immediate and specific directions; and
    that my suggestions, being addressed to the superior authority,
    could not create any collision between the Post Office and
    myself. When they were rejected by the Treasury, I always
    submitted, as it was my duty to do, with implicit deference.
    When, on the other hand, they were adopted, they became, of
    course, the orders of the Board, to which the authorities
    of the Post Office were equally bound to defer. This
    arrangement, which is, I submit, in exact conformity with the
    long-established practice defining the subordinate functions
    of the Post Office, was the one directed by the terms of my
    appointment; and as long as such an arrangement is faithfully
    observed or duly enforced, it would appear that no danger can
    exist of the evil arising to which reference is made.

    “But even if these objections were valid against the particular
    office in question, you will, I am sure, do me the justice to
    remember that, in my letter to yourself, as well as in those
    to Mr. Goulburn which form part of this correspondence, I have
    expressed my readiness to accept any situation in which my
    services could be effective to the establishment of my plan.

    “In conclusion, I beg leave to express my thanks for the kind
    regard to my feelings which dictated those expressions of
    approbation with which you, in common with Mr. Goulburn, have
    been pleased to acknowledge my humble services. They afford
    me, I respectfully assure you, no slight consolation under
    the sense of injustice which at this moment weighs upon my
    mind. You are not unacquainted, Sir, with the long and severe
    labour which I had to undergo before my plan was adopted by the
    country and sanctioned by Parliament. When I was called upon to
    assist in carrying the measure into execution, the Government
    stipulated that I should apply my whole time to this duty,
    exclusive of all other occupations. It is quite true that the
    part of the agreement relating to salary was made certain for
    a limited period only; but as the purpose of my engagement
    was the performance of a specific task, I little thought that
    limitation open to a construction which precludes me from
    fulfilling my undertaking, more especially when the question
    was relieved from all embarrassment on the score of salary. If
    I could have imagined that I should be dismissed before my plan
    was fully developed in action, whatever time might be found to
    be really necessary for that object, I should have been little
    justified in entering upon the task. The ultimate advantage
    which was to accrue to me was not of a pecuniary nature. It
    was believed, and rightly believed, that I aspired to the
    reputation which might fairly be expected to attend the conduct
    of so great a measure to its completion, and that with such a
    result of my exertions I should be well satisfied. Deprived of
    that conduct, I am deprived of the means of earning my only

                           “I have, &c.,

                                                     “ROWLAND HILL.

    “Rt. Hon. Sir ROBERT PEEL, Bart., &c., &c., &c.”


OUT OF OFFICE (1842-3).

All being thus decided, and my last duty performed, I saw no reason to
delay any longer that relaxation of which I now stood much in need, and
during the next month the entries in my Journal are comparatively few.
While I was resting my friends were at work:—

    “_November 9th, 1842._—Matthew informs me that Lord Brougham
    had a long conversation with Sir James Graham, on the 7th
    instant, on the subject of my treatment, in the course of
    which he (Lord B.) told Sir James Graham that in his opinion
    the Government was making a great practical mistake, and
    intimated that I must of course defend myself, and that he,
    from his long acquaintance with myself and opinion of the plan,
    should feel bound to take up the cudgels on my behalf in the
    House of Lords. That Sir James Graham appeared also to think
    that a mistake had been made, and promised to speak to some
    other members of the Cabinet on the subject. Lord Brougham
    subsequently wrote to Sir James Graham a letter to be laid
    before Peel.”

To give to the public such a knowledge of facts as would enable it to
do justice either to my plan or myself, it was obviously important to
publish that correspondence with the Treasury in which I had again and
again urged improvement, and in which my application had been as often
either neglected or evaded; in which, also, I had received notice of my
dismissal, had deprecated this step, and had been informed of persistence
in the intention, with such show of reason as had been vouchsafed me.
Being aware, however, that such publication was likely to be the subject
of attack, I was careful, before venturing on it, to ascertain my right
to make it; and this I knew must depend upon precedent and require
reference to authority:—

    “_November 26th._—Matthew applied to Earl Spencer[335] for his

The following is his lordship’s letter:—

                                    “Longford, November 25th, 1842.

    “MY DEAR SIR,—As the correspondence you sent me looked rather
    alarming as to bulk, I delayed reading it till I had the
    opportunity of a journey. I took this opportunity yesterday.

    “I can see no public grounds why your brother should not
    publish it if he thinks fit. As a question of personal prudence
    I think the thing more doubtful, but I think your letter
    only goes to his _right_ to publish it. I have no business,
    therefore, to say anything more than that I think he has a
    right to publish it.

    “You know, however, that I sometimes have done more than answer
    a question put to me simply, and I will do so now by adding to
    my answer that if I was in his place I would not publish it....

                        “Yours most truly,


    “M. D. HILL, Esq.”

    “_November 29th._—To-day the Merchants’ Committee [which had
    applied for an interview early in August] has seen Sir Robert
    Peel. They strongly urged the necessity for completing the
    measure—their want of confidence in the Post Office—their
    confidence in me, and the great satisfaction it would be to
    the public to see me restored to office. Peel satisfied the
    deputation that he was sincerely desirous of carrying out the
    measure, and Goulburn, who was present, assured them that,
    whatever might have been the feeling originally entertained
    by the Post Office, all there were now earnest friends of
    the measure! (It did not occur to the Committee to inquire
    where, then, lay the danger of ‘collision.’) Peel invited the
    Committee to send in a statement of those parts of the plan
    which they still wished to see carried into effect; but he
    stated that a return from the Post Office showed that, _with
    the exception of about £100,000 per annum, the net revenue
    was obtained from foreign and colonial letters_.[336] This
    statement, which he made in an early stage of the conversation,
    threw the Committee quite aback; for though I had prepared
    them, as I thought, to distrust all information derived from
    the Post Office, their want of familiarity with the subject,
    and the confident manner with which the statement was made,
    caused them to believe it.”

The Committee at my suggestion subsequently applied for a copy of this
return, but it was prudently withheld; and, with equal prudence, no
reason was assigned for the refusal. Of this return, however, more will
appear by-and-by. Meantime, the question of publishing the correspondence
remaining still undecided, I sought further advice. On December 4th I
received the following letter from Mr. Baring:—

                                         “Brighton, Dec. 3rd, 1842.

    “DEAR SIR,—I hope to be at Lee on Tuesday, and shall be at your
    service on Wednesday morning. But if you are not afraid of a
    bad dinner, which you probably will get the first day of our
    return, you had better come down on Tuesday, dine and sleep at
    Lee, and we will talk over the matter on Wednesday.

                        “Yours very truly,

                                                    “F. T. BARING.”

After careful perusal and reperusal of the correspondence, Mr. Baring,
in the course of several conversations, pronounced my line of conduct
very judicious, and the conduct of Government very shabby. He said it
was absurd to expect that the Post Office would satisfactorily carry
into effect the remaining parts of my plan, and that consequently my
dismissal was most unfair towards the measure. He added that, even
without reference to my plan, my retention as a permanent officer would
be useful as a check upon the proceedings of the Post Office; and that
such retention would be in conformity with the system of Treasury
management, which consists in having an officer to check each subordinate
department. He assured me that it was never his intention that my
services should cease as a matter of course at the expiration of the
year mentioned in his last letter, the fair interpretation of which was
that he considered it advantageous to continue my services indefinitely,
but that as he was then leaving office, and as there were rumours of
an intention on the part of the next Government to abandon my plan, he
did not feel justified in giving me a claim for more than one year’s
salary. These opinions he would be prepared to state in Parliament. He
thought it probable that Lord Lowther’s jealousy was the cause of the
mischief, and that that jealousy was excited by my opposition to his
plan of registration, which, he remarked, if carried into effect would
have created an uproar throughout the country. He was of opinion that I
had a right to publish the correspondence, but feared that by so doing
I should bar the door against other employment, to which he regarded me
as having a claim, that otherwise would probably be recognised even by
the Government then in power; so that he was rather averse to my taking
any step before the meeting of Parliament. I replied that, although I,
of course, should be glad to obtain other employment under Government,
my chief anxiety was to satisfy the public that I had not misled them by
holding out expectations which could not be realized, and that, although
I would carefully consider his kind advice, my present inclination was to
sacrifice all other considerations to the accomplishment of this object;
on which he remarked that, if I were not satisfied with the discussion
in Parliament, I could still publish the correspondence. He expressed
an opinion that it would not be practicable to bring before Parliament
copies of my Reports, or those of the Post Office, to the Treasury,
inasmuch as such Reports being considered confidential, the rule is to
refuse their production. This was a serious disappointment, as I had
depended mainly on the publication of these Reports as a means of showing
the manner in which my duties had been discharged, and the nature of the
opposition of the Post Office.

    “_Same day._—Matthew has seen Lord Spencer. His view coincides
    almost exactly with Mr. Baring’s, differing only (if I have
    understood Mr. B. rightly) in thinking that the late, as well
    as the present, Government would disapprove of any appeal to
    the public, except through Parliament.”

As Mr. Warburton concurred in disapproving immediate publication, I
yielded to the advice of so many influential friends, though my own
opinion was still strongly in favour of the prompter course. Meanwhile
there came in from various members of Parliament and many other friends
letters of sympathy and support; among others, the following kind and
characteristic one from Mr. Cobden:—

                            “Newcastle-on-Tyne, 20th January, 1843.

    “MY DEAR SIR,—The men of the League are your devoted servants
    in every way that can be useful to you. Colonel Thompson,
    Bright, and I, have _blessed you_ not a few times in the course
    of our agitating tour.... I go back to Manchester to-morrow,
    after a very gratifying tour in Scotland. ‘The heather’s on

    “Believe me,

                        “Yours very truly,

                                                        “R. COBDEN.

    “R. HILL, Esq.”

This was followed, within a week, by a second letter, in which it
will be seen that the warmth of his feelings led him into very strong
expressions. These I do not suppress, as every one can make for them the
allowance due to time, circumstance, and a generous nature:—

                                   “Manchester, 26th January, 1843.

    “MY DEAR SIR,—I have read over the correspondence, and, so
    far as success in placing the Government in the wrong goes,
    you will be pronounced triumphant by all who will read it.
    But nothing is more true than the remark in your brother’s
    excellent letter, that the force of public opinion cannot
    be brought to bear upon the authorities to compel them to
    work out details. So far as your object in that direction is
    concerned, your correspondence will, I suspect, be nugatory. If
    your object be to justify yourself in the eyes of the public,
    _that_, I submit, is supererogatory. You cannot stand better
    than you do with the impartial British public. You will get no
    further facilities from Tory functionaries. They hate the whole
    thing _with a diabolical hatred_. And well they may. It is a
    terrible engine for upsetting monopoly and corruption: witness
    our League operations, the _spawn of your penny postage_! Now,
    let me deal frankly and concisely with you. I want to see
    you remunerated for the work you have done. The labourer is
    worthy of his hire. The country is in your debt. An organized
    plan is alone necessary to insure you a national subscription
    of a sum of money sufficient to reimburse you for time,
    trouble, and annoyance incurred and expended in your great
    social revolution.... A public subscription—a really national
    one—would give you power and independence, and when the next
    change of Government takes place you would be in the ascendant.
    Until then I expect no hearty co-operation in carrying out
    your details. We must be content, in the meantime, to prevent
    the Tories from robbing us of any substantial part of the
    principle, and I think we have bulldogs enough in the House
    now to prevent that. I should like to have some talk with you
    about this matter. Meantime, excuse my plainness, and don’t
    suspect me of wishing to make you a _sordid_ patriot. You see
    what an effect the £50,000 League Fund is producing: a similar
    demonstration in favour of the author of Postage Reform, and
    a seat in Parliament in prospective, would have a like effect
    upon the enemy.

    “Believe me,

                           “Yours truly,

                                                        “R. COBDEN.

    “ROWLAND HILL, Esq.”

Very different, but no less characteristic of the writer, is the
following letter, received some months later, from Thomas Hood:—

                               “17, Elm Tree Road, St. John’s Wood,
                                                           1st May.


       *       *       *       *       *

    “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.

       *       *       *       *       *

    “I am, my dear Sir,

                        “Yours very truly,

                                                      “THOMAS HOOD.

    “R. HILL, Esq.”

Meanwhile, I felt nowise daunted by late events, but rather filled with
fresh zeal; for although I never willingly entered into a conflict, yet
when one was forced upon me, or stood between me and what I deemed right,
I was by no means backward at the work.

One of my earliest moves after leaving office was towards personal and
domestic economy. While I was in receipt of a large salary, and had my
attention fully occupied, and indeed my powers heavily taxed, I had
allowed my expenditure to obtain dimensions unsuitable to my present
condition. Of course I intended to seek new occupation, but this would
require time; and, meanwhile, I felt that if I would act independently
I must make myself independent of circumstances. I therefore entered at
once upon a course of vigorous retrenchment, and partly by my efforts,
but much more by the zealous and most efficient co-operation of my
dear wife, our expenditure was soon brought within very narrow limits.
Without any change of house or diminution in number of servants, our
disbursements were soon reduced by one-half, and it was only in the first
year after the change that my expenditure exceeded my income. I may add
that it never had exceeded it before, and that it never exceeded it again.

As the parliamentary session approached, however, I had to turn my
attention more and more to the work of preparation for the duty which
I expected it to bring. I therefore put my papers in the most perfect
order—a proceeding which has greatly facilitated the writing of this part
of my narrative.

Sir Thomas Wilde having very kindly undertaken to lay my case before
Parliament, I could not but feel some anxiety as to the view that might
be taken of this course by Mr. Wallace, who had himself acted as leader
in earlier days. I therefore wrote to him on the subject as delicately
as I could, and a fortnight afterwards, when he came to town for the
parliamentary session, I called upon him with some feeling of anxiety. I
quote from my Journal:—

    “He behaves nobly, as he always has done, fully acquiescing in
    the arrangement with regard to Sir Thomas Wilde, and expressing
    his own readiness to follow Sir Thomas’s lead.”

Meanwhile, however, my attention was called to considerations of a
somewhat different character:—

    “_February 8th._—Met Mr. Stephen, of the Colonial Office, in
    Piccadilly, and at his request walked with him to the Colonial
    Office. On the way he urged me to apply to the Government
    for employment, saying that he felt sure my claim would be
    acknowledged—intimating that I might expect such an appointment
    as a Commissionership of Customs. I replied, that such a step
    would be considered as a tacit engagement on my part not
    to bring my case before the public; that other friends had
    recommended a similar course, under the impression that the
    complimentary expressions in the letters from the Treasury
    were intended by Government to suggest it, but that, after
    mature deliberation, I had decided not to do anything which
    should prevent my making known to the public the true causes
    of the small amount of revenue actually obtained, as compared
    with my anticipations, and justifying my conduct throughout.
    Mr. Stephen rejoined that he did not doubt I might stipulate
    to do all this, providing that I refrained from attacking the
    Government, and yet obtain lucrative and honourable employment.
    To this I said I of course could not object, and he recommended
    that two of the leading merchants or bankers in the city, of
    opposite politics, should make the application on my behalf.
    I promised to consider the suggestion, but requested that he
    would, in the meantime, read the correspondence, a copy of
    which I sent him the same afternoon.

    “_February 11th._—Prepared a memorandum ... called on Mr.
    Stephen, read it to him, and left it with him; he expressing
    a desire to reconsider the matter, with a view, perhaps, of
    making such inquiries of Goulburn, with whom he is intimate,
    as would enable him to judge of the probable success of such
    an application as he had suggested. I desired that he would do
    whatever he thought best, clearly understanding, however, that
    I was no party to anything of the kind.

    “_February 15th._—Mr. Stephen writes that he has ascertained
    that nothing can be done unless I submit to be gagged, and not
    very much even then; so the whole ends in smoke.

    “_Same day._—Wrote to Mr. Stephen thanking him for his
    kindness, which, from the very unreserved manner in which he
    spoke of the Government, I feel very strongly; but of course
    declining to apply to Government.”[337]

About three weeks later, Mr. Goulburn, in reply to an application made
by Mr. Hutt, on behalf of Sir Thomas Wilde, for the production of my
correspondence with the Treasury, refused to give more than a few
letters, withholding those of chief importance;[338] and though, on
being pressed, he somewhat enlarged the grant, it still remained very
imperfect. Unsatisfactory, however, as was this concession, motion was
made accordingly:—

    “_March 29th._—My correspondence with the Treasury. The
    printed copies were delivered this morning. By the omission
    of all the letters urging progress in the plan, Goulburn’s
    notice of dismissal is brought into juxtaposition with a
    minute of December 24th, 1841 (of which I never heard till
    now), confirming the extension of my engagement for one year
    from September 14th, 1841, and made to appear as the natural
    sequence of such minute, instead of being, as it was in fact,
    the answer to my complaints of no progress, and of Post Office
    interference to prevent my journey to Newcastle. The whole
    thing is cunningly done, and it shows that the five weeks taken
    to prepare the correspondence have not been lost. The case is
    so much damaged, however, that I have determined to give the
    papers a very limited circulation, and to press on Wilde to
    consent to the publication of the whole. Sir Robert Peel, in
    his letter[339] to me, admits that ‘important improvements’
    still remain to be effected; but in the printed copy the word
    ‘important’ is dropped.”[340]

To my surprise, the strength of my case, grievously impaired as it was by
this maiming of the correspondence, was nevertheless recognised in one of
the journals regularly supporting the Government:—

    “_March 30th._—The _Morning Herald_ gives the correspondence
    with Sir Robert Peel, and has a leader, sneering, of course,
    at penny postage, but expressing an opinion that I have been
    unjustly treated, and ought to have a place or a pension.”

This is the last entry in my Journal for the present. On the one hand,
I became so engrossed in preparation for the coming conflict—a conflict
which seemed to me as one almost of life and death—that I had no time to
spare save for pressing demands; while, on the other hand, the motive to
record was greatly weakened since my exclusion from the Treasury. For
the history of the following three years and a-half, my dependence is on
documents, parliamentary or otherwise, produced during the period (all
of which I have carefully preserved), and on such recollections as are
suggested by their perusal.

On April 10th a petition for inquiring into the state of the Post
Office, prepared by myself and in my own name, was presented to the
House of Commons by Mr. Baring; and on the following night Mr. Hawes
gave notice that Sir Thomas Wilde would call the attention of the House
to the same soon after the Easter holidays—a notice, however, which from
various causes had to be repeated several times before being acted
upon. Of this petition, which appears at length in the Report of the
Committee,[341] I will merely mention here that, after reference to my
appointment and subsequent dismissal, after statements as to the very
incomplete introduction of my plan, evidence as to the hopelessness of
its completion being effected by the Post Office, and representations as
to the vast interests at stake, I concluded by expressing my desire “to
submit the truth of the foregoing allegations to the severest scrutiny,”
and by petitioning for the necessary inquiry.

This petition was presently backed by another from eight members[342]
of the Mercantile Committee, so often mentioned before, in which, after
briefly adverting to the beneficial effect of the improvement already
made, the petitioners, expressing an earnest desire for the completion of
the plan, prayed for inquiry with a view to that end.

I now felt that the time was come when my friends should be put in full
possession of the facts of the case; and, consequently, having printed
all of the correspondence which had been applied for in Parliament,
that withheld as well as that granted, I sent copies, marked “strictly
confidential,” to the members of the Mercantile Committee, and some
others of my friends, prefacing it with an introduction, in which I
justified the proceeding—first, by the declaration of the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, that his denial was made on the ground that the part
which had been withheld was unnecessary, no allegation being made as
to inconvenience to the public service, and, secondly, by the high
authority which I had for saying that I had a right, looking to the
nature of the correspondence itself, to official usage, and all other
circumstances, to place the whole before the public. This step, taken
on April 13th, was on the 19th condemned in the House of Commons by
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Goulburn, but defended by the
ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Baring.

It was not until May 1st that I obtained a copy of the return upon which
Sir Robert Peel, in the preceding November, based his injurious and
erroneous statement that the inland post yielded but £100,000 a-year to
the revenue. This return was now laid before Parliament on the motion
of Sir George Clerk. In consequence I addressed a letter to the daily
papers, in which I expressed myself as follows:—

    “I have no hesitation in stating that the return, whether
    considered in regard to its general results or to the division
    of revenue under the two heads, is utterly fallacious.”

I concluded by promising to give in due time a full exposure of the
fallacy—a promise afterwards fulfilled.[343]

In the short period during which this return was under my consideration,
an incident occurred which must be mentioned, because, besides giving
additional evidence of Post Office incompetency, it excited some surprise
and not a little amusement. The Overland Route to India being now
established, a notice was issued by the Post Office, that persons wishing
to send letters by that route to Australia must address them to “an agent
in India,” who in turn must pay the postage onward, as otherwise the
letters would not be forwarded. To the unreasonableness of expecting
that every one writing by that route to Australia should have an agent
planted half-way, was added such vagueness of expression as would have
rendered the injunction very misleading; “India” being put for “Bombay,”
where alone, according to Post Office arrangement, the postage could be
paid. The absurdity of the proceeding was so manifest that within a week
from its appearance the notice was withdrawn.

In this short period, also, Mr. Ashurst, acting for the Mercantile
Committee, issued a circular to mayors of towns and other representative
persons, recommending that petitions should be sent up praying for the
complete execution of my plan; the recommendation being accompanied with
a statement showing, in the most pithy manner, the chief estimates as
to number of letters and average of postage under the old rates, made
severally by the Post Office authorities, the Parliamentary Committee,
and myself, previously to the adoption of the plan, and comparing them
with actual results.

About this time Mr. Baring had moved for a return, to show how far
the instructions, issued by the Treasury more than a year and a-half
ago,[344] for the extension of rural distribution, had been carried into
effect by the Post Office. Of course he had, ere this, learnt from me
that its operation had been suspended by the Treasury; but now, in the
return called for, this essential fact was suppressed, the whole answer
being as follows:—

    “No definite arrangements have yet been made by the Post Office
    in conformity with the Minutes of the Lords of the Treasury,
    dated the 13th and 27th days of August, 1841, relating to the
    Post Office distribution in the rural districts of the United

                                                    “W. L. MABERLY.

    “General Post Office, 8th April, 1843.”

The motion, so important to me, and, as I thought, and still think, to
the cause of postal reform, seemed in danger of lapsing to the end of
the session, not coming on until June 27th. The House was far from full,
but the number present was considerable. I obtained a seat for myself
and my brother Arthur under the gallery, sitting on the opposition side
of the House, that I might the more readily supply my friends with any
information that might be required during the progress of the debate.
Colonel Maberly, likewise under the gallery, was, I suppose for the
like reason, on the Government side of the House. The debate occupies
forty-seven pages in “Hansard;”[345] but keen as was the interest with
which my brother and I listened to every word, I shall not trouble the
reader of the present day with more than a brief abstract.

The motion of which Sir Thomas Wilde had given notice was for a Select
Committee, “To inquire into the progress which had been made in carrying
into effect the recommendations of Mr. Rowland Hill for Post Office
improvement; and whether the further carrying into effect of such
recommendations or any of them will be beneficial to the country.”[346]

Sir Thomas Wilde, after adverting to the deliberate adoption of my plan
by Parliament, and this in a time of commercial depression, with the
knowledge that its adoption was expected to produce a small permanent and
a large immediate reduction of revenue, pointed out that my plan had
been presented as a whole, no part being recommended unless accompanied
with the remainder. After referring to the authoritative condemnation
of the old system, to my appointment, to the acknowledged value of my
services, to the opposition of the Post Office, to the hopelessness
of expecting the completion of my plan from that department, or even
from the Treasury, unless aided by one able and ready to deal with the
fallacies with which resistance was defended; after having pointed out
the unfairness of the experiment on which my plan had been judged, and,
in fine, given a history of the progress (and non-progress) of postal
reform during the time I was at the Treasury, and of my dismissal
therefrom, he concluded by moving the resolution of which he had given

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, while repeating some of the allegations
made in his letter to me, endeavoured to inculpate the late Government,
and to throw upon them the responsibility of my dismissal, condemned
my divulging the correspondence as a breach of confidence, greatly
overstated the power committed to me during his tenure of office, spoke
of much having been accomplished since I left the Treasury, enumerating
for this purpose some measures adopted on my recommendation while I was
still there, and others hastily resolved on since the presentation of my
petition, no one of which, however, was yet carried into execution.

He attempted to defend the opposition to the reduction of the
registration-fee by greatly overstating the amount of money-order
business, extolled Lord Lowther, absurdly attributing to him the
origination of penny postage,[348] though he had voted against it
in committee;[349] asserted that the Post Office did not pay its own
expenses;[350] but ended by saying that he had no objection to a limited
inquiry, and by proposing, as an amendment to Sir Thomas Wilde’s motion,
the following:—

    “That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the
    measures adopted for the general introduction of the system
    of penny postage, and for the facilitating the conveyance of
    letters throughout the country.”[351]

Mr. F. Baring (late Chancellor of the Exchequer) saw no objection to the
amendment, and hoped that Sir Thomas Wilde would allow it to be carried
in lieu of his own motion. He touched upon the unfair use made of the
term “penny postage,” a term by no means including the whole plan, for
the purpose of limiting my engagement; and remarked that in renewing
this engagement for one year he had not meant to restrict it to that
period, but had merely refrained from acting discourteously towards his
successor, while “all along of opinion that the services of Mr. Hill
at the Treasury would be required for a much longer period than one
year.”[352] He continued as follows (and I hope that I may be pardoned
for making the quotation):—

    “He also thought it was only common justice to say that, at the
    period when it was determined to carry out this plan, he had
    not the slightest personal knowledge of Mr. Rowland Hill....
    He had expected that a person who had been long engaged in
    the preparation of an extensive system of this kind would
    not carry out the change with that coolness and judgment that
    was requisite; and he had expected that he should have great
    difficulties to contend with in inducing Mr. Hill to adopt
    any alteration in his plan that might appear requisite. He
    found quite the contrary of this, and that Mr. Hill, with the
    greatest readiness, adopted any suggestions that were made to
    him; so that instead of difficulties, he found every facility
    in carrying the plan into effect. True, Mr. Hill gave his
    reasons for the opinion that he had adopted, or for the course
    that he recommended; but if any of his suggestions were not
    adopted, he always found Mr. Hill most ready to give way to the
    course which he suggested.”[353]

He admitted that—

    “No absolute bargain had been broken with Mr. Rowland Hill,
    still he could not help expressing his sincere regret that,
    after three years’ exertions, which were characterized by the
    utmost zeal and intelligence, he should be allowed to retire
    from the public service in the way in which he had. He repeated
    that, although no bargain had been broken, still, if zeal,
    intelligence, and ability, and the rendering important public
    services, entitled any one to claim consideration, Mr. Hill had
    a most powerful case.”[354]

Towards the close of his speech he dealt as follows with Mr. Goulburn’s
statement as to the extent of the money-order operations:—

    “The calculation which the right hon. gentleman had made, as to
    the amount of money transmitted through the Money-Order Office,
    was a most extraordinary one. The right hon. gentleman stated
    the amount to be eight millions, whereas he should have said
    four millions; the right hon. gentleman had made the slight
    mistake of doubling the amount by calculating the money which
    was paid in, and adding to it the same money when paid out.
    According to the right hon. gentleman’s mode of calculating, to
    arrive at the quantity of water which passes through a pipe,
    you must add the water which enters at one end to the same
    water when it passes out at the other end, and the quantity so
    added together will give the result desired.”[355]

He rejoiced that a Committee was to be appointed, and he observed, in

    “That if ever there was a measure in reference to which the
    people had a right to ascertain whether it was carried into
    effect fully and fairly, it was this.”[356]

Sir Robert Peel—

    “Had never felt a doubt as to the great social advantages
    of lowering the duty on letters; the only doubt was as to
    its financial effect: in all other respects the result of
    any inquiry would show that, whatever might have been the
    loss to the revenue, much advantage had been derived in what
    concerned the encouragement of industry, and the promotion of
    communication between the humbler classes of the community.”

After observing that “it was, therefore, no dissatisfaction with Mr.
Hill’s conduct, no indifference to his services, that led him and his
right hon. friend to take the course they had taken,”[357] he said, in
reference to my original appointment—

    “It appeared to him that, had it been deemed necessary to
    retain Mr. Hill’s services, and had it been conceived that the
    Post Office authorities were hostile to the plan, prejudiced
    against its principle and its details, and indisposed to lend
    themselves with zeal and cordiality to carrying it out, the
    plan should have been, not to retain Mr. Hill in control over
    the Post Office (yet unconnected with it), but to have at once
    made him Secretary of the Post Office. That department would
    thus have been no longer in a position continually to obstruct,
    as the complaint was, the due execution of the plan; but Mr.
    Hill himself, the person so deeply anxious for the success of
    the scheme, would have the immediate control of it.”[358]

He also spoke of Colonel Maberly in terms of general esteem, and denied
that he had failed in cordial co-operation with me, speaking likewise
in high terms of Lord Lowther, and maintaining (contrary to fact) that
he had voted in committee for all Mr. Warburton’s resolutions,[359] and
was a decided friend to Mr. Hill’s system.[360] He acquiesced in the
appointment of a Committee, and “would assure them (the House) that,
while he continued in office, he would lend all his weight, influence,
and authority to insure full justice to the new system.”[361]

Sir Thomas Wilde declared himself satisfied with the amendment, which was
agreed to without a division.[362]

The indirect effect of the modification demanded by Ministers in Sir
Thomas Wilde’s motion was to take the nomination of the Committee out
of the hands of the mover, and to give it to Government—the natural
consequence being that the majority was made to consist of Government
supporters. Of the thirteen gentlemen selected, six only were of the
Liberal party; amongst these, however, were some of my best friends. Of
course, in securing a majority, Government also obtained the appointment
of the Chairman, and the choice fell upon Sir George Clerk. Upon this
choice no further comment can be required than a simple statement of the
position. I had appealed against a decision of the Treasury, a Court
was constituted to try the case, and of this Court the Secretary of
the Treasury was President. Lord Brougham used to tell of an amusing
occurrence, I think at York, at the time when he was on the Northern
Circuit. When the list of the jury was calling over, preparatory to
trying a certain case, the judge, remarking identity of name between one
of the jurors and the plaintiff in the suit, and inquiring, “I suppose,
Mr. Thomson, you are no relation to the plaintiff in this cause?” was
answered, “Please you, my Lord, I _is_ the plaintiff.” The interloper
was of course discharged, and a severe rebuke was given to the officer
of the court by whom so improper a selection had been made. Looking at
my own case, however, the parallel would have been more complete had
he been retained, and made, at least, foreman of the jury. However, to
have obtained a Committee at all was a very great gain; for though the
bias to be naturally expected from its composition did not fail to show
itself in the course of the proceedings, still opportunity was thus given
for that full and plain statement of facts which, I felt sure, would
suffice to set me right with the public; and, in justice to the Committee
generally, I must say that my opportunity for making such statements was
fairly given. I had, indeed, some browbeating to endure (even beyond what
appears in the Report, as may be seen by the letter given below),[363]
but with this the Committee generally did not appear to sympathize;
indeed, I have reason to believe that it tended rather to injure than to
benefit the cause which it was meant to advance.



[See p. 57.]


    [_For my Biography, written, chiefly from my dictation, in
    June, 1874._]

Although a member of the Astronomical Society for more than half a
century, and, with the exception of two out of about 430, the oldest now
living, I have never contributed to the Society’s transactions.

Yet from boyhood I have been very much attached to astronomical pursuits.
My father was well informed on the subject, and eventually, though
several years later than myself, became a member of the Society.[364] He
had long possessed a reflecting telescope, capable of showing Jupiter’s
Moons and Belts, and Saturn’s Rings, though not, according to my
recollection, any of the moons, even the rings appearing not severally
but as one. He had also a Hadley’s Quadrant, an artificial horizon, and a
tolerably good clock, and he regularly took in the “Nautical Almanac.”

By means of this simple apparatus, he not only regulated the clock, but
determined the latitude and even the longitude of our house, or rather of
the playground, at Hill Top.

In these occupations I was invariably his assistant; and it was in this
manner and with the aid of his lectures that I gradually acquired, even
while a boy, a taste for Astronomy, and, for my age, no inconsiderable
knowledge of the subject.

My father (like myself in youth and early manhood) was a great walker,
and we frequently journeyed together. When I was only nine years of age,
I walked with him, for the most part after dark, from Birmingham to
Stourbridge, a distance of twelve miles, with occasional lifts—no doubt
according to usage—on his back. I recollect that it was a brilliant
starlight night, and the names of the constellations and of the brighter
single stars, their apparent motions and the distinction between the
so-called fixed stars and planets, formed then, as on many other similar
occasions, never-failing subjects of interesting conversation, and to me
of instruction. On the way we passed by the side of a small pool, and,
the air being still, the surface of the water gave a perfect reflection
of the stars. I have a vivid recollection, after an interval of nearly
seventy years, of the fear with which I looked into what appeared to me
a vast abyss, and of my clinging to my father to protect me from falling
into it.

The remarkable comet of 1811—remarkable from the length of time it
continued in sight—interested me greatly. I was then fifteen years of
age. I examined it frequently with our telescope, got much information
from my father and from such books as were accessible to me; and before
the comet had disappeared was, I believe, tolerably familiar with what
was then known of cometary astronomy.

As already stated in the “Prefatory Memoir,” the teaching of a subject
was with me concurrent, or nearly so, with the learning. I soon began to
lecture on Astronomy, first to the boys of our school, and afterwards to
a literary and scientific association of which I was a member.

With a view to these lectures, availing myself of the “Transactions
of the Royal Society” (taken in by one of the Birmingham libraries to
which we subscribed), I read, I believe without exception, all the
contributions of Sir William Herschel, then incomparably the first of
living English astronomers. My reverence for the man led me to contrive,
on the occasion of my second visit to London (1815), to go round by
Slough, in order that I might obtain a glimpse—as the coach passed—of
his great telescope, which I knew could be seen over the tops of the
neighbouring buildings.

In the “Prefatory Memoir” I have already spoken of my teaching
navigation, of the planispheres which I constructed for my father’s
lectures upon electricity, of my trigonometrical survey, of my visit
to Captain Kater and the Greenwich Observatory, and of my Vernier
pendulums—all more or less intimately connected with my pursuit of
Astronomy. Nor must I omit mention of a popular explanation of the
transit of Mercury in May, 1832, which I wrote for the “Penny Magazine.”
(See Vol. I., p. 82.)

I may also mention, as a fact worth recording, that in 1817 (I believe)
the celebrated mathematician, M. Biot, passed through Birmingham on his
return from the Shetland Isles, where he had been engaged in measuring
an arc of the meridian.[365] My father was invited to dine with him, I
think at the house of Mr. Tertius Galton; and afterwards both he and I,
among others, were invited to meet him at the rooms of the Philosophical
Institution. Very few obeyed this second summons, perhaps because the day
fixed upon was Sunday. He showed us in action a small instrument for the
polarization of light—a subject of which my father and I, and I think the
others, were up to that time profoundly ignorant. The only individual
with whom M. Biot appeared to be previously acquainted was an emigré, Dr.
De Lys, a leading physician of Birmingham, whose father, the Marquis De
Lys, had been guillotined during the Reign of Terror. In the evening we
met again at a coach office in the Market Place, to bid farewell to M.
Biot on his departure for London, when he caused some tittering, and put
poor Dr. De Lys to the blush by publicly kissing him, in French fashion,
on both cheeks.

To return to the Astronomical Society. My attendance at its meetings, so
long as I continued to live near Birmingham, was necessarily rare. On
my removal to the neighbourhood of London it became more frequent, but
even then my time was so fully occupied with more pressing duties that
my attendance remained very irregular, and it totally ceased several
years ago. I have, however, invariably read the “Monthly Notices” of the
Society’s proceedings, and have thus benefited more, perhaps, than by
mere attendance.

Still, as already stated, I have never contributed to the Society’s
transactions, the truth being that up to the time of my becoming disabled
for steady application to any difficult subject, my mind was so entirely
engrossed with my official duties, that the little leisure I could obtain
was necessarily devoted to recruiting my health.

Nevertheless, as already shown,[366] I have attempted something to
promote my favourite science. The following is an instance of the kind:—


On the 16th January, 1865, I addressed the following letter to my late
excellent friend, Admiral Smyth:—

    “MY DEAR ADMIRAL,—I have just completed the perusal of your
    very interesting volume on ‘The Colours of Double Stars,’
    kindly presented to me by Dr. Lee in your name and his; and I
    thank you for the gratification it has afforded me.

    “What you say on the subject of variable stars has called to
    my recollection an idea which first occurred to me shortly
    after the discovery of the periodicity of the increase and
    decrease in the number and frequency of solar spots. I am
    aware that such increase and decrease is not continuous, and
    that the variation is not such as materially to affect the
    Sun’s brightness. Still, in point of fact, is not our own Sun
    a variable star—however slightly—with a period, tolerably well
    defined, of about eleven years? And may not the more marked
    character of other variable stars be owing to similar causes to
    those which produce the spots in our sun, acting with greater
    regularity and intensity?

    “If you think it deserving attention, pray favour me with your
    opinion of my theory. Possibly it may have been suggested
    previously, but if so, I am not aware of the fact.

           “I remain, my dear Admiral, yours faithfully,

                                                     “ROWLAND HILL.

    “Admiral Smyth, F.R.S., &c., &c., &c.”

Shortly afterwards I received a very friendly letter from Mrs. Smyth, the
tenor of which will be sufficiently understood from what follows:—

                  “Hampstead, 20th January, 1865.

    “DEAR MRS. SMYTH,—Many thanks for your letter. Pray don’t let
    the Admiral withdraw himself from his present work. My theory
    can wait, or I may find an opportunity of consulting some other

    “Our kindest regards.

                        “Very truly yours,

                                                    “ROWLAND HILL.”

I accordingly, on the 14th February following, addressed a letter—similar
to the one to Admiral Smyth—to my friend, Mr. Warren De La Rue, then
President—as Admiral Smyth had once been—of the Astronomical Society;
but although Mr. De La Rue took much trouble to ascertain whether my
theory had, as he thought, been suggested before, it was not till long
afterwards that he was able to give any definite information on the

In a letter of July 9th, 1866, Mr. De La Rue drew my attention to a
paper by Mr. Balfour Stewart in the Transactions of the Royal Society of
Edinburgh, which, in the opinion of Mr. De La Rue, “gives a very explicit
enunciation” of the theory.

On referring to the paper in question (Vol. XXIII, part iii.), I found
that it was read on the 18th April, 1864, and the following is an extract
from a memorandum which I made on the subject:—“Indirectly, by showing
a probable connexion between the maxima and minima of Sun-spots and the
rotation of Jupiter about the Sun, and by suggesting that the periodic
variations of the stars is caused by the rotation of large planets
about them, Mr. Balfour Stewart has, I think, forestalled me.” Perhaps,
however, I may be justified in doubting whether the enunciation here
given is very explicit.

Before proceeding, it is necessary to digress for a moment. When a boy
I was fond of reading books of elementary science. I occasionally met
with statements which puzzled me—which appeared to me to be wrong—but
assuming, as children do, the infallibility of the author—or perhaps I
should say of a printed book—I naturally came to the conclusion that my
own understanding was in fault, and became greatly disheartened. After
awhile—I forget on what occasion—I applied for solution of the puzzle to
my father, who, possessing a large amount of general information, was
well qualified to advise. To my great delight, he assured me that I was
right and the author wrong. My unqualified faith in printed statements
was now, of course, at an end; and a habit was gradually formed of
mentally criticising almost everything I read—a habit which, however
useful in early life, is, as I have found in old age, a cause of much
waste of thinking power when the amount is so reduced as to render
economy of essential importance.

Still, through the greater part of my life this habit of reading
critically, combined as it was with the power of rapid calculation, has
been of great use to me, especially in my contests with the Post Office,
and, after I had joined the Department, in the revision of the thousands
of Reports, Returns, and Minutes prepared by other officers.

In general literature, if the author attempt to deal with science, the
chance of a blunder appears to be great. Even Lord Macaulay could not
always do so with safety, as appears from the following passage:—“In
America the Spanish territories [in 1698] spread from the equator
northward and southward _through all the signs of the Zodiac_ far into
the temperate zone.”[367] What can be the meaning of the words which I
have marked for Italics?

Mrs. Oliphant, too, whose admirable stories I never miss reading, says,
in one of her latest, “there was a new moon making her way _upwards_ in
the pale sky.”[368]

There is no writer to whom I feel more grateful than to Miss Edgeworth.
When a boy I read her delightful stories with the greatest possible
interest, and I feel sure that they had considerable influence in the
formation of my character. Unfortunately, however, they are frequently
disfigured by scientific errors. Thus, in her admirable story of “The
Good Aunt,” the following passage occurs: “My dearest Aunt,” cried he
[Charles], stopping her hand, as she was giving her diamond ear-rings to
Mr. Carat—“stay, my dearest aunt, one instant, till I have seen whether
this is a good day for selling diamonds.”

“O, my dear young gentleman, no day in the Jewish calendar more proper
for de purchase,” said the Jew.

“For the purchase! yes,” said Charles, “but for the sale?”

“My love,” said his aunt, “surely you are not so foolish as to think
there are lucky and unlucky days.”

“No, I don’t mean anything about lucky and unlucky days,” said Charles,
running up to consult the barometer; “but what I mean is not foolish
indeed; in some book I’ve read that the dealers in diamonds buy them
when the air is light, and sell them when it is heavy, if they can,
because their scales are so nice that they vary with the change in the

Now, as the metallic weights are of greater specific gravity than the
diamonds, the interests of the dealers—so far as they are affected by
change of atmosphere—must be to buy when the air is _heavy_ and sell
when it is _light_. An increase of density in the air would, of course,
reduce the gravity of both diamonds and weights, but not equally: the
diamonds, being the more bulky, would lose gravity more than the weights,
and consequently would weigh less. If it were possible that the air
should increase in density till it became as heavy, bulk for bulk, as the
diamonds, they would float therein, or, in other words, weigh nothing at

I well remember when, as a boy, I first read this admirable story, how
much I was puzzled by the mistake in question.

An error, occasionally met with in novels, is as follows. A wonderful
marksman has to exhibit his powers, which he does thus:—He throws into
the air two birds—or perhaps inanimate objects—as two apples; then,
_waiting till both are in a line with himself_, sends his arrow or bullet
through both. A slight consideration will show that, in a vast majority
of cases, no amount of waiting would suffice.

Another prevailing error is, that a person simply standing by the side of
a pool can see his own reflection from the surface—Narcissus must have
found some support which enabled him to lean over the fountain.

But it is in books especially intended to teach elementary science that
such errors are most to be regretted.

A few years since I purchased for some of my grandchildren the eighth
edition of “The Seasons,” by Mrs. Marcet. It is an admirable work,
highly interesting and useful; but before placing it in the hands of my
grandchildren, I thought it necessary to read it myself—a very pleasing
task, by-the-by—and to correct any errors I might find. As examples, I
may mention that in Volume I. snow is described as frozen rain; that
in Volume IV. _both_ stones in a flour-mill are said to revolve; and
that the description in the same volume of a marine steam engine is very

Again, few books are better calculated to interest boys than Dr. Parris’s
“Philosophy in Sport,” but when, in the year 1829, I bought a copy for
the School-Library at Bruce Castle, I found it necessary, before placing
it there, to make numerous corrections to which I drew the attention
of the author, who, in a letter dated March 18th, 1829, still in my
possession, thanks me for my communication, and admits some of the
errors, though not all.

As a specimen of the admitted errors, I give the following:—“Mr. Seymour
now informed his young pupils that he had an experiment to exhibit,
which would further illustrate, in a very pleasing manner, the truth of
the doctrine of _vis inertiæ_. He accordingly inverted a wine-glass,
and placed a shilling on its foot; and having pushed it suddenly along
the table, _the coin flew off towards the operator, or in a direction
opposite to that in which the glass was moving_.”[369]

My correction is as follows: “The coin would fall nearly in a
perpendicular direction, but inclined a little _towards_ the direction in
which the glass was moving, owing to the friction between the glass and

As a specimen of the non-admitted errors, I give the following: “He
had ignorantly fired a quantity of oxygen and hydrogen gases in a tin
vessel; the consequence of the combustion was the immediate formation of
a _vacuum_; and what happened? Why, the pressure of the external air,
not being any longer balanced by elastic matter in the interior of the
apparatus, crushed it with violence, as any other enormous weight might
have done; and so ended the accident, which report magnified into a most
awful catastrophe.”[370]

My correction is as follows: “The first effect of the combustion was to
_expand_ the air in the vessel, and this _expansion_ it was that caused
the accident.”

On which the author, after quoting my correction, replies, “Now you will
allow me to say that here you have fallen into an error; I am perfectly
correct in saying that the accident arose from the external pressure
of the atmosphere; for remember that the vessel contained a mixture of
oxygen and hydrogen gases, which, by combustion, immediately combined
and formed water, leaving an almost perfect vacuum in the interior.”

If any one entertain a doubt as to which of us is correct, I would
suggest his filling a small bladder with the proper mixture of oxygen and
hydrogen, and exploding it by electrical means; as I did nearly sixty
years ago. The bladder will be destroyed; but, according to Dr. Parris’s
view, it should simply collapse.

But even men of unquestionable scientific knowledge are not always
correct. The late Professor Phillips, in his able and interesting
Address as President of the British Association in 1865, after noticing
Foucault’s recent admeasurement of the velocity of light, proceeded as
follows:—“By this experiment the velocity of light appears to be less,
sensibly less, than was previously admitted; and this conclusion is of
the highest interest. For, as by assuming too long a radius for the orbit
of Jupiter, the calculated rate of light-movement was too great; so now,
by employing the more exact rate and the same measures of time, we can
correct the estimated distance of Jupiter and all the other planets from
the Sun.”[371]

Professor Phillips’s great forte was geology, not astronomy. To any one
familiar with the means by which Römer determined the velocity of light,
it is unnecessary to point out that, although his observations were
made on the satellites of Jupiter, the radius of Jupiter’s orbit has
nothing to do with the problem. The only material facts are, first, the
_difference_ between the maximum and minimum distance of Jupiter from the
earth,—that is to say (disregarding eccentricity) the diameter of the
earth’s orbit; and, secondly, the effect which this varying distance has
on the times at which the eclipses apparently take place. This effect
Römer found to extend to about 16 minutes—and he thence concluded that
light occupied 16 minutes in travelling across the earth’s orbit.

With the view of rendering the above intelligible to those not familiar
with the subject, I offer the following illustration:—Suppose it to be
known that about a certain hour a gun will be fired at a remote spot,
the direction of which, but not the distance, is known, and that two
persons (A. and B.) arrange to avail themselves of the opportunity for
ascertaining, approximately, the velocity of sound; then, each being
furnished with a good watch marking seconds, A. places himself at a
certain spot, and B. at a known distance—say a mile—from A., and in a
direction opposite to that of the gun, so that B.’s distance from the gun
shall be a mile greater than A.’s—the actual distance in either case is

Each now records the exact moment at which he hears the report; and if
the gun be fired repeatedly, several such records are made, in order to
give a more accurate result.

A. and B. then meet and compare notes. They, of course, find that A.’s
time is in each instance earlier than B.’s. The average of the several
differences would be about 4¾ seconds—showing that sound travels a mile
in that time.[372]

The mode of procedure here described is, of course, not that actually
adopted for determining the velocity of sound, but it is a practicable
mode, and is selected because it is analogous to that adopted by Römer
for determining the velocity of light.

A copy of Professor Phillips’s Address was sent to me immediately after
its delivery, and, on my detecting the error, I endeavoured to induce a
friend of his, deservedly eminent as a practical astronomer, to draw the
Professor’s attention thereto, with a view to its correction before the
publication of the permanent report of the Society’s proceedings; but,
unfortunately, the attempt did not succeed.

In another similar case, however, as appears by the following
correspondence between the Astronomer Royal and myself, I was more

                                                   “Hampstead, N.W.
                                                “1868—June 17.[373]

    “MY DEAR SIR,—Pray accept my thanks for the copy of your
    Report. It came while I was at Brighton; but, since my return
    home, I have read it with great interest. I felt it a great
    privation not to be able to attend the Visitation.

    “Will you allow me to request your attention to what appear
    to me to be serious errors in the recent annual Address of
    the President of the Astronomical Society? They will be found
    in the last paragraph of page 119 of the ‘Monthly Notices’
    for February. To save you trouble, I have extracted the part
    in question, and have underlined the words which I think
    erroneous. ‘At the present time the Earth is about three
    millions of miles nearer to the Sun in our northerly winter
    than in our summer; our coldest month is about 60° Fh. colder
    than our hottest, and our winter lasts for about eight days
    _longer_ than our summer. M. Leverrier has calculated that
    200,000 years ago the Earth approached the Sun by upwards of
    ten millions of miles nearer in winter than in summer: the
    winters were then nearly a month _longer_ than the summers, and
    in the latitude of London there was a difference of about 112°
    Fh. between the hottest and the coldest periods of the year.’

    “If you find that I am right, perhaps you will have the
    kindness to draw Mr. Pritchard’s attention to the errors, with
    a view to their correction before the Address is printed in
    the ‘Transactions.’ I would write to Mr. Pritchard myself, but
    that, as I could not speak with authority, I might give offence.

    “I have watched the subsequent monthly numbers in the
    expectation of finding a correction, but none has appeared.

                        “Faithfully yours,

                                                     “ROWLAND HILL.

    “The Astronomer Royal, &c., &c., &c.”

The Astronomer Royal promptly replied as follows:—

                        “Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London, S.E.
                                                     “1868—June 18.

    “MY DEAR SIR,—I will duly bring before Mr. Pritchard the
    substance of your note of yesterday.

    “The two clauses which you have cited are, on the face of them,
    erroneous; and in the first the fault clearly is in the word
    _longer_. In the second, the fault may be in the word _nearer_.
    For, during the period through which the great eccentricity
    prevails, the semi-revolution in the precession of the
    equinoxes may have reversed the seasons.

    “It would seem that Mr. Pritchard has had in view the table in
    ‘Lyell’s Principles of Geology,’ Vol. I., p. 293. In the notes
    continued on p. 294, the references are to the case of winter
    in aphelion.

    “The subject is a thorny one, but well worth your attention.

               “I am, my dear Sir, yours very truly,

                                                        “G. B. AIRY

    “Sir Rowland Hill, K.C.B., &c., &c., &c.”

I am not aware how the passage in question stands in the Society’s

The following narrative seems to show that in a progressive science like
Astronomy even the highest authority is not infallible.

Some sixty years ago, my attention having been accidentally drawn to a
tide-mill for grinding corn, I began to consider what was the source of
the power employed, and came to the conclusion that it was the momentum
of the earth’s revolution on its axis. The next question I asked myself
was—could such power be diverted, in however slight a degree, without
drawing, as it were, on the stock? Further consideration showed me that
the draught required for grinding the corn was trifling in comparison
with that employed in grinding the pebbles on every seashore upon the
earth’s surface; and, consequently, that the drain on the earth’s
momentum might suffice in the course of ages to effect an appreciable
retardation in the earth’s diurnal revolution.

I now, as usual in case of difficulty, applied to my father. He could
detect no fault in my reasoning, but informed me that Laplace had
demonstrated in his great work (“_La Mécanique Céleste_”) that the time
occupied in the earth’s diurnal revolution is absolutely invariable. Of
course both my father and I accepted the authority as unquestionable; but
I never could fully satisfy my mind on the subject, and for the greater
part of my life it was a standing puzzle.

It may be stated briefly that Laplace’s demonstration appears to
have rested mainly on the fact that his Lunar Tables, if employed in
calculating backwards certain eclipses of the Sun which happened about
2,000 years ago, give results agreeing so nearly with the ancient records
as altogether to exclude the possibility of any appreciable increase in
the length of the sidereal day during that long period.

But in the year 1866 Professor Adams (really the first discoverer of
the planet Neptune) received the Gold Medal of the Astronomical Society
for, among other recent claims, the discovery of an error in the data
on which Laplace constructed his Lunar Tables which vitiates the above

The details of this important discovery—and the co-operation therein of
M. Delaunay—were fully and ably stated by Mr. Warren De La Rue, then
President of the Society, on the presentation of the Medal.[375] And the
position of the question two years later is concisely stated as follows
by the Rev. Charles Pritchard, in an Addendum to his address as President
in 1868:—“_At present_, then, the case stands thus,—the Lunar Tables,
if calculated on the principles of gravitation alone, as expounded by
Messrs. Adams and Delaunay, and as confirmed by other mathematicians,
will not exactly represent the moon’s true place at intervals separated
by 2,000 years, provided the length of the day is assumed to be uniform
and unaltered during the whole of the intervening period. There are
grounds, however, for at least suspecting that, owing to the effects
of tidal action, the diurnal rotation is, and has been, in a state of
extremely minute retardation; but the mathematical difficulties of the
case, owing greatly to the interposition of terrestrial continents,
are so great that no definite quantitative results have hitherto been
attainable. The solution of the difficulty is one of those questions
which are reserved for the Astronomy of the future.”[376]

I need not say that this confirmation of the truth of my early conjecture
proved highly gratifying. I have only to add that the increase during
the last 2,000 years in the length of the sidereal day is generally
estimated at about the eightieth part of a second; but the estimate has,
I apprehend, no better foundation than this—namely, that since the recent
correction in the Lunar Tables an assumed increase to the extent in
question has become necessary in order to make the backward calculation
of the ancient eclipses agree with the records as to time.

I have found it very difficult at my age (little less than fourscore),
and with my mental powers seriously impaired, to deal, however
imperfectly, with a subject so abstruse as that now under consideration;
and I think it by no means improbable that there may be some error in my
statement of facts or in my argument thereon.

All that I can say is that I have done my best to render intelligible to
ordinary readers an important advance in modern Astronomy—interesting in
itself, irrespective of its remote and accidental connection with my own

The following very gratifying letter from the Astronomer Royal may
perhaps be appropriately given here. It is in reply to my congratulations
when, in recognition of his great public services, he was made a K.C.B.:—

                     “Flamsteed House, Greenwich Park, London, S.E.
                                                     “1872—June 22.

    “MY DEAR SIR,—I could scarcely have had a more gratifying
    letter in reference to the public compliment just paid to me
    from any one than that from yourself. I can truly say that it
    has been my secret pride to do what can be done by a person
    in my position for public service; and whose recognition of
    this can be more grateful than that of one who—by efforts in a
    similar strain, but on an infinitely larger scale—has almost
    changed the face of the civilized world?

    “My wife (I am hesitating between two titles, not knowing
    which is at the present moment correct, but being quite sure
    of that which I have written) begs me to convey to you her
    acknowledgment of your kind message.

               “I am, my dear Sir, very truly yours,

                                                      “G. B. AIRY.”


[See p. 71.]


“In presenting to the public ‘The Laws and Regulations of the Society
for Literary and Scientific Improvement,’ its members feel it their duty
briefly to state the motives which influenced them in the formation of
such an establishment, and to explain their reasons for occasionally
deviating in the construction of their Laws from the systems which are
generally adopted for the governance of similar bodies.

“The experience of almost every one who has passed the time usually
devoted to education, but who still feels desirous of improvement, must
have convinced him of the difficulty of regularly devoting his leisure
hours to the object he has in view, from the want of constantly acting
motives, and the absence of regulations which can enforce the observance
of stated times. However strong the resolutions he has made, and whatever
may be his conviction of the necessity of adhering to them, trivial
engagements which might easily be avoided, will furnish him, from time to
time, with excuses to himself for his neglect of study: thus may he spend
year after year, constantly wishing for improvement, but as constantly
neglecting the means of it, and old age may come upon him before he has
accomplished the object of his desires; then will he look back with
regret on the many opportunities he has lost, and acknowledge in despair
that the time is gone by.

“Under these impressions, a few individuals who are desirous of extending
their literary and scientific knowledge, have endeavoured to establish a
society for that purpose; convinced that by so doing they have provided
most powerful motives for mental improvement.

“It has been thought highly desirable, that every member of the society
should be, as nearly as possible, upon an equality, that all may feel
alike interested in the success of the whole. In order to accomplish this
important object, every regular auditor is expected, according to the
rules of the society, to deliver a lecture in his turn. Thus, instead of
the society being divided into two parties, one consisting of lecturers,
the other of critics, every member feels himself called upon to listen to
the others with candour and attention, as he is aware that the time will
come when he shall require the same consideration from them. It will be
observed also, on a perusal of the laws, that each lecture is followed
by a discussion. Thus care is insured on the part of the lecturer that
he shall not attempt a subject which he has not well studied; and an
opportunity is given to every member to obtain an explanation of anything
advanced, which he may not have understood, or to express his opinions on
the questions that may arise, and, by these means, correct or confirm his
own ideas. But the principal advantage of a discussion is, that it calls
forth the individual exertion of every member, by inviting each to take a
part in the general instruction, and thus affording constant inducements
to private reading and study.

“In a town so populous as Birmingham, and which for superiority in art is
dependent on the discoveries of science, it cannot be doubted that many
individuals may be found who are desirous of intellectual advancement.
For such persons ‘The Society for Literary and Scientific Improvement’
was established; and they are respectfully and earnestly invited to lend
their assistance towards the promotion of its objects. The society cannot
promise that they shall meet with any considerable talent or learning
among its members; but in mixing with their equals, with young men of
similar tastes and similar pursuits, they may hope to find in a generous
emulation most powerful motives for application and perseverance.

“The details of management of a society like this, may, on a superficial
view, appear of little importance; those, however, who have had
opportunities of closer examination, will, it is presumed, agree with
the members of this Institution, in considering an attention to such
particulars as necessary, not only to the well-being, but to the
permanent existence of an association, for whatever purpose it may be

“With views like these, the ‘Society for Literary and Scientific
Improvement’ have been anxious to establish a mode of electing the
Committee, that should secure (as nearly as possible), an accurate
representation of the whole body; not only because it appeared reasonable
that the members would feel interested in the welfare of the Institution,
in proportion as the arrangements and regulations met their own views and
wishes, but because experience proves that, owing to imperfect methods of
choosing those who are to direct the affairs of a society, the whole sway
sometimes gets into the hands of a small party, and is exercised, perhaps
unconsciously, in a way that renders many persons indifferent, and
alienates others, until all becomes listlessness, decay, and dissolution.

“Men of worth and talent, of every denomination in religion and
politics, will be welcome members of the society; and to prevent any
unpleasant collision of opinions, it has been thought advisable to
exclude altogether the discussion of subjects which have reference to
peculiarities in religious belief, or to the political speculations of
the day; the important questions which respect the wealth of nations,
however, as they have no connexion with passing politics, are considered
as among the proper objects for the society’s attention.

“Such gentlemen as may feel desirous of improving their minds by engaging
in establishments of a nature similar to this, but who, on account of
their residing at a distance from any large town, have not hitherto
had the opportunity, will, it is hoped, be induced by the regulations
respecting corresponding members, to join the society; and they may
depend upon meeting with every attention, whenever the Committee shall be
favoured with their communications.”


[See p. 93.]


The mode of extracting the roots of _exact cubes_ which I taught the
boys, and which was probably that adopted by Zerah Colbourn, will be
best shown by an example. Suppose the question to be, What is the cube
root of 596,947,688? This looks like a formidable array of figures, and
a schoolboy, resorting to the usual mode of extracting the root, would
fill his slate with figures, and perhaps occupy an hour in the process.
Zerah Colbourn or my class would have solved the question in a minute,
and without making any figures at all. My class would have proceeded as
follows: They would first fix in their memories the number of millions
(596) and the last figure of the cube (8), disregarding all other
figures. Then, knowing the cubes of all numbers from 1 to 12 inclusive,
they would at once see that the first or left-hand figure of the root
must be 8; and deducting the cube of 8 (512) from 596, they would obtain
a remainder of 84. This they would compare with the difference between
the cube of 8 (512) and the cube of 9 (729), that is to say, with 217;
and seeing that it was nearly four-tenths of such difference, they would
conclude that the second figure of the root was 4. The third or last
figure of the root would require no calculation, the terminal figure of
an _exact_ cube always indicating the terminal figure of its root—thus
8 gives 2. The cube root, therefore, is 842. In this process there is
some risk of error as regards the second figure of the root, especially
when the third figure is large; but with practice an expert calculator
is able to pay due regard to that and certain other qualifications which
I could not explain without making this note unduly long. As already
stated, Zerah Colbourn did occasionally blunder in the second figure; and
this circumstance assisted me in discovering the above process, which I
have little doubt is the one he followed. If, instead of an exact cube,
another number of nine figures be taken, the determination of the third
figure of the root, instead of being the easiest, becomes by far the most
difficult part of the calculation.

[This part of the explanation was written by Sir Rowland Hill, as a note
to the Prefatory Memoir, before the year 1871. What follows was added in

Rule for extracting the roots of imperfect cubes divisible into three

1. Find first and second figures as described above.

2. Deduct cube of first figure from the first period (of the number whose
root is to be extracted), modified, if necessary, as hereafter described.

3. Then multiply the number (expressed by both figures) by each figure in
succession, and by 3.

4. Deduct the product (or the significant figures thereof—see example),
from the remainder obtained as above. (See 2).

5. Divide the remainder _now_ obtained by the square of the number
expressed by both figures (see 3), multiplied by 3—dropping insignificant
figures (see example),—and the quotient will be the last figure (or 3rd
figure) of the root.

I can confidently affirm from experience that there is nothing in the
above calculations too difficult for those who, possessing a natural
aptitude, are thoroughly well practised in mental arithmetic. I doubt,
however, whether the mode just described be exactly that which we
followed; our actual mode, looking at the results as described above
(which is in exact accordance with my Journal), must, I think, have been
more facile; but as it is fully fifty years since I gave any thought to
the subject, and as, in the eightieth year of my age, I find my brain
unequal to further investigation, I must be contented with the result at
which I have arrived.

It must be remarked, however, that cases will arise when some
modification of the process will be necessary. As, for instance, when
the first period of the cube is comparatively light, it may be necessary
to include therein one or more figures of the second period treated as
decimals; indeed, if the first period consist of a single figure, it
will be better to incorporate it with the second period, and treat both
together as one period,[377] relative magnitude in the first period
dealt with being important as a means of securing accuracy in the last
figure of the root. But expert calculators soon learn to adopt necessary
modifications, and by the “give-and-take” process to bring out the
correct result. Indeed, I find it recorded in my Journal that “small
errors will sometimes arise which, under unfavourable circumstances,
will occasionally amount to a unit.” These observations it must be
understood to apply only to the extraction of the roots of imperfect
cubes, which Zerah Colbourn invariably refused to attempt. When the cube
is perfect, the last figure of the root, as shown in the text, requires
no calculation at all.


    What is the cube root of 596,947,687?

    [NOTE.—This is the number treated above, except that in the
    unit’s place 7 is substituted for 8, in order to render the
    number an imperfect cube; so slight a change, however—though
    rendering it necessary to _calculate_ the last figure of the
    root,—will still leave the root as before.]

    Following the rule, we find the first and second figures of the
    root in the manner described above. They are 8 and 4.

    We next calculate the third or last figure of the root.

    As the first figure of the second period of the cube is so
    large, it will be unsafe to disregard it. Call the first
    period, therefore, 596·9; all other figures may be neglected.

                                                     596·9 mill.

    (2)                                         8³ = 512    ”
                                                      84·9  ”

    (3) deduct 84 x 8 x 4 x 3 = (roughly)             80·6  ”
    (5) divide by 84² x 3 = (88 x 80 x 3)[378] = 2·1   4·3

    Quotient—2, which is the third or last figure of the root.

    [NOTE.—I have not encumbered the above figures with the ciphers
    which should accompany them, as, to the expert calculator, this
    will be needless.]

    The root, therefore, is 842.

It is stated in the text that my pupils could extract the cube roots
of numbers ranging as high as 2,000,000,000. In the ordinary mode this
number would be divided, as above, into four periods; but my pupils
treated the 2,000 as one period, the approximate root of which is of
course 12, the cube of 12 being 1,728.


[See p. 202.]


                                                Bruce Castle, Tottenham,
                                                         June 7th, 1832.

_To the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society._

GENTLEMEN,—In troubling you with the following sketch of an improvement
in astronomical clocks, I have a two-fold object. First, to obtain the
loan of the necessary instruments, should you consider the plan worth
prosecuting; and, secondly, to avail myself of the suggestions of such
members of the Society as are more experienced than myself in the minute
details of practical astronomy. The objects of the proposed improvement
are: To supply an apparatus capable of measuring time to a small fraction
of a second, and to make the determination of the exact time a matter
of calm and deliberate inquiry, and thus to avoid the errors which must
frequently arise from the hurry attending the present method.

In order to accomplish these objects, I propose to make use of the
principle of the Vernier, by suspending in front of the clock an
additional pendulum somewhat shorter than that of the clock, and so
placed that the coincidence of the two when vertical may be determined by
means similar to those used by Captain Kater; this additional or Vernier
pendulum to be put in motion at the instant of observation by means of
a trigger under the command of the observer at the telescope, and its
vibrations reckoned till a coincidence takes place between it and the
clock pendulum. This pendulum may have a maintaining power and an index
to save the trouble of counting. When at rest, the Vernier pendulum must
of course be raised to the extent of its oscillation.

The results of experiments commenced with very imperfect instruments
about two years and a-half ago, and continued at intervals to the present
time, appear to be as follows:—

When a Vernier pendulum, vibrating once in ·9 second, or 10 times in 9
seconds, is employed, its coincidences with the seconds pendulum of the
clock may be determined to a single vibration with the greatest ease by
the unassisted eye, and thus, of course, tenths of a second are readily

When a Vernier pendulum vibrating once in ·99 second, or 100 times in 99
seconds, is employed, its coincidences with the seconds pendulum of the
clock may also be determined to a single vibration, but not without the
aid of a telescope. By these means hundredths of a second are measured
without much difficulty.

In order to avoid the inconvenience of having to suspend sometimes one
pendulum and sometimes the other, and also to escape the loss of time
which, if the hundredths pendulum were constantly used, would arise when
the observer wished to estimate tenths of a second only, I propose to
adopt the following arrangement:—To employ a single Vernier pendulum of
such a length as to vibrate once in 8·99 second, or a thousand times in
899 seconds. This pendulum differs so slightly from the tenths pendulum
(making ten vibrations in 8·99 seconds, instead of 9 seconds), that
for estimating tenths of a second it is practically the same, while
it affords the means of measuring hundredths of a second also. Its
operation will be best understood by an example:—Suppose the interval to
be measured by means of the Vernier to be ·24 second. At the second and
third vibrations of the Vernier pendulum after its release there would be
approximate coincidences between it and the clock pendulum, showing the
fraction of time to be between two-tenths and three-tenths of a second.
The coincidence at the second vibration would, however, be somewhat
nearer than that at the third. At the twelfth vibration there would be
another approximate coincidence somewhat closer than the first. At the
twenty-second vibration there would be a yet closer coincidence. At the
thirty-second one closer still, and at the forty-second vibration the
coincidence would be the most accurate of the series. Thus it appears
that the tenths of a second may be known by counting single vibrations
of the Vernier pendulum till a coincidence of some kind occurs, and that
the hundredths of a second may be determined by counting the decades of
vibrations, or all the coincidences after the first, until the most exact
coincidence arises.

By the use of the Vernier pendulum, when connected with an index, all
chance of error in reading the clock will, it is conceived, be avoided.
Having touched the trigger at the moment of observation, the observer
has, as it were, registered the time, and he may examine the clock at his
leisure, for it is manifest that a comparison of the index of the Vernier
pendulum with that of the clock will at any time determine the moment
of observation. It will also be seen that, should the observer omit to
notice the first coincidence of the pendulums, no inconvenience except
delay will arise, because the same coincidences will occur in a regular
series as long as the pendulums continue in motion.

There are a few provisions necessary for extreme accuracy which, in this
hasty sketch, it would be out of place to notice. I will just mention,
however, that the apparatus contains within itself the means of measuring
what may be called _the mean error of the observer_, or the average
interval which, as regards the particular individual, elapses between the
instant of observation and the release of the Vernier pendulum.

To subject the plan which I have here attempted hastily to describe to a
rigid trial will require instruments of much greater accuracy than those
which I can command, and if the Society possess a good clock not now in
use, I shall feel extremely obliged if I can obtain the loan of it. An
additional pendulum the requisite length, is not, I presume, to be found
among the Society’s instruments.

I have the honour to be, Gentlemen,

                         Your obedient servant,

                                                            ROWLAND HILL.


[See p. 205.]


Two (or more) principal offices to be established in convenient places
for business—say, _one near the Bank, and one near the Regent Circus,
Piccadilly_; these offices to communicate with each other by means of

_Coaches and omnibuses to radiate from these offices to all parts of the
environs of London._

A country office to be established at the extremity of each route.

The town to be divided into small districts, and the country into
larger, each with a house for the receipt and distribution of _parcels_.
(Shopkeepers who have goods to distribute in the neighbourhood may
undertake this). These stations to be, as far as practicable, on the
routes of the coaches.

The principal and the country offices to be receiving and distributing
houses, each for its own district.

Each coach in coming from the country to collect parcels from the
stations on its route, bringing them to its principal office. On going
out, to carry parcels for distribution from the principal office to the
same stations. Thus every parcel will pass through one or other of the
principal offices. (Exceptions can be made, if desirable, with respect
to parcels which would otherwise pass twice over the ground, viz., those
received at stations between the principal office and the place of their
destination; but the first arrangement would be by far the most simple).

Stations not on a coach route must transfer parcels to the nearest
stations which are on a route, and receive parcels from the same. [Qy. A
small extra charge].

Places to be booked at any station for any coach; a memorandum being
transmitted to the principal office concerned, with the parcels.

In some cases the passengers themselves may be so transmitted.

The omnibuses passing between the principal offices to carry passengers
and parcels from each for the other. Thus every coach will practically
start from both principal offices.

Coaches to depart from each principal office all at the same time. Say,
for all principal places, once every hour, from —— in the morning till ——
at night.

Coaches to arrive at each principal office all at the same time, say a
few minutes before the time of departure, the interval being sufficient
to transfer passengers and parcels.

The periods of departure and arrival at one office to differ by
half-an-hour from the corresponding periods at the other, so as to allow
just time enough (calculated at half-an-hour), for a transfer by the
omnibuses from one office to the other. Thus the coaches from one office
will start at the beginning and from the other in the middle of each hour.

Horses to be kept and changed at the country offices, or at stations
about the middle of each route. The latter arrangement will make the
stage shorter, and will bring the horse stations more immediately under
central revision. It will also require a less number of horse stations,
as in many cases one station will serve for two or more roads branching
out from each other. (At least one pair of horses must be kept at the
extreme station).

Supernumerary coaches and horses to be kept at the central offices for
use on any road on which there may be a temporary demand.

Each coachman to pay a certain rent, and with certain deductions to
receive the payments for passengers and parcels, but to have no control
as to the sum to be charged, the hour of starting, &c.

The masters of the stations to be remunerated by a certain sum (to be
paid by the coachman) for each passenger booked, and for each parcel
received or distributed.

Contracts to be made in all possible cases. Thus the coachmaker may
supply coaches at —— each per annum, or at —— per mile travelled.

The keepers of the horse stations may contract each for the supply of
horses required at his station at —— per mile.

In disposing of the shares, a preference to be given to those who would
make frequent use of the coaches, especially to those who travel to
London daily, as their influence would materially promote the interests
of the concern.

A personal right to go to or from town daily, by the same coach, to be
sold for a period, say a week, at a considerably reduced rate, or a month
at a still lower rate.

Proprietors to be entitled to similar privileges at five per cent. less
than others.

Transferable tickets, giving the holder a right to travel by any coach in
either direction on a particular road, to be sold (say twenty at a time)
at a slightly reduced rate.

All the carriages to be painted alike, and so as readily to distinguish
them from those not belonging to the Company.

An establishment on an extensive scale, such as is described in the
foregoing sketch, would possess many decided advantages over the little
independent establishments now existing. It would be more economically
managed; the necessary publicity would be more easily given to its
arrangements; the responsibility of the servants would be more efficient;
and the extent and permanence of the undertaking would justify the most
watchful attention to exact punctuality, to a proper speed, to the safety
and comfort of the passengers, and, in short, to all circumstances
conducive to a high reputation with the public.

_Economy._—This would manifestly result from the great division of
labour, and the wholesale demand for every article of expenditure. Also
from the power of transferring coaches from any road on which there was
less to one on which there was more travelling than usual.

The system of contracts and sub-contracts could not be introduced with
advantage into a small concern.

_Publicity._—The readiness with which the arrangements could be described
would tend greatly to their publicity. Thus, it would be easily said and
easily remembered, that from a certain office coaches depart every hour,
and from a certain other office at the half-hour, to all the principal
places within the limits of the threepenny post. This statement, with a
list of the places, fares, &c., would be placarded at every station, and
on every coach and omnibus.

_Responsibility._—An active and intelligent superintendent, well
acquainted with the means of holding others to responsibility, should
devote his whole time to the undertaking, visiting the various stations
periodically to see that all arrangements are observed, to settle the
accounts, &c.

He should require accurate reports to be made, showing at all times the
actual state of affairs, and the improvement or deterioration in each
department The most exact rules should be laid down and enforced for the
conduct of each class of servants. These rules should be placarded in the
coaches, at the stations, &c.

Enquiries as to the conduct of all concerned should be made frequently of
the proprietors who use the coaches daily, and every possible attention
paid to the well-founded complaints of passengers generally. A till might
be placed in each carriage, with an inscription requesting passengers
having cause to complain to put a statement of such complaint, with _name
and address_, into the till, which should be opened at the central office
at least once in each day.

_Punctuality and Speed._—The proper time of starting and that of passing
each station should be inscribed conspicuously on each coach, as well as
at each station. The actual time kept should be recorded at each extreme
station and at the horse station, and fines levied on the coachman for
deviation beyond certain limits. The allowance of time for the journey
should be such as to require the coachman to drive steadily but rapidly,
with no stoppage beyond a very short one (say a minute) at each station,
and a little more for taking up and putting down passengers on the road.

The coach should never wait nor turn out of the direct road between the
extreme stations. To save time, the passengers, in the omnibuses at
least, should be requested to pay as they go on. At the inferior stations
a signal might be established to show whether the coach need stop or not.

_Safety of Passengers._—Coaches of the safest construction, steady
horses, and temperate coachmen, only should be employed; and whenever
an accident occurs from whatever cause, a heavy fine should be levied
on the coachman, allowing him the right to recover the whole or part of
the penalty of the coach-contractor or horse-contractor, according to
circumstances. No galloping should be allowed.

The coach-contractor should be required to station a man at each central
office to examine each coach every time it comes in.

_Comfort of Passengers._—Some protection from wet and cold to be provided
for the outside passengers. Means of ascending and descending to be
improved. A convenient room at each station for those waiting. The
stations should _not_ be taverns; but coffee and some other refreshments
may be provided—there being no obligation, however, to call for anything.
The room should contain a map of London, directory, &c.

The arrangements of the Company would be capable of gradual and
almost indefinite extension. Thus they might take in towns more and
more distant, or they might comprehend hackney-coaches, cabriolets,
and omnibuses to all parts of London. The machinery required for the
distribution of parcels might be applied to that of the periodic
publications; and a contract might be entered into, advantageous to the
public as well as to the Company, for the collection, carriage, and
distribution of the twopenny and threepenny post letters.

This distribution might easily take place _each hour_, the letters being
carried by the coaches. No guards would be required, as the bags might be
put into a boot, of which keys should be kept at the post-offices only.


[See p. 230.]

[The following letter to _The Scotsman_ was written by Mr. John Forster,
late Member for Berwick. In a marginal note Sir R. Hill has written, “I
vouch for its accuracy.”]


                                        “London, February 12, 1872.

    “SIR,—In your interesting article on the ‘Walter Press’ it was
    stated that the idea of a Rotatory Machine printing newspapers
    on a continuous sheet of paper was not novel; that Sir Rowland
    Hill had worked at it many years before, as had other persons
    in America. As to most of your readers this mention of a
    benefactor of theirs in another way as a mechanical inventor
    was no doubt something new and curious, it may be interesting
    to them to learn what Sir Rowland Hill’s share of merit in
    this matter was. I send with this a copy of the specification
    of his patent for letter-press printing machines, taken out in
    1835 (No. 6762, printed by the Patent Office in 1857), and an
    account of it given in the ‘Repertory of Patent Inventions,’
    No. 35. By these it will be seen that the most important
    achievements of modern printing were effected by Sir Rowland
    Hill thirty-seven years ago. His machine was to print either
    with stereotype-plates or movable type (the difficulty of
    fastening the last securely to cylinders revolving at great
    speed was met by special contrivances); was itself to keep the
    printing surfaces inked; to print a continuous roll of paper,
    of any length, and both sides, while passing once through the
    apparatus; to cut up the roll into sheets; and means were
    contrived of performing those operations on two rolls at once,
    so that at one revolution of the printing cylinders two copies
    could be struck off. Such a machine was actually constructed
    (at an expense of about £2,000), and was frequently shown at
    work at No. 44, Chancery Lane, as many persons must remember.
    Though driven by hand, it could produce at the rate of seven or
    eight thousand impressions in an hour. One great difficulty of
    most printing machines is that of securing perfect _register_
    (the exact coincidence of the printing on opposite sides of the
    paper). This was anticipated and met by the patent. The one
    thing the inventor failed to do was to overcome the resistance
    the collectors of the stamp duty presented to this printing on
    a continuous roll, and to the affixing of the stamps to the
    newspapers at the proper intervals during their passage through
    the machine. Many years afterwards they allowed this to be done
    by machinery contrived by Mr. Edwin Hill (who had assisted his
    brother in the preparation of the printing machine), which was
    affixed to the presses of the _Times_ and other papers, and
    which itself registered, for the security of the revenue, the
    number of impressions made. In 1835, the task of satisfying
    the Treasury that this could be done with safety to it was too
    formidable to be overcome,—at least it was not overcome. Sir
    Rowland Hill’s attention was soon afterwards absorbed by his
    plans of postal reform; and no one can regret this, seeing
    what work he did in the Post Office, which probably no one
    but himself could have done so well; while if the fourteen
    years of his patent passed unprofitably to the inventor, other
    hands have carried to extraordinary perfection the scheme of
    a printing machine. Of course the Americans and the ‘Walter
    Press’ have greatly advanced on ‘Hill’s Machine’ of 1835;
    especially by the preparation of stereotype plates for this
    particular service. In his specification, Sir Rowland Hill made
    due mention of his predecessors, recording that an imitation of
    the process of printing calico by cylinders revolving rapidly
    was proposed for letter-press printing as early as 1790, by
    Mr. William Nicholson, and that this was applied to stereotype
    plates bent to a cylindrical surface by Mr. Edward Cowper in
    1816. But the first practical scheme of newspaper printing on
    a continuous roll of paper by revolving cylinders was produced
    and set to work by Rowland Hill in 1835.

                            “I am, &c.,

                                                             “J. F.

    “The Editor, _The Scotsman_.”

[Two years later Sir Rowland Hill wrote the following letter to the
_Journal of the Society of Arts_:]—


    “SIR,—In the interesting paper ‘On Type-printing Machinery,’ by
    the Rev. Arthur Rigg, which appeared in your _Journal_ of the
    13th inst., there are certain errors affecting myself which I
    request permission to correct.

    “It is stated that rotating cylinders and continuous rolls
    of paper were principles first introduced into type-printing
    machinery by Mr. Nicholson in 1790, and further on it is
    asserted, in reference no doubt to the printing machine which I
    invented in 1835, that I ‘revived a proposal of Nicholson’s.’

    “Now, so far from Mr. Nicholson proposing to print from types
    on continuous rolls of paper, a reference to the specification
    of his invention (A.D. 1790, No. 1,748) will show that,
    excluding his proposals for calico and wall-paper printing,
    which have nothing to do with type-printing machinery, he
    invariably speaks of printing on sheets of paper; indeed, the
    means of producing continuous rolls of paper were not invented
    till several years later. Again, it will be seen that the means
    he proposes for attaching the types to his cylinder, the real
    difficulty to be overcome, are clearly insufficient for the
    purpose; indeed, as stated in the specification of my patent
    (A.D. 1835, No. 6,762), which was drawn by the late Mr. Farey—a
    man thoroughly conversant with the subject—‘on account of
    deficiencies and imperfections in the machinery described in
    that specification [Mr. Nicholson’s] the same has never been
    practised or brought into use.’

    “Towards the close of his paper, Mr. Rigg seems to imply that
    hitherto all schemes for fixing moveable types on a cylinder
    have failed. I can only say that in my machine this difficulty
    was entirely overcome. Indeed, in a letter which appeared in
    the _Mechanics’ Magazine_ of November 12th, 1836 (when the
    subject was before the public), I was enabled to state that
    ‘in the opinion of many eminent printers who have seen my
    machine the end in view has been fully accomplished, for while
    any portion of type may be detached from the cylinder with a
    facility even greater than that with which a similar change
    can be made in an ordinary form, each letter can be so firmly
    locked in its place that there is no danger whatever of its
    being loosened by centrifugal force or by any other cause.’

    “While upon this subject, I may as well add that a comparison
    of my specification with that of the ‘Walter Press’ (A.D. 1866,
    No. 3,222) will show that, except as regards the apparatus for
    cutting and distributing the printed sheets, and excepting
    further that the ‘Walter Press’ is only adapted for printing
    from stereotype plates, while mine would not only print from
    stereotype plates, but, what was far more difficult, from
    moveable types also, the two machines are almost identical. I
    gladly admit, however, 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 of the ‘Walter Press.’

                            “I am, &c.,

                                                     “ROWLAND HILL.

    “Hampstead, February 26, 1874.”


[See p. 260.]


    _Testimonial to_ ROBERT WALLACE, Esq., _late M.P. for
    Greenock_. _The Pioneer of Postage Reform._

ROWLAND HILL, Esq., said,—Ladies and Gentlemen, the Committee for
promoting Mr. Wallace’s Testimonial having done me the honour to invite
me to take a part in this day’s proceedings, I felt bound, at whatever
inconvenience to myself, to attend and to repeat the testimony which I
have always gladly borne to the great and important aid afforded by your
late representative, my esteemed and venerable friend Mr. Wallace, in
the promotion of Penny Postage. (Applause.) With the view of enabling
you fairly to estimate the value of Mr. Wallace’s important services, it
will be necessary to take a brief review of his career as a Post Office
Reformer. I need not remind you that Mr. Wallace entered the House of
Commons as your representative in the year 1833. At this time the Post
Office was considered by the public nearly perfect. But although several
improvements had been effected under the administration of the Duke of
Richmond, probably no department of government had, during the previous
twenty years, improved so little, and yet no department had been so
free from attack and complaint. It is true that the Commissioners of
Revenue Inquiry had a short time before, with great ability, exposed
much mismanagement in the Post Office, and had recommended various
improvements (some of which were afterwards taken up by Mr. Wallace, and
some still later by myself), but these exposures and recommendations,
buried as they were in ponderous parliamentary reports, attracted little
attention from the public, who still continued