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mail almost ceases to be a public istration, should not be permitted, accommodation. It is not neces- nor even tempted, to use the postsary that the mails should outstrip office department for their own selevery possible conveyance; it is not fish purposes. And no party of polnecessary that the mail should in iticians—whether administration or every instance travel so fast that opposition--should be enabled to no express can on any emergency use the post-office as an electioneergo before it; but it is necessary ing engine, save at their own exthat the mail go so fast from one pense. Of any two systems, equal point to another that no ordinary in other respects, that which most rate of traveling, upon that route, effectually guards against all such shall exceed it. When travelers abuses, is the best. That is a base from New York arrive at New Ha- government any where, which volven daily by the steamboats, and the untarily, and unnecessarily, and permail from New York comes daily, severingly, puts any sort of temptacreeping along by land some six or tion in the way of its officials or in eight hours afterwards, the public, the way of those who have dealings whether by the fault of the govern- with it. ment or of some body else—is not We may add, here, without enaccommodated. When it took five tering into any discussion, that, on or six days for a traveler to pass be the principle just referred to, the tween New York and Boston, that entire post-office establishment of a was as fast as a letter could reason- Christian people, ought to respect ably be expected to travel. The the Christian sabbath. The governspeed of the most rapid ordinary ment cannot trifle with the religious traveling on a given route, is the ideas and sympathies of a Christian least with which the public will be people, without producing an effect satisfied. If a more rapid transmis- upon the moral sense and moral sion is attempted, it will be found habits of the people, that will cost that cheapness is sacrificed to speed, too much in the end. and the mail instead of affording The post-office system now existing equal accommodation to all the in this country, has existed without members of society, is a conveni. any essential change, ever since the ence only to those who can afford organization of the Federal governto pay high postage.
ment. At the beginning, it was nat5. Another quality, of great im- urally and wisely copied, in its most portance to a perfect system, is se- important features, from the system curity against abuses. Letters en- which then existed in Great Britain. trusted to the public mails should be It has been extended and modified inviolable; and he who writes to a from time to time; and it has been friend, should feel that though his so well administered, and its work. letter be filled even to the outer edg. ing has been on the whole so benees, no post-office clerk is likely to ficial, that there has been little dis. peep into it. The system should be position to attempt any material imso arranged as to hold every agent provement. Of late however, a new and official, effectually, to a strict re- system-new in the adoption of sevsponsibility, and to prevent as far eral important principles-has been as possible all collusion of one with introduced in Great Britain, and in another for fraudulent purposes. connection with this, the attention No temptations to petty frauds and of the American people has been deceitful tricks, should be allowed directed partially and ineffectually to exist where they can possibly be to the subject of post-office reform. avoided. Those who for the time The new system which went into being are entrusted with the admin. operation in Great Britain, on the
tenth day of January, 1840, is one scheme was presented to both hou. which must sooner or later be intro. ses of Parliament, signed by a large duced, not only into our country, but number of the business men of Lonunder every civilized government. don in every department—“mer. For reasons which will appear in the chants, bankers, insurance compasequel, we ask the attention of the nies, men of science, solicitors, pub. reader to some account of the ori. lishers, printers,” &c. About the gin of this system, of the principles same time, a memorial in behalf of on which it is constructed, and to the proposed reform was presented the inquiry how far such a system to the Lords of the treasury, by the is desirable and practicable in our Society for the Diffusion of Useful own country.
Knowledge. Ere long, the Common Of the “
penny postage” system, Council of the city of London, and as it is called, most persons in this the councils of other large towns, country know little more than the began to appear as the advocates of
It was first proposed in this reform, so obviously important 1837, by a Mr. Rowland Hill, a to every commercial or manufactuman previously unknown to the pub- ring community. lic, in a pamphlet on “post-office
In November of that year, a comreform.” The object of that pam. mittee was appointed by the House phlet was, to show that under a sys. of Commons, to examine into the tem which it described, letters not practicability of the proposed new exceeding half an ounce each in system, and particularly whether it weight, might be received in any could be adopted without diminishpart of the kingdom of Great Brit. ing the net revenue of the post-office ain, and delivered in any other part department. A parliamentary comof the kingdom, for a penny ster- mittee of inquiry is a very different ling; and that under such a sys. affair in Great Britain, from such a
great diminution of postage committee in Congress, or in one of would in the end involve no dimi. our State legislatures. There, such nution of revenue.
a committee, instead of finishing its This bold proposal immediately business in one or two evenings or excited public attention. Fortu- mornings, sits again and again, for nately for its success, a parliamen- weeks or for months—calls before tary commission was at that time it all sorts of men that can be supengaged in an extended investiga- posed to have any interest in the tion of the management of the post subject of inquiry, or any knowl. office department. The commis- edge of its details—not only hears sioners having already reported up- but records and reports their facts on various parts of the general in- and reasonings on the subject quiry with which they were charged, makes one report, and if the subcould do little more in regard to ject is not exhausted, another, and Mr. Hill's plan than to call him be. another—till in the end a mass of fore them and examine his opin- information, including both facts and ions and arguments, respecting that principles, has been collected, and branch of the subject upon which digested, and presented both to the they had not yet reported. This legislature and to the people, which however was a favorable introduc- may become the basis of wise, satistion of Mr. Hill's proposal, to the factory and stable legislation. This notice both of the Parliament and committee on the reduction of postof the public.
age sat sixty-three days; and they In May, 1837, some three months examined eighty-three witnesses, beafter the appearance of Mr. Hill's sides those who were called to give pamphlet, a petition in favor of his facts and opinions from the post-ofVol. I.
fice department and from the stamp- So much for the origin of the office.
new system. The principles on In the mean time, that this work which it is constructed, are by no might be done the more thoroughly, means summed up in the name a voluntary committee was formed which is commonly given to itby several of the most eminent mer. “penny postage.' In England it chants and bankers of the city of is found practicable, under this sysLondon, for the purpose of collecting evidence to lay before the par- Sheweth, That your petitioners earliamentary committee. The estab. nestly desire an uniform penny post, pay; lishment of such a voluntary com
able in advance, as proposed by Rowland
Hill, and recommended by the Report of mittee, was a striking indication of the Select Committee of the House of the interest taken in the enquiry by Commons. That your petitioners intreat commercial men; and the existence your Honorable House to give instant
effect to this report, &c. and operations of such a committee naturally tended to awaken a deeper Mothers and Fathers that wish to hear interest on the part of the whole from their abseat children! Friends who people. In the session of 1838,
are parted, that wish to write to each
oiher! Emigrants that do not forget this reform was urged upon Parlia
their native homes! Farmers that wish ment by more than 320 petitions, to know the best markets ! Merchants with 38,708 signatures. În 1839, and Tradesmen that wish to receive or. after the reports of the committee ders and money quickly and cheaply !
Mechanics and Laborers that wish to of inquiry had been published, in
learn where good work and bigh wages cluding all the testimony which the are to be had ! support the report of the committee had taken, the public zeal
House of Comioons with your petitions for post-office reform was shown by city, town and village, every corporation,
for an uniform penny post. Let every the presentation of 2,007 petitions,
every religious society and congregation, with 262,809 signatures, from all petition, and let every one in the kiugdom classes of society, merchants, man
sign a petition with his name or his mark. ufacturers, municipal corporations,
This is no question of party politics.
Lord Ashburton, a conservative, and scientific men, the clergy of the es- one of the richest noblemen of the coun. tablishment, ministers of the various try, spoke these impressive words before dissenting denominations, literary
the House of Commons comunitiee :and scientific societies, and associa
6. Postage is one of the worst of our taxes;
it is, in fact, taxing the conversation of tions of professional men. Such
people who live at a distance from each demonstrations of the public will, the other. The communication of letters by British government has long been persons living at a distance, is the same
as a communication by word of mouth beaccustomed to obey. The result
tween persons living in the same town." was, that Mr. Rowland Hill's
propo- Sixpence,” says Mr. Brewin," is the sal, in two years and a half after the third of a poor man's income; if a gen. publication of his pamphlet, was
tleman, who had 10001. a year, or 31. a
day, had 10 pay one third of his daily passed into an act of Parliament.*
income, a sovereign for a letter, how often
would be write letters of friendship? * To the reprint of the Report of the Let a gentleman put that to himself, and Committee on postage (referred to at the
then he will be able to see how the poor commencement of this article) is append- man cannot be able to pay sixpence for ed the following appeal, which we copy
his letter." as an illustration of ihe way in which the READER! If you can get any signa. reform was carried in Great Britain. tures 1o a petition, make two copies of UNIFORM PENNY Postage.
the above on two half sheets of paper; (Form of a petition.)
get ihem signed as numerously as possiTo the Honorable, the Lords Spiritual ble ; fold each up separately; put a slip
and Temporal (or, the Commons, as the of paper around, leaving the ends open ; case may be) in Parliament assembled : direct one to a member of the House of The humble petition of the undersigned, Lords, the other to a member of the
[to be filled up with the name of place, House of Commons, London, and put corporation, &c.]
them into the post-office.
tem, to reduce all postage to a pen payment of postage, and greatly diny sterling. The essential princi. minishes the entire cost of a letter to ples of the system are these. the department, is that the pre-pay. 1. Uniformity of postage. Our
Our ment is made by means of stamps, system, as every one has occasion which the department ordinarily to know, proceeds on the principle sells as a commodity to stationers of a tariff of different postages for and other retail dealers, as well as to different distances; and at first sight individuals and institutions maintain. it seems unreasonable to charge the ing an extensive correspondence. same postage for conveying a letter Thus postage is sold by the whole. five miles, as for conveying it five sale; and the immense expense to hundred miles. But a little reflec- the government of collecting posttion is enough to show, that the dis- age in millions upon millions of tance to which a letter is transported, minute payments, is saved. is no index of the actual cost of that The stamps prepared by governletter to the government. The cost ment are of four sorts. of conveying a letter from Boston to adhesive stamp or label, on a small Philadelphia, is in all probability less piece of paper manufactured for the to the government than the cost of purpose, which being slightly moist, conveying a letter from one country ened adheres to the letter like a post-office to another, some fifteen wafer. (2.) A stamped cover, or miles distant. Why then should half sheet of paper, in which the the first letter be charged with four letter is enclosed, and which is sold times as much postage as the other for the price of the postage added to The great advantage of a national the cost of the paper. (3.) Stamped post-office system is, that the routes letter paper, by means of which the on which there is little communica- letter writer buys his paper. and tion, and which are therefore una. his postage at one purchase. (4.) ble to maintain themselves, shall be Stamped wrappers of various prices, maintained by the more profitable for packages and parcels of various routes on which there is continually weights. a large surplus revenue. In such a 4. Another principle of the new system, a uniform postage, without system is that postage is charged by any regard to distance, will be more weight alone. The reasonableness reasonable, and in the end more of this principle needs no illustraprofitable to the establishment, than tion. What business has the gov. any tariff of postages varying with ernment to inquire whether my let. the distance.
ter is composed of one piece of 2. Another feature of the new paper or of two or more ? Is it system is the pre-payment of post- the object of the government to age.
No letter enjoys the full ben- charge extra postage on the trans. efit of the reform, on which the mission of money by mail ? But postage is not paid at or before its the government runs no risk, and lodgment in the post-office. This is sustains no responsibility, in respect the principle, so well known to bu- to the money which is enclosed in siness men, of payment in advance letters. If it did, it might reasona. -a principle which we earnestly bly indemnify itself, not by charg. commend to the publishers and to ing so much extra for each bank all the purchasers of the New Eng. note, without reference to its value, lander. If it is found economical but by a per centage on the amount. elsewhere, why should it not be far Besides, look at the inequality of more economical in such a concern this charge. Rich men, merchants as the post-office?
and bankers, make remittances by 3. But what facilitates the pre. drafts written on the same sheet of paper with the letter, and they pay ought this to be paid for? It is nothing but the letter postage. But now paid for by those who pay the apprentice boy who, out of his postage. Why should it not be a hard earnings, or harder savings, charge upon the general funds of wants to send a dollar to his widow. the government ? Why should we, ed mother, to help her in her strug. in the walks of private life, pay our gles to feed and school his younger own postage and that of members brothers and sisters, must be taxed of Congress besides ? In Great not for his letter only, but to the Britain, Mr. Hill's system has abolamount of from six io twenty-five ished franking. The department per cent, on his poor paper dollar. is no respecter of persons. The On the new system of Great Brit- Queen herself—as we understand ain, every thing not exceeding half the case-pays her postage like an an ounce in weight, goes for a sin. honest woman. gle letter; and no postmaster's 6. Another principle on which clerk is set to poke a wire into its the new system is constructed, foldings, to see what it encloses. is the principle, well undersiood
5. Another principle of the new among mercantile men, that it is systern is the entire abolition of the better to do a large business with franking privilege. The privilege small profits, than to do a small of sending letters and documents business with larger protits. On by the public mails, free of postage, this principle it is that the posiage is allowed in this country to a great is reduced, in that country, to a number of persons, with various penny for a half ounce letter. On restrictions, which are more or less the same principle, in such a counrespected according as the con- try as this, the postage should be sciences of the privileged individu- 'reduced to the lowest uniform rate als are more or less efficient. It at which the establishment, taken as was so in England. The Postmas- a whole, would be able to support ter General of the United States in itself. 1839, (Mr. Niles,) declared that, In Great Britain, the reduction of during ihe last three quarters of the postage has been followed, as was year reviewed in his report, the free expected, by a temporary falling off matter constituted a very considera. of the revenue of the department. ble portion of the entire mails. The department, however, notwithDuring three weeks only of the standing this falling off, not only summer of that year, the pamphlets supported itself, but yielded for the and printed documents franked at general purposes of the governthe Washington city post-office, ment a net revenue of about three exclusive of franked letters, amount. millions of dollars for the first ed to sixteen tons and a half. Who year; and since that time the revepays for the transportation of all nue has been such as to confirm this tonnage, and for its distribution the expectation of its continued in. to tens of thousands of individuals ? crease, till it shall exceed what was It costs the department just as received under the old system of much to convey a free letter, as to high postages. convey in the same mail a letter of This is the outline of the system. the same weight on which postage Some of the principal advantages is to be paid. It may be necessary which would attend the adoption of for the public good, that members a similar system in our own counof Congress and other dignitaries try, are obvious. should have their postage given to 1. The most obvious is, that there them, in addition to their pay and must needs be under such a system, their other perquisites; but how an immense increase of the corres.