Page images
PDF
EPUB

With the view of ascertaining how far parcel of the weight of one hundred these data, respecting the mere expense of pounds, would be sent by the Express the transmission of letters, apart from the Companies, to different parts of the States, other charges of Post Office management, with the same dispatch as the mails, and would be applicable to this country, we the results are as follows :have ascertained the rates at which a

[blocks in formation]

ounce

From this result, it appears that the indispensable to ensure such a successaverage cost of the actual transport of an ful result, in any country, as its advohalf-ounce letter to any of the above cates promise. In England, the more cities or towns, would be about one particular details observed in carrying it eighth of a cent, which is equal to the out may be stated as follows :sixteenth of a penny British. This is The rate fixed upon by the Legisladouble the expense of transmission in ture, for all distances within the precincts England, but it is still so minute, and of the United Kingdom, is a penny per bears so insignificant a proportion to the half-ounce, all fractions of an whole amount of postage which, under being counted as a full letter weighing any system, would be exacted, that it above an ounce. Thus, all letters under may be safely inferred that the rates of half an ounce weight pay one penny; all postage here, as in Great Britain, ought letters above half an ounce, and not exto be independent of the distance. ceeding an ounce, pay twopence; all

The British system of postage, which letters above an ounce, and not exceedhas been established in conformity with ing two ounces, fourpence; three ounces, the project of Mr. Rowland Hiil, and sixpence, and so on. which, with certain modifications sug- Penny stamps are issued by the Stamp gested by local circumstances, we think Office, coated with adhesive matter at is destined to spread throughout the the back, by which they are readily and world, and, before all other countries, in permanently attached to the letter. These our own, is characterized by the follow- are sold at thirteen-and-a-half pence the ing general features :

dozen. The writer, however, has the 1. A fixed rate of postage is charged option of paying the postage, according by weight, independently of the distances to the above rates, when the letter is to which the letters are transmitted. delivered at the Post Office. The use of

2. This postage is pre-paid, by means the stamp, according to these conditions, of a stamp or other convenient symbol, adds about thirteen per cent. to the postissued by the Government to the public, age, the consequence of which is, that it and affixed to the letter, such stamp is not used for more than half the number having the virtue of a frank.

of letters posted, and its omission entails 3. The rate of postage is fixed so lov on the Post Office the salaries of the as to destroy the abuses of evasion, &c. necessary number of receiving clerks.

4. The franking privilege is totally Letters may be posted without preabolished, and with it are removed the payment, but they are, in that case, endless abuses incidental to it.

subjected to double the above rates of In these conditions are comprised those postage, which are exacted on their deligeneral features of the plan, which are very. By surrendering to this extent the principle of pre-payment, the Admin- and its operation in the modified form istration have retained in the Post Office brought into operation in England, with a part of that complexity and expensive the practical results ensuing, being thus management which it was the object of before us, it remains to be considered Mr. Hill's project to remove; and, if to what extent, or with what modifiproof were wanting how little this con- cations, if any, the same system can tributes to the public convenience, it is advantageously adopted in this country. found in the fact that not above five or The United States Post Office is, in six per cent of all the letters posted are fact, an inheritance from the Government unpaid. Still, however small the pro- of the mother country. It has retained portion may be, machinery must be pro- all its characteristic marks, and has, vided for its management within the with a tenacity almost anomalous in the Post Office.

administration of this country, adhered The abolition of the parliamentary even to the most absurd of its oldest franking privilege was readily acquiesced regulations, and continued to adhere in, the low rates of the new postage ren

to them, after the English public, endering it valueless. The correspondence slaved as they are to the spirit of preand dispatches of the various govern- scription and the prestige of antiquity, ment offices pass. through the Post has abandoned them as being out of all Office, subject to postage, which is keeping with the spirit of the age, and charged to the respective accounts of inconsistent with all the principles of these offices.

political economy and statistics." It is, The law requires all newspapers to we presume, a point so universally conbear a penny stamp, and this stamp car- ceded, that a reform of a sweeping charries them free through the Post Office, acter in the organization of a National and may be regarded as representing Post Office in this country, is imperiously their postage.

All other printed papers needed, that it is not worth while here to are subject to the same rate of postage discuss it. as letters.

When we contemplate the transactions The reformed system thus organized, of the past year, in reference to the busicame into operation on the 10th of Janu- ness of the Post Office, and compare ary, 1840, and has, therefore, now been them with the epoch which preceded the four years in operation. The gross an- great reform of 1840 in the United Kingnual revenue of the Post Office, during dom, we cannot fail, even without furthat period, has not only defrayed all the ther or more elaborate inquiry, to be expenses of its management, but has struck with the similarity of the prognosyielded a gradually augmenting revenue tics of disease and symptoms of unsoundto the State. The nett amount of this ness in the two institutions, and to be revenue for the year ending 5th of Janu- impressed with the persuasion that the ary, 1841, was, $2,322,370; and the nett application of the same remedies will be amount for the year ending 5th January, attended with the same beneficial results. 1842, was $2,675,380. The average We find here the same complaints of the annual number of letters passing through enormous abuses of the franking privithe Post Office before the reform, was lege, both congressional and official—the eighty-three millions. The annual num- same audacious and unblushing defiance ber since the reform, estimated in 1841, of the laws of the land in the establishis one hundred and ninety-three millions, ment of private enterprises for the debeing an increase on the former amount spatch and delivery of letters—the same of 150 per cent, which increase has taken extensive evasions of the law by private place before any full development of the individuals, adopting every conceivable new system. Considering the gradual device to obtain a cheaper transmission annual increase of nett revenue, and the of their correspondence than the Govern. corresponding increase of the number of ment mail affords—the same absence of letters posted, it is computed by the best that rebuke from public opinion, with British authorities that the Post Office which the evasion, and much more the revenue, under the penny system, will open violation of the laws is always ultimately reach and even exceed its visited when these laws are of a healthy amount under the system of exorbitant character, and in harmony with the spirit rates obsolete in England, but still con- of the times. A reform is then inevitable, tinued in this country.

and the evil has been allowed to attain The principles of Mr. Hill's system, such a hea:l, that half measures will be of no avail. The public voice demands a patched and delivered, than any other thorough and radical cure of the griev- proportion. The most just variation of ance of the present system of postage. the postage, would be that which would Other and older nations have gone before press more heavily per letter on the us in the path of improvement, and if smaller mail; but as no one we prethe Legislature falter, it requires no ex- sume, will advocate the practical appli. traordinary spirit of vaticination to de- cation of this principle, and as no other clare, that the people will make them- condition of a varying rate would bear selves heard within the walls of the even the remotest relation to the varying Capitol in a tone and spirit which will cost, the principle of one uniform rate teach its occupants that delay or hesita- throughout the States, is recommended tion is no longer admissible.

at once, for its simplicity, its conveniThe necessity of a radical reform be

ence, its economy, and its equity. ing then conceded, it is for the General Granting, then, the principle of an Government and the Legislature to con- uniform rate, the important question resider whether it be more consistent with mains to be settled, what should be the policy and wisdom, to adopt, with suit- amount of that rate. In England, as we able modifications, the system which has have stated, a rate of two cents per half produced results so satisfactory to the ounce has been found to cover all the public in Great Britain, or to adopt a new expenses of the Post Office administration, system. We can have little doubt, that and to yield an increasing annual revenue the experience already purchased by the of above three millions of dollars; but struggles of the British people against it is to be considered that the inland corofficial prejudice and legislative inertia, respondence of the United Kingdom is will be accepted and acted upon; and, much greater than that of the United that a system, better than the British, in- States, and the magnitude of the corresasmuch as it will embrace the consistent pondence is, to a certain extent, the indesign which, to allay the fears of some, verse exponent of the amount of a pruand mitigate the opposition of others, dent and equitable rate; it seems, therewas garbled and compromised in England, fore, just and expedient, that a higher will be finally adopted in this country, standard of charge be adopted in this and will be productive of results in the country. It will probably be generally highest degree advantageous to the public. admitted, that an addition of one hun.

The first indispensable condition, which dred per cent to the English rate, that must on no account be yielded or com- is, four cents per letter, would afford us promised, is the adoption of one uniform a safe standard; but in order to allay rate within the precincts of the Union. the fears of the timid, and inspire confiFor what reason should this great prin- dence in the distrustful, we should prociple be surrendered ? On what rational pose an uniform five cent rate, which grounds will a varying rate be establishe would adapt itself conveniently to our ed ? Not surely after what has been silver currency, and be sufficiently large demonstrated by varying distance. It is to enable the Government to include the proved incontestably, that the cost of dis- expense of stamps, under the postage, patch and delivery, has not in practice, without adding thirteen per cent. for them, any variation dependent on the distance. as is injuriously and inconveniently With what justice then, should a letter practiced in England. In fine, we should from New York to New Orleans, be then propose, that all letters to all discharged with ten cents, while a similar tances throughout the States, should be letter from New York to Trenton, is charged with postage by weight, at the charged only five cents ? If the variation rate of five cents per half ounce—fractions of charge be, as it ought to be if admit- of a half ounce being charged as a comted at all, in proportion to the cost of the plete half ounce. service, then certainly the charges should There appears to be no object in rebe exactly reversed, and the letter stricting the weight of letters or packets Trenton should be charged ten cents, and sent through the Post Office. Under this the letter to New Orleans five cents; the system, the charge of a dollar and sixty number of letters to New Orleans being cents per pound, for heavy parcels, abungreatly more than twice the number to dantly paying for their transmission; Trenton, and the cost of dispatch and and, indeed, the heavier the parcels, the delivery, being more nearly in the in- more profitable they will be to the Post verse ratio, of the number of letters dis- Office. A pound weight of single half ounce letters will involve thirty-two some persons, and among them the Post times more official labor, both in the re- Office officials, are wedded to it. Under ception and in the delivery, than a single this system, a letter written on a single packet would weighing one pound, while sheet of paper, provided it be not torn in the expenses of transmission of both two, is chargeable only with single postwould be the same.

age; but if the sheet happen to be cut The absurdity of the old established into two half sheets, the same letter concustom of charging postage, not by sisting of the same paper, with the same weight or bulk, but by the number of writing upon it, is chargeable with double separate pieces of paper into which it postage. When the reform of the Eng. may suit the convenience of the writer to lish Post Office was in agitation, the ab. divide his letter, is so very apparent, that surdity of this method of rating was we should not have thought it worth practically illustrated in the following while to appropriate a single line to manner. A double letter of the exact notice it were it not that we know that magnitude, when folded, of this diagram,

DOUBLE LETTER.

7 Grains Weight

weighing less than seven grains, was practices as bad as those which disgrace written on thin paper and sent by post to the Post Offices of the Austrian and Italthe principal members of the legislature. ian States. Espionage in them is conIt consisted of a piece of paper of less than ducted under at least the semblance of three-and-a-half grains weight, enclosed secrecy. Here it is an imperious duty. in an envelope of a similar weight and Is it not the duty of every post master size, the contents of the letter were as fol- and his subordnates throughout the lows: Postage charges in 1838. This pa- States to see that the letters are properly per, four inches by two-and-a-half, and taxed ? To do this he must see what its cover of similar size, weighs seven they contain. He must spy into themgrains, or under the sixtieth part of an pokethem open--present them to a strong ounce weight, and is charged double light, and endeavor to see through them. postage, whilst the accompanying sheet, If, by ingenious folding, he cannot detect thirty five inches long and twenty three the suspected enclosure, he must then inches wide, weighing just one ounce, is exercise his ingenuity to read and intercharged as a single letter.” The lillipu. pret some portion of the contents. If, tian letter of seven grains, was charged after all, he is in doubt, he lays on withone shilling, while the large sheet of out hesitation the double tax, and if that double demy having a surface of writing tax be paid before the letter leaves the equal to thirty-two of the pages which office, or if the letter be opened out of the reader now holds in his hand, was the presence of the postmaster, the charged only sixpence. This is surely double rate must be paid whether the the climax of absurdity, and it is scarcely letter be double or single. The process necessary to add that the only nation in is still more insulting and outrageous if the world which ever practiced it besides any citizen take a letter to the Office to ourselves, was the mother from whom pre-pay the postage. He presents the letwe inherited it. She, however, even in ter which is single, with a single postage. her senility has abandoned the folly. His word, however, is in this case, worthWe, without the excuse of age, without less. A clerk takes up the letter, feels it the apology of any particular respect for and eyes it. He presses it edgewise beprescription or reverence for established tween his fingers, closing one eye and diusages, still obstinately cling to it. recting the axis of the other between its

The intrinsic absurdity of this regula- folds. "If he feel zealous in his vocation, it tion is far from being the only or the is not beyond the limits of his discretion strongest objection to it. It has led to to insert a pencil or penholder to open the space between its leaves, and all these the old syatem, would give way to one polite evolutions are executed in the of simplicity and uniformity, and the presence and under the eye of a gentle- entire principle and machinery of the man who has just passed him his word Post Office would be changed in its chathat the letter contains no enclosure. We racter, greatly contributing to the security, leave it to our fellow-citizens to digest comfort, and advantage of the commuthis process.

nity, in its connection with the public Next in importance to an uniform rate correspondence.” Such were the sentiin proportion to weight, is the principlements of an old and experienced Post of pre-payment by stamp or other conve- Office functionary on the advantages of nient symbol attached to the envelope of Hill's system of postage, and the results the letter. By this expedient every letter- of the experience of the last three years writer franks his own letter. It is much have abundantly proved the soundness more convenient than pre-paying at the of his judgment. post office. If you take the letter your- A variety of devices have been sug. self, it saves the time and trouble of pay- gested for facilitating the pre-payment of ment, of obtaining change, etc. If you postage, among which may be mentioned send the letter by a servant, it protects the manufacture of a particular species of you from their possible dishonesty in re- paper—a monoply of which is proposed taining the postage instead of pre-paying to be given to the Government, under it. But these advantages are insignificant, proper restrictions of price ; it is proposcompared with those which it produces ed, that letters written on, or enclosed in in the internal arrangements of the Post this paper go free—the postage being inOffice. That establishment is at once cluded in the price paid for the paper. stripped altogether of its financial char. These are matters of detail, however, acter, its functions being limited to the which need not be dwelt upon here, bemere mechanical transmission and de- ing such as may be best adjusted in the livery of letters.

practical organization of the system. Better evidence cannot be afforded of The only branch of the Post Office the practical advantages to be expected business, to which the principle of prein the organization and operations of the payment is inapplicable, is the reception Post Office itself, than by referring to the and delivery of letters arriving from testimony of Sir Edward Lees, the

sec- foreign countries. These must, of course, retary of the general post office at Edin- be forwarded to their destinations, subburgh, who, being himself, throughout ject to the collection of postage from his life, a Post Office functionary under those to whom they are addressed, and the old system, would certainly not be for the reasons already explained, and on likely to be subject to any extraordinary account of the labor and expense consebias in favor of change, unless the change quent on them, we should suggest, that, presented a certainty of great ameliora- a double rate of inland postage be levied tion. He admitted that the system of on them—that is to say, that they should pre-payment by stamp would necessarily be rated at ten cents per half ounce, inbe attended with " considerable saving of dependently of distance. time in the delivery of letters; the ex- In the management of the delivery depenses in almost every branch of the partment of the English Post Office, the department, but principally in the inland postage charged upon the letter, whether and letter-carrier offices, would be much pre-paid or not, has always included, both reduced; the complex accounts of the bye under the old and new system—the deand dead-letter offices greatly simplified, livery of the letter, by the letter-carrier, and the expenses greatly diminished; at the address of the party for whom it and the system of accounts between is destined ; in this country it has been the postmasters and deputy postmasters generally the practice for residents to throughout the country, which presented keep boxes at the post office; or, to ap80 many opportunities, facilities, and ply at the delivery office for their letters. temptations for combination and fraud, In cases where the letters are delivered would altogether disappear; the labor and at the abode of the party to whom they responsibility of surveyors would be are addressed, an additional charge of curtailed by the principle of an uniform two cents has been made upon them; a rate ; a system of complex and intricate part of which is understood to constitute duty, inseparable from the nature of the the salary of the letter-carrier. It may, local and provincial post office, under however, be reasonably expected if in

« PreviousContinue »