The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 2: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session Page: 17
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28th Cong 1st Sess.
APPENDIX TO 'THE CONGRESSIONAL GLOBE.
Report of the Postmaster General.
Senate and H. of Reps.
roads where there is and can be no competition. A
contract could be as well, if not better, made by
private arrangement than public advertisement.
Experience has convinced me that the law of 1836,
for the re-organization of this department, requires,
in many particulars, a modification—which I shall
take the liberty, from time to time, in an appropriate
manner, to present to the notice of the committees of
the two Houses of Congiess usually appointed to
take charge of the legislative business of the Post
It will appear, by a reference to the statement of
the gross revenue of the department for the years
1841, 1842, and 1843, as given above, that, while
the revenue of 1842 was greater than that of 1841,
that of 1843 is less, by $§50,320 70, than the reve-
nue of 1842.
The causes of this declension in the revenue of
1843 may be various—some referring themselves to
the state of the business of the country. I am,
however, fully persuaded, by facts and testimony
which have been brought to my knowledge, that
one cause, if not the principal one, may be ascribed
to the operations of the numerous private posts, un-
der the name of expresses, which have sprung into
existence within the past few years, extending
themselves over the mail-routes between the princi-
pal cities and towns by which and at which the
railroads pass and terminate. That these private
posts are engaged m the business of transporting
letters and mail-matter for pay, to a great extent, is
a fact which will not be seriously controverted.
That the revenue of the department has been great-
ly reduced by their operations, no one will question
who may investigate the facts.
The facts which relate to one of these cases, as
reported to the department, were submitted to the
late Attorney General, (Mr. Legare,) for his opin-
ion of the law arising upon them. A copy of this
opinion is annexed. Influenced by that opinion,
which was in accordance with my own judg-
ment upon the subject, I directed a prosecution
against all the offenders to be instituted in the Uni-
ted States court for the southern .district of New
York. A case vs. Adams & Co. was tried a few
days since in that court, and resulted m the acquit-
tal of the defendants. This acquittal, from an offi-
cial report by the District Attorney, a copy of which
accompanies this report, would seem to have
been caused by a defect in the existing laws. Un-
der these laws, I am advised, this case cannot be
brought before the Supreme Court for final adjudi-
The laws for the punishment of offences for trans-
porting mail-matter over the post roads,-were enact-
ed when the transportation of the United States
mail was confined to stages, steamboats, and horses.
Railroads were not then in existence in the United
States; and the penal sanctions of the law are not
adequate to the suppression of the practice.
Railroads, whilst they are the most expensive
mode of transporting the United States mail, fur-
nish, to those who choose, the easiest and cheapest
mode of violating the laws prohibiting the establish-
ment of private posts. Duty compels me to state
it as my opinion, that, without further legislation
apon this subject by Congress, the revenue of the
department will, in time, be so far affected by the
inroads of private expresses, that the service will
either have to be reduced below the just wants of
the public, or appropriations from the general treas-
ury will be required to meet the current expendi-
tures of the department.
In the course of the past year, I have been called
upon to express my opinions upon this subject offi-
cially. These opinions have been attacked and con-
troverted by many; and the question is distinctly
presented, whether the power granted to Congress,
to establish post offices and post roads, is plenary
It is contended by some, that, though this powd-
er is granted to Congress, individuals and companies
have a right to carry on the business of transporting
letters, &c., over the post roads of the United States;
and all laws which forbid them are void, and usurp-
ations upon individual right.
Others contend that the post-office system is an
odious monopoly, and ought to be abolished. These
are grave questions, urged by a portion of a power-
ful press, and sustained by the influence of those
whose interests are involved. They are questions
which, if they have not been settled by the legisla-
tive and judiciary departments of the Government,
should now be settled.
The power to establish post-offices and post-roads
was exercised by Congress under the articles of
confederation. From the moment Congress thus
assumed the power by the sanction of the States, no
State or citizen of a State presumed to exercise the
right. If there be any one subject concerning the
internal interests of the States-and the people, which
should be regarded as purely national, it is the busi-
ness of transporting by authority of law, and of
right, letters from one State Wand through another.
A uniform, equal, and harmonious system can only
be conducted by a power co-extensive with that sys-
tem. It is absurd, therefore, to contend that the
mail system can be left to the States or to individual
enterprise. The members of the convention who
formed the Constitution understood this subject bet-
ter. They knew that the control of this subject
must be confided to a power which pervaded, pro hue
vice, the whole sphere of its operations: consequent-
ly, among the leading prominent grants of power by
the States to Congress, is the grant over this subject,
in the following words—"Congress shall have pow-
er to establish post-offices and post-roads."
This grant of power is found in the same clause,
and is expressed in the same words and language of
the grants of power to coin money, to regulate com-
merce, to declare war, &c. It is a grant which cov-
ers the whole ground; it is ample, full, and, conse-
quently, exclusive. If doubt could exist as to tiie
exclusiveness of this grant, that doubt must vanish
upon a reference to the 10th article of the Amend-
ments to the Constitution, which declares: "The
powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are
reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people."
The power to establish post offices and post roads is
plainly and distinctly delegated to the United States.
It is, therefore, not a power reserved to the States
respectively, or to the people.
I will not extend or elaborate an argument upon
a proposition so plain, and which, I conceive, has
been settled and adjudicated by all the departments
of the Government, and the people themselves.
The exclusive right to establish post-offices and
post-roads being in the United States, Congress has
the power to pass laws to protect that right. With-
out such laws, it is impossible to exercise the power
and perform the delegated trusts beneficially to the
people. More especially cannot this be done, if
Congress neglects this duty, and, at the same time,
leaves the General Post Office to depend upon its
own revenue to defray the expenses of the sys-
The General Government should either protect
the department against the inroads of private posts,
or provide the ways and means to meet the necessa-
ry expenses of the service.
The impolicy of permitting the business of con-
veving letters and packets, in whole or in part, by
private posts or expresses, so long as the Depart-
ment of the Post Office is left to create, by its opera-
tions, its own means of support, must be apparent.
These private expresses will only be found to ope-
rate upon the great and profitable thoroughfares be-
tween great commercial points, while the extremes
are left to depend upon the operations of the United
States mail, crippled and broken down for the want
Between New York and Boston, between Phila-
delphia and Baltimore, between New York and
Buffalo, individual enterprise might supply the
wants of the community in the rapid and^ cheap
transportation of letters and packets. Will the
same enterprise penetrate the savannahs and swamps
of the South, or the wilds of the West, and daily
or weekly convey to the door of the planter and the
husbandman the letter of business or friendship, the
intelligence of commerce and politics?
Individual enterprise may be lewarded by the
payment of six cents for carrying a letter between
New York and Boston; but can that same enterprise
be invoked to carry a letter for twenty-five cents daily
between Philadelphia and St. Louis, or from Chi-
cago to Savannah, or from St. Augustine, Florida,
to Burlington, in Iowa?
If the great thoroughfares between commercial
cities are left to the operations of private posts, the
extreme points (whose connexions in business and
commerce tend to swell the postage collected at the
cities) must suffer, or the means to reach them
by the mails be furnished out of the general treas-
ft is not wholly true that the larger cities furnish
the entire surplus, which is elsewhere expended.
Though the returns show a large amount of postage
collected at these points, much of that amount i§
paid by the extremes in commercial connexion with
Connected with this subject, in some degree, is
the business of transporting newspapers by contrac-
tors out of the mail, over mail-routes, in violation of
law. When appealed to by postmasters and eon-
tractors to instruct them in their duty upon this
subject, I addressed to the contractors a circular let-
ter, in which I gave them my opinion of what the
law of Congress was upon this subject.
The correctness of the opinions contained in this let-
ter has been questioned. I was conscientious in the
views therein expressed, believed them to be correct,
and felt it a public duty to publish them, when called
for by those to whom the duty of transporting the
mail was confided. Though I am not distinguished
by the pride of opinion in official and legal matters,
I am gratified to find the views I have taken of the
acts of Congress fully sustained by the official opin-
ion of the Attorney General, to whom the subject
has been referred by the President.
There is at the present moment considerable agi-
tation in the public mind on the subject of the re-
duction of postage; and it seems to be expected by
some, that the Postmaster General should recom-
mend the reduction of the rates of postage. My
opinions upon this subject were given to Congress,
in answer to a resolution, at the last session. These
opinions were necessarily hypothetical, and accom-
panied by a distinct annunciation, that if any con- -
siderable reduction in the rates of postage should
be deemed advisable by Congress, it should be pre-
ceded by a provision to relieve the department from
certain heavy annual responsibilities, and accom-
panied by a proper regulation and restriction of
the franijjjg privilege. Without such relief and
modification of the existing laws, it was myopin
ion then, and it is my opinion still, that if any con-
siderable reduction in the rates of postage be
made, the mail service would not yield a sufficiency
of revenue to meet its own expenditures upon the
then and present existing scale of operations.
It is contended by many whose opinions are en-
titled to respectful consideration, that a reduction of
postage to a uniform and low rate would be followed
by an increase of its revenue equal to the annual
wants of the service, on its present basis, extended
from time to time as the demands of the public
I concur m the correctness and justice of the posi-
tion that the Post Office Department should not be
regarded as a source of revenue to the Government;
that if its receipts were greater than its expenditures,
the rates of postage should be reduced, and the an-
nual surplus, if any, should not be carried into the
It seems to have been a principle at the founda-
tion of the mail system of the United States, that the
department should sustain itself by its own income.
Of the soundness of this principle, I am fully per-
suaded, and should regard its abandonment as im-
politic at any time—particularly at the present mo-
ment, when the national income is unequal to the
ordinary demands upon it.
If this principle should be abandoned, and the
Post Office Department made to lean upon the
treasury for support, I should fear that that constant
vigilance so necessary to its useful administration
would be abandoned by those charged with its
affairs, and a degree of wasteful expenditure and
extravagance ensue, wholly inconsistent with our
Any reduction of the present rates of postage, by
whicli the department is left m the possession of an
income to meet its own expenditures, I shall be
pleased to see made.
The example of England, in the reduction of post-
age to one penny, is relied upon as sufficient to jus-
tify the United States in at once making a similar
reduction in the rates of postage.
Without obtruding any opinion of my own upon
this subject, I have thought I would best subserve
the public interest by submitting the facts which
belong to the question of reduction of postage in
England, and the results of that reduction, so far as
they have been developed, and the facts which it ia
believedbear upon the question in this country.
It should be remembered, that at the time of the
reduction of postage in England, and at the present
period, the Post Office Department was regarded, as
it was in fact, a source of revenue to the_ Crown.
Its whole expense of management was paid out of
the public treasury, and its whole receipts were
paid into the same treasury.
In the United Kingdom the annual transport^
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United States. Congress. The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 2: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session, book, 1844; Washington D.C.. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth2368/m1/27/: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.