The Congressional Globe, Volume 13, Part 2: Twenty-Eighth Congress, First Session Page: 18
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APPENDIX TO THE CONGRESSIONAL GLOBE.
28th Cong 1st Sess.
Report of the Postmnster General.
Senate and H. of Reps.
tion of the mail is about 20,000,000 of miles. In
the United States it amounts to 35,252,805 miles.
In 1838, when the subject of reduction of postage
was under consideration in Parliament, the whole
annual expense of management of the department
The whole amount of cost of management (ex-
penditures) of the mail service of the United States,
for the year 1843, was $4,374,713 75.
The gross income of the British Post Office was
$11,421,907. The gross revenue of the United
States Post Office may be stated at $4,295,925 43.
The British Post Office yielded a net revenue to
the Crown, beyond its expense, of $7,965,648. The
United States Post Office receipts are about equal to
The cost of mail conveyance in Great Britain and
Ireland is much less than in this country. The
average cost for all grades except the railway and
packet service (which I am unable to ascertain) is
scarcely five cents a mile. The coach conveyance
of the mail is just five cents per mile. In the Uni-
ted States, the' average cost, exclusive of railroad
and steamboat transportation, is nearly seven and a
half cents per mile; for mail conveyance in coaches,
the cost is three and four-fifths of a cent per mile
sreater in the United States than in Great Britain.
The rates of postage in England, which produced
this enormous revenue, were as follows:
Rates of general inland postage on single letters on any
distance not exceeding
2d.—equal to 4 cents.
and 1 penny for each additional 100 miles, or part of
J 00 miles, over 500 miles.
There existed, also, what were called the London
local posts. The charge upon single letters for a
distance or circle of three miles from the London
office was 2ci.—equal to 4 cents; beyond that, and
within 12 miles, 3rf.—equal to 6 cents.
Penny posts were established for the accommoda-
tion of any town, at the discretion of the Postmas-
Letters from soldiers and sailors, if prepaid, might
be sent to any place m the kingdom for one penny.
Newspapers, if stamped, were sent through the
mail free of postage. The stamp duty on each newspa-
per was Id—equal to two cents; and this duty was
retained m the act of 1830, in lieu of postage on
newspapers. The amount derived from this duty
oil newspapers circulated through the mails was es-
timated to be $889,997 annually. Nothing is al-
lowed to be written on the paper—not even the
name of the person sending it—without subjecting
it to triple postage.
The franking privilege of members of Parliament
was limited to an ounce; and not more than ten to
be sent, and fifteen to be received, each day. Of-
ficial franks unrestricted.
Besides the postage to be derived from inland let-
tfrs, postage, varying according to circumstances,
and m some degree depending upon the country
from and to which sent, was imposed on foreign lei-
tors, the average rate of which was 4Gi cents on
Deputy postmasters are paid generally by a fixed
salary from the public treasury.
Such, substantially, was the system of the Brit-
ish Post-Oflioe, and'its sources of revenue, m 1838.
in the United States, the Post Office Department,
unlike that of England, is made to depend upon its
mvn riifimc to defray its expenditures. It does
not contribute to the general treasury.
To continue the present amount of mail semee
(which cannot, without injustice to the public, be
reduced m any considerable degree) will require an-
nually about the sum of $4,500,000.
Toe annual income cannot exceed that amount,
for years to come, under the prtsuit system.
The reform m the British system was urged, and
iibinntely adopted, upon the giound that the charge
tor u,.importing a letter was Gut, of proportion to
th'1 e"pj use inclined. It was stated in the report
of the committee of Parliament, that the postage re-
ceived was more than three times the amount of the
expense incurred in transporting and delivering a
It was contended by the projector of the reform in
England, that a reduction of postage to one penny
for all distances in tjie kingdom would increase
the number of letters to five-fold; and the committee
were of opinion that the revenue derived to the
Crown from the Post %fice would not sustain any
These opinions, and others similar, were sustained
with great earnestness and ability, against the judg-
ment of the Postmaster General, and others associa-
ted with him in the department.
The committee conclude their report with this re-
mark, in recommending the adoption of the uniform
penny system of postage: "that they believe, at no
distant period, it will improve the Post Office reve-
nue itself," and "that it is the opinion of most of
the witnesses, except the officers of the Post Office
Department, that the adoption of it, as recommended
by Mr. R. Hill, would occasion a very greatincrease
in the number of letters posted, and a far greater in-
crease than would be required to maintain the reve-
nue at its present amount."
Such were the opinions and calculations upon
which the system of uniform penny rates of post-
age was ultimately adopted.
The rates of postage, as established in England
under this system, are as follows:
Letters, not exceeding A o7.., Id.—equal to 2 cts.
" " " 1 oz. 2 " 4
" " " 2 oz. 4 " 8
" " 3 oz. 6 " 12
So in proportion up to 16 ounces; beyond which
no tetter will be received, except parliamentary
The postage is to be prepaid, or the letter will be
rated at double postage.
Prepayment of postage is to be made by money,
or by the use of stamps.
Single stamps are obtained at the cost of Is. 1 \d.
per dozen—double stamps at 2s. 2(/. per dozen.
All foreign letters are rated variously, according
to the countries from which sent.
Foreign mid colonial letters rated at various prices
—from 6 to 66 cents the single letter.
Newspapeis printed in England, and stamped, are
sent free ofpostage. Foreign newspapers pay post-
Connected with this system, was the abolition of
the parliamentary franking privilege.
Upon 5th December, 1839, the old high rates of
postage were discontinued, and a uniform rate of
4d. substituted. That rate ceased on the 10th Jan-
uary, 1840, and the present uniform penny-system
was putm full operation.
The results of the present system in England are
exhibited by the official reports of the department,
as late as the 24th April, 1842; a tabular view of
which is hereto annexed.
The official returns for 1843 have not been re-
ceived at this department, nor have I been able to
These results have not met the anticipation of the
advocates of the system in the ratio of increase in
the number of letters, the expenses of management,
or the amuunt of revenue.
1 have selected the number of letters posted for a
week in each of the yeais 1839, '40, '41, and '4,2,
from the relums above icfcrred to.
hi a week preceding the, 21th November, 1839,
under the old and high rates of postage, there were
posted 1,587,973 letters.
For one week ending 22d December, 1839, when
the uniform rate of <!<!. was imposed, there were
posted 2,(HIS,687 letters.
The number of letters posted in the week pre-
ceding the 24tii May, 1840, nnderthe uniform pennv
rati1, was 3,K!8,035.
The number of letters for one week preceding
20th June, 1813, was 3,773,136.
The number r.f letters mailed for one week pre-
ceding 24ili April, 1842, was 3,929.513.
This shows an increase of less than 2l-fold upon
the letters posted under the old system, instead of
five-fold, os estimated by Mr. It. Hill, and the other
ad\ocates of the system.
It is not for me to say whether three years is a
sufficient length of time to ascertain the maximum
increase of letters under the opeiation of the penny,
sy.-tcin. It i:> doubtless as long a peiiod as was
contemplated by the committee, when, in their opin-
ion, the increase of the number of letters would im-
prove the Post Office revenue."
The annual cost of management of the .fost
Office under the old system—say for the year pre-
ceding the 5th January, 1839—was $3,296,486.
Annual cost for the year preceding 5th January,
Cost of management for the year preceding 5th
January, 1841, $4,121,650.
Cost of management for the year preceding 5th
January, 1842, $4,503,211. , T
Gross revenue for the year preceding 5th J anu-
ary, 1839, under the old rates of postage, wasjll,-
Gross revenue for the year preceding 5th Janu-
ary, 1840, under the old rates, (except for one month
the 4d. rate was in operation,) $11,475,662.
Gross revenue for one year preceding 5th Janu-
ary, 1841, under the penny rate, $6,444,499.
Gross revenue for the year preceding 5th Janu-
ary, 1842, $7,178,592.
The amount of net revenue paid into the treasury
for the year preceding 5th January, 1839, $7,965,-
Do. do. 5th January, 1840, $7,842,067.
Do. do. 5th January, 1841, $2,322,370.
Do. do. 5th January, 1842, $2,675,380.
In this statement of net revenue is included the
sum of <£45,156, for the year 1839, charged to the
Government for postage.
In 1840, do. .£44,278.
In 1841, do. .£90,761.
In 1842, do. .£113,256.
There has been an increase of letters, but not to
one half the extent anticipated; and an increased
charge for the management greater than was esti-
Instead of an increase of revenue to the Crown,
as was predicted by the committee, there was a loss
The system of penny postage m England, so far
as revenue is concerned, has resulted m a loss of
near two-thirds the revenue under the old system,
and in an increase of cost of management equal to
30 per cent.
These facts will serve to show that the tax, m the
shape of postage, upon the English correspondence,
has been lessened; that the postage upon newspa-
pers is paid in the shape of a stamp duty, higher
than the postage paid on newspapers in the United
States; that the correspondence through the mail has
been increased, and that the revenue derived to the
Crown has been greatly lessened. And they further
prove, that the income of the British Post Office is
still greater than its cost of management. Two
other facts should not be overlooked in the compari-
son of the revenue of the British Post Office under
the old and new rates of postage. The.first is, that
not only all foreign and colonial letteis, which are
delivered in England, but those which pass through
England,in their transit to and from other countries,
are subjected to a heavy postage. The second, that
by law the transportation of letters by private con-
veyance, except where the carrier shall himself de-
liver the letter to the person addressed, is prohibited
by severe penalties.
If the British Crown did not need the revenue; or
if it did, and the subject was willing to be taxed m
the foini of stamp duty, or excise, equal to the re-
duction of the rate of postage, as moro equal and
less burdensome, no one will question his right,
and the justice of yielding to the demand to have
the postage reduced.
If the Post Office Department of the United States
yielded a revenue over its expenses, or if the
charge of its management was paid from the gener-
al treasury, no one would doubt the propriety and
justice of a reduction.
It is a question for Congress and the people to set-
tle, whether they will so far change the laws of the.
United States concerning the Post Office Department,
as to direct its expenses to be paid out of the treas-
The number of chargeable letters delivered, which
annually pass through the Post Office of the United
States, has heretofore been estimated at 24,507,994.
The number of similar letters annually posted in
England, under the old rates of postage, was esti-
mated by the committeeofParhainentat77,500,000.
The number under the penny rate, of like letters,
may be estimated at 204,334,676.
W ith a view to put Congress in possession of cor-
rect information upon this subject, I have directed
an accurate account to be kept at each post office of
the United States, during th# month of Octobei-j .of
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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/m1/28/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.