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style of Thomas Hood, the chief same time, a similar establishment punster of this nineteenth century, was commenced in some parts of “on the University carrier, who the German empire. And gradusickened in the time of his vacancy, ally every government in Europe being forbid to go to London, by established its system of posts, more reason of the plague.” The first or less perfect--that is, a system of begins,
royal couriers, not for the accom"" Here lies old Hobson ; death has broke modation of the public, but only for his girt,"
the purposes of the government and
the convenience of the court. and speaks of “his weekly course of
In England, such government carriage." The other is a little better in its posts seem to have been established
simultaneously, or nearly so, with way :
those in France and Germany, a “ Here lieth one, who did most truly little less than four hundred years
prove That he could never die while he could ago.
But at what period the pubmove;
lic at large began to enjoy the benSo hung his destiny, never to rot
efits of the establishment, is quite While he might still jog on, and keep his uncertain. Less than two hundred
trot." " Time numbers motion, yet (without a
and fifty years ago, merchants, mancrime
ufacturers and professional men 'Gainst old truth) motion numbered out throughout England, were compellhis time;
ed either to employ special messenAnd like an engine moved with wheel and weight
gers for the transmission of their His principles being ceased, he ended correspondence, or to depend on ir
straight. Rest that gives all men life, gave him his regular and insecure means of condeath ;
veyance. The universities and prinAnd too much breathing put him out of cipal cities had their own couriers breath.
or letter carriers. There was a priNor were it contradiction to affirm
vate post by which letters were conToo long vacation basted on his term. Merely io drive away the time he sick veyed between England and the conened,
tinent. But in 1630, Charles I, then Fainted and died, nor could with ale be looking around him for every means
quickened." “ Ease was his chief disease, and, to judge the Parliament, established, in con
of raising a revenue independent of right, He died for heaviness that his cart went nection with the king of France, a light.
public post from London to Paris ; His leisure told him that his time was
and the private establishment for the come, And lack of load made his life burthen- conveyance of letters between the
two kingdoms was abolished. In * His letters are delivered all, and gone, 1632, he published a proclamation Only remains this superscription.”
forbidding letters to be sent out of In the fifteenth century, only a the kingdom, except through the royfew years before the discovery of al post-office. In 1635, he estabAmerica, Louis XI of France, es- lished a new system of posts for tablished for his own use in his England and Scotland, and abolishkingdom a system of posts. That ed all private and local posts, claimis to say, he made an arrangement ing the post-office business as a gorfor the transmission of despatches ernment monopoly. During the between the court and the provinces, civil wars which followed, these arof the same nature with that which rangements were of course overturnhas already been spoken of as exist- ed; but such an improvement once ing in ancient Persia, and under the adopted, could not be forgotten, and Roman emperors. Not far from the as soon as order was restored under
Cromwell, the reëstablishment and of modern navigation--all which, maintenance of the post-office sys. the ancients had not. · But to us it tem, was immediately recognized as seems, that if an intelligent Greek one of the functions of the govern. like Herodotus or Xenophon, or a ment. At that time it was, that philosophic Roman like Cicero or England was first blessed with a Tacitus, could be supposed, after a weekly conveyance of letters from sleep of some two thousand years the metropolis into all parts of the in an enchanted cavern, to revisit nation. This was when England the glimpses of the moon' here, was a commonwealth ; and the sys. hardly any thing would be more tem established by the wise and en wonderful to him, than the power ergetic government of Cromwell, which every individual in society was so far in advance of previous has, of communicating by letter arrangements, and so great and ob- most expeditiously and unfailingly vious a public benefit, that on the with every other individual to whom restoration of the monarchy in 1660, he is related in the way either of it was continued by act of Parlia. friendship or of business. The letment, without any material modifi. ters of the humblest member of socation.
ciety go to their destination as swist. These few historical notices,which ly and unfailingly as the despatches most readers might perhaps collect of Persian kings and Roman empefor themselves, from the encyclope. rors, There is a man whom you dias and such like repositories of have never seen, far off in the woods knowledge, may be summed up in of Michigan, or on the prairies of this general view. The post-office Wiskonsan. Though you have nev- . system that great element of mod. er seen him, you have heard his ern civilization, so essential to com. name and his place of residence ; merce, to public intelligence, to the and you wish to ask him a question, intercourse of friends, to all the in. or to employ him to render you some terests of society--began in the ne- service there. You make a few cessity of a regular communication marks—not on a cumbrous tablet between the central government, covered with wax—not on a parchand its subordinate agents. It was ment almost equally cumbrous—but gradually expanded into a govern- on a piece of paper, thin, light and ment monopoly, for the double pur- flexible,-a material as unknown to pose of raising a revenue, and of the ancients as was the art of printcommanding the channels of com- ing. You drop that piece of paper munication. It is perfected by be into a box in a public office a few coming a great public convenience, rods from your own dwelling, and maintained by the government, for give yourself no farther care about the equal accommodation of all the it. In a few days, without any more members of society.
ado on your part, you get your anWe hear much said, and justly, swer. The whole operation has cost of the superiority of the modern less than it would have cost you to over the ancient civilization. We send a special messenger five miles. hear much of the wonderful impulse We often talk of wonderful machinegiven to society as a whole, and of ry, but what machinery is more wonthe vast advantages afforded to each derful than this. It is wonderful no individual member of society, by doubt to see "the iron horse," puffthe steam-engine in its various uses, ing along with dizzy speed upon by the innumerable applications of the railroad. It is wonderful to see science to the productive and useful the machine which takes a coil of arts, by the printing press, by the wire and in a few moments gives it mariner's compass and the entire art out again wrought into pins with
firm smooth heads and polished ernment and its privileged favorites points. But is it any less wonder and hangers on. Nor is it with us, ful to see this vast machinery of the as it is in other countries even to post-office, taking up the letter which this day, a government monopoly, you drop into one of its ten thousand to be maintained and managed exhoppers, carrying it hundreds of clusively, or chiefly, with a view to miles, with a speed and safety oth increase the revenue of the governerwise impracticable, and delivering ment. It does not enter into the it into the hands of the individual to plans of the American people, to tax whom your will directed it. Why the correspondence of the nation for this is a machinery which, in a sense, the purpose of supporting the army extends your presence over the whole or the navy, or for any other departcountry, even to the edge of the wil- ment of the public expenditure. It derness, where the last traces of gov- is not for the sake of making money, ernment and of civilized life disap- or saving money, for the government, pear. And the enjoyment of this that we maintain this post office esmachinery has come to be, every tablishment. It may be assumed where, so completely one of the ne- then as a first principle, that whatcessaries of civilized life, that any ever may be the policy in other government in Christendom which countries, our post-office system should refuse to afford the people ought to be simply a great public this accommodation, would be over- convenience, for the equal accomturned as intolerable. Such is the modation of all the members of so. progress of society.
ciety. This idea is the standard by An institution so essential to our which the merits of the existing sysidea of civilization, and so important tem in all its parts, and the merits in its bearings on all the interests of of every proposed improvement, are society, cannot but be expected to to be measured. In proportion as the make farther progress hereafter. It establishment answers more comwould be quite contrary to our gen- pletely this one end of being a great ius as Americans certainly, if we public convenience for the equal acshould take it for granted that the commodation of all the members of system as it now exists with us, is society, in that proportion does it incapable of improvement. We approach perfection. may regard it, then, as a fair
ques- Let this idea, then, be expanded ; tion for consideration, what im- and let us see what are the qualities provements in our present system necessarily belonging to that system of arrangements for the conveyance which is to afford its benefits equal. of letters, are desirable and practi. ly, and as completely as possible, to cable?
all the members of society. At the outset of this inquiry, let 1. Most obviously such a system us recall distinctly, what is, with us must have, what, for the want of a at least in this country, the true con- better word, we may call ubiquity. ception of a post-office system as it It must not be confined to a few should be. Such a system is not principal routes—the thoroughfares like the posts established in ancient between the great cities—where the Persia and in the Roman empire, facilities of transportation, and the or like the posts as they were estab. abundance of letters, may make the lished, four centuries ago, in France, establishment profitable. On the Germany and England -a mere contrary it must be extended as far arrangement for the conveyance of as possible to all parts of the coungovernment despatches, supported try, and the profits on those routes at the expense of the government, where conveyance is easy and corand for the exclusive use of the gove respondence abundant, should be ap
plied to sustain those routes which, as possible, the hour at which it must owing to the increased expense of be mailed in order to commence its transportation and the diminished journey, and the time when it will amount of correspondence, are una- arrive at its destination. The pubble to sustain themselves. The only lic would not be accommodated if imperious reason why, in such a letters from one place to another, country as ours, the government were sent only at unknown and irshould have any thing to do with regular intervals, according to the the conveyance of letters, more than convenience of the postmaster, or with the conveyance of passengers when a sufficient number had accuor of merchandise, lies in the neces- mulated in the office. All the arsity of giving to the system of mails rangements and all the motions of this quality of ubiquity. Leave the the system should have, as far as whole business to private competi- possible, the regularity and precistion, and on all the principal routes ion of clock-work. letters would soon be conveyed 3. Another quality, of great imcheaper and better than they will portance to the end we have in view, ever be by the government; but is cheapness. The price of conveyhow would it be with other routes ? ing letters by the public mails, in There would be no difficulty about other words the rate of postage, sending a letter at the cheapest rate should be set as low as possible. and with the greatest expedition This grand accommodation should from Hartford to New York, or from be afforded to the public at the cheapBoston to New Orleans ; but what est rate consistent with other essenwould it cost to send a letter from tial qualities. In determining the Hartford to Babylon or Patchogue rate of postage, the question is not on Long Island? And what com- what a merchant, or a lawyer, or munication would there be between the proprietor of a great newspaper, Hartford and a village on lake Mem- can afford to give for a business letphremagog, or between Hartford ter of great importance; it is not, and some new outpost of civilization what those who have the means of in the west? The end for which a paying are willing to give for letters public establishment of this kind ex. rather than not to receive them; nor ists, is the equal accommodation of is it what tariff of taxes on letters every member of the community, will afford to the government the and therefore the system must spread greatest revenue ; it is simply, what its branches over the whole country, is the lowest rate of postage at which those parts of it which are unprofit. the establishment, taken as a whole able being sustained by the reve. with all its ramifications, will be able nues of those parts which are prof. to pay its own expenses. Most ceritable.
tain it is that, other things being 2. Public accommodation being equal, the lower the price of postthe end, regularity and precision in age, the greater and more equal all the action of the system are in will be the public accommodation. dispensable ; and, other things being 4. The speed with which letters equal, the system is the more com- are transmitted, is an importaht conplete in proportion as it is character. sideration in estimating the comized by this quality. Every man pleteness of the system. On this who has occasion to send a letter to point it is not enough to offer the any part of the country, must be remark that the most rapid conveyable to rely on its going safely and ence of the mails, consistent with unfailingly to the place to which he security and cheapness, is the best. directs it. And not only so, but he There is a certain degree of speed should be able to know, as exactly on each route, without which the 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 pol. necessary 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 govern. speed 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 sy em, 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 dispeep 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 sev, sponsibility, 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