Post, a public establishment for the conveyance of letters, newspapers, etc. The Assyrian and Persian monarchs had their posts placed at stations a day's journey from each other, with horses saddled, ready to carry with the utmost despatch the decrees of the despot. In the Roman empire couriers on swift horses passed from hand to hand the imperial edicts to every province. Private letters were sent by slaves, or intrusted to casual opportunities. Charlemagne, it is said, established stations for couriers, who delivered small packets, letters, and decrees, from the court to every part of the realm; but after his death these stations were abandoned. In 1464 Louis XL revived the system of mounted posts, stationing them four leagues apart, and requiring them to he ready night and day to carry government messages as rapidly as possible. Similar posts, the riders of which were called nuncii, were established in England in the 13th century, exclusively for the transmission of government despatches. As late as the 15th century, butchers or drovers, who went about buying cattle, were the principal carriers of private letters.
In the 12th century the university of Paris established a body of pedestrian "messengers, who bore letters from its thousands of students to the various countries of Europe from which they came, and brought to them the money they needed for the prosecution of their studies. The great development of commerce following the crusades, and the geographical discoveries of the Italians, Portuguese, and Spaniards, created a necessity for business correspondence about the beginning of the 16th century. The royal nuncii, or post riders, had already found it for their advantage to use their surplus horses for the conveyance of passengers, and thus the system of posting, or travelling with post horses, came into vogue. These posts were now used for the carriage of private letters, at first irregularly, and without fixed compensation or regular periods of arrival or departure, but eventually with considerable order and system. The earliest of these posts for general accommodation in Europe was established in 1516 between Brussels and Vienna by Franz von Thurn and Taxis. His successors received from the emperors of Germany repeated enfeoffments of the imperial post, and extended it over the greater part of Germany and Italy. Venice, Genoa, Leghorn, and Naples were thus connected with Hamburg, Bremen, Lubeck, and Frankfort, and the active commerce which had sprung up among these cities was greatly facilitated.
The counts of Thurn and Taxis retained this postal monopoly till the dissolution of the German empire in 1806. In 1524 the French posts, which previously had only transmitted the letters and messages of the king and nobles, were permitted to carry other letters. In 1581 Thomas Randolph was appointed chief postmaster of England, but his functions seem to have pertained more to the establishment and supervision of post houses, and the regulation of fees for posting, than to the transmission of letters. In Peru, in 1527, the Spanish invaders found a regular system of posts in operation along the great highway from Quito to Cuzco, and messages as to the progress of the invasion, as well as other subjects, were forwarded to the inca by fleet-footed runners, who wound around their waists the quipu, a species of sign writing by means of knotted cords. - The complete organization of a system of postal communication in England did not take place till the reign of James I., who soon after his accession constituted the office of postmaster of England for foreign parts, and appointed Matthew Le Quester the first postmaster. In 1635 the postmaster general was ordered to establish a running post between London and Edinburgh, to go night and day, and come back in six days.
In 1644 Edmund Prideaux, then a member of the house of commons, was appointed master of the posts, and first established a weekly conveyance of letters into all parts of the kingdom. In 1656 an act was passed to settle the postage of England, Scotland, and Ireland, fixing the rates of letter postage and the prices for post horses. The rates of postage previous to this act were for a single piece of paper: under 80 m., 2d.; between 80 and 140 m., 4d.; above 140 m., 6d.; and on the borders and in Scotland, 8d. The act of 1656 raised these rates (which were in all cases for a single letter) to 14d. for a distance of more than 300 m., from which sum they were diminished according to the distance down to 2d. for 7 m. and under. Between this period and 1838 more than 150 acts relative to postal affairs were passed, but the rates of postage were not materially changed. These rates operated as an almost prohibitory tariff on letters through the mails, and all manner of devices for avoiding the payment of postage were adopted. The franking privilege, which at an early period had been granted to members of parliament and officers of the government, was much abused. In 1838 the franked and privileged letters amounted to 30 per cent, of the whole number transmitted through the mails.
In 1784 the net revenue of the post office did not exceed £150,000; but by the introduction of fast mail coaches soon after that date, it had risen in 1815 to about £1,600,000, at which point it remained stationary for more than 20 years, in consequence of the abuse of the franking privilege, and the methods adopted to evade the payment of postage. In 1837 Rowland Hill, who was not then connected with the post office department, published a pamphlet on post office reform; his plan was adopted by parliament in 1839, and went into operation in 1840, under the supervision of its originator. Its principal provisions were: the reduction of all inland postage to a uniform rate, Id. for a single half ounce; the weight of a letter, and not the number of pieces, to form the basis of the rate; the entire abolition of the franking privilege; the despatch of the mails at more frequent periods; and increased speed in the delivery of letters. To these were subsequently added payment by stamps and prepayment. In 1848 the transmission of books by post was granted, at first at 6d. per lb. This was subsequently modified so as to give increased facilities for forwarding proofs, pictures, and indeed everything except manuscripts and letters, at low prices.
The rates to the colonies are also such as to encourage the transmission of letters and small packages thither by mail. On the introduction of Hill's system there was a falling off in the revenue; but this deficiency soon disappeared. The number of chargeable letters sent through the mails has increased from 76,000,000 in 1838 (the last complete year under the old system) to about 907,000,000 in 1873 (besides 72,000,000 post cards, 129,-000,000 book packets, and 125,000,000 newspapers), and the gross revenue from £2,346, 000 to £5,348,040, while the net revenue also shows an increase. The head of the British post office department is the postmaster general, who is always a peer of the realm, and generally, though not necessarily, a cabinet minister. There are three general post offices, in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin. In 1855 pillar letter boxes were introduced, and London was divided into ten districts, for greater facility in the distribution of city letters. The rates of postage are as follows: on inland letters not exceeding 1 oz. Id., not exceeding 2 oz. 1 1/2d., and 1/2d. for every additional 2 oz., except that letters weighing over 12 oz. are charged at the rate of Id. an ounce. If the postage is not prepaid, double rates will be charged on delivery.
The postage on newspapers anywhere within the country is a halfpenny each, which must be prepaid by adhesive stamp or stamped wrapper. No package of newspapers must exceed 2 ft. in length, or 1 ft. in width or depth, or 14 lbs. in weight. Unsealed packets of books, paper, printed matter, manuscript, circulars, or photographs will be transmitted, if prepaid, at the rate of 1/2d. for every 2 oz. or fraction of that weight. Packages posted unpaid will be charged double this rate. No packet of printed matter must exceed 5 lbs. in weight, or 18 in. in length, or 6 in. in depth, or 9 in. in width. The franking privilege having been abolished, no matter is transmitted free except addresses to the queen and petitions to parliament, and these must be in covers left open at the ends, and must contain no letters. The fee for registering a letter, newspaper, book, or other package, to be sent to any place within the United Kingdom or colonies, is 4d. in addition to the ordinary postage, and must be prepaid. Postal cards may be used only in the United Kingdom; they are sold in packets only at 6 1/2d. a dozen.
The money order office, which had previously been conducted as a private enterprise by three clerks in the post office, became an official department under the postmaster general in 1838. In 1840 the charge, which had before been somewhat higher, was fixed at 3d. for sums not exceeding £2, and 6d. for those over £2 and not exceeding £5. The present rates for inland money orders range from Id. on sums under 10s. to Is. for £10, which is the maximum amount for which an order will be issued. Foreign money orders are granted between the United Kingdom and Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Constantinople, Gibraltar, and Malta, at rates ranging from 9d. for £2 to 3s. for £10; also for most of the British colonies, including India, and Egypt and the United States, at rates ranging from Is. for £2 to 4s. for £10. The money order business with the colonies began in 1856, and with foreign countries in 1869. Since the establishment of the system the business has increased with remarkable rapidity.
In 1873 there were issued 15,118,636 inland money orders, amounting to £25,600,069, besides 165,807 colonial orders (including those issued in the United Kingdom and in the colonies), amounting to £671,131, and 147,802 foreign orders, to the amount of £531,064. In 1868 parliament authorized the postmaster general to purchase the telegraphic lines in the United Kingdom and operate them as a part of the postal service, for the purpose of giving the public increased facilities for telegraphic communication at reduced rates. To carry out this plan, the postmaster general was empowered to borrow £7,000,000. The government obtained possession of the lines in 1870, comprising 22,086 m. of line, 95,637 m. of wire, and 4,119 stations. In 1873 the number of miles of wire had been increased to more than 105,000, and the number of offices to nearly 5,600. The charge for the transmission of a message to any point in the United Kingdom is Is. for the first 20 words, and 3d. for every additional 5 words. Messages, written on stamped cards and forms, may be deposited in a letter box, and are despatched from the nearest postal telegraph office immediately after collection. News and other communications for newspapers may also be forwarded by telegraph.
Nearly 18,000,000 messages were sent in 1873, exclusive of those for the press, which amounted to nearly 38,000,000 words. Post office savings banks were established in 1861 for the purpose of affording to the laboring classes more adequate facilities and better security for saving their earnings. Deposits of Is. and upward are received at all money order offices which are also post office savings banks. Interest is allowed at the rate of 2 1/2 per cent, on each complete pound. The number of post office savings banks had increased in 1873 to 4,853, and the amount of deposits to £7,-955,740, the average amount being £2 14s. 6d. The interest credited to depositors amounted to £477,851. The post office department is authorized to insure the lives of persons between the ages of 16 and 60 years, for not less than £20 nor more than £100, and to issue immediate or deferred annuities of not more than £50 on persons between the same ages, thus affording direct government security for the payment of such money. The post office also issues for the inland revenue department licenses on male servants, horse dealers, carriages, dogs, etc.
The number of post offices in the United Kingdom in the beginning of 1874 was 12,500, of which nearly 880 were head offices; there were also nearly 9,000 road letter boxes, making the whole number of postal receptacles nearly 21,500, of which more than 1,500 were in London. The post office is a source of considerable revenue to the government. The average net revenue during the five years ending with 1873 was £1,433,610 a year, and during the preceding five years £1,374,411. The following statement shows the gross and net revenue for ten years:
Total postal revenue.
Total cost of postal service.
The revenue from letters, post cards, newspapers, and books during this period has increased from £3,957,047 in 1864 to £5,134,816 in 1873, and that from money order commissions from £151,979 to £208,057. - The existing postal service of the German empire was established April 12, 1871, with about 5,000 post offices. The number is now (1875) much larger, owing to the accession of Baden, Alsace, and Lorraine, to the introduction of postal cards and money orders, the reduced postage on printed matter, and other improvements. Treaties exist with Bavaria and Wiirtemberg (the only distinctively German territories still outside of the imperial postal area), and with Austria and other countries. The uniform rate of postage for a single letter is 1 silbergroschen or 3 kreutzers (1 kreutzer=0.462 cent), and for a postal card 1/2 silbergroschen or 1 1/2 kreut-zer. The postal budget of the North German confederation showed a large deficit previous to the abolition in 1869 of the franking privilege, which is now enjoyed only by the crown.
The receipts in 1874 in the empire amounted to $22,277,907, the expenditures to $14,503,-692, leaving a surplus of $7,774,215. The letters posted in that year, among a population of 34,000,000, numbered 442,000,000, and the newspapers 2,300,000. In France a new era was opened in 1849-51 by the adoption of postage stamps, and postal cards were introduced in 1873. The rate for a letter is 10 centimes (1 centime=0.182 cent) within the city of Paris, and 15 centimes to any part of France and Algeria. In 1871 the internal postage was increased 25 per cent., and fixed at 40 centimes when not prepaid and 25 centimes for prepaid letters, for each 10 grammes; at 40 centimes for letters exceeding 20 grammes, and increasing in the same ratio for increased weight. The state controls the whole service, and in 1869 derived from it a surplus of 31,000,000 francs, which was reduced by the war in 1870 to 9,000,000 fr., but for 1875 was estimated at 41,000,000 fr. For 1875 the expenses were estimated at 70,386,652 fr., and the receipts at 111,004,000 fr. France has more than 5,000 post offices, and between 300,-000,000 and 400,000,000 letters are transmitted annually. - The postal service of Russia shows steady improvement, and generally yields the state an annual surplus of several millions of rubles.
The receipts in 1873 were 9,631,943 rubles. The number of letters annually transmitted is nearly 50,000,000. Postal cards are issued at 5 kopeks (1 kopek=0'79 cent) for the whole empire, and at 3 kopeks within a postal district. Russia has about 3,000 post offices; the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, 5,000; Italy, 2,500; Spain, 2,300; Canada, 3,800; British India, 4,000; Australia, 1,500. Postal cards are now generally used in most European countries. - In China the ancient Persian system prevails in forwarding official despatches, and there is hardly any postal service excepting that controlled by foreign governments in connection with the mail steamers. Japan has begun to establish a postal system modelled after that of the United States, under the direction of the treasury department. In 1863 the khedive organized a regular postal service in Lower Egypt. In Turkey the service is ill arranged, and letters are chiefly forwarded by the foreign post offices in the principal seaports. - In the English colonies which subsequently became the United States, a postal system was projected as early as 1692; but owing to the thinness of the population it was not organized till 1710. By act of parliament of that year, the postmaster general of the colonies was "to keep his chief letter office in New York, and other chief offices at some convenient place or places in other of her majesty's provinces or colonies in America." The revenue was for some years very small.
In 1753 Benjamin Franklin was appointed deputy postmaster general for the colonies, and was guaranteed the sum of £600 per annum for the salary of himself and his assistant. He remodelled and extended the operations of the office, and in a few years materially increased its revenues. He startled the people of the colonies in 1760 by proposing to run a stage wagon, to carry the mail from Philadelphia to Boston once a week starting from each city on Monday morning and reaching its destination by Saturday night. In 1774, while in England, he was removed from office. In 1789 the constitution of the United States conferred upon congress the exclusive control of postal matters for all the states; and congress proceeded, immediately upon the adoption of the constitution, to organize the post office department, and to pass the necessary laws for the protection of the mails, etc. The rates of postage from the organization of the department until 1816 were: For a single letter (that is, one composed of a single piece of paper), under 40 m., 8 cts.; under 90, 10 cts.; under 150, 12 1/2 cts.; under 300, 17 cts.; under 500, 20 cts.; over 500, 25 cts.
In 1816 these rates were modified as follows: A single letter carried not over 30 m., 6 1/4 cents.; over 30 and under 80, 10 cts.; over 80 and under 150, 12 1/2 cts.; over 150 and under 400, 18 3/4 cts.; over 400, 25 cts.; and an additional rate for every additional piece of paper and if the letter weighed an ounce, four times these rates. Newspapers under 100 ra., or within the state where published, 1 ct.; over 100, and out of the state, 1 1/2 ct.; magazines and pamphlets, 1 1/2 ct. a sheet, under 100 m., if periodicals; over 100, 2 1/2 cts. a sheet; if not periodicals, 4 and 6 cts. As the facilities for transportation of the mails by steamboats, railroads, etc, increased, these high rates occasioned much dissatisfaction, and in various ways the law was evaded. For several years letters were carried in large numbers by express between the principal cities, at rates much below those of the post office. The reduction of rates was repeatedly urged in congress, and measures for that purpose were proposed by Edward Everett in 1836; but no well digested plan was brought forward.
In 1843 the general discontent was expressed in the form of resolutions by the legislatures of several states, instructing their senators and requesting their representatives in congress to take some measures for a reduction. Mr. C. A. Wickliffe, at that time postmaster general, made some investigation in regard to the English system, and in an elaborate report advocated some reduction, but not a radical one, on the ground that the department would become a heavy charge upon the government if a large reduction were made. In 1845 the following rates were adopted: For \a letter not exceeding 1/2 oz. in weight, under 300 m., 5 cts.; over 300, 10 cts.; and an additional rate for every additional 1/2 oz. or fraction of 1/2 oz. Advertised letters, 2 cts. additional; drop letters, 2 cts.; circulars unsealed, 2 cts.; pamphlets, magazines, etc, per oz. 2 1/2 cts., and each additional oz. 1 ct. Newspapers, under 30 m., free; over 30 and under 100, or any distance within the state where published, 1 ct.; over 100 and out of the state, 1 1/2 ct. Carriage by express was prohibited, unless the postage was previously paid.
In the next congress an effort was made to raise these rates, as the postal revenue did not defray expenses; it was unsuccessful in regard to letter postage, but transient newspapers were charged 3 cts., and prepayment was required; the postage on circulars was raised to 3 cts.; newspaper postage to Oregon and California was fixed at 4 1/4 cts., and letter postage to the Pacific territories, via Chagres and Panama, at 40 cts. In 1849 the postage on transient newspapers was reduced to ordinary newspaper rates, but prepayment was still required. In 1851 another effort was made to raise the postage, which proved unsuccessful; but a law was passed establishing the following rates: For a single letter (i. e., of 1/2 oz. weight), under 3,000 m., if prepaid, 3 cts., or if not prepaid, 5 cts.; over 3,000 m., 6 or 12 cts.; to foreign countries, not over 2,500 m., except where postal arrangements have been made, 10 cts.; over 2,500, 20 cts.; drop letters, 1 ct.; ship letters, 2 cts., or if delivered where deposited, 6 cts.; if sent through the mails, the ordinary postage to be added.
Weekly newspapers, to actual subscribers in the county where published, free; under 50 m. and out of the county, 5 cts. a quarter; over 50 and under 300, 10 cts.; over 300 and under 1,000, 15 cts.; over 1,000 and under 2,000, 20 cts.; over 2,000 and under 4,000, 25 cts.; over 4,000, 30 cts. Monthly papers one quarter, and semi-monthly one half these rates; semi-weekly double, tri-weekly treble, and oftener than tri-weekly five times these rates; newspapers under 300 sq. in., one quarter these rates; if paid quarterly in advance, a deduction of one half to be made from these rates. Transient newspapers, circulars, and other printed matter, 1 ct. an ounce under 500 m.; over 500 and under 1,500, 2 cts.; over 1,500 and under 2,500, 3 cts.; under 3,500, 4 cts.; over 3,500, 5 cts. Books under 32 oz., 1 ct. an ounce if prepaid; if not, 2 cts. an ounce. In 1852 the following modifications were made: Letters sent over 3,000 m., and not prepaid, 10 cts. postage; newspapers, circulars, etc, under 3 oz., 1 ct.; every additional ounce or fraction, 1 ct.; small newspapers and periodicals, published monthly or oftener, and pamphlets of not more than 16 octavo pages, sent in single packages of not less than 8 oz., prepaid, 1/2 ct. an ounce, or if not prepaid, 1 ct.
Books, bound or unbound, less than 4 lbs., under 3,000 m., 1 ct. an ounce; over 3,000, 2 cts. an ounce; 50 per cent, added when not prepaid. By the act of the same year, postage stamps and stamped envelopes were ordered. By a law passed March 3, 1855, and taking effect July 1 of the same year, the rates on single inland letters were reduced to 3 cts. for all distances under 3,000 m., and 10 cts. for all over that distance; and all inland letter postage was to be prepaid. The charge for "advertising letters was reduced to 1 cent. In 1863 the rate of postage was made uniform at 3 cts. on all domestic letters not exceeding 1/2 oz., and 3 cts. additional for every 1/2 oz. or fraction thereof; on drop letters not exceeding 1/2 oz., 2 cts. The quarterly postage on newspapers and periodicals sent to subscribers, and not exceeding 4 oz., was fixed as follows: weekly, 5 cts.; semi-weekly, 10 cts.; tri-weekly, 15 cts.; six times a week, 30 cts.; seven times a week, 35 cts. Periodicals issued less than weekly and not exceeding 4 oz. were charged 1 ct. each. The rate for transient newspapers and periodicals was 2 cts. for each 4 oz. or fraction thereof.
In 1868 the law was so amended as to allow weekly newspapers to be sent free to regular subscribers residing in the county. - The post office department of the United States is under the direction of a postmaster general, who is appointed by the president with the consent of the senate, is a member of the cabinet, and receives an annual salary of $6,000. He is aided by three assistant postmasters general, whose salaries are $3,500 a year each. There is a superintendent of foreign mails, and one of the money order system, each of whom receives an annual salary of $3,000. Including the officers above named, the total force of the department in Washington comprises 364 persons. The other officers and agents employed in the postal service consist of 34,294 postmasters, 6,232 contractors, 4,228 clerks in post offices, 2,049 letter carriers, 936 route agents, 850 railroad post office clerks, 211 mail route messengers, 124 local agents, and 76 special agents, making a total of 49,374 persons. Postmasters whose salaries exceed $1,000 are appointed for four years, and may be removed by the president with the consent of the senate.
The number of this class in 1874 was 1,408; their salaries are limited to $4,000, except in the city of New York, where the postmaster receives $6,000. Postmasters whose salaries do not exceed $1,000, numbering 32,886 in 1874, receive their appointments from the postmaster general. The transportation of the mails is let under contract by the postmaster general. Post roads must be established by congress. The extent of public mail routes has been rapidly increasing. In 1874 the total number was 9,761 (of which 824 were railroad), aggregating in length 269,097 m.; in annual transportation, 128,627,476 m.; in annual cost, including that for clerks, agents, messengers, etc $18,707,486. The total mileage comprised 67,-734 m. on railroads; annual railroad transportation, 72,460,545 m., at a cost of about 12.58 cts. a mile; 18,369 m. by steamboats; annual transportation by steamboat, 4,078,725 m., at a cost of about 20.57 cts. a mile. The other routes upon which the mails are required to be conveyed with "celerity, certainty, and security " comprise 182,994 m., on which the annual transportation is 52,088,206 m., at a cost of about 11.47 cts. a mile.
The present rates of postage (1875) are regulated by the laws of June 8, 1872, June 23, 1874, and March 3, 1875. Domestic mail matter is divided into three classes, on all of which prepayment of postage is required. The first class embraces all correspondence wholly or partly in writing (except book manuscript and corrected proof sheets passing between authors and publishers), local or drop letters, and postal cards. The rate of postage on matter of this description, including letters, except local sealed packages, and manuscript for publication in newspapers, magazines, or periodicals, is 3 cts. for each 1/2 oz. or fraction thereof; on local or drop letters, at offices where free delivery by carriers is established, 2 cts. for every 1/2 oz. or fraction thereof; and 1 ct. for every 1/2 oz. at offices not having a free delivery. The second class relates to newspapers and periodicals, on which the schedule of charges is somewhat complicated. Publications of this kind may be arranged in four general divisions: 1. All newspapers and periodicals, mailed from the office of publication or a news agency to regular subscribers or news agents, are charged at the rate of 2 cts. a pound or fraction thereof for those issued weekly or oftener, and 3 cts. a pound or fraction thereof for those issued less frequently than once a week. 2. Newspapers (excepting weeklies), periodicals, and unsealed circulars, which are deposited in a letter carrier office for local delivery by the office, whether through the box or general delivery or by carrier.
The rate of postage on all such newspapers (excepting weeklies), periodicals not exceeding 2 oz., and circulars, is 1 ct. each. If the periodical exceed 2 oz., the postage is 2 cts. These rates are applicable whether the publication is sent directly to a subscriber, or is mailed as transient matter. Weekly newspapers coming under this classification are excepted from these rates. Those sent to regular subscribers are charged 2 cts. a pound; others, 1 ct. for each 2 oz. or fraction thereof. 3. Newspapers which are allowed to be transmitted free of postage to subscribers residing in the county where such papers are published. This exemption applies only when the newspaper is received at an office not having carriers. If the office have carriers, regular postage will be charged. 4. Transient newspapers and magazines (not for local transmission), on which the postage is 1 ct. for every ounce or fraction thereof. By the law of 1872 the postage on newspapers and periodicals, not exceeding 4 oz., sent to regular subscribers, was fixed at the following quarterly rates: on those issued less frequently than once a week, 1 "ct. for each issue; weekly, 5 cts.; and 5 cts. additional for each issue more frequent than once a week.
The postage was required to be paid in advance either at the mailing or delivery office. These rates were repealed by the act of June, 1874, which went into force Jan. 1, 1875. The third general class of mailable matter embraces, besides transient newspapers and magazines, all pamphlets, occasional publications, unsealed circulars, books, book manuscript, proof sheets, maps, prints, engravings, articles of merchandise, seeds, cuttings, bulbs, roots, scions, and generally all articles not enumerated in other classes which are lawful matter of transmission by mail. The rate of postage in these cases, which was fixed at 1 ct. for every 2 oz. or fraction thereof by the law of 1872, and continued by that of 1874, was made 1 ct. for every ounce or fraction by the act of March 3, 1875. ' All articles not liable to destroy or injure the contents of a mail bag, or the person of any one in the postal service, may be transmitted by mail, if the package does not weigh more than 4 lbs.; but this limitation was abolished by the law of June, 1874, in the case of newspapers and periodicals mailed from the office of publication or a news agency to subscribers or news agents.
There is no restriction as to weight in the case of documents printed by order of congress or emanating from any of the executive departments. It is unlawful to mail indecent publications, or prints, letters, or circulars concerning illegal lotteries or other unlawful enterprises, or concerning schemes intended to deceive and defraud the public for the purpose of obtaining money under false pretences. Such matter, if mailed and its character detected, must be forwarded to the dead letter office. The franking privilege, as a feature of the American postal system, has caused much discussion; efforts have been made at various times for its abolition, but without success until 1873. Formerly the right to frank letters and documents of any size was granted to the president, ex-presidents, the vice president, former vice presidents, and the widows of Presidents Harrison and Polk. Members of congress and delegates from territories, from 30 days before the commencement of each congress until the first Monday in December after the expiration of their term of office, and the secretary of the senate and the clerk of the house of representatives during their official terms, could send or receive free letters weighing not over 2 oz., or public documents weighing not over 3 lbs.
The governor of any state could send free the laws, records, and documents of the legislature to the governors of other states. The cabinet officers and their assistant secretaries, the commissioners of offices and heads of bureaus, the general-in-chief and adjutant general, and the superintendent of the coast survey and his assistant, might send and receive free all official correspondence, but not their private letters or papers. The chief clerks in the departments might send free public official letters and documents. Deputy postmasters could send free all letters and packages relating exclusively to the business of their respective offices; and those whose compensation did not exceed $200 for the year ending June 30, 1846, might also send free all letters written by themselves, and receive free all letters addressed to them, not weighing over 1/2 oz. Exchange newspapers, magazines, etc, between editors, passed free. All publications entered for copyright, which under the act of 1846 were to be deposited in the library of congress, passed free.
In 1863 the franking privilege was limited to mail matter sent to or from the president and vice president; official communications to or from the chiefs of the executive departments, and certain heads of bureaus or chief clerks, as well as to the department; correspondence to or from senators and representatives in congress (including delegates from territories), the secretary of the senate, and the clerk of the house, all printed matter issued by authority of congress, and all speeches, proceedings, and debates in congress, and all printed matter sent to them; their franking privilege to begin with their term of office, and to continue until the first Monday of December following the expiration of such term. Petitions to congress, and official communications between postmasters and (by the law of 1866) between assessors and collectors, passed free. The franking privilege was limited to packages weighing not more than 4 oz., except petitions to congress, certain public documents, and seeds, roots, etc. In January, 1871, a special report was made to congress, showing that the postage on the free matter passing through the mails would have been $2,543,328 annually.
The quantity of free matter is greatly increased during times of political excitement, and has been estimated to reach in one year an amount that would have required $3,500,000 for postage. In 1873 congress abolished the franking privilege, but certain features have since been restored. By the act of June 23, 1874, which went into effect (in respect to this provision) July 1 ensuing, the postage on public documents mailed by a member of congress, the president, or the head of any executive department, was fixed at 10 cts. for every bound volume, and on unbound documents 2 cts. a pound or fraction thereof. In such cases the words "Public Document" must be written or printed on the matter, with the signature of the president, executive officer, or member of congress. By the same act the postage on each copy of the daily " Congressional Record " mailed from the city of Washington was fixed at 1 ct. By the act of March 3, 1875, the provisions above given were extended to ex-members of congress and ex-delegates for nine months after the expiration of their terms of office.
This act also restored at least temporarily to members of congress the privilege of sending certain public documents free; for it provides " that public documents already printed, or ordered to be printed for the use of either house of congress, may pass free through the mails upon the frank of any member or delegate of the present congress, written by himself, until the first day of December, A. D. 1875." Under this law the " Congressional Record," or any speech or report in it, may be franked by a member of congress or a delegate. Seeds and agricultural reports may be mailed free by the commissioner of agriculture, members of congress, and delegates, and by ex-members and ex-delegates for nine months after the expiration of their terms of office. Books and other copyrighted articles, which the law of 1870 requires to be mailed to the librarian of congress in Washington, may be sent free of postage. - By the act of March 3, 1855, the postmaster general was authorized to establish a plan for the registration of valuable letters, on the payment of a registration fee. Greater certainty in the transmission of important letters may thus be secured; but government is not liable for the loss of any registered mail matter.
The number of letters registered has greatly increased since January, 1874, when the cost of registration was reduced from 15 cts. to 8 cts., in addition to the regular postage. In June, 1875, it was raised to 10 cts. The money order system was established in the United States Nov. 1, 1864. It is intended to promote public convenience, and to secure safety in the transfer by mail of small sums of money. Security is obtained by omitting from the order the name of the payee. Information relating to the order is sent without delay by the issuing postmaster to the postmaster at the office of payment. Orders are issued for any sum not exceeding $50; a larger sum may be transferred by two or more orders; but postmasters are instructed not to issue more than three money orders for the same person in one day. The charge for issuing a money order not exceeding $10 is 5 cts.; over $10 and not exceeding $20, 10 cts.; over $20 and not exceeding $30, 15 cts.; over $30 and not exceeding $40, 20 cts.; over $40, 25 cts. The business transacted by this branch of the postal service has increased annually with marked rapidity.
In 1870 there were 2,076 money order offices, from which were issued during the year 1,671,253 orders, amounting to $34,054,184. In 1874 the number of offices had increased to 3,404, the number of orders issued to 4,420,633, and the aggregate value to $74,424,854. The average amount of the orders issued was $16 83 1/2. Only 74. orders were paid to persons not entitled to receive them. The money order system is not self-sustaining, the excess of expenditures over receipts amounting in 1874 to $77,000. To remedy this, an increase of charges for orders is recommended. The above statements relate only to domestic transactions. Postal conventions for the exchange of money orders have been concluded with Switzerland, Great Britain and Ireland, and Germany. In 1874-there were issued for Switzerland 2,721 orders, amounting to $72,287, and received from Switzerland 793, $21,222; issued for Great Britain and Ireland, 77,351, amounting to $1,491,320, and received 15,992, $303,773)-issued for Germany, 35,542 orders, $701,634, and received 20,607, $535,210. The system of free delivery by carriers, adopted in 1863, has been established in 87 cities.
The act of 1872 provides that carriers shall be employed for the free delivery of all mail matter in every city containing a population of 50,000, and may be employed in every city containing a population of not less than 20,000. The total number of carriers in 1874 was 2,049, the number in each city varying from 4 to 379. The amount paid to carriers, including incidentals, was $1,802,696. The railroad post office system has been widely extended since its adoption in 1864. It has been established on all important railroads, to insure the transmission of mails with the greatest rapidity, by assorting and distributing them in the cars while in motion, thus avoiding delay in local distributing offices. In 1874 the number of railroad post office lines was 63, extending over 16,414 m. of railroad and steamboat routes, on 13,271 m. of which the service is performed daily, and on 3,122 m. twice a day.
There were 850 clerks employed in this service, at an annual cost of $1,058,200. By act of June 8,1872, the postmaster general was authorized and directed to issue postal cards to the public at a cost of one cent each. The first cards were issued in May, 1873. The object of the postal card is to facilitate letter correspondence by providing for the transmission at reduced rates of short communications, either written or printed. Nearly 100,000,000 of these cards are annually used. Letters not prepaid, those not called for and which cannot be delivered, and those which cannot be forwarded on account of illegible or omitted addresses, are sent to the dead letter office in Washington, where they are opened. The writers of those containing valuables are notified, and the contents forwarded on application. Letters on which the address of the writer is written, if not deliverable, are returned unopened. In 1874 the total number of letters received at the dead letter office was 4,402,-348 (4,133,928 domestic and 268,420 foreign), representing an actual or nominal value of $5,795,764, of which 1,826,108, representing $5,377,923, were delivered to owners or writers. - The expansion of the postal system of the United States is shown as follows:
Number of pott offices.
Length of post roads in miles.
Paid for transportation.
From the above it appears that in recent years the cost of the postal service has greatly exceeded the income, the deficiency varying from 15 to 20 per cent. In some of the states, however, the business yields a considerable surplus over the expenditures therein. In 1874 there was an excess of receipts in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, aggregating $4,308,007. The revenue from all sources for three years was as follows:
♦ Including suspended offices in southern states. + Exclusive of routes in certain southern states.
Newspapers and pamphlets....
Stamps, stamped envelopes, and postal cards....
Revenue from money orders...
The most important items of expense were:
Compensation to postmaters....
Transportation of the mails....
Clerks for post offices
Postage stamps, stamped envelopes, and postal cards...
The international postal convention which assembled at Bern, Switzerland, in September, 1874, concluded on Oct. 9 a treaty for the formation of a general postal union in which uniform rates of postage shall prevail. The countries composing the union are Austro-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Luxemburg, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, Servia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. The treaty was ratified, went into force on July 1, 1875,and is to continue for three years. France, liow-ever, does not join the union until Jan. 1,1876. The rates of postage between the United States and all of these countries except Spain, the rate to which will be 12 cts. until Jan. 1, 1876, on account of French transit, are uniform and as follows: for prepaid letters, 5 cts. per 15 grammes (about 1/2 oz.); unpaid, 10 cts. per 15 grammes; postal cards, 2 cts. each; newspapers not exceeding 4 oz., 2 cts. each; other printed matter, samples of merchandise, etc, 2 cts. for each 2 oz. or fraction thereof. The registration fee on all correspondence is 10 cts, No fee will be charged for a return receipt in cases where a receipt from the address is requested.
No additional tax will be collected in the United States on the correspondence forwarded within the union by sea on routes of more than 300 nautical miles in length. The countries forming the union constitute a single postal territory for the exchange of correspondence between their territories. The abolition of accounts for international correspondence, besides saving the expenses incident to keeping such accounts, will add largely to the postal revenues of the United States by securing the large excess of foreign postage which is annually collected in this country, and which has hitherto been accounted for and paid quarterly to the respective foreign offices. The provisions of this international arrangement are not to affect the domestic postal system of any country, or the postal arrangements between a country within and any government outside of the union. The rates adopted by the union are lower than those previously charged for the transmission of an ordinary letter between the United States and the principal countries of Europe. Thus the former postage on an ordinary letter was 6 cts. to Great Britain, 6 or 7 cts. to Germany, according to the route, 9 cts. to France, 6 or 8 cts. to Belgium, 7 cts. to Denmark, 6 or 10 cts. to Holland, 9 cts. to Sweden, 8 or 10 cts. to Switzerland, 10 cts. to Italy, 11 or 12 cts. to Spain, Portugal, or Turkey, 10 or 11 cts. to Russia, 14 or 15 cts. to Greece, and 15 or 20 cts. to Egypt. Postal conventions regulating the exchange of correspondence have also been concluded between the United States and Canada, Newfoundland, Mexico, Guatemala, San Salvador, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, the Hawaiian islands, New Zealand, New South Wales, Japan, Hong Kong, the British East Indies, and the Straits Settlements. European mails are sent regularly from New York on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays of every week; from Boston on Tuesdays; from Philadelphia on Thursdays; and from Baltimore on Saturdays. There is also a weekly mail from New York for Havana, tri-monthly to Central America and the South Pacific coast, and monthly to the West Indies and Brazil; and one triweekly from Boston for Prince Edward island and Nova Scotia. A monthly mail goes from San Francisco to Japan, China, and the East Indies, and one to the Hawaiian islands and Australia. The postage on an ordinary letter is 5 cts. to Australia via San Francisco, except to New South Wales, which is 12 cts.; 15 cts. to Brazil; 3 cts. to Canada; 10 cts. to Mexico, Hong Kong (China), and the East Indies ma San Francisco, or from 20 to 28 cts. by other routes.
The rate of United States postage on letters to or from other countries, with which different rates have not been established by convention, when sent by vessels regularly employed in carrying the mails, has been fixed at 5 cts. (instead of 10) per 1/2 oz. or fraction thereof. Prepayment of the postage on foreign letters, whether sent to a country within or without the union, is required in the case of some countries, and optional as to others. The total number of letters exchanged in 1874 with foreign countries was 28,579,045, of which 14,885,989 were sent from and 13,693,056 received in the United States. The total cost of the United States ocean mail steamship service (including $662,-500 paid from special appropriation for steamship service to Japan and China, to Brazil, and to the Hawaiian islands) was $994,844, of which $235,373 was paid for the transatlantic service.-See Geschichte derpreussischen Post, by Henry Stephan (Berlin, 1859) ; " Her Majesty's Mails," by William Lewins (London, 1864); " A History of Banks for Savings," by William Lewins (London, 1866); Notice sur Vorigine du prix uniforme de la taxe des let-tres (Paris, 1872); and Histoire de la poste aux lettres depuis ses origines les plus an-ciennes jusqu'd nos jours, by Arthur de Roth-schild (Paris, 1873).