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P. O. Dept.
THE POSTMASTER GENERAL,
IX REPLY TO
A resolution of the House of Representatives of 10th of September, 1841,
requiring information respecting the number of letters carried by the public mails, &c.
APRIL 20, 1842.
Post OFFICE DEPARTMENT,
April 6, 1842. SIR : At the few short intervals of time left me by the pressure of the current business of the office, I have taken up the resolutions of the House of Representatives adopted on the 10th September last, on the motion of the Hon. Mr. McKay, with an anxious desire to make a full and satisfactory response to them, but I have not been able to perceive how it can be done without withdrawing from other important public duties an amount of clerical labor which would not only derange and embarrass the busineŝs of the Department, but prove detrimental to the interest of a large number of individuals whose business would be thereby postponed or de. layed.
That I may not appear to have overrated the amount of labor to be per. formed in answering these resolutions, I will proceed to enumerate, under specific heads, the items of information they require to be furnished.
1. The number of charged letters carried in the mails of the United States for one month or longer period of time.
2. The number of letters charged at each of the legal rates of postage ; that is, at 6, 10, 121, 181, and 25 cents.
3. The number charged at more than 25 cents; that is, letters double, triple, or quadruple the rates over 12 cents, or letters charged by weight.
4. The revenue arising from each rate in each State and Territory.
10. The number of printers' exchange papers.
13. The amount of revenue arising from each class of newspapers, pamphlets, and periodicals.
14. The number of dead letters for the year ending 30th June, 1841.
15. The amount paid to postmasters for the delivery of free letters at 2 cents each, during the year ending 30th June, 1841.
The information embraced iu the five specifications first named can only be obtained by two methods: first, by taking the post bills returned by the postmasters with their quarterly accounts, and transcribing them, so as to set the items on each bill in columns under the respective rates of postage; the other, by preparing and sending to each postmaster in the United States a printed circular, with a form of return so devised as to embrace the thirteen points of information first enumerated. The latter method, it is true, would be attended with the least labor at the Department; but, with respect to the letters, the results would not be wear so accurate as those which would be obtained from the post bills; because, as our experience derived from similar attempts to procure information by circular has invariably shown, great numbers of the postmasters would answer informally, although provided with the most specific directions; others would not answer until they had held a correspondence with the Department about some matter of detail; and many would not answer at all; whereas nearly all of them, in the ordinary process of rendering their quarterly returns, transmit their post bills to the Department.
The specifications numbered 6 to 13 can be answered only by means of a circular to the postmasters, of whom there are nearly 14,000; and besides the sending of a circular to each postmaster, not less than one thousand of them would, before answering, write to the Department for instruction on some trivial point, thereby requiring an equal number of letters to be written in reply, before the returns required by the circular could be got in. The post bills, then, affording the most accurate data as to the letters, and there being no other way of procuring the information above referred to except by circular, both modes of proceeding would necessarily have to be adopted. In the first process, more than two hundred bushels of postbills, bits of paper about four inches square, would have to be assorted into the States in which they respectively originated; and then to be transcribed, so as to show the number of letters of each rate, the revenue derived from each rate, &c. Each column of the transcript, which would reach sev. eral thousand pages, would then have to be added up and recapitulated, in order to present the results contemplated in the first five specifications. The returns from the postmasters, in answer to the circular, would have to undergo a similar process of recapitulation, in order to arrive at the information embraced within the scope of the eight specifications referred to.
- To ascertain the number of dead letters for the year ending June 30, 1841, it would be necessary to handle all the quarterly accounts of postmasters for that year, about 56,000 in number, and to take an account of the letters returned on their respective quarterly bills as dead, in order to sum up the aggregate number for the year. While handling the accounts for this purpose, ihe account current belonging to each quarterly return wou'd have to be referred to, and an account taken from it of the amount
paid for free letters during the quarter, so as to obtain the information required in the 15th specification.
From the best estimate I am enabled to form, I am satisfied that it would occupy twenty-five clerks, not less than three months, to obtain the in. formation called for in these resolutions. The withdrawal of this force from the current business of the office, when there is not a man to spare for any extra duty, would, as I have before said, be produtive of serious injury to the public service. But if Congress will appropriate the means necessary to have the service performed, it will be cheerfully undertaken and prompily executed.
In the absence of official information as to the number of letters, news. papers, and pamphlets, carried in the mails for any specific period, the following estimate of them, based upon the revenues of the year ending 30th June, 1841, may not be considered unimportant : The gross revenue arising from letter postage for the year ending 30th June, 1341, was
- $3,812,738 61 Estimating the taxed letters at an average of 15 cents each, would give for the year
. . . . 25,418,257 Add one-ninth for free letters
The gross revenue from newspapers, pamphlets, and maga
zines, for the same year, amounted to . Deduct one-eighth for pamphlets and magazines
Balance for newspaper postage -
a cent and one-fifth, will give .
Total of newspapers
Estimating the revenue from pamphlets to have been no more than $70,780 68, and the average of pamphlet postage at 5 cents, the whole number circulated in the mails would be about 1,415,613.
No attempt has been made to ascertain the number of dead letters since 1837. Iu that year an account was kept for the two quarters ending 30th June and 30th Septeniber, and the results are given in the following extract from the Postmaster General's report to the President, dated December 4, 1837:
« The number of dead letters returned to the Department for the last two quarters has been ascertained as accurately as practicable. For the quarter ending the 30th June last, they were over 222,000 ; and for the quarter ending 30th September last over 225,000. The average may be put down at 900,000 annually. At 124 cents each, their estimated average postage, the loss to the Department on these letters is $112,500 a year." I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. A. WICKLIFFE. Hon. John WHITE,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
STATE OF NEW YORK,
In Assembly, April 7, 1842. Resolved, (if the Senate concur,) That our Senators in Congress be instructed, and our Representatives be requested, to vote for an imme. diate repeal of the act to appropriate the proceeds of the public lands, passed at the extra session, September fourth, one thousand eight hundred and forty-one. By order:
J. O. COLE, Clerk.
IN SENATE, April 11, 1842. Resolved, That the Senate do concur in the above resolution. By order:
ISAAC R. ELWOOD, Clerk.
STATE OF NEW YORK,
Secretary's Office. I certify the preceding to be a true copy of an original concurrent resolution of the Senate and Assembly of this State, deposited in this office.
S. YOUNG, Secretary of State. ALBANY, April 12, 1842.