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Among these “ends of national policy" to be subserved by quick AND FACILE communication, no one is more important than the wide dissemination of intelligence concerning the progress of literature and of the Arts, as well in other countries as in our own. To this end the greatest possible facility for the correspondence, both of societies and of individuals engaged in promoting such objects, and of publishing firms, is indispensable, and may well lay claim to the earnest attention of government.
But it is in evidence that, so far from the greatest possible facility being thus afforded, the EXCESSIVE CHARGE and the often inefficient methods of the Post Office, greatly obstruct, and in an immense multitude of cases absolutely prevent this free correspondence, in all respects so desirable. And this evidence has been established beyond dispute.
And it has been also established : First, that even if the present whole expense of the Post Office be regarded as the necessary cost of conveying the letters and newspapers, the superadded tax upon the transmission of the former is now upwards of three hundred per cent. upon that apparent* cost, or, in other words, that the average cost of conveying a letter or newspaper, under the present arrangements, is one penny and one third of a penny; the average charge sixpence.
Secondly, that, deducting the franked letters and newspapers, the entire average cost of conveyingt each chargeable letter is one of a penny, or less than three farthings ;* but the average charge actually made for each letter being sixpence, therefore includes a superadded tax of seven hundred per cent. on the actual cost.
* The Post Office revenue being charged with pensions to the Dukes of Marlborough and Grafton for abolished offices, and with various superannuation allowances, &c., which ought to be charged upon the general revenue, the apparent cost of that department exceeds the real cost.
+ Including receipt, transit, and distribution, as well as the collection of the tax. See the Report of the Committee on the Post Office, and the admirable pamphlet of Mr. Hill, entitled Post Office Reform,
And, thirdly, that, in consequence of the great reductions which might be made in the average necessary costs of conveyance, collection, &c. (arising partly from increased communication, partly from other causes which have been fully detailed) an average rate of postage of one penny (paid in advance) for every letter of half an ounce weight, from any one post town to any other in the United Kingdom, would still yield a profit or tax of 200 per cent. on such necessary costs; which, after paying for the distribution of franks and newspapers, would afford a probable net revenue of at least £1,278,000 per annum. And, reasoning by analogy upon all experience of the effects of fiscal reduction on articles of universal demand, a very few years would, even at this minimum rate, carry the revenue beyond its present amount.
Fully affirming these general conclusions, but, preferring to place the question on its true basis, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge thus conclude a memorial addressed to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury:
“Your memorialists are unwilling to rest a question, affecting in so high a degree the EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE, on any purely financial consideration; and they feel assured, that an enlightened government will not consider it sound policy, for the sake of avoiding the risk of some injury to a comparatively unimportant branch of the revenue, to continue a system so prejudicial to the best interests of society."
* But it appears by an estimate founded on data contained in the Seventh Report of the Commissioners on the Post Office, that the actual cost of transit for each letter between London and Edinburgh is but go of a penny: in the estimate above, it is calculated at to, wbich is very excessive. See Hill (3d edit.), p. 12.
+ The net revenue of the Post Office, in the year 1836, was £1,622,700.
The measure thus pressed on the consideration of government is one to which no possible violence of political partisanship (in whatever quarter) could affix a stigma. It is a measure which would extend some degree of benefit to each member of every class of society; but would extend most to those of all classes who are engaged in active endeavours to promote the best interests of their fellows.* Ministers of the Gospel, Authors, Artists, Schools, Educational Societies, Art Unions, Statistical Societies, Charitable Institutions of every kind, would feel a new and boundless channel opened to their exertions. They perceive the importance of means from which they are now almost wholly debarred, and they pray the government to remove the obstructions which yet withhold them. Can the government refuse to listen to the prayer?
The immense importance of this measure to commerce is but its second claim to attention. It is, however, matter of public notoriety, that seventy of the largest banking and trading firms of the city of London have petitioned for the uniform penny rate of postage, paid in advance.