« PrejšnjaNaprej »
If the account be stated upon the results of the seven days' count, as given in the reported tables, no more favorable results appear. It is true the sum of the gross revenue is apparently much greater; indeed, so very much greater as to challenge immediate distrust of its correctness; but the corresponding expenses, calculated upon that scale, proportionably enlarge. Tabulated on the basis of the counts, the results of which are carried out for a year by that method of estimation in the Superintendent's report, and the account for the past year stands as follows:
RECEIPTS of all kinds
$2, 287, 169 13
Of sea conveyance
Of intermediary service
331, 903 24 104, 797 80
756 56 2, 486 43
1,414, 161 56
30, 046 11 517, 029 80
2,401, 181 50
The weights are more trustworthy than the counts, because actually and constantly taken as the basis of payment to the carriers; while the counts are subject to uncertainty as made, continue for an average of only seven days in three hundred and sixty five, and necessarily indicate but imperfectly the true quantity of mail for the entire year.
The truth, as usual, is probably in the mean, and the sum of receipts and disbursements lies between the estimate on either basis. But in no case is there any ground to affirm that the foreign correspondence affords any revenue above the actual cost to the Department of the services performed in handling it.
By the act of June 26, 1884, the statutes, which during over twenty years have secured the service of American vessels as mail carriers, were repealed, to take effect on the 1st day of April, 1885; and soon after my assumption of duty inquiries were received from two of the steamship companies concerning the course to be pursued by the Department during the quarter-year to begin with that date.
No time had then been afforded for consideration of the future policy of the Department, nor had any apprehension of difficulty in regard to it been conceived; and inasmuch as no special appropriation for the quarter-year beginning with April had been granted, the request was made in reply that the service should continue upon the same terms upon which it had previously been rendered. No others addressed the Department in respect to the particular period, and all the American companies which had before that date been employed as mail-carriers continued to transport the mails during that quarter at the same rate of compensation which they had theretofore received. Verbal application was, indeed, made on behalf of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company to carry the mails during the three months without determination or payment of any fixed compensation, leaving that to be the subject of special application to Congress. Inasmuch, however, as no act authorizes the Department to contract, even for a brief period, for any service upon a quantum meruit basis, or to oblige the Government to pay any indefinite price, it was necessary to decline the application, which was not further insisted on, and payment to all was made for that quarter at the same rates theretofore given.
Tuco foreign postal agencies were maintained during the year, as previously-at Shanghai, in China, and at Panama, in the United States of Colombia. The cost of these was $2,638.43; for the Panama agency, $846.80, and $1,791.63 for the Shanghai agency; of the latter sum, $152 were discharged by the agent's collections for box rents.
Universal Postal Union.-The general quinquennial congress of delegates from the Postal Union countries, which was by the congress of 1878 appointed to be held at Lisbon, Portugal, in May, 1884, was postponed first until October, and again until the 3d of February, 1885, because of the prevalence of cholera during last year in Southern Europe The delegates assembled at the latter date, the United States being represented by tbe Hon. William T. Otto and James S. Crawford, Esq., and prosecuted their labors until the 21st of March, when a final adjournment took place. An additional act was agreed upon and signed by the delegates in attendance, with appropriate detailed regulations, in amendment of the existing convention and regulations, to take effect, if ratified, on the 1st day of April, 1886. This additional act or con vention received your approval on the 20th day of October last, and the information of the Department is to the effect that its ratitication will be general, so that its provisions will become operative at the appointed time.
A copy of this amendatory act will be found annexed to the report of the Superintendent of the Office of Foreign Mails. Its more important features consist in extending the service to post-cards with a paid reply, leaving it optional with any country to issue them, however, and only obliging the return of the reply halves to the country of origin; in providing that the general settlement between nations shall take place once in three instead of two years; in abolishing the privilege, before temporarily conceded, of adding a charge of 10 centimes to the single rate of 25 centimes for letter postage, thus leaving the latter to stand as the fixed rate, except in the special cases of articles subjected to sea-transit rates of 15 francs; in limiting the dimensions of mailable 'articles to 45 centimeters (17.46 inches) in each direction, as well as to 2 kilograms (4 pounds 6 ounces) in weight; in authorizing the sender of a letter to recall it or change its address before delivery; in providing a uniform indemnity of 50 francs for a lost reg
istered article, to be borne by the responsible country (a provision not applicable to extra-European countries whose legislation is opposed to the principle of indemnity, as is that of the United States, until favorable legislation shall be obtained); in providing for special immediate delivery of “express” correspondence in those countries which undertake this service in their reciprocal relations; and in prohibiting the use of the mails for letters containing pieces of money or dutiable articles, and, when the laws of the countries concerned forbid, also gold or silver bullion, precious stones, jewelry, or other precious articles.
No provision has been made by our laws for foreign postal cards with a paid reply. Comparatively few postal cards for foreign dispatch were sold last year, the total number issued being only 80,000. It is not probable that any increase of revenue worth aiming for would be gained by the adoption of the card with a paid reply, which the new convention provides for. Yet, the convenience of such cards, which have been found in Europe desirable, ought perhaps to be afforded to such of our people as may wish to make use of them (in both domestic and foreign correspondence), while experience may greatly enlarge their employment beyond present anticipations; and inasmuch as all the receipts from their sale will constitute a clear addition to the revenue over the mere cost of their manufacture, sound policy appears to recommend that proper provision be made to supply them to the public. A number of the Postal Union countries have availed themselves of the system.
It has several times been recommended to Congress in reports from this Department that legislation should be enacted authorizing the payment of a fixed indemnity for lost registered articles, according to the ideas generally prevalent among Postal Union countries. The renewed provision on the subject in the recent conventiou seems properly to invite a renewed consideration of the propriety of such legislation.
The area of the Universal Postal Union has become so enlarged as fairly to justify its name. Its service was extended during the year to Massonah, on the Red Sea, through the action of the Italian Government in creating a post-office at that point. On the 1st of July last the Kingdom of Siam became a member of the union, on the 1st of Jan. uary next the State of Congo joins, and by next April the Republic of Bolivia, the latest lingering Government on this continent, will be united to the league. On that date the area of civilized postal privileges will comprehend over 51,000,000 square miles aud more than 850,000,000 people; and all of America and of Europe, with most of the civilized world beyond, will enjoy the equal benefits of a system of communication over which, as upon a yet unworn high way through the newbroken forest, a reasonable imagination may perceive a far-off fingerpost pointing the millenial brotherhood of men.
The postmaster-general of Great Britain has recently solicited the opening of negotiations with this Department looking to the establishment between the two countries of the convenient parcel-post system
in general European use. No other answer was admissible except that our legislation has not yet authorized the employment of postal facilities for such objects.
Between the postal administrations of various European Governments there exist mutual arrangements for affording to their citizens the cheap conveniences of the parcel-post system, the exchange of letters of declared values, the collection of bills of small amount, and of a system for the identification of travelers; all of which the additional act of the Uniou Congress only mentions as, for the present, subjects of special arrangement. They seem to be as proper for governmental management as the transmission of money by money orders. To establish such of these useful systems as are adapted to our needs and convenience would be to the gain of the whole people in providing them with privileges of great value. And it is to be especially noted that these facilities are for those who have only small dealings, and who, under the management of private establishments, generally pay a greater disproportionate charge for services which, if transacted by governmental agencies, might be afforded at cost. It is worthy of serious consideration whether our people should be left without any portion of the best and the utmost of the useful agencies of enlightened civilization which may be justifiably and constitutionally afforded by their Government.
The postal convention, some time since negotiated with Mexico, and which by its terms should, if ratified, have gone into operation on the first of January last, has not been ratified by the Government of that republic; and the cheaper facilities it sought to provide, by which our commercial and social intercourse with the sister republic would have been augmented, have so far failed of being realized to the people of the two countries.
The Third Assistant Postmaster-General's Report has been, 80 far as it relates to the revenue of the year past, already considered. Reference to his tables affords an easy survey of the fiscal affairs of the service from every desirable point of view.
The statistics of the stamp division show a decrease in the issue of all the stamped paper from which revenue is derived, except only newspaper and periodical stamps and stamped envelopes bearing return requests, corresponding to but not measuring the decrease of revenue and the depression of business.
The entire weight of newspaper and periodical matter carried, not estimating the free circulation allowed within the county of publication, was in round numbers 50,529 tons, on which postage to the gross amount of $2,021,159.26 was collected, more by $131,567.12, or nearly 7 per cent., than during the previous year.
The statistics of the dead-letter office are given in extensive detail, and require a patient review to fully appreciate the useful service per
Four million seven hundred and ninety-four thousand
formed by it.
eight hundred and forty pieces were handled during the year, and the work so closely brought up that but 13,306 were “left on hand” at the end of the year, as compared with 97,906 pieces at the beginning of it. Of domestic mailed letters 57,143 were delivered unopened and 3,819,793 were opened. Domestic misdirected letters numbering 67,250 were for. warded unopened to the proper addresses by correction of the addresses and 217,108 such letters were opened. Of foreign matter 406,806 letters were returned to the country of origin.
The revenue of the office comprised $8,141.74, taken from dead letters which could not be restored to the sevders, and $1,250.87, the net realization from the January auction sale of articles of merchandise for which no owners could be found; in all, $9,392.61.
The number of letters coming to this office from a failure to prepay the postage diminished, by 16,028, to a total of 117,558. This is attributed partly to the reduction of the rate of postage, which is now uniform with local rates at free delivery offices, and therefore relieves the former frequent fault of mailing at local rate, and in part to the system of notifying addressees directly from the mailing office and affording them opportunity to send the postage due and obtain the letters.
The utility to the general public of this office, in a merely pecuniary sense, may be better judged from the tables furnished by the chief of the division, exhibitory of the money branch of it. A summary of these is, that of 18,973 letters handled during the year (of which 2,394 were on band or outstanding at the beginning of it), containing money to the amount of $35,543.04; 12,539, containing $22,453.43, were properly delivered; 4,474, containing $8,265.74, were filed to await claims of unknown owners; 785, containing $2,611.62, are outstanding, and 1,175, containing $2,182.25, are on band; and of 20,209 (including 1,158 outstanding at the beginning of the year), containing drafts, checks, notes, &c., to the value of $2,215,066.01 at their face, 17,588, containing $1,795,764.51, were delivered to the owners; 795, containing $103,892.43, were filed, and 1,826, containing $315,409.07, were outstanding on the 30th of June; of 81,666 packages of books, merchandise, &c., 33,451 were correctly delivered, 34,407 filed, and 13,77: destroyed; and of 26,257, containing receipts or paid notes, 21,660 were delivered and 4,597 filed. Besides these there were received 32,731 photographs, of which 25,947 were delivered and 6,784 filed; and 107,860 postage stamps, of which 105,334 were delivered and 2,526 filed.
These statistics are of value to show the successful care of the office in protecting the patrons of the mails from the consequences of their carelessness, and of interest to illustrate the numerous instances in which such carelessness occurs.
Other features of the complete and valuable report of the Third Assistant Postmaster-General will be referred to in considering the fiscal affairs of the Department.