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For many years these considerations control ed the administration of this branch of the postal service; and if at any time they have been departed from, the result of snch departure, leading as it did to waste. ful and demoralizing expenditure of the public money, vindicated their justness and propriety, and public sentiment compelled a return to them.
On the other hand, it is not to be forgotten or ignored that the Gorernment, in assuming a monopoly of the performance of the postal serr. ice, bas incurred obligations to the people which it must fairly and faithfully discharge, and that in such performance it may almost be said erery map, woman, and child in the country is interested.
In the application of these rules, regard, too, must be had to the dif: ferent conditions and varying circumstances of different parts of the country. The questions of the cost and the necessity of postal service in any particular case will be necessarily affected by a consideration of these coi ditions and circumstances.
Keeping in view these facts, the two rules above stated must ever re. main the true guides to an honest and an efficient administration of this branch of the Department, and they can be always sately followed without depriving any portion of the people of just, adeqnate, aud sat. isfactory mail facilities.
While upon the subject of star service I beg leave to invite attention to section 3961, Revised Statutes, in regard to increase of expedition in carrying the mails on established routes, which reads as follows:
“No extra allowance shall be made for any increase of expedition in carrying the mail unless thereby the employment of additional stock and carriers is made necessary, and in such case the additional com. pensation shall bear no greater proportion to the additional stock and carriers necessarily employed than the compensation in the original con. tract bears to the stock and carriers necessarily employed in its execution."
By the act of April 7, 1880, this section was modified to the effect that “the Postmaster General should not have the power to expedit: service under any contract, either now existing or hereafter to be given, to a rate of pay exceeding 50 per cent. upon the contract as originally let."
by order No. 59, dated November 17, 1884, the Postmaster-General directed that “whenever it shall become necessary to increase the speed vpon which mail is carried on any post route, the service shall be re. advertised for the reduced running time required: Provided, That the contractor, with the consent of bis sure ies, shall have the optiou of con tinuing service upon the expedited running time, without additional compensation therefor."
This order announces wbat I think is the proper principle, and what should be the law upon the subject of ordering an increase of experlition. It is, however, but a simple postal regulation, which may at any time be modified or revoked. In consideration of events, which it is not necessary to do more than to allude to, I recommend that the order or regulation referred to, or the principle on which it proceeils, be clothed with the force and formality of an act of Congress. By a statute to that effect all inducements upon the part of the contractor or subcontractor to petition or urge petitions for expedition would be effectually removed.
By the acts of May 17, 1878, and May 4, 1882, and the new forms of subcontracts adopted by this Department in 1883, the matter of sub). letting of contracts for inail service has, in my judgment, been placed
on a basis satisfactory to the Department, and protective of the public service. These acts have very considerably reduced the evils alleged to result from the system of permitting subcontracts for mail service.
This, I think, will be seen by reference to the following statement of failing contractors and bidders for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1885: Failing contractors... Failing bidders...
Temporary bulletin service-failing bidders..
16 Number of routes on which failures occurred
77 During the same period the increase by orders reawarding contracts was: For star service ..
$12, 282 52 For steamboat service..
3, 080 00
15, 362 52
Appropriation for the current year..
$615, 000 00 Annual rate of expenditure on September 30, 1885..
511, 669 00 It is believed that all of this appropriation will not be expended, as orders effecting a reduction in the cost of steamboat service have been made since April 1, 1885, to the extent of $74,256, as will be seen by the following statement showing reductions in the cost of inland transportation by steamboat routes from April 1 to September 30, 1885:
In view of these reductions and others likely to be made during the remainder of the current fiscal year, I recommend that the sum of $575,000 be appropriated for this branch of the mail transportation for the year ending June 30, 1887, being 6.5 per cent. less than the appropriaticn for the current year. The sum stated will, in my judgment, cover all existing or new steamboat service likely to be ordered by the Department during the next fiscal year.
As shown by the foregoing table, a very considerable reduction in the cost of steamboat service has been made by orders of this office since April 1, 1885. These reductions were not made without earnest protest on the part of large and influential classes of citizens interested in the service thus curtailed and discontinued. To these protests tull and respectful consideration was given. But after the maturest examination, I deemed that these curtailments and discontinuances of service could be made at a saving of cost to the Governinent and without any deprivation of proper and fully adequate mail facilities to the people located on the routes so curtailed or diminished.
Star service was to a large extent and at greatly reduced rates established in lieu of the curtailed and discontinued routes. • On many of these routes the performance of steamboat service had been made the subject of frequent complaint upon the part of the people served, and was not satisfactory to the Department. It is believed that the substituted star service will be more satisfactory in its operation and results than the former service thus supplanted. Should, however, this expectation be not sustained by the test of actual experiment, on account of the nature of the country, or for any cause, it is at any time within the power of the Department to restore the former service, it such res. toration be found necessary to a proper and adequate supply of mail facilities.
In this connection it may be added that appeals were adılressed to tbis Department on behalf of the curtailed and discontinued steamboat mail routes, on the ground that the compensation received by the steamboats engaged in the performance of mail service was necessary to the maintenance of these lines of communication, which lines were important as furnishing commercial facilities to the localities on these routes. In this view I could not concur. The moners provided by Con. gress for the transportation of the mails of the United States cannot and should not be diverted from that object and applied to any other, directly or indirectly, without the express authority of Congress. Nor could I consider the question of aiding the establishment or maintenance of commercial facilities by the expenditure of any part of the postal fund, excepting in so far as an efficient and a thorough postal service is of itself a very necessary and indispensable instrument of commerce.
INLAND AND FOREIGN STEAMBOAT MAIL SERVICE.
In the bill making appropriations for the Post-Office Department, passed during the last session of Congress, the Postmaster General is authorized to contract “for inland and foreign steamboat mail service wben it can be combined in one route, where the foreign office or offices are not more than two hundred miles distant from the domestic office, on the same terms and conditions as inland steamboat service, and pay for the same out of the appropriation for inland steamboat service." Under an ailvertisement issned on the 6th of October, 1985, proposals were invited for carrying the mails of the United States, and such foreign mails as may be ordered, in safe and suitable steamships, from Tampa, by Key West, Fla., to Havana, Cuba, twice a week and back, from January 1, 1886, to June 30, 1888, on a schedule of twenty-five hours for the outward trip and not exceeding twenty-seven hours for the return trip. Should satisfactory proposals be received and the service be awarded a very fast mail will be established via railroad from Boston to Tampa, thence by steamship to Havana, touching at Key West, carrying the mail between these points in 84 hours and 30 minutes, and between New York and Havana in 74 hours and 30 minutes, showing a reduction of running time between New York and Havana, in comparison with the former service by ocean steamships between New York and Havana, of one day and a half. The cost of this addition to the steamboat service of the Department has already been pro. vided for in the estimates submitted.
Appropriation for the current year
$975,000 Annual rate of expenditure on September 30, 1885
846, 648 Sum deemed necessary for the current year..
870, 648 On the 30th of June, 1885, the mail-messenger service amounted to $879,217. This is an increase, therefore, of $15,904 over the cost on June 30, 1884.
I submit the following table of reductions made in this branch of the service by orders of this office from April 1 to September 30, 1885:
This is a very important and growing branch of the postal service, and is likely to increases in proportion to the extension of the postal railroad service. But from the reductions above stated, made since April Uast, and for other reasons, it is thought that the amount neces. sary for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1887, will be $900,000, being a decrease of $75,000, or 7.69 per cent. less than the appropriation for the current year.
MAIL EQUIPMENTS. The number of mail bags of every description purchased and put in service during the last fiscal year was 175,640, of which 22,840 were principally used for letters and other matter of the first-class.' The balance, 152,800, was for canvas tied sacks.
There has been a decrease in the demands of this branch of the serv. ice of 2,000, or 8 per cent., of lock bags, and an increase of 43,800, or 40 per cent., of tied canvas sacks.
It is anticipated that there will be an increased demand for the use of the last named sacks on account of the reduction of postage on sec. ond-r.lass matter.
The contracts for supplying tied canvas sacks for the term of four years from July 1, 1885, were made at a saving over the contract for the previous four years of $10,000 per annum.
The cost of mail-bag catchers last year was $3,031.70, which is a large decrease, amounting to 64 per ceut. less than the precedig year. This decrease in the cost is owing to the expiration of the patent upon mailbag catchers.
The expenditure for mail locks and keys during the fiscal year ended June 30, 1885, was $23,962. Though anticipating an increase in the demands of the mail service, with respect to the items of mail bags and mail-bag catchers, the sum estimated for the next fiscal year is $275,000, the same as appropriated for the current fiscal year.
For mail locks and keys the sum of $20,000 is estimated as necessary for the year 1887, being the same as the appropriation for the current year.
FINES AND DEDUCTIONS.
The gross amount of fines and deductions from postal contractors and others during the year ended June 30, 1887, is $215,853.96.
The amount of remissions on deductions on account of satisfactory explanation was $19,855.64.
The amount of remissions on fines was $1,224.46, making total remissions of fines and deductions of $21,080.10, leaving the net amount of fines and deductions on account of railroad, star, steamboat, and mail messenger service for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1885, $194, 773.86. To this are to be added fines imposed and deductions made from the pay of railway mail service employés, for failures, $3,314.55, and from mail messengers, $2,081.84, making total net deductions for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1885, $200,200.25. (See Table F.)
The subject of compensation of railroads for the transportation of the mails has for many years attracted the attention of Congress, as is evi. denced by the debates in that body and the commissions which have from time to time been appointed for the purpose of investigating and reporting upon that subject. This is the most interesting and important branch of the postal service. Its rapid growth, vast extent, and superior character bave elicited the just commendation of all who are familiar with it. Its increasing aggregate cost, however, has been the subject of frequent comment and some criticism.
The method of basing the compensation upon the weight of the mails carried bas met with serious objection as furnishing an unsafe and unreliable criterion of the value of the service rendered, and plans have from time to time been suggested, which, it was thought by those who proposed them, would dispense with this method of adjusting the compensation of railroad trausportation, and which while giving to the railroads a fair and reasonable remuneration for the important service which they render to the country in the transportation of the mails, would considerably reduce the cost of such service to the Government. None of these plans have as yet received the approbation of Congress, but each in its turn has challenged as much opposition and criticism as the one which it was intended to supplant. The question is one which demands a thorough investigation and a solution satisfactory alike to the public, the Department, and the railroads engaged in the performance of this service.
The following table shows the average rate of cost per mile per an. num, based on the length of the routes, for railroad transportation:
Statistics show that railroad service, from its establishment, has doubled every decade. It follows as a matter of course that the ag. gregate cost must necessarily increase as the service expands, and in a