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principles should govern the pursuit of the two objects, and should be not only clearly distinguished, but their different nature and application steadily maintained.
The postal service has in some countries been employed as a means of gaining revenue to contribute towards the support of the general government of the state. No such end is sought by the Government of the United States. It is neither necessary nor appropriate to the ideas of a government of the people by and for themselves. Nor is the notion, springing in part from the former theory, that the postal service is a business carried on by government, which should be at least selfsustaining, if not profitable, a just or wise one, and to so regard it tends to in pair its efficiency and retard its improvement. The government properly engages in no business as such, but undertakes, as their agent, to supply to the people those conveniences (within certain limits not necessary to discuss) which it can furnish, by comprehensive appliances and with the aid of law, in a far superior and cheaper manner than they can by any other means provide for themselves.
This imposes expense, and to meet the expenses of government taxation is necessary. All taxation would be most just, perhaps, if it were possible to impose it with discriminating fairness upon the particular persons in every case who derive the benefits resulting from the expense incurred. This theory rules the taxation levied to sustain the postal service, and finds as fair general realization there as appears possible in human affairs.
But the methods of an intense civilization have so cheapened the cost of this service that to so maintain it requires division of the special assessments into sums so small that very nice discrimination has become impracticable or is justly subordinated to considerations of ex. pediency of more moment. Thus it is that the same assessment is im. posed upon letters of equal weight, although the transmissions of one is often of vastly more benefit to the sender than another on the same route; that the same assessment is imposed for carrying a letter between neighboring towns as across the continent; that as a distinction is due between those communities which are supplied with the convenience of carriers to and from the post-office and the house or place of business and those where citizens must perform this carriage for them. selves, the difference can be expressed only by the smallest piece of money coined by the Government.
It is obvious that the postal service is of a general public value of vast importance, quite distinct from that value which is only the combined sum of its usefulness to particular persons, whose errands it performs. The cbiefest feature of this general kind is the common good which arises from the dissemination of intelligence, the spread of inter. course, and the increase of facilities for procuring the small things which bestow the comforts of life, resulting in the diffusion of a greater
happiness among all the people. But a merely pecuniary value lies in the employment of the mails by the Government itself for messages and errands which would otherwise entail great expense, which, even at postal rates, now amounts to two millions a year or more.
It is an undeniable consequence that an equitable assessment of the expenses of the postal service would impose a goodly share upon the common public to be drawn from the common treasury. How much that share should be, it is as impossible nicely to measure as it is to measure in our coin the smaller differences when imposing a postal tax apon the senders of different communications. But it seems a very fair and safe judgment to decide that, when the revenue derived from so moderate an assessment on first-class matter as but two of the smallest coins upon the ounce of weight, and much less charges on inferior matter, will approximate the whole cost of service, the remainder is but a fair burden on the common public, be it more or less; because it proves the employment of the service to have become so general that to distinguish between the public who bear the burden of general taxation and the public who enjoy the facilities of the postal service is both impossible and unimportant. Assuredly, from such distinction as may exist of that kind, no human discrimination is nice enough to confidently decide that the present general burden of “deficiency” is inequitable. It ought, therefore, neither to give the slightest concern upon that account, nor much less qualify with hesitation any desirable step towards the improvement of the efficiency or the enlargement of the valuable functions of this excellent minister of universal comfort and convenience.
The principal feature in the raising of our postal revenue to which governmental care may now be possibly requisite appears, in my view, to be the impartial adjustment of the taxes levied on the various articles transported, so that each shall pay its relatively fair share, so nearly as our money measures enable an approximation of it; and if any criticism can now be passed of this kind, it must be comparatively moderate.
On the other hand, the primary object of the postal service will never cease to be a constant and exacting demand upon legislative and administrative intelligence and ability. It is the service of the people, and none which the Government renders is of such daily and hourly interest and convenience in the ordinary affairs of life; and through no other agency do they so constantly feel the benefit of, and deal with, their governmental agencies. It is due to them as a matter of personal right, because the Government forbids any private effort in competition with its establishment, and especially as a mark of the power for good of their free institutions, that the most valuable systems and methods which the ingenuity of man has produced or shall invent to eularge the scope and facilities or augment the efficiency of their postal service, that their Constitution authorizes the employment of,
shall be put to their use with as little delay as prudent preconsideration requires, and with no reluctance to incur the necessary expense for their establishment.
Several auxiliary agencies, of which mention has been already made and no detailed discussion is necessary, are so successfully employed in other countries as to justify the attentive inquiry of the legislature; and some lines of supposed improvement and useful extension of the present methods of the service are suggested in the accompanying reports of the Bureau officers, to which attention is solicited. Postal communication by the electric wire, already debated in departmental reports, comes within the list of such objects demanding inquiry and early consideration.
In faithful accompaniment of the principle suggested there travels another obligation upon every servant invested with public trust in any way affecting the prime object of the postal service_indeed, of every other. The cost of the means employed, of whatever description, while not to be so constricted as to work any impairment of the efficiency of the system, should be honestly and economically laid out for the ends professed, and be limited to their real advancement. So manifest a doctrine needs no enforcement to intelligent judgment; it only needs a steady enforcement upon the facts of the service. Assured of the latter practice in administration, the people will welcome every new attempt, even though highly experimental, to advance the utility of their service.
The Carrier-Delivery Service, in its present general features, has already been mentioned. As the law stands, no place which neither contains 20,000 inhabitants nor furnishes $20,000 of gross postal receipts is entitled to its privileges. It is difficult longer to defend these limitations. They were prudently imposed upon the early introduction of the system. But it has at this time nearly reached those bounds, properly set to it while an experiment, and its well-approved advantages, no longer experimental, cannot be much further supplied until these limits shall be enlarged. And why should the resident of a thriving, well-established community, whose local circumstances are adapted to the carrier system and whose convenience would be greatly promoted by it, be denied the full privileges of this service because certain arbitrary figures are not attained in the enumeration of its inhabitants or realized in the receipts of the post-office? A special assessment, of two cents postage on drop letters at free-delivery offices, is imposed upon its local beneficiaries in return for the service of the carrier in fetching their mail to and from their doors; the local postage being but one cent in those communities where every patron is his own carrier. As has been stated, the totality of this tax exceeds the totality of the cost of free-delivery service. Yet of the 178 offices, where it was in operation
at the end of the year, but serenteen realized more local postage than the expense of this service, as shown in the following table:
And but 18 others realized over four-fifths the cost of this service, 25 others over three-fifths, and 25 others over one-half; while 30 realized less than one-half though more than two-fifths, 60 less than two-fifths but more than one-fifth, and 2 less than one-fifth. Thus, in fact, the large receipts for local postage in 17 offices must be distributed over 161 in order to justify the general statement that the total cost is within total local postage; and in less than one-half of these offices were such receipts equal to one-half the charge of this service; while in but one office does the extra tax of 1 cent per piece equal the burden of the free delivery. Logically, therefore, by the measure of comparative cost and gains, this system ought to be extended or much reduced. If its extension shall cease only when the totality of its cost reaches the totality of local postage at its offices, it may be much extended. If it should be locally self-supporting, 161 offices must lose it and but 17 abide.
If it were capable of ascertainment, perhaps so much of the cost of the local post-office as is due to the local service should be added to the charges for carriers to reach a correct statement of the burden of the system. In fact, it could be but roughly estimated.
Upon the whole, the limitation suggested by the First Assistant Postmaster-General of 10,000 inhabitants or $10,000 gross receipts appears to be practically the best, because there is good reason to believe that as the system is extended and perfected local postages will continually increase until they shall become sufficient, by the time post-ottices within the proposed new limitation shall be provided with the system, to equal the entire cost of it in all.
I venture further to recommend, in the interest of both efficiency and economy, that authority be given for the employment of a distinct
class of collection carriers. The collection service in the larger cities is properly to be kept distinct from the delivery service, and the two cannot be so efficiently performed by the same carrier. The former is simple and easy and requires no such intelligence and skill as the latter. Collection carriers require a compensation of and, as compared with that of delivery carriers, earn no more than $600 a year. The service would be simplified and its cost reduced by the separation of the grades.
Other Local Improvements appear to be very desirable at many of the principal offices. A commission of expert officers of the service made, during the summer, a careful examination of the local service of the cities of New York and Brooklyn, and upon the facts and suggestions they presented, although they commended the administration of the former office in view of the means afforded, such steps were directed to change the system of local collections and deliveries in and between the two cities, as, with increased provision for clerks and carriers, it is believed will greatly advance the frequency and rapidity with which the mails will be collected, handled, and delivered. An attempt has been made to establish the publication of a local guide for those cities in which shall be furnished every week to the public at a small charge, and without cost to the Government, a complete time. table of the local postal-service, and of its connection with the principal postal-routes to the various parts of the country, so that from it the course and time of a letter, from any collection-box to its delivery at any part of either city or any of the larger offices of the country, may be read, besides much other valuable information affecting the conduct of the local office. It is believed that the greater the familiarity the public are led to acquire with every particular of the service the more just will their criticism become, and that it will prove a highly efficacious agency to stimulate and compel the most faithful and efti.' cient performance of the best methods.
A reference to the table given above will show that so great is the net revenue from the cities of New York and Brooklyn, that the Gov. ernment owes to those cities, in sheer pecuniary recompense, a local service unsurpassed in the world.
If satisfactory results shall follow the steps taken in the cities mentioned, it is regarded by the Department as desirable that similar efforts should be made, as diligently as may be expedient and within the means provided, to extend similar methods to other places in which there is apparent demand or necessity for them, until the system of local col. lection and delivery is generally brought to as complete perfection as at least obtains in any country. Contemplated simply as a question of business, such a course is demanded for the increase of profitable revenue. It is doubly an obligation on the Government, because it has prohibited the existence of the local express or district delivery companies by which a large, and it is supposed a profitable, letter and cir