§ Sir Thomas Wilde
rose to call the attention of the House to a petition which had been presented by Mr. Rowland Hill, on the subject of the Post-office. He felt satisfied that the House, after what had occurred, would deem the matter to which the petition related of sufficient importance to justify him in bringing it under the consideration of the House. It would be in the recollection of the House, that at a time, which the state of the revenue did not render peculiarly propitious for that purpose, the House entered into an inquiry as to the practicability of a plan proposed by Mr. Rowland Hill, for the purpose of reducing the postage upon letters from the then various amounts to one uniform charge of one penny. It was not disguised that such a plan must be attended, in all probability, with a permanent diminution of revenue, to a small amount, while it would lead to a temporary diminution to a considerable extent. But the House evinced its high estimate of the value of the plan, by adopting it, notwithstanding it was especially expedient to avoid at that time reducing the revenue, except for objects of paramount importance. This plan had been published by Mr. Rowland Hill, in the year 1837, when he first presented to the public attention the great advantage which would result from the adoption of a uniform rate of postage, accompanied by considerable reduction; and expressed an opinion, that although a loss in the revenue would be 400 sustained in the first instance, yet the ultimate defalcation might to a great extent be made good, by an alteration in the management of the Post-office. The plan combined three several subjects: first, the reduction of a tax; second, increased public convenience; and third, an economical management. Mr. Hill presented this as one entire plan. He did not propose or recommend any one of these measures for adoption, except in connection with the others. The state of the Post-office at that time was a subject of remark both in Parliament and out of it; and various commissions had issued for inquiry into its management; and in the fourth report it was stated,That they (the Commissioners) had sufficiently informed themselves on the subject to be satisfied that an alteration of the present system was absolutely necessary.The defect of the existing system must be obvious from the fact, that during the twenty years previous to the appearance of Mr. Hill's pamphlet, notwithstanding the great increase of population, and the extension of trade, no improvement had occurred in the revenue of the Post-office. The noble Lord, the present Postmaster-general, gave certain evidence before the commission in the year 1836, which will be found in the sixth report. He did not know whether the atmosphere of the Post-office had any particular effect, but opinions are much changed, when persons have been occupied for a certain period on that spot. What therefore might be the opinion of the noble Lord on the subject at the present moment he would not venture to say; hut, if the improvements suggested for the Post-office management were to be left entirely to the conduct and control of the Post-office authorities themselves, it was essentially necessary to know what had been their conduct in former times, in order to ascertain with what vigour improvements had been carried out. The noble Lord being asked whether in the course of his inquiries as a Post-office commissioner, he had formed any opinion as to the merits of the then present system of conducting the department under a Postmaster-general, or as to the propriety of substituting any other form of management answered as follows:—I was not long enough in the office of Commissioner to have been able to consider that subject with my Colleagues; but my observation of the Post-office has led me to this conclusion. I think the present system has proved that it is not at all adapted to the active circum- stances of the times, and I should feel disposed 401 to new model and re-construct the Post-office Department altogether. I think one sees, in the present state of the Post-office, that it remains just what it was ever since the improvement it underwent in 1797 and 1798; there has hardly been any alteration since in its details except what has actually been forced upon it by the public.This remark of the noble Lord would equally apply to the year 1843:—The duties of the Post. office (the noble Lord continued) are becoming now so great, notwithstanding its inconvenient and almost prohibitory arrangements, and so general, and from the present state of the world, and our constant communication with the East, and with America, I should look to England as being in a great degree the Post-office of the world, if facilities were offered; and however capable or industrious one man might be I should conceive he could hardly be qualified to look into the number of details that that office would embrace in all its ramifications. I should think the better way would be to have a board as in France (there it is called a Council), with a head and two assistants, one to superintend the Home Department of the Post-office, and the other, the Foreign department, and colonies; and the head would have a general view over the arrangements of the whole office.After the publication of Mr. Rowland Hill's plan, the House instituted an inquiry into the condition of the Post-office, with a view to ascertain the expediency of carrying into execution that plan.And among other defects which appeared in the existing system the committee were satisfied from the evidence that evasion was practised almost without restraint; that the rates of postage were so high, as in effect to deprive the poor of the convenience of the Post-office, and seriously to injure the revenue itself.Many of the officers of the Post-office, in giving their evidence before the committee, stated that it had been the opinion of several Postmasters-general, that there ought to be, and that there must be, a considerable reduction in the amount of postage; but, notwithstanding this opinion, the Post-office authorities were not prepared to recommend any course, or to state what the reduction ought to be. The fact that a reduction should be made was stated by them, yet they declined the responsibility of making any recommendation; hut, at the same time, if reduction was to be adopted, they submitted a scale for the consideration of the committee, advancing from 2d. to 1s., stating their opinion that such scale, if adopted, would reduce the revenue by about 800,000l. per annum. The report 402 of the committee induced the Legislature to pass the statute of 2nd and 3rd Vict. cap. 52, by which Mr. Hill's plan received a Parliamentary sanction, and authority was given to the Lords of the Treasury to carry that plan into effect, by such regulations as from time to time should appear to be expedient; subsequently to the passing of that statute, and with a view to the accomplishment of its objects, Mr. Rowland Hill, under the circumstances which he (Sir T. Wilde) would presently state to the House, was taken into the employ of the Treasury, and so continued up to September last. The motion which he should submit to the House, had arisen out of the circumstance of the removal, dismissal, or retirement—whichever it might be called, (though not voluntary on his part) of that gentleman, Mr. Rowland Hill. But, at the same time, if it should be supposed by any Gentleman that the importance of this motion was to be confined to the particular interests of Mr. Hill, he begged to dissent from that opinion. Mr. Hill, in suggesting his plan, did not look to any pecuniary reward; and he, therefore, had not been disappointed in not having received any. He (Sir Thomas Wilde) only mentioned the name of that Gentleman now so far as it was connected with the public service, and with an improvement in the management of the department of the Post-office. He begged, therefore, not to be misunderstood in that respect. Undoubtedly this motion arose out of the removal of that Gentleman, because that removal seemed to him very clearly to lead to one conclusion only, namely, that the public must give up all expectation of that plan being effectively carried out, which had received parliamentary sanction, and which promised so much benefit to the public. Speedily after the passing of the statute Mr. Rowland Hill had the honour of an application from the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to know whether he were ready to render his services towards carrying out his plan. That led to a communication, in the course of which Mr. Rowland Hill expressed his most earnest wish that the plan should be carried out, and his willingness to assist in doing so; and upon the question arising with regard to the remuneration to be received by Mr. Hill, he stated that he was content that the question of salary should be postponed, or to serve the public without remuneration, but as he thought that in a situation subordinate, or conceived to be so, his services would not be efficient, he 403 therefore declined to accept a salary less in amount than that enjoyed by the secretary to the Post-office. The Government having no knowledge of Mr. Hill, except from his pamphlet, and the evidence he gave before the committee; but being at the same time desirous to ascertain how far it was likely the person who had suggested the plan was capable of carrying it out, it was at length agreed by the Treasury to engage Mr. Hill for the period of two years certain, at a salary of 1,500l. a year, upon the understanding that if the Treasury thought fit to dispense with his services at the end of that period, lie should have no claim for a continuance beyond it. That proposition placed Mr. Hill in the only situation he was desirous of filling, that which gave him an opportunity of lending his best aid in carrying out his own plan. He continued to serve the late Government for two years, under that arrangement. During that time, acting under the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the conduct of the Post-office authorities from time to time came under his consideration. The evidence he received of the extreme inaccuracy of their official knowledge and of their want of accurate acquaintance with the details of the department with which they were connected confirmed the conviction he had when he published his pamphlet; for, extraordinary as it might appear, when the officials were examined before the committee of the House of Commons, to ascertain the merits of Mr. Hill's plan, they were uninformed almost on every fact material to forming a correct opinion upon the subject. They knew not the number of the letters that passed through the Post-office in a year, or the cost of transmission of a single letter; in fact, the committee obtained nothing like accurate information from them. One gentleman, very high in the department, being asked what would he the effect of the proposed reduction, stated in answer, that it would be a loss of 7d. to 8d. per letter. Assuming his answer to be sincere and according to the witness's belief, and not given under the influence of a morbid prejudice against suggestions coming from one who, was an alien to the Post-office, this answer evidenced the grossest want of information on the subject to which it referred on extreme inattention—the fact being, that upon the number of letters reported by the Post-office, the loss stated would amount to about 2,400,000l., a sum exceeding the whole revenue of the Post-office. Other instances 404 of gross mistake might be stated. In the course of Mr. Hill's attendance at the Treasury, he brought to the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer various suggestions connected with his plan, and requested instruction whether he should present the entire details of his plan at once, or suggest the improvements from time to time in succession. In the absence of distinct instructions, Mr. Hill from time to time brought parts of his plan under the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he could not fail to perceive that the same system of prejudice against alteration and opposition to improvement under which the public had so long suffered, and to which he had himself been exposed continued to exist in the Post-office establishment. The Post-office authorities had pronounced the plan to be visionary, ridiculous, and preposterous; and the reports of the committee will manifest that every possible expression of hostility had been used towards it. This opposition, however, has not been successful to the extent of preventing the reduction of postage to the uniform rate of 1d., nor altogether to prevent the adoption of some other suggestions for improvement; but the greater part of Mr. Hill's plan and especially those connected with the extension of facilities of communication, and with economy of management, remained to be carried into effect. Shortly before the expiration of the two years of Mr. Hill's appointment there was a probability of a speedy change taking place in the Government, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not think fit to bind the successors of the then Government to any permanent arrangement with Mr. Hill; he therefore proposed that, after the two years, Mr. Hill's engagement should be extended one year more for certain, leaving it to the succeeding Government to act with Mr. Hill according to their will and judgment. The anticipated change of Government took place. Mr. Hill continued under the present Chancellor of the Exchequer for the remaining year, bringing under the right lion. Gentleman's notice various matters from time to time. At the end of the year still much remained to be done; but he might state with confidence, that as well under the Chancellor of the Exchequer by whom Mr. Hill was appointed, as under the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, no man could have conducted himself more properly, or shown himself more efficient for the duties he had engaged to 405 perform than did Mr. Rowland Hill. Whatever delay had taken place, had not been with him. He continued from time to time to urge on the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the various alterations necessary to give the public the benefit of his plan; but at the expiration of the third year, and before these suggestion were carried into effect, Mr. Hill received an intimation that his services would be no longer required. At this date the public had obtained possession of only one part of the plan —the uniform low rate of postage; but the improved management, increased facility, and the economy contemplated throughout by Mr. Hill, had not been obtained. This was no fault of Mr. Hill; he was dismissed, or his services were dispensed with, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the act had been confirmed by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. He would read to the House from the papers upon the Table a letter from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Mr. Hill, dated the 11th of August, 1842—setting forth the grounds on which Mr. Hill's assistance was no longer required. It was as follows:—
§ "Downing Street, August 11, 1842.
§ "Dear Sir—I have had the honour of receiving your letter of the 29th ult., urging upon my re-consideration the decision which I communicated to you in my letter of the 11th ult. I have given my best attention to all that you have stated, but I still retain the opinion which I have before expressed, that it would not be expedient to retain your services for a longer period than that to which they are at present limited. I can assure you that, in coming to this conclusion, it is very far from my intention to imply that there has been, on your part, any neglect of the duties confided to you, or any deficiency of zeal or ability in the discharge of them. I readily acknowledge also the honourable motives which originally prompted, and which has now induced you to repeat your offer of gratuitous service; but I am influenced solely by the consideration that it is not advisable to give a character of permanence to an appointment which, originally created for a temporary purpose, has now, as it appears to me, fulfilled its object.
§ "The penny postage has been above two years established, and the principle of it is DOW thoroughly understood. So long as a post-office shall continue, so long will opportunities present themselves, of effecting important improvements, and the necessity arise of adapting the arrangements to the ever-changing circumstances of the time and country. But the retention of an independent officer for the purpose of conducting such improvements, would necessarily lead either to an entire supercession of 406 those who are, by their offices, responsible for the management of the department, or to a conflict of authorities, highly prejudicial to the public interests. Under these cirstances, I think it incumbent on me to decline the offer you have made of further service. But I will take care that your past services shall be duly acknowledgd and recorded in a minute of the Treasury.
§ (Signed) "HENRY GOULBURN.
§ "R. Hill, Esq."
§ In consequence of that letter, and without intending any disrespect to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, an application was made by Mr. Hill to the right lion. Baronet in the following letter:—
§ " Bayswater, September 27,1842.
§ " Sir,—As First Lord of the Treasury, you are, I presume, aware that I am no longer in employment under that Board, and that the reason which has been given me for the discontinuance of my services is, that the time has arrived at which my further assistance may safely be dispensed with.
§ "After much consideration, I think it right to lay before you the following short statement, as the ground on which I respectfully, but most earnestly request the honour of an audience, with the view of submitting to you the propriety of reconsidering the determination of the Treasury, and of affording me the means, under the control of her Majesty's Government, for carrying into full effect the measure of Post-office improvement with which I have been so long connected.
§ " This measure has, from the first, been stated by me to consist of the following parts "1st. Au uniform and low rate of postage according to weight.
§ " 2d. Increased speed in the delivery of letters.
§ " 3d. Greater facilities for their despatch.
§ "4th. Simplification in the operations of the Post-office, with the object of reducing the cost of the establishment to a minimum. "The only portion of the plan which is as yet fully carried into effect is the institution of the penny rate.
§ "For increased speed of delivery, little or nothing has been done.
§ "A similar statement must be made as to the greater facilities for the despatch of letters. "And with regard to the simplification of arrangements and consequent economy, though many important and successful changes have been made, yet little has been effected in proportion to the opportunities afforded by the adoption of uniformity of rate and pre-payment.
§ "I am prepared with ample proof that it is from no fault of mine that so little of my plan is in action; but I shall probably not have occasion to trouble you on this point, inasmuch as no blame has ever been imputed to me either on that or any other ground.
§ " I have prepared and laid before the proper 407 authorities many specific measures forming parts of my plan; together with proof of their practicability, in most instances without creating any charge on the revenue.
§ " Some of these have been rejected on grounds which, as far as they have been disclosed to me, are, I submit, insufficient; others still stand over for decision, and there is a further number absolutely necessary for the completion of my plan, which I have shortly indicated, but of which I have not been so fortunate as to obtain any notice whatever.
§ " In adverting to these difficulties under which I have laboured, I beg to assure you that I am perfectly aware how fully the time of every minister is occupied, and how much of the delay which has arisen must, in common justice, be attributed to that cause; but, at the same time, I trust it will be seen that I am bound to lay before you the fact, as a necessary part of the case to which your attention is prayed.
§ " I am further prepared to show, that long before the reduction of postage, the opinion which I expressed on all occasions was to the effect, that the maintenance of the Post-office revenue, even to the extent on which I calculated (about 1,300,000l. a-year) depended on carrying into effect the plan as a whole.
§ " I can also make it clear that the expectation which appears to have been formed, that the further progress in Post-office improvement may be left to the Post-office itself, is contrary to all past experience, and to the present measures in course of adoption by that establishment.
§ "And, lastly, that the questions to which I would respectfully call your attention regard hundreds of thousands of pounds in that department alone which respects economy of expenditure; an increase in net revenue, entirely independent of that augmentation in the number of letters which past results enable me safely to anticipate from those of my measures which have reference to increasing the utility of the Post-office to the public.
§ "Under these circumstances I beg to reiterate the offer which I made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in July last. I am perfectly ready, without salary and without claim to future remuneration, to give my best aid in such form as it may please her Majesty's Government to accept it, to carry my plan into full operation, my only conditions being that power and opportunity be afforded me to make my exertions effective.
§ "In conclusion, permit me to state that I am fully prepared with irresistible evidence to prove every part of this statement, and I respectfully await the honour of your commands to attend you at any time, and any place, for the purpose of laying before you, in all such detail as your avocations will permit, the proofs upon which this statement is founded." "I have, &c.,
§ (Signed) "ROWLAND HILL.
§ "To the Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel, Bart., &c."408
§ To that letter, Mr. Hill received the following reply:—
§ Drayton Manor, October 13, 1842.
§ " Sir,—I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated 27th September. It reached me the day after I had left London. "Had I received it previously to my departure, I should have acceded to your request for a personal interview, though I consider the subject of your letter fitter for written than for verbal communication.
§ " Since I received it, I have referred to the letter which you addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the 29th July last, and to the Minutes of the Board of Treasury, respecting your appointment, and have given to the subject generally the best consideration in my power. It had indeed, been brought under my notice by Mr. Goulburn, at the time that his letters of 11th July and 11th August were addressed to you.
§ " I am bound to state to you that I entirely concur in the opinion expressed by Mr. Gout-burn, in that of 11th August, that the continued employment of an independent officer, for the purposes for which it is urged by you, would necessarily lead either to the entire super-cession of those who are by their offices responsible for the management of the Post-office department, or to a conflict of authority highly prejudicial to the public service.
§ " I entertain a due sense of the motives by which your conduct in respect to Post-office arrangements has been actuated, and of the zeal and fidelity with which you have discharged the duties committed to you. I cannot doubt that there are still improvements in those arrangements to be effected, but I must presume that they can be effected through the intervention of the regularly constituted and the responsible authority, namely, the Postmaster-General, acting under the superintendence and control of the Board of Treasury.
§ I have, & c.,
§ (Signed) ROBERT PEEL."
§ " Rowland Hill, Esq."
He (Sir T. Wilde) had thought it right to read this correspondence to the House, in order that they might fully understand the alleged grounds on which Mr. Hill's services were dispensed with. The House was aware that the Post-office was under the control and direction of the Treasury, that the Treasury from time to time issued orders which were obeyed and acted upon at the Post-office. When Mr. Hill was appointed, it was on the distinct understanding, as stated by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, that his communications should be made to the Treasury, and that he should not exercise any authority whatever with regard to the Post-office. That was, beyond all doubt, a most prudent regulation; because, from the temper and feeling which
had been manifested by the officers of the Post-office department, and after the judgment which they had pronounced upon Mr. Hill's plan, it was not likely that advantageous results would accrue from the exercise of authority over them by Mr. Hill, or from his being placed in frequent direct or personal communication with them. Mr. Hill, therefore, always communicated with his immediate superior, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and all orders which were issued, and all communications which were made to the Post-office, were in the name and under the authority of the Treasury Board. The alleged ground for superseding Mr. Hill, viz., to avoid a conflict of authority between him and the Post-office, does not seem to rest on any substantial foundation, because the course of proceeding was such, that the only conflict of authority which could arise must be between the superiors, the Lords of the Treasury, and the subordinates, the Postmaster-General and those acting under him. As to the reasonableness of supposing that the suggested improvements could be effected through the medium of the Post-office officials, he would ask the House to judge how far such a presumption was consistent with former experience? It was stated in the Treasury minute containing Mr. Hill's dismissal, that the Lords of the Treasury
Consider it due to him, on the termination of his engagement with the Government, to express to him the approbation with which they have regarded his zealous exertions in the execution of the duties which have been intrusted to him, and how materially the efficiency of the Post Office arrangements has been promoted by the care and intelligence evinced by him in the consideration of the various important questions which have been referred to him.
If Mr. Hill had been continued in his appointment, he would have been in precisely the same situation which he had occupied for three years, and no consequences could be anticipated from the retention of his services other than those which had resulted from his previous employment. Ample opportunity had been afforded during Mr. Hill's three years' services of judging what conflict of authority and what inconvenience might be expected to result from the continuance of his appointment It was only proposed, or suggested, that Mr. Hill's services should be retained until he had an opportunity of bringing into operation those portions of
his plan which had not been carried into effect; or, at least, till they should be in such a state of forwardness that the public might have some security that a trial of their efficiency would ultimately he made. So far from Mr. Hill's appointment having produced any inconvenience to the public service, the Lords of the Treasury were pleased to report, in the minute which he (Sir T. Wilde) had read, that the efficiency of the Post-office arrangements had been materially promoted by the care and intelligence evinced by him in the consideration of the various important questions which had been referred to him. Then, if Mr. Hill's care and intelligence had produced increased efficiency in the Post-office establishment, why were the public to be deprived of the advantages they might obtain from the operation of those portions of his plan which remained unexecuted? Mr. Hill brought distinctly under the notice of the Treasury the heads of the various suggestions which he proposed, in order to the full accomplishment of his plans. He did not think it necessary to occupy the time of the House by reading this document, hut hon. Members would find it in pages 8 and 9 of the papers which had been laid upon the Table. Mr. Hill suggested the adoption of measures affording increased facilities for Post-office distribution, and increased security to the correspondence; of measures of economy, and some miscellaneous arrangements. Another of the alleged grounds of Mr. Hill's dismissal was, that the penny postage plan had been two years in operation, and that the principle was thoroughly understood; but he (Sir T. Wilde) would ask, what part of Mr. Hill's plan could be considered as having been fairly established? The public had derived the convenience and advantage of the reduction of postage to an uniform rate of; but the other advantages suggested had not been obtained,—the increased facility in the delivery of letters, and the proposed economical arrangements. In what condition, then, were the public left? They had a diminished revenue; but those portions of Mr. Hill's plan, which he had always put forth as essential to its efficiency, relating to economical arrangements, and which would have tended materially to make up the defalcation in the revenue, had not been brought into operation. He would put it to the House, then, had the public been fairly dealt with? The uniform rate of penny postage was suggested by a gentleman who, from first to last, disclaimed the
idea of presenting this proposal as the entire of his plan; but who suggested it in conjunction with measures for facilitating the Post-office distribution, and for effecting economical arrangements. That portion of the plan, however, which entailed a loss to the public revenue had alone been adopted: but the suggestions relating to more economical arrangements had not been carried into effect; and now the individual who had brought forward these improvements was dismissed from the office to which he had been appointed, on the ground that the system of penny postage was fully established, and that the principle was thoroughly understood. True, the postage had been reduced to an uniform rate of ld.; but was that all that had been recommended by the committee? Was that the only measure Parliament intended to be carried into effect when they passed the Act for the reduction of the postage? By no means. A committee had, with great care, presented a report containing many suggestions on this subject; but Parliament was desirous that the alteration should he made with safety and convenience to the public, and they left it to the Lords of the Treasury to carry out, according to their discretion, some of the suggested improvements. The result was that no advance had yet been made towards the adoption of those facilities of distribution and economical measures which had been suggested. So long ago as 1841 a minute was issued by the Treasury to the Post-office officials relative to the establishment of post-offices in various rural districts. There were 400 districts in which there was a registration of births, marriages, and deaths, and each containing on the average 4,000 inhabitants, which were entirely destitute of post-offices; and in some districts there was not a post-office within a distance of 15 miles. This subject having been taken into consideration in 1841, a Treasury minute was issued, ordering the establishment of a post-office in each district; hut in the papers presented to the House during the present year he found this note, signed by the Secretary to the Post-office:—
No definitive arrangements have yet been made by the Post Office in conformity with the minutes of the Lords of the Treasury dated the 13th and 27th days of August, 1841, relating to the Post Office distribution in the rural districts of the United Kingdom.
It seemed, therefore, that no better answer could be returned in 1843 to the Treasury minute of 1841, on a matter re-
lating to the convenience of a large portion of her Majesty's suhjects—the inhabitants of these districts to which he had referred— than that no definite arrangements had yet been made. It could not he doubted, that if there had been any just reason for this delay, it would have been stated in justification of the negligence which had been exhibited. Yet these were the officials who it was assumed would carry into effect the arrangements to which he bad referred as as having been suggested by Mr. Hill. Any expression of surprise at the removal of Mr. Hill would argue a very imperfect knowledge of human nature; and he (Sir T. Wilde) was not surprised at it. They must remember that the permanent officers of every establishment were those who possessed the most influence in matters of this nature. The Postmaster-General was in office for a longer or a shorter time, and he must derive much of his knowledge relative to the affairs of the establishment from the permanent officers. Any one who had perused the evidence given by officers of the Post-office before the committee, and who had observed the spirit by which that evidence was marked, could not be surprised that an active, intelligent person, devoting his whole time to matters connected with the Post-office, at the Treasury, should he regarded with aversion; but unless the Lords of the Treasury were assisted by some competent person who could inquire into the affairs of the Post-office, the representations made by the subordinates of that establishment might differ widely from the real facts of the case. During the period of Mr. Hill's appointment some extraordinary blunders were detected. In one instance, in checking the payments for the conveyance of the mails by certain railway companies, it appeared, that payments had been made for greater distances than the mails had really been conveyed. This was brought to the notice of the Lords of the Treasury, who desired an explanation from the Post-office. The explanation sent back was that it was all right; and he believed that a similar answer was returned to a subsequent request for explanation. On an inquiry being instituted it was found, however, that it was all wrong, and that a payment of about 400l. a year had been made above the amount which was properly due. He thought this case evinced most inexcusable negligence on the part of some of the Post-office officials. In another case, it being considered that the charge for the convey-
ance of the mail was excessive, inquiry was made, and it was found that the maximum weight of the mail was 80lb., about equal to the luggage of one passenger, while the space paid for was equal to that occupied by sixteen passengers. Further—an application was made to the Treasury, recommended by the heads of the Post-office, for an increase of salary to some of the officers, which was asked for on the ground that they had lost certain perquisites. An inquiry was made by Mr. Hill, and it appeared that the applicants had proposed to compare their salaries with those which they received in the year 1837. In searching the records of the office, a return of the salaries for 1837 was found, and it differed totally from the statement which had been made by the applicants. The Lords of the Treasury remonstrated with the Post-office authorities on the subject; and it was stated that there had been a mistake,—that the statements made by the applicants as to the salaries received in 1837 were decidedly incorrect, and the application was withdrawn. The authorities to which the public was to be left to obtain improved management, had given another proof which he would state of their competency to that duty. Two Post-masters in Ireland had asserted, that the new arrangements respecting money orders had so much increased their trouble, that they each required an allowance for a clerk; this demand also came through the Post-office, vouched by the proper officers, and at the instance of Mr. Hill, a return was required of the number of money orders paid, and issued, when it turned out that they were in one office two and in the other three a day. The application was of course negatived, and he (Sir T. Wilde) noticed these few instances, which he would venture to say, might be multiplied until the House was weary of listening to them, as the basis for asserting that the acute inquiries of Mr. Hill had caused a saving of public money more than the whole fee simple of his salary. [Sir Robert Inglis: When did these instances occur?] They had all happened since the passing of the Post-office improvements Act; they were all recent, and had come under Mr. Hill's notice while be was at the Treasury. His object was to show how much the Treasury was dependant on the Post-office, and how impossible it was for the Treasury to effect these improvements in the system, without the aid of a man like Mr. Hill, who exclusively de-
voted himself to the subject, and kept up the attention of the Lords of the Treasury to the perpetual blunders of the Post-office. Another instance which relates to the Postmaster-general (Lord Lowther), and which perhaps may be considered as a fair specimen of Post-office improvement, refers to an alleged saving of 40l. a-year. The Postmaster-general had made a return that he had effected a saving of 40l. a year in connection with the Glasgow and Ayr railway; and the following was the nature of that saving: The railway company had formerly provided a guard at a charge of 40l. a year; the Post-office thought fit to appoint a guard of their own, at a salary of 100l. a year; and therefore it was returned that a saving of 40l. a year had been effected by the discontinuance of the guard who had been provided by the railway company. The date of this transaction was 1842. These arc the sort of details for which the Treasury must be dependant upon the Post-office, and which while they passed under the review of Mr. Hill, acting in aid of the Treasury, incurred detection and correction; but which must necessarily mislead the Treasury in the absence of any such officer. These oversights in management, these errors, in fact, and these blunders in calculation, which are rought down to the present time, show, that the former opinion of the present Post-master-general as expressed before the commissioners in 1836, continues to be applicable in all respects to the department, and the morbid spirit of opposition to improvement continues to be equally consistent. Under such circumstances it is not surprising although it is a great evil, that at this moment there are no means of ascertaining the true result upon the revenue, of the experiment which has been made. Various amounts have been in a vague manner stated as the revenue derived from the Post-office, and sometimes it is alleged, that no revenue was yielded, and it has been alleged that the public sustained an actual loss; but all was left in uncertainty, and strange as it might seem, notwithstanding the great importance of accounts being so kept since the adoption of the reduced postage, that the Government and the Parliament might obtain accurate information in regard to the pecuniary result of so great a change; yet the Post-office were evidently unable to furnish an accurate account of scarcely any one kind of receipt or expenditure. There appears to be an entire absence of any intelligible system of accounts, and it would be
seen that some items were so arranged as to he calculated to confuse and mislead in the greatest degree—to one of which he would refer: For some years the payment for mail packets had been made by the Admiralty, and they were put upon a footing of a peculiar description, no doubt one of great wisdom and prudence. Steam navigation was, of course, but imperfectly understood until a short time ago, and it was highly desirable, that there should he experience of its advantages before it was generally adopted in the navy; it might also he convenient that this country, in a certain event, should he in possession of a considerable steam marine, and on these accounts a steam marine packet service had been established at a great expence, infinitely beyond what was required for Post-office purposes. This expense was incurred by the Admiralty, and in a return made to the House of Lords by the Post-office, of the increase derived from the Post-office, under the present system, no charge was made for these packets, and the net income was stated to be 600,000l. a year; but, as if to create a prejudice against Mr. Hill's plan, and lead to the conclusion, that by means of the adoption of the reduced rate of postage, a much greater loss had been sustained to the revenue, than had been anticipated, the hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to the Treasury, moved for a return, including the expenses of the Post-office, the maintenance of packets on Home and Foreign stations. In compliance with this motion, a return was made by the Post-office, charging no less than 612,000l. in respect of these packets, as against the Post-office receipts. Why this return was to include a disbursement not made by the Post-office, in fact not incurred for Post-office purposes, and which the Post-office left to its own discretion, would not have thought it right to include in their accounts, the Government, under whose authority, and for whose views it was directed, can best explain; but until explained, it is difficult to reject the conclusion, that the object was to reduce the apparent revenue of the Post-office under the new system, there being no pretence whatever for inserting this item. This return, however, which affects to shew the present state of the revenue is not only erroneous in respect to this item; but I have the authority of Mr. Hill for saying it contains other errors and fallacies to a great extent in amount, and no one who has attended to that Gentleman's examin-
ations and statements, can hesitate to give him credit for great caution and equal accuracy. In fact it will he found, that his statements throughout, even when he was without the means of access to official documents were infinitely more exact and correct than the statements of those who filled situations, which must be supposed to have given them the fullest means of ascertaing the correctness of the facts and calculations to which they spoke. In this return, with a view to lessen the apparent receipts, no allowance was made for the many letters that exceeded the half-ounce, but all were charged at only ld. each; thus the minimum was taken as the average, because it happened to suit the purpose of the parties to represent the revenue as small as possible. This was the mode in which Mr. Hill accounted for the alleged small amount of revenue, and that gentleman was prepared to establish, that the framers of the accounts were mistaken to the extent of some hundreds of thousand pounds—that they had in fact—transferred a large portion of the inland to the foreign and colonial revenue, augmenting the latter at the expense of the former; that the return, in short, was full of the grossest errors; all, however tending to one end—namely to depreciate the inland or penny-post revenue, an object which the Post-office however neglectful it might be in other matters appeared at all times steadily to have kept in view. The importance of these charges against the accuracy of the Parliamentary Return must be obvious to the House. Parliament is compelled to legislate in the confidence of the truth and accuracy of the returns from the different departments of Government, and the most serious evils may result from such returns being unfounded and inaccurate. And these alleged errors, and the indisputable importance of Parliament and the public knowing the true result of the recent experiment upon the revenue, of itself, furnishes irresistible ground for inquiry by a committee of this House, such as it is the object of the present motion to induce the House to appoint. Looking at the schedule of improvements remaining unadopted, and enumerated by Mr. Hill in his letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and adverting to the present state of the country, and above all to the alleged fallaciousness of the return to which he had so often alluded, he would ask whether right hon. Gentlemen opposite were instructed to contradict the statements? If so, let a
committee be appointed to ascertain which party was in the right. No doubt the House would hear to-night what the right lion. Gentleman opposite believed to be correct, but they were misinformed, and the worthlessness of mere official denials was proverbial. Why was the public to be left in a state of uncertainty, when the facts could be sifted by a committee? The committee ought to be appointed, if only for the satisfaction of the public out of doors, all of whom were deeply interested in the result. The branch of service to which he referred, was not only connected with national prosperity, but with the domestic comfort of every class of the community. Between April and September 1842, Mr. Hill, as he (Sir Thomas Wilde) was informed, had submitted distinct detailed reports showing specific savings to the amount in the aggregate of about 100,000l. per annum, all of which might lie effected without any injury, and many with great benefit to the service, and had suggested various others to a much greater amount. The country, therefore, had been told by a Gentleman, whose merits had been tried and were admitted, that the revenue of the Post-office might be greatly increased without any additional cost, and the same Gentleman undertook to give the very items of improvement in management which would produce an enormous saving; would the country, then, be satisfied by leaving the matter to that department the head of which had declared that it never would introduce a beneficial change without being compelled. He (Sir T. Wilde) had stated that he would not introduce Mr. Hill's name, excepting in connection with the public service; but he must say, that the dismissal of that gentleman was an abandonment of his whole plan, as regarded facility and economy; the dismissal of Mr. Hill was the knell of the plan; and, although it might be very complimentary on the part of the Lords of the Treasury to assume that the authorities of the Post-office would hereafter carry it into effect, yet that they would do so in fact was contrary to all experience. Without the aid of Mr. Burke's description, every body was aware of the supineness of public departments, and the delays and difficulties constantly interposed to all great improvements. Mr. Hill had suggested the registration of letters as security to the public; for unfortunately the miscarriages, both of letters containing property and others, were very frequent. To lessen this loss
Mr. Hill had proposed a system of registration, and he had ascertained that three pence would be an abundant remuneration for the purpose; but in order to make the matter quite certain, he had proposed to begin at sixpence. The Post-office, however, had established it at a shilling. The object was to increase the public security at a reasonable cost, but the result had been that a tax had been imposed on the community which would completely countervail the advantage of the change. If three pence would be sufficient, why was the public to be taxed to the extent of a shilling? An individual who had zealously faithfully, and intelligently served the public for three years in this department, pledged himself to show that the charge of a shilling was at least twice as much as ought to be paid. The House would perceive that the motion for a committee was not to be answered by a statement respecting the condition of the revenue; the condition of the revenue was the main ground on which he rested his motion, and the gentleman at whose suggestion the first. part of the plan was adopted, pledged hum-self to prove that the whole plan, if followed out, would indemnify the public for the defalcation of the receipts in the Post-office by the reduction in the rate of postage. To carry Mr. Hill's entire plan, or so much of it as might be expedient, into full effect, giving to the public on the one hand, the advantage of a reduced and uniform rate of postage, and on the other, an increased revenue by improved economical arrangements, and extended facilities of communication, many important new arrangements must be made, and which would require to be very cautiously examined, and deliberately to secure this success. To expect that the Post-office would seek to contradict and falsify their predictions and condemnation of the plan by exercising great diligence in carrying it into effect, would be absurd and inconsistent with all human experience. The time and attention necessary for the purpose, must demand the exclusive exertion of some superintending authority. The Lords of the Treasury, however they might control and approve what should be previously prepared for their judgment, it. was impossible that they could render the requisite service to the public. He maintained that the Lords of the Treasury bad important duties attaching to them which utterly precluded them from being able to do just ice to the public as far as the
Post-office was concerned, giving them credit for the greatest diligence and care. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had quite enough on their hands without attending to Post-office details. Taking into consideration, therefore, these statements as to the numerous cases in which great savings might he made—on the other hand, taking into consideration the utter absence of all evidence on the part of the Post-office of a desire to carry these improvements into effect—and the uncertainty of the result of the present system on the revenue, he thought a clear case was made out for inquiry. The only person responsible for the success of the plan and the only one who appeared competent and desirous to carry it out in such a manner as to secure the interests of the public, had been removed upon alleged grounds wholly insufficient to account or justify the step; and if the execution of the plan was to be left to the Post-office, the public would have made a great sacrifice of revenue without having any reasonable prospect of obtaining a very large portion of the benefit upon the reformation of obtaining winch that sacrifice had been made. The public had a just demand to know the real extent of the sacrifice which had been made, and how much of the benefit had been obtained or could reasonably be procured, which the original projector, in whose fidelity and judgment it had confidence, had assured them was attainable. He asked, therefore, in the language of his notice,
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the progress which had been made in carrying into effect the recommendations of Mr. Rowland Hill for Post-office improvement.
He wished to do this in order that the public might have an opportunity of comparing Mr. Hill's suggestions with what had actually been done; and it would be found that improvement after improvement suggested by Mr. Hill met with resistance. A petition was presented, he believed, to the House—at all events, a statement was made, that improvement was desirable in connexion with Newcastle. Many facts were to be ascertained; and the Lords of the Treasury sanctioned Mr. Hill's going down to Newcastle in order to make the necessary inquiries. Mr. Hill was about to start; but on the following morning came a remonstrance from the Post-office, and he was superseded; and such was the nature of
the interference by the Post-office, the extent of which he wished to ascertain; and also, whether the progress of the plan had been unnecessarily arrested, or, at all events, not carried so far as the public had a right to expect. Further, it ought to be known what recommendations beneficial to the country remained to be carried into effect. There were no means by which the House could become possessed of correct information, except by a committee. He had thought of asking for a commission, but it was said by Lord Lowther, and (he Sir T. Wilde) believed it to be correct, that the Post-office would be too strong for a commission—although possibly a committee of that House fairly appointed might be found strong enough effectually to prosecute the desired inquiry. This was a matter in which the public were interested, in relation to their trade, commercial prosperity, and domestic happiness; and he could not think that the time of the committee would be ill spent in ascertaining the progress made in such a measure. He trusted, Sere-fore, that the House would not refuse him a select committee,
To inquire into the progress which had been made in carrying into effect the recommendations of Mr. Rowland Hill for Post-office improvement; nod whether the further carrying into effect of such recommendations or any of them, will be beneficial to the country.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, although the argument which the hon. and learned Gentleman had made use of against those who conducted the Post-office did not apply exclusively to the management of his noble Friend the present Post Master-general, but extended equally over an antecedent period, with which neither he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) nor his noble Friend had any concern, yet, as it was his fate to be placed in that office, which had the control and direction of the departments of the revenue, he considered it his duty to rise to answer the attacks which the hon. Member had so liberally made, not only against the Treasury, but against every officer employed in that department, making no distinction in the case of individuals, whose length of service at least might have entitled them to respect, and who had a right to claim credit for the sincerity of the motives by which they were actuated. Throughout the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, he seemed to think that there was but one individual who was solicitous for 421 the public interest and convenience, and that that individual was Mr. Hill. With respect to that gentleman he would act in the observations he was about to make, as lie had always acted in his communications with him, without the slightest feeling of animosity, He must confess he thought. it a little hard to those who filled the higher offices of the State, who were obliged to resort to the assistance of those placed under them, that confidential communications made in the discharge of public duties, should he brought forward by those individuals for the purpose of making accusations against that department in which they had been employed. Mistakes must inevitably occur in all public offices. He feared that if his conduct were;objected to a severe and rigid scrutiny it would be found that scarcely a day passed without the occurrence of some circumstance which he would have wished otherwise, and which might be construed into a breach of duty. But nothing should induce him to say one word that could hurt the feelings of Mr. Hill, or of the hon. Gentleman who had that night supported his case. The hon. Gentleman had divided his speech into three several parts, and if the House would grant hint their attention, he would follow the hon. Gentleman in the order in which he brought the questions forward. The first part of the hon. Gentleman's speech related to the personal treatment which Mr. Hill had experienced from the 'Treasury. The hon. Gentleman complained that Mr. Hill had not been maintained as a permanent officer of the Treasury, and said that it would be very inconvenient for the Treasury to be without some permanent officer to superintend the details, and to administer the duties of the Post-office, If the hon. Gentleman meant anything. he necessarily meant that Mr. Hill was not merely to be employed to superintend the plan he had suggested, but that he was indispensably necessary as an adjunct to the Treasury to enable the present and future boards of Treasury to conduct the business of a department, which, he said, without that constant control and supervision, it would be vain to hope they could even attempt to perform. The hon. Gentleman, he presumed, had correctly stated what had passed between the Treasury and Mr. Hill, at the time when he first entered upon the public service. With that he had no concern. The papers on the Table gave, he believed, a perfectly 422 fair account of the whole transaction. It was well known to the House that Mr. Hill made himself remarkable in the year 1837, by publishing a pamphlet on the subject of Post-office Reform, the basis of that publication, (and that was strictly called Mr. Hill's plan) being the substitution of a uniform penny postage, which had no reference to distance, in lieu of a graduated postage of a greater amount. The hon. Gentleman, indeed, said, that this formed only a small part of Mr. Hill's plan; but when lie was addressing the House of Commons, and appealing to them to make some inquiry on this subject, it was important that lie should advert to the opinion of the House a Commons on Mr. Hill's plan, (particularly with respect to the permanent office to which he was to be appointed) rather than to the view which Mr. Hill himself now seemed inclined to take of it. The report of the committee appointed to inquire into the subject, state the heads of Mr. Hill's plan as follows. That all letters not exceeding ½oz. in weight should be charged, whatever might be the distance, 1d.; that letters exceeding ½oz., and not exceeding 1oz., should be charged 2d.; and so on for each ½oz.; that the postage should be paid in advance; that to facilitate this, postage stamps should he sold at all the post-offices; and the report added that Mr. Hill had recommended, also, the establishment of day-mails on the great lines of communication, to provide for the more frequent delivery of letters. Parliament subsequently adopted that plan so detailed by the committee, and communications passed between the Government of the day and Mr. Hill himself as to his employment to superintend it, and as to the salary which be should receive. Originally a sum of 500l. a year was offered and declined; the offer was then raised to 800l., and declined; and ultimately, a salary of 1,500 was fixed, and the nature of the contract was recorded in a Treasury minute. By that he was appointed to carry into effect the 1d. postage; it did not say that he was to carry out any enlarged plan of improvement, not in this year or the next, but so long as the Post-office should exist; and so far from considering, as the lion. Gentleman supposed, that the Treasury could not conduct the establishment so as to exercise an efficient and general control over it, the minute specifically stated, that 423Mr. R. Hill shall be attached to the Treasury, and that the employment shall be for two years certain, at a salary of 1,500l. per annum; that the employment shall be considered as temporary, and not to give a claim to continued employment in office at the expiration of two years.Those two years expired shortly after the right lion. Gentleman quitted office, anti upon his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) coming into office, Mr. Hill brought to him a letter from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baring), which he stated was written expressly to communicate the right hon. Gentleman's views, and although he had not had the opportunity of before acknowledging it in public, lie in fairness and candour to the right hon. Gentleman, must not suffer this opportunity to pass without thanking him for having not only upon this point, but upon others, left to his successors in office a statement of what, in his views, was necessary for the public service. He had availed himself of those suggestions on more than one occasion, and if he had misunderstood the views of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to Mr. Hill, he could assure the right lion. Gentleman that the misunderstanding was bon² fide. lie believed it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to continue the employment of Mr. Hill for one year from that time. In that letter the right hon. Gentleman said,—As it may be satisfactory to you to have in writing the position in which I consider you at present to stand, I propose to put on paper my views, in order that you may use it for the information of my successor. I wish, therefore, to state, that some lime ago I informed you in reference to the Post-office business, that I thought it would be of great advantage to continue your services beyond the two years originally settled; that I did not deem it expedient to make any engagement beyond one year, but that you might consider that for one year from the expiration of the former two years your services were engaged on the same condition as before.This left on his mind the impression that the right lion. Gentleman considered Mr. Hill's views had been carried to such an extent in the two years, that it was probable that only for one year more Mr. Hill's services would be required. On coming to the Treasury, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) lost no time in intimating to Mr. Hill, that whatever engagement his predecessor had made, he should feel bound to adhere to. Mr. Hill thereupon entered upon the discharge of 424 his duties, having, as had been the practice, the whole of the Post-office business coming to the Treasury submitted to him: whether it were connected with the penny postage or not, it was equally submitted to him, as a matter of course, and he had the ordinary routine of Treasury business as connected with that department entirely in his hands. He had not been long in the situation lie now held, before he observed, that the practice of referring to Mr. Hill everything, indiscriminately kept the officers of the Treasury in entire and necessary ignorance of all transactions connected with the Post-office; and seeing that Mr. Hill's employment was for admitted period, anti that the time must come when the Treasury must resume the Post-office business. He took an early opportunity of intimating to his hon. Friend; the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir George Clerk) that lie expected him to deal with the Post-office business as he would any other business, taking Mr. Hill into consultation on such parts as he might think necessary; and be did this for the reason, that unless some one in the Treasury should know what was done, and make himself master of Post-office details, the Treasury would not be able, whenever Mr. Hill's engagement terminated, to control, as it ought to do, this subordinate department. This arrangement had given dissatisfaction to Mr. Hill at the time; he could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, that it was adopted from no want of confidence in Mr. Hill, but for the sake of efficiency in this department of the public service. He would not go over the circumstances 'which had led to the retirement of Mr. Hill at the expiration of the three years. The Government did not consider his services longer necessary. The hon. Gentleman had read the letters at length; there was nothing in them disrespectful to Mr. Hill individually, nor anything of which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) as a public officer, had the least reason to be ashamed. He did lay down the principle, which lie thought was just, that there should be no intervening authority between the Treasury having the control, and the department to be controlled; and however desirable he might think Mr. Hill's superintendence of the new arrangements, it was impossible to make a permanent addition to the Treasury for Mr. Hill. If this were done with the Post-office, would not similar appointments be 425 necessary with respect to the Customs, the' Excise, the Stamps, and the Taxes, to assist the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the discharge of his duties with respect to them? It would be necessary for him to have a separate secretary to superintend each department, but he did not think this a good arrangement. It would tend to deprive the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that active and direct control over the different departments of the public service, which was one of his first duties. So far with respect to that part of the subject which affected Mr. Hill personally. He came now to the part which related to the public service as connected with the Post-office. The hon. Gentleman stated that the Government had shown no disposition to make improvements in the Post_ office; that the Government was entirely controlled by some officers who were permanent in the department; and the right hon. Gentleman then applied his principle, which if good for the Post-office would be good for every department, the appointment of another permanent officer to control the existing permanent officers. What was the principle adopted in other offices in this country? That in every public office there was a responsible officer who retained office permanently, but who did not therefore control those under whore he acted. There was a permanent Under Secretary of State of the Treasury and of the Admiralty, and permanent commissioners of the Customs and Excise, the permanency of whose employment was beneficial to the public service; but they acted under the control of those having superior authority, and if errors were committed, the superior officers were more or less responsible. When, therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman advanced that the Government were not able to check mistakes and blunders in any department, it was nothing more nor less than an attack upon those on whom the superintendence of that department fell, and the charges must be that the Government did not perform its duties. He trusted, however, he should be able to show, that in the department of the Post-office, neither his hon. Friend nor himself were justly liable to these charges. The hon. Gentleman said, that all attempts to add to the facilities of communication had been abandoned, that no attention had been paid to economy, that the Post-office bad allowed the penny postage to take effect, but that beyond the establishment of 426 the penny postage, they had done nothing. In confirmation of this statement the hon. and learned Gentleman said, "Look at the case of the rural post." If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been in the House the other evening, or if' he had informed himself of what had taken place, he would have known what lie (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), had stated with respect to the rural posts. He would now repeat it. His predecessor, previous to leaving office, made a minute with respect to rural posts, and recommended their adoption throughout the country, Upon his acceptance of office, he directed a map to be completed, showing the precise limit in England of every registrar's district, in order to see how the recommendations of Mr. Hill and of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer could be carried into effect. He had used his best endeavours to have the map completed. The registrar's districts, although known in the country, were not usually marked on any maps, and some time elapsed before he could procure the definition of limits which was required. Having at length, however, obtained this information, the next question was the probable expense. He found that the expense of giving effect to the proposed arrangement to the full extent recommended, would amount to the sum of 70,000l., and that there were many districts which, if accommodated with a post-office, would have such a limited amount of correspondence, that, whilst a large expense would be incurred, corresponding advantages would not be gained. He had, therefore, called upon the Post-office to point out the places where, in their judgment, the experiment could be tried. Undoubtedly, there was a discussion between himself and the Post-office authorities, as to the mode in which this selection of places should he made—and if the hon. Gentleman, instead of referring to the return he had quoted so triumphantly, to show that walling had been done in this matter by the Post-office, had waited for a few days, he would have seen a very different return, and have found that much had been done. The plan adopted had been founded on the principle of giving the desired accommodation wherever the number of letters received in a week were sufficient to require it; he had provided that when 100 letters were received in a week, if a rural post were asked for, it should be given. This gave security, first, that the application would 427 be from places only where the Post-office was really required; and next, that when it was established, there would not be very great expense. That was the rule he had laid down; it might not be approved by the hon. Gentleman or by Mr. Hill, hut at all events the Government would be saved from the imputation of leaving the extension of rural posts un attempted. The next question to which the hon. Gentleman referred, was the want of accommodation to the public, and complained that a hourly delivery of letters in the metropolis had not long since been adopted. He knew that Mr. Hill went uniformly on the supposition that, if they gave an hourly delivery, the increase of letters written would be sufficient to supply the increased expense, but lie doubted the universality of Mr. Hill's principle. Experience did not prove it, for although the correspondence increased to a certain degree with increased facilities, yet there were many instances which showed that the increase of expense went beyond the advantages gained. If the Treasury had erred in their decision, they had not failed for want of giving the subject full consideration. Mr. Hill proposed to combine the District and the General Post-office for the purposes of an hourly delivery of each. Now, there were 252 letter-carriers employed at the Post-office for the general delivery every morning, and there were 315 employed for the district post, making a body of 568 letter-deliverers. Mr. Hill made no calculation of human strength and power—he did not calculate that if a postman could make three or four rounds of his walk in a day, he might not be able to make six or seven. In order to have hourly deliveries, it would be necessary to triple the General Post deliverers, to employ 756 persons, instead of 568; and, consequently, there must be an increased expense. Moreover, if these carriers were entirely employed in delivering, they would be taken from all other work. Now, while the general postman started every morning at half -past eight, at that very time the district postmen were collecting the letters —sonic were afterwards engaged in making up the day mails; and in the evening they were employed in sorting the newspapers, no trifling matter; as lion. Gentlemen who had ever been at the Post-office might have satisfied themselves by ocular demonstration. But, beyond this, many persons doubted whether the delivery of letters 428 which came by the first mails at one time, and then having a second delivery for the later mails, and, in winter, possibly a third —many practical and disinterested men presumed to doubt whether this number of deliveries would be convenient to men of business. The hon. Gentleman next adverted to the question of the registration of letters, and in this he and his right hon. Friend were both implicated. Mr. Hill had originally proposed the registration of every letter at a fee of 6d., and that for every letter carried to the Post-office for this purpose, a receipt should be given to the party taking it. It was perfectly true, that the transmission of money, in letters, through the Post-office, was open to, and was attended with great risk of loss to the person sending it, and he was not exaggerating when he said that the increase of offences relating to this was very great. The hon. Gentleman thought, that if the Government granted a registration, it would protect the public from loss, but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baring) took a different and adopted a more advantageous mode of preventing this loss, which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had followed up: by extending the system of money orders, a far better mode than registration, because it afforded no temptation to steal. There was nothing that could be disposed of without detection, and if the letter was never received, the Post-office had the means of affording redress to the parties. The House would, therefore, think that when a money order for 5l. could be obtained for 6d., it was not wise to raise up a system in opposition to the money orders, and induce persons to send money by the post, inducing not only loss to the parties, but criminality in the Post-office servants. He thought, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the wise course when he had favoured the money-order system, and had imposed a sort of fine on those who would send money in letters. The House were not aware of the immense extent of the money-order system. When it was originally introduced, the amount was between 200,000l. and 300,000l., and now the sum during this year, if it continued at the same rate as it had been during the first three months, would be 8,000,000l. Was not this, then, an instance of the just anxiety shown by the Government to accommodate those who needed facilities from the Post-office, for safely transmitting money to their friends, and was it wise to induce a departure from this 429 safe system? With respect to the loss of money passing through the Post-office, it was supposed that no one but the Post-office servants were guilty; but this was, an error. There were many losses before the letters reached the Post-office at all, for some of those who were entrusted with the letters to post were as dishonest' as the Post-office servants. The Post-office, upon being asked, would give a receipt, but if the parties posting were dishonest, and previous to posting the letter, abstracted the money contained in it, there would be no security to the sender, whilst the Post-office would lie under the imputation that it was by its servants the money was extracted. Because it was not thought tit to adopt the registration system, and which, as he had shown the House could not be conveniently clone with regard to the interests of the public, they were to be put down as enemies to Mr. Hill's plan, and that they did not wish to give that gentleman a fair trial, and they were to be characterized as opponents to improvements in the Post-office. He did not think that this was either a just or fair mode of dealing with the question. He conceived, that Gentlemen should look at both sides of the case, and hear the statements that could be made on one side as well as the other; and when they strongly urged the adoption of a plan, they should consider whether reasons might not exist to prevent it being adopted, independently of the supposed existence of a bigoted attachment to the old system of the Post-office. The hon. and learned Gentleman had charged him with furnishing fallacious returns, and had taken up one paper on the Table, and compared the results of it with those of another return moved fur by Lord Monteagle. Now, any one who was in the habit of examining returns, must be aware that they were moved for by individual Members, who wished to have furnished to them information it) a particular form, so as to promote any object they might have in view. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had looked into the matter, he would have semi that the returns, on the face of them, were essentially different. The object of Lord Monteagle's return was to obtain the amount of the actual balance accruing from comparing the actual receipts of the Post-office, and the payments made out of it directly; this showed a balance of 600,000l. Now, the return which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had moved 430 for, was intended to show what was the gain, if any, for the conveyance of letters through the Post-office, after defraying all the charges attending it, including the charge for home and foreign packets. This occasioned the apparent discrepancy complained of by the hon. Gentleman. From the moment that Parliament had determined to adopt a change in the Post-office system, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), with his right hon. Friend at the head of tile Government, were as anxious to give effect to the system of Mr. Hill for the establishment of a penny postage, as if he had been originally favourable to it. Whom did his right hon. Friend, on the formation of the present Government, select for the office of Postmaster-general? Why, a nobleman who, no doubt, now was abused by Mr. Hill, but respecting whom that person used very different language formerly. Was that nobleman a person who was bigotted to the old system, and who was likely to thwart Mr. Hill in his plan? Was that noble Lord a person likely to be imposed upon, with respect to the disadvantages of the plan, by persons at the Post-office? On the contrary, Lord Lowther, the nobleman who was selected for the office of Postmaster-general, was formerly described and praised by Mr. Hill as an enlightened man, who saw the advantages of the system. This appointment showed, therefore, that his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, had no wish to impede the carrying out the plan. It was rather remarkable, that Lord Lowther was really the first person to suggest the adoption of a penny postage for a certain class of letters, and now Mr. Rill got the credit of being the originator of the system, which, however he professed to carry out on a more extended scale. In the management of a large department like the Post-office, there were many considerations which would prevent a change being too hastily adopted, even by those most anxious to carry out all practicable improvements. When Parliament first sanctioned the plan of a penny postage, he considered it determined not to derive revenue front the Post-office; it was thought that the advantages that would result to the trade and commerce of the country front the reduction of the postage of letters to a penny, would be so great that we might for a time consent to forego the revenue formerly received. Mr. Hill's calculations as to the amount of revenue that would be received under the plan 431 were certainly very different from this; hut he did not believe, that this Opinion prevailed to any great extent in that House, or that it at all operated on the decision of Parliament. He never understood, however, that Parliament never intended, under any circumstances, to derive any gain in the shape of revenue from the Post-office; or that it considered it a matter of indifference whether or no that department defrayed its own expenses: still less that it was prepared to sanction the throwing a great additional charge on the public, for the purpose of trying experiments as to alleged improvements in this department. He repeated that the Post-office did not now pay its own expenses. He need hardly say that there were very great expenses incidental to the conveyance of letters, and, above all, to a great distance, and that the charge for this had been materially increased by the employment of large steam vessels instead of sailing packets. He had now gone over, he believed, most of the points adverted to by the lion. Gentleman; and if he had not alluded to some minor facts mentioned by the hon. and learned Member, it was from the circumstance that in the administration of a great public department it was impossible to speak at the moment on all details that might have occurred during a series of years. The hon. and learned Member seemed to have adopted implicitly the suggestion of Mr. Hill, and apparently was inclined to treat any miscalculation that might have been made in the Post-office almost as a criminal matter. Now be (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would venture to say, that if there was any individual whose calculations were contradicted by the results, Mr. Hill was that person. It appeared that previous to the adoption of the penny postage the number of letters that passed through the Post-office was about 80,000,000 per annum. Now, Mr. hill repeatedly stated that if his plan were adopted the number of letters would at once increase five-fold; the return, however, of the number of letters for the year ending April, showed that it had increased to somewhere about 22),000,000 instead of 400,000,000, which it ought to have been according to Mr. Hill's calculation. Mr. Hill also stated that the loss to the revenue would be 500,000l., it is 1,500,000l. He in his last. pamphlet said that his calculation of receipts was made on the gross revenue, and that therefore he was not responsible for 432 any disappointment that had taken place, Mr. Hill had also said in his pamphlet that the adoption of his plan would increase the expenses of the post-office, about 300,000l. a year. The expenses of the post-office, when Mr. Hill began to bring his plan into effect, was about 600,000l., and they were now about 900,000l., and this increased expenditure they had been told was absolutely necessary to secure the accomplishment of the plan. When, therefore, Mr. Hill had said that the Treasury had prevented him from saving hundreds of thousands of pounds by refusing him the means of fully carrying out his plan, he must say that such a statement appeared to him as a matter of the grossest exaggeration. If lie went into a statement of what had recently been done by the Post-office in the way of improvement, with the view of affording increased accommodation to the public, it would prove that they were not indifferent to the matter, but that they were perfectly ready to adopt, and had actually adopted improvements when it could be done without occasioning greater inconvenience. He held in his hand a list of 128 places, which were now served by day mails in addition to the usual night mails. Among some of the most important improvements that had recently taken place, he might enumerate the treaties which had been concluded to facilitate the postage of letters abroad. By the formation of these treaties the greatest facilities and advantages had resulted to the public, as regarded the conveyance of letters on the Continent. He did not know whether the lion. Gentleman had looked into this postage treaty between this country and France, but if be had lie would see that that effected no immaterial improvement. The negotiations commenced when the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends were in office, but the terms which were then offered were not nearly so favourable as those he had been able to obtain. By the stipulations of this treaty the expense of postage for the conveyance of letters from London to all parts of France had been materially reduced, and he need hardly say, that this was a great advantage to the commerce of the country. There was also another; advantage which France had given us by allowing the Post-office to send letters in sealed boxes across that country to the frontier of countries on the other side of France. He would venture to say, that there was not a single article in that 433 treaty, long as it was, which did not confer some advantage on the commerce of this country. This treaty, above all, had most beneficially diminished the expense of sending letters across France to our East-India possessions. He might add, that negotiations were now in progress with other countries for the purpose of making similar treaties. No doubt these ' treaties would be attended with some slight expense in the first instance, but there could be little doubt that commensurate advantages would follow. He should have before observed, that in 1838 there was only one day-mail out of London, and at the present moment lie believed, that there was a day mail on every road out of the metropolis. No doubt sonic other of the propositions of Mr. Hill involved improvements, but they could not be made without entailing greater sacrifices than could now be afforded. He had no doubt that this statement would be confirmed by the right hon. Gentleman who would probably follow him, and who was so well able to give every explanation on the subject. With respect to the motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, lie should only say a few words in explanation of the course which he should take with respect to it. He objected to the motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, on the ground that it was appointing a committee of the House of Commons to exercise the functions of the Government, by entering upon an investigation as to improvements that might be suggested, and should be adopted, in a public department like the Post-office. He knew that altered circumstances, of everyday occurrence, were continually arising in this country, which rendered the adoption of improvements necessary; but the appointment of this committee, to consider what improvements should or should not take place, would be nothing more nor less than transferring the whole management of the Post-office to a committee of the House of Commons. By doing so, they would materially impede the operations of that department, and they would take away the responsibility of controlling it from the Treasury. He had no objection to a limited inquiry into the manner in which the Post-office had given effect to the determination of Parliament with respect to penny postage, and lie should be ashamed of himself if lie did not court the strictest scrutiny into the part which he might have had in this proceeding.
434 He would only add, that lie was sure that if the hon. Member had been aware of many of the circumstances which he had mentioned to the House, that he would have abstained from making many observations which had fallen from him. He should propose then as an amendment to the hon, and learned Member's motion, that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the measures adopted for the general introduction of the system of penny postage, and for the facilitating the conveyance of letters throughout the country.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
said, that as he understood the amendment, it would give every opportunity for a fair investigation, and for seeing whether the plan had been honestly carried into effect, and also to see whether any of the most important parts of it bad been left out. After such an assurance of a full inquiry, he hoped that his hon. and learned Friend would not press his motion, but allow the amendment to be carried. With respect to the question itself, he would in the first place allude to the case of Mr. Rowland Hill, which was a separate matter from the other part of the case. As that gentleman had been so long connected with, and acting with him, in the department over which he formerly presided, he felt called upon to say something as to his opinion of Mr. Hill, and as to the treatment which be had experienced. As for any bargain that had been made, lie perfectly agreed with the right hon. Gentle, man that there was no bargain with Mr. Rowland Hill. The right hon. Gentleman had said that Mr. Rowland Hill had been employed—and lie laid some stress on the phrase—to carry into effect the plan of the penny postage. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Treasury minute under which Mr. Hill was appointed and seemed to rely upon the words "penny postage," which he found in that minute. Now it was well known at the time of the adoption of the plan that it involved not merely the reduction of the rate of postage but other most extensive alterations. In the first instance, when the plan was attempted to be carried into effect, he had told Mr. Hill that lie was not prepared to undertake all these changes immediately, but that, in the first instance, they would confine themselves to the system of the penny postage, and those matters immediately involved in it. That was only a part of the general plan, and, 435 after its adoption, it was well known that there still remained considerable additional labour to be got through. He thought the right hon. Gentleman placed too much stress on the circumstance that he only engaged Mr. Rowland Hill for a year. In doing this, however, he had never anticipated that that gentleman's services would not be required for more than a year; but as he knew that he was going out of office within a short time, he did not think that it would be courteous to his successor to appoint for a longer period than that. He had, however, been all along of opinion that the services of Mr. Hill at the Treasury would be required for a much longer period than one year. He also thought it was only common justice to say, that at the period when it was determined to carry out this plan, he had not the slightest personal knowledge of Mr. Rowland Hill. As for the intelligence and industry of that gentleman, of course he had sufficient evidence of this in the evidence which he had repeatedly given before committees of the House of Commons, and by his pamphlet. He must say that on becoming acquainted with Mr. Hill, he found him to possess other qualities which he did not expect to find in him. He had expected that a person who had been long engaged in the preparation of an extensive system of this kind, would not carry out the change with that coolness and judgment that was requisite, and he had expected that he should have great difficulties to contend with in inducing Mr. Hill to adopt any alteration in his plan that might appear requisite. He found quite the contrary of this, and that Mr. Hill, with the greatest readiness, adopted any suggestions that were made to him, so that instead of difficulties, he found every facility in carrying the plan into effect. True, Mr. Hill gave his reasons for the opinion that he had adopted, or for the course that he recommended; but if any of his suggestions were not adopted, he always found Mr. Hill most ready to give way to the course which he suggested. He felt bound to add, that although no absolute bargain had been broken with Mr. Rowland Hill, still he could not help expressing his sincere regret, that after three years' exertions, which were characterised by the utmost zeal and intelligence, that he should be allowed to retire from the public service in the way in which he had.
436 If the right hon. Gentleman found that he could not go on amicably with his Postmaster-General and Mr. Rowland Hill, he thought that to a party who had rendered such important public services, a vacancy might be found in some department in which the public might still possess the advantages of Mr. Hill's exertions. He felt it only justice to Mr. Hill to add that ' with respect to the observations which lie had just made, he had had no communication with that gentleman. He repeated that although no bargain had been broken, but still if zeal, intelligence, and ability, and the rendering important public services entitled any one claim to consideration, Mr. Hill had a most powerful case. The right hon. Gentleman objected to what he was pleased to call subordinate officers working at the Treasury, with the view of controlling any public department; now he had been a long time at the Treasury, and he had found very great advantages result from having Mr. Rowland Hill in that office, and in letting all the papers connected with the Post-office go through his hands. The right hon. Gentleman had touched upon the miscalculations which he described Mr. Rowland Hill to have made as to the revenue to be derived from his plan. Admit that Mr. Rowland Hill had over estimated in these calculations, was it at all remarkable that a private gentleman, not in office, who had been long absorbed in an invention, should over-estimate the value of his scheme, or should such a fact be taken as a reason why this scheme should not be carried forward. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman must know, that with all the peculiar advantages which persons in office possessed, who had accesss to the best and fullest information, to the assistance of the ablest and most experienced officers, those persons sometimes made well nigh as many blunders in calculations as there were figures, yet were not held up any the more as incompetent to fill the situations they occupied. He would now come to the question of the Post-office itself. This was essentially a Post-office matter, for it was not the Treasury which actually managed these things, but the Post-office. He certainly could say that, for his own part, when in office, he had felt it impossible to do otherwise than to rely upon the Post-office in all the details connected with the subject, and he was bound to say that he had found the various offi- 437 cers there ever ready zealously to perform their duty, although they were throughout entirely hostile to Mr. Hill's plan. They were even more hostile to other parts of Mr. Hill's arrangements than they were to reduction of postage. They did their duty, however, when they received their instructions, conscientiously, zealously; but it was not like willing horses; and he certainly had the impression that, if left to themselves, Mr. Rowland Hill's plan would stand by no means so fair a chance, as if lie himself superintended its execution, with the advantage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's constant co-operation. One word as to the registration of money letters. He was quite ready to admit, that when be originated that registration in 1841, he placed it at a shilling, as a high fee, with a view to check the registration of letters; and he did so, because he had received a communication from the Post-office, explaining that, as matters then stood, any large increase of registered letters would endanger and impede the despatch of the mails. But though he had placed the fee so high at first, on this ground, and in order to see how the department would manage the registration, he had no idea of continuing it at so high a rate, when the thing should have got into better working order; and certainly as matters now stood, he was of opinion that the fee could be materially reduced, not only without any danger, but with great public advantage. The calculation which the right hon. Gentleman had made, as to the amount of money transmitted through the money-order office, was a most extraordinary one. The right hon. Gentleman stated the amount to be eight millions; whereas he should have said four millions; the right hon. Gentleman had made the slight mistake of doubling the amount, by calculating the money which was paid in, and adding to it the same money when paid out. According to the right hon. Gentleman's mode of calculating, to arrive at the quantity of water which passes through a pipe, you must add the water which enters at one end to the same water when it passes out at the other end, and the quantity so added together will give the result desired. As to the rural distribution, the right hon. Gentleman's explanation did not at all satisfy him that the present Government had not been very slow in carrying one of the most important recommendations advo- 438 cated by Mr. Hill into effect. He remembered very well that when he was in office, m hon. Gentleman, then in opposition, lot so languid as they were now, he was teased to death by them about this very rural distribution, and no explanations he had to offer of difficulties which then obstructed the desirable arrangement were admitted. However, he was very happy to find that something was to he done, that the recommendations left by her Majesty's late Government to their successors, as to this part of the subject, was not to be without effect. He recognised, however, in the altered arrangements, the spirit, not of Mr. Hill, but of the Post-office. The principle contemplated by the late Government was, that no large population should be kept at a distance from the Post-office, a principle which he did not recognise, to anything like the proper extent, in the altered arrangement mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. As the right hon. Gentleman, he was rejoiced to find, acquiesced in the appointment of a committee, he would only observe, in conclusion, that if ever there was a measure in reference to which the people had a right to ascertain whether it was carried into effect fully and fairly, it was this.
§ Mr. Wallace
considered that no other man living had a just claim to the invention of the penny postage but Mr. Rowland Hill. As to the opposition that plan met with at the Post-office, it was not at the hands of the Postmaster-general whether the Duke of Richmond, Lord Lichfield, or Lord Lowther—but at the hands of the subordinate officers, of Sir Francis Freeling, his successors, and the other subordinates. No man would have encountered the difficulties placed in his way by these persons so efficiently as Mr. Hill had. In his opinion no one Postmaster-general, however able, was competent to the various duties of the office. Lord Lowther had distinguished himself as a Post-office reformer, and was fitter than any man he knew for the office of Postmaster-general; but in his opinion the duties could only be performed with thorough efficiency by a commission.
Sir R. Peel felt,
with his right hon. colleague, conscious that the Government had done every thing in their power to give a full and fair trial to Mr. Hill's plan. It would have been a great dereliction of public duty, if any doubt they might have entertained at a former period had led 439 them to take any other course upon acceding to office than the course they had taken with regard to Mr. Hill, that, namely, of facilitating his plan in every possible way. He had never felt a doubt as to the great social advantages of lowering the duty on letters; the only doubt was as to its financial effect: in all other respects the result of any inquiry would show that whatever might have been the loss to the revenue, much advantage had been derived in what concerned the encouragement of industry, and the promotion of communication between the humbler classes of the community. He had already, elsewhere, given his full testimony to the ability and disinterestedness of Mr. Hill, and he willingly repeated that testimony now. The right hon. Gentleman had used the expression '' dismissed" in referrence to the Government's having dispensed with the services of Mr. Hill. He did not think that a proper term to be used. He thought, as his right hon. Friend thought, that those who originated the penny postage always considered Mr. Hill's appointment a temporary one—that they considered that for a certain period, in the first instance two years, it was desirable that Mr. Hill should lend his assistance to the Treasury in carrying out his plan. They afterwards extended the two years to three? but he certainly always had the impression that at the end of the third year, by which time the plan would be satisfactorily in operation, it was their expressed intention, and intimation, that Mr. Hill's services were to be dispensed with. It was, therefore, no dissatisfaction with Mr. Hill's conduct, no indifference to his services, that led him and his right hon. Friend to take the course they had taken, they took the course which, as they clearly understood, had been contemplated by their predecessors in office, and which—a point of still greater importance—they considered most consistent with the public interest. He differed from the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the course which ought to have been pursued. It appeared to him, that had it been deemed necessary to retain Mr. Hi l's services, and had it been conceived that the Post-office authorities were hostile to the plan, prejudiced against its principle and its details, and indisposed to lend themselves with zeal and cordiality to carrying it out, the plan should have been, not to retain Mr. Hill in control over the 440 Post-office (yet unconnected with it), but to have at once made him Secretary of the Post-office. That department would thus have been no longer in a position continually to obstruct—as the complaint was—the due execution of the plan; but Mr. Hill himself, the person so deeply anxious for the success of the scheme, would have the immediate control of it. The other plan, of keeping Mr. Hill on from year to year, uncertain of the tenure of his office, was, in every point of view, most inconsistent with the public interest. It was due to the character of the Gentleman at the head of the Post-office, of the men whom the former Government had placed there on account of their knowledge and intelligence—it was due to the Secretary of the Post-office to say that it was not possible be could have thrown any obstruction in Mr. Hill's way, or that he had not cordially co-operated with him to ensure the success of his plan. Colonel Maberly, however, when he was examined, was bound to explain his opinion, and express any doubts he might entertain of the success of Mr. Hill's plan. But it was doing Colonel Maberly a great injustice to suppose, that any such circumstance could interfere with the strict performance of his public duty, or to believe, whatever might be the nature of his opinions, that he had not exerted himself to the utmost of his power to promote the success of Mr. Hill's plan, though he had before expressed doubts of its success. Colonel Maberly was a gentleman who had sat in that House, and during the time he was in Parliament had recommended himself to general esteem by his intelligence; and he certainly was not a man so imbued with departmental prejudices, that he should lend himself to any unworthy scheme, or fail to co-operate with Mr. Hill in order to ensure the success of his great experiment. Again, with respect to Lord Lowther, it was hardly necessary for him, after the testimony of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Wallace) whose political predilections rendered his judgment on this point unsuspected—after that hon. Gentleman's praise of the manner in which Lord Lowther executed the office of Postmaster-General he felt it was not necessary for him to say one word respecting the qualifications of Lord Lowther. He was bound to say, considering his position and the thigh situation which Lord Lowther 441 had filled, that he thought the noble Lord had made a great sacrifice in accepting the office. On his own appointment to office he knew no other person of great talents, great intelligence and great industry, who was so well calculated, if placed at the head of the Post-office, and to answer for the fair trial of the experiment, as Lord Lowther. He had therefore asked the noble Lord to accept the office; and he was sure that so far from that appointment being intended to he an obstruction to the success of Mr. Rowland Hill's plan, that nothing was more calculated to ensure its success, and that he could not do a greater service to Mr. Rowland Hill's scheme than to appoint Lord Lowther to the office of Postmaster-General. He differed from the hon. Gentleman opposite in thinking that the Postmaster-General of the intelligence and independence of mind of Lord Lowther, and who would not use the influence of his office improperly, was better to be at the head of the system than any number of commissioners. That Lord Lowther was ready to give his support to the system, he took all the assurance possible. He had examined the votes of Lord Lowther in the committee to inquire into Mr. Rowland Hill's plan, and he had found that the noble Lord had voted for all Mr. Warburton's resolutions. He voted for the resolution that there should be an uniform rate of postage, which embodied the great principles of Mr. Hill's system. Lord Lowther had approved of the adoption of the plan, and was a decided friend to Mr. Hill's system. With respect to the committee to which his right hon. Friend had assented, he thought the House was fairly entitled now to inquire, considering the time which had elapsed, into the working of the system. He should not enter into details, which had been folly explained by his right hon. Friend, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and the hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced the motion. He hoped the committee would apply itself to the objects stated in the amendment of his right hon. Friend, and consider what had been adopted, and its effects, and not attempt to subject to the supervision of Parliament the whole of the business of the Post-office, which would only make the committee were it to do so fail in its inquiries. It was generally supposed that the arrangements of the Post-office were very simple, but in fact they were very 442 complicated, adapted to the varying circumstances of different parts of the country, and none butt hose who saw the whole could form a fair judgment of the system. If the committee should think of supervising the Treasury and the Post-office the public would derive no advantage from its labours. It was right that it should contemplate the general results of the new scheme, and inquire fully into its effects, both on the country and on the revenue, but it would not be right for the committee to supervise the public offices, which could only occupy the time of the committee with mere details, and lead to no satisfactory results. If the Treasury and the Post-office were to be subjected to the supervision of the committee, the public business would be paralysed. Separately then from inquiring into the departments of the Government with which the system had no concern, he thought that Government would not be justified in now refusing to allow a full inquiry into the progress and success of the great experiment. He considered it proper, as he had said before, to abstain from entering into details, but the House was entitled to know that a fair trial had been given to Mr. Hill's plan, and to ascertain the extent of its social advantages, and its effect on the revenue of the country. While such should be the course of the House of Commons, he would assure them that while he continued in office he would lend all his weight, influence, and authority, to ensure full justice to the new system.
§ Mr. Milner Gibson
said, he would follow the recommendation of the right hon. Baronet, and as a committee was granted he would not enter upon the general question; but he thought himself entitled, before the discussion closed, to ask for some information from her Majesty's Government concerning certain Post-office arrangements affecting the borough of Manchester. He was aware that a Member ought to be reluctant to bring local matters of this kind, however important, before the House, the usual course being to memorialise the Treasury, and to refer the matter to the Post-office authorities; but in this case that course had been taken repeatedly, without procuring a redress of the grievances, or scarcely a definite answer. In September, 1842, a memorial was sent to the Postmaster-general from the town council of Manchester, complaining that the boxes for the reception 443 of letters for the London mail were closed at so early an hour as to be productive of much inconvenience, and stating that if the mails were transmitted by the Manchester and Birmingham Railway direct, instead of being sent, as now, round by Warrington, nearly an hour might be saved, and the boxes might be kept open for the reception of London letters to a later period of the evening. In October, 1842, a second memorial was sent to the Treasury, complaining that since September 1, 1842, the box for the reception of letters for Yorkshire and Hull was closed at the early hour of half-past five o'clock, although previous to that time, for a long period, the Yorkshire letters could be posted as late as half-past seven, and subsequently till half-past eight after the opening of the Manchester and Leeds Railway. Thus Manchester was deprived of a considerable advantage, namely, a period of three hours, in the posting of Yorkshire letters. This arose in consequence of the Yorkshire mails being transmitted by the Grand Junction Railway to Birmingham, back to Derby, thence to Leeds, a distance of 160 miles, instead of going direct across from Manchester to Leeds, a distance of only forty miles. He knew it might be contended that the Post-office found it more economical to send the letters two sides of a triangle, instead of one, as there might be conveyances already performing the two sides, of which use might be made without much expense, whereas the one side might require a special conveyance at a quarter of the expense. But in this case, the importance of a direct communication between the great trading community of Manchester, the manufacturing towns of Yorkshire, and the port of Hull, ought to be taken into consideration. Three-fourths of ail the cotton yarn exported from England were shipped from Hull. Besides the two grievances he had mentioned, a third had arisen. The morning mail from Manchester to Hull had been taken off, thus leaving no direct communication between the important borough of Manchester and such a considerable port as Hull. The post from Hull to Manchester was as inconvenient as that from Manchester to Hull. The Hull letter-box closed at four o'clock. To explain the nature of this inconvenience he would read a passage from the Manchester Guardian of Saturday,The hour for closing the Hull post-office 444 is four o'clock in the afternoon, up to which time the steamers for Hamburg are necessarily loading, so that the shipping agents cannot possibly get their bills of lading and shipping advices made up in time for that day's post. The advices of many large and important shipments are consequently delayed until the following afternoon, and a merchant at Leeds or Manchester is not in a condition to effect in insurance until the third day. Before that time, however, the goods may be lost, and the loss known, in which case the merchant would be subjected to loss, in consequence of having been absolutely precluded by Post-office arrangements from adopting that protection of his property which prudent men consider indispensable.He begged to ask, therefore, as memorials had been sent both to the Treasury and the Post-office, and no redress obtained, after ample time for information, whether anything was to be done: First, with reference to the despatch of the London letters an hour earlier than was necessary in consequence of not using the Manchester and Birmingham Railway instead of the Grand Junction. An hour might seem a small gain, but it was important to a trading community, as extending the period during which mercantile correspondence at the close of the day could be carried on. Secondly, he would ask, as to the deprivation which Manchester had undergone of the direct Yorkshire mails, having a communication with Hull only once in twenty-four hours, the box closing at the early hour of half-past five at Manchester, and four at Hull, whether anything was done to remedy these evils so justly complained of?
§ Sir George Clerk
admitted the existence of the grievance of which the people of Manchester complained. It arose, as there was no good without its corresponding evil, from the facility of travelling introduced by railways. The great powers possessed by railway companies, rendered it difficult for the Government to make satisfactory arrangements with them. In general the terms asked were so high, that a great loss would be incurred by the Post-office were those terms always agreed to as soon as demanded. The result of the negotiation, however, which was going on would soon be known, as he believed, that the Post-office and the railways were on the point of coming to an agreement. There were many necessary details to arrange but he hoped, that a direct communication would be speedily established, and that the inconvenience 445 complained of at Manchester would be altogether done away.
§ Mr. Aglionby
agreed with hon. Members who had praised the exertions of Lord Lowther. There was no man who enjoyed more public confidence, or whose services were of greater benefit to the public. He was afraid, however, that even Lord Lowther might be occasionally overridden by the subordinates of his office, and the Post-office was not the only public department of which such suspicion was entertained. He would advert to another point. By the act for the registration of voters, and by the 100th section, it was enacted that notices of claims should be sent by the Post-office, and he had proposed a plan which had received the assent of the right hon. Gentleman, to ensure the delivery of such notices. But by the other House, in the 101st section of the act, the interpretation clause, words had been inserted applying to all notices sent by the Government, which had destroyed the effect of his clause. He regretted that the alterations made by the Lords had not been noticed in that House, and the consequence was, that this part of the act could not be carried into effect
§ Mr. Hume
thought the statement of Mr. Rowland Hill had not been so much exaggerated as it had been contended; because whilst every department of our revenue was found to be declining, the revenue derived from the Post-office had gone on increasing progressively during the last three half years. lie felt that this ingenious Gentleman had not been assisted as he ought to have been by the officials in the office, though he wholly exonerated Lord Lowther, whose zeal and ability he had great satisfaction in acknowledging, so as to enable him to carry out as perfectly as he might have done the whole of a plan so calculated to confer almost incalculable advantages upon society at large.
§ Sir T. Wilde
was satisfied with the amendment, and said Mr. Hill would be ready to defend every part of his plan.
§ Motion, as amended, agreed to.