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no doubt conveyed the through mails. The boats of Captain Edwards were only employed in common with many others, not under contract, for auxiliary service, under the general instructions to postmasters to employ them, and pay one cent a letter, and half a cent a newspaper, estimated on what are termed local mails, which pay was to be in full for all mails-- as well through as local.
The whole number of boats thus employed during the period embraced in the present claim, appears to have been 88, and the aggregate amount paid them $41,605 21, (including Captain Edwards's boats.) These all conveyed through mails, it is to be presumed, and all upon the same terms, and the compensation they have received must have been regarded by the department as in full for all their services.
Land service under contract from Cleveland to Toledo, 1850 to 1854, daily, four-horse coaches, at $5,300 per annum. On this route additional pay was allowed for two additional daily lines between Monroeville and Toledo, (67 miles,) at the rate of $5,494 per annum, from January 9 to April 10, 1852—say one quarter, $1,373. Also, additional pay for extra services in January and April, 1853, $520.
Land service, Toledo to Detroit, daily, four-horse coaches, during suspension of navigation, and two-horse coaches residue of year, $4,250.
Steamboat contract, Detroit to Cleveland, from May 19, 1852, $2,000 per annum.
Steamboat contract, Cleveland to Buffalo, from May 24, 1851, at $1,000 per month-say for season, $10,000.
Steamboat contract, Detroit to Buffalo, 1850 to 1854, $10,000 per annum.
I certify that the foregoing is a true copy of a statement prepared by myself for Judge Campbell, former Postmaster General, upon the application of Arthur Edwards and associates to be paid for conveying through mails by their steamboats.
I carefully examined the case, and presented on the one hand the nature of the claim, with the evidence to sustain it, and on the other the instructions of the department under which mails were conveyed, showing that the compensation actually paid was according to law and the uniform usages of the department; that many other boats conveyed on the same terms, and that such compensation was considered in full for all services.
Mr. Dundas examined my statement, and attested the correctness of its facts and conclusions. The Postmaster General approved and considered it conclusive against the claimants, who then appealed to the Court of Claims. Copies of my statement were furnished to the court, and formed the basis of its adverse decision.
I have no knowledge of any formal letter or written decision of the Postmaster General in the case other than the above statement, and believe there was none given to the claimants.
A. N. ZEVELY,
Third Assistant Postmaster General. APRIL 14, 1860.
POST MASTER GENERAL, Made in compliance with a resolution of the Senate in relation to dead
letters, drop letters, and letters held for postage, or postage not prepaid.
May 8, 1860.–Referred to the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads.
Mar 9, 1860.-Motion to print referred to the Committee on Printing. May 16, 1860.-Report in favor of printing the usual number submitted, considered, and
Post OFFICE DEPARTMENT, May 7, 1860. SIR: In compliance with a resolution of the Senate, adopted March 9, 1859, I submitted, in my annual report of 3d of December following, some general suggestions on the subject of dead letters, promising to make a further report at a subsequent period. Accordingly, I now beg leave to give the result of investigations which have been diligently pursued up to the present time.
A full enumeration for the two additional quarters, ended 30th of September and 31st of December, 1859, has confirmed the correctness of my first estimate of two and a half millions as the number of letters annually consigned to the Dead Letter Office, including about 500,000 .drop letters' and 50,000 ‘held for postage,'” or postage not prepaid.
The inquiry of the Senate as to what further legislation is necessary to diminish the number of such letters," I find myself, after the most careful study, unable satisfactorily to answer.
The late act of Congress, approved April 6, 1860, providing that when any person shall indorse on any letter his or her name and place of residence, the same shall be returned, if not called for within a given time, if generally observed, will naturally effect the desired object, greatly to the advantage of this department and the public. But it may be safely doubted whether the great mass of letter writers will readily comply with the requirements of this law, and whether for this reason the number of dead letters will be thereby sensibly diminished. The privilege of making the prescribed indorsement has, hitherto, been sanctioned, and the fact that it has rarely been exercised, as found by actual examination of the dead letters, seems to indicate, on the part of the public, a repugnance to give anything like publicity to private correspondence. The bare announcement of the name of the writer would, to those acquainted with the parties, involve, to a degree at least, an invasion of the privacy of the communication, to which the majority of the correspondents would probably not submit.
There was formerly a standing regulation of the department in the hands of all postmasters, suggesting that writers could have their letters preserved by writing their names and residences on the sealed side, but it remained practically inoperative, and was, therefore, omitted from the subsequent published regulations. Still, it is beneficial to this department to be sustained by the law in question, especially as it is believed to be the only enactment that affords any promise of diminishing the number of dead letters, and every means shall be adopted to encourage the observance of its provisions.
It has been proposed that thirty days after letters are advertised and not called for, a circular should be sent to the office where each was mailed, stating that fact, and that on the receipt of a stamped envelope, the letter would be returned in it to the writer. Whether such a plan could be practically and effectively carried out, to any considerable extent, is doubtful.
Thousands of letters are written by transient persons of whom the postmaster at the mailing office knows nothing. Again: many letters are addressed at random to transient persons who are traveling, and on unimportant matters, and the writers of such, if found and notified, would probably not reclaim them. These facts have been demonstrated by actual experiment made in this department. Out of one thousand cases, two thirds of the writers did not wish to recover their letters; and in four hundred and forty-five cases out of one thousand five hundred, the writers of the letters could not be found.
Even in the smaller class of post offices there would be difficulties in finding the writers of letters on notices such as proposed; but in the city post offices the difficulties would, of course, be much greateramounting, indeed, it would seem, almost to an impossibility.
An ingenious plan for diminishing the number of dead letters has been proposed and elaborately explained by Oliver Evans Wood, Esq., which demands notice. He recommends what he terms “suspended letter lists,” being advertisements of letters which have remained three months in post offices uncalled for. Instead of returning such, as is now done, to the Dead Letter Office, he proposes sending them to "suspended letter offices” for certain States or districts, for publication, weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly, and that copies of such lists be sent to each post office of the States or districts, whence the letters have been forwarded as not delivered, and also to the county towns of other States, for the information of persons who may have failed to receive letters because of misdirection or change of residence, and also for reference on the part of persons desiring to know if letters that they had addressed to others had failed to be delivered. In order to avoid confusion from the similarity of names, there is to be affixed to the name of the person addressed, some designation serving to distinguish his letters from others addressed to persons of the same name; and, finally, he suggests that the name and post office of the writer appear on the letter, so that it may be returned to him, if not called for.
Admitting that the difficulties growing out of the similarity of
names might be overcome by the careful direction of letters, as indicated, and that the writers' names would be given on the letters. I am still unable to resist the conviction that the results which the “suspended letter lists' would accomplish, would not justify the expenditure of money and of labor which the practical enforcement of the system would involve.
Mr. Wood has corresponded with the department, and, after duly considering his plans, the difficulties in the way of executing them were presented somewhat at length in a letter, of July 21, 1859, a copy of which (marked A) is hereto annexed.
After the most careful consideration, I am constrained to believe that the chief improvement in the Dead Letter Office must be effected by providing for the return of letters, through that office, in greater numbers, and at short periods, to the writers. This is the third point suggested by the resolution of the Senate.
In reference to returning the whole number (2,500,000) of letters, whether containing valuables or not, I may say that this could probably be done with thirty-five additional clerks, provided none but those letters containing money or other valuable inclosures, were registered and entered on the books, as at present, but it would be, to a considerable extent, labor lost, because in very many cases, no doubt, from the migratory habits of our people, and from other causes, the writers could not be found. The letters, then, would again be returned to the Dead Letter Office, and in many cases the letters, being unimportant, the writers would not care to receive them.
As stated in my general report, the attempt has been made to ascertain something of public opinion on the subject of restoring to the writers dead letters not containing inclosures of value. Fifteen hundred letters of this class were selected, and circulars sent to the postmasters where mailed to ascertain whether the writers of such desired their recovery, and also the reasons why the persons addressed failed to receive them.
Answers were received from 1,055, the writers of the other 445 not being found or failing to answer. Three hundred and sixty-six of the writers wished their letters returned, and three hundred and twentythree had been originally misdirected.
From this experiment (confirmed by observation in the regular course of business) it may be assumed that not one half of the whole number of dead letters are of such value or importance as to justify their return to the writers. It is, however, perfectly certain that many letters of importance are now destroyed which should be preserved, it being impossible, with the limited number of clerks, to do more than simply look for inclosures.
I set down the proportion at less than one third, or say 600,000; for, apart from the large number of circulars and clearly unimportant letters entering into the general enumeration, (of 2,500,000,) there are thousands of letters without the writer's name or post office address, or when the address is given, so badly written that it cannot be read.
The selection, examination, and return of this number of letters (without keeping any special account of them in books, as is done with
letters containing money,) would probably require ten clerks in addition to the present force of the office.'
They would, of course, be obliged to glance at the contents of all the letters, say 7,000 or 8,000 daily, the mere opening of which and looking for inclosures require now the constant and close attention of four clerks. This improvement of the service is clearly needed, and would, I think, fully satisfy the public. It should, at least, be fairly tested ; and I would, therefore, suggest that the Postmaster General be authorized to employ not exceeding ten temporary clerks, (of class one, at $1,200 per annum,) and be required to report specially to Congress at the next session the number of letters returned to the writers, with such information as could be obtained calculated to throw light on the subject as to whether such returns are satisfactory or otherwise. In no other way, I think, can it be ascertained what legislation will be best adapted to meet the wants of the public in reference to dead letters.
As to the expense, I presume there can be no objection, considering the important interests involved ; but I venture to suggest that the unclaimed money of the Dead Letter Office would go far towards paying the proposed additional clerks, the annual amount being now between $3,000 and $4,000. Under the act of Congress approved March 3, 1825, (4 Statutes, 409,) such money may be appropriated to the use of the department, and this has accordingly been done ; but it has not been considered allowable to use the money for extra clerk hire.
The amount of money accruing from dead letters, deposited in the United States Treasury within a period of six years, exceeds $30,000, which it would seem most appropriate to restore from the general treasury, in whole or in part, as Congress may decide, for the purpose of improving the branch of business through which that money accrued.
It is of course necessary, above all things in connection with this subject, to provide for the delivery of letters without the intervention of the Dead Letter Office, as designed by the new law already referred to; and should its provisions be applied generally to the millions of letters passing through the mails, it will accomplish a most salutary reform. But, under the most favorable view, its effects will scarcely be appreciable within a shorter period than one year. Meanwhile, letters may be restored to the writers, and experiments made at the Dead Letter Office (according to the means which Congress may provide) which, it is confidently believed, will lead to satisfactory results scarcely otherwise attainable.
Some reforms have already been made, both by enforcing old and salutary regulations of the department, which had fallen into disuse, and by adopting new ones which the service manifestly needed.
Among the latter is the requirement (referred to in my annual report) under which weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly returns of dead letters are made, according to the frequency of advertising, so that none shall remain in post offices over three months after they have been advertised, and more than half of the whole number of dead letters are now thus returned. The effects have been found so favorable as to justify the more general application of the same rule. Under former instructions, all unclaimed letters were retained until the expiration of the quarter