§ Mr. Lyall
presented a Petition from the Merchants, Brokers, and others in the city of London engaged in the American trade, praying that an Act might be passed to regulate the Post-office revenue, and to leave parties at liberty to send their letters for foreign parts to the outports of this country, by whatever means they might think proper, without any control or interference on the part of the Postmaster-General. The petitioners had been in the habit of sending letters intended for America, since 1814—to Liverpool, for instance—by the most convenient conveyances, to be sent by the earliest despatch; that had gone on until the Postmaster-General had interfered and threatened prosecutions if it were longer persisted in, requiring that the letters should be transmitted through the Post-office. Every person in business must be aware how important it was for merchants to have their letters at the outports by given periods, as no one could stay the wind and tides. The Post-office could not insure the earliest and most certain despatch; and it might be most important that individuals should be at liberty to embrace the opportunity of sending off their letters early in the morning, instead of waiting till the evening. No doubt, by granting what the petitioners now asked for, a little postage revenue would be lost; but surely the postage of two or three thousand letters ought not to be put in competition with the interests of this great commercial country. He had had an interview with 403 the petitioners, and with the Postmaster-General, and he found that his grace was disposed to render every facility to the petitioners in his power, but the petitioners were decidedly of opinion that he could not affrod them the required facilities without an alteration being made in the law as it now stood.
§ Sir James Graham
wished that some person more intimately connected with the Post-office than he was had been present to give an explanation. The hon. Gentleman had done justice to the noble Postmaster-General in saying he was desirous of affording every facility in his power to the transmission of letters by merchants here to their foreign correspondents; but there was nothing more unpleasant than that an executive officer should be charged with a discretionary power. It was very well known, that it was a great annoyance to be put to the trouble of answering letters—it was equally well known, that it was a great annoyance to be put to the trouble of paying the postage of them, and the anxiety shown to get franks pretty clearly proved how desirous persons were that their friends should not be put to the latter annoyance. On the other hand, it was the duty of the Postmaster-General to take care that all the revenue that ought fairly to come from the transmission of letters should be obtained. The mode of trans mitting ship letters to the outports, adverted to by the hon. Member who had presented this petition, had gone on until a most glaring abuse had been detected. An irregular Post-office had in fact been established at a coffee-house, without the knowledge of the Postmaster-General, for the convenience of persons sending to their foreign correspondents; that post-office actually charged the inland postage upon the letters so transmitted; and even that practice might have gone on to this day, but it was found that the bag belonging to that post-office actually contained letters for persons merely residing at the outports, and thereby a direct fraud was committed on the revenue. Upon this discovery taking place, it was impossible to suffer the practice to be continued.
§ Mr. Lyall
did not mean to bring any charge against the Postmaster-General, but quite the contrary. With respect to the abuse which had been mentioned by the right hon. Baronet, only one letter of the description alluded to had been discovered in the foreign bag; and that had found its way there without the cognizance 404 of those who had the ostensible charge of making it up—the proprietors of the North and South American Coffee-house. However, as the trade of London was deeply concerned, he hoped the authorities of the Post-office would do every thing in their power to satisfy the merchants and the trade generally.
§ The Petition to lie on the Table.