HC Deb 02 May 1871 vol 206 cc49-65

(Lincoln), in rising to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the Postmaster General should propose to the Postmaster General of the United States that the letter postage between the two countries should be reduced from 3d. to 1d, said, that in 1870 the rate of postage to America had been reduced from 6d. to 3d., the result being a diminution in the revenue, and a moderate increase in the number of letters despatched. In 1869, under the 6d. rate the number of letters sent from this country to the United States was 2,471,000, while in 1870, under the 3d. rate, the number was 3,140,000, the Post Office revenue being £74,880 in 1869, and £47,550 in 1870. The parties who had chiefly gained by the reduction were the mercantile class. He wished the House to consider the question, and to endeavour to persuade the Postmaster General to make further reductions in the rate. He did not think the reduction to 3d. was sufficient, and he should wish to see the amount brought down to the 1d. rate. Some time ago, when the question of the Cunard contract was under consideration, he called the attention of the House to a proposal which would have afforded the poorer classes an opportunity of sending letters to their friends and connections in America by the vessels of the National Steam Ship Company for 1d. postage. That offer, however, was declined by the Post Office. As regarded the letters that had been sent, the Government must have taken whatever money was received for such letters. He was sanguine enough to believe that if the rate had been reduced according to his recommendation there would have been a large increase in the number of letters between the two countries. The subsidies paid to the Cunard and Inman lines were about £205,000 a-year, and the postage on letters to America £47,550, so that there was a loss on these contracts of upwards of £150,000. It was very hard that poor people should not be allowed to send their letters at 1d. to the United States simply because the mercantile classes wanted to have a quick and safe transit for theirs. He contended that a moderate reduction failed to effect the object in view. It was only by a large reduc- tion that they could stimulate people to write frequently, and could bring the power of writing down to the masses. Speaking on July 12, 1839, on the question of the reduction of postage to 1d. as recommended by Sir Rowland Hill, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Francis Baring) said— Take, for instance, foreign and ship letters, in which a large reduction of postage had taken place, and it might be taken as a general rule-that that branch of the Post Office revenue invariably showed the greatest increase of revenue in which the greatest reduction of postage had taken place."—[3 Hansard, xlix. 289.] The Postmaster General of the United States had recently made a Report on the subject of postage, in which he strongly urged that it was the duty of every Government, in furtherance of the principles of education, and of the comfort and convenience of peoples generally, to reduce the expense of postage to the lowest possible standard, showing, too, that all experience proved that the increase of correspondence arising from such reduction would soon restore the income that had been surrendered in that direction. He (Mr. Seely) might fairly point to the enormous increase of letters which followed our own inland postal reduction to the uniform rate of 1d. In the last year of the old rate the number of letters was 76,000,000; in the first year of the new system they rose to 169,000,000, and for the past year they amounted to the enormous number of 860,000,000 of letters. The analogy, he admitted, was hardly a strict one between our inland correspondence and that with a foreign country; if it were to be a strict one we should have to take into account the populations, and then we should have 2,000,000,000 instead of the present 6,000,000 of letters in the postal communication with the United States. There were millions in this country closely connected by relationship or association with America. He believed it would not be at all an exaggerated estimate to say that there were from 4,000,000 to 5,000,000 of people in Great Britain who had friends in America. Suppose there were 5,000,000 of persons who wished at times to correspond with America—that was one-sixth of our whole population—and were the American correspondence to be on the same ratio with the inland correspondence, it would amount to 140,000,000 of letters. And it should be borne in mind that whether we sent 3,000,000, or 30,000,000 or 100,000,000 of letters, the cost would be the same as respected carriage. The late Postmaster General (the Marquess of Hartington), in arguing the question two years ago, admitted that a penny rate of postage to America would be a great boon to the people of both countries; but he expressed himself doubtful whether the people would avail themselves of it to any considerable extent. Well he (Mr. Seely) would say let us try. They had done their best to stop correspondence with America, though the 1s. rate that not long ago prevailed had been reduced to 3d. The Postmaster General, on the same occasion, stated that to the United States there were five newspapers for every six letters, whilst in the inland correspondence the proportion was one newspaper to ten letters. That fact appeared the strongest argument in favour of the reduction he asked for, seeing that the newspapers were sent by the poorer classes because they could be sent for a postage of 1d. Taking all these things into account he was of opinion that the Revenue would not suffer. But even supposing there was to be no increase of letters from this reduction — a result which was scarcely possible to realize—the loss to the Post Office, according to the number of letters sent last year, would only amount to £31,700. He freely admitted that if this reduction were carried out in regard to the postage to the United States the same principle should be extended to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, the Cape of Good Hope, and all our other Colonies abroad. Well, then, according to the Estimates of the last year or two, even if there were no increase of letters after the proposed reduction was in operation, the total loss could not be more than £72,163, which would be a very trifling sacrifice to obtain this immense boon. Ireland would be chiefly benefited by the reduction to 1d., and they all knew the poverty that reigned there. The wages of the labouring classes in Westmeath were not more than 1s. a-day, out of which they had to pay the rent of the cottage. Was it not hard to charge these men 3d. for sending a letter to their relatives and friends in the United States? There was something startling in the fact that amongst 70,000,000 of peoples inhabit- ing the United Kingdom and America there were only 6,000,000 of letters interchanged in the year. It appeared to him, considering that they were peoples of the same race, speaking the same language, and bound together by the closest ties, that there must be something very wrong in our postal arrangements to account for this result. As a pure matter of business, he believed that the change which he advocated would be remunerative, for in one of the last statistical accounts published it was stated that for June, 1869, the total tonnage in the United States ports from all other countries was 11,877,000 tons, of which 5,716,000 tons alone came from this country. The value of the imports and exports between America and the British possessions during the same period was estimated at $454,000,000; whereas the value of those with America and all other countries amounted only to $397,000,000. Why, then, should there be only 6,000,000 of letters passing between America and this country? His own impression was that the reason was to be found in the 3d. postal rate, which presented an obstacle to the correspondence of the poorer classes. He believed that a reduction of the postage to 1d. would not only be attended by many important advantages, but that it would very soon repay the postal Department of this country for any pecuniary loss it might sustain in the commencement of the working of the new scheme. The late United States Minister, Mr. Reverdy Johnson, in a correspondence with Lord Clarendon on the subject, expressed his conviction that such a reduction as that proposed would do more to promote friendly feelings between the two peoples, as well as their comfort and happiness, than almost any other measure that could be suggested. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


, in seconding the Motion, observed, that we had set a good example to other countries in matters of commercial enterprise and in postal reductions, though in the latter we had during the last two years been occasionally outstripped on the Continent. The rate between this country and America had been reduced from 6d. to 3d.; but the reduction had not, he maintained, been carried far enough for the great masses of the people. The question in his mind involved such important results as to demand the serious consideration of all persons who were interested in the happiness and prosperity of the people. He admitted that the late Postmaster General (the Marquess of Hartington) had introduced some useful reforms into the Post Office. It remained, however, for his successor to carry out the reduction of the ocean postage from 3d. to 1d.; a reform which he believed would prove the most advantageous of all. According to a Report of the Emigration Commissioners in America it appeared that during the last 14 years America had received 7,500,000 emigrants from 72 different nationalities, and of these no fewer than 4,200,000 came from the British Islands. These facts showed how important it was to facilitate as far as possible the means of correspondence between the people of this country and the people of America. He was satisfied that if the reduction were made in the ocean postage the correspondence would grow so fast that it would soon become a good paying concern. Whilst he was in America last year he was surprised to find such ignorance prevailing amongst the Irish portion of the population, who were all Fenians, as to the modifications that had taken place in our laws respecting Ireland during the last few years. They appeared to know nothing of what was going on in the dear old country, as they termed it. He traced this ignorance very much to our postal system, which discouraged correspondence between the poorer classes of both countries. We did not know each other well enough. How little did the English in that House even know of America was shown by the insulting manner in which an hon. Member spoke the other night of American manufactures. Another reason in favour of this reduced postage was because he thought it would contribute more than anything else to that good understanding which they were all so anxious to bring about between this country and America. He trusted the Postmaster General would signalize his advent to office by inaugurating such a postal system as that suggested.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the Postmaster General should propose to the Postmaster General of the United States that the letter postage between the two countries should be reduced from 3d. to 1d."—(Mr. Seely.)


said, it appeared to him somewhat incongruous that printed matter should be charged at the rate of 1d. per 2 oz, whilst letters which were nothing like that weight were charged 3d., both going by the same ship. The inland postage in India from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin was only one anna, or l½d.; the Post Office receiving very little aid from railways, accompanied with great difficulties and great expense; whereas English letters to America traversed 3,000 miles, without let or impediment after they were once put on board ship. Statistics proved that the consumption of articles on which the duty had been reduced had increased fourfold, and he could not see why a similar result should not follow the reduction of the American postage to 1d. It was worthy making the attempt. For communication between distant relatives, if not a necessity, was a great gratification. He hoped the proposal would receive the favourable consideration of the Postmaster General.


supported the Motion. The majority of the letters that passed between England and the United States came from Ireland, owing to the emigration that had been going on for years, and so many families of Irish descent being settled in that country. Nothing would more conduce to harmony and good feeling between the two countries, for there was an old proverb—"The more people looked upon one another the more they liked one another." There were from 4,500,000 to 5,000,000 of Irish resident in America; but only about 6,000,000 of letters passed between the two countries, being less than one per head. At present the postage was 3d. It appeared a small sum; but it should be borne in mind that it was levied, so far as Ireland was concerned, from the poorest class of Her Majesty's subjects, and those who could least afford it. He believed the loss on the carriage of letters to the United States was £40,000. Therefore the postage was no source of profit. Why, then, not try ocean penny postage at once?


said, he hoped he need not assure the House how entirely he sympathized with the motives of those who took an interest in this subject, and that he concurred with them in opinion that it was of the greatest importance they should give every facility for communication between the numberless families resident in the two countries; but he did not believe that a reduction would be followed by the large increase of correspondence expected by them. He believed that the cheap money-order system between this country and America would be considered a greater boon by the Irish emigrants than any reduction of postage on their letters. The reason he did not think increased correspondence would follow a reduction of postage was that, from inquiries he had made in reference to Manchester, London, and other towns where the Irish were located in great numbers, he found that even with the penny postage communications with their relations and friends in Ireland were few. The more general practice among those having friends in America was to send a newspaper, from which the recipients gathered that their friends were well, and had them in remembrance. He sympathized fully with those who desired to establish the closest relations with our Colonies and with America; but the real question the House now had to decide was whether there was any probability that the proposal of his hon. Friend, if adopted, would pay. He had not an inexhaustible purse at his command, and it would not be just to make the community at large pay for the advantage of the small class who corresponded with America. He had been in communication on that subject with Sir Rowland Hill, the great postal reformer, who said— He had always expressed it as his opinion that, except under very special circumstances, every branch of the Post Office should be at least self-supporting, and he saw no reason to depart from that opinion. Unless that principle were acted upon a species of protection, as it seemed to him, was introduced into the Department, and one class of the nation was called upon to pay for the benefit, real or imaginary, of another; and that the suggested reduction of the postage to the United States to the rate of 1d. would be altogether inconsistent with the principle of self-support. If the change could be made, as his hon. Friend (Mr. Seely) had said, with but very little loss, he should be glad to adopt the proposal; but as the present contracts were in force until the 31st of December, 1876, it would be impossible to undertake any further reduction of the postage rate without any increased loss, which he did not think it proper they should bear. His hon. Friend stated that of which the Post Office here had no knowledge—namely, that the American Government were about to reduce their inland rate to 1d.; but looking at the present rate of postage in America, it would be impossible for him to communicate, as his hon. Friend had recommended, with the Postmaster General of America in order to have a reduction from 3d. to 1d., for this simple reason, that it would involve a direct and positive interference with the internal postage of the United States. It could not be expected that the United States, which charged 1½d. for carrying a letter from a neighbouring town 20 miles from New York, would carry a letter of the same weight through New York to this country for 1d. The financial results of previous reductions was not very encouraging. The amount we received from sea postage under the 1s. rate, before the reduction in 1867, was £130,000. In 1868, when the 6d. rate came into operation, the amount received fell to £92,730, the effect of the change being to add in the year in which it was introduced about 23 per cent to the number of letters sent to America, the normal increase, however, being about 7½ per cent; the increase of letters due to the reduction of the rate was therefore only 16½ per cent. Another reduction was made by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland (the Marquess of Hartington) from 6d. to 3d., the effect of which was to increase the number of letters 19½ per cent in addition to the normal increase of 7½ per cent; and the revenue from sea postage fell to £47,000. Was there, then, any sound reason to expect that a further reduction to 1d. would have a magical result on the Revenue? There was a reduction from 2s. to 1s. 6d. on the Pacific correspondence, when the increase of letters was hardly perceptible. In the case of the West Indies, in 1863, there was an increase from 6d. to 1s., when the letters were reduced only 10 per cent. In regard to the Cape of Good Hope, in 1868, the postage was raised from 6d. to 1s., and the letters decreased only 13 per cent, while the sea postage receipts increased 70 per cent. The postage to India was raised, in 1868, from 6d. to 9d., and strange to say, that increased charge was followed by an increase in the number of letters of 13 per cent, the reason for that apparent anomaly being that the means of communication with India were considerably improved. The cost to the Post Office of the present service of ocean postage was £830,000, of which only £363,500 was returned. There was thus a loss of £474,000, which would be increased by £295,000 if the whole of our ocean postage was reduced to 1d., and he need not point out that it would be impossible to make that reduction to the United States without making it also to our own Colonies and to South America. He therefore ventured to ask the House whether it would be right for this country to run the risk of so serious a loss as £769,574, which must greatly diminish the postal advantages to be derived by the people of this country. If they pursued this course, the Post Office would become a spending instead of a revenue department. If every application to the Post Office had to be referred to the Treasury for inquiry whether it would pay, the result to the public would be that few improvements could be effected. He thought his hon. Friend who brought forward this Motion was a little out of time in regard to the application he made to the House. At least, his hon. Friend might be content to wait until the termination of the present contracts, when there would be good reason to hope that a considerable reduction of the rates might be obtained. The mail contract to America would expire at the end of 1876; but that with the Peninsular and Oriental Company would be of longer duration, and if any reduction of the rates of postage were made during the terms of those contracts there must result an increased loss of Revenue which would diminish the advantages that ought to be derived by the people of this country. In comparing the inland postage with the foreign, he had to regard 900,000,000 letters as against 3,000,000 or 4,000,000, and he thought it would not tend to the happiness of the people of this country to sacrifice the interests of the greater number, though he agreed with the object his hon. Friend had in view, and earnestly desired to carry it out. He asked that the subject might be left in the bands of the Post Office authorities, who would not neglect it, but would use their best endeavours to make a reduction of postage whenever they could do so without sacrificing the principle that Sir Rowland Hill had laid down. After that assurance he trusted his hon. Friend would not press his Motion to a division.


observed that his hon. Friend's (Mr. Seely's) proposal was a limited one, as compared with that which the right hon. Gentleman had just answered. His hon. Friend desired that the postage to the United States should be reduced to 1d., and that a similar reduction should apply to the Colonies. This would entail a loss to the Revenue of £21,000 a-year by our postage with the United States, and £30,000 with the Colonies. But the right hon. Gentleman had widened the proposition by making it embrace the entire ocean postage, entailing a loss of £295,000 per annum beyond the loss now incurred. So that the right hon. Gentleman had not given a specific answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln. The principle on which the right hon. Gentleman resisted the Motion—namely, "that each branch of the Post Office should be at least self-supporting"—was violated in practice already, since, as the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted, we incurred a loss of £474,000 a-year by the present ocean postage. The question was therefore reduced merely to one of degree. If the principle laid down by Sir Rowland Hill were now applied generally, our postal communication would have to be closed in every part of the globe. The right hon. Gentleman was not called upon to interfere with the domestic arrangements of the American Post Office, and in not expecting any great increase of correspondence between the two countries, he forgot the educational influences that were at work. On social, commercial, and especially on political grounds, his hon. Friend's Motion was most politic, and if its adoption cost the country an additional £50,000 a-year it would be well worth the money.


said, he could not see with what logical or fiscal consistency the Postmaster General could maintain that every branch of the Post Office should be self-supporting, seeing that whilst he insisted on the maintenance of an almost prohibitory tax on the communications of the poorer classes of our fellow-countrymen with their friends and connections in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the Cape of Good Hope, his Department did not begrudge losing quite £400,000 a-year by the postal facilities it afforded to the opulent and influential classes connected with India, China, Japan, and the West Indies. His hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had proved that if the rate of postage to the United States, North America, Australia, and the Cape of Good Hope were reduced to an uniform charge of 1d.—assuming not one more letter was transmitted at this reduced rate of 1d.—still the total annual loss to the Post Office could not exceed £72,163. And if the reduced rate of 1d. were limited to the United States, and no more letters sent than now, the loss would only be £31,700 a-year. One could hardly over-estimate the political, commercial, social, and moral influences which would accrue from such facilities of communication being afforded to the English-speaking communities—whether across the Atlantic or in all our American, African, and Australian Colonies. And yet this great boon was denied to the poorer classes of this country, because, forsooth, there might be a possible, but not a probable, loss of Revenue to the extent of £72,163—for it is obvious that there would be a great increase in the number of letters sent, and that the ultimate loss would not be more than about £50,000 a-year, if as much. Yet in face of such a trivial contingency he was surprised to find that the Postmaster General persisted in opposing the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln. He (Mr. White) did not hesitate to declare that it was monstrous that England, the great colonizing Power, should continue to so heavily tax the communications of the poorer classes of this country with their friends and relatives beyond the seas. The present rates of postage for a half-ounce letter were 1s. to the Cape of Good Hope, 6d. to the Australian Colonies, and 3d. to the United States; up to the 1st of January, 1870, it was 6d., and up to the 1st of January, 1867, 1s. to America. With the declared willingness of the American Government "to co-operate in a further reduction of the rate of international letter postage to the lowest practical standard," he did yet hope the Postmaster General would accede to the Motion of the hon. Member for Lincoln. He (Mr. White) would not adduce the vast magnitude of our commercial relations with the United States nor refer to the inestimable advantages inevitable on cheaper postal facilities between the two countries. He could, however, point out to the House that the proposed reduction would be of signal benefit to the poor and emigrant classes on both sides of the Atlantic. And he would remind them that during the last 28 years 7,794,328 emigrants had left our shores, and of that number 5,220,775 had gone to the United States. Moreover, those emigrants had thence sent, and continued to remit, quite £1,000,000 a-year to their poor relatives and friends, either to enable them to join them in America or to minister to their sustenance and comfort at home. He would beg to observe that the Post Office made a profit last year of £1,559,000. And if the opulent and influential classes had defrayed the whole expense of their oceanic communications the profit would have been quite £2,000,000 sterling. So that, in conformity with the self-supporting principle now urged by the Postmaster General, that large sum should have been employed for the benefit of his own customers. Here he would remark that he (Mr. White) had ever been opposed to the idea of the Government making the Post Office a source of Imperial revenue. He had always contended that any amount derived from the Post Office receipts beyond the actual expenditure should be appropriated either to cheapening the cost or extending the facilities of postal communication. That, he would remind the House, was the permanent policy of the Government of the United States. He instanced the American policy because the Chancellor of the Exchequer had very recently imported and striven to naturalize an American notion in finance. In the United States the Post Office last year cost little short of £5,000,000, while the Returns were little over £4,000,000, thus leaving a deficit of nearly £1,000,000 sterling. In the United States, so far from seeking to make a profit by the Post Office Department, they do not care, as some suppose, if it be not self-supporting. In 1866 the Postmaster General of that Republic reported that his expenditure had exceeded his receipts by £350,000, and then said— It has always been an erroneous theory in the history of the postal service of the United States that it was established or sustained on the principle of wholly defraying its own expenses out of its own revenues; or, in other words, on the principle that it should be self-supporting. It is a great public necessity to accommodate private citizens, and it will not do to say that no mail route should be opened or post office established until the business on the proposed route, or of the proposed office, shall pay all its expenses. The American Postmaster General added— This service, under the liberal patronage of the Government, has done more to aid in developing the resources of the country than anything else, except the cultivation of the soil. It has done more to aid in enlightening and christianizing the people than anything else except the spelling-book and the Bible. The Post Office and mail route travel with civilization and mark its progress as distinctly as the school-house and the meeting-house. He (Mr. White) would say no more than that as the change proposed by the hon. Member for Lincoln could be effected with so little cost to the Treasury, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take the matter into his serious consideration with the view of making the desired concession.


supported the Motion, and trusted the Prime Minister would himself take the matter in hand. It could not rest on the answer which had been given by the Postmaster General. Economy was of undoubted importance; but the additional cost this reduction might incur would be well repaid, if not in money, at least in advantages to the people, far exceeding present calculation. He prayed the Prime Minister to take the matter into his serious consideration, and not to drive his supporters to vote against him on a matter of such vast importance and pecuniary insignificance.


said, his hon. Friend who had just sat down had made an appeal to him, and in reply to that appeal he must state that he was somewhat astonished that the observations of the Postmaster General had not met with a more favourable reception from those who supported the Motion. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. White) said that the Post Office did not observe the self-supporting principle, and that consequently there could be no objection to this Motion on the ground of charge. Then he (Mr. Gladstone) must say that there had been great improvidence in the regulation of our postal relations heretofore; most burdensome contracts had been made, and this fact did not in itself constitute a reason for further public expenditure in the extension of those communications, but, as far as it went, it was a reason the other way, and it obliged the Government to look at Motions of this kind with more jealousy than they would otherwise wish to do, and especially when a Motion was couched in the stringent terms the hon. Member had adopted. The hon. Member was not contented with any general intimation that the Government should use their efforts in the way contemplated by the last speaker; nay, more, he was not content in his Motion with the terms he used in his speech. His speech was to this effect. He was convinced that a measure of this kind, for the establishment of an ocean penny postage with America, could be adopted without loss, and in the last sentence he expressed a desire that the Government should enter into communication with the Postmaster General of the United States for the purpose of ascertaining whether that was so. There was no difficulty in entering into communication with that view; nay, more, he would not say absolutely that no further loss was to be incurred; but he would say confidently that the Motion, in its present form, was one that ought not to be adopted, and which the Government could not accept. It was not consistent with courtesy between two countries that a Legislative Chamber in one of them should undertake to lay down by a Resolution a kind of direction to the other, involving a most important change in its internal arrangements, or that communications on the subject should be opened by a formal Resolution of a Legislative Chamber. With respect to the question of loss, there was a good deal the Postmaster General would have to consider, for we were at present labouring under contracts, unfortunately renewed with America, for reasons to him totally unintelligible; and he was exceedingly sorry that those who renewed those contracts, and who involved this country in a very heavy charge, so far as he knew without any necessity, were not present to take part in this discussion, and to explain their views of the policy that ought to be pursued. But the bench where they might have been, and where they ought to have been, was, as was very commonly the case, an absolute solitude. The Postmaster General was most willing to enter into this subject, with a view of promoting a further reduction in the rate of postage. Nay, more, he was willing to take as his final aim, the rate proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Seely), if it could be adopted. But the Government were not willing to accede to a Motion so stringent in its terms, because to go to the Postmaster General of America with that Resolution would be the very worst method of introducing the subject. If they must pass something, he hoped it would be a Resolution in this form— That, in the opinion of the House, it is desirable that the Postmaster General should enter into commnnication with the Postmaster General of the United States in order to consider whether it would be practicable further to reduce the rates of postage between the two countries without imposing undue charge upon the public Revenue. He did not say what was due or undue; but it was absolutely necessary to keep the matter in view when we contemplated communication with the authorities of foreign countries. Let the Postmaster General have a little time and liberty to see what could be effected; and then, if the results were not satisfactory, the hon. Member would have it in his power to return to the charge on a future occasion. He would move that the Motion be amended in this manner; and exceedingly glad would he be if they were able to establish what the hon. Member desired. But he trusted it would never appear to those who paid the rates of inland postage in this country that if a letter could be sent from London to San Francisco for 1d. it was unreasonable to charge 1d. for sending a letter from London to Brompton.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "desirable" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "that Her Majesty's Government should enter into communication with the Government of the United States, in order to consider whether it would be practicable further to reduce the rates of postage between the two countries without undue charge upon the public revenue,"—(Mr. Gladstone,) —instead thereof.


said, he had a very few words to say in reply to the remarks of the Postmaster General. The Postmaster General had mystified the House by stating that the loss consequent on the adoption of the Resolution would be something like £295,000, if there was no increase of letters. But he (Mr. Seely) limited himself to England and the English-speaking Colonies of Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and the Cape of Good Hope, and he had taken special pains to insure the accuracy of his figures and deductions, which showed that the penny rate, even assuming that there was no increased correspondence, would involve a loss for the United States of no more than £31,700, and for the Colonies of no more than £40,463, making a total of £72,163. However, as it appeared to be the general wish of the House that he should do so, he would withdraw his Motion. ["No, no!"]


called attention to a point of form which appeared to have been overlooked both by the Mover of the Resolution and by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Both in the original Motion and the Amendment the form was "that the Postmaster General should propose to the Postmaster General of the United States." The proper form, he thought, would be "that Her Majesty's Government should communicate on the subject with the Government of the United States," so as not to commit the matter to the heads of Departments.


My hon. and learned Friend is quite right.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, That the words 'that Her Majesty's Government should enter into communication with the Government of the United States, in order to consider whether it would be practicable further to reduce the rates of postage between the two countries without undue charge upon the public revenue,' be added, instead thereof."


said, he would accept the Amendment.


said, he proposed to omit the words in the Amendment—"without undue charge upon the public Revenue."

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, by leaving out the words "without undue charge upon the public Revenue."—(Mr. Hadfield.)


regretted that his hon. Friend had proposed the Amend- ment, as the words proposed to be left out were reasonable in themselves, and if they were now struck out an inference might be drawn that the reduction of postage was to be carried out—to use a common and almost slang phrase—"wholly regardless of expense."


said, the view of his hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire was not that the proceeding be carried out regardless of expense, but, to some extent, regardless of the risk of the diminution of Revenue.


said, he hoped the hon. Member for Sheffield would not divide the House.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said proposed Amendment," put, and agreed to.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should enter into communication with the Government of the United States, in order to consider whether it would be practicable further to reduce the rates of postage between the two countries without undue charge upon the public revenue.