§ Order of the Day for the consideration of the QUEEN'S MESSAGE of the 6th instant read.
§ MESSAGE read.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, last evening I asked your Lordships to concur in measures to secure a pension to the widow of a distinguished Member of your Lordships' House, who, having entered early into the service of the country, fell full of honours, if not of years, before the nation had reaped all the benefits which his great knowledge and experience would have conferred upon it had he been spared to a more advanced age. To-day I have to make a somewhat similar proposal in favour of one who, having entered comparatively late into the public service, and having served the public faithfully for a quarter of a century, now enjoys the satisfaction of seeing the great scheme of his life carried out with entire success, to the great advantage of this country, and, I may add, of the entire world. We can hardly conceive the progress that has been made in postal development without referring back to the postal history of that time. I cannot doubt that your Lordships will entirely concur with the Report of the Committee which sat twenty-five years ago, to inquire into the measure proposed by Mr. Rowland Hill's penny postal scheme. In that Report it is stated that—On the management of the Post Office, and the regulation of the postage rates, depends in a great measure the entire correspondence of the Country, and in that correspondence is involved whatever affects, interests, or agitates mankind— private interests, public interests, family, kindred, friends, commercial interests, professional business, literature, science, art, law, politics, education, morals, religion.1703 They reported on the almost universal evasion of the postage, It was shown that in some of our commercial districts five-sixths and four-fifths of the letters were sent in violation of the law. In some towns only one letter in fifty went through the post office. All over the country the law was systematically violated in the transmission of letters. They found that the system which then existed pressed with peculiar hardship upon the poorer classes in this country. Sir Rowland Hill then brought forward his scheme. I am aware that there is some dispute as to who was the first person to propose the scheme of a penny postage; but every one must acknowledge that, if not quite the foremost, Sir Rowland Hill was one of the foremost in advocating that plan. He was certainly assisted in it by various persons and bodies. Mr. Wallace took an active share in forwarding it. The Chambers of Commerce took an active share, and especially the London Mercantile Committee, of which Lord Overstone was a distinguished member, and which issued papers on the subject marked by great activity and ability. But, whatever were the merits of this advocacy, we are accustomed in this country to ascribe the real credit of any reform to the energy, and industry, and determination of the men who practically carry it out. Great credit is due to the noble Marquess behind me (the Marquess of Clanricarde) for the appointment of Sir Rowland Hill to a position in the Post Office which enabled him to carry out his scheme—for your Lordships must not forget that, however successful the penny postal system may now be, it was much opposed at that time, and Sir Rowland Hill was looked upon as a rash schemer and innovator. But the result of his innovation has been entirely satisfactory, and the number of letters which pass through the post is now nine times what it was twenty-five years ago. It is not only in England, too, that communication by letter has vastly increased. In the colonies there has also been a great increase; and the example set in this country has been followed to a certain extent by every civilized nation. But the scheme for the penny postage does not embrace the whole of the postal reforms introduced, by Sir Rowland Hill. By developing the book post he has conferred a great boon on literature, and has given a great impetus to education, while the money order system has given immense facilities for the transmission of money from one part of the kingdom to the 1704 other, and has assumed extraordinary proportions. Here are some statistics which will show your Lordships what has been the development of the postal system. In 1838, before the penny postal system, the total number of letters which passed through the Post Office was 76,000,000; in 1863 the number was 642,000,000. In 1838 the amount of money orders was £313,000; in 1863 it amounted to £16,494,000. My Lords, I think I have stated enough to show that one who has accomplished so much for the people of this country, and for mankind at large, is entitled to some national reward; and I am sure your Lordships will pass this Vote with the same cordiality with which you yesterday evinced your sense of the merits of another public servant. The noble Earl concluded with his Motion.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to return Her Majesty the Thanks of this House for Her Majesty's most gracious Message informing this House 'That Her Majesty, taking into consideration the eminent Services of Sir Rowland Hill, K.C.B., late Secretary to the General Post Office, in devising and carrying out important improvements in Postal Administration, is desirous, in recognition of such Services, to confer some signal Mark of Her Favour upon him;' and to assure Her Majesty that this House will cheerfully concur in such Measures as may be necessary for the Accomplishment of this Purpose."—(The Lord President.)
said, he desired to express his entire approval of the Motion. There was this peculiarity in Sir Rowland Hill—that whereas inventors in general were the most sanguine of men who saw no difficulties in the way, and who exaggerated the probable results of their invention, he under-stated the value of his invention and over-estimated the difficulties and the expense of adopting it. He calculated that from the adoption of his scheme there would be a loss of £300,000, instead of which the gross increase of revenue had been £1,700,000; and after deducting £500,000 for the packet service and all other expenses, there was a clear net increase of £1,000,000. He agreed with his valued friend the late Lord Ashburton, that the carriage of letters was not a proper subject of revenue at all. With regard to the proposal now before the House, he could not doubt that their Lordships would be of opinion that Sir Rowland Hill well deserved the reward which was to be bestowed on him.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
had the satisfaction of remembering that 1705 being then Postmaster General it was under him and through him in some degree that Sir Rowland Hill had entered the Post Office, and he felt bound to bear testimony to the extraordinary zeal for the public service, the judgment, the discretion, the temper, and unvarying urbanity with which he met all the difficulties that he had to encounter. Of course those who had been accustomed to the old system viewed the innovation proposed with great alarm and suspicion. He attributed no blame to these officers, believing that the opinions given by them against the new system were founded upon very natural fears and bias. As their Lordships were aware, the plan, on the contrary, proved eminently successful, and that success was owing in a great degree to the energetic perseverance of Sir Rowland Hill. But penny postage, as his noble Friend had said, was not the only improvement for which the nation had to thank Sir Rowland Hill. His belief was, that if it had not been for Sir Rowland Hill the business in the Money Order Office would not have reached to one-sixteenth of its present proportions—he doubted, in deed, whether that business would have been carried on any longer. No balance had been struck, and no one could tell what assets were in hand. He then asked Mr. Hill, who at that time had introduced some important improvements in the circulation of letters, to take this subject in hand. The result of that gentleman's efforts was to establish, if not an exact balance, at least what practically amounted to it; the system was materially altered, and instead of eleven entries for every money order the number was reduced to four or five, and since that time he had heard of no defalcation or fraud on the part of postmasters, such as had frequently occurred before that time. There could be no question whatever that the system had been productive of immense benefit to the lower and the humbler portions of the middle classes. During the time that he had the honour to be connected with the Post Office he always found that Sir Rowland Hill laboured zealously and efficiently, and always to his satisfaction. When objections to his plans were raised, Sir Rowland Hill always received them in a fair and temperate manner, and never complained of being overruled when fair grounds for so doing had been shown. Upon the whole, this country had never rewarded by a grant of money any public 1706 servant who more richly deserved it. Sir Rowland Hill's name would live in every country, for every country had derived benefit from his labours.
§ Motion agreed to.
Address Ordered, Nemine Dissentiente, to be presented to Her Majesty, to return Her Majesty the Thanks of this House for Her Majesty's most gracious Message informing this House,
That Her Majesty, taking into consideration the eminent Services of Sir Rowland Hill, K.C.B., late Secretary to the General Post Office, in devising and carrying out important Improvements in Postal Administration, is desirous, in recognition of such Services, to confer some signal Mark of Her Favour upon him;" and to assure Her Majesty that this House will cheerfully concur in such Measures as may be necessary for the Accomplishment of this Purpose.
§ And the said Address was Ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.