Page:The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago.djvu/158

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of postage would cause a very considerable increase in the number of trading and mercantile letters.

"We receive in the year many thousand letters; a large proportion of these are orders for goods, varying from some hundred pounds down to five pounds sterling; but if we execute an order lower than five pounds we charge the postage, so that practically five pounds becomes the minimum.

"At a rate of postage so low as one penny, a great number of explanatory letters on business, and letters on matters of detail, would be written. Occasions are of constant occurrence in which we do not write, and are not written to, because the matter, though important enough to write upon, is not important enough to pay, or to cause others to pay, the postage. I refer here to questions as to the mode of conveyance of goods, as to the colour or pattern of articles ordered, or to an ambiguous or an illegible phrase in a letter received, and a thousand other matters. These cases all imply double postage,—a letter and a reply.

"The sending invoices by post, (so that they should also serve as letters of advice,) instead of inclosing them in goods, would alone cause a great increase in the number of letters.

"In the higher class of mercantile transactions the increase of letters would perhaps be inconsiderable; but then the actual number of letters in such cases must necessarily be small. Wherever the number of letters is large, however important may be the transactions they refer to, I have no doubt but that economy is regarded, and that the number of letters is kept down by the pressure of a high tax. From the amount of the tax levied (which is notoriously large in comparison with the actual cost) economy in regard to postage has become a habit among mercantile men, and is made, so far as it goes, a point in mercantile education. The reducing the rate of postage so low as to make it an almost imperceptible item in relation to profits, would undoubtedly very materially increase the number of business letters."

Another practice which obtains to some extent among tradesmen is this:—A shopkeeper in the country has occasion to transmit