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selves in the service of the country. The records of Congress show that its thanks were presented, sometimes on more than one occasion, to each of the distinguished generals of the revolutionary war. The records show that in every war in which we have been engaged, the public thanks have been awarded to soldiers and to seamen who have distinguished themselves in the military and naval service. The time has come when an acknowledgment of this kind is due to the most eminent hero of the late war with Mexico.
Senators here who oppose this resolution say that they are willing to adhere to the ancient course; that they are willing to vote thanks, willing to vote medals, willing to vote swords, but that they will not adopt the measure of voting a title, or the title of an office. Sir, the eminent captain who has been alluded to, has achieved a distinction heretofore unknown, unattained in the military service of this country. He carried the war successfully to the gates and to the palace of Mexico. He subdued the country and restored the relations of peace. Having achieved this great triumph of the national arms, he was suspended from his command, and the command of the army was devolved upon another soldier. He came home from Mexico under the implied censure of his government.
Mr. FOOTE, (interposing.) Will the honorable senator allow me to interrupt him for a few minutes, to allow me to suggest, if he is really a friend to the proposition, that he is pursuing a line of remark which must, more or less, impede the passage of the resolution ?
Mr. SEWARD. I thank the honorable senator. I trust that no such consequence will follow. I suppose this Senate is capable of appreciating, and willing to appreciate, the circumstances which distinguish this case—which make it a distinct one by itself. Therefore, because of the peculiar brilliancy and glory of the achievements, and because of the peculiar circumstances in which that officer became involved afterwards, implying before the world some national injustice, it seems to me now to be eminently right and just to confer, not merely one of the ordinary tributes of honor, such as a resolution of thanks, a medal, or a sword, to this distinguished soldier, but the same thing, with some expression of the national sentiment, corresponding to the peculiar circumstances which require its manifestation. For that reason, I
find myself constrained to vote for the passage of this resolution. Nor can I see any injurious consequences that will arise from it. It is said, if we create the office now by brevet, it will be hereafter demanded of Congress to establish the office in fact. I believe the American people, instead of degenerating, are growing wiser and better every day; and we may safely trust to our successors to guard the public interests, public welfare, and public fame. Let us do what is just, and trust to posterity. They will do what they shall find just and wise. It is for these reasons I shall vote for the resolution.
I disclaim any attack upon the late administration. I pass over altogether the matter of the complaints against General Scott. 1 rest on the fact of his suspension from command alone. The Senate will perceive at once that I am sincere in this disclaimer, when I remind them that the complaints upon which General Scott was arraigned were complaints that did not arise here in the capital, or even in this country, but complaints that came up from his own camp in Mexico. They were entertained; and I do not say,
I do not intend to intimate, that they were not necessarily and justly entertained. The distinguished individual who filled the office of Secretary of War under the administration which conducted the Mexican war, is one of the most eminent men in this country. He is one of my personal friends—a man for whom I cherish a very high regard, and to whom I would be the last under any circumstances to impute unnecessarily or wantonly even an error of judgment.
FEBRUARY 18, 1851.
Note.—The question was on Mr. Seward's amendment, viz.:
“Strike out of the first section the words 'three cents when the postage upon such letter shall have been prepaid, and five cents when the postage thereon shall not have been,' and insert the words two cents to be in all cases’ before the word 'prepaid'”
MR. PRESIDENT : I understand it to be the desire of the Committees on the Post-office, in both Houses of Congress, and the general desire of Congress itself, to give the country the benefit of a system of cheap postage. I have proposed the amendment
for the purpose of carrying that intention into effect. I do not believe the plan proposed by either committee would accomplish the object of cheap postage, certainly not the one proposed by the committee of the Senate, which proposes five cents postage on unpaid letters, and three cents on prepaid letters. The postage which has been adopted in Great Britain is cheap postage. It is a postage of two cents. The honorable Senator from New Jersey very properly drew the attention of the Senate to the fact that the amendment I proposed would have the effect of giving to the people of the United States of America a rate of postage as low as that which is given to the people of Great Britain. But the honorable senator thought it was impossible, for the reason, as he said, that the distances which the mails must be transported through this great empire so far exceeded those within the islands of Great Britain. But if the honorable senator had recurred to the fact of the increased means of cheapening transportation by lines of steamboats and railroads, he would have found that we are quite as able to afford to the people of this country cheap postage, so far as the expenses of transportation are concerned, as the government of Great Britain is able to afford a cheap postage to the inhabitants of the United Kingdom.
But there is another circumstance which I wish to notice. The payers of postage in this country, in proportion to the population, exceed in number, in a great degree, the payers of postage in Great Britain. If the honorable senator will take up the statistics of at least two of the United Kingdoms, or portions of the United Kingdom, he will find that there is an amazing proportion of the population who never transact any business that requires communication through the mail, and who, for want of ability to read or write, are unable to employ its facilities. The greater aggregate capacity of the American people for correspondence requires to be considered in connection with this subject. The system, however, in order to produce the desired result, must be be one which will reduce the expenses, so as to bring it within the reach of the great masses of the people, and I think a postage of two cents, while it will afford all the revenue required, will bring it completely within the reach, as far as possible, of every class of citi
But the honorable Senator from Connecticut [Mr. Smith) demands of me to say where I will find the resources to supply the
deficiency which must accrue. He shows that the department has estimated the deficiency which will arise, if the House bill shall pass, at $1,250,000 for the first year. He infers that a similar deficiency, or a greater one, must occur if the amendment I propose shall be adopted, and asks where shall we find the funds to supply this deficiency? I answer that we shall find them in the increase of postage resulting from the increased correspondence of the country consequent upon the reduction to so low a rate. It is quite immaterial to this government whether the Post-office Department runs in debt this year a million, or even two millions, and the next year a lesser sum, if in the end it shall be able to redeem itself, and pay for all deficiencies, as was done in the case of a former reduction. That, I think, will be the operation of it. I have little faith in the estimates of departments made up for occasions like this, because they are always made to accommodate a certain system. The estimates are made for the system, and not the system for the estimates.
But there is another source from which the deficiency will be supplied, in a large degree, and that is a retrenchment of the expenses of the Post-office Department. This retrenchment will consist, in the first place, of a reduction of the cost of transporting the mails of the United States. At this day the mails carry some seventy millions of letters per annum. Of these seventy millions of letters, twenty-two per cent. are dead letters, which pay no postage to the government. They constitute twenty-two hundredths of the expense of transportation, and the government loses all that sum. Then the government of the United States is transporting a vast bulk of paper not at all necessary for the purposes of correspondence. Of six hundred letters opened at the dead letter office, four hundred and fifty-eight were rated less than one quarter of an ounce under the present system, and only one hundred and forty-two over one-fourth of an ounce; while the present system allows you to include the greater weight of half an ounce, and to make up the weight by inclosing in the same envelope letters from the same or different writers to the same or different correspondents. Then, again, of six hundred letters transported through the mails, only forty-eight are written on the whole four sides of a sheet of paper; two hundred and ninetynine are written on whole sheets with only one page of paper, and rarely the second, and one hundred and fifty-eight cover only half
a sheet; forty-eight are written only on three sides, and fortyseven are printed circulars. Now, it will be seen that the Postoffice Department is carrying, in sealing-wax, and in envelopes, and in unwritten sheets of paper, a larger amount in weight than the whole correspondence of the country. Under the system which I have proposed, that expense will be retrenched. Then look at the reduction which will be made in the
expense of managing the Post-office Department. Look at the expense which is now incurred. Two letters are now delivered in the postoffice, to be transmitted. The first duty of the post-master is to see that upon one is stamped five cents, and upon the other ten cents, and when a great many letters are received during the day, of course this is an immense labor. Then, when this mark has been placed upon the letters, there is still another fact to be expressed on the letter, that is, to distinguish whether the letter is paid or unpaid. When all that is done, the letter is ready for transmission. But then commences a system of accounts. Each letter is to be registered, and the postage on each letter to be recorded, and the discrimination of postage is to be registered in different columns, separating the paid from the unpaid, and those which pay five cents from those which pay ten. When this has been entered in the post-master's books, he has to make an account describing how many bundles he sends, with accurate details of the contents of each, and he sends as many bills as there are letters directed for different destinations. These bills enter into all the details of the letters, and are dispatched, not to the place of destination, but to distributing post-offices. When they arrive at the distributing offices, the envelopes are removed, the bills are entered, new bills are made, and the letters are again separated into other parcels; and the same system of complicated accounts is repeated before the letters are sent to their destination. When they arrive there, the bills are all to be opened, their contents recorded, and these accounts are to be sent from the receiving postoffices, and the distributing post-offices, and the delivering postoffices, to the department at Washington, and there a complicated system of entries is to be carried out in books, the number of which no man can tell—by human hands, the number of which is legion.
Sir, we shall reduce all these expenses, and render this a simple operation. If the amendment which I propose be agreed to, and