Thursday, December 1, 2016

US Mail, and the Roads in Lawrence County 1834

The Western Sun and Gen. Advertiser, was printed at Vincennes, IN  by Elihu Stout.  The price of the paper was two dollars a year for 52 issues or $2.50 if the subscriber paid at the end of the year instead of in advance.  
January 3, 1835  This was not the first issue published but it is the first issue that has been digitized on the Knox County Advantage – website.

The Report of the Postmaster General, WT Barry, made to the President of the United States was  printed in full. Barry stated that the gross amount of postage for six months from July to the end of December 1833 was $1, 375,487.28. The compensation to the postmaster’s was $434,028.80 while the expense for transportation of the mail was $1,013,402.68 and other incidental expenses of 47,797.29 leaving a deficit amount of $120,391.58. 

However, the first six months of 1834 produced a profit and the postmaster was happy to report that the amount of debt incurred by the post office was continually diminishing. The expense of transportation of the mail was a big concern to the postmaster.  Transportation in the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia as well as the territory of Florida had been reduced providing an annual savings. From his careful estimate he anticipated with the entire confidence that before the close of the year 1835 the whole balance of debt against the US Postal Department would be extinguished.

However, the revenue was less than he anticipated. To a considerable degree this was attributable to the great increase of free letters allowed the executive offices and by a law passed in March 1833 extending to members of Congress the privilege of free mail during the whole recess. Every other year the session of Congress got longer and the expenses for the delivery of free letters at two cents each was increasing. (This is called the franking privilege.)  It was estimated that the number of free letters passing under the members of Congress amounted to 8000 a day during the session. 

Postmaster General Barry felt that had cost the department almost $250,000. He also complained that the departments of State, Treasury, War, and Navy including the sub- offices of the Treasury and the Navy paid no postage on official correspondence and that was equal to a loss of  2 ½ million dollars a year.

Barry stated that the number of post offices in the United States as of July 1, 1833 was 10,693 with an increase of 566 over the year previous.  The mail was then carried in stages and steamboats about 16,900,000 miles a year and on horseback, and in sulkies, about 8,600,000 miles totalling about 25,500,000 miles a year. The increase in railroad construction in different parts of the required him to make  inquiry as to whether measures should be taken to secure the transportation of the mail upon them.

Mail from Vincennes to St. Louis departed every Wednesday and Friday at 4 AM and Sunday at 10 AM.

Ed Note:  The reason for publishing this, other than to draw a parallel between history and current conditions, is to impress upon the reader, the initial reason for road appropriation.  The overall purpose of having good roads was so the mail could be delivered.  This applied to the Great Western through fare east/west across Lawrence County and ultimately a north/south road to Chicago.   

December 12, 1834 Illinois Legislature
The resolution was offered concerning the appropriations of Indiana and Illinois for the improvement of the Wabash River. Another resolution was offered asking for appropriation from US Congress to improve the Great Western thorough- fare leading from Louisville Kentucky to St. Louis Missouri via Vincennes and to establish certain mail routes.

Mr.(Jesse)  Dubois of Lawrence felt a deep interest in the improvement of the Chicago Road and argued that the work was of national importance as it connected Indiana and Illinois with Chicago. Pres. Jackson had raised a constitutional objection to paying for state roads.  One of the legislators said “we have asked bread of the general government and it has given us stones but as this is the begging  season we will ask once again.”  Mr. Dubois then offered the resolution for a good Road from Vincennes to Chicago.