The Post-office return for the year 1851, published a few days ago, fur- nishes, like its predecessors, matter worthy of careful consideration.
The number of letters was 3604 millions; being nearly five times as many as the Post-office carried prior to the institution of penny postage,, excluding from this computation the franks, which, while they existed,, were in the proportion of about 1 to 12 of the chargeable letters. The increase in the year 1851 was 134 millions ; and, judging from the results of the first three months of the current year, which are also given in the present return, the prosperity of the Post-office will not only be maintained, but steadily augmented ; though Mr. Disraeli very reasonably Made an estimated allowance for a deficit on 1852 as compared with 1851, is consideration of the correspondence to be ascribed to the Great Exhi- bition. It would be difficult, we think, to find any hypothesis to account for the rapid and steady progress of postal communication which should discard either of two important data—augmented prosperity, and
im- proved education, both widely diffused throughout the empire.
penny postage has now been twelve years in operation, and the habits of the people have long ago accommodated themselves to the new order of things. The increase of the latter years must therefore be attributed to other causes than the gradual relaxation of the disposition to economy in postage, so closely impressed on the mind by the former exorbitant rates.
The inferences which we have drawn from the increase of letters will be supported by the return contained in the same paper of the pro-
gress the money-order system. In 1840, the commission on money- orders was reduced from 6d. to 3d. for the transmission of any sum not exceeding 21, and from ls. 6d. to 6d. for sums between 21. and 51. The number of orders for the year before that in which the reduction in price took place was under 200,000. In 1851 it was more than 44 millions. The money transmitted by virtue of these orders had risen from 311,0001. to 8,876,000/. ; and it is worthy of remark, that the rise has been so steady that each year has shown an advance over its predecessor in the amount of money thus transmitted; the fluctuations of commerce not having been sufficient to disturb even for a single year this onward movement.
Thus far the tables present no conclusions but what may be readily re- ferred to satisfactory causes. They, however, disclose other results, which are not quite so easily explained. By the census of 1841, the population of Scotland was found to be 2,600,000, and the population of Ireland 8,175,000. In the census of 1851, Scotland stands at 2,800,000, and Ireland at 6,500,000 ; thus, while Scot- land has gained two hundred thousand people, Ireland has lost a million and a half. Ireland, however, has maintained its relative position to Scot- land both as regards letters and money-orders. In 1841, the number of Scotch letters was 21,234,772 ; the number of Irish letters being 20,794,297in 1851, the numbers were respectively 36,512,649 and 35,982,782. As to money-orders, the comparison stands thus,—in 1841, Scotland 51,526 ; Ireland, 53,507: in 1851, Scotland, 389,680; Ireland, 392,848. Thus, ten years ago, as measured by these tables, two millions six hun- dred thousand Scots were equal to eight millions of Irish; while now two millions eight hundred thousand Scots are no more than equal to six mil- lions and a half of Irish. Pat, however, must not begin to boast as yet One Scot in seven takes out a money-order in the course of the year, but that feat is performed by only one Irishman in sixteen. Moreover, the Irish orders, though more numerous than the Scotch, amounted in money to 653,0001. only ; while the Scotch orders amounted to 709,0001.; so that Sawney beats Pat in the magnitude of each transaction. But how is the preservation of equality in relative position to be ex- plained ? Thus, as we think. The increase in letters and money-orders in both Scotland and Ireland shows a course of improvement—in Scotland, because the rate of increase is far beyond the ratio of augthented popu- lation—in Ireland, because we find an increase even with a falling popu- lation. That the respective rates of improvement in the two countries should exactly maintain them in the same relative position, must, how- ever, be.matter of accident. Again, the rate of improvement must even now be more rapid in Scotland than in Ireland. For suppose it the same in each nation,—suppose it such that each Irishman and each Scotchman were to write one more letter every year than in the year before,—this rate of increase would give an addition of six millions and a half of letters to Ireland, while Scotland would gain little more than two millions and a half. It is clear, therefore, that if Scotland had not improved more than twice as fast ad Ireland, she must have lost the race.
It would be difficult to point out any one of our institutions the work- ing of which can be contemplated with such unalloyed satisfaction as that of our system of money-orders. It is a boon to the people which seems almost incapable of being abused. Sending money to a distance, is in the great majority of cases of the nature of a sacrifice by the sender. He de- nies himself some immediate indulgence in order to pay his debts, to trans- snit money to his wife and children, to contribute to the comfort of his :aged parents, or to give aid to those who have claims upon him as friends, relatives or objects of charity. We hail, therefore, the steady and rapid increase of money-orders as one of the best signs of our day, and we trust that no effort will be sparedto stimulate the further progress of the system. As promising to give facility to the application of such a stimulus, we re- joice to observe that the money-order office is yielding a handsome and in- creasing profit. Three or four years ago, it produced an annual loss of 10,0001.; but the system having been revised and simplified, it gave a profit of 30001. for the year 1850, and 70001. for 1851. It would be doubtless over-sanguine to expect it every year to furnish an additional 4000/. of profit ; but be that as it may, we hope it is not too much to anticipate that the time is not far • distant when the commission on very small sums may admit of still further seduction.
If a labourer or domestic servant, who has gone to a distance in search of employment, has 68. which he or she has the power either to spend on selfish gratifications or send home, the less the sacrifice the performance of this duty calls for, the more likely is the money to find its right desti- nation.
Under the old plan of transmitting money through the post-office, which was in operation until within the last twenty years, nearly the whole of such a sum as 6s. would have been absorbed by postal charges. And the consequence of this state of things was, that the honest and con- scientious labourer was almost shut out from any labour-market at a dis- tance from his home.
We had occasion lately, in our review of Mr. Cornwall Lewis's Trea- tise on Observation and Reasoning in Politics, and our notice of the Blue-
book-containing the Minutes of the Committee of Council of Education,
to urge the necessity for an extended ramification of the means for obtain- ing accurate knowledge of the daily working of our manifold social and political institutions, as the only true foundation for structural improve- ments. Why have we not an annual report of the state of the Post- office? Why is our information respecting this most interesting depart- ment to be limited to four pages of figures P The genius of Rowland Hill has infused a new vigour into the postal system of the whole world: let him year by year build a monument to his fame, which shall not be a mere idle mausolemn, but a useful edifice adding not only to his reputa- tion but to his desert.