From 1867: Mail costs are far too high

In this 150th anniversary of the creation of Canada, we are looking back at editorials published in our predecessor newspaper in 1867.

This week, the editors took another look at the high price of postage. At the time, Victoria’s mail to and from the rest of the world depended on the United States postal service.

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A short time since, we called attention to the sad condition of the postal affairs of this colony, complaining of the ungenerous treatment of the Steamboat Company that has been so liberally subsidized by our government, and also pointing out the fact of its being the duty of the United States government to deliver our mails at the nearest point to our borders to which their mail routes may extend.

Nor did we excuse in any way the neglect of our local government in permitting the people of this colony to be so imposed upon in a matter of such great importance.

There is, however, another feature in this abuse which we have so long sustained, that deserves something more than a passing notion, and one to which we are afraid the government have given no consideration.

We allude to the undue proportion of tax paid by the people of this colony upon all postal matter coming into or going out of the country.

By a postal treaty between the United States and the British provinces, made in 1862, a rate of 10 cents on a single letter was fixed for conveyance, from any part of the United States, and vice versa, not exceeding 3,000 miles; and 15 cents beyond that distance, each country having the privilege of pre-paying in full with its own stamps, or at the place of delivery, in its own coin, no postal accounts being kept between the governments thereof, the revenue to each being considered equal.

Now, contrast the above arrangement with the system in operation in this colony.

For instance, if we wish to send a letter to England, we are obliged, in addition to our colonial rate of five cents, to affix, in American stamps, 24 cents; if to the provinces, 15 cents; or if to the United States, 10 cents, which stamps we are obliged to import for the purpose, paying generally some two or three months in advance of the mailing — and when the operation is reversed, the same rates are expected in advance.

Now, the amount of postage paid is not so much a matter of complaint as the unequal manner in which the revenue falls, we being obliged to pay much the largest proportion of the postage on our correspondence with all other countries, and our revenue being the least benefited through it, for upon every letter sent out of the colony we are obliged to pay 10, 15 or 24 cents into the revenue of the United States, in addition to our own colonial tax; and in no case does a foreign correspondent contribute to the postal revenue of this colony; we have not the privilege, as they have in all other countries, of either pre-paying a letter in full in our own stamps or currency, or of paying upon delivery the amount of postage accruing beyond our own borders; and more particularly is this system oppressive in our correspondence with the United States, for upon every exchange of correspondence, which costs 30 cents, we pay two-thirds of the amount, only one-third of which falls into our revenue, or in other words, one-half that we pay goes to the revenue of the United States, and those who correspond with us from that country pay nothing into ours.

In the case of our correspondence with San Francisco, the evil is 10-fold aggravated, for we are compelled to carry the mails 800 miles along their coast, and pay 10 cents a letter for the privilege of depositing it in their own post office, that department never having conveyed it one foot beyond the walls of the post office.

We also bring their letters to this colony free of charge, a duty we have distinctly stated in a previous article we have no right to perform; for we are clearly of the opinion that instead of it being the duty of this government to subsidize a steamer for that purpose, the government of the United States are bound, not only by treaty but by the comity of nations, to deliver our mails upon which the postage is paid, and which they contract to convey, to the extent of their borders upon all their postal routes, either by land or water, instead of delivering them at San Francisco, a distance of 800 miles from their destination, in which space intervenes two entire states of their own territory, across which there is a regular weekly mail communication, both by land and sea.

Did they perform this part of their duty and deliver to us weekly the mails at an accessible point contiguous to our borders, we would not complain so much of the exorbitant tax of $500 per month which we pay for American postage stamps, nor would we be averse to sharing with them the cost of subsidizing a good steamer to convoy the mails between this colony and Washington territory.

We have already remarked that the governments of England and the British provinces have for the last 16 years had fair and equitable postal arrangements with the United States. Why then, we would ask, cannot this colony enjoy a like privilege?

Have we a postmaster general, and what are his duties? Surely we think the authority of an official with such a high-sounding title should extend beyond the limits of the local postal department of this petty colony, and if so, we wonder how many times he has communicated with the postmaster general of the United States?

The Daily British Colonist and Victoria Chronicle,

Dec. 14, 1867

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