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objects of the Post Office. But, in the reign of Charles the Second, an enterprising citizen of London, William Dockwray, set up, at great expense, a penny post, which delivered letters and parcels six or eight times a day in the busy and crowded streets near the Exchange, and four times a day in the outskirts of the capital. This improvement was, as usual, strenuously resisted. The porters complained that their interests were attacked, and tore down the placards in which the scheme was announced to the public. The excitement caused by Godfrey’s death, and by the discovery of Coleman’s papers, was then at the height. A cry was therefore raised that the penny post was a Popish contrivance. The great Doctor Oates, it was affirmed, had hinted a suspicion that the Jesuits were at the bottom of the scheme, and that the bags, if ex— amined, would be found full of treason.‘ The utility of the enterprise was, however, so great and obvious that all opposition proved fruitless. As soon as it became clear that the speculation would be lucrative, the Duke of York complained of it as an infraction of his monopoly; and the courts of law decided in his favourfil’
The revenue of the Post Oflice was from the first constantly increasing. In the year of the Restorap tion a committee of the House of Commons, after strict enquiry, had estimated the net receipt at about twenty thousand pounds. At the close of the reign of Charles the Second, the net receipt was little short of fifty thousand pounds; and this was then thought a stupendous sum. The gross receipt was about seventy thousand pounds. The charge for conveying a single letter was twopence for eighty miles, and threepence for a longer distance. The postage increased in proportion to the weight of the packetd,’
" Smith‘s Current Intelligence, 1660, March 1. 168i; ChamberMarch 30. and April 3. 1680. layne, 1684 ; Davenant on the 1' Anglize Metropolis, 1690. Public Revenue, Discourse IV.
I Conunons' Journals. Sept. 4.
At present a single letter is carried to the extremity of Scotland or of Ireland for a penny; and the monopoly of post horses has long ceased to exist. Yet the gross annual receipts of the department amount to more than eighteen hundred thousand pounds, and the net receipts to more than seven hundred thousand pounds. It is, therefore, scarcely possible to doubt that the number of letters now conveyed by mail is seventy times the number which was so conveyed at the time of the accession of James the Second.‘
N 0 part of the load which the old mails carried out was more important than the newsletters. N In 1685 nothing like the London daily “mm” paper of our time existed, or could exist. Neither the necessary capital nor the necessary skill was to be found. Freedom too was wanting, a want as fatal as that of either capital or skill. The press was not indeed at that moment under a general censorship. The licensing act, which had been passed soon after the Restoration, had expired in 1679. Any person might therefore print, at his own 'risk, a history, a. sermon, or a poem, without the previous approbation of any officer; but the Judges were unanimously of opinion that this liberty did not extend to Gazettes, and that, by the common law of England, no man, not authorised by the crown, had a right to publish political news.'[' While the Whig party was still formidable, the government thought it expedient occasionally to connive at the violation of this rule. During the great battle of the Exclusion Bill, many newspapers were suffered to appear, the Protestant Intelligence, the Current Intelligence, the Domestic
" I have left the text as it 1,200,0001. The number-of letters stood in 1848. In the year 1856 conveyed bypostwas478,000,000. the gross receipt of the Post (1857.)
Office was more than 2,800,000!.; 1 London Gazette, May 5. and and the net receipt was about 17. 1680.
Intelligence, the True News, the London Mercury.‘ None of these was published oftener than twice a week. None exceeded in size a single small leaf. The quantity of matter which one of them contained in ayear was not more than is often found in two numbers of the Times. After the defeat of the Whigs it was no longer necessary for the King to be sparing in the use of that which all his Judges had pronounced to be his undoubted prerogative. At the close of his reign no newspaper was sufiered to appear without his allowance: and his allowance was given ex-‘ clusively to the London Gazette. The London Gazette came out only on Mondays and Thursdays. The contents generally were a royal proclamation, two or three Tory addresses, notices of two or three promotions, an account of a skirmish between the imperial troops and the Janissaries on the Danube, a description of a highwayman, an announcement of a grand cockfight between two persons of honour, and an advertisement oflering a reward for a strayed dog. The whole made up two pages of moderate size. Whatever was communicated respecting matters of the highest moment was communicated in the most meagre and formal style. Sometimes, indeed, when the government was disposed to gratify the public curiosity respecting an important transaction, a broadside was put forth giving fuller details than could be found in the._ Gazette: but neither the Gazette nor any supplementary broadside printed by authority ever contained any intelligence which it did not suit the purposes of the Court to publish. The most important parliamentary debates, the most important state trials, recorded in our history, were passed over in profound silence.'|' In the capital the coffee houses
' There is». very curious, and, word in the Gazette about the I should think. unique collection important parliamentaryproceedof these papers in the British ings of November 1685, or about Museum. the trial and acquittal of the seven 1' For example, there is not a. Bishops.
supplied in some measure the place of a journal.
on the table of the only cofl'ee room in Cambridge.’ At the seat of a man of fortune in the country the newsletter was impatiently expected. Within a week after it had arrived it had been thumbed by twenty families. It furnished the neighbouring squires with matter for talk over their October, and the neighbouring rectors with topics for sharp sermons against Whiggery or Popery. Many of these curious journals might doubtless still be detected by a diligent search in the archives of old families. Some are to be found in our public libraries; and one series, which is not the least valuable part of the literary treasures collected by Sir James Mackintosh, will be occasionally quoted in the course of this work.’r
It is scarcely necessary to say that there were then no provincial newspapers. Indeed, except in the capital and at the two Universities, there was scarcely a printer in the kingdom. The only press in England north of Trent appears to have been at York 1
It was not only by means of the London Gazette that the government undertook to furnish political instruction to the people. That journal contained a scanty supply of news without comment. Another journal, published under the patronage of the court, consisted of comment with
" Roger North’s Life of Dr. John North. On the subject of newsletters, see the Examen, 133.
1' I take this opportunity of expressing my warm gratitude to the family of my dear and hoanoured friend Sir James Mackintosh for confiding to me the materials collected by him at a time when he meditated a work similar to that which I have undertaken. I have never seen, and I do not believe that there anywhere exists, within the same compass, so noble a collection of extracts from public and private archives. The judgment with
which Sir James, in great masses of the rudest ore of history, selected what was valuable, and . rejected what was worthless, can be fully appreciated only by one who has toiled after him in the same mine.
ILife of Thomas Gent. A complete list of all printing houses in 1724 will be found in Nichols’s Literary Anecdotes ol the eighteenth century. There had then been a great increase within a few years in the number of presses; and yet there were thirty four counties in which there was no printer, one of those counties being Lancashire