Petition of Thomas L. Matthews and Others to U.S. Congress, [7 February 1848]1To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives, in Congress assembled:
The undersigned, citizens of the United States, residing in the county of Tazewell in the state of Illinois , respectfully represent the great inequality now prevailing in the rates of postage on newspapers, the smallest being chargeable with the highest rates.
Whereas, the principle of size and weight is now adopted in the laws of the United States as the basis of post-office charges; and, whereas, newspapers not exceeding 1900 square inches are chargeable at the rate of 1 cent for 100 miles, and 1½ cents for all greater distances, if without the state in which they are published; your petitioners would urge the importance of reducing said charges at least one half on all papers not containing more than 500 square inches.2
Your petitioners represent that, within a few years past, numerous juvenile papers have sprung up in different sections of the United States, for the instruction of the young in science, morals, and religion, which papers are now extensively patronized by children, who, notwithstanding these papers are usually not one quarter the size or weight allowed by law, have to pay on them the same postage that is charged on the largest sheets that pass through the mails. Besides the manifest injustice of this regulation, your petitioners represent that many thousands of children and youth are deterred from subscribing to these useful papers solely by the comparatively excessive postage chargeable on the small sheets they desire to obtain.
A reduction, therefore, of postage, in favor of juvenile newspapers of small dimensions, would not only tend greatly to diffuse knowledge and piety, the bulwarks of our national prosperity, but would increase the revenues of the post-office department.
For an immediate and proportionate reduction of postage, therefore, on all newspapers not containing more than 500 square inches, your petitioners respectfully and urgently pray.
|Thomas L. Matthews|
|J G Clark||C. H. Ray|
|N. G. Nichols||Lewis S. Hampton|
|Seth Parmele||Cassius Parmele|
|Elisha Barton||C L Parmele|
|George Miller||J. H. Hittle|
|J L Davis||R. H. Clayton|
|John Ross||Elias Duvall|
|Louis [Chbiyrski?]||Peter Lance|
|C O Neville||M D Taney|
|James Matthews||R A Dunham|
|Absalom Enoch||Jacob Puterbaugh|
|Clark Barton||James Lindsey|
|Reuben Sargent||George. W. Allensworth|
|Wm Cauthron||Geo. Burton|
|Thos B Warring||J. G. Reynolds|
|Daniel Newcomb||William Crossit|
|Calvin C Burns||E D Burnes|
|Josiah M Duvall||Calvin Parmele|
|Samuel N [Mapes?]||Thos Sunderland|
|John C Powell||John Sunderland|
|Wilkinson Richmond||Jas H. Floyd|
|T F Railsback||Jacob Hiner|
|Daniel Puterbaugh||James Harvey|
|William H McQuin||William E Harding|
|John Irwin||James Mitchell|
|C. O. Harlan||S. S. Bardwell3|
|E Roberson||A N Goodenough4|
|George Kingsbury||Henry [?]|
|William A Harvey||Frederick Heartman|
|Edwin Alvord5||William Hittle|
|James B Wakefield6||John O. Clark|
|Vic Van Brunt||[Pumphandle?]|
|L. B. Huff|
|A E Burns||James Bailey|
3Mr Thos MatthewsMackinaw TownTazewellIll.
The Petition of sundry citizens of ^Tazewell County^ the State of Illinois, praying a reduction of postage on small news-papers–7
February 7, 1848.
Refer^red^ to Committee on ^the^ Post-offices & Post roads–8
1Abraham Lincoln authored two instances of docketing on the back page, and signed his name on the back page as well. Lincoln presented the petition, along with another which it enclosed, in the House of Representatives on February 7, 1848. It was referred to the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, of which Lincoln was a member. From December 1847 through February 1849, over 200 petitions using nearly identical language, many of which were printed and mailed from Cincinnati, Ohio, were presented by various members of the House of Representatives. Those petitions can be found in the Congressional Digital Archive.
U.S. House Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 60, 371.
2In 1825, Congress set newspaper postage at one cent for under 100 miles and one point five cents for over 100 miles. In 1845, Congress made postage free for newspapers measuring under 1900 square inches and travelling less than thirty miles. Under the 1845 law, smaller newspapers travelling over thirty miles were still to be charged at the 1825 rate of one cent under 100 miles and one point five cents over 100 miles. In March 1847, Congress repealed the 1845 law and made all newspapers subject to postage again.
“An Act to Reduce into One the Several Acts Establishing and Regulating the Post-office Department,” 3 March 1825, Statutes at Large of the United States 4 (1846):110-11; “An Act to Reduce the Rates of Postage, to Limit the Use and Correct the Abuse of the Franking Privilege, and for the Prevention of Frauds on the Revenues of the Post Office Department,” 3 March 1845, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):733; “An Act to Establish Certain Post Routes and for Other Purposes,” 3 March 1847, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):202.
Partially Printed Document Signed, 2 page(s), RG 233, Entry 367: Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Thirtieth Congress, 1847-1849, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Petitions and Memorials, Resolutions of State Legislatures, and Related Documents Which Were Referred to Committees, 1847-1849, NAB.