Daniel Wadsworth to Abraham Lincoln, 25 January 18481Auburn Ill Jan 25, 1848Hon A LincolnDear Sir,
I have noticed in the papers that the Post Master General recommends to Congress some alteration in the P. O.[Post Office] laws, and among other things a revision or modification of the franking privilege.2 Now what I want to say is this that if any alteration is made in the law, so far as it regards the compensation of Post Masters who have charge of small office^s^ I hope it may be made to operate with more equality than the law of last session.3 Before that the commissions allowed on the letter postage was (for the first hundred dollars) 30 per cent, and where the mails arrived in the night 50 per cent. The law of last session allows 40 per cent instead of the former compensation, with the privilege of reieving the 40 per cent for the quarter ending on the 31st of March 1847. My office is one of those where night service is required, and under the old law the commission was 50 pr[per] cent now it is 40, and I had the privilige of adjusting my accounts for the first quarter of 1847 by the new law which I saw about theVery respectfully,
<Page 2>time that I was required to make my return to the P. O. Department, when I made it as before crediting myself with 50 pr cent, but the account was corrected by the Department so as to give me but 40 pr cent, so that ^while^ other post masters receive 10 pr cent compensation under the new law more than under the old, I & those similarly situated receive 10 percent less. And what makes it still harder for me is this: formerly I had six mails a week & now, or since the first of July last we have a daily mail & I have to get up twice every night or fourteen times a week and the amount of mail matter is not increased any more than it would have done with 6 mails a week. I suppose that you will not be unmindfull of the interests of your constituents, and I hope that if an opportunity presents that we who have extra service to render may have our claims duly represented.4
Your ob’t[obedient] servant.Daniel Wadsworth P,M[Post Master]Hon. A, Lincoln
Petition of Danl Wadsworth, P.M. at Auburn Illinois– praying legislation in relation to the compensation of Post Masters–
Refer to Committee on Post Offices & Post roads.
Petition of Daniel Wadsworth, P.M. at Auburn, Illinois– praying for an increase of compensation to post masters.
February 15, 1848 Referred to the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads
FreeHon Abram LincolnM.C.[Member Congress] WashingtonD.C.
1Daniel Wadsworth wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to make an envelope.
2Postmaster General Cave Johnson was renowned for his commitment to economy in government, and worked to reduce costs associated with his department by reducing postal rates, requiring compulsory pre-payment of postage, and abolishing the franking privilege.
C. L. Grant, “Cave Johnson: Postmaster General,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 20 (December 1961), 325-40, 341, n60; Mark Lloyd, Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), 48.
3Wadsworth references and subsequently comments on an act passed by the Twenty-Eighth Congress on March 3, 1845, which reformed and regulated the Post Office Department, and laws passed by the Twenty-Ninth Congress amending portions of the 1845 act. The 1845 act reformed parts of an act of March 3, 1825, under which the Post Office operated when Cave Johnson became postmaster general.
“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):102-14; “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):732-39; “An Act to Amend the Act Entitled ‘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’ Passed Third of March, Eight-Hundred and Forty-Five,” 1 March 1847, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):147-48; “An Act to Establish Certain Post Routes and for Other Purposes,” 3 March 1847, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):188-202.
4Wadsworth petitioned Lincoln about his compensation because the latter was both his representative and a member of the House Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads.
Wadsworth was postmaster of Auburn, Illinois, from 1842 to 1853. For the period of July 1, 1844 to June 30, 1845, the Auburn post office had net proceeds of $40.78, with Wadsworth receiving $41.70 in compensation. The net proceeds of Wadsworth’s office from July 1, 1846 to June 30, 1847, was $32.11, with Wadsworth receiving $27.55.
On February 15, 1848, Lincoln, in the House of Representatives, presented Wadsworth’s petition for more compensation, which the House tabled. Meanwhile, the House had already adopted a resolution calling on the Committee of the Post Office and Post Roads to investigate the expediency of increasing the compensation for postmasters of small post offices. On February 28, 1848, Representative Timothy Jenkins introduced a bill to regulate compensation for postmasters, which the House referred to the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads. This bill died in committee, but the Senate passed a similar bill on February 18, which the House and Senate, after wrangling over amendments, approved in May. The act became law on May 17.
The net proceeds of Wadsworth’s office from July 1, 1848 to June 30, 1849, was $48.92, with Wadsworth receiving $49.68.
Cong. Globe, 3oth Cong., 1st Sess., 19 (1848); History of Sangamon County, Illinois (Chicago: Inter-State, 1881), 781; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1845 (Washington, DC: J. & G. S. Gideon, 1845), 380*; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1847 (Washington, DC: J. & G. S. Gideon, 1847), 405*; U.S. House Journal. 1847-1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 125, 413, 453; U.S. Senate Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 182, 339; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1849 (Washington, DC: Gideon, 1849), *467; Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1853 (Washington, DC: Robert Armstrong, 1853), 496*.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 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.