Benjamin Franklin Papers
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Table of Revised Postal Rates, [1764]

Table of Revised Postal Rates

Draft: American Philosophical Society

On Sept. 21, 1764, Franklin and Foxcroft recommended that the proposed new postal act change the schedule of rates between colonial offices from one based chiefly on a few specified places to one stated in general terms of mileage alone, thereby eliminating several inconsistencies resulting from the earlier method.8 The postmasters general adopted this recommendation, and the clause in the new bill making the change was certainly one of those Todd showed to Franklin about December 24.9 In brief, the bill (which was enacted without change in this particular on May 10, 1765, as 5 Geo. III, c. 25) specified that a single-sheet letter going not more than 60 miles should pay 4d.; one going between 60 and 100 miles, 6d.; between 100 and 200 miles, 8d.; and any letter going more than 200 miles should pay another 2d. for each additional 100 miles or fraction thereof.

Either in September, when Franklin and Foxcroft were drafting their recommendations, or in December, after Franklin’s interview with Todd, Franklin prepared this table. Since the draft is undated, one cannot state with certainty which was the occasion; hence it is placed here with other undated documents of the year 1764.

The post offices listed here are the only ones specifically mentioned in the act of 1710, and the rates of postage prescribed in that act for letters between New York and each of the other offices are shown in one column in pence sterling.1 The next column shows what the rates would be under the proposed bill when determined by the mileages given in an earlier column. Since the rates shown are only those between New York and the few offices mentioned in 1710, this is far from being a complete list of postal rates under the new law. For mail between any two places mentioned which would have to pass through New York, however, it is possible to determine the rate after adding together the two mileages. Thus, a letter between Boston and Philadelphia, said to travel a total of 366 miles,2 which would pay 1s. 9d. under the old act, would now pay only 1s. 4d. (6d. plus 10d.), a reduction of not quite one-fourth.

Table of the Distances of Places, and Rates of Postage in North America, showing the Changes propos’d to be made by the New Act.

Places Distances
Statute Miles
by the
by the
New Act
From New York  to Perth Amboy  30  6  4 abated 2d. which is 1/3
to Bridlington3  80  6  6 No Change
to New London 150  9  8 abated 1d. which is 1/9
to Philadelphia  96  9  6 abated 3d. 1/3
to Newport 196 12  8 abated 4d. 1/3
to Boston 270 12 10 abated 2d. 1/6
to Portsmouth 330 12 12 No Change
to Annapolis 240 12 10 abated 2d. 1/6
to Salem 290 15 10 abated 5d. 1/3
to Ipswich 300 15 10 abated 5d. 1/3
to Piscataqua 330 15 12 abated 3d. 1/5
to Williamsburgh 411 15 14 abated 1d. 1/15
to Charlestown 856 18 22 added 4d.

Note; That Portsmouth is at Piscataqua and the chief Office there and it was an Error in the old Act to give them different Postages; and a lower Postage from New York to Portsmouth, than to Salem and Ipswich, which are nearer the one by 40 and the other by 30 Miles.

See Douglas5 1:6 1:10

Endorsed: Post Office Changes of Rates

[Also on this page:] of the Kindness I met with in that Country and the happy Hours I spent in their Conversation.6

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Above, pp. 343–6.

9Above, p. 534.

1In general, the act of 1710 (9 Anne, c. 10) displays only a limited knowledge of colonial geography. It grouped together the places in both directions supposed to fall within the same 100-mile bracket of distance from New York, and prescribed a single rate for each group. Thus Newport, Boston, Portsmouth, and Annapolis all fell in the same group, although by 1764 their distances were believed to vary substantially.

2This figure, combining the stated distances between each of these places and New York, considerably exceeds the total distance by any of the direct routes available today. The discrepancy may be explained in part by the fact that in the 1760s the postrider usually traveled by way of Newport, R.I.

3Burlington, N.J., but spelled “Bridlington” in the act of 1710, as in the case of the Yorkshire town for which it was named.

4The significance of these figures is unknown.

5Probably intended to indicate that BF was using William Douglass, A Summary, Historical and Political, … of the British Settlements in North-America, as authority for the distances given in the table. A check with the then most recent edition, that of 1760, I, 466–70, however, shows that none of the distances BF gives exactly matches that in Douglass, though most of those appearing in both places differ by less than ten miles. The distances in Poor Richard improved for 1764 are in most instances a little closer to BF’s, although only that from New York to New London is precisely the same.

6BF probably was using some of the blank space on the sheet for the draft of a passage in some unidentified letter.

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