George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Osgood, 29 July 1790

From Samuel Osgood

General Post Office New York July 29th 1790.


I have examined the Documents in the General Post Office with Respect to the Arrival of the Mail at Richmond, & find but two Instances of Failure since the first of April last, to the first of July Instant, in delivering the Mail that goes South from this Place, to Richmond; excepting that it sometimes arrives half an Hour, & sometimes an Hour, after the Time fixed for its Arrival.

On the 19th of April last the Mail going southward, was detained twenty four Hours by the Rise of the Waters of the Pamunky, & consequently arrived a Day later than it ought to have arrived, at Richmond.

On the 25th of June the Streams of Water South of Susquehannah were rendered impassable by heavy Rains; the Mail that ought to have arrived at Richmond from the northward on the 28th, did not arrive till the 30th, when two Mails were delivered at the same time.

At this Time Mr Burral was travelling in the Stage on the Business of the Post Office, between Susquehannah & Baltimore, & he informs me that for one Day they could not pass the Streams of Water with the Stage, nor with single Horses.

Excepting these Instances, the Way Bills signed by the Postmaster at Richmond, show that the Mail is delivered with as much Punctuality in Richmond, as it is in New York.1 I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect Your most obedient Servant

Samuel Osgood

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 28, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789–1836.

At the beginning of April 1790 Benjamin Harrison, Jr., William and Moses Austin, William Galt, and thirty-nine other merchants or firms of Richmond complained to GW “That great inconvenience has arisen to your Memorial⟨ists from⟩ the frequent detention of the mails which should arrive at stated times from the ⟨norther⟩n parts of the Continent at the post office in this City.

“⟨T⟩hey are sensible ⟨t⟩his may sometimes be unavoidable during the winter from the badness of the roads and the difficulty of crossing the rivers and creeks but they conceive that these causes have not occasioned the late frequent delays of the mail.

“That the Postmaster General was informed of these circumstances by a letter from some of Your ⟨Me⟩morialists in the month of March last, to which no answer was received, no⟨r⟩ do they find any alteration followed.

“As the speedy and regular delivery of letters is of the utmost advantage to Commerce, and would tend to ⟨a⟩ug⟨m⟩ent the public revenue, They are satisfied that so far as this matter depend⟨s up⟩on You it will meet with due attention.

“Impressed Sir, ⟨with⟩ sentiments of the greatest respect and esteem for your character, They beg ⟨mutilated⟩uest that you will give such directi⟨o⟩ns as shall seem to You necessar⟨y mutilated⟩ occasion” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

As no earlier letter from GW to Osgood covering the Richmond memorial has been found, GW probably received it only toward the end of July and immediately presented it personally to or discussed it with the postmaster general and requested him to investigate the matter. The contractor responsible for the mail delivery between Richmond and Alexandria was made aware of his dissatisfied customers and immediately wrote to the president (see John Hoomes to GW, 16 Aug. 1790, n.7).

1Tobias Lear replied to Harrison on 28 July 1790 acknowledging GW’s receipt of the memorial and informing him that it was being investigated by the postmaster general. Two days later Lear sent Harrison a copy of Osgood’s above letter to GW and asked him to share it with the rest of the Richmond memorialists (Lear to Benjamin Harrison, Jr., 28 and 30 July 1790, both in DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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