George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Osgood, 16 December 1790

From Samuel Osgood

General Post Office Philadelphia Decr 16th 1790


I do myself the Honor of enclosing a Schedule containing a General View of the Contracts for the Conveyance of the Mail in the Year 1791; & also a Paper with Remarks on the Contracts for the present Year, & for the Year 1791, by which it will appear, that considerable Improvements have been made in the Arrangements for the next Year.1

Between Baltimore & New York; Philadelphia & Easton in Maryland, & Philadelphia and Pitts burg the Proposals varied considerably; And I have thot that the public Interest required that I should not confine myself in disposing of the Contracts, to the lowest Proposals. It has however occasioned some uneasiness & the Propriety of my Conduct may be called in Question—I have informed Mr Inskeep whose Proposals included the whole of the above Distance that it appeared to me he was entitled to the Contract which however is not yet made out—His Punctuality as a Contractor the present Year has interested the Merchants in Philadelphia generally in his Behalf & they recommended him to me as a proper Person to be employed.2

An Experiment has been made the present Year of conveying the Mail five Times a Week between Philadelphia & New York—And the Encrease of the Revenue in those Places has been, in Nine Months about fifteen hundred Dollars which is more than double the additional Sum paid for conveying it—And I hope a similar Advantage will Result from having five Mails in the Week between Philadelphia and Baltimore.

If the lowest Proposals ought to have been accepted & the Mail should only be conveyed three Times a Week between Philadelphia & Baltimore there would have been four separate Contracts instead of the one proposed by Mr Inskeep.

Mr Page from Philadelphia to Baltimore 1,000
Mr ⟨Mesereau⟩ from Philadelphia to New York 666⅔
Mr Grumman from Philadelphia to Pitts burg 1,333⅓
Mr Hodgson from Wilmington to Easton in Maryland & to Duck Creek & Dover3 660

Mr Inskeeps Proposals exceeded the above Sum 474 Dollars after deducting 766 Dollars for the two extraordinary Trips pr Week between Philadelphia & Baltimore, which he agreed to do in Case it was thot best to have but three Mails in the Week.

The Disadvantages of so many separate Contracts appear to me to be greater than the Overplus Sum which is allowed Mr Inskeep.4 I have the Honor to be with the greatest Respect &ca


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

1The enclosures have not been found.

2For John Inskeep, a tavern keeper who also conducted a stage line in Philadelphia, see Tobias Lear to Clement Biddle, 16 Sept. 1789.

3John Mercereau (1732–1820) was running a line of stages between New York and Philadelphia. Robert Hodgson had a 1789 contract to carry mail to Easton and was running stages to Wilmington. In 1790, he had the contract for the Easton-Wilmington route. Ichabod Grummon had the contract between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in 1790. "Mr Page" has not been identified.

4Tobias Lear transmitted Osgood’s letter to Alexander Hamilton on 18 Dec. 1790, writing that “the President wishes the Secretary’s opinion on the enclosed and requests that he will return the papers therewith” (DLC:GW). Hamilton responded on 22 Dec. 1790: “I have the honor to send with this a short report on the . . . [Post] Master General’s letter. From the circumstances of the case and a general impression that it is always best for the Chief Magistrate to be as little implicated as possible in the specific approbation of a particular measure proceeding from a particular officer, I believe it may be adviseable to answer generally that the President sees with pleasure the improvements made in the contracts for conveying the Mail; that he doubts not a judicious discretion has been exercised in relation to the several parts of them—That (especially where circumstances vary) there does not appear to be a strict obligation to prefer the lowest offer, and that in the case of Mr Inskeep, the greater frequency of the transmission of the Mail, the concentration of the business under one direction and the experience of past good conduct are weighty reasons for the preference of his offer meditated by the Post Master General” (DLC:GW). In the enclosed report Hamilton wrote that the information contained in Osgood’s letter was not “sufficient to enable a judgment of the propriety generally of the Contracts made or intended,” but he added that he “agrees in opinion with the Post Master General. . . that there is not a strict obligation to prefer the lowest offer. The greater frequency of conveyance is an object of moment. The Concentration of the business is a matter of considerable convenience, the rather as it may lead to its being done cheaper hereafter; & experience of good management on the part of Mr. Inskeep, is a motive of weight. These considerations probably justify the preference of his offer meditated by the Post Master General” (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 7:378–79).

Lear wrote to Osgood on 22 Dec. 1790: “The President of the United States having duly noticed the letter from the Postmaster General of the 16th instant, with the contracts for carrying the Mail, and remarks accompanying the same; observed with pleasure, from the general view of the subject that is there exhibited, the improvments made in the Contracts for conveying the Mail; & has no doubt but a judicious discretion has been exercised in regard to the parts of them—There does not appear to the President (especially where circumstances vary) to be a strict obligation to prefer the lowest offer, and in the case of Mr Inskeep, the greater frequency of conveying the Mail—the concentration of the business under one direction, and the past experience of good conduct are weighty reasons for the preference of his offer meditated by the Post Master General” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries