From Samuel Potts1
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Paris Aug. 15: 1783
In consequence of the conversation I had the honour of having with your Excellency last Wednesday, I beg leave to submit my thoughts to your consideration on the arrangements necessary to take place between the Post Offices of England and America in respect to the mode of establishing a regular correspondence with the two Countries and if they should meet with your Idea on the subject, it will give me the highest pleasure to be the means of conveying to England for the information of His Majestys Postmaster General any regulation which you may deem essential towards promoting a permanent intercourse with Great Britain and the United States—in the first place, as the English Packet Boats are prohibited from carrying of any sort of merchandize, I presume they will be allowed the same priviledges in America as they now enjoy under the British Government. Secondly as I beleive its intended an Agent shall be appointed by the Postmaster General to reside at New York, the Mail of course on the arrival of the Packet will be carried to him, he then will deliver it imediately to the proper Officer—at the Post Office at New York, who will take charge of the Letters, and he must account with the Agent for the Amount of the Postage thereof—this Account to be settled at least once in every three Months and those Letters which have not been delivered either for want of proper direction or that the Parties cannot be found shall be received as Cash in the said Account. Thirdly as the Correspondents in England have an Option of forwarding their letters either with paying the Inland and Packet Postage or not,2 I am of opinion the same mode should be adopted in America as the fewer restraints there are the more beneficial to commerce, and that the American postage may be accounted for, I propose that the Agent make himself answerable for the Amount and it may be brought forward in discharge of the postage of letters received from England, but there must be the same proviso in regard to the American returned Letters as to those above mentioned sent by the Packets—these are I think the general heads necessary for the arrangement, if you should think proper to establish others I shall be very happy to attend you on the subject.
I have the honour to be with much truth & Respect Your Excellencys Most Faithful and Most Obedt. & Most Hble servt
1. Potts, controller of the Inland Office of the British Post Office, is writing here in his official capacity. The purpose of his trip to Paris, however, was to ask BF whether he could “prevent Mr. Antills Estate in America from being confiscated” (as he later recalled). He had written to BF about this matter in May: XXXIX, 580–2; ****Potts to BF, July 26, 1785 (APS). BF asked John Jay to intercede on behalf of his old friend, and Jay did so on Aug. 15 in a letter to Egbert Benson, attorney general of New York, invoking BF’s name (Ind. University Library).
2. As the Post Office did not enjoy a monopoly on the carrying of mail, its services were optional: Kenneth Ellis, The Post Office in the Eighteenth Century: a Study in Administrative History (London, New York, and Toronto, 1958), p. 38.