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To Pay or Not to Pay?

After the war was over and the Constitutional Post established, Americans continued to bargain with post riders and have friends carry their letters out of the mails. These practices in part caused the young postal system to amass an exceptional $40,000 debt by 1779 and led to rapid increases in postal rates, doubling the standard rates in 1779 and again in 1781.

The first letter below was franked and sent through official mail channels while the second was sent “by favor” of a post rider named Mr. Curly. In Ebenezer Hazard’s letter to Postmaster Dudley Woodbridge, he describes the newly raised postal rates. Pricing was made more difficult because there were many different types of money in circulation – local and national bills as well as currency in the troy system of mass. The expense of sending a letter coupled with his own financial situation may have prompted Ezekiel Williams to send his appeal to Oliver Wolcott and the Connecticut Pay Table out of the mails.

Even though the war was over, postal officials were eager to prepare the new system in case of further conflict. In this letter (see the letter or transcript), the writer, RMC, reports to the General Post Office in Washington, DC, on the condition of certain postal routes and the frequency of letters carried out of the mails. He advises that the routes be kept active as they would prove useful in the event of war. Writing in January 1808, RMC's advice was well-considered. On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain to begin the War of 1812.

Learn how to fold a colonial-style letter and decide whether you want your own writing sent out of the mails!

Small cover for a letter from Ebenezer Hazard to Dudley Woodbridge
Small cover for a letter from Ezekiel Williams to Oliver Wolcott
Hazard letter, 1781
Williams letter, 1785

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