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supposed to be swallowed up and unaccounted for by individuals.
A strong opposition was accordingly made to the new plan: every impediment to its success was presented, and a party formed against it within the precincts of that very office which ought to have made every effort to ensure its completion, and thus contribute to the prosperity of the commerce and the revenue of the kingdom. This called forth new remonstrances to the Treasury on the part of the new comptroller, who accused Lord Walsingham, then joint postmaster-general, of gross injustice. Notwithstanding this, in 1787, that nobleman transmitted the following note:
** I have long wished to see that point cleared, of your plan costing less than the old one; for I have understood that it cost more, but that the benefits overpaid the expenses. Be it one or the other, it was a most profound regulation, and you will well deserve the salary and commission on the increased revenue, for which the faith of Government is pledged
66 W.” In reply to this, Mr. Palmer referred his Lordship to documents in his own office, by the aid of which he might correct the mistake in the former part of the above communication.
Meanwhile, commissioners, nominated for that purpose, delivered in their report respecting the existing state of the post-office, in the course of which much commendation was bestowed on the plan and conduct of the comptroller-general. On this, the nobleman alluded to above, after having first communicated the contents to the old officers, took every clerk from the new establishment, and carried them to Windsor, where they were kept at an inn close to his own residence for near three months, to make private copies of the document just referred to; all communication of the contents being, in the meantime, refused, and all the persons employed enjoined by the postmaster-general to keep the whole a secret from their superior the comptroller-general. It was also discovered soon
after, that previously to the communication of the report of the Treasury Board, his Lordship furnished it with marginal notes contradictory of the text, and in direct hostility to the new and improved plan.
Meanwhile, Mr. Palmer, perceiving that Lord Walsingham's influence had become hostile to him, determined to countermine his projects. This nobleman having, of his own accord, entered into an improvident engagement with a mail-contractor of the name of Wilson, afterwards refused to complete the same. On this, Mr. Palmer most unfortunately committed himself, by writing a confidential letter to Mr. Bonner, his deputy, in which the following prominent passages appeared: “ The matter should be, quietly to throw this load upon
his lordship: let him be bullied, perplexed, and frightened, and made apprehensive that his foolish interference may even occasión a rising of the mail prices, at 20,000l. per annum difference to the office. Think of all this; for he must not escape this bout. The fun would be to get Wilson aboard, and let him bamboozle his lordship with his slouch, and slang, and his blackguard. Wilson must be lessoned: tell him Lord W.'s declaration to me in his letter about the bill, but that I shall still advise payment.”
On another occasion, he betrayed a wish, in a certain case, for Mr. Freeling “to put back the business of his department in the same irregular and confused state he found it.” In a third communication (October 3d, 1790), he expresses himself in the following incautious terms:
Though the conduct of the Lords (the Earl of Chesterfield and Lord Walsingham) is the very thing I ought to wish (this alludes to their appeal to the Treasury), and must end well; yet it revives old quarrels and feelings, and fevers me in spite of myself. D-them! I never can be absent to get a little bathing or quiet, but this is the case.
Did Bartlett mention to you they had been telling their story to the king? Pretty masters !
Pretty masters ! So they complain to domine of the great boy.”
Soon after this, a violent dispute took place; in consequence of which Mr. Palmer suspended his deputy, who, it appears, communicated all the above papers to the postmasters-general, and thus rendered the breach with them irreparable! Their lordships immediately took the case of Mr. Bonner into consideration, and ordered him to be restored; but the comptrollergeneral refused the key of the office to the applicant himself; and although he delivered it up, on a second application, to the solicitor of the post-office, yet he himself was in his turn suspended! Thus, the success of all his schemes was put in jeopardy, the new improvements in the posts retarded, his prospect of future remuneration hazarded, and his whole fortune placed in a state of the utmost uncertainty. He had risked his all; for, by an express contract with Government, he was precluded from reaping any advantage in case of failure, and had actually advanced several thousand pounds out of his own capital. Under his management, the revenue had risen from 150,0001. in 1783, to 600,0002. in 1798: not a single mail robbery had occurred, and yet his remuneration was now absolutely fixed at 30001. a year. On this, Mr. Palmer took the opinion of eminent counsel * ; but although this was
* “ We are of opinion, that Mr. Palmer has fully performed his part of the agreement much to the advantage of the public. We are also of opinion (which, indeed, is impossible to doubt), that if a patent had been granted to Mr. Palmer, as originally intended, nothing which has since passed could have deprived him of the benefit of his agreement; because all that is imputed now to Mr. Palmer arises from misunderstandings and disputes between the Postmaster-General and him, and which could never have existed if a patent had been granted to him, as originally intended, under which he would not have been, in any respect, under the Postmaster-General.
“ We are also of opinion, that though by the appointment which was given to Mr. Palmer, different from that originally intended, he was made subject to the controul of the Postmasters-General (because, by the constitution of the post-office, as established by act of parliament, no patent could be granted to him, by which he was to act independently of the Postmaster-General); yet there is nothing in the above-mentioned evidence that ought to deprive him of the benefit of his agreement, nor which could in a court of justice have that effect.
“ It is established by this evidence, that the public derived from Mr. Palmer's exertions all the benefits which he had held forth as likely to accrue from them; and although we do not approve of the letters written by Mr. Palmer to his deputy, Mr. Bonner, which are the grounds for depriving Mr. Palmer of the benefit of his agreement,
entirely in his favour, yet it was found impossible to commence a suit at law against the Government with any probability of
Anterior to this, he had petitioned the Treasury Board; to which he received for answer," that their lordships conceived 3000l. per annum, for his life, a sufficient compensation for his services; and that they did not think themselves justified on the part of the public, in making a farther allowance."
On this, in 1797, Mr. Palmer applied, by petition, to the House of Commons, and a committee was nominated to report on the causes of his suspension, and also on the nature of his agreement. Mr. Pierrepoint in a very able speech, pointed out the merits and success of Mr. Palmer's plan, which was attended with this peculiarity, that in case of failure, he was to receive no pecuniary indemnification, and no reimbursement for his expences. During the forty years preceding his intervention, notwithstanding the great increase of trade and manufactures, the nett revenue of the post-office had experienced no increase whatever, except what was necessarily derived by the enhancement of the rate of postage, and restriction of franks on the contrary, indeed, taking an average of the nine years preceding the new plan, it had actually experienced a decrease of 13,1987. 13s. per annum. After the first gleam of success, the projector was obliged to submit to a new agreement, by which he lost 750l. per annum, but this was to be followed by every
yet we think that those letters are far from a sufficient ground to deprive him of that benefit.
"We also think it very doubtful whether a court of justice would have thought that any attention ought to be paid to those letters; because they were written in confidence to his deputy, and under an impression (though probably ill-founded) that the Postmasters-General were unfavourable to him, &c.
"April 24, 1799."
"J. MANSFIELD, (afterwards Chief Justice of the
possible facility in the furtherance of his ultimate designs. And yet, the commissioners appointed by the House of Commons to enquire into this very subject, reported, that Mr. Palmer had experienced "opposition from the oldest and ablest officers in the service, who represented his plan not only to be impracticable, but dangerous to commerce and the revenue;" and it was nevertheless added, "that he has exceeded the expectations which he held forth in his first proposal, both with regard to dispatch and expense." They further state, that the country has derived great advantage by the new scheme; while the post-office revenue had increased, since 1783, to the amount of nearly half a million !
Mr. Sheridan, on this occasion, supported the pretensions of the claimant in a very brilliant speech; in the course of which he expressed himself as follows:
"None but an enthusiast could have imagined or formed such a plan; none but an enthusiast could have made such an agreement; none but an enthusiast could have carried it into execution and I am confident," adds he, "that no man in this country, or any other, could have performed such an undertaking, but that very individual John Palmer."
Dr. Lawrence also observed, in the course of a very energetic harangue, which, like the former, proved ineffectual, “That it was to be apprehended, from what he had heard and what he knew, that men of talents, who might hereafter be willing to employ their genius and their industry in the service of the public, would discover, that Mr. Palmer had one fault greater than any which had been pressed against him. This was the fault of an over-hasty and improvident zeal, to do, without regard to his own interests, whatever good it was in his power to achieve for his country." Nor ought it to be here omitted, that the joint postmasters-general, with whom he had many disputes and contentions, on being required to deliver their opinion as to his motives, readily exhibited the most ample testimony on behalf of his character and integrity.
"Have * Extract of Lord Walsingham's evidence from the report pp. 29 and 30. "No, never in ou any reason to doubt of the personal integrity of Mr. Palmer?