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I will address you again by the steamer of July 1, and apprize you of all matters of interest in connexion with the Territory. I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,
United States Navy. Hon. WM. BALLARD PRESTON,
Secretary of the Navy, Washington.
SAN FRANCISCO, August 31, 1849. Sir: The departure of the steamer Panama to-morrow affords me the occasion of again addressing you. I regret to inform you of the very severe illness of the Hon. T. B. King, who was assailed two weeks since with a violent attack of dysentery. For a length of time he was in great danger, with but slender hope of recovery. The skill of Dr. Bowie, of the navy, has prevailed, and Mr. King is now out of danger, and will, it is hoped, recover.
The moment for the assembling of the convention is at hand, and the delegates with great unanimity are in attendance. Major Garnett left here a week ago in the Edith for San Diego, for the purpose of conveying the southern delegates to Monterey, while Mr. King and myself were to have proceeded down to Monterey in company with those from the northern districts. It is a matter of universal regret that Mr. King cannot be present when the convention organizes, as great respect and importance are attached to his opinions, and his counsel sought very extensively.
The prospect of a successful accomplishment of the duties that become good citizens, no one seems to doubt. The delegates are generally selected from among the common sense class of the community; and if I judge from the resolute tone and manner of many of those who have passed through, they are resolved to act promptly and prudently, and with a just sense of duty to the Union and themselves. All seem impressed with exalted ideas of public duty and a strong desire to assemble in good feeling, execute the high trust confided to them, and return without un. necessary delay to their
homes. Territorial government has its advocates, on the plea of the inability of a State situated as California is to support herself. The great majority, I think, are in favor of State government, and I trust the results of the convention will fully confirm my opinions. I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,
United States Navy. Hon. Wm B. PRESTON.
P. S.-Mr. King is recovering slowly, and now no fears whatever are entertained; he will, I trust, yet be able to attend at Monterey during the session of the convention. He charges me to say to you, and to ask you to say also to the honorable Secretaries of State and War, that his severe illness will account for the omission of any communicativns from him by the steamer which leaves to-morrow.
DEPARTMENT OF THE POST OFFICE.
Post OFFICE DEPARTMENT,
January, 1850. To the Presid nt of the United States:
In compliance with the resolution of the Senate of the United States of the 17th ultimo, I have the honor to report that the third section of the act of 14th August, 1848, authorizes the Postmaster General to employ an agent to make arrangements for the establishment of post offices and for the transmission of the mails in California; and that, in pursuance of said authority, the Postmaster General, on the 1st of November, 1848, appointed William Van Voorhees the agent for that Territory, to whom the following instructions were addressed:
Post OFFICE DEPARTMENT,
November 1, 1848. Being authorized by an act of Congress, approved 14th August, 1848, to employ an agent in making arrangements for the establishment of post offices and for the transmission, receipt, and conveyance of letters in California, I hereby appoint you such agent. The duties with which you are to be charged will not be confined to any one branch of the department. They will embrace whatever may appertain to the operations of the contract, appointment, and fiscal bureaus of this department in California.
A route having been created by law, and the same being put in operation by the employment of steamships extending along the whole coast of California, your first duty will be to proceed to the selection of suitable persons for postmasters at San Diego, San Pedro, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey, and at such other points on the Pacific, at which the United States steam mail packets shall touch, as may need such appointments.
For San Francisco a postmaster has already been appointed, Samuel Yorke At Lee, esq., who will repair, by the first opportunity, to that place. Of course, you will not take steps for appointing postmasters at any of the above-named places on finding that such appointment would be inexpedient or unnecessary by reason of not having a mail supply or from any other cause. On making such selection you will report the same to the department at Washington for appointment, in the mean time placing the nominee in the performance of the duties of his office by a temporary letter of appointment, signed by yourself, to cease on receiving a commission from the Postmaster General, or official information that the appointment has been refused. With your report of the nomination of any postmaster, you will forward his bond, duly executed by himself and sureties, and certified by you to be sufficient, and filled with such an amount as you shall deem adequate for the case. You will also cause him to be duly sworn on entering upon his duties. You will furnish him with proper blanks for post bills, accounts of mails sent, accounts of mails received, quarterly returns, and whatsoever else may be necessary to enable him properly to discharge his duties of postmaster, and to keep and render full and faithful accounts.
You will also instruct each postmaster how to perform his duties, and especially that he render his acounts for each quarter immediately after the expiration thereof to the Postmaster General of the United States at Washington. The collection of the balances arising at each office is a duty that will demand your utmost care and vigilance.
Before selecting postmasters for offices not receiving their mails by the government packets, you will ascertain by what road and from what point on the coast the same is to be supplied; and as no route into the interior of Califorvia has yet been created by act of Congress, you will have to make the supply of each office situated in the interior, conditioned upon the expense thereof being defrayed out of the net proceeds of such office. This restriction will necessarily keep the post-route arrangements which you may create upon an economical footing. With or without this restriction, the observance of economy in this respect is important; otherwise one or two points might absorb all the means which could arise in California for the support of mail service, leaving the others destitute. At present no more can be contemplated than semi-monthly or weekly transportation by the cheapest mode of conveyance, unless the same can be obtained at any favorable terms within the yield of the offices. You will bear in mind that no contract can be made for a longer period than four years, that the quarterly periods are for three months, commencing on the 1st of January, 1st of April, 1st of July, and 1st of October, and that arrangements, accounts, and settlements should be made to conform to these divisions of time, unless the circumstances be such as to render it impossible. On making such arrangements, you will immediately report the same to the department at Washington, for such order and contracts as the Postmaster General may make in the premises, in the mean time giving a letter of authority to perform the duties required.
Whether the compensation is restricted to the proceeds of the office or not, you will first determine in your mind a limit for that compensation by the rate per mile per annum. Horseback conveyance of the mails on the present routes in the United States, for weekly conveyance, will vary from three to six dollars per mile per annum. There
be some few instances, in the cotton-growing regions, where the wealth of the country is considerable, but the population very sparse, where the compensation will rise perhaps as high as ten dollars per mile per annum for weekly horseback conveyance.
You will make the contracts at the lowest offers the competition will produce, and not rise above the scale of prices indicated by the foregoing remark; the distance is to be counted but one way.
You will make provision in the contract that payment is not to be made until service is performed and certified to, and in every instance of omission there is to be an abatement of price.
A proper supervision is to be established and maintained, to insure performance, or deduction of pay. William Nelson, esq., United States consul at Panama, will be the mail agent of the United States for the Pacific mail. You will promptly advise him by the earliest opportunity of every office put in operation upon the coast, with those in the interior, depending on them respectively for their supply, so that he may properly bag the mails for those places.
You will prepare before leaving the United States, and take on with
you, an adequate supply of all the blanks needed by youself and the postmasters in California; also, mail-locks and bags of different kinds needed for that service. The iron lock and key belonging to it will be used for the interior mails; the brass lock and key for the mails conveyed by the steam packets. Hereafter, as the system enlarges in California, further discrimination in the mails may be made by placing the brass lock upon the most important interior routes. At present, the iron lock is deemed sufficient.
You will make report by every mail of the condition and progress of the business under your charge, and will be careful at the expiration of each quarter to render those official returns which will show the state of all pecuniary arrangements of the department in California, and the indebtedness and credits of each party, whether postmasters, contractors, or others; and to keep the Postmaster General advised from time to time of the state and progress of settlements in the country, and what routes should be created by law to furnish them with the mails.
The postage for California is 40 cents on each single letter (which is a letter not exceeding half an ounce in weight) between any place in California and any place on the Atlantic coast, and 124 cents between any place on the Pacific. Double, treble letters, and so on, will be chargeable with double, treble, and the like increase of rates.
C. JOHNSON, Postmaster General. WM. VAN VOORHEES, Esq.
The following reports were received from Mr. Van Voorhees, 21st June, 1849:
San Francisco, CALIFORNIA, March 13, 1849. DEAR SIR: Mr. Robinson, agent for Messrs. Howland & Aspinwall, having arranged with the captain of the brig “ Laura Ann" to take a mail for the States to Panama, I embrace the only opportunity since my arrival to report that the mail steamer “California" reached San Francisco on the morning of the 28th ultimo, after a protracted voyage of twenty-eight days from Panama. Owing to the diminished supply of coal on board-insufficient, it was apprehended, to take the ship to San Francisco, if she were delayed to touch at San Diego and Santa Barbarathose places were omitted, and the mails in my charge to be delivered there were brought on, and are now in my possession here, no opportunity having offered to send them down. At Monterey the mails were delivered to Captain William G. Marcy, who received, opened, and distributed them, without, however, consenting to enter permanently upon the duties of the office. He nevertheless executed his bond as postmaster, which will be sent to the department hereafter, but with the understanding that he should probably relinquish the office in a short time. In case he concludes to do so, it will be found difficult to secure the services of another. No one in California seems at present disposed to take upon himself the trouble of public office, though it yield five times the compensation which may be expected from the post office at California. Young men, for example, daily relinquish places in the custom-house Here with salaries of trom four to eight dollars per diem; and, indeed, to engage anybody permanently in any business, at any reasonable salary, is exceedingly difficult. Eight and ten dollars per day are demanded and received for the most common services, and even these sums are re. spectfully declined during the mining season, which is just opening. With this state of things existing, you can readily see the difficulties to be encountered in organizing the department in the Territory of California. I am credibly informed that teamslers from Sutter's Fort to the mines may command $200, and often as much as $400 per month. Horses I know to be worth--and very ordinary horses, too—from $200 to $300. To contract with a Californian, therefore, to convey the mails, the department may well calculate a heavy "debit balance" over and above the proceeds of the post offices supplied at the rates of postage now established for the Territory.
The postmaster for San Francisco not having arrived, and the demand for intelligence from the States absolutely requiring it, it was deemed best to have the mails opened and distributed. For this purpose, Mr. C. L. Ross, a merchant of some considerable standing, was selected by me to take charge of them until the arrival of Mr. Dallas, to whom he was directed to pay over such postages as he may have collected, and deliver the office, should he (Dallas) consent to take it, which I am inclined to think is extremely questionable. The compensation afforded postmasters under the existing system in the States will be found wholly inadequate here, if the office is conducted separately from other business. All expenses are exorbitant: boarding $17 50 per week; washing, from $6 to $8 per dozen; fuel from $30 to $40 per cord; and office rent inordinately high. Nothing is more common than $100 per month for a small room, scarcely sufficient for an office, to say nothing of lodging apartments for the officers. The cheap desk or case, for which the department usually allows from $5 to $10 in the States, can be had here for not less than from $25 to $30; and so in proportion for all other necessary office furniture.
With this office, however, in connexion with some other business, I apprehend no very serious difficulty in respect to obtaining a postmaster; for there are a number of merchants in the place who, having established themselves, will not hesitate to take charge of it in view of the benefit to be derived in the way of calling custom to their counters. So also with the offices at Stockton, Sutter's Fort, and perhaps the mines. Postmasters, I think, may be readily nad for these, if their supply can be arranged; but at San Diego, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Benicia, San José, Pueblo de los Angeles, &c., they will be rather more difficult to secure.
I am unable to state with any degree of accuracy at what time the steamer California may be expected to start upon her return voyage to Panama. Without coal or crew, the prospect of her speedy departure is certainly not the most flattering. Her crew have all, I believe, together with engineers, second and third mates, deserted or otherwise left her; and to hire others, especially engineers, is not an easy matter. I do not see that the other two steamers will be in any better condition upon
their arrival, so that there is no guessing when the Pacific line of steamers shall commence operations. It is to be hoped, however, some arrangement will be made to establish the line. If nothing else can be done, they might be put in command of regular naval officers, and manned by the government.
In the course of a day or two I shall set out for the upper country,