Ebenezer Hazard to Dudley Woodbridge, 1781
Ebenezer Hazard (1744-1817) was a businessman and amateur historian whose public life was tied in with the post office. In 1775 he was appointed deputy postmaster of New York City. Hazard advanced in his job and was named to the position of Surveyor General of the Constitutional Post Office in 1776, a role he still held when this letter was written. Shortly thereafter, in 1782, Hazard rose again, this time to the position of Postmaster General.
As Surveyor General, Hazard was responsible for maintaining or improving the efficiency of the postal system by monitoring and altering postal routes when necessary. During the war, since an overwhelming majority of the post was franked military correspondence, Hazard’s position required him to follow the Continental Army in order to facilitate efficiency in the postal routes. In November 1776, Hazard wrote to Congress asking for more money given the hardships he encountered on the job. Unable to secure a horse, he followed the army on foot with his postal sack carried by a servant.
In this letter, Hazard writes to Dudley Woodbridge, Postmaster of Norwich, Connecticut explaining new postal rates, which had doubled as the result of a “late resolution of Congress” from February 24, 1781. Beginning in October 1777, postal rates varied wildly, increasing as much as 20 times the 1775 rates by the end of 1779. These high rates remained in effect until December 1780 when they decreased dramatically to half the 1775 levels and were subsequently adjusted – increasing to twice the 1775 rates in February 1781 to cover operating costs – finally standardizing in 1787.
Hazard used his franking privilege to send this letter from Plymouth, Massachusetts.
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