Auction: 23027 - Stamps and Covers of Great Britain
John Palmer Mailcoach Contract
1787 printed draft contract (c.290x500mm) headed with Gothic script and titled "The Agreement, or Contract, made and entered into this Day of ... the 27th Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the faith...".
The contract decrees that "The said () and the several other persons shall and will enter into, sign, seal, and deliver a Contract with the said John Palmer, for the conveying his Majesty's Mails from the () and back as soon as a proper Contract or Agreement can or shall be prepared", agreeing to "convey his Majesty's Mails by Means of a Coach appropriated by them to that use from the Day of the Date of these presents" ... "and likewise all other Bags of Bye and Cross Road Letters" ... "confirm in all respects to the Hour that shall be appointed for the Departure of the said Mails from or by the General Post Office; and also for its Departure from the extreme End of the Journey and the intermediate Post Towns on its Return" ... exceptions are allowed in cases of "Floods, heavy Falls of Snow, or any other Obstruction which may render it impossible".
Those partaking in the contract are exempt from "Payment of the Turnpike, and all other Tolls for such Carriage" ... are permitted to "carry two outside Passengers, not to be suffred to sit upon the Coach or the Rof..." ... "Carriages [are] employed by them in conveying the Mail shall be furnished at the Expence of Government with a Guard to protect the said Mail and Carriage throughout the Whole of the Journey, by Night and by Day".
Here Palmer adds a manuscript insertions "and which the sd. John Palmer hereby undertakes ffor & on behalf of his Majest's Postmaster General shall be furnished accordingly", the guards are to be provided with "Blunderbuss, a Brace of Pistols, and an allowance of Six=pence per Week to Purchase a sufficient quantity of Powder and Ball; and also a proper Post=horn to sound as occasion may require in the course of the Journey" ... payment of the "Sum of () lawful Money of England for every Mile and the said Mails shall be so conveyed each Journey, be paid Quarterly for his Duty to said Parties" with Palmer's manuscript note "and which the sd. John palmer in like manner hereby undertakes shall be accordy. paid to them". Drivers are to be issued "Uniform Cloathes after the Pattern of the Royal Livery for each Guards and Coachmen in their Employ" and must never "travel without, a Screw wrench, a Hammer, a Cord, and a set of spare Lince Pins, and spare Straps."
A remarkable and hugely important document relating to critical developments in the postal system, which is believed to be unique in private and institutional hands.
Notes: John Palmer (1742-1818), is highly regarded for his role in reforming the posts, particularly so in introducing mail coaches. In 1782, Palmer was planning services on the main post roads out of London and, in 1784, William Pitt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, directed that this should be tried on the London to Bristol road, with the first official armed Mailcoach. The new system proved to be a great success and, in 1786 when the Great North route (between London and Edinburgh) was the added to the Mailcoach system, which completed his scheme, Palmer was made Comptroller-General of the Post Office.
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£6,000 to £8,000