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Postal Service of the British Empire

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POSTAL SERVICE OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE In the early days of Colonial expansion the postal services established overseas were in theory and to a large extent in practice under the direct control of the Postmaster General of Great Britain. Reasons of practical convenience and the de velopment of autonomy in the Dominions and Colonies, gradually led to the establishment of independent postal services. At the present time the British Empire comprises some 55 distinct postal administrations each responsible solely to its own Government.

Canada.—The Canadian Post Office, before the Declaration of Independence, was combined with that of the other North Ameri can Colonies, and after the separation it continued to be ad ministered by the Post Office of Great Britain. In spite of the obvious difficulties of effective control, it was not until 1851 that it was abandoned and separate autonomous services were estab lished in the different provinces, to be replaced by a centralized Post Office on the foundation of the Dominion in 1867. Canada in December 1928 restored the 2 cent rate on letters exchanged within the Empire which had been in abeyance since the War.

Canada has an extensive internal Money Order Service with a turnover of some $370,000,000 a year, and a considerable Savings Bank business ; the Parcel Post is a relatively recent service, hav ing been established only in 1914. A still later development is the Cash on Delivery service established in 1922.

Australia.—The history of the Australian Post Office goes back to 181o, when the first Post Office was opened in Sydney. Each State developed on its own lines, though joint action was, of course, essential in some matters of common interest. The State services were developed on the general lines of the English Postal service.

Regular sea communication with Great Britain was established in 1846, the overland route being utilized in 185o, while a regular sea service with the American Continent dates back to 1866. The high cost of transport in relation to general costs is evident from the statistics of expenditure, as no less than 28% of the total postal budget represents expenditure on the conveyance of mails.

The volume of traffic is considerable ; the total number of postal packets of all kinds delivered in the last year for which statistics have been published was 1,139,000,000 or nearly 180 per head of the population. The newspaper rate is fixed at the low rate of id. per io oz. ; and an unusual feature of the postal service is a specially low rate of postage for books printed in Australia, which are conveyed at one-half the rate applicable to other books; the same principle is applied also to magazines and periodicals. The aggregate length of the air routes is 3,487 miles and further con siderable developments are in contemplation; the rates are mod erate and the traffic is steadily increasing.

South Africa.—A regular postal service was established in South Africa immediately after the British occupation of the Cape in 1806. Regular communication was established between Cape Town and important centres by Hottentot postboys. The foot messengers were later replaced by horsed Post Orderlies ; but it was not until a comparatively recent period that the develop ment of railways made rapid local communication possible on an extensive scale.

The various States of South Africa maintained their separate Post Offices until the formation of the Union in 1910, when a centralized Postal Administration was established.

The inland letter rate is id. per oz., and the postcard rate Id. For parcels of I lb. and over the rate is 6d. per lb. ; but South Africa has introduced the interesting experiment of an agricul tural parcel post, the rates on which vary from 3d. for I+ lb. to s./– for 1 1 lb. The agricultural post includes fruit, grain, tea, poultry, meat, etc., but perishable or semi-perishable products such as butter, eggs and lard are excluded. Some 65o,000 parcels annually are sent out by this service. A Cash on Delivery service has recently been introduced and though still small is increasing at a rapid rate.

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