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The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., July 9, 1903, page 3

SOME POINTS ON FREE RURAL DELIVERY

     Hood River, Or., July 6, 1903. - Editor Glacier: Farmers everywhere are greatly interested in the rural free delivery system, and as the people of our valley are giving much thought to the subject just at present, I trust something supplementary to Mr. Wyman's article of last week will not be taken amiss. As a member of the soliciting committee for raising funds to increase the carriers pay on route No. 1, I had some opportunities to note the feeling of the people concerning donations of this kind.
     Refusal, or willingness to subscribe to the fund, was no criterion of a man's financial status. No one wanted to see the service abandoned, but here and there was found one, easily able to pay, who objected on the principle that our Uncle Sam is rich enough to pay his own bills, while many whom I knew could illy spare a dollar handed in out without argument or complaint. These later viewed the situation from my own point of view, while the others did not. My own way of thinking has been biased on some facts and figures which I will subjoin.
     To begin: There are now 15,092 rural free delivery routes in existence in the United States, and 1,587 more have been accepted and are waiting to be put in operation when appropriations become available. There are also 10,730 petitions for new routes awaiting the decision of the department. These figures were given out recently by the Postmaster General Payne himself. He also stated that our people are delighted with this rural delivery service and want it whether it pays the government or not." This shows the present condition of available funds, and it can be seen that a raise of $200 on the salaries of each one of the 15,092 carriers now at work would amount alone to the neat little sum of $3,018,400, to say nothing of the amount that would be needed to install the service in other communities that are justly entitled to it. General Payne predicts that the service will be self-sustaining five-year hence, but his prediction was undoubtedly based on the supposition that the present salary of carriers remain unchanged during that time. As the service is not self-sustaining at present, it should be clear to all that no authority except congress can raise the salaries of carriers a farthing. It is also true that the entire postal service is not self-supporting, there being a constant deficit which has to be provided for by appropriations from the treasury to the amount of about eleven million dollars per annum.
     When the present crisis arose concerning carriers salary on our route, I wrote to Hon. A.M. Moody asking advice as to how we should best attempt to get an increase. Mr. Moody's service in congress and his well-known interest in rural free delivery gives weight to his expressions. Excerpts from his letter in reply are as follows:
     "It is my impression that that should there be a general demand for further advance, the department will be inclined to favor letting the carrying out by contract according to the old star route system, as there were some efforts made in that direction when the last raised was secured. The argument made by the people who favored the star route plan were the arguments set out in your letter, viz: that the conditions of roads or cost of maintaining horses were so different on the various routes that a just, uniform price could not be established.
     "The friends of the star route plan insisted that the service could be done for less money under the contract system that under the present system with carriers at a stated salary. I am inclined to think they were correct in this argument, because there always have been people willing to carry the mails for less than it is worth and frequently for less than it cost. A natural result is that bad service is had." "There can be no change in the price allowed to carriers until another post office appropriation bill is considered by congress, and should the members of then press for higher pay for carriers, I should be fearful that it might result in supplementing them by the old star route contracts to the detriment of the service."
     Mr. Moody's only suggestion for relief were: that our roads and the giving of carriers permission to handle express matter -- a privilege which has already been granted to our route, but which this far has not greatly increased the earnings of the carriers.
     That the present salary of $600 per year is insufficient pay is clear from the fact, that throughout the United States carriers are resigning at the rate of 75 per day. Illinois as an average state sends in two resignations of carriers daily. Just what the outcome will be no one knows, and if we press congress for a raise it must be on the assumption that "the farmer feedeth all," and that a little favoritism shown him would be a proper thing. Unless we can get our representatives to look upon this matter in this way, I greatly fear that some of our steady kickers will have to suffer persecution from soliciting committees for several years to come.
     As to the pay of carriers, very few persons are now to be found who will argue that $600 is enough for the service performed on our routes in this valley. So far it has been upheld by vigorous, intelligent young men, and it is quite certain that none but this type of men can long endure the work and give satisfaction. It is not reasonable to expect such men to lay aside all other ambitions and settle down to a steady job that affords them only a bare living. Even $800, in the estimation of many, is not a princely salary.
     I imagine that a good way to settle this point would be for some patron of our route to take the contract for one year; hire a man, pay him, board him, and find him a team and outfit complete during that time. I think the assertion can be made without fear of contradiction that he would not find the profits great enough to make him wish that he had two such contracts instead of only one.

R.E. Harbison

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