The History of Leith

September 25, 2012

Act for establishing a General Post-office in Edinburgh, under a Postmaster- General

To improve the system of correspondence
throughout the kingdom, the Scottish Parliament,
in 1695, passed a new “Act for establishing a
General Post-office in Edinburgh, under a Postmaster-
General, who was to have the exclusive
privilege of receiving and despatching letters, it
being only allowed that carriers should undertake
that business on lines where there was no regular
post until such should be established. The rates
were fixed at as. Scots for a single letter within
fifty Scottish miles, and for greater distances in
proportion. It was also ordained that there should
be a weekly post to Ireland, by means of a packet
at Port Patrick, the expense of which was to be
charged on the Scottish office. By the same law
the Postmaster and his deputies were to have
posts, and furnish post-horses along all the chief
roads to all persons ‘ at three shillings Scots for ilk
horse-hire for postage, for every Scottish mile,’
including the use of furniture and a guide. It
would appear that on this footing the Post-office in
Scotland was not a gainful concern, for in 1698
Sir Robert Sinclair of Stevenston had a grant of
the entire revenue with a pension of ^£300 sterling
per annum, under the obligation to keep up the
posts, and after a little while gave up the charge as
finding it disadvantageous. . . . Letters coming
from London for Glasgow arrived at Edinburgh in
the first place, and were thence dispatched westward
at such times as might be convenient.” *
The inviolability of letters at the Post-office was
not held in respect as a principle. In July, 1701,
two letters from Brussels, marked each with a
cross, were taken by the Postmaster to the Lord
Advocate, who deliberately opened them, and
finding them ” of no value, being only on private
business,” desired them to be delivered to those to
whom they were addressed; and so lately as 1738,
the Earl of Islay, in writing to Sir Robert Walpole
from Edinburgh, said, ” I am forced to send this
letter by a servant, twenty miles out of town, where
the Duke of Argyle’s attorney cannot handle it
and in 1748 General Bland, commanding the forces
in Scotland, complained to the Secretary of State
” that his letters at the Edinburgh Post-office were
opened by order of a noble duke”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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