Post Office Department,
14 June 1861.
The Postmaster General finds it necessary to adopt measures for the prevention of numerous errors in the service, which have grown out of the carelessness of Route Agents in missending letters and mail bags, abandoning their duties without permission, employing substitutes to act for them, and neglecting to report irregularities and failures in the service. It is their duty to accompany the mails from the Post Office to the Cars, and to continue with them until they are delivered into the Post Office, or to an authorized Agent of the Department, at the ends of their routes.
They are expected to use extraordinary vigilance in guarding the mails under their charge. The mails must not be left for a moment exposed by day or by night. The Agents will be particularly watchful at depots or landing places. Should they become aware that the mails are so exposed at any time or place, they are required to report the case immediately to the Inspection Office.
When the service has suffered for any of these causes, it has been difficult to ascertain what individual Agent is accountable for the injury. In order that each may be held strictly responsible for himself, and that those who are diligent and useful may not be confounded with others who are not so, the Postmaster General directs that each Route Agent shall run the whole length of the road to which he is assigned, and, on arriving at the end of his route, shall at once, on delivering his mail into the Post Office, register his name in a book to be kept there for that purpose. Postmasters are required to report to the Department each instance of their neglect to do so, and all other irregularities in their conduct as Agents.
The services of Route Agents are useful mainly on account of their personal experience and responsibility. Agents are, therefore, strictly forbidden to leave their routes, or to transfer their duties to substitutes, without the consent of the Postmaster General, obtained through a written application to his Second Assistant. In cases, however, of sickness, disability, or other sudden and urgent necessity, which will not allow sufficient time for communicating with the Department, a Postmaster at the end of the route may grant temporary leave of absence, on such written application of the Agent, but only for the shortest period necessary for referring the application to the Department and its return therefrom by due course of mail. Postmasters are instructed to refer all such applications to the Second Assistant Postmaster General, without delay.
When a Route Agent is thus absent from duty, his place must be supplied by a suitable person known to and approved by the Postmaster through whom his application for leave of absence has been made; and in giving certificates of service to Route Agents, Postmasters will carefully specify what portion thereof was performed by substitute, and by whom.
The fact that persons are traveling on mail routes with a view to plunder, and the numerous complaints which have been made of the carelessness and inattention of Route Agents, endangering the security of important mails, render it necessary for the Department to require the Route Agents to report whenever the mail cars, which are furnished under an express provision in the contracts for mail service, are not safe and suited to the service, or not furnished with sufficient locks and fastenings. The car or apartment should not only be suitable in all respects, but the Agents are to have the exclusive use and occupancy of it, and are absolutely forbidden to admit any person into it who is not an Agent of the Department.
In mailing letters at the cars, Agents will receive only such letters as their is good reason to believe were written after the usual hour for closing the mail at the local Post Office, or such as could not, with ordinary diligence, have been deposited in the Post Office in time for the outgoing mail.
The pay of Agents, for the present, will be audited quarterly instead of monthly as heretofore, but certificates and reports of service should be forwarded by Postmasters to the Inspection Office at the end of every month.
Postmasters will faithfully report every instance of neglect of duty by Route Agents, and will make inquiries from time to time for the purpose of ascertaining whether they are continually with their mails until they are safely delivered into the Post Office or to another regularly authorized Agent. Route Agents are also required, when it is necessary to preserve a connexion on an important route, as between the different railroads at Philadelphia and Baltimore or elsewhere, to continue with their mails if sent directly from one road to another, or to a boat, until they are delivered to another Agent, without taking them into a Post Office. When the mail is sent out from a Post Office, the Postmaster will in all cases be careful to send a responsible Clerk with it until it reaches the hands of a regular Agent of the Department; and in case of the necessary or other absence of such Agent, to continue the mail in charge of a responsible and sworn officer of the Department, at the expense of the Agent.
Disobedience to any of these orders will be regarded by the Postmaster General as sufficient cause for removal.
I am, respectfully, &c.,
John A. Kasson
First Assistant Postmaster General.
John Pyatt route agent