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In Gladstone's “'musings for the good of man,'” writes John Morley in his Life of the dead statesman (ii. 56, 57), the “Liberation of Intercourse, to borrow his own larger name for Free Trade, figured in his mind's eye as one of the promoting conditions of abundant employment.... He recalled the days when our predecessors thought it must be for man's good to have 'most of the avenues by which the mind and also the hand of man conveyed and exchanged their respective products' blocked or narrowed by regulation and taxation. Dissemination of news, travelling, letters, transit of goods, were all made as costly and difficult as the legislation could make them. 'I rank,' he said, 'the introduction of cheap postage for letters, documents, patterns, and printed matter, and the abolition of all taxes on printed matter, in the catalogue of free legislation. These great measures may well take their place beside the abolition of prohibitions and protective duties, the simplifying of revenue laws, and the repeal of the Navigation Act, as forming together the great [Pg x] code of industrial emancipation.'” To the above the biographer adds that in Gladstone's article in the Nineteenth Century on Free Trade, Railways, and Commerce, he divided the credit of our material progress between the two great factors, the Liberation of Intercourse and the Improvement of Locomotion.

In view of the occasional attempts to revive the pernicious franking privilege, and of the frequently recurring warfare between Free Trade and the rival system, whose epitaph we owe to Disraeli, but whose unquiet spirit apparently declines to rest within its tomb, the present seems a fitting time to write the story of the old reform to which Gladstone alluded—“the introduction of cheap postage for letters,” etc., the narrative being prefaced by a notice of the reformer, his family, and some of his friends who are not mentioned in later pages.

My cousin, Dr Birkbeck Hill's “Life of Sir Rowland Hill and History of Penny Postage” is an elaborate work, and therefore valuable as a source of information to be drawn upon by any future historian of that reform and of the period, now so far removed from our own, which the reformer's long life covered. Before Dr Hill's death he gave me permission to take from his pages such material as I cared to incorporate with my own shorter, more anecdotal story. This has been done, but my narrative also contains much that [Pg xi] has not appeared elsewhere, because, as the one of my father's children most intimately associated with his home life, unto me were given opportunities of acquiring knowledge which were not accessible to my cousin.

Before my brother, Mr Pearson Hill, died, he read through the greater portion of my work; and although since then much has been remodelled, omitted, and added, the narrative ought to be substantially correct. He supplied sundry details, and more than one anecdote, and is responsible for the story of Lord Canning's curious revelation which has appeared in no previous work. In all that my brother wrote his actual words have been, as far as possible, retained. The tribute to his memory in the first chapter on the Post Office was written after his decease.

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