Introduction of the postage due stamp

Controlling the collection of taxes on local mail was a major concern for the Administration. It was not possible to have an inspector in every post office (only the big ones were provided with one). Errors or malpractices were often discovered after a more or less long time.

With the decision of the Minister of Finance of 14 October 1858 and the decree of 15 November 1858, the Administration put an end to, or at least considerably reduced, these errors . The postage due stamp (Chiffre-Taxe) was introduced on 1 January 1859 and was to be used to tax postage due letters.

These stamps were obviously registered, and the Administration kept an inventory of them as well as the post office that received them.

From 1st January 1859, The Chiffres-Taxes could only be used in the rural district of a post office. Correspondence circulating between 2 rural districts in the same Postal District always had to be taxed by hand. The success of this measure led the Administration to extend the use of the Chiffre-Taxe to the entire Postal District by decree of 25 April 1859 (applicable from 1 June).

1859: Letter from LE QUESNOY for GOMMEGNIES rural commune dependent on LE QUESNOY. Here, the Chiffre-Taxe is of the lithographed type.

Circular no. 106 of December 1858 (BM no. 40) tells us that the regulatory cancellation for Chiffres-Taxes is the date stamp or the OR stamp of the rural postman. It even states that a single strike of the date stamp is sufficient and that there is no need to apply a second strike on the letter. Circular no. 124 of April 1859 states that from 1st June 1859, that the Chiffres-Taxes should be cancelled by the date stamp, but also that a second strike should be applied.

1859: Letter from and to MAUBEUGE dated February 1859. At this date the Chiffres-Taxes can be used only within the rural district of a post office.

This Chiffre-Taxe was printed in lithography. The short time between the decree and the planned introduction of these stamps meant that the authorities had to use a quick printing method. The lithographed type can be recognised by the very thin wording "à percevoir" ("to be collected"). On the typographed type, which appeared in February 1859, the printing is thicker. Before 1 June 1859, letters circulating within the town of the post office did not have to bear a Chiffre-Taxe.

1860: Letter from VALENCIENNES to ST SAULVE weighing 15 g. Here, the VALENCIENNES post office is in complete irregularity, since it cancels the Chiffres-Taxes with its small numerals whereas since 1st June 1859, it is supposed to cancel them with its date stamp.

If the Chiffres-Taxes could appear on letters between a post office station and a head post office of the same Postal District, they were always applied and cancelled by the head post office even if the letter originated from the post office station (§ 2 of circular no. 124).

1860: Letter mailed at the ETROEUNGT post office station for AVESNES (head post office). From 1st June 1859, Chiffres-Taxes could be used on local mail circulating between 2 rural districts.

When the rural service was introduced in 1830, a rural postman could not deliver letters in the suburbs of towns, even if he passed through on his way to his round.

The General Instruction of 1832 and its article 546 aimed to clearly separate the 2 services, local and rural. The rural postman was responsible for letters, most of which were subject to the additional rural decime, whereas the town postman or local postman was only responsible for correspondence which was subject to local postage. In January 1847, as the additional rural decime no longer existed, it was difficult to justify the presence of 2 postmen, one local, the other rural, in the same town or suburb, one carrying out his rounds (the local postman), the other merely passing through (the rural postman).

Gradually, local service requirements led to adaptations and rural postmen were able to work in localities where there was a post office or on the outskirts of a large town.

Nowadays, we imagine the outskirts of a town to be fairly densely populated and urbanised. In the 19th century, the suburbs of a town could alternate between populated areas and areas that were still very rural.

Circular no. 324 of April 1847, after referring to article 546 of the General Instruction of 1832, finally authorised rural postmen to serve the outskirts of towns, provided they were located outside the city walls.

1862: Letter written in the hamlet of Frais-Marais and addressed to the rural commune of WAZIERS. The hamlet of Frais-Marais was a part of the town of DOUAI, whereas WAZIERS was an independent rural commune. One of the rural postmen from DOUAI therefore served Frais-Marais as well as WAZIERS on the same round. Moreover, Frais-Marais and WAZIERS border each other. Frais-Marais had an urban letterbox (known as an additional letterbox) with the G code.

The Chiffre-Taxe should have been cancelled with the postman's OR stamp.

Finally, the Administration had foreseen the case where the Chiffres-Taxes applied to the letters could not be recovered. Circular no. 106 of December 1858, and in particular paragraph 44, states:

"It will often happen that the value of the Chiffres-Taxes affixed to the letters cannot be recovered, and that these letters will have to be returned, either as rejected or to a new destination.

As a general rule, any Chriffre-Taxe applied to a letter which, for whatever reason, could not be delivered, will be cancelled a second time by two strong pen strokes drawn in a cross +, and the tax that this Chiffre-Taxe represented will be reinstated on the letter by hand."

The operating procedure imposed by circular no. 106 was complicated, and many offices did not apply it fully, in particular by not re-establishing by hand the tax expressed in the Chiffre-Taxe.

1860: Postage due letter posted at ROUBAIX for ROUBAIX. As the addressee was in SASSEGNIES near BERLAIMONT, the letter was sent back with territorial postage, therefore taxed at 30 c.

This is the perfect application of what was required by circular no. 106.