[ John Harraden of the Post Office. ] Autograph Letter Signed to the Earl of Chesterfield, complaining of the 'hardships' of his case, and requesting his intervention, with reference to William Hayley of Earlham, John Palmer, George White Thomas.

John Harraden of the Post Office [ Philip Stanhope, 5th Earl of Chesterfield (1755-1815), Postmaster General; William Hayley (1745-1820); George White Thomas (c.1750-1821); John Palmer (1742-1818) ]
Publication details: 
No. 26 Compton Street, Soho. 10 November 1808.
SKU: 20265

The recipient of the letter, the 5th Earl of Chesterfield, was Postmaster General between 1790 and 1798. The 'Mr. Palmer' mentioned in the text is John Palmer (1742-1818), MP for Bath, who was Comptroller General of the Post Office between 1786 and 1792. Harraden appears to have been regarded by his superiors as a whistle-blower and trouble-maker. In 1788, as Clerk of the Money Book in the Inland Office (he is elsewhere described as ''Clerk of the letter-bill, and keeper of the cheque-book in the surveyor and comptroller general's departments'), he devised a general system for the registration of property letters. Although the plan was not fully implemented, some of its suggestions were adopted in 1792. Shortly afterwards he was the subject of a curious appendix to a parliamentary paper, which describes him as a tool of 'the Junto', and 'the instrument of their duplicity and the victim of their vengeance at a Board. The report prints 'Mr. Harraden's Plan (his object being 'to prove that a thousand pounds had been stolen in one week', which 'Lord Chesterfield admitted'), and Mr. Stowe's Observations on it'. The extreme craft and imposition which they practised on the Postmaster General, in the affair of the 1st of March, 1796, require to be particularly exposed.' 3pp., folio. Bifolium addressed on the reverse of the second leaf to 'The Right Honrble the Earl of Chesterfield'. In good condition, lightly aged and worn. Harraden begins by stating that he is enclosing 'a Letter addressd [sic] to Lord Walsingham in the year 1798 – soliciting his Sanction to a recommendation of Mr. Palmers wherein He was pleasd to remark that my services merited an encrease of Salary and earnestly entreating his Lordships Consideration to the hardships of my case – but nothing favorable arising therefrom – His Lordship entirely forgetting every Circumstance and now compelld by necessity, I have renewd the subject – and wrote again – and also beg leave to lay before Lordship [sic] some features of my situation that may serve to explain, and satisfy you, that the application merited a more considerate fate than has yet attended it -'. He recounts that in 1800 he 'solicited to retire from the Post Office and was granted a Pension of £53 .. 6 .. 8 P annm – but so overwhelmed in pecuniary affairs – owing to the error I fell into by following the first Law Authorities – and bringing an Action your Lordship as Postmaster General – that from this Cause alone I was under continuall [sic] arrests – and suffered near Three Years Imprisonment – and now hold my Liberty by a Public Act of Insolvency – and as the Income Tax has reduced my Pension – under £12 P Quarter I have been forced to Petition the Postmaster General for some relief stating that the Price of every article in Life is raised nearly Double since it was granted'. He quotes the unfavourable response to his petition, and proceeds to explain how he 'sustained the loss of near £500 for endeavouring to recover Money actually expended in a Public Service'. The next paragraph concerns the recommendation of 'Mr. Palmer' for an advance in the pension of £20 per annum, as a result of Harraden's 'attendance and unremitting efforts to his useful Plan […] for it was observed by all I was indefatigable Night as well as Day – in the Cause being often called up – by Opening all Letters and expresses – to Mr Palmer for the first Several Years of his being Comptroller General'. He is 'apprehensive of Trespassing too much' on Chesterfield's time, but feels regarding his case that 'if a Blot could be justly made against me in official matters I would not solicit any great or good Man in my favor – and if such Gentlemen as Mr. George White Thomas [MP for Chichester] – Mr. Wm. Hayley if Earlham [friend of William Cowper and patron of William Blake] – and others – did not approve my Conduct and think me worthy they would not have interested themselves in my behalf'. He ends with a flurry of flattery, stating that he was 'in great hopes' when his 'good Friend' Thomas waited on Chesterfield 'purposely on my account and then wrote me word your Lordship was so far favorably inclined as to give hope'.