We thus see, that the telegraph in the United States extends over more than twice as much ground as the British lines; while on the other hand the system of telegraph in England is so much more fully developed, that nearly double the quantity of wire is in actual use. On the English lines, which are in the hands of three companies only, from 25,000 to 30,000 miles are worked on Cook and Wheatstone’s system; 10,000 on the magnetic system—without batteries;—3000 on Bain’s chemical principle—which is rapidly extending;—and the remainder on Morse’s plan.
The price of the transmission of messages is less in America than in England, especially if we regard the distance of transmission. In America a message is limited to ten words; in England to twenty words; and the message is delivered free within a certain distance from the station.
In both countries the names and addresses of the sender and receiver are sent free of charge. The average cost of transmission from London to every station in Great Britain is 13/10 of a penny per word per 100 miles. The average cost from Washington to all the principal towns in America is about 6/10 of a penny per word per 100 miles. The ordinary scale of charges for twenty words in England is 1s. for fifty miles and under; 2s. 6d. between fifty miles and 100 miles; all distances beyond that, 5s. with a few exceptions, where there is great competition. Having received the foregoing statement from a most competent authority, its accuracy may be confidently relied upon.
In conclusion, I would observe that the competition which is gradually growing up in this country must eventually compel a reduction of the present charges; but even before that desirable opposition arrives, the companies would, in my humble opinion, exercise a wise and profitable discretion by modifying their present system of charges. Originally the addresses of both parties were included in the number of words allowed; that absurdity is now given up, but one scarcely less ridiculous still remains—viz., twenty words being the shortest message upon which their charges are based. A merchant in New York can send a message to New Orleans, a distance of 2000 miles, and transact important business in ten words—say “Buy me a thousand bales of cotton—ship to Liverpool;” but if I want to telegraph from Windsor to London a distance of twenty miles, “Send me my portmanteau,” I must pay for twenty words. Surely telegraph companies would show a sound discretion by lowering the scale to ten words, and charging two-thirds of the present price for twenty. Opposition would soon compel such a manifestly useful change; but, independent of all coercion, I believe those companies that strive the most to meet the reasonable demands of the public will always show the best balance-sheet at the end of the year.—Thirteenpence is more than one shilling.