While the merchants are looking with anxiety for a change so important to their interests, and the people at large, including those few who write no letters, are demanding it as a matter of justice, we look on it with interest in a literary regard. Will twice as many, or ten times as many letters be written, when correspondence is a less expensive pleasure than at present? Here then is another tax on the intellects of our devoted people; now, beside, they are to carry on this immense correspondence. The empire which our people seem determined to grasp, from sea to sea, is to be pierced with canals and railroads, till there is scarcely a green nook or shady lane left for the retirement of lovers and poets: newspapers are to flutter into the lowliest huts with every breeze; lectures on all the arts and sciences are to be given hourly for a penny an entrance; the infinite divisibility of sects is to be proved by the infinitely active acuteness of disputants; the Magnetic Telegraph is to bind pole with pole in lively intercourse of gossip and repartee; the collision of character from every region will demand a mercurial temperature to melt the various elements into one mass; in short, a life as intense, a communication more rapid, than pervaded the little State of Attica in it its day of glory, is to be established throughout this vast country. How all that is necessary is to be learned and done, even in the most superficial way, we do not yet see. Not only there is a limit set to human strength and activity, but from the pressure of care and excitement which has already began to deteriorate the race from generation to generation here, it arrives unusually quick with us.
Now, in addition to all the other demands upon our energies, comes this inducement to write many and long letters. Yet there is one good thing about it: this private literature is likely to be more sincere, more characteristic, than that which is designed for the public. When books are to placarded in letters two inches long, so that the most ardent runner cannot help reading their titles, if no more, letters where there is more of a family sacredness, genuine affinity and untarnished sentiment may be a useful countercheck. And yet we fear that these, too, will become mere gazettes and circulars. We know a distinguished person, all whose letters have that air. If at any crisis a particularly pointed expression occur to him, all his friends may be sure to find it in the letters addressed to each. That is like the gentleman who sent three similar Valentines to three ladies on the same day. “How happy would I be with either!” Ah grant, bright genius of America, that, in becoming universal, we lose not the fine flavor of individuality!—that, in our rapid passage over the outlines of so many objects, we be not quite estranged from their secret soul, quite uninformed by their vital energy!*
“Cheap Postage Bill.” New-York Daily Tribune, 24 February 1845, p. 2.