American History and Genealogy Project

Military, Post Office, Congress, Religion and More

The following table exhibits a general view of the regular army of the United States, according to the law of 1842, which consists of:

Commissioned officers 712
Eight regiments of Infantry, each composed of non-commissioned officers, musicians and privates, 510 --4,080
Four regiments of Artillery, each composed of non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates, 660 --2,640
Two regiments of Dragoons, each composed of non-commissioned officers and privates, 660 1,320 Cadets 260
Total 9,012

The following exhibits the reduction of officers and soldiers from the previous establishment:
1 Com. General, 2 Surveyors, 10 Assistant Surgeons, 1 Inspector General, 6 Military Storekeepers 3 Paymasters 23
Privates reduced in Infantry 3,152
Privates reduced in Artillery 208
Privates reduced in Dragoons 178
Whole reduction 3,561

The principal reliance of the country for defense is on the Militia of the several states, amounting in the whole, on the 21st November, 1841, according to the latest official returns, to 1,587,722, distributed among the several states as shown in the following table.

The navy of the United States, though not large in comparison with those of some other nations, is undoubtedly the most efficient in proportion to its size of any in the world. It consisted, in July 1841, of 11 ships of the line; 15 frigates of the 1st class; 2 frigates of the 2d class; 21 sloops of war; 4 brigs; 8 schooners; besides 2 steam frigates, and several smaller steam vessels.

The United States have navy-yards at the following places: Portsmouth, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Norfolk, and Pensacola.

There were in the Navy, 30th September, 1841, 68 Captains; 97 Commanders; 328 Lieutenants; 70 Surgeons; 57 Assistant Surgeons and Passed Assistant Surgeons; 63 Pursers; 24 Chaplains; 103 Passed Midshipmen; 370 Midshipmen; 30 Masters.

Post Office

There were in December, 1840, 13,638 Post Offices. The revenue in 1840 was $4,539,265; and the expenditure was $4,759,Ill.

The following are the rates of postage by mail.

On a single letter composed of one piece of paper, for any distance not exceeding 30 miles, 6 cts. Over 30, and not exceeding 80, 10 ct. Over 80, and not exceeding 150, 12½ cts. Over 150, and not exceeding 400, 18¾ cts. Over 400 miles, 25 cents.

A letter composed of two pieces of paper, is charged with double these rates; of three, with triple; of four, with quadruple. One or more pieces of paper, mailed as a letter, and weighing one ounce, shall be charged with quadruple postage; and at the same rate, should the weight be greater.

For each newspaper not carried out of the State in which it is published, 1 cent, or if carried over 100 miles out of the State in which it is published, 1½ cents.

Magazines and pamphlets, if published periodically, and distance not exceeding 100 miles, 1½ cents per sheet; do. over 100 miles, 2½ cents. If not published periodically, and the distance not exceeding 100 miles, 4 cents; do. over 100 miles, 6 cents.

Every printed pamphlet or magazine, which contains more than 24 pages on a royal sheet, or any sheet of less dimensions, shall be charged by the sheet; and small pamphlets, printed on a half or quarter of a sheet, of royal or less size, shall be charged with half the amount of postage charged on a full sheet.

The President of the United States, and the officers of the general government at Washington, receive newspapers and letters free of postage.

The members of both houses of Congress are not charged, excepting for a letter or package weighing over two ounces, when the excess is charged. Postmasters have also the privilege of receiving newspapers and letters free of postage under certain restrictions; and printers of newspapers, receive newspapers without charge, with certain limitations.


The constitution of the United States forbids the establishment of religion by law; but every person, who does not interrupt the peace of society, is protected in the exercise of his religion. The voluntary principle, as it is sometimes called, has been found to be more efficient than any legal enactment for the support of religious institutions.

The following table exhibits the numbers of the different religious denominations in 1840.

Schools, Universities and Colleges

The people of the United States, from the first settlement of the country, have been attentive to the cause of popular education, not only by making provision for the support of common schools and academies, and grammar schools, but by founding (perhaps too many) higher seminaries of learning. In less than 20 years after the first tree was felled, and the first log-house was erected in the wilderness, by the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, Cambridge College was founded; and the cause of education has been, from year to year, obtaining continually, a stronger hold upon the community. A general impression exists in the public mind that the perpetuity and prosperity of free institutions, depends upon the general intelligence of the people. A particular reference to the colleges will be found under the states, and a description of them under the towns where they are located.

According to the census of 1840, there were in the United States 173 universities and colleges, with 16,233 students; 3,242 academies and grammar schools, with 164,159 students; 47,209 common and primary schools, with 1,815,244 scholars. In the above enumeration, theological and medical institutions, where they are separate from colleges, are ranked among universities and colleges.

Theological institutions for a professional education, to succeed the collegiate, have been founded in different parts of the country, and by different denominations. They will be described under the places where they are located.

One of the earliest law schools in the United States was founded in Litchfield, Conn., in 1798, by the Hon. Tapping Reeve, and taught afterwards by him, in connection with the Hon. James Gould. At this institution many of the principal civilians in the country have been educated. It is now discontinued. Others have been established in different places. An account of them will be found under the places where they are located.

Numerous medical institutions have been founded for the education of physicians and surgeons. Many of the students have received an education at some college; but this is not generally indispensable, where the acquirements of the candidate are respectable, in order to membership. They will be described under the places where they are located.

Government of the United States

The government of the United States is that of a confederated Republic, formed by a union of states, each of which has a local government, for the management of its immediate concerns. The powers of the general government are defined by the constitution, formed by delegates from the original states, submitted to the people, the only acknowledged sources of power, and by them adopted in state conventions, assembled for the purpose. It went into operation by the election and inauguration of Gen. George Washington, as first President, in 1789.

The President of the United States, who possesses the supreme executive power, is chosen for the term of 4 years, by electors from each state, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives in the state. No person holding an office of trust under the government of the United States can be an elector. The person who has a majority of all the votes, is President; but if no one has such majority, the House of Representatives choose a President from 3 candidates, having the greatest number of votes. In the election of President, the votes are given by states. A Vice-President is chosen at the same time, and in the same form.

No person can be elected as President, who is less than 35 years of age, who is not a native born citizen of the United States, or was not a citizen at the time of the adoption of the constitution, and who has not been a resident in the United States for 14 years. The same qualifications are necessary for a candidate for the Vice-Presidency.

The President is commander-in-chief of the army and navy, and of the militia when in the actual
service of the United States. With the advice and consent of the Senate, he makes treaties, ap-points ambassadors, and judges of the Supreme Court, and other officers of the national government, whose appointment is not otherwise provided for by the constitution. He takes care that the laws be executed, and commissions all officers. He has power to grant reprieves and pardons for all offences against the United States, except in case of impeachments. In making treaties, the concurrence of two thirds of the Senate is necessary.

In case of the death, removal, or resignation of the President, the Vice-President succeeds to the duties of his office.

The Senate consists of 2 members from each state, chosen by the legislature, for the term of 6 years. One third of the Senate is chosen every year. To be eligible as a senator, a person must be not less than 35 years of age; and must have been a citizen of the United States for 9 years. It belongs to the Senate to try all cases of the impeachment of the President or Vice-President.

The representatives are chosen for 2 years. No person can be a representative who is not 25 years of age, and who has not been for 7 years a citizen of the United States. The representatives are proportioned according to the number of inhabitants, and since the census of 1840, has been fixed at 70,680. In the enumeration, three fifths of the slaves are omitted.

Congress has power to lay and collect taxes; to provide for the common defense and general welfare; to borrow money; to regulate foreign and domestic commerce; to establish uniform laws of naturalization and bankruptcy; to coin money, and regulate its value; to fix the standard of weights and measures; to establish post-offices and post-roads; to grant patent and copy-rights; to constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme court; to define and punish piracies, and offences on the high seas, and against the law of nations; to declare war, and grant letters of marque and reprisal; make rules respecting captures; raise and support armies; provide and maintain a navy; provide for the calling out of the militia, to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; and to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the District of Columbia.

No member of Congress is allowed to hold any office under the Government of the United States, while he continues such. All bills for raising money must originate in the House of Representatives.

The Judicial power of the United States is vested in a Supreme Court, consisting of a Chief Justice, and 8 Associate Justices; of 9 District Courts, consisting of a Judge of the Supreme Court, and a District Judge; and 31 District Courts, held by a District Judge alone; from whose decisions there is, in certain cases, an appeal to the Circuit Court, and from this to the Supreme Court. The Judges hold their offices during good behavior; and their salaries cannot be diminished, during their continuance in office.

The Supreme Court meets annually at Washington, on the 2d Monday of January.

Table of Contents

Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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