Having furnished the above detail of facts, the department does not consider it improper to submit a few observations in relation to the reasons which induced a preference for the route selected.
The law of Congress not being mandatory, the department did not feel at liberty, in the exercise of a sound discretion, to select any route over which it was considered physically impossible to obtain the service within the time and by the mode of conveyance specified in the act. The trip was to be made within twenty-five days, in four-horse coaches, suitable for the conveyance of passengers as well as the safety and security of the mails. Applying these requirements to the extreme northern route proposed, from St. Louis by Fort Independence, Fort Laramie, Salt Lake, &c., the department had the recorded experience of many years against the practicability of procuring anything like a regular and certain service on that route. The United States had had a mail carried for years on that route, and the returns in the department showed the most conclusive facts against its selection. The mails for November, December, and January, 1850— ’51, did not arrive until March, 1851. The winter months of 1851- ’52 were very severe. The carrier and postmaster reported that they started in time, but had to turn hack. The mails of February, March, and December, of 1853, were impeded by deep snow. Those of January and February, 1854, on account of deep snow, did not arrive until the month of April. There was no improvement in the service even down to the November mail of 1856, which left Independence on the first of November, and, on account of deep snow, was obliged to winter in the mountains. The snow caused almost an entire failure for four months of the year. These actual experiments, made from the year 1850 to the present time, without referring to the concurring testimony of explorers and travellers, put this route entirely out of the question.