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Prosecution files.

Since the beginning of the stamps et for all the 19th century the French postal Administration feared the reuse of stamp. For the Post Office depending on the Ministry of Finance La Poste dépendant à l'époque du Ministère des Finances, postal fraud could be a great loss of money. To prevent this fraud, the administration set up a large number of techniques (special killer, printing ink for cancellation, etc.)  and a series of penal measures. At that time, postal fraud  was considered as an offence liable to a penal condemnation. The large numerals cancels allowed to detect more easily the reuse of stamp already cancelled by comparing the number in the lozenge of dots and th name of the post office in the date stamp. 
The reuse of stamp was considered as an offence liable to a prosecution in a criminal court. A person convicted of such fraud was often condemned for a heavy fine.
Here is a case of such fraud.


Letter from VALENCIENNES to ORCHIES sent on June 24th, 1856. The postal agents in VALENCIENNES have noticed that the stamp was bearing traces of a previous cancellation and have indicated it with the statement : " taxée pour timbre ayant déjà servi" (taxed for stamp already used).This letter was considered as unfrancked.

The letter was sent to ORCHIES under registred envelope (envelope n° 1198). 

The file doesn't contain this envelope anymore.  
At the same time, a notice of issue of a letter bearing a presumed fraudulent postage stamp (form n°1197) has been sent to the Post Office in Paris and to the Departemental postal inspector in LILLE.
In ORCHIES, a warning letter was sent on June 25th to the adressee, inviting him to go to the post office to identify this letter. The privacy of correspondence was sacred. Only in rare conditions, a post office couldn't open a letter.

We are here in a particular case because it is a letter to be given to a person who is not the adressee. 

Mister Durez accepted to go to the post office at the same day. At the post office, one was waiting for him to fill a the minutes. 

Thses minutes were signed by the post office director, Mister Durez, and an assistant.  This assistant must be sworn and belong in every case to the postal Administration.

The minutes teache us that the sender was Ms Honorine Chopin, who was living in VALENCIENNES and working as a servant.
All the elements of the file were sent to the Departemental postal inspector in LILLE.

At this point, the postal procedure ends. 
The Administration by means of the Departemental postal inspector has lodge a complaint with the Imperial Prosecutor of the District of VALENCIENNES.
This complaint ist lodged with the form that follows.

Honorine Chopin is summoned to the Police station of VALENCIENNES.
She guarantees that she did not use a stamp that has been an already cancelled, but she admits having walked on the stamp and would so have damaged it.

One month after the sending of the letter, Honorine Chopin appeared in front of the Magistrates' court of Valenciennes which convicts her of use of a postage stamp having already served and which condemns her to pay 7,25 fr of fine and legal costs, all this was matched by an imprisonment if this couldn't be paid. In this time, 7,25 fr represented a very big amount of money for a servant.

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