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Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Leffler, Richard (ed.) / Commentaries on the Constitution, public and private. Volume 4: 1 February to 31 March 1788
16 (1986)

Index,   pp. 540-596

Page 541

and southern inhabitants of so extensive an empire, can only be counteracted by
the freest communication of their opinions and politics, and, at this awful moment,
when a council is convened [the Constitutional Convention], it may justly be said,
to decide the fate of the Confederation, would it not be dangerous and impolitic to
divert or destroy that great channel, which serves at once to gratify the curiosity,
and to collect the voice of the people?"
On 15 October 1787 Congress, in response to another plea from Ebenezer Haz-
ard, resolved that the Postmaster General be authorized to contract for the delivery
of the mail during 1788 by stagecoaches or postriders, whichever "he may judge
most expedient and beneficial; provided that preference is given to the transporta-
tion by stages to encourage this useful institution, when it can be done without
material injury to the public" (JCC, XXXIII, 684). Soon after, the post office
advertised in newspapers seeking bids for contracts to deliver the mail north of
Philadelphia for the ensuing year. (See New York Daily Advertiser, 18 October.)
Contracts were awarded to postriders whose bids were about forty percent lower
than their stagecoach competitors (Hazard to Jeremy Belknap, 17 May, below).
Hazard also abandoned tradition by disallowing the postage-free exchange of
newspapers among printers-each printer was required to enter into an agreement
with the postrider who carried his newspaper.
The "new arrangement" broke down almost immediately. Postriders, in gen-
eral, were less reliable than stagecoaches in maintaining schedules and delivering
mail. Postriders also often refused "to take papers for printers" (New York Journal,
23 January, below). When they did agree to carry newspapers, postriders some-
times found it either easier to throw them away or more profitable to sell them
along the post roads. To obtain more reliable service, some printers reverted to
stagecoach delivery; and, in an effort to counter the "new arrangement, " some
stagecoach operators even offered free delivery of letters and newspapers, the latter
to both subscribers and printers (New YorkJournal, 10 March, below).
By March 1788 newspaper printers all over the country complained that begin-
ning in January, they had not received their usual newspaper exchanges. Antifed-
eralists believed that the "new arrangement" at the post office was intentionally
designed to delay, if not totally stop, the free and widespread circulation of the few
Antifederalist-oriented newspapers. The New YorkJournal, the Philadelphia Indepen-
dent Gazetteer, and the Philadelphia Freeman's journal were said to be most affected.
(For descriptions of these newspapers, see CC:Vol. 1, pp. xxxiv-xxxviii.) Led by
the printers of these newspapers-Thomas Greenleaf, Eleazer Oswald, and Francis
Bailey, respectively-Antifederalists asserted that the Postmaster General through
his chain of patronage-postmasters and postriders-had cut America's vital link of
communications at a critical period in the debate over the Constitution. George
Washington was disturbed that the post office's new policies had afforded Antifed-
eralists "very plausible pretexts for dealing out their scandals, & exciting jealousies
by inducing a belief that the suppression of intelligence at that critical juncture,
was a wicked trick of policy, contrived by an Aristocratic Junto." Hazard had to
be warned, continued Washington, "to wipe away the aspersion he has incau-
tiously brought upon a good cause" (to John Jay, 18 July, below).
Hazard's new policies alienated all newspaper printers and stagecoach opera-
tors-two influential groups-as well as many politicians. The opposition to the Post-
master General was so strong that he was nearly dismissed from office by Congress
in September 1788 (Belknap to Hazard, 23 September, LMCC, VIII, 793n). By
the end of 1788, however, the post office issue had abated, but it remained in
George Washington's memory. As president, Washington did not reappoint Haz-
ard-one of only a handful of Confederation officers turned out of office. The right
of printers to exchange their newspapers postage free remained an issue until 1792
when Congress provided by law "That every printer of newspapers may send one

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