Front Page Titles (by Subject) FREE TRADE POST OFFICE - Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy
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FREE TRADE POST OFFICE - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
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FREE TRADE POST OFFICE
March 23, 1835. Title added by Sedgwick.
The party newspapers, both for and against the administration, contain, every now and then, statements exposing individual instances of gross abuse of the franking privilege. There can be no doubt that the franking privilege is a prolific source of many of those evils in the Post-office department which are complained of on all hands, and that a reformation of the laws on this subject is very much needed.
. . .
But at the hazard of giving a new occasion for the charge of ultraism against this journal, we shall take the liberty to express an opinion, which we have long entertained, that the source of the evils in our Post-office system lies far too deep to be reached by any regulation or abridgement of the franking privilege, or even by its total abolition. It lies too deep, in our opinion, also, to be reached by any possible organization of the Post-office Department which it is in the power of the General Government to establish. There are five words in the Constitution of the United States which we look upon as the grand primary source of all the evils of which the people have so much just cause to complain in relation to that particular department of the Government. We allude to the clause which gives to Congress the power “to establish post-offices and post-roads.”
These words, in our view of the subject, ought never to have formed a part of the Constitution. They confer a power on the General Government which is liable, and almost inevitably subject, to the grossest political abuse. The abuse is one which will necessarily increase, too, from year to year, as population increases in numbers and spreads over a wider surface. The Post-office, controlled and directed by the General Government, will always be conducted with a vast deal of unnecessary expense, and, what is a consideration of far more serious importance, will always be used, to a greater or less extent, as a political machine.
It is not probable that the history of this Union, should it stretch out for ages, will ever exhibit to the admiration of mankind an administration under the guidance of a more faithful, energetic, intrepid and patriotic spirit, than that which happily now rules the executive councils of the nation. Yet even under the administration of a man whose integrity no arts can corrupt, whose firmness no difficulties can appal, and whose vigilance no toils can exhaust—even under the administration of such a man, what a sickening scene does the mismanagement of the Post-office not present! Remove Mr. Barry and appoint another in his place, and you will not correct, and most likely you will not even mitigate the evil. Abolish the franking privilege, and the essential defects of the system would still remain. Re-organize the whole department, and introduce all the guards and checks which legislative ingenuity can devise, and still you will not wholly remove the imperfection. The Post-office will still be a government machine, cumbrous, unwieldy, and liable to the worst sorts of abuses.
The Post-office is established by the Government for the purpose of facilitating intercourse by letter between distant places. But personal intercourse between distant places is as necessary as epistolary, though not, perhaps, to the same degree. Why then should not the Government take upon itself the support and regulation of facilities for carrying passengers as well as letters from place to place? The transmission of packages of merchandise from one part of the country to another is no less necessary, than intercourse by letter or person. Why should not Government go a step further, and institute transportation lines for the conveyance of our goods? But we shall be answered, that these objects may safely be left to the laws of trade, and that supply will keep pace with demand in these matters as in other commercial and social wants of man. Might not the laws of trade, and the power of demand to produce supply through the activity of private enterprise, be safely trusted to, also, for the carriage of letters from place to place?
If the mail establishment, as a branch of the United States Government, should be abolished this hour, how long would it be before private enterprise would institute means to carry our letters and newspapers from city to city, with as much regularity as they are now carried, and far greater speed and economy? But the objection may be raised that inland places and thinly settled portions of the country would suffer by such an arrangement. There is no place on the map of the United States which would not soon be supplied with mail facilities by paying what they were worth, and if it gets them for less now, it is only because the deficiency is levied from the inhabitants of some other place, which is contrary to the plainest principles of justice.
There are very many considerations which might be urged in favour of a free trade view of this subject. The curse of office hunting, which is an incident of our form of Government, and is exerting every year, more and more, a demoralizing influence on the people, would undergo a check and rebatement by the suggested change. But would you withdraw—some one may ask—the stimulus which the present post-office system furnishes to emigration, by extending mail routes through the wilderness, and thus presenting inducements for population to gather together at points which would otherwise remain unimproved and uninhabited for years? To this we answer, unequivocally, yes. We would withdraw all Government stimulants; and let no man suppose that the progress of improvement would be retarded by such a withdrawal. The country would grow from year to year, notwithstanding, as rapidly and more healthily than now. It would only be changing the hot-bed system to the system of nature and reason. It would be discontinuing the force-pump method, by which we now seek to make water flow up hill, and leaving it to flow in its own natural channels. It would be removing the high-pressure application of Government facilities from enterprise and capital, and permitting them to expand themselves in their own proper field. The boundaries of population would still continually enlarge, circle beyond circle, like spreading rings upon the water; but they would not be forced to enlarge this way and that way, shooting out into strange and unnatural irregularities, as it might please land speculators, through the agency of members of Congress, to extend mail facilities into regions which perhaps God and nature meant should remain uninhabited for ages to come.
There are various other points of view in which the subject deserves to be considered. But we must reserve these for another occasion.