Congressman Dr. Neal Dunn’s efforts to find out why the local United States Postal Service mail delivery issues are so prevalent is well appreciated. My own experience included a birthday card mailed from a friend a few miles away five days before my birthday arriving two weeks after and a Christmas card mailed locally a week before delivered three weeks after the holiday. Both were postmarked in Jacksonville a few days after they were mailed, but it took a long time to make the trip back. In 1776 it took three weeks for a letter to get from Boston to New York. Almost as slow as getting from Tallahassee to Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

Having to truck local mail to Jacksonville to be sent back to be delivered here does not seem to make sense. It is the result of the elimination of local sorting, a supposed cost-saving measure instituted a few years ago by the USPS. Some people say that politics might be involved.

Mail-in ballots have been controversial in the last several elections. Eliminating hundreds of local sorting machines across the country immediately added several days to mail-in ballot delivery. Coupled with that, many states changed valid ballots from “postmarked” on or before voting day to “received” on or before the day. The result is many votes are not counted. Is that what was intended by those who do not trust mail-in ballots?

The postal service has a long history in the political arena, so no one should be surprised. Winifred Gallaher in her book, How the Post Office Created America, highlights the development through the centuries. Rulers, governments, elites and later merchants used the system as a revenue source as well as a way to communicate for political and commercial ends. Rome and later Great Britain found that controlling the “Posts” was a way to generate revenue. The British expansion of The Stamp Act was seen as it was, a tax, and became a flashpoint for the American Revolution.

On the other hand, the postal system became a source of political discourse that supported the declaration of independence from the Mother Country. Ben Franklin was the British appointed postmaster in Philadelphia and took advantage of the position to disseminate his publications at little or no cost. Soon competing newspapers took advantage of reduced rates that continued as he was appointed by the Continental Congress as the U.S. Postmaster. The low cost communication across “post roads” to colonial “post offices” established a real social media platform that united the voices for revolution.

Supported by early American politicians who saw a cheap way to get their messages out, the postal service soon reached all parts of the country. Revenue was not the primary objective, but political persuasion and commerce were. Private mail was still expensive, but newspapers and pamphlets were not.  Andrew Jackson perfected the post office patronage system as a tool of his party politics, leading to an abuse that even Abraham Lincoln decried. Today the mail is usurped by electronic social media, though many of the political bias complaints remain the same.

There are still some good things to say about the USPS. Almost everyone can get mail, though fewer local post offices may make it harder to send packages and special items out. The cost of a letter is almost the same as it was in 1885 (2 cents, in today’s money, 60 cents). The post office was the first federal agency to integrate and also give a priority to military veterans. Good jobs and good benefits were made available to millions of dedicated employees and their families through good and bad times.

In 1776 it took three weeks for a letter to get from Boston to New York at a cost in today’s money of $18. But my Amazon package comes delivered by the USPS in three days, sometimes free! If just my birthday cards came on time.

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