The U.S. Postal Service and the Constitution

Article 1, Section 8 says that [The Congress shall have the power] to establish Post Offices and Post Roads. It does not say that the federal government shall have the exclusive to deliver mail. Nor does it require that the mail be delivered by an agent of the federal government to every home in the country, six days a week.

Image taken by User:Minesweeper on December 14...

From left to right, the post boxes belong to FedEx, UCB, UPS, and two from the USPS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a thoughtful and useful article on the Post Office, about which I have written from time to time. Although I don’t think anything will change by any act of Congress, the Post Office itself is increasingly irrelevant and will someday disappear altogether or, even better, be bought out of by UPS or FedEx, privatized, and made profitable.

But it clarifies exactly what the says about the Post Office. And the history of mail delivery is interesting: private companies delivered the mail in the early years of the republic. James Campbell, in his 1996 book “The Last Monopoly” published by the Cato Institute, said:

Delivery of local, intracity letters was pioneered by private companies such as Boyd’s Dispatch in New York City and Blood’s Dispatch in Philadelphia. One authority counted 147 private local postal companies. The “locals” introduced adhesive postage stamps at least as early as 1841. The Post Office did not introduce stamps until 1847 and did not require their use until 1851. Efforts by the Post Office to suppress the locals failed when, in 1860, a federal court ruled that the postal monopoly pertained only to the transportation of letters over “post roads” between post offices and did not prohibit the delivery of letters within a single postal district.

Private delivery of the mail? Who woulda thunk it?

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