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Martin Reflects on a Time when Our Democracy Was at Stake


A day after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy answered Congress’ questions about mail delays and as President Trump railed against voting by mail at the Republican Convention, TIME published Professor of Government Robert Martin’s essay addressing George Washington’s view of the agency. Published on Aug. 25, How a Political Dispute Over the Early American Postal System Could Have Jeopardized the Whole U.S. Constitution reviewed how in 1788 Postmaster General Ebenezer Hazard obstructed the delivery of newspapers between cities by allowing post riders to ignore them.

 “And just like that, a nation-wide system for political information binding together distant states fell apart—at a critical moment of popular engagement,” Martin wrote. This shift in policy occurred on the eve of the ratification of the nation’s Constitution.

Martin, the Sidney Wertimer Professor of Government, recounted, “At a time when the future of democracy is at stake, the last thing you need are sudden and ill-considered changes to the postal system undermining an essential element of popular governance. Or at least that’s what George Washington thought.”

 

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