George Washington Papers

Timothy Pickering to Tobias Lear, 31 December 1792

Timothy Pickering to Tobias Lear

General Post Office [Philadelphia] Decr 31. 1792.

Dear Sir

Can you inform me of any of the facts or representations communicated to the president relative to news-papers, which led him to notice them in his speech, at the opening of the present session of Congress? It seemed generally to be understood to imply that obstructions to their transmission had arisen from the post office law. Were not the obstructions to the papers which should have passed from Richmond to Staunton a principal subject of complaint?1

The Committee of the House on that part of the President’s speech have desired me to furnish them with such observations as occurred to me generally relative to the post office law, & the parts in which it admitted of amendment. The article of newspapers is peculiarly interesting.2 As I am this evening or tomorrow morning to report to the Committee, an answer this forenoon will greatly oblige.3 Dear Sir Your most obedt servt

Timothy Pickering


1For mention of this issue, see GW’s Address to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 6 November. For regulations regarding the mailing of newspapers, see sections 21 and 22 of “An Act to establish the Post-Office and Post Roads within the United States,” 20 Feb. 1792, in 1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 238.

2The House appointed a committee on 14 Nov. to consider “that part of the President’s Speech which relates to the transmission of newspapers” and to report what, if any, amendments to the act passed in February might be necessary (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 685).

3Lear replied to Pickering later on this date: “I have the honor to inform you, that it was represented to the President, in such a way as to place the fact beyond a doubt in his mind, that in consequence of the rate of postage imposed on the transmission of News-papers by the Post-Office law, many persons in Virginia, who had heretofore taken News-papers from this City, had declined receiving them any longer—and that many others declared that they only continued to take them under a full persuasion that the rate of Postage woud be reduced during the present Session of Congress—and that if such reduction should not take place they would desire the printers to stop their papers.

“In addition to these strong marks of disapprobation of the rate of postage on news-papers given by individuals, he was informed that the public mind, so far as it had been expressed, in that quarter, on the subject, appeared very anxious that an alteration should take place in that part of the Post-Office law which relates to the transmission of News-Papers” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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