James Madison Papers

Low Postage for Newspapers, [9 January] 1792

Low Postage for Newspapers

[9 January 1792]

On 9 January the post office bill was read a third time. Murray moved to recommit and amend it by reducing the postage on newspapers from one to one-half cent. It was objected that a motion to recommit the entire bill for the purpose of amending a particular section was out of order.

Mr. Madison supposed that so small an amend⟨ment⟩ might be made by the genera! consent of the House; ⟨but⟩ he would be sorry to re-commit the whole bill, alth⟨ough⟩ he thought the amendment proposed by Mr. Murr⟨ay of⟩ the greatest importance; as to rate the postage of ne⟨ws-pa⟩pers above half a cent, amounted to a prohibition in ⟨effect⟩ of the distribution of knowledge and information thr⟨ough⟩out the Union.1

Federal Gazette, 11 Jan. 1792. Right margin of newspaper obscured by binding. Words and parts of words in angle brackets supplied from conjecture by the editors.

1The House defeated Murray’s motion and the following day passed the bill. The president signed it on 20 Feb. (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 1, 239). JM continued to support the cause of reduced postage for newspapers, however, and on 6 Mar. Gerry reported from committee a separate bill for that purpose. On 9 Apr. JM and Gerry tried unsuccessfully to bring it forward. They won a third reading and passage of the bill on 27 Apr., but the Senate rejected it the following day (General Advertiser, 8 Mar., 11, 28, and 30 Apr., and 1 May 1792).

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