James Madison Papers

Postal Road Survey, [5 February] 1796

Postal Road Survey

[5 February 1796]

Mr. Madison after some general remarks on the subject, offered a resolution, the purport of which is to authorise the President of the United States to cause a survey of the main post road from Maine to Georgia;1 the expence to be defrayed out of the surplus revenue of the post office.

Gazette of the U.S., 9 Feb. 1796 (reprinted in Philadelphia Gazette, 10 Feb. 1796, Aurora General Advertiser, 12 Feb. 1796 [debate erroneously dated 8 Feb. 1796] and Independent Gazetteer, 17 Feb. 1796 [also dated 8 Feb. 1796]). JM’s resolution was tabled.

1The Post Office Act of 1792 authorized Congress to establish the nation’s post roads. At that time, mail over the principal road from the district of Maine to Virginia was carried three times a week, but great difficulties were experienced in getting regular service south of Petersburg, Virginia. Chauncey Goodrich, however, suspected that JM’s resolution was “connected with the Federal City. Roads in the southern states,” he observed, “are but little better than in a state of nature, and when the whole shall become disclosed, I imagine the result will be to draw the revenue of the Post Office to that quarter” (Carl H. Scheele, A Short History of the Mail Service [Washington, 1970], pp. 66–67; Goodrich to Oliver Wolcott, Sr., 21 Feb. 1796, Gibbs, Memoirs of the Administrations of Washington and Adams, 1:303).

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