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1792 Postal Act

book opened to Instructions to the Deputy Postmasters page

The Postal Act of February 20, 1792 defined the character of the young Post Office Department. Spirited Congressional debate sought to separate old postal practices from the future purpose and direction of the postal service. Discussions examined issues of a free press, personal privacy and national growth. 

Under the act, newspapers would be allowed in the mails at low rates to promote the spread of information across the states. To ensure the sanctity and privacy of the mails, postal officials were forbidden to open any letters in their charge unless they were undeliverable. Finally, Congress assumed responsibility for the creation of postal routes, ensuring that mail routes would help lead expansion and development instead of only serve existing communities.