The United States Postmaster General

Steven P. Rosen, CPA, MBA, CPA

The United States Postmaster General

The History and Power of the Office of the Postmaster General

By: Steven P. Rosen, CPA, MBA, CPA

The position of the Postmaster General  (PMG) is something that has existed since before the Declaration of  Independence or the United States Constitution.  Benjamin Frankilin was  appointed to the first holder of the title by the Continental Congress  on July 26, 1775 and was later supplanted by Richard Bache and Ebenezer  Hazard as roles of the key players in the American Revolution and the  formation of the United States of America unfolded.

In the early years of our country, the  position was one of a reward to loyalty to the President but was one of  great importance as it was a central a vital service to a young  developing country as it was the “Post Office” was the only way to  safely send communications among the former colonies, conduct interstate  commerce, and resolve financial transactions as the banking system was  not clearly defined.  This why under Article I, Section 8, Clause 7  established the power to form Post Offices and Post Roads, these powers,  rules and regulations are covered under Title 18, Chapter 83 of the  United States Code. The powers granted under these laws while modified  on the surface over the years have not been repealed or replaced by any means.

George Washington signed the first  legislation creating the United Post Office Department (USPOD) in 1792  but the term,” Post Office”, was used until 1823 when then Postmaster  General John McLean started using the official name of Postal  Department.  The power and prestige of the USPOD changed significantly  when Andrew Jackson appointed William T. Barry to the position of  Postmaster General and made him a sitting member of the cabinet. In  order to maintain the integrity of the USPOD, the Pendelton Civil  Service Reform Act of 1838 removed the political spoils aspect of the  appointment of PMG to be subject to confirmation by the United States  Senate.  Further, this also when the practice of the PMG negotiating  treaties between other countries and agreements for the establishment of  international mail service.  This latter led to the formation of the  Universal Postal Union which is an assemblage of the entirety of the  postal services around the planet.  A “governing body” of which the PMG  still sits on today,

With the unreliability of the banking  system over the years led the USPOD the be brought to service in  providing a stable and uniform way for citizens to safely and securely  conduct business.  The UPOD was responsible for the issuance of postage  stamps (a form of legal tender), transportation of gold and currency  through the mail, train and ocean vessel, and with the formation of the  United States Postal Savings System in 1910 was a primary source of  banking in the country.  Even the transportation of gold, silver, and  copper for the United States Mint and Department of the Treasury was the  duty of the USPOD.

Additionally, during times of war, the  USPOD was the primary transaction source for War Bonds to finance  military operations.  If it was not for the reliability of the USPOD and  the reliability of its Postal Savings System, the United States would  have not recovered from the Great Depression as it took until the 1950  for people to regain “trust” in banks.

The USPOD was the cornerstone of United  States economics and commerce from 1823 until 1967 when Lyndon B.  Johnson without legal authority dismantled the Postal Savings System by  Executive Order.  This was a deliberate and calculated measure to  financially destabilize the USPOD that led to funding issues, labor  strife, and political gamesmanship that survives to this day.

Things changed with Richard M. Nixon  signing the Postal Reorganization Act in 1970 that change the USPOD to  the United States Postal Service (USPS) and formed the Postal Regulatory  Commission (PRG) for oversight.  While the name changed and the  management structure got a new look, not of the duties, responsibilities  of the Post Office changed nor the powers of the PMG except for the  removal of the position as a cabinet post.  However, the right of  appointment and ultimate control of the USPS remains in the oval office.

Another item of note is that the reported  financial woes of the Post Service is not from its operations, but from  the requirements of the Posta Reform Act of 1996 that required the USPS  to pre-fund 75% of its pension, welfare and benefit obligations in  advance.  This is a requirement that is not put upon any other agency,  business, department or non-government organization in existence.

Whether you call it the Post Office, United  States Post Office Department, or United States Postal Service, the  duties, responsibility of the Postmaster General is the same, they and  their department are the ones responsible for the following, just to  name a few:

  • Overseeing all U.S. Postal Service Operations Worldwide.

  • Protecting the Assets, Property, and Personnel of the U.S. Postal Service

  • Training of all U.S. Postal Service Personnel

  • Per Executive Order 11002, Responsible for the oversight,  development, deployment, and maintenance of the United State Emergency  Registration System.   Coordinate with the Defense Department, Office of  Emergency Planning, and other Federal Agencies and Departments to  provide for the National Defense and the protection of United States  Citizenry, Property, and Territories.

  • Directing Postal Employees to provide centralized response, welfare  inquires, and provide the forms of Procurement, Transportation, Storage,  and Distribution of necessary response to a National Emergency in  Coordination with the Department of Defense.
    Delivering and Overseeing Mail Operations for the Department of  Defense and all its bases, facilities, offices, and outposts around the  world.

  • Represent the interests of the United States before the Universal Postal Union.

  • Act as the Liaison  between the USPS and all other U.S. Government  Agencies and affiliates to guarantee and insure the mail services needs  of said organizations.