Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
POSTOFFICE DEPARTMENT. This is one of the executive departments of the United States government, established by act of May 8, 1794. (1 Stat. at Large, p. 357.) The head of the department is the postmaster general (salary $8,000), who is appointed by the president and senate, and is a member of the cabinet, by a custom dating back to the administration of President Jackson. Prior to this the postmaster general, although his office existed since 1789, had not been regarded as one of the president's constitutional advisers. His duties embrace the direction of the postoffice department, and the management of the domestic and foreign mail service; the award and execution of contracts; the negotiation of postal treaties with foreign governments (under direction of the president); the appointment of all clerks in his department; and the commissioning and appointment of all postmasters receiving salaries of $1,000 or. under per annum (all above that standard being presidential appointments). This vast patronage involves the appointment of more than 40,000 officers of the United States, while the patronage in the form of mail contracts by railway, steamboat and horse or stage conveyance (the latter known as "star routes"), extends to millions of dollars annually. He has, besides, the power to establish and discontinue postoffices (that of establishing new post routes being reserved by congress); to control the styles, etc., of all postage stamps, envelopes, postal cards, etc.; to prescribe the manner of keeping and rendering accounts; to instruct all persons in the postal service as to their duties; and to control the expenditure of all moneys appropriated for the postoffice service, amounting to over $40,000,000 annually. The postmaster general is required to make an annual report to congress upon the mail contracts, land and water mails, receipts and expenditures, postal business, domestic and foreign, fines imposed upon contractors, etc. He has power to fix and adjust the salaries of postmasters under the general regulations of congress, to make special orders providing extra service or compensation at postoffices, to employ special agents, to establish money order offices, etc.
—The subordinate officers employed in the postoffice department comprise three assistant postmasters general ($4,000 each), an assistant attorney general for the postoffice department ($4,000), a superintendent of money order system ($3,500), a superintendent of foreign mails ($3,000), a chief clerk ($2,200), a law clerk ($2,500), a topographer ($2,500) and 556 clerks, laborers, etc., at a total expenditure for salaries of the department, of $681,980 (fiscal year 1884); besides contingent expenses, amounting to $129,000. The salaries of postmasters for the same year amounted to $9,250,000; cost of mail transportation $21,000,000; foreign mail transportation, $350,000.
—The three grand divisions of the postoffice department business place in charge of the first assistant postmaster general: 1, appointment of postmasters; 2, establishment or removal of postoffices; 3, adjustment of salaries; 4, the free delivery or letter-carrier system in cities; 5, commissions, bonds, etc., of postmasters; and 6, distribution of official blanks, letter balances, etc., to postoffices. The second assistant postmaster general is charged with 1, the supervision of all contracts for carrying the mails; 2, fixing frequency, conveyance and times on all mail routes; 3, advertisements; 4, the inspection of the carrying and delivery service, mail failures, etc., and 5, the issuing of mail locks and keys, mail bags, etc. The office of the third assistant postmaster general has charge of financial business, involving: 1, receiving and issuing drafts; 2, issuing of postage stamps, envelopes and postal cards; 3, the correspondence of the registered letter system; and 4, the examination and return to the writers of dead letters.
—The money order system is in charge of a superintendent, who keeps the accounts, etc., of the issue of domestic and international money orders, and of the new postal notes.
—The superintendent of foreign mails supervises the ocean mail steamship service, and all foreign postal arrangements.
—The business of the general postoffice is conducted in a massive and ornate marble building, covering a square of ground in the heart of Washington. Its architecture is Corinthian, its dimensions 300 feet by 204 feet, and its cost $1,700,000.
—The following is a list of postmasters general, with their terms of office, from the beginning of the government:
A. R. SPOFFORD.
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