Spreading The News By Richard John
Since its creation in the year seventeen hundred and fifty five to the commercialization of the telegraph in the year eighteen hundred and forty four, the American Postal system has spurred growth in the communications sector even more than the telegraph. This book discusses how the American postal system revolutionized and brought change to the businesses and social life of people living in America. The writer describes how postal policy has played an important role in influencing the state affairs. Moreover, Richard John illustrates its impact on institutions such as the national market which are normally information-intensive. Particularly, he outlines its significance on ordinary Americans for example, the blacks, poor whites and blue collar workers showing us how the postal scheme created a countrywide society from a weak amalgam of confederated states. His views on the postal system have served to refresh our memories on one of the most important period in American history which has received very little attention.
Being both a symbol and representation of the American government in the early nineteenthcentury,John terms the postal system as a communication centerpiece which revolutionized the whole of America both politically and economically. In the early chapters of his book, John scrutinizes the structural innovations that made the postal system a dominant force in the American society. Factual to his thesis, Richard discuses the impact of postal system on transforming and shaping a brand new national globe for his discovered democratic state. Specifically, he discusses how the Post Office Act of nineteen ninety three laid the foundation for the impact of the postal system on the lives of American citizens when it allowed for the spread of newspapers through electronic mails, besides setting the basis for the expansion of the postal network. Furthermore, he explains how it defended the sanctity of electronic mails from inspection and scrutiny thereby heralding a new era where privacy as a tool in communication was upheld. Evidently, the administrative innovations brought about by the postal system under the leadership of Post Master General John McLean are also underlined by John. He does this by linking the administrative developments at federal level under John McLean’s leadership withthe political system, explaining how the political authority had profound effect on the structure of the postal system. For example, he notes that the expansion of Post Master General’s powers via completion of the systems of networks that served the postal system threatened to incline the fragile poise between postal system, federal states and the executive branch. It was this merging of power presenting as Post Office Department he explains, that eventually influenced the struggle for state rights during the infamous campaign of the one time presidential aspirant, Jackson. In one of his chapters dedicated to the Jacksons, John expounds on his analysis through illustrations on the attempts by the Jacksons to make the administrators of the federal state answerable to their negligence and knowledge of the republican creed. Moreover, he explained how the spoils which were based on office rotation causedchaos within managerial operations and institutions such as the Post Office Department and at the same time laying down the foundation for the establishment of mass party system discovered by the Jacksons in the eighteen twenty nine elections. Apparently, John links the analysis of the spoils system to the influence of the postal network as the focus of a fundamental federal state that very many advocates and human rights activists like the Jacksons put much emphasis on.
The intended audiences for this book are the historians; they might be historians of politics, bureaucracy or even business. This is because John recognizes the innovations made in administration and executive positions in a situation and period whennobody everexpected them. Particularly, business historians used such events to date important milestones achieved between the mid-nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Moreover, John proves the existence of the core management tools, systems clearly within the postal network. To illustrate, he shows how the postal system would have collapsedif its three-leveled administrative structure and distribution system were scrapped. To the political historians, John demonstrates how the Jacksons influenced the appointing authority thereby organizing their political needs and creed. This eventually, brought them into power via the mass party. In my opinion, John does well inexplaining his objectives to the intended audiences and I am quite sure therefore, the book will reach its intended audience.
As noted, John has efficiently supported his thesis by using his evidences relevantly and when required. For example, he relates the milestones achieved in the administrative and political structure to John McLean’s era as Post Master General. In a convincing manner, his evidence shows the evolution of the American society from a stateless system in to a national society bound together by a common ideology. This was done by creating communication and transport links which bore a network that seemingly made the American society a global village. It is worth mentioning however, that his arguments in some chapters are a bit unconvincing and definitely not compelling. For instance, his chapters touching on Sabbatarianism and abolitionism attribute to the postal system as a positive cause of change when in fact it defies the societal norms. Especially, when the postal offices open and transmit electronic mails on the Sabbath day which is meant to be a day of worship. Likewise, John also writes about the sending of abolitionist literature to the people living in the south.
This goes against the religious values on upholding human life. Furthermore,I find it hard to believe that the postal scheme was an agent of change in cases where for example, a group of human rights activists used the communications revolution brought about by the postal system to marshal nationwide support for their ideologies. Rather, it seems to me that the postal scheme was a means used incite battles in United States of America. The book revises historiography by linking and relating milestone events such as the discovery of the telegraph and the Jacksons clamor for power to the postal system. Moreover, it uses hem to explain the gradual transformation and importance of various sectors in the America society to the economy.
This book is deemed a masterpiece of literature because it enlightens us on where we came from and the contributions made by systems such as the postal system to our economy. Moreover, it encourages us to uphold and preserve such systems as they play an integral role in preserving our national heritage.
Richard John.Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1995
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