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Expanding the Realm of Communications

John, Richard R.

In the early republic, the United States experienced a communications revolution with enduring consequences for American life. At its core was the rapid and unprecedented expansion of the main pillars of long-distance communications: the postal system, the stagecoach industry, and the periodical press. Together these institutions created the infrastructure for a distinctive informational environment that would hasten the emergence of a national market, mass political parties, and nationally oriented voluntary associations. This communications revolution was set in motion by innovative legislation guided by the novel philosophy that government had an obligation to provide the citizenry with access to information about public affairs. Its cornerstone was the Post Office Act of 1792, a landmark in American communications policy and one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation enacted in the half century between the adoption of the Constitution in 1788 and the Panic of 1837.

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An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation
University of North Carolina Press

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August 1, 2018