Diligently researched and compiled by Conrad Kalmbacher, readers are escorted back to 1859-1860 to witness the real-life decisions and consequences of Postmaster General Joseph Holt. Drawing on original House and Senate documents, postmasters general reports, and diaries of the time, “Secession and the U. S. Mail: The Postal Service, the South, and Sectional Controversy” is poised to resonate with readers interested in American history and causes of the Civil War.
Fort Worth, TX -- (SBWIRE) -- 07/18/2013 -- While the southern United States has spent much of history dealing with hardship, few acknowledge and understand the region’s fraught relationship with the Post Office Department. While letters may now arrive daily, a trip back to Old America affords a very different picture; one that includes fifty years of dissension between the South and the Post Office Department.
“Secession and the U. S. Mail: The Postal Service, the South, and Sectional Controversy”, by Conrad Kalmbacher, is the most definitive account of the southern mails controversy during the administration of Postmaster General Holt.
In “Secession and the U. S. Mail: The Postal Service, the South and Sectional Controversy,” Conrad Kalmbacher tells the little known story of over fifty years of dissension between the Post Office Department and the South, culminating in the department’s role in the events leading to secession and the Guns of April 1861. Severe reductions and retrenchment in mail service throughout the South and on Mississippi River steamboats during the administration of Postmaster General Joseph Holt, 1859-1860, angered southern senators and congressmen against the federal government.
Deploring the postmaster general’s policy, southern leaders called Holt, a Southerner himself from Kentucky, “our bitter foe” who, “by a mere stroke of his pen” had curtailed mail service in the South “to such a degree as to render it no service at all.” Six months before his state seceded from the Union, Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina threatened that, “My section of the country would just abandon [the U. S. Mail] at once and let us put up a postal service of our own.” Because of this bitter anger, one Pulitzer Prize-winning historian characterized Holt’s policy as “one of the less tangible factors leading to secession.”
Historian Kalmbacher details how antagonisms between the Postal Service and the South had their beginnings early on in American history: “Continual debates questioned whether the South received its fair share of federal dollars for post offices and post routes. Southerners defended the maintenance of unprofitable mail routes in remote areas. Negro postriders caused resentment among Southerners. And years of controversy inflamed the South over the distribution of abolitionist literature through the mails, resulting in attacks on post offices, the burning of mail sacks, and even imprisonment under state censorship laws prohibiting reading or possessing antislavery publications delivered by the U. S. Mail!”
Vivid examples portray anger over mail reductions as part of impassioned sentiment in Congress as the nation rushed toward disunion. Fistfights on the floor of the House were narrowly averted and congressmen walked armed through the halls. One senator lamented that in both chambers, “The only persons who do not have a revolver and a knife are those with two revolvers.”
Kalmbacher’s research also shows how Holt’s policies involved the Post Office in an unexpected way during the critical election of 1860. The Postmaster General conducted investigations aimed at corruption in big-city post offices – as a result the Democratic Party suffered at the polls to the benefit of the Republicans and Abraham Lincoln.
Drawing on House and Senate documents, postmasters general reports, and Congressional debates, as well as personal letters, diaries, memoirs, and newspapers of the time, the author makes extensive use of primary sources.
As the author explains, his book comes at a time when the role of government is a vital topic. “Today, when the role of government is a central issue in American politics, it is revealing to consider the ominous signposts of 1859-1860, as the Post Office Department – at that time the principal political agency of the federal government – became embroiled in overheated debate, partisan bickering, and failed compromise.” And continuing, “The debates over the southern mails and Holt’s policies fanned the fires of rebellion – causing this federal government institution, the Post Office, to become enmeshed in intense sectional controversy – leading to secession.”
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“Secession and the U. S. Mail: The Postal Service, the South, and Sectional Controversy” is available from AuthorHouse, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through local booksellers.
About Conrad Kalmbacher
Conrad Kalmbacher has a B. A. degree in history and political science from Texas Christian University and an M. A. degree in history from the University of Texas at El Paso, writing a master’s thesis on postal history. He served in the United States Army, 1952-1954. A forty-year career in education includes teaching American history and government at high school and college levels, and serving as an adult education administrator and a Human Resources director in the El Paso, Texas public schools. He and his wife, Margaret, have been married fifty-nine years, have two daughters and three sons, and live in Fort Worth, Texas. At 82, and a military history enthusiast, he still loves to trod over historic battlefields in the United States and on foreign fields.