Arago: Legislation


Goddard's petition to the Continental Congress


Dated September 29, 1774, this manuscript in three folio pages records the petition presented by William Goddard to the Continental Congress for the establishment of a postal system that would compete with the colonial British Post Office.

William Goddard was one of several publishers who used private carriers to get their news past the prying eyes of the Crown's post office. Goddard experienced the abuse of authority by the British firsthand in Philadelphia after he formed a partnership with Benjamin Franklin to publish the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a paper sympathetic to the revolutionary cause. The local postmaster failed to deliver out-of-town newspapers to Goddard, depriving him of a critical source of information. The Chronicle was subsequently driven out of business when the Crown post refused to accept it in the mails. Goddard retaliated by designing a distinctly American postal system to challenge the Crown's post office. He founded the proposal on the principles of open communication, freedom from governmental interference, and the guaranteed free exchange of ideas.

Goddard presented his plan to the Continental Congress on October 5, 1774, nearly two years before the formal declaration of independence from England. Congress tabled Goddard's plan until after the battles of Lexington and Concord in the spring of 1775. On July 26, 1775, the plan, now known as the 'Constitutional Post', was adopted and implemented, ensuring communication between patriots and keeping the general populace informed of events during the American Revolution. Goddard’s system provided a link between members of the Committees of Correspondence, Committees of Safety, and the Sons of Liberty.

Goddard also achieved a measure of personal revenge as the revolutionary post forced the Crown's post office out of business in America on Christmas Day 1775. The Constitutional Post became the foundation of the United States' postal system.

September 29, 1774
paper; ink / handwritten
31.3 x 19.7 cm (12 5/16 x 7 3/4 in.)
Museum ID:

  • Petition, William Goddard to the Continental Congress
  • PAGE 2
  • PAGE 3
  • PAGE 4
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