Tony Gallagher is a member of the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society. His interest in postal history research began during his pursuit of a Master of Liberal Arts degree in 2018 at Stanford University. His graduate thesis “The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution as Seen Through the British Colonial Post Office Controversy” began as a study of the constitutional origins of the American Revolution which in turn led to further research involving the British Post Office in America at that time. Tony has also received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Bonaventure University.
Presentation Synopsis: The history of the British Post Office in America has been interpreted from many different angles. Some historians approach the topic from an economic viewpoint. Others examine the colonial post through extant postmarks, covers and ephemera. These approaches, and others, have made significant contributions to our knowledge of the British colonial post. But rarely have historians approached the British Post from the 18th century constitutional perspective of the British colonists in America. This perspective was revealed when the colonists protested the British Post in 1718, then in 1764 and again in 1774. I propose this approach opens a new understanding of the British Post as well as its constitutional role in the origins of the American Revolution.
To fully appreciate the controversy that surrounded the British Post, we must first attempt to understand the colonists themselves. Particularly, how the colonists saw themselves as part of the British Empire governed by “ancient rights and privileges.” As British subjects, the colonists considered the “ancient constitution” of England, and its common law emphasis on precedent and consent, as their birthright. A Briton’s rights, they asserted, follow him whether he’s “moving from London to Dover, from one side of the street to the other,” or from England to America. When the colonists asserted their rights, they argued from this frame of reference.
Understanding this reference system and seeing the British colonists as they saw themselves, not only sheds light on the British colonial post; it also reveals how British constitutionalism contributed to the broader conflict that erupted in 1776. The British Post controversy can be considered, quite simply, as a dress rehearsal for the American Revolution.
This presentation was recorded during the 11th Postal History Symposium - October 27, 2020
Video Duration: 47 minutes