Charleston Post Office Break-in 1835

In Charleston, South Carolina, on the night of July 29, 1835, a small group of men broke into the post office and stole American Anti-Slavery Society periodicals waiting to be delivered. These newspapers were part of the Society’s mass mailing to Southern states to persuade slaveholders of the evils of slavery.

Even though the examination of and refusal to deliver periodicals was against federal law, the Postmaster General, Amos Kendall, feared abolitionist literature would incite rebellion. In response to the Charleston break-in, Kendall endorsed the surveillance of abolitionist material. Abolitionists, as well as many Northerners, believed Kendall’s support for monitoring betrayed American civil liberties and undermined the entire postal system.