1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Burleson, Albert Sidney
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Burleson, Albert Sidney
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BURLESON, ALBERT SIDNEY (1863- ), American lawyer and politician, was born at San Marcos, Tex., June 7 1863. He graduated from the university of Texas in 1884 and was admitted to the bar in 1885. For five years he was assistant city attorney in Austin, and from 1891 to 1898 was attorney of the 26th judicial district of Texas. From 1899 to 1913 he was a member of Congress and was Postmaster-General in President Wilson's Cabinet from 1913 to 1921. Soon after taking office in 1913 he aroused a storm of protest, especially on the part of the large daily newspapers, by declaring that he would enforce the law (requiring publications to print, among other things, a sworn statement of paid circulation), which had been held in abeyance by his predecessor until its constitutionality might be confirmed. The Supreme Court enjoined him from carrying out his purpose. During the World War he issued, in 1915, an order barring unneutral envelopes and cards from the mails, and after America became a belligerent he instituted a censorship designed to suppress treasonable and seditious newspapers. The purpose was reasonable, but it was impossible to draw an ideal line and the result was a general alienation of the press. Later he introduced the “zone system,” whereby postage on second-class mail was charged according to distance. In Aug. 1918 the telephone and telegraph systems were taken over temporarily by the Government and their control vested in the postmaster-general. He was an avowed advocate of permanent Government ownership of the telegraph and telephone, and in Dec. 1918 urged legislation to that end. In Nov. 1918, five days after the Armistice was signed, he took over the cables. He aroused the hostility of labour by his opposition to organization and strikes among postal employees. As early as 1913 he had urged repeal of the law allowing them to organize. He was interested in extending the parcel post, and worked for the promotion of aerial mail service.