Dawson's Fort Wayne Daily Times, April 5, 1861
There is certainly for the people a great cause of complaint toward the press of the North at this juncture in our national affairswe mean more the newsmongers in the Capitoline District than the press generally, for it is from those men that the press, out of that District, gets the multitude of "Sensation Articles" which inflame the public mind on the subject of our national troubles. Strange is it, that every conceivable rumor is sent outoften in the same day, and as often the very reverse of each other. And then again, one day the correspondents of the chief papers of the East and West will assure the public that the Administration has reinforced Fort Pickens, and intends to reduce the South by military invasion, and throw supplies and force into Sumterthe next day, without any particular cause, the same correspondents recede from their assumptions and declare all is for peace. The third day comesand behold the President is about to recognize the Southern Commissioners, and through them the independence of "The Confederate States of the South," even without the action of Congress or of [a] National Convention, and the next day this is in turn exploded. On the fourth day is heralded, as a fact, that there is such a large Union feeling at the South that it is about to prevail, and that this is aided by the starvation and want in the army of the South, &c., &c.
Now all this thing has done and is doing a prodigious amount of harm. The press of the country is thus, for good cause, subjected to the censure of the peoplethe people themselves kept constantly in a feverish state of mind, and their love for the country and disposition to support the President in his just endeavors to solve the unparalleled difficulty much weakened and tending to indifference. Patriotism there is left quite enough, we think, to bring the country through the troubles, but these things thus above named do not allow it to concentrate and thus become efficient for the good end.
What intelligent man is there who, having read these "Sensation Articles," does not in his best judgment condemn the press? And how is it possible for him to avoid the conclusion that it, though of its sacred constitutional guarantees of unrestraint, has terminated its liberty in the most dangerous licentiousness, which is producing evils which, for that constitutional immunity, it was designed it should prevent?
So quick and fast do these sensation articles come to the eye of the people that they confuse the public mind, and leave it no time for that second sober thought which is generally right and efficient. Our public servants are found to be unconsciously yielding to what appears to be the public will, and thus present the lamentable spectacle of being led into error by the masses, instead of teaching them in all that pertains to the science of true government as officers should teach. The people, when properly informed, are rarely found coming to wrong conclusions; but now-a-day the press is so venalso under the control of mere politiciansthat it does seem that its effort is directed how best to mislead the people, and having so misled them, how to keep in the current of wrong which its own venality, unscrupulousness and duplicity have helped to create. The masses rely on the honesty of the press to inform themand the press for the sake of being popular with them, study first the bent of public mind, and then falls straightway into that currentthus sacrificing reason to passion and prejudicelight to darkness and principle to policy. To be true to truth often involves the Editor in the unpleasant condition of differing with many of his patronsbut he should, instead of yielding to the error, remember that "error of opinion may be tolerated, when reason is left free to combat it"and yet few at the tripod act on this maxim, and failing are found day after day, and season after season, confronted by their opponents with dogmas the most paradoxical.
Then, what may we expect in a government whose press is thus contributing to aggravate the evils which threaten our national existence? And when we reflect for a moment that the spoils of office form the greatest desideratum of contending parties in this government, we have but to go to history and read that once on a time when a proud government was being assailed by enemies at her very walls her people within were violating the citidal of public virtue and national strength in the strife for office, and place, and power.
But let us return to the subject which we began to write upon. We hear, day after day, of war intended by President Lincoln; and those who want war believe eagerly that which they hope for earnestly, and whenever a sensation article for war comes out, they resist the effulgence of reason; they lose their love of country in the delusion that a party can be maintained by a war which can have no other result than that of destroying the government which is just as necessary a prerequisite to the existence of party as the fabric of civil authority in any State of this Union is necessary to the constitutional exercise of military authority therein in aid of that civil authority.
In all that we have written on the subject of our internal troubles since November, it cannot have escaped the observation of the reader, that we have opposed anything like a coercive policy, and have regarded the policy of President Lincoln in the same light, and when we have tried to allay public apprehension of danger on that score, we did so because, as we believe the war policy so bad, so we believed the danger of war being made very chimerical; and in looking over the whole field we still have to get the first evidence coming from men most "in the confidence of the court," and hence far more likely to be informed than news mongers who eave-drop, to convince us that we are mistaken in our interpretation of the true constitutional and peace policy of the Administration. To news-mongers we look for nothing but evil to come, and though of this we cannot see how it is that they are so impudent as to scatter their vaticinations with the same coolness that a political philosopher speaks whose prescience is undoubted and whose responses on all questions of public policy are oracular.
Let the public mind be composed, for it is better to be of that state, no matter what phase public affairs may assume.
Last Updated: July 10, 2007 3:44 PM