The Censorship of the Telegraph
Jersey City American Standard, May 4, 1861
A terrible halli-balloo is raised by certain papers of the ultra-Republican stripe because the Government exercises a censorship over the telegraph, preventing such information from being flashed over the country as will acquaint us in every State, as fully in regard to what may be transpiring as though we were in our former position of peace and quiet. The cry of tyranny, proscription, usurpation and the like is raised against the government, and to listen to the doleful cries that issue from the lusty lungs of these agitators one would fancy that a serious outrage had been perpetrated upon personal liberty, and the initiatory steps taken for the suppression of even the press itself.
We cannot sympathize with this senseless and interested cry—a cry arising more from the fact that stunning sensation and false despatches are suppressed, which had been gotten up as a matter of merchandise and with a view to increase the sale of certain papers, than from any considerations of patriotism and duty.
It is very justly held by many thoughtful persons that much of the difficulty under which we now labor has resulted from the unscrupulous abuse of the telegraph by leading papers. By their daily sensation dispatches, the public mind was stimulated to an unhealthy condition, and the irritation was never allowed time to subside. New fuel was constantly added to the flame which was already burning with sufficient fierceness, and there can be little doubt that the future historian, when summing up all the causes which plunged the country first into dissension and then civil war, will give a prominent place to the contradictory, exaggerated and inflammatory telegraphic dispatches which filled the columns of our more influential papers with startling capitals and display lines.