Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Censorship

Mr. Wilson of Iowa has made a report from the Judiciary committee, upon the censorship of the press.  It speaks of the Censor as almost entirely destitute of all the requirements for the discharge of his delicate duties, ignorant of public affairs, and frequently going even beyond his instructions, which went too far in that they empowered him to deal with dispatches relating to civil as well as military matters.

Mr. Wilson has given a history of the censorship from the dark days of April, when it was the Secretary of the Treasury’s prerogative, to the time of its transference through the Secretary of War to the Secretary of State, and after the assumption of the Present Secretary of war, to that of the War Department again.  He shows how, under Seward’s regime, it was perverted from its original intent; how stock jobbing dispatch – one from Bull Run Russell – got over the wires, while their use was debarred to correspondents of loyal journals, as in the case of the Trent affair decision; and now an extract from the President’s Message was telegraphed to the New York Herald, while dispatches touching the message to other journals were suppressed.  The report recommends the passage of a resolution indicating the sense of congress that the supervisorship be strictly confined to such intelligence concerning projected naval or military movements as is likely to give aid and comfort to the enemy, unless the Government require to take exclusive possession of the wires, then to act strictly under the authority of law.  The Committee express surprise that the order modifying Stanton’s first order was not signed by Stanton instead of Sanford, and find no fault with the present censorship since confined, so far as known to the Committee on Military Matters.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 29, 1862, p. 1

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