Diary in America: With Remarks on Its Institutions

By Frederick Marryat | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLIV
Newspaper Press

Mr. Tocqueville observes "that not a single individual of the twelve millions who inhabit the territory of the United States has as yet dared to propose any restrictions upon the liberty of the press." This is true, and all the respectable Americans acknowledge that this liberty has degenerated into a licentiousness which threatens the most alarming results, as it has assumed a power which awes not only individuals, but the government itself. A due liberty allowed to the press may force a government to do right, but a licentiousness may compel it into error. . . . The press in the United States is licentious to the highest possible degree, and defies control; my object is to point out the effect of this despotism upon society, and to show how injurious it is in every way to the cause of morality and virtue.

Of course, the newspaper press is the most mischievous, in consequence of its daily circulation, the violence of political animosity, and the want of respectability in a large proportion of the editors. The number of papers published and circulated in Great Britain, among a population of twenty-six millions, is calculated at about three hundred and seventy. The number published in the United States, among thirteen millions, are supposed to vary between nine and ten thousand. Now the value of newspapers may be

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