American Notes, Chapter XVIII: Concluding Remarks

Dickens on American Journalism

“Schools may be erected, East, West, North, and South; pupils be taught, and masters reared, by scores upon scores of thousands, colleges may thrive, churches may be crammed, temperance may be diffused, and advancing knowledge in all other forms walk through the land with giant strides: but while the newspaper press of America is in, or near, its present abject state, high moral improvement in that country is hopeless.  Year by year, it must and will go back; year by year, the tone of public feeling must sink lower down; year by year, the Congress and the Senate must become of less account before all decent men; and year by year, the memory of the Great Fathers of the Revolution must be outraged more and more, in the bad life of their degenerate child.

Among the herd of journals which are published in the State, there are some, the reader scarcely need be told, of character and credit. . . . To those who are accustomed to the leading English journals, or to the reapectable journals of the Continent of Europe, to those who are accustomed to anything else in print and paper, it would be impossible, without an amount of extract for which I have neither space nor inclination, to convey an adequate idea of this frightful engine in America.  But if any man desire confirmation of my statement on this head, let him repair to any place in this city of London, where scattered numbers of these publications are to be found: and there, let him form his own opinion.”

— Charles Dickens

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