In May 1862 Desmond G. Fitzgerald, the editor of the Electrician, lamented that
telegraphy has been until lately an art occult even to many of the votaries of electrical science.
Submarine telegraphy, initiated by a bold and tentative process – the laying of the Dover cable in
the year 1850 – opened out a vast field of opportunity both to merit and competency, and to
unscrupulous determination. For the purposes of the latter, the field was to be kept close [sic], and
science, which can alone be secured by merit, more or less ignored.
To Fitzgerald, the ‘occult’ status of the telegraph looked set to continue, with recent
reports of scientific counterfeits, unscrupulous electricians and financially motivated
saboteurs involved in the telegraphic art. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald reassured his readers
that the confidence of ‘those who act for the public’ had been restored by earnest
electricians, whose ‘moral cause’ would ultimately be felt and who
‘may be safely trusted even in matters where there is an option
between a private interest and a public benefit’.
As a prominent crusader for the telegraph, Fitzgerald voiced the concerns of many
electricians seeking public confidence and investment in their trade in the wake of the failed
submarine telegraphs of the 1850s. The spread of proper knowledge about the telegraph
would hinge on securing an adequate supply of backers and the construction of telegraphy
as a truly moral cause – an art cleansed of fraudsters, ignoramuses and dogmatists.