Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

marked as the very opposite of that which the Whigs claim exclusively as their own? Will they bring thrift and a jealous regard for the public faith again into fashion? Will they condemn all speculative schemes of crafty financiers? Will they take the true interests of the State at once in hand, and before it is too late, seek to save her from the fate of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania?

These are questions which a few months will solve, and there is little reason to doubt their solution in the right shape. A just regard for the slow but sure development of our resources, and the welfare and continuance of the republic, demands it too imperatively to be disregarded by the honest representatives of the people.

[blocks in formation]

JOURNALISM.

MR. CARLYLE, in his rhapsodical but striking way, has given this passage: "Great is Journalism. Is not every able editor a ruler of the world, being a persuader of it: though self-elected, yet sanctioned by the sale of his numbers? Whom indeed the world has the readiest method of deposing, should need be; that of merely doing nothing to him; which ends in starvation." Again, says the same original writer: "There is no church, sayest thou? The voice of prophecy has gone dumb! This is even what I dispute; but, in any case, hast thou not still preaching enough? A preaching friar settles himself in every village and builds a pulpit, which he calls newspaper. Therefrom he preaches what most momentous doctrine is in him, for man's salvation; and dost not thou listen and believe?"

We cite these passages, because they recognise an important fact, the fact. that Journalism is a distinct and lofty profession, exercising an influence over society like that of the king over his subjects, or the preacher over his hearers. As much as has been said of the power of the press, it is a power that has never yet been measured. Let us, then, detain the reader with a remark or two upon the functions of editorship, and the place it holds among the moral agencies of the world.

No man requires a larger ranger of intellect, more varied acquirements, or greater strength of character, than the conductor of a public journal. Of course, we allude to one who acts with a full sense of the dignity and worth of his calling, and in the conscientious desire to discharge its duties. Neither statesman, lawyer, nor divine, moves in a more extended sphere, or has more occasion for the use of the noblest faculties both of mind and heart. He stands in immediate contact with the public mind. He furnishes the intellectual aliment of the people. He gives a tone to public sentiment; is a leader of public opinion; and the guardian and guide of public morals. Thousands of men, each morning and evening, listen to his voice, are moved by his persuasions, are corrected by his rebukes, or corrupted by his license. The characters of men are in some degree placed in his hands. He may elevate the bad, or traduce the good. He can stimulate the worst passions of inflamed times, or give an impulse to wise and beneficent movements. This influence differs from that of others who operate upon the public mind, in that, while theirs is confined to particular and distant occasions, his acts incessantly. The orator agitates only while he is speaking; the preacher is hemmed

in by the walls of his church and the limits of a Sabbath-day; the statesman seldom steps out of his bureau; the man of science is fixed among his retorts and crucibles; and the teacher has an existence only in his school-room. But the editor is perpetually at work. As the mails carry his speculations from one city to another, and from one state to another, his action spreads like the waves of a pool, in concentric circles, and before the last ripple has subsided, the waters at the centre are again disturbed. Even while he sleeps, his thoughts are awake, they are diffusing good or evil, they are entering other mind's, to mould them to a better or worse condition.

"They rest not, — stay not, on, still on they wing
Their flight"-

and whether benign or pestiferous, are producing their inevitable impressions. "Give me," is a frequent saying, "the making of the songs of a people, and I will make their characters ;" can it not be said, with equal propriety, Give me the making of the newspapers of a nation, and I will make its minds. The newspaper is everywhere, in the counting-house and in the parlor, in the bar-room and in the bed-room, on board of the steamboat and in the student's chamber. All subjects are discussed in it; all classes of men read it; and all men, to an extent, are affected by what it contains. Napoleon, with a sagacity which characterized nearly all the actions of his life, understood this power, when, as First Consul of France, he wished to add to the title of Chief Captain of the age, that of its leading journalist. Like Richelieu, he felt that "in the hands of men, entirely great, the purse is mightier than the sword." "To discharge fully the duties of a public journalist," says one who was so near an illustration of his own remarks that our only regret is, that he did not live long enough to complete it, "to discharge fully the duties of a public journalist, would be to elevate the vocation to the loftiest summit of human dignity and usefulness. A public journalist, animated with a due sense of the obligations of his responsible trust, and gifted with the faculties, intellectual and physical, for their adequate performance, would well deserve to be a public leader in a more extended signification of the phrase than that in which it is understood. He should have a mind filled with a great variety of human learning, and a ready command of all its stores. He should have a head cool, clear, and sagacious; a heart warm and benevolent; a nice sense of justice; honesty that no temptation could corrupt; in

• William Leggett.

trepidity that no danger could intimidate; and independence superior to every consideration of mere interest, enmity, or friendship. He should possess the power of diligent application, and be capable of enduring great fatigue. He should have a temperament so happily mingled, that while he easily kindled at public error or injustice, his indignation should never transgress the bounds of judgment, but, in its strongest expression, show that smoothness and amenity which the language of choler always lacks. He should, in short, be such a man as a contemporary writer described that' sturdy democrat, old Andrew Fletcher of Saltouna gentleman, steady in his principles; of nice honor; abundance of learning; brave as the sword he wears, and bold as a lion; a sure friend and irreconcileable enemy; who would lose his life readily to serve his country, and would not do a base thing to save it.' This is the beau ideal of a conductor of a public newspaper."

But it is an ideal that, like most of the ideals of men of ardent temperament, it will take a long time to realize. Whoever will cast his eye over the newspaper-press, not of this country, but of Christendom, will find that not in a solitary instance has there a man arisen, who has arrived at the high character that pertains to the profession. The same remark, it is true, may be made of every other profession; but it is particularly true in regard to editorship. There have been divines to whom Cowper's beautiful description of St. Paul might well be applied; there have been Fletchers, Halls, Brainards, and Channings; there have been Mansfields, Romillys, and Marshalls, in law; Garricks, Siddons, Kerables, and Talmas, as actors; there have been Boerhaves, Jenners, Goods, and Bells, in physic; there have been Boyles, Newtons, and Bacons, in science; and Cæsars, Bonapartes, and Washingtons, in war; in short, in all departments of intellectual exertion there have been crowds of notable men; but nowhere on the lists of great or distinguished persons do we find the name of one whose celebrity has been acquired in the walk of the Journalist. Carrel has produced an impression in France, Fonblanque in England, and Leggett in the United States, but it has been an impression as fleeting as that of leaves driven by the wind. How are we to account for this extraordinary fact? Why is it that a vehicle so intimately connected with human happiness as the press, so powerful over social issues and human destinies, has so seldom been desired by men of the loftiest endowments? This is a great inquiry, and we shall reply to it briefly.

First; it is not that the sphere of the Journalist is too contracted for a noble ambition; for it is a sphere as wide as the

universe of intelligence, and as permanent as language. As a means of swaying the minds of men, which is the essence of power, as an instrument for elevating society, which is the object of goodness, as a vehicle for the expression and enforcement of thought, it is without an equal among all the constituted agencies of human utterance. No voice reaches so far as the voice of the press, no book arrests a wider attention, or penetrates a deeper retirement than the newspaper.

Secondly, it is not because the subjects with which newspaper writing is mostly occupied, are temporary and incidental. That species of composition is not confined to chronicling events as they arise, to recording the incidents of the day, or to fighting the battles of transient parties. Higher objects often engage it. The instructing of society in the nature of government, the inculcating of great principles, the application of judicious criticism, the development and controlling of social tendencies, the direction of public opinion, the exposition of public characters, the prosecution of grand moral reforms, and the correction of prevailing iniquities and frauds, are among its principal functions. The editor is stationed, as a sentinel upon the watch-towers of society, to warn it of the approach of dangers; to summon it to battle, and to cheer it on to success.

Thirdly, it is not because the organization of the press is such as to cripple its activity and arrest its influence. No better organization could be required for it than is established in this country. It is founded on a basis of perfect freedom. That liberty of action, which it is the aim of the democratic doctrine to introduce into all kinds of business, it has enjoyed from the beginning. Government has never dared to impose a restraint upon it: it has been open to every variety of ability: it has been exposed to the stimulus of competition: it has received favor by all political parties. Whoever may have conceived that he possessed talent enough to undertake a public journal, has been at liberty to do so, and he has had the opportunity of displaying all the enthusiasm and talent that he could bring to the task. No censorship nor restraint, save those of public opinion, have tended to impede the full and free development of the energies of Journalism.

We must look elsewhere for the causes of the singular fact to which we refer. We must look to journalists themselves, and especially to the community in which they live. It is because so low a standard has been established in regard to the efforts of editors, that so few men of the strongest intellect and character have desired it, that they have sought distinction in other vocations, less influential, but supposed to be more honorable. It is because

« НазадПродовжити »