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TRIBUTE TO GOETHE
(Speech of Bayard Taylor at a reception given in his honor by the Goethe Club, New York City, March 20, 1878. The reception was held in recognition of Mr. Taylor's appointment as United States Minister to Germany. Dr. A. Ruppaner, President of the Club, presided.)
It is difficult for me to respond fitly to what you have done, fellow-members of the Goethe Club, and what my old friend Parke Godwin has said. I may take gratefully whatever applies to an already accomplished work, but I cannot accept any reference to any work yet to be done without a feeling of doubt and uncertainty. No man can count on future success without seeming to invoke the evil fates.
I am somewhat relieved in knowing that this reception, by which I am so greatly honored, is not wholly owing to the official distinction which has been conferred upon me by the President. I am informed that it had been already intended by the Goethe Club as a large and liberal recognition of my former literary labors, and I will only refer a moment to the diplomatic post in order that there may be no misconception of my position in accepting it.
The fact that for years past I have designed writing a new biography of the great German master, is generally known; there was no necessity for keeping it secret; it has been specially mentioned by the press since my appointment, and I need not hesitate to say that the favor of our government will give me important facilities in the prosecution of the work. [Applause.]
But the question has also been asked, here and thereand very naturally—is a Minister to a foreign Court to be appointed for such a purpose? I answer, No! The Minister's duty to the government and to the interests of his fellow-citizens is always paramount. I shall go to Berlin with the full understanding of the character of the services I may be expected to render, and the honest determination to fulfil them to the best of my ability.
But, as my friends know, I have the power and the habit of doing a great deal of work; and I think no one will complain if, instead of the recreation which others allow themselves, I should find my own recreation in another form of labor.
I hope to secure at least two hours out of each twentyfour for my own work, without detriment to my official duties and if two hours are not practicable, one must suffice. I shall be in the midst of the material I most needI shall be able to make the acquaintance of the men and women who can give me the best assistance—and without looking forward positively to the completion of the task, I may safely say that this opportunity gives me a cheerful hope of being able to complete it.
I was first led to the study of Goethe's life by the necessity of making the full meaning of his greatest poem clear to the readers of our language. I found that he himself was a better guide for me than all his critics and commentators. I learned to understand the grand individuality of his nature, and his increasing importance as an intellectual force in our century. I owe as much to him in the way of stimulus as to any other poet whatever. Except Shakespeare, no other poet has ever so thoroughly inculcated the value of breadth, the advantage of various knowledge, as the chief element of the highest human culture. Through the form of his creative activity, Shakespeare could only teach this lesson indirectly. Goethe taught it always in the most direct and emphatic manner, for it was the governing principle of his nature. It is not yet fifty years since he died, but he has already become a permanent elemental power, the operation of which will continue through many generations to come. The fact that an association bearing his name exists and flourishes here in New York is a good omen for our own development.
We grow, not by questioning or denying great minds~ which is a very prevalent fashion of the day—but by reverently accepting whatever they can give us. The “heir of all the ages” is unworthy of his ancestors if he throws their legacy away. It is enough for me if this honor to-night reaches through and far beyond me, to Goethe. It is his name not mine, which has brought us together. Let me lay upon him-he is able to bear even that much—whatever of the honor I am not truly worthy to receive, and to thank you gratefully for what remains. [Applause.)
(Speech of Slason Thompson at the seventy-fourth dinner and fourth “ Ladies' Night" of the Sunset Club, Chicago, Ill., April 26, 1894. The Secretary, Alexander A. McCormick, presided. Mr. Thompson spoke on the general topic of the evening's discussion, “The Ethics of the Press.”]
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN: It would be interesting, I think, for the gentlemen of the press who are here to-night if they could find out from what newspaper in Chicago the last speaker (Howard L. Smith) derives his idea of the press of Chicago. I stand here to say that there is no such paper printed in this city. There may be one that, perhaps, comes close down to his ideas of the press of Chicago, but there is only one—a weekly—and I believe it is printed in New York. The reverend gentleman who began the discussion to-night started into this subject very much like a coon, and as we listened, as he went on, we perceived he came out a porcupine. He was scientific in everything he said in favor of the press; unscientific in everything against it. He spoke to you in favor of the suppression of news, which means, I take it, the dissemination of crime. He spoke to you in favor of the suppression of sewergas. Chicago to-day owes its good health to the fact that we do discuss sewer-gas. A reverend gentleman once discussing the province of the press, spoke of its province as the suppression of news. If some gentlemen knew the facts that come to us, they would wonder at our lenience to their faults. The question of an anonymous press has been brought up. If you will glance over the files of the newspapers throughout the world, you will find in that country
where the articles are signed the press is most corrupt, weak est, most venal, and has the least influence of any press in the world. To tell me that a reporter who writes an article is of more consequence than the editor, is to tell me a thing I believe you do not believe.
When Charles A. Dana was asked what was the first essential in publishing a newspaper, he is said to have replied, “ Raise Cain and sell papers.
Whether the story is true or not, his answer comes as near a general definition of the governing principle in newspaper offices as you are likely to get.
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as ethics of the press. Each newspaper editor, publisher, or proprietorwhoever is the controlling spirit behind the types, the man who pockets the profits, or empties his pockets to make good the losses—his will, his judgment, his conscience, his hopes, necessities, or ambitions, constitute the ethics of one newspaper—no more! There is no association of editors, no understanding or agreement to formulate ethics for the press. And if there were, not one of the parties to it would live up to it any more than the managers of railways live up to the agreements over which they spend so much time.
The general press prints what the public wants; the specific newspaper prints what its editor thinks the class of readers to which it caters wants. If he gauges his public right, he succeeds; if he does not, he fails.
You can no more make the people read a newspaper they do not want than you can make a horse drink when he is not thirsty. In this respect the pulpit has the better of the press. It can thrash over old straw and thunder forth distasteful tenets to its congregations year after year, and at least be sure of the continued attention of the sexton and the deacon who circulates the contribution-box.
What are the ethics of the press of Chicago? They are those of Joseph Medill, Victor F. Lawson, H. H. Kohlsaat, John R. Walsh, Carter Harrison, Jr., Washington Hesing, individually, not collectively. As these gentlemen are personally able, conscientious, fearless for the right, patriotic, incorruptible, and devoted to the public good, so are their respective newspapers. If they are otherwise, so are their respective newspapers.