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New York, he surprised me by asking: “What are you going to say to them in your speech that will be real sassy, and calculated to make all their pet corns ache?” I told him I did not know what he meant, that of course I should say nothing but the most pleasant things I could think of; that, in fact, I intended to read my speech, lest, in the agitation of the moment, I might overlook some complimentary impromptu little touch. Then he laughed and said:
Why, that isn't the way to do at all-in New York. It is easy to see you are a stranger, and don't read the papers. The correct thing nowadays is for the guest to criticise his entertainers. Mayor So-and-So always does it. And only last year—it was at an Irish banquet, too—the speaker of the evening, a Down-Easter like yourself, just spilled boiling vitriol over the whole company, and rubbed it in.”
I told him I didn't believe that story, and asked him to tell me the gentleman's name. And he only answered me, evasively: “ I didn't say he was a gentleman.”
I trust I know better than to say anything uncomplimentary about the Press of New York, which compiles, or constructs, news for the whole Continent, not only before our slower communities have heard of the things chronicled, but often, with commendable enterprise, before they have happened.
I admire the Press of New York. There are a great many Boston men on it, and I have no mission to reform it. In New York, when you have a surplus of journalistic talent, you export it to London, where it is out of placesome of it. The feverish race for priority, which kills off so many American journalists, sometimes, it would seem, almost before their time (but that is a matter of opinion), is unknown in London. A man who reads the London Times,” regularly and conscientiously, is guaranteed forever against insomnia. London “ Punch " is a paper which the severest ascetic may read, all through Lent, without danger to his sobriety of soul.
London gets even with you, too. You send her an Astor, and she retaliates with a Stead. We ought to deal gently with Mr. Stead; for he says that we are all children of the one “ Anglo-Saxon ” family—without regard to race, color, or previous condition of servitude. He avers that England
looks upon America as a brother, and that may be so. It is not easy, at this distance of time, to know just how Romulus looked upon Remus, how Esau looked upon Jacob, how Cain looked upon Abel—but I have no doubt that it was in about the same light that England looks upon America -fraternally! But she ought not to afflict us with Mr. Stead. We have enough to bear without him.
We know that the Press has its faults and its weaknesses. We can see them every day, in our miserable contemporaries, and we do not shirk the painful duty of pointing them out. We know that it has also virtues, manifold, and we do not deny them, when an appreciative audience compliments us upon them. A conscientious journalist never shrinks from the truth, even when it does violence to his modesty. In fact, he tells the truth under all circumstances, or nearly all. If driven to the painful alternative of choosing between that which is new and that which is true, he wisely decides that “ truth” is mighty, and will prevail, whereas news won't keep. Nevertheless, it is a safe rule not to believe everything that you see in the papers. Advertisers are human, and liable to err.
Lamartine predicted, long ago, that before the end of the present century the Press would be the whole literature of the world. His prediction is almost verified already. The multiplication and the magnitude of newspapers present, not a literary, but an economic problem. The Sunday paper alone has grown, within a decade, from a modest quarto to a volume of 48, 60, 96, 120 pages, with the stream steadily rising and threatening the levees on both banks. At a similar rate of expansion in the next ten years, it will be made up of not less than 1,000 pages, and the man who undertakes to read it will be liable to miss First Mass.
The thoughtful provision of giving away a pon ” with every number may avert trouble for a time, but it will be only for a time. The reader will need a farm, on which to spread out and peruse his purchase; but the world is small, and land has not the self-inflating quality of paper.
But to speak more seriously: Is modern journalism, then, nothing but a reflection of the frivolity of the day, of the passing love of notoriety? I say no! I believe that the day of sensational journalism, of the blanket sheet and the fear
“ farm cou
ful woodcut, is already passing away. Quantity cannot forever overcome quality, in that or any other field. When we think of the men who have done honor to the newspaper profession, we do not think so proudly of this or that one who “scooped ” his contemporaries with the first, or“ exclusive,” report of a murder or a hanging, but of men like the late George W. Childs, whom all true journalists honor and lament.
We think of the heroes of the pen, who carried their lives in their hands as they went into strange, savage countries, pioneers of civilization. It would be invidious to mention names, where the roll is so long and glorious; but I think, at the moment, of O'Donovan, Forbes, Stanley, Burnaby, Collins, and our own Irish-American, MacGahan, the great-hearted correspondent, who changed the political map of Eastern Europe by exposing the Bulgarian atrocities. The instinct which impelled those men was the same which impelled Columbus.
I think, in another field, of the noblest man I have ever known, the truest, most chivalrous gentleman, a newspaper man, an editor-I am proud to say, an Irish-American editor—the memory of whose honored name, I well know, is the only excuse for my being here to-night-John Boyle O'Reilly! You have honored his name more than once here to-night, and in honoring bim you honor the profession which he so adorned.
D. B. ST. JOHN ROOSA
THE SALT OF THE EARTH
(Speech of Dr. D. B. St. John Roosa, as President of the Holland Society of New York, at the eleventh annual dinner of the Society, New York City, January 15, 1896.)
GENTLEMEN, MEMBERS OF THE HOLLAND SOCIETY, AND OUR HONORED GUESTS:— My first duty is to welcome to our Board the representatives of the various societies who honor us by their presence: St. George's, St. Nicholas, New England, St. Andrew's, Colonial Order, and Colonial Wars, Southern Society, the Holland Society welcomes you most heartily. I ought to say that the Holland Society, as at present constituted, could run a Police Board [applause), furnish the Mayors for two cities, and judges to order, to decide on any kind of a case. As a matter of fact, when they get hard up down-town for a judge, they just send up to the man who happens to be President of the Holland Society and say “Now we want a judge,” and we send Van Hoesen, Beekman, Truax, or Van Wyck. [Applause.] They are all right. They are Dutch, and they will do. [Laughter.] All the people say it does not make any difference about their politics, so long as the blood is right.
Now, gentlemen, seriously, I thank you very sincerely for the honor which you have conferred upon me—and which I was not able, on account of circumstances entirely beyond my control, to acknowledge at the annual meeting of the Society-in making me your President. I do not think there is any honor in the world that compares with it, and if you think over the names of the Presidents of this Society you may imagine that a doctor, especially knowing what the Dutch in South Africa think of doctors just now [laughter and applause], would have a mighty slim chance to come
in against a Van Vorst, a Roosevelt, a Van Hoesen, a Beekman, a Van Wyck, or a Van Norden. But my name is not Jameson. [Laughter.]
Gentlemen, there seems to be an impression that the Holland Society, because it does not have a Club-house—and it may have a Club-house, that remains for you to decide; and because it does not have a great many other things, has no reason for its existence. But, gentlemen, there is one sufficient reason for the existence of the Hollanders in a Society. We have eight hundred and forty members, and each one of us has a function—to teach our neighboring Yankees just exactly what we are, whence we came, and where we mean to go. (Laughter and applause.] The colossal ignorance of the ordinary New Englander slaughter and applause]—I mean in regard to the Dutch [laughter]—is something that I would delineate were it not for the presence of the President of the Mayflower Society. [Renewed laughter.] Why, it was only the other night that at one of these entertainments when I was representing you and doing the best I could with my medal and my ribbon, that a friend came up to me and said: “You belong to the Holland Society, don't you?” I said, “Yes.” “Well,” he said, “ you Dutch did lick us on the Excise question, didn't you?” [Great laughter and applause.] Now what are you going to do with a people like that? We got the credit of that thing, anyhow. [Renewed laughter.] There is a Governor of Connecticut here to-night [P. C. Lounsbury), and I was going to say something about Governors of Connecticut of years and years ago. A man could not properly relate the history of New Amsterdam without remarking on the Governors of Connecticut, but out of respect to the distinguished gentleman, whom we all delight to honor, I shall draw it very mild. I shall only tell one or two things that those Governors of Connecticut used to do. There was one of them, I have forgotten his name and I am glad I have slaughter), who used to say in all his letters to his subordinates when they were pushing us to the wall and getting the English over to help them push: “Don't you say anything to those people, don't you talk to those people, but always keep crowding the Dutch.” [Laughter.] That is what a Connecticut Governor gave as official advice years