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MR. GLADSTONE ON THE NEWSPAPER PRESS. Mr. W. E. Gladstone presided on Saturday at the annual dinner of the Newspaper Press Fund, held at Willis's Rooms, in London, at which about 250 gen- tlemen were present, including nearly fifty members of Parliament. After the loyal and patriotic toasts had been honoured, Mr. Gladstone proposed the toast of the evening, "Success to the Newspaper Press Fund." He congratulated the members of the association on the progress which they had made, and also referred with approval to the changes which are being made in the law of libel. The interests of the public at large were essentially bound up with those of the press. We have lived into times when the newspaper is a great social, political, and moral poiver-one so great that it cannot be overlooked by any of those who would comprehend the character of their country or the nature of those pro- cesses by which the movement of a mighty nation is directed. While the newspaper had thus become a power in the land, those who are connected with the management of newspapers—those who supply daily or weekly to the public the food which they derived from them, had become a body so important to us all, that we may well say that they are entitled not less than others to the name and to the dignity of a profession. The purpose of that institution was to recognise those ties of duty, charity, and of brotherhood which bind together the members of this profession, and also to give an oppor- tunity to others beyond its strictly definite limits for mani- festing their interest in its welfare, and in both points of view to encourage it. Mr. Gladstone advocated the claims of the institution to support, spoke of the obliga- tions which speakers and the public are under to the re- porters for the press, and proceeded: But besides that debt there is another obligation which we owe, not to the reporters, but to the writers for the newspapers, and I frankly confess that without them I do not know how we should get on. I think that the encouragement and en- coniums are of very great value to us; they cheer us in the hour of need and of difficulty but I assure you that I for one, and I believe all who have similar experience will join me in saying so, set far higher value on their criticism than on their censures; for no man is ever injured by criticism or by censure. If the critiscisms and censures are unjust, they will do him no harm, except it be through his own want of manliness of character. If, on the other hand, they are just, they are to him in-valuable they become the mirror in which he acquires the view and knowledge of what other- wise he could not discern from them he learns the means of amending his faults, of avoiding the errors he has committed, of making his abilities, what- ever they may be, more available for the benefit of his fellow-countrymen, of doing-I won't say more per- fectly, but at any rate less imperfectly-the arduous work which providence has appointed him to do. In other times the usuages of society permitted and encouraged more plain speaking than they do now. Modern courtesy is thought to be hardly consistent unless under circumstances peculiarly favourable for the exercise of the function of fair reproof and 1 am afraid that, were it not for the honest and truthful censures of the press, each of us would be apt to spend his existence in a paradise of fools; to go on hugging more and more his own errors and defects, exaggerating his imperfec- the means by which excellence is to be obtained, and failing in efficiency in the service of his country. o not deny that a writer in any newspaper, and especially if it be a newspaper of great influence and importance, has in many senses a most difficult function to discharge. He has to discharge a function that is difficult and even dangerous for himself, far more than for the public—for himself, because he writes without the sense of that responsi- bility. I will not say without a sense of that responsibility, because it would be unjust to say so, but without the ready means of constantly quickening that sense of responsibility which are derived from publicity, and with which most of us feel it would be difficult to dispense in the discharge of our duty. Nevertheless, for us the function he discharges is invaluable, and society is indebted to those who furnish for them the instruction and improve- ment provided by the newspaper, but none are so much in- debted to them as those who are the objects of the free and unbiassed review, nay, even of the hostile criticism. This debt I for one am most anxious to acknowledge. I do not wish to exaggerate-I hope and believe I have not exaggerated in the terms I have used-the immense, the incalcu- lable importance of the functions of the newspaper press with regard to the mass of society. I grant that, as in all other states, in all other combinations of affairs, where good is predominant, evil will creep in; and here the prin- ciple of evil, probably, is this-tliat by presenting us with knowledge in a form so easy, like food ready dressed for dinner, the press encourages men to a lazy and an inert turn of mind. So far, however, as this is true, it does not apply to the mass of the people. For them it is a question between having it in this shape or not having it at all. I grant that there is an indolent, indefinite form sure to prevail more or less in wealthy and luxurious societies, where people who have nothing else to do but to think, seize every opportunity, and avail themselves of every expedient that will relieve them from the labour of thinking. It is quite fair, I think, just to cast this little stone as we pass by, and to recollect the extraordinary fidelity and ability with which the task of a newspaper writer is commonly performed, in reducing to a net form all the raw material of public questions with which he has to deal. It may undoubtedly be a misfortune for indolent men to have the means, through wealth and leisure, of indulging his indolence, instead of being, like other people, an honest labourer in the world. But this is no reproach to the news- paper press, nor to those who conduct it. Nor can I refrain from saying one word more. It is not for me to pretend to a minute or accurate acquaintance with the moral tone of the newspaper press since the time when it first became a great power in this country but the knowledge of it that I do possess impresses me with a deep conviction that the newspaper press has become more upright, more candid, more regardful of the sanctities of private life and personal character-more careful to avoid whatever could raise a blush or stain the mind or con- science exactly in proportion as it has become more popular and more broad. Therefore, in recognising the existence of this great power, of this new power amongst us, let us give it hearty welcome Do not let it be grudgingly admitted within the circle of our institutions and of our ideas let ns hail it as a new benefit, which, in the progress of affairs and institutions it has pleased Providence to confer upon man- kind. Let us take every fair opportunity of showing that we sympathise with it, that we desire to aid it in its work; and let us acknowledge that kindly feeling with which we desire to recognise institutions such as this. I ask you now to testify to your share in that feeling by drinking with me a bumper toast to the prosperity of "The Newspaper Press Fund." (Loud and prolonged cheering.)



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