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Newspapers have also become important in a literary view. There are few of them, within the last twenty years, which have not added to their political details some curious and useful information, on the various subjects of literature, science and art. · They have thus become the means of conveying to every class in society, innumerable scraps of knowledge, which have at once increased the public intelligence, and extended the taste for perusing periodical publications. The advertisements, moreover, which they daily contain, respecting new books, projects, inventions, discoveries and improvements, are well calculated to enlarge and enlighten the public mind, and are worthy of being enumerated among the many methods of awakening and maintaining the popular attention, with which more modern times, beyond all preceding example, abound.

In ancient times, to sow the seeds of civil discord, or to produce a spirit of union and co-operation through an extensive community, required time, patience, and a constant series of exertions. The art of printing being unknown, and many of the modern methods of communicating intelligence to distant places not having come into use, the difficulty of conducting public affairs must have been frequently great and embarrassing. The general circulation of Gazettes forms an important æra, not only in the moral and literary, but also in the political world. By means of this powerful instrument impressions on the public mind may be made with a celerity, and to an extent of which our remote ancestors had no conception, and which cannot but give rise to the most important consequences in society. Never was there given to inan a political engine of greater power; and never,

, assuredly, did this engine before operate upon so large a scale as in the eighteenth century.

Our own country in particular, and especially for the last twelve or fifteen years, has exhibited a spectacle never before displayed among men, and even yet without a parallel on earth. It is the spectacle, not of the learned and the wealthy only, but of the great body of the people; even a large portion of that class of the community which is destined to daily labour, having free and constant access to public prints, receiving regular information of every occurrence, attending to the course of political affairs, discussing public measures, and having thus pre

presented to them constant excitements to the acquisition of knowledge, and continual means of obtaining it. Never, it may be safely asserted, was the number of political journals so great in proportion to the population of a country as at present in ours. Never were they, all things considered, so cheap, so universally diffused, and so easy of access." And never were they actually perused by so large a majority of all classes since the art of printing was discovered.

The general effects of this unprecedented multiplication and diffusion of public prints, form a subject of most interesting and complex calculation. On the one hand, when well conducted, they have a tendency to disseminate useful information; to keep the public mind awake and active; to confirm and extend the love of freedom; to correct the mistakes of the ignorant, and the impositions of the crafty; to tear off the mask from corrupt and designing politicians; and, finally, to promote union of spirit and of action among the most distant members of an extended community. But to pursue a path calculated to produce these effects, the conductors of public prints ought to be men of talents, learning, and virtue. Under the guidance of such characters, every Gazette would be a source of moral and political instruction, and, of course, a public blessing.

* The extreme cheapness with which newspapers are conveyed by the mail, in the United States, added to the circumstance of their being altogether unincumbered with a stamp duty, or any other public restriction, renders their circulation more convenient and general than in any other

country.

On the other hand, when an instrument so potent is committed to the weak, the ignorant, and the vicious, the most baneful consequences must be anticipated. When men of small talents, of little information, and of less virtue, undertake to be (as the editors of public gazettes, however contemptible their character, may in a degree be considered) the directors of public opinion, what must be the result? We may expect to see the frivolities of weakness, the errors and malignity of prejudice, the misrepresentations of party zeal, the most corrupt doctrines in politics and morals, the lacerations of private character, and the polluting language of obscenity and impiety, daily issuing from the press, poisoning the principles, and disturbing the repose of society; giving to the natural and salutary collisions of parties the most brutal violence and ferocity; and, at length, consuming the best feelings and noblest charities of life, in the flame of civil discord.

In the former part of the eighteenth century, talents and learning, at least, if not virtue, were thought necessary in the conductors of political journals. Few ventured to intrude into this arduous office, but those who had some claims to literature. Towards the close of the century, however, persons of less character, and of humbler qualifications, began, without scruple, toundertake the

. This has not been, generally, so much the case in America as in Europe. From the earliest period too many of our Gazettes have been in the hands of persons who were destitute both of talents and literature. But in later times, the number of editors who fall under this description has become even greater than formerly.

high task of enlightening the public mind. This remark applies, in some degree, to Europe; but it applies

with particular force to our own country, where every judicious observer must perceive, that too many of our Gazettes are in the hands of persons, destitute at once of the urbanity of gentlemen, the information of scholars, and the principles of virtue. To this source, rather than to any peculiar depravity of national character, we may ascribe the faults of American newspapers, which have been pronounced by travellers, the most profligate and scurrilous public prints in the civilized world:

If the foregoing remarks be just, then the friend of rational freedom, and of social happiness, cannot but contemplate with the utmost soli citude, the future influence of political journals on the welfare of society. As they form one of the great safeguards of free government, so they also form one of its most threatening assailants. And unless public opinion (the best remedy that can be applied) should administer an adequate correction of the growing evil, we may anticipate the arrival of that crisis in which we must yield either to an abridgment of the liberty of the press, or to a disruption of every social bond.

Ø These considerations, it is conceived, are abundantly sufficient to account for the disagrceable character of American newspapers.

In

every country the selfish principle prompts men to defame their personal and political enemies; and where the supposed provocations to this are numerous, and no restraints are imposed on the indulgence of the disposition, an inundation of filth and calumny must be expected. In the United States the frequency of Elections leads to a corresponding frequency of struggle between political parties; these struggles naturally engender mischievous passions, and every species of coarse invective; and, unhappily, too many of the conductors of our public prints have neither the discernment, the firmness, nor the virtue to reject from their pages the foul ebullitions of prejudice and malice. Had they more diligence, or greater talents, they might render their Gazettes interesting, by filling them with materials of a more instructive and dignified kind; but wanting these qualifications, they must give such materials

, accompanied with such a seasoning, as circumstances furnish. Of what kind these are no one is ignorant.

CHAPTER XXIII.

LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC ASSOCIATIONS.

FOR a long time after the revival of learning in Europe, men devoted to letters were, in a great measure, insulated with respect to each other. We read, it is true, of a society of learned men, associated for the purpose of promoting literature and science, as early as the time of CHARLEMAGNE; but the plan appears to have been rude and defective. Several others were instituted in Italy, in the sixteenth century; still, however, they seem to have been, both in their formation and effects, much inferior to many which have flourished since. The most enlarged ideas of literary societies seem to have originated with the great Lord BACON, who, in his New Atalantis, delineated a plan of one more liberal and extensive than had ever before existed. But although his project received little encouragement from his contemporaries, it was destined to produce important effects not long afterwards.

In the seventeenth century, the taste for forming scientific and literary societies may be said to have commenced its prevalence, and to have gained considerable ground. It was a little after the middle of that century that the two most conspicuous associations of the kind in Europe, viz. The Royal Society of Great Britain, and The Royal Academy of Sciences of France, were formed. The former by Mr. BoYLE, Mr. Hooke, and a number of others, who, at that time, held a high station in the philosophical world; and the latter by

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