These combined observations, progressing throughout the world, are of the highest importance. The University of Cambridge, the American Philosophical Society, and Girard College have erected observatories; and one connected with the Depot of Charts and Instruments has been built in this city last year by the Government, and thoroughly furnished with instruments for complete observations. The names of Bache, Gillis, Pierce, Lovering, and Bond are well known in connection with these establishments.
A magnetic survey of Pennsylvania has been made by private enterprise, and the beginning of a survey in New York. Loomis has observed in Ohio, Locke in Ohio and Iowa, and to him belongs the discovery of the position of the point of greatest magnetic intensity in the Western World. Most interesting magnetic observations (now in progress of publication by Congress) are the result of the toilsome, perilous, and successful expedition, under Commander Wilkes, of our navy, by whom was discovered the Antarctic continent, and a portion of its soil and rock brought home to our country.
The analogy of the auroral displays with those of electricity in motion, was first pointed out by Dr. A. D. Bache, whose researches, in conjunction with Lloyd of Dublin, to determine whether differences of longitude could be measured by the observations of small simultaneous changes in the position of the magnetic needle, led to the knowledge of the curious fact, that these changes, which had been traced as simultaneous, or nearly so, in the continent of Europe, did not so extend across the Atlantic.
Kindred to these two branches are electro-magnetism and magneto-electricity, connected with which, as discoverers, are our countrymen Dana, Green, Hare, Henry, Page, Rogers, and Saxton. The reciprocal machine for producing shocks, invented by Page, and the powerful galvanic magnet of Henry, are entitled to respectful notice. This force, it was thought, might be substituted for steam; but no experiments have as yet established its use, on any important scale, as a motive power. The fact that an electrical spark could be produced by a peculiar arrangement of a coil of wire, connected with a magnet, is a recent discovery; and the first magneto-electric machine capable of keeping up a continuous current was invented by Saxton.
Electricity and magnetism touch in some points upon heat. Heat produces electrical currents; electrical currents produce heat. Heat destroys magnetism. Melted iron is incapable of magnetic influence. Reduction of temperature in iron so far decreases the force, that a celebrated philosopher made an elaborate series of experiments to ascertain whether a great reduction of temperature might not develop magnetic properties in metals other than iron. This branch of thermo-electricity has received from us but little attention. Franklin's experiments, by placing differently colored cloths in the snow, and showing the depth to which they sank, are still quoted, and great praise has been bestowed abroad on a more elaborate series of experiments, by a descendant of his, Dr. A. D. Bache, proving that this law does not hold good as to heat, unaccompanied by light. The experiments of Saxon and Goddard demonstrate that solid bodies do slowly evaporate. It is proper here to mention our countryman, Count Rumford, whose discoveries as to the nature and properties of heat, improvement in stoves and gunnery, and in the structure of chimneys and economy of fuel, have been so great and useful.
Light accompanies heat of a certain temperature. That it acts directly to increase or decrease magnetic force, is not yet proved; and the interesting experiments made by Dr. Draper, in Virginia, go to show that it is without magnetic influence. The discussion of this subject forms, the branch of optics, touching physical science on the one side, the most refined, and the highest range of mathematics on the other. Rittenhouse first suggested the true explanation of the experiment, of the apparent conversion of a cameo into an intaglio, when viewed through a compound microscope, and anticipated many years Brewster's theory. Hopkinson wrote well on the experiment made by looking at a street lamp through a slight texture of silk. Joscelyn, of New York, investigated the causes of the irradiation manifested by luminous bodies, as for instance the stars. Of late, photographic experiments have occupied much attention, and Draper has advanced the bold idea, supported by experiment, that the agent in the so-called photography, is not light, nor heat, but an agent differing from any other known principle. Henry has investigated the luminous emanation from lime, calcined with sulphur, and certain other substances, and finds that it differs much from light in some of its qualities.
Astronomy is the most ancient and highest branch of physics. One of our earliest and greatest efforts in this branch was the invention of the mariner's quadrant, by Godfrey, a glazier of Philadelphia. The transit of Venus, in the last century, called forth the researches of Rittenhouse, Owen, Biddle, and President Smith, near Philadelphia, and of Winthrop, at Boston. Two orreries were made by Rittenhouse, as also a machine for predicting eclipses. Most useful observations, connected with the solar eclipses, from 1832 to 1840, have been made by Paine, of Boston. We have now well-supplied observatories at West Point, Washington, Cambridge, Philadelphia, Hudson, Ohio, and Tuskaloosa, Alabama; and the valuable labors of Loomis, Bartlett, Gillis, Bond, Pierce, Walker, and Kendall are well known. Mr. Adams, so distinguished in this branch and that of weights and measures, laid last year the corner stone of an observatory at Cincinnati, where will soon be one of the largest and most powerful telescopes in the world. Most interesting observations as to the great comet of 1843 were made by Alexander, Anderson, Bartlett, Kendall, Pierce, Walker, Downes, and Loomis, and valuable astronomical instruments have been constructed by Amasa Holcomb, of Massachusetts, and Wm. J. Young, of Philadelphia.
It is difficult to class the brilliant meteors of November the 13th, 1833. If such meteors are periodic, the discovery was made by Professor Olmsted; and Mr. Herrick, of New Haven, has added valuable suggestions. The idea that observers, differently placed at the time of appearance and disappearance of the same meteor, would give the means of determining differences of longitude, was first applied in our own country, where the difference of longitude of Princeton and Philadelphia was determined by observations of Henry and Alexander, Espy and Bache. In meteorology our countrymen have succeeded well. Dr. Wells, of South Carolina, elaborated his beautiful and original theory of the formation of dew, and supported it by many well-devised and conclusive experiments. The series of hourly observations, by Professor Snell and Captain Mordecai, are well known; and the efforts of New York and Pennsylvania, of the medical department of the army, and its present enlightened head, Dr. Lawson, have much advanced this branch of science. The interesting question, Does our climate change? seems to be answered thus far in the negative, by registers kept in Massachusetts and New York. There are two rival theories of storms. That of Redfield, of a rotary motion of a wide column of air, combined with a progressive motion in a curved line. Espy builds on the law of physics, examines the action of an upmoving column of air, shows the causes of its motion and the results, and then deduces his most beautiful theory of rain and of land and water spouts. This he puts to the test of observation; and in the inward motion of wind toward the centre of storms, finds a striking verification of his theory. This theory is also sustained by the overthrow or injury, in the recent tornado at Natchez, of the houses whose doors and windows were closed, while those which were open mostly escaped unhurt. Mr. Espy must be considered, not only here, but throughout the world, as at the head of this branch of science. This subject has been greatly advanced by Professor Loomis, whose paper has been pronounced, by the highest authority, to be the best specimen of inductive reasoning which meteorology has produced. The most recent and highly valuable meteorological works of Dr. Samuel Forry are much esteemed. Many important discoveries in pneumatics were made by Dr. Franklin and Count Rumford, and the air pump was also greatly improved by Dr. Prince, of Salem.
Chemistry, in all its departments, has been successfully pursued among us. Dana, Draper, Ellet, Emmet, Hare, the Mitchells, Silliman, and Torrey, are well known as chemical philosophers; and Booth, Boye, Chilton, Keating, Mather, R. Rogers, Seybert, Shepherd, and Vanuxen, as analysts; and F. Bache, Webster, Greene, Mitchell, Silliman, and Hare, as authors. In my native town of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, resided two adopted citizens, most eminent as chemists and philosophers, Priestley and Cooper. The latter, who was one of my own preceptors, was greatly distinguished as a writer, scholar, jurist, and physician, as well as a chemist. Priestley, although I do not concur in his peculiar views of theology, was certainly one of the most able and learned of ecclesiastical writers, and possessed also a mind most vigorous and original. His discoveries in pneumatic chemistry have exceeded those of any other philosopher. He discovered vital air, many new acids, chemical substances, paints, and dyes. He separated nitrous and oxygenous airs, and first exhibited acids and alkalies in a gaseous form. He ascertained that air could be purified by the process of vegetation, and that light evolved pure air from vegetables. He detected the powerful action of oxygenous air upon the blood, and first pointed out the true theory of respiration. The eudiometer, a most curious instrument for fixing the purity of air, by measuring the proportion of oxygen, was discovered by Dr. Priestley. He lived and died in my native town, universally beloved as a man, and greatly admired as a philosopher. Chemistry has actively advanced among us during the present century. Hare's compound blowpipe came from his hand so perfect, in 1802, that all succeeding attempts of Dr. Clark, of England, and of all others, in Europe and America, to improve upon it or go beyond the effects produced, have wholly failed. His mode of mixing oxygen and hydrogen gases, the instant before burning them, was at once simple, effective, and safe. The most refractory metallic and mineral substances yielded to the intense heat produced by the flame of the blowpipe. In chemical analysis, the useful labors of Keating, Vanuxen, Seybert, Booth, Clemson, Litton, and Moss, would fill many volumes. In organic chemistry, the researches of Clark, Hare, and Boye were rewarded by the discovery of a new ether, the most explosive compound known to man. Mitchell's experiments on the penetration of membranes by gases, and the ingenious extension of them by Dr. Rogers, are worthy of all praise. The softening of indiarubber, by Dr. Mitchell, renders it a most useful article. Dyer's discovery of soda ash yielded him a competence. Our countrymen have also made most valuable improvements in refining sugar, in the manufacture of lard oil and stearin candles, and the preservation of timber by Earle's process. Sugar and molasses have been extracted in our country from the cornstalk, but with what, if any profit, as to either, is not yet determined. No part of mechanics has produced such surprising results as the steam engine, and our countrymen have been among the foremost and most distinguished in this great and progressive branch. When Rumsey, of Pennsylvania, made a steamboat, which moved against the current of the James River four miles an hour, his achievement was so much in advance of the age, as to acquire no public confidence. When John Fitch's boat stemmed the current of the Delaware, contending successfully with sail boats, it was called, in derision, the scheme boat. So the New Yorkers, when the steamboat of their own truly great mechanic, Stevens, after making a trip from Hoboken, burnt accidentally one of its boiler tubes, it was proclaimed a failure. Fulton also encountered unbounded ridicule and opposition, as he advanced to confer the greatest benefits on mankind by the application of steam to navigation. So Oliver Evans, of Pennsylvania (who has made such useful improvements in the flour mill), was pronounced insane, when he applied to the Legislatures of Pennsylvania and Maryland for special privileges in regard to the application of steam to locomotion on common roads. In 1810 he was escorted by a mob of boys, when his amphibolas was moved on wheels by steam more than a mile through the streets of Philadelphia to the river Schuylkill, and there, taking to the water, was paddled by steam to the wharves of the Delaware, where it was to work as a dredging machine. Fulton's was the first successful steamboat, Stevens's the first that navigated the ocean, Oliver Evans's the first high-pressure engine applied to steam navigation. Stevens's boat, by an accident, did not precede Fulton's, and Stevens's engine was wholly American, and constructed entirely by himself, and his propeller resembled much that now introduced by Ericsson. Stevens united the highest mechanical skill with a bold, original, inventive genius. His sons (especially Mr. Robert L. Stevens, of New York) have inherited much of the extraordinary skill and talent of their distinguished father. The first steamboat that ever crossed the ocean was built by one of our countrymen, and their skill in naval architecture has been put in requisition by the Emperor of Russia and the Sultan of Turkey. The steam machines invented by our countrymen to drive piles, load vessels, and excavate roads, are most ingenious and useful. The use of steam, as a locomotive power, upon the water and the land, is admirably adapted to our mighty rivers and extended territory. From Washington to the mouth of the Oregon is but one half, and to the mouth of the Del Norte but one fourth, of the distance of the railroads already constructed here; and to the latter point, at the rate of motion (thirty miles an hour) now in daily use abroad, the trip would be performed in two days, and to the former in four days. Thus, steam, if we measure distance by the time in which it is traversed, renders our whole Union, with its most extended limits, smaller than was the State of New York ten years since. Steam cars have been moved, as an experiment, both here and abroad, many hundred miles, at the rate of sixty miles an hour; but what will be the highest velocity ultimately attained in common use, either upon the water or the land, is a most important problem, as yet entirely unsolved. Our respected citizens, Morey and Drake, have endeavored to substitute the force of explosion of gaseous compounds for steam. The first was the pioneer, and the second has shown that the problem is still worth pursuing to solution. An energetic Western mechanic made a bold but unsuccessful effort to put in operation an engine acting by the expansion of air by heat; and a similar most ingenious attempt was made by Mr. Walter Byrnes, of Concordia, Louisiana; as also to substitute compressed air, and air compressed and expanded, as a locomotive power. All attempts to use air as a motive power, except the balloon, the sail vessel, the air gun, and the windmill, have thus far failed; but what inventive genius may yet accomplish in this respect, remains yet undetermined. There is, it is true, a mile or more of pneumatic railway used between Dublin and Kingstown. An air pump, driven by steam, exhausts the air from a cylinder in which a piston moves; this cylinder is laid the whole length of the road, and the piston is connected to a car above, so that, as the piston moves forward on the exhaustion of the air in front of it, the car is also carried forward. The original idea of this pneumatic railway was derived from the contrivance of an American, quite unknown to fame, who, as his sign expressed it, showed to visitors a new mode of carrying the mail, more simple, and quite as valuable, practically, as this atmospheric railway. The submerged propeller of Ericsson, and the submerged paddle wheel, the rival experiments of our two distinguished naval officers, Stockton and Hunter, are now candidates for public favor; and the Princeton on the ocean, as she moves in noiseless majesty, at a speed never before attained at sea, seems to attest the value of one of these experiments, while the other is yet to be determined. The impenetrable iron steam vessel of Mr. Stevens is not yet completed, nor have those terrific engines of war, his explosive shells, yet been brought to the test of actual conflict.
In curious and useful mechanical inventions, our countrymen are unsurpassed, and a visit to our new and beautiful Patent Office will convince the close observer that the inventive genius of America never was more active than at the present moment. The machines for working up cotton, hemp, and wool, from their most crude state to the finest and most useful fabrics, have all been improved among us. The cotton gin of Eli Whitney has altered the destinies of one third of our country, and doubled the exports of the Union. The ingenious improvements for imitating medals, by parallel lines upon a plain surface, which, by the distances between them, give all the effects of light and shade that belong to a raised or depressed surface, invented by Gobrecht and perfected by Spencer, has been rendered entirely automatic by Saxton, so that it not only rules its lines at proper distances and of suitable lengths, but when its work is done it stops. In hydraulics, we have succeeded well; and the great aqueduct over the Potomac at Georgetown, constructed by Major Turnbull, of the Topographical Corps, exhibits new contrivances, in overcoming obstacles never heretofore encountered in similar projects, and has been pronounced in Europe one of the most skilful works of the age.
The abstract mathematics does not seem so well suited to the genius of our countrymen as its application to other sciences. Those among us who have most successfully pursued the pure mathematics, are chiefly our much-esteemed adopted citizens, such as Nulty, Adrain, Bonnycastle, Gill, and Hassler. Bowditch was an American, and is highly distinguished at home and abroad. Such men as Plana and Babbage rank him among the first class, and his commentary on the 'Mecanique Celeste' of Laplace, has secured for him a niche in the temple of fame, near to that of its illustrious author. Anderson and Strong are known to all who love mathematics, and Fischer was cut off by death in the commencement of a bright career. And may I here be indulged in grateful remembrance of two of my own preceptors, Dr. R. M. Patterson and Eugene Nulty. The first was the professor at my Alma Mater (the University of Pennsylvania) in natural philosophy and the application of mathematics to many branches of science. He was beloved and respected by all the class, as the courteous gentleman and the profound scholar; and the Mint of the United States, now under his direction, at Philadelphia, has reached the highest point of system, skill, and efficiency. In the pure mathematics Nulty is unsurpassed at home or abroad. In an earlier day, the elder Patterson, Ellicot, and Mansfield cultivated this branch successfully in connection with astronomy.
A new and extensive country is the great field for descriptive natural history. The beasts, birds, fishes, reptiles, insects, shells, plants, stones, and rocks are to be examined individually and classed; many new varieties and species are found, and even new genera may occur. The learned Mitchell, of New York, delighted in these branches. The eminent Harlan, of Philadelphia, and McMultrie were of a later and more philosophic school. Nuttall, of Cambridge, has distinguished himself in natural history, and Haldeman is rising to eminence.
Ornithology is one of the most attractive branches of natural history. Wilson was the pioneer; Ord, his biographer, followed, and his friend Titian Peale; Audubon is universally known, and stands preeminent; and the learned Nuttall and excellent and enthusiastic Townsend are much respected. Most of these men have compassed sea and land, and encountered many perils and hardships to find their specimens. They have explored the mountains of the North, the swamps of Florida, the prairies of the West, and accompanied the Exploring Expedition to the Antarctic, and round the world. As botanists, the Bartrams, Barton, and Collins, of Philadelphia, Torrey, of New York, Gray and Nuttall of Cambridge, Darlington, of Westchester, are much esteemed. The first botanical garden in our country was that of the Bartons, near Philadelphia; and the first work on botany was from Barton, of the same city. Logan, Woodward, Brailsford, Shelby, Cooper, Horsfield, Colden, Clayton, Muhlenburg, Marshall, Cutler, and Hosack, were also distinguished in this delightful branch.
A study of the shells of our country has raised to eminence the names of Barnes, Conrad, Lea, and Raffinesque. The magnificent fresh-water shells of our Western rivers are unrivalled in the Old World in size and beauty. How interesting would be a collection of all the specimens which the organic kingdom of America presents, properly classified and arranged according to the regions and States whence they were brought! Paris has the museum of the natural history of France, and London of Great Britain; but Washington has no museum of the United States, though so much richer in all these specimens.
In mineralogy, the work of Cleveland is most distinguished. Shepherd, Mather, Troost, Torrey, and a few others, still pursue mineralogy for its own sake; but, generally, our mineralogists have turned geologists, studying rocks on a large scale, instead of their individual constituents, and vieing with their brethren in Europe in bold and successful generalization, and in the application of physical science to their subject. Maclure was one of the pioneers, and Eaton and Silliman contributed much to the stock of knowledge. This school has given rise to the great geological surveys made or progressing in several of the States. Jackson, in Maine, Hitchcock, in Massachusetts; Vanuxen, Conrad, and Mather, in New York; the Rogerses, in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; Ducatel, in Maryland; Owen and Locke, in the West; Troost, in Tennessee; Horton, in Ohio; the courageous, scientific, and lamented Nicolet, in Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin, have made contributions, not only to the geology of our country, but to the science of geology itself, which are conceded to be among the most valuable of the present day. The able reports of Owen and Nicolet were made to Congress, and deserve the highest commendation.
In geographical science, the explorations of Lewis and Clark; of Long, Nicolet, and the able and intrepid Fremont; the effective State survey of Massachusetts; the surveys of our public lands; the determination of the boundaries of our States, and especially those of Pennsylvania, by Rittenhouse and Elliott; of part of Louisiana, by Graham and Kearny; of Michigan, by Talcott; and of Maine, by Graham; have gained us great credit. The national work of the coast survey, begun by the late Mr. Hassler, and prosecuted through all discouragements and difficulties by that indomitable man, has reflected honor upon his adopted country, through the Government which liberally supported the work, and through whose aid it is now progressing, under new auspices, with great energy. The lake survey is also now advancing under the direction of Captain Williams, of the Topographical Corps. Among the important recent explorations, is that of the enlightened, untiring, and intrepid Fremont, to Oregon, which fixes the pass of the Rocky Mountains within twenty miles of the northern boundary of Texas. Lieutenant Fremont is a member of the Topographical Corps, which, together with that of Engineers, contains so many distinguished officers, whose labors, together with those of their most able and distinguished chiefs, Colonel Totten and Colonel Abert, fill so large a portion of the public documents, and are so well known and highly appreciated by both Houses of Congress and by the country. The Emperor of Russia has entered the ranks of our Topographical Corps, and employed one of their distinguished members, Captain Whistler, to construct his great railroad from St. Petersburg to Moscow. The travels of our countrymen, Stephens, to Yucatan and Guatemala, to Egypt, Arabia, and Jerusalem, and of Dr. Grant to Nestoria, have increased our knowledge of geography and of antiquities, and have added new and striking proofs of the truths of Christianity.
Fossil geology occupied much of the time and attention of the great philosopher and statesman, Jefferson, and he was rewarded by the discovery of the megatherium. The mastodon, exhumed in 1801, from the marl pits of New York, by Charles Wilson Peale, has proved but one of an order of animal giants. Even the tetracaulodon, or tusked mastodon, of Godman, upon which rested his claims to fame, is not the most curious of this order, as the investigations of Hayes and Horner have proved. This order has excited the attention, not only of such minds as Cooper, Harlan, and Hayes, but has also occupied the best naturalists of France, Britain, Germany, and Italy.
Fossil conchology has attracted the attention of Conrad, the Lees, and the Rogerses, not only calling forth much ingenuity in description and classification, but also throwing great light upon the relative ages of some of the most interesting geological formations. The earthquake theory of the Rogerses is one of the boldest generalizations, founded upon physical reasoning, which our geologists have produced. In the parallel ridges into which the Apalachian chain is thrown, they see the crests of great earthquake waves, propagated from long lines of focal earthquake action, more violent than any which the world now witnesses. The geologist deals in such sublime conceptions as a world of molten matter, tossed into waves by violent efforts of escaping vapors, cooling, cracking, and rending, in dire convulsion. He then ceases to discuss the changes and formation of worlds, and condescends to inform us how to fertilize our soil, where to look for coal and iron, copper, tin, cobalt, lead, and where we need not look for either. He is the Milton of poetry, and the Watt of philosophy. And here let me add, that the recent application of chemistry to agriculture is producing the most surprising results, in increasing and improving the products of the earth, and setting at defiance Malthus's theory of population.
In medicine, that great and most useful branch of physics, our countrymen have been most distinguished. From the days of the great philosopher, physician, patriot, and statesman, Benjamin Rush, down to the present period, our country has been unsurpassed in this branch; but I have not time even to give an outline of the eminent Americans, whose improvements and discoveries in medicine have contributed so much to elevate the character of our country, and advance the comfort and happiness of man. Rush, one of the founders of this branch in America, was one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence, and his school of medicine was as independent and national as his course in our Revolutionary struggle. Statistics are chiefly concerned, as furnishing the facts connected with government and political economy, but they are also ancillary to physics. The statistical work of Mr. Archibald Russell, of New York, which immediately preceded the last census, contained many valuable suggestions, some of which were adopted by Congress; and had more been incorporated into the law, the census would have been much more complete and satisfactory. The recent statistical work of Mr. George Tucker, of Virginia, on the census of 1840, is distinguished by great talent and research, and is invaluable to the scholar, the philosopher, the statesman, and philanthropist.
[Footnote 2: This address was made and published several months before any electric telegraph line was in operation, and is believed to be the first prediction of the success of this principle, as CONTINENTAL or OCEANIC.]
[Footnote 3: Now only one tenth.]
[Footnote 4: This Idea unquestionably originated in the United States, but was improved last year, and has been introduced by Mr. Rammel, of England.]
[Footnote 5: We now have several such museums in Washington.]
[Footnote 6: Our Coast Survey, as commenced by Hassler, and being completed by Bache, is admitted in Europe to be the best in the world.]
Holy Father, Thou this day Dost a cross upon me lay. If I tremble as I lift, First, and feel Thine awful gift, Let me tremble not for pain, But lest I may lose the gain Which thereby my soul should bless, Through mine own unworthiness.
Let me, drawing deeper breath, Stand more firmly, lest beneath Thy load I sink, and slavishly In the dust it crusheth me. Bearing this, so may I strength Gather to receive at length In turn eternal glory's great And far more exceeding weight.
No, I am not crushed. I stand. But again Thy helping hand Reach to me, my pitying Sire: I would bear my burden higher, Bear it up so near to Thee, That Thou shouldst bear it still with me.
He, upon whose careless head Never any load is laid, With an earthward eye doth oft Stoop and lounge too slothfully: Burdened heads are held aloft With a nobler dignity.
By Thine own strong arm still led, Let me never backward tread, Panic-driven in base retreat, The path the Master's steadfast feet Unswervingly, if bleeding, trod Unto victory and God.
The standard-bearer doth not wince, Who bears the ensigns of his prince, Through triumphs, in his galled palm, Or turn aside to look for balm? Nay, for the glory thrice outweighs The petty price of pains he pays!
Till the appointed time is past Let me clasp Thy token fast. Ere I lay it down to rest, Late or early, be impressed So its stamp upon my soul That, while all the ages roll, Questionless, it may be known The Shepherd marked me for His own; Because I wear the crimson brand Of all the flock washed by His hand— For my passing pain or loss Signed with the eternal cross.
THE ENGLISH PRESS.
It was in January, 1785, that there appeared, for the first time, a journal with the title of The Daily Universal Register, the proprietor and printer of which was John Walter, of Printing House Square, a quiet, little, out-of-the-way nook, nestling under the shadow of St. Paul's, not known to one man in a thousand of the daily wayfarers at the base of Wren's mighty monument, but destined to become as famous and as well known as any spot of ground in historic London. This newspaper boasted but four pages, and was composed by a new process, with types consisting of words and syllables instead of single letters. On New Year's day, 1788, its denomination was changed to The Times, a name which is potent all the world over, whithersoever Englishmen convey themselves and their belongings, and wherever the mighty utterances of the sturdy Anglo-Saxon tongue are heard. It was long before the infant 'Jupiter' began to exhibit any foreshadowing of his future greatness, and he had a very difficult and up-hill struggle to wage. The Morning Post, The Morning Herald, The Morning Chronicle, and The General Advertiser amply supplied or seemed to supply the wants of the reading public, and the new competitor for public favor did not exhibit such superior ability as to attract any great attention or to diminish the subscription lists of its rivals. The Morning Herald had been started in 1780 by Parson Bate, who quarrelled with his colleagues of The Post. This journal, which is now the organ of mild and antiquated conservatism, was originally started upon liberal principles. Bate immediately ranged himself upon the side of the Prince of Wales and his party, and thus his fortunes were secured. In 1781 his paper sustained a prosecution, and the printer was sentenced to pay a fine of L100, and to undergo one year's imprisonment, for a libel upon the Russian ambassador. For this same libel the printers and publishers of The London Courant, The Noon Gazette, The Gazetteer, The Whitehall Evening Journal, The St. James's Chronicle, and The Middlesex Journal received various sentences of fine and imprisonment, together with, in some cases, the indignity of the pillory. Prosecutions for libel abounded in those days. Horace Walpole says that, dating from Wilkes's famous No. 45, no less than two hundred informations had been laid, a much larger number than during the whole thirty-three years of the previous reign. But the great majority of these must have fallen to the ground, for, in 1791, the then attorney-general stated that, in the last thirty-one years, there had been seventy prosecutions for libel, and about fifty convictions, in twelve of which the sentences had been severe—including even, in five instances, the pillory. The law of libel was extremely harsh, to say the least of it. One of its dogmas was that a publisher could be held criminally liable for the acts of his servants, unless proved to be neither privy nor assenting to such acts. The monstrous part of this was that, after a time, the judges refused to receive any exculpatory evidence, and ruled that the publication of a libel by a publisher's servant was proof sufficient of that publisher's criminality. This rule actually obtained until 1843, when it was swept away by an act of Parliament, under the auspices of Lord Campbell. The second was even worse; for it placed the judge above the jury, and superseded the action of that dearly prized safeguard of an Englishman's liberties, it asserting that it was for the judge alone, and not for the jury, to decide as to the criminality of a libel. Such startling and outrageous doctrines as these roused the whole country, and the matter was taken up in Parliament. Fierce debates followed from time to time, and the assailants of this monstrous overriding of the Constitution—for it was nothing less—were unremitting in their efforts. Among the most distinguished of these were Burke, Sheridan, and Erskine, the last of whom was constantly engaged as counsel for the defence in the most celebrated libel trials of the day. In 1791, Fox brought in a bill for amending the law of libel, and so great had the change become in public opinion, through the agitation that had been carried on, that it passed unanimously in the House of Commons. Erskine took a very prominent part in this measure, and, after demonstrating that the judges had arrogated to themselves the rights and functions of the jury, said that if, upon a motion in arrest of judgment, the innocence of the defendant's intention was argued before the court, the answer would be, and was, given uniformly, that the verdict of guilty had concluded the criminality of the intention, though the consideration of that question had been by the judge's authority wholly withdrawn from the jury at the trial. The bill met with opposition in the House of Lords, especially from Lord Thurlow, who procured the postponement of the second reading until the opinion of the judges should have been ascertained. They, on being appealed to, declared that the criminality or innocence of any act was the result of the judgment which the law pronounces upon that act, and must therefore be in all cases and under all circumstances matter of law, and not matter of fact, and that the criminality or innocence of letters or papers set forth as overt acts of treason, was matter of law, and not of fact. These startling assertions had not much weight with the House of Lords, thanks to the able arguments of Lord Camden, and the bill passed, with a protest attached from Lord Thurlow and five others, in which they predicted 'the confusion and destruction of the law of England.' Of this bill, Macaulay says: 'Fox and Pitt are fairly entitled to divide the high honor of having added to our statute book the inestimable law which places the liberty of the press under the protection of juries.' Intimately connected with this struggle for the liberty of public opinion was another mighty engine, which was brought to bear, and that was the Public Association, with its legitimate offspring, the Public Meeting. The power and influence which this organization exerted were enormous, and, though it was often employed in a bad or unworthy cause—such, for instance, as the Protestant agitation, culminating in Lord George Gordon's riots in 1780—yet it has been of incalculable advantage to the progress of the state, the enlightenment of the nation, and the advancement of civilization, freedom, and truth. Take, for instance, the Slave-Trade Association, the object and scope of which are thus admirably described by Erskine May, in his 'Constitutional History of England':
'It was almost beyond the range of politics. It had no constitutional change to seek, no interest to promote, no prejudice to gratify, not even the national welfare to advance. Its clients were a despised race in a distant clime—an inferior type of the human family—for whom natures of a higher mould felt repugnance rather than sympathy. Benevolence and Christian charity were its only incentives. On the other hand, the slave-trade was supported by some of the most powerful classes in the country—merchants, shipowners, planters. Before it could be proscribed, vested interests must be overborne—ignorance enlightened—prejudices and indifference overcome—public opinion converted. And to this great work did Granville Sharpe, Wilberforce, Clarkson, and other noble spirits devote their lives. Never was cause supported by greater earnestness and activity. The organization of the society comprehended all classes and religious denominations. Evidence was collected from every source to lay bare the cruelties and iniquities of the traffic. Illustration and argument were inexhaustible. Men of feeling and sensibility appealed with deep emotion to the religious feelings and benevolence of the people. If extravagance and bad taste sometimes courted ridicule, the high purpose, just sentiments, and eloquence of the leaders of the movement won respect and admiration. Tracts found their way into every house, pulpits and platforms resounded with the wrongs of the negro; petitions were multiplied, ministers and Parliament moved to inquiry and action.... Parliament was soon prevailed upon to attempt the mitigation of the worst evils which had been brought to light, and in little more than twenty years the slave trade was utterly condemned and prohibited.'
And this magnificent result sprang from a Public Association. In this, the most noble crusade that has ever been undertaken by man, the newspapers bore a conspicuous part, and though, as might be expected, they did not all take the same views, yet they rendered good service to the glorious cause. But this tempting subject has carried us away into a rather lengthy digression from our immediate topic. To return, therefore:
In 1786 there was a memorable action for libel brought by Pitt against The Morning Herald and The Morning Advertiser, for accusing him of having gambled in the public funds. He laid his damages at L10,000, but only obtained a verdict for L250 in the first case, and L150 in the second. In 1789 John Walter was sentenced to pay a fine of L50, to be exposed in the pillory for an hour, and to be imprisoned for one year, at the expiration of which he was ordered to find substantial bail for his good behavior for seven years, for a libel upon the Duke of York. In the following year he was again prosecuted and convicted for libels upon the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, and the Duke of Clarence, but, after undergoing four months of his second term of one year's imprisonment, he was set free, at the instance of the Prince of Wales. The last trial for libel, previous to the passing of Fox's libel bill, was that of one Stockdale, for publishing a defence of Warren Hastings, a pamphlet that was considered as libellously reflecting upon the House of Commons. However, through the great exertions of Erskine, his counsel, he was acquitted.
In 1788 appeared the first daily evening paper, The Star, which continued until 1831, when it was amalgamated with The Albion. The year 1789 is memorable for the assumption of the editorship of The Morning Chronicle by James Perry, under whose management it reached a greater pitch of prosperity and success than it ever enjoyed either before or since—greater, in fact, than any journal had hitherto attained. One of the chief reasons of this success was that he printed the night's debates in his next morning's issue, a thing which had never before been accomplished or even attempted. Another secret of Perry's success was the wonderful tact with which, while continuing to be thoroughly outspoken and independent, he yet contrived—with one exception, hereafter to be noticed—to steer clear of giving offence to the Government. He is thus spoken of by a writer in The Edinburgh Review: 'He held the office of editor for nearly forty years, and he held firm to his party and his principles all that time—a long time for political honesty and consistency to last! He was a man of strong natural sense, some acquired knowledge, a quick tact, prudent, plausible, and with great heartiness and warmth of feeling.' His want of education, however, now and then betrayed him into errors, and a curious instance of this is, that on one occasion, when he meant to say 'epithalamia,' he wrote and printed 'epicedia,' a mistake which he corrected with the greatest coolness on the following day thus: 'For 'epicedia' read 'epithalamia.'
The next event of importance is the appearance of Bell's Weekly Messenger, in 1796, a newspaper that met with immediate success, and is the only one of the weeklies of that period which have survived to the present time. The year '96 is also remarkable for an action brought by The Telegraph against The Morning Post, for damages suffered by publishing an extract from a French paper, which purported to give the intelligence of peace between the Emperor of Germany and France, but which was forged and surreptitiously sent to The Telegraph by the proprietors of The Morning Post. The result was that The Telegraph obtained a verdict for L100 damages. In 1794, The Morning Advertiser had been established by the Licensed Victuallers of London, with the intention of benefiting by its sale the funds of the asylum which that body had recently established. It at once obtained a large circulation, inasmuch as every publican became a subscriber. It exists to the present day, and is known by the slang sobriquet of the 'Tub,' an appellation suggested by its clientele. Its opinions are radical, and it is conducted not without a fair share of ability, but, occasionally venturing out of its depth, it has more than once been most successfully and amusingly hoaxed. One of these cases was when a correspondent contributed an extraordinary Greek inscription, which he asserted had been recently discovered. This so-called inscription was in reality nothing but some English doggerel of anything but a refined character turned into Greek.
In 1797, Canning brought out The Anti-Jacobin as a Government organ, and Gifford—who began life as a cobbler's apprentice at an out-of-the-way little town in Devonshire, and afterward became editor of The Quarterly Review in its palmiest days—was intrusted with its management. The Anti-Jacobin lasted barely eight months, but was probably the most potent satirical production that has ever emanated from the English press. The first talent of the day was engaged upon it; and among its contributors we find Pitt, Lord Mornington, afterward Marquis of Wellesley, Lord Morpeth, afterward Earl of Carlisle, Jenkinson, afterward Earl of Liverpool, Canning, George Ellis, Southey, Lord Bathurst, Addington, John Hookham Frere, and a host of other prominent names at the time. The poetry of The Anti-Jacobin—its strongest feature—has been collected into a volume, which has passed through several editions. This journal was the first to inaugurate 'sensation' headings; for the three columns which were respectively entitled 'Mistakes,' 'Misrepresentations,' 'Lies,' and which most truculently slashed away at the opponents of the political opinions of The Anti-Jacobin, decidedly come under that category.
We have now arrived at another era of persecution. Those were ticklish times, and Pitt, fearing lest revolutionary theories might be promulgated through the instrumentality of the press, determined to tighten the reins, and curb that freedom of expression which, after an interval of rest from prosecution, was manifestly degenerating. Poor Perry was arraigned on a charge of exhibiting a leaning toward France, and he and his printer were fined and sent to prison. Pitt really appears to have had good ground for action, in one instance, at least, for The Courier had made certain statements which might fairly be construed as hostile to the Government, and favorable to France. Moreover, it was stated in the House of Commons by the attorney-general, that a parcel of unstamped newspapers had been seized in a neutral vessel bound to France, containing information 'which, if any one had written and sent in another form to the enemy, he would have committed the highest crime of which a man can be guilty.' Among other things, the departure of the West India fleet under the convoy of two frigates only was noticed, and the greatest fears were expressed for its safety in consequence. Another thing mentioned was, that as there was to be a levy en masse in this country, the French would not be so ill advised as to come here, but would make a swoop upon Ireland. A bill was brought forward, the chief provisions of which were that the proprietors and printers of all newspapers should inscribe their names in a book, kept for that purpose at the stamp office, in order that the book might be produced in court on occasion of any trial, as evidence of the proprietorship and responsibility, and that a copy of each issue of every newspaper should be filed at the stamp office, to be produced as good and sufficient evidence of publication. A vehement debate followed, in the course of which Lord William Russell declared the bill to be an insidious blow at the liberty of the press; and Sir W. Pulteney said that 'the liberty of the press was of such a sacred nature that we ought to suffer many inconveniences rather than check its influence in such a manner as to endanger our liberties; for he had no hesitation in saying that without the liberty of the press the freedom of this country would be a mere shadow.' But the great speech of the debate was that of Sir Francis Burdett, who did not then foresee that the time would come when he himself should make an attack upon the press.
'The liberty of the press,' he said, 'is of so delicate a nature, and so important for the preservation of that small portion of liberty which still remains to the country, that I cannot allow the bill to pass without giving it my opposition. A good Government, a free Government, has nothing to apprehend, and everything to hope from the liberty of the press; it reflects a lustre upon all its actions, and fosters every virtue. But despotism courts shade and obscurity, and dreads the scrutinizing eye of liberty, the freedom of the press, which pries into its secret recesses, discovering it in its lurking holes, and drags it forth to public detestation. If a tyrannically disposed prince, supported by an unprincipled, profligate minister, backed by a notoriously corrupt Parliament, were to cast about for means to secure such a triple tyranny, I know of no means he could devise so effectual for that purpose as the bill now upon the table.'
Spite, however, of this vigorous opposition, the bill passed, and among other coercive measures it decreed heavy penalties against any infringement of the stamp act, such as: 'Every person who shall knowingly and wilfully retain or keep in custody any newspaper not duly stamped, shall forfeit twenty pounds for each, such unstamped newspaper he shall so have in custody'—'every person who shall knowingly or wilfully, directly or indirectly, send or carry or cause to be sent or carried out of Great Britain any unstamped newspaper, shall forfeit one hundred pounds,' and 'every person during the present war who shall send any newspaper out of Great Britain into any country not in amity with his Majesty, shall forfeit five hundred pounds.' Stringent measures these, with a vengeance! The onslaught initiated by Parliament was well seconded by the judges, and Lord Kenyon especially distinguished himself as an unscrupulous (the word is not one whit too strong) foe to the press. To such an extent was this persecution carried, that the printer, publisher, and proprietor of The Courier were fined and imprisoned for the following 'libel' upon the Emperor Paul: 'The Emperor of Russia is rendering himself obnoxious to his subjects by various acts of tyranny, and ridiculous in the eyes of Europe by his inconsistency. He has now passed an edict prohibiting the exportation of timber deal,' etc. To fine a man L100 and imprison him for six months for this was a little overstepping the mark, and a reaction soon followed, as a proof of which may be noticed the act 39th and 40th George III., cap. 72, which allows the newspaper to be increased from the old regulation size of twenty-eight inches by twenty to that of thirty inches and a half by twenty.
William Cobbett now makes his bow as an English journalist. He was already notorious in America, as the author of the 'Letters of Peter Porcupine,' published at Philadelphia; and, upon his return to England, he projected an anti-democratic newspaper, under the title of The Porcupine, the first number of which appeared in November, 1800. It was a very vigorous production, and at once commanded public attention and a large sale. Nevertheless it was but short lived, for the passions and fears to which it ministered soon calmed down; and, its occupation being gone, it naturally gave up the ghost and died. Among other celebrities who now wrote for the newspapers are Porson, the accomplished but bibulous Greek scholar and critic; Tom Campbell, several of whose most beautiful poems first appeared in the columns of The Morning Chronicle, Charles Lamb, Southey, Wordsworth, and Mackintosh. These last five wrote for The Morning Post, and raised it, by their brilliant contributions, from the last place among the dailies—its circulation had actually sunk to three hundred and fifty before they joined its ranks—to the second place, and caused it to tread very closely upon the heels of The Chronicle. Tom Campbell, besides his poetry, wrote prose articles, and was also regularly engaged as a writer in The Star. Porson married James Perry's sister, and many scholarly articles which graced the columns of The Morning Chronicle toward the close of the eighteenth century are generally believed to have emanated from his pen. Mackintosh had written foreign political articles in The Oracle and Morning Chronicle, but, marrying the sister of Daniel Stuart, the proprietor of The Morning Post and The Courier, he transferred his services to those journals, as well as occasionally to The Star, which belonged to a brother of Stuart. Southey and Wordsworth's contributions to Stuart's papers were principally poetry. Charles Lamb's contributions were principally short, witty paragraphs, which he contributed to any of the papers that would receive them, and for which he received the magnificent remuneration of sixpence each! Coleridge had first appeared in the newspaper world as a contributor of poetry to The Morning Chronicle, but was soon after regularly engaged upon The Morning Post and The Courier. Some of his prose articles have been collected together into a volume, and republished with the title of 'Essays on His Own Times.' He was especially hostile to France, and the best proof of the ability and vigor of his anti-Gallican articles is that Napoleon actually sent a frigate in pursuit of him, when he was returning from Leghorn to England, with the avowed intention of getting him into his power if possible. The First Consul had endeavored to get him arrested at Rome, but Coleridge got a friendly hint—according to some from Jerome Bonaparte, and according to others from the Pope, who assisted him in making his escape. Bonaparte had probably gained intelligence of the whereabout of Coleridge from a debate in the House of Commons, in the course of which Fox said that the rupture of the Peace of Amiens was owing to Coleridge's articles in The Morning Post, and added that the writer was then at Rome, and therefore might possibly fall into the hands of his enemy. Napoleon was very much irritated by the attacks upon him in The Morning Chronicle as well as by those in Cobbett's Political Register—The Porcupine under a new name—the Courrier Francois de Londres—the French emigres' paper—and L'Ambigu, which was rather a political pamphlet, published at periodical intervals, than a regular newspaper. He therefore thought proper peremptorily to call upon the English Government to put these papers down with a high hand. But the British cabinet sent this noble reply:
'His Majesty neither can nor will in consequence of any representation or menace from a foreign power make any concession which may be in the smallest degree dangerous to the liberty of the press as secured by the Constitution of this country. This liberty is justly dear to every British subject; the Constitution admits of no previous restraints upon publications of any description; but there exist judicatures wholly independent of the executive, capable of taking cognizance of such publications as the law deems to be criminal; and which are bound to inflict the punishment the delinquents may deserve. These judicatures may investigate and punish not only libels against the Government and magistracy of this kingdom, but, as has been repeatedly experienced, of publications defamatory of those in whose hands the administration of foreign Governments is placed. Our Government neither has, nor wants, any other protection than what the laws of the country afford; and though they are willing and ready to give to every foreign Government all the protection against offences of this nature which the principles of their laws and Constitution will admit, they can never consent to new-model those laws or to change their Constitution to gratify the wishes of any foreign power.'
But Napoleon indignantly declined to avail himself of the means of redress suggested to him, and continued to urge the English Government; who at length made a sort of compromise, by undertaking a prosecution of Peltier, the proprietor of L'Ambigu. Mackintosh was his counsel; and in spite of his speech for the defence, which Spencer Perceval characterized as 'one of the most splendid displays of eloquence he ever had occasion to hear,' and Lord Ellenborough as 'eloquence almost unparalleled,' Peltier was found guilty—but, as hostilities soon after broke out again with France, was never sentenced. The best part of the story, however, is, that all the time ministers were paying Peltier in private for writing the very articles for which they prosecuted him in public! This did not come out until some years afterward, when Lord Castlereagh explained the sums thus expended as 'grants for public and not private service, and for conveying instructions to the Continent when no other mode could be found.' The trial of Peltier aroused a strong feeling of indignation in the country; the English nation has always been very jealous of any interference with its laws at the dictation of any foreign potentate, as Lord Palmerston on a recent occasion found to his cost.
Cobbett was soon after tried for a libel—not, however, upon Napoleon, but upon the English Government. There must have been an innate tendency in Cobbett's mind to set himself in opposition to everything around him, for whereas he had made America too hot to hold him by his anti-republican views, he now contrived to set the authorities at home against him by his advanced radicalism. He had to stand two trials in 1804, in connection with Robert Emmet's rebellion. On the second of these he was fined L500, and Judge Johnson, one of the Irish judges, who was the author of the libels complained of, retired from his judicial position with a pension. These reflections in question upon the Irish authorities would hardly be called libels now-a-days, consisting as they did chiefly of ridicule and satire, which was, after all, mild and harmless enough. In 1810, Cobbett got into trouble again. Some militia soldiers had been flogged, while a detachment of the German Legion stood by to maintain order. Cobbett immediately published a diatribe against flogging in the army and the employment of foreign mercenaries. He was indicted for a 'libel' upon the German Legion, convicted, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment, to pay a fine of L1,000, and to find security in L3,000 for his good behavior during seven years—a sentence which created universal disgust among all classes, and which was not too strongly designated by Sydney Smith as 'atrocious.'
The Oracle—which, by the way, boasted Canning among its contributors—was rash enough to publish an article in defence of Lord Melville. The House of Commons fired up at this, and, led on by Sheridan—quantum mutatus ab illo!—Fox, Wyndham, and others, who had formerly professed themselves friends to the liberty of the press, but who were now carried away by the virulence of party spirit, caused the publisher to be brought before them, and made him apologize and make his submission upon his knees.
In 1805 appeared The News, a paper started by John Hunt and his brother Leigh, then but a mere boy, but who had, nevertheless, had some experience in newspaper writing from having been an occasional contributor to The Traveller, an evening paper, that was afterward amalgamated with The Globe, which still retains the double title. The year 1808 was fruitful in prosecutions for libels, but is chiefly remarkable for the appearance of Hunt's new paper, The Examiner. This was conducted upon what was styled by their opponents revolutionary principles, an accusation which Leigh Hunt afterward vehemently repudiated. This same year also gave birth to the first religious paper which had as yet appeared, under the name of The Instructor, as well as to The Anti-Gallican, which seems to have quickly perished of spontaneous combustion, and The Political Register, an impudent piracy of the title of Cobbett's paper, and directed against him. In 1809, Government passed a bill in favor of newspapers, to amend some of the restrictions under which they labored. This was done on account of the high price of paper: and yet in the following year another attempt was made to exclude the reporters from the House of Commons. These men had always done their work well and honestly, although in their private lives some of them had not borne the very best character. A capital story is told of Mark Supple, an Irish reporter of the old school, who was employed on The Chronicle. One evening, when there was a sudden silence in the midst of a debate, Supple bawled out: 'A song from Mr. Speaker.' The members could not have been more astonished had a bombshell been suddenly discharged into the midst of them; but, after a slight pause, every one—Pitt among the first—went off into such shouts of laughter, that the halls of the House shook again. The sergeant-at-arms was, however, sent to the gallery to ascertain who had had the audacity to propose such a thing; whereupon Supple winked at him and pointed out a meek, sober Quaker as the culprit. Broadbrim was immediately taken into custody; but Supple, being found out, was locked up in a solitary chamber to cool his heels for a while, and then having made a humble apology, to the effect that 'it was the dhrink that did it,' or something of the kind, was set at liberty. But the reporters at the period of this unjust and foolish exclusion—for it was successful for a time—were a very different class of men; and Sheridan told the House that 'of about twenty-three gentlemen who were now employed reporting parliamentary debates for the newspapers, no less than eighteen were men regularly educated at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge, Edinburgh or Dublin, most of them graduates at those universities, and several of them had gained prizes and other distinctions there by their literary attainments.' It was during this debate that Sheridan uttered that memorable and glowing eulogium upon the press which has been quoted in the first of the present series of articles.
It has been shown that at one time the church was the profession which most liberally supplied the press with writers; but now the bar appears to have furnished a very large share, and many young barristers had been and were reporters. The benchers of Lincoln's Inn endeavored to put a stop to this, and passed a by-law that no man who had ever been paid for writing in the newspapers should be eligible for a call to the bar. This by-law was appealed against in the House of Commons, and, after a debate, in which Sheridan spoke very warmly against the benchers, the petition was withdrawn upon the understanding that the by-law should be recalled. From that time to the present, writing in the newspapers and reporting the debates have been the means whereby many of the most distinguished of our lawyers have been enabled to struggle through the days of their studentship and the earlier years of their difficult career.
The last attempt of the House of Commons against the press culminated in Sir Francis Burdett's coming forward in its behalf, and, in an article in Cobbett's paper, among other things he asserted that the House of Commons had no legal right to imprison the People of England. In acting thus, Sir Francis amply atoned for the ridiculous attempt which, prompted by wounded vanity, he had made a few years before to engage the interference of the House of Commons in his behalf in what he called a breach of privilege—the said breach of privilege consisting merely in an advertisement in The True Briton of the resolutions passed at a public meeting to petition against his return to Parliament. The results of his bold attack upon the power of the House of Commons, his imprisonment, the riots, and lamentable loss of life which followed, are so well known as to render any particularizing of them here unnecessary. Originating with this affair was a Government prosecution of The Day, the upshot of which was that Eugenius Roche, the editor—who was also proprietor of another flourishing journal, The National Register—one of the most able, honorable, and gentlemanly men ever connected with the press, of whom it has been truly said that 'during the lapse of more than twenty years that he was connected with the journals of London, he never gained an enemy or lost a friend,' was most unjustly condemned to a year's imprisonment.
The next important event is the trial of the Hunts for a libel in The Examiner in 1811. Brougham was their counsel, and made a masterly defence; and, though Lord Ellenborough, the presiding judge, summed up dead against the defendants—the judges always appear to have done so—the jury acquitted them. Yet Brougham in the course of his address drew the following unfavorable picture of the then state of the press:
'The licentiousness of the press has reached to a height which it certainly never attained in any other country, nor even in this at any former period. That licentiousness has indeed of late years appeared to despise all the bounds which had once been prescribed to the attacks on private character, insomuch that there is not only no personage so important or exalted—for of that I do not complain—but no person so humble, harmless, and retired as to escape the defamation which is daily and hourly poured forth by the venal crew to gratify the idle curiosity or still less excusable malignity of the public. To mark out for the indulgence of that propensity individuals retiring into the privacy of domestic life—to hunt them down and drag them forth as a laughing stock to the vulgar, has become in our days with some men the road even to popularity, but with multitudes the means of earning a base subsistence.'
Soon after this trial and another provincial one connected with the same 'libel'—one gets quite sick of the word—in which the defendants were found guilty in spite of Brougham's exertions in their behalf and the previous verdict of the London jury in the case of the Hunts, a debate arose in the House of Commons on the subject of ex-officio informations generally, and especially with regard to their applicability to the case of newspapers. In the course of this debate Lord Folkestone charged the Government with partiality in their prosecutions, and said: 'It appears that the real rule which guides these prosecutions is this: that The Courier and the other papers which support the ministry of the day, may say whatever they please without the fear of prosecution, whereas The Examiner, The Independent Whig, The Statesman, and papers that take the contrary line, are sure to be prosecuted for any expression that may be offensive to the minister'—an accusation which was decidedly true.
In 1812 the Hunts were again prosecuted for a libel upon the Prince Regent, and sentenced to be imprisoned two years, and to pay a fine of L500. Bat the imprisonment was alleviated in every possible way, as we gather from Leigh Hunt's charming description of his prison in his Autobiography.
'I papered the walls with a trellis of roses; I had the ceiling colored with clouds and sky; the barred windows were screened with venetian blinds; and when my book cases were set up with their busts and flowers, and a pianoforte made its appearance, perhaps there was not a handsomer room on that side of the water.... There was a little yard outside, railed off from another belonging to a neighboring ward. This yard I shut in with green palings, adorned it with a trellis, bordered it with a thick bed of earth from a nursery, and even contrived to have a grass plot. The earth I filled with flowers and young trees. There was an apple tree from which we managed to get a pudding the second year. As to my flowers, they were allowed to be perfect.'
We have now arrived at a period which may almost be called that of the present, inasmuch as many well-known names which still continue to adorn our current literature first begin to appear, together with many others, the bearers of which have but recently departed from among us. Cyrus Redding, John Payne Collier, and Samuel Carter Hall still survive, and, it is to be hoped, are far off yet from the end of their honorable career; and William Hazlitt, Theodore Hook, Lord Campbell, Dr. Maginn, Dr. Croly, Thomas Barnes, William Jordan, and many others, belong as much to the present generation as to the past. Among other distinguished writers must be mentioned Jeremy Bentham and David Ricardo, who contributed articles of sterling merit upon political economy and finance to the newspapers, and especially to The Morning Chronicle, in which journal William Hazlitt succeeded Lord Campbell, then 'plain John Campbell,' as theatrical critic. Cyrus Redding was at one time editor of Galignani's Messenger, and was afterward connected with The Pilot, which was considered the best authority on Indian matters, and in some way or another, at different times, with most of the newspapers of the day. John P. Collier wrote in The Times and Morning Chronicle, Thomas Barnes in The Morning Chronicle and Champion, Croly and S. C. Hall in The New Times—a newspaper started by Stoddart, the editor of The Times, after his quarrel with Walter—Maginn in The New Times, Standard, John Bull, and many others, William Hazlitt in The Morning Chronicle, Examiner, and Atlas, and Theodore Hook in John Bull, of which he was the editor.
In 1815, the advertisement duty, which had hitherto stood at three shillings, was raised to three shillings and sixpence, and an additional halfpenny was clapped on to the stamp duty. There were then fifty-five newspapers published in London, of which fifteen were daily, one hundred and twenty-two in the provinces of England and Wales, twenty-six in Scotland, and forty-nine in Ireland.
And here let us pause to consider the position which the press had reached. It had survived all the attempts made to crush it; nay, more, it had triumphed over all its foes. Grateful to Parliament, whenever that august assemblage befriended it, and standing manfully at bay whenever its liberties had been threatened in either House, it had overcome all resistance, and Lords and Commons recognized in it a safe and honorable tribunal, before which their acts would be impartially judged, as well as the truest and most legitimate medium between the rulers and the ruled. The greatest names of the day in politics and in literature were proud to range themselves under its banners and to aid in the glorious work of extending its influence, developing its usefulness, and elevating its tone and character; and the people at large had learned to look upon it as the firm friend of national enlightenment, and the most trustworthy guardian of their constitutional liberties.
LIFE ON A BLOCKADER.
Life in the camp and in the field has formed the staple of much writing since the commencement of the war, and all have now at least a tolerable idea of the soldier's ordinary life. Our sailors are a different matter, and while we study the daily papers for Army news, we are apt to ignore the Navy, and forget that, though brave men are in the field, a smaller proportion of equally brave serve on a more uncertain field, where not one alone but many forms of death are before them. Shot and shell it is the soldier's duty to face, and the sailor's as well, but one ball at sea may do the work of a thousand on shore: it may pass through a vessel, touching not a soul on board, and yet from the flying splinters left in its path cause the death of a score; its way may lie through the boilers, still touching no one, and yet the most horrible of all deaths, that by scalding steam, result. It may chance to hit the powder magazine, and sudden annihilation be the fate of both ship and crew; or, passing below the water line, bring a no less certain, though slower fate—that which met the brave little Keokuk at Charleston, not many months since.
Life at sea is a compound of dangers, and though the old tar may congratulate himself in a stormy night on being safe in the maintop, and sing after Dibdin—
'Lord help us! how I pitys All unhappy folks on shore'—
to the majority of our present Navy, made up as it is, in part at least, of volunteer officers and men, it is essentially distasteful, and endured only as the soldier endures trench duty or forced marches—as a means of sooner ending the Rebellion, and bringing white-winged Peace in the stead of grim War.
The history of our ironclads, from their first placing on the stocks, to the present time, when Charleston engrosses them all, is read with avidity, but few know anything of life on our blockaders, or, thinking there is not the dignity of danger associated with them, take little or no interest in what they may chance to see concerning them. Those who have friends on blockade duty may be interested to know more of their daily life than can be crowded into the compass of home letters, and the writer, one of the squadron off Wilmington, would constitute himself historian of the doings of at least one ship of the fleet.
Wilmington, Charleston, and Mobile, alone remain of all the rebel ports, but it is with the first we have to do—where it is, how it looks, &c.
Right down the coast, some 450 miles from New York, and a hundred or more from the stormy cape of Hatteras, you will see the river which floats the merchandise to and from the docks at Wilmington, emptying into the ocean at Cape Fear, from which it takes its name. The river has two mouths, or rather a mouth proper, which opens to the south of the cape, and an opening into the side of the river, north of the cape called New Inlet. Perhaps more seek entrance by this inlet than the mouth, which is guarded by Fort Caswell, a strong, regularly built fort, once in Union hands, mounting some long-range English Whitworth guns. One other fort has been built here since the commencement of the war. This inlet is guarded by a long line of earthworks, mounted by Whitworth and other guns of heavy caliber. Wilmington lies some twenty miles from the mouth, and fifteen north of New Inlet.
One great characteristic of this coast is the columns of smoke, which every few miles shoot up from its forests and lowlands. All along the coasts may be seen mounds where pitch, tar, and turpentine are being made. These primitive manufactories for the staple of North Carolina are in many places close down to the water's edge, whence their products may easily be shipped on schooners or light-draft vessels, with little danger of being caught by the blockaders, who draw too much water to make a very near approach to shore. So much for the coast we guard; now for ourselves.
Our vessel, of some thirteen hundred tons, and manned by a crew of about 200 all told, reached blockade ground the early part of March. Our voyage down the coast had been unmarked by any special incident, and when at dusk, one spring afternoon, we descried a faint blue line of land in the distance, and knew it as the enemy's territory, speculation was rife as to the prospect of prizes. About 11 P. M. a vessel hove in sight, which, as it neared, proved to be a steamer of about half our tonnage. Our guns were trained upon the craft, but, instead of running, she steamed up toward us. We struck a light, but it was as loth to show its brightness as the ancient bushel-hidden candle. A rope was turpentined, and touched with burning match, but the flame spread up and down the whole spiral length of the rope torch, to the infinite vexation of the lighter. Fierce stampings and fiercer execrations swiftly terrorized the trembling quartermaster, who, good fellow, did his best, and then, frightened into doing something desperate, made this blaze. We hailed them while waiting for fire to throw signals, letting them know who we were; but the wind carried away our shoutings, and the vessel actually seemed inclined to run us down. Worse yet—what could the little vixen mean?—a bright light, flashed across her decks, showed gathering round her guns a swift-moving band of men. Her crew were training their guns upon us for our swift capture or destruction: she could not see our heavy weight of metal, for our ports were closed. She might be a friend, for so her signal lights seemed to indicate; but if of our fleet, how should we let her know in time to save the loss of life and irreparable harm a single ball from her might do? She had waited long enough for friendly signals from us, and the wind, which swept our shouts from hearing, brought to us from them, first, questions as to who we were, then threats to fire if we did not quickly tell, and then orders passed to the men at the foremost gun: 'One point to the starboard train her!'—words which made their aim on us more sure and fatal. 'Bear a hand with that fire and torch! Be quick, for God's sake, or we'll have a shot through us, and that from a friend, unless we blaze away like lightning with our rockets.' The crew were stepping from the gun to get out of the way as it was fired; the captain of the gun held the lock string in his hand; but the instant had not been lost, and our rockets, springing high in air, told our story. Danger is past: we learn they are not only friends, but to be neighbors, and steam in together to our post rather nearer the shore than other vessels here.
Days pass on in watching, and as yet no foreign sail. We study the line of our western horizon, and find it well filled in with forts, embrazures, earthworks, black-nosed dogs of war, and busy traitors. As time goes on, a new thing opens to the view: a short week ago it seemed but a molehill: now it has risen to the height of a man, and hourly increases in size. Two weeks, and now its summit is far above the reach of spade or shovel throw, and crowned by a platform firmly knit and held together by well-spliced timbers. As to its object we are somewhat dubious, but think it the beginning of an earthwork fortress, built high in order that guns may be depressed and brought to bear on the turrets of any Monitors which might possibly come down upon this place or Wilmington.
At night we draw nearer to the shore, watching narrowly for blockade runners, which evade us occasionally, but oftener scud away disappointed. One night or early morning, 3 A. M. by the clock, we tried to heave up anchor; the pin slipped from the shackles, and the anchor, with forty fathoms of chain attached, slipped and sank to the bottom in some eight fathoms of water.
The next day we steamed into our moorings of the previous night and sought to drag for it. While arranging to do so, we saw a puff of smoke from the shore. Bang! and a massive cannon ball tore whizzing over our heads. The shore batteries had us in their range, and the firing from the far-reaching Whitworth guns grows more rapid. Puff after puff rolls up from the long line of battery-covered hillocks, under the bastard flag, and the rolling thunder peals on our ears with the whizzing of death-threatening balls. Oh! the excitement of watching and wondering where the next ball will strike, and whether it will crush a hole right through us, wasting rich human life, and scattering our decks with torn-off limbs and running pools of blood. Quickly as possible we up anchor and away, and soon are out of reach of balls, which splash the water not a ship's length from us. Even then we involuntarily dodge behind some pine board or other equally serviceable screen; and a newspaper, if that were nearest, would be used for the same purpose—so say those who have tasted many a naval fight. In fact, the dodge is as often after the ball has hit as before, as this story of one of our brave quartermasters will prove: Under fire from rebel batteries, he noted the cloud of smoke which burst from one of the fort's embrazures—watched sharply for the ball—heard the distant roar and its cutting whiz overhead—watched still further, saw it fall into the sea beyond, and then sang out to the captain, 'There it fell, sir!' and like lightning dodged behind a mast, as though the necessity had but just occurred to him.
As our rebel friends see their shot falling short of us, the firing ceases, and thus harmlessly ends the action which for a few moments threatened so much, teaching us the folly of too near approaches to land, or attempts to batter down, to which we have often been tempted, the earthworks daily erecting. It is folly to attempt it, because the disabling of these few blockade steamers would open the port to all who choose to barter with our Southern foes; and, en passant, this will explain why here and elsewhere the rebels build their works under the very noses of our men-of-war. Thus a vessel runs the blockade, and takes into them English Whitworth guns, which send balls flying through the air a good five miles, and whose range is longer than our far-famed Parrott rifled cannon. These Whitworths they place concealed in hillsides, or in forests back of the places where they build the regular fort to protect them. If our vessels approach to batter down these germs of forts, fire is opened on us from these long rangers, and nine chances out of ten we are disabled before we can so much as touch them with our guns; so that for ourselves we accomplish nothing, thereby benefiting them.
Week days and Sundays pass on alike as far as outside incident is concerned, but new features in each other open to view as time goes on. Naval discipline develops the bump of reverence, or at any rate fosters it for a time, and to the volunteer in his first days or weeks passed on board a man-of-war, the dignified captain in the retirement of his cabin is an object of veneration, and the slight peculiarities of some other officers, merely ornamental additions to shining characters. On a Sunday, for instance, in the early part of the cruise, the said bump receives as it were a strengthening plaster, at the sight of officers and men in full dress—the first resplendent in gold-banded caps—multiplied buttons—shining sword hilts, et cetera, et cetera, and the men in white ducks, blue shirts, et cetera, scattered about the decks in picturesque groups. The captain, from the fact of his occupying a private cabin, and seeing the officers merely to give orders or receive reports in the line of their duty, comes but little in contact with them, and, as there is a certain idea of grandeur in isolation, obliges a degree of reverence not accorded to those with whom one is in constant intercourse. A slight feeling of superiority always exists in the minds of those of the regular navy over the volunteer officers, and though at first the ward-room mess all seemed 'hail fellow, well met,' familiarity develops various traits and tendencies, which, in a mess of eight or nine, will not be persuaded to form a harmonious whole. Our lieutenant, for instance, who, in the first days of the cruise, appeared a compound of all the Christian graces, and a 'pattern of a gentleman,' develops a pleasant little tendency to swear viciously on slight provocation, and, though, rather afraid to indulge his propensities to the full, lest the rules of naval service be violated, and disgrace follow, still recreates himself privately, by pinching the little messenger boys till they dance, and gritting his teeth, as if he longed to do more, but didn't dare. It is wonderful how salt water develops character. Our (on land) debonnaire, chivalrous executive, is merged in the swearing blackguard as far as he can be; and yet strange as it may seem, no man can be braver in time of danger, or apparently more forgetful of self. Our paymaster, too, has suffered a sea change: the gentleman is put away with his Sunday uniform, and taken out to air only when it is politic to do so: wine and cigars, owned by somebody else, occasion its instant appearance. No man on ship can show more deference for another's feelings where the captain is concerned; no man more thorough disregard where the sailors come into question. Yet this man has also his redeeming points or point, made perceptible by a solitary remark, remembered in his favor at times when the inclination has been to call him a hypocritical scoundrel. One of the mess, rather given to profanity, said to him one day: 'Paymaster, what's the reason you never swear?' 'Because,' was the answer, 'I never set an example at home which I would not wish my children to follow, and so I've got out of the way of it.'
Various criticisms might be made on officers and men: there are characters enough among them to furnish material for a volume. Some are moderately patriotic, but would have been as much so on the other side, had as strong inducements been held out in the way of 'loaves and fishes.' Others love the cause for itself, and hold life cheap if its sacrifice may in any way advance it. Blockade duty is perhaps a harder test of this love than actual field service; and as months pass on, it becomes almost unendurable. The first few days can be taken up in sight seeing on board, and the most novel of these said sights is the drill which follows the daily call to quarters. The rapid roll of the drum is the signal: here, there, everywhere, on berth deck, spar deck, quarter deck, men spring to their feet, jump from their hammocks, and every door and passage way is blocked up by the crowd, who rush to their respective quarters, and about the armory, each seeking to be the first, who, fully equipped with cutlass, gun, and sabre-bayonet affixed, shall be in his place. Another instant, and all stand about their several guns in rows, awaiting orders from their officers, who sing out in clear commanding tones, as though a real fight were impending: 'Pass 9-inch shell and load!' They drive it home. 'Now run out! train her two points off port quarter; elevate for five hundred yards! Fire! Run her in! Run out starboard gun! Run her home! Train her three points off starboard quarter! Fire!'
High up on the bridge of the hurricane deck, stands the first lieutenant, overlooking the men as they work the guns, train, load, run out, and mimic fire. Suddenly he shouts through the trumpet: 'Boarders and pikemen at port quarter! First boarders advance! Second boarders advance! Repel boarders! Retreat boarders! Pikemen cover cutlass division! Fire! Repel boarders!' The second hand scarcely sweeps over a quarter of its dial before the men have crowded around the port bulwarks, and are slashing the air with a most Quixotic fury—then crouch on bent knee, to make ready their pistols, while in their rear, marines and pikemen, musket and rifle armed, snap their pieces, and pour into an imaginary foe a vast volley of imaginary balls; then pierce the air with savage bayonet thrusts. The farce, and yet a most useful farce, is gone through with. The retreat is ordered to be beat, and all retire; refill the armory with their deadly rifles and side arms, and then return to their respective watches, work, or recreation—some gathering round a canvas checker board; some polishing up bright work; others making pants, shirts, or coats, or braiding light straw hats. Some are aloft, and watching with eager eyes to catch the first glimpse of a sail on the distant horizon; and this he must do from his loftly outlook before the officer of the deck or quartermaster espies one, as they sweep the sky with their long-reaching glasses—else he may suffer reprimand and prison fare.
These and our meals are epochs which measure out the time, between which the minutes and hours pass most wearily, and are filled with longings for home or some welcome words from there, the next meal, or the drum beat to quarters. Said one to me whose time is not used up as is that of the watch officers, by four-hour watches twice in the twenty-four hours: 'When breakfast's done, the next thing I look forward to is dinner, and when that's done, I look for supper time, and then wait in patience till the clock strikes ten, and the 'master at arms' knocks at our several doors, saying: 'Four bells, gentlemen; lights out, sirs.'' So time drags often for weeks together. No new excitement fills the head with thought, and more or less of ennui takes hold on all. In fact, some consider life on shipboard not many removes from prison life; and a man overflowing with the sap of life, whose muscles from head to foot tingle for a good mile run across some open field, a tramp through a grand forest, or climb of some mountain crag, and who loves the freedom of good solid terra firma—he, I say, feels like a close-caged lion.