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THE PRESS IN WASHINGTON.
383 Tom's Cabin,” Mrs. Stowe's great work, of which Mr. Parton, in one of his “Topics of the Times,” speaks so justly and so graphically. The Daily Chronicle, which I established in 1862, made money for several years because it had for a constituency a reading army. But we did not know our advantages, and were never prepared for the hosts who clamored for it. It was no uncommon thing for us to print thirty thousand a day, a circulation that could have been trebled if we had possessed the material to do the work. But few persons had any confidence, or, indeed, any desire, that the war would be so long protracted. We looked for the collapse of the rebellion every day, and were not surprised, after the troops had gone home, and the camps were broken up, and the hospitals turned into school-houses and dwellings, at the vast difference in our income. But what a change the war has made in the Washington newspapers. The Sunday Chronicle, which was the first of its class ever seen at the capital, established in March, of 1861, gave more news and telegrams in one number than all the old-time dailies did, I was going to say, in a week; and now there are no less than four other Sunday journals. Then compare The Star, Daily Chronicle, and Republican with the old Globe, Union, and Intelligencer. I know all about the two eras, for I worked in both. Twenty-five years ago a telegraphic dispatch or regular local department was a rarity. We were literally drenched with eternal politics. Our editorials were all about the party. Our news was heavy, and our ways were the ways of leisure. The world moved slow, and the newspapers were slower. We generally went to press about 10 P. M., and our matter was always early in hand. Expenses were light; except the salaries, which were always liberal. The profits of the proprietors, especially if they happened to own the organs, were enormous, large enough, in fact, to enable these same proprietors to retire upon handsome fortunes. The last was Mr. Buchanan's champion, General George W. Bowman, the well-known editor of The Bed
ford (Pennsylvania) Gazette, now living, I think, in Cumberland County, in that State, the possessor of a competency earned in Washington. Organship died with the rebellion. The public printing wholly ceased to be a job under Mr. Lincoln, and those who came to make newspapers in Washington have had to do it by hard work, by heavy outlays for news and telegraphs, and by a constant hand-to-hand struggle with a busy competition. The old correspondents, “ Potomac," "The Spy in Washington," "Observer," of The Ledger; “X," of The Baltimore Sun; Independent,” of The North American; and later than these,
Occasional,” of The Press, gave way to the new guild, the alerts of Fourteenth Street, with their ravenous pens, their insatiate greed for news, their sparkling repartees, their genius, wit, and dash. Supplementing these came the modern plan of “interviewing," which no public man, if he values his soul, can shirk without ridicule. Following this new fashion came the fluttering swarm of lady correspondents, with their delicious gossip, their bright sentences, their pictures of great people, and their unequaled photographs of receptions and parties. Only Annie Royall represented the gentler sex thirty years ago, and she had the ill-luck to be a terror rather than a temptation, for she wore a man's hat and carried an umbrella as large as that of “ Paul Pry.”
Yet, with all these advantages over the past, few for cunes are made by the hard-working men in the business of journalism in Washington, excepting, perhaps, The Evening Star, the popular publication of the city, with its large circulation and its comparatively small force of writers. And I perceive that The Star is being steadily pushed by a new rival, called The Daily Critic, which has achieved an immense circulation almost without cost. The expense is too heavy, and the reading public too limited. Government advertising, however liberal, is not sufficient. There must be a community of producers, and Washington is still a city of consumers, men and women in the Departments,
WILLIAM M. MEREDITH.
who get their daily literature gratis, and devour it in the easy intervals of their routine work. When factories become as frequent as fashionables, and when commerce is as active as politics, and when the nation's capital is belted by brilliant country towns like Chester, Norristown, Germantown, Media, West Chester, Manayunk, Frankford, and Camden (New Jersey), near old Philadelphia, a daily newspaper will be a pleasing and profitable investment.
[November 17, 1872.]
FROM his high place as President of the new Convention to reform the Constitution of Pennsylvania, William M. Meredith can overlook the eventful past, in which for half a century he has been a commanding figure. As he aids to smooth the path of the future he will be largely aided by the light of his long experience. Mr. Meredith is now in his seventy-fourth year. He has, therefore, reached the philosophic age, and like the traveler who, at the close of a protracted journey, reaches the crest of a mountain, and surveys all he has seen, he may rest in supreme content upon the retrospect. In the very
hall in which Mr. Meredith now presides, he was, thirty-five years ago, a member of a similar convention from the city of Philadelphia. He was then about thirty-seven, one of the youngest of the delegates, and also one of the most distinguished. The stately character of his ripened age is the fulfillment of his early manhood. None of the old men of the Convention of 1837 surpassed Mr. Meredith in mental gifts and solid judgment, and there were some far advanced in the vale of years at that time. Thaddeus Stevens was a delegate from the County of Adams, and was in his forty-fourth year. Ritner was Governor of Penn
sylvania, and Stevens was the acknowledged leader of the antiMasonic party-in fact, the controller of the State administration. John Sergeant, of Philadelphia, was president of the convention, the beau ideal of a gentleman, jurist, and citizen. I can recall him, when, as a boy, I sat in the galleries and watched his courteous manners and impartial rulings. Of medium height, there was that in his sad and saturnine face, in the glance of his eye, and the tones of his voice, which gave unspeakable dignity to the Chair. Parties were in no pleasant mood.
No such era of good feeling pervaded the people as at the present day, when other delegates are called to amend our fundamental law, surrounded by every inducement to avoid a prejudiced and partial course. The Democrats had lost the State by the Wolf and Muhlenberg quarrel in 1835-36, and were rapidly reuniting to regain it in 1838. Mr. Stevens carried things with a high hand. He boldly wielded the patronage of the State administration to strengthen Governor Ritner; he attacked the Masonic Order, and had some of the most eminent of its members summoned before his Committee of Investigation. He assumed the leadership of his party in the Reform Convention. Yet in despite of his dogmatism there was an indescribable charm about Thaddeus Stevens. If he was a violent partisan, he was a generous friend and a chivalric foe. If he struck hard with his clenched hand, he gave and forgave freely with his open one; and though often intolerant and illogical in his war upon secret societies--as he afterward proved in 1854, when he joined the Know-Nothings—his splendid championship of universal education and his support of universal emancipation, made men forget his sharp sayings, and compelled admiration if they did not arouse affection.
Young Meredith was not disposed to follow the imperious New-Englander, and there was an early. conflict between them. The attack upon the Masons was particularly distasteful to Meredith, and he revolted from the attempt to introduce politics
REPLY TO THADDEUS STEVENS.
into the convention. At last the storm broke. On the 5th of June, 1837, Mr. Meredith paid his respects to Mr. Stevens in a remarkable speech, of which the following is a specimen :
“Mr. President, when the home of my birth and affections was causelessly assailed, I defended her. What man would have done less? I defended her with warmth. Who would have wished me to do it coldly? It is said that I used strong language, and yet, sir, I used the feeblest of all the words that were rushing from my heart to my lips. This is the very head of my offense. For this I am thrown, like a captive Christian, naked into the arena, where the Great Unchained of Adams is baying at my throat, while my vulpine friend from Franklin eats smoothly into my vitals; and, like the Spartan fool, I hug him to my bosom. Alas, sir! what a spectacle do we here exhibit ! What monuments of weakness are we leaving for posterity ! How far is our position below the true and just standard of a body charged with functions such as these we are appointed to fulfill. In all the other States discussions on the framing of their constitutions have been temperate and deliberate. Even the hot-blooded South can consider its organic laws calmly, coolly, and dispassionately. Here alone, here in Pennsylvania, we seem resolved to prove to the world that if we can not determine every thing according to the dictates of absolute wisdom, we can at least debate with indecent heat, and degrade the assembled majesty of the people by party strife and personal bitterness. In all that I have said, sir, I have been actuated by a desire merely to discharge my duty by defending my constituents and myself. I entertain no hostility to the gentleman from Adams. Indeed, why should I? On the contrary, no man admires more than I do his great abilities. I avow that he displays talents which, within their proper sphere, are, in my experience, unsurpassed, if not unrivaled. In party tactics and small manæuvres I have never seen his equal, and do not expect to meet his superior. Who can forget the mingled sar