I now give “The Press,” that wonderful lever Archimedes wished for, and which has moved the world, which has impelled it onward in the path of knowledge, of mercy, and of human improvement so far that nothing in the world can ever roll it back! The mass of the people, said Dr. Johnson very truly, in any country where printing is unknown, must be barbarous. Sir Thomas More, the best, and the wisest, and the greatest of men, however, before the press was established, died what was almost the natural death of the good, and the wise, and the great. Sir Thomas More so clearly saw into futurity, and described from afar oft the stupendous influence of the press, that he went out of his way to set up a printing press in Utopia, knowing that without it even the people of that fancied land would not bear competition in the course of years with the real nations of the earth.

If they looked back only for two hundred years, to that time when the Dutch citizen carved letters on the bark of the beechen tree, and took off impressions of them on paper as toys to please his grandchildren—he little knew the wonderful agent which, in scarcely a century, was about to burst on mankind; what a strong engine in the course of time it must become, even in the land where the ruthless vices and crimes of the anointed ruffian who spread More’s bloody pillow were to acquire him an immortality of infamy. I thank God that it has been so; from that hour no good has been devised, no wonderful invention has been broached, no barbarism has been struck down, but that same press has had its iron grip upon it, and never once has it let it till it was done.

If we look at our social and daily life, we shall see how constantly present the press is, and how essential an element it has become of civilised existence. In great houses, and even in lowly huts, in crowds and in solitudes, in town and country, in the nursery of the children and by the old man’s elbow chair—still, in some shape or other, there it is!

Now it is an alphabet, with its fat, black capital letters—now in the form of whole words—now in the story of “Puss in Boots’’—now as “Robinson Crusoe”—now as a tale of the Caliph Haroun Alraschid—now as a Lindley Murray—now as a “Tutor’s Assistant”—then as a Virgil, a Homer, or a Milton—now in the form of the labours of the editor of a popular newspaper: in some shape or other the press is constantly present and associated with our lives, from the baptismal service to the burial of the dead.

I know that to some its power is obnoxious. There are some gentlemen of a patriotism so unselfish, that they would put the newspaper press of their native country on an equality of efficiency with that of another nation, which, so long ago as Benjamin Franklin wrote, was an unique, a distinct, and a singular thing.

But as we have means of judging for ourselves, every morning and evening, of the newspaper literature, it is satisfactory to know that there never was a righteous cause but the same men have hated it; and there never was a disappointed man or a discontented patriot, anxious to pass upon a people determined not to recognise him as such, but he has bemoaned the privileges of the press in the same crocodile’s tears.

With regard to the influence of the press on public men, I only leave you to judge from what public men often are even with this engine in full operation, what sort of characters they would be without it. I give you then, “the fountain of knowledge and the bulwark of freedom, the founder of free states and their preserver —the Press!”


The following are some contemporary newspaper reports of the event:


The anniversary dinner of the above excellent institution was celebrated on Tuesday evening at the London Tavern, on which occasion Charles Dickens, Esq. (Boz), presided. About 150 gentlemen sat down, and many gentlemen of first-rate literary repute were present. The subscriptions at the close of the evening amounted to 295l., being the largest amount ever before received at its anniversary. It was altogether a literary treat, having amongst the company T. Hood, Esq., Douglas Jerrold, Esq., F. W. N. Bailey, Esq., R. Bell, Esq., J. Forster, Esq., &c, who severally favoured the company by returning thanks for different toasts that were given during the evening,

The Standard. Thursday, 6 April 1843.