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The untimely decease of the Republic, the paper which was set up some months ago to express in a semi-official way the views of the Administration and its immediate adherents on public questions, has a good deal that is tragic about it, as far as its principal conductor is concerned. That a man of as much experience of politics and of newspapers as Mr. Norvell, the editor, had, should have supposed it possible to start a daily morning paper in this city at a time when a successful daily is worth millions, and when there are four already in possession of the field, without any other claims on popular attention than its being the mouth-piece of the leading politicians of the party in power, and with a capital which in his dreams only reached $500,000, and in fact only $40,000, is a curious though sad illustration of the power of the press over the imagination even of persons long familiar with it. The failure of the enterprise, however distressing in some of its aspects, is valuable as establishing more conspicuously and firmly than ever two facts of considerable importance in relation to journalism. One is, that when politicians so deeply desire an organ as to be willing to set one up for the exclusive use of the party, it is a sure sign that the party is in serious danger of extinction. The other is, that the public mind is so fully made up that the position of a newspaper ought to be a judicial one, that all attempts to make a paper avowedly partisan can only be saved from commercial failure by large capital, extraordinary ability, and well-established prestige.

“Organs” took their rise when the sole use of a newspaper was to communicate intelligence, and when men in power found it convenient to have a channel through which they could let out certain things which they wished to be spread abroad. Out of this kind of relation to the Government a small paper, which did not object to the humble role of a sort of official gazette, from which the earlier newspapers indeed differed but little, could, of course, always get a livelihood, and perhaps a little of the dignity which comes from having or being supposed to have state secrets to keep. But the gradual addition to the “news-letter” of the sermon known as a “leader” or “editorial article” made the relation more and more difficult and finally impossible. The more pompous, portentous, and prophetic in their character the editor’s comments on public affairs became, the less disposed was the public to allow him to retain the position of a paid agent of the State. It began to feel toward him as it would have felt toward the town-crier if he had put on a gown and bands, and insisted on accompanying his announcement of thefts and losses with homilies on the vanity of life and the right use of opportunities. The editor had, in short, to conduct his business in a manner befitting his newly assumed duties as a prophet, and to pretend at least that his utterances were wholly independent and were due simply to a desire for the public good, as a prophet’s ought to be. It is now very rare indeed that a government is able to induce a well-established newspaper of the first class to act as its organ in the proper sense of that term, except by working on the vanity of editors. Almost all editors are a little sensitive about the imputation of being mere commentators or critics, and a little desirous of being thought “practical men,” by those engaged in the actual working of political machinery. The “old editor” in this country in fact preferred to be thought a working politician, and liked to use his paper as a piece of political machinery for producing solid party gains, and in this way to be received into the circle of “workers” and “managers” as one of themselves; and to retain this position he was always willing to “write up” any view they suggested. His successor, though he cares less about being “a worker,” and is able to secure the attendance of politicians at his office without running after them, is, nevertheless, more or less flattered by the confidences of men in power, and it often takes only a small amount of these confidences to make him surrender the judicial position and accept that of an advocate, and stand by them through thick and thin. But no leading journal has ever tried this position in our day very long without being forced out of it by the demand of the public for impartiality and the consequent difficulty of avoiding giving offence in official quarters. Every administration does things either through its chief or subordinates which will not bear defence, and which its judicious friends prefer to pass over in silence. But a journalist cannot keep silent. The Government may require him to hold his tongue, but the reader demands that he shall speak; and as the public supplies the sinews of war, and pays for the prophet’s robes, he is sooner or later compelled to break with the Government and to reproach it for not listening to the advice of its friends in time.