Open main menu

Page:Early struggles of the Australian press.djvu/3

This page needs to be proofread.

PREFACE. OF all the institutions of Australia, the Press has exhibited the greatest vitality, exercised the most powerful influence, and illustrated the most decided progression.

Usually the march of events in our Southern Colonies has been estimated by their increase of population, their growth of revenue, their leap in commerce, their expansion of wealth; yet there can be no more reliable evidence of development than that afforded by the history of their Press.

Colonial progress in people and resources has engaged many pens. The complete narrative of Australian newspapers has yet to be written. The author, who had his first personal knowledge of colonial literature in 1841, and has seen there the earliest specimens of the printer's art, desired to lay some foundation stones of the structure that is to declare the glory of the Australian Press. As he has told the tale of primitive settlements and primitive races, he would fain tell something of primitive printers and editors. Younger men must take up the thread of discourse.

The crushing in of so many particulars, in a space limited by circumstances, could not fail to involve some sacrifice of rounded periods and polished style, for which the critics' indulgence is sought.

The honour of the institution of the Press in Australia is claimed by Governor King. His motive for the work is thus described in his dispatch to Lord Hobart, May 9th, 1803:-

"It being desirable that the settlers, and inhabitants at large, should be benefited by useful information being distributed among them, I considered that a weekly publication would greatly facilitate that design; for which purpose I gave permission to an ingenious man, who manages the Government printing press, to collect materials weekly, which, being inspected by an officer, is published in the form of a weekly newspaper, copies of which, as far as they have been published, I have the honour to enclose. And as the motive that has guided me in granting this indulgence to the inhabitants has been for bettering their condition, I promise myself your lordship's approbation. To the list of wants I have added a new fount of letters, which may be procured for eight or ten pounds, sufficient for our purpose, if approved of."

Though Australia has now political emancipation from the absolute control of a Governor, needing, from him neither patronage nor favour, the fostering hand of a ruler in its infant days should be gratefully acknowledged by colonists at the present time.

The "Struggles of the Australian Press" are but records of ancient history; yet the men who endured much to maintain and carry forward the light of colonial literature are surely entitled to respectful memory, if not sympathetic regard.

London, February 1st, 1890. JAMES BONWiCK.