This made a great impression on my mind, and I really lived in this faith until some years ago it happened upon a stormy night I was kindly escorted from a bleak railway station to the little out-of- the-way town it represented by a sprightly and vivacious newsman, to whom I propounded, as we went along under my umbrella--he being most excellent company--this old question, what was the one all- absorbing passion of the human soul? He replied, without the slightest hesitation, that it certainly was the passion for getting your newspaper in advance of your fellow-creatures; also, if you only hired it, to get it delivered at your own door at exactly the same time as another man who hired the same copy four miles off; and, finally, the invincible determination on the part of both men not to believe the time was up when the boy called.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have not had an opportunity of verifying this experience with my friends of the managing committee, but I have no doubt from its reception to-night that my friend the newsman was perfectly right. Well, as a sort of beacon in a sufficiently dark life, and as an assurance that among a little body of working men there is a feeling of brotherhood and sympathy- -which is worth much to all men, or they would herd with wolves-- the newsvendors once upon a time established the Benevolent and Provident Institution, and here it is. Under the Provident head, certain small annuities are granted to old and hard-working subscribers. Under the Benevolent head, relief is afforded to temporary and proved distress. Under both heads, I am bound to say the help rendered is very humble and very sparing, but if you like it to be handsomer you have it in your power to make it so. Such as it is, it is most gratefully received, and does a deal of good. Such as it is, it is most discreetly and feelingly administered; and it is encumbered with no wasteful charges for management or patronage.
You know upon an old authority, that you may believe anything except facts and figures, but you really may believe that during the last year we have granted 100 pounds in pensions, and some 70 pounds in temporary relief, and we have invested in Government securities some 400 pounds. But, touching this matter of investments, it was suggested at the anniversary dinner, on the high and kind authority of Sir Benjamin Phillips that we might grant more pensions and invest less money. We urged, on the other hand, that we wished our pensions to be certain and unchangeable-- which of course they must be if they are always paid out of our Government interest and never out of our capital. However, so amiable is our nature, that we profess our desire to grant more pensions and to invest more money too. The more you give us to- night again, so amiable is our nature, the more we promise to do in both departments. That the newsman's work has greatly increased, and that it is far more wearing and tearing than it used to be, you may infer from one fact, not to mention that we live in railway times. It is stated in Mitchell's "Newspaper Press Directory," that during the last quarter of a century the number of newspapers which appeared in London had more than doubled, while the increase in the number of people among whom they were disseminated was probably beyond calculation.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have stated the newsman's simple case. I leave it in your hands.