Take a representative and pertinent example. Eight years ago there were in New York ten or eleven standard newspapers, as ably and inclusively edited and as energetically and successfully conducted, business-wise, as they are now. Even at their worst they were decently mindful of life's proprieties and moralities and they throve by legitimate sale of the most and best news and the best possible elucidation and discussion thereof. The father could bring the paper of his choice to his breakfast table with no fear that his own moral sense and self-respect might be outraged, or that the face of his wife might be crimsoned and the minds of his children befouled. But there came from out of the West new men and new forces, quick to see the larger opportunity opened in the very center of five millions of people, and almost in a night came the metamorphosis of the old World into the new. It was deftly given out that existing conditions were inadequate to the better deserts of the Knickerbocker, the Jersey-man, and the Yankee, and that a new purveyor of more highly seasoned news and a more doughty champion of their rights and interests was hither from the land of life and movement - at two cents per copy.

There was a panic in New York newspaper counting rooms, and prices tumbled in two days from the three and four cents of fair profit to the two and three cents of bare cost or less. The new factors in demoralization cared nothing for competition in prices or legitimate goods, for they had other ideas of coddling the dear people. Ready to their purpose lay disintegrated Liberty, waiting for a rock upon which to plant her feet and raise her torch, and the new combination between the world, the flesh and the devil, waiting and ready for access to the pockets of the public, was only too ready to set up Liberty and itself at one stroke, if only the joint operation could be done without expense to itself. The people said, "What wonderful enterprise!" "What a generous spirit!" The combination, with tongue in cheek and finger laid alongside nose, said to itself as it saw its circulation spring in one bound from five figures into six, "Verily we've got there! for these on the Hudson are greater gudgeons than are they on the Mississippi." From then until now, with an outward semblance and constant pretense of serving the people; with blare of trumpet and rattle of drum; with finding Stanley, who never had been lost; with scurrying peripatetic petticoats around the globe; with all manner of unprofessional and illegitimate devices; with so-called "contests" and with all manner of "schemes" without limit in number, kind, or degree; with every cunningly devised form of appeal to curiosity and cupidity - from then until now that combination has been struggling to hold and has held an audience of the undiscriminating and the unthinking.

But, further, and worse, a short-sighted instinct of self-preservation has led other papers to follow somewhat at a distance in this demoralizing race. None of them has gone to such lengths, but the tendency to literary, mental and moral dissipation induced by a hitherto unknown form of competition has swerved and largely recast the methods of every New York daily save only the Tribune, Times, Commercial Advertiser, and Evening Post, while the converse side of securing business clientage is illustrated in a way that would be amusing if it were not pathetic, by that abnormal and fantastic cross between news and pietetics which mails and expresses itself to the truly good. These are forms of competition which the business end of legitimately conducted newspapers is compelled to meet. In a certain way these methods do succeed, but how, and how long and how much shall they succeed except by unsettling the mental and moral poise of the people, and by setting a new and false pace for publishers everywhere whose thoughts take less account of means than of ends? Which shall we hold in higher esteem and in our business patronage - Manton Marble and Hurlbut, gentlemen, scholarly, wise leaders, conscientious teachers, with barely living financial income; or their successors, parvenus, superficial, meretricious, false guides, time-serving leaders, a thousand dollars a day of clear profit, housed in the tower of Babel?

Considered in the large, the circulation side of the American newspaper has many indefensible aspects. As "nothing succeeds like success," or the appearance of success, the prestige of not a few newspapers is ministered unto by rotund and deceptive representations of circulation. Then, as few can live, much less profit, on their circulations alone, it becomes greatly important to make the advertiser see circulations through the large end of the telescope, and so the fine art of telling truth without lying is a live and perennial study in many counting rooms. Discussing the circulation question not long ago with the head of a leading religious paper, he told me that the number of copies he printed was a thing that he never stated definitely, because the publishers of the other religious newspapers lied so about their circulations that he would do himself injustice if he were to tell the truth about his own. The secular papers should set an example for their religious brethren, but they do not, for from many of them there is lying - systematic, persistent, and more or less colossal.

Not long ago, within a few days of each other, three men who were simultaneously employed on a certain paper told me their actual circulation, confidentially, too. One of them put it at 85,000, the second at 110,000, and the third at 130,000, and each of them lied, for their lying was so diversified and entertaining that I felt a real interest in securing the truth, and so I took some trouble to ask the pressman about it. He told me, very confidentially, that it was 120,000 - and he lied.

By this time my interest was so heightened that I told my personal friend, the publisher, about the inartistic and incoherent mendacity of his subordinates, whereupon he laughingly showed me his circulation book, which clearly, and I have no doubt truthfully, exhibited an average of 88,000. The wicked partner is nearly always ready to show the actual record of the counting machines on the presses, and "figures never lie" but the truth-telling machines which record actual work of the impression cylinders make no mention of damaged copies thrown aside, of sample copies, files, exchanges, copies kept against possible future need, copies unsold, copies nominally sold but sooner or later returned and finally sold to the junk shop, and all that sort of thing. One prints a large extra issue on a certain day for some business corporation which has its own purpose to serve by publication of an article in its own interest, whereby many thousands of copies are added to that day's normal output, and he makes the exceptional number for that day serve as the exponent of his circulation until good fortune brings him a similar and possibly larger order, and his circulation is reported as "still increasing." Another struck a "high-water mark" of "190,500" the day after Mr. Cleveland was elected, and that has been the implied measure of circulation for the last six years.

Another, during a heated political campaign, or a great financial crisis, or some other dominant factor in public interest, makes a large and genuine temporary increase, but the highest mark gained does enforced duty in the eyes of the marines until another flood tide sweeps him to a greater transient height. These are types of the competitions of the circulation liar. At this very hour there are four daily newspapers each of which has the largest circulation in the United States. Of the nearly 18,000 American publications only 103 furnish detailed, open, and entirely trustworthy statements of circulation.

As to the general public this is no great matter, but to the vast number of business men who buy the real or fancied publicity afforded by newspaper advertising it is of exceeding importance. That the large buyers of advertising space are not more and oftener swindled is because they understand the circulation extravaganza and buy space according to their understanding. The time is coming, and it should come soon, when newspaper circulations shall be open to the same inspection and publicity as is now the case with banks and insurance companies, and when the circulation liar and swindler shall be amenable to the same law and liable to the same penalty as stands against and is visited upon any other perjurer and thief.

(To be continued.)

[1]A recent address before the Outlook Club, of Montclair, N.J.