Chartism & the Radical Press of the 19th Century
Throughout the 19th century, the radical press of the day unified localised conflicts and regional rebels and created a political public consciousness stretching from Glasgow to Land’s End.
The radical press emerged from the rise of trade unions and popular radical movements in a time of growing social unrest and an echoing ethos of ‘UNIVSERSAL SUFFERAGE AND NO SURRENDER!’ FOOTNOTE 6,
It was felt Suffrage (the right to vote)FOOTNOTE academic ref., was the key aspect in improving the life of the working class, giving them the political voice they needed.
The press formed as a national platform to voice these concerns and opinions, which became possible due to the ‘prevailing economic structure of publishing’, and the refusal of papers like Jonathan Wooler's ‘Black Dwarf’FOOTNOTE 7 and others, to pay the ‘taxes on knowledge’.
According to Hollis, the Poor Man’s Guardian, the leading penny paper of the 1830s, could break even with a sale as small as 2,5002.
But 1836 saw a shift in legislation leading to a compliance with the reduced penny stamp duty, causing a rise in price intended to hit the working class, reduce readership and quell the uprising.
Yet the attempted censorship proved ineffective, and only caused to enhance the camaraderie felt amongst the proletariat as papers were passed from man to man, and often read orally at social gatherings. Robert Southey recalled newspapers being ‘read aloud in every ale-house’3 in a letter to Lord Liverpool in 1817.
The largest circulating papers were the Chartist papers, (the most influential being Feargus O’Connor’s Northern Star, which by 1838 was already selling around 10,000 copies a week), containing dissenting ideas and revolutionary rhetoric which incited the working classes and intimidated the government.
There was a feeling of revolution across England at that time, with radicals such as Thomas Hodgkin remarking ‘One battle and the deed shall...