Literary Copyright Reform in Early Victorian England: The Framing of the 1842 Copyright Act

By Catherine Seville | Go to book overview

3
CRITICS IN PARLIAMENT

THE RADICAL NEXUS

Talfourd faced considerable and diverse opposition within parliament. In a time when party discipline was not strong, and on a superficially non-political issue, such as copyright, members were in principle free to vote as they wished. Nevertheless, some subgroups are apparent, particularly the radicals, but also the law officers, as well as some high-profile individuals.

The most vociferous voices against the bill were those of Joseph Hume, Henry Warburton and Thomas Wakley. Politically, all three were radicals, as was Grote, also an opponent.1 Henry Ward, Edward Baines and Edward Strutt, who also spoke strongly against an extension of copyright, were liberals with some radical sympathies. All of them presented many petitions, and were essential in the orchestration of the mass petitioning effort. Important though the radical inheritance was, it would be incomplete and misleading to explain their stance as an inevitable one given the 'radical' label. It is rather in the individual interests of these men that the roots of the radical opposition to copyright are revealed.

The war against the unstamped press, waged first by Viscount Sidmouth and the Tories, but maintained by the Whigs, represented a deliberate attempt to prevent the dissemination of radical political opinions.2 This was only partially successful, and the

____________________
1
See for example: Simon Maccoby, English Radicalism (1935–61); Gillian Sutherland (ed. ), Studies in the growth of nineteenth-century government (1972); William Thomas, The philosophic radicals (Oxford, 1979).
2
For a detailed history see the following: Collet Dobson Collet, History of the taxes on knowledge, their origin and repeal (1899); Patricia Hollis, The pauper press (1970); M. C. Moore, 'The history of the agitation against the stamp duty on newspapers 1830–55' (unpublished M. A. thesis, King's College, London, 1935); Joel H. Weiner, The war of the unstamped (Ithaca and London, 1969).

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