The War of the Unstamped: The Movement to Repeal the British Newspaper Tax, 1830-1836

The War of the Unstamped: The Movement to Repeal the British Newspaper Tax, 1830-1836

The War of the Unstamped: The Movement to Repeal the British Newspaper Tax, 1830-1836

The War of the Unstamped: The Movement to Repeal the British Newspaper Tax, 1830-1836

Excerpt

The middle-class campaign for repeal of the taxes on knowledge was waged, to a considerable extent, at the parliamentary level. This fact reflected the belief of propertied reformers that the major channels of government remained open to them. A small phalanx of M.P.'s, such as Roebuck, Hume, D. W. Harvey, and George Grote, represented their interests in the Commons while sympathetic politicians of influence, including Edward Ellice, Grey's brother-in-law, and Lord Durham, served frequently as intermediaries on their behalf. Furthermore, the weaknesses of party ties during the 1830's enabled the parliamentary radicals to act as a buffer between the two parties -- the Whigs and the Tories -- and to try to pressure successive governments into making concessions.

By contrast, few working-class radicals considered seriously the possibility of securing repeal of the newspaper tax by parliamentary means. The Reform Act of 1832 had persuaded them that their interests, once "betrayed," were not likely to be further satisfied by the narrowly-elected Parliament. Hume and other M.P.'s who had supported the statute were condemned for "abandoning" the laboring classes. Some working-class activists would not even direct petitions to Parliament or to the monarch . . .

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