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The Republican, Issue One

August 27, 2013

republican1

The Republican Issue One

The Republican was first published on this day, August 27th, 1819.  Its creator was Richard Carlile, who was one of the intended speakers  at the St Peter’s Fields reform meeting before the yeomanry transformed the occasion into the Peterloo Massacre.  Shocked by the spectacle of unarmed men women and children being cut to pieces just because they wanted to hear a bit more about democracy, Carlile wrote an account of the event for Sherwin’s Weekly Political Register which led to his instant prosecution.

The Prince Regent also put pen to paper.  He took the initiative of writing personally to congratulate the troops on how promptly and efficiently they had put the plebs to the sword.

(You see, soldiers who slaughter civilians aren’t committing a crime.  People who point out that soldiers slaughter civilians are the real criminals.)

Carlile changed the name of his paper to The Republican on today’s date August 27th 1819h.   He became  determined to republish the works of Thomas Paine and to ensure that Paine’s views on society, representation and religion were made available to ordinary people.  His reward was a jail sentence – but he continued to publish The Republican from prison.

The paper sold so well, it threatened to outsell The Times itself, and its progress was only checked by a new government tax on newspapers – a deliberate attempt to price political discussion out of the reach of the masses.

In the nineteenth-century, free speech was threatened by a politicised tax.  These days, the near ubiquity of unpaid internships in journalism is used as a deliberate means of preventing people from working class backgrounds can no longer work for national newspapers.

Carlile never gave up his passion for democracy and kept trying to find new ways of reaching people, and new ways to sponsor a vigorous popular political culture.  He spent a deal of time in prison.   Actually, his life story is more fascinating, varied, extraordinary and frightening than just about any biopic you’ve ever seen.

Richard Carlile’s name should be known to every schoolchild.  If the right to vote, the right to citizenship, the right to engage in political debate is worth celebrating.  And then it’s worth talking about the slow and painful martyrdom of this man, who never succumbed to pity or despair, creating a narrative that only serves to remind us, sadly, of just how turgid, irrelevant and demotivational  so much so-called “national history” can be made to seem.

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3 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    Another anniversary…

  2. Fix that apostrophe in the second sentence.

  3. Reblogged this on patricktsudlow and commented:
    An intersting article about the Peterloo Massacre and one of the important people, fighting for democracy in the UK. Something that is still, sadly lacking, due to the ‘first-past-the-post’ system. http://www.treestation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Investing-in-community-shares1.pdf. Unfortunately, far too many middle-class, so-called socialist, think Marxism is the only socialist movement the UK had. Marx plagiarised the work of early British, French and German socialists, to produce a work of contradictions.

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