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Front page of the 19 January 1828 edition
Wikimedia Commons

Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, commonly known as The Political Register, was a weekly newspaper founded in 1802 by the journalist, politician and farmer William Cobbett (1763–1835), and published until his death.[1]

The paper initially pursued a “fiercely right‐wing anti‐French stance” in support of the Tory government,[2] but by 1804, concerned about the growing national debt and the numerous government awards he considered to be “unmerited sinecures”, Cobbett’s position was becoming increasingly Radical; by 1807 the paper was lending its support for parliamentary reform. The gridiron in the newspaper’s masthead reflects Cobbett’s obsession with the national debt. By the 1820s he was convinced that it could never be paid off in specie – coins rather than notes, which he distrusted – without defaulting, and vowed to roast himself on a gridiron if it was ever done.[3]

From 1816 Cobbett published two different editions of the newspaper: a full-price version and a cheaper one that avoided stamp duty by carrying opinion pieces but no news. Although dismissed as “twopenny trash” by its critics it built a large circulation, and was probably the main periodical read by working-class people at the time.[4] In its first month alone it sold 44,000 copies, and its popularity so alarmed the government that it rushed through the Six ActsSix Acts of Parliament introduced in the aftermath of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, intended to quash any further protests in support of parliamentary reform. of 1819 in an attempt to stem public support for parliamentary reform.[3] The new legislation closed the tax loophole Cobbett had exploited to avoid stamp duty, but he did later bring out a cheaper monthly version that adopted the name Twopenny Trash.[4]


The Political Register included accounts of proceedings in parliament, but not of the debates themselves, which Cobbett published separately every six months as part of Cobbett’s Annual Political Register, first published in 1804. The Register was printed by Thomas Curson Hansard (1776–1833), who following Cobbett’s bankruptcy bought him out, thus creating the Hansard still in publication today.[3]