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May 29, 1831

cover page of Ballot published on May 29, 1831






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The Ballot was a weekly newspaper with a reform agenda, which appeared between January 1831 and November 1832. It was edited by Thomas Wakely, the famous surgeon, Radical MP and founder of the Lancet (1823-) journal. Both the Ballot and the Lancet publications were printed and published under the same arrangement.

The Ballot advocated Chartist principles, and in particular, it championed the secret ballot, stating in its opening issue that: ‘The Title which we have adopted, declares, in one word, our political creed. It announces that we are Reformers in the fullest acceptation of the term, and that we maintain the great and just principle, that no plan of Reform can effectually relieve the people or give stability to a popular government, unless it include Vote By Ballot.’ From 5th June 1831 it began appearing with the motto ‘Truth, and the Sovereignty of the People’ under the header.

As well as advocating for electoral reform, the newspaper also devoted a great deal of space to the plight of the poor, their living and working conditions, and the measures that should be taken to alleviate their problems. It included in-depth coverage of the 1832 cholera epidemic, with articles about the Government response, reports of the infection in various parts of Britain, and adverts for assorted treatments. A further subject of interest was press freedom, and particularly the relationship between politics and the press. On 10th July 1831 almost the entire front page was devoted to the trial of William Cobbett for seditious libel, and later issues celebrated his acquittal.

In August 1831 William Carpenter’s Political Letter (1831) was incorporated into the Ballot, after Carpenter’s financial situation, strained by legal wranglings and imprisonment for Stamp Tax evasion, made it impossible for him to support his publication any longer. The two newspapers advocated for many similar reforms, and Wakely had promised Carpenter that his causes would continue to be represented by the Ballot. However, it must be noted that in reality the Political Letter simply disappeared into the Ballot, and other than the notices mentioning their incorporation, there were little outward change to the Ballot in format, content or tone in the aftermath of the merger.

Beth Gaskell, The British Library

For this newspaper, we have the following titles in, or planned for, our digital archive:

  • 1831–32 The Ballot.

This newspaper is published by an unknown publisher in London, London, England. It was digitised and first made available on the British Newspaper Archive in Jul 22, 2021 . The latest issues were added in Jul 22, 2021.