The Radical was a short-lived newspaper with a singular editorial focus: political reform. The title was published in the aftermath of the landslide General Election in favour of pro-Reform Whigs. Its motto was “The time will come when men must stand or fall according to their actions”, attributed to the Scottish reformist and political martyr, Thomas Muir. The editorials were mostly aimed at the imminent Reform Bill, and through these and its choice of coverage, The Radical campaigned strongly in favour of the act. It focused on an impressive range of grievances, including electoral reform, unfair taxes, rotten boroughs, cronyism in the Clergy and corrupt University policies – but saving much of its vehemence for the anti-reform Tories.
The newspaper’s radical policies were explicitly outlined in the first issue, with its editorial stating that “no representative of the people can be just or satisfactory, which is not founded upon the largest extension of suffrage consistent with property”. The newspaper evidently believed that public information was key to change: it published lists of the newly returned MPs, indicating their stance towards the act.
Elsewhere, the title performed its journalistic duties with competence. The paper regularly covered a broad range of topics: besides parliamentary politics there were sections covering court and police reports, Irish affairs, foreign affairs, theatre reviews and some poetry and fiction. A second, evening edition added additional foreign intelligence. It relied heavily on clippings from other titles, both for news and what it termed ‘anecdotiana’. The paper printed stock prices, as well as insolvencies and dividends from the London Gazette.
Despite vituperative editorials its tone could be measured: the paper wasn’t against the Monarchy, or the subset of ‘respectable’ noblemen, one of which, it reminded its readers, had brought forward the Reform Bill in the first place. The editors were broadly sympathetic towards the plight of the Irish poor - in the grips of a famine in Connaught since 1830. Even here the paper saw its chance to campaign for its primary cause: writing that the Reform Bill was the way to improve conditions in that country. Support towards the Irish was not unwavering: although the paper stated that it supported Catholic Emancipation, it printed sensational stories with an anti-Irish sentiment.
The writers of The Radical proclaimed themselves as part of the movement reclaiming the name ‘radical’ from the ‘shouts of derision’ it had received in recent history. Now, the first editorial claimed, ‘the despised Radical is heard and met with respect’. Despite this fact, after only three issues, The Radical was renamed and relaunched as The Reformer.
Yann Ryan, The British Library
For this newspaper, we have the following titles in, or planned for, our digital archive:
- 1831–31 The radical.
- 1831–31 The radical.
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.