A tax was first imposed on British newspapers in 1712. The tax was gradually increased until the 1815 Stamp Act increased it to 4d. a copy. As few people could afford to pay 6d. or 7d. for a newspaper, the tax restricted the circulation of most of these journals to people with fairly high incomes.
Some radicals such as Richard Carlile ignored the law and continued to publish his newspaper, the Republican without paying stamp duty. Carlile was found guilty of blasphemy and seditious libel and sentenced to three years in Dorchester Gaol and fined £1,500.
In the 1830s men such as Henry Hetherington, James Watson, John Cleave, George Julian Harney and James O'Brien joined Richard Carlile in the fight against what they called a tax on knowledge. As these radical publishers refused to pay stamp-duty on their newspapers, this resulted in fines and periods of imprisonment.
At the beginning of 1836 the two leading unstamped radical newspapers, the Poor Man's Guardian, and John Cleave's Police Gazette, were selling more copies in a day than The Times sold all week. It was estimated at the time that the circulation of leading six unstamped newspapers had now reached 200,000.
In the House of Commons, John Roebuck led the campaign against taxes on newspapers. In 1836 the campaigners had their first success when the 4d. tax on newspapers was reduced to 1d. The same year Parliament agreed to remove the tax on pamphlets. The campaigned continued and in 1849 a group of publishers led by Henry Hetherington formed the Newspaper Stamp Abolition Committee. However, it was not until 1855 that the newspaper stamp duty was finally abolished.
Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.