Manchester Herald

In 1790 the Manchester Constitutional Society was formed by Thomas Walker, a cotton merchant, and Thomas Cooper, a barrister. For a while, members of the Constitutional Society were fairly successfully in persuading local newspapers, the Manchester Mercury and the Manchester Chronicle, to publish their articles on parliamentary reform. However, by the summer of 1791, the editors of these two newspapers became much more reluctant to give these reformers publicity. Walker and Copper decided to edit their own newspaper, the Manchester Herald. A local firm, Faulkner & Birch, agreed to print it and the first edition was published on 31st March 1792.

The authorities became concerned with the growth of groups advocating parliamentary reform. In 1794 Thomas Muir, Joseph Gerrald and Maurice Maragot were arrested and tried for sedition. They were found guilty and sentenced to fourteen years transportation. Thomas Hardy, John Horne Tooke and John Thelwall were also arrested and they were sent to the Tower of London while awaiting trial. Joseph Gales, the editor of the Sheffield Register, had also been charged with conspiracy.

The authorities decided to prosecute the Manchester Herald out of existence. Within a short space of time the publishers of the newspaper were charged with five separate offences. After a year, Walker and Cooper accepted defeat and ceased publication. As Thomas Walker pointed out, the leaders of the Manchester Constitutional Society "preferred a voluntary exile to imprisonment."

Primary Sources

(1) The Manchester Herald (28th April, 1792)

The great cause of liberty demands the steady support of the brave, the just, and the philanthropic - for should oppression triumph, the vengeance of power will know no bounds; racks and tortures, Bastilles and Inquisitions, will be the punishment of those who have dared to avow themselves the Friend of Liberty.

(2) Thomas Walker, A Review of Some Political Events (1794)

As the purse of the Treasury is more than a match for that of an individual, who, from the intolerable expense, would be sure to fail in the contest, they (the members of the Manchester Constitutional Society) preferred a voluntary exile to imprisonment.