In 1802 William Cobbett started his newspaper, the Political Register. At first Cobbett's newspaper supported the Tories but he gradually became more radical. By 1806 Cobbett used the newspaper to campaign for parliamentary reform.
William Cobbett was not afraid to criticise the government in the Political Register and in 1809 he attacked the use of German troops to put down a mutiny in Ely. Cobbett was tried and convicted for sedition and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Newgate Prison. When Cobbett was released he continued his campaign against newspaper taxes and government attempts to prevent free speech.
By 1815 the tax on newspapers had reached 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. Cobbett was only able to sell just over a thousand copies a week. The following year William Cobbett began publishing it as a pamphlet. Cobbett now sold the Political Register for only 2d. and it soon had a circulation of 40,000.
Cobbett's journal was the main newspaper read by the working class. This made William Cobbett a dangerous man and in 1817 he heard that the government planned to have him arrested for sedition. Unwilling to spend another period in prison, Cobbett fled to the United States. For two years Cobbett lived on a farm in Long Island but with the help of William Benbow, a friend in London, continued to publish the Political Register.
William Cobbett arrived back in England soon after the Peterloo Massacre. Cobbett joined with other Radicals in his attacks on the government and three times during the next couple of years was charged with libel.
In 1821 William Cobbett started a tour of Britain on horseback. Each evening he recorded his observations on what he had seen and heard that day. This work was published as a series of articles in the Political Register and as a book, Rural Rides, in 1830.
Cobbett continued to publish controversial material in the Political Register and in July, 1831, was charged with seditious libel after writing an article in support of the Captain Swing Riots. Cobbett conducted his own defence and he was so successful that the jury failed to convict him.
Even after his election to the House of Commons in 1832 William Cobbett continued to publish the Political Register. Cobbett wrote his last article for the newspaper on 13th June 1835. Cobbett died five days later on 18th June 1835.