William Cobbett

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Cobbett, William

(kŏb`ĭt), 1763?–1835, British journalist and reformer. The son of a farm laborer, he ran away from home at 14 and later joined the British army. He resigned in order to expose abuses in the military forces, but, unable to prove his accusations, he fled to France to escape suit and thence went to the United States. In America, in his Observations on Priestley's Emigration (1794), Porcupine's Gazette (1797–99), and other pamphlets and periodicals, Cobbett defended the British monarchy and praised aristocratic government in preference to democracy. His outspoken and skillful disparagement of French Jacobinism and of the pro-French party in the United States made him a major target of the Jeffersonian Republicans. Dr. Benjamin RushRush, Benjamin,
1745?–1813, American physician, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Byberry (now part of Philadelphia), Pa., grad. College of New Jersey (now Princeton), 1760, M.D. Univ. of Edinburgh, 1768.
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 secured a $5,000 verdict against him for libel in 1799, and shortly afterward Cobbett returned to England. As the threat of French Jacobinism dwindled, Cobbett's Tory patriotism gave way to a deep concern for the condition of the working classes, especially rural workers, in the rapidly industrializing English society, and by 1807 he had become a Radical. His Political Register, begun in 1802 and published intermittently throughout the remainder of his life, was one of the greatest reform journals of the period and achieved an unparalleled influence among the working classes. For his attacks on the use of flogging as military punishment he was fined and imprisoned (1810–12). Severe financial difficulties forced him to sell his Parliamentary Debates to Hansard's printing firm (see HansardHansard
, name given to the official record of the proceedings of the British Parliament, named after the Hansard family of printers. Luke Hansard (1752–1828) was printer to the House of Commons and published Journals of the House of Commons
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). After the passage (1817) of the Gagging Acts to suppress radicalism and to hinder the circulation of reform literature, Cobbett fled once again to the United States. He settled on a farm on Long Island and wrote his famous Grammar of the English Language (1818). Returning to England in 1819, he became a central figure in the agitation for parliamentary reform, but he also found time to write many books, the most important of which, Rural Rides (1830), comprises a classic portrayal of the situation of the rural worker. After the Reform Bill was passed in 1832, Cobbett was elected to Parliament, where he became a member of the Radical minority.


See biographies by G. D. H. Cole (3d. ed. 1947, repr. 1971), G. K. Chesterton (1926), J. Sambrook (1973), and G. Spatr (1982).

Cobbett, William


Born Mar. 9, 1762, in Farnham, Surrey; died June 18, 1835, near Guildford. English publicist and historian. The son of a small-scale farmer.

Until Cobbett was 19 he worked as a farmer and then held a series of jobs. After coming to the USA in 1794, he began his journalistic career there with attacks on the ideas of the Great French Revolution. He returned to his native land in 1800 and began publishing the Weekly Political Register in 1802. In vivid articles he was sharply critical of the British social and political system, gaining enormous popularity and influence in democratic circles. He was repeatedly persecuted by the government. In 1832 he was elected to Parliament. It was on Cobbett’s initiative that the minutes of Parliament began to be published in 1804 and the proceedings of the most important court trials in 1809. In his principal historical work, History of the Protestant Reformation, Cobbett came to the conclusion that the chief cause of the English Reformation was the attempt of the king and his close associates to gain control of the Catholic Church’s wealth. Cobbett noted the major role played by the state in driving the masses from the land, and he linked the development of capitalism with the worsening of the position of the masses. However, the positive side of his program was reactionary and Utopian, since he looked to the Middle Ages for his ideal of a social order.


Selections From Political Works, vols. 1–6. London, 1835.
The History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, vols. 1–2. London, 1824–27.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed, vol. 9. (See the index of names.)
Cole, G. D. H. The Life of W. Cobbett. London, 1947.


Cobbett, William

(1763–1835) journalist, publicist; born in Surrey, England. After exposing corruption in the British Army, he fled in 1793 to the U.S.A. to avoid a court-martial. There he opened a bookshop, displayed royalist and Federalist sympathies, and under the pen name Peter Porcupine sharply attacked opposing politicians and journalists in a publication called Porcupine's Gazette. Often assailed by libel actions and threats of deportation, he overreached himself in attacking the influential Dr. Benjamin Rush for treating yellow fever through bleedings and purges; he lost a libel suit brought by Rush and was assessed $5,000, but fled before the verdict had been delivered. Back in England in 1800, he published a reform-minded newspaper, the Register. Returning to America in 1817, he farmed on Long Island and avoided political journalism; in 1819, after his house burned down, he again sailed to England, where he became an extremely influential voice for reforms to help the working class.
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Writing about a quarter of a century earlier, William Cobbett rants against those who called English labourers 'peasants': 'the insolent vagabonds who live on their labour may call them ignorant; calumniate while they starve them; talk of their want of education.
Ann Curthoys is cited also as Curthays; William Cobbett becomes Cobbitt.
Worldwide urbanization isn't the evil--it's the solution, William Cobbett, director of the nonprofit Cities Alliance, insisted.
One puzzling omission in this regard is any mention of early nineteenth-century agrarian writers like William Cobbett, whose equestrian surveys of the English countryside appeared in the early to mid-1820s in the Political Register, and Arthur Young whose Travels in France (1792) is described by Jon Klancher as "a sociology of culture written as a travel diary" (Making of the English Reading Audiences 15).
Written nearly a century later, the next poem by Mathew Carey eviscerates the slanderous, pro-British William Cobbett, who, among other vile actions, calls the Irish "wild, vicious, discontented, rude, / a turbulent and factious brood.
In his Rural Rides (1830), William Cobbett showed there is "infinity in smallness" as he traveled through just a few English counties, reporting not merely on their natural delights, but also on their "spider's web of parasitism, artificiality, and alienation.
I don't think I'll ever be a part of anything quite like this again," said William Cobbett, construction coordinator for the Division of Capital Asset Management, the state agency that oversaw construction of the new courthouse.
The great 19th century journalist William Cobbett (author of Rural Rides and a one-man opposition party to the vested interests of his day) hated London vehemently, even though he spent much of his working life there.
99) which made use of new manuscript sources to give us the full story of the Victorian writer on household affairs; Richard Ingrams' The Life and Adventures of William Cobbett ([pounds sterling]8.
and Christina Rossetti from Jan Marsh and, intriguingly, of the 'other Rossettis', William and Lucy, from Angela Thirlwell; lives of the Carlyles by Simon Heffer and Rosemary Ashton (the latter book makes a powerful case for Jane Carlyle as a major figure in her own right); Bernard Bergonzi's compelling story of Matthew Arnold's very odd brother, Thomas Arnold the younger; and a remarkable recent life of William Cobbett.
One of the first writers to refer to this peculiar trait was the British journalist William Cobbett who emigrated to the U.