In this month

February 28, 1816

cover page of Public Cause published on February 28, 1816

Public Cause





Available years

1811-1812, 1814-1816

The Public Cause was a weekly newspaper, with a reformist agenda. It was published, with a number of title changes and breaks in production, between October 1811 and July 1816. Its political orientation was declared in its sub-title: ‘The cause for which Hampden bled in the field, and Sidney died on the scaffold.’

The newspaper was printed and published by Henry White (junior), whose father, Henry White (senior), was also deeply involved in the newspaper trade, with connections to a number of publications, including the Independent Whig (1806-1821). A year earlier (1810) White (senior) had been accused of libel for an item printed in the Independent Whig, and during the early days of the Public Cause a great deal of space was devoted to covering his cause, his trial, and his subsequent acquittal. The financial implications of the libel trial also resulted in White (junior) setting up a subscription to defray his expenses, which was advertised and organized via the newspaper. This reached £504-13s-0d by 22 January 1812, with a long list of names of subscribers. Those who did not wish to be named signed as: ‘A staunch patriot’; ‘A Dover Briton, surrounded by enemies’; ‘A Pope’; ‘An enemy to State Locusts’; ‘A real friend to the Liberty of the press, in sympathy’.

The newspapers weekly leader was entitled: ‘Abridgement of Politics’, and was mostly a commentary upon foreign affairs. Other articles attested to the currency of news reporting: ‘A Female Cricket Match’; ‘Priest flogging in Sicily, by the English’; ‘Rice bread’; ‘Died…Miss Lavinia Roulstone’, from lightning, which her corsets attracted; and ‘Rapid elevation of the Wellesley Family’.

After an announcement of a change of format from quarto to octavo in the issue for 29 January 1812, there was a significant break in publication. A single issue of The Correspondent and Public Cause, as an octavo format, appeared on Wednesday 7 October 1812, with John Morton cited as printer and publisher. Publication resumed with the same title some two years later on 5 October 1814, with John Morton still at the helm. Morton was closely connected with William Cobbett, also printing Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register at this time, and Cobbett’s pamphlet, Letter to the Inhabitants of Southampton, on the Corn Bill (2nd ed. 1814).

The Correspondent and Public Cause had an unusual stance on a number of political issues, highlighted by their coverage of two of these. From the time of Napoleon’s escape from Elba, in February 1815, to the Battle of Waterloo, The Correspondent and Public Cause was his continuous supporter, printing a number of articles in his defence. The newspaper also printed frequent leaders, criticizing the debts of the Prince of Wales, including indignant pieces revealing that the sum of £1,480,000 had been spent by the Prince of Wales over the previous twenty years, and that no less than £138,000 had been spent on silk mercery in the three years 1812-1814.

John Morton appeared to have died suddenly in early September, leaving a wife and six children. C. Smith the new printer/publisher, who took over after his death probably instigated the change of title to The Public Cause and Westminster Reformer from 18 September 1815. Shortly thereafter there was a further change of ownership for the paper, with John Turner taking over in January 1816, and changing the title to The Public Cause and General Correspondent. Despite this unstable publishing environment, the newspaper held steady in criticizing the Ministry and decrying and waste of public funds. Alongside the newspapers challenging political standpoint, it was devoted space to literary items, including Lord Byron’s poetry. It was quick to publish Byron’s poem: ‘Fare Thee Well’, on 17 April 1816, after its first appearance in March.

Ed King, The British Library

For this newspaper, we have the following titles in, or planned for, our digital archive:

  • 1811–12 The Public Cause.
  • 1812–15 The Correspondent and Public Cause.
  • 1815–15 The Public Cause, or Westminster Reformer.
  • 1816–16 The Public Cause and General Correspondent.

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 28, 2021 . The latest issues were added in Jul 29, 2021.