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July 17, 1831

cover page of Reformer published on July 17, 1831






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The Reformer was a short-lived (four issues) title, a successor to The Radical (1831), established in the aftermath of the 1831 General Election which had been won by pro-reform Whigs, and in the midst of the controversy surrounding the various Reform Bills. The title shared its earlier version’s title motto: “The time will come when men must stand or fall according to their actions”, attributed to the Scottish political Reformist and Martyr, Thomas Muir, as well as the same type, printer, publisher, correspondence address and general editorial tone; the only significant differences being its title, a reset numeration and significantly less advertising.

The first issue explicitly made the link to The Radical and gave a reason for its change of name: “These [our principles] were not to subvert, as many had led to imagine, but, on the contrary, firmly and honestly to maintain the established institutions of the country.” It seems with the change of title from The Radical to The Reformer that the publishers wished to draw the title back to the middle ground, despite the claim in the preceding title that the former term had gained a degree of respectability. The new title proclaimed it would write ‘temperately, firmly and faithfully’ – language which was clearly intended to distance the title from any accusations of extremism.

The title had significant editorial content: a ‘chapter of abuses’ on the front page, several editorials, and some letters to the editor. It campaigned vigorously for the Reform Bill, and excoriated the Tory-led House of Lords for their opposition to it. Subjects covered by the editor included tax reform (the paper was in favour of a progressive tax system, based on a ‘graduated property tax’), corrupt courts, and corruption in the Clergy. On July 10th, its penultimate issue, it reported with enthusiasm on the passing of the second reading of the Reform Bill, optimistically writing that “The Lords, as we have long since of our certain knowledge asserted, will also pass it by a considerable majority”.

Its regular news covered parliamentary, court and police reports, as well as foreign affairs and extensive reports from Ireland. Presumably because its purpose – backing the reform bill – had been served, the title printed its last issue on Sunday July 17th 1831.

Yann Ryan, The British Library

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

  • 1831–31 The reformer.

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 22, 2021 . The latest issues were added in Jul 22, 2021.