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Sheffield Constitutional Society


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Extract :

Joseph Gales attempted to educate his readers. He published extracts from the work of radical reformers such as Tom Paine, William Godwin, Joseph Priestley, Richard Price and John Horne Tooke in the Sheffield Register. In 1792 Gales began producing the fortnightly, Sheffield Patriot, a journal that attempted to deal with political issues in more depth than the Sheffield Register.

The Sheffield Register both educated and reflected the views of the artisans and small manufacturers in the area. In 1791 the newspaper gave support to those people who opposed the enclosure of 6,000 acres of land in Sheffield without compensation to holders of common rights.

At the end of 1791 Gales helped form the Sheffield Constitutional Society. This was the very first artisan political society. Speeches made at public meetings held by the organisation was published in great detail in the Sheffield Register. In 1792 Gales made contact with the recently formed London Corresponding Society. As an experienced publisher, Gales was a useful contact and was recruited to serve on the committee of the society.

In April 1793 Gales chaired an open meeting in Sheffield on parliamentary reform. At the meeting it was decided to start a petition in support of universal suffrage. Gales eventually presented Parliament with a petition signed by 8,000 people from Sheffield.

By May 1794 the Sheffield Register was selling over 2,000 copies a week. Such a large circulation was extremely unusual for a provincial newspaper in the 18th century. Sheffield was now seen as the most radical town in Britain.

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