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Sunday, 11 May 2014

William Cobbett

William Cobbett  (1763– 1835) was the third son of George Cobbett (a farmer and publican) and Anne Vincent. He was taught to read and write by his father.

On 6 May 1783, on an impulse, Cobbett took the stagecoach to London and spent eight or nine months as a clerk in the employ of a Mr Holland at Gray's Inn.

Cobbett joined the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot in 1783 and was stationed with his regiment in New Brunswick Canada between 1785 and 1791, rising through the ranks to become Sergeant Major, the most senior rank of NCO.

He returned to England with his regiment and obtained discharge from the army in December 1791. He married Anne Reid in February 1792, whom he had met while stationed at Fort Howe in Saint John, New Brunswick.

The couple went to the USA, where he wrote fierce pieces against democratic government under the name ‘Peter Porcupine’.

Returning to England in 1800, Cobbett was welcomed by the Tories, and started his famous Weekly Political Register (1802), which continued until his death, changing in 1804 from its original Toryism to an uncompromising Radicalism.

In 1810 Cobbett was imprisoned for two years for criticising the flogging of militiamen by German mercenaries, and in 1817 he went again to the USA, fearing a second imprisonment.

Returning in 1819 he travelled widely in Britain and joined with other Radicals in his attacks on the government. Three times during the next couple of years was charged with libel.

After four unsuccessful attempts, Cobbett finally became an MP after the passing of the 1832 Reform Act when he was able to win the parliamentary seat of Oldham.

In Parliament, Cobbett concentrated his energies on attacking corruption in government and the 1834 Poor Law.

From 1831 until his death, he farmed at Normandy, a village in Surrey a few miles from his birthplace at Farnham.

Cobbett died at his farm after a short illness in June 1835 and was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew's Parish Church, Farnham.

His works include Rural Rides (1830), a classic portrayal of the situation of the rural workers of the time.

Source Wikipedia

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