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Parliamentary Debates vol 1

This volume of parliamentary debates from 1803 is a reprint of a volume originally published under the title ‘Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates'. William Cobbett, the social reformer and journalist, boasts in an advertisement to this 1803 volume: “The Debates, in this work, are given at much greater length, and with much greater precision, than it was ever before attempted to give Parliamentary Debates. Neither care, labour, nor expense has been spared. Aid of every kind has been resorted to; and, in most instances, with perfect success.” It was Cobbett's strong political engagement that enabled Hansard to move from printer to publisher of parliamentary debates. As ‘Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates' grew in the years following 1803, Cobbett failed to maintain the political detachment that is so important for parliamentary reporting, by keeping up a critical running commentary on the monarchy and the government, and was charged with seditious libel in 1810. He defended himself ineptly, was found guilty, given crippling fines and sentenced to two years in Newgate Prison. Cobbett tried to barter his way out of the punishment by offering, in exchange for his freedom, to end all his political activity and publications, including his parliamentary reports, but the courts rejected his offer. The fines bankrupted Cobbett, and in 1812 he sold out to his printer, Hansard, who stepped in to take over the publication. In volume 22, the last to be called ‘Cobbett's Parliamentary Debates', it was announced that Cobbett had disposed of his interest in the work to a new editor, who would continue it on the same basis. The next volume—for 5 May to 30 July 1812—was simply entitled ‘Parliamentary Debates', and the following one made it clear that the work was “Published under the Superintendence of T. C. Hansard”. To underline the change in ownership, in 1812 Hansard reprinted the first 22 volumes under the uniform title, ‘Parliamentary Debates'. He changed the title again in 1829, to ‘Hansard's Parliamentary Debates'. This 1803 volume is one of those reprints. So began ‘Hansard's Parliamentary Debates'.