Project Title: Sampson Perry and the House of Commons Libel 1792

Principal Advisor: Dr Geoff Ginn

Project Abstract: Sampson Perry remains a little known but intriguing figure of the eighteenth century radical movement. Between 1789-1792 he conducted a newspaper called The Argus which became associated with, and supportive of, political and social reform to the extent that it drew the ire of the Pitt government. Perry was subjected to a barrage of government initiated libels from 1790 to 1792 and it was the House of Commons libel case that resulted in his flight from London to Paris and into the arms of the Reign of Terror and imprisonment. He was outlawed by the Pitt government but he returned to England in March 1795 to face perpetual imprisonment as an outlaw in Newgate. Imprisonment with fellow radicals inspired an extraordinary literary output and eventually he was released and pardoned after Pitt left office in 1801.

The House of Commons libel highlights the vindictive lengths which the Pitt government was prepared to undertake in order to silence Perry and to cease his support for the reform movement. Perry may prove to be of far more importance than has been acknowledged by scholars. He is emerging from the shadows of late eighteenth century politics as an indefatigable fighter against Pitt’s oppressive measures to silence much needed political reform.

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