The Bristolian local broadsheet is well known in this city for exposing corruption, lies and duplicity amongst Bristol’s ‘high and mighty’ of all shades of political persuasion. What is less well known is that the paper was originally founded by James Acland, a radical agitator, who first wrote, financed and published a daily version in 1827. Its pages contained scathing attacks on the Corporation, Magistracy and wealthy Merchants who made up the oligarchy that controlled the city. Acland focussed on the sleaze, dishonesty and anti-democratic nature of the ruling class, in a time when the first stages of enfranchisement were becoming a distinct possibility. The Bristolian also agitated against slavery and supported varied popular causes, from the formation of pro-democracy political unions to the quality and prices of bread. Attempts to supress The Bristolian, libel cases, prison and hard labour failed to stop Acland who had mass public support amongst the disenfranchised working class. From massive public meetings to standing for election, Acland continued to bait the rulers of Bristol for several years whilst being despised by the rival Tory and Whig press.
Steve Mills and Roger Ball of Bristol Radical History Group will present the findings of their research into James Acland and The Bristolian.
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