William Cobbett (1763-1835) was one of the most influential journalists and political commentators of the early nineteenth century. He was the son of a prosperous small farmer in Farnham, Surrey. In 1802, Cobbett established his Political Register or Annual Register as it is also known which continued its weekly commentaries until his death in 1835. Although beginning life as a pro-government anti-jacobin, Cobbett mutated into a Tory radical who campaigned for the wholesale reform of parliament. The Political Register at its height reached a weekly circulation of over 50,000 copies, many of which were read aloud in taverns and coffeehouses making their actual readership several times that figure. Cobbett drew attention to the corruption of public finance, the devastating effects of the nascent processes of industrialisation and urbanisation on factory workers, and the effects of the system of enclosure on rural workers. His politics were oppositional but not necessarily radical and while he attacked the contemporary establishment, ‘the thing’ as he termed it, he was sceptical of the ideas of the French Revolution preferring a paternalistic social order based on an idealised past of ‘Old England’. At first he energetically defended the slave trade on the grounds that it was necessary to British commerce, it was supported by scripture, it was consistent with his belief in the racial inferiority of the Africans, and anyway he believed that the slaves in the West Indies were better off than British factory workers for whom the government showed little concern. By 1808 he somewhat relented these more extreme views. Interestingly Cobbett never used sugar, coffee, or rum because they were the produce of slavery. Cobbett’s barbs in favour of the trade were certainly meant as an attack on the evangelical humanitarians, such as Wilberforce whom he heartily detested as the embodiment of sanctimonious hypocrisy. Wilberforce enthused about freedom and liberty but voted with the government to suspend Habeas Corpus. In his Letter to Wilberforce (in the Political Register for August 30, 1823) he contrasted the evils of white and black slavery and attempted to make the contrast between the humanitarian’s concern for the African slave with his callous attitude towards the plight of the 372factory slave in Great Britain. In the article ‘Slave Trade’ of 1802 Cobbett prints a letter he allegedly wrote to the Bishop of Rochester in 1796 proclaiming the falsity of abolitionist accounts of the horrors of the trade and pointing out that the institution of slavery and the trade is sanctioned by the Old and the New Testaments. Cobbett’s position as a radical who yet supported slavery and the slave trade and Wilberforce’s as a staunch conservative who opposed both, illustrates how difficult it is to make any easy distinctions between the politics of those pro- and anti- the trade.