Henry Hetherington

Henry Hetherington (17 June 1792–23 August 1849) was a leading British Chartist.

Early years

Henry Hetherington was the son of a London tailor, John Hetherington (1770 to 6 November 1806), and was born on 17 June 1792, at 16 Compton Street, Soho, London. He was one of four children and was baptised in the church of St Giles-in-the-Field.

When he was thirteen, on 5 November 1805, he began work as an apprentice printer at Luke Hansard's printing works at Holborn, London. In c.1810 he worked as a shopman for Richard Carlisle, and from c1812 to 1815 he worked as a printer in Ghent, Belgium.

In 1811 Hetherington married Elizabeth Thomas, of Wales, and the marriage produced nine children. Only one son, David, was still living at time of Henry's death.

In the 1820s Hetherington became influenced by the ideas of Robert Owen and joined the Co-operative Printers Association, and became active in the Radical Reform Association. In 1821 he became a member of the London Co-operative and Economical Society community, Spa Fields, London, led by George Mudie.


In 1822 Hetherington registered his own press and type at 13 Kingsgate Street, Holborn (now Southampton Row), an eight-roomed house, including shop and printing premises, costing £55 per annum rent

On 11 January 1823 he published the first (and possibly only) edition of the Political Economist and Universal Philanthropist, edited by George Mudie.

This was a time when reformers like Richard Carlile were being imprisoned for publishing material that was critical of the government. However, for people like Hetherington and Carlile, the publication of newspapers and pamphlets were vitally important in the political education of the working class.

In the 1830s Hetherington published a series of radical newspapers including: The Penny Papers for the People (1830); The Radical (1831) and The Poor Man's Guardian (1831-1835). In 1833 Hetherington was selling 220,000 copies a week of The Poor Man's Guardian. Hetherington was punished by the authorities several times for these activities. This included being fined on numerous occasions, imprisoned in 1833 and 1836, and having all his printing presses seized and destroyed in 1835.

Hetherington played a leading role in the campaign against the heavy stamp duty taxation on newspapers and pamphlets. This campaign resulted in several reforms in the law. In 1833 when the four-penny tax on newspapers was reduced to one-penny. The same year Parliament agreed to remove the tax on pamphlets.

Leading Chartist

In his newspapers Henry Hetherington campaigned against child labour, the 1834 Poor Law and political corruption. Hetherington joined William Lovett, James Watson and John Cleave to form the London Working Men's Association (LWMA) in 1836. Hetherington, who became the LWMA first treasurer, helped draw up a Charter of political demands. By 1836 Hetherington was one of the leaders of the Chartist movement. Hetherington was a moral force Chartist and was very critical of the ideas of Feargus O'Connor and in 1849 helped create the moderate People's Charter Union.


Hetherington continued his campaign against taxes on newspapers and in 1849 formed the Newspaper Stamp Abolition Committee. A few months later, on 23 August 1849, Hetherington died of cholera at his residence at 57 Judd Street, Brunswick Square, London. He had been ill for some days, but held anti-medicinal views.

On 26 August two thousand people gathered at Kensal Green Cemetery to pay their respects to the man who had spent his adult life fighting for social reform. Orations were given by George Holyoake and James Watson.

In his will, Hetherington left only £200-worth of goods and chattels, and James Watson and Whitaker, his executors, had trouble in meeting the claims on his estate.

In 1853 and 1854 there were reports that Hetherington was communicating with mediums.

In June 1873 a granite obelisk was erected in his memory at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Organisations with which Hetherington was involved

* London Co-operative and Economical Society (1821)
* London Mechanics' Institution (now Birkbeck, University of London) (1823-) (Hetherington was on the Committee in 1824)
* First London Co-operative Trading Association (1824-29) (Became BAPCK)
* Civil and Religious Liberty Association (1827/28-29) (Became RRA)
* British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge (May 1829-30)
* Radical Reform Association (1829) (Hetherington was Secretary of the Association)
* First Middlesex Society (1930)
* Metropolitan Political Union (1830)
* London Working Men's Association (1830-)
* National Union of the Working Classes (Late 1830-)
* Metropolitan Trades Union (March 1831)
* Marylebone Radical Association (1834-36)
* Society for the Protection of Booksellers (April 1834)
* Association of Working Men to Procure a Cheap and Honest Press (April 1836)
* Working Men's Association (July 1836-39)
* Universal Suffrage Club (September 1836)
* Metropolitan Charter Union (March 1840)
* National Charter Association (November 1841-46)
* Metropolitan Parliamentary Reform Association (May 1842-49)
* Literary and Scientific Institution, at John Street, Fitzroy Square, Branch a1 (Mid/Late 1840s)
* Anti-Persecution Union (September 1843-44)
* Democratic Committee for Poland's Regeneration (March 1846)
* People's International League (April 1847)
* Democratic Committee of Observation on the French Revolution (Early 1848)
* People's Charter Union (March 1848)
* League of Social Progress (November 1848)
* Newspaper Stamp Abolition Committee (March 1849-)

Hetherington in print

Pamphlets and leaflets

* "Principles and Practice contrasted; or a Peep into "the only true church of God upon earth," commonly called Freethinking Christians". London: Henry Hetherington, c.1827. The only extant copies are the 2nd edition of 1828.

* "Swing, Eh! Outrages in Kent". London: Henry Hetherington, 1830

* "Cheap Salvation; or, An Antidote to priestcraft: Being a Succinct, Practical, Essential, and Rational Religion, Deduced from the New testament, the general Adoption of Which Would Supersede the Necessity for a Hireling Priesthood, and save This Overtaxed Nation Fifteen Million per Annum". London: Henry Hetherington, 1838.

* "A Full Report of the Trial of Henry Hetherington, on an Indictment for Blasphemy, before Lord Denman and a Special Jury, at the Court of Queen's Bench, Westminster, on Tuesday, December 8, 1840; for Selling Haslam's Letters to the Clergy of all Denominations: With the Whole of the Authorities Cited in the Defence, at Full Length". London: Henry Hetherington, 1841.

* "John Bull's Political Catechism". London: Henry Hetherington, n.d.

Articles and letters

* 'To the Editor of the "Times"' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 8 Oct 1831, p.108.

* 'To "Sir" Richard Birnie" in "Poor Man's Guardian", 8 Oct 1831, p.108.

* 'Resistance of Oppression' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 22 Oct 1831, pp.131-33. Piece dated 13 Oct 1831.

* 'Magisterial Deliquency' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 12 Nov 1831, p.163.

* 'Mr Carpenter and the Reform Bill!' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 19 Nov 1831, pp.170-72.

* 'Mr Attwood and the Birmingham Union' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 3 Dec 1831, pp.186-88.

* '"Infamous Conduct" of Mr Hunt' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 17 Dec 1831, p.205.

* 'To the Industrious Millions and the Friends of Liberty and Justice' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 24 Dec 1831, pp.223-24.

* 'More "Infamous" Conduct of Mr Hunt' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 31 Dec 1831, p.229. Following a response to Hetherington's piece in issue dated 17 dec 1831, p.205.

* 'Mr Owen and the Working Classes [1] ' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 14 Jan 1832, 245-46. A response to a letter from James Tucker.

* 'Special Commission - Even-handed Justice' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 21 Jan 1832, pp.251-52.

* 'Mr Owen and the Working Classes [2] ' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 21 Jan 1832, p.255. This is my own title. The 'article' is a response to a letter from Benjamin Warden, in response to Hetherington's article of 14 Jan 1832, pp.245-46.

* 'Search for Arms' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 11 Feb 1832, p.278.

* 'Police - Villany of Magistrates' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 18 Feb 1832, p.285.

* 'Robbery and Treachery in Support of the Militia Laws' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 25 Feb 1832, pp.294-95.

* 'Military Outrage at Cletheroe' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 11 Aug 1832, pp.489-90.

* 'Progress of the Struggle of "Right Against Might"' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 19 Jan 1833, pp.17-18.

* 'To Henry Hunt, Esq.' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 19 Jan 1833, pp.18-19. Letter dated 14 Jan 1833, from Clerkenwell Prison.

* 'Whig Persecution of the Press: To the Readers and Supporters of the Guardian' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 23 Feb 1833, pp.60-61. Letter dated 20 Feb 1833, from Clerkenwell Prison.

* 'Mr Hetherington's Petition to the House of Commons' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 23 Feb 1833, p.62.

* 'Health and Recreation of the People' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 2 Mar 1833, pp.70-71. Letter dated 26 Feb 1833, from Clerkenwell Prison.

* 'To Mr. Dallas' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 30 Mar 1833, pp.99-100. Letter dated 27 Mar 1833, from Clerkenwell Prison, in response to Dallas' letter in issue dated 23 Mar 1833, pp.94-95.

* 'The Guardian and Machinery' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 13 April 1833, p.115. [No actual title, this is one given by David M. Smith]

* 'The Dorchester Labourers' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 25 Oct 1834, p.303. Letter dated 18 Oct 1834, from Tolpuddle, Dorsetshire

* 'To Mr. Richard Carlile, Editor of a Scourge [1] ' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 1 Nov 1834, pp.308-10. Letter dated 28 Oct 1834, from Southampton.

* 'To Mr. Richard Carlile, Editor of a Scourge [2] ' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 15 Nov 1834, pp.326-7.

* 'To Mr. Richard Carlile, Editor of "A Scourge" [3] ' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 6 Dec 1834, pp.347-9. Letter dated 3 Dec 1834, from London.

* 'To Mr. Richard Carlile, Editor of "A Scourge" [4] ' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 27 Dec 1834, pp.373-6. Letter dated 23 Dec 1834, from Colchester.

* 'Rights of Man and Wrongs of Property' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 3 Jan 1835, pp.380-81. Piece dated 26 Dec 1834, from Chelmsford.

* 'To the Friends and Supporters of an Unstamped Press' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 1 Aug 1835, p.625. Letter dated 1 Aug 1835, from Dulwich.

* 'To the Friends and Supporters of an Unstamped Press' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 1 Aug 1835, pp.627-30. Letter dated 5 Aug 1835, from Sydenham.

* 'To the Readers of the Poor Man's Guardian' in "Poor Man's Guardian", 26 Dec 1835, pp.793-4.

* 'Stamp Office Spy Unmasked' in "The London Dispatch", 4 Dec 1836. p.92.

* 'The Decrees of the Triumvirate - The Central National Association' in "The London Dispatch", 9 April 1837, p.236.

* 'Working Men's Associations' in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. 1, letter dated 9 Oct 1837, f.109.

* 'Treatment of Political Prisoners' in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. III, letter dated 24 Oct 1839, f.114.

* 'Mr Jenkins and the Halfpenny Magazine' in "The Halfpenny Magazine of Entertainment and Knowledge" (hereafter "Halfpenny Magazine"), No. 2, 9 May 1840, pp.9-10. (This 'leader' being an untitlted introduction to the magazine, the title is that given by David M. Smith)

* 'Why and Because' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 3, 16 May 1840, pp.17-18.

* 'Poverty' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 4, 23 May 1840, pp.25-27.

* 'Enjoyment Through the Senses' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 5, 30 May 1840, pp.33-34.

* 'Socialism' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 6, 6 June 1840, pp.41-42.

* 'The Religion of Socialism' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 7, 13 June 1840, pp.49-51.

* 'Napoleon Bonaparte' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 8, 20 June 1840, pp.57-58.

* 'Napoleon Bonaparte - II' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 9, 27 June 1840, pp.65-67.

* 'Napoleon Boanaparte - III' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 10, 4 July 1840, pp.73-76.

* 'Napoleon Bonaparte - IV' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 11, 11 July 1840, pp.81-83.

* 'Napoleon Bonaparte - V' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 12, 18 July 1840, pp.89-91.

* 'Napoleon Bonaparte - VI' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 13, 25 July 1840, pp.97-99.

* 'Napoleon Bonaparte - VII' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 14, 1 Aug 1840, pp.105-7.

* 'Chartism - Lovett and Collins' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 15, 8 Aug 1840, pp.113-4.

* 'Napoleon Bonaparte - VIII' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 15, 8 Aug 1840, pp.114-5.

* 'The Condition of the People - The Cotton Trade' in "Halfpenny Magazine', No. 16, 15 Aug 1840, pp.121-3.

* 'Napoleon Bonaparte - IX' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 16, 15 August 1840, pp.123-4.

* 'Human Happiness' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 17, 22 Aug 1840, pp.129-32.

* 'The Condition of the People - The Three Classes' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 18, 29 Aug 1840, pp.137-9.

* 'The Condition of the People - The Dealing Class' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 19, 5 Sept 1840, pp.145-7.

* 'The Condition of the People - The Idle Class' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 20, 12 Sept 1840, pp.152-5.

* 'The Connection of Moral and Political Reform' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 21, 19 Sept 1840, pp.161-3.

* 'The Scottish Character' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 22, 26 Sept 1840, pp.169-71.

* 'The Ignorance of the Aristocracy' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 23, 3 Oct 1840, pp.177-9.

* 'Robert Owen' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 24, 10 Oct 1840, pp.185-7.

* 'The Dead Infant' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 25, 17 Oct 1840, pp.193-5.

* 'Paper Money' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 26, 24 oct 1840, pp.201-4.

* 'Free-will and Necessity' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 27, 31 Oct 1840, pp.209-13.

* 'War' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 28, 7 Nov 1840, pp.217-20.

* 'Congress of nations' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 29, 14 Nov 1840, pp.225-7.

* 'Peers, Parsons and Peasants' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 30, 21 Nov 1840, pp.233-4.

* 'Corn, Currency and Cotton' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 31, 28 Nov 1840, pp.241-3.

* 'Tories, Whigs and Radicals' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 32, 5 Dec 1840, pp.249-51.

* 'Habit' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 33, 12Dec 1840, pp.257-9.

* 'Decision of Character' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 34, 19 Dec 1840, pp.263-5.

* 'Double Dealing' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 35, 26 Dec 1840, pp.273-4.

* 'Bores and Bored' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 36, 2 jan 1841, pp.283-4.

* 'The Power of Goodness' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 37, 9 Jan 1841, pp.289-90.

* 'The Ruling Passion' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 38, 16 Jan 1841, pp.297-98.

* 'The System of Nature' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 39, 23 Jan 1841, pp.305-9.

* 'Congress of Nations [2] ' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 40, 30 Jan 1841, pp.313-5.

* 'The Immortality of the Soul' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 42, 13 Feb 1841, pp.329-31.

* 'The Eternity of the Universe - Section 1' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 45, 6 Mar 1841, pp.353-4.

* 'The Eternity of the Universe - Section 2' in "Halfpenny Magazine", No. 46, 13 Mar 1841, pp.361-2.

* 'To the Editor of the Northern Star' in "The Northern Star", 8 May 1841.

* 'To Feargus O'Connor, Esq, "One of the Aristocracy"' in "The Northern Star", 12 June 1841, p.7.

* 'Mr. O'Connor and the London Committee Men', by Hetherington and others, in "The Northern Star", 10 July 1841, p.3.

* 'Challenge to Feargus O'Connor, Esq' in "The Northern Star", 18 Sept 1841, p.7.

* 'To the Political and Social Reformers of the United Kingdom', by Hetherington and William Lovett, in "The Northern Star", 25 Sept 1841, p.6.

* 'Is Man a Free Agent, or is he Subject to a Law of Necessity?' in "The Library of Reason", No. 9, c.1844, pp.1-5. The only extant copies of this periodical are the bound 2nd edition of 1851.

* 'The Influence of Habit on the Human Character' in "The Reasoner", Vol. 2, No. 29, 1847, pp.13-16.

* 'Address of the Social Friends' Society' in "The Reasoner", Vol 2, 1847, pp.119-20.

* 'A Few Plain Words on Communism' in "The Reasoner", Vol. 4, No. 97, 1848, pp.253-56.

* 'Last Will and Testament' in "The Life and Character of Henry Hetherington". Ed: George Jacob Holyoake. London: James Watson, 1849, pp.5-6. Also reprinted in Ambrose G. Barker. "Henry Hetherington. 1792-1849. Pioneer in the Freethought and working class Struggles of a Hundred Years Ago for the Freedom of the Press". London: Pioneer Press, 1938, pp.57-60.


During his career Hetherington made a great number of speeches, and many of these were reported in the press. The following are speeches which, by their length, can be considered a good representation of Hetherington's views, plus his ability as a speaker - in essence, they are of article length. There are numerous other occasions when Hetherington spoke at a meeting, but either he spoke only briefly or the reporter edited the speech to the extent that what remains is a short precis, and cannot provide any real information.

* 2 Aug 1829, in "Weekly Free Press", 8 Aug 1829.

* 14 Oct 1829, in "Weekly Free Press", 21 Oct 1829.

* 3 Nov 1829, in "Weekly Free Press", 3 Nov 1829.

* 27 Oct 1830, in "The Magazine of Useful Knowledge and Co-operative Miscellany", No. 3, 30 Oct 1830, p.43.

* 4 Nov 1830, in "The Magazine of Useful Knowledge and Co-operative Miscellany", No. 4, 13 Nov 1830, p.59.

* 10 Jan 1831, in "Penny Papers for the People", 15 Jan 1831, p.6.

* 21 Mar 1831, in "Penny Papers for the People", 26 Mar 1831, pp.7-8.

* 11 April 1831, in "Republican; or, Voice of the People", 16 April 1831, pp.15-16.

* 16 May 1831, in "Republican; or, Voice of the People", 21 May 1831, pp.2-4.

* 25 July 1831, in "Coventry Herald and Observer", 29 July 1831, p.4.

* 8 Aug 1831, in "Poor Man's Guardian", 27 Aug 1831, pp.61-62.

* 14 Sept 1831, in "Poor Man's Guardian", 17 Sept 1831, pp.86-87.

* 19 Mar 1832, in "Poor Man's Guardian", 24 Mar 1832, pp.322-3.

* 26 Mar 1832, in "Poor Man's Guardian", 31 Mar 1832, p.330.

* 2 Apr 1832, in "Poor Man's Guardian", 7 Apr 1832, p.339.

* 25 June 1832, in "Poor Man's Guardian", 30 June 1832, p.442.

* 30 June 1832, in "The Political Unionist", 2 July 1832, p.16; Also in "Poor Man's Guardian", 4 Aug 1832, p.482.

* 9 Oct 1832, in "Brighton Herald", 13 Oct 1832.

* 31 Oct 1832, in "Henry Hunt, Lecture on the Conduct of the Whigs, to the Working Classes, delivered at Lawrence Street Chapel, Birmingham, on Wednesday, October 31st, 1832". London: William Strange, 1832, p.6.

* 1 Jul 1833, in "Poor Man's Guardian", 6 July 1833, pp.215-17.

* 23 Sept 1833, in "Weekly True Sun", 6 Oct 1833, p.2.

* 2 Dec 1833, in "Poor Man's Guardian", 7 Dec 1833, p.393.

* 13 July 1836, in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. I, f.5.

* 5 Dec 1836, in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. I, f.14.

* Oct 1837, in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. I, f.53.

* Nov 1837, in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. I, ff.136-7.

* 12 Dec 1837, in "Birmingham Journal", 16 Dec 1837, p.3; Also in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. II, ff.153-4.

* 17 Sept 1838, in "The Northern Star", 22 Sept 1838, pp.2-3; Also in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. II, 242-3; Also in "The Times", 18 Sept 1838.

* 11 April 1839, in "The Northern Star", 20 April 1839, p.6.

* 22 April 1839, in "The Northern Star", 27 April 1839, p.1.

* 25 April 1839, in "Lovett Papers", Birmingham Central Library, Vol. II, f.360, same as Vol. III, ff.1-2.

* Late April 1839, in "Shrewsbury Chronicle", 3 May 1839; Also in "The Times", 6 May 1839, p.5.

* 28 Dec 1842, in "The Northern Star", 31 Dec 1841.

* 10 June 1844, in "The Movement", 22 June 1844, pp.220-22. Also see Ambrose G. Barker. "Henry Hetherington. 1792-1849. Pioneer in the Freethought and Working Class Struggles of a Hundred Years Ago for the Freedom of the Press". London: Pioneer Press, 1938, pp.43-46.

* 27 Aug 1844, in "The Movement", 7 Sept 1844, pp.323-25

* 15 Nov 1844, in "The Movement", 27 Nov 1844, pp.433-34.

* 19 June 1849, in "The Northern Star", 23 June 1849, p.5.

* 30 July 1849, in "The Northern Star", 4 Aug 1849, p.1.

External links

*Joel H. Wiener, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13136 ‘Hetherington, Henry (1792–1849)’] , "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 2 Jan 2008
*worldcat id|lccn-n88-256343

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