The Cap of Liberty, A Political Publication
was the name of a short-lived
published at 10 Duke-Street, West Smithfield for tuppence
an issue. Thomas Davison produced this pamphlet from September of 1819
to January of 1820
. Mr Davison had moved from Durham to London to become a dedicated foe of tyranny.
Thomas was a prolific printer of everything from dictionaries, poetry, translations of the Classics and treatises on calculus to tourist guides. He earned his reputation with Scott's Arabian Nights in 1811 and printed
Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (the first two cantos) in 1815 and Wordsworth's "Thanksgiving Ode - both the work of revolutionary sympathisers - in 1816.
He was credited with marked improvements in ink and printing technique, producing the landmark
1829 edition of The Keepsake, 13 shillings for the silk-bound octavo or £2 12s 6d for the morocco-bound royal octavo edition available by special order. Ironically the silk was cheap enough for book-binding because of the terrible state of the British weaving industry. The discontent of the weavers was a major motivation of the Reform movement. Though often dismissed as a sentimental gift book for young ladies this edition had contributions from William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas Moore, Robert Southey, Letitia Elizabeth Landon and Felicia Hemans.
His love, however, was the editing and publication of revolutionary pamphlets, tracts and and newsletters including The Cap of Liberty, The Medusa, The Black Dwarf, The Radical Reformer, or People's Advocate, The Freethinking Christians' Magazine, etc. They were printed on much lower quality paper such as anyone could now make at home. They reported the consequences of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, repressive laws and taxes of all kinds (including those against pamphleteers), public letters to the Prince Regent, biographies of prominent revolutionaries such as Tom Paine and bickering between enemies and friends.
Blest Liberty thy sacred flame impart,
And make it burn in ev'ry British heart.
Thomas described what the Liberty Cap
meant to him. He wrote that the shape represented the pyramid of Eternity
standing on the broad base of Humanity, showing that Liberty for all should last forever. Simple and unadorned--for
Liberty is in itself the shining ornament of man. Made of wool
to show that Liberty is the birthright of the shepherd as much as of the senator. The shepherd harvests the wool but does not butcher the sheep. It is white, undyed
to show that Liberty should be natural without deceiving gloss, unspotted by faction and untainted by tyranny
Thomas says that the Cap became the symbol of Liberty as it was worn by the old and infirm to keep their heads warm. The honour due the wise old was naturally transferred to the free citizens
who wore it.
Thomas had many concerns about injustice but primarily hoped for annual Parliaments, universal suffrage and vote by ballot. Presumably he hoped this would lead to a fairer and juster Britain. He decried the treatment of
common prostitutes when those used by lords and princes went unpunished. He also wrote that they were forced by economic circumstances to the trade because none other was open to them.
Thomas was a vocal atheist, printing inflammatory but devastatingly logical tracts like The Koran proved to be authentic in response to a clergyman's foolish 'proof' of the truth of the Bible. He recommends breaking free of The Nurse, The Schoolmaster and The Priest.
In another of his tracts, the obviously pseudonymous Spartacus wrote "The best antidote against priestcraft would be its own history."
Some articles promoted the idea of a boycott of taxed goods such as tea, coffee and whisky. He supported the Irish in their tax avoidance, though he didn't seem to actually encourage smuggling and illicit stills directly. He supported Irish Republicanism in articles like Paddy Bull's epistle to his brother John.
To help the campaign against repressive taxes (and to starve the administration of funds) he advertised in January of 1820 that a fellow radical had, through tedious and laborious experimentation, produced an alternative to coffee made from native British produce. It was said to be "much more grateful to the palate than any three-shilling coffee, and we know it is more wholesome, as well as more satisfying to the stomach". It retailed at 1 shilling a pound compared to the 3 shillings a pound for the real stuff. This "Radical Breakfast Powder" sold 112 pounds in the first week. The manufacturer was said to be "resolved to sacrifice a great part of his profits to induce venders to supply the Public in various parts of the Metropolis." This was available from No. 10 Middle Row, Holborn.
The language of his contributors is very flowery in its venom, for example;
"...many of whom Jack Ketch would deem a disgrace to his modus operandi"
means "hanging is too good for them."
"Heaven-born Mr Pitt"
means "Mr Pitt the bastard."
Thomas died on the 28th of December 1830 at the age of 65, an "eminent printer".
Much as I'd like to, I cannot claim authorship of this text - it's an original work for E2, written by one of the researchers I employed while writing 'Liberty Cap'. Thanks Pat!