(17 June 1792 – 23 August 1849)
The son of a London tailor he began work at 13 as an apprentice at Hansard’s printing works, and in 1810 as a shopman for Richard Carlile, as well as in Belgium. In the 1820s he was influenced by the ideas of Robert Owen and joined the Co-operative Printers Association. He also became active in the Radical Reform Association.
In 1822 he started his own printing and publishing company, and in the 1830s published a series of radical newspapers including: The Penny Papers (1830); The Radical (1831) and The Poor Man’s Guardian (1831-1835), which sold 22,000 copies a week in 1833.
He was fined on numerous occasions, imprisoned in 1833 and 1836, and had all his printing presses seized and destroyed in 1835. Over 500 people had been imprisoned for selling it.
Hetherington played a leading role in the campaign against the heavy taxes on newspapers and pamphlets, which resulted in several reforms in the law.
In 1833 the four-penny tax on newspapers was reduced to one-penny and the tax on pamphlets was removed.
In 1849 he formed the Newspaper Stamp Abolition Committee.
His papers campaigned against child labour, the 1834 Poor Law and political corruption. He was involved in the London Working Man’s Association, 1836, and was one of the leaders of the moral force Chartist movement, very critical of the more militant policy of Feargus O’Connor, and in 1849 helped create the moderate Peoples Charter Union.
Hetherington died in an outbreak of cholera in 1849. Two thousand people gathered at Kensal Green cemetery to pay their respects to a man who had spent his adult life fighting for social reform.
Henry Hetherington’s Last Testament, written knowing he was likely to die, is a very moving and outspoken statement of belief in atheism, anticlericalism, humanist morality and cooperative socialist ideas.