An advert for the Guardian’s centenary issue in 1921 Guardian
The Manchester Guardian was founded by John Edward Taylor in 1821, and was first published on May 5 of that year.
The paper’s intention was the promotion of the liberal interest in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre and the growing campaign to repeal the Corn Laws that flourished in Manchester during this period.
The Guardian was published weekly until 1836 when it was published on Wednesday and Saturday becoming a daily in 1855, when the abolition of Stamp Duty on newspapers permitted a subsequent reduction in cover price (to 2d) allowed the paper to be published daily.
The Guardian achieved national and international recognition under the editorship of CP Scott, who held the post for 57 years from 1872.
Scott bought the paper in 1907 following the death of Taylor’s son, and pledged that the principles laid down in the founder’s will would be upheld by retaining the independence of the newspaper.
CP Scott outlined those principals in a much-quoted article written to celebrate the centenary of the paper: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred… The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard.”
After retiring from an active role in managing and editing the paper, Scott passed control to his two sons, John Russell Scott as manager and Edward Taylor Scott as editor.
Realising that the future independence of the paper would be jeopardised in the event of the death of one or the other, the two sons made an agreement that in the event of either’s death, one would buy the other’s share.
CP Scott died in 1932 and was followed only four months later by Edward, so sole ownership fell to JR Scott.
Faced with the potential of crippling death duties and the predatory interest of competitors, Scott contemplated a radical move to ensure the future of both the Guardian and the highly profitable Manchester Evening News.
He concluded that the only solution was to give away his inheritance, a far-reaching solution which provoked close advisor (and future Lord Chancellor) Gavin Simonds to conclude: “you are trying to do something which is very repugnant to the law of England. You are trying to divest yourself of a property right”.