Portrait of William Cobbett

William Cobbett on the dangers posed by the “Paper Aristocracy” (1804)

Found in: Selections from Cobbett's Political Works, vol. 1

The English radical William Cobbett (1763-1835) objected to the funding of the war against Napoleon by issuing debt and suspending gold payments. He called the financial elite who benefited from the huge increase in government debt as the “Paper Aristocracy”:


Amongst the great and numerous dangers to which this country, and particularly the monarchy, is exposed, in consequence of the enormous public debt, the influence, the powerful and widely-extended influence, of the monied interest is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded …

I mean an interest hostile alike to the land-holder and to the stock-holder, to the colonist, to the real merchant, and to the manufacturer, to the clergy, to the nobility and to the throne; I mean the numerous and powerful body of loan-jobbers, directors, brokers, contractors and farmers general, which has been engendered by the excessive amount of the public debt, and the almost boundless extension of the issues of paper-money,——It was a body very much like this, which may with great propriety, I think, be denominated the Paper Aristocracy, that produced the revolution in France.