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Charles Prestwich Scott
CPScott portrait.jpg
The bust of C. P. Scott that is in the offices of The Guardian, London
Born 26 October 1846(1846-10-26)
Bath, Somerset, England
Died 1 January 1932 (aged 85)
Education Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Occupation Journalist, editor
Spouse(s) Rachel Cook (1874-1905)
Children Madeline Scott
Laurence Scott
John Russell Scottt
Edward Taylor Scott
Religious belief(s) Unitarianism

Charles Prestwich Scott (26 October 1846 – 1 January 1932) was a British journalist, publisher and politician. Born in Bath, Somerset, he was the editor of the Manchester Guardian from 1872 until 1929 and its owner from 1907 until his death. He was also a Liberal Member of Parliament and pursued a progressive liberal agenda in the pages of the newspaper.



Early years

Educated at Hove House and Clapham Grammar School, Scott went up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He took a first in Greats in the autumn of 1869, then in 1870 went to Edinburgh to train on The Scotsman. While at Oxford, his cousin John Taylor, who ran the London office of the Manchester Guardian, decided that the paper needed an editor based in Manchester and offered Scott the post. Scott already enjoyed a familial connection with the paper; its founder, John Edward Taylor, was his uncle, and at the time of his birth Scott's father, Russell Scott, was the paper's owner, though he later sold it back to Taylor's sons under the terms of Taylor's will. Accepting the offer, Scott joined the paper as their London editor in February 1871. and became its editor on 1 January 1872.

As editor Scott initially maintained the Manchester Guardian's well-established moderate Liberal line, "to the right of the party, to the right, indeed, of much of its own special reporting".[1] However, when in 1886 the whigs led by Lord Hartington and a few radicals led by Joseph Chamberlain, split the party, formed the Liberal Unionist Party and gave their backing to the Conservatives, Scott's Manchester Guardian swung to the left and helped Gladstone lead the party towards support for Irish Home Rule and ultimately the "new liberalism".

Parliamentary career

In 1886, Scott fought his first general election as a Liberal candidate, an unsuccessful attempt in the Manchester North East constituency; he stood again for the same seat in 1891 and 1892. He was elected at the 1895 election as MP for Leigh, and thereafter spent long periods away in London during the parliamentary session. His combined position as a Liberal backbencher, the editor of an important Liberal newspaper, and the president of the Manchester Liberal Federation made him an influential figure in Liberal circles, albeit in the middle of a long period of opposition. He was re-elected at the 1900 election despite the unpopular stand against the Boer War that the Guardian had taken, but retired from Parliament at the time of the Liberal landslide victory in 1906, at which time he was occupied with the difficult process of becoming owner of the newspaper he edited.

Taking ownership of the Manchester Guardian

In 1905, the Manchester Guardian's owner, Edward Taylor, died. His will provided that the trustees of his estate should give Scott first refusal on the copyright of the Mancheter Guardian at £10,000, and recommended that they should offer him the offices and printing works of the paper on "moderate and reasonable terms". However, they were not required to sell it at all, and could continue to run the paper themselves "on the same lines and in the same spirit as heretofore". Furthermore, one of the trustees was a nephew of Taylor and would financially benefit from forcing up the price at which Scott could buy the paper, and another was the Manchester Guardian's manager, but faced losing his job if Scott took control. Scott was therefore forced to dig deep to buy the paper: he paid a total of £240,000, taking large loans from his sisters and from Taylor's widow (who had been his chief supporter among the trustees) to do so. Taylor's other paper, the Manchester Evening News, was inherited by his nephews in the Allen family. Scott made an agreement to buy the MEN in 1922 and gained full control of it in 1929.


In a famous 1921 essay marking the Manchester Guardian's centenary (at which time he had served nearly fifty years as editor), Scott put down his opinions on the role of the newspaper. He argued that the "primary office" of a newspaper is accurate news reporting: in his now-clichéd words, "comment is free, but facts are sacred". Even editorial comment has its responsibilities: "It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair". A newspaper should have a "soul of its own", with staff motivated by a "common ideal": although the business side of a newspaper must be competent, if it becomes dominant the paper will face "distressing consequences".

In his editorials, Scott was hostile to militant suffragettes, whom he accused of employing 'every engine of misguided fanaticism in order to wreck, if it be in their power, the fair prospects of their cause' [2] He was just as disturbed by the General Strike of 1926, hoping 'Will not the General Strike cease to be counted henceforth as a possible or legitimate weapon of industrial warfare' [3] Irish rebels were authors of their own destruction he thought, writing on the execution of Padraig Pearse and James Connolly after the Easter Uprising in Dublin 'it is a fate which they invoked and of which they probably would not complain' [4]

Final years

C. P. Scott remained editor of the Manchester Guardian until 1 July 1929, at which time he was eighty-three years old and had been editor for exactly fifty-seven and a half years. His successor as editor was his youngest son, Ted Scott, though C. P. remained as Governing Director of the company and was at the Guardian offices most evenings. He died in the small hours of New Year's Day 1932.


In 1874, Scott married Rachel Cook, who had been one of the first undergraduates of the College for Women, Hitchin (later Girton College, Cambridge). She died in the midst of the dispute over Taylor's will. Their daughter Madeline married long-time Guardian contributor C. E. Montague. Their eldest son Lawrence died in 1908, aged thirty-one, after contracting tuberculosis. His middle son John became the Manchester Guardian's manager and founder of the Scott Trust. Youngest son Ted, who succeeded his father as editor, drowned in a sailing accident after less than three years in the post. John and Ted Scott jointly inherited the ownership of the Manchester Guardian & Evening News Ltd.; after Ted's death John passed it on to the Scott Trust.

In 1882, having built a new house in Darley Dale, Sir Joseph Whitworth leased The Firs in Fallowfield to his friend C. P. Scott.[5] After Scott's death the house became the property of the University of Manchester, and was the Vice-Chancellor's residence until 1991. Scott used to travel into his Cross Street Office by bicycle.[6]

Scott is the grandfather of Evelyn Aubrey Montague (1900–1948), the Olympic athlete and journalist depicted in the film Chariots of Fire. Evelyn, like his grandfather, wrote for the Manchester Guardian, and became its London editor.


He was made a Freeman of the City of Manchester in 1930.[7]


  • "[A newspaper's] primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted."
  • "Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it."
  • "Truth like everything should be economized." (quoted in Europe: Grandeur and Decline by A.J.P. Taylor p. 237)
  • "Comment is free, but facts are sacred."


  1. ^ Ayerst (1971)
  2. ^ Leader, 18 November 1911
  3. ^ Leader, 14 May 1926
  4. ^ 4 May 1916, in David Ayerst (1971) The Guardian: Biography of a Newspaper; p. 392
  5. ^ History (Faculty of Life Sciences - The University of Manchester)
  6. ^ Manchester Evening News; Manchester's Greats. 30 Apr 1977
  7. ^ Manchester Evening News; Manchester's Greats. 30 Apr 1977

Further reading

  • C. P. Scott, 1846-1932: the making of the "Manchester Guardian". London: Frederick Muller. (5 extracts from Scott's writings; 18 other contributions.)
  • Ayerst, David (1971). The Guardian: Biography of a Newspaper. London: Collins.  
  • Lejeune, C. A. (1964) Thank You for Having Me. London: Hutchinson (the author's mother was a friend of Scott)
  • Wilson, Trevor (ed.) (1970). The Political Diaries of C. P. Scott, 1911-1928. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press.  

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Caleb Wright
Member of Parliament for Leigh
Succeeded by
John Fowler Leece Brunner
Media offices
Preceded by
Edward Taylor
Editor of The Manchester Guardian
1872 - 1929
Succeeded by
Edward Taylor Scott


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Charles Prestwich Scott (1846-10-261932-01-01) was a British journalist, publisher and politician. He was the editor of The Manchester Guardian newspaper from 1872 until 1929, and its owner from 1907 until his death.


  • Comment is free, but facts are sacred.
    • Manchester Guardian, May 5, 1921. [1]


  • Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it.

External links

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