C. P. Scott

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C. P. Scott
Scott in 1921
Born Charles Prestwich Scott
(1846-10-26)26 October 1846
Bath, Somerset, England
Died 1 January 1932(1932-01-01) (aged 85)
Alma mater Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Occupation Journalist, editor
Religion Unitarianism
Spouse(s) Rachel Cook (1874–1905)
Children Madeline Scott
Laurence Scott
John Russell Scott
Edward Taylor Scott

Charles Prestwich Scott (26 October 1846 – 1 January 1932), usually cited as C. P. Scott, was a British journalist, publisher and politician. Born in Bath, Somerset,[1] he was the editor of the Manchester Guardian (now the 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[edit]

Educated at Hove House and Clapham Grammar School,[1] Scott went up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford.[2] He took a first in Greats in the autumn of 1869,[1] 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".[3] 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[edit]

C.P. Scott c1895
Bust of Scott in the offices of The Guardian, London

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.[4] He was elected at the 1895 election as MP for Leigh,[5] 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.[6] He was re-elected at the 1900 election despite the unpopular stand against the Boer War that the Guardian had taken,[7] but retired from Parliament at the time of the Liberal landslide victory in 1906, when he was occupied with the difficult process of becoming owner of the newspaper he edited.

Taking ownership of the Manchester Guardian[edit]

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 Manchester 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.

His politics and relations with Government[edit]

Although a lifelong liberal, Scott had a troubled relationship with Lloyd George. Traditionally on the radical left of the party he was astounded by the pro-Zionist part taken by the Coalitionists, a position he heartily endorsed. On 4 August 1914 it was Scott that the Chancellor of Exchequer turned to for a favourable editorial comment. Whilst in London he stayed at the central location of Nottingham Place from where he could gather news intelligence on European developments. Would the government declare war? Scott recorded that the German ambassador had been deceived into believing that Britain would stay outside the conflict. But liberal policy always accentuated one of "continuity" of free radicals at its heart.[8] But for Scott the Cabinet remained too reticent to act, too timid, clearly an indication of his movement towards MacDonald and Labour. They espoused a pacifist position in Britain, which he was warned was "pro-German".[9] He was a friend of the radical Charles Hobhouse MP, who was not in the War Cabinet. Perhaps most instructive of his communicating skills was the introduction he made of Chaim Weizmann to Lloyd George. He struck up a remarkable friendship with the Jewish émigré, whose intellectual brilliance and business savvy was lately attracting the attention of even the Tory Press and senior ministers. Scott wrote regularly in the New Statesman dealing frankly and openly with the Herbert Memorandum; they would all come together in Downing Street for a top-level summit on the Palestine Question. But Scott also investigated the wartime traitor Sir Roger Casement. His story was linked to Collins' Dublin builder T.P. O'Connor, who more than any Irishman has served to hide the general's presence from the RIC.[10] In Ulster Joe Devlin warned the Left of the impending violence should they not heed the warnings contained in the newspapers about the coming military occupation. The Curragh Incident had profoundly shocked the establishment in Ireland; on 27 July 1916 Scott would hold just a one-off meeting with General Macready, Lord Reading and Lloyd George in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.[11]

Scott was intensely clubbable: gregarious and abounding in bonhomie, he frequently met at The Reform Club and for his left-wing friends, the Bath Club. His membership involved serious friendships with other editors, men like G Lowes Dickinson, but his closest political intimate was Irish leader John Dillon. They shared a socialist ambition for home rule, pacifism, conscriptionism and feminism.

Senior political journalist[edit]

Under his stewardship the Guardian continued to grow with Lloyd George's influence overseeing its place at the top table. In one such famous interviews the new Prime Minister gave his "fight to the finish" speech. Scott was responsible for recruiting the correspondent Robert Dell whose role in Paris was to communicate on secret negotiations with the Quai D'Orsay and Bureau Anglaise in a weekly column called "From Our Correspondent, Paris, Friday". Despite Lloyd Feorge's objection to the reporter's anonymity there remained little chance of compromising their French colleagues in a city already renowned for prostitution. Au Contraire, Spring-Rice his friend contrived that it had "a most excellent effect here."[12] Scott became friendly with Churchill, a Liberal and dined with Lord Fisher but remained essectially anti-conservative. Nonetheless the War Office acknowledged the utility of civilians as contacts on the ground; Scott's opinion was solicited on anything from the strength of Irish war opinions to whether Churchill should be removed from office. That December Scott was regularly at Walton Heath where he promoted Lord Northcliffe's companionship to advocate Unionism and Asquith's fall from power.[13] His espousal of Lloyd George's opportunism has perplexed historians, who he complained was the war-monger.


In a 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, saying "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".

While supporting female suffrage, Scott was hostile to militant suffragettes in his editorials, accusing them of employing 'every engine of misguided fanaticism in order to wreck, if it be in their power, the fair prospects of their cause'[14] 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'[15] Irish rebels were authors of their own destruction, he thought. On the execution of Padraig Pearse and James Connolly after the Easter Uprising in Dublin, he wrote that 'it is a fate which they invoked and of which they probably would not complain'.[16]

Final years[edit]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.


Scott was made a Freeman of the City of Manchester in 1930.[18]


  1. ^ a b c "C P Scott:: A Chronology". Adam matthew Publications. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "History of Corpus Christi College". Corpus Christi College Oxford. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Ayerst (1971)
  4. ^ Moore, James. "Manchester Liberalism and the Unionist Secession 1886–95" (PDF). Manchester Centre for Regional History. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "Authors, Novelists, Writers & Poets". Writers and novelists of Greater Manchester. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  6. ^ Jones, Brendan. "Manchester liberalism and the 1918 general election" (PDF). Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  7. ^ Hampton, Mark (2001). "The press, patriotism, and public discussion: CP Scott, The Manchester Guardian and the Boer War, 1899–1902". The Historical Journal. 44 (1): 177–197. doi:10.1017/s0018246x01001479. JSTOR 3133666. 
  8. ^ Letter to E.D.Morel, 18 Aug 1914; Wilson (ed.), Scott's Diaries, p.101
  9. ^ From: Sir Otto Trevelyan, 13 Sep 1914; p.105
  10. ^ Wilson (ed.), Diary, 15 Mar 1915; Wilson (ed.), pp.119-121
  11. ^ Diary entry; pp.222-3
  12. ^ LG to Scott, 23 Oct 1916; Wilson (ed.), p.231
  13. ^ Wilson (ed.), pp.249-51
  14. ^ Leader, 18 November 1911
  15. ^ Leader, 14 May 1926
  16. ^ 4 May 1916, in David Ayerst (1971) The Guardian: Biography of a Newspaper; p. 392
  17. ^ History (Faculty of Life Sciences – The University of Manchester)
  18. ^ a b Manchester Evening News; Manchester's Greats. 30 Apr 1977


Primary sources
  • Hammond papers
  • Lloyd George papers - contains a large number of letters and correspondence - British Library (BL).
Secondary sources
  • Ayerst, David (1971). The Guardian: Biography of a Newspaper. London: Collins. 
  • Hammond, J.L. (1934). C.P. Scott of the Manchester Guardian. London: Bell. 
  • Lejeune, C. A. (1964). Thank You for Having Me. London: Hutchinson. (the author's mother was a friend of Scott)
  • Scott, C. P. 1846–1932: the making of the Manchester Guardian. London: Frederick Muller.  (5 extracts from Scott's writings; 18 other contributions.)
  • Wilson, Trevor, ed. (1970). The Political Diaries of C. P. Scott, 1911–1928. London: Collins. 

External links[edit]

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
Succeeded by
Edward Taylor Scott