Cheap Repository Tracts

 

   The Clapham Sect, among other initiatives, aimed at social reform. Meeting at various houses in Clapham, England, people such as Henry Thornton, Zachary Macaulay, Richard Cecil, and Hannah More were said to launch a plan to counteract the negative forces in society. The Prefatory Notice from the reprint of The Cheap Repository Tracts by the American Tract Society reads,-

  "THE zealous diffusion in France of the infidel and licentious works of Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and others, from the national "Encyclopédie" down to the obscene ballad, in the latter part of the last century, produced its legitimate results in the bloody revolution of 1789-1792, and the "reign of terror" which succeeded. The design, in the impious language of Voltaire, to "crush the wretch," for which he found an apology in the clearly discerned deceit and hollowness of a gorgeous and oppressive hierarchy, was pursued in other nations and languages. By the assistance of Paine and kindred spirits, it threatened to pervade the masses of Great Britain, and to spread its poison throughout the Christian world.

   "At this crisis of consternation, letters poured in upon HANNAH MORE by every post, earnestly calling upon her to produce some little popular tract, which might serve as a counteraction to those pernicious writings. The sound part of the community cast their eyes upon her as one who had shown an intimate knowledge of human nature, had studied it successfully in all its varieties, and the clear and lively style of whose writings had been found so generally attractive."

   In March of 1795, the plan began by launching 3 tracts a month; a ballad, a moral tale and a Sunday reading. There were 114 tracts in all of the "Cheap Repository." Many of these were a single part to a multi part story. In September, 1798, Hannah More pronounced the work completed, with weakened health, by saying in her journal,-

   "Cheap Repository is closed. ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul,' that I have been spared to accomplish that work. Do thou, O Lord, bless and prosper it to the good of many; and if it do good, may I give to thee the glory, and take to myself the shame of its defects. I have devoted three years to this work. Two millions of these tracts disposed of the first year. God works by weak instruments, to show that the glory is all his own."

 

American Tract Society, "Prefatory Notice: Cheap Repository Tracts" (New York: American Tract Society, c1850.)