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RICHAED COBDEN, 

THE APOSTLE OF ^TIEE TRADE. 

HIS POIITICAL CAREER AND PUBLIC SERVICES. 

A BIOGRAPHY. 
By JOHN M^GILCHRIST, 

AUTHOR OF " THE UTS OF LOBD DUITDOHALD," " MKV WHO HAVB MADE 
THBMSELTES," ETC. 




BIBTBFLACS OF BICHABO COBDKIT. ^ ^ ^ ' . ; ' ' - 

NEW YORK: 

HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, 

FBANELik BqltlTAB^ 
166 5. * 






••• , • 



• • • 






TO THE PEOPLE 

OF 

ENGLAND, FRANCE, AMERICA, 

AND 

THE INDUSTRIAL WORLD AT LARGE, 

THIS HUMBLE ATTEMPT TO DELINEATE THE 
CHASACTER AND CAREER 

OF 

"THE INTERNATIONAL MAN» 

OP THE AGE, 

fi0 dSitttptcttnlls IDetifcateti hs 

THE AUTHOR. 



1 



PREFACE. 



The leading purpose which the Author pro- 
posed to himself in his plan of this work, and 
which he has faithfully carried out in its exe- 
cution, was to tell the story of Mr. Cobden's life 
and patriotic and philanthropic public services, 
as far as possible, in the very words of the sub- 
ject of his biography. For that purpose, every 
speech made by Mr. Cobden within the walls of 
Parliament, and, so far as they could be traced, 
every utterance of his delivered elsewhere, have 
been carefully perused. And the principle of 
selection applied to the citations which have 
been chosen, has been to supply, not so much 
(except in a few signal cases) the finest speci- 
mens of Cobden's oratory as the passages which 
are most autobiographical. So far as was pos- 
sible, in the succeeding pages Cobden has been 
made to tell the story of his own life. 

The Author has to express his indebtedness 
for much information and insight into the in- 
ner and less prominent incidents of Mr. Cob- 



viii PREFACE. 

den's life, and shades of his character, to a large 
number of gentlemen who stood in various de- 
grees of intimacy to the great Free Trade Apos- 
tle at the successive epochs of his career. To 
specify here by name one such contributor to 
whatever value this book may possess, without 
mentioning all, would be invidious. The Au- 
thor, therefore, contents himself with acknowl- 
edging in general terms his equal obligations 
to many kind assistants in his labor of love. 
Turning to published works, out of very many 
which have been consulted. Miss Martineau^s 
"History of the Thirty Years' Peace," Mr. Pren- 
tice's "History of the Anti-Corn-Law League," 
and the Eeverend Henry Eichard's " Life of Jo- 
seph Sturge," are among the mines from which 
the Author has drawn most largely. A copi- 
ous Index is appended, in which it has been en- 
deavored to give a ready clew to the opinions 
held by Mr. Cobden on all public questions, 
and to group around him his associates, wheth- 
er those who were well known or those who 
were less conspicuous. 

It is hoped that such a book, at a period 
when the recent political stagnation seems in a 
degree to be passing away, may be of some ben- 
efit to the thoughtful reader. Although not 
written expressly for young people, if there has 



PREFACE. ix 

been a leading feeling in the Author's mind 
during its preparation, it has been that, if his 
book could serve in any degree to induce some 
members of the rising manhood of the empire 
to imbibe the contagion of that high ideal of 
the duties of citizenship which was Cobden's 
great inspiration, he would at once have laid a 
not unworthy chaplet on Cobden's tomb, and, 
after a humble sort, continued Cobden's great 
work, by enlisting recruits for that army of 
progress of which he was the chief leader in 
our days. 

Our vignette, representing Cobden's birth- 
place ere it was altered and extended, is takeix 
from an early volume of the "Illustrated Lon- 
don News," to the proprietors of which histor- 
ically valuable journal we have to tender our 
best thanks for permission to reproduce it. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTBB PAOI 

I. EARLY DATS ..."^ .% 13 

II. FIRST PERIOD OP THE ANTI-CORN-LAW AGITATION 26 

in. FORMATION OF THE LEAGUE. ..>. 49 

IV. COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT 60 

V. PROGRESS OF THE FREE-TRADE AGITATION. > 82 

VI, THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE... >. 117 

VH. FACTORY LEGISLATION. — THE TEN-HOURS* BILL... 139 

VIU. PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM 150 

IX. THE LAST OF THE PEACE SOCIETY CONFERENCES 171 

X. PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR 185 

XI. THE CHINA WAR, AND THE FRENCH TREATY 207 

XIL LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT .. 226 

Xin. LAST DAYS, AND DEATH .> 246 

XIV. TRIBUTES TO MR. COBDEN'S MEMORY AND MERITS 262 

XV. THE GRAVE 285 

INDEX 297 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



I. PORTRAIT OP MR. COBDEN Frontispiece, 

H. THE BIRTHPLACE OF MB, COBDEN Vignette. 



FAGK 



III. MIDHURST, SUSSEX 116 

IV. DUNFORD HOUSE (AS REBUILT ON THE SITE OF HIS 

birthplace), MR. COBDEN's RESIDENCE DURING 
THE LATTER TEARS OF HIS LIFE 152 

V. WEST LAVINGTON CHURCH-TARD, MR. COBDEN'S FI- 
NAL RESTING-PLACE 247 

[THB bits of MB. COBDEN*B GBAYS IB INDICATED BT A OBOBB, 
BBEGTED TO MARK THE GBAV9B OF HI8 BON, WHIOH WILL 
B3 OBBBRVED TO THK LEFT OF A YEW-TBEB.] 



LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 



CHAPTER I. 

EARLY DAYS. 



One of the daily London newspapers, in its re- 
port of the funeral of Mr. Cobden, thus described 
the general character of the locality of his birth 
and burial: "There is not, perhaps, a lovelier 
part of England, a lovelier country, than that part 
of Sussex in which the now historic village of 
Midhurst is situated. Hills covered with foliage, 
valleys bright with verdure or teeming with fer- 
tility, alternate with dark, sombre-looking heaths, 
sandy patches, and trim, silent, old-fashioned vil- 
lages, and isolated farm-houses built in the days 
of the Tudors." All authorities whom we have 
consulted bear similar testimony to the beauteous 
old-world character of the neighborhood. Even 
when Cobbet, in his " Rural Rides," strikes into 
the Weald of Sussex, on the confines of the west- 
ern portion of which Midhurst stands, upon a 
slight eminence above the River Rother, he lays 
aside his customary style of denunciation, and 
thus eulogizes the locality : " There is no misery 



1 



14 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

to be seen here ; I have seen no wretchedness in 
Sussex ; nothing to be at all compared to that 
which I have seen in other parts ; and as to these 
villages in the South Downs, they are beautiful 
to behold. There is an appearance of comfort 
about the dwellings of the laborers that is very- 
pleasant to behold. The gardens are neat, and 
full of vegetables of the best kinds. I saw with 
great delight a pig at almost every laborer's 
door." 

The neighborhood abounds in the splendid an- 
cestral residences of the noble and untitled fam- 
ilies of Richmond, Caraoys, Egmont, the Percies, 
the Montagues, and the Wyndhams ; and is also 
thickly studded with fine old-timbered farms and 
manor-houses, which bespeak the woody wealth 
of the ancient oak forests. Many old-descended 
yeomen's families are preserved ; the Entyknapps 
of Pockford, for example, hold by a tenure dating 
from the Saxon times. It was at Cowdray, the 
ancient seat of the Montagues, now a picturesque 
ruin, but habitable when Dr. Johnson paid a visit 
to it from Brighton, that that sage said to Bos- 
well, " Sir, I should like to stay here four-and- 
twenty hours. We see here how our ancestoi*s 
lived." Here, nearly two centuries before. Queen 
Elizabeth visited the great Lord Montague, one 
of her heroes of the Armada. Here, with a crose- 
bow, she killed three or four deer as they were 
driven past her sylvan bower ; the Countess of 



EARLY DAYS. Id 

Kildare, with the true sagacity of the Geraldines, 
taking care to bring down only one. Verdley 
Castle, which lies to the north of Midhurst, was 
" known," in Camden's days, " only to those that 
bunt the marten cat." 

The personal associations of the neighborhood 
are not less interesting and seductive. Otway 
was born at Verdley ; Charles Fox sat for Mid- 
hurst before Cobden was born ; and while he was 
yet in early childhood. Sir Charles Lyell was re- 
ceiving, at the grammar-school of the quaint, old- 
gabled borough, the rudiments of his education. 

At the farm-house of Dunford, a short distance 
from Midhurst, and a view of which forms the 
subject of the vignette on our title-page, Richard 
Cobden first drew breath on the 3d of June, 1804. 
His father farmed his own land, a holding of mod- 
erate extent. He had been for a short time res- 
ident in Midhurst, as also had his father before 
him. The latter, we believe, discharged the du- 
ties of chief magistrate of the little town. In 
Midhurst, Cobden received the rudiments of his 
education. The grammar-school where he was 
educated at one time enjoyed a high reputaticH), 
but its endowment being no more than nominal, 
we believe that it has fallen into decay. Within 
the last year or two attempts have been made to 
reinstate it in somewhat of its old position. Of 
these efforts Mr. Cobden, in the concluding por- 
tion of his life, was one of the chief promoters. 



16 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

A comparatively small sum — from a thousand to 
fifteen hundred pounds — would suffice to attain 
this object. We can not help thinking, and ex- 
pressing here the opinion, that no public memo- 
rial of Mr. Cobden's services and merits would 
be more eminently appropriate and honoring to 
his memory than the completion of this good 
work, one of the last he had at heart. 

At an early period of the boy's life his father 
died ; and the youth, being taken under the guard- 
ianship of an uncle who was a London warehouse- 
man, repaired to London to seek his fortunes in 
his relative's establishment. From this he ap- 
pears shortly to have removed himself to another 
house in the same department of trade, where he 
drew attention by his eagerness to acquire infor- 
mation, and the variety of his reading. His mas- 
ter, a man belonging to the old school, and steep- 
ed in the prejudices of the time, warned him 
against so much reading, telling him he would be 
certain, if he persisted in the indulgence, to spoil 
his prospects for life. We need not say how this 
prediction was falsified. The master lived to fail 
in his business, and to see the youth he had em- 
ployed at the head of a prosperous and money- 
making firm. Cobden did not resent the ill-ad- 
vised, but doubtless well-meant, attempt at re- 
straint. He allowed his old employer a sufficient 
annual allowance, which was regularly paid until 
the date of the old man's death. 



EARLY DAYS. 17 

Hitherto Cobden's employment had been con- 
fined to the indoor routine of a warehouse. At 
an early age he embarked upon the more varied 
and exciting calling of a commercial traveler, 
commencing his duties in that capacity at a very 
modest rate of remuneration. In fact, it was 
only by accident — being asked to assume the 
duties of a traveler who had fallen sick — that 
he was transferred from the warehouse, or count- 
ing-house, to the " road." In his new sphere he 
soon made himself exceedingly popular, and equal- 
ly profitable as a representative of the house that 
employed him. He sent home large orders ; and 
many men yet living, and still engaged in trade, 
recall with pleasure the frank and affable, though 
modest and diffident, manner of Cobden in the 
after-dinner talk — and sometimes disputation — 
of the commercial room. Already he was deeply 
versed in Adam Smith, and he was a peripatetic 
and enthusiastic advocate of thorough-going Free 
Trade. With half jocularity and half seriousness, 
he proposed the establishment of a " Smithian 
Society," on the model of the Linnsean and simi- 
lar associations devoted to natural science, for 
the then much-needed purpose of elucidating and 
disseminating the opinions of the great master 
of political economy. 

In course of time the firm which he represent- 
ed withdrew from business, and disposed of their 
interest and good-will to certain of their more 



18 LIFE OF RICHAKD COBDEN. 

energetic employ^. Among these was Cobden. 
A correspondent of the Manchester Cowner^ writ- 
ing a few days after Mr. Cobden's djsath, thus 
narrates the circumstances of his first independ- 
ent start in business : ^' Mr. Cobden began life as 
a lad in a London warehouse. Growing into si 
young man, he was sent on matters of business to 
many of the houses with which his firm was coa- 
nected. Among those he so visited was Mr. John 
Lewis, of 101 Oxford Street. Mr. Lewis con- 
ceived a liking for the young man on account of 
the smart and business-like manner in which he 
used to come to his house and transact whatever 
he had to do, and often gave him a few kind 
words. One day young Cobden came tg him, and 
with some hesitation told him that he and two of 
his comrades, young men like himself, had heard 
of a business near Manchester, which a gentleman 
was retiring from, and the plant of which was to 
be had for £1500 ; this sum the three had agreed 
to raise among them, but Cobden had no friends 
to help him with his quota, and therefore he 
would venture to ask Mr. Lewis if he would do 
so. Mr. Lewis, from his partiality to him, at once 
assented, and Cobden left him in high spirits. 
But soon after he called again, with a long face, 
to say his colleagues had not been able to raise 
their £500 each. After a while, however, he came 
again, to state that the owner of the business in 
question, having heard favorably of the trio, 



. EARLY DAYS. 19 

agreed to let them have it for Mr. Cobden's £500. 
Would Mr. Lewis still let him have the money ? 
Mr. Lewis very kindly complied, and the three 
shortly after began the world together. The £600 
was speedily repaid ; and, after a very few years, 
one and then another of the partners drew out of 
the business with a handsome fortune, and Rich- 
ard Cobden came to be what he was. The forego- 
ing particulars were related to the writer by Mr. 
Lewis, who retired from business about twenty- 
five years ago, and subsequently died in Madeira." 
The new firm had three establishments : one at 
Sabden, near Clitheroe, for the printing of the 
calicoes in which they dealt, under the title of 
Sherifi*, Foster, & Co. ; and two others for the sale 
of their goods — one in London, termed Sheriff^, 
Gillet, & Co., and another in Manchester, under 
the personal management of Mr. Cobden, and 
entitled Richard Cobden & Co. It was in the 
year 1830, when he had only reached his twenty- 
sixth year, that Cobden took up his residence in 
Manchester, and commenced business on his own 
account. His warehouse was in Mozley Street, 
which hitherto had been the Saville Row of 
Manchester, consisting entirely of the houses of 
medical men and other private residences. We 
believe that it is now entirely composed of ware- 
houses ; but Cobden & Co.'s was the first to in- 
trude on its privacy, and inaugurate the transmu- 
tation, which is now complete. 



20 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

The fortunes of the house rapidly progressed. 
*'The custom of the calico trade," says one of the 
authorities from whom these particulars are de- 
rived, " at that period was to print a few designs, 
and watch cautiously and carefully those which 
were most acceptable to the public, when large 
quantities of those which seemed to be preferred 
were printed off and offered to the retail dealer. 
Mr. Cobden introduced a new mode of business. 
Possessed of great taste, of excellent tact, and re- 
markable knowledge of the trade in all its details, 
he and his partners did not follow the cautious 
and slow policy of their predecessors, but fixing 
themselves upon the best designs, they had these 
printed off at once, and pushed the sale energetic- 
ally throughout the country. Those pieces which 
failed to take in the home market were at once 
shipped to other countries, and the consequence 
was that the associated firms became very pros-" 
perous." Cobden took long and extended foreign 
journeys, both in the old world and the new, to 
open up markets for his prints. These journeys 
had also political and literary results, to which 
reference will be made in succeeding pages. 
" Cobden's prints" became very fashionable. Aft- 
er he had become a great public man, the wives 
and dependents of the great landowners, whose 
monopoly he assailed, were seen in public clad 
in his garments ; and, at the heat of the agita- 
tion, the young Queen Victoria herself was ob- 



EARLY DAYS. 21 

served, by the passengers by the newly-opened 
Great Western Railway, strolling on the slopes 
ofWindsor Park plainly dressed in one of" Cob- 
den's prints." 

In Manchester, Cobden early entered upon 
public life. Such a man could not fail to be 
strongly affected by the ideas prevalent, and the 
forces in conflict, at the period of the great Re- 
form struggle. The circumstances of his first 
introduction into the arena of local and general 
politics are thus narrated by Mr. Cathrall, one 
of the proprietors and editors of the Manchester 
Times : 

"While my late partner and myself were earn- 
estly engaged as journalists, now about thirty 
years back, in the severe struggle then entered 
upon by the inhabitants of Manchester for obtain- 
ing the incorporation of the town, we received a 
series of letters upon that and other subjects of 
public interest from an anonymous correspondent 
under the signature of ' Libra,' These letters, 
which were generally furnished alternate weeks, 
were marked by so much thought and ability 
that we were desirous to have an interview with 
the writer, and accordingly inserted a line in our 
paper to that effect, mentioning a time for the 
purpose. About noon the same day that this no- 
tice appeared, the publisher of our paper notified 
to me that^a gentleman in the outer office wished 
to see me, when the stranger, on being invited 



28 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

into my private room, introduced himself as Rich- 
ard Cobden. His person and name being alike 
unknown to me, and not recollecting for the mo- 
ment that a stranger was' expected in accordance 
with the notice inserted in our journal,! begged 
he would inform me of the object of his call, when 
he said he was ' Libra ;' adding, ' I observe from 
your paper that you wish to see me.' We at 
once became great friends. Soon after, poor Pren- 
tice, my partner, entered the room, and on being 
informed that it was ' Libra' who was with me, 
warmly shook him by the hand, and at the same 
time complimented him on the skill, etc., displayed 
in his letters. 

"We gathered that he was engaged in bus- 
iness in Mozley Street ; that he had only recently 
come to Manchester, and had but few acquaint- 
ances there. 

"I well remember that in this interview he 
was very diffident, and somewhat nervous in tem- 
perament ; at the same time, it was obvious to us, 
even then, that he was in ability and promise 
much above the average stamp of young men. 

" It happening that a public meeting, imder the 
presidency of Mr. Prentice, in furtherance of the 
incorporation of Manchester, was to be held that 
same evening at the Cotton Free Tavern, in An- 
coats (a favorite political rendezvous of the period 
referred to), ray partner at once solicited Mr. Cob- 
den to accompany him and take part in the pro- 
ceedings. 



EARLY DAYS. 28 

" Although SO many years have passed since, 
I well recollect that Mr. Cobden declined to at- 
tend the meeting ; in fact, he evidently shrunk 
from the task of speaking on the occasion, and it 
was not until repeatedly pressed to do so that he 
consented, although the meeting was quite of a 
minor character. 

" ' I assure you,' he said, ' I never yet made a 
speech of any description, excepting, perhaps, an 
after-dinner one at a commercial table.' Having 
at length obtained the promise of his attendance, 
it was arranged that he should take his tea at our 
office on the way to the meeting, which he ac- 
cordingly did. 

" After the opening speech of the chairman, he 
called upon Mr. Cobden to move the first resolu- 
tion, introducing him as his young friend, who 
had recently contributed to the Manchester Times 
the able letters signed ' Libra.' His speech, how- 
ever, on this occasion was a signal failure. He 
was nervous, confused, and, in fact, practically 
broke down, and the chairman had to apologize 
for him, but at the same time expressed fufl con- 
fidence as to the success and usefulness of his fu- 
ture career. 

" Such was Mr. Cobden's debut before the Man- 
chester public as a speaker. So far as his own 
feelings were concerned, for some time he was so 
discouraged by his maiden effort that I am pretty 
confident, had this lamented and remarkable man. 



24 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

whose oratory subsequently was of so persuasive 
a kind, been allowed to follow the bent of his in- 
clination, he never again would have appeared as 
a public speaker. 

" Our professional acquaintance with Mr. Cob- 
den, thus formed, led to his introduction to the 
political circles of Manchester, and in a short pe- 
riod he took an active part in most public mat- 
ters affecting the interests of the town, and was 
chosen one of the first members of the corpo- 
ration, whose charter he materially assisted in ob- 
taining." 

Mr. Cobden was not deterred by this oratorical 
failure from again attempting to acquire by prac- 
tice facility of public speech. He must have pro- 
gressed rapidly, for we find that upon the open- 
ing of the Manchester Athenaeum, the establish- 
ment of which was effected in spite of great, and 
at one time apparently insurmountable difficul- 
ties — which Cobden is stated more than all other 
men put together to have overcome — ^he was 
chosen to deliver the inaugural address. In con- 
nection with the movement for the extension of 
municipal insititutions of a modern and liberal 
character to Manchester, he published a terse 
pamphlet, entitled " Incorporate your Borough," 
in which the vices and jobbery of the existing 
system were vigorously exposed. He also made 
frequent appearances in Manchester, and else- 
where in the neighborhood, in behalf of the 



EARLY DAYS. 25 

dawniug raovement for national education. It 
was in connection with this movement that John 
Bright and Richard Cobden became personally 
acquainted. Altogether, "Mr. Alderman Cob- 
den" had become a man of decided local mark, 
and a man of whom great hopes were entertained 
by his intimates, and by his coadjutors in public 
causes, by the time he was about thirty or thirty- 
one years of age. 



26 UFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 



CHAPTER n. 

FIRST PERIOD OP THE ANTI-OORN-LAW AGITATION. 

Manchester, which now stands so identified 
with a school of politicians which subordinates 
all other considerations to a paramount policy of 
freedom of trade, was one of the boroughs en- 
franchised by the Reform Bill of 1832. At the 
general election of that year, the Manchester men 
reamed two members completely pledged to this 
couw^ of legislation. Mr. Mark Phillips, in his 
canvass, declared himself decidedly opposed to 
" the East India, the Bank, and the timber monop- 
olies, and that greatest of all monopolies which 
was upheld by the Corn Laws." Mr. Poulett 
Thompson, afterward Lord Sydenham, who held 
the office of Vice-President, and afterward of 
President, of the Board of Trade in Lord Grey's 
administration, was known to be in advance of 
most of his colleagues in his general political 
opinions, and of all of them on questions of com- 
mercial reform. He was selected by the Man- 
chester Liberals as their second candidate ; and 
he and Mr. Phillips were elected by considerable 
majorities over the other candidates — William 
Cobbet, one of the great family of the Hopes, 



ANTICORNLAW AGITATION. 27 

and the present Lord Overstone. From that date 
Manchester became the avowed and acknowl- 
edged head-quarters of the Free Trade party. It 
was not long before certain of the leading men in 
the locality began to take the first steps, which 
led, as ultimate result, to the formation of the 
Anti- Corn -Law League. In January, 1834, a 
meeting of merchants and manufacturers was 
held. Good speeches were made, but little came 
of the meeting, the members of which carefully 
disclaimed all intention of forming any associa- 
tion. Meanwhile, in Parliament, Mr. Hume was 
urging the views of the Free-Traders, receiving 
support from snch of the Whigs as Poulett 
Thompson, the late Lord Carlisle, and the present 
Lord Grey. But the monopolists mustered in 
force, and defeated Mr. Hume's very moderate 
proposal, which only contemplated the substitu- 
tion of a fixed for a fluctuating duty on corn. The 
country, too, was apathetic, for trade was pros- 
perous and food cheap. Mr. Thompson, however, 
succeeded in introducing some valuable amend- 
ments ere the dissolution of the first administra- 
tion of Lord Melbourne, and he fairly merits the 
statement that " he occupied, beneficially to the 
public, the time between the death of Huskisson 
and the advent of Cobden." He abolished the 
duty on hemp, considerably reduced the taxes on 
dye-stufis and medicines, and made a large and ad- 
vantageous simplification of the tariff generally. 



28 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

The harvest of 1835 was gloriously abundant, 
and in the first meeting of the reconstituted Mel- 
bourne ministry, after the short Peel interreg- 
num, with the Houses of Parliament, they were 
assailed by the landowners with the usual cries 
of the " distress" inflicted upon the agricultural 
interest by the abundance of the crops. The 
plenty still kept the people apathetic. An old 
Scotchwoman^ when some one was endeavoring 
to impress upon her the then prevalent delusion 
that the higher prices were, the better would be 
the condition of farm laborers, replied, " Na, na ; 
ye'll no persuade me that when there's plenty o' 
meal puir folks will get less than when it's 
scarce." The people had plenty in 1835, and that 
plenty begat a certain political improvidence. 
They were deaf to the considerations addressed 
to them by the Free Trade pioneers — ^that this 
cheapness was most precarious, absolutely ^^ 
pending, so long as the Corn Laws remained, 
upon the chance of a succession of similarly plen- 
tiful harvests. 

It was just at this era that Cobden, who had 
been, ever since he emerged from boyhood, train- 
ing himself, by the most omnivorous reading, ex- 
tended travel, and careful thought, for the public 
position he was providentially designed to occu- 
py, enrolled himself openly among the Free Trad- 
ers. He worked first, and anonymously, with his 
pen ere his voice was heard. The following pas- 



ANTI-CORNLAW AGITATION. 29 

sage from Mr. Prentice's " History of the Anti- 
Corn-Law League" describes Cobden's first en- 
listment in the Free Trade ranks. We present 
Mr. Prentice's version of his first acquaintance 
Tvith Mr. Cobden entire, as we have given that of 
Mr. Cathrall in the preceding chapter, leaving our 
readers to determine for themselves which seems 
the more worthy of credit. Our own preference 
decidedly leans to Mr. Cathrall's, as being more 
self-consistent and probable upon the face of it. 
It is hardly necessary to state our belief that the 
discrepancies, signal though they be, arise from 
simple forgetfulness on the part of one or both of 
the narrators. 

"In 1835 there had been sent to me for publi- 
cation in my paper some admirably-written let- 
ters. They contained no internal evidence to 
guide me in guessing as to who might be the 
writer, and I concluded that there was some new 
man among us, who, if he held a station that 
would enable him to take a part in public afiairs, 
would exert a widely beneficial influence among 
us. He might be some young man in a ware- 
house, who had thought deeply on political econ- 
omy, and its practical application in our commer- 
cial policy, who might not be soon in a position to 
come before the public as an influential teacher ; 
but we had, I had no doubt, somewhere among 
us, perhaps sitting solitary after his day's work in 
some obscure apartment, like Adam Smith in his 



30 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

quiet closet at Kirkcaldy, one inwardly and qui- 
etly conscious of his power, but patiently biding 
his time to popularize the doctrines set forth in 
the ^ Wealth of Nations,' and to make the multi- 
tude think as the philosopher had thought, and 
to act upon their convictions. I told many that 
a new man had come, and the question was often 
put among my friends, ' Who is he ?' It is some 
satisfaction to me now, writing seventeen years 
after that peiiod, that I had anticipated the de- 
liberate verdict of the nation. In the course of 
that year, a pamphlet, published by Ridgway, 
under the title ' England, Ireland, and America,' 
was put into ray hand by a friend, inscribed 'From 
the Author,' and I instantly recognized the hand- 
writing of my unknown, much by me desired to 
be known, correspondent; and I was greatly 
gratified when I learned that Mr. Cobden, the 
author of the pamphlet, desired to meet me at 
my friend's house. I went with something of the 
same kind of feelings which I had experienced 
when I first, four years before, went to visit Jer- 
emy Bentham, the father of the practical Free 
Traders; nor was I disappointed except in one 
respect. I found a man who could enlighten by 
his knowledge, counsel by his prudence, and con- 
ciliate by his temper and manners, arid who, if 
he found his way into the House of Commons, 
would secure its respectful attention ; but I had 
been an actor among men who, from 1812 to 1832, 



ANTICORN-LAW AGITATION. 31 

had fought in the rough battle for Parliamentary 
Reform, and I missed, in the unassuming gentle- 
man before me, not the energy, but the apparent 
hardihood and dash which I had, forgetting the 
change of times, believed to be requisites to the 
success of a popular leader. In after years, and 
after, having attained great platform popularity, 
he had been elected a member of Parliament, and 
when men sneered and said he would soon find 
his level there, as other mob orators had done, I 
ventured to say that he would be in his proper 
vocation there, and that his level would be among 
the first men of the House." 

The pamphlet which (according to Mr. Pren- 
tice) thus formed the occasion of the introduction 
of the leader of the League to its historian, really 
assumes the proportions of a book. We are re- 
luctantly compelled to resist the temptation of 
summarizing this the first considerable production 
of Cobden's pen. It was from first to last a pro- 
test against the Palmerstonian foreign policy, and 
represented views from which Cobden never in 
his afler life in the slightest iota swerved, and 
which he never ceased to present to the nation, 
uninfluenced by the fair weather of popularity, 
undeterred by the foul weather of temporary sea- 
sons of alienation, when England was in one of its 
intermittent war fevers. These opening sentences 
from the preface are remarkably characteristic of 
the man, and are of universal application in En- 



82 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

glish history — as pertinent in 1865 as they were 
in 1835. 

" The following pages were written principally 
with a view to endeavor to prove the erroneous 
foreign policy of the government of this country. 
English statesmen of every age, down even to the 
present day, have one and all lost sight of that 
distinguishing and privileged feature which is pe- 
culiar to the insular situation of Great Britain. 
If we go back to the year 1805, when Kelson 
destroyed the remains of the French navy at Tra- 
falgar, these islands were thenceforth as secure 
against foreign molestation as though they had 
formed a portion of the moon's territory; yet 
from that time down to 1816 we waged incessant 
war, and incurred four hundred millions of debt 
for interests purely continental. Our European 
commerce yields but a poor set-off against the ex- 
penses of the war. The hundred days of Napo- 
leon cost us forty millions, the interest of which 
at five per cent, is two millions. Now, our exports 
to all Europe, of British manufactures, amount to 
about eighteen millions annually ; and, taking the 
profit at ten per cent., it falls short of two millions; 
so that all the profit of all our merchants, trading 
with all Europe, will not yield sufficient to pay 
the yearly interest of the cost of the last one hund- 
red days' war on the Continent, leaving all the 
other hundreds of millions spent previously as so 
much dead loss." 



ANTI-CORNLAW AGITATION. 33 

Cobden came again before the public as an au- 
thor in 1836. In that year, Tait, of Edinburgh 
republished in a cheap form four articles which 
Cobden had contributed to TaWs Magazine^writr 
ten with the design of allaying the Russophobia 
then prevalent, which Mr. Urquhart and his school 
(not, it was believed by some, without the com- 
plicity of the Foreign Secretary) had endeavored 
to excite in the country. This pamphlet, like the 
other, is an admirable product of Cobden's clear 
and vigorous intellect. A few selected sentences 
will suffice to justify our statement. 

"They who, pointing to the chart of Russia, 
shudder at her expanse of impenetrable forests, 
her wastes of eternal snow, her howling wilder- 
nesses, frowning mountains, and solitary rivers ; 
or they who stand aghast at her boundless extent 
of fertile but uncultivated steppes, her millions 
of serfs, and her towns the abodes of poverty and 
filth, know nothing of the true origin, in modern 
and future times, of national power and great- 
ness. This question admits of an appropriate il- 
lustration by putting the names of a couple of 
heroes of Russian aggression and violence in con- 
trast with two of their contemporaries, the cham- 
pions of improvement in England. At the very 
period when Potemkin and Suwarrow were en- 
gaged in effecting their impoi-tant Russian con- 
quests in Poland and the Crimea, and while these 
monsters of carnage were filling the <vorld with 
C 



84 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

the lustre of their fame, and lighting up one half 
of Europe with the conflagrations of war — ^two 
obscure individuals, the one an optician and the 
other a barber, both equally disregarded by the 
chroniclers of the day, were quietly gaining vic- 
tories in the realms of science, which have pro- 
duced a more abundant harvest of wealth and 
power to their native country than has been ac- 
quired by all the wars of Russia during the last 
two centuries. Those illustrious commanders in 
the war of improvement. Watt and Arkwright, 
with a band of subalterns — the thousand ingen- 
ious and practical discoverers who have followed 
in their train — ^have, with their armies of artisans, 
conferred a power and consequence upon En- 
gland, springing from successive triumphs in the 
physical sciences and the mechanical arts, and 
wholly independent of territorial increase — com- 
pared with which, all that she owes to the evan- 
escent exploits of her warrior heroes shrinks into 
insignificance and obscurity. If we look into fu- 
turity, and speculate upon the probable career of 
one of these inventions, may we not with safety 
predict that the steam-engine— the perfecting of 
which belongs to our own age, and which even 
now is exerting an influence in the four quarters 
of the globe — will at no distant day produce moral 
and physical changes all over the world of a mag- 
nitude and permanency surpassing the eflects of 
all the wars and conquests which have convulsed 



ANTI-CORN-LAW AGITATION. 85 

mankind since the beginning of time ? England 
owes to the peaceful exploits of Watt and Ark- 
wright, and not to the deeds of Nelson and Wel- 
lington, her commerce, which now extends to ev- 
ery corner of the earth, and which casts into 
comparative obscurity, by the grandeur ^and ex- 
tent of its operations, the peddling ventures of 
Tyre, Carthage, and Venice, confined within the 
limits of an inland sea." 

The following is no poor specimen of the quick, 
incisive thrust with which Cobden so often stab- 
•bed and burst the bubbles of many popular delu- 
sions : " The writers who have attempted to lead 
public opinion upon the subject have not scrupled 
to claim the interposition of our government with 
Russia for the purpose of restoring to freedom 
and indefpendenm those Caucasian tribes to which 
we have before alluded as being under the partial 
dominion of Russia. Their previous state of free- 
dom may be appreciated when we recollect that 
within our own time a fierce war was waged be- 
tween the most powerful of these nations (the 
Georgians) and the Turks in consequence of their 
having refused to continue to supply the harems 
of the latter with a customary annual tribute of 
the handsomest of their daughters ; offering, how- 
ever, at the same time, in lieu, a yearly contribu- 
tion in money." 

In 1836, an Anti-Corn-Law Association was 
formed in London ; but it proposed little in the 



86 LIF£ OF RICHARD COBD£N. 

way of organization and agitation, and did not 
represent a very numeroas constitaency. Never- 
theless, it comprised the names of many very val- 
uable public men ; among others, Joseph Broth- 
erton, Silk Buckingham, William Clay, Thomas 
DuncoQibe, William £ wart, George Grote, Joseph 
liume. Sir William Molesworth, Mr. Roebuck, 
Mr. Scholefield, Colonel Thompson, Mr. Wakley, 
Ebenezer Elliot, William Howitt, Place, the West- 
minster tailor. Prentice, the future historian of the 
League, Colonel Leicester Stanhope, Tait, the 
Radical publisher ; and as representatives of lit-' 
erature, Laman Blanchard and Thomas Campbell. 
This association at least kept the question of Corn 
Law Repeal before the public until it was re- 
placed by the formation of the League. 

1837 was a year of great commercial depression. 
There were heavy failures in London, Liverpool, 
Manchester, and Glasgow. Ere the summer ar- 
rived, deep distress had reached the homes of the 
working classes. In Lancashire, thousands of fac- 
tory hands were discharged. The Chartist agi- 
tation was undertaken, and much sedition openly 
expressed. During the panic, which was not of 
long continuance, the belief spread that it might ' 
not have occurred at all if the nation had been 
permitted to enjoy a regular importation of com. 
Mr. Clay moved in the House of Commons for a 
fixed duty of 1 Os, on wheat. Among his support- 
ers of the Whig ranks were Lords Howick and 



ANTICORN-LAW AGITATION. 37 

Morpeth, Sir George Grey, Sir Henry Parnell, and 
Mr. Labouchere. The death of the king causing 
an election, Manchester's Anti-Corn-Law mem- 
bers were returned by large majorities over Mr. 
Gladstone, senior. Other Lancashire towns re- 
turned Free Traders. Mr. Cobden was traveling 
on the Continent. In his absence he was pro- 
posed for Stockport, and was within a very few 
votes of being returned. In all, thirty-eight Free 
Traders were returned for constituencies number- 
ing five millions of souls. In counties and the 
smaller boroughs, where much flagrant bribery 
and corruption had been brought into action, the 
Protectionists had it their own way, and loudly 
vaunted the alleged, but suborned, reaction in 
their favor. A banquet was given to Mr. Broth- 
erton to celebrate his return for Salford. Mr. 
Cobden, who had returned from his foreign jour- 
ney, was present, and delivered an admirable 
speech, the chief gist of which was a recommend- 
ation of the ballot, showing how different would 
have been the result of the general election if the 
electors had been so protected. 

Mr. Cobden now endeavored to induce the 
Manchester Chamber of Commerce to organize a 
decided Anti-Com-Law agitation. Its members, 
however, while repeating the protest against the 
Com Laws which they had made ten years before, 
refused to organize any more active measures of 
aggression. More than once during this year the 



38 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

subject was brought before the House of Com- 
mons by Mr. Yilliers and others, but the great 
majority of members would hardly even listen. 
The Marquis of Chandos thus coolly demanded 
the continuance of the chronic robbery of labor 
by the landowners : " The agricultural interest is 
now enjoying some little respite from the distress 
of past years, and all it asks for is peace and qui- 
etness, and that it shall not be inconvenienced by 
legislative enactments of any kind." In the course 
of one of the debates, Lord Melbourne made a 
memorable and important declaration: he said, 
" The government would not take a decided part 
till it was certain the majority of the people were 
in favor of a change." This was a direct invita- 
tion and challenge to organized agitation ; phys- 
ical events, too, fanned the progress of opinion. 
The summer was wet. In August, wheat was at 
725., just double its price after the harvest of two 
years previously. Such men as Colonel Thomp- 
son and Joseph Sturge redoubled their efforts, 
and many of the newspapers which had been luke- 
warm showed a growing bias to conversion. 

In September of this year Dr. Bowring was 
entertained at a public dinner in Blackburn. Mr. 
Prentice seized the occasion of his expected pas- 
sage through Manchester to issue circulars to a 
number of the more decided local Free Traders 
to meet the doctor, who had just returned to En- 
gland from the Continent and Egypt, where he 



ANTI-CORN LAW AGITATION. 39 

had been engaged in a mission for the promotion 
of freer commercial intercourse. About sixty 
gentlemen met together, and the meeting was 
very enthusiastic. Dr. Bowring denounced the 
Corn Laws in unmeasured terms. " It is impos- 
sible," said he, " to estimate the amount of human 
misery created by the Com Laws, or the amount 
of human pleasure overthrown by them. In every 
part of the world I have found the plague-spot." 
In the course of the evening a Mr. Howie pro- 
posed, after the enthusiasm of the meeting had 
been very thoroughly evoked, " that the present 
company at once form themselves into an Anti- 
Corn-Law Association." The proposal was warm- 
ly entertained, and the succeeding Monday ar- 
ranged for a meeting formally to consider the 
project. It was agreed that the association should 
agitate for no half measures, but direct its as- 
saults against any and euery com law, A Pro- 
visional Committee was formed, and announced 
by public advertisement. Mr. Cobden's name ap- 
peared in the second list of committee-men adver- 
tised. They subscribed among themselves near- 
ly £11,000; and, as a first step, appointed Mr. 
Paulton, a young medical student of the highest 
qualifications, to deliver popular lectures on the 
subject wherever he could get a hearing. He 
broke ground in Manchester. The first sentences 
of his first lecture clearly and without any equivo- 
cation declared the fundamental principle of the 



40 LIFE OF RICHARD COBD£N. 

association. ''It has been established on the 
same righteous principle as the Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety. The object of that society was to obtain 
the free right for the negroes to possess their 
own flesh and blood — ^the object of this is to ob- 
tain the free right of the people to exchange 
their labor for as much food as can be got for it; 
that we may no longer be obliged by law to buy 
our food at one shop, and that the dearest in the 
world, but be at liberty to go to that at which 
it can be obtained cheapest.'' At the conclu- 
sion of a second lecture in Manchester, Mr. Paul- 
ton quoted these lines, which were received with 
the utmost enthusiasm. Many hundreds of times 
afterward were they cited at League meetings. 
Their so frequent citation forms part of the his- 
tory of the League ; we therefore insert them : 

**¥oT what were all these landed patriots bom ? 
To hunt, and vote, and raise the price of com. 
Safe in their barns, these Sabine tillers sent 
Your brethren out to battle. Why ? For rent I 
Year after year they voted cent, per cent. ; 
Blood, sweat, and tear- wrung millions ! Why ? For rent ! 
They roared, they dined, they drank, they swore, they meant 
To die for England. Why then live? For rent ! 
And will they not repay the treasures lent ? 
No ! down with every thing, and up with rent ! 
Their good, ill, health, wealth, joy, or discontent, 
Being, end, aim, religion — rent, rent, rent !" 

Requests at once poured in from great and 
small towns for lectures by Mr. Paulton, and his 



ANTI-CORN-LAW AGITATION. 41 

success was equally indicated by the abuse show- 
ered upon him by the landlord papers. 

The enthusiasm was reflected upon the Man, 
Chester Chamber of Commerce. A general meetT 
ing of its members, held in December, was the 
largest that had ever assembled. They resolved 
to petition Parliament for total repeal, and very 
properly one gentjeman, while he stigmatized the 
Corn Law legislation as " one of most shameful 
injustice," stated that " they were not so unjust 
and inconsistent as to ask any protection for 
manufactures." The bulk of the meeting were 
barely ripe for this. Nor is this to be wondered 
at, for probably there never was a delusion in the 
whole history of human error so difficult to expel 
from the heads of men, and especially oi dosses of 
men, as the supposed advantages of protective or 
prohibitory legislation. Cobden was present, and 
at once threw his weight into the large and liberal 
view. From his very argumentative speech we 
extract these sentences, which prove that he, at 
least, had nothing to learn from the very first of 
the maxims of the Free Trade gospel — ^that it was 
any and all protection, and not the mere protec- 
tion of the landed interest, that he assailed : 

"In a country such as this, where a boundless 
extent of capital is yielding only three or four per 
cent., it is folly to suppose that by any artificial 
means any trade can long be made to pay more 
than the average rate of profit. The effect of all 



42 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

such restrictions will only be to narrow the field 
of indastry, and thus, in the end, to injure instead 
of benefiting the parties intended to be protected. 
But look at the very opposite position in which 
the owners of land stand. I will suppose that a 
law could be passed to raise the price of wheat to 
a thousand shillings a bushel ; now what would 
be the effect of this but that thfi capitalists, who 
now get their ten per cent, profit in London or 
Manchester, would immediately urge their sons to 
bid fifty per cent, over the fai*mers of Norfolk ; 
and if these were still in the way of getting high- 
er profits than other trades, then other competi- 
tors would appear to bid fifty per cent, over them, 
until Mr. Coke's farms had reached the full mar- 
ket price, and yielded only the ordinary rate of 
profit of all other trades. But mark the differ- 
ence in the situation of the landowner and the 
calico-printer: while additional mills and print- 
works might be erected to meet the demand for 
calicoes and prints, not an acre of land could be 
added to the present domains of the aristocracy, 
and therefore every shilling of protection on corn 
must pass into the pockets of the landowners, 
without at all benefiting the tenant or the agri- 
cultural laborer ; whereas, on the other hand, no 
extent of protection could possibly benefit the 
manufacturer." He concluded his speech by sub- 
mitting a resolution proposing a petition for the 
abolition of all protective duties whatsoever. 



ANTI-CORN-LAW AGITATION. 43 

The meeting was adjoarned for a week. In 
the interval the manicipal charter of incorporar 
tion had been granted to Manchester. At the 
adjonmed meeting Mr. Cobden appeared as Mr. 
Alderman Cobden, having been elevated to that 
civic rank by the inhabitants of one of the wards. 
Mr. Cobden's motion was carried by a large ma- 
jority, and so important a body as the Chamber 
of Commerce of the cotton metropolis thereby 
committed to absolute Free Trade. The discus- 
sions had created great interest, and were widely 
reported in the country. Cobden was from this 
day known to all England as a Free Trade cham- 
pion. 

The Anti-Corn-Law Association now determ- 
ined to prosecute their work with augmented 
vigor, and to make large pecuniary contributions 
with that object. A meeting was held in Janu- 
ary, 1839, at which, among other proposals, " Mr. 
Alderman Cobden recommended an investment 
of a part of the property of the gentlemen pres- 
ent to save the rest from confiscation." A short 
extract from the newspaper report of the day is 
enough to indicate the determinedness which had 
now taken possession of the minds of these early 
Free Traders. 

" The chairman said that, though young in bus- 
iness, he would put down £50 (cheers). 

" Mr. J. B. Smith would give £100, and he was 
commissioned to put down Mr. Schuster's name 
for £100 (cheers). 



44 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

^'Alderman Cobden said he would give £100 
(cheers). 

" Mr. J. C. Dyer would give £100 most cheer- 
fully, and £1000 more if it were wanted (cheers). 

" Mr. W. Rawson said he could only give £50 
now, but would give half of all he possessed if it 
were needed (cheers)." 

Before leaving the room £1800 was subscribed, 
and large additional subscriptions were speedily 
announced. In a few days the total exceeded 
£6000. 

Meanwhile the Chartists, under Feargus O'Con- 
nor, had commenced their obstructive policy of 
denouncing the Anti-Corn-Law movement as only 
intended to advantage the manufacturers by en- 
abling them to purchase labor at reduced rates ; 
or, while admitting the desirability of Corn-Law 
Repeal, alleging that its consideration ought to 
be postponed until a complete suffrage had been 
secured. Tories also came forward to disturb Mr. 
Paulton's lectures and other Free Trade meetings 
by the former pretext. It became pretty obvious 
that certain Chartist leaders acted with singular 
conformity of plan and purpose with that pursued 
by such Tory obstructives, and it began to be 
more than suspected that the identity of policy 
was more than accidental. Other associations 
were springing up besides that of Manchester. 
At a dinner given in that city to the members of 
Parliament who had voted with Mr. Villiers on 



ANTICORN-LAW AGITATION. 45 

his Anti-Corn-Law motion in Parliament, Mr. 
Cobden took advantage of the presence of repre- 
sentatives from all the principal towns of England 
and Scotland to suggest that a general central 
association of the associations (so to speak) should 
be formed. This was favorably entertained, and 
was the first suggestion to make the agitation a 
combined national one — a decided step toward 
the League. A meeting of delegates from the 
various towns was appointed to be held on the 
4th of February, in London, at a hotel within a 
stone's throw of the House of Commons. These 
delegates had an interview with Lord Melbourne, 
and, through Mr. Villiers, prayed to be heard at 
the bar of the House in support of that gentle- 
man's annual motion. But their plaint was of 
course refused. The delegates held a meeting at 
Brown's Hotel, at which they met a large number 
" of metropolitan Free Traders ere they returned 
to their respective homes. Cobden said "he 
thought there was no cause for despondency be- 
cause the House over the way refused to hear 
them. They were the representatives of three 
millions of the people — they were the evidence 
that the great to^ns had banded themselves to- 
gether, and their alliance would be a Hanseatic 
League against the feudal Corn Law plunderers. 
The castles which crowned the rocks along the 
Rhine, the Danube, and the Elbe, had once been 
the strong-hold of feudal oppressors, but they had 



46 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

been dismantled by a league ; and tbey now only 
adorned tbe landscape as picturesque memorials 
of tbe past, wbile tbe people below bad lost all 
fear of plunder, and tilled tbeir vineyards in 
peace." Some of tbe London Free Traders in- 
vited tbe delegates to a public dinner at one of 
tbe tbeatres. But tbey declined the invitation — 
they were going back to their bead-quarters at 
Manchester to concert farther measures. 

Shortly after tbeir return to Manchester, a 
meeting, convened by tbe Free Trade party, was • 
with great riot and violence broken up by a mob, 
using the names of Richard Oastler and O'Connor 
as their war cries, and led by certain drunken and 
dirty Irishmen of tbe laboring class. After tbis 
the heads of the movement resolved that only 
members of tbe association and persons to whom 
tickets of entrance were given should be admit- 
ted to the meetings. A few days after, Cobden 
addressed a large assembly admitted by ticket ; 
and after denouncing in terms of manly indigna- 
tion the conduct of the rioters, be addressed these 
words of appropriate warning to tbe working 
men : " Working men of Manchester, look to 
yourselves, you who look to your benefit and sick 
clubs, and your trade societies — look to those 
men who would take forcible possession of tbis 
room, which was occupied by tbe Anti-Corn-Law 
Association — who had upset meetings called to 
form Parthenons and other literary associations 



ANTI-CORN-LAW AGITATION. 47 

— who would make violent inroads upon Anti- 
Slavery meetings ; these men will take possession 
of your meetings unless you check them in the 
bud. Nay, more ; I have no hesitation in saying 
that even your quiet, happy, and well-regulated 
firesides will not be safe unless the strong arm 
of the law is brought to interfere between you 
and the wishes of those lawless men, who have no 
other restraint but the fear of the law and its 
consequences." 

A friend and associate of Cobden at that pe- 
riod of his career at which we have now arrived 
thus describes the impression he then formed of 
him: 

" Many years of political turmoil have passed 
away since we first saw Richard Cobden. He 

was then a comparatively young man In 

private life we never met a more loveable man 
than Richard Cobden. He was mildness, and 
gentleness, and sympathetic courtesy personified. 
The natural refinement and modesty of his mind 
was visible in his countenance and in his whole 
deportment. He had the happy art of drawing 
people about him, and of so making them his 
personal friends by the interest he took in them, 
and by the certainty with which he inspired 
them, that his best advice was ever at their serv- 
ice. ' No one meeting Mr. Cobden for the first 
time, and under any circumstances, would expe- 
rience any difiiculty in addressing him. There 



48 L1F£ OF RICHARD QOBDEN. 

was that in his very look which inspired confi- 
dence, and in his manner which conciliated more 
than passing good-will. He affected no superi- 
ority, and claimed no deference, even when in 
communication with the poorest of the people. 
Nothing was easier to see than that Mr. Cobden 
thoroughly and heartily sympathized with the 
working classes, and that he was constantly em- 
ployed in devising how he could best assist in 
elevating them in the social scale without injury 
to the best interests of those above them." 



1 



FORMATION OF THE LEAGUE. 



CHAPTER m. 

FOEMATION OF THE LEAGUB. 

The delegated Free Traders came to the con- 
clusion that the constituencies and the country 
would require a great deal more of instruction 
and arousing ere repeal could be extorted from 
the monopolist Legislature. They issued an ad- 
dress to the public, containing, among other rec- 
ommendations, the following : " The formation of 
a permanent union, to be called the Anti-Corn- 
Law League, composed of all the towns and dis- 
tricts represented in the delegation, and as many 
others as might be induced to form Anti-Com- 
Law Associations, and to join the League. 

" With the view to secure the unity of action, 
the central office of the League shall be estab- 
lished in Manchester, to which body shall be in- 
trusted, among other duties, that of engaging 
and recommending competent lecturers, the ob- 
taining the co-operation of the public press, and 
the establishing and conducting of a stamped cir- 
cular, for the purpose of keeping a constant cor- 
respondence with the local associations.'* 

This manifesto issued, the delegates at once 
dispersed themselves among their several towns, 
D 



50 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

and held meetings in every part of the country. 
The League commenced also a vigorous publica- 
tion of appropriate popular pamphlets, the well- 
known "Facts for Farmers" being among the 
first issued. Ten thousand of each sheet were at 
first issued. Subsequently, in the heat and height 
of the controversy, an issue of half a million of 
one pamphlet was far from rare. Within a month 
of the formation of the League, the " Anti-Corn- 
Law Circular" was started, and commenced with 
a circulation of 15,000. 

Cobden, of course, was just the man to support 
such wise and beneficial measures as Rowland 
Hill's Penny Postage and Lytton Bulwer's re- 
duction on the Taxes on Knowledge. Accord- 
ingly, Ashurst and Charles Knight in London did 
not support these measures with a whit more ac- 
tivity than Cobden and others of the Leaguers 
displayed in Manchester. Cobden saw that the 
Free Trade cause would be enormously benefited 
by these reductions. The " Anti-Corn-Law Cir- 
cular" was at first issued unstamped, but the gov- 
ernment looked upon it as a newspaper, and it had 
to be stamped. The stamp duty had, by a most 
propitious accident, been just reduced to a penny. 
And the stamping of the " Circular" turned out 
to be most advantageous ; for each copy issued, 
after being handed from one to another, was re- 
posted, generally to some friend in the country, 
who similarly circulated it in his circle, and tbus 



FORMATION OF THE LEAGUE. 51 

the very machinery of government became the 
winged Mercury of the Leaguers who were as- 
sailing it. Shortly after came the Penny Post- 
age. It caused the correspondence of the League 
to increase — ^literally, we do not use a mere fig- 
ure of rhetoric — a hundred fold. Banquets seem 
to have been very much in vogue in the early 
days of the League. Mr. Paulton, having re- 
turned to Lancashire after a most successful tour 
in Scotland, was entertained at dinner at Bolton. 
Mr. Cobden was present, and so also was Mr. 
Bright, then a very young man. Both of them 
spoke, Mr. Bright's speech being the first deliv- 
ered by him out of his native town. The occa- 
sion is interesting as being the first on which 
these trusty allies appeared in public together on 
behalf of Free Trade views. The first time they 
met was when Bright, then quite a stripling, 
walked one day into Mr. Cobden's warehouse to 
solicit him to come to Rochdale to address an 
education meeting. He accepted the invitation ; 
Bright himself also spoke, and Cobden was so 
struck with him that he sought to press him 
wholly into the Anti-Com-Law cause. Bright, 
who married young, lost his wife shortly after 
marriage. He went to Leamington, where Cob- 
den visited him, and found him bowed down by 
grief. " Come with me," said Cobden, " and we 
will never rest until we abolish the Corn Laws." 
Bright arose and went with him ; and thus was 



1 



52 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

his great sorrow turned to the nation's and the 
world's advantage. 

The campaign of 1840 was commenced with 
extraordinary vigor. A numerous meeting of 
delegates was to be held in Manchester. The 
town contained no hall large enough to contain 
half of the members of the League resident in 
Manchester and its immediate vicinity. And the 
Leaguers desired to bring as many opponents of 
their views as possible within the range of their 
voices. Here was a difficulty. Mr. Cobden, ever 
ready, solved it. He happened to own nearly all 
the land in Saint Peter's Field, in which the Pe- 
terloo massacre had been perpetrated more than 
twenty years previously. Cobden offered the 
site ; it was accepted ; and the great and com- 
modious Free Trade Hall thereon ultimately 
erected. Meanwhile an immense temporary pa- 
vilion was raised, by the work of a hundred men 
for eleven days. It was resolved to inaugurate 
the opening of the pavilion by a banquet. The 
public eagerness to be present was immense, for 
the Leaguers had secured a coadjutor of enor- 
mous power and value. Daniel O'Connell arrived 
in Manchester in time for the banquet, being met 
by thousands of enthusiastic admirers at the rail- 
way, and escorted by them to the pavilion. All 
the leading Free Trade members of Parliament 
and delegates from the chief towns of the empire 
were present. O'Connell was the hero of the 



FORMATION OF THE LEAGUE. 53 

evening, and delivered one of his greatest speech- 
es. Cobden immediately followed him ; but so 
great was his modesty, and so little idea does he 
as yet seem to have entertained of the leading 
place he was yet to take in the struggle, that he 
only made a short speech of ten minutes. John 
Bright was not even on the platform, but occu- 
pied a humble position among the mass of the 
auditors. Brief as was Cobden's speech, it was 
long enough to contain a fine demonstration of 
the world-wide, as well as national, aspect of the 
question. " We have here," said he, " gentlemen 
from almost every region of the globe. We have 
here gentlemen from Mexico, and from the Unit- 
ed States ; from Paris and St. Petersburg ; from 
Odessa and Geneva. Indeed, I scarcely know a 
town within the Grerman League which is not 
represented here to-night. They will unite the 
Baltic and the Black Sea, and cover their rivers 
with commerce as the rivers of England are cov- 
ered. The object of the Anti-Corn-Law League 
is to draw together in the bonds of friendship — 
to unite in the bonds of amity the whole world." 
The leading speakers on this occasion were Dr. 
Bowring, Sharman Crawford, George Thompson, 
and Ebenezer Elliot. Mr. Milner Gibson made his 
first appearance, on this night, on a Free Trade 
platform, and made a most favorable impression. 
On the next night a working-men's banquet was 
held, five thousand men being in the hall, the fe- 



54 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

male members of their families filling the galleries. 
Mr. Cobden was agaia one of the speakers. 

One of the events of 1840 was the interview 
of a deputation of the Leaguers, Cobden being 
one, with Lord Melbourne. Cobden expressed to 
his lordship with emphasis the strong desire of 
the Free Traders to have all taxes supposed to act 
protectively to manufactures removed, as well as 
the tax on bread. At the end of the conference, 
Melbourne said he could not pledge himself to 
repeal. He acknowledged the respectability of 
the deputation, but had the ineffable assurance 
to add that the government did not assume re- 
sponsibility or initiation in the matter, but left 
them to the House of Commons I One of the 
deputation rejoined: "My lord, we leave you 
with the consciousness of having done our duty, 
and the responsibility for the future must rest 
upon the government." Melbourne's easy insou- 
ciant tone proved very valuable to the League. 
It evoked instant indignation, and brought in at 
once many recruits and large subscriptions. 

A subsequent deputation which waited upon 
Mr. Baring, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and 
Mr. Labouchere, the President of the Board of 
Trade, presented one of the most extraordinary 
scenes ever witnessed in a Downing-Street Office. 
We prefer to present it in the words of Mr. Pren- 
tice, for he was a spectator of, and a participant 
in it : " Mr. J. B. Smith began the conference in 



FORMATIC^N OF THE LEAGUE. 55 

a modest and respectfal, but perfectly firm man- 
ner Mr. John Brooks, the worthy Bor- 

oughreeve of Manchester, followed, and stated, 
unmoved, many instances of serious depression in 
the property of men of his own class; but when 
he came to give a detail of the distresses of the 
working classes, and to describe one particular 
family, the members of which, after a life of econ- 
omy and industry, had been compelled to pawn 
articles of furniture and clothes, one after another, 
till nothing was left but bare walls and empty 
cupboards, his feelings completely overpowered 
him ; convulsive sobs choked his utterance, and 
he was obliged to pause till he recovered from his 
deep emotion. The tears rolled down the cheeks 
of Joseph Sturge ; John Benjamin Smith strove 
in vain to conceal his feelings ; there was scarcely 
a tearless eye in the multitude ; and the ministers 
looked with perfect astonishment at a scene so 

unusual to statesmen and courtiers Joseph 

Sturge made a powerful appeal to the ministers, 
placing the whole question upon the eternal prin- 
ciples of justice and morality, which, he said, were 
shamefully outraged by a tax on the food of the 
people. The conference, if such it could be call- 
ed, where unpalatable truths were forced upon 
the attention of unwilling ears, was appropriately 
closed by some bold and reaUy eloquent remarks 
from Mr. Cobden, who told the ministers that 
their decision would become a matter of history. 



5e LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

and *' would stamp their character either as rep- 
resentatives merely of class interests, or the pro- 
moters of an enlightened commercial policy.' " 

Up to this date the Anti-Com-Law Leaguers 
had believed— or hoped — ^that some dependence 
might be placed in the Whig party. Many of its 
members had declared themselves against the 
Corn Laws when out of office, and it was hoped, 
after they had had handed to them the reins of 
the state, they might lend a friendly hand to those 
who were contesting the great landowners' mo- 
nopoly. The cold responses of Lord Melbourne, 
Mr. Baring, and Mr. Labouchere thoroughly dis- 
sipated the last remnants of that faint hope, and 
the League now declared themselves formally to 
that effect. Immediately after the interviews 
which we have just chronicled, they passed a reso- 
lution, " That, dissociating ourselves from all po- 
litical parties, we hereby declare that we will use 
every exertion to obtain the return of those mem- 
bers to Parliament alone who will support a re- 
peal of the Corn Laws." The official Whigs 
laughed at this. " For eight or nine years they 
had found that the cry of ' do not embarrass the 
administration,' and ' keep the Tories down,' had 
drawn around them those who had occasionally 
shown a disposition to diverge into more radical 
courses. They thought the same cry would serve 
them in any emergency, and they laughed at the 
notion that the assertion of an ' abstract principle' 



FORMATION OF THE LEAGUE. 57 

would withdraw any of their usujj supporters 
from their party allegiance." Ere many years 
they found their mistake. 

It was now determined that the leading mem- 
bers of the League, as well as the paid and pro- 
fessional lecturers, should go forth and address 
meetings as itinerants. Gobden began to take 
his fair share of the work. And he astonished 
his coadjutors by the power he displayed of ad- 
dressing arguments to the roughest understand^ 
ings, and even disarming the objections of the 
most prejudiced opponents — ^working-men who 
had been directed on the wrong scent by the To- 
ries, and their allies the Chartists. His colleagues 
bad feared until now " that he was a little too re- 
fined for the rough work of a popular meeting." 

Ladies were now enlisted in the holy and right- 
eous propaganda. It was found that they took a 
deep interest in the subject which so engrossed 
their fathers, husbands, and brothers : one old 
lady of eighty said that, " in her daily prayers 
for bread, she also prayed for a blessing on the 
good work of Richard Cobden." The first of the 
great League tea-parties was held in the Man- 
chester Corn Exchange, in October, 1840. Mrs. 
Cobden presided at one of the tables, and her 
husband was one of the speakers. With custom- 
ary Tory courtesy, the ladies were reproached 
by the monopolists and their toady abettors with 
" indelicacy." The ladies could well despise the 



58 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

taunt, for these tea-meetings proved most serv- 
iceable to the cause. They required no cham- 
pion; but a most redoubtable one appeared in 
the person of Frederic Bastiat. "If woman," 
said he, " does become alarmed at the dull syllo- 
gism and cold statistics, she is gifted with a mar- 
velous sagacity, with a promptitude and certainty 
of appreciation, which make her detect at once on 
what side a serious emphasis sympathizes with 
the tendencies of her own heart. She has com- 
prehended that the effort of the League is a cause 
of justice and of reparation toward the suffering 
classes ; she has comprehended that almsgiving 
is not the only form of charity. We are ready to 
succor the unfortunate, say they ; but that is no 
reason why the law should make unfortunates. 
We are willing to feed those who are hungry, to 
clothe those who are cold, but we applaud efforts 
which have for their object the removal of the 
barriers which interpose between clothing and 
nakedness, between subistence and starvation. 
.... In former times the ladies crowned the 
conqueror of the tourney. Valor, address, clem- 
ency, became popularized by the intoxicating 
sound of their applause. In those times of trouble 
and of violence, in which brutal force overrode 
the feeble and the defenseless, it was a good thing 
to encourage the union of the generosity which 
is found in the courage and loyalty of the knight 
with the rude manners of the soldier. What ! 



FORMATION OF THE LEAGUE. 59 

because the times are changed ; because the age is 
advanced ; because muscular force has given place 
to moral energy; because injustice and oppression 
borrow other forms, and strife is removed from 
the field of battle to the conflict of ideas, shall the 
mission of woman be terminated ? Shall she be 
always restricted to the rear of the social move- 
ment? Shall it be forbidden to her to exercise 
over new customs her benignant influence, or to 
foster under her regard the virtues of a more 
elevated order which modern civilization has call- 
ed into existence ?" 



90 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 



CHAPTER IV. 

COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 

A VACANCY occurred in the representation of 
Walsall. The Leaguers determined to seize the 
occasion to show the Whigs that they really me^t 
what they had said, and that they would support 
any candidate, of wfiatever politics^ who would 
go for the total abolition of the Corn Laws. Two 
candidates appeared ; the Tory being Mr. Glad- 
stone, fresh from the University of Oxford, and 
the Whig, a young cornet in the Guards, the 
Hon. Mr. Lyttleton. Both candidates refused to 
pledge themselves to the League principles, and 
the Leaguers resolved to start a candidate of their 
own, basing his claims on his Anti-Corn-Law prin- 
ciples alone. Mr. Lyttleton found that he had 
no chance, and retired. Mr. J. B. Smith was se- 
lected as the League candidate. Up till the day 
of polling, Cobden was busy speaking and can- 
vassing for his friend, and using to the utmost so 
admirable an occasion for the preaching of pure 
Free Trade principles. The Ministerial party 
were frantic at this " treachery to the Liberal 
cause," " playing into the hands of the Tories," 
and the like ; but the Leaguers remained stanch. 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 61 

They almost carried their candidate, spite of the 
fact that the great Whig families of the neigh- 
borhood, incensed at the displacement of their 
representative and relative, exercised no influence 
on the election. This was regarded as a virtual 
triumph by the League and Mr. Cobden. At a 
meeting held at Manchester shortly after the elec- 
tion, he said : " So effectually had repeal possessed 
itself of the people of Walsall, owing to the in- 
formation circulated there on the subject by the 
members of the League, and more especially by 
the aid of our talented lecturer, Mr. Acland, that 
Smith was never once asked his political opinions. 
In his address he never mentioned one word of 
his political opinions, and all the time he was 
there I believe not an individual put a question 
to him as to party politics. This is a remarkable 
fact, and there can not be a doubt that at the 
general election, come when it may, the great 
rallying cry will be, ' No bread tax.' " 

The devotion with which Cobden had by this 
time fairly entered upon his great Free Trade agi- 
tation, and his intense desire to secure the alliance 
of the best men in the state, will sufiiciently ap- 
pear by the following letter addressed by him to 
Joseph Sturge : 

" Manchester, February 20, 1841. 

" My dbar Sturge, — When I got your favor 
of the 22d of January, making the munificent 
offer of contributing £200, instead of i)100, for 



62 LIFE OF RICHABD COBDEN. 

the current year's agitation of the Anti-Com-Law 
question,! wrote to you to beg you would address 
a letter to the ' Circular' to that effect, and at the 
same time impress on the League the importance 
of cleaving to the tbue principle of immediate 
abolition. I thought that such a letter from you 
would do much good, and I think so still. In- 
deed, it is now more than ever necessary that we 
should cling to our principle, when parties (I 
mean the two great political parties) are so near- 
ly balanced that both are beginning to turn their 
eye toward us. The Whigs are trying to use the 
League ; and there are so many of our supporters 
who are mere partisans, that I am afraid they will 
break our ranks, unless such men as you should 
keep us together. A letter from you in the ' Anti- 
Corn-Law-Circular,' published at the present time, 
exhorting us to stand firm to principle, and prom- 
ising your co-operation so long as we do so, would 
be a rallying-point for all the good and true men, 
and would shame the wanderers, and bring them 
back to our ranks. 

" In your letter received to-day, you surprise 
me by mentioning your project of a trip across 
the Atlantic. I should sincerely regret your ab- 
sence from England at any time, but it would be 
a very great public loss if you were in America 
during the time of the meeting of Anti-Corn-Law 
deputies this spring. Efforts will, I know, be made 
to bring prominently forward the view that the 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 68 

slave system of the United States is being indi- 
rectly propped up by our Corn Laws ; and I think 
it possible that a couple of deputies from America 
will attend the meeting of our deputations. To 
lose you at such a time would be to throw away 
the good that must arise from the right direction 
of this new movement. I have had some cor- 
respondence with the editor of the ' New York 
Emancipator,' and he tells me the Anti-Slavery 
party there are trying to raise funds to send two 
missionaries to England to lay before the public 
here the effects of our Corn Laws in reference to 
the slave question in the United States. I see by 
the 'Massachusetts Abolitionist' that a similar 
movement is going on in the New England States. 
Now this is a glorious field of operation for you. 
There are more human beings in bonds in North 
America than in all the rest of the Christian 
world, and we by our Corn Laws throw the entire 
power over the Legislature there into the hands 
of the daveownera. What a splendid theme this 
would make for O'Connell and Brougham in the 
Anti-Corn-Law debate, if you were in London to 
urge the subject on their attention at the meeting 
of deputies ! Don't, I entreat you, turn your back 
upon "us at such a crisis. By remaining over our 
meeting of deputies, you will help most effectually 
to strike the shackles from the slaves in America, 
and from our white slaves here at the same time. 
" Yours very truly, R. Cobden." 



64 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

In 1841, the Melbourne administration, which 
had been daring the latter part of its existence as 
unpopular as a government could weU be, was 
evidently tottering to its fall. Without any pre- 
monition, and to the surprise of both parties, 
Lord John RusseU gave notice of a motion " that 
the House resolve itself into a committee of the 
whole House, to consider of the acts relating to 
the trade in corn." Every body at once said 
that ministers were going to dissolve ; that they 
wished a good "cry," and were bidding for the 
support and alliance of the League. When the dis- 
closure was fully made, and Lord John proposed 
a fixed duty of eight shillings, the mind of the 
League was made up at once ; indeed, it had been 
made up in anticipation should the contingency 
occur which now had arisen. The League at once 
communicated with all its auxiliary associations, 
urging them to redouble their efforts, for minis- 
ters were evidently feeling their way, and might, 
if the country showed unquestionable earnest- 
ness, concede the whole. Meeting after meeting 
followed in rapid succession, Cobden attending 
a much "larger proportion than he had hitherto 
done, and advanced day by day in the admira- 
tion of his colleagues and the public. It was 
now agreed that a strong effort must be made 
to return him to Parliament ; a sufficient proof 
that he had now attained the very first rank. 
Lord John Russell, as midsummer approached. 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 65 

brought forward his complete financial statement, 
which comprised signal steps in the direction of 
Free Trade, especially in the items of timber and 
sugar. The Leaguers willingly admitted this; 
but no equivalent, of however tempting a charac- 
ter, would they accept in lieu of the utter aboli- 
tion of the Corn Laws. At one of the League 
meetings held this summer, Mr. Cobden, by this 
time, though but thirty-seven years old, enjoying 
an income not far short of £10,000 a year, used 
this strong language : "Beginning myself without 
one shilling besides what I derived from my own 
industry, I have pushed my way along, but I de- 
clare it as my firm conviction that, had I been 
left to commence my career at the present day, 
such is the state of trade, I could not have a 
chance of rising. Let the young men who fill our 
warehouses think of this, and they will see the 
deep interest they have in this matter." Cob- 
den's fitting and telling speeches were by this 
time so popular, that if he appeared on a League 
platform, even if not set down in the evening's 
programme, or himself intending to speak, he was 
sure to be called for by the audience, and was 
obliged to address them. 

- Si-r Robert Peel defeated ministers on a vote of 
confidence by a majority of one, and they determ- 
ined to go to the country. At the election, which 
as a whole returned a Conservative majority of 
seventy-six — a nemesis on the Whigs which their 
E 



66 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

own once wann friends, the Radicals, did not re- 
gret — the League secured several seats. At Wal- 
sall their candidate was triumphantlj returned. 
Bowring sat for Bolton, Cobden for Stockport. 
Two Free Traders, but giving a preference to 
the Whig ministers on grounds of party, were re- 
turned for Manchester : these were Mark Piiillips 
and Milner Gibson. 

Mr. Cobden embraced the first opportunity 
that presented itself of addressing the Parliament 
to which he had been admitted. His maiden 
speech was delivered on the 25th of August, being 
the second night of the debate on the address 
in answer to the queen's speech. Miss Marti- 
neau thus describes his first appearance, and the 
opinions formed of it : 

"When the daily papers of the 26th of August 
had reached their destinations throughout the 
island, there were meditative students, anxious 
invalids in their sick-chambers, watchful philos- 
ophers, and a host of sufierers from want, who 
felt that a new era in the history of England had 
opened, now that the People's Tale had at last 
been told in the People's House of Parliament. 
Such observers as these, and multitudes more, 
asked of all who could tell them who this Richard 
Cobden was, and what he was like ; and the an- 
swer was, that he was the member of a calico- 
printing firm in Manchester; that it was supposed 
that he would be an opulent man if he prose- 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 67 

cuted business as men of business generally do, 
but that he gallantly sacrificed the pursuit of 
his own fortune, and his partners gallantly spared 
him to the public, for the sake of the great cause 
of Corn Law Repeal — ^his experience, his liberal 
education, and his remarkable powers all indi- 
cating him as a fitting leader in the enterprise. 
It was added that his countenance was grave, his 
manner simple and earnest, his eloquence plain, 
ready, and forcible, of a kind eminently suited to 
his time and his function, and wholly new in the 
House of Commons. It was at once remarked 
that he was not treated in the House with the 
courtesy usually accorded to a new member, and 
it was perceived that he did not need such ob- 
servance. However agreeable it might have 
been to him, he did not expect it from an assem- 
blage proud of ' the preponderance of the landed 
interest' within it; and he could do without it. 
Some, who had least knowledge of the operative 
classes, and the least sympathy for them, were 
touched by the simplicity and manliness with 
which the new member received the jeers which 
followed his detailed statements of ' the propor- 
tion of the bread duty paid by men who must 
support their families on ten shillings a week.' " 
We offer no excuse for making considerably 
more lengthened citation from Cobden's first 
speech in Parliament than we shall be enabled to 
do in the case of any of those delivered subse- 



66 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

qaently, and we strike into it at the passage re- 
ferred to by Miss Martineau : 

^' He called the attention of the House to the 
working of the Bread Tax. The effect was this: 
it compelled the* working classes to pay 40 per 
cent, more, that is, a higher price than they should 
pay if there was a free trade in corn. When 
honorable gentlemen spoke of 40«. as the price 
of foreign com, they would make the addition 
50 per cent. He did not overstate the case, and 
therefore he set down the bread tax as imposing 
an additional tax of 40 per cent. He had now 
to call their attention to facts contained in the 
Report of the Committee on the Hand-loom 
Weavers. It was a report got up with great 
care and singular talent. It gave, among other 
things, the amount of the earnings of a working- 
man's family, and that was put down at ten shil- 
lings. Looking at the metropolitan and rural dis- 
tricts, they found that not to be a bad estimate 
of the earnings of every laboring family. But 
let them proceed upward, and see how the same 
tax worked. The man who had 20^. a week still 
paid 2s, a week to the bread tax ; that was to him 
10 per cent., as an income tax. If they went 
farther, to the man who had 4Qs. a week, the in- 
come tax upon him in this way was 6 per cent. 
If they mounted higher, to the man who had £5 
a week, or £260 a year, it was 1 per cent, income 
tax. Let them ascend to the nobility and the 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 69 

millionaires, to those who had an income of 
£200,000 a year. His family was the same as the 
poor man's, and. how did the bread tax affect him? 
It was one halfpenny in every £100. [Here, we 
presume, there were some manifestations of de- 
rision.] He did not know whether it was the 
monstrous injustice of the case, or the humble 
individual who stated it, that excited this mani- 
festation of feeling ; but, still, he did state that 
the nobleman's family paid to this bread tax but 
one halfpenny in every £100 as income tax, while 
the effect of the tax upon the laborer's family was 
20 per cent." 

We have of set purpose omitted, at a recent 
stage of our narrative, the record of one of the 
most important and effective alliances which Cob- 
den and his coadjutors effected at a date just pre- 
vious to the assembling of the new Parliament, 
preferring to reserve its insertion in the words 
of Cobden in this speech : " Probably honorable 
gentlemen were aware that a very important 
meeting had been lately held at Manchester ; he 
alluded to the meeting of ministers of religion. 
(A laugh.) He understood that laugh ; but he 
should not pause in his statement of facts, but 
might perhaps notice it before concluding. He 
had seen a body of ministers of religion of all de- 
nominations — 650 (and not thirty) in number — 
assembled from all parts of the country, at an 
expense of from three to four thousand pounds. 



70 LIFE OF RICHABD COBDEN. 

paid by their congregations. At that meeting 
most important statements of facts were made 
relating to the condition of the laboring classes. 
He would not trouble the House by reading these 
statements, but they showed that in every dis- 
trict of the country — and these statements rested 
upon unimpeachable authority — ^the condition of 
the great body of her majesty's laboring popula- 
tion had deteriorated woefully within the last ten 
years, and more especially within the last three 
years, and that in proportion as the price of food 
increased, in the same proportion the comforts of 
the working classes had diminished. One word 
in respect to the manner in which his allusion to 
this meeting was received. He did not come 
there to vindicate the conduct of these Christian 
men in having assembled in order to take this 
subject into consideration. The parties who had 
to judge them were their own congregations. 
There were at that meeting members of the Es- 
tablished Church, of the Church of Rome, In- 
dependents, Baptists, members of the Church of 
Scotland, and of the Secession Church, Method- 
ists, and, indeed, ministers of every other denom- 
ination ; and if he were disposed to impugn the 
character of those divines, he felt he should be 
casting a stigma and a reproach upon the great 
body of professing Christians in this country. He 
happened to be the only member of the House 
present at that meeting ; and he might be allow- 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 71 

ed to State that, when he heard the tales of mis- 
ery there described — when he heard these minis- 
ters declare that members of their congregations 
were kept away from places of worship daring 
the morning service, and only crept out under 
cover of the darkness of night — when they de- 
scribed others as unfit to receive spiritual conso- 
lation because they were sunk so low in physical 
destitution — that the attendance at Sunday- 
schools was falling off — when he heard these, and 
such like statements — when he who believed that 
the Corn Laws, the provision monopoly, was at 
the bottom of all that was endured, heard these 
statements, and from such authority, he must say 
that he rejoiced to see gentlemen of such char- 
acter come forward, and, like Nathan, when he 
addressed the owner of flocks and herds who had 
plundered the poor man of his only lamb, say 
unto the doer of injustice, whoever he might be, 
' Thou art the man.' The people, through the 
ministers, had protested against the Corn Laws. 
Those laws had been tested by the immutable 
morality of Scripture. Those reverend gentle- 
men had prepared and signed a petition, in which 
they prayed the removal of those laws — laws 
which, they stated, violated the Scriptures, and 
prevented famishing men from having a portion 
of those fatherly bounties which were intended 
for all people ; and he would remind honorable 
gentlemen that, besides these 650 ministers, there 



72 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

were 1500 others from whom letters had been 
received, offering up their prayers in the several 
localities to incline the will of Him who ruled 
princes and potentates to turn your hearts to jus- 
tice and mercy. When they found so many min- 
isters of religion, without any sectarian differ- 
ences, joining heart and hand in a great cause, 
there could be no doubt of their earnestness. 
He begged to call to their minds whether these 
worthy men would not make very efficient min- 
isters in this great cause? They knew what 
they had done in the anti-slavery question, when 
the religious public was roused; and what the 
difference was between stealing a man and mak- 
ing him labor, and robbing a man of the fruit of 
his industry, he could not perceive. The noble 
lord, the member for North Lancashire (Lord 
Stanley), knew something of the abilities of those 
men. The noble lord had told the House that 
from the moment the religious community and 
their pastors took up the question of slavery, 
from that moment the agitation must be success- 
ful. He believed this would be the case in the 
present instance. Englishmen had a respect for 
rank, for wealth, perhaps too much ; they felt an 
attachment to the laws of their country; but 
there was another attribute in the minds of En- 
glishmen — there was a permanent veneration for 
sacred things ; and where their sympathy, and re- 
spect, and deference were enlisted in what they 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 73 

believed to be a sacred cause, you and yours 
(said Cobden, with sndden fire, addressing the 
Tories) will vanish like chaff before the 

WHIRLWIND !" 

" Much of this speech," says Miss Martineau, 
** relating to the great meeting of religious minis- 
ters at Manchester, and its tone being determined 
accordingly, some of the laughing members of 
the House called Mr. Cobden a Methodist parson, 
and were astonished afterward to find what .his 
abilities were in widely difierent directions. Some 
regarded him as a pledged Radical in politics, and 
were surprised to see him afterward verifying the 
assurances he gave this night — ^that he belonged 
to no party, and, as a simple Free Trader, would 
support either the Whigs or Sir Robert Peel, 
whichever of them should go farthest in repealing 
the restrictions on food." This political neutral- 
ity of the League was as distinctly declared by 
Cobden in the House as it had been on the hust- 
ings. His concluding words were: "I assure 
the House that the declarations I have made were 
not made with a party spirit. I do not call my- 
self Whig or Tory. I am a Free Trader, and op- 
posed to monopoly wherever I find it. And this 
I will conscientiously say, that though proud to 
acknowledge the virtues of the Whigs in step- 
ping out from the ranks of the monopolists, and 
going three fourths of the way, if the right hon- 
orable baronet (Peel) and his supporters would 



74 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

come a step forward,! would be the first to shake 
hands with him, if he allowed me, and would give 
him a cordial support." There was something 
here almost prophetic of the great event of five 
years later. 

Amendments to the address having been car- 
ried by large majorities in both Houses, ministers 
resigned, and that administration of Peel, which 
was destined to be so fruitful of beneficial conse- 
quences to the nation, was inaugurated. A short 
autumnal session was held, the premier reserving 
the statement of his financial policy until the 
spring. The League at once burst into still great- 
er activity. There were more lecturers and more 
tracts ; a splendid bazar, by which £9000 were 
netted, at Manchester; and another conference 
of Christian ministers at Edinburg. And a third 
convention was appointed to meet in London on 
the reassembling of Parliament. 

Ere the autumnal session was closed, Cobden 
spoke in terms of the strongest denunciation of 
the premier's refusal to announce his financial 
policy — ^in other words, his proposals for relief 
to the prevailing distress — until the succeeding 
year. The distress was indeed terrible. " Cob- 
den unmistakably placed the responsibility of its 
continuance on the proper shoulders." " In the 
borough of Stockport, which he represented, the 
distress was fearful ; one out of every five houses 
in Stockport was untenanted, half of those occa- 



COBDEN £NT£RS PARLIAMENT. 75 

pied were not paying rent; nearly half of the* 
manufacturers' mills were closed, and thousands 
of working people, who to other countries would 
be a valuable possession, were wandering about 
the street seeking employment, but unable to find 
it. Yet, in the face of such facts, were they to 
wait five months for measures of relief? God 
knew whether or not he should have constituents 
in five months. If emigration went on for the 
next six months as it had done for the last twelve 
months, he feared he should find very few of his 
constituents left. If, however, they were to have 
the discussion adjourned for six months, he beg- 
ged leave to place the responsibility, and the par- 
ticular consequences to the laboring population 
that would flow from such a course, on the shoul- 
ders of the right honorable gentlemen opposite. 
They had fraternized with the Chartists to some 
purpose during the last twelve months. A coali- 
tion had taken place between them, which he be- 
lieved was now about to be dissolved ; but let 
them beware, when going back to a people de- 
prived of work, discontented and dissatisfied, that 
the cause of the delay was placed on the right 
shoulders. It was right that the working classes 
should know that they had six months of priva- 
tion and suffering before them merely because 
certain honorable members were desirous not to 
miss the pleasures of shooting !" 

It would be impossible for us, within the pre- 



76 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

-scribed limits of our performance, to present more 
than the succinctest summary of the doings of 
Cobden and the League during the years that 
were yet to intervene ere their labors were crown- 
ed with complete and final success. We must be 
content to present a series of the more salient in- 
cidents of the agitation, preserving a due and pro- 
portionate prominence for the parliamentary ap- 
pearances and the platform utterances of the sub- 
ject of our biographic sketch. 

At a great aggregate meeting held at Derby in 
November, 1842, Mr. Cobden made a most lucid 
exposition of the fallacies of the most loudly-ut- 
tered objections against the cause to which he had 
dedicated his extraordinary energies. He was 
addressing more especially the manufacturers of 
Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, and Derbyshire, 
the peculiarities and conditions of whose crafts dif- 
fered considerably from those of the more north- 
ern counties. The extraordinary versatility of 
Cobden, and his capacity of adapting the style and 
tone of his arguments to the circumstances, sym- 
pathies, and prejudices of his auditors, whoever 
ihey might be, from M.P.'s down to the most vio- 
lent of the Chartists, was one of his most remark- 
able traits, and one in which no man in our cen- 
tury, with the sole exception of O'Connell, rivaled 
him. This characteristic is very manifest in the 
speech from which we here briefly quote : " Al- 
low me to say that, listening to the details which 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 77 

you have given to-day, going back for a period of 
five-and-twenty years, showing a constant depres- 
sion in the condition of the people, and a decline 
in year own immediate interests, I could not help 
thinking — pardon me for saying so — that the agi- 
tation against the corn and provision law should 
have been begun long, long ago in the Midland 
Counties. Why, gentlemen, you have the whole 
of the case in your own hands. We in Lanca- 
shire fight under a disadvantage; we are told, 
when we call for a repeal of the corn and provi- 
sion monopoly, that our distress arises from im- 
provement in machinery. But this does not apply 
to your case, for I am told that the stocking-frame 
has remained nearly the same as when it issued 
from the hands of the inventors two centuries 
ago ; at all events, I believe that within the last 
five-and-twenty years no material alterations have 
taken place in the machine; and there are no 
steam-engines with tall chimneys planted here, 
giving motion to the power-loom instead of the 
stocking-frame. Then we are met in Manchester 
again with the cry that over-production is the 
cause of all the distress. But I have heard to-day 
that your production is declining ; that the num- 
ber of frames in motion is diminishing instead 
of increasing, especially in Leicestershire. It is, 
therefore, not over-production, it is not machinery, 
that is doing the mischief for you. But what do 
you hear also in Lancashire ? That joint-stock 



78 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

banks have produced all the distress. But here 
I find that no great mischief has been produced 
by joint-stock banks. You, therefore, have the 
case in your own hands. The whole of the falla- 
cies of our opponents, as applied to Manchester, 
are answered in your case ; and I say that, with 
such a case in your hands, and with such claims 
on the part of your dependents, henceforth it be- 
comes the province of the Midland Counties to 
take up the question, to lead onward in the van, 
and to be the champions for the total and imme- 
diate repeal of the Corn Laws." 
' In the same speech Mr. Cobden thus aptly drew 
the notice of his auditors to the pretense of" bur- 
dens on land," and what he frequently described 
as the "Land-Tax Fraud:" "Exactly 149 years 
ago, when the landed aristocracy got possession 
of the throne in the person of King William, at 
our glorious revolution, they got rid of all the old 
tenures and services, such as the crown having the 
right of wardship over every minor, the fines pay- 
able on the descent of certain property from one 
person to another, and a thousand other similar 
incumbrances, which yielded the whole revenue 
of the state ; and besides which, the land had to 
find soldiers and maintain them. These incum- 
brances were given up for a bond fide rent-charge 
upon the land of four shillings in the pound ; and 
the land was valued and assessed 149 years ago 
at £9,000,000 ; and upon that valuation the Land 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 79 

Tax is still laid. Now, you gentlemen of the mid- 
dle classes, whose windows are counted, and who 
have a schedule sent to you every year, in which 
you are required to state the number of your dogs 
and horses ; and you who have not window and 
dog duty to pay, but who consume sugar, and 
coffee, and tea, and pay a tax for every pound you 
consume extra — I say to you, remember that the 
landowners have never had their land re-valued 
from 1696 to the present time." 

In March of the following year, in his place in 
the House of Commons, Cobden pursued the same 
subject in more copious detail, and in an elaborate 
speech, bristling with irrefragable figures and 
facts, from which we can only afford space for a 
brief extract, utterly demolished the delusion that 
any special fiscal burdens afilicted the land : '^ Hon- 
orable gentlemen claimed the privilege of taxing 
our bread on account of their peculiar burdens 
in paying the highway rates and the tithes. Why, 
the land had borne those burdens before Corn 
Laws were thought of. The only peculiar state 
burden borne by the land was the Land Tax, and 
he would undertake to show that the mode of 
levying that tax was fraudulent and evasive — an 
example, in fact, of legislative partiality and injus- 
tice second only to the Corn Law itself. .... 
For a period of 150 years after the Conquest, the 
whole of the revenue of this country was derived 
from the land. During the next 150 years it yield- 



80 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

ed nineteen twentieths of the revenue. For the 
next century, down to the reign of Richard the 
Third, it was nine tenths. During the next sev- 
enty years, to the time of Mary, it fell to about 
three fourths. From this time to the end of the 
Commonwealth, land appears to have yielded half 
the revenue. Down to the reign of Anne it was 
a fourth. , In the reign of George I. it was one 
fifth. In Seorge the Second's reign it was one 
sixth. For the first thirty years of George the 
Third's reign, the land yielded one seventh of the 
revenue. From 1793 to 1816 (during the period 
of the Property Tax), land contributed one ninth; 
from which time to the present, one twenty-fifth 
only of the revenue has been derived directly from 
land. Thus the land, which anciently paid the 
whole of the taxation, paid now only a fraction, or 
one twenty-fifth, notwithstanding the immense in- 
crease which had taken place in the value of the 
rentals. The people had fared better under the 
despotic monarchs than when the powers of the 
state had fallen into the hands of a landed oli- 
garchy, who first exempted themselves from tax- 
ation, and next claimed compensation by a corn 
law for their heavy and peculiar burdens !" 

The following facts furnish a tolerably fair indi- 
cation of Mr. Cobden's pluckiness — we can em- 
ploy no better term — at this early, and, as some 
thought, hopeless period of the Anti-Corn-Law ag- 
itation. The League held one of its usual meet- 
ings at the dullest, and saddest, and most distress- 



COBDEN ENTERS PARLIAMENT. 81 

ing period of the year at Manchester. Silk Back- 
inghatn was introduced. Every one remembered 
what good service he had rendered to the state 
by his lectures in former years against the East 
India monopoly. He addressed the meeting ; so 
did homely Joseph Brotherton, whose very sen- 
sible annual motions that the House of Commons 
should dismiss itself and betake itself to bed at the 
sensible hour of twelve every night many of our 
readers will recollect. But there was a sort of 
damper on the meeting. Mr. Cobden jumped up 
with alacrity, and, to cheer his friends up, first 
informed them that Mr. Buckingham was going to 
join their gallant crew as a recruit ; he was going 
to become one of their lecturers. Then he said he 
was for national co-operation ; it must be a mere 
Manchester matter no longer. The League must 
print a million copies of each of their three prize 
essays. In a*fortnight he'd have every Manches- 
ter printing-press in full swing. They must not 
any longer dispense Free Trade tracts, but con- 
densed libraries on the Corn Laws. Every lec- 
turer must have his district. And as for the mo- 
nopolist papers jeering them and saying they 
wouldn't raise their £50,000, why he thought they 
might just as well ask for a hundred thousand at 
once. They'd say this to the country — " We'll 
spend the money first; we'll put ourselves in 
pledge for it, and we'll trust to our bread-eating 
countrymen to take us out of pawn!" 
F 



LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 



CHAPTER V. 

PROORBSS OF THE FREE TRADE AGITATION. 

After the five months' gestation by the min- 
istry which we have seen Mr. Cobden so indig- 
nantly denounce, Sir Robert Peel brought in his 
famous budget of 1842, with its sliding scale, its 
abolition, or reduction of 750 duties of greater 
or lesser importance, and its other well-known 
features. Cobden and the League would not ac- 
cept that portion of it which had reference to 
corn. Delegates were at once again, to the num- 
ber of six hundred, sent to London, and, to the 
infinite annoyance of ministers, made preparations 
for a session concurrently with that of Parliament, 
at their head-quarters in Palace Yard. On one 
occasion the deputies proceeded in a body to the 
House of Commons. They were flatly refused 
admission into the House. They congregated 
round the entrance, shouting " Total repeal" and 
" Cheap food" as the members entered. After 
giving three hearty cheers for Free Trade, they 
dispersed, and on their way backward met the 
carriage of Sir Robert Peel. " He seemed," says 
an eye-witness, " at first, as if they were going to 
cheer him ; but when he heard the angry shouts, 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 68 

* No Corn Law,' * Give bread and labor,' he lean- 
ed back in his carriage grave and pale." The 
question before the country was between Sir 
Robert's plan of a fluctuating duty and Lord 
John Russell's proposition of a fixed one. Mr. 
Cobden, at an early period of a long-protracted 
debate, protested against both in one of his most 
vigorous and telling speeches. He dealt especial- 
ly with the fallacy, whose antiquity was exactly 
coeval with that of the Corn Law itself, that high 
prices of com produced a high rate of wages. He 
accused the Tories of utter ignorance on the sub- 
ject ; and being met thereupon with a storm of 
deprecatory and derisive " Oh ! oh's !" he turned 
to the benches whence tbey proceeded, and said, 
*' Yes ! I say an ignorance upon this subject which 
I never saw equaled in any body o{ working-men 
in the north of England. (Oh, oh.) Do you 
think that the fallacy of 1815, which to my as- 
tonishment I heard put forth in the House last 
week, namely, that wages rise and faU with the 
price of food, can prevail, after the experience of 
the last three years ? Have you not had bread 
higher during that time than during any two 
years during the last twenty years ? Yes. Yet, 
during these three years, the wages of labor in 
every branch of industry have suffered a greater 
decline than in any three years before." 

One of the most important articles affected by 
Peel's great and sweeping financial measure was 



64 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

sugar. Manipalating it generally in the direction 
of reduction, he also abated the differential duty 
which had hitherto obtained against slave-grown 
sugar. This caused great grief to many sincere 
friends of the slave and of freedom ; and among 
others, stanch Free Trader though he was, to Jo- 
seph Sturge. Cobden thought otherwise. He 
thought that slavery was not to be put down by 
tariffs. " You and I," said he, in a letter written 
some years after, but on the same subject, ^' do 
not disagree in our abhorrence of slavery, nor do 
I yield to any one in sympathy for the victims of 
that sin, but we do differ as to the course which 
we ought to take, by legislation^ in this country 
to put down the slave-trade." While the contro- 
versy was at its red heat, Cobden sent to Sturge 
the following jocular brochure on this question. 
It is perhaps necessary to state that the Lord 
Ripon who is one of the interlocutors is Gobbet's 
" Prosperity Robinson," the gentleman who was 
prime minister of England for a few weeks, and 
who was also President of the Board of Trade un- 
der Peel. This premised, the rest explains itself. 

"A SCENE AT THE BOARD OF TRADE. 
" Lord Ripon and the Brazilian Embassador 
sitting together. 
^^^ JEmbassador. Your lordship is doubtless 
aware that the commercial treaty between En- 
gland and Brazil is about to expire ? 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 85 

^^Ripon. True ; and I am happy to find my- 
self empowered to treat with your excellency for 
a renewal of the commercial relations between 
the two countries, so admirably calculated by na- 
ture to minister to the wealth and happiness of 
each other. ' ^ •' 

^^JEhnbassador, Brazil is favored beyond almost 
any other country in its soil, climate, and the fa- 
cilities of its internal communication. Its pro- 
ducts are various, comprising hides, tallow, cot- 
ton, gems of a variety of kinds, sugar — 

"J?^Jt>07^. I beg your excellency's pardon for 
inteiTupting you, but how is your sugar culti- 
vated — by slave labor ? 

^^Mnhassador. It is. 

" Hipon. Oh, strike it out of the list, I beg ; 
we can not take slave sugar ; it is contrary to the 
religious principles of the British people to buy 
slave-grown sugar — it is stolen goods. 

^^EmbassadoT, I bow to your nation's honor- 
able scruples. We will then omit the sugar. 
Still there are other commodities remaining in 
which we may effect a profitable exchange, and, I 
hope, to the benefit of both countries. 

" Ripon, Oh yes, there are plenty of articles 
of exchange which we shall still be happy to sup- 
ply you with — our irons, earthenware, silks, wool- 
ens, cottons — 

" Embassador, I beg pardon ; did your lord- 
ship say cottons? 



86 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

" JRipon. Yes ; we are the largest dealers in 
cotton goods in the world, and we sell them so 
cheap that they find their way more or less into 
every country on the face of the earth : we sup- 
ply Italy— 

^^Mnbassador. I pray your lordship's pardon 
for again interrupting you, but may I ask how is 
the cotton cultivated ; is it not by slave labor ? 

^^ JRipon. Why, ahem! how is it cultivated, 
you say ? Why, ahem ! — hem ! — why — 

^^ Emhasmdor, I believe I can relieve your 
lordship from your apparent embarrassment by 
answering that question. At least four fifths of 
the cotton imported into England is of slave cul- 
tivation. 

" Hipon. Ahem ! I believe it is so. 

^^ Embassador. Then am I to understand that 
your people have no religious scruple against 
selling slave-grown produce to the Brazilians ? 

^^ JRipon. (Colors in his face, and moves about 
uneasily in his chair.) 

^^ Embassador. No religious scruples against 
selling slave-grown cottons into every country in 
the world ! — no religious- scruples against eating 
slave-grown rice ! — no religious scruples against 
making slave-grown tobacco ! — no religious scru- 
ples against taking slave-grown snuff! (pointing 
to a gold snuff-box lying on the table.) Am I to 
understand that the religious scruples of the En- 
glish people are confined to the article of sugar ? 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 87 

^^Hipon. (Putting the snuff-box in his pocket.) 
I am sorry to be obliged to repeat that I can not 
consent to take your sugar. 

^^ Mnbctssador. (Rising from his seat.) My 
lord, I should be first to do homage to the sin- 
cere and consistent scruples of conscientious 
Christians ; but while you are sending to Brazil 
sixty millions of yards of cotton goods in a year, 
I can not, in justice to my own feelings, sit quiet- 
ly and listen to the plea that your nation has in 
reality any religious scruples upon the subject of 
slave-labor. Excuse me if I suggest to your lord- 
ship that other reasons may be found, especially 
in the monopoly which your colonial proprietors 
enjoy— 

"JSepon. (Interrupting him.) I do assure 
your excellency that a body of religious men, 
the anti-slavery party, have urged these scruples 
upon her majesty's government. I have to-day 
been waited upon by Joseph Sturge, one of the 
most influential of that body — 

^^Mnbassador. Joseph Sturge! I have heard 
of him and his labors in the cause of humanity. 
He is the consistent friend of the oppressed — too 
consistent, I should hope, to urge upon his gov- 
ernment, while making a treaty with the Brazils 
for receiving slave-grown cotton from your coun- 
try, to refuse slave-grown sugar in exchange. 
Joseph Sturge is a believer in the New Testa- 
ment, which teaches us to ' remove the beam 



68 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEK. 

from our own eye before we cast out the mote 
from our neighbor's eye.' Does not Joseph 
Sturge oppose the introduction into this country 
of cotton, tobacco, and rice? 

" (The door opens, and enter Joseph Sturge, 
with a cotton cravat, his hat lined with calico, his 
coat, etc., sewn with cotton thread, and his cotton 
pockets well lined with slave-wrought gold and 
silver. The Brazilian embassador and Lord Ripon 
burst into laughter.)" 

The- cardinal principles of Free Trade, as ap- 
plied to and incorporated in financial legislation, 
are, that taxes, where necessary, should be laid on 
for pure purposes of revenue alone ; that in their 
remission, in the choice of those to be remitted, 
the interests of consumers are paramount and 
alone to be consulted ; and that no tax should be 
levied in the supposed interest of producers — that 
for two reasons, each one being all-sufficient to 
bear the conclusion common to them both ; first, 
that no protective tax does benefit the producer, 
and even if it did, he — representing the minority 
— has no right to enjoy it at the expense of the 
majority, namely, the consumers. These princi- 
ples were admirably incorporated in the follow- 
ing passage, and so closely, clearly, and concisely 
put, that Peel himself was compelled completely 
to stultify himself by conceding the whole ques- 
tion at issue. How marvelous does it seem to us 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 89 

to-day that the Corn Laws disgraced our statute 
book, corrupted our Legislature, and nearly de- 
stroyed our people, for four years after the utter- 
ance of these words, and the admission which they 
elicited : 

" You don't fix the price of cotton, or silk, or 
iron, or tin. Why don't you ? But how are you 
to fix this price of corn ? Going back some ten 
years, the right honorable baronet finds the aver- 
age price of corn is 568, 10d» ; and therefore, says 
be, I propose to keep up the price of wheat from 
545. to 685. The right honorable baronet's plan 
means that or nothing. I see in a useful little 
book, called the Parliamentary Pocket Compan- 
ion^ in which there are some nice little descrip- 
tions of ourselves — (laughter) — under the head 
* Cayley,' that that gentleman is described as being 
the advocate of ' such a course of legislation with 
regard to agriculture as will keep wheat at 545. a 
quarter — (hear, hear) — new mi'lk and cheese at 
from 545. to 605. per cwt. ; wool and butter at l5. 
per lb. each, and other produce in proportion.' 
(Hear, hear, and laughter.) Now it might be very 
amusing to find that there are gentlemen still at 
large — (hear, hear, and great laughter) — who ad- 
vocated the principle of the interposition of Par- 
liament to fix the price at which such articles 
should be sold ; but when we find a prime min- 
ister coming down to Parliament to avow such 
principles, it becomes any thing but amusmg. 



90 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

(Great cheering from the Opposition.) I ask the 
right honorable baronet, and I pause for a reply, 
is he prepared to carry oat that principle in the 
articles of cotton and wool ?" (Hear, hear.) 

^' Sir Robert Peel said it was impossible to fix 
the price of food by legislation.'' (Loud cheers 
from the ministerial side.) 

Mr. Cobden continued — " Then on what are 
we legislating ? (Counter cheers from the Op- 
position.) I thank the right honorable baronet 
for his avowal. Perhaps, then, he will oblige us 
by trying to do so. Supposing, however, that he 
will make the attempt, I ask the right honorable 
gentleman — and I again pause for a reply — will 
he try to legislate so as to keep up the price of 
cotton, silk, and wool ? No reply ! Then we 
come to this conclusion, that we are not legis- 
lating for the universal people." (Tremendous 
cheers.) 

Nor did his lash fall upon Peel and the Tories 
alone. The Whigs were glad enough, now that 
they were in opposition, to cheer and encourage 
Cobden in his denunciations of the landowner's 
monopoly. But they stuck to their panacea of a 
fixed duty, and pleaded the diflSculty, even if the 
Corn Laws were condemned to ultimate repeal, 
of abolishing them all at once. Cobden saw no 
such difficulty ; and thus, at the conclusion of his 
speech, showed them a very easy, and a Gordian 
way out of it. " I once heard them [these scru- 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION 91 

pies] met at a public meeting of electors in what 
appeared to me to be a very satisfactory manner. 
There was great difficulty on the platform among 
the Whig gentlemen who were assembled there 
about the repeal of the Corn Laws, and they 
were arguing about the danger and hardship of 
an immediate repeal of them. They were at 
length interrupted by a sturdy laboring man in a 
fustian coat, who called out, ' Whoi, mun, where's 
the trouble in taking them off? you put them on 
all of a ruck' (laughter and cheering) ; meaning 
that they had been put on all of a sudden." 

As a specimen of the sort of arguments by 
which such appeals were resisted at this stage of 
English Parliamentary history may be cited the 
allegation of an M.P. whom we name not, and 
who spoke after Cobden, that the real motive of 
the Leaguers in their desire to have cheap corn 
was that they might have cheap flour with which 
to add weight and give a false appearance to 
their calico ! Add to this, wholesale abuse of the 
manufacturers and the factory system, and the 
chief breadth of the Tory arguments is comprised 
and indicated. Such Protectionist " hits" were 
received with deafening plaudits ; but we find in 
Hansard that when Mr. Miles, a Protectionist, 
said that Charles BuUer had made an appeal to 
the " appetites as well as the passions of the peo- 
ple," this reference to the horrid starvation then 
prevailing was received with "loud laughter." 



92 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Similar "merry descants on a nation's woe" 
greeted Dr. Bowring's reference to any thing so 
miserably vulgar as the reduction in the wages 
of shoemakers and tailors. When he said women 
were crying for work, there was more " laugh- 
ter ;" they were making trowsers for sixpence a 
pair — more "loud laughter;" thousands were 
hungry and naked — ^the founts of laughter proved 
as prodigal as before ; and " peals of loud laugh- 
ter" greeted the inquiry, What was to become of 
the women of Manchester ? 

Meanwhile the League Convention continned 
to sit simultaneously with Parliament. Among 
others of its occupations, it sent deputations to 
wait on all the leading ministers, represent to 
them the true condition of the country, and im- 
press upon them the tremendous responsibility 
they were incurring. But their representations 
were fruitless. In Parliament, Cobden, Brother- 
ton, Villiers, Milner Gibson, and others, worked 
hard to get an inquiry — using every legitimate 
form of the House for that end. Peel bitterly 
reproached them with maliciously opposing the 
progress of public business. This brought Cob- 
den on his legs. He retorted : " The public busi- 
ness referred to was the voting of the militia es- 
timates, to put down, he supposed, the starving 
people. He believed they might be better em- 
ployed in finding them food. If a person had the 
malice of a fiend, he would rejoice at the mode 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 98 

in which they were proceeding. The New Poor 
Law would not save their estates. Their present 
policy would create an amount of poverty that 
would break through stone walls. The people 
were now lying by the sides of hedges and walls, 
but when the winter.came where would they go ? 
If they were driven from the ditch-sides by the 
terrors of the bastiles, they would become ban- 
ditti, or they must be put into the work-house. 
Would the right honorable baronet resist the ap- 
peals which had been made to him, or would he 
rather cherish the true interests of the country, 
and not allow himself to be dragged down by a 
section of the aristocracy ? He must take sides, 
and that instantly ; and should he, by doing so, 
displease his political supporters, there was an an- 
swer ready for them. He might say he found the 
country in distress, and he gave it prosperity; 
that he found the people starving, and he gave 
them food ; that he found the large capitalists of 
the country paralyzed, and he made them pros- 
perous." This is as nearly as could be what Peel 
did say four years later. How much human mis- 
ery would have been saved if he had made the 
discovery when this appeal, at once to his sense 
and his sympathy, was made to him ! 

The Leaguers now resolved to turn their bat- 
teries upon the agricultural districts. The tactics 
of their opponents had changed, and theirs must 
be conformably adapted. The chief grounds held 



04 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

by the Tories at this stage of the struggle were 
that the movement was simply a manufacturers' 
one ; that its success would be as prejudicial to 
the interests of the laborers, both in town and 
country, as it would be beneficial to the millown- 
ers ; and they endeavored to damage the cause 
by blackening the characters of the leaders of the 
League. We are telling the story of Mr. Cob- 
den's life as far as possible in his own words. 
The greater proportion of our extracts from his 
speeches are made, not with the purpose of repro- 
ducing characteristic specimens of his eloquence 
— a few judiciously selected passages would suf- 
fice for that — ^but that his public life, its motives 
and actuating end, its circumstances, sorrows, and 
solaces, may be moulded as nearly as possible into 
an autobiographic form. It is with that view 
that we make the following quotation from an au- 
tumnal speech of Mr. Cobden in this year, mere- 
ly premising that thousands of the Northern op- 
eratives had " turned out" in the agony of their 
desperation from their employments, asserting 
that they would not return to them until their 
grievances were righted : 

" Now, gentlemen, I would venture to say, and 
if nothing else that fell from me should go forth 
to the public, I hope that this at least will do 
so — I will venture to say, in the name of the 
Council of the Anti-Corn-Law League, that not 
only did not the members of that body know or 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 95 

dream of any thing of the kind such as has now 
taken place — ^I mean the turn-out for wages — 
not only did they not know, concoct, wish for, 
or contemplate such things, but I believe the very 
last thing which the body of our subscribers 
would have wished for or desired is the suspen- 
sion of their business, and the confusion which 
has taken place in this district. (Loud applause.) 
.... Why are these accusations made ? It is 
with the desperate hope that they will inflict 
a moral taint upon the Anti-Corn-Law League. 
They can not oppose our principles, for their own 
political chief has given up the whole question, 
and has avowed himself to be with us in prin- 
ciple ; they can not therefore denounce our prin- 
ciples ; and from the moment that the prime min- 
ister declared himself a Free Trader — ^from the 
moment he said it was not only best to buy in 
the cheapest markets where others took goods 
from us, but that it was best to do so whether 
reciprocity existed or not (laughter and cheers) 
— ^from the moment he went that * whole hog' in 
Free Trade, their mouths were closed ; but still 
they had their dirty work to do ; they must say 
something, and what so natural and so politic as 
that these miserable tools of a beaten and van- 
quished party shouli commence immediately to 
attack the Anti-Corn-Law League ? Their only 
hope, their only chance now is in impairing our 
moral influence with the country. That is the 



96 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

game We have been lately charged with 

being in collasion with the Chartist party. Now 
the parties who are charging this are laboring 
under the disadvantage of having theniselves 
been working for the last three years to excite 
the Chartist party against us, and by means not 
over-creditable, as we shall by-and-by, perhaps, 
have the opportunity^ of demonstrating to the 
world. I will not say a word upon that at pres- 
ent ; but, by means which may meet the light, 
they have succeeded in deluding a considerable 
portion of the working classes upon the subject of 
the Corn Laws. And I have no objection in ad- 
mitting here, as I have admitted frankly before, 
that these artifices and manoeuvres have, to a con- 
siderable extent, compelled us to make our agita- 
tion a middle-class agitation. I don't deny that 
the working classes generally have attended our 
lectures and signed our petitions ; but I will ad- 
mit that, so far as the fervor and efficiency of 
our agitation has gone, it has eminently been a 

middle-class agitation Let the League go 

on in their own course, agitating — agitating — 
agitating incessantly for the repeal of the Corn 
Laws. Gentlemen, you are strong in the coun- 
try — you are stronger than you think in London. 
The middle classes in London are almost to a 
man for the repeal of the Corn Laws. You are 
stronger than you think in the south of England ; 
you have strength in the rural boroughs that you 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 97 

are not aware of; and I will tell you now what 1 
did not venture to say on a former occasion — that 
I don't think Manchester will carry the repeal of 
the Corn Laws, but that we shall carry it by mak- 
ing it a national question.'' 

While disclaiming all party connections, Cob- 
den invited the co-operation of all, appealing es- 
pecially to the Chartists for co-operation — ^not as 
Chartists, but as working men. In the same 
speech, he said, ^^ I believe that the working class- 
es here generally are of opinion that the intrusion 
of the Chartist question has not been of any serv- 
ice to them in the question about wages. I be- 
lieve they are quite disposed to discuss and settle 
this question apart from party politics. Then 
what will enable the master to give better wages? 
By getting a better price for his goods. And 
how is he to get a better price for his goods ? 
By extending the markets. How can he sell more 
goods, and thus give more employment to labor, 
except he can get an enlarged market, and thus 
meet the wants of the increasing population of 
the country ? There is no other way. Our busi- 
ness is not to alter constitutions ; we don't seek 
for chartism, whiggism, radicalism, or republi- 
canism — we simply ask for an enlarged market 
to enable the capitalist to extend the sale of his 
goods, and thereby to increase the demand for 
labor and augment the rate of wages. This is a 
time, gentlemen, when I hope both masters and 

a 



96 UFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

men will meet and discuss this subject apart from 
party politics. The time is peculiarly favorable 
for this, and, I think, notwithstanding the lament- 
able circumstances, the state of the public mind 
in this country, both with masters and men, will 
settle down into a more rational disposition to 
view this question apart from passion or preju- 
dice than ever it did before, for I do think, gen- 
tlemen, that the present disturbances will leave 
less of the traces of prejudice or resentment in 
the minds of the middle classes in this part of 
the country than any former tumults ever did be- 
fore." 

Mr. Cobden's policy was accepted, and embod- 
ied by the League. Its aim now was more than 
ever national. The towns being mostly secured, 
the object now was to gain over the country ; the 
great mass of the urban middle class being Free 
Traders, propagandism must be mainly directed 
to the grades below them, and to the hereditary 
possessors of wealth and rank, their social supe- 
riors. The Tories had taunted the Leaguers with 
a sordid regard to their own interests, and with 
a selfish desire to sacrifice the peasantry to their 
own ends. It became highly desirable to let it 
be known what was the real condition of this 
peasantry, under the " favoring and benignant" 
Corn Laws. The League sent out agents to all 
the southern and purely agricultural counties, and 
took care to give proper publicity to their reports. 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 99 

These were a different class of men from their lec- 
turers. The two employments required different 
talents. The country-investigating agents were 
business-like, sharp, observing men. Their in- 
quiry was indeed scrutinizing. You might al- 
most believe, on consulting the reports of their 
investigations published by these persons, that 
they had inspected every field, hedge, homestead, 
and ditch. The general gist of their reports was 
a revelation of " bad tillage, and every kind of 
waste, overweening rents, uncertain profits, and 
wages reduced below the point of possible main- 
tenance." On the estate of one nobleman, the la- 
borers who hadfurnished the League agents with 
information, and had admitted them into their cot- 
tages to see the holes in the roofs, and the wet, 
soddened fioors, were punished by being set to 
work on the roads. The moment this was dis- 
covered, the League announced that in no future 
case would information be sought from the labor- 
ers — ^the especial sufferers from Corn Laws and 
Protection ; and they rigorously kept their word. 
Cobden himself went through the southern coun- 
ties in the recess, holding meetings on market- 
days, and maintaining his ground against all com- 
ers. 

At first the Protectionists made an oratorical 
stand against him. They brought out their loud- 
est speakers ; their speeches were elaborately pre- 
pared ; the resolutions they moved and secoi.ded 



100 LIFE OF RICHABD COBDEN. 

carefully considered, and conched in terms as 
dexterons as they could devise. But it was not 
long ere, discovering that Cobden invariably tore 
their so-called arguments to ribbons, and evoked 
the contemptuous ridicule of their own firmer- 
clients, who were predisposed against him at the 
outset, at their sophistications, they altogether 
changed their tactics. The plan then was to cry 
Cobden down, to endeavor to drown his shrill 
and far-reaching voice. And then, when that 
failed, the procedure was to seize the wagons and 
drag Cobden and his associates down. 

The eyes of the farmers then began to be 
opened. They rapidly began to join the League. 
Some of them were even bold enough to come 
out as speakers for the League. They began to 
see the truth which Cobden always took care to 
tell them — that their interests were any thing but 
identical with those of the men who received their 
rents. They saw, with clear and emancipated 
eyes, that they were the true " agricultural inter- 
est," and that Cobden and the League, and not 
the squires and the Tories, were the real " farm- 
ers' friends." Cobden told them — and, more than 
that, he convinced them — ^that landowners were 
just as much agriculturists as shipowners were 
sailors. How much Cobden did thus (like his 
own almost namesake, Cobbet, before him) for 
the cause of popular education in the best and 
liighest sense, amoug the laborers and the farm- 



\ 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 101 

ers, who were not much better informed at the 
start than the hedgers and plowmen they em- 
ployed, as well as for their physical well-being 
and enjoyment, it is impossible to overestimate. 
About leases, tenures, draining, fencing, and im- 
proved farming generally, much also was said. 
Cobden began to rank, and rightly so, among the 
rustics, not only as a farmer's friend, but as a 
practical farmer. And this was a great point 
gained. One sample of Mr. Cobden's rural meet- 
ings will do as well as another* One Saturday 
in June, in this year, he and his friend, Mr. Moore, 
visited Rye, which is in Sussex. When they got 
into the sleepy old town, which has been lifted 
up out of the sea, they found it stuck all over 
with placards warning the people not to be bam- 
boozled by the idea that this Cobden was a Sus- 
sex man ; for although the son of a Sussex farmer, 
of course he had his own interests to serve about 
Com Laws, for he was a Manchester manufac- 
turer. However, a great many of the farmers at- 
tended, Cobden having, of course, as usual, chosen 
market-day ; and they had to adjourn from the 
Town Hall to the Cattle Market. Cobden gave 
an address, and though there was a very hostile 
feeling against him at first, ere he had gone far, 
the Brighton Herald of the date says, " we do 
not believe that there was a man present who 
was not convinced in his own conscience." Mr. 
Moore followed, and then up jumped a Major 



102 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Cartels, who said he went two thirds of the way 
with these gentlemen; InU he lived where the 
land wasn't good, and farmers were as badly off 
as the laborers (a great concession this to Cob- 
den, to which he at once responded by crying 
" Granted !"), and if they were repealed imme- 
diately, two out of three in his parish would have 
to leave their farms all at once. And he should 
like to know if two thirds of the tenant-farmers 
had to leave, how many of the laborers would be 
thrown out of work ? Here an interlocutor, not 
farther dignified in the report than by the vague 
title of " A Voice," interrupted with, " If these 
tenant-farmers and laborers are in such a distress- 
ed condition, does it not arise from the enormous 
rents they pay ?" To which the major, who, we 
presume, was a landlord, made the (to him) very 
unsatisfactory reply, that many of them paid no 
rents at all. He couldn't agree with Mr. Cobden 
that there were no exclusive burdens on the land. 
He thought otherwise. He'd go for repeal to- 
morrow, if he thought it would not throw two 
thirds of his neighbors into immediate distress. 

Then up stood an M.P. of the same name, but 
-not nearly so disposed to concede his point. Cur- 
teis, M.P., said he stood boldly there to contest 
the ground with Mr. Cobden. The point (this 
civilian, it will be seen, was vastly more ferocious 
than his namesake, and, we suppose, relative) — 
the point was not whether we were going to have 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION 108 

a sliding scale or a fixed duty, but whether there 
was to be protection to the English farmer. Mr. 
Cobdenlsaid before he could attend to this gen- 
tleman, he thought another one to the right had 
thrown out something like a challenge about a 
motion to be made. He wasn't himself generally 
anxious about a motion. He just liked to throw 
out a few facts and leave them. The "gentleman 
to the right" didn't appear. " Well," said Cob- 
den, " I'll claim my right as a Sussex man, and 
I'll propose a motion." Then he went through 
Major Curteis's " exclusive burdens on the land." 
" Where were they ?" said he. " Tithes belonged 
to the Church, never at all to the landlords; 
therefore they couldn't be a burden. Other class- 
es as well as landlords were subject to poor rates 
and county rates. As for the land-tax, the less 
they said about that the better for themselves." 
Then he wound up with a motion for uncondi- 
tional repeal. The major moved an amendment 
that " a fixed duty is desirable for the present." 
A division was taken, and the original motion 
(Cobden's) carried almost unanimously — ^this by 
an audience that at first was hostile to him. 

At once the results of this tour, and the nature 
of the arguments used by Cobden to the farmers, 
will appear in these concluding sentences of a 
speech delivered in the House of Commons after 
the resumption of its session. It was on a mo- 
tion for " a select committee to inquire into the 



104 LIFE OF RICHARD COBD£lir. 

effects of protective duties on imports upon the 
interests of the tenant farmers and farm laborers 
of this country." He thus concluded: "We may 
make a great advance if we get this committee; 
you may have the majority of its members Pro- 
tectionists if you will. I am quite willing that 
such should be the arrangement. I know it is 
understood — at least there is a sort of etiquette 
— that the mover for a committee should, in the 
event of its being granted, preside over it as 
chairman. I waive all pretensions of the sort ; 
I give up all claims ; I only ask to be present as 
an individual member. What objections there 
can be to the committee I can not understand. 
Are you afraid that to grant it will increase agi- 
tation ? I ask the honorable baronet, the mem- 
ber for Essex (Sir J. Tyrell), whether he thinks 
the agitation is going down in his part of the 
country? I rather think there is a good deal of 
agitation going on there now. Do you really 
think that the appointment of a dozen gentle- 
men, to sit in a quiet room up stairs and hear 
evidence, will add to the excitement out of doors ? 
Why, by granting my committee, you will be 
withdrawing me from thie agitation for one. But 
I tell you that you will raise excitement still 
higher than it is if you allow me to go down to 
your constituents — your vote against the com- 
mittee in my hand — and allow me to say to them, 
' I only asked for inquiry ; I offered the landlords 



1 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 105 

a majority of their own party ; I offered them to 
go into committee, not as a chairman, bat as an 
individual member; I offered them all possible 
advantages, and yet they would not, they dared 
not, grant a committee of inquiry into your con- 
dition.' I repeat to you, I desire no advantages. 
Let us have the committee. Let us set to work, 
attempting to elicit sound information, and to ben- 
efit our common country. I believe that much 
good may be done by adopting the course which 
I propose. I tell you that your boasted system 
is not protection, but destruction to agriculture. 
Let us see if we can not counteract some of the 
foolishness — ^I will not call it by a harsher name 
—of the doings of those who, under the pretense 
of protecting native industry, are inciting the 
farmer not to depend upon his own energy, and 
skill, and capital, but to come here and look for 
the protection of an Act of Parliament. Let us 
have a committee, and see if we can not elicit 
facts which may counteract the folly of those who 
are persuading the farmer to prefer Acts of Par- 
liament to draining and subsoiling, and to be 
looking to the laws of this House when he should 
be studying the laws of Nature. I can not im- 
agine any thing more demoralizing — ^yes, that is 
the word — ^more demoralizing than for you to tell 
the farmers that they can not compete with for- 
eigners. You bring long rows of figures of de- 
lusive accounts, showing that the cultivation of 



106 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

an acre of wheat costs £6 or £S per year. You 
put every impediment in the way of the farmers 
trying to do what they ought to do. And can 
you think that that is the way to make people 
succeed ? How should we manufacturers get 
on if, when we got as a pattern a specimen of 
the productions of the rival manufacturers, we 
brought all our people together and said, ^ It is 
quite clear that we can not compete with this 
foreigner; it is quite useless our attempting to 
compete with Germany or America; why, we 
can not produce goods at the price at which they 
do.' But how do we act in reality? We call 
our men together, and say, ' So-and-so is produc- 
ing goods at such a price ; but we are English- 
men, and what America or Germany can do, we 
can do also.' 

" I repeat that the opposite system, which you 
go upon, is demoralizing the farmers. ' Nor have 
you any right to call out, with the noble lord the 
member for North Lancashire — ^you have no right 
to go down occasionally to your constituents, and 
tell the farmers, * You must not plod on as your 
grandfathers did before you ; you must not put 
your hands behind your backs, and drag one foot 
after the other in the old-fashioned style of going 
to work.' I say that you have no right to hold 
such language to the farmer. What makes them 
plod on like their grandfathers? Who makes 
them put their hands behind their backs ? Why, 



1 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 107 

the men who go to Lancashire and talk of the 
danger of the pouring in of foreign corn from a 
certain province in Rassia, which shall be name- 
less ; the men who tell the farmers to look to this 
House for protective acts instead of their own 
energies — instead of to those capabilities which, 
were they properly brought out, would make the 
English farmer equal to — perhaps superior to — 
any in the world." 

And Cobden claimed a special and authorita- 
tive right to speak on this matter, saying, " Sir, 
I have as good a right as any honorable gentle- 
man in this House to identify myself with the or- 
der of farmers. I am a farmer's son. The hon- 
orable member for Sussex has been speaking to 
you as th^ farmer's friend. I am the son of a 
Sussex farmer; my ancestors were all yeomen 
of the class who have been suffering under this 
system ; my family suffered under it, and I have, 
therefore, as good, or a better right, than any of 
you, to stand up as the farmer's friend, and to rep- 
resent his wrongs in this House." 

Cobden, if he had not had the thorough whip- 
hand of his opponents in respect of knowledge 
of the subjects he talked about, would have been 
an arrogant man. Hundreds of sayings which 
fell from his lips — and nowhere so frequently as 
in the House of Commons — ^if they had proceed- 
ed from an ignorant man, would have indicated 
the veriest and most insolent arrogance. But it 



106 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

is no arroganoe, when you stand opposite to an 
ignoramus, and especially if his ignorance is your 
physical superior, and drives you, nolens volena^ 
in its team, to denounce the ignorance and cast 
personal ridicule or wrath upon its human recep- 
tacle. This misanthropy — if indeed you can so 
call it — is begotten of philanthropy. Cobden 
more than once told the squirearchy not only 
that they were absolutely more ignorant of the 
prime principles of political economy than any 
audience of artisans he ever addressed, but that 
their heads were actually (he believed) so con- 
structed that politico-economic knowledge could 
not get into their crania. Similarly, on one occa- 
sion, in a debate on the Game Laws, in reply to 
Colonel Sibthorpe, Mr. Newdegate, and others (a 
debate, by the way, in which Mr. Bright made his 
first great Parliamentary speech), Cobden talked 
to the class who starve peasants and fatten pheas- 
ants after this mode : He told them that country 
gentlemen knew infinitely less about the feelings, 
circumstances, and grievances of farmers than 
himself " and the other members of the much- 
maligned Anti-Com-Law League." He said that 
tenant-farmers complained of nothing so much 
over their firesides, and when released from the 
surveillance of the squires and the terrorism of 
the gamekeepers and watchers, as the Game 
Laws. Here, as might have been imagined, there 
was one of those storms of" Oh, oh I" which only 



1 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 109 

"the lusty lungs of well-fed Tories can eniit. It 
may be a matter of doubt whether this vocal pro- 
ficiency arises from the habit of tally-hoing or of 
hip-hip-hurrahing True Blue toasts. "Let the 
* oh, ohs,' " quickly and angrily rejoined Cobden, 
"go forth to the country, and the people will say 
that the landlords know less of the country than 
I do. Nay, more, I say that I have a larger cor- 
respondence with farmers, have shaken hands 
with more, and talked with ten times more ten- 
ant-farmers than any other gentleman in this 
House." And then, a little farther on in the 
course of this pungent speech — which was also a 
condensed one, for it occupied only a few min- 
utes in the delivery — he stated the simple, bold, 
undeniable, but most pregnant fact, that the en- 
joyment of the 60,000 persons who took out game 
licenses cost the country, besides all the destruc- 
tion of good human food, 4500 annual convictions 
and forty transportations. Or, as he tersely put 
the fact in another way, for every fifteen persons 
that went shooting, one was convicted. 

Some may say, " How could a man who spoke 
on certain occasions in the manner that has been 
represented in more than one citation in this 
chapter, be described, as he constantly was by 
all his friends, as a peculiarly mild, gentle, and 
affectionate man ? We shall save ourselves and 
such of our readers equal trouble if we remind 
them that the Apostle John was also a Son of 



110 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Thunder. It is the deepest aud tenderest hearts 
that are bo affected. Bat the motive-spriDg is 
love for the wronged, not hate of the wrong- 
doer. 

Still the farmers joined the League. At a 
meeting at Manchester in Novemher, 1843, Mr. 
Cobden stated, '' The Council of the League had, 
a short time since, advertised for prize essays 
showing the injurious operation of the Com^ 
Laws upon farmers and farm laborers. By the 
first of this month (the time limited) they re- 
ceived a large number. Three had been select- 
ed from that number, and, having had the oppor- 
tunity of perusing them, he must say that he an- 
ticipated the greatest results from their publica- 
tion. One of them was written by a tenant 
farmer in Scotland, paying £1500 a year rent, 
and he said, ^ I have laid out a large sum of 
money, which I expect to be reimbursed for be- 
fore the expiration of my lease, and yet I should 
be delighted to see the Com Laws abolished be- 
fore the next session of Parliament.' " A few 
days before, Mr. Cobden said : " An elderly per- 
son called upon me on Tuesday, having the ap- 
pearance of a country gentleman, and he put this 
paper in my hand, accompanied by a bank-note : 
* A landowner, possessed of several farms, sub- 
scribes £100 to the League fund. It is a money 
question, and the money speaks for itself. The 
siibRcription will be repeated, if requisite.' I 



1 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AOITATION. HI 

never saw the gentleman before, and probably 
will never see him again. He did not wait for 
conversation ; and I could get nothing more from 
him than, ^It is a money question, it is a money 
question, and the money speaks for itself.' " 

And still more accessions from the land were 
coming over: the Earls of Radnor and Ducie 
were Leaguers and subscribers to the funds ; the 
Duke of Bedford and Earl Spencer were also 
with them ; and among the untitled landlords, 
Sharman Crawford, Gore Langton, Villiers Stu- 
art, and Grantley Berkeley. 

Perhaps the best proof of the extraordinary 
ferment and excitement of feeling which the 
Corn Law agitation produced in England is the 
incident we are now about to relate. It is nec- 
essary to premise that, in the January of 1843, 
Mr. Drummond, Sir Robert Peel's private secre- 
tary, was shot dead in the street by a lunatic, 
who mistook him for the premier. Peel was 
deeply wounded at this, for Mr. Drummond was 
not only his secretary, but his friend ; and he was 
ill and harassed with manifold anxieties. Two 
hours past midnight of the 17th of February, he 
got up and said, " Sir, the honorable gentleman 
(Mr. Cobden) has stated here very emphatically, 
what he has more than once stated at the Con- 
ferences of the Anti-Com-Law League, that he 
holds me individually — [great excitement] — in- 
dividuaUy responsible for the distress and snf 



112 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

fering of the country — ^tbat he holds me person- 
ally responsible ; bnt, be the consequences of 
these insinuations what they may, never will I 
be influenced by menaces, either in this House 
or out of this House, to adopt a course which I 
consider — ^" [The rest of the sentence was lost 
in shouts from various parts of the House.] 

Mr. Cobden rose and -said : *' I did not say that 
I held the right honorable gentleman responsible 
— [shouts of ' Yes, yes ; you did, you did.' Cries 
of * Order' and ' Chair.' Sir Robert Feel : * You 
did.'] I have said that I hold the right honor- 
able gentleman responsible by virtue of his office 
— ['No, no;' much confusion] — as the whole 
context of what I said was sufficient to explain — 
[' No, no,' from the ministerial benches.]" 

Sir Robert Peel rose and repeated his asser- 
tion that Cobden h^d ''twice repeated that he 
held him individually responsible." At a later 
period of the debate, Cobden, again essaying an 
explanation, was hooted down. Probably a more 
extraordinary transaction never occurred on the 
floor of the House of Commons. Miss Martineau 
says of it, "The Anti-Corn Law League had not 
yet had time to win the respect and command 
the deference which it was soon to enjoy ; but it 
was known to be organized and led by men of 
station, character, and substance — men of en- 
larged education, and of that virtuous and decor- 
ous conduct which distinguishes the middle class 



1 



PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE AGITATION. 113 

of England. Yet it was believed — believed by 
men of education, by men in Parliament, by men 
in attendance on the government — that the Anti- 
Corn-Law Leagae sanctioned assassination, and 
did not object to carry its aims by means of it. 
This is, perhaps, the strongest manifestation of 
the tribulation of the time." It is just to the 
memory of Peel to insert one or twO sentences 
uttered by him about three years later, in one of 
the debates on the total repeal of the Com Laws 
in 1846 : "The honorable member thought fit to 
recall to the recollection of the House something 
which took place about three years since, in the 
course of a heated debate, when I put an erro- 
neous construction on some expressions used by 
the honorable member for Stockport. An ex- 
planation was given of the meaning of those ex- 
pressions by that honorable member ; and my in- 
tention at the time, after that explanation, was to 
have relieved the honorable member for Stock- 
port, in the most distinct manner, of the imputa- 
tion which I had put upon him. If any one who 
was present at that debate had stated to me that 
my reparation was not so complete, and the 
avowal of my error not so unequivocal as it ought 
to have been, I should at once have repeated it 
more plainly and distinctly. It was my inten- 
tion to have made the fullest explanation : that 
my intention must have been so, will indeed ap- 
pear so on reference to my speech. I am sorry, 
H 



114 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

certainly, that the honorable member for Shrews- 
bury has thought fit to revive the subject, or, at 
least, I should have been so if his reference to it 
had not given me an opportunity of fully and un- 
equivocally withdrawing an imputation on the 
honorable member for Stockport, which was 
thrown out in the heat of debate under an erro- 
neous impression of his meaning." 



1 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 117 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE VICrOBY OP THE LEAGUE. 

After the division on Mr. Villiers's motion in 
1 843, the Times thus commented on the debate : 
"Mr. Cobden's speech was clever and pointed. 
It was creditable to his talents, as evincing- an 
aptitude of mind and an ability to adapt his style 
to the air of the place and the tastes of his au- 
dience ; but we do not think it was equally credit- 
able to his judgment. A stronger impression 
might have been made had he abstained from per- 
sonality and persiflage. Still, allowance must be 
made for a man who had to repeat a tale for the 
nine hundred . and ninety-ninth time, and who, 
therefore, was compelled to adapt it to the palate 
of his hearers. . . . But the debate is over; 
the question is settled ; for how long ? How 
many even of the majority are satisfied of the 
working of the sliding-scale ? How many of the 
minority would be gratified by an utter and im- 
mediate abolition of a^ corn duties?" The testi- 
mony of the Morning Post to the growing might 
of Cobden and his principles was still more sig- 
nificant : " Melancholy was the exhibition in the 
House of Commons on Monday night. Mr. Cob- 



11« LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

den was the hero of the night. Toward the 
close of the debate, he rose in his place, and 
hurled at the heads of the parliamentary land- 
owners of England those calumnies and taunts 
which constitute the staple of his addresses to 
farmers. The taunts were not retorted. The 
calumnies were not repelled. No; the parlia- 
mentary representatives of the industrial inter- 
ests of the British empire quailed before the 
founder and leader of the Anti-Corn-Law League. 
They winced under his sarcasms. They listened 
in speechless terror to his denunciations. No 
man among them dared to grapple with the arch- 
enemy of English industry. No man among 
them attempted to refute the miserable fallacies 
of which Mr.Cobden's speech was made up. . . . 
Melancholy was it to witness, on Monday, the 
landowners of England, the representatives by 
blood of the Northern chivalry, the representa- 
tives by election of the industrial interests of the 
empire, shrinking under the blows aimed at them 
by a Manchester money-grubber — by a man 
whose importance is derived from the action of a 
system, destructive in its nature of all the whole- 
some influences that connect together the various 
orders of society. Well, the cycle approaches 
its completion ; the wheel has nearly effected its 
revolution ; and the foul and pestilential princi- 
' pies which, by their action, began forty years ago 
to consign to beggary hundreds of thousands ^f 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 119 

harmless and iDgenious hand-loom weavers seem 
destined, if not speedily resisted, to sweep away 
all the barriers that still remain to shelter pro- 
ductive industry from the encroachment of those 
classes of men to whom the abasement of indus- 
try is the source of increased power and influ- 
ence." We present this piece of " fine writing," 
because one can precisely measure, by the viru- 
lence of its spleen, the amount of power in the 
state which Richard Cobden and his principles 
had by this time attained. 

As a positive and altogether more valuable in- 
dication of the spread of Free Trade principles, 
and of the (perhaps unexpected) support they 
were receiving in non- political quarters, may be 
given these characteristic sentences from Car- 
lyle's "Past and Present," which was published 
about this time : " Oh, my Conservative friends, 
who still specially name, and struggle to approve 
yourselves 'Conservative,' would to heaven I 
could persuade you of this world-old fact, than 
which fate is not surer, that Truth and Justice 
alone are capable of being ' conserved' and pre- 
served ! The thing which is unjust, which is not 
according to God's law, will you, on a God's uni- 
verse, try to conserve that ? It is old, say you ? 
Yes, and the hotter haste ought you^ of all others, 
to be in to let it grow no older ! If but the faint- 
est whisper in your hearts intimate to you that it 
is not fair, hasten, for the sake of Conservatipm 



120 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

itself, to probe it vigorously, to cast it forth at 
once and forever, if guilty. How will or can you 
preserve it? The thing is not fair. Impossible, 

a thousand fold, is marked on that 

If I were the Conservative party of England 
(which is another bold figure of speech),! would 
not for a hundred thousand pounds an hour al- 
low those Corn Laws to continue. All Potosi 
and Golconda put together would not purchase 
ray assent to them. Do you count what treas- 
• ures of bitter indignation they are laying up for 
you in every just English heart? Do you know 
what questions, not as Corn-prices and sliding- 
scales alone, they are forcing every reflective En- 
glishman to ask himself? Questions insoluble or 
hitherto unsolved ; deeper than any of our Jogic- 
plummets hitherto will sound; questions deep 
enough — which it were better we did not name, 
even in thought. You are forcing us to think of 
them. The utterance of them is begun; and 
where will it be ended, think you ? When now 
millions of one's brother men sit in workhouses, 
and five millions, as is insolently said, ^ rejoice in 
potatoes,' there are various things that must be 
begun, let them end where they can." 

While the agitation went on in the rural dis- 
tricts, special new batteries were directed upon 
London. The extraordinary and novel step was 
adopted of hiring the great national theatres, in 
Covent Garden and Drnry Lane, for the purpose 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 121 

of Free Trade demonstrations. These meetings 
were held on every successive Wednesday. They 
produced an immense sensation. They form to 
this day a marked and signal epoch in the mem- 
ory of every Londoner old enough to have been 
an adult twenty years ago. They were sneered 
at as clap-trap; but it was proved that they were 
really effective, and dangerous to monopoly, when, 
shortly after their commencement, a thorough 
Free Trader, Mr. Pattison, was elected for the 
city of London, and Mr. Jones Loyd, the great 
banker, sent in his uncompromising adhesion to 
the League. Mr. Prentice, who was present, thus 
describes Mr. Cobden's first appearance at Drury 
Lane: 

^^Hichard Cobden came last, not least, and had 
a reception which justified what I had heard said 
before, that he was the most popular man in Lon- 
don. I acknowledge that I was somewhat dis- 
appointed. I had heard him speak, over and 
over again, with more effect. I was jealous of 
his reputation, and grudged that he should utter 
one sentence without evident effect. But from 
him I turned to the audience, and soon perceived 
that they had formed a just appreciation of the 
man. There was not that strained attention 
which was seen when Mr. Fox and Mr. Gisbome 
addressed them, and when every one seemed pre- 
pared for a burst of enthusiasm or a burst of 
laughter; but there was the quiet listening si- 



122 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

lence, expective, not of excitement, but of sound 
instruction — the manifestly-expressed faith that 
there was something well worth hearing and 
well worth waiting for. And, on reflection, I 
thought the more of the intelligence of the au- 
dience for this — the more of the rapidly matur- 
ing public opinion of London. It seemed to say, 
' Here is a man who does not strain after effect 
— does not divest an argument of one thread of 
sequence for effect — and is content to rest an 
argument on its own intrinsic value, without ar- 
tificial adornment.' And in this faith of his hear- 
ers Cobden has his strength. He gets out all he 
has to say, and all he means to say. He con- 
vinces as he goes along, and with a simplicity 
and plainness which seem to render conviction 
irresistible. And thus are his hearers prepared 
for those occasional bursts of fervor which no 
man with Cobden's ideality and earnestness can 
keep pent up in his own bosom. His denuncia- 
tion of the wickedness of transporting the best 
part of our population to find that food which 
their labor would bring to them but for selfish 
laws was given with all the power of a righteous 
indignation, and his affecting picture of emi- 
grants leaving their native land was in the finest 
tone of sympathy for the sufferings of his fel- 
low-creatures. On the one occasion and the 
other, the loudly-expressed indignation and the 
starting tear convinced me that the great and 



1 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 123 

brilliant audience was moved by a strong sense 
of justice and a deeply-felt benevolence." 

The Times said of these theatre meetings : " A 
new power has arisen in the state, and maids and 
matrons flock to theatres as though it was but a 
* new translation from the French.' " 

In January, 1845, the League published certahi 
statistics of its doings for the preceding two years. 
In that time it had held a hundred and fifty meet- 
ings in parliamentary boroughs, and fifty in other 
places; fifteen thousand copies of the League 
newspaper — a most potent agent in the agitation 
— had been published weekly ; more than two 
millions of tracts had been distributed ; and in 
one year thirty thousand letters had been received, 
and three hundred thousand dispatched. In May, 
1845, a new agency, designed partly for the prop- 
agandism of the principles of the League, and 
partly for the augmentation of its funds, was 
called into play. Covent Garden Theatre was 
fitted up with the finest taste for a colossal Free 
Trade bazar. It was transformed into a fine 
Gothic hall, and crowded with articles of elegance 
or utility. Four hundred ladies acted as sales- 
women. • Each contributing town had its stall, 
with its name, and in some cases its arms, painted 
above. The bazar was open during the month 
of May ; a hundred and twenty-five thousand per- 
sons entered it, and it yielded the handsome sum 
of £25,000 to the funds of the League. Douglas 



124 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Jerrold said of the bazar in his " Magazine -^ 
"A * bazar' — ^'tis a trite word for a commonplace 
thing— often an idle mart for children's tmmpery 
— ^for foolish goods brought forth of laborers' 
idleness. Bat an idea can ennoble any thing. 
Nobility, in its true sense, is an idea ; and how 
grand is the idea which ennobles our bazar — 
which, even apart from its claims as an industrial 
exposition, makes it a great and holy thing! 
'Free Trade!' These words form a spell by 
which the world will yet be governed. They are 
the spirit of a dawning creed — a creed which al- 
ready has found altars and temples worthy of its 
truth. The Anti-Corn-Law League Bazar has 
raised thoughts in the national mind which will 
not soon die. As a spectacle it was magnificent 
in the extreme, but not more grand materially 
than it was morally. The crowd who saw it 
thought as well as gazed. It was not a mere huge 
shop for selling wares, but a great school for 
propagating an idea. And the pupils were not 
Londoners alone. From every part of the land 
monster trains hurried up their visitors. From 
the tracts where tall chimneys stand like forests 
— ^from the districts where the plow, not the en- 
gine, labors — where the farm-steading takes the 
place of the factory — where the * mill' means, 
not that weaving yarn, but that grinding corn — 
from town and country, shipping port and inland 
city, steam has whirled its tens of thousands to 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 126 

oQe common centre, to see a great demonstra- 
tion, to take a great lesson, and then to narrate 
and teach what they have beheld and learned to 
others." 

This monster bazar caused a sensation in Lon- 
don only exceeded by the greater impression 
made by the Great Exhibition of six years later. 
The papers teemed with descriptions of it, and 
these not only the dailies and weeklies, but the 
magazines and journals dedicated to special and 
professional objects. It is most amusing at this 
time to observe, in those reports of its proceed- 
ings and contents which appeared in the Con- 
servative prints, a sort of appalled wonderment 
at the unexpected magnitude of the undertaking. 
We are told how, notwithstanding the high price 
of admission, and the tempestuousness of the 
weather at its opening, it was nevertheless cram- 
med to overflowing. We read of the admirable 
arrangements to prevent confusion; the grand 
staircase, fitted up with tapestry, carpets, and 
shawls, so as to resemble an enormous draper's 
shop ; a magnificent mirror, " such as giants only 
should survey themselves in ;" colossal boxes of 
coal and iron, the latter in all stages of workman- 
ship, from the crude ore to the finest and most 
flexible steel; apparatus in operation weaving 
soft and beautiful fabrics of glass thread ; and, 
finally, when the central Gothic hall is reached, 
the reporter ceases to depict details, and talks 



126 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

of coming suddenly upon " a scene so novel and 
romantic, so incongruous and grotesque, that for 
a moment we could fancy ourselves transported 
to the East, and about to deal with Turks and 
Mussulmans.'' 

Our reporter finds solace in the refreshment- 
room, and his attention is divided between his 
consumption of the excellent creams and ices there 
vended, and the contemplation of " a huge plum- 
cake — a cake, the idea of which could, we think, 
have occurred in a dream only to some imagina- 
tive school-boy — so vast in its expanse, so pon- 
derous its size, so rich its ingredients, so delicious 
its fragrance." He thus proceeds — and we con- 
tinue the extract chiefly for the sake of its latter 
sentences, which indicate how various were the 
methods, and how fertile the devices employed 
by Cobden and the League in their propaganda : 
" It (the cake) is a Bury Simnel, and measures, 
we should think, some £ve feet in diameter, 
weighs 280 lbs., and bears upon its broad surface 
a sheet of iced sugar so large as to have inscribed 
upon it nearly all the maxims which embody the 
religion of the League, and so sweet and richly 
ornamented as to almost induce the visitor to 
swallow them. We hear that it is to be cut up 
and distributed on the last day of the Exhibition ; 
but let the League beware how they previously 
admit a school to their bazar, for to resist the 
continued temptation of this cake and its Free 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 127 

Trade inscriptions is, we think, beyond the possi- 
bility of school-boy nature. In this room is also 
the ' post-office,' an ingenious device for (among 
other purposes) raising money, and disseminating 
Free Trade doctrines. It is suggested to the vis- 
itor to knock and inquire if they have a letter for 
him, and upon his supplying him with his name 
and address, he is himself, in due time, supplied 
with a packet (not pre-paid), which, on receiving, 
he finds filled with League tracts and other Free 
Trade publications. The scheme was so success- 
ful that the arrival of a * foreign mail' was soon 
notified, and, of course, it brought with it a dis- 
patch for every applicant, and at the foreign rate 
of postage." 

Enough goods were left unsold at the bazar to 
furnish another very well-stocked and remunera- 
tive one at Manchester. 

Protection to agriculture, freedom of trade, and 
the condition of the laboring classes, continually 
appeared on the surface of the debates during 
the session of 1845, and scarcely a week passed 
in which they were not incidentally discussed. A 
general discussion on the policy of the Protective 
Laws was raised by a motion proposed by Mr. 
Cobden on the 13th of March for a "select com- 
mittee to inquire into the causes and extent of 
the alleged existing agricultural distress, and into 
the effects of legislative protection upon the in- 
terest of landowners, tenant-farmers, and farm la- 



128 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

borers.'' He undertook to prove the existence 
of distress among the farmers by quoting the 
declarations of some of the highest authorities in 
the agricultural interest ; that half the &rmers in 
the country were in a state of insolvency, and 
that the other half were paying rents out of their 
capital, and fast hastening to the same melancholy 
condition. This was, therefore, the proper time 
for bringing on a motion for inquiry. The doubts 
as to the cause of this distress were also sufficient 
reasons for instituting it. Sir Robert Peel had 
said that the distress was local, and did not arise 
from legislation. Mr. Bankes, on the contrary, 
maintained that the distress was general, and did 
arise from legislation. It had also been said that 
the Corn Law had been successful in keeping up 
the price of corn; but to this it had been replied 
that the price of wheat when the present Corn 
Law was passed was 66». — ^that it was now only 
45s, — and that it would only be B58. a quarter 
next year if we had another plentiful harvest. 
Under such circumstances, might it not be well to 
inquire what was the benefit of protection ? He 
proceeded to show that the first great evil under 
which the farmer labored was his want of capital. 
The land required an expenditure of £10 an acre, 
and had only £5 applied to it. Why could not 
capital be profitably employed on the land ? Be- 
cause there was no security of tenure, and cap- 
ital shrunk from insecurity of every sort. In En- 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 129 

gland, leases were the exception, and he was sor- 
ry to say that farmers with leases were in a still 
worse condition than those who had them not; 
for the covenants in their leases were quite ante- 
diluvian, and were not fitted for the present state 
of agricultural science. He created much amuse- 
ment by reading the covenants of a Cheshire lease, 
and contended that such covenants were nothing 
more than traps to catch the unwary, and fetters 
to bind the honest and intelligent. He advised 
the Anti-Com-Law League to purchase a model 
farm, a model homestead, model cottages, and 
model gardens ; but he would also have a model 
lease, and a farmer of intelligence, with sufficient 
capital. It was said that farmers would not now 
take leases. What did that mean? It meant 
that by the process which the landlords had adopt- 
ed, they had rendered the farmers servile, and 
therefore not anxious to become independent. 
The cause of the want of capital and the insecuri- 
ty of tenure was the Corn Laws. Free Trade in 
corn would be more beneficial to the farmers and 
the laborers than to any other class. Sir Robert 
Peel had recently admitted foreign fat cattle, but 
he refused to admit the raw material which was 
necessary to make cattle fat. He had absolutely 
reversed the course which Mr. Huskisson adopted 
with regard to manufactures. He maintained 
that all grazing and arable farmers were interest- 
ed in having a large and cheap supply of proven- 
I 



130 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

der. They were sending out vessels every day to 
Ichaboe for guano as manure, when the importa- 
tion of cheap provender, which was now prohibit- 
ed, would give every farmer a cheaper and more 
valuable species of manure, produced upon his 
farm. He described the lamentable condition of 
the laborers, and asked the landlords, after they 
had brought their dependents to so melancholy 
a state, whether they would be afraid to risk, he 
would not say this experiment, but this inquiry. 
Protection had been a failure when it reached a 
prohibitory duty of 80a. ; it had been a failure 
when it reached the pivot price of 608. ; and it 
was a failure now, when they had got a sliding- 
scale, for they had admitted the lamentable con- 
dition of their tenantry and peasantry. He called 
upon all the gentlemen who entered the House, 
not as politicians, but as the farmers' friends, to 
support his motion, which was intended for their 
benefit, and not for their inj ury. The motion was, 
like its precursors, though ably supported by the 
present Earl Grey, then Lord Howick, and others, 
negatived by a considerable majority. 

A great concession to the Free Trade cause 
was made in the course of this session. Lord 
John Russell brought forward a set of resolutions 
on the condition of the laboring classes. He 
stated that he could not now recommend the fixed 
duty of eight shillings which he had proposed in 
1841. He supposed no one would propose a 



1 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 131 

smaller duty than four shillings ; he himself, if it 
were his affair, should propose one of four, five, 
or six shillings. Sidney Herbert, too, a member 
of the ministry, talked in terms of deprecation 
of the agricultural interest coming to Parliament 
" whining for protection." Cobden and the Free 
Traders made abundant use of this expression, 
which, if it implied any thing at all, involved their 
whole case and the justice of their claims. The 
farmers all over England read the reported ex- 
pression — " whining for protection" — with dis- 
may. 

The Free Trade triumph was now fast ap-^ 
preaching. Physical facts precipitated it. It re- 
mains for us to narrate with brevity the conclud- 
ing act of that great drama in which Richard 
Cobden was the principal actor. The summer 
of 1845 was a continuous rainfall. The sun was 
scarcely seen from May until the summer of the 
succeeding year. Men began to fear for the har- 
vest, and to calculate how much foreign dry 
wheat would be needed to mix with the English 
moist and soddened grain. Then it appeared 
that all over Europe the harvest would be a 
very deficient one, and dependence could only be 
placed on America. Another terrible calamity 
impended. Cottiers and market-gardeners began 
to notice brown spots appearing on the leaves of 
the potato plants. It appeared that this indica- 
tion invariably proved that the roots were putrid 



182 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

and rotten. The League, the while, redoubled its 
exertions. They decreed a levy of £250,000, of 
which <£6 2,000 were subscribed at one meeting. 
At a great demonstration in Manchester, in Oc- 
tober, Mr. Cobden said there was only one reme- 
dy for the famine which threatened our island 
— only one means of averting the misery, starva- 
tion, and death of millions in Ireland. The ports 
must be opened. He referred to the rumors of 
a new Corn Law, and said that some delusive 
modification would be made unless the country 
declared against either a fixed duty or a reduced 
sliding-scale. He thus concluded: "We must 
not relax in our labors ; on the contrary, we must 
be more zealous, more energetic, more laborious, 
than we ever yet have been. When the enemy 
is wavering, then is the time to press upon him. 
I call, then, on all who have any sympathy with 
our cause, who have any promptings of humanity, 
or who feel any interest in the well-being of their 
fellow-men, all who have apprehensions of scarci- 
ty and privations, to come forward to avert this 
horrible destiny — this dreadfully impending visit- 
ation." 

Valuable accessions continued to be made to 
the League. Lord Ashley declared against the 
Corn Laws. Lord Morpeth joined the League. 
Lord John Russell wrote from Edinburgh to his 
constituents in the city of London a letter con- 
taining a complete recantation of his fixed-duty 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 133 

plan. Meanwhile the cabinet frequently met, 
and there were rumors of disagi'eements among 
its members. Sir Robert Peel and three of his 
colleagues wished to throw open the ports, but 
the majority of the fninisters dissented, and he 
withdrew the proposition. On the 4th of De- 
cember, the Times astounded the country by de- 
claring that Parliament would be summoned in 
January for the purpose of repealing the Com 
Laws. It was hotly and furiously assailed by 
the Tory prints, and its assertion flatly denied 
even by the papers generally believed to be ad- 
mitted to the largest share of the confidence of 
ministers. But the Times quietly and pertina- 
ciously adhered to and reiterated its statement : 
" We adhere," said the l^m^s, " to our original 
announcement, that Parliament will meet early 
in January, and that a repeal of the Corn Laws 
will be proposed in one house by Sir Robert 
Peel, and in the other by the Duke of Welling- 
ton." It was believed that the duke had been 
most unwillingly, and at the last moment, per- 
suaded by Peel, and only then by the statement 
of the premier that if he did not repeal the Corn 
Laws he must resign, and recommend her majes- 
ty to send for Mr. Cobden. 

The royal speech at the opening of the session 
suggested an inquiry whether there might not 
still be a remission '^ of the existing duties upon 
many articles, the produce or manufacture of 



134 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

other countries/' Large reductions in taxation 
on tallow, timber, silks, sugar, and other articles 
were announced. On the 27th of January, these 
remissions, and also the ministerial intentions 
with regard to the Corn Laws, were promul- 
gated. Peel proposed to admit all agricultural 
produce used for cattle-feed duty free, colonial- 
grown wheat was to pay a mere nominal duty, 
and protection to cease totally in three years; 
the delay being granted to enable the farmers to 
arrange for the new state of things. In the in- 
terval, the duties would be materially reduced. 
The League at once gave their whole strength to 
the support of the scheme. Cobden appeared 
but seldom in the final Corn-Law- debates of 
1846. He had seriously impaired his health by 
his indefatigable exertions in the cause of cheap 
food, and he was frequently, especially just before 
the final triumph, absent from the House. In a 
great speech delivered in the course of the dis- 
cussion which immediately followed the ministe- 
rial statement, he defended the policy of the 
League by which they had multiplied county vo- 
ters by the purchase of freeholds, and the alloca- 
tion of them in small lots. '^ Let it come to the 
worst," said he ; " carry on the opposition to this 
measure for three years more ; yet there is a plan 
in operation much maligned by some honorable 
gentlemen opposite, and still more maligned in 
another place, but which, the more the shoe 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 136 

pinches, and the more you wince at it, the more 
we like it out of doors. Now, I say, we have 
confronted this difficulty, and are prepared to 
meet it. We are calling into exercise the true 
old English forms of the Constitution of five cen- 
turies' antiquity, and we intend that the ancient 
forty-shilling freehold franchise shall countervail 
this innovation of yours in the Reform Bill. You 
think that there is something revolutionary in 
this. Why, you are the innovators and the revo- 
lutionists who introduced this new franchise into 
the Reform Bill. But I believe that it is perfect- 
ly understood by the longest heads among your 
party that we have a power out of doors to meet 
this difficulty. You should bear in mind that less 
than one half of the money invested in the sav- 
ings' banks, laid out at a better interest in the 
purchase of freeholds, would give qualifications to 
more persons than your 150,000 tenant-farmers. 
But you say that the League is purchasing votes 
and giving away the franchise. No, no, we are 
not quite so rich as that ; but be assured that if 
you prolong the contest for three or four years — 
which you can not do — ^if, however, it comes to the 
worst, we have the means in our power to meet 
the difficulty, and are prepared to use them." 

With mingled ridicule and good-humor he de- 
scribed the various Protectionist terrors and de- 
lusions which still filled rural and Tory minds. 
He said, " The working-classes, not believing that 



lae LJF£ OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

wages rise and fall with the price of bread, when 
yon tell them that they are to have corn at 25«. 
a quarter, instead of being frightened, are nib- 
bing their hands with satisfaction. They are not 
frightened at the visions which you present to 
their eyes of a big loaf, seeing that they expect 
to get more money, and bread at half the price. 
And then the danger of having your land thrown 
out of cultivation ! Why, what would the men 
in smock frocks in the south of England say to 
that ? They would say, * We shall get our land 
for potato-ground at a halfpenny a lug, instead 
of paying threepence or fourpence for it.' These 
fallacies have all been disposed of; and if you 
lived more in the world — more in contact with 
public opinion, and less within that charmed cir- 
cle which you think the world, but which is real- 
ly nothing but a clique ; if you gave way less to 
the excitement of clubs — less to the buoyancy 
which arises from talking to each other as to the 
effect of some smart speech in which a minister 
has been assailed, you would see that it was mere 
child's play to attempt to baulk the intelligence 
of the country on this great question, and you 
would not have talked as you have talked for the 
last eleven days." Considerable majorities car- 
ried the bill through its varied stages, and it had 
passed the Lords ere the end of May. 

Peel gracefully acknowledged the right of Cob- 
den to be considered the real author of the meas- 



1 



THE VICTORY OF THE LEAGUE. 137 

ure : " The name which ought to be, and will be 
associated with the success of these measures, is 
the name of one who, acting, I believe, from pure 
and disinterested motives, has, with untiring en- 
ergy, made appeals to our reason, and has en- 
forced those appeals with an eloquence the more 
to be admired because it was unaffected and un- 
adorned ; the name which ought to be chiefly as- 
sociated with the success of these measures is the 
name of Richaed Cobden." . 

The League had accomplished its work. It was 
formally dissolved at a great meeting at Manches- 
ter. Mr. Cobden addressed it, and congratulated 
his audience not only on the success achieved, but 
on the instruction communicated to the people, 
which would render it impossible ever again to 
impose the Corn Laws. Of Peel he said : " If he 
has lost office, he has gained a country. For my 
part, I would rather descend into private life with 
that last measure of his, which led to his discom- 
fiture, in my hand, than mount to the highest 
pinnacle of human power." Referring to the 
labors of himself and his colleagues, he said: 
" Many people will think that we have our reward 
in the applause and eclat of public meetings ; but 
I declare that it is not so with me, for the inherent 
reluctance I have to address public meetings is 
so great, that I do not even get up to present a 
petition to the House of Commons without re- 
luctance. I therefore hope I may be believed 



138 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

when I say that if this agitation terminates now, 
it will be very acceptable to my feelings ; but if 
there should be the same necessity, the same feel- 
ing which impelled me to take the part I have 
taken, will impel me to a new agitation — ay, and 
with tenfold more vigor, after having had a little 
time to recruit my health." He moved " That, 
an Act of Parliament having been passed provid- 
ing for the abolition of the Corn Laws in Febru- 
ary, 1849, it is deemed expedient to suspend the 
active operation of the Anti-Cora-Law League ; 
and the executive council in Manchester is hereby 
requested to take the necessary steps for making 
up and closing the affairs of the League with as 
little delay as possible." Mr. Bright seconded 
the resolution, and it was carried. 

Mr. Prentice, himself one of the council of the 
League, says : " An air of grave solemnity had 
spread over the meeting as it drew to a close. 
There were five hundred gentlemen who had often 
met together during the great contest, and not- 
withstanding their exultation over a victory 
achieved, the feeling stole over their minds that 
they were never to meet again. Mr. Cobden re- 
minded them that they were under obligations 
to the queen, who was said to have favored their 
cause as one of humanity and justice, and three 
hearty cheers in her honor loyally closed the pro- 
ceedings." 



FACTORY LEGISLATION. 139 



CHAPTER VII. 

FACTORY LEGISLATION. — ^THE TEN-HOUES' BILL. 

What has been called the " Condition of En- 
gland Question" was being discussed all the time 
of the League agitation, and, indeed, both before 
and after it. Many different sects were there, 
and each one had quite as many leaders as the 
aggregate number of the sects. There were 
Chartists, and many ramifications of them ; So- 
cialists, not perhaps so divided, and although 
holding what society considers a more " leveling" 
opinion than even Chartism, yet composed of ma- 
terials which were personally more respectable, 
and which have exercised collaterally much more 
important influences. Cobden's grand single- 
minded opinion among the rival doctors, as in- 
deed has already sufficiently appeared in preced- 
ing pages, was, that the first thing was cheap bread 
(or, rather, this as the first fruits of farther Free 
Trade), and after that other matters might be 
considered. To Socialism he was ever opposed. 
Indeed, his cardinal doctrine of free, universal, 
and unrestricted competition is simply the direct 
antithesis of the cardinal doctrine of Socialism. 
Chartism in its rough form he never indicated any 



140 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

favor for. In fact, in his agitation he had fully 
as much trouble to encounter at the hands of the 
Chartists as any other class. At the same time, it 
must be admitted that his political opinions rest- 
ed upon precisely the same radical foundation as 
Chartism, which is neither more nor less than the 
doctrine of the absolute political equality of every 
citizen, but without the admixture of any so-called 
" social" element. 

From one phase of Chartism — or perhaps we 
should speak a little more accurately if we said 
from certain quondam Chartist leaders — sprang 
a definite public movement, in which afterward, 
strange to say, they found themselves associated 
with one of the proudest noblemen in England, 
and on which Mr. Cobden entertained, and ex- 
pressed manfully, as was his wont, very definite 
opinions. Our elder readers, at least, will not 
need the information that we refer to the agita- 
tion about the Factory and Ten-Hours' Bill ques- 
tion. Perhaps we shall best economize our space, 
and at the same time conduce to clearness, if we 
leave Mr. Cobden and his views altogether out 
of sight for one or two pages, confine ourselves 
to the delineation of the opinions and proceedings 
of the friends of legislation in this direction, and 
then recur to Mr. Cobden, and discover his opin- 
ions, and the reasons he gave for them. 

The year 1838 chronicled the avowed and open 
beginning of Chartism, when a great meeting, at- 



FACTORY LEGISLATION. 141 

tended by 200,000 persons, was held on Kersal 
Moor, in Lancashire. The leaders of the Chart- 
ists in these early days were Stephens, a Wes- 
leyan minister, who suffered eighteen months' im- 
prisonment in Knutsford jail for certain incendi- 
ary expressions alleged to have been uttered by 
him on this occasion. Secondly, Feargus O'Con- 
nor, of whom Miss Martineau says — and we not 
only quote, but endorse her words — " It is very 
probable that from the moment when Feargus 
O'Connor first placed himself at the head of a 
Chartist procession to the last stoppage of his 
land scheme, he may have fancied himself a sort 
of savior of the working xslasses ; but if so, he 
must bear the contempt and compassionate dis- 
approval of all men of ordinary sense and knowl- 
edge, as the only alternative from their utter rep- 
robation. Thirdly, Richard Oastler, a bland, hos- 
pitable, and generous-hearted Yorkshire "squire," 
as his adherents invariably called him, rather 
than a man fitted for popular leadership, but yet, 
above all others, the man most entitled to be con- 
sidered the author of the Ten-Hours' Bill. Last- 
ly, John Fielden, of Todmorden, also a man of big- 
ger heart than head, although the latter was by no 
means deficient in capacity. The last two named 
dissociated themselves from Chartism whenever it 
began to be turbulent ; Oastler being known as 
the advocate out of doors of a government bill for 
the compulsory limitation of the hours of labor 



142 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

in factories to ten hours a day, while Fielden and 
Lord Ashley, now Lord Shaftesbury, pleaded the 
same cause on the floor of the House. But Fiel- 
den combined the two advocacies — in the House 
and out of it. To narrate at any length the whole 
history of the agitation would be to turn this bi- 
ography — or at least a chapter of it — into a his- 
tory. We only reproduce sufficient of its inci- 
dents to make the opinions of Mr. Cobden on the 
question, subsequently to be adduced by ns, suf- 
ficiently clear even to those whose first informa- 
tion on the subject is derived from these pages. 

Lord Ashley had much support for his proposal 
both in and out of the House. Such towns as 
Manchester were placarded with bills with these 
words : " Less Work ! More Wages ! Sign for 
Ten Hours I" This was quite enough to raise 
the enthusiasm of the operatives ; and in the 
two houses of Parliament some high Conserva- 
tives believed in the bill because they believed 
in the parental character of the government. 
Some of the Radicals, again, went for it on the 
ground that those poor who were not represent- 
ed in the Legislature deserved, on that special 
and peculiar ground, the protection of the state. 
Others again — and probably a more numerous 
constituent part of the supporters (we mean here, 
of course, the upper-class supporters) of the bill 
— supported it because it enabled them to annoy, 
vilify, and defame the League, all of whom were 



FACTORY LEGISLATION. 143 

represented as the most horrid and hellish ty- 
rants over their " hands." The members of the 
League, and also many of the more sagacious of 
the observant public, thought it somewhat strange 
that Lord Ashley should develop so much human- 
ity for Lancashire operatives whose families were 
earning £3 per week, while his father's Dorset- 
shire laborers received no more than 105. It ap- 
peared, too, that he himself knew very little or 
nothing of the vilified " manufacturing system," 
and was more than once made the dupe of the 
vilest epistolary information. And in the vilifi- 
cation of the manufacturers, or rather of the 
Leaguers — for here lay the animus — the Ten- 
Hours' Bill men either disdained not, or were to 
their shame compelled to receive, the aid of the 
most unscrupulous man who ever sat and shout- 
ed in the English House of Commons, whose 
name we will not here mention. The member to 
whom we allude accused Mr. Cobden of paying 
his hands on the Truck System — that is, of com- 
pelling them to receive a portion of their wages 
in goods, from which their master had a profit. 
Cobden actually found it necessary — so hot was 
the acrimony over the combined Corn-Law and 
Ten-Hours controversy — to have the following 
written voucher sent from his print-works, and he 
read it in his place in the House : 

"You are aware that* our wages are paid every 
Saturday morning, and our rule is that every per 



144 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

son in the works shall be paid by eight o'clock 
with money, so that they can lay oat their money 
to the best .advantage when and where they 
please." 

Even this denial did not suffice for the ^'honora- 
ble member." Eleven days after, " he asked Mr. 
Cobden if he would deny that he kept cows, and 
supplied the people with milk from them, deduct- 
ing the amount from their wages ?" 

We tell the sequel exactly as it appears in 
Hansard^ with only the reservation which we 
have already specified : 

"Mr. Cobden. Does the honorable member 
charge me with pursuing the Truck System ?" 

" Mr. had said, ' Would the honorable 

member deny it?' If he did, it was his duty to 
take that denial; but he would give his reasons 
for having asked the question, and his authority 
for having done so." 

''Mr. Cobden hoped that the House would give 
him credit for not wishing to introduce personal 
discussion into its debates. It seemed to him 
that the statement which had gone abroad in the 
Times as a charge against him was withdrawn. 
He was not, therefore, directly called upon to an- 
swer it, but he would treat it as a charge made 
against him last night which was not adhered to 
to-day. If, however, the House would allow him, 
he would state a few facts in reference to the 
business with which he was connected. That 



1 



FACTORY LEGISLATION. 145 

business could not be carried on without the cou- 
Bumption of large quantities of cow-dung. He 

was now letting the honorable member for 

into the arcana of the calico-printing trade. As 
many hundred tons of dung were used in this 
trade, it was necessary for manufacturers to keep 
great numbers of cows. Now it so happened 
that his printing-works being situated close to a 
town, it was found more convenient to buy the 
requisite quantity of dung than to keep cows, and, 
therefore, the insinuations of the honorable mem- 
ber for were not only untrue, but desti- 
tute of the shadow of a foundation. If the House 
would allow him, he would remind it that those 
charges were evidently got up for the purpose 
of distracting the attention of the public from a 
great and important question. He must confess 
that he did not understand how the alleged mis- 
conduct of mill-owners and manufacturers could 
properly form a part of discussions on the Corn 
Laws. If it was true, as the honorable member 
for had stated, that the master manufac- 
turers were tyrants to their workmen, that could 
be no reason why their sufferings should be add- 
ed to by increasing the price of food." 

It was only a very few persons indeed who 
defended the Truck System. These few alleged 
that there were exceptional occasions on which 
it was an advantage to the operative ; thus, where 
places of marketing were distant, or, if accessible, 
K 



1 



146 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

where the goods were inferior, it might be de- 
sirable that the master should become purveyor 
as well as employer. The obvious common-sense 
answer to this plea was, that the temptation to 
extortion was so great that it were better to get 
quit of the system altogether, than retain it on a 
pretext so illusory and so easily taken advantage 
of. For our purpose it is sufficient to remark, 
that Mr. Cobden's annoyance at the imputation 
was so evident as to prove irrefragably his detes- 
tation of the plan. With the Ten-Hour question 
the case was quite different. We have already 
indicated some of the pleas by which certain of 
the advocates of the legislative restriction of the 
hours of labor defended their position. The oth- 
ers we shall presently gather when we reproduce 
the pith of Mr. Cobden's counter - arguments. 
Meanwhile, it is merely necessary to allude to the 
steps connected with the passing of the various 
acts, and the nature of their provisions. The 
ultimate success of Lord Ashley's measure bade 
fair to be frustrated by disputes between the 
Churchmen and the Dissenters over clauses about 
the religious education of those whose hours of 
labor it was proposed to diminish. These at last 
were overcome, and, with the aid of the respect- 
ive governments in office at the passing of the 
various acts, they were at last placed on the stat- 
ute-book. 

The Ten-Hours' Bill was passed in June, 1847, 



FACTORY LEGISLATION. 147 

while, as we shall see in the next chapter, Mr. 
Cobden was out of England ; it prescribes that 
no person under the age of eighteen, and no fe- 
male above the age of eighteen, shall be employed 
in any factory for more than ten hours in one day, 
nor for more than fifty-eight in any one week. 
A supplementary act prescribed that no such 
child or female should work before six A.M., or 
after six P.M. ; or, if so, only to recover lost time, 
and then not after seven. There were other reg- 
. ulations about meal-times, fencing of machinery, 
etc. A previous act, that of 1844, had already 
enacted that certain hours should be reserved for 
education, and that no children under ten should 
work in textile factories. 

It will be at once seen that on the main ques- 
tion, namely, the limitation of the hours of labor 
of adults, whether in factories or elsewhere, Mr. 
Cobden's views have not to this day been legis- 
latively reversed, with this exception, that mills 
can not be kept going without juvenile aid. It 
will be enough, therefore, if we give merely in 
two or three sentences the gist of one speech as 
sample of others delivered by him, in which he 
opposed Lord Ashley's Ten-Hours' Bill : He ridi- 
culed the idea that for ten hours' work a man 
could earn more than he could for twelve. And 
if that were so, the loss of two hours' pay would 
be a more serious injury than the saving of two 
hours' work. People were generally paid in the 



148 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

cotton districts by the piece. How, then, could 
such legislation afect them favorably, so far as 
wages were concerned ? It had been said that 
the manufacturers could so increase the speed of 
their machinery as that the same work might be 
done as heretofore in twelve hours. He had 
made inquiries, and found that precisely the con- 
trary was the case. There was a tendency to di- 
minish speed, for the high rate of speed at which 
they had been working caused more loss in waste 
than saving in wages. The other argument, . 
which cut the ground entirely from the former, 
was, that diminished production would give far- 
ther employment to labor, and cause one sixth 
more mills to be built. On the contrary, the fact 
was, our present sale of cotton goods arose from 
and was owing to their cheapness. If we in- 
creased our prices we should lose our customers, 
and in foreign countries the handloom, distaff, and 
spindle would be once more at work. The only 
real way to shorten the hours of labor was to re- 
move the restrictions on industry. He did not 
mean by that to say, as had been said by others, 
that a reduction in the price of bread would alone 
afford compensation to the laboring classes for a 
reduction in the hours of labor ; he did not see in 
the mere reduction in the price of wheat, or sug- 
ar, or coffee, the great means of enabling the 
operatives to get on with fewer hours of labor. 
" But," said he, " if we enlarged the various 



FACTORY LEGISLATION. 149 

markets for our productions, if we allowed a full 
and free exchange of our commodities for the 
corn, and sugar, and coffee of other countries, this 
would be the practical means of raising the prac- 
tical value of our products, and consequently of 
raising the value of the labor which produced 
them ; so that, indeed, ten hours' labor might be 
as good or better than twelve hours' now for the 
pocket of the laborer, and produce as much profit 
to the employer." 

Thus it clearly appears Mr. Cobden was not 
against ten hours' labor in itself, or, indeed, any 
prudent and possible reduction of the hours of la- 
bor. In fact, this very condition, which he pre- 
dicted in 1844, in these last sentences, as render- 
ing a reduction of labor possible and advisable, 
had come about — through him more than all oth- 
er men put together — some years ere he died. 
And- many facts around us to-day, both in the la- 
bor market and the food market, prove to us that 
both his wishes were fulfilled, namely, the attain- 
ment of the end which he approved and desired, 
and the adoption of the proper method of seek- 
ing after it. 



150 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

PEACE, BETEENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 

The devotion with which Mr. Cobden entered 
into the Free Trade agitation had been most in- 
jurious to his own personal and pecuniary inter- 
ests. He had separated from his early partners, 
and associated with himself his brothers, who con- 
tinued the printing works at Chorley. Miss Mar- 
tineau sets down his clear money loss at £20,000 ; 
and we think the estimate a very moderate one. 
A very short time before the final triumph of his 
efforts, he had resolved to retire from the agita- 
tion and devote himself to retrieve the fortunes of 
his business. He actually wrote to Mr. Bright, 
who was in Scotland at the time, declaring this 
intention. Mr. Bright at once hastened to Man- 
chester, to urge his friend to reconsider his de- 
termination ; and he succeeded. We have seen 
that it was Cobden who enlisted Bright as his 
chief lieutenant in the cause. He brought him 
into the ranks at the beginning of the contest ; 
Bright succeeded in keeping Cobden to his post 
on the verge of its termination. The council of 
the League, and the Free Traders generally, de- 
termined, when their labors were done and their 
organization dissolved, to mark in' a substantial 



PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 153 

way not only their sense of Cobden's services, but 
their acknowledgment of the pecuniary sacrifices 
which they had involved. The munificent sum of 
.£80,000 was subscribed and presented to Cobden, 
it being understood that by thus securing his in- 
dependence he would be enabled to relinquish 
his business connections, and devote those ener- 
gies which had already done so much for the land 
to the general work of legislation and statesman- 
ship. A portion of this fund was applied to the 
purchase of the house in which Cobden was born, 
and a small estate surrounding it. It was under- 
stood that he invested a large portion of the bal- 
ance in American railway securities. For some 
years they were unremunerative ; and many im- 
pertinent and offensive statements, chiefly ema- 
nating from the monopolist regions against which 
Cobden had employed his victorious lance, were 
made about a man who undertook to manage a 
nation's affairs not being able to control his own, 
and the like. It was even gravely argued that 
Mr. Cobden had not a right to do as he would 
with his own ; and he was reproached by persons 
who had not contributed one penny toward the 
testimonial fund for having employed his money 
in any other way than in investments native to 
the English soil. About fifteen years after the 
date at which we have arrived in our narrative, 
while Cobden was absent from England, seeking 
a restoration of his health in Algeria, a few gen- 



164 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

tlemeD, without making any public appeal, sub- 
scribed among themselves a sum stated at the 
time to amount to £40,000, with the purpose of 
requesting Mr.Cobden's acceptance of it as a sup- 
plementary offering to that formerly contributed. 
The Times^ with extremely questionable taste, 
came out with a leading article, in which this in- 
tention was announced, and indulging generally 
in a sneering and contemptuous tone. This arti- 
cle was, we believe, the first announcement to Cob- 
den himself of the purpose of his admirers. He at 
once wrote home, stating that under no circum- 
stances could he accept the proposed gift. We 
are glad to observe, as we prepare these sheets, 
that a movement has been successfully made at 
Manchester to raise £20,000 as a national tribute 
to Mr. Cobden's memory, the sum to be settled 
upon his widow and daughters. It is only just to 
Mr. Cobden's reputation as a man capable of guid- 
ing his own affairs to add, that we believe — and 
we derive our belief from authorities whom we 
accept as perfectly competent — that Mr. Cobden's 
American investment, which was in bonds or oth- 
er securities of the Illinois Central Railway, had 
turned out to be productive for some time before 
his death. The investment now yields six per 
cent, return, and will, doubtless, as the population 
and traffic of that fertile Western state are aug- 
mented, become still more productive. 

The next few years of Mr. Cobden's life present 



PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 155 

him, in Parliament and out of it, with his tongue 
constantly^ and occasionally with his pen, as the 
consistent supporter of peace, reform, retrench- 
ment, and the introduction of arbitration, instead 
of war, as the accepted settler of international 
difficulties. After the Free Trade triumph he 
sought a season of repose. His health had given 
way, and he repaired to the Continent to seek 
its restoration. Ere he departed Lord John Rus- 
sell offered him a seat in the cabinet, but he de- 
clined it. He visited in succession France, Spain, 
Italy, Germany, and Russia. Wherever he went 
he was most warmly received. Complimentary 
banquets were got up, and the warmest eulogies 
passed upon the great breaker-down of the ri- 
valries of nations by the most distinguished men 
of their respective countries. In his absence 
there was a general election. He was returned 
for the West Riding as well as for Stockport, 
and chose the more distinguished seat. He came 
back to England in time to contribute his valu- 
able co-operation to the government of Lord 
John Russell in their extension of the principle 
of Free Trade to sugar and the navigation laws, 
and other minor sources of the revenue. After 
an absence of his name from the pages of Han- 
sard for a twelvemonth, we find him in the spring 
of 1848 breaking ground again by supporting 
Mr. Labouchere's proposal for the repeal of the 
navigation laws. The old principles were brought 



156 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

up afresh, the application of them only being dif- 
ferent. He showed, by an appeal to the pub- 
lished evidence, that we can build ships better 
than foreign countries, and at as cheap a rate ; 
sail them as well ; take greater care of the car- 
goes, and secure greater punctuality and dis- 
patch. The only drawbacks were of a moral 
kind — insubordination and drunkenness; but 
they would yield to better culture. He repu- 
diated the boastful language which he so often 
heard respecting England's naval supremacy. 
He must say that those boasts were generally ut- 
tered after dinner, and therefore they might be 
the result of a little extra excitement. The abo- 
lition of the navigation laws would not affect the 
naval condition of Great Britain. But was this 
a time to be always singing "Rule Britannia?" 
If honorable members opposite had served with 
him on the Committee on the Army, Navy, and 
Ordnance Estimates, they would have a just sense 
of the cost of that song. The constant assertion 
of maritime supremacy was calculated to provoke 
kindred passions in other nations ; whereas, if 
Great Britain enunciated the doctrines of peace, 
she would invoke similar sentiments from the 
rest of the world. Mr. Disraeli made a sarcastic 
reply, in which he, with some humor, stated that 
he would not sing " Rule Britannia" for fear of 
distressing Mr. Cobden, but he did not think the 
House would encore " Yankee Doodle." 



PEACE, RETRENCHxMENT, AND REFORM. 157 

About this time the nation got into one of its ^ 
extraordinary panics about a French invasion. 
A letter by the Duke of Wellington, addressed 
to Sir John Burgoyne, in which the old warrior 
advocated the enrollment of militia to the number 
of 150,000, and other costly measures of precau- 
tion, was made public. Lord EUesmere and oth- 
ers joined hi the cry. Cobden chose the occasion 
of a great Free Trade demonstration at Manches- 
ter about the navigation laws to show the unreal 
foundation of the alarm. His speech was unusu- 
ally jocular, as these sentences will testify : "Are 
the French, or the majority of them, thieves, pick- 
pockets, and murderers? If they were, could 
they exist as an organized community — a com- 
munity as orderly as ours? for we have had as 
little tumult in France during the last five or six 
years as in England. I see another paper in Lon- 
don, a weekly paper, the editor of which used to 
write with some degree of gravity, but I sup- ' 
pose that he is so panic-stricken that he has lost 
all his wits ; that paper tells us that the next war 
with France will be made without a declaration 
of war, and that truly we have to protect our 
queen at Osborne House against those ruffianly 
Frenchmen, who may come without notice and 
carry off her majesty. What a lesson has our 
courageous queen read to such people as those! 
She went over to France unattended, unprotect- 
ed, and threw herself upon the shore there at the 



158 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Chateau d'Eu, literally in a bathing-machine. 
Now there is either great courage on the one 
side, or great cowardice on the other. But this 
is a sort of periodical visitation that we have. I 
sometimes compare it to the cholera, for I believe 
the last infliction we had of this kind came about 
the time of the cholera ; and then we were to have 
had an invasion from the Russians, as our friend 
has told you. I am rather identified with and 
interested in that apprehended invasion, for it 
was that which first made me an author and a 
public man — and I believe it is quite possible, if 
it had not been for the insanity on the part of 
some of our newspapers — and some of them that 
are now just as insane — who told us that the 
Russians were coming, some foggy day, to land 
near Yarmouth — if it had not been for that in- 
sanity on the part of some of our newspapers, 
I should not have turned author, written pam- 
phlets, or become a public man, and I might have 
been a thrifty, painstaking calico-printer to this 
day." 

In this year, for the first time since the com- 
mencement of his career in Parliament, Mr. Cob- 
den pronounced in his place in the House opin- 
ions decidedly favorable to the causes of large 
electoral reform, secret voting, and the shortening 
of the duration of Parliaments. The occasion was 
a general motion by Mr. Hume, comprising all 
these suggested improvements. Cobden was one 



PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 159 

of the chief speakers in the debate which ensued. 
He had refused, it will be recollected, so long as 
he believed the Corn Laws to be the crying evil 
of the country, to mix up the Reform, or any 
other question, with the advocacy of Free Trade. 
Even when his warm friend and ally, Joseph 
Sturge, proposed to combine the extended suf- 
frage with the Anti-Corn-Law questions, Cobden, 
Avhile not discouraging him, elected for himself to 
devote himself exclusively to his first line. Now 
that his efforts in this field were successful, he was 
consistently free to allot due prominence to his 
views on Parliamentary Reform. His response 
was most ample and loyal whenever challenged 
to show his real colors. 

Mr. Hume's motion came on on the. 20th of 
June. It had been previously set down for the 
23d of May. But when the worthy economist of 
Montrose rose in his place after eleven o'clock on 
the night of that day, he craved leave to postpone 
his motion on account of the lateness of the hour. 
Feargus O'Connor, in his mad way, insisted on 
the debate being inaugurated and proceeded with. 
When he sat down, Mr. Cobden rose, and ad- 
dressed the House for a few minutes. We hold 
his speech to be eminently worthy of entire repro- 
duction, for it is not only important as an auto- 
biographical and also an historical utterance ; not 
only is it peculiarly illustrative of the wise, cau- 
tious, and conservative element in Cobden's char- 



160 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

acter, but it is worthy of transfer to our pages for 
present political use in our own days. 

" My conviction is that there can be but one 
opinion on the part of every sincere, honest, and 
intelligent man in the country, that the honorable 
member for Montrose is entirely blameless for the 
delay which has taken place in the discussion of 
his motion. I think that no reasonable man 
would suppose that any one having to conduct so 
important a question would bring it before the 
House at a quarter past eleven o'clock. The ob- 
ject of my honorable friend is that this question 
may be fully discussed ; and if it had begun at five 
o'clock, I doubt whether one evening would have 
sufficed for a full discussion of it. The honorable 
gentleman who has just spoken has undertaken 
to give advice, in no very courteous or compli- 
mentary terms, to my honorable friend ; but if I 
were to venture to give my honorable friend ad- 
vice, it would be this — that in conducting this 
important question, he should not follow the ad- 
vice, still less the example, of the honorable mem- 
ber who calls himself the leader of the working 
classes of this country, but who, after undertak- 
ing for nine years to lead them in the advocacy 
of what is called ' The People's Charter' — [Mr. 
F. O'Connor : Fifteen years] — who, as the hon- 
orable gentleman stated the other day at a meet- 
ing of his convention, had, after, as he now says, 
fifteen years of leadership and advocacy of the 



1 



PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 161 

' People's Charter,' met with but one man in the 
House of Commons upon whom, in his absence, 
he could depend for the advocacy of his princi- 
ples. [' Name.'] I can not name the honorable 
member; but I think that is sufficient to warn 
the honorable member for Montrose to beware 
how he conforms himself to the tactics and ad- 
vice coming from the honorable member for Not- 
tingham. I think, if any thing could open the 
eyes of the working classes of the country to 
a just sense of the value of the honorable mem- 
ber for Nottingham's services, it is the position 
in which he has been placed by every honorable 
member, except one, in this House, after fifteen 
years of leadership. I have had long experience 
of that honorable member, and perhaps he will 
not accuse me of being actuated by any feelings 
of hostility toward him — ^for certainly no honor- 
able member has lavished so many compliments 
upon me as he has done — but I say, that my ex- 
perience of the conduct of the honorable mem- 
ber out of this House, and of the spirit and man- 
ner in which he has tried to array the working 
classes against every man who could effectually 
assist them in carrying forward the objects in 
which the honorable member himself professed 
to wish them success, convinces me that he has 
done more to retard the political progress of the 
working classes of England than any other public 
man that ever lived in this country. I speak from 
L 



162 UF£ OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

loDg experience of that honorable member ; and 
no man has more right to speak of him than I 
have upon that subject. For seven years I had 
the direct and relentless hostility of that honor- 
able member upon what, I believe, was strictly a 
question affecting the interests of the working 
classes of this country — ^I mean the abolition of 
the tax upon their food. That honorable gentle- 
man did all he could to array the working classes 
against me, and against those who acted with me. 
I had more hostility to encounter from that hon- 
orable member than from the Duke of Backing- 
ham and all his party. And what is the result ? 
I never fraternized with the honorable gentle- 
man or his myrmidons. No one can for a mo- 
ment charge me with ever having done so. I 
always treated the honorable member as the lead- 
er of a small, insignificant, and powerless party. 
I never identified him or his party with the 
working class of this country. I ever treated 
him, as I do now, not as the leader of the work- 
ing classes, but as the leader of a small and or- 
ganized faction. I have set the honorable gentle- 
man publicly at defiance, and all his followers ; 
and I never failed to beat them by votes whenever 
I met them at public meetings in^ the open air in 
any county in England. In any advocacy I may 
enter upon for the working classes, as I never 
have, so I never will, offer to fraternize with the 
honorable member and his organized followers ; 



PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 163 

and if he says, as he has said, that he is prepar- 
ing his followers to go along with us, I say to 
him again, that with him and his Chartists, as an 
organized body, I never will fraternize. I have 
set them at defiance before, and I set them at 
defiance now. I would advise my friend, the 
honorable member for Montrose, not to be de- 
luded by any thing which may fall from the hon- 
orable member as to the power he has over the 
working classes of this country. He was weak 
before, he is harmless now; and whatever he 
may threaten or promise will be equally power- 
less and uninfluential. Ferocious as was his at- 
tack upon my honorable friend, the member for 
Montrose, there is no one who will not be as well 
disposed as ever to continue to my honorable 
friend that confidence which he has always en- 
joyed from the great mass of the people of this 
country." 

Mr. Cobden was of course a strenuous sup- 
porter of Mr. Henry Berkeley's annual motions on 
the Ballot. His precise views on this important 
political question of the secondary grade may be 
gathered from a summary, contained in a few 
sentences of a brief speech delivered by him in 
the same year, in reply to Lord John Russell. 
He said that he viewed the question of the Ballot 
with less interest than he had done twelve years 
previously. Had it been then adopted, it would 
have done much to put an end to that corruption 



1 



164 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

in the boroughs and sabserviency in the counties 
which they had now to deplore ; but it was too 
late now to remedy the evil, excepting by an in- 
fusion of new blood into the constituency. Still, 
he believed the ballot was the best mode of tak- 
ing the vote in this or any country, and he should 
vote for the question. The question must be on 
its last legs when no better answer could be made 
to it than that furnished by Lord John. Secret 
voting, his lordship said, was opposed to the " open 
and free constitution of the country." The mode 
of election was open, but was it free? A jury 
gave its verdict openly ; but the analogy was un- 
fortunate ; for, though a jury must be unanimous 
when it convicted, it was not necessary that it 
should be so when it did not, nor were the votes 
of each juror published. The grand jury was a 
secret tribunal. In Scotland, where the verdict 
depended upon the majority, there was no pub- 
licity of the votes of the jurors. The analogy of 
the open voting in the House of Commons did 
not apply either ; for members went there to per- 
form, by delegation, certain duties for their con- 
stituents, and they were held responsible for their 
acts ; or why were they subject to periodical elec- 
tion ? (The following, we think, was a most hap- 
py and apposite thrust.) "And how are the con- 
stituencies to form a judgment upon them if they 
do not know what they have done ? But are the 
electors responsible to non-electors ? If they are. 



PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 166 

then the non-electors must he competent to judge 
of the way in which the trust is exercised, and 
this is an argument for extending the suffrage to 
them." It was, he said, for the sake of the coun- 
ties in particular that he wished to see the Ballot 
carried into effect; for he believed that if the coun- 
ty constituencies possessed the Ballot, they would 
send some of the best representatives which the 
country afforded to that House ; and he wanted 
to see the farmer class in this country men of more 
character, dignity, and self-respect than they ever 
could be under the existing degrading system. 

We return to that class of topics which consti- 
tuted the subjects of nine tenths of Mr. Cobden's 
public appearances in the years intervening be- 
tween the termination of the Anti- Corn -Law 
struggle and the commencement of the Crimean 
War. During these years Cobden introduced 
annual, or oft-repeated motions in the House of 
Commons, seeking to bind that body to the af- 
firmation of these principles : that the national 
expenditure might be with prudence and safety 
so far reduced as to admit of a. reduction of ten 
millions of taxation, and that the stipulation of ar- 
bitration should be introduced in all international 
treaties. As means to the advocacy of these ends, 
he made some use of the press, and large use of 
the platform, and threw himself heart and soul 
into the operations of the Peace Society ; but 
he always carefully guarded himself against the 



166 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

imputation of being a " Peace-at-any-price man." 
While another great panic of a French invasion 
existed in this country in the early part of 1853, 
Cobden said, " It was not newspaper articles, or 
speeches made, but our great naval preparations, 
which really endangered our understanding with 
France, and caused uneasiness at home. If a 
friendly note were to be exchanged with the 
French government on the subject, he had no 
doubt that it would be responded to in a manner 
that would banish all suspicion. If it did not, 
he would be ready to vote £100,000,000 to resist 
a French invasion.^'* And more recently, while, 
it will be remembered, he resisted a vote of 
£2,000,000 for the defense of certain of our ar- 
senals by stone fortifications, he said, if he really 
thought they were needed and would answer, he 
would say, " Take twenty, not two millions." 

Early in 1849 Cobden proposed his two reso- 
lutions relating to the arbitration clause and the 
ten million reduction of revenue and expenditure. 
The unfortunately depressed state of the revenue 
gave the question of financial reform a very strong 
hold on the public mind. Associations advocat- 
ing retrenchment were formed in many of the 
great towns, and Cobden was sanguine that he 
could cut down the expenditure, if not quite to 
that of the normal year of Whig economic admin- 
istration — 1835 — at least to a considerably lower 
point than that at which it stood in 1848, and the 



PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 167 

subsequent years in which he renewed his resolu- 
tion. His great points were that t.he agricultural 
interest, which again complained of special bur- 
dens, could only expect to be relieved of them if 
it united with the economists in pruning the ex- 
penditure ; that the navy, was our true line of de- 
fense, and that we might with perfect safety large- 
ly reduce our military establishments and costs ; 
and that the colonies should defray the expenses 
of the maintenance of their own governments and 
external defense. In the latter view he was well 
sustained by Sir William Molesworth, who made 
this question his specialty as much as Cobden had 
made Free Trade his. It is now universally rec- 
ognized by all parties as axiomatic, although as 
yet it is rather theoretically than practically in- 
corporated in our colonial policy. 

Mr. Cobden's exertions in this direction were 
far from fruitless. Ere the close of the period of 
his public life now under our consideration, an 
offensive Militia Bill had to be withdrawn ; and 
although Prince Louis Napoleon had been elected 
President of the French Republic, ministers came 
before Parliament with the declaration that 
"large reductions had been made in the estimates 
of last year." Cobden had written, ere this, glee- 
fully to his trusty abettor, Joseph Sturge — " I 
have been delighted with the success of your 
meetings. You Peace people seem to be the only 
men who have courage just now to call a public 



ICtt LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

meeting. I always say that there is more real 
pluck in the ranks of the Quakers than in all our 
regiments of redcoats. . . . What progress 
has been made in public opinion during the last 
twelve months ! Much of it is due to the efforts 
of your Peace Society. In fact, all good things 
pull together. Free Trade, peace, financial re- 
form, equitable taxation, all are co-operating to- 
ward a common object." 

Thus modestly did Cobden write, disclaiming 
all credit himself, of "you Peace people," and 
" your Peace Society." He was himself not the 
least active, and certainly far from the least in- 
fluential, of its members. The successive annual 
Peace Congresses — unhappily interrupted by the 
Crimean War, and by the bath of blood through 
which some leading portion of the human race 
has had to wade ever since — ^now in India, again 
in Italy, in Poland, in the Scandinavian Peninsu- 
la, and in the New World — were held successive- 
ly at Brussels, Paris, Frankfort, London, Man- 
chester, and Edinburg. Cobden was present as 
a leading speaker at all of them save the first, at 
which, however, a long letter from his pen was 
read. At Paris he said, to meet certain objec- 
tions to his arbitration plan, " We do not pro- 
pose to constitute the executive department of 
government arbitrators in difficulties between 
nations. We should wish to appoint arbitrators 
to suit each particular case; for instance, in a 



PEACE, RETRENCHMENT, AND REFORM. 169 

question of naval or military etiquette, a general 
or an admiral might be selected ; in a commer- 
cial matter, a merchant, and so on." About the 
same time, in his place in Parliament, he remind- 
ed members of a number of instances in which, 
during fifty years previously, commissioners had 
been employed to adjust disputes between na- 
tions, and in no instance had such arbitration led 
to war. There was, therefore, nothing either vis- 
ionary or novel in his plan. In fact, Mr. Cobden's 
arbitration scheme and proposed reduction of na- 
tional expenditure were not only very much more 
practicable than was generally held — and if ad- 
mitted to be practicable, there could be no doubt 
of their high utility — but the principles of the 
Peace Society, of which Cobden was not ashamed 
to constitute himself the champion and exponent, 
were very different from the popular but errone- 
ous idea of them. On this point, the English 
mob (we include all classes of it) accepted their 
idea of what the Peace Society really was, not 
from its own annual and authorized documents, 
or from the explicit and definitely limited state- 
ments of men like Cobden, but from the repre- 
sentations of fanatics and lampooners. It was 
not the object of the Peace Society to proclaim 
the advent of a millennium, but rather to provide, 
during any intervals of peace which the world 
might CDJoy, practical measures to be used in lieu 
of the sword in the contingency of future dis- 



170 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

putes. Such measures were, reduction of arma- 
ments, arbitration, treaties, the propaganda of the 
doctrine of non-intervention, the development of 
all means of international communication — cheap 
postage, similarity of standards of weight, meas- 
ure, and value. These proposals, and strenuous 
measures to band together in their support all 
Christian ministers and men, and all teachers of 
youth, and the consideration of the best and 
quickest means of effecting them, were the ob- 
jects of Cobden and the Peace Society. His 
avowal of sympathy and identity with its pre- 
cepts and purposes was the only aspect of his 
life that ever exposed him to ridicule, however 
he may have been, in other points of his beliei^ 
subjected to acrimony. We are, however, strong- 
ly inclined to believe that future generations wiQ 
laud Cobden more highly for his devotion to this 
cause than for all his Free Trade triumphs, signal 
and extraordinary as these were. 



1 



EDINBURG PEACE CONFERENCE. 171 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE LAST OP THE PEACE SOCIETY CONPEEENCES. 

The writer of these pages has a vivid recollec- 
tion of the appearance of Mr. Cobden at the very 
last of these Peace Conferences, which was held 
at Edinburg at the latter end of the autumn of 
1853. Here Cobden had decidedly the laugh on 
his side. Early in that year, England had been 
in one of her periodical fears of a French invasion. 
Thrice within the limits of a very few years had 
this panic reappeared : when Prince de Joinville 
was young and bellicose; when the Duke of Wel- 
lington wrote his alarmist letter to Sir John Bur- 
goyne ; and at the close of 1852 and in the early 
part of 1853. Cobden had done all he could to 
abate the latter, as he had the former panics. 
So strongly had he felt on the subject at the be- 
ginning of this year as to publish his well-known 
pamphlet, " 1793 and 1853, in three letters, by R. 
Cobden." On the title-page he placed a some- 
what scandalous and most naive and candid quo- 
tation from Alison, referring to the former period 
— 1793: "The passions were excited; democrat- 
ic ambition was awakened ; the desire of power 
under the name of Reform was rapidly gaining 



172 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

ground among the middle ranks, and the institu- 
tions of the country were threatened with an 
overthrow as violent as that which had recentiy 
taken place in the French monarchy. In these 
circumstances, the only mode of checking the evil 
was by engaging in a foreign contest, by draw- 
ing off the ardent spirits into active service, and, 
in lieu of the modern desire for innovation, arous- 
ing the ancient gallantry of the British nation." 
This sentence being taken as a text by Cobden, 
he applied in his pamphlet the various lessons of 
English policy in 1793, and the costly results 
which succeeded it, to the requirements of 1853. 
A large portion of the public, in the midst of 
their war fever, not only refused to be convinced 
by it, but made it the special object of their ridi- 
cule. Punch caught the vulgar feeling, and exe- 
cuted a cartoon of Mr. Cobden, with long asinine 
ears, looking with a vacuous look into the muzzle 
of a cannon, and asserting that it was innocuous. 
By the time the Peace Conference was in ses- 
sion in Edinburg, in October, all was changed. 
Mr. Cobden had now fairly the laugh against his 
decriers, for Nicholas had crossed the Pruth, fair- 
ly commenced his aggression upon Turkey — ^hav- 
ing been doubtless largely induced so to do by the 
conviction that England and France were quite 
alienated, and would not unite to resist his en- 
croachment. And England and France were in 
close and friendly alliance. Mr. Cobden thus, at 



EDINBURG PEACE CONFERENCE. 173 

Edinburg, took advantage of the turning of the 
tables, delivering this portion of his address with 
infinite humor and verve : 

"The very minister who talked of the French 
coming from Cherbourg in one night, with 60,000 
men, to invade our coasts, I myself heard say that, 
now the French and English are united, and have 
one common bond of interest, and are united by 
sentiments of mutual confidence and esteem, they 
are a power against whom it is in vain for Russia 
to contend ; for all Europe would be powerless 
against such an irresistible combination. (Hear, 
hear, and great applause.) And what did I hear 
at the end of last session of Parliament in the 
queen's speech, as if it was to give to the Peace 
Party the climax of your triumph ? Not only 
does the queen in her speech, in Parliament, ere 
it separated, declare that she is on the best terms 
of amity with the French nation, but she rather 
goes out of the way to add that she is also on the 
best possible footing with the Emperor of the 
French. (Laughter.) Now I have often thought 
of supposing the case of an individual who had 
been ordered away from this country, as many 
persons are, for the benefit of their health, and 
supposing he had left our shores last January to 
take a voyage to Australia, returning again with- 
out remaining there, merely making the circuit 
of the globe for the benefit of his health. He 
left England preparing her militia and fortify- 



174 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

ing her coasts, general officers writing to me 
offering to lay a wager that the French would 
come and invade us. (Loud langhter and cheers.) 
And he saw an inspector of cavalry and artillery 
moving about the Southern coasts, deputations 
from the railway companies waiting upon the 
Admiralty and the Ordnance to see how soon the 
Commissariat and the Ordnance supplies could 
be transmitted from the Tower to Dover or to 
Portsmouth; he left in the midst of all these 
preparations for the French invasion ; he makes 
the circuit of the globe, and as he could see no 
newspaper — for one great motive in sending a 
careworn individual on such a voyage is to keep 
him away from politicians and the Post-office — 
he knows nothing of what has occurred during 
his absence. Well, he lands here in September, 
and the first thing he reads of in the newspapers 
is, that the French and English fleets are lying 
side by side in Besika Bay. He immediately says 
that there is to be a great battle — (laughter) — ^he 
turns to the leading article of the very paper that 
has told him before he left the country that the 
French emperor was a brigand and a pirate, and 
that the French people were about to invade En- 
gland without notice or declaration of war — ^he 
turns to a leader in this paper — the very first he 
has seen after he has arrived in England — and 
there he finds that the English and French are 
so cordially united that their fleets are lying in 



EDINBURG PEACE CONFERENCE. 175 

Besika Bay, under the command of Admiral Dun- 
das ; that we are prepared, if necessary, to send 
an army to be put under a French general, and 
that we are going into action, probably to-mor- 
row, with the Russian fleet. Now the first thing 
that he would naturally ask would be this — ' But 
can you trust this individual, whom, when I left 
Britain, you were characterizing as a brigand 
and a pirate ? (Hear, hear.) What has happen- 
ed? Has any thing happened to prove th^t 
these Peace people have been right and that you 
were wrong? What change has taken place? 
What does this mean ? What guarantee has this 
man given you that when you go into action with 
the Russian fleet, he has not previously come to 
an understanding with the Emperor of Russia, 
and that, instead of joining you in firing broad- 
sides into the Russian fleet, he will not join Rus- 
sia in demolishing yours ? (Hear, hear, and loud 
cheers.) And then, unless he has undergone a 
great change, and you have not explained to me 
how it happened, what proofs have you that when 
he has joined the Russian fleet, he will not come 
and ravage your coasts, burn down your houses, 
seize the Bank, and carry off the queen ?'*" (Loud 
laughter.) 

Bat the most extraordinary effect of all was 
produced by this retort upon Punch — the delight 
and excitement of the audience (let it be remem- 
bered, no vulgar rabble, but a morning audience 



176 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

of one of the most intelligent cities in the em- 
pire) being something indescribable. 

" Why, don't you remember the caricature in 
which your humble servant was represented with 
very long ears, thus (erecting his hands on each 
side of his head, amidst loud laughter), because 
he stood up and declared that he did not believe 
that the French were coming to invade us ? Who 
has got the long ears and the fool's cap now ?" 
(Roars of laughter.) 

The proceedings of the Peace Conference at 
Edinburg consisted of three meetings (two morn- 
ing and one evening) of the society, sitting as a 
society (to which, however, the general public 
were also admitted), and a public meeting, sup- 
posed to be entirely composed of persons who 
indicated by their presence neither that they 
agreed with nor differed from the principles of 
the society. At that meeting an amusing and 
stirring incident occurred, of which the writer 
had also the good fortune to be a spectator. He 
had accompanied to the platform an aged rela- 
tive — one of the Edinburg committee for the re- 
ception of the delegates — and sat in one of the 
back seats immediately behind the chairman, Mr. 
Duncan McLaren, at that time chief magistrate 
of the city. He saw, to his surprise, that the 
seat of honor immediately on the left of the chair 
was reserved for a gentleman whose face he did 
not recognize as belonging to any one who had 



EDINBURG PEACE CONFERENCE. 177 

appeared at all at any of the previoas meetings 
of the Conference. This gentleman pushed his 
way in a somewhat rough and unceremonious 
manner to his place, and his arrival created no 
little stir among the occupants of the platform, 
who were composed in almost equal proportions 
of Peace Society delegates from various parts, 
and of persons of all degrees of local importance. 
It was evident, however, by the courteous atten- 
tions paid to this gentleman, ere the opening of 
the meeting, by the chairman and others, that he 
was " somebody." Nevertheless, his appearance 
belied the idea of his importance which was pro- 
duced by the attentions paid him. Neither laun- 
dress, perruquier, nor tailor seemei to any large 
extent to have been taken into consultation as to 
the preparation of his outer man ; nor did the 
few words that fell from his lips in answer to the 
courtesies and greetings which he received indi- 
cate that either his instructors in his early life 
or himself at its later periods had bestowed much 
attention upon the graces, or even the proprie- 
ties of his diction. The then spectator and pres- 
ent narrator was mystified. And this mystifica- 
tion lasted some time — lasted through the chair- 
man's opening speech ; through the reading by 
Mr. Richard, the Secretary of the Society, of the 
list of the resolutions passed at the Conference; 
through an eloquent address by Elihu Burritt, 
and through another, overflowing with the rich- 
M 



178 L1F£ OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

est humor, by the late esteemed Rev. John Bur- 
net, of Camberwel], one of the great representa- 
tive Nonconformist leaders of our century. Then 
rose Mr. Cobden. He had not spoken long be- 
fore the mystery was solved. " I am glad," said 
he, ^' on this occasion, that we have a gallant gen- 
tleman with us — ^if he will allow me, I will call 
him my gallant friend, for we have walked into 
the same lobby generally, if not always, when we 
were in the House of Commons together — we 
have a gallant officer here, who, if ever you have 
to fight instead of arbitrating, will do your busi- 
ness as well as any body you can find. This gal- 
lant gentleman — this gallant admiral — has come 
from London, warm fron^ the City of London 
Tavern, bringing with him a spirit impatient for 
some decisive proceedings in this troubled East- 
ern Question." 

All at once it flashed upon the narrator's mem- 
ory that, a week or two before. Sir Charles Na- 
pier had announced his intention, at a London 
Tavern meeting, of " bearding the Peace Society 
in its den," or some such phrase, which in the 
lapse of years has escaped our memory. This 
had been generally put down as a flourish of 
trumpets. But no ; here was the hero of Acre 
presented to our gaze, and — what was even bet- 
ter for juvenile hot blood, the prospect of a set-to 
between " Old Charley" and the great Peace he- 
roes. " What a pity," thought we, " that Cob- 



EDINBURG PEACE CONFERENCE. 179 

den speaks before him!" But when we heard 
Mr. Bright reply to the admiral, our regret van- 
ished. The audience received all three with equal 
good humor, and with an equal share of plaudits 
— a circumstance not so much, perhaps, to be at- 
tributed to any vacillation or fickleness of the 
popularis aura as to a just and fair determination 
to give equal justice. Cobden's speech was di- 
versified by occasional gruffly given interruptions 
from the admiral, most of which, however, were 
inaudible. 

" The gallant gentleman," continued Mr. Cob- 
den, "has declared his disapproval of the course 
we have taken, and I have no doubt that he has 
come here to state the grounds on which that 
disapprobation rests ; and I should only be an- 
ticipating the duty which the right honorable 
chairman here can perform as well as any man in 
Scotland — ^I mean, in offering him, in their name, 
a most courteous reception and a most patient 
hearing for all that he may have to address to 
this meeting. My gallant friend says to me just 
now (alluding to one of the, to us, inaudible, or 
rather undistinguishable interruptions), ' How do 
you know I am your opponent?' I have no 
doubt, before we have done with him, we will 
make him an ally. That will be our business to- 
night. He is worth converting, I assure you." 

Mr.Cobden went at length into the elucida- 
tion of those views upon land and maritime ar- 



180 LIFE OF RICHARD COfiDEN. 

maments which he had elaborated still more fully 
in the House of Commons in more recent years, 
and to which reference will be made in a suc- 
ceeding chapter; told Sir Charles that '' what he 
had heard people ^ay, and what he had read in 
some of the prints in the Reform Club, about the 
objects of the Peace Conference, were pure fic- 
tions; and he would tell him what they really 
were ;" and urged (in view of the then threaten- 
ing Russian War) that for us, who had just been 
guilty of an atrocious encroachment upon the 
Burmese, " to pretend to exercise God's venge- 
ance upon other nations of the world was pre- 
sumption and hypocrisy." 

One passage of Mr. Cobden's speech must be 
given at length, for it is explanatory and exposi- 
tory of a well-known saying of his, which has been 
intentionally misrepresented in some quarters, and 
ignorantly misapprehended in others : 

" Our gallant visitor here, I see, referred, rather 
peculiarly, at the London Tavern, to a phrase that 
fell from me some years ago at a meeting, with 
regard to crumpling up the Russian Empire. 
Now the phrase I used was at a meeting on the 
subject of the Hungarian invasion in 1849. I at- 
tended a meeting in the City of London Tavern 
to protest against the invasion of Hungary by 
Russia. Russia was allowed then to march her 
armies across the territory of Turkey, through 
Wallachia and Moldavia, to strike a death-blow 



EDINBURG PEACE CONFERENCE. 181 

at the heart of Hungary, and no protest was ever 
recorded by our government against that act 
And it is my deliberate conviction, from a patient 
study of the Blue-books — ^and it is the conviction 
of the most illustrious men who were engaged in 
that Hungarian struggle — that if Lord Palmer- 
ston had made but a simple verbal protest, in en- 
ergetic terms, Russia would never have invaded 
Hungary by passing through the Moldavian and 
Wallachian territories. It is well known that 
the ministers of the Czar almost went down on 
their knees to beg and entreat him not to embark 
in a struggle between Austria and Hungary. 
Our protest would immediately have been backed 
by the ministry of the Czar if it had been made ; 
and I believe it would have prevented that most 
atrocious outrage, as I consider it, upon the rights 
and liberties of a constitutional country. 1 said 
on that occasion, in the midst of all the excitement 
and frenzy that then prevailed in favor of Hunga- 
rian nationality, that I would resist any attempt 
to send an English force to fight the battles of 
Hungary on the banks of the Danube or the 
Theiss. I proclaimed the same thing then that 
I proclaim now. I did not disguise my views on 
the subject any more than I disguise my views 
now with regard to the conduct of Russia toward 
Turkey ; but I said I will remain content with 
uttering my reprobation of the act. I would not 
sanction the sending of English soldiers and sail- 



182 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

ore to fight these distant battles. In fcut, i^ ;i 
word, my opinions and my principles resolve 
themselves into this, that I will never a];gue for 
any battle whatever as to which I am not pre- 
pared to go and take a part in it. I would never 
send men to some distant part of the world with- 
out partaking of their peril; whenever a battle is 
to be fought with my consent, it shall be one in 
which I am willing to take a part myself. Well, 
I took occasion then, speaking in the City of 
London Tavern, to say that Russia did not con- 
template attacking us ; that if Russia did attack 
us, such were the great resources of this country 
— such were the enormous resources of wealth, 
and the scientific appliances which might be used 
for the purpose of naval warfare and warlike de- 
struction, that we could ciiimple up the Russian 
Empire by blockading her ports, and sealing her- 
metically that semi-barbarous country, so that 
she could have no communication whatever with 
the rest of the civilized world. That was what I 
said. Well ; but why do I rate so low the pow- 
er of the Russian empire ? It is because every 
thing we have seen in the progress of that coun- 
try proves that she is comparatively weak, partic- 
ularly beyond her own frontiers. I don't say 
within her own borders, because she has shown 
in the case of Napoleon that if you go there you 
will find but an inhospitable reception. But all 
history proves that Russia is a very weak coun- 



EDINBURG PEACE CONFERENCE. 188 

try when she attempts to carry on a war beyond 
her own border." 

And^ as an illustration of the moral power 
which can be exercised by a great people, with- 
out any imposing demonstration of force, he said : 
" There is that boy-Emperor of Austria, who has 
been wasting his time ever since he came to the 
throne in reviewing troops, surrounded by his 
gilded state and a staff of fifty or sixty generals. 
If a single frigate were sent by that plain man 
in a black suit of clothes in the Capitol at Wash- 
ington to Trieste, with a hostile message, would 
not that boy-emperor's heart be in his very jack- 
boots when he received it ?" 

Ere turning to an entirely new aspect of Cob- 
den's career, when he found his own and the na- 
tion's opinion receding farther and farther from, 
instead of advancing nearer and nearer to, each 
other, we present, as the conclusion of this chap- 
ter, a pen-and-ink sketch of him, about this time, 
limned by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her "Sunny 
Memories." 

^^ Monday morning^ May 23. We went tO\ 
breakfast at Mr. Cobden's. Mr. C. is a man of 
slender frame, rather under than over the middle 
size, with great ease of manner and flexibility of 
movement, and the most frank, fascinating smile. 
His appearance is a sufficient account of his pop- 
ularity, for he seems to be one of those men who 
carry about them an atmosphere of vivacity and 



\ 



184 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. ; 

social exhilaration.' We had a very pleasaDt aed 
Bocial time, discussing and comparing things in 
England and America. Mr. Cobden assured us 
that he had curious calls from Americans some- 
times. Once an editor of a small village paper 
called, who had been making a tour through the 
rural districts of England. He said that he had 
asked some mowers how they were prospering. 
They answered, ' We ain't prosperin', we're hay- 
in'.' Said Cobden,*! told the man. Now don*t 
you go home and publish that in your paper; 
but he did nevertheless, and sent me over the pa- 
per with the story in it.' .... The conver- 
sation turned on the question of the cultivation 
of cotton by free labor. The importance of this 
great measure was fully appreciated by Mr. Cob- 
den, as it must be by all. The difficulties to be 
overcome in establishing the movement were no 
less clearly seen and ably pointed out. On the 
whole, the comparison of views was not only in- 
teresting in a high degree, but to us, at least, evi- 
dently profitable. We ventured to augur favor- 
ably to the cause from the indications of that in- 
terview." 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 185 



CHAPTER X. 

PERIOD OP THE CRIMEAN WAR. 

Mr. Cobden acted with his usual courageous- 
ness in the matter of the Crimean War. He dif- 
fered with the mass of the English people about 
the policy of entering upon it, and he, with equal 
manliness and clearness, put the grounds of his 
difference from the prevailing opinion upon rec- 
ord. These grounds we regard it our incumbent 
duty to reproduce in his own words, or, at all 
events, in a summary of the few speeches and the 
pamphlet which proceeded from him during the 
war, which shall be as faithful a transcript as the 
necessary brevity of our undertaking allows, of 
Cobden's ipsisHma verba ; and we also incorpo- 
rate with our narrative a citation from Mr. King- 
lake's great work, "The Invasion of the Crimea," 
as representing with tolerable fairness the object- 
ive view — ^the view held by Mr. Cobden's fellow- 
citizens — of his conduct at this very important 
crisis of the nation's history. We must, howev- 
er, interpose the caveat — which, indeed, the pre- 
vious context of our remarks would almost make 
unnecessary — that we can not agree with Mr. 
Kinglake in his estimate of the doings of Mr. 



1^ LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN 

Cobden and the Peace Society in the peaceful 
years anterior to the outbreak of the war be- 
tween Nicholas and the Porte, in which England, 
with other Western Powers, found herself in- 
volved. Mr. Kinglake thas nervously, and, on the 
whole, impartially writes of Cobden and Bright 
at this era : 

" Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright were members of 
the House of Commons. Both had the gift of a 
manly, strenuous eloquence ; and their diction, be- 
ing founded upon English lore rather than upon 
shreds of weak Latin, went straight to the mind 
of their hearers. Of these men, the one could 
persuade, the other could attack ; and, indeed, 
Mr. Bright's oratory was singularly well qualified 
for preventing an erroneous acquiescence in the 
policy of the day; for, besides that he was honest 
and fearless — ^besides that, with a ringing voice, 
he had all the clearness and force which resulted 
from his great natural gifts, as well as from his 
one-sided method of thinking, he had the advan- 
tage of generally being able to speak in a state 
of sincere anger. In former years, while their 
minds were disciplined by the almost mathemat- 
ical exactness of the reasonings on which they 
relied, and when they were acting in concert 
with the shrewd traders of the North who had a 
very plain object in view, these two orators had 
shown with what a strength, with what a mas- 
terly skill, with what patience, with what a high 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 187 

courage they could carry a great scientific truth 
through the storms of politics. They had shown 
that they could arouse and govern the assenting 
thousands who listened to them with delight — 
that they could bend the House of Commons — 
that they could press their creed upon a prime 
minister, and put upon his mind so hard a stress 
that, after a while, he felt it to be a torture and 
a violence to his reason to have to make stand 
against th em. Nay, more ; each of these two gift- 
ed men had proved that they could go bravely 
into the midst of angry opponents — could show 
them their fallacies one by one — destroy their 
favorite theories before their very faces, and tri- 
umphantly argue them down. Now these two 
men were honestly devoted to the cause of peace. 
They honestly believed that the impending war 
with Russia was a needless war. There was no 
stain upon their names. How came it that they 
sank, and were able to make no good stand for 
the cause they loved so well ? 

"The answer is simple. 

" Upon the question of peace or war (the very 
question upon which, more than any other, a man 
might well desire to make his counsels tell) these 
two gifted men had forfeited their hold upon the 
ear of the country. They had forfeited it by their 
former want of moderation. It was not by any 
intemperate words upon the question of this war 
with Russia that they had shut themselves out 



188 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

from the counsels of the nation ; but in former 
years they had adopted and put forward, in their 
strenuous way, some of the more extravagant 
doctrines of the Peace Party. In times when no 
war was in question, they had run down the 
practice of war in terms so broad and indiscrim- 
inate, that they were understood to commit them- 
selves to a disapproval of all wars not strictly 
defensive, and to decline to treat as defensive 
those wars which, although not waged against an 
actual invader of the queen^s dominions, might 
still be undertaken by England in the perform- 
ance of a European duty, or for the purpose of 
checking the undue ascendency of another power. 
Of course the knowledge that they held doctrines 
of this wide sort disqualified them from arguing 
with any effect against the war then impending. 
A man can not have weight as the opponent of 
any particular war if he is one who is known to 
be against almost all war. It is vain for him to 
offer to be moderate for the nonce, and to pro- 
pose to argue the question in a way which his 
hearers will recognize. In vain he declares that 
for the sake of argument he will lay aside his 
own broad principles, and mimic the reasoning 
of his hearers. Practical men know that his 
mind is under the sway of an antecedent determ- 
ination, which dispenses him from the more nar- 
row but more important inquiry in which they 
are engaged. They will not give ear to one who 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 189 

is Striving to lay down the conclusions which 
ought, as he says, to follow other men's princi- 
ples. He who altogether abjures the juice of the 
grape can not usefully criticise the vintage of 
any particular year ; and a man who is the steady 
adversary of wars in general, upon broad and 
paramount grounds, will never be regarded as a 
sound judge of the question whether any particu- 
lar war is wicked or righteous, nor whether it is 

foolish or wise Lord Aberdeen and Mr. 

Gladstone consenting to remain members of a 
war-going government, and Mr. Cobden and Mr. 
Bright being disqualified for useful debate by the 
nature of their opinions, no stand could be made." 
Ere proceeding to transcribe Mr. Cobden's 
own explanation and justification of his conduct 
in this matter, it will serve more than one useful 
purpose to make brief reference to a speech de- 
livered by him at a public meeting held at the 
London Tavern in the early part of 1850, upon 
the then proposed Russian Loan. The sentiments 
then and there delivered by him make it abund- 
antly clear that it was no sordid regard for Rus- 
sia, as a growing, if not already a great, market 
for our manufactures, that induced him to offer 
pacific counsels. And in this speech he showed 
himself to be a sincere and sympathetic friend of 
distressed nationalities. It acquits him of the 
charge — one by no means unfrequently brought 
against him — of being indifferent and callous to 



190 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

the progress, the struggles, and the wounds of 
liberty abroad. He was, it must be admitted, ex- 
tremely cautious as to the overt expression of 
sympathy for the oppressed peoples of the world ; 
for he had seen how outspoken utterances from 
Englishmen had fed such unfortunates with vain 
hopes of English interference, and thereby in- 
cited them to the prolongation of struggles whose 
failure made their woes more grievous than be- 
fore, and entailed upon them additional exasper- 
ated strokes of dynastic vengeance. The remark 
may seem ungenerous, but we confess that we 
think it, to say the very least, very questionable 
whether the Circassians are not to-day in a worse 
plight than if Mr. Urquhart had never been born, 
or employed at the Turkish Embassy — whether 
Lord Dudley Stuart's speeches and Earl Russell's 
dispatches may not have heightened the agonies 
of the Poles — and whether the vengeance of the 
Czar and the Kaiser upon the Magyars might 
not have been less severe had some one else than 
Lord Palmerston been at the Foreign Office in 
1848. Be that as it may, Mr. Cobden's course in 
such matters was at least logical, and not only 
self-consistent, but perfectly compatible with the 
warmest love of liberty, the most intense hatred 
of enthroned wrong, and the tenderest commis- 
eration for enthralled right. We the more glad- 
ly make reference to, and citation from this speech, 
inasmuch as it was one of his happiest. It be- 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 191 

longed to that class of his speeches — a class which 
formed a large constituent part of them — which 
may be termed chatty and conversational; in 
which he put himself at once and peculiarly at 
ease with his audience, and equally discarded ora- 
torical effort and rhetorical verbiage. 

The plea upon which the Czar came to the En- 
glish money market for five and a half millions 
sterling was that it was wanted for the comple- 
tion of the railroad from St. Petersburg to Mos- 
cow. Mr. Cobden commenced by flatly declar- 
ing that this was untrue — and that he had been 
at St. Petersburg three years previously, and 
seen that the rolling stock of the railway was 
complete. Even if he did want it for making a 
railway, it was ridiculous to suppose that he 
would need it all in six months, which was the 
condition of his request. "Here are railway 
calls from one railway alone at the rate of near- 
ly one million a month, and that in a country 
where, up to the month of March, no work can 
be done in the way of forming embankments, 
and consequently this money is wanted for the 
purpose of being expended in excavating and 
embanking in the months of April, May, June, 
and July. I really pity the mendicant Czar who 
is obliged to come to us with such a story." 

But why, he went on to say, should he, as a 
Free Trader (he had been asked), interfere with 
such a loan? "Why not let people lend their 



1 



192 LIFE OF RICHARD COB DEN. 

money in the dearest market, and borrow it in 
the cheapest ?" He answered, " I have no objec- 
tion to people investing their money, if they like 
to do so ; but I claim the right as a Free Trader, 
in a free country, to meet my fellow-citizens in a 
public assembly like the present, to try and warn 
the unwary against being deceived by those 
agents and money-mongers in the city of London 
who will endeavor to palm off their bad securi- 
ties on us if they can." 

" But," he went on, " apart altogether from 
these grounds of its inherent immorality and in- 
security, I stand here as a citizen of this country, 
and as a citizen of the world, to denounce the 
whole character of this transaction as injurious 
to the best interests of society. I will take first 
the politico-economical view of the question, be- 
cause it is supposed that on this question I am 
particularly weak in that direction. Now I take 
my stand on one of the strongest grounds in stat- 
ing that Adam Smith and other great authorities 
on political economy are opposed to the very 
principle of such loans. What is this money 
wanted for ? It is to be wasted. It is to go to 
defray the expense of maintaining standing ar- 
mies, or to pay the expenses of the atrocious war 
in Hungary. Then what does it amount to ? It 
is so much capital abstracted from England and 
handed over to another country to be wasted, 
thereby abstracting from the labor population of 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 193 

this country the means by which it is employed 
and by which it is to live. I say that every loan 
advanced to a foreign power to be expended in 
armaments, or for carrying on war with other 
countries, is as much money wasted and destroyed 
for all the purposes of reproduction as if it were 
carried out into the Atlantic and there sunk in 
the sea. And I make no distinction whether the 
interest be paid or not — ^for if it be paid by the 
Emperor of Russia, it is not paid out of the pro- 
ceeds of the capital lent — ^it is not paid out of the 
capital itself being invested in reproductive em- 
ployment ; but it is extorted from the labor, the 
industry, and the wretchedness of his people, to 
pay for the interest of that capital which has not 
only not been employed in reproductive labor, or 
even thrown into the ocean, but far worse, in ab- 
stracting industry, in devastating fair and fruitful 
lands, and in suppressing freedom." 

The following sentences were uttered by a man 
who more than once during his public life was 
called a Philo-Russian ! 

" Now what is this money wanted for ? Sim- 
ply and solely to make up the arrears caused by 
the exhaustion of the Hungarian War. I am not 
in the habit of boasting at public meetings of 
what I may have done on former occasions, but 
if I were a boaster I should exult that the asser- 
tions I made on this spot in June last, and which 
have been subjected to so much sarcasm from 



194 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

foes and friends — ^I should, I say, feel some exult- 
ation that this poverty-stricken Czar has been 
obliged to come forward and verify every word 
I then said. What has become of the two mil- 
lions we were told the Emperor has subscribed 
to the Austrian loan ? What has become of the 
£500,000 he was going to advance to the Pope, 
or the half million he was going to bestow in his 
generosity on the Grand-Duke of Tuscany? Oh, 
he ought to pay his scribes well in Western Eu- 
rope who have told so many lies for him ! He 
ought to pay them well, seeing that they have 
been subjected to this full refutation of all they 
said in his behalf at the hands of the Czar himself. 
If I had been employed tp write up the wealth, 
power, and riches of a man who six months after 
was obliged to come before the citizens of Lon- 
don and sign his name to such a humiliating 
document as this imperial ukase, I should expect 
to be exceedingly well paid for the loss of char- 
acter I had sustained. Well, I stand here, to re- 
peat the very words I uttered twice on this plat- 
form at times when few would believe me. I say 
that the Kussian government in matters of finance 
has been for years — successfully, until now the 
bubble has burst — the most gigantic imposture 
in Europe. I use the words, as I hope I do ev- 
ery word I say at a public meeting, advisedly. I 
have used them before, and, after due investiga- 
tion, I came here to repeat them. I say that this 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 195 

money is wanted for the purpose of sustaining 
the amhition, the sanguinary brutality of a des- 
pot, who has all the tastes of Peter the Great, 
and all the lust of conquest of Louis XIV., with- 
out the genius of the one or the wealth of the 
other ; and who would apply their principles to 
a great part of Europe, forgetting that this is the 
nineteenth instead of the seventeenth century ; 
while utterly wanting not merely the ability which 
would enable him to play such a part in history, 
but even the pecuniary means of enjoying the 
tastes he possesses." 

We conclude our quotations from this speech, 
so memorable and important an incident in the 
life of Cobden, with the following anecdotal par- 
agraph. - 

" I came down this morning from the West-end 
of the town in an omnibus, sitting opposite to a 
gentleman. As we were riding along, he looked 
out of the window and saw a placard with the 
words ' Great meeting on the Russian Loan.' He 
said to me, *Mr. Cobden is going to have a meet- 
ing, I believe.' ' Yes,' said I, ' I believe he is.' 
* It's very odd,' he observed, ' that he should pre- 
sume to dictate to capitalists as to how they 
should lay out their money.' ' Well,' said I, ' if 
lie attempts to dictate, it is rather hard. But I 
suppose he allows you to do as you like.' * But,' 
said he, ^ he holds public meetings to denounce 
the loan ; yet I should not wonder if he would be 



196 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

very glad himself to have £20,000 of it.' I said, 
*Have you taken any yourself?' He replied, 'I 
have — £50,000, and I intend to pay it all up.' I 
then said to him, ' Would you like to leave that 
property to your children? *No,' he said, 'I 
don't intend to keep it more than two years at 
the outside, and I hope to get a couple per cent, 
profit upon it.' Now it is with that view that 
that gentleman is going to pay up his calls — that 
is, if he thinks of doing so. That is not the or- 
dinary case ; they generally pay up one call, and 
then sell the stock at any profit which they can 
get upon it ; and the loss of holding these securi- 
ties — I said it before, and I repeat it now — the 
loss falls upon individuals who were totally un- 
connected with the taking of the loan — trades- 
men retired from business, widows and orphans, 
trustees and others who invest money in what 
they regard as a permanent security, in order to 
obtain the interest upon it. Well, now, I declare 
most solemnly, after' looking into this subject of 
Russia as I have done for the last eighteen years, 
that I would not give five-and-twenty pounds per 
cent, for the Russian Five per Cent, stock, which 
is being dealt in to-day by the Bulls and Bears at 
107. I would not take £100 at that price for per- 
manent investment, and with the view of leaving 
it as a part of the dependence of my children." 

Mr. Cobden spoke in the House of Commons 
very seldom while we were " drifting into" and 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 197 

carrying on the Crimean War. He entered his 
dignified protest against the revival of the war 
spirit in the land — ^the sentiment expressed in 
Tennyson's paean of joy that " the long, long 
canker of peace was over and done." He did 
so, and then he retired, refusing to cumber the 
ground and increase the irritation by farther in- 
vectives and cautions. He deliberately expressed 
his views in 1863 and the spring of 1854, ere the 
country was quite committed, and subsequently 
he only addressed the House when terms of peace 
were under consideration, and when, accordingly, 
his voice might do good. The chief arguments 
and considerations adduced by him were these. 
He held that the integrity and independence of 
the Turkish Empire, as a maxim of policy, had 
become an empty phrase and nothing more. The 
Turks were intruders in Europe ; their home was 
Asia ; the progress of events had demonstrated 
that a Mohammedan power could not be main- 
tained in Europe. The independence of a coun- 
try that could not maintain itself could not be 
upheld ; and if he himself were a Rayah, a Chris- 
tian subject of the Porte, he should say, " Give 
me any Christian government rather than a Mo- 
hammedan." We should hereafter have to ad- 
dress our minds to the question what we were go- 
ing to do with Turkey, for we must not think that 
we could keep Turkey as it was. He ridiculed the 
notion of going to war for tariffs, the futility of 



198 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

which policy experience had proved, and he con- 
tended that the importance of the trade with Tur- 
key had been overrated. He maintained that all 
our commerce in the Black Sea was owing to Rus- 
sian encroachment. As for the talk of a Russian 
army invading England (which prevailed in some 
quarters), why, Russia could not move her forces 
across her own frontier without a loan. 

As the war became more imminent, he pointed 
out that the whole difference between Russia and 
the other powers consisted in this — ^that the Great 
Powers wished that the grievances of the Chris- 
tians should be redressed by themselves, acting 
together and in concert, and not by Russia ; and 
for this despicable ground of quarrel Europe was 
to be deluged in blood. Undoubtedly the Chris- 
tian population were looking for ameliorations, 
whether from Russia or elsewhere. He said it 
was chimerical to expect any substantial change 
in their treatment, which could only be brought 
about by an abandonment by the Mussulmans of 
their religious principles and an abrogation of the 
law of the Koran. Replying to the arguments 
upon the other side, founded upon the compara- 
tive value of the trade with Russia and Turkey, 
he declared the Russian trade to be of thrice the 
importance to this country of the Turkish. If 
there was real danger, as Lord John Russell had 
alleged, " to all mankind," those nearest the dan- 
ger ought to be the first to meet it. If we were 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 199 

going really to fight for the Turks, let us fight 
with our navy, and not send a miserable 20,000 
troops to the Danube. [This was, of course, before 
the expedition to the Crimea was resolved on,] 

Early in 1855 there was a great debate on a 
motion of Mr. Milner Gibson for an address to the 
crown to this general effect, that the propositions 
made by Russia at the Vienna Conference con- 
tained the germs of reasonable pacification, and, 
therefore, that the negotiations should be vigor- 
ously and hopefully pursued. All the great rep- 
resentatives of all parties spoke. Mr.Layard also 
had given notice of a motion denouncing the in- 
efficiency of the administration, and of the con- 
duct of the war, and its source — the favoritism of 
our governmental system. This already compo- 
site discussion was still farther complicated by a 
resolution of Mr. Disraeli, pledging the House to 
" dissatisfaction with the ambiguous language and 
uncertain conduct of her majesty's government 
in reference to the great question of peace and 
war." The House, night after night, debated to- 
gether the rival propositions. Disraeli made one 
of his most sarcastic orations, his chief victim be- 
ing Lord John Russell, who had just made so woe- 
ful a failure at Vienna as a diplomatist. After 
his denunciation of " diplomatic subterfuge and 
ministerial trifling," Sir Francis Baring interposed 
an amendment, expressing continued confidence 
in the government. Sir William Heathcote intro^ 



200 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

duced still another amendment, expressing more 
definitely than Sir Francis Baring's a strong de- 
sire for the return of peace, which gained the val- 
uable adherence of Mr. Gladstone, who was not 
then a minister. After speeches from many mem- 
bers of secondary weight, and from Sir William 
Molesworth, Sir Bulwer Lytton, Lords Palmer- 
ston, Stanley, and Lord John Russell, Mr. Cob- 
den, having adjourned the debate at a late hoar, 
resumed it on the following day. Sir William 
Molesworth had urged the rejection of the Rus- 
sian proposals, and the prolongation of the war. 
Mr. Cobden especially reproached him for deser- 
tion of his old principles. He maintained that 
the slight difference between Russia and ourselves 
on the famous "Third Point" was not sufficient 
to justify the continuance of the war. Russia, 
he said, had been denounced for bad faith, and 
yet we were prepared to join with her in guaran- 
teeing the governments of Wallachia and Molda- 
via, and the protocols reposing trust in Russia 
to this extent were signed by the very cabinet 
ministers who had so denounced her. He pun- 
gently contrasted Lord John Russell's polite con- 
duct abroad with his violent speeches at home. 
The language and conduct of the ministers were 
one continued seesaw, changed from time to time 
to suit the press and the feeling out of doors. He 
taunted ministers with the deferment of the prom- 
ised and boasted co-operation of Austria ; but his 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 201 

main point was the natural development of Rus- 
sia in the Black Sea, which he showed had been 
more rapid than even that of the United States 
of America. It was, he admitted, only a youth- 
ful barbarian developing himself into something 
better ; but, while he continued with no other 
neighbor than the decaying and unimproving 
Turkish Empire, all the powers on earth could not 
take from Russia her preponderance in these re- 
gions, which was inherent in the nature of things. 

Our readers will have vividly brought back to 
their recollections the height and fervor of the 
war spirit of 1865, and the utter hopelessness of 
Mr. Cobden affecting it in the slightest degree, by 
the perusal of these few lines of Lord Palmer- 
ston's speech in reply to Mr. Cobden. He was 
speaking of the so-called "peace -at -any -price 
men." 

" With peace in their mouths, they have, nev- 
ertheless, had war in their hearts; and their 
speeches are full of passion, vituperation, and 
abuse, and delivered in a manner which shows 
that angry passions strive for mastery within 
them. I must say, judging from their speeches, 
their manner, and their language, that they would 
do much better for leaders of a party for war at all 
hazards, instead of a party for peace at any cost. 
Mr. Cobden did at last tell us that he would fight 
— ^no, not that he would fight — ^but he said that 
there was something for which the country must 



202 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

fight ; and he added, that if Portsmouth were 
menaced — he said nothing about the Isle of 
Wight — he would go into the hospital. Well, 
there are many people in this country who think 
that the party to which the honorable gentleman 
belongs would do well to go immediately into a 
hospital of a different kind from that which the 
honorable gentleman meant, and which I shaU 
not mention." It is not much to be wondered at 
that Cobden, Liberal politician though he was, 
should mournfully say, a few weeks after, " I look 
back with regret on the vote which I gave on the 
motion which changed Lord Derby's government. 
I regret the result of that motion, for it has cost 
the country a hundred millions of treasure, and 
between twenty and thirty thousand good lives." 
A still more astounding indication of the fe- 
vered spirit at this period prevailing is furnished 
by this incident.- Mr. Joseph Sturge, like the 
other Peace Sqciety leaders, manfully avowed 
among his neighbors and elsewhere his opinion 
of the war ; and he received more than his own 
share of obloquy. A placard was put up in Bir- 
mingham entitled "War and Dear Bread," show- 
ing how war enhanced the price of food, and it 
was popularly attributed to Mr. Sturge, He re- 
ceived a number of anonymous letters accusing 
him of hoarding large quantities of grain to en- 
hance its value, and threatening vengeance. Mr. 
Sturge wrote a general reply to his anonymous 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 208 

correspondents, and had it inserted in the local 
newspapers, stating, " If the writer of this letter 
will give me his name, I shall be glad to meet 
him and his friends, and if they can point out how 
I can lower the price of bread to the public, I 
shall rejoice to join them in any legitimate means 
to carry their plan into effect." When Mr. Cob- 
den heard of this, he wrote to his friend : " It is 
amusing to see the mad vagaries of the persons 
who charge yow, of all men, with being the cause 
of dear bread ! It reminds me of what occurred 
after the great French War had produced its 
natural consequences — dear bread and want of 
employment — when the London mob in the neigh- 
borhood of Spitalfields directed their vengeance 
against the Quakers as being the authors of their 
misery — the Quakers having been, be it remem- 
bered, almost the only people who steadily op- 
posed the said clamorous mob. You will see 
this referred to incidentally in the first volume 
of the Life of WiUiam AUen^ p. 60." 

It was some consolation to Cobden to have the 
sustenance and support of such men as Sturge. 
Sturge wrote of Cobden to an American friend 
in February, 1856, "John Bright and Richard 
Cobden are acting a noble part in resisting the 
war mania ; and the fearful carnage it occasions, 
as well as the increasing sufferings among our 
poor, are bringing many over to their opinion 
who were a short time ago in favor of the war." 



204 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Cobden said no more on the subject in the 
House of Commons, but brought out, early in 
1866, his pamphlet, "What Next — and Next?" 
in which he besought the country to consider 
whither it was tending, and asked it to endeavor 
to' realize its own ends and objects in the war, 
and to consider both the cost and the likelihood 
of their attainment. He pointed out the fact that 
a country like England is peculiarly unsuited for 
aggressive military enterprises : " A manufactur- 
ing community is, of all others, the least adapted 
for great aggressive military enterprises like that 
in which we have embarked. In defending them- 
selves at their own doors, such an industrial or- 
ganization might afford gi'eater facilities, proba- 
bly, than any other state of society ; for the men, 
being already marshaled (so to speak) in regi- 
ments and companies, and known to their employ- 
ers, the resources of the capitalists and the serv- 
ices of the laborers might be brought, with pre- 
cision and economy, into instant and most extend- 
ed co-operation. We read that Jack of Newbury 
(the Gott of his day) led a hundred of his clothiers, 
at his own expense, to Flodden Field ; and if the 
spirit of patriotism were roused by the attack of 
a foreign enemy, I have no doubt we should see 
our great manufacturing capitalists competing for 
the honor of equipping and paying the greatest 
number of men until our shores were freed from 
the presence of the invader. But I am obliged 



PERIOD OF THE CRIMEAN WAR. 206 

to presuppose an invasion of our own territory 
before assuming that all ranks would be roused 
to take a part in the struggle." 

At last, to Cobden's great delight, peace came. 
In one respect, the Peace of Paris contained a 
great triumph for him, although it came to him 
most unexpectedly. In the treaty was incorpo- 
rated the very Arbitration clause for which he 
had been battling, and for which he had been so 
jeered in the English House of Commons. When 
the peace was proclaimed, a deputation waited 
upon Lord Palmerston on the subject, but he 
raised all sorts of objections, and held out no 
hope. Mr. Henry Richard then suggested that 
a journey should be undertaken to the very fount- 
ain-head, Paris, where the plenipotentiaries sat. 
He met with but scant encouragement. His 
friends (including Cobden, it would appear) dis- 
suaded him from the bootless errand. Sturge, 
however, said, " Thou art right ; if no one else 
will go with thee, I will ; and I am prepared to 
go, not only to Paris, but, if necessary, to Berlin, 
Vienna, Turin, and even to St. Petersburg, should 
there be time, and see if we can't get access to 
the various sovereigns whose plenipotentiaries are 
sitting at Paris." They went, visited Lord Clar- 
endon, and obtained the promise : "I will do what 
I can to bring the matter before the Congress." 
He did so, was supported by^the French and 
Prussian plenipotentiaries, and when the treaty 



206 LIFE OF RICHABD COBDEN. 

was promulgated it was found to contain this 
clause : 

^' The plenipotentiaries do not hesitate to ex- 
press, in the name of their governments, the wish 
that states between which any serious misunder- 
standing may arise should, before appealing to 
arms, have recourse, so far as circumstances might 
allow, to the good offices of a friendly power. 
The plenipotentiaries hope that the governments 
not represented at the Congress will unite in the 
sentiment which has inspired the wish recorded 
in this protocol." 

" This happy innovation," as Lord Clarendon 
termed it, consoled Cobden in some degree for 
his heartache of the last two years. In the very 
House which had laughed at his proposal only a 
short time ago, Mr. Gladstone spoke eloquently 
of this protocol as "a powerful engine on behalf 
of civilization and humanity," and said it "assert- 
ed the supremacy of reason, of justice, humanity, 
and religion." Even Lord Derby accorded " end- 
less honor" to the diplomatists for adopting it, 
and Lord Malmesbury talked of its " importance 
to civilization and to the security of the peace of 
Europe," because " it recognizes and establishes 
the immortal truth that time, by giving place for 
reason to operate, is as much a preventive as a 
healer of hostilities." This was by no means the 
smallest of Cobden's triumphs. 



THE CHINA WAR. 207 



CHAPTER XL 

THE CHINA WAB, AND THE FRENCH TEEATT. 

Mb. Cobden's whole career may be character- 
ized as having displayed the continuous and con- 
sistent pursuit, exposition, and advocacy of a few 
fixed and definite ideas. These, at an early pe- 
riod, fairly took possession of his whole mind and 
being, and may be said to have saturated, and 
permeated to its extremities, his very existence. 
The remaining portion of Mr. Cobden's life may 
be greatly compressed, for it consisted of no more 
than the renewed and continued application of 
those principles of his policy which we have al- 
ready, in an expository manner, propounded, to 
the public questions which arose, either in our 
domestic or our foreign policy, from year to year. 
Cobden's views and tenets remained the same 
— quite unchanged. The form of their applica- 
tion might vary somewhat, as the conditions and 
contingencies to which they were applied varied. 
New forms of illustration might be introduced, 
as when he made himself master of the whole 
novel and intricate questions of shore fortifica- 
tions and naval armaments, as they came before 
the public with all the modern experience of the 



308 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Crimean and Amencan Wars, the bombardments 
of Sebastopol and Charleston, and the encounter 
of the Monitor and Merrimac. He brought to 
the debates on these and cognate themes a prac- 
tical knowledge which put him quite on an equal 
footing with our great administrators, soldiers, 
contractors, and engineers. He held his own 
with, or against, the Palmerstons, Burgoynes, 
Ellenboroughs, Lairds, and Petos. In addition 
to showing, on general grounds, the needlessness 
and folly of excessive international defenses and 
armaments, and the certainty of their causing 
wanton acerbity and ill blood, he descended into 
the more technical arena of the minor premiss 
disputed, and showed that, even if his general 
views on national armaments were erroneous — 
ceding that major point for the sake of argument 
— nevertheless, the nation was acting unadvisedly 
about the kinds of armament it selected. Even 
if great and costly armaments were necessary, it 
was foolish, he said, to go on building experi- 
mental ships, or casting experimental guns, in the 
uncertain and transitionary states of the sciences 
of artillery and ship-building, and to construct 
great stone fortifications, when positive evidence 
had shown their fragility, and negative evidence 
the superior impregnability of hastily-constructed 
earthen ramparts. In such minor and special 
particulars, the course of his argumentation and 
the line of his advocacy were modified and af- 



THE CHINA WAR. 209 

fected by circumstances ; but his principles re- 
mained the same : he only reiterated them. A 
brief and compendious summary, therefore, of his 
leading utterances during the last eight years of 
his Parliamentary career will be suflSlcient for our 
purpose. 

Cobden differed from the majority of his fel- 
low-countrymen about the Chinese War of 1857, 
as he had dissented from the popular voice and 
will about the Russian War of 1854. News had 
been received in England of a serious misunder- 
standing with the Chinese authorities. A small 
vessel called the Arrow^ of a peculiar local form 
and rig designated by the term lorcha^ and which 
had a British colonial register, lay in the Canton 
River a little below the foreign factories. No 
notice having been given to the British consul, 
she was boarded by a party of the Chinese ma- 
rine. Her flag was torn down, and her whole 
Chinese crew carried away on a charge of piracy. 
The British consul, Mr.Parkes, remonstrated, but 
without avail. The Chinese commissioner, Yeh, 
gave no heed to hie representations. Nor was our 
superior diplomatic agent. Sir John Bowring, a 
whit more successful. The matter was then rele- 
gated to the admiral of the station. Sir Michael 
Seymour, to obtain satisfaction for the alleged 
wrong to the English flag. His menaces proving 
equally unavailing, and more than one term of 
grace having expired, he proceeded to overt acts, 
O 



210 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

and redaced fort after fort along the river sides, 
destroyed a fleet of janks, shelled the city, and 
demolished its chief pablic buildings. 

The English government at once avowed, jus- 
tified, and declared their intention to stand by 
the acts of their officials. At home, opinions 
were divided about the justice and propriety of 
the procedure. Lord Derby took the sense of 
the House of Lords on a motion adverse to the 
ministers, and Mr. Gobden adopted the same 
course in the Lower House. The keenest de- 
bates occurred in both assemblies ; and the divi- 
sion list in the Commons' House was by far the 
largest which had been known in its history. Mr. 
Cobden's resolution was couched in these terms : 
" That this House has heard with concern of the 
conflicts which have occurred between the Brit- 
ish and Chinese authorities in the Canton River ; 
and without expressing an opinion as to the ex- 
tent to which the government of China may have 
afforded this country cause of complaint respec^ 
ing the non-fulfillment of the treaty of 1842, this 
House considers that the papera which have been 
laid upoli the table fail to establish satisfactory 
grounds for the violent measures resorted to at 
Canton in the late affair of the Arrow; and that 
a select committee be appointed to inquire into 
the state of our commercial relations with China." 
Without going too definitely, he said, into what 
we had actually done, he contented himself with 



THE CHINA WAR. 211 

inquiring, Would we have done what we had 
done if we had been dealing with a strong pow- 
er, and not a weak one? He contrasted the 
conduct of the British authorities at Hong Kong 
with that which we would have pursued had the 
government we dealt with been at Washington, 
and the transaction had taken place at Charles- 
ton. He conscientiously believed that there had 
been a preconceived design to pick a quarrel 
with the Chinese, for which the whole world 
would cry shame upon us. The papers he look- 
ed upon as a garbled record of trumpery com- 
plaints against the Chinese. He quoted extracts 
from travelers testifying to the civility and in- 
offensive habits of the Chinese, and reminded his 
auditors of the haughty demeanor and inflexible 
bearing toward the natives of other countries 
which Englishmen carried abroad with them. As 
for the clause in the treaty enforcing the admis- 
sion of Englishmen into Canton, he expressed his 
opinion that it was a chimera. It was not worth 
fighting for. K this part of the treaty could be 
at once enforced, it would be of no use to us. He 
also specially blamed the conduct of Sir John 
Bowring, alleging that he had acted directly con- 
trary to his instructions. 

The Tories and the Peelites united with the 
Radicals in support of the motion. Among the 
speakers adverse to the government were Sir E. 
B. Lytton, Messrs. Warren and Whiteside, Sir 



212 UFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

James Graham, Dr. Phillimore, Sir Frederick 
Thesiger, Sidney Herbert, Romidell Palmer, Mr. 
Henley, Messrs. Gladstone and DisraelL In a 
word, the whole character and oratorical power 
of the House, save what was possessed by minis- 
terialist office-holders and office-seekers, ranged 
themselves under Cobden's leadership. He car- 
ried his motion by a majority of sixteen. And 
this was the more wonderful, that, in the House 
of Lords, where Toryism so largely preponder- 
ated. Lord Derby's similar motion was defeated 
by a majority of thirty-six. 

Lord Palmerston had the option of dissolution 
or resignation. He chose the former, and went 
to the country. The natural excitement of the 
public mind, coupled with the zealous advocacy 
of the ministerial prints, and the bellicose speech- 
es of the ministerial candidates, added to those 
other less obvious, but perhaps more operative in- 
fluences which ministers can always bring to bear 
at election times, produced from the peopla an 
entirely diflFerent verdict from that which had 
been delivered by their parliamentary represent- 
atives. The name of Palmerston became the ral- 
lying cry at every hustings. In fact, the popu- 
lace ignored even the consideration of the abso- 
lute merits of the question under dispute. They 
simply remembered that Palmerston had carried 
them through the Crimean War, when other pol- 
iticians had wavered and shrunk from its respon- 



THE CHINA WAR. 213 

sibility. They recounted with admiration his 
versatile and varied talents, his bonhommie and 
gallantry against opposition, and the wondrous 
energy with which he combated and spurned the 
natural influences of growing old age. The re- 
sults were a marvelous ministerial majority, and 
the exclusion from Parliament of Cobden, Bright, 
Milner Gibson, Layard, J. W. Fox, Miall, and not 
a few of the Peelites of the second grade. Cob- 
den had not again sought the suffrages of his 
West Riding constituents. He had discovered 
in the course of his canvass that he had no chance 
of success there ; and when he made the discov- 
ery, he rebuked them for their tergiversation from 
their old principles, at Leeds and other great 
towns of the Riding, in tones as distinguished by 
manly outspokenness as they were marked by the 
entire absence of all querulousness or personal 
chagrin. He then solicited the suffrages of the 
citizens of Huddersfield ; but the voters there 
gave the preference to a thorough-going minis- 
terialist, and Cobden was for the first time since 
he first entered Parliament without a seat. 

A beautiful incident occurred during this stir- 
ring period of our recent history. While the 
general election was going on. Bright, who had 
shortly before been compelled by ill health to 
leave the country, was still so ill as to be unable 
to return to conduct his own canvass at Manches- 
ter ; Cobden and others of his friends discharged 



214 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

that task for him. Shortly after the common re- 
jection of Cobden and Bright, the former attend- 
ed and addressed a meeting at Manchester. In 
the course of his speech he alluded to his friend's 
defeat, and dwelt upon the fact that the Manches- 
ter men had rejected the man of whom they had 
been so proud, at a time when he was afflicted, 
and necessarily absent by reason of ill health. 
He became at once deeply aflfected — the more so, 
that Mr. Bright's health was believed to be still 
most dangerously affected. He could not go on ; 
his eyes filled with tears, and for a time he was 
reduced to absolute silence. This eloquence w^as 
felt to be far more expressive than the most flu- 
ent sentences of objurgation or reproach. When 
one recollects such an occasion of the expression 
of ardent personal attachment between the two 
men, or such as was reciprocally shown by Bright 
in speaking of the House of Commons the day 
after Cobden died, how strongly is one reminded 
of the forcible but indisputable expression of Cic- 
ero — " Nulla potest amicitia nisi inter bonos !" 

For rather more than two years Mr. Cobden 
was absent from Parliament. Part of his leisure 
was filled up by a somewhat lengthened tour in 
the United States. It was not long after his re- 
jection by the voters for the West Riding and 
the electors of Huddersfield ere the country be- 
gan to be rather ashamed of its conduct in reject- 
ing so many of its best men in its China War fer- 



THE CHINA WAR. 215 

vor. AmoDg others of the discarded who were 
from time to time reseated was Mr. Cobden, who 
was ultimately returned by Rochdale while he 
was yet absent from England. In Cobden's ab- 
sence, Mr. Milner Gibson had avenged the cause 
of conscientious Radicalism upon Lord Palmer- 
ston by defeating him upon the Conspiracy to 
Murder Bill. The Tories had come in ; Mr. Dis- 
raeli had introduced his Reform Bill ; it was op- 
posed by Lord John Russell on the ground of the 
meagreness of its provisions; the Radicals formed 
a coalition with the Whigs at the famous Willis's 
Rooms meeting. Their combined forces defeat- 
ed the government. Lord Palmerston was once 
more sent for, and he announced his determination 
to reserve certain seats in his cabinet and ministry 
for the leaders of advanced Liberalism. ' Mean- 
while, Mr. Cobden had not yet returned to En- 
gland. It was only on his arrival at Liverpool 
that he learned from a deputation of gentlemen 
who went off and boarded the steamer by which 
he voyaged that the premier had designated him 
to the appropriate oflSce of President of the Board 
of Trade. On his landing, he accepted a solicit- 
ation to address a meeting ; and although, as he 
himself said, his head was yet swimming from 
the effects of sea-sickness, he delivered a speech 
cogent and telling, clear and perspicuous, which 
might well have been supposed to have been the 
result of much study and elaborate preparation. 



216 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Mr. Cobden determined not to accept the proffer- 
ed post. He called upon Lord Palmerston at 
Cambridge House, and frankly told his lordship 
he could not serve under him. It was under- 
stood that when Palmerston remonstrated and ad- 
vised reconsideration, Cobden rejoined that he 
had always regarded him as a most dangerous 
minister for England, and that his views still re- 
mained the same ; and that he felt that he would 
be doing violence to his own sense of duty and 
destroying his character for consistency if he at- 
tempted to act with a minister to whom he had 
all along been opposed. 

While Cobden was out of Parliament, the ques- 
tion of the short war with Persia, and the more 
important incident of the Indian Mutiny, had been 
the chief subjects of discussion. Although he 
was precluded from uttering his views in St. 
Stephen's Hall, he let it be known through other 
channels that he strongly condemned the chronic 
misgovernment which produced the revolt of our 
Sepoys, and that he supported — as might indeed 
have been supposed — that " clemency" of Lord 
Canning after the disturbances were virtually 
quelled which was the subject of such angry ani- 
madversion within and without the walls of Par- 
liament. 

In 1863, the periodical date of the legal expiry 
of the East India Company's twenty years' char- 
ter had come round. It was strongly urged that 



THE CHINA WAR. 217 

their tenure of power should not be renewed for 
the same term, but that a year or two's time 
should be allowed to intervene for full consider-: 
ation of all the aspects of the question of India 
and her relation to the home government ere leg- 
islation for a lengthened period was again effect- 
ed. In the debates of that year Cobden had 
taken a leading part, so that his opinions were 
fairly before the nation in advance of the crash 
of the mutiny. He described the Court of Di- 
rectors as a mere sham, a screen behind which 
that governing body, which was real, and there- 
fore ought to be responsible, might shelter itself 
The two were respectively the John Doe and 
the Richard Roe, shams of law which had been 
then lately done away with. India should be gov- 
erned in the same way as the colonies, so that 
English public opinion should reach it — this was 
its only chance. Thus only could wars and an- 
nexations be got rid of The President of the 
Board of Control might actually annex China, if 
he so chose, against the will of the Secret Com- 
mittee. As to patronage, he desired appoint- 
ments to be given to the natives, which the Board 
of Directors were certain never to do. As to th^ 
fiscal question, he said it was impossible to sepa- 
rate the fate of Indian and English finances. He 
showed that there had been an aggregate defal- 
cation in twenty years amounting to twenty-eight 
millions. And those who had proved that they 



216 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

coald not take stock in a way which, ia the case 
of the humhlest trader, would satisfy a bankruptr 
cy judge, were not fit to administer the finances 
of India. As the territory had increased, so had 
the debt ; and Sattara, Scinde, and the Punjaub 
were all admittedly governed at a loss. 

We need hardly say how thoroughly the stait- 
ling shock of the mutiny brought home these and 
such considerations to the minds of the English 
people. The result was the final quietus of the 
Company, except as a body of guaranteed fund- 
holders, and the fair assumption by England of 
those responsibilities of the government of its 
most magnificent dependency, which Cobden six 
years previously had warmly urged her to under- 
take. 

Cobden, though declining to be an actual mem- 
ber of the second administration of Lord Palmer- 
ston, offered no objection to act as its represent- 
ative in the negotiation of the French Treaty. 
In the latter case, he avoided — what he could not 
have escaped in the former — all general complici- 
ty with the plans and policy of ministers. The 
French Treaty of Commerce thus, or somewhat 
thus, came about. Strong in his denunciation as 
he had been of the frequent panics of French in- 
vasion of England, the idea gradually grew upon 
him that by far the most effectual method of ren- 
dering their recurrence most unlikely, if not quite 
impossible, was to cement new ties of commercial 



THE FRENCH TREATY. 219 

intercourse connecting the two countries, between 
which for ages there had been a most foolish and 
mutually injurious rivalry of prohibitory tariffs, 
and thus establish the Strongest interests on both 
sides of the Channel against the outbreak of war. 
He had frequently talked over this idea with 
other illustrious Free Traders, notably with such 
raen as Chevalier and Bright ; and Bright pub- 
licly expounded it and urged its adoption, in a 
speech delivered shortly after the formation of 
the ministry in 1859. Chevalier, when he read 
this speech, wrote to Cobden, stating his belief 
that the time was now ripe for the completion of 
the idea which had formed so frequent a subject 
of their mutual converse and their dearest hopes. 
Chevalier said he believed the co-operation of the 
Emperor was certain. This was a great encour- 
agement to Cobden, and he resolved fairly to set 
about the task. He communicated his plans to 
Mr. Bright, and the two proceeded to Hawarden 
Castle, the seat of Sir Stephen Glyn, a relative of 
Mr. Gladstone, and whom the latter gentleman 
was then visiting. Mr. Gladstone accorded at 
once his warmest approval. Cobden then waited 
upon the premier, who also sanctioned the enter- 
prise, and Mr. Cobden at once proceeded to Paris 
to commence the execution of his difficult but 
glorious task. Into the details of the long-pro- 
tracted negotiation ; the enormous obstacles of 
prejudice to be overcome in France, the most 



220 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Protectionist of European lands; the devoted 
loyalty of the Emperor from first to last ; the ef- 
fectual aid received from such Frenchmen as 
Bastiat, Chevalier, and the Minister Rouher ; the 
valuable support afforded to Mr. Cobden by his 
appointed coadjutor in the business of negotia- 
tion, Mr. Mallet, of the Foreign Office — ^into these, 
and the other most interesting minute particulars 
of the transaction, it is impossible to enter ; and 
it would be writing a history rather than a biog- 
raphy, and therefore quite stretching and exceed- 
ing the prescribed purpose of our plan, were we 
to enter upon the pleasing digression of nar- 
rating, even in brief, the story of the hard fight 
against the treaty in the English House of Com- 
mons, and the gallant stand made for it, and its 
absent negotiator, by Palmerston, Gladstone, Mil- 
ner Gibson,- and many others equally worthy of 
honor. Nor shall we enter at length into what 
all the newspapers. Board of Trade Returns, 
Financial Statements, and general experience of 
the trading and industrial portion of the nation, 
have each and all equally brought to light since 
it was carried ; the astounding impetus to, and 
yearly increasing development of the internation- 
al commercial transactions of the two lands which 
it has afiected and blessed. 

The broad features of the treaty may be com- 
pressed within a very few lines. On the 1st of 
October, 1861, France was to reduce duties and 



THE FRENCH TREATY. 221 

take away prohibitions on British productions 
mentioned, on which there was to be an ad va- 
lorem duty of 30 per cent. There was a provi- 
sion that the maximum of 30 per cent, should, 
after the lapse of three years, be reduced to a 
maximum of 26 per cent. England engaged, with 
a limited power of exception, to abolish imme- 
diately and totally all duties on manufactured 
goods, to reduce the duty on brandy from 155. to 
85. 2d,^ on wine from 5s. 10c?. to 35., with power 
reserved to increase the duty on wine if we raised 
our own excise duties on spirits. England en- 
gaged to charge upon French articles subject to 
excise the same duties which the manufacturer 
would be put to in consequence of the changes. 
Considerable reductions, both present and pro- 
spective, were made upon the charges levied on 
English iron, coal and coke, carried into France. 
The treaty to be in force for ten years. 

Probably in the whole history of diplomacy, if 
we consider the disturbing views and opposing 
interests to be conciliated or vanquished, the in- 
tricacy of detail of negotiation, the novelty of 
the proposal, the brief period in which all was 
accomplished, no one feat so wondrous was ever 
achieved by one man. Cobden lived to see all 
the morose vaticinations both of French and En- 
glish opponents disappointed. He lived to hear 
from his antagonists their own candid confessions 
of their error; and the French manufacturing 



222 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

classes, who were five years before the most Pro- 
tectionist body in Europe, not only vied with the 
English people in their expressions of sorrow at 
Gobden's death, but it was a common saying of 
English travelers to France, in the spring and 
early summer of 1866, that they actually believed 
that the mourning for Gobden occupied more 
deeply the French bosom than the English, or 
was at least more loudly demonstrated by the 
subjects of the Gorsican than the subjects of the 
Guelph. 

From the English ministry Gobden had not to 
wait for so tardy (though, when it came, so pleas- 
ing) an acknowledgment. Mr. Gladstone said 
in his place in Parliament: " With regard to Mr. 
Gobden, speaking as I do at a time when every 
angry passion has passed away, I can not help ex- 
pressing our obligations to him for the labor he 
has, at no small personal sacrifice, bestowed upon 
a measure which he, not the least among the 
apostles of Free Trade, believes to be one of the 
most memorable triumphs Free Trade has ever 
achieved. Rare is the privilege of any man who, 
having fourteen years ago rendered to his coun- 
try one signal and splendid service, now again, 
within the same brief span of life, decorated nei- 
ther by rank nor title, bearing no mark to dis- 
tinguish him from the people whom he loves, has 
been permitted to perform a great and memora- 
ble service to his sovereign and to his country." 



THE FRENCH TREATY. 223 

After the successful completion of the French 
treaty, Lord Palmerston, on the part of her maj- 
esty, offered to Mr. Cobden a baronetcy and a 
place in the Privy Council. Cobden declined 
both the hereditary rank and the personal honor. 
He chose to be content without ordinary and 
official reward ; and perhaps this was just as well. 
The titles and rewards of office have often been 
misapplied; have been, with almost equal fre- 
quency, conferred for discreditable and detri- 
mental as for beneficial services ; have been as 
often bestowed upon the favorites of kings and 
the instruments of their tyranny — sometimes even 
of their vices — as upon the benefactors of the 
people and the promoters of their best interests. 
Cobden doubtless felt this, and feeling this, one 
may acquit him of any cynical independence and 
affected republican simplicity in his respectful re- 
fusal of the honors offered him by his sovereign 
and her appointed minister. 

Posterity, rather than ourselves, will be able 
to estimate the full amount of the benefit to En- 
gland and humanity constituted by and contained 
in the French treaty. Only when a century shall 
have passed without any war between. England 
and France shall the livers in that blessed epoch 
be able to contrast with sufficient emphasiswith 
the five previous centuries of English . history 
the peaceful era inaugurated by Cobden's far-see- 
ing scheme for withdrawing the risks of war and 



224 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

multiplying the bonds of peace; for, from the 
time of the earliest Plantagenets up to the days 
of our own immediate fathers, it seemed all 
through to be almost an axiom of English policy 
and feeling that we should be always picking 
quarrels with, or accepting challenges from, the 
sons of Gaul, and dealing upon them our dough- 
tiest blows. Every ship we launched, every gun 
we cast, every regiment we embodied, were 
launched, cast, and embodied that they might be 
used against France. In more olden times, our 
youth were trained in the use of cross and long 
bows, all with a view to the fights at Cressy, 
Agincourt, Orleans, and Calais. On France all 
our bellicose energies were concentrated. Liter- 
ally, up till Tudor times she was the only Con- 
tinental power we ever fought with ; and since 
the days of the Armada, even, we fought with 
her more frequently, and at far greater cost, than 
with all other powers combined. Kings like 
James, and ministers like Walpole, were unpop- 
ular because they would not war with France; 
and at the end of his unloved reign, the Second 
George gained, to his own surprise, great popu- 
larity, and Chatham's popularity became more ex- 
cessive than ever minister's had been before, or 
has been since, when they committed the nation 
to war with France. Maria Theresa was the 
darling of our nation, and even the rough and un- 
loveable Frederick the Great became the same 



THE FRENCH TREATY. 226 

when they entered into alliance with us — or, rath- 
er, we with them, for the quarrels were theirs — 
against France. All this is altered now, and, we 
trust in Heaven, shall ever so remain. To Cob- 
den, more than any other man, will posterity ad- 
mit that it is indebted for the holy and propitious 
change. 

P 



226 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 



CHAPTER Xn. 

LAST YEARS IS PARLLA.MENT. 

During the whole of 1861 Cobden spoke only 
once in the House of Commons. This was in be- 
half of the repeal of the Paper Duty, the last 
remnant of those taxes on knowledge which he 
had assailed all his life. Just when he started as 
a public man — but as yet not known beyond the 
confines of his own borough and neighborhood — 
he had taken a respectable share in the agitation 
for the reduction of newspaper stamps and the 
charge for postage. He lived to see the very last 
artificial shackle on intelligence and its dissem- 
ination removed, and he helped in no mean de- 
gree to its removal. His speech, which was on 
the Budget of this year generally, was but a brief 
one. He had been away from the House, doiDg 
better work for England in Paris than he could 
in London. "I am not," said he, "going to 
trouble the committee at any great length. I am 
not sufficiently conversant with your recent de- 
bates to do so." 

The following compliment to the newspaper 
press of this country, as a literate profession, is 
certainly one of which it may well be proud : 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 227 

" You are aiming at preventing the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer from continuing in a course 
which he has not the merit of originating. I can 
not give him the credit for the least originality, 
nor can he be accused of precipitation. He is 
only going in the path which every government 
must follow, whether it be called Whig or Tory. 
Is it for the advantage of honorable gentlemen 
opposite that they should place themselves in this 
position ? If you succeed by a majority in over- 
turning the government and coming in yourself, 
you must instantly adopt the very policy which 
you are opposing in opposition. There is no al- 
ternative. The principle rooted in the public 
mind of England is to remove those barriers 
which impede the progress of commerce and 
manufactures, so as to give the chance of employ- 
ment for a growing and an increasing population. 
You yourselves have the greatest interest in pro- 
moting that policy, and in nothing more than the 
repeal of the paper duty, by which you offer the 
advantage of employment to a class superior to 
those affected by any other article subject to the 
E3c,cise Duty ; for bear in mind that there is no 
article which gives employment to the same edu- 
cated class of men as paper. If I were a young 
man just fresh from college, with nothing in the 
world but a good education, there is nothing I 
should look for with so much interest as making 
perfectly free the press of this country, by reraov- 



228 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

ing all the taxes which tend to render dear and 
scarce literary productions. What should I want? 
I should want employment for my pen. Is it not 
an advantage to rising educated young men that 
more editors, more contributors, more short-hand 
writers should be required ?" 

On the 3d of June, 1862, Mr. Stansfeld pro- 
posed in the House of Commons a resolution to 
the effect *' that the national expenditure is capa- 
ble of reduction, without compromising the safe- 
ty, the independence, or the legitimate influence 
of the country." This was a great field-night m 
the House. Several amendments had been put 
upon the paper, two or three of them more or 
less friendly to the government, and one — that 
of Mr. Walpole — was supposed to be designed 
to raise the direct issue of " no confidence." It 
was believed that once more a conjoint Tory- 
Radical attack was to be made upon ministers, 
and that there was a chance of Lord Derby and 
his party coming in. There was a crowded 
House, an unusually disorderly preliminary de- 
bate — an overture, as it were, to the great per- 
formance which was to follow — and altogether a 
very great deal of interest, bustle, and excitement. 
Mr. Cobden spoke just before the close of the 
discussion, making no allusion whatever to its 
supposed party aspects, which, indeed, turned out 
not to exist in the intentions of the movers either 
of the motion or ofanyof the amendments. The 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 229 

general gist of Mr Cobden's speech may be given 
very briefly. After a severe reply to Mr. Hors- 
man, whom he rightly accused of the most caL 
lous carelessness to the real welfare of the na- 
tion so long as the armaments were kept in their 
inflated state, he undertook to deal with the stale 
and nauseating plea that our expenditure was 
kept up on account of the necessity to protect 
ourselves against France. Why should we not 
endeavor to produce quiet and peace in a cheaper 
way ? We were in allianoe with France ; why 
could not Lord Palmerston, or somebody else — 
he (Mr. Cobden) would undertake to do it — ^take 
the matter in hand, and talk over the question of 
the iron vessels? He said the consequences 
would be perfectly disastrous unless the goverai- 
ment would address themselves to the task of re- 
trenchment, and to the relations of this country 
with France. Thus felicitously and pertinently 
did hp demonstrate from contemporary events the 
truth that it is reserved resources of material 
wealth, and not huge armaments eating into the 
vitals of nations, that are the real conquerors 
when the push comes. 

" Look at what is going on beyond the Atlan- 
tic. Every body has complained that America 
was very overbearing in her foreign policy. Very 
well ; but bear in mind that America was never 
well armed. She had but fourteen or fifteen thou- 
sand soldiers ; she never would have a fleet ; she 



280 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

has not had a line-of-battle ship in commission for 
the last ten years — certainly not more than one. 
If, then, America played the bully without arms, 
what was it that impressed her will upon the rest 
of the world ? Undoubtedly it was that you gave 
her credit for having vast resources behind her, 
which were not unnecessarily displayed in a state 
of armed defiance. Well, what has been the re- 
sult of the present deplorable war in America? 
You have seen that country manifesting a power 
such as I have no hesitation in saying no nation 
of the same population ever manifested in the 
same time. No country in Europe, possessing 
20,000,000 of people, could put forth the might, 
could show the resources in men, money, and 
equipments that the Federal States of America 
have done during the last twelve months. Tak- 
ing the whole country together, about thirty mil- 
lions of people have kept nearly 1,000,000 men 
in arms ; and they have, upon the whole, been 
equipped and supplied as no other army ever was 
before. Why was that? Simply because the 
Americans had not exhausted themselves previ- 
ously by high taxation. They were a prosperous 
people. Their wages and profits were high, be- 
cause their taxation was low ; and as they were 
earning twice as much as the people of Europe 
earned when the war broke out, they had only to 
restrict themselves to one half of their usual en- 
joyments, and they found means of carrying on 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 231 

the war. That, I think, is a doctrine that applies 
to US as well as to the Americans, and I deny the 
doctrine that a nation increases its power, and is 
better prepared for carrying on war, becanse it 
always maintains a large war establishment in 
time of peace." 

One of the last great and telling speeches deliv- 
ered by Cobden in the House of Commons was on 
the proposal of the government to expend, with- 
in a given number of years, a sum of £20,000,000 
on the additional fortifications of our dock-yards 
and arsenals. In this he undertook to prove that 
the alarmist government statements about the 
strength of the French navy were " entirely fal- 
lacious and delusive." This proposition he sup- 
ported by a long array of figures. " In the whole 
of the past five years I defy any one to show an 
instance in which the noble lord (Palmerston) has 
advocated an increase of our naval armament in 
reference to any other country but France. We 
have heard from him the word ' invasion' a dozen 
times within the last few years. Now, for a prime 
minister to talk about this country being invaded 
by a friendly power, without one fact to justify a 
suspicion of it — on the contrary, when the navy 
of that government is less than at any former time 
— ^is to commit this country to an attitude toward 
that neighboring power that no minister ought 
to give it with the levity of indiscretion that has 
marked the noble lord's course on the subject." 



232 LIFE OF RICHARD COBD£N. 

Some passages from the conclasion of this spir- 
ited address we qaote without any farther com- 
ment than to call the reader's attention to the 
confirmation, falling from Mr. Gobden's own lips, 
of a statement made by us in a previous page, 
about the matured and moderate character of his 
views on the question of Peace. 

^^ There is no question in this House as to de- 
fending the country against a foreign enemy. It 
would be a piece of supreme impertinence in me, 
or in any other man, to lay claim to an exclusive 
interest or regard for the security of the country 
against a foreign enemy, and I hold the man to 
be a charlatan who sets up a claim to popularity 
because he holds the honor and safety of the 
country in higher estimation than I do. That is 
not the question here, where every man has an 
equal interest in the safety of the country. We 
may take different views-— as we are entitled 
to do — as to the best modes of fortifying and per- 
manently defending the country. Some think we 
can not do better than appeal for armaments and 
fortifications in addition to our existing resources 
in times of peace, notwithstanding the weight of 
taxation under which the country is struggling ; 
while others, like myself, may think, with Sir Rob- 
ert Peel, that you can not defend every part of 
your coast and colonies, and that, in attempting to 
do so, you run a greater risk of danger to the coun- 
try than you would incur by husbanding the re- 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 233 

sources which you are now expending upon arma- 
ments, so as to have them at call in time of emerg- 
ency. That is my view. Let no one presume or 
dare to say that he has more regard for the safety 
of the country than I have. They may try to 
create imaginary dangers, and to take credit for 
guarding against them ; but give us a real danger, 
show us that our navy is not equal to our defense, 
that a neighbor is clandestinely and unduly trying 
to change the proportion which its force should 
bear to that of this mercantile people living in an isl- 
and, andthenlwovMwiUingly i^o^e £100,000,000 
of money to protect our country against attack. 
But in saying this I claim no merit. I do not set 
myself up as a gi*eat patriot, for there is nobody 
here but would put his hand in his pocket and 
spend his whole fortune rather than have this isl- 
and defiled by the foot of an enemy 

" Our wealth, commerce, and manufactures grow 
out of the skilled labor of men working in metals. 
There is not one of those men who, in case of our 
being assailed by a foreign power, would not in 
three weeks or a fortnight be available with their 
hard hands and thoughtful brains for the manu- 
facture of instruments of war. That is not an 
industry that requires you at every step to mul- 
tiply your armed men. What has given us our 
Armstrongs, our Whitworths, our Fairbairns? 
The industry of the country, in which they are 
mainly occupied. It has been sometimes made 



284 LIFE OF RICHARD COBD£N. 

a reproach against me and my friends, the Free 
Traders, that we would leave the country de- 
fenseless. I say, if you have multiplied the means 
of defense — ^if you can build three times as many 
steamers in the same time as other countries, and 
if you have that threefold force of mechanics to 
which my honorable friend has spoken, to whom 
do you owe that but to the men who, by con- 
tending for the true principles of commerce, have 
created a demand for the labor of an increased 
nuihber of artisans in this country ? Go to Plym- 
outh or to Woolwich, and look at the names of 
the inventors of the tools for making fire-arms, 
and shot and shell. They bear the names of men 
in Birmingham, in Manchester, and in Leeds — 
men nearly all connected for the last twenty years 
with the extension of our commerce, which has 
thus contributed to the increase of the strength 
of the country, by calling forth its genius and 
skill. I resist the attempt which has been made 
to show that I am not a promoter of the strength, 
the power, and the greatness of this country, or 
that I, or any of those who act with me, are, or 
have been indifferent to, or ignorant of, what con- 
stitutes the real strength and greatness of the 
country." 

The last occasion on which Mr. Cobden ad- 
dressed the House of Commons was on July 22d, 
1864, when he made an unusually lengthened and 
elaborate speech, bristling with facts and figures. 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 23^ 

and permeated by sound practical experience and 
common sense. The occasion was his moving a 
series of resolutions condemnatory of the great 
extension of the government manufacturing es- 
tablishments. He cited as an authority Burke, 
who, in a speech delivered in 1780, "laid down, 
in language which it is impossible to surpass, the 
reasons why the government should not manu- 
facture its own supplies, but should depend on 
the competition of individual manufacturers." 
He said the negligence of Parliament and the 
Treasury had become so great, and the depart- 
ments had taken upon themselves such an im- 
mense increase of manufacture, that they laughed 
at the idea of Parliament superintending rthe de- 
tails of the administration. Indeed, Mr. Cobden 
himself objected to Parliament undertaking such 
intricate functions. He thought the House could 
interfere with great advantage in prescribing the 
principles on which the executive government 
could be carried on, but beyond that he held it 
to be impossible for the Legislature to interfere 
with advantage in the details of the administra- 
tion of the country. And he said that in the 
early years of his experience in Parliament, when 
Sir Robert Peel was prime minister, he would 
have resented the appointment of the Parlia- 
mentary committees of inquiry into the details of 
administration which now prevail as tantamount 
to votes of want of confidence. Sir Robert would 



286 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

have said, if sach a committee had been proposed 
in his time, and while he held the reins of power, 
^^ If you think the administration is not satisfac- 
torily condacted by me, then you must find some- 
body else to undertake it." 

To give some idea of the rapidity of the rate 
at which the government had become manu&c- 
tnrers, Mr. Cobden reminded the House that up 
till the close of the Crimean War the British 
government had never cast a cannon, or made a 
shot or shell. And when it was determined to 
cast 68-pounders at Woolwich, the proprietors 
of the Low Moor works, who had previously sup- 
plied the government, and who not only took se- 
lected qualities of their own iron — which is the 
best — ^but used coal of a peculiar kind, fresh from 
the earth, to smelt it, would not sell pig iron to 
the Woolwich establishment. The result was 
that, having got the machinery for casting the 
guns, there was no iron fit to cast. They had to 
go into the market and buy the ordinary kind of 
pig iron, and, as a consequence, the guns were 
pronounced rotten and were never used. He 
then told the exactly similar and parallel story of 
the government and Whitworth and Armstrong 
guns. He dwelt with great scornful glee upon 
the naivete with which the leading men at Wool- 
wich came before the committee appointed by 
the House, and tried to show that they were pro- 
ducing the guns cheaper than at Els wick, Sir 



LAST YEARS IN PARLUMENT. 287 

William ArmstroDg's factory ; forgettiDg that the 
two were one and the same concern, Sir William's 
works being as much a government establishment 
as those at Woolwich ! for they were both start- 
ed by the government with the nation's capital. 

Then he went on to small-arms, and showed 
that exactly the same course had been pursued in 
this field. Till the close of the Crimean War the 
government did not manufacture a single rifle. 
They were furnished by private contractors, and 
spoken of in the highest terms by the Sebastopol 
Committee of 1855, while the medical, commis- 
sariat, and other departments were unflinchingly 
condemned. But the government got an idea 
into their heads that at some moment of dire 
necessity, when they were in great need of rifles, 
there might be a strike among some class of the 
workmen who manufacture their various parts ; 
the more so, as if only the maker of the lock 
struck, it would stop the manufacture and deliv- 
ery of the whole rifle. This was quite true, and 
the natural remedy was that they should give or- 
ders to capitalists, who would set up machinery 
for manufacturing the whole musket. But gov- 
ernment could not be made to comprehend a 
thing so obvious as this, and erected an enormous 
manufactory for the construction of rifled small- 
arms at Enfield, and they actually sent to Amer- 
ica to procure the requisite machinery. And now 
all had gone for nothing; for the superiority of 



288 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN 

the Lancaster and Whitwortb to the Enfield rifles 
had been acknowledged. 

After entering into similar and more extended 
details, Cobden said he found that he never could 
make the conductors of these government estab- 
lishments understand that the capital they had to 
deal with was really money. For how should it 
be real money to them ? It cost them nothing. 
Whether they made a profit or a loss, they never 
made their way into the Gazette. To them money 
was a myth ; to the tax-payers, however, it was a 
reality. You never could make the gentlemen at 
the head of the departments understand that they 
must pay interest for capital, rent for land, as well 
as allow for depreciation of plant and machinery. 
He said the manner in which the government of- 
ficials chuckled over the supposed gi*eater cheap- 
ness of their results in comparison with those of 
the private manufacturer always reminded him of 
the story of two gipsies who sold brooms. One 
said to the other, " I can't conceive how you can 
afford to sell your brooms cheaper than I do, for 
I steal all my materials." " Ah !" says the other, 
" but I steal my brooms ready made." 

Then he went on in the same vein of serious 
depreciation, enlivened by the keenest irony, to 
the army tailoring department, jocularly terming 
Lord De Grey and Ripon " the most extensive 
tailor in the world." Then he went from land to 
sea, propounding once more his oft-reiterated 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 289 

views as to the folly of large expenditure for 
ships in the present transitionary state of naval 
architecture and the science of gunnery. The last 
words of this remarkable speech — and the last 
words uttered by Cobden in the House of Com- 
mons — were these. They are a sacred legacy left 
to the nation he loved so well. 

" I know of nothing so calculated some day to 
produce a democratic revolution as for the proud 
and combative people of this country to find 
themselves, in this vital matter of their defense, 
sacrificed through the mismanagement and neg- 
lect of the class to whom, with so much liberal- 
ity, they have confided the care and future desti- 
nies of the country. You have brought this upon 
yourselves by undertaking to be producers and 
manufacturers. I advise you in future to place 
yourselves entirely in dependence upon the pri- 
vate manufacturing resources of the country. If 
you want gunpowder, artillery, small-arms, or the 
hulls of ships of war, let it be known that you 
depend upon the private enterprise of the coun- 
try, and you will get them. At all events, you 
will absolve yourselves from the responsibility of 
undertaking to do things which you are not com- 
petent to do, and you will be entitled to say to 
the British people, ' Our fortunes as a government 
and nation are indissolubly united, and we will 
rise or fall, flourish or fade together, according to 
the energy, enterprise, and ability of the great 



240 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

body of the manufacturiDg and indastrious com- 
munity.' " 

Speaking with strict accuracy, these were not 
absolutely Cobden's last words in the House. 
For subsequently, in the same debate, he, curi- 
ously enough, interrupted a speaker with the 
characteristic ejaculation, ^< It is ridiculous to com- 
pare times of peace and war." 

The last time Mr. Cobden appeared before and 
addressed a public audience was on the 23d of 
November, 1864, when he gave to his Rochdale 
constituents his customary annual review of the 
session, and his general opinions upon current 
questions of public policy and affairs. Mr. Bright 
was also to have been present, but was compelled 
to be absent in consequence of the recent death 
of a son of great promise. Mr. Cobden could 
well sympathize with a calamity like this, and the 
opening sentences of his long, comprehensive, and 
spirited address contained most kind and touch- 
ing references to the affliction of his friend and 
constituent. Mr. Cobden never uttered a more 
thoroughly characteristic address than this. All 
his leading qualities were displayed in it. Merely 
premising that the chief topics which he touched 
were the Schleswig-Holstein debates of the pre- 
ceding session ; the collapse of the doctrine of 
intervention to which these debates had testified; 
the course of the American War ; the questions 
in dispute between Federals and Confederates, 



I 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 241 

and the financial condition and prosperity of En- 
gland, we proceed to cull a few of the more rep- 
Tesentative passages of this speech. We make 
no attempt at summarizing, commenting on, or 
furnishing connecting links to our citations. We 
shall best do our duty to the original and to our 
readers by letting Mr. Cobden speak for himself. 
And to read these words solemnizes one, for they 
were the last he uttered in public. 

^' Let me tell the solid, substantial, manufactur- 
ing, and commercial capitalists of the country that 
this is not a very honorable position to be left in. 
They allowed the government to go on and com- 
mit them in encouraging a small power to fight 
with a big one. It was very much like a man 
backing a little fellow for a prize-fight, drawing 
him to the scratch where his toe is to come to, 
telling him how to plant himself, superintending 
his training, and assuming responsibility for all he 
does, and then, as soon as blows are exchanged, 
running off. That is the position in which we 
were left by what happened last session in regard 
to Schleswig-Holstein, and we are caricatured in 
every country of Europe. I myself saw German 
and French caricatures immediately afterward. 
There was a French one representing Britannia 
with a cotton night-cap on. I recollect a picture 
of the British lion running off as hard as he could, 
pursued by a hare. That is not a satisfactory 
state of things, because I maintain that to a cer- 

Q 



242 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

tain extent we deserve all this — that is, we de- 
serve it unless we show that we did not run away 
merely because it did not suit us to fight, but that 
we intended to adopt a new principle in our for- 
eign policy, and that other countries must not ex- 
pect us to fight except for our own business. . . 
^' It is said we must form our armaments upon 
a new scale, in order to prevent France from 
swallowing up Germany. Now I think that if 
France were to perform such a feat as that, she 
would suffer so terribly from indigestion after 
swallowing these forty millions of uncomfortable 
Teutons, I think she would be an object of pity 
rather than terror ever afterward. Well, now, 
really it is surprising to hear men aspiring to be 
statesmen come and talk exactly as if they had 
% taken passages from Baron Munchausen or Ghd- 
liver^s Travels. How can we say that we have 
made any great progress if such sentiments can 
be paraded on the banks of the Roche, and what 
must we expect to hear from the agricultural dis- 
tricts in the neighborhood of Midhurst ? 

My right honorable friend [Mr. Bouverie, M.P., in 
a then recently delivered speech], when he advo- 
cates the carrying out of the sentimental policy, 
carries us as far back as the time of Queen Eliza- 
beth, and says that she was a sovereign who did 
what was right, and true, and just, and in the in- 
terest of Protestantism, all over the Continent of 
Europe When I read Motley's « History 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 248 

of the Dutch Republic' — when I read this history 
of the rise of the Netherlands, and when I see that 
struggling community with their whole country 
desolated by Spanish bigotry, and every town lit 
up daily by the fires of persecutors — when I look 
at what passes when the envoys come to Queen 
Elizabeth to ask her aid, how she is huckstering 
for money while they are talking of religion, I 
declare, with all my doctrines of non-intervention, 
I am almost ashamed of Queen Bess, and of her 
grasping ministers, Burleigh and Walsingham. . . 
" What did the Americans do when they de- 
clared their independence in 1776? They put 
forth a declaration of grievances, and at the pres- 
ent time no Englishman can doubt that they were 
justified in separating from the mother country. 
.... But why is there [by the Confederate lead- 
ers] no. such declaration ? Because they have but 
the grievance they want to consolidate, perpetu- 
ate, and extend — slavery ; but they can not do it. 
.... What do they say ? Leave us alone ; all 
we want is to be left alone. That is the reason 
why the conservative governments of Europe, and 
so large a portion of the upper classes in England, 
have consented to back the insurrection. Now 
how would they feel if Essex and Kent, having 
been beaten on the subject of the Corn Laws, had 
chosen to set up Kent and Essex, and East Anglia 
right across the Thames, as the Secessionists have 
sought to attempt to cut oflT Louisiana from the 



244 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

mouth of the Mississippi, and if they had said, 
' We want to be left alone' — why, can any govern- 
ment be carried on if a section of the people, when 
they are beaten at the poll at a peaceful election, 
be allowed to secede ? I ask where is the conserv- 
atism among the governing class of the country ? 
I come to the conclusion that, after all, there is 
more conservatism among the democracy* «... 
"If I were a rich man, I would endow a profess- 
or's chair at Oxford and Cambridge to instruct 
the undergraduates of those imiversities in Amer- 
ican history. I would undertake to say, and I 
speak advisedly, that I will take any undergradu- 
ate now at Oxford or Cambridge, and ask him to 
put his finger on Chicago, and I will undertake to 
say that he does not go within a thousand miles 

of it When I was at Athens I sallied out 

one summer morning to seek the famous river, the 
Ilissus, and after walking some hundred yards or 
so up what appeared to be the bed of a mountain 
torrent, I came upon a number of Athenian laun- 
dresses, and I found that they had dammed up 
this famous classical stream, and were using every 
drop of its water for their own sanitary purposes. 
Why, then, should not these young gentlemen, 
who know all about the geography of the Ilissus, 
know also something about the geography of the 
Mississippi ? .... To bring up young men from 
college with no knowledge of the country in which 
the great drama of modern politics and national 



LAST YEARS IN PARLIAMENT. 245 

life is now being worked out, who are ignorant 
of a country like America, but who, whether it 
be for good or for evil, must exercise more influ- 
ence in this country than any other class — to bring 
up the young destitute of such knowledge, and 
to place them in responsible positions in the gov- 
ernment, is, I say, imperiling its best interests ; 
and earnest remonstrances ought to be made 
against such a state of education by every public 
man who values, in the slightest degree, the fu- 
ture welfare of his country." 

Probably, had Mr. Cobden himself been able to 
penetrate the inscrutable future — had he uttered 
his speech with the consciousness that it was to 
be his last — ^he would have made selection of these 
following sentences which concluded this admi- 
rable and now sacred oration : 

" Do you suppose it possible, when the knowl- 
edge of the principles of political economy has el- 
evated the working classes, and when that eleva- 
tion is continually progressing, that you can per- 
manently exclude the whole mass of them from 
the franchise ? It is their interest to set about 
solving the problem, and, to prevent any danger, 
they ought to do so without farther delay." 



246 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 



CHAPTER Xni. 

LAST DAYS, AND DEATH. 

For the last three or four years of Mr. Cobden's 
life he suffered from an asthmatic affection, and 
was recommended, as each succeeding winter 
came round, to repair to a milder climate. But 
he disregarded the injunctions, and preferred to 
remain in his own country home, now rendered 
more sacred to him by the burial in the grave- 
yard which was ere long to receive his own re- 
mains, of his only son. The younger Cobden, a 
youth of great promise, died in Germany, where 
he was pursuing his education. His remains were 
conveyed to England, and buried in West Lav- 
ington church-yard, a spot of remarkable beauty, 
and which Mr. Cobden selected as the burial-place 
of himself and his family, in preference to the 
cemetery of his own parish of Heyshot. 

Mr. Cobden's daily life at Dunford was of a re- 
markably beautiful and touching character. All 
his life a being of strong affections and singular 
gentleness, these lovely traits became more strik- 
ing as he grew older, being mellowed and inten- 
sified by his great domestic sorrow. He was sur- 
rounded by the memories of his family, and the 



LAST DAYS. AND DEATH. 249 

outward records of the existence of its successive 
generations. His own house, though rebuilt and 
modernized when the estate was purchased for 
him, contained intact a part (we believe, his moth- 
er's bedroom) of the old house in which he had 
been bom, and which had been occupied by his 
father and grandfather. The Cobden family had 
been owners of freehold land in Sussex from the 
time of Henry VIH., if not from an earlier date. 
Close by stands an ancient building called Cran- 
moore farm-house, now divided into two laborer's 
dwellings, which local tradition says was the res- 
idence of the Cobden family — then, as more re- 
cently, yeomen freeholders — a century and a half 
ago. An old yew-tree, the sole occupant of his 
lawn, had witnessed the advent and the passing 
away of many successive generations of the Cob- 
dens, and a fine pine wood upon his estate, which 
formed his favorite walk, and under whose shade 
Mr. Bright and he discussed, only three weeks be- 
fore his death, the policy of the nation, must have 
been nearly coeval with the association of the 
Cobdens with Dunford. In fine weather, his fa- 
vorite ride was to Cowdray, the old residence of 
the Montagues ; or he would drive through the 
pleasant parishes of Heyshot and Graffham to the 
family seat of the Bishop of Oxford, with whom 
he was accustomed to stay once or twice every 
year. 

Mr. Cobden's hospitality at Dunford was very 



250 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

conspicaous, and its objects were as varions as its 
kindness was undoubted. The cosmopolitan char- 
acter of his mind and heart, and the world-wide 
beneficial range of his efforts, were fairly reflect- 
ed in the national varieties of his guests, who 
came to him from all parts of the earth. With | 

them he would sit up far into the night, never [ 

weary of conversing, and — a rarer faculty — as ' 

ready to listen as to talk. His large correspond- 
ence cemented and enlarged the circle of his 
friends. He was a prodigious letter-writer, and 
a very admirable one. A note of his in answer to i 

the most ordinary query was sure to be exhaust- 
ive, and in most cases was suggestive, going into 
new and additional aspects of the question to that 
submitted, and furnishing his querist with con- ; 

siderable more of information or counsel than had \ 

been solicited. He would frequently rise at six i 

in the morning to write letters ; and, says a most I 

appreciative biographer in a morning newspaper, 1 

to whom we have gratefully to acknowledge our 
indebtedness for many of the facts and traits we 
reproduce in this chapter, " If the sky was cloudy 
or the weather broken, he would often write till 
post-time, perhaps alternating his epistolary du- 
ties with reading some favorite author, a recrea- j 
tion of which he was never weary. Like a famous 
ancient, he was never less idle than when he was 
idle, nor ever less alone than when he was alone." 
We have frequently denied ourselves the grat- 



LAST DAYS, AND DEATH. 251 

ification, and our readers the advantage, of pre- 
senting characteristic passages from Mr. Cobden's 
letters at various stages of the pleasant labor 
whose results are embodied in the preceding 
pages. Ere taking leave of our subject we pre- 
sent two of Mr. Cobden's letters ; one of them, 
we believe, the very last he penned. They are 
both on most important themes, and on subjects 
whose interest is any thing but evanescent. They 
may justly be considered legacies of opinion left 
behind him, bequeathed in the interests of his 
mourning compatriots and his fellow-men. The 
former of the two is upon the progress of the 
American War, and on certain of the questions 
of policy incidental to its development. It was 
addressed by Mr. Cobden to the American minis- 
ter at Copenhagen, and runs as follows. It will 
be observed that all the surmises contained in the 
second paragraph turned out absolute predictions, 
and were being literally realized just about the 
time of Mr. Cobden's death. 

" Midhurst, February 5. 
" My deae Friend, — I duly received your 
letter of the 12th of December. Ever since I 
have been an invalid, not having left the house 
for more than two months. I was imprudent in 
going at so late a season to address my constitu- 
ents in the North, and was unfortunate in being 
obliged to speak not only for myself, but for Mr. 



252 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Bright, who was prevented from being present 
by the death of his son. But I am better now, 
though not well enough to be at my post at the 
opening of the session. I must wait for finer 
weather. 

"I congratulate you on the course which events 
have taken in your country during the last few 
months. It seems to me that there are unmis- 
takable signs of exhaustion in the Confederacy, 
and it would not be rash to predict now that the 
famous ' ninety days' will witness very decisive 
events in the progress of the war. Jefferson Da- 
vis rules in Richmond, but the Federal armies 
control his dominions. I hold a theory that in 
these times, when armies require vast appliances 
of mechanical resources, and when they are so 
much larger than in olden days, it is impossible to 
carry on war without the base of large cities. If 
the sea-ports be taken and Lee be obliged to evac- 
uate Richmond, there will not be a town left in 
the Confederacy with 20,000 white inhabitants. 
It will be impossible to maintain permanently 
large armies in the interior of the slave states, 
amid scattered plantations and unpaved villages. 
You can not, in such circumstances, concentrate 
the means of subsistence or furnish the necessary 
equipment for an array. I expect, therefore, to 
see the loss of the large towns lead to a dispersion 
of the Southern armies. I have sometimes spec- 
ulated on what course Lee will take if obliged to 



LAST DAYS, AND DEATH. 263 

abandon his position at Richmond. I have my 
doubts whether he will continue the struggle be- 
yond the borders of his native state. However, 
all these are speculations which a few months will 
dispose of. I pray Heaven we may soon see the 
termination of this terrible war. 

"I observe what you say about Confederate 
agents having found encouragement in Europe. 
I can easily believe this. If the South caves in 
there will be a fierce resentment felt by the lead- 
ers toward those potentates or ministers in Eu- 
rope who have deluded them to their ruin, and I 
should not be surprised if we were to hear some 
secrets disclosed, in consequence, of an interesting 
kind. Democracy has discovered how very few 
friends it has in Europe among the ruling class. 
It has at the same time discovered its own 
strength, and, what is more, this has been dis- 
covered by the aristocracies and absolutisms of 
the Old World, so that I think you are more 
safe than ever against the risks of intervention 
from this side of the Atlantic. Besides, you must 
not forget that the working class of England, who 
will not be always without direct political power, 
have, in spite of their sufferings and the attempt 
made to mislead them, adhered nobly to the cause 
of civilization and freedom. 

" You will have a task sufficient to employ all 
your energies at home in bringing your finances 
into order. There is a dreadful want of capacity 



254 LIFE OF BICHARD COBDEN. 

at your head in questions of political economy ; 
you seem now to be in the same state of ignorance 
as that from which we began to emerge forty 
years ago. The labors of Huskisson, Peel, and 
Gladstone seem never to have been heard of by 

Messrs. and Co. Depend on it that as there 

is no royal road to learning, so there is no repub- 
lican path to prosperity. You must follow the 
beaten track of experience. Debt is debt, whether 
on the west or east of the Atlantic, and it can be 
paid only by prudence and economy, and a wise 

distribution of its burdens 

" Yours, very truly, 

"R. COBDEN. 
"Hon. B.R. Wood.'* 

The other letter, the last which proceeded from 
his pen, was addressed to Mr. Potter, now Mr. 
Cobden's successor as M.P. for Rochdale, and is 
on the subject of a scheme recently propounded 
by Mr. John Stuart Mill, which, with all respect 
for its author, we can not help agreeing with Mr. 
Cobden in regarding as somewhat cumbrous and 
crotchety, for the better parliamentary represent- 
ation of minorities. The letter seems to us an 
admirable specimen of the clearness and sagacity 
of Mr. Cobden's intellect. It did not reach its 
destination by post, but was found in his desk 
after his death. 



LAST DAYS, AND DEATH. 266 

** London, 23 Suffolk Street, Pall Mall,> 
March 22, 1866. > 

"My dear Potter, — I return Mill's letter. 
Every thing from hira is entitled to respectful 
consideration. But I confess, after the best atten-r 
tion to the proposed representation of minorities 
which I can give it, I am so stupid as to fail to see 
its merits. He speaks of 50,000 electors having 
to elect five members, and that 30,000 may elect 
them all, and to obviate this he would give the 
20,000 minority two votes. But I would give only 
one vote to each elector, and one representative to 
each constituency. Instead of the 60,000 return- 
ing five in a lump, I would have five constituen- 
cies of 10,000, each returning one member. Thus, 
if the metropolis, for example, were entitled, with 
a fair distribution of electoral power, to 40 vgtes, 
I would divide it into 40 districts or wards, each 
to return one member ; and in this way every class 
and every variety of opinion would have a chance 
of a fair representation. Belgravia, Marylebone, 
St. James, St. Giles, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, etc., 
would each and all have their members. I don't 
know any better plan for giving all opinions a 
chance of being heard ; and, after all, it is opin- 
ions that are to be represented. If the minority 
have a faith that their opinions, and not those 
of the majority, are the true ones, then let them 
agitate and discuss until their principles are in 
the ascendant. This is the motive for political 



266 LIFE OF BICHARD COBD£N. 

action and the healthy agitation of pnblic life. I 
do not like to recognize the necessity of dealing 
with the working-men as a class in an extension 
of the franchise. The small shop-keeper and the 
artisan of the towns are socially on a level. The 
sabject is, however, too large for a sheet of note- 
paper. Believe me, yours very truly, 

«R. COBDEN." 

The writer to whom we have already acknowl- 
edged our indebtedness thus completes his notice 
of Mr. Cobden at Dunford during the last period 
of his life : 

"The public are able to judge of his powers as 
a letter-writer, of that clearness and vigor of style 
which shone as brightly in his briefest notes as 
in his most studied speeches ; but only a compar- 
ative few of the outer world have had the oppor- 
tunity of being fascinated by his conversation, or 
feeling the magic spell which he cast around him 
in private life. He had also the rare faculty of ab- 
stracting himself from surrounding objects, and, 
like some other great men, of sleeping at will — 
perhaps the secret of that recuperative power 
with which so fragile a man must have been en- 
dowed. While his life at Midhurst was simplici- 
ty itself, its chief beauty consisted in the ample 
fulfillment of every positive duty. His affection 
for his cattle, and for animals of all kinds, was 
great, but his love for his fellow -creatures was 



LAST DAYS, AND DEATH. 257 

correspondingly greater. He never forgot that 
he was not only a member for a distant constitn- 
ency, and a statesman with high public functions 
to perform, but that he was a parishioner of Hey- 
shot, and that serious obligations devolved upon 
him within a stone's-throw from his own door. 
At first he occupied the whole of his land him- 
self, but latterly he let a portion of it to the old- 
est farmer in the parish — a veteran who mourns 
for him as for a son ; and as he had spent a great 
deal of money in improving and draining it, no 
one could place him in the same category with a 
certain class of the Irish landlords. He took a 
deep and abiding interest in the welfare of the 
poor people in the neighborhood. Occasionally, 
when his health admitted, he would call upon 
them; and he was constantly inquiring about 
them individually in his house. Many of these 
poor persons have, at various times, been objects 
of his generous and discriminating bounty — all 
regarded him as a friend to whom they could with 
confidence appeal in the hour of need. He took 
a deep personal interest in the establishment of a 
school, and was extremely anxious to establish 
penny readings for the benefit of the villagers, 
and to get lecturers from a distance who would 
talk to them on improving subjects. As a mem- 
ber of the Church of England, he was as devoted 
to the cause of religion as he was to the interests 
of education. No man could take more pride in 
R 



258 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

his parish chorch, or exhibit a more laudable de- 
sire to make it the focus and centre of a blessed, 
heaven-inspired influence. So long as he was able, 
he never failed to be present at divine worship 
beneath the venerable roof of Heyshot Church, 
in the precincts of which his brother was buried ; 
and only the extreme inclemency of winter pre- 
vented him from participating in its pure and 
elevating ritual. He took a chief part in origin- 
ating the improvements in the church, and the 
music has more recently been the object of his 
pious care. An old poet has said, 

" *■ Only the actions of the just 

Smell sweet and blossom in the dost.' 

This applies with singular relevance to Mr. Cob- 
den ; and, indeed, as the present writer can af- 
firm, only those who have conversed with the men 
and women who wei-e familiar with his every- 
day life, who were privileged to know or to dis- 
cover the good things he did openly, or, as he 
best loved, in secret, can form an adequate idea 
of the pure and noble life of this Christian states- 
man and philanthropist." 

Although not obtrusively communicative on 
public occasions of points of religious faith, Mr. 
Cobden was a really religious man. A frequent 
remark of his was," You have no hold of any one 
who has no religious faith." 

The physical prostration which succeeded the 



LAST DAYS, AND DEATH. 259 

great speech at Rochdale, in November, 1864, 
OBce more reminded Mr. Cobden how dangerous 
it was for him to appear in public during an En- 
glish winter. He never got the better of it, and 
declared his intention not to resume his parlia- 
mentary duties until spring had fairly set in. In 
January, 1865, Mr. Gladstone wrote to Mr. Cob- 
den, offering for his acceptance the important 
post of chairman of the Board of Audit, a perma- 
nent office, with a salary of £2000 a year. Mr. 
Cobden at once declined the flattering and lucra- 
tive office, alleging that he could not subject him- 
self to the pain and annoyance which his dis- 
charge of the duties must involve, of witnessing, 
and appearing to sanction without any power to 
prevent, the scandalous and unnecessary waste of 
public money. 

Mr. Cobden was inspired with the deepest in- 
terest in the progress in Parliament of the dis- 
cussions on the alleged necessity of undertaking 
large works of defense in the Canadas. Early in 
March he invited Mr. Bright to come to Dunford, 
that they might converse together on the subject, 
and concert the best means of impressing their 
common views on the government and the nation. 
He asked Mr. Bright to come into Sussex, because 
he did not deem it advisable to go to London in 
the very inclement and wintry weather which still 
prevailed. In the course of his converse with 
Mr. Bright, he referred to the fact that his son 



260 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

was buried in Lavington churcb^yard, and stated 
that there too, when God took him, he would be 
buried. As the Canada debates progressed, he 
was seized with an irresistible desire to go up to 
London, and expound his opinions in Parliament. 
He came to town on the twenty-first of March, 
one of the bitterest days of the very severe and 
trying spring of the year. Immediately on his 
arrival at his house in Suffolk Street he was 
seized with an attack of asthma. A week after, 
he had sufficiently recovered to be able to see 
some of his friends. But on the afternoon of 
Wednesday, the twenty-ninth, the attack returned 
with renewed severity. For a day the attentions 
of his medical attendant, and the sedulous care of 
his wife and second daughter, prevented at least 
an increase in the malignity of the disorder, and 
hopes of his recovery were entertained. On Fri- 
day, the last day of March, the symptoms were 
considered unfavorable, but on Saturday morning 
he was again held to be a little better ; but as 
the day proceeded he grew decidedly worse, the 
disease becoming developed into what is termed 
congestive asthma, and being farther complicated 
by an attack of bronchitis. In the course of the 
day he made his will, appointing as his executors 
Mrs. Cobden and the Messrs. Thomasson, senior 
and jimior, of Bolton. He also dictated a letter 
to Mr. Bazley, M.P., Mr. Henry Ash worth, of Bol- 
ton, and Mr. John Slagg, of Manchester, with ref- 



LAST DAYS, AND DEATH. 261 

erence to certain funds which these gentlemen 
held in trust for his children. About midnight 
he seemed somewhat stronger, and conversed a 
little with Mr. Bright and Mr. Moffat, M.P., and 
with two friends and neighbors from Midhurst. 
As the morning of Sunday, the second of April, 
dawned, it became clear that death had set his 
seal upon him. He gradually sank, but, thanks 
to God's goodness, with a cessation of suffering, 
and in bodily and mental tranquillity ; and just 
as the church bells were concluding their sum- 
moning peals to the houses of God throughout 
the land, the spiritual essence which had for near- 
ly sixty-one years inhabited a human fabric which 
the Deity had made very eminently a home of the 
habitation of His gracious Spirit, returned to Him 
who gave it, and who providentially directed its 
energies so largely to the advantage of His hu- 
man creatures. 



262 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDRN. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

TRIBUTES TO MR. COBDEN's MEMORY AND MERITS. 

Few who were living, and of sufl5ciently ma- 
tured powers of observation at the time, will ever 
forget the sad and general impression made by the 
tidings of Mr. Cobden's peaceful release, through- 
out the whole land, among all classes of its citi- 
zens, and in the great countries of Europe and 
the New World. Mr. Cobden, with a patriotism 
as undeniable and unquenchable as ever animated 
a human breast, had nevertheless been the great 
apostle of kindliness and conciliation in interna- 
tional relations, and one consequence was, that 
he was more beloved and popular out of his own 
land than ever statesman was in the history of 
the world. Englishmen — even those who had 
admired him most warmly while living — were 
astounded when they came, after his death, to 
realize the beauty of his character, the magnitude 
of his services, and the amount of what they had 
lost by his somewhat early departure. They were 
equally startled to find that France, Germany, 
Italy, and America mourned him as if he had 
been a son and citizen of their own soils. A 
letter from Paris, dated two days after his death. 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 263 

says : " Last night I happened to be at a soiree 
in a fashionable salon. The only topic of con- 
versation was the immense loss even this coun- 
try has sustained by the death of Mr. Cobden, 
which, by its suddenness, startled the Parisian 
world, and has created a painful sensation, as well 
as a deep feeling of regret." A short paragraph 
in the list of European telegrams in the daily 
papers a few days after his death showed that 
he was so mourned on the distant Danube, that 
Prince Milosch, of Servia, decreed that services 
in honor of his memory and for the peace of his 
soul should be held in the cathedral of Belgrade, 
and the other churches of the Greek communion 
in his principality. Thus the gentle influences 
of his life had not only bridged over the abyss 
of antipathy between nation and nation, but were 
revealed at his death to have accomplished the 
nobler feat of obliterating the more deep-seated 
disagreements of rival faiths. 

In the English House of Commons a scene was 
witnessed on the day succeeding his death, than 
which never did any transaction of the six cen- 
turies of that assembly's existence redound upon 
it more infinite credit. To comment upon it 
would be to mar the dignity and honor of the 
picture. We present it unabridged, and in a re- 
lief unaffected by any fringe or framework of our 
own. 

" On the clerk at the table proceeding to read 



264 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

the orders of the day, the first of which was the 
motion to go into committee of supply, Lord Pal- 
merston rose, and, amid breathless silence, said : 
' Sir, it is impossible for the House to have this 
motion put and any determination come to upon 
it without every member recalling to his mind 
the great loss which this House and the country 
have sustained by the event which took place 
yesterday morning. Sir, Mr. Cobden, whose loss 
we all deplore, stood in a pre-eminent position, 
both as a member of this House, and. as a mem- 
ber of the British nation. I do not mean, in the 
few words which I have to say upon this subject, 
to disguise, or to avoid stating, that there were 
many matters upon which a great number of 
people differed from Mr. Cobden — I among the 
rest ; but those who differed from him could nev- 
er have had any doubt of the honesty of his pur- 
pose or the sincerity of his convictions. They 
felt that his object was the good of his country, 
however they might differ on particular occasions 
from him as to the means by which that end was 
to be accomplished. But we will all leave in ob- 
livion points of difference, and think only of the 
great and important services he rendered to his 
country. Sir, it is many years ago since Adam 
Smith elaborately and conclusively, as far as ar- 
gument could go, advocated as the fundamental 
principle of the wealth of nations the freedom of 
industry and the unrestricted exchange of the 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 265 

objects and results of industry. These doctrines 
were inculcated by learned men — by Dugald 
Stewart and others, and were taken up in process 
of time by leading statesmen, such as Huskisson 
and those who agreed with him. But the bar- 
riers which long -associated prejudice — honest 
and conscientious prejudice — had raised against 
the practical application of these doctnnes for a 
great number of years, prevented their coming 
into use as instruments of progress to the coun- 
try. To Mr. Cobden it was reserved, by his un- 
tiring industry, his indefatigable personal activi- 
ty, the indomitable energy of his mind, and I may 
say by that forcible Demosthenic eloquence with 
which he treated all subjects he took in hand — it 
was reserved for him, aided, no doubt, by a great 
jplhalsLUx of worthy associates, such as my right 
honorable friend the President of the Poor-law 
Board, and by Sir Robert Peel, whose name will 
be ever associated with the principles he so ably 
advocated — I say it was reserved for Mr. Cobden, 
by exertions which were never surpassed, to car- 
ry into practical application those abstract princi- 
ples with the truth of which he was so deeply im- 
pressed, and which at last gained the acceptance 
of all reasonable men in the country. He con- 
ferred an inestimable and enduring benefit by the 
result of those exertions. But, great as were Mr. 
Cobden's talents, great as was his industry, and 
eminent as was his success, his disinterestedness 



266 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

of mind equaled them all. He was a man of 
great ambition ; his ambition was to be useful to 
his country, and that ambition was amply grati- 
fied. When this present government was formed 
I was authorized graciously by her majesty to of- 
fer Mr. Cobden a seat in the cabinet. Mr. Cob- 
den declined, and in doing so he frankly told me 
that he thought he and I differed greatly upon 
many important questions of political action, and 
he therefore thought it would not be comforta- 
ble, either to himself or myself, to join the ad- 
ministration of which I was the head. I think 
he was wrong; but I will say that no man, how- 
ever strongly he may have differed from Mr. 
Cobden upon general political principles, or the 
application of those principles, could have come 
into communication with him without carrying, 
away the strongest personal esteem and regard 
for the man with whom he differed. The two 
great achievements of Mr. Cobden were — in the 
first place, the abrogation of those laws which 
limited the importation of corn, which gave a 
great development to the industry of the country, 
and then the commercial arrangement which he 
negotiated with France, and which has also great- 
ly benefited the commercial relations of this coun- 
try. When the latter achievement was accom- 
plished I knew he would not accept office, and 
therefore it was my lot to offer to Mr. Cobden 
those honors which the crown can bestow in the 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 267 

form of a baronetcy and a seat in the Privy Conn- 
cil. These are honorable distinctions which it 
would have been a gratifying reward to the crown 
to have bestowed upon him, and I do not think 
that it would have been at all derogatory for him 
to have accepted them ; but that same disinter- 
ested spirit which marked all his conduct, wheth- 
er public or private, led him to decline these hon- 
ors, which would have been readily bestowed. 
I can only say that the country has sustained a 
loss which all the country must feel. We have 
lost a man who may be considered to be peculiar- 
ly emblematical of the constitution under which 
all have the happiness to live, because he rose to 
great eminence in this House, and rose to acquire 
an ascendency in the public mind, not by virtue 
of any family connections, but solely and entirely 
in consequence of the power and vigor of his 
mind — that power and vigor being applied to 
purposes evidently advantageous to his country. 
Sir, Mr. Cobden's name will be forever associated 
with and engraved on the most interesting pages 
of the history of this country, and I am sure that 
there is not a man in this House who does not 
feel this day the deepest regret that the House 
has lost one of its brightest ornaments, and the 
country one of her most nseful servants.' 

" Mr. Disraeli, whose rising was the signal for 
cheers from all parts of the House, said : ' Sir, 
having been a member of this House when Mr. 



268 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

Cobden first took his seat in it, and having indeed 
remained in this House during the whole time of 
his somewhat lengthened Parliamentary career, I 
can not reconcile myself to silence on this occa- 
sion, when we have to deplore the loss of one so 
eminent, and one, too, in the full ripeness of his 
manhood and the full vigor of his intellect. Al- 
though it was the fortune of Mr. Cobden to enter 
public life at a time when passions were roused, 
still, when the strife was over, there was soon 
observed in him a moderation and temperateness 
of expression that intimated a large intellectual 
capacity and high statesmanlike qualities. There 
was in his character a peculiar vein of reverence 
for tradition, which often, unconsciously to him- 
self, subdued and softened the severity of the con- 
clusions to which he may have arrived. That^ 
sir, in my mind, is a quality which in some de- 
gree must be possessed by any man who attempts 
or aspires to sway this assembly. Notwithstand- 
ing the rapid changes in which we live and the 
improvements which we anticipate, this country 
is still Old England. What the qualities of Mr. 
Cobden were in this House, all now present are 
able to judge. I think I may say that, as a de- 
bater, he had few equals ; as a logician, he was 
close and compact, and I would say adroit, acute, 
and perhaps even subtle ; yet, at the same time, 
he was gifted with that degree of imagination that 
he never lost sight of the sympathies of those 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 269 

whom he addressed ; and so, geaerally avoiding 
to drive his arguments to an extremity, he be- 
came, as a speaker, both practical and persuasive. 
The noble lord, who is far more competent than 
myself to deal with such a subject, has referred to 
his career as an administrator. It seemed to be 
destined, notwithstanding the eminent position 
which he had achieved and occupied, and the va- 
rious opportunities which offered for the ambi- 
tion which he might legitimately possess, that his 
life should pass without the opportunity of show- 
ing that he possessed those talents and qualities 
so valuable in the council and in the management 
of public affairs. But still it fortunately happen- 
ed that before he quitted us he had one of the 
greatest opportunities which a public man could 
enjoy, and in the transactions of great affairs ob- 
tained the consideration of the two leading coun- 
tries of the world. There is something mournful 
in the history of this Parliament when we re- 
member how many of our most eminent and val- 
uable public men have been removed from among 
us. I can not refer to the history of any Parlia- 
ment that will bear down to posterity so fatal a 
record. But, sir, there is this consolation remain- 
ing to us, when we remember our unequaled and 
irreparable losses, that those great men are not 
altogether lost to us, that their words will be 
often quoted in this House, that their examples 
will often be referred to and appealed to, and that 



270 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

even their expressions may form a part of our dis- 
cussions. There are, indeed, I may say, some 
members of Parliament who, though they may 
not be present, are still members of this House, 
are independent of dissolutions, of the caprices of 
constituencies, and even of the course of time. I 
think that Mr. Cobden was one of those. men. I 
believe that when the verdict of posterity shall 
be recorded upon his life and conduct, it will be 
said of him that, looking to his expressions and 
his deeds, he was without doubt the greatest po- 
litical character that the pure middle class of this 
country has as yet produced ; that he was an or- 
nament to the House of Commons, and an honor 
to England.' 

"After a brief and impressive pause, Mr. Bright 
rose, and, in a voice tremulous with emotion, said : 
' Sir, I feel that I can not address the House on 
this occasion ; but every expression of sympathy 
which I have witnessed has been most grateful 
to my heart.' (The honorable gentleman betray- 
ed strong emotion, but recovered himself and pro- 
ceeded.) ' But the time which has elapsed since 
I was present when the manliest and gentlest 
spirit that ever quitted or tenanted a human form 
departed this life is so short that I dare not even 
attempt to give utterance to the feelings by which 
I am oppressed.' (The honorable gentleman here 
for a moment paused, and covered his face with 
his hand.) ' I shall leave to some calmer moment, 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 271 

when I may have an opportunity of speaking be- 
fore some portion of my countrymen, the exposi- 
tion of the lesson which I think may be learned 
from the life and character of my friend. I have 
only to say that after twenty years of most inti- 
mate and almost brotherly friendship with him, I 
little knew how much I loved him until I found 
that I had lost him. (The honorable gentleman, 
whose broken words of sorrow were with diffi- 
culty spoken, sat down, amid the sympathetic ap- 
plause of the House.)" 

At ^he monthly dinner of the Soci6t6 D'Eco- 
nomie Politique, in Paris, three days after his 
death, Mr. Cobden's memory was honored in the 
warmest terms by such men as Hippolyte Passy, 
Chevalier, Aries Dufour, and Joseph Gamier. 
" Cobden has done more," said the president, M. 
Passy, " for allaying international hatreds, for the 
extinction of those jealous rivalries which have 
so often armed peoples against each other, and for 
promoting the fundamental interests of humanity, 
than any of the statesmen who have hitherto 
taken part in the government of nations. Cobden 
is no more, but his works remain, and the future 
will honor them, for their wisdom and benefi- 
cence will from day to day more distinctly ap- 
pear." 

The foreign minister of France, M. Drouyn de 
Lhuys, introducing an admirable innovation in 
diplomatic intercourse, sent a dispatch on the all- 



272 LIF£ OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

engrossing theme to the French embassador in 
London, which rivaled in the excellence of its 
terms the observations of Mr. Disraeli ; and high- 
er eulogy than this could not be accorded to it. 
Although in most instances one can do no more 
than cull a single leaf from the wreaths of im- 
mortelles reverently placed on Cobden's tomb, 
the importance of this document justifies our 
presentation of it unmutilated and sacred from 
curtailment : 

**To his Excellency the Prince de la Toor d'Auvergne,! 
Embansador of France at London, Paris, April 8. i 

" Prince, — ^A few days since, while the first 
minister of her Britannic majesty bore brilliant 
testimony in the House of Commons to the mem- 
ory of Richard Cobden, a speaker belonging to 
the government of the Emperor expressed the re- 
grets which the death of this illustrious man gave 
rise to in France, and the Legislative body iden- 
tified themselves with this homage by a unani- 
mous impulse. 

" A manifestation so honorable to the two na- 
tions, and to the person whose loss England de- 
plores, will not have escaped your attention, and 
you will perhaps have already had occasion to 
communicate thereupon with the ministers of the 
queen. I desire, nevertheless, prince, to place you 
in a position to express to them officially the 
mournful sympathy and truly national regret 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 273 

which the death, as lamented as premature, of 
Richard Cobden has excited on this side of the 
Channel. 

" That indefatigable promoter of liberty in the 
domain of commerce and manufactures was not 
only the living proof of what merit, perseverance, 
and labor can accomplish, but one of the most 
^mplete es:amples of those men who, sprung 
^m the most humble ranks of society, raise 
themselves to the highest ranks in public estima- 
tion by the effect of their own worth and of their 
personal services ; finally, one of the rarest exam- 
ples of the solid qualities inherent in the English 
character. He is, above all, in our eyes, the rep- 
resentative of these sentiments and those cos- 
mopolite principles before which national front- 
iers and rivalries disappear ; while essentially of 
his country, he was still more of his time ; he 
knew what mutual relations could accomplish in 
our day for the prosperity of peoples. Cobden, 
if I may be permitted so to say, was an interna- 
tional man. 

" There are some mental views and aptitudes 
which are only given to those who in the outset 
of their career have felt the embarrassments and 
the difficulties of life, who have had to struggle 
against the necessities of a position less than hum- 
ble. Richard Cobden had been brought up in 
this severe but strengthening school ; he thence 
derived, as the best preparation for a knowledge 
S 



274 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

of political economy, the gift of sympathy with 
the Bufferings of the laborious classes in the miclst 
of whom he had lived ; he understood the bet- 
ter the straitened circumstances which he had 
shared; and in feeling the need of alleviating 
them, he was naturally led to seek the means to 
do so — firstly, in the abolition of the Com Laws 
in England, then in the suppression or lowering 
of the barriers which the various commercial laws 
had raised between peoples. Certainly Cobden 
did not create any of the principles of industrial 
and commercial liberty. They had been profess- 
ed and propagated before him by eminent theo- 
rists in England and France. But his glory is 
to have followed up the practical application of 
them, abroad and at home, with an ardor and de- 
votedness quite unparalleled. 

^'Exempt from national prejudices as from 
those of education and caste, Richard Cobden 
brought to the purauit of reforms which he judged 
useful to his country and profitable to humanity 
a disinterestedness and a sincerity which one can 
not but honor, while at the same time one is 
obliged to admit that all his views were not 
equally practicable. 

" For ourselves, we can not forget the consid- 
erable part he took in the change of opinions 
which prepared, and in the negotiations which led 
to, the treaty of commerce at present existing 
between France and England. This important 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 273 

act, the good results of which experience has al- 
ready consecrated, and the liberal provisions of 
which are from day to day adopted by other 
powers of Europe, will have for effect not only 
the development of the material interests between 
England and France, but it will also aid power- 
fully in strengthening their friendly relations. 
This was the double object of Richard Cobden. 
He loved and understood France better than any 
other person, and regarded as one of the greatest 
interests of his country and humanity the main- 
tenance of peaceful relations between the two na- 
tions, which, according to the expression recently 
used by a member of the English cabinet, march 
at the head of the world. 

" You will be good enough, prince, to acquaint 
the first minister and the principal secretary of 
her Britannic majesty with the sentiments ex- 
pressed in this dispatch, and which they will re- 
ceive, I doubt not, with a willingness equal to 
that which has dictated them. Receive, etc., 
"(Signed), Deouyn db Lhuts." 

After a long and elaborate sketch of his life, 
the writer of an admirable article in the Moni- 
teur thus concluded : 

" A special and peculiarly admirable character- 
istic of the man whom England has just lost ren- 
ders the loss one which must be felt alike by Eu- 
rope and by the whole world. He was the type 



276 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

of the true economist, the citizen of the commer- 
cial universe. Most sincerely attached to British 
interests, he did not separate them from those of 
other peoples. He saw the development and the 
greatness of his own country in the development 
and the greatness of rival nations, for he under- 
stood no rivalries but those of peace, ^hus he 
passed a part of his life in traveling from conn- 
try to country, preaching his industrial crusade, 
spreading his doctrines, employing every where 
his favorite weapon — persuasion, .... Oobden 
was able to understand France, and he loved her 
— she will never forget him." 

In the Corps Legislatif the subject of Cob- 
den's death was introduced by its vice-president, 
M.Forcade la Roquette, and his warm expressions 
of esteem were applauded and repeated on every 
hand. '^The death of Richard Cobden," he said 
— ^' and I feel convinced that the Chamber will 
cordially join in thie sentiment — ^is not alone a 
misfortune for England, but a cause of mourning 
for France and for humanity." The Emperor 
took means of letting his personal sympathy with 
the expressions of his subjects appear by declar- 
ing his intention to place a bust of the great Free 
Trader in his palace of Versailles. 

From Germany there were similar tributes — 
from the Prussian Chambers and in the pages of 
the great newspapers. The Cologne Gaeette con- 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 277 

eluded a lengthened biography in these words : 
" How high stands such a man, in whom the 
rising citizenhood, the enlightened spirit of our 
age, were, so to speak, incorporated ! How, in 
comparison with him, do all the petty vanities 
and ridiculous pretensions of caste conceit sink 
into pitiful nonentity !" 

At the conclusion of a lecture delivered before 
the Leeds Mechanics' Institution two days after 
Cobden's death, Elihu Burritt, speaking in behalf 
of America, said : 

"When such a man lies dead in the land; 
while the shadow of a great sorrow is on a na- 
tion's face, and millions in other countries feel the 
penumbra of the same grief moving over their 
spirits ; while the electric wires of the world are 
yet thrilling with the news that one of the very 
foremost workers in the world's history for the 
well-being of mankind has just gone to his rest, I 
could not refrain on this occasion from offering a 
small tribute of reverence to a memory which, I 
trust and believe, the English-speaking race in 
both hemispheres will ever hold and cherish as a 
common treasure. If, in the grand words of the 
ablest of his political opponents, such a man, in 
the working presence of his great mind, is still a 
member of Parliament, * independent of dissolu- 
tions, of the caprice of constituencies, and even 
of the course of time,' he is in a wider sweep of 
influence an immortal citizen of the great com- 



278 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

monwealth of states that speak the earth-engir- 
dling tongue whose latent power his peerless logic 
unlocked and strengthened to its utmost capacity 
of expression in the advocacy of principles that 
shall live forever among men — among the bright- 
est immortalities of truth and right. All the 
millions that inhabit the American continent shall 
hold the life of Richard Cobden as one of the 
great gifts of God to a common race, and cherish 
and revere his memory as one of the priceless 
heir-looms which the motherland has presented 
to the multitudinous family of states she has 
planted on the outlying continents and islands 
of the globe. In the proud and grateful senti- 
ment of this relationship, they shall say we share 
with her in the common patrimony of such a life, 
and feel they have a children's right to light the 
lamp of their experience by its light, and follow 
its guidance, without abstracting from the beams 
it sheds around her feet." 

At home, in England, the corporations of Lon- 
don and the provincial towns, as well as the 
Chambers of Commerce, the associations of work- 
ing men, and other bodies, hastened to pass reso- 
lutions of regretful respect and of condolence with 
Mr. Cobden's family. One address of condolence 
to Mrs. Cobden from a provincial Reform Club — 
that of Blackburn — was distinguished by the deli- 
cate kindliness and sympathy of its tone. " We 
did not," it stated, " love your husband at a dia- 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 279 

tance ; his nature was too kindly and tender ; all 
were drawn toward him." One who has a just 
right to speak on behalf of the more intelligent 
members of the industrial order thus truthfully 
expressed himself: 

" He was one of the few members of Parliament 
who thought for the people, and, what is more 
■ and rarer, gave himself trouble to promote their 
interests. He pever knew apathy or selfishness. 
To a clear intellect he united perfect sincerity and 
a quick conscience. On the question of Reform 
he kept clear of all that base, paltering, and treach- 
erous indifference which so many others have dis- 
played. He never explained away a promise: 
he always kept faith with the workman as well as 
with the gentleman. He cared for principle, not 
to serve his own ends, but the ends of the people. 
With him a great principle was a living power 
of progress ; and not to apply it, and produce by 
it the good which was in it, seemed to him a 
crime. To him apathy was sin. A cause might 
be despised, obscure, or poor : he not only helped 
it all the same — ^he helped it all the more. He 
aided it openly and intentionally. Fresh from 
the honors of great nations, who were proud to 
receive him as a guest, he would give an audience 
to a deputation of poor men. The day after he 
arrived from the court of an emperor, he might 
be found wending his solitary way to a remote 
street to attend a committee meeting, to give his 



iHO UF£ OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

personal advice to the advancement of some for- 
lorn hope of progress. In the day of triumph he 
shrank modestly on one side, and stood in the 
common ranks ; bat in the dark or stormy days 
of unfriended truth he was always to the front." 

The Bishop of Oxford, who was prevented by 
illness from being present at the last rites of his 
friend and fellow -philanthropist, wrote a most 
touching letter of regret for his inability to at- 
tend the funeral, in which he said, '^ I feel his loss 
deeply. I think it is a great national loss. But 
my feelings dwell rather on the loss of such a 
man, whom I hope it is not too much for me to 
venture to call my friend. His gentleness of na- 
ture ; the tenderness and frankness of his affec- 
tions; his exceeding modesty; his master love 
of truth ; and his ready and kindly sympathy — 
these invested him with an unusual charm for me. 
How deeply I feel for his wife and for his daugh- 
ters !" 

The universal press, of all the shades of politics, 
added its unanimous tribute. And it was noticed 
that a large proportion of the biographies and 
comments which appeared in the newspapers 
evinced in their writers considerable personal and 
familiar knowledge of the man. It was remem- 
bered that the Corn Law agitation had been a 
great educational movement as well as one of 
physical amelioration, and that it had raised many 
meritorious men from the humbler ranks into its 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 281 

employ as the lecturers of the League, many of 
whom, at its dissolution, entered upon the honor- 
able career of journalism. These men looked 
upon Cobden as their great master, and were en- 
abled to communicate to those to whom they dis- 
charged the duty of political and economic in- 
struction many personal traits and incidents of 
Cobden's public life, especially in its earlier and 
more energetic era. 

The Times said, " His eminence in the state is, 
and must always remain, indisputable. The Lib- 
eral ranks are too often filled with men whose 
only claim to distinction is their ability to repeat 
the catchwords of a party. Mr. Cobden had 
nothing in common with those echoes." " Rich- 
ard Cobden," said the Daily News^ " was more 
than a Caesar. When he had done all this, he ac- 
cepted simply the offering which the nation made 
him in lieu of the fortune he had sacrificed, and 
without even the false modesty of a pompous re- 
tirement, he continued to render such services as 
an ordinary member of Parliament can perform. 

Perfect probity, absolute sincerity, an 

eager, almost an impetuous desire to make truth 
triumphant, a belief in the power of human hon- 
esty and good feeling, if it could only have fair 
scope, an incapacity to recognize that rank or 
privilege conferred dignity or desert — these were 
the conspicuous virtues or the faults of his char- 
acter." One sentence in the obituary notice of 



382 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

the Manchester Ecaminer is as much character- 
ized by its truth as it is by its pith — "He loved 
his country not less than any man living, but he 
loved it in wise and philanthropic subordination 
to the welfare of all mankind." A writer in the 
Scotsman^ with the accustomed exercise of that 
nice critical faculty which has ever distinguished 
the great Whig organ of the North, justly pointed 
out the fact that "by natural temperament and 
tastes Mr. Cobden was by no means an agitator, 
much less a demagogue. He was naturally quiet, 
unassuming, even timid, and full of a gentleness of 
spirit which shone out in his manner, and which 
must have made controversy distasteful. He was 
cradled into oratory by wrong — a sense of injus- 
tice drew him from his parlor to the platform, 
and sustained him through a dreary, protracted, 
and wearying struggle." Mr. Miall, Mr. Cobden's 
friend and fellow -combatant in many fights for 
all kinds of freedom — religious, political, and fis- 
cal — thus testified in the Nonconformist: "To 
do the good he was qualified to do was the only 
reward he ever craved. Wealth, ease, reputation, 
popularity, social distinction, were all as nothing 
when he had a duty to do. When that duty had 
been done, he was satisfied. He cared not to 
claim the merit. He delighted in lavishing it 
upon those with whom he had been associated. 
You might be in his company for days together 
without hearing a single expression calculated to 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 283 

remind you of his own superiority of position. 
He seemed to have no self-consciousness save for 
what he took to be his defects. He assumed no 
airs of authority. He recoiled from the very ap- 
pearance of acting the great man. His affections 
all tended outward. He was the soul of gener- 
osity. But in one respect he firmly and tena- 
ciously held his own — he never parted with his 
ponvictions — ^he would suffer no blandishments to 
rob him of his self-respect. There were times 
when he was beset by temptations that would 
have been powerful for other men. None of 
them moved him. He put them aside and went 
on his way, neither caring to deny nor glorying 
in what he had done." 

Time was when, upon the death of such a man, 
the whole air would have been filled with elegiac 
odes. We of these days are, for the most part, 
content with prose. Nevertheless, poetry has not 
died out of us. We listen with responsive en- 
thusiasm to the truly inspired singer. It is be- 
cause we believe the following verses equally 
worthy of the subject and the poet — Cobden and 
Eliza Cook — that we select them to bind up the 
garland which we have culled : 

" Cobden ! proud, English, yeoman name ! 
I offer unto thee 
The earnest meed that all should claim 
Who toil 'mid Slander, Doubt, and Blame, 
To make the free more free. 



264 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

** Thy voice has been among the few 
That plead for Human Right; 
It asked for justice ; and it grew 
Still loader when the fair and true 
Were trampled down by Might. 

" Thy heart was warm, thy brun was clear, 
Thy wisdom prompt in thought ; 
Thy manly spirit knew not fear, 
But held its country's good most dear — 
Unwarped, nnbribed, unbought. 

** An open foe — a changeless friend — 
Thy gauntlet pen was flung ; 
More ready in thy zeal to lend 
A shield to others, than defend 
Thyself from traitor's tongue. 

*' A home-bred Caesar thou hast been. 
Whose bold and bright career 
Leaves on thy brow the wreath of green. 
On which no crimson drop is seen. 
No widow's bitter tear." 



POSTHUMOUS TRIBUTES. 285 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE GEAVE. 

OuE task is now all but complete. It only re- 
mains to reproduce the circumstances of the tran- 
sit of the earthly remains of Richard Cobden to 
that God's-acre which he himself had indicated 
as his chosen resting-place, and where the father 
and the son now lie side by side. We would not 
willingly withhold from our readers the advantage 
of having the picture of the funeral presented in 
the very words of a witness of, and participant in, 
the sad ceremony — a privilege which the writer 
of these pages did not enjoy. We make, there- 
fore, no apology for, and believe, indeed, that we 
rather enhance the value of our record by pre- 
senting the account of Mr. Cobden's burial in the 
very words of that authority of whom we have 
already made such large use. 

" The mourners, who numbered several hund- 
reds, formed a procession half a mile or more in 
length. They walked at a funeral pace along 
the picturesque highway which leads direct to 
West Lavington Church. At many points on the 
road groups of country people were gathered, who 
had put on such mourning as they could com- 



286 LIF£ OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

mand, and whose honest faces expressed the sor- 
row they felt. The shingled spire and oaken 
porch of West Lavington Church presently caught 
the eye, and in a few minutes the hase of the hill 
upon which the church stands was reached, and 
Religion was about to consecrate with its solemn 
rites Death's last great achievement. The pro- 
cession was then re-formed. Passing through 
the Lychgate, where in olden times the mourners 
were accustomed to engage in prayer, the coffin 
was borne by laborers on Mr. Cobden's estate up 
the steep pathway. The pall was held by twelve 
of Mr. Cobden's most distinguished associates : 
Mr. Bright, M.P. ; the Right Hon. W. E. Glad- 
stone, M.P. ; the Right Hon. Charles Pelham 
Villiers, M.P. ; Mr. George Wilson, formerly chair- 
man of the Anti-Corn-Law League ; the Right 
Hon. Thomas Milner Gibson, M.P. ; Mr. Moffatt, 
M.P. ; Mr. Thomas B. Potter, Mr. A. W. Paulton, 
Mr. Henry Ashworth ; Mr. Bazley, M.P. ; Mr. 
William Evans, chairman of the Emancipation 
Society; and Mr. Thomas Thomasson. The chief 
mourners then followed : Mr. Charles Cobden, 
the brother of the deceased ; Mr. William Sale, 
of Manchester, his brother-in-law ; Mr. John Wil- 
liams, the brother of Mrs. Cobden ; Mr. Freder- 
ick Hogard, Mr. Charles F. Kirk, and Mr. Wil- 
liam Sale, jun., relatives of the family; and Mr. 
Rhoades, Mr. Fisher, sen., and Mr. Fisher, jun. 
Half way up the ascent the coffin was placed on 



I 

I 



THE GRAVE. 287 

the bier, and carried up the successive terraces 
of the grave-yard into the peaceful house of pray- 
er, where it was deposited in the chancel between 
the choir stalls. As Mr. Bright ascended the 
church steps he was tenderly supported by Mr. 
Gladstone, who, by his presence, paid the last 
tribute of respect to his distinguished friend. 
The church, which from this day forth is destined 
to have a memorable historic interest, is built in 
the middle pointed style, and was erected as re- 
cently as 1850, the last act of Archbishop Man- 
ning before he seceded to the Roman Catholic 
Church having been to watch over its completion. 
If the exterior is attractive, the inside view ex- 
hibits a singularly successful combination of taste 
and simplicity. The roof is supported by a double 
row of massive arches and columns. The screen 
is made of Petworth marble, and is tastefully 
carved. The sculptured brackets and corbels rep- 
resent the fern and wild hops of the district. The 
frontal of the altar and the draperies of the pul- 
pit and the lectern are at present of violet cloth, 
the color of the Lenten season. Above all, the 
stained glass of the eastern window typifies, by 
its sublime figures, the great truth of the Resur- 
rection, and is at once the symbol of our Lord's 
second coming, and of that exalted faith which 
yesterday must have brought consolation to ev- 
ery heart. The church is only adapted to accom- 
modate two hundred persons, the exact number 



288 UFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

of Bonls dwelling in the little parish of Laving- 
ton. On this occasion it was wholly inadequate 
to receive the large concourse that had assem- 
bled. It was soon full to overflowing, and hund- 
reds who failed to procure admission were com- 
pelled to take up their position on one or other 
of the terraces into which the grave-yard, stand- 
ing, as it does, on the slope of a hill, is necessarily 
laid out. The opening sentences of the beautiful 
service for the dead — ^that immortal legacy which 
has been bequeathed to us by the piety of our 
forefathers, and which is destined to be transmit- 
ted to the latest generations — were read by the 
Rev. James Currie, M. A., the incumbent of the 
parish. The lesson from that chapter of the Co- 
rinthians in which the great apostle proclaims the 
grand doctrine of the resurrection of the body in 
language as majestic as it was truly inspired by 
the Most High, was read by the Rev. Caleb Col- 
lins, M.A., the rector of Stedham and Heyshot, 
Mr. Cobden's own parish. Then the body, with 
these heaven-sent words of faith and hope stUl 
ringing in the ears of the mourners, was carried 
out into the bright sunshine, which beamed with 
celestial splendor upon the scene. No one pres- 
ent could have wished that Mr. Cobden had been 
buried in any other spot. The magnificence of 
the abbey or the minster paled before the glory 
of nature's beauteous temple. From the crest of 
that hill upon which his remains were so soon to 



THE GRAVR 289 

mingle with their mother dust, the eye gazed 
upon a landscape as charming and resplendent 
as Milton's picture of Paradise. In the far dis- 
tance, forming a background on the horizon, 
stretched the range of the South Downs from 
Worthing in the east to Petersfield in the west, 
a distance of thirty miles. Between lay the val- 
ley of the hills, thickly wooded with pine, and 
fir, and oak, the foliage of which reflected every 
color, and gleamed with the rays of a warm 
spring sun. There was a quietude and a peace 
in it all which the busy haunts of men can never 
give, even when one treads the stately aisles of 
Westminster or St. Paul's. No wonder that long 
years ago — ^before the death of his only and well- 
beloved son — ^Mr. Cobden should not only have 
chosen this church-yard as his future burial-place, 
but have selected for his grave the very spot 
where yesterday he was interred ; for, wherever 
the eye wanders fi*om this central point, it rests 
upon scenes of pastoral loveliness which can not 
be surpassed in any part of this beautiful isle. 

" Mr. Cobden's vault lies at the southern ex-. 
tremity of the grave-yard, and its only occupant 
until yesterday was his son, who died in Germany, 
but whose remains were buried here. In allowing 
a vault to be constructed at all, the incumbent ex- 
hibited a graciousness of disposition which, tak- 
ing into account the strength of his opinions, de- 
serves a cordial recognition. Around the gaping 
T 



390 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

vault dnstered the moorneTB and bosom fiiends 
and political associates of Mr. Cobden. There 
stood his brother and his kindred. There Mr. 
Gladstone, with eyes closed and face unnaturally 
pale. There Mr. Bright, whose manly grief was 
that of a brother. There Mr. George Wilson, Mr. 
A. W. Paulton, and Mr. William Evans, who had 
been associated with him in the earlier straggles 
as well as the later triumphs of the Anti-Gom- 
Law League. There aUo stood Mr. Milner Gib- 
son and Mr. Yilliers, who, like him, were leaders 
in the warfare against an unrighteous monopoly. 
There was a singular fitness in the presence of 
the three cabinet ministers who are the appointed 
guardians of the interests of finance, trade, and 
the impoverished classes, and who come here to 
render homage to the ashes of the man who was 
the liberator of commerce and the champion of 
the poor. Lord Glarence Paget, another repre- 
sentative of the government, was present ; so 
also was Lord Alfred Paget, who represented the 
court." 

Among many other mourners were Mr. Adams, 
the American minister. Lord Kinnaird, Mr. Baz- 
ley, M.P.,Mr. J. B. Smith, M.P., Mr. Baines, M.P., 
Mr. W. E. Forster, M.P.,Mr.Moran,the Secretary 
of the American Legation, Mr. Charles Gilpin, 
M.P., Mr. Stansfeld, M.P., Mr. Leatham, M.P., Sir 
Morton Peto, Mr. Edward Miall, Mr. John Rich- 
ardson, who carried a motion in the Corporation 



THE GRAVE. 291 

of London that a naarble bust of Mr. Cobden 
should be placed in their Council Chamber, Mr. 
Robertson Gladstone, the Rev. Newman Hall, Dr. 
Hook, the Dean of Chichester, Mr. Thomas B. 
Potter, Mr. Cobden's successor in the representa- 
tion of Rochdale, the Rev. Henry Richard, M. 
Visschers,the eminent Belgian statesman, the Rev. 
Dr. Brock, Mr. Elihu Burritt, Mr. Samuel Mofley, 
and a host of other well-known men. 

Loving hands had woven chaplets of everlast- 
ing and new spring flowers, which were deposit- 
ed with reverent care on the foot of the cofiin ; 
and one venerable individual, who had come a 
long journey, being unable to approach the grave, 
handed the flowers which he had gathered from 
one to another, that they might be placed by the 
side of the other mementoes of affection. Slowly 
the cofiin was pushed down the narrow planks 
as the priest solemnly pronounced the words, 
"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust," 
and cast upon the lid a handful of that clay which 
is the emblem of mortality. As the cofiin passed 
from view, Mr. Bright, with irrepressible grief, ad- 
vanced nearer and nearer, and strained his eyes 
into the narrow tomb which was so soon to be 
closed. The sorrow of many found vent in audi- 
ble sobs ; but the comforting benediction closed 
the painful scene, and the grief-stricken throng 
separated after taking another and yet another 
farewell of the resting-place of the great and good 



292 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. _ 

Richard Cobden. He sleeps the long sleep on 
the lovely summit of a Sussex hill — not in a wil- 
derness of graves, for there are few who share 
that consecrated ground with him, but amid 
scenes which speak of the beauty of his life and 
the glorious hope of a joyftd resurrection. 

The author of an article in '^All the Tear 
Round," describing " Richard Cobden's Grave," 
thus wrote : 

"There was a deep sadness in every face, tears 
in women's eyes, and the bell from the lofty bel- 
fry tolled with a plaintive tinkle. About two hun- 
dred gentlemen filled the little church, in which 
service was read, with mumbling mutterings. 
When the coffin was borne out of the church, and 
along the terrace toward the grave, amid the un- 
covered mourners, the sun beating warmly upon 
their heads, while the clergyman said " dust to 
dust," " in hope," and the coffin grated down the 
planks into the vault, a shook of grief passed 
through the crowd of mourners, women wept, 
and men grew deadly pale. Many of the hands 
there had often been warmly clasped during a 
severe political struggle by the hand lying there 
dead. A French wreath of everlastings was laid 
on the coffin above his feet, and a wreath of 
spring flowers — ^blue and purple anemones, prim- 
roses, polyanthuses, hepaticas, primulas, above his 
breast. It was an aged man of fourscore years 
who handed forward the wreath of spring flow- 



THE GRAVE. 298 

ers, and who had cammenced his friendship with 
the deceased on the Catskill Mountains, in Amer- 
ica, in July, 1835. This old man's chaplet was 
but the first of many symbols of respect paid to 
the memory of a man whose name is significant 
of a commercial policy tending to give the poor 
their daily bread, and spread peace on earth and 
good-will among men." 

A fri(3nd remarked to us a few days after the 
death of Cobden that the three great attitudes 
and performances of his life were valuable in the 
inverse ratio of their popularity — that his Anti- 
Corn-Law agitation, which bulked most largely 
in connection with his name in the public eye, 
was really a less wondrous feat, and less produc- 
tive of great future consequences, than the French 
Treaty ; for the latter was a recognition and dec- 
laration of the principle of the extension to the 
whole world of the advantages confined by the 
former to England. And similarly, that Cob- 
den's unswerving advocacy of universal peace 
and arbitration betwixt differing and alienated 
nations was really something larger and grander 
than his purely fiscal achievements. We agreed 
perfectly with the remark. After all, the most 
splendid legacy left by Cobden was his preaching 
of " Peace on Earth." At a Peace Society Meet- 
ing at Newcastle shortly after Cobden's death, 
his friend, the Rev. Henry Richard, the excellent 
and estimable Secretary of the Peace Society, 



294 LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN. 

feelingly and forcibly impressed this fact Aud 
we believe that we can not more fitly conclude 
our narrative of the life of this God-sent man — 
for we believe we could not do so in a manner 
more likely to be approved by Mr. Cobden's own 
gentle spirit — ^than by the citation of these heart- 
felt, earnest, and memorable words : 

*' Last Friday I stood over the grave of Rich- 
ard Cobden, and, to confess my weakness, when I 
looked into the vault and saw. his coffin lie there, 
and recall to remembrance how long that man 
had been like a tower of strength to me upon 
which I could always lean — his wisdom in coun- 
cil and his undaunted courage in action — ^the first 
impulse of my weakness was as if I must retire 
from all share in public matters, and give them 
up in despair and despondency. A few months 
before, I had walked by his side along the same 
road where the funeral procession went on Fri- 
day, and I could remember the precise remarks 
he made to me by the particular points of the 
road, and my feeling was, as I said, having lost 
such a pillar of strength in the cause of peace, 
that I could no longer persevere ; but my second 
reflection was, that such is not the lesson which 
the life and example of Richard Cobden should 
attach to any of his surviving friends — that man 
who, twenty-five years ago, lifted up his voice in 
the midst of this nation in favor of Free Trade 
and international peace, and who continued, till 



THE GRAVE. 295 

the last day of his life, faithful and unflinching to 
the principles of his youth. Was it right, then, 
that I should retire from the ^ work which Provi- 
dence has given to me to do ? No, I would rath- 
er be as the Carthaginian general, taking a little 
boy to his father's bosom to swear true enmity to 
Rome. So I felt disposed, standing over the 
grave of my honored and beloved friend, whose 
friendship had been for 'fifteen years the privi- 
lege and pride of my existence, that I would 
rather swear true fidelity to the cause of peace, 
a cause for which he had done more than any 
man of his age ; and I would, if it had been in 
ray power, have taken hundreds of the rising 
youth of England, and there, over the grave of 
the man of peace, have sworn them all to an un- 
flinching fidelity to the same cause." 



INDEX. 



AcLAND, James, eulogium of, by Cobden, 61. 

Agricultural Districts, inquiries into, by the League, 98 ; dis- 
tress in, commented on by Cobden, 128; see also Anti- 
Com-Law Agitation and League, passim. 

Alison, Sir A. , reprehensible statement of, quoted by Cob- 
den, 171. 

American War, opinions of Cobden on, 229, 243, 251. 

Anti-Corn-Law Agitation, first period of, 26-48 ; first asso- 
ciation formed in London, 35 ; in Manchester, 39 ; 'in- 
creased vigor of agitation, 43. 

Anti-Com-Law League, formation of, 49-59 ; ladies enlist- 
ed as agents, 57 ; seeks seats for its members in Parlia- 
ment, 60 ; repudiates Lord John Russell's " Fixed Duty," 
64 ; great conferences of ministers of religion, 69, 74 ; ba- 
zars in Manchester and London, 74, 123, 127 ; continued 
progress of agitation, 82-114 ; extraordinary scene in Pal- 
ace Yard, 82 ; resolution to pay special attention to rural 
districts, 93; joined by farmers, 110; and landowners, 
111; great meetings in the London theatres, 120-123; its 
final victory, 131-138 ; its dissolution, 138 ; its education- 
al influences, 280. 

Arbitration clause in international treaties proposed by Cob- 
den, 166-169 ; inserted in the Treaty of Paris, 206 ; opin- 
ions of, by leading English statesmen, 206. 

Arkwright, Bichard, eulogium on, by Cobden, 34. 

Ballot, The, Cobden's opinions on, 37, 163. 

Bastiat, Frederic, defends the enlistment of ladies by the 

League, 58 ; services in the negotiation of French Treaty, 

220. 
Bazars, Free Trade, 74, 128, 127. 
Beecher Stowe, Harriet, sketch of Cobden by, 183. 
Blanchard, Laman, an early Free Trader, 36. 
Bowring, Sir John, his opinions on, and efforts against, the 

Com Laws, 38, 66, 92; the author of "The China War," 

209. 



2d8 INDEX. 

Brigbe, John, M.P., forms the acquaintance of Cobden, 25 ; 
joins the Lea^e, 51; first Parliamentary speech, 108; 
described by Mr. Einglake, 186 ; last intercoarse with Ck)b- 
den, 259 ; his tribute to Cobden's memory, 270 , at Cob- 
den's grave, 290. 

BroCherton, Joseph, M.P., an early Free Trader, 36; senr- 
ices, etc., in the cause, 81. 

Buckingham, Silk, an early Free Trader, 36; becomes a 
League lecturer, 81. 

Buller, Charles, M.P., speech against the Com Laws, 91. 

Burnet, Rev. John, at the Edinburg Peace Conference, 178. 

Burritt, Eiihu, at the Edinburg Peace Conference, 177; trib- 
ute to Cobden*8 memory, 277. 

Calico pristino trade, Cobden's innovations in, 20; de- 
tails of, described by him, 145. 

Catopbell, Thomas, an early Free Trader, 36. 

Canada, Cobden's opinions on defenses of, 260. 

Carlisle, Earl of, an early Free Trader, 27. 

Carlyle, Thomas, denounces the Com Laws, 119, 120. 

Cathrall, Mr., first introduction to Cobden, 21. ^ 

Chandos, Marquis of, statement by, 38. 

Chartism, Cobden's opinions of, 76, 96, 140, 142. 

Chartist agitation first undertaken, 36 ; antagonism to the 
League, 44, 46, 75, 96 ; great demonstration on Kersal 
Moor, 141. 

Cheyalier, Michel, negotiates the French Commercial Treaty, 
219. 

China War, Cobden's opinions and conduct on, 209. 

Circassian Independence, Cobden's opinions o^ 35. 

Clarendon, Earl of, plenipotentiary at Paris, 205. 

Cobbet, William, his description of the scenery in the neigh- 
borhood of Midhurst, 13 ; stands unsuccessfully for Man- 
chester, 26. 

Cobden, Richard, birth and birthplace, 15; apprenticed, 16; 
becomes a commercial traveler, 17; commences business, 
18 ; removes to Manchester, 19 ; his innovations in the 
calico printing trade, 20 ; civic and public life, and news- 
paper contributions, 21; breaks down as a speaker, 23; 
first pamphlet, 24 ; makes acquaintance of Mr. Bright^ 25 ; 
enters Free Trade ranks, 29 ; nearly returned for Stock- 
port, 37; elected alderman, 43; description of, as a young 
man, 47 ; gradually absorbed by his labors for the League, 
48 ; retumed to Parliament, 66 ; maiden speech, 68 ; tours 



J 



INDEX. 299 

in the provinces, 76, 93, 99 ; encounters with Peel, 89, 90, 
92, 93, 111, 128 ; painful scene in the House of Commons, 
112 ; speeches at Drury Lane Theatre, 121 ; latest Anti- 
Corn-Law speeches, 134 ; factory legislation, 139 ; nation- 
al testimonial to, 163 ; returned for West Riding, 155 ; 
services in the cause of peace, retrenchment, and reform, 
150-183; Edinburg Peace Conference, amusing incidents 
at, 172; period of Crimean War, 185-206; described by 
Mr.Kinglake, 186; the China War, 207; defeats Lord 
Palmerston on the question, 210 ; loses his seat, 213 ; re- 
turned for Rochdale, 215 ; offered a seat in the Cabinet, 
215; French Commercial Treaty, 218; last speech in 
House of Commons, 234 ; last speech at Rochdale, 240 , 
last days and death, 246 ; his religious sentiments, 257 ; 
tributes to his memory, 263 ; funeral, 286. 

Cobden, Mrs., appears at the League Tea-parties, 57. 

Cobden's prints worn by ladies of rank, 20 ; by her majesty, 
- 20, 21. 

Commercial travelers, their recollections of Cobden, 20. 

Commercial Treaty with France, 218. 

Condition of England Question, 139-149. 

Cook, Eliza, tribute to Cobden's memory, 283. 

Com Laws. See Carlyle and Cobden, Anti-Corn-Law Agi- 
tation and League, passim. 

Cotton Free Tavern^ a political rendezvous at Manchester, 22. 

Cowdray, its historical associations, 14 ; a favorite haunt of 
Cobden, 249. 

Crawford, Sharman,M.P., joins the League, 51. 

Crimean War, Cobden's opinion and course upon, 172, 185- 
206. 

DiSRAELT, Right Hon. B., humorous retort on Cobden, 156 ; 

tribute to memory, 267. 
Drouyn de Lhuys, M., tribute to Cobden*s memory, 272. 
Drummond, Mr., assassination of. 111. 
Duncombe, T., M.P., an early Free Trader, 36. 
Dunford House, Cobden born at, 15 ; his latter days spent 

at, 249 ; hospitality at, 250. 

East India Company, Cobden's opinions of, 217. 
Edinburg Peace Conference and amusing incidents at, 171- 

183. 
Elizabeth, Queen, visits Cowdray ; Cobden's criticism on, 

242. 



800 INDEX. 

Elliot, Ebenezer, an early Free Trader, 36. 
Ewart, W., M.P., an early Free Trader, 36. 

Factobt Legislation, 139-149. 

"Facta for Farmers," 60. 

Fielden, John, of Todmorden, 141. 

Financial Beform, Cobden's opinions on, 166-169. 

Fixed Duty on Corn, 36, 64, 130. 

Fortifications, Cobden's opinions on, 166, 208, 231. 

Fox, Charles James, M.F. for Midhurst, 15. 

Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria, amusing reference to, 

by Cobden, 183. 
Freehold Land Society movement, 135. 
Free Trade, cardinal principles of, 88 ; see Anti-Com-Law 

Agitation and League, pcLssinu 
French invasions, panics of, 157, 172, 231. 
French Commercial Treaty, 218. 
French tributes to Cobden's memory, 271. 

Gibson, Right Hon. T. Milner, joins the League, 51 ; re- 
turned to Parliament, 66 ; his motion on the Crimean 
War, 199. 

Gladstone, Bight Hon. W. E., returned to Parliament as a 
Protectionist, 60 ; the French Commercial Treaty, 219 ; 
eulogium on Cobden, 222 ; offers him the chairmanship 
of the Board of Audit, 259 ; at Cobden's grave, 290. 

Grey, Earl, an early Free Trader, 27. 

Grote, Greorge, an early Free Trader, 36. 

House of Commons, tributes to Cobden's memory in, 264. 
Howitt, Wm., an early Free Trader, 36. 
. Huddersfield, Cobden unsuccessfully stands for, 213. 
Hume, Joseph, M.P., an early Free Trader, 27, 36 ; motion 

on Parliamentary Beform, 158, lS9. 
Hungarian insurrection, Cobden's opinions on, 182. 

Jerbold, DonoLAS, description of Covent Garden Free- 
Trade Bazar, 123, 124. 
Johnson, Dr., visits neighborhood of Midhurst, 14. 

EiNGLAKE, A. W., M.P., his description of Cobden and 
Bright, 186. 

Land Tax, The, Cobden's -jxposure of its fraudulent charac- 
ter, 78. 



INDEX. 301 

Lewis, John, an early friend of Cobden, 18. 
Ljell, Sir Charles, educated at Midhurst, 15. 

Manchester, Cobden takes up his residence in, 19 ; enfran- 
chised by the Reform Bill, 26 ; Cobden elected alderman 
of, 43. 

Manchester Athensenm inaugurated by Cobden, 24. 

Manchester Chamber of Commerce urged by Cobden to join 
in the League agitation, 87 ; and successfully, 41. 

** Manchester Courier," extract from, about Cobden's start 
in business, 18. 

Manchester Free Trade Bazar, 74, 127. 

Manchester Free Trade Hall built on land belonging to 
Cobden, 62. 

"Manchester Times" contributed to by Cobden, 21. 

Martineau, Harriet, description of Cobden's first appearance 
in Parliament, 66-73 ; her low opinion of iFeargus O'Con- 
nor, 141 ; estimate of Cobden's pecuniary loss by his Free 
Trade services, 150. 

McLaren, Duncan, president of Peace Conference at Edin- 
burg, 176-183. 

Melbourne, Lord, opinions and course of action on the Corn 
Laws, 38, 45, 64 ; severely rebuked by Cobden, 54. 

Midhurst, character of scenery and associations, 13 ; C. J. 
Fox, M.P. for, 15 ; Sir C. Lyell educated at, 16 ; Cobden's 
father chief magistrate of, 15 ; proposed restoration of its 
grammar-school, 16. 

Mill, John Stuart, criticism by Cobden on an opinion of, 
255. 

Milosch, Prince of Servia, tribute to Cobden's memory, 263. 

Minorities, representation of, Cobden's views on, 255. 

Mohammedan Religion, Cobden's opinions on, 198. 

Molesworth, Sir William, an early Free Trader, 36. 

Mozley Street, Manchester, Cobden's warehouse in, 19. 

Napieb, Sir Charles, amusing encounter of, with Cobden 
at Edinburg, 176. 

Ifl^apoleon III., Cobden^s opinions of, 175 ; his tribute to Cob- 
den's memory, 276. 

National education, Cobden's interest in, 25. 

National defenses, Cobden's opinions on, 166, 204, 208, 229, 
231. 

Nationalities, Cobden's opinions on, 190. 

Navigation Laws, 155. 



J02 INDEX. 

Newspaper press, enlogiom by Cobden on, 227 ; tributes by, 

to his memory, 280. 
Nicholas, Czar of Russia, Cobdeii*s opinion of, 175, 181, 

191. 

Oabtlbb, Richard, his career and public services, 46, 141. 

0*ConneIl, Daniel, great Free Trade speech at Manchester, 
62. 

O'Connor, Feargns, his opposition to the League, 44 ; char- 
acter of, 141 ; rebuked by Cobden, 159. 

Otway, birthplace of, 15. 

Overstone, Lord, unsuccessfully contests Manchester, 27; 
joins the League, 121. 

Oxford, Cobden's opinion on education at, 244. ^ 

Oxford, Bishop of, tribute to Cobden's memory, 280. 

Paluerston, Lord, his foreign policy first attacked by Cob- 
den, 31 ; blamed by Cobden for his conduct to the Hun- 
garians, 181 ; attack by him on Cobden, 201 ; his govern- 
ment defeated by Cobden on the China War, 210 ; ap- 
peals successfully to the country, 213 ; offers Cobden a 
seat in the cabinet, 215; and public honors, 223; his 
tribute to Cobden's memory, 264. 

Paper duty. See Taxes on Knowledge. 

Parliamentary Reform, opinions of Cobden on, 159, 164, 244. 

Pattison, Mr., returned as first Free Trade member for City 
of London, 121. 

Paulton, A. W., fitst enlistment in the Anti-Corn-Law 
cause, 39 ; engaged as the first lecturer of the League, 40 ; 
his services, etc., 51. 

Peace Society, Cobden's services to, 168-184 ; real charac- 
ter of, 169. 

Peel, Sir Robert, leading incidents of his administration, 68, 
73 ; budget of 1842, 82 ; parliamentary encounters with 
Cobden, 89, 90, 93, 111, 128 ; eulogiums on Cobden, 113, 
114, 137 ; abolition of Com Laws, 133. 

Peterloo Massacre, Free Trade Hall built on scene of, 52. 

Phillips, Mark, first Free Trade member for Manchester, 26^ 
66. 

Place, Francis, an early Free Trader, 36. 

Potter, T. B., M.P., letter of Cobden to, 255, 256. 

Prentice, Archibald, makes Cobden's acquaintance, 22 ; de- 
scribes Cobden's first enlistment in the Free Trade ranks, 
29 ; a member of the first London Association, 36 ; his 



INDEX. 303 

energetic Free Trade efforts, 39 ; narrates an extraordi- 
nary scene in Downing Street, 64 ; describes Cobden's ap- 
pearance at the Drury Lane meetings, 121 ; describes the 
dissolution of the League, 136. 

Protectionists, cruel ribaldiy of, 91. See also, passim, Anti- 
Com-Law Agitation and League. 

*^ Punch" newspaper, admirable retort on, by Cobden, 175, 
176. 

Quakers, The, Cobden's opinions of, 203. 

■Reduction of expenditure proposed by Cobden, 166, 169. 

Richard, Rev. Henry, at Edinburg Peace Conference, 177 ; 
procures the insertion of Arbitration Clause in Treaty of 
Paris, 205 ; his tribute to Cobden's memory, 294. 

Ripon, Earl of, amusing brochure on, by Cobden, 84. 

Rochdale, Cobden returned for, 215 ; his last speech deliv- 
ered at, 240. 

Roebuck, J. A., M.P., an early Free Trader, 36. 

Russell, Lord John, proposes a fixed duty on corn, 64, 130, 
131 ; recants in his Edinburg letter, 132 ; Cobden's criti- 
cisms on his conduct at the Vienna Conference, 200. 

Russia, opinions of Cobden on, 33, 158, 180, 189. 

Russian Loan of 1850 denounced by Cobden, 189. 

ScHLESwiG-HoLSTEiN Question, Cobden's opinions on, 241. 

Scholefield, Mr., M.P., an early Free Trader, 36. 

Shaftesbury, Lord, declares against the Corn Laws, 132 ; 
Ten-Hours' Bill, etc., 143. 

Smith, Adam, Cobden deeply versed in, 17. 

Smith, J. B., M.P., an early Free Trader, 43 ; Free Trade 
services, etc. , 54 ; contests Walsall with Mr. Gladstone, 60. 

Smithian Society, 17. 

Socialism, Cobden's opinions on, 139. 

Stanhope, Colonel Leicester, an early Free Trader, 36. 

Stansfeld, Mr., M.P., motion for reduction of expenditure, 
228. 

Stephens, Rev. Mr., an early Chartist leader, 141. 

Stockport, Cobden returned for, 66 ; distress in, 75. 

Sturge, Joseph, an energetic Free Trader, 38 ; his services, 
55, 61; letters, etc., from Cobden to, 61, 84, 167, 203; 
friendly satire by Cobden on, 84; the victim of popular 
detraction, 202 ; his eulogy of Cobden, 203 ; procures in- 
sertion of Arbitration Clause in Treaty of Paris, 205. 



804 INDEX. 

Sogar Dnties, Cobden's opinions on, 84, 155. 

SnsseXi Weldd of, picturesqne natare of scenery and historic 

associations, 18, 289. 
Sydenham, Lord. See Thompson. 

Tait, the Edinburg publisher, an early Free Trader, 36. 

'*Tait's Magazine," Cobden contribates to, 33. 

Taxes on knowledge, Cobden's opinions and coarse on, 50, 

227. 
Tea-parties of the Leagne, 57. 
Ten-Hours' Bill, agitation for, 139-149 ; Cobden's opinions 

on, 147. 
Theatres, Free Trade meetings in, 120, 121. 
Thompson, PouUet, returned for Manchester, 26 ; his Free 

Trade measures, 27. 
Thompson, Greneral Perronet, an early Free Trader, 36 ; his 

services in the cause, 38. 
Thompson, George, joins the League, 51. 
Truck System, 143-146 ; Cobden's opinions on, 146. 
Turks, Cobden*s opinions on the, 197. 

Uotversitt Education, Cobden's opinions on, 244. 
Urquhart, David, his views disclaimed by Cobden, 33. 

Verdlbt Castle, 15. 

Victoria, Queen, seen clad in "Cobden's prints," 20, 21. 
Vienna Conference, Cobden's great speech on, 200. 
Villiers, Right Hon. C. P., his annual motion on the Com 
Laws, 38, 117. 

Waklet, Thomas, an early Free Trader, 36. 

War OfSce, administration of, Cobden's opinions on, 232, 235. 

Watt, James, eulogium on, by Cobden, 34. 

Wellington, Duke of, reluctant consent to Corn-Law repeal, 
133 ; seized with alarm of French invasion, 157. 

West Lavington Church-yard, Cobden's resting-place, 286. 

West Biding of Yorkshire, Cobden returned for, 155 ; un- 
seated, 213. 

Whigs, Alliance with, repudiated by the League, 57, 73 ; sat- 
irized by Cobden, 91. 

Working Classes, Cobden's opinions on, 97, 136 ; their trib- 
utes to his memory, 280. 

THE END. ^ 



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