The great men of the period, Cobden and Bright, are merely historical figures.
Besides those already mentioned the more important are: Cours d'economie politique (1842-1850); Essais de politique industrielle (1843); De la baisse probable d'or (1859, translated into English by Cobden, On the Probable Fall of the Value of Gold, Manchester, 1859); L'Expedition du Mexique (1862); Introduction aux rapports du jury international (1868).
RICHARD COBDEN (1804-1865), English manufacturer and Radical politician, was born at a farmhouse called Dunford, near Midhurst, in Sussex, on the 3rd of June 1804.
The educational advantages of Richard Cobden were not very ample.
In 1830 Cobden learnt that Messrs Fort, calico printers at Sabden, near Clitheroe, were about to retire from business, and he, with two other young men, Messrs Sheriff and Gillet, who were engaged in the same commercial house as himself, determined to make an effort to acquire the succession.
This last was under the direct management of Cobden, who, in 1830 or 1831, settled in the city with which his name became afterwards so closely associated.
The success of this enterprise was decisive and rapid, and the "Cobden prints" soon became known through the country as of rare value both for excellence of material and beauty of design.
There can be no doubt that if Cobden had been satisfied to devote all his energies to commercial life he might soon have attained to great opulence, for it is understood that his share in the profits of the business he had established amounted to from £8000 to £10,000 a year.
After some time he discovered that the author of these letters was Cobden, whose name was until then quite unknown to him.
In this production Cobden advocated the same principles of peace, nonintervention, retrenchment and free trade to which he continued faithful to the last day of his life.
From that time Cobden became a conspicuous figure in Manchester, taking a leading part in the local politics of the town and district.
Cobden was candidate for Stockport, but was defeated, though not by a large majority.
Of that famous association Cobden was from first to last the presiding genius and the animating soul.
In 1841, Sir Robert Peel having defeated the Melbourne ministry in parliament, there was a general election, when Cobden was returned for Stockport.
On the 24th, in course of the debate on the Address, Cobden delivered his first speech.
Cobden had spoken with great fervour of the deplorable suffering and distress which at that time prevailed in the country, for which, he added, he held Sir Robert Peel, as the head of the government, responsible.
Cobden had, indeed, with unexampled devotion, sacrificed his business, his domestic comforts and for a time his health to the public interests.
Lord John Russell, who, soon after the repeal of the corn laws, succeeded Sir Robert Peel as - first minister, invited Cobden to join his government.
When Cobden returned from the continent he addressed himself to what seemed to him the logical complement of free trade, namely, the promotion of peace and the reduction of naval and military armaments.
By a series of powerful speeches in and out of parliament, and by the publication of his masterly pamphlet, 1 793 and 1853, Cobden sought to calm the passions of his countrymen.
Cobden, who had travelled in Turkey, and had studied the condition of that country with great care for many years, discredited the outcry about maintaining the independence and integrity of the Ottoman empire which was the battle-cry of the day.
The torrent of popular sentiment in favour of war was, however, irresistible; and Cobden and Bright were overwhelmed with obloquy.
After a careful investigation of the official documents, Cobden became convinced that those were utterly unrighteous proceedings.
On the dissolution which followed Lord Palmerston's defeat, Cobden became candidate for Huddersfield, but the voters of that town gave the preference to his opponent, who had supported the Russian War and approved of the proceedings at Canton.
Cobden was thus relegated to private life, and retiring to his country house at Dunford, he spent his time in perfect contentment in cultivating his land and feeding his pigs.
Lord Palmerston was again prime minister, and having discovered that the advanced liberal party was not so easily "crushed" as he had apprehended, he made overtures of reconciliation, and invited Cobden and Milner Gibson to become members of his government.
In a frank, cordial letter which was delivered to Cobden on his landing in Liverpool, Lord Palmerston offered him the presidency of the Board of Trade, with a seat in the Cabinet.
After a good deal of time spent in these preliminary and unofficial negotiations, the question of a treaty of commerce between the two countries having entered into the arena of diplomacy, Cobden was requested by the British government to act as their plenipotentiary in the matter in conjunction with Lord Cowley, their ambassador in France.
This produced irritation and resentment in Paris, and but for the influence which Cobden had acquired, and the perfect trust reposed in his sincerity, the negotiations would probably have been altogether wrecked.
On the conclusion of this work honours were offered to Cobden by the governments of both the countries which he had so greatly benefited.
When the Civil War threatened to break out in the United States, Cobden was deeply distressed.
For several years Cobden had been suffering severely at intervals from bronchial irritation and a difficulty of breathing.
He then paid a generous tribute to the virtues, the abilities and services of Cobden, and he was followed by Disraeli, who with great force and felicity of language delineated the character of the deceased statesman, who, he said, "was an ornament to the House of Commons and an honour to England."
"The death of Richard Cobden," said M.
Drouyn de Lhuys, the French minister of foreign affairs, made his death the subject of a special despatch, desiring the French ambassador to express to the government "the mournful sympathy and truly national regret which the death, as lamented as premature, of Richard Cobden had excited on that side of the Channel."
Cobden, if I may be permitted to say so, was an international man."
In 1866 the Cobden Club was founded in London, to promote free-trade economics, and it became a centre for political propaganda on those lines; and prizes were instituted in his name at Oxford and Cambridge.
Cobden had married in 1840 Miss Catherine Anne Williams, a Welsh lady, and left five surviving daughters, of whom Mrs Cobden-Unwin (wife of the publisher Mr Fisher Unwin), Mrs Walter Sickert (wife of the painter) and Mrs Cobden-Sanderson (wife of the well-known artist in bookbinding), afterwards became prominent in various spheres, and inherited their father's political interest.
The work of Cobden, and what is now called "Cobdenism," has in recent years been subjected to much criticism from the newer school of English economists who advocate a "national policy" (on the old lines of Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List) as against his cosmopolitan ideals.
Cobden has left a deep mark on English history, but he was not himself a "scientific economist," and many of his confident prophecies were completely falsified.
Cobden inevitably stands for "Cobdenism," which is a creed largely developed by the modern free-trader in the course of subsequent years.
It asked the sanction of parliament for the commercial treaty which Cobden had privately arranged with the emperor Napoleon, and it proposed to abolish the duty on paper.
In 1855 he supported Gladstone in the efforts to bring about peace with Russia before the capture of Sebastopol; in 1856 he opposed the opening of museums on Sunday; in the following year he supported Cobden in his disapproval of the second opium war with China.
In 1828 the sliding scale was introduced, under which the duty went up and down as the price of grain went down and up; and it was against this form of the Corn Law that the great agitation led by Cobden and Bright was directed after 1830.
After some secret negotiations, in which the English Corn Law agitator, Cobden, and the French economist, Cherbuliez, took an active part, Napoleon was persuaded to enter on the famous.
Other congresses were held at Frankfurt, again in London, and in 1853 at Manchester, where Richard Cobden and John Bright took part in the discussions.
Its most distinguished representative was Richard Cobden (1841-1847), who is commemorated by a statue in St Peter's Square.
He first met Richard Cobden in 1836 or 1837.
Cobden consented, and at the meeting was much struck by Bright's short speech, and urged him to speak against the Corn Laws.
Among the speakers were Cobden and Bright, and the dinner is memorable as the first occasion on which the two future leaders appeared together on a Free Trade platform.