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.
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.
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."
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.
Three days after her death at Leamington, Cobden called to see him.
Cobden spoke some words of condolence, but after a time he looked up and said, "There are thousands of homes in England at this moment where wives, mothers and children are dying of hunger."
At the general election in 1841 Cobden was returned for Stockport, and in 1843 Bright was the Free Trade candidate at a by-election at Durham.
He was already known in the country as Cobden's chief ally, and was received in the House of Commons with a suspicion and hostility even greater than had met Cobden himself.
Cobden had the calmness and confidence of the political philosopher, Bright had the passion and the fervour of the popular orator.
Cobden did the reasoning, Bright supplied the declamation, but like Demosthenes he mingled argument with appeal.
He was not known beyond his own borough when Cobden called him to his side in 1841, and he entered parliament towards the end of the session of 1843 with a formidable reputation as an agitator.
Mr Ewart's motion was defeated, but the movement of which Cobden and Bright were the leaders continued to spread.