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    Richard Cobden

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    Chapter 4
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    What I contend is that England is today so situated in every particular of her domestic and foreign circumstances that, by leaving other governments to settle their own business and fight out their own quarrels, and by attending to the vast and difficult affairs of her own enormous realm, and the condition of her people, she will not only be setting the world an example of noble morality, which no other nation is so happily free to set, but she will be following the very course which the maintenance of her own greatness most imperatively demands. It is precisely because Great Britain is so strong in resources, in courage, in institutions, in geographical position, that she can, before all other European powers, afford to be moral, and to set the example of a mighty nation walking in the paths of justice and peace.

    Richard Cobden never had any chance in life. He was born in an obscure
    hamlet of West Sussex, England, in Eighteen Hundred Four. His father
    was a poor farmer, who lost his freehold and died at the top, whipped
    out, discouraged, when the lad was ten years old. Richard Cobden
    became a porter, a clerk, a traveling salesman, a mill-owner, a member
    of parliament, an economist, a humanitarian, a statesman, a reformer.
    Up to his thirteenth year he was chiefly interested in the laudable
    task of making a living--getting on in the world. During that year,
    and seemingly all at once and nothing first, just as bubbles do when
    they burst, he beheld the problem of business from the broad vantage-
    ground of humanitarianism. But he did not burst, for his dreams were
    spun out of life's realities, and today are coming true; in fact, many
    of them came true in his own time. Richard Cobden ceased to be
    provincial and became universal.

    He saw that commerce, instead of being merely a clutch for personal
    gain, was the chief factor in civilization. He realized that we are
    educated through our efforts to get food and clothing; and therefore
    the man who ministers to the material wants of humanity is really the
    true priest. The development of every animal has come about through
    its love-emotions and its struggle to exist.

    A factory in a town changes every person in the town, mentally and
    physically. This being true, does not the management of this factory
    call for men of heart and soul--broad-minded, generous, firm in the
    right? Then every factory is influenced by the laws of the land, and
    each country is influenced by the laws of other countries, since most
    countries that are engaged in manufacturing find a market abroad.

    Cobden set himself to inquire into the causes of discontent and
    failure, of progress and prosperity. And not content merely to
    philosophize, he carried his theories into his own enterprises.

    Many of our modern business betterments seem to have had their rise in
    the restless, prophetic brain of Richard Cobden. He of all men sought
    to make commerce a science, and business a fine art. The world moves

    It is only a few years ago that we in America thought to have in our
    President's Cabinet a Secretary of Commerce and Labor.

    Listen to what Cobden wrote in Eighteen Hundred Forty-three:

    In the close council of every king, or president, or prince, should
    be a man of affairs whose life is devoted to commerce and labor, and
    the needs and requirements of peace. His work is of far greater
    moment than that of men-of-war. Battleships ever form a suggestion
    for their use, and as long as we have armies, men will kill, fight
    and destroy. Soldiers who do not want to fight are not of this
    earth. Prepare for war and war will come. When government gives to
    the arts of peace the same thought and attention that it gives to
    the arts of war, we will have peace on earth and good-will among
    men. But so long as the soldier takes precedence of the businessman
    in the political courts of the world, famine, death, disease and
    want will crouch at our doors. Commerce is production, war is
    destruction. The laws of production and distribution must and will
    be made a science; and then and not until then will happiness come
    to mankind and this earth serve as a pattern for the paradise of
    another life, instead of being a pandemonium.

    * * * * *

    Emerson defines commerce as carrying things from where they are
    plentiful to where they are needed. Business is that field of human
    endeavor which undertakes to supply the materials to humanity that
    life demands.

    The clergy are our spiritual advisers, preparing us for a pleasant and
    easy place in another world. The lawyers advise us on legal themes--
    showing us how to obey the law, or else evade it, and they protect us
    from lawyers. The doctors look after us when disease attacks our
    bodies--or when we think it does.

    We used to talk about "The Three Learned Professions"; if we use the
    phrase now, it is only in a Pickwickian sense, for we realize that
    there are at present fifty-seven varieties of learned men.

    The greatest and most important of all the professions is that of
    Commerce, or Business. Medicine and law have their specialties--a
    dozen each--but business has ten thousand specialties, or divisions.

    So important do we now recognize business, or this ministering to the
    material wants of humanity, that theology has shifted its ground, and
    within a few years has declared that to eat rightly, dress rightly,
    and work rightly are the fittest preparation for a life to come.

    The best lawyers now are businessmen, and their work is to keep the
    commercial craft in a safe channel, where it will not split on the
    rocks of litigation nor founder in the shallows of misunderstanding.
    Every lawyer will tell you this, "To make money you must satisfy your

    The greatest change in business came with the one-price system.

    The old idea was for the seller to get as much as he possibly could
    for everything he sold. Short weight, short count, and inferiority in
    quality were considered quite proper and right, and when you bought a
    dressed turkey from a farmer, if you did not discover the stone inside
    the turkey when you weighed it and paid for it, there was no redress.
    The laugh was on you. And moreover a legal maxim--caveat emptor, "Let
    the buyer beware"--made cheating legally safe.

    Dealers in clothing guaranteed neither fit nor quality, and anything
    you paid for, once wrapped up and in your hands, was yours beyond
    recall--"Business is business," was a maxim that covered many sins.

    A few hundred years ago business was transacted mostly through fairs
    and ships, and by pedlers. Your merchant of that time was a
    peripatetic rogue who reduced prevarication to a system.

    The booth gradually evolved into a store, with the methods and customs
    of the irresponsible keeper intact: the men cheated their neighbors
    and chuckled in glee until their neighbors cheated them, which, of
    course, they did. Then they cursed each other, began again, and did it
    all over. John Quincy Adams tells of a certain deacon who kept a store
    near Boston, who always added in the year 1775, at the top of the
    column, as seventeen dollars and seventy-five cents.

    The amount of misery, grief, disappointment, shame, distress, woe,
    suspicion and hate caused by a system which wrapped up one thing when
    the buyer expected another, and took advantage of his innocence and
    ignorance as to quality and value, can not be computed in figures.
    Suffice it to say that duplicity in trade has had to go. The self-
    preservation of the race demanded honesty, square dealing, one price
    to all. The change came only after a struggle, and we are not quite
    sure of the one-price deal yet.

    But we have gotten thus far: that the man who cheats in trade is tabu.
    Honesty as a business asset is fully recognized. If you would succeed
    in business you can not afford to sell a man something he does not
    want; neither can you afford to disappoint him in quality, any more
    than in count. Other things being equal, the merchant who has the most
    friends will make the most money. Our enemies will not deal with us.
    To make a sale and acquire an enemy is poor policy. To a pedler or a
    man who ran a booth at a bazaar or fair, it was "get your money now or
    never." Buyer and seller were at war. One transaction and they never
    met again. The air was full of hate and suspicion, and the savage
    propensity of physical destruction was refined to a point where
    hypocrisy and untruth took the place of violence--the buyer was as bad
    as the seller: if he could buy below cost he boasted of it. To catch a
    merchant who had to have money was glorious--we smote him hip and
    thigh! Later, we discovered that being strangers he took us in.

    The one-price system has come as a necessity, since it reduces the
    friction of life, and protects the child or simple person in the
    selection of things needed, just the same as if the buyer were an
    expert in values and a person who could strike back if imposed upon.
    Safety, peace and decency demanded the one-price system. And so we
    have it--with possibly a discount to the clergy, to schoolteachers,
    and relatives as close as second cousins. But when we reach the point
    where we see that all men are brothers, we will have absolute honesty
    and one price to all.

    And this change in business methods, in our mental attitude towards
    trade, has all grown out of a dimly perceived but deeply felt belief
    in the brotherhood of man, of the solidarity of the race--also, in the
    further belief that life in all of its manifestations is Divine.

    Therefore, he who ministers to the happiness and well-being of the
    life of another is a priest and is doing God's work. Men must eat,
    they must be clothed, they must be housed. It is quite as necessary
    that you should eat good food as that you should read good books, hear
    good music, hear good sermons, or look upon beautiful pictures. The
    necessary is the sacred.

    There are no menial tasks. "He that is greatest among you shall be
    your servant." The physical reacts on the spiritual and the spiritual
    on the physical, and, rightly understood, are one and the same thing.
    We live in a world of spirit and our bodies are the physical
    manifestation of a spiritual thing, which for lack of a better word
    we call "God." We change men by changing their environment. Commerce
    changes the environment and gives us a better society. To supply good
    water, better sanitary appliances, better heating apparatus, better
    food, served in a more dainty way--these are all tasks worthy of the
    highest intelligence and devotion that can be brought to bear upon
    them, and every Christian preacher in the world today so recognizes,
    believes and preaches. We have ceased to separate the secular from
    the sacred. That is sacred which serves.

    Once, a businessman was a person who not only thrived by taking
    advantage of the necessities of people, but who also banked on their
    ignorance of values. But all wise men now know that the way to help
    yourself is to help humanity. We benefit ourselves only as we benefit
    others. And the recognition of these truths is what has today placed
    the businessman at the head of the learned professions--he ministers
    to the necessities of humanity.

    Out of blunder and bitterness comes wisdom. Men are taught through
    reaction, and all experience that does not kill you is good.

    When the father of Richard Cobden gave up hope and acknowledged
    defeat, the family of a full dozen were farmed out among relatives.
    The kind kinsmen who volunteered to look after the frail and sensitive
    Richard evaded responsibility by placing the lad in a boys' boarding-
    school. Here he remained from his tenth until his sixteenth year. Once
    a year he was allowed to write a letter home to his mother, but during
    the five years he saw her but once.

    Hunger and heartache have their uses. Richard Cobden lived to strike
    the boarding-school fallacy many a jolting blow; but it required
    Charles Dickens to complete the work by ridicule, just as Robert
    Ingersoll laughed the Devil out of church. We fight for everything
    until the world regards it as ridiculous, then we abandon it. So long
    as war is regarded as heroic, we will fight for it; when it becomes
    absurd it will die.

    Said Richard Cobden in a speech in the House of Commons: "Of all the
    pathetic fallacies perpetuated, none seems to me more cruelly absurd
    than the English Boarding-School for boys. The plan of taking the
    child of seven, eight or ten years away from his parents, and giving
    him into the keeping of persons who have only a commercial interest in
    him, and compelling him to fight for his life among little savages as
    unhappy as himself, or sink into miserable submission, seems too
    horrible to contemplate." Yet this plan of so-called education
    continued up to about fifty years ago, and was upheld and supported by
    the best society of England, including the clergy, who were usually
    directly "particeps criminis" in the business.

    Logic and reason failed to dislodge the folly, and finally it was left
    to a stripling reporter, turned novelist, to give us Squeers and
    Dotheboys Hall. This fierce ridicule was the thing which finally
    punctured the rhinoceros hide of the pedagogic blunder.

    There is one test for all of our educational experiments--will it
    bring increased love? That which breeds hate and fosters misery is bad
    in every star. Compare the boarding-school idea with the gentle
    philosophy of Friedrich Froebel, and note how Froebel always insists
    that the education of the mother and her child should go forward hand
    in hand. Motherhood is for the mother, and she who shifts the care of
    her growing child to a Squeers, not only immerses her child in misery
    but loses the opportunity of her life.

    When Richard was sixteen he was transferred from the boarding-school
    to his uncle's warehouse in London. His position was that of a poor
    relation, and his work in the warehouse was to carry bundles and
    manipulate a broom. His shy and sensitive ways caught the attention of
    a burly and gruff superintendent, whose gruffness was only on the
    outside. This man said to the boy, before he had been sweeping a week:
    "Young 'un, I obsarve with my hown hies that you sweeps in the
    corners. For this I raises your pay a shilling a week, and makes you
    monkey to the shipping-clerk."

    In a year the shipping-clerk was needed as a salesman, and Richard
    took his place. In another year Richard was a salesman, and canvassing
    London for orders. Very shortly after he became convinced that to work
    for relations was a mistake. Twenty years later the thought
    crystallized in his mind thus: Young man, you had better neither hire
    relatives nor work for them. It means servility or tyranny or both.
    You do not want to be patronized nor placed under obligations, nor
    have other helpers imagine you are a favorite. To grow you must be
    free--let merit count and nothing else. Probably this was what caused
    a wise man to say, "The Devil sent us our relatives, but thank Heaven
    we can choose our friends for ourselves."

    Relatives often assume a fussy patronizing management which outsiders
    never do. And so at twenty we find Cobden cutting loose from
    relatives. He went to work as a commercial traveler selling cotton
    prints. That English custom of the "commercial dinner," where all the
    "bagmen" that happened to be in the hotel dine at a common table, as a
    family, and take up a penny collection for the waiter, had its rise in
    the brain of Cobden. He thought the traveling salesman should have
    friendly companionship, and the commercial dinner with its frank
    discussions and good-fellowship would in degree compensate for the
    lack of home. This idea of brotherhood was very strong in Richard
    Cobden's heart. And always at these dinners he turned the conversation
    into high and worthy channels, bringing up questions of interest to

    the "boys," and trying to show them that the more they studied the
    laws of travel, the more they knew about commerce, the greater their
    power as salesmen. His journal about this time shows, "Expense five
    shillings for Benjamin Franklin's 'Essays,'" and the same for
    "'Plutarch's Lives.'" And from these books he read aloud at the
    bagmen's dinners.

    Cobden anticipated in many ways that excellent man, Arthur F. Sheldon,
    and endeavored to make salesmanship a fine art.

    From a salesman on a salary, he evolved into a salesman on a salary
    and commission. Next he made a bold stand with two fellow-travelers
    and asked for the exclusive London agency of a Manchester print-mill.
    A year later he was carrying a line of goods worth forty thousand
    pounds on unsecured credit. "Why do you entrust me with all these
    goods when you know I am not worth a thousand pounds in my own name?"

    And the senior member of the great house of Fort, Sons and Company
    answered: "Mr. Cobden, we consider the moral risk more than we do the
    financial one. Our business has been built up by trusting young,
    active men of good habits. With us character counts." And Cobden went
    up to London and ordered the words, "Character Counts!" cut deep in a
    two-inch oak plank which he fastened to the wall in his office.

    At twenty-seven his London brokerage business was netting him an
    income of twelve hundred pounds a year. It seems at this time that
    Fort and Sons had a mill at Sabden, which on account of mismanagement
    on the part of superintendants had fallen into decay. The company was
    thinking of abandoning the property, and the matter was under actual
    discussion when in walked Cobden.

    "Sell it to Cobden," said one of the directors, smiling.

    "For how much?" asked Cobden.

    "A hundred thousand pounds," was the answer.

    "I'll take it," said Cobden, "on twenty years' time with the privelege
    of paying for it sooner if I can." Cobden had three valuable assets in
    his composition--health, enthusiasm and right intent. Let a banker
    once feel that the man knows what he is doing, and is honest, and
    money is always forthcoming.

    And so Cobden took possession of the mill at Sabden. Six hundred
    workers were employed, and there was not a school nor a church in the
    village. The workers worked when they wanted, and when they did not
    they quit. Every pay-day they tramped off to neighboring towns, and
    did not come back until they had spent their last penny. In an
    endeavor to discipline them, the former manager had gotten their ill-
    will, and they had mobbed the mill and broken every window. Cobden's
    task was not commercial: it was a problem in diplomacy and education.
    To tell of how he introduced schools, stopped child labor, planted
    flowerbeds and vegetable-gardens, built houses and model tenements,
    and disciplined the workers without their knowing it, would require a
    book. Let the simple fact stand that he made the mill pay by
    manufacturing a better grade of goods than had been made, and he also
    raised the social status of the people. In three years his income had
    increased to ten thousand pounds a year.

    "At thirty," says John Morley, "Cobden passed at a single step from
    the natural egotism of youth to the broad and generous public spirit
    of a great citizen." Very early in his manhood Cobden discovered that
    he who would do an extraordinary work must throw details on others,
    and scheme for leisure. Cobden never did anything he could hire any
    one else to do. He saved himself to do work that to others was
    impossible. That is to say, he picked his men, and he chose men of his
    own type--healthy, restless, eager, enthusiastic, honest men. The
    criticism of Disraeli that "Cobden succeeded in business simply
    because he got other people to do his work," is sternly true. It
    proves the greatness of Cobden.

    * * * * *

    And so we find Richard Cobden, the man who had never had any chance in
    life, thirty years old, with an income equal to thirty-five thousand
    dollars a year, and at the head of a constantly growing business. He
    had acquired the study habit ten years before, so really we need
    shed no tears on account of his lack of college training. He knew
    political history--knew humanity--and he knew his Adam Smith. And
    lo! cosmic consciousness came to him in a day. His personal business
    took second place, and world problems filled his waking dreams.

    These second births in men can usually be traced to a book, a death, a
    person, a catastrophe--a woman. If there was any great love in the
    life of Cobden I would make no effort to conceal it--goodness me!

    But the sublime passion was never his, otherwise there would have been
    more art and less economics in his nature. Yet for women he always had
    a high and chivalrous regard, and his strong sense of justice caused
    him to speak out plainly on the subject of equal rights at a time when
    to do so was to invite laughter.

    And so let x--Miss X--symbol the cause of Richard Cobden's rebirth. He
    placed his business in charge of picked men, and began his world
    career by going across to Paris and spending three months in studying
    the language and the political situation. He then moved on to Belgium
    and Holland, passed down through Germany to Switzerland, across to
    Italy, up to Russia, back to Rome, and finally took ship at Naples for
    England by way of Gibraltar. On arriving at Sabden he found that,
    while the business was going fairly well, it had failed to keep the
    pace that his personality had set. When the man is away the mice will
    play--a little. Things drop down. Eternal vigilance is not only the
    price of liberty, but of everything else, and success in business most
    of all.

    Cobden knew the truth--that by applying himself to business he could
    become immensely rich. But if he left things to others, he could at
    the best expect only a moderate income on the capital he had already
    acquired. Everything is bought with a price--make your choice!
    Richard Cobden chose knowledge, service to mankind, and an all-round
    education, rather than money. He spent six months at his print-mill,
    and again fared forth upon his journeyings.

    He visited Spain, Turkey, Greece and Egypt, spending several months in
    each country, studying the history of the place on the spot. What
    interested him most was the economic reasons which led to advance and
    fall of nations. In Eighteen Hundred Thirty-five he started for
    America on a sailing-vessel, making the passage in just five weeks.
    One letter to his brother from America contains the following:

    I am thus far on my way back again to New York, which city I expect
    to reach on the Eighth instant, after completing a tour through
    Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, Lake Erie to
    Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Albany (via Auburn, Utica, Schenectady), and
    the Connecticut Valley to Boston and Lowell. On my return to New
    York, I propose giving two days to the Hudson River, going up to
    Albany one day, and returning the next; after which I shall have two
    or three days for the purpose of taking leave of my good friends in
    New York, previous to going on board the "Britannia" on the
    Sixteenth. My journey may be called a pleasure-trip, for without an
    exception or interruption of any kind I have enjoyed every minute of
    the too short time allowed me for seeing this truly magnificent
    country. No writer has yet done justice to America. Her lakes,
    rivers, forests and cataracts are peculiarly her own, and when I
    think of their superiority to all that we have in the Old World, and
    still more, when I recollect that by a mysterious ordinance of their
    Creator, these were hid from "learned ken" till modern times, I fell
    into the fanciful belief that the Western continent was brought
    forth at a second birth, and intended by Nature as a more perfect
    specimen of her handiwork. But how in the name of breeding must we
    account for the degeneracy of the human form in this otherwise
    mammoth-producing soil? The men are but sorry descendants from the
    noble race that begot their ancestors. And as for the women--my eyes
    have not found one that deserves to be called a wholesome, blooming,
    pretty woman since I have been here! One-fourth part of the women
    look as if they had just recovered from a fit of jaundice; another
    quarter would in England be termed in a state of decided
    consumption; and the remainder are fitly likened to our fashionable
    women, haggard and jaded with the dissipation of a London season.
    There, now, haven't I out-Trolloped Mrs. Trollope! But leaving the
    physical for the moral, my estimate of American character has
    improved, contrary to my expectations, by this visit. Great as was
    my previous esteem for the qualities of this people, I find myself
    in love with their intelligence, their sincerity, and the decorous
    self-respect that actuates all classes. The very genius of activity
    seems to have found its fit abode in the
    souls of this restless and energetic race.

    Among other interesting items which Cobden made note of in America was
    that everywhere wood was used for fuel, "excepting at Brownsville,
    Virginia, where beds of coal jut out of the hillside, and all the
    people have to do is to help themselves." Pittsburgh interested him,
    and he spent a week there: went to a theater and heard England hissed
    and Columbia exalted. Pittsburgh burned only wood for fuel, the wood
    being brought down on flatboats. At Youngstown, Ohio, were three
    hundred horses used on the many stagecoaches that centered there.
    There was a steamboat that ran from Cleveland to Buffalo in two days
    and a night, stopping seven times on the way to take on passengers and
    goods and wood for fuel. At Buffalo you could hear the roar of Niagara
    Falls and see the mist. Arriving at the Canada side of the Falls he
    was shaved by a negro who was a runaway slave, all negroes in Canada
    being free.

    Cobden says: "The States are not especially adapted for agricultural
    products, the land being hilly and heavily wooded. American exports
    are cotton, wool, hides and lumber." It will thus be seen that in
    Eighteen Hundred Thirty-six America had not been discovered.

    Arriving in England, Cobden began to write out his ideas and issue
    them in pamphlet form at his own expense. For literature, as such, he
    seemed to have had little thought, literature being purely a secondary

    * * * * *

    Cobden's work was statistical, economic, political and philosophic.
    From writing he read his pamphlets before various societies and
    lyceums. Debates naturally followed, and soon Cobden was forced to
    defend his theories.

    He was nominated for a seat in Parliament and was defeated. Next year
    he ran again and was elected. The political canvass had given freedom
    to his wings; he had learned to think on his feet, to meet
    interruption, to parry in debate. The air became luminous with

    England then had a tax on everything, including bread. On grains and
    meat brought into England there was an import tax which was positively
    prohibitive. This tax was for the dual purpose of raising revenue for
    the Government, and to protect the English farmer. Of course, the
    farmer believed in this tax which prevented any other country from
    coming into competition with himself.

    Cobden thought that food-products should pass unobstructed to where
    they were needed, and that any other plan was mistaken and vicious.
    The question came up in the House of Commons, and Cobden arose to
    speak. Anyone who then spoke of "free trade" was considered disloyal
    to his country. Cobden used the word and was hissed. He waited and
    continued to speak. "Famine is possible only where trade is
    restricted," and he proved his proposition by appeals to history, and
    a wealth of economic information that hushed the House into respectful
    silence. As an economist he showed he was the peer of any man present.
    The majority disagreed with him, but his courteous manner won respect,
    and his resourceful knowledge made the opposition cautious.

    Soon after he brought up a public-school measure, and this was voted
    down on the assumption that education was a luxury, and parents who
    wanted their children educated should look after it themselves, just
    as they did the clothing and food of the child. At best, education
    should be left to the local parish, village or city government.

    Cobden was in the minority; but he went back to Manchester and formed
    the Anti-Corn-Law League, demanding that wheat and maize should be
    admitted to the United Kingdom free of duty, and that no tax of any
    kind should be placed on breadstuffs. The farmers raised a howl--
    incited by politicians--and Cobden was challenged to go into farming
    communities and debate the question. The enemy hoped, and sincerely
    believed, he would be mobbed. But he accepted the challenge, and the
    debate took place, with the result that he was for the most part
    treated with respect, since he convinced his hearers that agriculture
    was something he knew more about than did the landlords. He showed
    farmers how to diversify crops and raise vegetables and fruits, and if
    grains would flow in cheaper than they could raise them, why then take
    the money they received from vegetables and buy grain! It was an
    uphill fight, but Cobden threw his soul into it, and knew that some
    day it would win.

    Cobden's contention was that all money necessary to run the Government
    should be raised by direct taxation on land, property and incomes, and
    not on food any more than on air, since both are necessary to actual
    existence. To place a tariff on necessities, keeping these things out
    of the country and out of the reach of the plain and poor people who
    needed them, was an inhumanity. A tariff should be placed on nothing
    but articles of actual luxury--things people can do without--but all
    necessities of life should flow by natural channels, unobstructed. An
    indirect tax is always an invitation to extravagance on the part of
    Government, and also, it is a temptation to favor certain lines of
    trade at the expense of others, and so is class legislation.
    Government must exist for all the people, never for the few, and the
    strong and powerful must consider the lowly and weak.

    The landed gentry upheld the Corn Laws and used the word "commercial"
    as an epithet. Very naturally they made their tenants believe that if
    free trade were allowed, the farmers would be worse than bankrupt, and
    commercialism rampant. Cobden stood for the manufacturing public and
    the cities. The landlords tried to disparage Cobden by declaring that
    smoky, dirty Birmingham was his ideal. Cobden's task was to make
    England see that the less men tampered with the natural laws of trade
    the better, and that no special class of citizens should suffer that
    others might be prosperous, and that business and manufacturing must
    and could be rescued from their low estate and be made honorable. And
    so the fight went on. From a curiosity to hear what Cobden might say,
    interest in the theme subsided, and the opposition adopted the
    cheerful habit of trooping out to the cloakroom whenever Cobden arose
    to speak.

    Cobden had at least one very great quality which few reformers have:
    he was patient with the fools. Against stupidity he never burst forth
    in wrath. Impatience with stupidity is a fine mark of stupidity. He
    knew the righteousness of his cause, and repeated and kept repeating
    his arguments in varied form. His platform manner was conversational
    and friendly. He often would use the phrase, "Come, let us just talk
    this matter over together." And so he quickly established close,
    friendly terms with his hearers, which, while lacking the thrill of
    oratory, made its impress upon a few who grew to love the man. John
    Bright tells of "the mild, honest look of love and genuineness that
    beamed from his eyes," and which told the story even better than his

    * * * * *

    And so the Anti-Corn-Law agitation continued. Sir Robert Peel, as head
    of the Ministry, sought in every possible way to silence Cobden and
    bring him into contempt, even to denouncing him as "a dangerous
    agitator who would, if he could, do for London what Robespierre did
    for Paris." But time went on as time does, and Cobden had been before
    the country as the upholder of unpopular causes for more than ten
    years. There was famine in Ireland. By the roadside famishing mothers
    held to their withered breasts dying children, and called for help
    upon the passers-by. Cobden described the situation in a way that
    pierced the rhinoceros hides of the landlords, and they offered
    concessions of this and that. Cobden said, "Future generations will
    stand aghast with amazement when they look back upon this year and
    see children starving for bread in Ireland, and we forbidding the
    entry of corn into the country with a prohibitive tariff, backing up
    this law with armed guns."

    The common people began to awake. If famine could occur in Cork and
    Dublin, why not in Manchester and London? The question came close,
    now. The Anti-Corn-Law League saw its opportunity. Mass meetings were
    held in all cities and towns. In Manchester, Cobden asked for funds to
    carry on the agitation. He himself headed the list with a thousand
    pounds. Twenty-three manufacturers followed his lead in three minutes.
    Windsor and Westminster now sat up and rubbed their sleepy eyes, and
    Sir Robert Peel sent word to Cobden asking for a conference. Cobden
    replied, "All we desire is an immediate repeal of the Corn Laws--no
    conference is necessary."

    Sir Robert Peel sent in his resignation as Prime Minister, saying he
    could not in conscience comply with the demands of the mob, and while
    compliance seemed necessary to avoid revolution, others must make the
    compromise. The Queen then appointed Lord John Russell as Prime
    Minister and ordered him to form a new Cabinet and give an office to
    Cobden. Lord Russell tried for four days to meet the issue, and
    endeavored to placate the people with platitude and promise. Cobden
    refused all office, and informed Lord Russell that he preferred to
    help the Crown by remaining an outside advocate.

    Every Government, at the last, is of the people, by the people, but
    whether for the people depends upon whether the people are awake. And
    now England did not care for a radical change of rulers; all the
    citizens wanted was that those in power recede from their position and
    grant the relief demanded. The Queen now reconsidered the resignation
    of Sir Robert Peel and refused to accept it, and he again assumed the
    reins. An extraordinary session of the House of Commons was called and
    the Corn Laws were repealed. The House of Lords concurred. The
    nobility was absolutely routed, and Cobden, "the sooty manufacturer,"
    had won.

    Strangely enough, panic did not follow, nor did the yeomanry go into
    bankruptcy. The breadstuffs flowed in, and the manufacturing
    population being better fed at a less outlay than formerly, had more
    money to spend. Great general prosperity followed, and the gentry, who
    had threatened to abandon their estates if the Corn Laws were
    repealed, simply raised their rents a trifle and increased the gaming

    Sir Robert Peel publicly acknowledged his obligation to Cobden, and
    Lord Palmerston, who had fought him tooth and nail, did the same,
    explaining, "A new epoch has arisen, and England is a manufacturing
    country, and as such the repeal of the Corn Laws became desirable." As
    though he would say, "To have had free trade before this new epoch
    arose, would have been a calamity." A large sum had been subscribed
    but not used in the agitation. And now by popular acclaim it was
    decided that this money should go to Cobden personally as a thank-
    offering. When the proposition was made, new subscriptions began to
    flow in, until the sum of eighty thousand pounds was realized.
    Cobden's business had been neglected. In his fight for the good of the
    nation his own fortune had taken wing. He announced his intention of
    retiring from politics and devoting himself to trade, and this was
    that which, probably, caused the tide to turn his way. He hesitated
    about accepting the gift, which amounted to nearly half a million
    dollars, but finally concluded that only by accepting could he be free
    to serve the State, and so he acceded to the wishes of his friends.
    Some years later, Lord Palmerston offered him a baronetcy and a seat
    in the cabinet, but he preferred still to help the State as an outside

    John Morley, the strongest and sanest of modern English statesmen,

    "Cobden had an intrepid faith in the perfectibility of man. His
    doctrine was one of non-intervention; that the powerful can
    afford to be lenient; that mankind continually moves toward the
    light if not too much interfered with. By his influence the darker
    shapes of repression were banished from the education of the young;
    the insane were treated with a consideration before unknown; the
    criminal was regarded as a brother who deserved our gentlest
    consideration and patience; the time-honored and ineffective
    processes of violence and coercion fell into abeyance, and a
    rational moderation and enlightenment appeared on the horizon. He
    elevated and refined the world of business, just as he benefited
    everything he touched. His early death at the age of sixty-one
    seemed a calamity for England, for we so needed the help of his
    generous, gentle and unresentful spirit. He lived not in vain; yet
    years must pass before the full and sublime truths for which he
    stood are realized."
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