Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V.: life in manchester, 1837–9. - The Life of Richard Cobden
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CHAPTER V.: life in manchester, 1837–9. - John Morley, The Life of Richard Cobden 
The Life of Richard Cobden (London: T. Fisher Unwiin, 1903).
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life in manchester, 1837–9.
A few weeks after Cobden’s return home from the East,1837.
Yet even in this free mood, Cobden knew his own mind, as he never failed to do, and he intended to be elected if possible. He belonged to the practical type, with whom to have once decided upon a course becomes in itself a strong independent reason for continuing in it. “One word as to your own private feelings,” he writes to his brother, “which may from many causes be rather inclined to lead you to wish that my entrance into public life were delayed a little. I shall only say that on this head it is now too late to parley; it is now useless to waver, or to shrink from the realization of that which we had resolved upon and entered upon, not as children, but as men knowing that action must follow such resolves. Your temperament and mine are unequal, but in this matter I shall only remind you that my feelings are more deeply implicated than your own, and that whilst I can meet with an adequate share of fortitude any failure which comes from insuperable causes, whatever may be the object I have in view, yet if in this case my defeat should spring from your timidity or sensitiveness (shall I say disinclination?), it would afflict me severely, and I fear lastingly.”3
As the election drew nearer, Cobden was overtaken by that eager desire to succeed, which gradually seizes even the most philosophical candidate as the passion of battle waxes hotter around him. He threw himself into the struggle with all his energy. It is historically interesting to know1837.
What he said comes to this, that for plain physical reasons no child ought to be put to work in a cotton mill so early as the age of thirteen, but whatever restrictions on the hours of labour might be desirable, it was not for the legislature to impose them: it was for the workmen to insist upon them, relying not on Parliament, but on their own action. A workman by saving the twenty pounds that would carry him across the Atlantic, could make himself as independent of his employer, as the employer is independent of him; and in this independence he would be free, without the emasculating interference of Parliament, to drive his own bargain as to how many hours he would work. In meeting his committee at Stockport, Cobden repeated his conviction that the factory operatives had it in their power 1837.
Whether these views alienated any of those who would otherwise have supported him, we do not know. Probably the most effective argument against Cobden’s candidature was the fact that he was a stranger to the borough. On the day of election he was found to be at the bottom of the poll.5 He wrote to his uncle, Mr. Cole, explaining his defeat:—
“The cause of failure was that there was too much confidence on the part of the reformers. We were too satisfied, and neglected those means of insuring the election which the Tories used, and by their activity at Stockport as elsewhere they gained the victory. If the battle had to be fought again to-morrow, I could win. To revenge themselves for the loss of their man, the Radicals have since the election adopted a system of exclusive dealing (not countenanced by me), and those publicans and shopkeepers who voted for the Major now find their counters deserted. The consequence is that the Reformers place printed placards over their shops, Voted for Cobden, inscribed in large characters, and the butchers and greengrocers in the market-place cry out from their stalls, Cobden beef, Cobden potatoes, etc. So you see I have not lost ground, by my failure at the poll, with the unwashed. But the truth is I1837.
His friends made arrangements for presenting him with a piece of plate, and seventeen thousand subscribers of one penny each raised the necessary fund. For some reason, Daniel O’Connell was invited to be present. He and Cobden drove together in an open carriage to Stockport (November 13, 1837), where they addressed an immense meeting in the open air, and afterwards spoke at a public dinner. To the great Liberator the reporter of the day generously accords three columns, while Cobden’s words were condensed into that scanty space which is the common lot of orators who have won no spurs. His chief topic seems to have been the ballot; he declared that without that protection, household suffrage, the repeal of the corn laws, the shortening of parliaments, would all be insecure benefits. There is in this a certain inversion of his usual order of thinking about the proper objects of political solicitude, for he commonly paid much less heed to the machinery, than to the material objects of government.
It was quite as well for Cobden’s personal interests that he was left free for a little time longer to attend to his business. The rather apprehensive character of his brother made him little able to carry on the trade in an intrepid and enterprising spirit, and at every step the judgment, skill, and energy of a stronger head were wanted. At this time the scale of the business which had started from such small beginnings, had become so extensive that Cobden estimated the capital in it as no less than 80,000l., with a credit in acceptances of at least 25,000l.: he represented the turn-over as 150,000l.7 In 1836 the books 1838.
Cobden, however, had made up his mind after the Stockport election that to push his material fortunes was not to be the great aim of his life. “I am willing to give a few years of entire exertion,” he wrote in 1838, “towards making the separation successful to ourselves. But at the same time all my exertions will be with an eye to make myself independent of all business claims on my time and anxieties. Towards this, Henry and Charles [their two younger brothers] will for their own sakes, I expect, contribute. And I hope and expect in five years they will be in a situation to force me out of the concern, a willing exile. At all events I am sure there will not want talent of some kind about us, to take advantage of my determination to be at ease, and have some time for leisure to take care of my health, and indulge tastes which are in some degree essential to my happiness. With reference to health, both you and I must not omit reasonable precautions; we are not made for rivalling Methusaleh, and if we can by care stave off the grim enemy for twenty years longer, we shall do more than nature intended for us. At all events let us remember that to live usefully is far better than living1838.
Even now, when the indispensable work of laying a base of material prosperity was still incomplete, and when his own business might well have occupied his whole attention, he was always thinking much more earnestly about the interests of others than his own. The world of contemporaries and neighbours seldom values or loves this generous and unfamiliar spirit, and the tone of Manchester was in this respect not much higher than that of the rest of the world. It cannot surprise us to learn that for some time Cobden made no great progress in Manchester society. He was extremely self-possessed and self-confident, and as a consequence he was often thought to be wanting in the respect that is due from a young man to his elders, and from a man who has a fortune to make, towards those who have made it. His dash, his freedom of speech, his ardour for new ideas, were taken for signs of levity; and a certain airy carelessness about dress marked a rebel against the minor conventions of the world. The patient endurance of mere ceremonial was at this time impossible to him. He could not be brought to attend the official dinners given by the Lord of the Manor. When he was selected to serve as assessor at the Court-leet for manorial purposes, though the occasion brought him into contact with men who might have been useful to him in his business, he treated the honour very easily. He sat restlessly on his bench, and then strolled away after an hour or two had shown him that the proceedings were without real 1838.
I have already described the relation of some of Cobden’s ideas to those of George Combe. It was, above all other things, for the sake of the prospect which it held out of supplying a sure basis and a trustworthy guide in the intricate and encumbered path of national education, that he was drawn for a time to Combe’s system of phrenology. His letters during the years of which we are now speaking abound pretty freely in the terms of that crude catalogue, but with him they are less like the jargon of the phrenological fanatic of those days, than the good-humoured language of a man who believes in a general way that there is something in it. In 1835 he had been instrumental in forming a phrenological society in Manchester, and the first of a series of letters to Combe is one in 1836, pressing him to deliver a course of lectures in that town. It is interesting as an illustration of the amazing growth both in rational tolerance and scientific opinion, when we compare the very moderate heterodoxy of phrenology with the doctrines that in our own day are publicly discussed without alarm. “The Society which we profess to have here,” Cobden writes, “is not well supported, and for nearly a twelvemonth it can hardly be said to have manifested many1836.
“The causes are various why phrenology languishes, but probably the primary one may be sought in that feeling of fashionable timidity among the leading medical men and others who, although professing to support it privately, have not yet openly avowed themselves disciples of the science of Spurzheim and Gall. But phrenology is rapidly disenthralling itself from that ‘cold obstruction’ of ridicule and obloquy, which it has, in common with every other reform and improvement, had to contend against, and probably the mind of the community of Manchester presents at this moment as fine a field, in which to sow the seeds of instruction by means of a course of lectures by the author of The Constitution of Man, as could be found anywhere in the world..... The difficulty of religious prejudice exists here, and it requires delicate handling. Thanks, however, to the pursuits of the neighbourhood, to the enlightening chemical and mechanical studies with which our industry is allied, and to the mind-invigorating effect of an energetic devotion to commerce, we are not, as at Liverpool, in a condition to tolerate rampant exhibitions of intolerance here..... The High Church party stands sullenly aloof from all useful projects, and the severer sectarians restrict themselves here, as elsewhere, to their own narrow sphere of exertion, but the tone of public opinion in Manchester is superior to the influence of either of these extremes. How I pity you in Scotland, the only country in the world in which a wealthy and intelligent middling class submits to the domination of a spiritual tyranny.”9
Though he was intolerant of the small politics of the Borough-reeve and the Constables, Cobden did not count it as small politics to agitate with might and main on behalf 1838.
The Municipal Reform Act had been passed by Lord Melbourne’s Government in 1835, on the return of the Whigs to power after the short ministry of Sir Robert Peel. It was the proper complement to the greater Reform of 1832. By extending the principle of self-government from national to local affairs, it purified and enlarged the organs of administrative power, and furnished new fields of discipline in the habits of the good citizen. In 1833 Brougham had introduced a measure for immediately incorporating such towns as Manchester and Birmingham, and directly conferring local representative government upon them by Act of Parliament. But between 1833 and 1835 things had happened which quenched these spirited methods. A process which had been imperative in 1833, had by 1835 dwindled down to the permissive. Places were allowed to have charters, on condition that a majority of the ratepayers, being inhabitant householders, expressed their desire for incorporation by petition to the Crown in Council. A muddy sea of corruption and chicane was stirred up. All the vested interests of obstruction were on the alert. The close and self-chosen members of the Court Leet, and the Streets Commission, and the Town Hall Commission, could not endure the prospect of a system in which the public business would no longer be done in the dark, and the public money no longer expended without responsibility1838.
“When your former kind and friendly letter reached me,” Cobden writes to Tait, the Edinburgh publisher, “I was engaged before the Commissioners, employed in exposing the trickery of the Tories in getting up their petition against the incorporation of our borough. For three weeks I was incessantly occupied at the Town Hall. By dint of hard work and some expense, we got at the filth in their Augean stable, and laid their dirty doings before the public eye. I believe now there is little doubt of our being chartered before the next November election, and it will be a new era for Manchester when it shakes off the feudal livery of Sir Oswald Mosley, to put on the democratic garb of the Municipal Reform Act.
“So important do I consider the step for incorporating the borough, that I have been incessantly engaged at the task for the last six months. I began by writing a letter of which I circulated five thousand copies, with a view of 1838.
“I mention all this as my best excuse for not having written to you, or for you, for so many months. What with going twice to London on deputations, and fighting the battle with two extreme political parties in Manchester, I have been so constantly engaged in action, that I have not had time for theorizing upon any topic. Still I have not abandoned the design of using my pen for your magazine. I have half collected materials for an article on convulsions in trade and banking, which when published will probably attract some notice from people engaged in such pursuits.”1
“Not having received a word of news, good or bad, from you since I came here,” he wrote to his brother,” I conclude that nothing particularly important can have occurred. You will have heard, I dare say, the result of our interview with the Lords of the Council. There is, I think, not a shadow of doubt of the ultimate result of the application, but I am not pleased with the Whig Ministry’s mode of proceeding in these Corporation affairs. It is quite certain1838.
“That truckling subserviency,” he writes later in this year, “of the Ministry to the menaces of the Tories, is just in character with the conduct of the Whigs, on all questions great or little. Without principle or political honesty, they are likewise destitute of any atom of the courage or independence which honesty can inspire, and the party which bullies them most will be sure to command their obedience. In the matter of municipal institutions their hearts are against us. C. P. Thomson3 told us plainly that he did not like local self-government, and are his Whig colleagues more liberal than he? I am sorry I am not at home to give a helping hand to my old colleagues. I will never desert, and if the matter be still in abeyance when I get back, I shall be ready and willing to give my assistance.”
“As respects general politics, I see nothing in the present radical outbreak to cause alarm, or make one dread the fate of liberalism. On the contrary, it is preferable to the apathy of the three years when prosperity (or seemingly so) made Tories of all. Nor do I feel at all inclined to give up politics in disgust, as you seem to do, because of the blunders of the Radicals. They are rash and presumptuous, or ignorant if you will, but are not the governing factions something worse? Is not selfishness, or systematic plunder, or political knavery as odious as the blunders of democracy? We must choose between the party which governs upon an exclusive or monopoly principle, and the people who seek, though blindly perhaps, the good of the vast majority. If they be in error we must try to put them right, if rash to moderate; but never, never talk of giving up the ship..... I think the scattered elements may yet be rallied round the question of the corn laws. It appears to me that a moral and even a religious spirit may be infused into that topic, and if agitated in the same manner that the question of slavery has been, it will be irresistible. I can give this question a great lift when I return, by publishing the result of my inquiries into the state of things on the Continent, and particularly with reference to the Prussian Union.”4
Yet Cobden had in his heart on illusions on the subject of his countrymen, or their special susceptibility to either light or enthusiasm. He was well aware of the strong vault1838.
“Do not let your zeal for the cause of democracy,” Cobden wrote to Tait, the Edinburgh bookseller, “deceive you as to the fact of the opaque ignorance in which the great bulk of the people of England are wrapt. If you write for the masses politically, and write soundly and honestly, they will not be able at present to appreciate you, and consequently will not support you. You cannot pander to the new Poor-law delusion, or mix up the Corn laws with the Currency quackeries of Attwood. Nothing but these cries will go down with the herd at present. There is an obvious motive about certain agitators’ movements. They hold up impracticabilities; their stock in trade will not fall short. Secondly, these prevent intelligent people from joining said agitators, who would be likely to supersede them in the eyes of their followers. There is no remedy for all this but improved education. Such as the tail and the body are, such will be the character of the head. Nature does not produce such monsters as an ignorant or vicious community, and virtuous and wise leaders. In Scotland you are better off because you are better educated. The great body of the English peasants are not a jot advanced in intellect since the days of their Saxon ancestors.
“I hope you will join us in a cry for schoolmasters as a first step to Radicalism.... Whilst I would caution you against too much political stuff in your magazine, let me pray you to strike a blow for us for education. I have unbounded faith in the people, and would risk universal suffrage to-morrow in preference to the present franchise. 1838.
In August, 1838, Cobden again started for a month’s tour in Germany, partly perhaps to appease that spirit of restlessness which made monotony the worst kind of fatigue, and partly to increase his knowledge of the economic condition of other countries. “What nonsense,” he once exclaimed, “is uttered even by the cleverest men when they get upon that least of all understood, and yet most important of all topics, the Trade of this country! And yet every dunce or aristocratic blockhead fancies himself qualified by nature to preach upon this complicated and difficult question.”6 He was careful not to lay himself open to the same reproach of trusting to the light of nature for wide and accurate knowledge, and he turned his holiday in the countries of the Elbe and the Rhine to good account by getting together, as he said, some ammunition about the corn laws. This subject was now beginning definitely to take the chief place in his interests.
There remains among his correspondence with his brother during this trip, one rather remarkable letter, the doctrine of which many of my readers will certainly resent, and it is indeed open to serious criticism. The doctrine, however, is too characteristic of a peculiarity in Cobden’s social theory, for me to omit this strong illustration of it; characteristic, I mean, of his ruling willingness, shown particularly in his dealings with the Emperor of the French in 1860, and on some other occasions, to treat political con siderations as secondary to those of social and economic1838.
“Although,” he says, “a very rapid one, my journey has given me a better insight into German character and the prospects of central Europe than I could have ever gained from the eyes of others. Prussia must be looked upon as a rising state, whose greatness will be based upon the Commercial League [the Zollverein].7 .... The effect of the League must inevitably be to throw the preponderating influence over thirty millions of people into the hands of the Cabinet of Berlin. By the terms of the Union, the money is to be collected and paid by Prussia; a very little financial skill will thus very easily make the smaller states the pensioners of the paymaster. Already, I am told, Prussia has been playing this game; she is said to be two millions of dollars a year out of pocket by her office, owing to her having guaranteed the smaller partners certain amounts of revenue. Besides the power that such a post of treasurer will confer upon Prussia, other causes must tend to weaken the influence of the lesser states’ governments. A common standard of weights and measures, as well as of money, is preparing, and these being assimilated, and the revenue received from Prussia, whose literature and modes will become the standard for the other portions of Germany, what shall prevent this entire family of one common language, and possessing perfect freedom of intercourse, from merging into one nation? I fact they are substantially one nation now, and their remaining subdivisions will 1838.
“I very much suspect that at present, for the great mass of the people, Prussia possesses the best government in Europe. I would gladly give up my taste for talking politics to secure such a state of things in England. Had our people such a simple and economical government, so deeply imbued with justice to all, and aiming so constantly to elevate mentally and morally its population, how much better would it be for the twelve or fifteen millions in the British Empire, who, while they possess no electoral rights, are yet persuaded they are freemen, and who are mystified into the notion that they are not political bondmen, by that great juggle of the ‘English Constitution’—a thing of monopolies, and Church-craft, and sinecures, armorial hocus-pocus, primogeniture, and pageantry! The Government of Prussia is the mildest phase in which absolutism ever presented itself. The king, a good and just man, has, by pursuing a systematic course of popular education, shattered the sceptre of despotism even in his own hand, and has for ever prevented his successors from gathering up the fragments.... You have sometimes wondered what becomes of the thousands of learned men who continually pass from the German universities, whilst so few enter upon mercantile pursuits. Such men hold all the official and Government appointments; and they do not require 1000l. a year to be respectable or respected in Prussia. Habits of ostentatious expenditure are not respectable there. The king dines at two, rides in a plain carriage, without soldiers or attendants, and dresses in a kind of soldier’s relief cap. The plays1838.
It is to be remembered in reading this, that it was written forty years ago. Not a few considerate observers even now hold that the prospect of German progress which Cobden sketches, would have been happily realized, if Prussian statesmen of a bad school had not interrupted the working of orderly forces by a policy of military violence which precipitated unity, it is true, but at a cost to the best causes in Germany and Europe, for which unity, artificial and unstable as it now is, can be no worthy recompense. As for the contempt which the passage breathes for the English constitution, it is easy to understand the disgust which a statesman with the fervour of his prime upon him, and with an understanding at once too sincere and too strong to be satisfied with conventional shibboleths, might well feel alike for the hypocrisy and the shiftlessness of a system, that behind the artfully painted mask of popular representation concealed the clumsy machinery of a rather dull plutocracy. It is not right to press the phrases of the hasty letter of a traveller too closely. If, as it is reasonable to think, Cobden only meant that the energetic initiative of central authorities in promoting the moralization of a country is indispensable in the thick populations and divided interests of modern times, and that the great want of England is not a political equality which she has got, nor a natural equality, which neither England nor any other country is ever likely to get, but a real equality in access to justice and in chances of mental and moral elevation—then he was feeling his way to the very truths which, of all others, it is most wholesome for us to understand and to accept. Whatever we may think of the good word which 1838.
In a letter to his sister, he shows that his journey has supplied him with material for an instructive contrast—
“Let me give you an idea of society here by telling you how I spent yesterday, being Sunday. In the first place I went to the cathedral church at nine o’clock in the morning, a very large building, pretty well filled (the ladies were as five to one in the congregation, against the number of male attendants).
“The singing would have been a treat; but unhappily I was placed beside a little old man whose devotion was so great, that he sang louder than all the congregation, in a screaming tone that pierced my tympanum. I heard nothing but the deep notes of the organ, and the little man’s notes still ring in my ears, and his ugly little persevering face will haunt me till I reach the Rhine. The sermon lasted forty minutes; the service was all over in one hour and a half, and at eleven o’clock I went in a coach to the country palace of the king at Charlottenburg, where is a splendid mausoleum and a statue of his late wife to be seen. The statue is a masterpiece of the first Prussian sculptor, and as I always criticise masterpieces, I thought it stiff. Passing through a wood laid out in pleasant walks, interspersed with sheets of water and provided with seats, I saw numbers of the cockneys strolling about, and again I might have fancied myself in Kensington Gardens. But the variety of head-dress, the frequent absence of the odious bonnet which seems a part of the Englishwoman’s nature, and the substitution of the lace or gauze covering, which aids rather than hides the prettiest accessory of a woman’s face, her well-managed hair, reminded me that I was from home. It was a quarter to two as I returned, and I met the king’s1838.
With one other and final contrast, we may leave the memorials of the foreign tour of 1838:—
“I do hope the leather-headed bipeds who soak themselves upon prosperous market-days in brandy and water at the White Bear, will be brought to the temperature of rational beings by the last twelve months’ regimen of low prices. And then let us hope that we may see them trying at least to bestow a little thought upon their own interests, in matters beyond the range of their factory walls. It humiliates me to think of the class of people at home, who belong to the order of intelligent and educated men that I see on the Continent, following the business of manufacturing, spinning, etc. Our countrymen, if they were possessed of a little of the mind of the merchants and manufacturers of Frankfort, Chemnitz, Elbertfeld, etc., would become the De Medicis, and Fuggers, and De Witts of England, instead of glorying in being the toadies of a clod-pole aristocracy, only less enlightened than themselves!”1
In other words they would become the powerful and independent statesmen of the country, the creators and champions of a new policy adapted to the ends of a great trading community. Thrusting aside the nobles by force of vigorous intellectual and moral ascendency, the wealthy1837.
In the summer of the previous year he had, in one of his visits to London, sought the acquaintance of some of the prominent journalists and politicians, and he wrote down his impressions of them.
“Yesterday,”—this was in June, 1837—“we went along with Cole to see the print-works of Surrey, and dined with Makepeace. The day before, being Sunday, I went in the morning to hear Benson (in the Temple Church) abuse the Dissenters and the Catholics, and compare the persecuted Church of England to the ark of the Israelites, when encompassed by the Amalekites.... Then I went to the Zoological Gardens, and after staying there till the last minute, I accompanied Cole home to his house, and dined and slept..... On Saturday in the morning I was at the Clubs; was introduced to Fonbanque (Examiner), Rintoul (Spectator), Bowring, Howard Elphinstone, etc. In the evening of the same day I dined with Hindley, and met —, —, —, 1837.
“I hear queer accounts of our Right Hon. Member; they tell me he is not the man of business we take him for. We shall see. The more I see of our representatives from Lancashire, the more ashamed I feel at being so served, and like Falstaff I begin to dread the idea of going through Coventry (for at Coventry they are generally to be found) with such a crew. I suppose you will have more failures by-and-by amongst the people at Manchester and Liverpool. I begin now to fear that our distress will be greater and more permanent than I had expected at first. It will be felt here, too, for some time, in failures amongst those old merchant princes who are princes only at spending, but whose gettings have been and will be small enough. The result of all will be that Liverpool and Manchester will more and more assume their proper rank as commercial capitals. London must content itself with a gambling trade in the bills drawn by those places.
“I have had invitations without end, and shall if I stay a year still be in request; but too much talking and running about will not suit me, and I am resolved to turn churlish and morose. I have seen, through S—’s friend T—, some of the Urquhart party: they are as mad as ever. I have called upon Roebuck, but have not been able to see him.”2
“I was yesterday introduced to Mrs. and Mr. Grote at their house. I use the words Mrs. and Mr. because she is the greater politician of the two. He is a mild and philosophical1837.
“I met at their house (which by the way is the great resort of all that is clever in the opposition ranks) Sir W. Molesworth, a youthful, florid-looking man of foppish and conceited air, with a pile of head at the back (firmness) like a sugar-loaf. I should say that a cast of his head would furnish one of the most singular illustrations of phrenology. For the rest he is not a man of superior talents, and let him say what he pleases, there is nothing about him that is democratic in principle.....
“I have been visiting, and visited by, all sorts of people, the Greek Ambassador, Wm. Allen, of Plough Court, the chemist and Quaker philanthropist, Roebuck, and Joseph Parkes, of Birmingham, amongst the number. I spent a couple of hours with Roebuck at his house. He is a clever fellow, but I find that his mind is more active than powerful. He is apt to take lawyer-like views of questions, and, as you may see by his speeches, is given to cavilling and special pleading.....
“Easthope of the ‘Chronicle,’ is very anxious that I should see Lord Palmerston, but I told him I had made up my mind that his Lordship is incurable. He says that he is open to conviction, and a cleverer man than most of his colleagues. What a beautiful ensemble they must be! I have seen nothing of C. P. Thomson; I would have called again, but I think it better to reserve myself till he calls on me. I hear from all sides that he is not the man 1837.
“One of the very cleverest men I have ever met with is Joseph Parkes, late of Birmingham, the eminent constitutional lawyer and writer. He was employed to prepare the Municipal Bill and other measures. He is not only profound in his profession, but skilled in political economy, and quite up to the spirit of the age in practical and popular acquirements. He has been very civil to me. He received a letter from his friend Lord Durham requesting him to find out who the author of Russia, etc., was, as those pamphlets contained more statesmanlike views than all the heads of the whole British cabinet. His lordship goes thoroughly and entirely with me in my principles upon Turkey. Perhaps the truth is he went to St. Petersburg with opposite views, but having been wheedled by the Czar and his wife, he is glad to find in my arguments some useful pleas for justifying his change.”4
One general impression of great significance Cobden acquired from this and some later visits to London. Combe had in one of his letters been complaining of the bigotry with which he had to contend in Scotland. “What you say of the intolerance of Scotland,” said Cobden to him in reply, “applies a good deal to Manchester also. There is but one place in the kingdom in which a man can live with perfect freedom of thought and action, and that is London.”5 However, he acted on the old and worthy principle, Spartamnactus es,hanc exorna, and did not quarrel with the society1838.
Manchester did not receive its charter of incorporation until the autumn of 1838. Cobden’s share in promoting this important reform was recognized by the inhabitants of the new borough, and he was chosen for alderman at the first election. The commercial capital of Lancashire was now to show its fitness to be the source and centre of a great national cause.
To F. Cobden. Nov. 11, 1886.
To F. C. Jan 4, 1887.
To F. C. Jan. 28, 1887.
See Appendix, Note A.
Henry Marsland (Reformer) 480; Major Marsland (Tory) 471; Richard Cobden (Reformer) 418.
To Mr. Cole. Sept. 6, 1837.
Letter to F. Cobden. Feb. 24, 1837.
To F. C. Oct. 26, 1838.
To George Combe. Aug. 23, 1836.
To Mr. W. Tait, of Edinburgh. July 3, 1838.
To F. W. Cobden London, May 4, 1838.
Charles Poulett Thomson, afterwards Lord Sydenham, was one of the representatives of Manchester from 1832 to 1839. On the reconstruction of the Whig Government under Lord Melbourne, he was appointed to be President of the Board of Trade—a post which he afterwards gave up, in order to go out as Governor-General of Canada. As we shall see in a later chapter, he has a place in the apostolic succession of the Board of Trade, after Huskisson and Deacon Hume.
To F. C. Oct 5, 1838.
To W. Tait. Aug. 17, 1838.
To W. Tait. May 5, 1837.
The Zollverein or Customs Union had been planned as far back as 1818, but it was not until 1833 that the treaty was signed which bound most of the German states, except Austria, to a policy of free trade among themselves, while protective duties were maintained against foreign nations. Poulett Thomson and other English officials of the same liberal stamp, rightly regarded the new system without apprehension, for it recognized the expediency of abolishing commercial restrictions over a great area, though the area was not quite great enough.
To F. Cobden. Sept. 11, 1838.
To Miss Cobden. Sept. 8, 1838.
To F. C. Oct. 6, 1838.
To F. Cobden. June 6, 1837.
To F. Cobden. June 12, 1837.
The Czar said to Sir Robert Peel:—“Years ago Lord Durham was sent to me, a man full of prejudices against me. By merely coming to close quarters with me, all his prejudices were driven clean out of him.”—Stockmar, quoted in Mr. Martin’s Life of the Prince Consort, i. 216.
To G. Combe. March 9 1841.