miscellaneous correspondence, 1859–60—paris—return to england.
Æt. 55.The business of the Treaty did not prevent Cobden from keeping up his usual copious correspondence. Much of it, as might be expected, had to do with his work in Paris; but he kept a keen eye upon what was going on elsewhere, and no effort that pointed in the right direction escaped him. Some extracts from the correspondence of this period will still be found interesting, both because they illustrate the character of the writer, and because they contain ideas on questions which even now are far from having run their full course.
To Mr. Bright
On December 1, 1859, Mr. Bright made a speech at Liverpool, upon the invitation of the Financial Reform Association of that city. In this speech he unfolded a plan, which, as has been truly said of it, involved a complete financial revolution. The main features of the proposals were, that the income tax, the assessed taxes (except the house-tax), the tax on marine and fire insurances, and the excise on paper, should be repealed; all duties in the tariff should be abolished, save those on wine, spirits, and tobacco; and, to replace the deficiency thus created, there should be a tax of eight shillings on every hundred pounds of fixed income.
Dec. 16, 1859.—“I have been much pleased with the perusal of your masterly statement at Liverpool every word of which I have read. After all, I hardly know that1859.
Æt. 55. the Liverpool men could do a better service than in preaching the abstract doctrine of direct taxation. People are attracted by the advocacy of a principle, to which alone we can feel any strong and lasting devotion. The threat of direct taxes held over our aristocracy, may perhaps do a little to restrain their proneness to Government extravagance; and it will help an honest Chancellor of the Exchequer to move forward in the path of commercial reform. There is an apparent tendency in your speeches to advocate the interest of the working class as apart from the upper classes. Now, I am sorry to say that whenever the case is so posed, there is a tendency in the middle class to range themselves with those above them, to resist a common danger. Your witticism of the middle class being invited to be the squire of the class above has been realized. Therefore, I have always studiously abstained from using the words ‘working class,’ as apart from the middle class, in discussing the question of taxation. For you see how eagerly your opponents parade the poor widow of 100l. a year. I cannot separate the interest of the small shopkeeper and the labourer, or the manufacturer and his operatives, in the question of taxation. Indeed, ultimately, God has made all our interests in the matter one and indivisible. I do not believe there is a hairsbreadth of difference between us, but you seem to take the working class sometimes too exclusively under your protection. They are quite powerless as opposed to the middle and upper classes, which is a good reason why they should not be allowed to be made to appear to be in antagonism to both.
“There is another point on which we should not differ in our cool moments, but on which you are sometimes carried away in the excitement of a speech beyond me. I mean where you seem to assume that a wiser policy in taxation or 1859.
Æt. 55.other matters will necessarily follow from a democratic reform. I am always willing to take my chance of the consequences of such a change. If the majority in a democracy injure me and themselves at the same time by unsound legislation, I have at least the consolation of knowing that they are honest in their errors, and that a conviction of their mistake will for their own sakes lead to a change. It is far different where you are wronged by a self-interested minority. But I don not feel so confident as yourself that a great extension of the franchise would necessarily lead to a wiser system of taxation. On this subject I got a letter lately from Senator Mason, of Virginia, in which he says, speaking of direct taxation—‘Our people are not yet philosophical enough to know that it is safer to feel the tax when you pay it, than to pay it without feeling it.’ I am afraid that this rather pithy remark would apply to all other people at present. I have done with my dissentient remarks, which after all would not lead me into an opposite lobby to yourself, if we had five minutes’ discussion together.”
To Mr. Bright
Considerations of Mr. Bright’s general course and policy.
“Dec. 29, 1859.—You will be speaking at Birmingham again soon. It is hard to tell what to say. If you are intense on Reform, you will have a hearty response from the meeting, and little beyond it. If you are cooler than your wont, you will disappoint your hearers. Were I in your place, I should not dwell too much on the Reform topic. But then, what else can you talk about? I should like to see you turn the tables on those who have wasted another autumn on another bubble cry. But perhaps people are not yet sufficiently out of breath with the cry to listen to you. I observe the Times, having led the pack all through the phantom chase, is now turning round, and saying that it1859.
Æt. 55. was not from fear of the French that we are called on to arm. And this line is taken by its followers. I have always observed that, as the time for the meeting of Parliament approaches, the newspapers put on a more decent regard for propriety and consistency. They feel that a power of refutation and exposure is at hand when the House is in Session. This last autumn’s escapade of the good British public, calling its youth to arm against an imaginary foe, after having seen twenty-six millions voted for its protection, is one of the most discouraging and humiliating spectacles I have witnessed. The effect it has on me is to produce a feeling of indifference. To be too much in earnest in the cause of common sense, with the liability to see one’s countrymen running mad every year or two after any visionary programme launched by the anonymous writers of the Times, is only calculated to injure one’s digestion, and perhaps ruin one’s health; and so I try to cultivate a stoical apathy.
“Perhaps we are wrong in aiming at producing too large results within a given time. I do not, as I grow older, lose my faith in humanity, and its future destinies; but I do every year—perhaps it is natural with increasing years—feel less sanguine in my hope of seeing any material change in my own day and generation. I sometimes doubt whether you would not have done more wisely to rely on your House of Commons influence, and been more shy of the Stump. Your greatest power is in the House. In quiet times, there is no influence to be had from without, and if we fell into evil days of turbulence, and suffering and agitation, less scrupulous leaders would carry off the masses. You are not the less qualified to take your true position, from having shown that you are an outside, as well as an inside, leader. But I have an opinion that if 1859.
Æt. 55.you intend to follow politics, and not eschew office, you must in future be more exclusively a House of Commons man.
“And then you must make up your mind to accept certain conditions of things as a part of our English political existence during your time. For instance, the Church and Aristocracy are great realities, which will last for your life and your sons.’ To ignore them or despise them is equally incompatible with the part which I think you have the ambition to play, and which I am sure you are competent to perform. I remember that President Buchanan, the day before he left London on his return to America, in the course of a conversation over the tea-table, remarked: ‘I leave England with the conviction that you are not yet able to govern yourselves without the aid of your aristocracy.’ There are things to be done which you and I could make a so-called Liberal government do, if we were out of the Cabinet, without being held ineligible by the Court and Aristocracy (with whom the most powerful part of the middle class will be found sympathizing) to enter it, owing to any extreme democratic designs. But we are comparatively powerless if we can be assumed to be excluded from the government by either our own will, or that of the ruling class, owing to our entertaining revolutionary or fundamentally subversive doctrines. One great object with I should like to force our rulers, much against their will, to accomplish, is the limitation of our armed force, in relation to that of France. And this I will endeavour to promote, if I am spared, and my present task is successful, by an appeal to the French Government in the same unofficial way as I am now at work upon another affair. But I feel convinced that the great obstacle would be with our own ruling class.
“This could only be overcome by an honest party in the House, of which you must be the head. My talking days are, I think, nearly over; I have no confidence in my voice1860.
Æt. 56. serving me much in future. I suffer no inconvenience now; but a hoarseness interposes if I talk much, and I feel as if half an hour’s public speaking would render me inaudible. However, I shall go to Cannes as soon as this business is decided one way or another, which must be within a fortnight. When I speak of being held eligible for office, I merely refer to the power which that gives us in the House. I have no intention to take office under any circumstances, because I think I could do more good out of office. Besides, it is too late even if I liked it. I am in my fifty-sixth year, and do not come of a long-lived parentage.
“I thought of saying a few words about the state of opinion here [Paris], the designs of the Emperor, etcetera. I have no prejudice against a voluntary armed force like the riflemen of Switzerland, or the militia of America, though it is open to question whether Joseph Hume was right in preferring a regular armed profession, on the principle of the division of labour. But the origin of our rifle corps, just after we had voted twenty-six millions for our armed professions, as a means of defence, and instigated by real or pretended fear or France, is such as to make the movement a disgraceful act of folly—speaking of the nation, and not of all the individuals who have been drawn into it.”
To William Hargreaves
Remarks on the writings of Louis Napoleon
“Cannes, March 14, 1860.—I have been amusing myself with reading very carefully the works of Louis Napoleon. They are published under his own auspices, in four splendid volumes, and are said to be without the alternation of a word. They have been lent to me, but if you were in an extravagant 1860.
Æt. 56.humour, they might be worth your buying. Besides the interest we all have in knowing what has been passing through such a brain for the last thirty years, the style of his composition is a model worth studying. Baron Bunsen, who is here, tells me, apropos of his style, that De Tocqueville, who died lately at Cannes, and who was no friend of the Emperors, declared that Louis Napoleon was the only man living who could write ‘monumental French.’ It is, I suppose, the consciousness of the possession of this talent, so greatly appreciated in France, which leads him to come so frequently before the public in print; for if he be taciturn in oral communications, the quality assuredly does not attach to his pen... But when we have praised his style, we have expressed the best that can be said of his volumes. Most assuredly we cannot endorse all that he says as a political economist, as the enclosed extract will show. There are some curious historical chapters upon the progress of artillery, a subject to which he seems to have devoted much study, and which now possesses great interest. But the chief charm of his works is in the absolute perfection of the style of his occasional addresses, extending over a series of years. That one in particular announcing his intended marriage as a parvenu, and giving his reasons for making choice of a private individual for his wife, is the most striking of all for the ingenuity and boldness of his argument, and the beauty of its composition. I must say I sought in vain for traces of that spirit of vindictiveness towards England which politicians of the Horsman school tell us, with so much solemn mysteriousness, pervades his writings. The whole tone of his works seem to me to be so singularly forbearing and magnanimous towards the implacable and successful enemy of his great idol, the first Bonaparte; he treats the whole matter with so much philosophy when referring to the death struggle between France and England, that I wonder the alarmists and invasionists1860.
Æt. 56. never discovered a plot in the absence of all passionate resentment towards us, which characterizes these volumes.”
The following is the passage referred to:
(Œuvres de Napoleon, Tome Deuxième, p. 234.)
“L’Angleterre a réalisé le rêve de certains économistes modernes; elle surpasse toutes les autres nations dans le bon marché de ses produits manufacturés. Mais cet avantage, Si c’en est un, n’a été obtenu qu’au préjudice de la classe ouvrière. Le vil prix de la marchandise dépend du vil prix du travail, et le vil prix du travail, e’est la misère du peuple. Il ressort d’une publication récente, que pendant les dernières années, tandis que l’industrie Anglaise triplait sa production, la somme employée pour solder les ouvriers, diminuait d’un tiers. Elle a été reduite de quinze millions à dix millions de livres sterling. Le consommateur a gagné, il est vrai, le tiers du salaire prélevé sur la sueur de l’ouvrier; mais de là aussi sont venus les perturbations et la malaise, qui ont affecté profondement la prosperité de la Grande Bretagne. Si, en France, les partisans de la liberté du commerce osaient mettre en pratique leurs funestes théories, la France perdrait en richesse une valeur d’au moins deux milliards; deux millions d’ouvriers resteraient sans travail, et notre commerce serait privé du bénéfice qu’il tire de l’immense quantité de matières premières qui sont importées pour alimenter nos manufactures.
Fort de Ham, Aoῦt 1842.”
To W. Hargreaves
Effect of going to and fro between London and Paris.
“Paris, April 23, 1860.—A curious influence is exerted on my mind in going to and fro between London and Paris, which helps to account for what is almost unaccountable. When in England, I find myself so surrounded with sayings and doings which are founded on the assumption of evil designs on the part of the Emperor towards England, that I feel, in spite of myself, a little infected with doubt as to our safety. In fact, I breathe an atmosphere tainted with 1860.
Æt. 56.panic, and I become affected by the general uneasiness. If this be so in my case, in spite of my predilections and my sane surroundings, how much more must other people be affected? When I come to Paris, and approach close to the imagined source of danger, all uneasiness and doubt disappear from my mind. In fact all idea of England being attacked by France is founded on the ignorance of what is going on here, and on the play of the imagination when the danger is afar off. Here is an illustration, by the way, of the advantage which will arise from more intimate intercourse between the two countries.”
To W. Hargreaves
The state of Europe.
“Paris, May 7, 1860—I have given a note of introduction to you to an old friend, Mr. Dunville, from the neighbourhood of Belfast, who with his mother and sister are stopping a fortnight in London, on their way From this to Ireland. They are first-rate people in our sense, and you will be very much pleased if you pass an evening in their society.
“We are now beginning the labours of the commission. If I were to judge by the programme setting forth our plan of proceedings, the task might last a couple of years. But I take it for granted that all the intended inquiries into every article of the French tariff will very soon shape itself into a rule of thumb, and that the Government, which has already all the information at its fingers’-ends, will undertake to act on its own responsibility. Whatever may be the result, I have made up my mind to be well abused for a year or two. In the end, after a few years’ trial, the Treaty will justify itself. This assumes that we remain at peace, which the Times and its patrons seem bent on preventing.
“The state of Germany is very unsatisfactory. Enormous1860.
Æt. 56. sums are being wasted by a very poor people in preparations for war. There is a great uneasiness both with respect to their internal and external relations. The worst of it is that, as I learn, influential politicians in Prussia are beginning to hold this language: ‘We must have a war with France sooner or later, and it is the only way in which we can get rid of our internal discords, and swamp the small States under the Rule of Prussia.’ These people say: ‘We should be beaten back by France at the first shock, but we should recover everything with interest’. My belief is, that at this moment Louis Napoleon is about the most peaceable person in Europe. Everybody in France is well satisfied with the Savoy business, and the Emperor was never so popular. But he knows that he is mistrusted by all Europe, and that it would be dangerous to attempt any fresh extension of his boundaries. However, it must not be supposed that he has any love for the present territorial arrangements in Europe. There is no doubt that he would like to give Mr. Wyld an excuse for publishing another map of France. But he would not like it at the expense of a war with England.
“I am not very proud of the spectacle presented by our merchants, brokers, and M.P’s., in their ovations to the pugilist Sayers. This comes from The brutal instincts having been so sedulously cultivated by our wars in the Crimea and especially in India and China. I have always dreaded that our national character would undergo deterioration (as did that of Greece and Rome) by our contact with Asia. With another war to two in India and China, the English people would have an appetite for bull-fights, if not for gladiators.”
To W. Hargreaves
Two Reasons against Political Despondency.
“June 5, 1860.—I am sorry to see that you have been laid up. Depend on it, you overdo the work in proportion to your forces. Don’t let public matters worry you. Why should you? Whatever evils befall the country, you at least, in proportion to your strength, have done more than your share to prevent them. There are two things which we must always bear in mind when we grow impatient or desponding. How much has been done before us: how many will come after us to do what remain to be done.”
To Mr. Bright
In 1860 violent disturbances broke out among the Christian population of Syria. They were followed by the dispatch of a force of occupation from the European powers, and a commissioner was appointed for the re-organization of Syria. The discussion in the spring of 1861, between the French and English Government, turned on the continuance of the European occupation.
“Algiers, 18th March, 1861.—From what I hear from Paris, the two Governments are wrangling over Syrian matters. After what I saw of the spirit of the Foreign Office, it is always a source of wonder to me how any business in which the two Governments are concerned ever comes to an issue, and how they escape for six months from a rupture. For recollect, it is not merely Lord John’s lecturing, but the ill-conditioned temper of—and the subordinates with whom the details of the negotiations rest, that has to be borne by the French Government. No one1861.
Æt. 57. can defend, on principle, the French intervention in Syria. But our Government violates the principle of non-intervention towards the Turk every day; and every statesman in Europe, with the sole Exception of Palmerston, recognizes the unavoidable fall of Ottoman rule at an early day, and the necessity of providing or recognizing some other mode of governing Turkey. Our Government alone now contends for the contends for the integrity of that ghastly phantom, the Ottoman Porte, at the same time that it lends its sanction by conferences at Paris, and commissions in Syria and Constantinople, to the violation of the rights of the Sultan’s sovereignty. It is only when it is convenient for a topic for diplomatic wrangle with Russia and France, or to reconcile the British public to a war, that the Sublime Porte is paraded as an independent Power, whose sovereign rights are to be treated with respect. Is there no way of bringing matters to a different attitude? In my opinion nothing can be so dangerous as the present mode of treating the Turkish question. Either we ought to apply the same principle as in Italy—viz. allow the races of the same language and religion to join in putting down a foreign domination—or else to interfere to some final purpose. If the Great Powers will allow the Greeks outside of the present Turkish Empire to give their fellow-countrymen, or at least their co-religionists of the same language and race, material aid, they will soon succeed, with the aid of the other Christian sects, in driving the Turks beyond the Bosphorus, and ere long in securing possession of the coast of Asia Minor and Syria. And why should this not be permitted by those who are so warm in their support of Garibaldi, who sallied forth from Nice with no better title of overturn the Neapolitan Government than the people of Athens or Syria would possess to drive the Turks from their 1861.
Æt. 57.less justifiable domination in Constantinople? In fact the foreigner has practically ruled Italy longer than the Osmanlis have possessed the ancient capital of the Greeks. But if England is not prepared to allow the Christians to drive out their Mahometan rulers, what is she prepared to do? Surely it becomes a great country to have a policy which lifts its diplomacy out of the reach of mere intrigue and endless altercation and gossip, such as characterizes our present abortive proceedings on the Turkish question. The way in which we tolerate, nay perpetuate, the hideous evils of the Sultan’s Government, because it is not convenient to our politicians to bring the Eastern Question to an issue—the way in fact in which we prevent a body from dying which is no longer able to live, and look on complacently whilst millions of intelligent beings are suffering from contact with this despotism, tends to degrade Englishmen in the eyes of foreign nations, presenting us in the light of a selfish and unsympathizing people.
“There are a couple of volumes of De Tocqueville’s correspondence and remains lately published, and in his letters to Senior and other English friends (which are full of interest), he alludes very delicately to the little sympathy felt for us in our Indian troubles by the nations of the Continent, and attributes it to the general impression that prevails (and which he says is not quite unfounded), that the English people make their foreign policy entirely subservient to their own narrow interests.”
To Samuel Lucas
The Syrian Massacres—French Intervention.
“Paris, August 16, 1860.—I am disappointed that more is not said and done to create sympathy for the many thousand homeless widows and orphans in Syria. So great a calamity, so near to our doors by steam and telegram,1861.
Æt. 57. ought to excite more compassion . Pray advocate subscriptions to relieve the sufferers. Money is really the form in which intervention is most needed, though I would not say a word in opposition to French succour in a more potent form. How are the guilty to be punished, or those sold into captivity to be recovered, unless an European armed force appear on the scene? The Turkish soldiers cannot be depended on, for the simple reason that they are not paid.”
To Mr. Bright
Free Trade could only have been carried while the Nation was in a sober mood.
“To my eye, from this distance there seems a strange contempt of sober domestic politics among the English people. They have been blasés by wars in India and the Crimea and by the great events of the Continent, and are like people who have drunk to excess, or eaten nothing but spiced meats, and cannot relish anything less exciting. I have often thought how lucky we were that when struggling for Free Trade in corn, the Continent was slumbering under Louis Philippe’s soporific reign, and that we had to deal with statesman like Peel and Lord Aberdeen, who were too honest and sedate to get up a war or foreign complications to divert attention from home grievances. Think how impossible it would be in these times to keep public attention for seven years to one domestic grievance. Why Garibaldi would draw off the eyes of the country from any agitation you could raise in our day! The concentrated earnestness with which political parties were at work in the United States, inspired me with full faith that the people of the country would, in spite of the difficulties and dangers of their political issues, work out their salvation. If I had 1860.
Æt. 56.found them engaged in settling the affairs of the whole world, instead of their own, I should have despaired.”
To William Hargreaves
Annexation of Savoy
“I should like to know what practical result is likely to follow from our Foreign Minister persevering in borrowing the tone of Mr. Kinglake and Sir Robert Peel in his dispatches to the French Government. The annexation of Savoy to France is a ‘fait accompli.’ The bargain has pleased Piedmont, the Savoyards, and the French people, the only parties really interested; and why, instead of the snarling, dissatisfied tone in which our Foreign Minister persists in treating the matter, cannot he dismiss it with a little of the dignity with which the Russian or Austrian Government has got rid of the disagreeable affair. There is nothing so unworthy of a nation, or even of a man, as a tone of dissatisfied criticism which leaves no after resource but a fit of pouting and sulking. It is a style of controversy fit only for the nursery. I should like to know whether the correspondence now going on between our Foreign office and the American Government upon the subject of the island of St. Juan, is conducted in the same captious, irritating tone as that which has characterized some of our recent dispatches to France, Austria, and Naples. If so, the train is being laid for either a war or a great humiliation.”
To William Hargreaves
Hopelessness of our rule in India.
“Paris, August 4, 1860—To confess the truth I have no heart for discussing any of the details of Indian management, for I look on our rule there as a whole with an eye of despair. Whether you put a screen before your eyes and call it a local army, or whether you bring the management1860.
Æt. 56. face to face in London, the fact is still the same. The English people in Parliament have undertaken to be responsible for governing one hundred and fifty millions of people, despotically, in India. They have adopted the principle of a military despotism, and I have no faith in such an undertaking being anything but a calamity and a curse to the people of England. Ultimately, of course, nature will assert the supremacy of her laws,’ and the white skins will withdraw to their own latitudes, leaving the Hindoos to the enjoyment of the climate to which their complexion is suited. In the meantime we shall suffer all kinds of trouble, loss, and disgrace. Every year will witness an increased drain of men and money to meet the loss entailed on us. In the meantime, too, an artificial expansion of our exports growing out of government expenditure in India, will delude us as to the value of our ‘possessions’ in the East, and the pride of territorial greatness will prevent our loosening our hold upon them. Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia? But I am wandering into the regions of the remote future. It is, however, from an abiding conviction in my mind that we have entered upon an impossible and hopeless career in India, that I can never bring my mind to take an interest in the details of its government.”
To Henry Ashworth
The War in China
“Paris, August 27, 1860.— I have been watching with interest the course of events in China, where it seems we are performing the double and rather inconsistent task 1860.
Æt. 56.of aiding the rebellion in the interior and putting it down on the coast! It is well known that by our wars with the Chinese—by paralysing the central government and destroying its prestige with its people,—we help the rebels in their work of confusion and slaughter. But on their approach to Shanghai we are, it seems, to help the Government to resist the insurgents. But of what use will the Seaports be if the interior of the empire, where silk and tea are grown, is to be given up to pillage and anarchy? Think of the Americans coming to let loose fire and slaughter in Lancashire and Yorkshire, but setting up at the same time as the protectors of Liverpoo1! Where is all this folly and wickedness to end? Shall we ever learn to live at peace and be content with the honest possessions with which God has so bountifully blessed our island? Unfortunately, we have a class—and that the most influential one—which makes money out of these distant wars, or these home panics about a French invasion. How could your aristocracy endure without this expenditure for wars and armaments? Could not a less worthy and inhuman method of supporting them be hit upon? When I am talking over the reduction of duties with M. Rouher, and we come to some small industry employing a few hands and a little capital, which has put in its claim for high protection, I am in the habit of suggesting to him that rather than interfere with the trade of the country for the purpose of feeding and clothing these small protected interests, he had better withdraw the parties from their unprofitable occupations, take some handsome apartments for them in the Louvre Hotel, and fest them on venison and champagne at the country’s expense for the rest of their days. Might not a similar compromise be entered into with the younger sons of our aristocracy, instead of supporting them by the most costly of all processes, that of war on preparation for war?”
To Samuel Lucas1860.
Anti-social interest of great Producers
“Paris, 1860.—I looked in yesterday at Galignani’s reading-room (where I had not been before) to glance at the papers. They are of course all high-priced, and not one word was said in any one of them, weekly, daily, or provincial, upon the subject in question. This very conspiracy to ignore the question of the paper duty ought to be the most conclusive argument in favour of its repeal. It proves that the high-priced papers have an interest opposed to that of the public. I remember when Lord Althorp was Chancellor of the Exchequer, being one of a deputation of calico-printers urging on the Government the repeal of the excise duty on prints. In the course of the conversation it was remarked that some of the largest printers were opposed to the movement, on which Lord Althorp, with that instinctive good sense which characterized him, observed: ‘That is in my opinion one of the strongest possible arguments in your favour, for it is evident if the great calico-printers are in favour of the tax, that their interest cannot be the public interest.’”
To Samuel Lucas
Politics in the Counties.
“Algiers, 23rd February, 1861—It is a mistake to suppose, because there are no contests in the counties, and because a few nobles or proprietors settle the candidatures and the returns in every case, that there is no political spirit in our provincial towns and villages. There is more healthy radicalism to be found scattered about our small towns and villages than in the larger boroughs. I mean that it is a more sturdy kind of democratic sentiment, for 1861.
Æt. 57.it goes directly against the feudal domination under which we really live, whereas in the great towns radicalism often misses its mark and is assailing some insignificant grievance. If you can see your way for carrying out this idea, I would take some apropos occasion for announcing the intention to ‘open up,’ as we say of China, the politics of our counties. You would then have volunteers aiding you with information. Let it be seen who are the men who really return the county members. Show how absolutely the 5 to 10,000 registered electors are ignored in the choice of their representatives. No meetings to discuss the question, no contests, not even a newspaper controversy, to decide the merits of candidates who are generally totally unknown by any political antecedents. Challenge a comparison between the mode of doing these things in the counties and the large boroughs, as well as between the merits of the knights of the shire, and the burgesses returned to Parliament.”
To William Hargreaves
Life in algiers—The English Working Class.
“Algiers, 1st March, 1861.—The weather here continues all that could be possibly desired. The scenery around Algiers for walking or horse exercise is remarkably beautiful. It is threaded with foot-paths and Arab tracks in all directions, presenting a great variety of views. I have hardly ever seen a city possessing such resources in its neighbourhood. We have a clear sky generally, or with only a Few clouds to break the monotony. Very seldom any Rain. It is very hot in the sun’s rays. A thermometer on a table in front of the house stood the other day at 95. But in the shade it is quite different.... This differ ence between the sun and shade makes it difficult to avoid1861.
Æt. 57. getting a chill. It is this, too, that prevents vegetation coming on before its time; for although we have green peas and flowers in abundance, and the almond-trees and others are showing young fruit, yet the vines and other trees have not yet begun to shoot. You must not, however, suppose from this that the nights are cold. Such a thing as a white frost is not known. Fogs are equally unknown. If called on to say, I should be of opinion that the air is too sharp and clear for active consumptive cases. But for a person without organic disease, but with a tendency to asthma or pulmonary weakness, I should consider it excellent.
“My friends advise me to remain till after Easter, which happens very early this year, and I think I shall do so. There is certainly nothing in the House to tempt one to return. The tone of the leading, or rather misleading, members is just of that hollow mocking kind which would worry me into bad health. I wonder the working people are so quiet under the taunts and insults offered them. Have they no Spartacus among them to head a revolt of the slave class against their political tormentors? I suppose it is the reaction from the follies of Chartism, which keeps the present generation so quiet. However, it is certain that so long as five millions of men are silent under their disabilities, it is quite impossible for a few middle-class members of Parliament to give them liberty, and this is the language I shall hold when called on to speak to them. It is bad enough that we have a political machine which will not move till the people put their shoulders to the wheel. But we must face things as they are, and not live in a dreamland of our own creating. The middle class have never gained a step in the political scale without long labour and agitation out of doors, and the working people 1861.
Æt. 57.may depend on it they can only rise by similar efforts, and the more plainly they are told so the better.”
To J. Parkes
Arlès-Dufour—The Rights of Women.
“Feb. 11, 1860.—It is charming to see him at sixty-five with his heart still running off with his head! He would not allow the word ‘obey’ to be used by women in the marriage ceremony, and has other very rebellious notions My doctrine is that in proportion as physical force declines in the world, and moral power acquires the ascendant, women will gain in the scale. Christianity in its doctrines, though not yet coming up to its own standard in its practice, did more than anything since the world began to elevate women. The Quakers have acted Christianity, and their women have approached nearer to an equality with the other sex than any of the descendants of Eve. I am always labouring to put down physical force, and substitute something better, and therefore I consider myself a fellow-labourer with your daughter in the cause of women’s rights! And yet, strange to say, women are the greatest favourers of soldiering and sailoring and all that appertains to war.”
It was the 6th of May before Cobden arrived in Paris on his way home. On the 12th, he had an audience of the Emperor at the Tuileries—the last interview that they had.
“May 12.—The Emperor spoke upon the Turkish question and the affairs of Syria, and seemed to regret the misunderstandings which arose upon the subject between himself and the English Government. I suggested that the two countries should come to a frank agreement; that neither of them would take a hectare of territory from Turkey in Europe; that the same policy should be enforced upon Russia and Austria; that then the doctrine of non-intervention which had been applied to Italy, should be adopted towards1861.
Æt. 57. European Turkey; that the Christians should be allowed to drive the Turks back into Asia; that the Greeks had a right to repossess themselves of their ancient capital of Constantinople; and no foreign Power had a right to stand between them and the recovery of their rights from their Mahometan conquerors. He remarked that it would be desirable to let Austria have Bosnia and Herzegovina, in exchange for Venetia; and that it had been the policy of Russia to prevent the formation of a Greek empire at Constantinople. I urged strongly that if France and England were to apply the policy of non-intervention to Turkey in Europe, and renounce all selfish objects themselves, they would be in so strong a position both morally and materially as to be able to dictate the same course to Russia. I urged the necessity of abandoning the idea of sustaining the Turks in Europe; that the Christians in Turkey constituted the only element of progress; that they possessed the wealth, carried on the commerce, and comprised the artists, professional men, &c.; that the Turks did not possess a single vessel engaged in foreign trade; and that all the commerce of the Black Sea and the eastern parts of the Mediterranean were rapidly falling into their hands (the Greeks); in fact, Turkey in Europe, so far as the Mahometan population was concerned, had hardly more relations with the progress and civilization of the age, than Timbuctoo had.
“May 14th.—Called on Mdme. Cornu, a lady who from her childhood had been the playmate and friend of the Emperor, and who showed us a couple of volumes of his letters to her, the first of which was dated in 1820, when he was only twelve years old. Several of the letters were read to us. They were written in an affectionate and sentimental tone. She described him as possessing a feminine softness of character, that he always as a boy was very slow 1861.
Æt. 57.and vacillating in choosing any course of action, but that when once decided, he followed his bent with great energy. She did not regard him as a genius, but as possessing great good sense, with a very amiable disposition.
“May 15.—Dined with M. Rouher, Minister of Commerce, and met a large party. Had a conversation with the Minister of Marine, who narrated to me the facts of the explanations he had had with Mr. Lindsay respecting the force of the two navies; said he had invited Lord Clarence Paget to come over and inspect the French navy and ascertain the truth of the statement made by the French Government. He (the Minister of Marine) stated that the French did not aim at an equality with the English, but merely to be the first of the second-class Powers; that they relied on their army and regarded their navy as merely an accessory, whilst England trusted to her navy, and only looked to her army as an accessory. He complained that England had last year greatly exceeded the fair proportion which she was accustomed to maintain in comparison with the French navy. He told me that the Emperor had often spoken to him on this subject. He remarked, also, that the Emperor had discussed with him the question whether he ought to make additional outlays for his navy and for fortifications to meet the preparations going on in England, and that he (the Emperor) had dismissed the subject with the observation, ‘Let them (the English) go on with their expenditure; they will find out the uselessness of their policy by-and-by In the meantime, I don’t know that it does us any harm.’ The Minister of Marine told me that Lord Cowley had complained to him that he had given the particulars of the amount of the French naval force to Mr. Lindsay, and not to him; the Minister replied that it was useless to give such particulars to the English Government, as they were only misconstrued and misrepresented.”
On May 16, Cobden left Paris for England. The directors1861.
Æt. 57. of the railway placed a carriage gratuitously at his disposal to Dieppe. A public meeting had been held at Dover, at which a resolution of welcome had been passed, to be presented to him on landing. But he went from Dieppe, not to Dover, but to Newhaven, whence he proceeded to the old home (May 18) under the Sussex Downs, having seen the manners of many men and many cities, and having done a good and difficult stroke of work for two great countries.