Portrait of William Dyer Grampp

William Grampp shows how closely connected Richard Cobden’s desire for free trade was to his desire for peace (1960)

Found in: The Manchester School of Economics

The historian William Grampp’s book on the history of The Manchester School was published more than 50 years ago. In it he describes the connection between Richard Cobden’s campaign for free trade (the repeal of the “Corn Laws” in 1846) and his total commitment to peace:

Free Trade

Pacifism was Cobden’s ruling purpose, and that is the most informative thing which can be said about him. The man who has been held up as the tribune of laissez faire was, in fact, not governed by economic purposes at all but by something much different; and of all the people who have written about him only Hobson has made the fact plain. There are few public figures whose motives were as transparent as Cobden’s, and few who have been so mistaken by contemporaries and later generations. He said repeatedly that he wanted free trade because it would bring world peace, and his actions were altogether consistent with what he said…

“But when I advocated Free Trade, do you suppose I did not see its relation to the present question [of peace], or that I advocated Free Trade merely because it would give us a little more occupation in this or that pursuit? No; I believed Free Trade would have the tendency to unite mankind in the bonds of peace, and it was that, more than any pecuniary consideration, which sustained and actuated me, as my friends know, in that struggle.”